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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kor Treat


Happy Halloween.

When Ava was about 14 months old, I taught her the punch line to a joke. Sometimes she'd deliver it, sometimes not. Inspired by my request for performance, a friend taught her to say, "No treats, no tricks" which very sweetly sounded like, "noteat notick" out of her little mouth. Of course today, four months later, we've been working on, "Trick or Treat" in light of tonight's Halloween outing. For most of the morning, she just looked at me convinced I had it wrong and said, rolling the "r's" that she's begun to master, "notrrreeat notrrrrick"). Then this afternoon, before her nap, she picked up Cookie Monster and said to him, "Kor Treat" and grinned like she did for me in this picture, taken last Halloween (her first Halloween). She got it. And she even knows who to go to (I didn't teach her that).

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I've been feeling a little restless lately and I can't exactly pinpoint the source. I was thinking maybe it had to do with some domestic disorganization, but I'm slowly getting that in order and need to update my list a bit. After more than a year of non-stop working 8-10 hour days while Ava slept, caring for her exclusively while she was awake, and still managing to keep clean sheets on the beds (largely thanks to Pete) and sticking to our "one night of take out a week" commitment, work is finally beginning to feel a little manageable--so I don't think it's work overload. The marathon is over and I'm back to cross-training (which I love) and Hot Yoga (which I don't but could)--so I'm sure it's not boredom. I just don't know.

But I do know that when I get restless, it usually means a change is going to come. I'm no different than anyone else in how I feel about change--but I've lived through a number of them (many at once) and am here to say that it's usually better on the other side. I'll keep you posted.

Splurge-worthy Wednesday:

  • I've yet to make it to the bookstore to check out this journal, Listography: Your Life in Lists that Jenny of LobotoMe posted on her blog. But I'll keep you posted. Can't wait to check it out and get us all listin'!
  • A new liptint (with SPF 15) that I actually wear. It's from Aveda and it's called "Coco Plum".

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Laws, Rules, and Royalty

My house is a mess (and my face is so dry)...but I had a great day.

Here are the top five things that made it great:

5. I broke a lot of rules with my daughter:

  • We stayed in our pajamas too long
  • Didn't clean the breakfast dishes till there were dinner dishes to join them
  • Ate an afternoon snack (bananas and peanut butter) in front of the TV (Ellen)
  • Slid down the slide with just our socks on
  • Took out every tupperware lid we could find and chased each other around the house with them, shouting "boo"
4. I got in 8 hours of work for my consulting business because my daughter is such a great sleeper

3. I mailed three old fashioned letters to three great friends

2. I lit our two jack o' lantern's and then watched Ava's face light up brighter than either of them

And by far, the number one reason it was a great day:

1. When we were looking at pictures today, I pointed to me at my wedding and asked Ava, "Who's that?" Her reply, "Princess." Just like that, "Princess."

Sigh....

And here's are the top five reasons why my house is a mess:

1. I made three batches of punkin cookies for my husband's office and for our terrific neighbors and (as a friend wrote me once) "got fatter by the minute eating all the broken ones."

2. Didn't clean the breakfast dishes till there were dinner dishes to join them (reason it was a great day #5e)

3. Ava and I took out every tupperware lid we could find and chased each other around the house with them, shouting "boo" (reason it was a great day #5b)

4. I ate peanut butter and bananas in front of the TV with 18-month old Ava who's as tactile as she is mobile (translation: everything in our house had peanut butter and banana for a snack this afternoon) (reason it was a great day #5c)

4. When my daughter referred to my picture (therefore, me!) as a princess, I said to heck with the laundry, let's go slide with our socks on! (reason it was a great day #5d and #1)

In other words, it's a mess because it was a great day or because I'm a princess. (Isn't that the Law of Modus Tollens or something algebraic?)

...............

I have gotten some GREAT lists and splashes that I'll be posting in the morning (I really need to do something about the batter on my cupboards tonight)...Love them! Keep writing and then sending!

..............
Splurge worthy Tuesday:

  • A friend sent me this fun splurge that she was trying out tonight: ordering pizza and eating it out of the box in bed while watching a movie with her hubby! On a Tuesday!
  • Determined to get back to it again, I picked up a new knitting book and some yarn to make this adorable sweater for my darling.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Near-Screeching Halt

On Friday I told you a little bit about the Saturday morning coffee shop that we've been going to for more than three years now (and that I practically look forward to going back to the moment we leave). Well, this Saturday was no different except we were able to introduce Ava's grandparents (who were visiting from out of town) to many of our friends.

On Sunday afternoon we decided to go back again, which we don't typically do. On the door was a sign that read, "Closed"--and judging by the vacant countertops, overturned chairs, and end-of-the-month-and-I'm-outta-here-look, they didn't just mean for the day.

