Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Favorite Things: March 2013 Edition

1. I picked up 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in USA & Canada on a recent trip to Anthropologie. Not only do I love to travel, I love reading about travel, and dreaming about all the places I want to see. I usually can find the things I want to know about a place online, but sometime there is no substitute for having a book in your hands. The activities in the book are not your typical tourist attractions either, and it has some great information on hidden gems.

2. I got this cute yellow t-shirt from And I love it! Since I'm so into running now, I just thought it was a fun shirt to wear while working out or running errands. It is also motivation to get out and get going since I have to live up to what my shirt is proclaiming!

3.On the same trip to Anthropologie, I bought this adorable dachshund notepad that sits under my keyboard at work.  It is so cute. And such a quick way for me to jot down little tasks that I need to remember to complete at work. Plus, I have a love affair with dachshunds since one of my first pets was a long hair dachshund named Valentine!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Color Me Rad

This weekend was an epic weekend. An epic weekend that almost didn't happen because I was so overcome with nausea on Friday, that I didn't think I could make it. So I told my friends that I wouldn't be making it. And then I spent the next two hours laying on the couch feeling sorry for myself and trying not to barf.  Because I had been looking forward to the color run forever. FOREVER. But after about two hours, I started to feel like I would survive. And even though we would get in a lot later than what we originally planned, I just couldn't skip it.
We got to my friend Jana's house in Jackson, Mississippi, around ten, and landed right smack dab in the middle of arts & crafts hour. Everyone was making glittery tutus and putting our team logo on the back of their shirts! That is right up my ally, so I jumped right in. Our team name was Team Misfits because when we were in college, my friends and I all lived on the 5th floor of Kincannon Hall, and we called ourselves "The Kincannon 5th Floor Misfits." We had so much fun that night, the whole evening was a total giggle fest, we were all just so pumped for the next day.
The race was in the beautiful neighborhood of Fondren, whose claim to fame is being a big filming location for the movie, The Help. When we got there, the amount of people was pretty overwhelming! There were over 8,000 participants! And even before the race the color bombs were flying! So we were already pretty colored by the time the race started!
Now the color run is not an athletic event. It is not about running or getting your best time really. It is just about having fun. So for the most part we walked the whole thing. We were just walking and "derping" (ha, a slang word that I just learned the definition of recently, thanks to the teenagers at work). Along the walk there were 4 color stations, where you were attacked by color bombers. And I do mean attacked!  There was a time when the color was so thick that we couldn't even see! And once we did cross the finish line, every 5 minutes we would color bomb anyone around us! 
Needless to say, we were drenched in color at the end. We were walking coloring books in the best way. I can't even tell you how ridiculously fun this event was. I swear if everyone could do a color run everyday there would be no more unhappiness in the world. Period. I was so happy I made it.
We all went to lunch at McAlister's afterward, leaving a trail of color on everything we touched (and ogling the Mississippi State Basketball players that were eating at the restaurant also). Then, we went back to Jana's and took showers. I was scrubbing color out of places that no color has ever gone before. It took me 3 shampoos to get it out of my hair!
I couldn't help but smile the whole trip home thinking about how last summer, Jana and I, came up with the idea to do a 5k on our road trip. And we did it, and loved it, and are now slightly addicted. And we have started a mini 5k movement with so many of our friends and family joining us along the way.
P.S.-Adam was there by the way, there just aren't really any pictures of him because he didn't race. So he spent most of the time just trying to avoid the color bombs. But there is one shot of him posted but you have to be uber observant to notice him.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for The Happiest Places in the World

Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.

Some places are like family. They annoy us to no end, especially during the holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinies are intertwined.

When an Aztec child was born, a priest would say, “You are born into a world of suffering; suffer then and hold your peace.” There is something noble in that attitude, that quiet suffering. True, Aztec civilization died out centuries ago, leaving only a few ruins now trampled on by sunburned American tourists. But never mind. At least they had the decency not to whine about their demise. You have to respect that in a dying civilization.

Happiness and unhappiness are not opposites, as we often think. They are not two sides of the same coin. They are different coins. It is possible, in other words, for a happy person to also suffer from bouts of unhappiness, and for unhappy people to experience great moments of joy.

In the past, the sun has always been there for me, the one celestial body I could count on. Unlike Pluto, which for decades led me to believe it was an actual planet when the whole time it was really only a dwarf planet.

Things are not as they seem. We humans do not know a damn thing. About anything. A scary thought but also, in a way, a liberating one. Our highs, our accomplishments, are not real. But neither are our setbacks, our mushkala. They are not real either.

