Saturday, March 22, 2008

Am I a Loser or What?

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I just spent the last 4 hours of my evening singing karaoke to songs played on my sister's portable machine.

I think I just answered my own question! ;)


Friday, March 21, 2008

Gross

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As I sit here, I am resisting the urge to scratch at the top of my left hand. The problem? Allergic contact dermatitis.

You see, I have skin allergies. Nickel is one of them
. The rest are...well, unknown. My sensitivities are idiopathic in that I have no idea which chemical or plant agent will trigger a reaction; I broke out in ugly rashes during my first and second year in Hong Kong, and despite patch-testing, there was no way to isolate the cause.

Such is the case, again. Thankfully, my disgusting, bumpy, red, slightly pustular rash is isolated to my left hand alone, and that rash is well-covered by a large, advanced-healing Band-Aid. That said, it itches like nobody's business and it is disgusting to look at.

The worst part of all? There really isn't a cure; the body pretty much has to heal itself over the course of 2-3 weeks, with the aid of such treatments as cortisone creams, colloidal oatmeal hand baths, oral allergy meds, and Calamine lotions to help soothe the itch. I've been using ice on top of the waterproof bandage whenever I've started getting uber-itchy; the numbness kills some of the itch, but it always returns for another round a few hours later.

I wish I could say that I can prevent a future outbreak, but I can't. This is probably the worst part of all. I am certain that one of my student's Bible projects (3D models) must have used some product or chemical that I am allergic to, and when I handled their
work I managed to make contact with it on the top of my left hand. But to know which product, and which project, would be nearly impossible to narrow down.

So, for now, I am going to suffer, and wait. I'm not crazy about the idea of visiting Anaheim with a rash on my hand, but what can you do? If you're a doc and you have any other ideas of meds I should be considering, then drop me a line; Hubbs has been insisting that I see a doc but I keep telling him that they probably can't do more for me than prescribe an anti-inflammatory or oral antihistamine. Prove me wrong, k?

(PS - These images of my rash were posted in response to Matt's request. Ignore the little hairs on my hand. Note the ugliness and bumpy irregularity of the area, which began as two lines of rashy dots that ran perpendicular to each other (looking not unlike a candy cane shape). At first I thought it was poison ivy but of course I haven't come near ivy so that's not possible. Then the rash "spread" around the area and sort of filled it up in this messy heap of gross. I've already washed with colloidal oatmeal and also avoided scratching as much as possible. I've taken Claritin to try to reduce swelling and I've been icing the area when it gets super itchy. I am now covering it with Advance-Healing Band-Aids to try to avoid contaminating the area further.)



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

While I'm Dreaming....

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...I would like to get this the moment I become an official homeowner:



Sure, it will set me back about $3000, but it steams (read:fewer wrinkled laundry items), it front-loads, it has an LCD screen, it has a large capacity, and of course, it's LG.

If only money trees grew in this greedy little girl's back yard. *sigh.*

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Registry Retrospective - Kitchen Edition

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When I first got married, I was told I should start a registry at several department stores to help others know what to get us for a wedding gift. Having lived frugally as a single person for all of my life up to that point, I honestly had no idea what were good or necessary things to have. My mismatched random collection of small appliances and hand-me-down dishes and cutlery seemed sufficient for my needs, so I never really paid attention to what constituted "quality" goods. As well, Hubbs and I had not discussed nor held a vision for what our kitchen might look like, from colours to general look-and-feel.

The end result of this was that Hubbs handed over the reins to me when it came to setting up our wish list. I remember reluctantly registering for fine china, because apparently this is what people ask for at weddings, even though I saw no purpose in paying $50 for a sugar bowl. I also registered for a juicer, since Hubbs thought it would be great to have freshly-squeezed apple or orange juice for breakfast. Then there were the Henckels knives, which cost a small fortune but I was told were among the best knives to own. We also registered for a toaster oven, food processor, and other such counter-top appliances, as well as for linens and towels (which was a smart move, since these are used daily in our household), Corningware, wine decanters, and cutlery.

Well, in hindsight I wish people would have advised me more effectively (or that I would have sought out advice) before I signed up for all of these kitchen goodies. Many of these items, though nice to own, have not proven themselves to be very useful for our present lifestyle. At the same time, we've had to learn the hard way that sometimes cheaper is just, well, cheaper. In the case of things such as pots and pans or drinking glasses, there *is* a difference between a quality item and one that is cheaply made, and at the end of the day we would be better off to spend more and get the well-made item from the start, than have to spend an equal amount of money replacing a poor one down the road.