That's right. The "shebop" with no warning, no indication, no good-bye, no see ya later, (nothing!) closed shop. I drove over this morning just to make sure. "Closed." (Update: Found out they closed because they couldn't find help--not due to an emergency, thankfully).

I emailed a few of our friends (we don't have contact information for others) and they were hearing it from me for the first time. I've always been a bit sentimental, but now that Ava's involved (she practically took her first steps there) the weight feels a little heavier. I hate to sound so dramatic about it, but I'm bummed. Not to mention the fact that I just wrote about it on Friday!

Onto other topics that don't require caffeine to get you jittery:

I've posted my Christmas Gift List template. It works for me, but I'm always up for hearing about how others get organized (that doesn't just go for Christmas, either). If you like it, then you should know:

  • The amount column will automatically total at the bottom (and you don't have to include the dollar sign ($)--it will do it for you).
  • When you have completed a person on your list, type in DONE in the Status column and it will automatically shade red (was I excited when I discovered THAT feature!).

And for the Splurge of the Day:

Eight more classes of Hot Yoga!

I've completed my second class and I'm still pathetic, but I kind of enjoy it. I realize I will never (trust me, in my case, never applies) be able to put my feet anywhere but in front of me (and a good ways in front of me) but I am actually okay with that. I think I'm supposed to learn more than flexibility from this, so open mind, open palms, and open wallet: Hot Yoga, I'm yours.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

List Launch

Some of you have been asking what I'm doing with my "List of Lists" that appears in the margin.

I couldn't provide a direct answer because I wasn't sure myself. And while I'm still not sure, I am going to do something that I rarely ever do: launch a public display of unfinished and uncertain.

I've been making lists since I was about 8 years old--but instead of "homekeeping" or "life" lists, they were "favorite animal" and "favorite subject" or "favorite salad dressing " lists. Bottom line: they organized me and made me much more efficient and much more sure of myself. And they were fun!

I've gotten away from lists over the years (well, I make them, just very haphazardly)--and it's time to get back to them. While I have lots of lists listed, I'm starting with the "homekeeping" list--little projects here and there that I've neglected for a long time but need to get to. I've color coded them by degree of difficulty or time requirement, included deadlines, identified people responsible, and a space for notes.

There are two multi-layered purposes for these lists and sharing them in the state they are in:

1. I do a great job of starting projects and finishing them in my working life, not so great in my personal life. So, I'm going to take some of the basic accountability principles I've used with staff and colleagues and apply them to my non-working life.

2. I think that people are the most interesting thing we've got going in this world and we need to find ways to learn about them and learn from them. You can learn a lot from a list--and that goes for how people organize their needs, wants, likes, dislikes and then how they go after them or what they do with them. The other major benefit is that people have a lot of experience--and list making is great way to tap into them. For example, you'll see in my homekeeping list that I'm looking for a new organizational method for my spice drawer (it's really a spice mess) and someone may have a really great solution for me that I never would have thought of on my own or picked up from HGTV!

Hopefully my public display of uncertain will inspire you to share some of your lists--they might be to-do lists, cleaning supplies list, running races list, favorite songs list, and so on--and send along tips, products, or solutions that are successful for you! Lists are fun because they're creative and their possibilities endless. So please, please, please: SEND THEM AND YOUR IDEAS ALONG.

There are a couple of ways to reach me:

a. Send me an email: splashesandsplurges@gmail.com (I will post comments anonymously unless otherwise specified)

b. Leave a comment on this post (check anonymous if you don't want your identity known, even by me!)

Don't worry about the format in which you send your lists or your suggestions--just send them and I'll format them for you if you'd like. Besides, seeing how the information comes will help me figure out where this is meant to go. I hope that what we end up with are lots of lists, lots of ideas for tackling them (or enhancing them) and lots of learning!

Please send them along and tell your friends to as well!

Splurge D'jour:

1. I had a great wine last night--a Cabernet Sauvignon from Honig Vineyard and Winery. It will cost you about $30, so it's not an everyday wine, but definitely worth the splurge.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Roasted Pleasures


I love Saturday mornings. Even more, I love anticipating them, that's why I'm writing about Saturday morning on Friday morning.

Let me tell you why I love them.

When Pete and I first moved into our townhouse three years ago, we found this little coffee shop tucked away between an X-Ray joint and an animal clinic, "All Paws." We started going every Saturday morning and quickly became weekend regulars. What happens when you're a weekend regular (and just happen to be a guy that everyone loves, i.e. Pete) is that you start receiving unsolicited perks, for example: a pound of coffee beans when you only ask for a 1/2 pound; free refills before you realize you need one; strangers who quickly become friends; and strangers who remain strangers but in a friendly kind of way.

