Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vail's victory

Bright-eyed and eager during my first snowboard attempt, I took on the Colorado mountains, but I'm afraid that the mountains got the best of me. I feared a broken leg, so a non-displaced fracture distal radius somehow seems like a blessing.

I wish that I had a better story to share regarding my accident. I'd like to be able to say that I lost control on a double-black-diamond run in the back bowls of Vail. Sadly, I never made it off of the bunny hill (ahem, beginner slope, if you prefer the PC term). Luke (my brother and snowboarder extraordinaire) talked me into snowboarding instead of skiing. He served as my babysitter personal instructor and did an awesome job except for failing to advise me to wear wrist guards. Brad and I had hoped for two full days on the slopes, but myriad travel complications cut into our time and we only completed one run down the bunny hill at Beaver Creek during our first day. Luke taught me how to put on the snowboard, stand up, edge, and utilize the falling leaf technique to get down the hill. Granted, I think that I spent more time on the ground than standing up, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it took Brad and me AN HOUR to complete our first run on the bunny hill (hey, it was the longest bunny hill I've ever seen), but we had a blast and eagerly anticipated our full day at Vail the next day.

We arrived early and enjoyed some time on the bunny hill before it became packed with ski school kids. Much to my dismay, Luke insisted on teaching me to do heel and toe turns on the snow board, which I never mastered. I loved the falling leaf technique, but he warned me that solely using falling leaf to get down the hill could easily become a bad habit, like skiers who only snowplow. Anyway, on my THIRD run down the bunny hill in the midst of a toe turn, I took a bad backwards fall and landed on both wrists. I thought that I was going to throw up because the pain was so bad initially. After a few minutes of sitting there stunned, my right wrist began to feel better, but my left wrist was useless. I could barely lift it. I removed my snow board and walked the rest of the way down the hill to catch the chairlift. Luke and Brad set me up in the lodge with an icepack and a cup of hot chocolate. I iced my wrist for about two hours and after lunch, I visited the medical hut in hopes that someone could wrap my wrist tightly so that I could hit the slopes again. After all, I had paid nearly $100 for my lift ticket; three runs down the bunny hill was not my definition of getting my money's worth!

The medical assistant took one look at my wrist and suggested that I visit the ER. He accompanied me down the mountain in the gondola to the Vail Valley Medical Center, located conveniently one block from the entrance to the slopes. I will say that this was my most pleasant ER experience to date. The hospital is really nice and the friendly and laid-back staff could have cared less that I didn't have my insurance card on me (note to self: stick my insurance card in my pocket the next time I brave the slopes). I was in and out in less than two hours, doctored up with a Velcro splint for easy use until I can visit an orthopedist. The fracture is very, very fine and luckily, the bone is still aligned, so barring any other complications, recovery should only take four to six weeks.

This was Brad's first time on skis and I have to admit that he's a natural. He seemed to pick it up really easily and he loved it, so I have a feeling that Luke will now have regular visitors every ski season. I loved Colorado. Vail and Beaver Creek were gorgeous and soooo nice. I can't wait to go back. And I will even try skiing and snowboarding again, as soon as my wrist heals. I don't like for anything to get the best of me.

In the meantime, I'll wear my lovely new accessory out tonight for New Year's Eve with pride. My navy blue splint clashes with the black dress I plan to wear, but hopefully our favorite restaurant will still admit me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

raincheck, please

We were all set. Everything was going to be perfect. I had wisely used my days off from work thus far to clean the house and organize our lives. The windows sparkled. The oven and refrigerator shone. I had not only organized my closets, but also my drawers. I had even given my blog a face lift. If such a thing is possible, I was ahead on my vacation to-do list. I greeted Brad exuberantly this past Monday night, after his last day of work of 2008, excited to dive into our holiday celebration, just the two of us.

That is, until a stomach bug dove into us.

About an hour after dinner on Monday night, Brad suddenly felt awful. For about 30 minutes, I feared that I had poisoned him, but although dinner disappointed us (the new recipe did NOT live up to its expectations), I felt fine. By Tuesday morning, it became clear that Brad's sickness was not a case of food poisoning. In the past, when one of us was sick, the other one normally fell victim to it three or four days later. I had some time. Or so I thought.

