Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Words

I don't know why, but I really like big words. When I read them or hear them I attempt to define them in my head if I don't know them based upon sentence structure, or I define them smugly because I know THAT word.

My word for today is one that I stumbled across in a pleasantly well-written book that I'm reading.

elucidate (v.) [ih-loo-si-deyt]: 1. (used with object) to make lucid or clear; throw light upon; explain: an explanation elucidated his recent strange behavior. 2. (used without object) to provide clarification; explain.

Now let me elucidate upon my love of large words. Part of it is the study that shows that children who are read to every night before the age of 5 or 6 have a vocabulary that is easily 15,000 words greater than children who are not. My parents knew best, and read to me a lot. 

"Good readers have a diverse vocabulary. They ask questions when they are unclear about what a word means, they use the context of a conversation or the happenings in a book to decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words and they use varied vocabulary in referring to familiar objects (this bird is big, but this elephant is gigantic)."

And I read, a lot. And I like using what I know.

What is your word for today?


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Saturday

Okay, so I apologize for the scrooge-ish whining of yesterday. I still stand by it, headlines that boyfriend was reading off to me this morning were ridiculous, like "One woman pepper-sprays another for XBOX while man is shot in parking lot." But I could have sounded nicer.

I perhaps was speaking with the foreboding of the retail-employed on that unfortunate day.

In other news. My gym was closed this morning when I went. Apparently they don't open until 7 a.m. on Satudays. Which is unfortunate when one shows up at 6:15 a.m. after one has valiantly talked oneself out of bed.

The effort was heroic, I assure you.

Luckily with the time change it was light enough to get in a run. We're dog-sitting for our neighbor's Aussie-mix who needed a walk anyways, so his butt got to come too.

Brief digression: Ollie-dog is one of the awesomest dogs ever. He "hugs" you if he likes you, puts his front paws around your waist and his head on your stomach so you can scratch him thoroughly. And he's incredibly well-behaved for being a recent pound-puppy. He didn't pull on the leash when we were running, he didn't cut me off, leash-line me or yank. Good boy.

ANYways. My point is, it hurt. I know, I know, I'm such a whiner. But from the way my body complained this morning you wouldn't believe that I ran a half marathon a month and a half ago!

I know that's my problem though. When my running season is over, I'm done. I'm no die-hard who keeps running four or five times a week when there's nothing to train for. So in all honesty, I have not run since then! Except for that one night when I had the bad day at work and ran around the tiny indoor track at my gym. Which doesn't really count.

Oh well. Guess I'm in different shape now. Round is a shape right?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

1. I don't like crowds. I love me some sales, but I like the ones that happen to be happening on the day I'm shopping that most people aren't aware of. The kind where you expect one price and then it's lower at the register and then the nice sales person says, "Oh and today you get an additional 20%..."

2. Black Friday is underwhelming.

3. It's a sad day that people in this country are more concerned about sales and "Black Friday" and force stores (and thus, their employees) to open on Thanksgiving just so they can get to sales quicker. Whatever happened to family? Thanking everyone? Giving thanks?

4. Yes, it's fun. No, I don't need any of the crap that's on sale. Most of it I wouldn't buy anyways.

5. Do I sound like a Black Friday scrooge? Perhaps. But while I will happily and willingly admit that it's fun if I'm with my mom, sister, and co., I don't go when I'm on my own. The crowds make me cranky and it's just stuff. Stuff I don't need.

Instead, I am home warm in bed giving thanks that Tyler and I have been together for 3 and a half years (as of yesterday), that Maddie has recovered from her asthma shot (poor baby, makes her dopey all day), and that we're healthy, (relatively) happy, secure and surrounded by a furry terrorist who loves us and family and friends who love and support us.

Happy Giving Thanks Day-After, good morning Black Friday.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SHUT the Front Door

Family is odd, eclectic, wonderful and usually loud and occasionally unbearable. Mine is no exception. Luckily, boyfriend loves me very, very much. Enough to happily handle kooky aunts, brazen uncles, and a thousand and one cousins, second cousins, children and parents.

I speak of family because my grandmother passed on October 11, 2011. She passed as any of us should hope to go: coffee in hand, snuggled in her favorite chair, her list for the day half-written in her lap. She was looking forward to seeing me in four days, and seeing everyone in the family in a little more than a month for my mom's birthday party.

My Nana is the reason good cookery floats in my genetics, she's the reason I enjoy turning my hand at arts and crafts, and how I know that my love for a good book and my constant reading is genetically related and not just me. Last year, when she was in and out of the hospital for months, Mom and I got sent to the library to get her a new stack of books. The way we knew we weren't picking ones she'd already read is because we'd check the spine on the inside the ones she'd read, she'd written a "P" lightly in pencil. We couldn't stop her from cooking random things like wonton soup, and her "fruit compost compote" that she brought camping was both loved and hated.

