Wednesday, November 10, 2010

To the low pressure system in Rio de Janeiro: You're on Notice!

Remember back when I said that I had 4 months to get ready for my trip? Remember how that felt like a REALLY long time? Plenty of time to procrastinate and STILL have lots of time to get ready.


Procrastinating sort of dominated the last 3.5 months.

Here we are just one week away from departure date. As a matter of fact, my plane to Rio will be leaving right about now next Wednesday night. If I'm as sleepy then as I am now (and the 2 Tylenol PM earmarked for the occasion will ensure that I am) then I will have no trouble snoozing away at least half of the 14 hour flight.

I am getting crazy excited to go. The countdown is absolutely on. Especially now that we've entered into's 10 day forecast range. So far looks like it's a titch more on the rainy side than my travel brochures promised. BETTER STEP IT UP RIO!! I'm coming and I expect to do some serious sun bathing on your famous beaches. You would be well advised to not disappoint me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some Thoughts While My Beets Cook

I put some beets in to roast about two hours ago and there they are ... still a-roastin. While I wait for them to be easily piercable, I figured I might as well share some of the random thoughts that have been rattlin' around the old bean.

First of all, and while we're on the topic of beets, which I have an unbounded love for, I'm reminded that I also have an unbounded love for buying any vegetables at all from a farmers market. Cooking and eating them I'm not so fond of. But buying! Buying from the farmers market is so satisfying. With any luck I'll actually eat what I bought this week: Wax beans, zucchini, beets, arugula, mesclun greens, and some honeycrispalicious Honeycrisp apples. If not, meh, I can always buy some more next week. I can hardly wait!

Second of all, my Halloween weekend was Phenom. I went back to my old stompin ground in Capitol Hill to do my farmer's market shopping before the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The rally was great! It was a good old-fashioned DC Crowd Feeling Event. We could hear and see (mostly), the weather was perfect, our neighbors were friendly, and the crowd in general was good humored and unfailingly polite. A finer rally has rarely been had. Plus I got to see Ozzy and Kid Rock in concert ... two things I could have sworn on my dead aunt Ethel's grave would never happen. To tell the truth, I wouldn't have been sad if they'd had more Ozzy and less Kid.

The rest of my Halloween weekend was full of parties where I wore my Supergirl costume. It was a pretty awesome costume and a pretty awesome weekend, if I say it myself.

I think my beets are almost done, so I have just one more thought before I wrap up. The other day it was just a normal day. I went shopping to get some hiking shoes for my trip. After I got my shoes I was wandering around the outdoor shopping center. I had been craving the shrimp roll at Coastal Flatts for quite some time, so since I was right there, was a bit peckish, and didn't have a reason to not eat an early dinner, I decided to give into my craving. It was great! Diet coke. Cornbread. Fries with salt. All my favorite things! Afterward, not having much on my agenda I decided I'd see a movie across the way. While I waited for it to start, I sat on a sunny bench and read a really great book. As I was sitting there I thought to myself how much I was enjoying my day. And I reflected that I get to have these types of days pretty regularly. In fact, a day in which I get to do all of the things I want to do, and none of the things I don't want to is pretty typical for me. (The stacks of mail and less than pristine apartment alone attest to this fact). I'm pretty lucky that way, and it occurred to me that instead of being jealous or at the very least slightly wistful looking at the couples out enjoying their day, that I was the one that they (or at least someone, somewhere) should probably be jealous of. I don't want to be like, oh I'm so fab and you should think I'm the bee's knees, but I, we, all of us spend a lot of time thinking about the bad parts of our lives or how our jeans don't fit quite the way we want them to, or how we're not part of a couple on a beautiful afternoon and it just gets to be a habit. So it was a nice sojourn for a little while on my side of the fence where the grass is pretty damn green.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


What's it called when you just have to write stuff out to get it out of your system? As like therapy? You know for traumatic events? Is there an official name for that?

