Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Do you make resolutions? If so, do you follow them?

Well, I think most of my resolutions could be summed up pretty well:
To kiss a boy
To stop kissing the wrong boys
To find a boy to kiss forever

And thankfully, after this year, I can finally check that last one off the list. So what the heck am I going to resolve now?!

Actually, for the last 4 years, I have tried to make resolutions that are more goals to accomplish. I have come to realize it doesn’t make sense to me to take make a major life changing resolution like losing weight because that is an issue I have been dealing with my whole life and will deal with my whole life. The dedication and focus required to accomplish that goal on a daily basis are so much more than just a number on a list.

So instead, I focus on things I can review on a monthly basis and try to check a few off. To give some perspective, here are my 2008 resolutions:
1. One trip or social event per month – To add some context, I had just moved to Tampa and had adopted a somewhat workaholic, hobbit lifestyle so the point of this was to get out, enjoy and learn more about the area.
2. Visit 3 new baseball stadiums
3. Travel to one new city
4. Travel overseas
5. Read at least one new book/month
6. Volunteer one Saturday per month
7. One event with the girls each month
8. Walk regularly
9. See all the Tampa Bay Sports Teams play
10. One new restaurant or bar per month

I did pretty well on accomplishing these goals. I definitely accomplished the goals related to dining and travelling. See it's easy to accomplish your resolutions when you make them about things you already like to do! Genius!

My list for 2009 was much shorter:
1. Get married
2. Paint and organize house
3. Train for and complete the Minneapolis 3 Day
4. Visit 2 new ballparks
5. Take 3 day trips (not accomplished)6. Learn to make cheese (likely moving to the 2010 list)
I am still working on my list for 2010 – though I think it will definitely be more focused on frugality, volunteering and developing new skills. I’ll post that later this week, but for now, what are some of your goals or hopes for 2010?

Monday, December 28, 2009

What's your advice for a first time Disney visitor?

The short version:
- Bring refillable water bottles and a couple snacks
- Pick out two or three must see rides in the Parks you are visiting and then play the rest by ear.
- Take advantage of the excellent alcohol options at Epcot.
- Wear good shoes and comfortable clothes
- Have a plan on how to deal with long waits (IE. 20 questions, bring Trivial Pursuit cards, take funny photos, etc.)

The Long Version
On Christmas Eve, my sister, her husband, my husband and I headed to Orlando for some Disney magic. This was my sister's first trip in many years and we wanted to cover as much territory as possible. Before the trip, we had sent my sister a map of all the attractions at each of the parks. You can also request one from Disney after you book your vacation. She and her husband selected two to three attractions that were MUST See's from three of the parks. And away we went. This is important because if you try to do everything, you will fail. Pick one or two Must See's and then go with the flow of the day.

We arrived at Disney World around 10:00 am. This was later than I would normally arrive because the Magic Kingdom was open until midnight so I knew we were in for a long day. We decided to start at Epcot - assuming correctly that Magic Kingdom would be a mob scene of munchkins. Epcot wasn't too busy. The boys went to get buttons from Guest Services (we had a First Time Visitor and a Happy Birthday). Then, we immediately went right to Soarin' - a virtual reality hang gliding ride at The Land. It is the best ride at Epcot and one of the best in the Park. The wait was 80 minutes so we hunkered down. The great thing about Soarin' is that there are interactive games to play while you wait. Everyone needed a snack so we opened up the backpack and got out our refillable water bottles and bags of chips. We always bring a refillable water bottle and one or two snacks. There are water fountains throughout all the Parks where you can refill and save $2 a bottle. The ride was fantastic.

Then off we headed to #2 on the list: Test Track. Test Track is a high speed car ride. This ride has a single rider line. Because the ride is two rows of three people per car and they want the cars to be full, this line moves very quickly. In our case, the wait was 120 minutes in the regular line and less than 5 minutes in the Test Track line. You will not be able to ride with anyone from your party so this is not a good option for parents and kids, but a great option if you've successfully avoided procreation or pawned off your children on someone else.

