Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I got incredibly lucky when I adopted a little stray cat named Daisy. From day one, she has been lovable (but not annoyingly so), she has not scratched on furniture, she has used her litter box, and she has not eaten/pooped in my plants. (Note - this is very unlike my friend Cara's cat, Gomez. Some of my favorite Gomez adventures: "Monsieur Green Paw", "Sexy Pig", "Oh the Carnage", and "That Darn Cat")

Anyway, back to my sweet kitty, Daisy: we found out recently that she is asthmatic. This is very rare in cats, but as I mentioned, I got incredibly lucky. For the past few weeks, she has been on steroids, and her breathing/shedding has improved. Unfortunately, like all medication, the steroids are not without their side affects, including a risk of diabetes and development of some very icky looking skin conditions (I will spare you the link - trust me on the ickiness). So, we began to consider possible causes for her condition, because she has not always had a problem. (I am sad to say that she has had this problem for a while though - I did not know cats could have asthma attacks, and I have been incorrectly diagnosing her episodes as hairballs or poor choices in food such as bugs or plants.) It is too bad cats do not, as a general rule, speak English.

We decided that the problem may have begun a few years ago when we began using a litter box with a cap on it - she is in a confined space with the litter dust floating around on a daily basis. But the cap serves a purpose - we don't wish to have a bathroom coated in kitty litter. So Adam bought "dust-free" litter that is made from wheat.

A snippet from the packaging: "Wheat litter and why its better: Wheat enzymes naturally eliminate odor; Low dust, less tracking; biodegradable, certified flushable; Safe and non-toxic for kittens and cats."

It also looks delicious. Seriously. I eat steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, and this stuff looks like it could be cooked up in a pinch. It also costs about the same. The cat, always wary of new things, gingerly approached her litter box, sniffing as she went, and began eating it.

I am gravely concerned that she will not poop in this. And who could blame her? I would not want to poop in oatmeal either. What worries me even more is where she will decide to poop. I'll keep you posted. Hopefully it is in something of Adam's...or the toilet. Now that would be worth posting about.

Updated: I was pleased to find three little turds in the appropriate location this morning. Never thought I'd be so glad to see poo.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Achin' Bum

Owie! Yesterday, I suggested that we take the bikes up to my old stomping grounds in York, PA. Before Adam joined me south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I learned to ride the mountain bike by participating in beginner group rides at Rocky Ridge Park. It was quite the feat to race from the office with disassembled bike in trunk of Cavalier, through seas of cars going SLOW for NO REASON and meeting the group by 6pm, where I would reassemble the bike NASCAR-style. (Wait - does NASCAR get all caps? Is it an acronym for something? Oh, yeah, that's right: I don't care.)
Anyway, I stopped making this trek after Adam moved, but we still went up to York from time to time, not only for "the Ridge" but also for Cobblestones, which serves 60 beers (beer snob heaven) and "Skillet of Skins". This consists of a hot plate of red potatoes smothered in ranch dressing and provolone cheese, baked to perfection. It is also a quick and delicious way to completely negate any calories you may have inadvertently burned while biking.
Our "new" apartment (we just renewed our third lease) grounds are bordered by Loch Raven Reservoir, which boasts miles of mountain bike trails. This is a great feature, but it has made us somewhat lazy - we never travel to other biking areas since there is one in the backyard.
Which brings me to my achin' bum. You may be curious as to why Rocky Ridge was christened with this name. Well, boys and girls, it has a lot of ROCKS and it is a RIDGE - 750 acres of trails split down the middle by a peak about 350 ft above the parking area. The downhills are fun (mostly - there are some steep areas which cause me to envision several ways my body could fly and/or crush). The uphills? Hurt. So much. And once you get hung up on the first rock, your "ride" becomes more of a hike, only you have 30 lbs of bike to lug up the hill as your calves begin to cramp. Despite all this, it is really quite fun.

Until today, when I decided to take a spin class at the gym. It was then that I realized I am actually pretty sore after yesterday's excursion. Our first track was a standing climb, thankfully, because every time I sat down, I began squirming back and forth on the seat trying to find a more comfortable position. I never did find one, but soon my legs began to burn and scream and whine, saying why? After all we do for you! My legs threatened to go on strike, and my bum got lost in the shuffle.
I am sure you are asking yourself why I do this to me. The answer is because I feel wonderful when it's over. I am tired enough to sleep, and perfectly content with life.

...but I just realized I forgot to add those wonderful potatoes to my log...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Did you get a haircut?

...No, I got them all cut!