Our families are our greatest source of love and support. They are also the ones who are, statistically, most likely to kill us. As Yi-Fu Tuan points out, “We cinch both our enemies and lovers.” And so it is with families. They are our salvation and our ruin.

In transit. If two sweeter words exist in the English language, I have yet to hear them. Suspended between coming and going, neither here nor there, my mind slows, and, amid the duty-free shops and PA announcements, I achieve something approaching calm. I’ve often fantasized about living in Airport World. Not one airport, mind you, like the Tom Hanks character in that movie, but a series of airports. I would just keep flying around the world, in a state of suspended aviation. Always coming, never arriving.

Travel, at its best, transforms us in ways that aren’t always apparent until we’re back home.

In Bhutan, the roads don’t subdue nature but are subdued by it, bend to its whims, curving and snaking around the mountains in a series of endless switchbacks. I find this meditative. For about ten minutes. Then, I find it nauseating. Now I know how a pair of socks feels on tumble dry. No wonder they abscond.

The last time I saw such arrogance from an animal was in India, where the cow, smug in her holiness, has developed a serious attitude problem.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Abe Lincoln's Kentucky Log Cabin Home

Adam thinks I'm obsessed with Abraham Lincoln because every time anything features Lincoln on TV, I always watch it. And I've seen about 10 million Lincoln specials. In fact, last night I was watching Stealing Lincoln's Body on The History Channel. And Adam was like, "Honey, you've seen this one before." And I was like, "No, your crazy I would definitely remember watching something about people trying to rob Lincoln's Grave." So I watched the show for a full two hours, and in the last five minutes there was a scene that gave me such an overwhelming sense of deja vu, and I realized I had indeed seen it already. CRAZINESS. The exact same thing happened a few weeks ago when I watched Grey Gardens for the first second time.
But I'm not really obsessed with Lincoln, I'm obsessed with history, and I really love Presidential history. So on the way back from Louisville, I jumped at the chance to stop at Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace in Hodgenville, Kentucky. The birthplace is way out in the country & located on what was called Sinking Creek Farm (named after the Lincoln's water source). There they have a little museum of Lincoln's first 7 years of life, with a set up that included a recreation of the inside of a Log Cabin and the actual Lincoln Family Bible.
Behind the museum are trails that lead up to the log cabin. The log cabin is located in a stone building reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C with Lincoln's quote, "With malice toward none, with charity to all," written at the top of the building.  There are 56 steps leading up to the building (because Lincoln was 56 when he died). In the building, there is a log cabin built out of the same material Abe's cabin would have been built out of, and it is virtually the same size. It was tiny! I couldn't imagine fitting a family of four in that cabin! But actually that was fairly typical housing for that time period, and actually Lincoln's family was considered middle class compared to other families in that area.
After we left the cabin, we walked down to the creek, which was beautiful. I've never seen a creek just naturally flow down in that manner. It was interesting to envision the Lincoln's fetching water from the creek. Knowing you are standing right where they most likely stood. I'm really letting my history geek flag fly today!
The little historical stop was a great way to end our wonderful vacation.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Where We Stayed, What We Ate, & Turning the Beat Around in Louisville, KY

Our early anniversary trip to Louisville turned out to be an amazing trip, but not in the way I had planned. It seemed like every time I would find something we wanted to do in Louisville, there would end up being a catch. The activity would be closed on that day, or it would only take place at a time that would not work out for us. So we ultimately decided that we would just free style this vacation, and not really have too much of a game plan, which is so not how I operate on a daily basis.

I had booked us to stay at a Bed & Breakfast, The Inn at Woodhaven. We were so excited when we got there because the house was so beautiful! And our room, The Derby Room, was fabulous. It was just so lovely with its brick wall & exposed wood beams. It even had a sitting area with tea & the local favorite, bourbon, set out for us. And I can't not mention the double jet spa tub and the bed that was like butter! 

That evening we went to a local steak house for dinner, and then went for a long walk at the nice Cherokee Park.  As we walked, we planned what we would do the next day, which involved the zoo & a tour of Churchill Downs. We also played the Alphabet game, taking turns coming up with animals and countries that started with alternating letters. And only got stumped on "U" for animals and "O" for countries. After the walk, we had a wonderful bubble bath before going to bed.