I began to take precautionary measures, and thinking that I still had a few days of wellness remaining, I tackled my list of errands and chores with extra vigor. I visited the dentist on Tuesday morning to retrieve my unexpected Christmas present. I shopped for supplies for Christmas Eve and Day dinners (I naively assumed that Brad would feel better by then, and if not, well, I had to eat, didn't I?). I fixed chicken noodle soup for Brad and consumed a bowl of my favorite chili for lunch (um... big mistake). I even baked cookies and made a fresh batch of caramels.

And then at 3 p.m. that day, the sickness hit me. And Brad and I have been absolutely pathetic since then. He took over the couch and I claimed our bed; neither of us could sit up. We've never both been sick at the same time before. He'd call to me from the living room. I'd moan back from the bedroom. Thank goodness for two bathrooms!

We had tickets to see West Side Story on Tuesday night. Although I stupidly held out hope in between vomit sessions that we could still make it, we didn't. We missed our Christmas Eve fondue and our Christmas Day beef tenderloin. Although our fridge is loaded with food, we haven't been able to eat any of it. Even today, Friday, the sickness has subsided, but our appetites still elude us.

The stomach sickness abated by Christmas Eve, but we were still worthless for the next two days. We managed to attend church on Christmas Eve, but we listlessly opened presents on Christmas morning. We took a short walk around the neighborhood on Christmas afternoon, mostly to escape the house and breathe some fresh air, and we ventured to see the National Christmas Tree on Christmas night, along with thousands of other people! We had no idea that this attraction would be so crowded on Christmas night! Doesn't everyone leave DC over the holidays?

We took down our tree this morning, which made us ponder the fairness of spending a morning cleaning up from a holiday that we feel like we missed! That being said, we're extremely thankful to feel somewhat up to traveling to Colorado tomorrow. We can eat the $120 on West Side Story tickets. A canceled ski trip and a missed visit with my brother would be a much greater loss.

Can we just reschedule Christmas 2008? We'll be healthy and raring to go for take two. We won't miss it next time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

my gal

One of my favorite aspects of my blog's new look is my Design-her gal, located to the right. I've searched for a graphic to illustrate Dr. Blondie for a while now and to my delight, I stumbled upon this site about a month ago. You can design your own personalized gal... from her hair color and style to her eye shape to her earrings, outfits, and other accessories. It's a free service and the designers will even craft a blog-compatible version.

You can order gal-personalized stationary and other products, but what I love most about this company is that the owners operate the Gal to Gal Foundation, which is designed to raise awareness of and funding for Stage IV breast cancer. As one of the owners so eloquently stated on the company's web site, "We want all Stage 4 patients to make the journey to their next destination with as much style and grace as they've shown traveling through this one."

Compelling story, noble mission, classy gals... enough said. Dr. Blondie's "look" is born!

new year, new look

As we speed out of control inch toward 2009 and the one-year anniversary of Dr. Blondie, some necessary changes are in order, most importantly, a new look.

What do you think?

I soooo wish that I were more talented in the graphic design and even basic computer programming departments. I've worked on overhauling my blog's design all afternoon (wait, aren't I supposed to be cleaning and organizing?!), at the mercy of free, do-it-yourself-with-your-hand-held-through-every-single-step (but not really, because it still took me much longer to figure things out than it should have... just call me Dr. Dummy) web sites. Don't get me wrong; I am incredibly thankful for these sites. I could never manage a blog or do anything on the Internet without them. I just feel so helpless when it comes to anything and everything technical.

Now that my blog received a makeover, I think that my person needs one as well, as clearly evidenced by my atrocious new driver's license picture that was taken this morning. Seriously, could the DMV photographer have zoomed in any closer? I think that he missed at least two pores and five wrinkles on my face. And insisting that subjects LOOK DOWN at the camera is never a good idea. Unfortunately my birthday (and driver's license renewal date) falls during the winter months when pasty white skin and mousy-brown roots rule. To do: make a hair brightening appointment asap. Oh, and a beach vacation might be nice too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

scene it?