Like my new virtual friend Danielle, I do not have as many girly genes as I maybe should. However, last November, one of these genes was awakened within me, and I realized that at some point, I would need to overcome my fear of hair salons. Not only do hairstylists tend to spend much of their time telling me how dry and unhealthy my hair is, they also tend to cut my hair way shorter than I specifically request. Hence, I have not really gone to a professional salon since about 1989. Yes, I was 11 years old at the time. I attempted one haircut during college, and found the whole experience to be just as I remembered - with the added "embarrassment" of not owning (or being remotely aware of) any hair products, and complete ignorance of tip etiquette.

This last one was particularly worrisome to me, but my mother explained the process and made me an appointment with Jessica at Ulta.

I think I scared Jessica.

I made the mistake of telling her how worried I was about the prospect of losing the long hair I had worked hard to grow, and how I feared hairstylists in general. Jessica was great - she even showed me how to style my hair (if I would be willing to purchase a curling iron) and explained how to use some of the "products". But, she neglected to cut much hair. Not a single person even noticed my haircut. And, due to Jessica being two hours away, I was again reluctant to chop it for real, despite increasing annoyance with my hair. Of late, I had been sleeping on it and then waking myself up in the night because I cannot move my head. Also, I am constantly getting it stuck under various shoulder bags, again, restricting head movement.

So, I decided to try again. I began my inquiries - my friend Jess got a great haircut at the mall, my friend Anne "has a girl", and my friend Courtney always gets nice cuts. Turns out she goes to the same place at the mall, so I made my choice. My sister turned me on to a fun site on Ladies Home Journal ( where you can download a photo of yourself and then pop different hairstyles on your pic.

Here's what we came up with:

Sexy, no?

After another two weeks or so of deliberation, I gathered my courage and went to the mall. I had unfortunately forgotten that the first day of school is next week, and that normal people get haircuts in preparation. So I had about two hours to kill, but this was no problem. I was at the mall.

When I returned, I sat and waited, carefully observing the payment operation, specifically the tipping. I had come prepared with a $5 bill - had to purchase cookies in order to make change, but a girl has to sacrifice. But, if there was any way to avoid the uncomfortableness of slipping the fiver into a person's hand, I wanted to be aware of it. Thankfully, I successfully read the lips of a girl at the register, asking if she could put the tip on her card. (I hoped.) Then, it was my turn:

Hmmm...I actually like it. I must admit I was a little frightened that I had moved too much too soon. I showed the woman my LHJ printouts and she agreed that something like this would work well with my hair type. Then, she picked up a pair of scissors and snipped off 5 inches of dry hair. No turning back at that point, but a large part of me wanted to get some hot glue and get working. Also, I was told to purchase a $32 shampoo and conditioner set in order to control my dryness. (I passed - I just bought a tub of conditioner from BJ's and damned if I'll be wasting it!) My hairstylist found it amusing that I was unaware that all mousses come in a can. She was nice about it, but hmph. I bet she thinks cement and concrete are the same thing! (A common engineering pet peeve. I'm just saying...we all have our specialties...)

Anyway, I am supposed to go back in 6 weeks, lest I do any more damage to my poor follicles. We'll see. I think if I get back in 6 months, I'll be making huge strides.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Engineers Do Mending

I had a better picture of the nerdy jumbo clip I so resourcefully utilized this morning - but the side view was decidedly unflattering. So sorry, cyberspace, I just couldn't post my flab so unabashedly.

And, In case you are wondering - number of comments received: none. Who needs a sewing machine!

...Now if I could only manage to use some duct tape...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Erg. My spreadsheet has failed me. For some reason, the ingenious formulas I had written do not copy well from week to week. Hence, my totals from last week were only partial totals. I corrected the error, and last week's average calorie count when from 1584 (Good Job!) to 1692 (Try Harder!) Well, dog-gone it, blast it all, phooey! (Please insert more appropriate expletive of your choosing. You are probably better at swearing than I, and I am attempting to adhere to my "family appropriate" setting.)

I should have known, really. I was amazed at how easy it was all becoming - how I did have room for that dish of ice cream after all, AND I wasn't hungry all day, AND I was easily able to recover after splurging on seven (yes, that's 7) beers at a Radiohead concert? The last time this happened was when I added a "dessert" column to my old spreadsheet, but forgot to modify my formulas to include the calories.

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. For some reason, I am taught this lesson over and over again, but it just doesn't want to stick. Let's just say it's due to my endearing optimism (rather than my thick skull). Cool? Cool.

On the bright side? I am successfully meeting my goals this week. Dude! I know it's only Tuesday, but a gal has to start somewhere! This philosophy has been key to the whole accomplishment - the task of losing 30 pounds? Eek! The task of not eating a cookie for the day? A little easier. Add up all the small steps and you'll climb a story.

