Thursday, February 28, 2008

This Birthday, I Really Cleaned Up!

The "top secret" project is doing me in, people!

I was working most of the day on it yesterday and again until 2am this morning and then again at 8:15 this morning. It will be over in the next couple of weeks. And it's been good to be busy again and I sure do like the money. But. . .

I. AM. DOG. TIRED. (No offense, my little Bug).

Other than that, it was actually my birthday this past weekend. Craze and I headed to Detroit to spend it with his parents and other relatives, who I'm fortunate to actually like (and I got to see my super cute nephew, V).

I got a lot of great gifts: yummy soaps and smellies from Lush--my fave; magazine subscriptions I've been wanting; the book Marley and Me, perfect for the dog-obsessed person I am; some lovely fake diamond earrings; a new Fiestaware color place setting that I didn't have (Must have EVERY color! Hello, "Heather"); and not one BUT TWO bottles of my favorite Bliss cleansing milk that I am too cheap to buy for myself. You could say (sorry, I can't help myself. . .) that I really cleaned up!

We also went to the Detroit Institute of Art where I had never been before even though I've been to Detroit what seems like a thousand times (I was going to say "million times" but that would just be exaggeration for its own sake). It's a really great museum. What a pleasure just to walk around that lovely sunlit building and look at magically beautiful things!

Other than that, I ate what seemed like a lot of Detroit-style pizza (THE BEST!), chocolate cake (not the best, but I ate it anyway), a sticky bun (yum) and a host of Lebanese delicacies and plain old regular food as well. And shockingly, I actually lost two pounds this week--the diet gods were giving me a little birthday gift I think. That's 11.5 pounds lost so far (in like six or seven weeks) and I'm sticking with it.

Now, back in Chicago, nose to the grindstone once again, I'm writing down every morsel and laying off the pizza and cake. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You Make My Head Hurt

Just back from a meeting on my top secret project that is now on a tight timeline. My head hurts. Some people are just way too verbose. A particular woman I'm working with seems to truly love the sound of her own somewhat loud and authoritative voice. Don't get me wrong, she's smart. But not everything that comes out of that mouth is gold and many times she's just being repetitive and annoying. A little bullying even.

Sitting in the meeting with her, I actually scribbled the word "verbose" on my notes. I was hoping she would just stop and take a breath. I was finally freed from her lengthy discourse when she had to go to another meeting and pommel someone else with her sometimes, but not always, well-chosen words.

Finally, I am home again and back to the silence of just me and my computer. Ah. . .tranquility. . .thy name is not Blaine.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Is the In-Crowd Tire-ing?

Busy working today but got to wrap around 3 pm which is great. Leaves time for me to make bed, do laundry, walk dog in daylight. Actually, I'm sort of excited about it. There must be something wrong with me. . .

Just sent over my invoices for the work I've done over the past few weeks on my previously noted "Top Secret Project" (makes it sound way more intriguing than it actually is!). I'm excited that I'll have some good $$$ coming in. Finally, Craze and I can pay off some of the credit card debt which crept up on us last year during my work drought. Also, I think we're going to go a little crazy and spendy and lash out on new tires for the car. Wow--living high on the hog, for sure.

I'm hoping to finally see Juno this weekend and Craze scored free tickets (sometimes it pays to be a loyal NPR listener!) to a cool concert on Saturday night with a group called Super Furry Animals.

Yes, we're cool, hip, DINK (dual-income, no kids) urbanites always hanging with the in-crowd. . .I wonder if the rest of the in-crowd will also be at the Sears tire center this weekend. Hmm. . .

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Soppy Love All Around

I have an unexpected day off from work on my top-secret consulting assignment. Hurray for me! So, it's off for a day of errands, tidying up and just enjoying the sunshine (even though it's still FREEZING!). The Bug will not be pleased when she figures out that I've booked her into the vets for her annual physical later this afternoon and a nail trim, but it had to be done. I just love my little Valentine dog (I found her in a shelter the day before Valentine's three years ago) and I need to keep her healthy because I'm really hoping that she'll live forever.

But enough soppy dog love. . .

On to my other big love, Craze gave me a very cute and thoughtful card this morning and we're off for some yummy but economical middle-eastern food tonight. Hummus, here I come. I'm also getting some kind of present. I'm guessing it's something I've already encouraged him to buy (i.e. picked it up and said "buy this for me for my birthday, V-day, X-mas, etc"). Could be the book about orchid care (I love them and have had several plants now for years), knitting (need a refresher course) or the new-fangled Fiestaware color (some shade of purple) that we found on clearance around Christmas time. Not sure what the present will be, so I guess that means it really will be a surprise.