After Test Track, we headed to the World Showcase for lunch. We chose Mexico and had some great nachos and margaritas at the quick service Cantina. We walked around the world. My sister and her husband rode the Norway ride because the line was short. My husband and I got beers in Germany. (There's a whole pub crawl you could do at the World Showcase - maybe I'll post about that in the future). After France, we crossed over the bridge and headed to the left to take the boat to Hollywood Studios. This is a good insider tip. At this point, we had seen more than half of the World Showcase and we avoided having to walk all the way back through the park to get on the bus. The boat takes the same amount of time as a bus, but we've found it's less of a wait on the boat plus you get to see the Boardwalk and several of the resorts.

I have also discovered good "nap" options - rides that are long, dark, air conditioned, allow for a quick power nap and have very few lines. The nap option at Epcot is Ellen's Energy Adventure.

Hollywood Studios
Toy Story Mania is the must see ride at Hollywood Studios. It is fabulous and worth the wait. When we got there the wait was 120 minutes so we decided to go to the American Idol Experience and hope the wait decreased as it got closer to dinnertime. The American Idol Experience is a good time. It's also air conditioned and lasts 45 minutes when you need a break on a hot day. Our strategy worked. When we got back over to the ride, the wait was down to 80 minutes. This is an amazing 3D ride. The Wii game is a good facsimile, but this is just awesome. After Toy Story Mania, we walked over to the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster, but the single rider line was closed and no one wanted to wait 80 minutes. We had dinner at the food court by Rockin' Roller Coaster, across from Beauty and the Beast. This is a great spot because it has barbecue, pizza, burgers, and a healthy food stand with smoothies and fruit. Bellies full - we went to see the Osburne Holiday Light Spectacular. And folks, it is spectacular. It's like the neighborhood house that everyone drives slowly by finally grew up. It even "snows". It took my breath away and brought a little tear to my eye. The best thing about this holiday light display is that it starts at dusk and goes until the park closes - you don't have to be there at a certain time.

Nap Options: The Muffets 3D movie. The movie is actually a lot of fun so I would recommend watching it then using it as a nap option. Also, the Great Movie Ride rarely has a line so it's a good rest option as well.

Magic Kingdom
Having hit the high points at Hollywood Studios we headed out to catch the bus to the Monorail to Magic Kingdom. We got there around 8 pm - about an hour before the 9 pm evening parade. This is a GREAT time to visit because everyone is securing "good" spots to view the parade so the lines are very short. We headed to Splash Mountain - my husband's favorite ride. We got a FastPass* for 90 minutes away but the line was only 20 minutes long so they headed onto the ride. Then just to the right as you exit Splash Mountain is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Unfortunately, the ride malfunctioned while in line so the roller coaster riders didn't get a chance to ride it. We headed across the park to Space Mountain. On the way, we passed It's a Small World. It had a 5 minute wait so we all scrunched ourselves into a row to enjoy the show. Space Mountain was closed because it also was malfunctioning so we went to the 3D movie "Philharmagic". Each of the parks has a 3D movie and this is the best - hands down. As we exited the 940 pm show - the fireworks were in full effect - right above our heads. This is a great place to view them because they are right over your head and it's not as crowded as the main walkways. We headed back to Splash Mountain for one last ride. We decided not to stay for the 11 pm parade, but this is a good plan if you are thinking about watching the parade. Go on Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad around the time for the parade because when you are done with the ride - the parade will just be going by that side of the park. It was a mob scene getting out of the park, but we decided to take the Ferry instead of the Monorail because the Ferry can take over 300 people per trip. I think this was the best decision. We headed back to the car and drove home.

Nap Option - Hall of Presidents. It is a cool animatronic show of the Presidents, but I fall asleep every time.

*FastPass is a system where you can get a ticket to come back to a ride later in the day. It's a good idea to head to your must see rides to see if a Fast Pass is available. You can only have one FastPass at a time for the most part. For some of the more popular rides, you may get a Fast Pass that is over 6 hours away. In that case, the Fast Pass will list a time when you can get your next Fast Pass for a different ride. For instance, one time we got to Toy Story Mania at 10:30 am and the Fast Pass that were available were for 4:40 pm so our Pass said we could get another pass at 12:40 pm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What were your favorite books of 2009?