Poetic ain't it? Treasure that inspirational nugget, constant reader. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Almost Healthy

Bah! I went to the doctor again and had another weigh in last week. Given my track record over the past few weeks, I was not expecting anything too spectacular. But I actually did lose 6 pounds since my last weigh-in back in the beginning of May. Not too shabby.

BTW - I know this is what people on "The Biggest Loser" lose in a week. Shut up.

This doctor had a little dial where you could line up your weight and height, and a needle pointed to your predicament - obese, overweight, or healthy. (There may have been an underweight section too, but that was cut off from my viewing, and I didn't think to turn it any further.) So, if we were playing "The Game of Life", I would have to say that needle was very close to requiring a re-spin. Just one more pound, and I think it would be on the line. Two more pounds, and I would just make it into healthy territory!

This has been hugely motivating for me. My doctor had the numbers right there - I weighed 14 pounds more a year ago. (Yes, yes, I know I am not the biggest loser. Didn't I tell you to shut up?) Since I have been a firm believer in negative reinforcement during this little weight loss experiment, I am a bit surprised to be so psyched. But I have re-tackled my new spreadsheet with zeal, and managed to stay within calorie goals for the first time since the beginning of June. I can see the finish line at last! I am almost healthy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Last night, I went to see Radiohead with Adam and my brother Brandon. This is a band that I have always wanted to see live, but the dang Brits don't come to this country too often. When they have come, their people have continually refused to coordinate with my people. It's very frustrating. The past few shows have consistently coincided with graduations, weddings, and vacations. So, back in May, I diligently went to the website waiting for show dates and ticket sales to be announced, having decided to skip weddings as required. I still only managed to snag lawn seats. During this process, I was briefly elated to find that one did not have to use "Ticketmaster" to order the tickets. The elation soon frittered to annoyance once again, for "Live Nation" is just as evil as Ticketmaster, charging REE-DICK-ULOUS fees for "convenience" (it isn't) and "handling" (WTF??) The "face value" of said tickets is $39.50. The actual cost? $51.42!! Seriously, officer, I have the receipt to prove it.

Hmm...I seem to have gone a wee bit off topic.

Radiohead. Was Awesome. Yet, I can't help admitting that I was disappointed with certain aspects of the show. I have long been fascinated with this band because I cannot discern the instruments from the electronica, and I initially had little desire to see them live because I figured they would be either unable to replicate the studio effects, or they would be playing over pre-recorded material. I can listen to pre-recorded stuff at any time. Then they released a live album "I Might Be Wrong" which was amazing. It was like Radiohead covering Radiohead - no, they aren't able to replicate the studio effects. Instead, they play out the effects, twist them around, lose them altogether, and add new ones. I became really excited to see how this was done.

They managed to blow my mind with innovative renditions of their own material, somehow making happy songs into sad ones, and challenging me to think again about lyrics I thought I understood. The tone of a song and its delivery make an enormous impact on the way it is perceived. In some cases, it was like hearing a song for the first time, yet knowing all the words.

However, I still cannot tell you how it is done. The set consists of glittery streamers which reflect the light and hang like a curtain above and around the band. Add a few clouds of smoke in front, and the veil is complete. Of course, we were too far away to see the band up close, but I often look to the large screens typically set up at amphitheaters to observe the various musicians' fingering and technique from afar. In this case, however, they set the cameras to zoom in on a specific spot - like on four keys of the keyboard or on Thom Yorke's microphone. The screen was then split in various portions between the cameras. The effect, combined with the lighting and smoke, was very artistic and beautiful in its own right - like watching a music video live. But it was like this for the whole show, and I found myself trying desperately to shift my eyes to the stage and back to the screen, just to verify whether the screen did in fact represent the live action before me, or if it truly was a music video. Every now and then, I got a little snippet, like a zoom into the hand motions on the strings, which I was able to correlate to a sound reaching my eardrums. It just left me wanting more. I appreciate the "choreography" which obviously went into this production. But there are a lot of people in the audience who just want to see some talented people play some instruments, and those people were likely disappointed.

It occurred to me that this could be intentional. Maybe I am not meant to know how, and maybe if I did find out, I'd be even more disappointed. This happened to me before - I was very excited to see if Keller Williams actually had four hands, or if he somehow managed to play the amazing riffs with just two. Turns out, he plays a ton of loops and then plays over them. At one point, music was coming from the speakers as Keller paused for a drink of water. Apparently, using all the fancy loop tools does take some talent, but I was very disappointed with the show. I got what I wished for. (By the way, Leo Kottke actually does have four hands, I think.) Anyway, so maybe Radiohead has something to hide. Or maybe they have overly ambitious set designers. But next time I see them, I think I will need better seats.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hankering for a Hunk O Cheese

I just saw a public service announcement encouraging children to play. The slogan "Get Up and Play (at least an hour a day)" is endorsed by LPGA golfers, pro-footballers, and Shrek characters, just to name a few. Apparently there are several versions of the commercial.