It's been a month, and still I have that niggling feeling in the back of my head that is my usual reminder that it's time to write to her again. Even though she won't receive it, I keep opening my drawer of smokey stationary that she send every time it'd been too long since I'd written and reaching for a card -- only to remember.

No more tears though.

We saw her off exactly the way she would have wanted. I don't know if you have ever heard of a Balinese Funeral Procession, but it's quite something. The Hindus of Bali carry their dead on a litter in a parade-like procession, circling the litter to confuse the spirit to keep it from returning home and using drums and flutes to further disturb it and chase it into the afterworld. At the end of the procession in Bali the dead are burned on a pyre, and celebration of life ensues.

This is how my grandmother asked to be sent forth. My uncles carried her ashes on a litter, and there was no burning at the end, but one of my nana's little old lady friends chuckled to me as we tromped down the street my mother grew up on banging pots and pans, "Your grandmother is watching us and laughing her head off right now because she made us look like fools."

I heartily agreed. Nana would have been laughing so hard to see us marching up and down the street. She also would have been in the center of it all (well, technically she was anyways) banging pots and hollering.

Nana was dramatic that way.

After the funeral procession, there were speeches, tears, and lots of champagne. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do...when in Pat's house, do as Pat would have done," one of my uncles said to me as we raised our glasses in a toast.

As the members of her Lunch Bunch, Symphony League, Danville Democrats, Book Club, and others slowly trickled out the door, family degenerated and became more family. We convened, glasses and treats in hand in Nana's favorite room, looking at old pictures and movies my uncle had brought and talking about her, family stuff and life in general.

Kids chased each other around the coffee table and wreaked a bit of havoc while we laughed and cooed over my cousin's 9-month-old. Predictably, a child tripped, a hand went out, and a glass bit the dust.

"Shhhhhi-UT the front door!" My cousin cried out.

The room went silent, and then as one, we all roared with laughter. My cousin and her husband explained that they were trying to curb their language now that their little one was old enough to understand it...and repeat it.

As is unspoken tradition in the family -- or maybe just an inability to let go of a joke -- "SHUT the front door" was repeated over and over throughout the rest of the night. It could have been worse...last time we were together, the phrase that pays was "We don't talk about that."

Ah, family. It's only truly funny if you were there.

My nana was there that night, laughing with us.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Fine, Fresh, FIERCE...part II

I left you at the Expotique. Now, we move on to race day.

A year ago, Siobhan was inspired by a line in the Katy Perry song "California Gurls" that went "Fine, fresh, fierce / we've got it on lock." and had me design a shirt for our Chi Omega family. It was never used, so I suggested that we use it for shirts for the race.

We did iron ons and the four of us boasted tees with that splashed across the front, and the three Chi Ohs had "We are Chi O, We Run NWM 2011" on the back.

At 6 a.m. we all blearily rose from our nervousness-free night of sleep to prep for the 7 a.m. race start. At 6:45, we toddled down to Union Square to join the other 24,000 runners.

We look like a pretty perky bunch for that early in the morning. It was the adrenaline of being about to run 13.1 miles through the street of San Fransisco. It was to be my fourth in just over a year, Siobhan and Vanessa were running their first, and Heather's fourth as well.

Union Square was packed. I wish I had taken a picture, but I was too bleary to do so. It was all I could to to remember to take the above picture! The emcee finished up their warm up session that started at 5:45 a.m. and ended right before the start of the race, then he did his little schpiel and the racers were off!

Our first three miles went well, Heather and I split from Siobhan and Vanessa as we had planned -- we intended to meet back at the hotel -- and I experienced my first BIG race. The running speeds were surreal, because it felt like we were going faster than we were just because of all the people we were passing. That and the tall buildings mixed with the overload of people using the same Garmin satellites we were caused our watches to go in and out, confusing our pace and distance.

Regardless, we were doing well, our slow first mile countered by a peppy 2nd and 3rd. At mile three, we whipped out our first packs of shot blocks. I erroneously grabbed my extra sodium blocks. Shrugging, I ate them anyways even though I don't usually until mile 6.

That was to be my downfall. Once that extra salt hit my system, disaster struck. Dizzy, nauseous, tunnel vision. The extra salt mixed with the strain I was putting myself through to run the race had yuck pumping through my bloodstream. My body rebelled.

Our pace slowed from our peppy 9-ish minute mile to a 10 minute crawl. I was frustrated and kept apologizing to Heather, who kept trucking merrily and waved aside my pitifulness with good humor and optimism. The race was a blur from there on out as I struggled with my unhappy stomach.

I do know there were some fun things that I wish we had known the sports bra exchange, where you turn in your bra for a brand new Nike one. Unfortunately, we wear our good bras to run. Whoops.


Photo op in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

We finished. At 2 hrs and 15 minutes (according to our watches, which we stopped every time I had to stop to try to heave), though our official time was 2:22. But we did it!