The morning went something like this:

I'd get up and go running before the sun was up and be home and showered as it came up. Pete would get dressed and we'd hop in the car, on our way for a fresh cup of coffee. There was always one other guy there, Joe, who we'd say hello to--and, who it turns out, attended University of Scranton (where Pete went) forty years earlier. Pete and I would spend some time just catching up on our week, talk about what we hoped to accomplish over the weekend, maybe the month, the year, five years, ten years.

When I became pregnant with Ava, Mr. Kahn (aka The Coffee Guy and owner) took extra special care of me. He had my favorite coffee available in decaf, he carried my coffee and my muffin to the table (even though I had just finished a short run and maybe even a weight lifting class) and he made us promise that we'd keep coming well after the baby was born.

After I had Ava, we loaded her up, four days old, and headed to the coffee shop (Ava calls it Shebop)--and we've been back every weekend since. The routine goes pretty much the same as it did before we had Ava, we've just added diapers, bibs, and books to the process. Her first (and very small) first birthday party was well attended by Shebop friends. Last weekend, she had nearly everyone in the place (including Joe) linked in a go of "ring around the rosy."

Mr. Kahn will tell you that people come every Saturday morning just to see Ava--and I can certainly see why that would be true. But I suspect they also come every Saturday morning because, like me, they've been looking forward to it ever since Friday morning.

Today's Splurge:

1. Find something that you look forward to and do it every week and look forward to it every day!

Want to share it with others (anonymously or not?)--leave a post or email me at: splashesandsplurges@gmail.com


Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Face Lift

There was a time when I could turn pulp into paper and scraps into stories.

And I know that self is somewhere buried beneath years of doing what became routine (e.g. working, working out, cooking for dummies-the cookbook not my husband- and escaping to thank-god-its-not-my-reality TV).

So when I saw this at www.designsponge.com...


I knew it was time to shed a few layers and get back to creativity. I'm planning to tackle my refrigerator this weekend somewhere between deadlines for work and play time with Ava. I could use some new magnets to display her drawings (hopefully you have some to hang as well after reading #7 in Clap Your Hands) and we've spent a lot of time picking up leaves lately. She'll be delighted that these are cheek rubbing soft!

The How To:

2 pieces of 9″ x 12″ felt ( Derek & Lauren at Design Sponge used gold and orange)
4 pieces of 5″ x 8″ adhesive magnet sheeting
Small piece of paper or cardboard for creating a template
Scissors

  • Create a template by drawing and cutting out a leaf shape onto your paper or cardboard. You can trace around the template before you cut it, or simply hold it up to the felt and cut carefully around it with scissors.
  • Repeat until you have enough leaves to cover the side of your refrigerator.
  • Remove the backings from your magnet paper and place as many leaves onto each sheet as possible. (Derek & Lauren fit 5 per sheet)
  • Cut around the leaves with scissors.
  • Attach to fridge as decoration or put those magnets to use holding up your to-do list with style.
Splurge heaven:

A couple of months ago a friend needed help, so I helped her. It was nothing life-saving or extraordinary and I know she'd have done the same thing for me if the circumstances were reversed. As a thank you (the words would have more than sufficed) she gave me a gift certificate for a facial.

I cashed it in today.

Oh my gosh.

It was definitely one of those, "why haven't I done this before" experiences. I am convinced that it made my nose smaller. Don't ask me how--but I feel like if pregnancy can make my feet bigger (which it did) then a facial can certainly make my nose smaller.

You must get one if you haven't--or better yet, give one. Your friend will forever thank you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Old-Turned-New Haunts


The arrival of Christmas catalogs is typically my get-ready-for-Halloween trigger. Check out this really cool idea from www.curbly.com--a do it yourself home project website.

Ghost Toast:

1. Spread soft butter or margarine on a large slice of white bread.

2. Carefully cut or tear a ghostlike shape out of aluminum foil.

3. Press the foil shape on top of the buttered bread. Sprinkle the bread generously with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

4. Place the slices on a baking sheet and slip under a preheated broiler for about two or three minutes or until the butter is hot and bubbly.

5. Remove the foil template to unveil spooky toast.

Today's Splurge:

Aside from encouraging you (okay, urging you) to have toast as soon as you finish this post regardless of what time it is, I'm going to report on two things that are of splurge-worthy mention today (afterall, it's splashes and splurgES, not splashes and splurge):

1. This sweet postcard that I'll save for a special occasion or maybe frame and put somewhere fun in the house. ($5.50). I've always had a soft spot for birds and when Ava came along, the soft spot grew into a soft soul--and now I can't resist them!