When we woke up the next morning, it was pouring. Usually Adam and I love rain but on your vacation when you've made only OUTDOOR plans, rain can really, well, rain on your parade.  After breakfast at the Inn, we set about figuring out something we could do with the day. But we had trouble agreeing on an activity we were both passionate about. I was getting pouty and overreacting, thinking the trip would be a bust. And I came this close to crying before it occurred to me the best part of vacation is getting to relax. I don't do a lot of that on vacation, I usually need a vacation from my vacation! So instead of just doing some activities that we sort of wanted to do, we decided to focus on relaxing, and enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

The first step in relaxing? A mid-morning nap that felt so decadent. We got up about lunch time and found a delicious Italian place, Saints. Their food was sooo amazing, the perfect comfort food. Afterwards, we grabbed dessert at The Homemade Pie  Kitchen & Ice Cream Shop. They had a little bit of everything, I tried their ice cream flavor, Crème Brule. It truly was the best ice cream I've ever had, and I took some banana pudding back to the room with us for a little dessert later on that night. After lunch, I went and bought some bath bombs, and we went back to the room, where I took an extremely long bath. When I got out of the tub, Adam was asleep, and I joined him for a afternoon nap! Two naps in one day? Scandalous.

When we awoke, it was time for dinner (sensing a pattern here?), so we dressed up and headed Downtown. We explored downtown for a while, even heading to Waterfront Park, to get a few shots of the lit up skyline before trying to find our dinner spot for the night, HammerHeads. We were convinced the GPS was leading us astray because every turn took us farther and farther away from where a restaurant looked like it would be. But our GPS didn't fail us, and it landed us at the small restaurant smack down in the middle of the neighborhood.

Hammerheads is such a unique place. Different from most restaurants, with some creative flair. We both had fried mac n' cheese ball dipped in hollandaise sauce, and I had shrimp and grits for the first time ever. The food was soo good, but I couldn't finish half of it because I stuffed myself silly all day long.

That was basically our whole trip, at least the part involving Louisville. But even though things didn't go quite as planned, we managed to have a memorable weekend. Better yet, we came home rested and revived and feeling ready to take on the work week. And I guess that is what vacation is for.

P.S.-I stole the phrase "Turn The Beat Around," from Brad Goreski on that show, It's a Brad, Brad World. And I think it is an awesome phrase for taking a negative situation and turning it into a positive situation. Plus, it makes me think of the awesome movie Pitch Perfect and you know, I just love to hear percussion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jim Beam Distillery

On our way up to Louisville, we stopped off at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. This isn't the first distillery I've been to, I've even been to Jack Daniels twice! But I kind of love distilleries, even though I'm not a big drinker. I love learning about the intricate steps that go into making the product. But most of all I love the passion of the people who work at the distilleries.  They really love what they do and love sharing it with people! They truly seem happy.  And that kind of passion makes me happy!

But of course, there is also the tasting at the end of the tour, and I really love the tastings. Jim Beam's Red Stag Honey Tea is officially the best bourbon ever, in my humble but always right opinion. Also, bourbon balls are pretty amazing as well.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Little Bits of Yesterday & Today

I feel like this weekend (that is so not over) has already been a fabulous one. It kicked off with a sushi date with my mom, and a trip to the movies to see Silver Lining's Playbook. Such a good movie! That is definitely something I love about living close to my mom. When a movie is playing that I really want to see, but I don't think Adam will be interested in comes along, I already have a built in plus one. You have no idea how many movies I've missed over the last 4 years due to not having a willing partner. And to clarify Adam would definitely go with me, if I asked. But I have a hang up about dragging people to movies that don't interest them. Because I know during the whole show, I will be sneaking glances at their face to see if they like it. And that is just too much pressure.

This morning I got to sleep in till 9:30 (so scandalous). I did my daily devotional, a much needed lesson on worry! My major vice. Then, laced up my sneakers and went for a much desired jog. And I do mean desired! I hadn't had time to go jogging all week. And when I go that long between jogs, I always feel like my body will have forgotten my training. But it hadn't, and I picked up right where I left off one week ago.

We had tickets to a matinee showing of the Broadway touring production of Spam-a-Lot in Huntsville this afterno. It was so hilarious! We never stopped laughing. And I of course, love musicals and Monty Python, so it was a win-win. After the show, we got Panera Bread to go and sat on the couch catching up on our DVR.

And best of all, tomorrow we are taking a quick vacation to Louisville, Kentucky, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Except for the packing, I hate packing. And never do I go on a trip that I don't complain about having to pack. And when I get back from the trip I will complain about having to unpack for over a week. Because it takes me that long to get up the will power to attempt the feat.