Geesh, the public service announcements sure have changed. When I was a kid, a yellow blob named "Timer" told me that when I was really really hungry, I should go get a hunk of cheese, or make orange juice popsicle sticks. Then again, I do not remember being allowed to stay indoors and play video games or watch TV all day. It was my mother who encouraged me to "Get Out and Play", not the TV. My sister recalls being forced to do chores if we chose to stay inside. I do not remember this, but that is probably because I never wanted to go inside. I have memories of being about four or five years old, and pooping in the yard because I did not want to go into the house. (I have since amended this preference - though my bowels have not always cooperated.)

My fondest memories of childhood were outside - sledding on the toboggan, taking nature walks in the woods, playing "red light, green light" with my grandmother, playing volleyball with my Dad and his friends, playing house with my brother and sisters in a big tree down by the creek, and swimming at the pool all day. It is sad that there are so many kids out there missing out on these experiences that the government has decided to spend money telling them to go outside.

I did go to the government site shown at the end of the "Play" commercials. It includes a lot of good information for those of us struggling to be healthy in an unhealthy world. Check it out here. I especially liked the part on portion control, one of my arch nemeses.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Pennsylvanians Do Crabs

After seven years of living in Baltimore, I have finally attempted to eat these delicacies of the Chesapeake (though many Maryland crabs are actually shipped in from North Carolina these days...) I guess it is about time. I have had a long-standing aversion to hitting my dinner with a mallet, but this turns out to be an excellent outlet for aggression. Still, Adam and I found the whole process overly time consuming considering the minuscule pieces of meat representing the fruit of one's labor. We had a bagful of extras, thanks to the fact that we sent a Marine in to buy the crabs. It is amazing how much free stuff he gets, and all he had to do was serve our country for 26 years through two wars.

So, sure, we realize that the initial gathering to consume crabs was all about the ambiance - a group of friends sitting for hours and chatting as they occasionally pause to smack their food with a mallet and only managing to eat a few hundred calories rather than a few thousand. However, after the crabs have sat in a fridge for a day or two, waiting to be made into crab cakes, the goal is to shuck those babies as quickly as possible. That's when the tool box comes in handy. In addition to pliers, we suggest hammers, knives, and good old fashioned elbow grease.

I was no longer in the mood to make crab cakes by the time I gathered enough crab meat, and I was out of eggs. So the crab is in the freezer, ready to be patti-fied at my leisure.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Phlegm Head

I've been big-headed, pig-headed, bull-headed, and level-headed.

I've woken up with bed-head, fallen in love with a red-head, and acted like an air-head.

As a Phish-head, I listened to songs about Fluffhead, and wished I were old enough to be a Dead-head.

But all this week, my head's been filled with phlegm, and I just can't think to good.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happiness is...

I guess there is hope for me yet, as I was rudely interrupted from blogging by Real Life. Frankly, I sometimes prefer the blogging. Adam and I took an impromptu vacation to his hometown in Pennsyltuckey (we are both Pennsyltuckians though our hometowns are 350 miles apart...) I wish we left under happier circumstances, but the reason for our trip was to say goodbye to Adam's grandfather, Cliff.

A large part of me is glad to know that Cliff is no longer suffering, for his last few weeks of life were no picnic. I keep typing and re-typing this paragraph, trying to figure out what it is I want to say. Much of me feels that I am not qualified to say anything, having only known Cliff for a relatively short time. Yet I know this man had a profound impact on someone I love most in the world, and I feel some sort of tribute is warranted. All I can think to write about is the last time I visited Cliff at his house, shortly before Christmas.

He was in good spirits that day, probably because he was happy to see Adam. He was able to walk fairly well, despite losing a toe to diabetes a few months before, and he did not need to use his ventilator. He showed off his newest gadget - a recliner with an electric lift - and joked in a subtle way quite reminiscent of his grandson's mannerisms. I do not remember much of the conversation, only that he fixed us coffee and cookies - complete with serving trays. He made this little snack with a great deal of enthusiasm. I think he was glad to be able to perform any task at that time, no matter how trivial.

I know that the last few months were hard on him. He suffered much, and hung around as long as possible. I think of that last visit and know that he was truly happy on that day, simply appreciating that he felt well, and was surrounded by people he loved. I only hope to live by this example, and realize that happiness is a state of mind which can be cultivated in any circumstance.