2. And this less affordable 1940's telephone. Any ideas on what $325.00 would have bought in 1940? I won't splurge on this--but it's inspired me to haunt an old attic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Clap Your Hands


Happiness sure can't be bottled, but I've been paying some attention to the way a certain 18-month-old conducts business and I've learned a few things in the process. She's about the consistently happiest person I know and I can't help but think that if we engaged in just one of her activities each day, we might find ourselves just a little bit happier a lot more often:

1. Let "boo" be the first word out of your mouth. Every morning. Even if no one is there to hear you.

2. Call your milk "moo moo" and drink 16 ounces of it everyday.

3. Wear bright pink Crocs (that goes for you guys, too!).

4. Say hello to everything--not just everyone--everything. Your toothbrush, your pillow, your sock, the door, the playground, your oatmeal. Everything.

5. And then say goodbye.

6. Say hello to everyone and be completely accepting if they don't say hello back.

7. Draw something. Even if it is lines of all different colors, it doesn't matter, just draw.

8. Say the word "armpit" as many times as you can manage in a day. Here's a tutorial in case you're not sure how.

video
9. Wear comfortable pajamas with things like sleeping sheep and ice cream cones on them.

10. Read about pigs that sing and cows that "fyyyyy."

11. Listen for an airplane, jump up and down when you spot it, and then blow it a kiss as it passes overhead.

12. Say the word "funny" just for the heck of it and then burst out laughing.

13. Pray, even if you just start with the word "Amen."

14. Give someone an Eskimo kiss.

15. Go to the gaygound (playground) and hit the slide about 500 times. Heck, just say the word gaygound.

16. Say "excuse me" when you toot and "bless you" when I sneeze.

So, which one are you going to try today? Let me know how it works!

Today's Splurge:

A chocolate, banana, peanut butter, protein milkshake. It's incredible. I'm sure I'm not the first to invent it, but I haven't had it anywhere quite like this:

Throw into the blender (I'm a little obsessive, so I'd say in this order):
  • 8 oz of chocolate soy milk (I use 8th Continent's Light Chocolate Soy Milk, click here for a $1 off coupon!)
  • 1 frozen banana (I got this tip from my mother in law: cut up ripe bananas and throw them in the freezer, then you'll always have them).
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 TB of natural peanut butter
  • 1 scoop (or two) of chocolate Whey Protein Powder
  • 1 handful of ice-cubes (I use about five)
I have different speeds on my blender, so I put it on "Chop" for about 90 seconds just to cut the ice up, then I switch it to "Mix" for another couple of minutes.

The trick to frothy and thick is just the right amount of ice (too much and its icy, too little and it's not thick) and to blend it for a long time (3 and a half minutes feels a lot longer than it sounds!)

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Go Slow to Go Fast

Keeping point with the last post on Music Theory, I've got another one to pass along. This one applies to all aspects of life: parenting, exercise, work, relationships, even student loan debt pay-off. I'm sure it's one that many of you have applied in one way or another--realizing it or not.

It sounds simple and easy enough to employ--Go Slow to Go Fast--and it is, if you can resist the finger-tip-access and instant gratification results that we are so accustomed to these days (and love, by the way. No longer need to wait for the next day's solution if you can't figure out 29 across on the crossword puzzle).

In fact, Go Slow to Go Fast is the complete opposite of anything instant. It requires you to accept that results might not appear the next minute, the next hour, the next day, or the next month--but if you plod along, once they do appear, they'll keep coming in ways grander than you could have expected.

Consider this light touch example:

If I owed $20,000 on my student loan (that's five digits)--four digits feels like an eternity away, three is borderline cruelty.

But if I plug away, minimum payments at first then a bit more as pay raises come along, I am all of a sudden paying way more on the principle and less on the interest. The smaller the principal, the further my payment goes. Instead of the 20-years I thought it would take to pay it off, we're looking at eight. (That's with a little extra effort, mind you).

Or this one:

Maybe I just ordered a new computer with lots of hook ups, extra features, and state-of-the-art graphics quality. I resist my impulse to just dive in, throw everything at the wall (figuratively speaking, of course) and see what sticks (thereby breaking something or even worse, giving up and never realizing the darn things' full potential). Or, I pay attention to the manual and do as it says. I might not realize its full potential right away (there's always Video Professor, right?) but at least I've positioned myself for the possibility. And what is more exciting than possibility?

If I put in the effort on the front end, then the work on the back end ought to go a lot more smoothly and a lot more...quickly.

These examples scratch the surface of Go Slow to Go Fast potential--it's really effective with the deeper aspects of life: a new relationship, house buying, weight loosing, job seeking, athletic training, soul searching, product launching, and the list goes on.