If there is, then that's what this post is going to be. Because I am traumatized, friends.


I am still in this weird city of Austin (thank goodness I'm leaving tomorrow I can't handle anymore weirdness!) and well, let me tell you what happened.

I went to get dinner at this place that has a bunch of food carts in an dirt parking lot. A taco-like place, BBQ, Cupcakes, and some other stuff. (Including this Vietnam Vet musician dude that drives a truck with a skeleton in the passenger seat and "RIP Ministries" written on the door. This is a weird city.) So I get my taco-y thing --tortilla, chicken, coleslaw concoction-- and a fancy root beer in a bottle. I wolf down my meal and decide to get a cupcake to gorge on in the privacy of my hotel room.

So I walk to the end of the strip sipping on my root beer. I order my cupcake and as I'm walking away I start thinking, "I ate so fast I bet I had a bunch of crap stuck in my teeth - ew! Like Totally EMBARRASSING!" So while I walk back to my car I pick my teeth a little bit and suck on them, you know, to get it all squeaky clean.

Then I take a drink of my root beer. And there's something crunchy.

First thought: "Woah! How did I backwash something this big? I'm not a backwasher."

Second thought: "I bet I dripped some of the coleslaw from my taco into my bottle."

Third thought: "Dripping coleslaw into a bottle would be hard. AHHH! Must have been stuck in my teeth."

Fourth thought: "That's a HUGE thing to have stuck in my teeth! The cupcake man must have been laughing his face off at the enormous cabbage leaf stuck in my teeth."

At this point, I decided I needed to examine how embarrassing the Food In Teeth scenario was and I pull out the crunchy thing I'd been chewing while I had all of the above thoughts. And when I pulled it out and looked what did I see?


I had been chewing on a BEE! I'm totally skeeved out about it. I'm not alergic, and it definitely wasn't alive when it went in. But still! GROOOOOSSSSS.

I bet it flew into my bottle of root beer (attracted by it's sugar cane deliciousness) and drowned a quick death. And then I gulped it in and started noshing away. Blaaaaaa! I want to scrub my mouth with turpentine and a wire brush.

I was so freaked out and distracted on the drive to the hotel I ended up totally lost and 20 miles out of my way.

I hope my insurance covers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I definitely need it. BLLLLLAHHHHH!

Two Derbies Both Alike in Dignity (and Awesomeness)

Last weekend I went to the Demolition Derby. You KNOW I love the derby, right?

I Do.

I love it super-duper style.

Well. At least I thought I loved it as much as I possibly could. This year's visit included the usual perks:

  • Corn Dogs
  • Car Fires
  • Mullets

All of the things I love.

But now, I have to add MORE things to this list, because this year we also had a car run THROUGH the jersey barrier and CRASH INTO and COLLAPSE the sound system. And a wheel FALL COMPLETELY OFF of a car, only to later IMPALE another car and kill it. Dead. sa-WEEET!

In the world of Demolition Derby it really does not get better than that, friends.

But why go to one derby in a weekend when you can go to TWO?!

I had the good luck to go to Texas and while I was there I went and saw the Texecutioner Rockin-RollerDerby Girls final bout. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

When the mascot/MC was circling the ring in skin-tight white jeans and a blood stained tuxedo shirt waving a running chainsaw and screaming, "TEXAS! TEXAS!" and we all screamed "KILL! KILL! KILL!". Well, that was when I knew going to the RollerDerby was the coolest thing I could have possibly done with my evening.

I *kinda* understood the rules. But I wasn't really there for the rules. I was there for the fights, and the skates to the face, and the costumes. And of course the Frito Pie! I was definitely there for the Frito Pie!