Gentle readers, I need your help. My movie-watching season begins in earnest within days. I (unintentionally) forgo movies from March through mid-December and then usually see about five movies in the theater over Christmas break and a few more in January and February to ready myself for the academy awards. I have no idea what's playing or what's supposed to be good this year. Advice, please!

I haven't rented a movie in over a year, so I seek your wise counsel on must-see rentals also.

Please comment and let me know: 1) recent movies that you've seen that you think are worth my time (either in the theater or on dvd), and 2) what movies you plan to watch over the holidays.

Muchas gracias!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

playtime begins, sort of

I love working at a university. An extra perk of working at the same institution for over eight years is that I have accrued more leave than I will ever have time to use. Even after my three-week European adventure, a week off around the 4th of July, and numerous other days off this year, I still have over seven weeks of vacation and 12 weeks of sick time in the bank. So my Christmas vacation begins today! I am taking five vacation days prior to the university's closure from Christmas through January 4, 2009. Two and a half weeks of freedom - woo hooh!

So why did I get up at 5 a.m. today? Brad's still working... and of course, the running schedule must go on.

It's okay though, because I have fifty bazillion things that I want to accomplish over the break. And I err on the side of being a "work before play" kind of a girl, so I will dive into my to-do list of household chores over the next few days while Brad is at work so that we can play when he's on vacation. The problem is, for every chore that I finish, I add about two more to the list!

I always use these days before Christmas to deep clean and declutter (is this a word?) our home. I go through each and every drawer and closet to organize and discard (I credit this practice for our continued happiness and peace in a small two-bedroom apartment. We haven't outgrown our space because Brad and I are both clutter busters, him even more so than me. My friend Amy would be so proud!). I wash the windows and curtains, empty and scrub the inside of the fridge, clean the oven, and mop the floors. I am most excited to try to wash our shower curtain liners in the washing machine this year! I can't wait to see if it works. I'm so excited to try it that I am going to do it today!

I have a few more fun tasks on my list too. I'm still working on creating a photo book of our Europe pictures. I need to spruce up my facebook page, conduct some research for a few 2009 projects, and of course, BLOG.

Brad and I are spending Christmas Eve and Christmas at our home, just the two of us, which will be so much fun! We've had one other married Christmas that we spent alone together and that was our favorite year to date. We've started some silly, but endearing traditions of our own and it's just so wonderful to relax together and enjoy the holiday. We have tickets to see West Side Story at the National Theater next Tuesday night and on December 27th, we leave to visit my brother Luke in Colorado. An avid snowboarder, Luke recently bought a condo in Avon, located at the base of Beaver Creek, so we plan to spend two days on the slopes: one day at Beaver Creek and the other day at Vail. Brad has never skied before and I barely have, if you count my feeble attempt over 15 years ago, so this should be interesting! Brad worries about altitude sickness and I fear a broken leg. Lord willing, we'll be okay!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I know my students too well

What did I tell you? Shortly after posting my students' final grades yesterday, I received an email from a student protesting his grade. Although, he wasn't lobbying me to change an A- to an A, but an A to an A+!

Monday, December 15, 2008

armed and ready

I just submitted final grades for my 133 sophomore students this semester. Let the begging, whining, complaining, pleading, and crying begin!

I will bet you $50 that at least one student has the nerve to complain to me about earning an A- instead of an A. This is the type of students that I deal with on a daily basis.

I'm ready. Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I knew them... once.

So now I understand why some people consider Facebook so addictive. I haven't done much with my profile yet (note to self: add pictures, set up bookshelf, figure out the myriad fun things I can do) because I've been so distracted searching for and being found by current and former friends and acquaintances. It's so neat to see where people end up, isn't it?