Going Slow to Go Fast doesn't require a whole lot of paper and pen planning (although that never hurts) it just requires a bit of consciousness, restraint, and patience. In many cases, it's about changing behaviors --even just a little behavior at first (saying hello to someone even if it looks like the last thing they want to hear)--and with the confidence or success that you build from that little change, moving on to other behaviors (or bigger ones) becomes almost fun.

Before you know it, small steps turn into bigger steps, bigger steps into strides.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Music Theory


My husband has a theory and two solutions for the occasion when a song gets stuck in your head (see October 16 post, "Motion").

His theory on how it got stuck: You didn't hear the song all the way through. Maybe you arrived at your destination before it ended, maybe you got distracted, maybe you turned the station or advanced the disc or the playlist. Regardless, it was stopped short. And in its haunting and "rhythm is gonna get you" way it's stuck like the old days of a needle on a record.

His solution for un-sticking it: Listen to it all the way through--and if that isn't possible, sing "Horse with no name". It works every time. You should try it out, because chances are, "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" is stuck in your head now, like it is mine.

So, got any theories of your own?

Splurge of the day:

1. Oatmeal is boring by itself, but add some granola, dried cranberries, walnuts and a little brown sugar, it's like dessert. Well, sort of.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Expert Opinion

I don't need an expert to tell me that life is harder now (as opposed to then?), but I read the article anyway.

The first paragraph struck me for a couple of reasons:

1. It uses the word "splurging" in the first paragraph. Since this "blah" is titled "Splashes and Splurges"--I'm all for the mention, even though I'm trying to splurge in different ways these days (ways that either save money or avoid spending it altogether).

2. It pointed out that Americans are packing the shopping malls and crowding restaurants but spending less. I've been guilty of the former more so than the latter. In fact, there was a point not too long ago when a weekend wasn't a weekend if I didn't make a "quick trip" to the mall, you know, just to see if there were any good sales but mostly just to get out of the house.

Eventually, I started thinking good and hard about why getting out of the house was so important to me. Once I got to the bottom of that, I could start taking steps to make life a little...easier.

I think the rest of the article misses this point. It goes on to talk about how Americans are actually spending less (but being squeezed more). It focuses entirely on the financial aspects of a harder life, but doesn't all good research, common sense, and The Beatles tell us that money can't buy us love? Or internal ease? Wasn't the writer interested in why people are lapping the mall or slurping their Starbucks weekend after weekend to begin with? Especially since they aren't spending money?

For me, life felt harder, or feels harder, because I was making it harder. Rather than stay at home, cook the gourmet meal I had aspirations to cook when I bought all of those groceries earlier in the week, or go through my closet to weed out clothes I no longer wore, organize pictures that were stacked in nearly every corner of my house, or finally organize that drawer that collected everything without a home and the one next to it that was home to its overflow, I "went out":
  • to the mall (to buy more things to add to the drawer),
  • to the bookstore (to buy books on how to get rid of things), or
  • to the coffee shop (to write about how I was going to spend more time at home getting rid of things).
Before I knew it, the weekend was over and I hadn't accomplished a single thing. I tortured myself for the next week, vowing to stay home and get straightened out. It never happened. I continued to feel the stress, the guilt, the noise of a cluttered mind caused by a disorder called Avoidance.

Until I just picked one thing and tackled it. I resisted the urge to "go out" just one time and while it was hard it definitely got easier.

My closets are still not color coded and my pantry is still not alphabetized. But I am down to one (okay, maybe two) trips to the grocery store each week (thanks to my FeedMe Planner), am spending lots more time actually reading books and articles rather than just collecting them, writing more rather than whining about not writing at all, and getting down in the dirt with my daughter.

Life is hard, there is no question about it. But it can also be so satisfying.

Today's Splurge:

While it seems completely contradictory (maybe even hypocritical) to highlight anything that involves money here, I'm going to anyway--because if there is one thing I love more than words, it's paper to write them on. Check out this great paper with pretty Japanese prints from Paper Source. I haven't bought any of it yet (mostly because I'm having such a hard time deciding) but just looking at it makes me want to "do something creative today."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Motion


Marathons give a whole new meaning to the concept of Mind-Body connection.

I'm not even going to attempt to describe what I think Mind-Body connection means in a New Age kind of way (remember, I've had one Pilates class and took my first yoga class on Monday) but I can describe what it means to me in a marathon kind of way: When it hurts, your mind knows it hurts and so doesn't your body.

Saturday's Baltimore Marathon was my second marathon. I finished in a respectable 3:51 minutes but not without some deep contemplation on life, liquids, and lactic acid.