Wherein Heat Stroke Renders Me Unshockable

Last Sunday I was spending some time exploring Austin, TX when a couple of weird things happened. For the most part this visit followed the usual weekend-away format:
  1. Find the yummiest brunch spot in the city
  2. Visit something naturey like a park or botanical garden
  3. See any noteworthy attractions or monuments
  4. Snack-style lunch
  5. Walk the streets and get a feel for the people, architecture, etc.
  6. Boutique shopping in the trendy/spendy parts of town
  7. Fancy Dinner somewhere fabulous
  8. Wrap up the night with a film or something unique to the area. Or in some cases veg in the hotel. Depends.
Well, I was mid-way through number two on the itinerary when I decided that I was WAY to tired to proceed any further until I'd had a nap. So much for "Get an early start on the day, what! what!"

If you don't know me very well, let me just tell you that when I need a nap it is Serious Business. I will generally just lay down wherever I am (as long as it isn't likely that I'll be arrested or get some sort of skin disease) and snooze away. Until I've napped my fill and then I'll just get up and carry on as if nothing had interrupted me.

Anyway, I desperately needed a nap. So I decided to drive downtown to my next stop on the tour, take a little nap, and then carry on with the day. So I did. I parked in the shade near the Capitol and proceeded to take an hour nap. And yes, it was 100+ degrees in Austin that day. And yes, I had the windows up. And yes, if I had been a dog my owner would have been fined 2 million dollars and suspended from the NFL. But when I need a nap I don't always think things through.

So after about an hour of snoozing in the hot car I woke up. And lo and behold, walking in front of my car was a protest. Fifty or so men and women were marching to get equality for women to go topless. There they were: Men Boobs and Women Boobs strolling by my front window. Just like that. Boobs galore!

The weirdest thing about this was how NOT weird it was. Maybe I was just disoriented from my sauna-nap, but as I sat there watching the nipple-parade I was like, "Hmm. Boobs." But I wasn't outraged or grossed out or shocked by seeing women with no tops on walking up Congress Street. As a matter of fact, after I stumbled out of the car and down the street to get a cool soda it was so hot I must admit that stripping to the waist was pretty darn tempting. And despite never having considered that as a cool-down option before I almost did it! When in Rome, right!?

But then I got some cold sugary fluids into my system and my reason was restored. And consequently Austin was spared, er, I mean, DENIED that vision.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TIE Count Down

I have 4 months to get this bucket of bolts in good enough shape to not die on my vacation.

The last couple of weeks have been tough. Two weeks ago I started out strong. Working out. Eating well. But then I went to Texas. And however good Texas food is for the tastebuds, is tremendously BAD for the waist line. And the ghetto-ass hotel I was in on some forelorn highway wasn't offering many work-out options that didn't involve death. So there were some setbacks.

And then last week, even though I was back home, I had very little success. I went to what was perhaps the most worthless yoga class of my life. And then Chick-Fil-A and I started a whirlwind romance.

But now.

Now, it's time to get serious. I went to the gym today to do a little circuit weight training and some cardio. And what I learned was that I am a weak, weak, WEAK girl. I need to get stronger, or I will surely die a painful death in the jungles of Brazil.

Since shame is the only motivator that has any sway for me, I've added a little work-out widget to my blog. Periodically, I'm also going to update this blog with some of the more gory details. We are all in this together!!

Time to go from this:


Single Handedly Changing My Morning Outlook

Every May I go to the National Cathedral Flower Mart. It's this Medieval festival transported to the twentieth century. Complete with folk dancers, market stalls, and oh, yes, chocolate covered strawberries. DARK chocolate covered strawberries. I love to go to the Flower Mart!

I normally don't buy craft or hand-made type items (it's not really my style) but this year I was going a little crazy and was just buying things to buy them. I bought a couple of blouses (so cute, and wearing the hell out of them), some hair clips, two soup mixes (still to be used), and a Mint flavored honey.

I wasn't sure what to do with the mint honey. So I started by slathering it on Saltine crackers with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese. Super YUM!

But then, I thought, "hey, I bet this would be delicious in my morning smoothie." AND INDEED IT IS!