I enjoyed it, though I'm blocking out our adventure back to our plush hotel -- my first true experience with San Fransisco's muni (5 minutes from BART to the Giants Stadium doesn't count). Anyways. It was fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe even next year.

I learned a lot.

Ciao for now,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fine, Fresh, FIERCE...part I

Nike Women's Marathon. It's kind of a big deal. Only 24,000 runners. 22,000 of them are women, and only recently have men been allowed. Being the great city of San Fransisco of freedom and equality it only makes sense that equality goes both ways.

At least, it makes sense to me. And in this blog? It's really all that matters.

For having 24,000 people and their C.R.E.W.s there, it could have been a class-A royal cluster. Instead, it was amazingly and wonderfully well-organized. The lines we stood in were thankfully short and well-manned. In fact, the biggest snafu was self-inflicted.

Heather and I arrived at about 10:30 a.m. the day before at the BART station. From there, we knew it was a fifteen or twenty minute easy walk to the hotel I had booked. Laughing and toting our bags and shoes, we set out. We were meeting my little sisters from Chi Omega there and then we were all going to trundle on to the Expotique.

The neighborhood got shadier as we walked on. Not shadier as in shade, but shadier as in bars on windows, fewer women, fewer...sober, non-drug-dealer-crackhead-esque people. I didn't say anything as we kept on. Then we came in sight of the hotel.

Which was not a hotel.

It as a motel.

With no bars, when all of the other buildings had bars. And by "lobby" they really meant a speaker in a plastic window in the parking lot. I could not envision the lovely pictures of lobby, dining area and lush, if aged halls that were on the website.

It was less than ideal.

"Is that it?" Heather asked, skeptically.

"I think so." I replied dubiously. "Siobhan's going to kill me."

Not that she really would. But the tension I felt in my sinking stomach would have been vividly marked across her expressive features. The dismay that crept into Heather's tone would have been visible in the line of her posture.

I was nervous. My littles would be nervous. It all boded for a sleepless night.

After checking on when check in was, Heather and I agreed to head to the Expotique. Lingering on the border of the Tenderloin of San Fransisco (which might has well have been dead center if you asked me), was not our idea of a good time.

On the way there, we kept saying to ourselves, "Okay...we'll be okay...but..." in highly skeptic and wary tones.

We started poking our heads into hotels as we moved in the direction of Union Square. Most were fully booked. We encountered one or two that had small beds which would not suffice for four young women. Finally, we encountered a J.W. Marriott that had a king-sized bed and would provide a rollaway at no extra charge (a good thing considering the already-exorbitant cost of the room). We called Siobhan and Vanessa and presented our options.

They heartily agreed that switching our lodgings was a good idea.

That settled, we checked in and Heather and I enjoyed our plush suite for a few minutes until the other girls arrived. Then we all happily head out to the Expotique to pick up our race packets and enjoy the little tidbits and swag that they threw our way.

Luckily, the City of Fog was smiling on us, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. There was some fun stuff to be had, and my good friend Robert joined us for the afternoon. Us girls knew that the real swag was to be had the next day.

Which is where I leave you for now.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bottoms Up!

Some of my favorite cupcakes ever were what we dubbed "Amazon Cupcakes." Like many things in my life (like consolation gifts, the kitchen dildo and others), I discovered that its only my family that really calls them that. To the rest of the world they are called "Black Bottom Cupcakes" or "Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes."

Oh well.

I never understood the whole "Amazon" part anyhow.

Regardless, they are in fact, delicious.

And apparently, in miniature, they are divine.

Black-Bottom (Amazon) Cupcakes
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted, warm
1/2 cup whole milk

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in medium bowl. Add egg, sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat until almost smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. 

For cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Stir in vanilla and chocolate; beat at high speed 5 seconds. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat on high for 5 seconds to blend. Divide batter among cups, filling 1/3 full. Using tablespoon, hollow out center of each cupcake. Place 1 heaping tablespoonful cream cheese filling in each center.
Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted into center (but not cream cheese filling) comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.


I baked them for my debut as a Stampin' Up demonstrator. The recipe says that in regular size, it makes 12. As I'm too lazy, cheap and well...all of that to double a recipe. And there was going to be small people there (children) and it's such a waste when little fingers get dug into a chocolate cupcake and then the cupcake is abandoned.

So I went with miniature. Thinking that if a regular recipe makes 12, then in mini it'd make about 30.  Right? That's good logical math.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It made a bajillion. Or rather, 65 plus. Ish. A lot. And every single bite-sized chocolate morsel was delicious.

Until later.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Tease Please

So it's been a while. And again I promised you that I would recap the month. Many things happened last month and this month that you missed out on.

Nike Women's Half Marathon

My nana passed

Boyfriend came home

I baked mini black-bottom cupcakes

I had my first Stampin' Up party as a demonstrator

My family had a memorial for my nana

I turned 25.

This post will have to span several days as I intend to hit most of those topics in detail.

And this is just a teaser.

Tauntingly yours,