Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Florida, and other paradoxes

Let's face it.  Having Christmas in 80% weather is just...weird.  Oh, sure, for those who didn't grow up in New England, it's normal, but for proud Yankees like me, even after many years, it's still a little strange to see Christmas lights decorating palm trees instead of pines, and sprawling stone houses instead of neat, boxy colonials.

That said, it's really all about family (or Jesus, or shopping, take your pick), and it was neato this year to have my bro and sister in law with us for Christmas.

Most of the week was about vegging and eating, both of which my family excel at.  There were some presents thrown in there, some dominoes, and no golf, alas.  We made Chrusciki, a Polish "delicacy" consisting of fried dough drenched in powdered sugar.  As I manned the hot oil (with varying degrees of success), I could feel my grandma looking down on us and smiling.  They weren't as good as hers, but then again, she used lard, and we did not. We enjoyed my mom's awesome roast, and my sister-in-law's yummy coffee cake, a new tradition.  And pierogi. And naps.  Naps are excellent, and often necessary during such intense eating and lazing about.

Once my bro and SIL left, though, the remaining Beznoskas threw down in the fun department.

We saw the Muppet movie.  I loved it.  Especially when, faintly in the background of a montage, I could hear "Piiiiigs Iiiiiin Spaaaaaaace!!!!" I teared up when Kermit sang "Rainbow Connection," mostly because I miss the time when being naive and hopeful was possible.  My folks enjoyed it more than they thought they would.  Bonus.

We went to the Kennedy Space Center, and I renewed my five-year old self's vow to become an astronaut, and will spend part of tomorrow watching Apollo 13 for the 17,000th time.  Space is cool.  It's a shame we can't get our national financial house in order so we can keep exploring it. 

The next day, we went to Magic Kingdom for a fleeting few hours.  Splash Mountain with my dad. It's a Small World with my mom.  A blue sky above Cinderella's Castle.  I never want to get old enough to not enjoy Disney World. 

All this fun was accomplished within the space of two point five days.  It was me and my parents, and it was nice to, for a change, not feel weird about that.  That's the good thing about tourist stuff in Florida; it's being enjoyed by all combinations of family units, and many are not having as much fun as we do. 

And then, I came back to Arkansas and a messy house that I thought was clean when I left, but pales next to my mom's beautiful clean house.  Talk about a plunge into the cold pool of reality.

However, the weather gods have cooperated to ease me back into real life with a lovely warm weekend.  So warm, in fact that I cleaned out my garage and car today because it was too nice to stay inside.

And on the last few days of 2011, things are looking good.  I have friends to ring out the New Year with a game night.  I just remembered that my snarky 2011 New Year's resolution post was mentioned on Arkansas Women Bloggers (hopefully making a few folks laugh).  I have lots of new books to read.  My dog remembered who I was.  Wisconsin's in the Rose Bowl. 

And for the coup de grace, today I was seized by my long-dormant (more like non-existent) foodie tendency, and cooked myself a fantabulous dinner of kielbasa with onions and apples, over locally made pasta with a side of sauteed brussel sprouts.  AND!  I bought a butternut squash to cook tomorrow.  This is big deal, because I LOVE butternut squash anything, and I have never once attempted to cook with it.  Why?  I have no idea.  I can't wait to try it. 

(For those who are wondering what has happened to the real Jodi, and if she's been kidnapped and replaced, rest assured, this won't last.  Cooking like this is a luxury for me that comes after a week of vacation and with no work for another 3 days.  Once real life and 50+ hour work weeks kick back in, life will resume as normal.) 

It's likely this will be my last blog entry of 2011.  It was an interesting year, but I'm ready for 2012.  If the world doesn't end, big things could happen.  Or a bunch of small things.  Either way, I'm good with it.  Change is in the air, methinks.

Best wishes to all.  Be safe on New Year's Eve. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Adventures at Lake Wilson

There are some things progeny do that we probably shouldn't tell our parents about.

For example, there were a few things on my travels in Europe during college that I will never share.  Sorry, Dad.  Some things are better left unsaid.

Yet, what's a blog for if not to share life's adventures with a few dedicated readers?  So allow me to regale you with tales of my escapades at Lake Wilson.

Saturday was a lovely sunny day, the kind where I would, if I were the sort, pat myself on the back for moving to Arkansas, where a 60 degree day is not unusual in December.  Indeed, at this time of year, the opportunity to be outside in daylight is so rare that I was seized by a strange urge to go exploring, preferably in the woods, and NOT on a paved surface, as I find those get real boring, real quick.  So I did a bit of research and discovered there is a short loop around a lake at the south of town.

It's called Lake Wilson Park, and it seemed likely to be deserted, woodsy and involving a body of water, which is another obsession of mine  (a tough thing in a landlocked state).  So I threw my dog in the back of the car (this isn't an exaggeration - she hates the car so much that I have to manually heave all 48 pounds of her into the car), and headed south. 