Here's hoping that everyone out there shares in some of the happiness, love and hopefulness I'm feeling today. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Our Currier and Ives Evening

I bought Craze ice skates for Valentines and even though it's not the official day yet, he took them to a Chicago Park District rink and tried them out tonight. He did pretty good even though he complained that the ice was really rough, only to find out later that you have to have the blades of new skates sharpened before you use them.

Who knew? Why don't they come pre-sharpened, that's what I want to know.

Anyway, the Bug and I watched from rink side and FROZE for the 20 minutes or so he stayed there. It was nice to be out in the fresh air and I'd never seen my husband skate before, so that was cool. But I was afraid after a while that my nose might fall off and I was worried about the Bug's poor freezing paws. As it is, she's not the most innately friendly of beasts and she was a little freaked out by all the people gliding by at high rates of speed and was keen to get the heck out of there!

And so it was that once Craze realized, after talking to one of the more skilled skaters, that he was skating around on unsharpened blades, he was ready to call it a night. Moments later I was enjoying the full blast of the car heater and happily headed home to my crock pot pork and lentils dinner.

Ahh. . .nothing like a winter skating outing with the family followed by a hot, homemade meal after a hard day of work. Makes us sound all Currier and Ives-ish, doesn't it?

That, in itself, is pretty funny actually.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening

Just polished off a Weight Watchers approved sloppy joe, fries and baked beans. I had to double check the points, because I was sure I must have exceeded my total. But I've got 3.5 points left for the day. Shocking what you can do when you know how to cook. I can actually make food that tastes too bad for me to be good. . .but it is. Amazing.

We were checking out Tina Turner on the Grammies during dinner. Man! That woman is a wonder. She's still got it, that's for sure (even though her stylist should be fired, I'm sad to report.)

Other than that, I stayed in today because it's been ZERO or below all day. I know I live in Chicago and all but. . .DAMN! That's cold!

It did give me a chance to keep reading "A New Earth" though, which is really quite insightful. I can totally see where my ego has led me into all kinds of missteps over the years. Ego=bad. Authentic self=good. Over simplifying, you say? Ok, maybe I am, but I have a good excuse. I just let the dog outside and think I got some frostbite on my brain.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just Another Day

I woke up unusually early this morning. Especially for me, the perpetually late sleeper.

But I was actually up by 7am and already working on my latest assignment on the computer. I had to leave the house at 1pm for a client meeting, so I worked for a few hours, then made coffee and oatmeal. Fed the animals, did a couple loads of laundry. Showered, thought about coloring my gray roots first and then decided I was just pushing my luck time-wise. Tidied up a little (our house is a case-study in clutter at the moment). Let the Bug out. And then in. And then out again (repeat). Sent a few more work-related emails. Removed my cracked and peeling nail polish. Scratched the gray cat. Put on some make-up and tried to make my gray-rooted hair somewhat more presentable (I was not really successful in this pursuit). Organized all my work materials in manila folders and put the ones I needed in my bag for my forthcoming meetings. Scratched the alley cat.

Then, I made myself a sandwich (turkey and cheese) to eat in the car (washing my hands first, of course, after said cat scratching), grabbed a granola bar and a bottle of water. Wrote down how many WW Points it all was (must stay on diet track!) and gave the Bug a treat and doled out yet another scratch before locking up and hitting the road for my meeting.

I arrived in plenty of time even with all the Friday afternoon, downtown Chicago traffic. Took care of business before heading back out into the rush hour traffic, arriving home about 6:15pm.

I let the Bug out again. Doled out more scratches and treats and doggy and kitty cat dinner all around. Emptied the dishwasher so I could get the dirty breakfast dishes (the ones I ran out of time to clean up earlier) into the dishwasher. Geared myself up for making dinner although I was famished and had no inclination to make the proposed tacos. Greeted Craze. Convinced him that we should go out for cheap and tasty Ethiopian food (as long as I would drive since he'd been driving all day). Went out for yummy foreign cuisine. Hit Target on the way home. Craze bought Wacky Packages (he's called Craze for a reason, people!). I bought some new underwear, on-sale cereal, tissues, kitty litter, coffee and replenished oatmeal supplies.

Drove home through the newly falling precipitation (a little like clear Mr. Misty hitting the windshield). Stopped at Dunkin' Donuts/31 Flavors on the way. I got a coffee with skim milk. Craze got an ice cream sundae with two kinds of ice cream, nuts, caramel sauce and whipped cream (Can I have his metabolism, please, please, please?).