In the end, I also learned that I didn't need any fine china at all; instead, my needs were better met by owning a full set of functional, practical, ceramic dishes (with mugs, small and larg
e plates, bowls and serving dishes for 12 settings all sold in one large box) that weren't made by Royal Doulton or Wedgwood. I also learned (the hard way) that I should have ordered 2 sets, since the daily wear-and-tear of using these dishes renders them a bit battered and bruised by the end of a year, and we will likely have to replace these eventually with another hardy, economical set.

It also occurred to me that I should have upgraded those already-pricey Henckels knives, which I discovered come in different levels of quality. We ended up with several standard pieces, which perform relatively well but sub-par to other custom knives I've since purchased.

My grand goal to drink wine out of ornate decanters was also frivolous and impractical; we tend to keep our wine in the bottle rather than pour it into crystal anyway, so our gorgeous wine decanters continue to remain in their lovely box.

I also found our juicer and food processor to be more hassle than handy. Though we loved using both appliances, cleaning them turned out to be nightmarish and time-consuming, and thus we rarely pull them out of the shelves these days. Likewise our toaster oven, though in theory a handy thing to have, proved to be mostly unnecessary given that we already have an oven, a toaster, and a microwave. Our counter-top hasn't been massive enough to house all of these pieces, and so the fantastic brand-name toaster oven remains barely-used in our cupboards.

Conversely, we found that we had missed registering for several useful gifts. As a result, we have had to purchase these things post-wedding; some I still have yet to buy! Had I known then what I know now, my registry would have looked vastly different, and some of the items (by no means an exhaustive list) I would have included are:

* a quality coffee maker^
* a crock pot / slow cooker^
* a powerful blender^
*aprons
* a non-stick roasting pan
*a KitchenAid Artisan mixer
*a high-end salad spinner
* stainless steel electric kettle with a hidden element^
* a higher-end dish-drying rack with a drainable mat
* nice matching drinking glasses and wine glasses^
* more linens!
*tea towels and matching oven mitts and hot pads
* a wooden cutting board
*a polyethylene cutting board^
*a Dyson vacuum cleaner
*quality cookware
*2 sets of good cutlery (a set for guests, and one for daily use)
*2 sets of nice dishes (a set for guests, and one for daily use)
* Tupperware / air-tight food storage containers
* stay-sharp knives with at least 2 Henckelmen on them
* serving dishes in a variety of styles and shapes
* a lightning-fast wine bottle de-corker^
* a fondue set
* a large-capacity stainless steel garbage can^

Luckily, Hubbs and I have had the fortune of being able to slowly accumulate these goodies (marked with a ^) even though we failed to register for many of them originally.

It just goes to show, however, that there is something to be said for getting advice from seasoned married couples, which we did not do. Sometimes, the experience of living as a cheap singleton really does not prepare one for life as a spouse trying to set up a functional, fabulous home. Luckily, after nearly 3 years of marriage, Hubbs and I have finally concluded that we want a kitchen filled with stainless steel items and dusty blue and light green colours. Now we just have to slowly build our collection of goods to fill it that way!






Saturday, March 08, 2008

Younger Next Year - by Crowley and Lodge

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A couple of months ago, Hubbs and I came across a his-and-hers version of the book "Younger Next Year" at Costco. Since both he and I are interested in staying healthy, we picked up these books, figuring that they would have something to contribute to our journey into wellness :)


Well, we were right and we were wrong. As he and I read our respective books, we quickly discovered that the target audience for these self-help gems wasn't our demographic, but men and women approaching their 60's and retirement. In that sense, the book didn't apply to us at all (and to be completely honest, both he and I skipped the "Sex" chapters altogether since we were pretty sure they'd be useless for us). That said, the message that was most useful for me, and that stuck with me, is this:

You do
have to age (you really can't fight that), but you don't have to fall apart.

The authors argue that keeping active (elevated heart rates) and weight-training helps to slow down the physical process of tissue degeneration; if you can maintain some semblance of muscle mass, it essentially helps you to stay youthful, maintain mobility, and slow down age-related conditions like osteoporosis. They go on about different types of chemicals released in your body and how these help regenerate tissues, but I don't remember all of the details now, nor do the technical aspects matter as much as the power of a good anecdote. ;)

I am inspired by a story I came across several months ago, about an octogenarian who began lifting weights in her 70's. Marjorie Newlin didn't start strength-training until she realized she was having trouble lifting the 50-lb bag of kitty litter that she had bought, and figured it was time to stop deteriorating physically. Many bodybuilding awards later, she can still bench 90 pounds, dead-lift 95, and squat 135. I wish I could say the same!

Her story inspires, and proves, that aging doesn't have to equate to physical rotting.