The big surprise of today is that a sorority pledge sister friended me, someone I have not seen in probably 10 or 11 years, and I learned that she's now a novelist! Julie's first book came out in October of 2008 with the second one slated for March of 2009. I am beyond impressed. I, too, aspire to write novels someday and I felt incredibly unaccomplished when I checked out her profile (she's gone from high-powered attorney to screenplay writer to novelist in the past 6-8 years)! What am I waiting for? I need to get started on that book!

And another sorority pledge sister of mine recently married a certain well-known United States Attorney in Chicago. I suspect that her household is slightly chaotic right now.

My claim to fame? Stay tuned. I'm working on it...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merry Christmas to me, a bit early

An overzealous chomp into a leftover piece of saltwater taffy from our recent Dollywood excursion provided me an early Christmas present this year: a brand new crown and a filling.

I should have just stuck with the cotton candy.

This tenacious piece of taffy pulled off my crown and mangled it beyond repair. I didn't even realize what had happened at first until I noticed a hard, metallic substance in the taffy. Sure enough, when I spit it out, I gasped, "is that my tooth??"

And because the missing crown left a gaping hole in the back of my mouth, my dentist identified a bit of decay starting to form on a neighboring tooth that was not visible when the crown was in place (I blame the taffy for this issue too), and she decided to take care of that little problem as well.

Although I never had braces and was therefore exempt from orthodontia drama during my adolescent years, don't be fooled by my naturally straight teeth. You won't find a gap or a crooked tooth in my mouth, but genetics has blessed me with teeth very prone to decay and all sorts of other problems. I brush a minimum of three to four times a day and I floss at least once a day. I constantly nag my dentist to keep a close watch for problems with my teeth because too many times, a dentist has ignored a "minor issue" that quickly resulted in a root canal.

After my $430 co-payment (and keep in mind that I HAVE decent dental insurance) and a sore jaw from the two numbing shots (one never does it for me), drilling, poking, and prodding, I vowed off candy in 2009. Or maybe just taffy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

like I need one more distraction

Brad and I gave in and signed up for facebook last night. We were up past midnight (a rare occurrence for us) playing around on the site and then I slept restlessly, dreaming about random people.

Friend me, please!

Friday, December 5, 2008

homemade Christmas caramels

My homemade Christmas caramels have been such a hit with my office this year that I thought that I'd pass along the idea and the recipe. These treats make a delicious, simple, inexpensive, and appropriate gift for co-workers, neighbors, or others and I find them a welcome relief from the typical holiday baked goods (both from the cook's perspective as I don't really bake and from the consumer's perspective because the holidays include way too many cookies, cakes, and pies). These caramels, while fairly quick and easy to make in the microwave, do take a bit of time to cut, wrap individually, and package as a gift (and please be forewarned that you will be tempted to consume handfuls of these delicacies while you make the packages; they're irresistible!). I included a copy of the recipe inside each package, which my colleagues seemed to appreciate.

Happy giving, and happy eating!

Homemade Christmas Caramels: I bet you can’t eat just one!

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
1 cup white karo syrup
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons vanilla
Optional: crushed pecans, walnuts, or other nuts to taste
wax paper
gift packaging materials of your choice

1. Melt butter in large, glass, microwave-safe bowl (2-3 quart or larger).
2. With a small hand mixer, blend in sugar, syrup, and ½ cup cream.
3. Cook on medium power in the microwave for 15 minutes.
4. Blend in the remaining cream, cook an additional 12 minutes in the microwave, and then test for desired consistency. Drop a tiny bit of the mixture into a glass of ice water and feel the mixture. If it forms into a firm ball, it’s ready. If the mixture still seems runny or mushy, continue to cook it in the microwave in two minute increments until you can easily form a ball in a glass of ice water. Mix in vanilla.
5. If you choose to use nuts, sprinkle the nuts onto the bottom of a greased 8x8 pan. Pour the mixture over the nuts.
6. Allow the mixture to sit on a flat surface to cool and harden for several hours.
7. Slice into very small squares and wrap individually with waxed paper. An electric knife makes the slicing step quick and easy!
8. If the caramels tend to be a little too soft or runny, you can keep them in the refrigerator to harden. If they come out too hard, well, you may need to just throw them out and start again. You don't want anyone to break a tooth! The caramels should be chewy to taste, but not runny or rock hard.