I cruised through the first 21 miles of the course with my good friend, E (who by the way, just had a baby SIX MONTHS AGO!). I felt strong on the hills between miles 17 and 21, which I kept thinking had to end (what goes up MUST go down, right? Wrong.) At 21 miles, I got double whammied with Charlie horses in each quad that exceeded in pain any of the ones I experienced in pregnancy. (Labor pain is in a category unto itself; at least I knew I wasn't going to die from the marathon though the same could not be said when I gave birth.) Needless to say, the last five miles (still up hill, with a slight downhill the final 1/2 mile) were slower but I still made it within my goal time--it's just a little painful to know that I was on pace to achieve my dream time.

Other marathon notes:
  • I should have known I was in trouble when we met up with a guy at mile 7 and ran with until mile 20 who belongs to a club called "Marathon Maniacs. " Not only had he run the Twin Cities marathon the week before, he was running the Atlantic City marathon THE NEXT DAY. He has a wife and three kids--one of whom is three months old. Wanna take bets on whether or not he still has a wife?
  • There's something to be said about just plain, old, regular socks. I got two pairs of special socks for my birthday: special because they are fitted to the left and right foot and labeled "L" and "R"accordingly. But if you unknowingly put two "L's" on and then proceed to run 26.2 miles they are no longer special, they are sadistic. Every toe on my right foot is not just blistered, it's blood blistered.
And finally, I have two splurges to report for the day:

1. I played with my daughter for 45 minutes, uninterrupted, outside with the sidewalk chalk today. We drew a hopscotch board (love that game!), airplanes (aka "airpeens"), and clouds (aka "cowds"). You should definitely draw yourself a hopscotch board.

2. A good friend stopped by this morning for a surprise visit that felt better than a planned one ever could have. Surprise someone this week!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gaga Over Green

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is the environment.

Lately, several strong influences have converged on my life to get me thinking a bit more "greenly" about things. Briefly:

1. The strongest influence is my 18 month old daughter, Ava. A couple of weeks ago, if you asked her what color the sky was, she'd reply, "Green"; if you asked her what color her purple shirt was, "Green", if you asked her what color mommy's hair was (blond with a little help), that too was "green."

These days she is seeing things in different colors, but not before she helped her mom see the green in things.

2. Thinking about a quick trip to the grocery store today? Maybe need to pick up some milk or a loaf of bread? Before you do, consider this tidbit from National Geographic that I stumbled on during Ava's gaga over green phase:
Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills—estimates range from less than one to three percent of the bags.

And like candy wrappers, chewing gum, cigarette butts, and thousands of other pieces of junk, millions of the plastic bags end up as litter. Once in the environment, it takes months to hundreds of years for plastic bags to breakdown. As they decompose, tiny toxic bits seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and the oceans.
Anyone who's ever made a trip to the landfill will tell you that they are teeming with plastic bags--and containment doesn't make them break down any faster or keep them out of our land, soil, even water supply. That's why this morning, I ordered my first set of reusable grocery bags. They come in really savvy and chic designs these days so you can be fashionable and forward thinking. Check them out:

They offer them in black and white designs too at www.delight.com




3. It always comes back to my daughter. I should have cared about the ways in which I was contributing to the environment's health and its demise long before I had a child, but we're not looking back, right? Anyway, perspectives shift or come into focus a million times a day with a child--and my perspective right now is focused exclusively on her health, happiness, and well-being. Long after she's left this nest, I want to be sure the one she moves into will take good care of her too.

For more ideas on the little contributions we can make, check out this article and if you have any ideas of your own, send them along!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Punkin" Cookies


With temperatures finally normal for fall, leaves crunching under feet, and Christmas trees on display at Lowes (!?) we've dusted off the sweaters, put away the sandals, and restocked the spice rack for some fall-time cooking.

Right now, everything is "punkin" around here. When Ava spots a jack-o-lantern, she raises an eyebrow, cocks her head to the side, giggles, and says, "punkin (pause) nohse." (The "h" is added because it's more of an "ohhh" sound than an "o.")

The color orange, to Ava, is no longer orange. It's punkin.

And last week her "Mena" short/somehow/invented for "grandma" made her punkin cookies, which receive a 15-times-a-day mention. Which I can totally see why: they are delicious! I think they're in competition with brussel sprouts for Ava's favorite food (I'm serious).

Anyway, I thought I'd share the recipe in the event you could use a little "punkin" in your life:

Pumpkin Cookies:

16 oz. pure pumpkin
4 1/2 C. flour
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 C. light brown sugar
1 C. butter, softened
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Add all ingredients in listed order to a mixing bowl and beat low speed till well blended and then high for the last minute.

Use 2 Tb of batter for each cookie on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-18 minutes.

Powered sugar sprinkled on top is a great; but you can also try this:

Glaze: Combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Words, Words, Words

I pay attention to words like guys pay attention to...cars.