As a relatively "young" person, I want to begin a healthy lifestyle now, with regular weight training, clean eating, and moving that will help me live an enjoyable life well past my 60's. I may not win bodybuilding awards, but if I can keep myself from developing adult-onset diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis, and maintain the ability to move around without walkers or canes or wheelchairs into my 90's, I feel that the sacrifice of those donuts and cakes and that hour each day at the gym to be well worth it!

I am determined to be younger by next year. You?



Another One!

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I need another Crock Pot. Don't get me wrong; the one I bought is fine. In fact, it's so fine that nearly every evening meal we've had in the past few weeks has been done in the pot. The problem is that I need a second one, so that I'm not frantically having to scrub down this one every morning in preparation for the next meal.

Do they sell just the lids and the stone pots? I really don't need a second cooker...just a second pot. Hmmm....


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sinister, Yet Brilliant

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In my perpetual struggle to become a skinny, hot, hard-bodied, trophy wife*, I have started following an exercise plan called the "German Body Composition" workout, which consists of three superset workouts per week and clean, lower-carb eating in the first several weeks of the program. I've been resisting freshly glazed apple fritters and donuts and cookies and all things sugary or bread-like, while training like a demon for the last two weeks. I've increased my energy levels and alertness, and also lost a humble few pounds and inches along the way.

Well, the first phase of the eating plan on this program prescribes that I eat natural high-protein (read: something that swam in the water or walked or crawled on the earth or flew in the air at some point), low-carb (read: it's green and fibrous and grew out of the ground) foods for two weeks, and then take a "cheat day" to essentially eat whatever I want.

Today is my cheat day, following two long, meaty weeks of training and clean eating. Interestingly enough, I've not had many cravings, though I have satisfied my need for sugar by finishing off some leftover ice cream and noshing on a cookie or two so far. I've also had about 1.5 pieces of white bread. Already I'm feeling...disgusting.

I think this is part of the program's sinister plan; resist temptation and eat well, and then gorge yourself like a starved pig and feel bad about it physically and mentally afterwards. Then use those negative feelings to deter yourself from any desire to "cheat" until your next break meal, 5 days down the road.

It reminds me of those stories you hear about kids who get caught smoking, and whose parents force them to smoke a full pack in one sitting as their consequence (I'm certainly not saying that this is an ethical consequence, just that it has happened to some and I hear it works). More often than not, these kids get so sick of cigarettes by their 20th one that they never smoke again.


I think this program works with the same concept: gorge yourself on junk food after eating clean and feeling better for two weeks, and then notice the difference in how you feel physically and mentally afterwards. Use the unpleasant after-effects of gorging to deter you from further "breaks" until you are allowed a break meal again, 5 days later.

I haven't even *gorged* yet and already I feel horrible both mentally and physically. I think this sinister, yet brilliant plan of Poliquin's (he's the guy who designed the program) is working perfectly. Already I feel like I'm done with junk food and would like to return to wholesome, caveman-style eating.

I'm hoping that my disgust with processed food and with how I feel right now will translate into further weight reductions and measurement decreases in weeks to come. I'll keep you posted.


* Right now it's pretty evident that Hubbs married me more for personality and brains than looks, but I'd like to reach the point where my ridiculous hotness completely overshadows my larger-than-life personality and genius brainpower.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

New Bag and New Clothes :)

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Today Hubbs took me on my birthday shopping trip. At the last moment, I decided that I wanted our trip to be a bit of a spring shop as well.

WELL, a pair of slacks, a skirt, and three tops later, I'm feeling pretty good about my purchases. Hubbs didn't fare too badly either; he ended up with two great looking shirts in "his style" (and for those of you that know him, you already know what style I mean ;) ).

The disappointing part of it all was that the lululemon at the big mall, which was the store I made a beeline for as soon as I entered the building, did not carry much of a selection of bags at all. In fact, they only had one type of bag aside from traditional duffels, and this bag was nowhere near the type that I wanted. When I saw their paltry collection, I was bitterly disappointed and eventually resigned myself to the fact that I would be walking out of W.E.M. bagless.

Hubbs, being the sweet and wonderful man that he is, was willing to be dragged to the "main" lululemon store after our lengthy shopping trip, and it was at this store that I found the Podium bag. In fact, I found quite a few bags of differing styles and colours, and I honestly had my pick. Though I was initially partial to the Podium bag, after I had a chance to see how it looked on me and to explore its pockets, I decided against getting it. Instead, I got this bag:


Nice, eh? I'm pretty thrilled with it. It still holds up to 50 lbs of weight, has lots of compartments, and is relatively waterproof. Best of all, though, is that it looks fabulous on my shoulder :)

All's well that ends well, and I'm thrilled that as this day draws to a close, I have a bag that I love, and that will serve well as a carry-on when we head south to Mouse City.