I gobbled down my Minty-Strawberry-y-Honey surprise every morning. And I was happy to do it!

After the honey was gone, my morning smoothie lost a little something. I didn't have that minty-smug secret that put such zing into my walk to work. I tried regular honey. But. meh ... it wasn't the same.

Forelorn, I wasn't sure what to do to get back my mornings. But then! I realized that I could probably buy more honey on the Internet. God Bless the Internets!! I blithely bought 3 more herbal honeys: Cinnamon Spice, Lemon Verbena, and more Mint. I cannot wait to mix up the Cinnamon Spice into a PEACH smoothie.

SHUT. UP. It's gonna be mega-delicious.

Seriously, if a condiment can change a life, this herbal honey is changing mine. It's the little things, friends. The little things.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wherein I Have Selected

You guys! I'm SUPER SUPER excited.

You know how I work like a beast these days and don't have any time to do things like cook dinner let alone see my friends or, er, blog? Well, in the few minutes I have been able to carve out for myself over these past few months my favorite pastime has been planning vacations. I'm not talking about the odd weekend getaway. No. I'm talking about a Granddaddy Vacation. A truly epic adventure that will serve one purpose and one purpose only: To get me OUT of incessant blackberrying hell for a while.

And so it was. When I needed a break I'd start scoping out amazing vacations.

Here were my criteria:
  1. Aforementioned blackberry hell = it needed to be international
  2. I want something active, since I am a desk weenie. How great would it be to come home THINNER from a vacation?!
  3. I prefer a group so I don't feel so weird about being a solo traveler

My first plan was to go on a 7 day cycling tour from Prague to Vienna. But I won't be able to go until October or November. Alpine weather being what it is, this could make what sounds really fun really miserable. So while I harbored this as my fantasy vacation for a while I eventually opted to not follow through. I still might do it though ... just not this year.

And THEN! Then I found The Island Experience. All of the criteria were met. All of the reviews were raving. All of my dreams will come true!

TIE (as I will call it, because the full name is pretty lame) is an "adventure spa" on an island off of Rio de Janeiro. They only have 12 guests at a time so it is very customized to meet everyone's needs. Together we hike the rain forest, sea kayak, yoga, and swim in waterfalls and coves around the island. A nutritionist provides gourmet vegetarian meals (with unlimited fresh produce) and a masseur provides a daily hour long massage. The beach front accommodations are beautiful and in our downtime (what there is of it) can be spent relaxing or doing various activities such as painting.


There's one little thing ... all of the reviews I read raved but they made sure to mention that the trip was "intense" and all of the exercise, while great, was very challenging. When I described this trip to my friend Jennifer, she said, "So, you're going to Jungle Fat Camp?" And basically, yes I am. But if I can survive it, it will be super amazing. I've got almost 4 months to get in-shape enough to ensure that I don't die on this trip. One reviewer said she participates in 7 hours of gym time a week between yoga, kickboxing etc, and TIE pushed her very hard. But at the end of it she had gained a great sense of accomplishment aaaaaand lost 7 lbs.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

Now that I've put down my deposit I'm committed and I will have some serious motivation to go to the gym. I think this trip will be a great mix of fun, exercise, nutrition, travel, and relaxation.

I really couldn't be more excited about it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little Mormon, Big World

A few years ago I was watching an episode of "Little People, Big World." In this particular episode the teenagers were going to a Little people conference so they could socialize with other little people. And I thought to myself, "man, that would suck to have to go to a conference to meet people. Like, who does that?" It struck me as a very awkward social situation and I felt sorry for those poor kids being forced to attend. I remember feeling very superior and very tall.

Well I don't feel quite so tall anymore, because this past weekend I, of my own free will (and some empty threats from Camie), attended an equally awkward conference to meet people. It was a conference for single Mormons in their 30s and 40s. It had the potential to be tremendously painful and exponentially embarrassing. So, being the cautious (aka cynical) lady that I am, I went in with extremely low expectations.