Turns out the bridge was out (seriously), so I went with instinct and traveled further south, eventually finding my way to the right county road (road is a generous phrase) which led me to the park from the other side.  Reports of its isolation were not mistaken, and as I was getting ready to head onto the trail, I felt that strange feeling that only single people can feel.  Bridget Jones sums it up nicely in her first movie when she says:
Right there. That was the moment. I suddenly realized that unless some thing changed soon... I was going to live a life where my major relationship... was with a bottle of wine... and I'd finally die fat and alone... and be found three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs.
In this situation, it translates to:
Huh.  Nice trail, really remote.  No one around.  I should probably tell someone I'm out here.  After all, if I fall in the woods, no one's going to hear me, and it might be days before anyone realizes I'm missing.  Sadie isn't the Lassie type to run for help. Hmmm...
Of course, it wasn't really as bad as all that.  My cell phone still worked.  So off I went.

It was lovely.  The trail was covered in leaves, which meant I was paranoid that I would step wrong and fall on my face when my bum ankle decided to turn, but it made for a nice focus.  It reminded me of a leg of a hike we took on the Grand Colorado Adventure, where the need to put one foot in front of the other took over, and there really wasn't room to think about annoying work emails, dishonest vendors, or why I feel the need to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I snapped a couple of great photos along the way.  It was magic hour, so the light was amazing. So was my dog, who is quite clearly in charge of the world in the photo at right.

It's a short hike, so before long I wound my way down where I was obviously supposed to cross a small stream/dam and get back to my car, a mere 30-40 feet away.

However, due to some heavy rains, the stream/dam was, well, if not quite a raging river, at least an impressive brook.  I stood there for 10 minutes, dog patiently at my side, trying to figure out if I could cross without tumbling into the water, which, a few feet downstream, poured over a 20 foot high spillway.  There was a lot of physics going on in my head, mixed with some statistics, and the basic answer was "there's probably a 1 in 4 shot that you'll be able to step on that pointy wet rock, leap to that pile of sticks that might be solid, after which you'll have vault over that rushing water into the mud, and hope you don't miss."  I didn't like those odds, so I made like a pioneer and followed the river downstream, searching for a better place to cross.

Remember how I said it was magic hour? After magic hour, it starts to get dark, real fast.  As I traveled further downstream, and further away from my car, I honestly started to wonder if I could make it back around the lake before nightfall.  And if I couldn't, what then?

Eventually, I found my way to a spillway that had about 6 inches of slow moving water pouring over it, and I bit the bullet and waded in.  On the other side, I gave fleeting thought to scaling the hill, but instead decided to try the trail again, even though it was going in the direction I didn't want to be going.  There, I found a fence, climbed through the mud under it, and voila!  There was the road.  Blessed, blessed road.  Not the way the trail was supposed to end, but it would do.

Slosh, slosh, back to the car, Sadie trotting happily along as if we hadn't just narrowly escaped spending a night in the woods.

What's the moral of this story?  Probably the same thing moms always say when kids leave the house; dress in layers (I did), tell someone where you're going to be (I did), watch where you walk (I did), and try not to fall into the river.  Sound advice, I'd say. 

PS: The info on the website for the Lake Wilson Trail said "use caution when crossing the spillway portion of the trail."  No kidding. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A day I need to remember

Today was not a particularly awesome day.

I woke up later than I'd planned, to another gloomy morning. 

There were too many meetings at work, which is normal but often mind-numbing. 

I had to do a couple of pretty not-fun things at work related to sales and thorny vendor relationships.

My email inbox is overflowing.

It's been thunderstorming since 3pm.

I'm not done with my Christmas shopping.

Yet, oddly, I feel great.   Here's a confession; I worry a lot about mood swings, based on family history and my own morbid imagination that ponders if, as a 35-year old single girl living in the marriage-focused, generally conservative mid-South, far from family, the Red Sox, the ocean and adequate snow removal equipment, I'm not a candidate for therapy.  I really want to project a calm, easy attitude in all aspects of my life, but it's not easy, and I'm not successful as much as I'd like to be.  So when I face a day like today, and come through it feeling good, if not downright chipper, I have to stop and take stock of what's changed.

And thus we arrive at the crux of why I need this blog entry today.  The only thing that's changed?  I have 3 days of eating well and exercising behind me.

***cue cymbal crash***

Now, I'm sure scientists (if they read this blog) would tell me I don't have enough data to make this causal connection.  But since Monday, I've eaten all but one meal at home or via a packed lunch.  I've stretched my walks with Sadie (in the dark!) so I'm getting at least 1.5 miles a day.  I've filled my fridge and cupboards with "good" snacks, decided I can get away with half a turkey sandwich at lunch (with guacamole instead of mayo).  I've taken my vitamins, eaten just one handful of mixed nuts as a snack.  Given away (nearly) all my Cookiefest cookies.  Not eaten after 8pm.  These things may seem small, but they add up.

And yikes!  When listed like that, those are a lot of bad habits to break at once.  