There are some that trip my gag reflex like a raw egg. Among them:

Blog. Like most of the words that gag me, it's the way they sound rather than what they mean. Blog just sounds so clunky. Take the "g" away and you have blah.

Kiosk. This isn't an often-spoken word among the general population, I don't think. I mean, how often do you need to mention a kiosk? The thing is, when it does come up, it does so with way too much ease. I can't decide if I don't like it because, again, of the way it sounds or because we sound so comfortable using such an uncomfortable word. "Oh, where did you get your 'I'm with stupid' shirt?'" "At the kiosk in front of Bubble Tea."

Waines Coating. My sister brought this one to my attention and fortunately, it's not one that comes up in conversation often. Okay, ever. I'm not even completely sure what Waines Coating is, but I am completely sure that nothing should be called Waines Coating.

Pustule. Here's a word that grosses me out because of how it sounds AND what it implies. Give me pimple any day.

Your turn. What words give you hives?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Multiplication


I've hyperventilated three times in my life. The first time I was seven and had just witnessed Ivan Drago's fatal blow to Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. I stood outside the movie theater for the duration (which, you may recall, would've been the entire movie) breathing into a brown paper bag. Contrary to urban legend, the eternally 100-year old woman who ran the place was flesh and blood and did not have fangs sprouting out her chin.

The second time was yesterday when I stumbled upon the knowledge that my husband informed "a few" people that I had a blog. The third time was four hours later when he confessed to sending an email to almost everyone in his address book (which means that only our utility companies and free overnight shipping sneaker store were spared). It was bad enough when I thought "a few" meant four (since when did it turn into 84!?) because I wasn't serious about this! I was just exploring, testing it out, exercising my imagination.

Which, I discovered, can take you all kinds of places when your audience of one (your husband) turns into x 100.

My horrification (I invent words, by the way) stems exclusively from the belief that people have way more important things to do with their time than read about how I am (or am not) spending mine.

As I said, Pete (my husband) was the only one that even knew I had a blog. I liked it that way--it was intentional. I could get subtle messages across (aren't spontaneous overnight trips to remote locations where you can eat bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner FUN?) under HIS illusion that I was writing to the world (but really just to him). It was going to be the next breakthrough "couples' communication strategy": not only was I NOT accusing, but suggesting ideas that he could brandish as his own! We both win! Besides, men have left Mars and were women ever in Venus to begin with?

Regardless, Mars, Venus, the moon...wherever we're from, many would argue we're in cyberspace now and need to figure out a way to get along (which, I was working on!). Or in my case, "get to know" because Pete doesn't appear to know me very well, or at least disregarded what he did!

It's all come back to him now, though. I made sure of it :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Rules

Okay, I've edited my first and only entry about eight times in the nine days since I posted it. Is that legal? And can I still count it as a first?

Here's why I haven't posted a second: I can't find a focus. Now, the title of my blog, Splashes and Splurges, was strategic because it was supposed to leave the door wide open for me to write about anything. (ANYTHING!) But, in typical Maureen fashion, I agonize over the detail, the focus (or lack thereof) and the implications that writing about anything creates for everything and everyone in my life. I invent internal rules that make exploration impossible and spend precious time searching for external permission to break them.

It's sounds heavy, but it's really just a convoluted way of saying I cop out.

I told a friend recently that I crave clarity. Clarity is what I crave.

A method for achieving it is what I lack.

Until yesterday.

I watched a DVR'ed episode of Oprah on which she had Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat. Pray. Love. I'm still in the first third of the book, the Eat part, which I'm thoroughly enjoying and the fact that I'm running a marathon this weekend gives me complete freedom to eat pasta and pizza and everything Italian in between--(see, there is that external permission!) but I digress.

I like the book. A lot (and for a lot of reasons). But I also like (and find very important) her emphasis on the understanding that it reflects HER experience and not one that we/others/I/you should attempt to create. Initially, I had "recreate"--but not even Elizabeth "created" her experience. She left herself open to the possibility of God's will for her and His intervention that is Divine and guiding. Others/my/your/our journey will lead somewhere else. If you listen carefully to her words--both written and oral--and how they come together to tell her story, you too will understand this. We want easy--and retracing someone else's path is easy. But what we want and what we need often compete. Easy is the short term win that doubles as a long term loss.

However, there is one thing of hers that we can create--and this is from her mouth: to write down everyday what it is you really really really want.

Oprah's question was my rule, "Want when? Now, tomorrow, when?" Elizabeth's reply was my permission, "Whatever. It will come. Just write down everyday what you really really really want."