Can we say first world problems?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Au Revoir, Hollywood

Look what I found! Pictures from my last week in California. Let's just say these never got posted because I got distracted by moving to California, being without my husband for two months, starting a new job, and finding us a place to live! Is that a good enough excuse?
During that last week, my friend and old college roommate, Jana, came to California to help me move. So I showed her some of the sights! But it was nice to experience California in that way before saying goodbye to it, maybe forever. I even got to do some new things like visit the Hollywood Dome,  L.A.'s Farmer Market, and the Grove!
I can't believe I've been gone from California for six months already! Man, time sure flies!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rest in Peace, Neighbor

This weekend I was playing around on facebook, when I scrolled over to a friend's page and learned the saddest news. Our duplex neighbor back in California, passed away a month ago. It is weird to think that without facebook we would have never known. 

John was the best neighbor you could have asked to share a THIN wall with. He had a happy spirit, and he always kept us smiling. He was always singing LOUDLY to himself. And we heard every off key note.  But to be fair, I'm sure he heard us fight a time or two, or go overboard with our excitement while watching football.

Whenever I would bake a cake, I would be sure to bring him a piece, and he was crazy for my homemade peanut butter frosting. We loved his old dog Tequila, and when we found a stray on the street, named Oliver, he took him in. He always said Oliver brought him a lot of comfort during his illness. I'm glad we brought him some joy.

When we first moved into the duplex, Jon was recovering from a recent bout of cancer. His third round in total. And for the next two years, he seemed to be on the upswing, until he reported that he had cancer again. We felt so awful for him, but again with chemo he seemed to kick it. But he was so skinny and looked unhealthy, and he just never seemed to gain his strength back. But he always seemed chipper.

When we left in September for Alabama, as far as we knew he was fine. But in late January, he posted that he had had a heart attack. We were shocked! And we sent him a message to check in with him but never heard back.  Apparently, he died a few days later. We don't know exactly what happened, but I imagined his weakened health was the cause.

I guess the really hard part is knowing he couldn't have been much older than 40. So young.  But I believe he is happier now and healthier now. And I hope heaven is like his own personal Disneyland with no lines and free food because Disneyland was his favorite place.

Rest in Peace, John.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Remains

The Best Bits of What Remains from Carole Radziwill, which is a memoir of her marriage with a man who died of cancer and the death of her friends, JFK Jr and Carolyn Bessette.

The thing is, one of us is sick and the other sits by the bed, and some days it seems that’s all we know. There was a hint of what we might have had when we first met, but it was overshadowed. We might have been the sort of couple who gave dinner parties. There might have been children, or maybe a dog. We were both headstrong and stubborn, so we might have fought a lot, or we might have been people other couples make fun of, sappy and giggly and always holding hands. But cancer showed up like an unplanned pregnancy and completely defined who we were together.

The night was ordinary. It usually is, I think, when your life changes. Most people aren’t doing anything special when the carefully placed pieces of their life break apart.

But when it doesn’t feel like you’re turning, it feels wrong to correct it. He wouldn’t have corrected it enough. He wouldn’t have corrected it at all. He would have followed what his senses were telling him to do—an overwhelming feeling of what he should do—and it would be exactly the wrong thing.

We never seem to fight about interesting things—always passionately about the trivial: our different manner of cutting tomatoes, driving techniques, the high frequency with which I wash clothes and how much detergent is appropriate to use.

The dandelion is a gawky yellow flower that blooms and then collapses into a soft, clumsy one that little children blow wishes on. There was a sea of dandelions in our back yard on Madison Hill, and Grandma Binder, swinging her scythe, would mount a futile attack on them in her housedress and apron. They grew into a clotted forest of long, milky necks in the backyard, and the best she could hope for was just to cut them down to stubs. It starts with one slouchy weed—pluck it out and it’s gone. You never quite remember, can’t pinpoint the time between when there was one weed and a sea of them. There was a time when the thing seemed manageable, and then we were looking backward over our shoulders, running away from it. You never stop thinking you might have beaten it somehow, and there were moments when we thought we had. Your husband can be dead years, and you can’t stop thinking how you might have beaten it. Or how they could have left ten minutes earlier, or the next morning. Or that damn lighthouse could have flickered through the fog.

It steals in the moment we feel invincible. It depended on our denial, our disbelief. Cancer is nothing if not discreet. Look at me, it whispers. I dare you, say my name on this sunny day with your future spread wide.

Nothing is ever as it seems. We hide our reality from the outside world and from each other. We float along on process, Anthony and I—What will we have for dinner, did you call your mother, what time do you think you’ll be home? Phone calls and kisses and thank-you notes. You can lose a whole life on that.