Then this morning, I was building an outfit around some new boots I'd purchased.  And suddenly, I spotted a skirt that, years ago, fit me great.  And then a shirt that I'd worn last year, but hated because of how it just didn't fit. Slowly, tentatively, I pulled them out of the closet.  I tried on the fit.  Ok, sure, we can attribute that to the magical powers of tights to trim the tummy.  Then the shirt.  And...holy crap.  It fit.  Without the straining of buttons I remembered.  Then I put the boots on (wide legged knee boots, the only kind I've been able to buy), and...gasp...they are almost too big around the calves. 

If you've never really worried about your weight (and I mean really worried, as in if I don't do something about this I'm endangering my future worry) you can't understand how good these things feel.

And how quickly your good mood can change. 

That's why I think it's important to remember days like this.  Days when things don't go well, and it doesn't ruin everything.  All the books say that, when you eat right, you will feel better.  They ALL say that.  And yet, it's so easy not to.  And then wonder why you are snarky and sensitive and grumpy.

There's no guarantee that tomorrow I won't be back here, writing rantish blog entries that I never publish because I might offend people. 

But for today, I just had carrots with yogurt dip for a snack.  I'm only eating one piece of pizza tonight at trivia.  So for today, bring it on. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chili, blogs and cookies. Two of the three are not good for my diet.

Good grief.  I guess the holiday season is here.  Seriously, it's pretty insane the amount of food and fellowship I've already been exposed to over the last week, and that I've exposed my twitter and facebookverse to as well.  Allow me to go on the record and officially apologize to all my dieting friends for the plethora of food photos I've sent into the interwebs this week...I'm sorry.  I will try to do better, especially since I've been liking fitting into those old jeans recently, thank you very much. 

Not that I'm complaining.  Far from it.  From the virtual interactions of new friends and blogs to explore on Arkansas Women Bloggers (still time to register, ladies, if you haven't already - they are doing giveaways) to the 1st Annual Walton Arts Center Staff Chili Cookoff to the 5th Annual Cookiefest with my gals Jennifer and Lisa, it's been a week full of festivities, and more are on the way. 

I didn't win the Chili Cookoff, but I think it's worth a bit of applause that I even entered, considering that I've made chili twice in my life, including this time (we don't count the gallons upon gallons of chili I made while working at my family's deli, since that was done via a very precise recipe that allowed for no mistakes, and was also done under my mom's watchful eye).  And not that I'm biased (well, ok, I am) but my chili rocked. 

And then, Cookiefest.  Ah, Cookiefest.  Probably one of the best 1/2 dozen days in my year, when I get to hang out with two amazing friends and bake.  And bake.  And eat.  And bake some more.  In an effort not to break my "no eating in the evening" rule (which was obviously on hiatus during Cookiefest), I won't list the cookies we made.  I'll just give you the stats, and an image that pretty much sums it all up.

70.5 dozen cookies made (that's 846 cookies)
2lbs of puppy chow made
17 different varietals of cookie

Yep, those are Cookie Monster T-shirts.  Our names are on the backs.  This is the real deal, friends.  :)

We tried a new schedule this year, one that allowed us to gather in the morning, shop at leisure (with a little stop at a local holiday market where I dropped a cool $50 just like that), bake, eat and watch Wisconsin win a slot in the Rose Bowl, sleep, then wake and bake some more.  Much, much better than working a full day in the office and THEN commencing.  Why didn't we think of that 4 years ago? 

In completely unrelated news, I nearly made a total ass of myself at the local Walgreens today when I stopped by to pick up some photos I needed to get developed (I know, right? How old school!  It was a disposable camera that I took on the Colorado River portion of my vacation this past summer.  More on that later).  My photos weren't there.  I was just starting to get huffy with the clerks when I realized I was at the wrong Walgreens.  Ugh.  In my defense, they both were on the northwest corners of the same main street through town, but still.  How mortifying.

But after many apologies and a quick exit, I prevailed and eventually got my photos, and what a treat they were.  Just a few shots from the first day of the Grand Colorado Adventure, but they took me back to the peace, beauty and stunning landscapes that another Jennifer and I used to feed our souls for a few days.  It's official, folks.  I have the travel bug.  I want to go places.  Lots of places.  Immediately.  Too bad about the whole work thing.  Such a shame I have to do it in order to feed this travel habit I'm cultivating. 

Another bonus of these photos is a gentle reminder that the days of tank tops will come again. I love fall/winter clothing with it's boots, blazers and, for Yanks like me, fleece jackets, but they often lull you into a false sense of body comfort. It's good to remember how very hard it was for me to allow myself to be photographed wearing a top like the one I'm wearing at left, and how very much I want to be able to wear whatever sleeveless shirt catches my eye next summer.  So after a weekend of definite indulgence, it's time to get back on the horse. 

Luckily I have a lot of people who need gifts/thanks for their support over the past year.  Thus, let the next phase begin:  Cookiefeast, where I share the love...and the calories...of Cookiefest with the world.