Thanks to my trusty library card I have read a lot of books this year, but these are the books that really stand out in my mind as I sit here today. Enjoy and get a library card!

Three cups of tea by Greg Mortenson
Greg Mortenson was a high altitude climber who ended up in a small Pakistan village after a climb went wrong. After spending time there, he came to realize his call in life was to build schools in Pakistan. This book is an absolute page turner. It really shines a light into life in Pakistan. I found this particularly interesting given our ongoing war in Afghanistan. A must read!

I’ll scream later
by Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin’s autobiography is fantastic. I really didn’t know much about her or her life when I started reading this book. Her story is fascinating, scandalous and a joy to read.

Joanne Fluke Murder Mysteries
Joanne Fluke has a series of murder mysteries that take place in a small town in Minnesota. The heroine is a bakery owner who always stumbles into murders and then somehow outsmarts the police into finding the killer. I love these books for a few reasons: 1. They have recipes for delicious baked goods. 2. The heroine is a pudgy, wild-haired, over 30 bakery owner who is juggling a minimum of two boyfriends. 3. It nails Minnesota. It’s a super easy read. You’ll figure out who did it pretty quickly, but still enjoy the ride.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This book fundamentally changed the way I look at food. Kingsolver, a popular author, decided to take a year and live off the land. Her family took a pledge to eat locally and that included growing a lot of their own food. It’s a great format that includes her diary of the challenges she faced, interesting essays by her husband filled with research, and delightful recipes she and her daughter developed.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
I am a big fan of Malcom Gladwell. This book explores the idea of what makes people the best of the best. He breaks down the differences between the exceptional and the good through research and analysis. I could not put it down. A couple of findings stuck with me: The 10,000 hour rule. He found that what separated the exceptional from the good was 10,000 hours of practice. If someone practices a skill/talent for 10,000 hours over the course of their life, they will become exceptional. He also had a very interesting finding about elite athletes and their birthdays, but I’ll let you discover that one in the book.

A Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
In this book, AJ Jacobs takes on the challenge of living by the rules of the Bible – every single rule. It’s entertaining and enlightening as he grows a beard, follows the fabric rules, and learns he cannot touch women or men because he can never know if they are clean. I found this incredibly useful for all those discussions about “what the Bible says”.

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin
I have really come to like Kathy Griffin over the years of watching her on the D List. I was pleasantly surprised by her autobiography. I thought it would be a joke book – basically her act on paper. While it does include some laugh out loud moments, the book is an insightful retelling of her ongoing struggle to break into the industry, the hard work it took to get her where she is and the challenges she faced in her family and her failed marriage. Don’t miss the book group discussion guide at the end – HILARIOUS!

What were your favorite books of 2009? (Mommies - it's okay if it's a children's book!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Great Experiment - I have a corneal ulcer

Welcome to the Girl Who readers! The following post is entered into “The Great Experiment” (logo at the left) – a contest on www.thegirlwho.net. If this blog post is your favorite, you go back to www.thegirlwho.net and post a comment with the name of this blog (Ask Angie) and that’s your vote. Welcome and I hope you like it!

That’s right ladies and gents - I have a corneal ulcer. Yesterday, my eyes were super itchy and sensitive to light. They stung so much I would tear up randomly without a Hallmark commercial or 90s power ballad in sight. I just figured I had had my contacts in too long and it would go away when I took them out. The pain was worse this morning so I called through a few ophthalmologists in my insurance directory and found one that would take me at 10:30 am. Score!

I walk in and it is a cataract clinic - everyone in the waiting room is over 80 and with another person who is their primary caregiver. The waiting had a full supply of magazines – probably because none were in large print! So everyone just sat there starring at each other. Wait - I mean staring at me. I was young and one eye was bloodshot and one eye was not.

When I finally got into the back, the tech took advantage of my vulnerable state to begin a lengthy lecture on basic eye hygiene. I could see the glee filling her eyes as she expertly told me everything I had done wrong and then warned me about the “lecture” that was to come. Guess she didn’t realize she was already winning lecture bingo. Then the doctor came in.