NOTE: plan to make more batches than you need! This mixture is rather easy to burn when it starts boiling in the microwave. Be very careful when you remove it from the microwave. The mixture is very hot and it bubbles up quickly and somewhat violently when you mix in additional ingredients.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

evergreen intoxication

Oh Christmas tree, how I delight in thee! I feel drunk from your spicy, yet sweet, subtle, yet overwhelming aroma. I sniff you the second I enter our building, even though I must climb two long flights of steps to greet you. Sometimes I swear that I smell you at work, but I know that I imagine things. For nearly a year now I have anticipated your arrival. No other chore could drag me out of the house on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving, especially after traveling over eight hours and sitting on the interstate with the car parked because the traffic was so bad. But on Sunday I hurriedly unpacked so that Brad and I could uphold one of our most beloved traditions: picking you up as soon as we returned from Thanksgiving, decorating you, and enjoying you through Christmas. Our time together is so brief; I can't bear to waste a day of it.

Don't get me wrong: ours is not a cheap or an easy relationship. Although I grew up with the "real thing", I doubt that my parents ever spent more than $10 on you. Imagine my shock when, during our first year of marriage, Brad and I went to pick you up and spent nearly $40 on you. Fast forward seven years later and now you cost us double that amount. But we love the farmer who grows you and we are suckers for tradition, so we acquiesce to his constantly increasing prices. We'll only be together for 26 days this year, but every penny is worth it.

Being an avid plant lover and living in a small city apartment, I have little room for you at home. But we still find ways to squeeze you in every year. Fern, my favorite child the rest of the year, gets banished to a less-sunny location so that you can take over the prime spot in the house. Although, Fern has grown so much that she tried to fight you for the Christmas honors this year. But you still won, for one more year at least.

We do force you to squeeze into a small space, and your bottom is rather plump this year, but your shape and height are ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. I knew you were "the one" as soon as I laid eyes on you. You were the second tree I saw and I knew instantly that I had to have you. I refused to consider any others. I had no need to.

You are rather messy. Your secretions stain your skirt and leave a sticky residue on our hardwood floor. Your needles stay with us year round. But when I find your remnants in a crevice of the floor in July, I can't help but smile and eagerly anticipate your arrival in a few short months. I track your needles and the silver icicles (you are SUCH a fashionable diva!) all over the place: in the bedrooms, outside, in the car, to work. But I know that this is your way of sticking with me throughout the day. I kind of like it.

You require constant attention. While the other plants need water only once a week at most, you thirst daily. And plain old water won't do. Your sweet tooth craves a sugary cocktail. You DO take after your mother!

Many try to impersonate you, but Brad and I have developed keen eyes and snobbish attitudes toward such types over the years. We refuse to be swayed by the "pre-lit", "easy to assemble and store", and "less expensive in the long run" arguments. The real thing is the only acceptable option for us. Forever. Lord willing, impostors will never be allowed in our home.

During years when we are away on Christmas Eve and Day, my heart breaks when we take you down, strip you of your glamorous, festive attire, wrap you in a large bag, and leave you out on the cold curb before we leave town. I'm usually tempted to stick a sign on you that says, "Free! Please take to a good home..." so that you can still enjoy the holiday without us. We fear that our early departure will infuriate you so much that you'll burn the house down if we let you stay by yourself. But this year, Brad and I plan to spend Christmas at our home, so you get to enjoy your cozy spot by the fire and celebrate the holiday with us. We're thrilled beyond belief!

I know that my heart will feel like a boulder on December 26th when we take you down, strip you of your beautiful attire, wrap you in a large bag, and leave you on the cold curb, awaiting a ride in a smelly garbage truck and a possible beheading or cremation. The house will smell stale without your rich aroma and will look bare without your plump self as skinny Fern happily reclaims her chief post. But as I discover your remnants throughout the year, and think of you occasionally, I will eagerly anticipate November 29, 2009, when Brad and I will come to pick you up again.