But it was fun!

And I met some cool people!

And I laughed a LOT!

No one was more surprised than I, of that I can assure you. (This low-expectation strategy is really panning out.)

Enjoying this event really hinged on being less critical. I think I've definitely mellowed out over the years because now I can just chuckle good-naturedly when I hear people say things like "The second time I took the Bar ... " (vs the fourth or fifth time), "You can call me 'Hey You'," or my personal favorite, "So, enough about Perrier."

Awkward? Yes. Weirder than the Little People convention? Eh, it's a toss up. All in all, pretty damn fun.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Last week ... Was it last week? Maybe it was the week before. Anyway, sometime this month I went to Mexico for work.

We had our sales meeting there, and twas amazing. The first night, after getting up at 3AM to fly to Mexico City and then driving for 3 hours on a bus we were as exhausted as possible. So stopping half way to our destination to stay in this hotel was a surprise and a treat!

And yes, it was as amazing as it looks.

The only downside to this place was that it is all outside - all of the common spaces anyway. Normally this would be fine. More than fine! But apparently the world's weather has gone schizo so it was verry chilly. No me gusta el Frio! Plus I was sick, which was sort of sucky. And then, this dude who didn't know me had to do an introduction of me in front of the entire company and he said that I looked like a 90 year old woman. So obviously, he's dead to me. But, on the plus side, the executives made the hotel staff go out to a convenience store to buy me Gatorade. And I was like, "no, no, no! It's not (cough) a big deal." And they were like, "Gretchen, they WANT to go get you Gatorade. Senor! Get her Gatorade NOW!" It's nice being taken care of.

The next day we had some sessions and then, just when our enthusiasm was at its highest we all loaded onto the bus to drive another 3 hours through the mountains to the Rain Forest in Veracruz. Our final destination.

I'm not sure if I've ever been in a Rain Forest before, and not surprisingly it is very humid. If it hadn't been 40 degrees the damp air would have been pleasant. As it was ... it was verrry chilly! But when I wasn't miserable because I was chilly and damp and sick it was SUPER fun! We went river rafting, did a zip line, made best friends with the hotel staff, ate some super delicious Mexican food, and had some awesome dance parties. I attribute most of the fun to my awesome co-workers. I really love them. There really aren't any that I don't like (especially now that that one guy is dead to me, he was dead weight anyway). How could you not have fun with people like this:

I loved it!

What I didn't love was the bout with Montezuma's Revenge that appeared at 4AM just as I boarded the bus for the return 6 hour bus ride and 10 hours of plane rides. Danger Will Robinson!

(That's me. And YES I was the first one sent down the zip line. I need to practice my form.)


P.S. Oh, AND! I almost forgot. We had an awards ceremony and I won the award I've been wanting the most: Rookie of the Year. I won that at my last company. Obviously, my only criteria for my next job will be whether or not they offer a Rookie of the Year award. Hat trick, Baby!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mustard Resolves


Mustard is yelling at me from the Living Room again.

I am trying to ignore him because he is watching one of the ubiquitous "Decade in Review" shows, and he's very concerned that A) my decade wasn't as productive as it should have been and B) that I start making preparations STAT to not waste the decade to come.

Personally, I think -- and I always think this, so there's nothing new here -- but I think he's full of crap. This decade was chock-a-block packed with excitement. Except for 2007 - that year was totally forgetable.

"GRETCHEN! Since you are too old and decrepit to join me when I call for you, you best be preparing yourself for my imminent arrival."

Oh great. He's coming upstairs to disturb my peace.

"Alright little miss. We've got to have a serious talk."

"I already know what you're going to say, so you might as well spare us both the lecture." I respond. Everyday its some new suggestion: Hey, you know what you should do? Bungee Jumping! or Stock Car Racing! or Cliff Diving in Buenos Aires. Mustard doesn't inhabit the same plane of reality that the rest of us do where there are such things as jobs and meals to prepare.