Because of its pure comedic value I am going to go through the conversation with the doctor - who by the way looks like Santa Claus – white beard, mustache, spectacles and all. He walks in and we discuss my inappropriate contact use. I get a little lecture and then he rolls up the machine. He takes a look inside my eye and starts to chuckle - yes - bowl full of jello chuckle.
Me: That doesn’t sound good.
Dr. Santa (DS): chuckle chuckle
Me: Ummm..
DS: You have a corneal ulcer. Yep there it is. I can’t believe you don’t also have ulriticitis. Oh - maybe herpes.
ME: WHAT!!!! How the hell did I get herpes in my eye?? I haven’t even had enough action to get it the proper way!
DS: Nope - don’t think it’s herpes. Let me take a look at your right eye too.
Moves machine
DS Gasps
ME: What?
DS: You have a dirty contact in your right eye. Shakes head
Me: I thought I took that out
DS: Did……
DS: Can I ask you a personal question?
ME: We’ve already discussed herpes, why not?
DS: Did you go to bed drunk last night?
Me: No - just tired.
DS: I’ve never seen this before
more head shaking - At this point I was concerned he was going to injure his neck with all this shaking.
Me: Well, I was really tired and I couldn’t see out of my left eye remember because it was hurt and swollen so I thought I had taken it out.
Lil’ tech: That explains why your vision was blurry
DS: You were wearing your glasses on top of this?!?
Me: Yes, I thought I took it out. (evil death stare to Lil' tech)
Head is still shaking. He's really beginning to look more like a bobble head Santa than a regular, run-of-the-mill mall Santa.
Me: I was really tired and my eye was swollen. I am usually the perfect patient I swear! I take all ten days of medicine even if I feel better sooner. Grr! I can’t believe this. I promise I’ve always been the good patient. Dentists love me! I can get you letters – lots of letters about how I am the perfect patient.
DS: I have never seen this - I saw a guy once that had two contacts in, but he was an idiot. (yes, he said idiot.. out loud) How long have you been wearing contacts?
Me: 13 years
Look of disbelief - probably because at this point I am pouting a little
DS: Alright well, I am going to give you some antibiotic drops and some artificial tears. Keep the eye lubricated. You can put your glasses on.
I put my glasses on
DS: You have nice glasses - why in the world do you wear contacts?
Me: So I can wear even cooler sunglasses
DS head begins to shake again. I thought we had ended this part of the program.
Me: and go swimming, kayaking.
DS: Well, if you had lasik you could do all that.
Me: I am scared of the side effects of lasik
DS: You sleep in you contacts so much that you have an ulcer which carries a much higher risk of going blind. You might want to think about that.
Me: Ouch
DS: well
Me: I’ll never sleep in my contacts again.
DS: Alright I need to see you back here Monday
Me: How’s Tuesday? I am busy Monday.
He starts to leave still shaking his head.
Me: Hey! When you retell this story later - will you tell people I was drunk like it was my birthday or something and I got hammered?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Home Again

It’s Thanksgiving time again and here I am — back at my parents’ place in Indianapolis. It’s never quite felt like home — not in the way the house in South Bend did. The home I lived in from the time I was 2 until I nearly graduated from grad school. That home had marks on the wall from my impersonations of Mary Lou Retton. The basement carpet had grooves from hours on roller skates pretending I was Dorothy Hamill or the later years - Tonya Harding. (Nancy looked too much like a horse.) The basketball hoop over the garage where every summer I would play outside late in the evening because I was lucky enough to have a street lamp at the end of my driveway. The cold bathroom tile where I broke up a chin when I was 2 and 1/2– my earliest memory - pain then bright lights and then a McDonald’s milkshake — that experience has repeated itself time and time again. The backyard where I played with all my imaginary friends and later mowed a bullseye as a protest to having to mow the yard at all. The spot on the front porch where I stood when my dad told me my great grandmother had passed away. The spot on the edge of my bed where I first saw my dad cry. The top of the stairs where - when following my mom down my sophomore year of high school - i realized she was wasting away to a disease at that time we couldn’t name. The kitchen where once we named the disease - allergy to gluten - she began to eat again without fear. The garage where we ate taco bell dinners for weeks as our kitchen was re-done. My bedroom where I forced my sister to pay to get entry – a sin that I paid for over and over again at South Beach clubs where even a handful of cash wouldn’t get me behind those velvet ropes. The bedroom where I cried the exactly same amount of tears as every teenage girl everywhere, but thought I was all alone. It’s amazing how a place can mean so much. It’s really the family that is most important, but at the same time, physical remainders of where we’ve been, how we’ve loved and been loved, and how much we’ve grown share such an incredible attachment that when you lose them — it’s like you’ve lost a good friend.