Finally got home. Carried in the Target purchases. Took the Bug outside after being in the firing line of her attacking, body slamming, I'm-SO-HAPPY-to-see-you welcome. Put away all that stuff we bought (except for the SIX boxes of super-low priced cereal (AND I HAD COUPONS!)--still need to find a place for them.

Sat at the kitchen table. Wrapped a couple of birthday gifts. Retired with my remaining coffee to watch my Tivo'd soap (I'm secretly addicted to Days of Our Lives). Watched it, pausing to let the Bug out. And then in. And then out again for one last time.

Oh, yeh. Then let her back in again before locking up and heading upstairs for bed.

Checked email again. Got side-tracked from sleep by computer and started typing, "I woke up unusually early this morning. Especially for me, the perpetually late sleeper. . ."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I'll Take More of that Belgian Stuff, Please

Craze and I made our way downtown tonight for a free movie screening of "In Bruges." Not only was it great because it was A) free, but B) I can't say that I've ever seen a more entertaining movie about hit men. I thought the leads (including Colin Farrell) were just top notch. Great character acting and a thoroughly funny, human and entertaining script full of twists you never see coming.

And let's not forget the title character, the city of Bruges itself (a medieval city in Belgium). It served as the atmospheric backdrop for all the crazy adventure. I went there once years ago, just for the day. But this film really filled me with a yearning to go back again. So much to see (even if Colin Farrell isn't around). And yeh. . .I hear the beer's pretty good, too.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

With the beginnings of a blizzard whirling around outside, I feel calm, peaceful and, above all, grateful on the inside.

I'm grateful for the usual things: my kooky and wonderful husband who sometimes really drives me crazy but always listens, really listens, to my side of things; that furry, fuzzy, often more-human-than-dog Bug, who I love so much; my kitty cats who come whenever I call their names; and my cozy, old house that actually now has a repaired dishwasher (I'm no longer in danger of killing the cat or the dog when I open the door. Praise the lord--oh, yeh. . .and the Sears repair guy).

I'm grateful to be gainfully employed, even if I am the employer. At the moment, it's working out pretty well. And I'm especially grateful that my new clients have, thus far, proved themselves to be sane and reasonable people.

I'm grateful that I finally really feel that I've put the grudges I've held for years (against people and events that I felt did me wrong) behind me. I still think some of you folks are just plain no good, but knowing you and getting screwed over by you provided valuable life lessons. And I've come to terms with that and I'm a better person because of the experiences. (That doesn't mean I want to hang out with you again though. I'm sure you're worse off from the lack of my friendship than I am from losing yours, but, oh well, too bad. . .you reap what you sow.)

I'm grateful for another week of sticking to my Weight Watchers plan. Seven pounds gone in four weeks. The tight jeans are feeling baggy. HURRAY for me. I rock.

I'm grateful for the feeling that things in my life are finally falling into place.

I'm grateful for my current feelings of contentment. I'd love a new car, but don't need one and don't feel the least little bit covetous about the new cars of others. Same goes for big diamonds, fancier houses, designer handbags or expensive duds. Right now I truly am enjoying my new Target long-sleeved t-shirt and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be wearing.

I'm grateful for lung-fulls of fresh, chilly air that make me feel alive and full of potential.

I'm grateful that I have some of the best in-laws ever. I can truly say that I love my mother-in-law and I'm pretty sure that she loves me. How many women can claim that?

I'm grateful for the certainty that my life is good and meaningful and that there are still so many wonderful things yet to come.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Checking Off the List

-Got up at a reasonable hour, had breakfast, showered and dressed and was seated at my computer just after 9am. Check.

-Actually worked at said computer for over seven hours. Check.

-Ran out in this horrible, rainy, foggy weather for a work-related errand. Check.

-Feel like I'm getting back in the swing and taking my work-at-home life seriously. Check.

All in all, it was a good day (not withstanding the rain, fog, snow, ice combo right outside my door). Craze and I agreed this morning that we have more snow in our yard than we ever remember seeing in our six years of residence. We had another big storm last night that dumped another 4 inches or so on top of the 8+ inches from a few days before.

And if that's not scary enough, we're supposed to have another giant storm tomorrow and get another 8-10 inches. Yikes!

Ahh. . .I can see the next task on my agenda:

-Go to supermarket this evening to stock up on stuff you've run out of BEFORE the storm and your full day of work-at-home duties tomorrow.

Off I go. Check.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sad News

I am very saddened by the deaths of the five women at the Lane Bryant in Tinley Park, IL. I shop at one of the LB locations in Chicago every couple of months. Why, I was just there about ten days ago and bought a pair of jeans on sale. The store is always quiet, often with just me and one or two sales clerks in the place. It's just so unfathomable that you can be murdered just for shopping for plus-size clothes. It drives home how the actions of one individual, in just a few moments, seconds even, can cause such irreparable harm to innocent people.