So, I'm going to use this blog as my permission. Not to write down what I really really really want, though sometimes I'm sure that will weave its way in and out of my words, but a method to achieve the clarity I crave. Permission to just to write down, period. Firsts, lasts, laughs, loves, everything, anything, nothing at all. You know, splashes and splurges.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Day of Firsts

My daughter is 17 months old. Her day is filled with firsts...first words which are turning into first sentences (yesterday was " wait a minute" which sounded like "wayaminnit") first discoveries (most recent is that it's tough to catch your shadow, but sure is easy to pet it) and first tastes (balsamic-vinaigrette marinated then grilled portobello mushrooms added yet another face to the many faces of Ava Frances).

I don't want to be one of those mom's who lives vicariously through their child. So, I've decided to take on some firsts of my own. (That this day of firsts happens to be the first of October is complete serendipity.)

This morning, I rose my tired body out of cozy bed at insane 4am. Now, that isn't a first for me...I'm usually up and out under the stars for a long, sweaty, run that contribute to knotted up and snappy muscle syndrome, which I have and wear as a scarlet letter P (for pathetic) on my chest in every class I've ever taken that involves any kind of stretching (warm up and cool down count).

This morning, however, I was going to do something different. I loaded myself into the car and headed to the gym for Fitness Pilates. What is that, you ask? Hold on, I'm about to tell you:

I've never taken a Pilates class in my life. Not ever. I did order the Winsor Pilates tapes about seven years ago (yes, this was still VHS era, DVD's were just coming on the scene--at least in my paper and pencil world) when I woke early at my then-boyfriend's/now-husband's apartment and knew if I tried to wake him it would be the last time I ever woke up in his apartment again. So, I plumped myself down on his comfy couch, turned on the tube, and there was Daisy Fuentes, long and lean and so.....pilates. I could do that, I thought, and I want to look like that, I knew, so 1-800-order-me, I did.

The tapes remain in my painted green childhood dresser at my parents home in upstate New York. Unopened, untested.

But that's okay. I'm taking on a don't-look-back approach to this one-shot-at-life we've got. Fitness Pilates, here I come.

I arrived a little early because I wanted a spot in the back, not too early because I wanted to see what everyone else was piling up next to them.

There were three people already there. Each had a mat so I got a mat. I turned to the woman on my left and asked, "is there any other equipment that we'll need?"-- she didn't respond and then I spotted her earphones, which made it very clear that even if she could hear me, she didn't want to hear me. The second woman walked past me to pick up one of those squares that you place under a riser. I asked her the same question but she kept walking. Yup, you guessed it, earphones. (Now, I am guilty of the earphones-are-in-but-no-music-is-on-because-I'm-not-interested-in-eye-contact-or-any-contact approach to exercising. I might have even invented it.)

Semi-embarrassed (remember, there is one other woman in the room who ISN'T wearing earphones but clearly heard my two attempts to talk to the ones who were!) I started stretching (which Ava calls armpits thanks to her dad) because I didn't know what else to do and I needed to rethink my strategy.

A few minutes past conspicuous, I walked over and picked up the square--having no idea, mind you, what a Fitness Pilates class would ever do with a single center-carved-out square.

A few minutes later, the second woman went over and picked up a green medicine ball.

Guess I'll need a green medicine ball.

As I walked over to the ball bin, I was first overwhelmed with all of the colors (each indicating a different weight) and then tormented by the question,"Do I get the green one and risk looking totally novice, or do I take a risk and pick out another color, maybe one that's less weight since I have no idea what they're used for--or maybe a little heavier so that even though I'm going to look pathetic in this stretching-involved class I can prove that I spend time doing other things at the gym.

I picked all three. A green because that is what she got. A yellow because it was a couple of pounds lighter, and a purple because that was a couple of pounds heavier.

As I walked back to my spot, it dawned on me what the squares were for. To hold the ball. A ball. Not three balls. One ball.

Unless I was going to juggle these things the entire class, I had a problem.

Since the yellow ball was a little smaller, I figured I could get away with both the green and the yellow on the square. But that would mean I'd have showcase my unPilatesness and walk the purple one back.

So I did.

Throughout the two minute ordeal that felt more like eternity, about eight other people had filtered in--men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Class started and I was surprised at how "advanced" I was at this Fitness Pilates. Mostly because it involved quite a bit of core strength, which I've got some of, in addition to arm and leg strength as well, which I own thanks to this yes-I'm-crazy marathon I'm training for. The instructor said that our "toys" (a body bar and a medicine ball) is what added the "Fitness" to Pilates.

It was a slower pace than I'm used to in most aspects of my life. I liked it.

I did fail the stretch test, but I'm optimistic. I think I'll even give it a second try.

My other first is this blog.

But I'll save that experience for another day.