Tips for Spin Class

For the students:
1. Don’t drink 3 large glasses of pinot grigio the night before a 7:00 am spin class. It’s not pretty.
2. Don’t spin in the front row as if you can make your own spin porn video in the mirror. I don’t want to see your fake boobs, pouty lips, and your perfect ass moving up and down – when the rest of us are seated.
3. Don’t do your own routine because this class is too easy. If you are so tough – come on your own and leave the rest of us heaving, sweating, thinking we are going to die lard asses alone. We are not impressed. In fact, we hate you.
4. Don’t talk! This isn’t tea time.
5. Don’t come in late and take the bike next or in front of me. You are late – you can stare at my ass for the next hour. I chose this bike because I wanted some “space” from my classmates.
For the instructor:
1. Do not use songs that have fake endings. You know the ones that seem to be nearing the finish but end up going on and on and on. It makes me want to shoot you.
2. Don’t only pay attention to the fake boobies. Real boobs need love too.
3. Don’t ever play Celine Dion again.
4. Always start on time – except when I am running late.

Too Many White Russians - The Drink

Going on vacation with my parents is a blast. Going to Vegas with parents can lead to some pretty interesting situations. Here are some facts that are key to the following story:
If you sit at a bar in Vegas and play video poker, the bartender will keep bringing you drinks – even if you don’t order them. This causes you to lose track of exactly how many you have consumed.
Drinking while sitting for extended periods of time masks the level of intoxication – until you stand up.
White Russians taste like a yummy chocolate treat – however they do have booze in them and this booze will make you drunk.
So I was sitting at the bar playing video poker with my friend Tom. Actually it was video blackjack, but video poker makes me sound much cooler. We’d been playing for a few hours when my sister called and told me the family was meeting at 6:45 pm for dinner. It was about 5:30 pm. So at about 6:30 pm, Tom had to leave so we got up and I walked him out. When I saw “walked him out” – I mean stumbled erratically giggling because I downed too many white Russians – the drink.

I ran upstairs changed clothes and then headed back down to meet my parents and my sister. I walked right by my sister. I mean right by – no more than 2 feet away. She said, “ANGIE!” And I turned and said, “hi!” and then kept walking toward the restaurant. My sister moaned, oh no! behind me. Sitting at dinner it was quickly apparent I had had too many white Russians because I answered to everything single thing the waiter said:
Waiter: “good evening folks”
Me: good evening
W: how are you tonight?
M: Great
W: Wanna hear the specials?
M: Yes!
W: Blah blah blah chicken
M: That sounds good.
W: Blah blah blah pasta
M: Yummy! (As I look around the table grinning)
W: Can I get you started with something to drink?
Me: Yes please!
Dad: This wine and a water for her.
Dinner continued on swimmingly. And then a cellphone began to ring. My dad reached for his and I said “Sir, no cell phones please” in my normal speaking voice. However, my normal speaking voice has only one volume: loud and booming. Turns out it wasn’t my dad’s cell phone ringing - but rather the guy seated by himself at a table directly behind my father. So it appeared I was talking to him. I was mortified! I turned bright red. I tried to hide under the table. I apologized profusely in my circus-freaky loud voice. My sister sat in shock shaking her head. My brother-in-law took advantage of the opportunity to make fun of me over and over again. And my dad reiterated the common refrain “We can’t take you anywhere.” On the upside – I haven’t seen my mom laugh that hard in a really long time.
Follow up: Two nights later we were at the roulette table and a cocktail waitress came by. “One white Russian, please” My entire family yelled NO!!!!! They startled the poor cocktail waitress and dealer. We all laughed. Then my dad said, “Seriously, only bring her one.”