I know, I know. Wrong place, wrong time. But, it reiterates the tenuousness of life in general. And reminds me how lucky I am just to be alive.

My prayers are with the families of those women.

My own mother wasn't shot, but she died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. But even I can only imagine the horror, disbelief and devastating grief they must be feeling. I feel so sorry for them and for the young lives lost that will never have the chance to live out their own potential.

I just hope they get that guy, and soon. And I hope he never sees the light of day again. I don't believe there is forgiveness for this type of crime. I do hope that the families can come to terms with this at some point in the future and get on with their lives. That they can find their way to forgiveness as a balm for their heartache. But there is no rehabilitation for this murderer. I really don't believe you can ever right this kind of immeasurable wrong.

Saturday Sushi Left a Bad Taste in Our Mouths

Craze and I went out to dinner last night and it was a BIG disappointment. Going out for dinner is a big thing for me, since I cook every night. I really look forward to having one delicious meal a week that someone else slaves away in the kitchen preparing.

Also, since money has been tight lately, we've been going to places we know that are less spendy. My absolute faves at the moment are an Ethiopian place called Blue Nile up in a tiny strip mall on the north side of the city and Houagh Lough (which I think I totally spelled wrong), a Vietnamese joint on the far north side with the yummiest beef you've ever tasted. Just thinking about them both is making my mouth water!

But alas, last night, I was in the mood for sushi. So, we went back to a place we haven't been for a while, a place on Western Avenue next to the El trains and near Lincoln Village called Thai Oscar. About a year or so ago, Craze and I went there almost weekly. We've taken friends and family there who all marveled at their modestly priced, yet super delicious maki selections--especially the veggie tempura role which has historically been my favorite roll of all time.

But last night, after the very brown, verging on black with overcooking, and largely flavorless egg rolls, I remembered what I'd forgotten. We stopped going there because the food totally lost its zing last year. We had a couple of meals that were ok, but just no where near as good as they had been. And last night was the third strike in my book.

Beyond our almost burnt appetizers, the maki we ordered all tasted the same. It didn't matter if it was a spicy tuna, ebi shrimp or, my former fave, the veggie tempura roll, it all tasted mediocre and oddly similar. Even I, not claiming the culinary detective skills of someone like Gordon Ramsay, could tell that they hadn't changed their frying oil in too long and everything with a deep-fried ingredient had an oily, slightly bitter, rancid taste. Fifty dollars later, that bad taste in my mouth just turned to disappointment and annoyance.

I was pissed that their prices has gone up for such totally marginal food (our bill at the delicious Blue Nile comes in under $30). And I was even madder that I've been saving Weight Watchers points all week specifically for this dinner outing. My calorie cache had been wasted and I would have to wait yet another week for my palette to be satiated with something less than super healthy. Arrgh!

At least a trip to the movies was planned for after dinner and that did not disappoint. We saw the Spanish film "The Orphanage" which was both atmospheric and edge-of-your-seat scary (even though you never saw any real carnage like your garden variety horror movies). Really worth watching, just don't go alone!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Itching to Talk

I have an itchy toe problem. I'm not sure how or why it's happening, but I have the most maddening itch around the base of my middle toe of my left foot. And no amount of scratching on the desk, carpet, edge of stairs, with or without sock, seems to provide the desired release. It's almost like an internal itch. Is that even possible?

I think I'm going to have to take a Zyrtec and hope for the best. That's what I lived on last year when I had non-stop hives for six solid weeks (you wanna talk about itchy!). Yes, SIX weeks. At many points during that time, I really did begin to feel like some beleaguered biblical character. Scratchy and spotty. It's times like that when working from home really is tops.

And speaking of working from home. . . I'm in the midst of a top secret pitch project which is taking up most of my time. This is good--I'm making money again. Hurray! I have also found that I am getting into the more challenging aspects of the assignment. I guess I do, in fact, enjoy using my brain. Good to know.

Other than that, I need to get outside shortly to help Craze tackle the ten feet of snow that fell last night. I wonder if snow shoveling is listed on the Weight Watchers web site in terms of activity points? I've been sticking to my fiber-rich, point-counting regime and am proud to report that I've lost 6.5 lbs. in three weeks. Good for me. Now, if only I can trade some snow shoveling activity points for some kind of chocolatey treat, all will be right with the world.

Except for the snow, of course. There's just too damned much of that.