"Oh? You think you know, do you?" he counters.

"I think I have the general idea," I say while filing my nails. "Perhaps something along the lines of how my life would be so great if I would only start a fight club with the women at church. The details vary, of course, but the absurdity remains the same."

"A fight club at church!? THAT IS GENIUS!! Think of the scrunchies flying! The hymnal backhanding alone would be phenomenal! You know those ladies would love to claw each others eyes out every once in a while. Why, oh WHY don't you have the gumption to put into practice things like this?" He gets a sad, pleading look on his face, "You are wasting your natural talents, Gretchen. It. is. a. Tragedy."

I shrug and start filing the left hand.

"You pain me. You really do," Mustard whispered before pausing to collect himself. He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and stoically said, "Well. You are right. That is generally the kind of thing I would be PROUD to see you do. But after almost TEN years together I like to think that I have learned how to work within the confines of your timid little life. And so, I was not going to suggest something awesome like a Brazilian Rainforest Expedition or that amazing fight club idea, instead I was going to suggest that I help you set your New Years resolutions. Heaven knows you need help setting good goals."

"My goals are fine!" I say.

"Oh really? And what was your New Years Resolution last year?"

"Um. To meet straight men?" I smile hopefully.

"Exacty. To meet straight men. And how many straight men did you meet this year?"

"Like fift---"

"WITHOUT counting co-workers!" he cut in. "We're talking about eligbile for dating men."

"Oh. Probably like ... well there was ... and ..." I say while mentally counting and discarding. "Let's call it two."

"Two? Aren't you exaggerating a little bit? Yes. I thought so. You met ONE. One straight man. And he was a weirdo. Your specialty, so I'm not surprised. But the point remains. You had ONE goal this year and you failed. Miserably. Clearly, someone has to help you. And unfortunately, I, once again, am left holding the bag."

"Don't feel obliged to do me any favors, my dear Mustard. I'll have you know that I've already put together my New Years Resolutions. And they are quite good, if I say so myself."

"Really?" he raised an eyebrow. "Astonish me."

"Well, you know how I got this new job, right? And I've been working my booty off, and not getting anything else done?"

"Go on."

"Well I've decided that this year's theme will be Balance."

"Gretchen. PLEASE PLEASE PLEAAAAAASE say that you are getting a subscription at a trapeeze gym! That takes tons of balance!"

"No, moron. That's not the kind of balance I'm talking about." I shake my head. The lad never loses hope, you can say that for him. "I'm going to bring balance back into my life by, you know, having a life? Rather than working 24/7."

"Fine. Boring, but fine. I need specifics."

"Well, for one, I WILL be better about going to the gym. And I will make my food more often rather than eat out. And I might even start blogging on a regular basis. The key is to take baby steps. I can't be as involved in my hobbies as I used to be. But I'd imagine I could manage to blog about 52 times this year."

"Only 52 times? That's only once a week!"

"Yeah, but I also want to develop another hobby. And if I'm spending all of my time working and at the gym and making dinner there isn't very much time left for blogging and one other thing, now is there?"

"No. I guess not, but it all depends on what that other thing is going to be. What's it gonna be? What's it gonna BEEEEEE?!" Charming Mustard jumped up on my lap and put both hands on my cheeks while he waited to find out. And just like that, my inner resolve crumbled.

"Well, I'm not sure yet. I'd like to do something more exciting. Perhaps YOU can choose a safe not too time-consuming or travel requiring hobby for me to undertake."

A huge grin spread over Mustard's face and he planted a big smooch on my forehead before hopping off my lap and marching around the middle of the room punching the air and singing, "FIGHT CLUB! FIGHT CLUB! FIGHT CLUUUUB!"

Why am I such a softie? A fight club. Geez. Let's hope both Mustard and I get through this year in one piece. That SHOULD be my New Year's resolution.