Friday, September 28, 2007

Mix Tapes 3.0

We all have fond memories of mix tapes. My friend Judy referred to them as the relationship-builders of the '80s and '90s.

In July, I traveled to Indiana for a gathering of my high school friends. Todd, who gave us a ride, also happened to have a sweet collection of mix tapes in his car. (Because "sweet" is the best adjective for mix tapes.)

These were mix tapes that were made annually by a friend of the family. Not only did this guy carefully record all of the hottest songs of the '80s, he also added in voice-overs, talking about the songs and the artists.

Ever since then, I've been toying with adapting his idea to the year 2007. I really like the idea of having a record of what songs I listened to in a particular year. Music can inspire so much nostalgia; when you're ready to re-live a fond memory, just find the album for that year and you're all set!

Obviously it would be on CD instead of cassette. I love mix-tapes, and I lament that making them is a dying art. But I'm also a busy woman.

I also think that I would drop the voice-overs. Keith thinks I should definitely add my own. At first he said, "We should totally do it!"

"We?" I asked, eyebrow arched.

"By 'we' I mean you talk, and I hold the microphone," he amended.

So the voice-overs probably won't happen. But I'm thinking about adding some kind of data file or album cover that talks about either the artists, or the years' biggest news, or my personal thoughts about what that year has meant to me.

I've thought about it long enough that I've decided to get started. Which just means writing down some of the songs I want to include. Keep in mind—these are songs that I've listened to in 2007. That doesn't necessary mean the albums came out in 2007 or that they were chart-toppers (most likely none of them will be.)

I think I'll put them in roughly chronological order. Meaning, these are songs I was hooked on in January, and then we went to this concert in February ... you get the idea.

Here's a few of the current contenders:*
"Flatheat" by The Fratellis
"Baby's Got Sauce" by G. Love and Special Sauce
"Sons and Daughters" by the Decemberists
"Hamoa Beach" by Gomez
"That Time" by Regina Spektor
"Black Horse & the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall
"Seventeen Years" by Ratatat
"Summer Skin" by Death Cab for Cutie
"Thickfreakness" by the Black Keys
"Bullets" by Bob Schneider"

What would you put on your 2007 mix?

*All links are to purchase albums at

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking to a co-worker about the events of the day. He said he'd been in late that day because he spent most of the morning with his daughter's elementary school class, on a field trip to the planetarium.

He waxed enthusiastic about this trip—how this newer planetarium had so many capabilities, the "guide" was so knowledgeable and interesting, the kids really enjoyed it ...

"Have you been to the planetarium?" He asked.

I answered in the negative, only remembering a few minutes later that I had, indeed, been to that planetarium. I just wasn't awake for it.

I love planetariums. I have an enthusiastic, amateur's interest in nearly all scientific topics. I love hearing about the history and advances of science, and learning a little bit more about our world. Unfortunately, I retain very little of it afterwards. But I still find it exciting.

And I feel the same intellectual excitement about planetariums. The bad thing is that the dim lights and soothing ambient music overrides my mental fervor, and I find myself slowly slipping into a light sleep. The "sky" fades from twilight into darkest night, and my eyelids become heavier and heavier.

Just a few days ago, Keith and I were commenting on how well we could see the stars on early morning runs. We both could clearly pick out Orion's belt—something I've never been able to identify before. I was strictly Big Dipper/Little Dipper, and any other constellations were beyond me.

So hopefully, even though I've slept through the majority of the presentations, I've managed to retain a few kernels of knowledge from my many trips to the planetarium. And I'll keep going, with eternal hope that one day I'll actually stay wide awake for the entire thing. At least I'm catching up on my sleep in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going the Distance, Not Going for Speed

My run the other morning sucked. Really, REALLY sucked. And I can't even blame it on Beckett's tugging—I was running by myself.

I know why it sucked; there's actually 2 reasons. Firstly, Keith and I had gone out to eat and to a movie the night before, in celebration of our anniversary. So I had eaten entirely too much of the wrong kinds of food, and not drunk nearly enough water. Secondly, it was supposed to be an 8-mile run.

Back in the days before this half-marathon training program, that would have been considered a looooong run. The kind that is undertaken at one's leisure on a weekend day, with no pressing appointments scheduled for the several hours following. Just in case things don't go as planned.

But now, apparently, 8 miles is just an early morning, pre-work jog distance. So I found myself setting off about 5:40am, admiring the stars still clearly visible in the not-yet-morning sky.

I was pretty proud of myself for even going at all. But that didn't last long. Soon, fatigue and general feelings of crappiness were setting in. My calves started to tingle—the kind of sensation you usually get if your legs are falling asleep. I didn't think that was a good sign. By mile 5 or so, throwing up was a distinct possibility. Soon thereafter, I checked my mp3 player to see that, although far short of the distance, I had used up my allotted time. I was going to be late for work. Again.

So I packed it in and headed home. And berated myself the entire way, and for the rest of the day. I was so disappointed that I quit! But I didn't really see anything else for it. Even with quitting, I was a half-hour late to work. This is the problem with early-morning runs.

But the good news is that, this morning, I set off at 5:30am to do the same thing. Last night I had eaten better and drank plenty of water, and I was determined to succeed.

Thankfully, I did. My legs were tired, but other than that I felt okay and made it the whole distance. Which is a good thing, because I don't think I could handle attempting that distance 3 days in a row.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Doggie Master of His Domain

I don't know why, but for some reason it seems to be the week of the dog blogs. Beckett is just so inspirational!

I'm happy to report that we've pretty much transitioned Beckett to spending his day not in his crate, or even in the attic, but throughout the entire house. When we first got him over a year ago, there was no way we'd do this. If we left him alone for 5 minutes, something would be destroyed.

I think, now that he's over 3 years old, he's calmed down a smidgen. True, we're currently on dog bed #5, but he destroyed dog bed #1 in the first few days, and it took weeks for him to annihilate dog bed #4. Now that's what I call progress!

So, over a few weeks and some minor setbacks (dog bed #4, Keith's lunchbag, a couple tipped trash cans), the transition is complete.

How can I know for sure that we're committed to leaving him the run of the house all day? Well, because Beckett has decided it is so.

Since we started leaving him out and about, I've tried a couple times to go back to locking him in the attic. And he's broken out. I return home to be greeted by him at the back door, tail wagging. The attic door is not looking good.

So I guess that means we agree, as a family, for the good of the dog and the attic door, he is now allowed full run of the house. Except the dog bed gets hidden in the closet before I leave. And the cat has cast a dissenting vote, but I think she's been overruled.

*The photos are of Beckett, snuggled into bed. As anyone who has lived with/watched Beckett for us knows, he prefers to sleep under the covers. Oftentimes in the morning when we get back from our run, he heads back up to bed. The first image is his attempt to get under the covers. In the second one I took pity on him, and lifted up the covers so he could get settled. (He's the lump at the foot of the bed.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Who's Running Who, Indeed

Monday afternoon, Beckett and I went for our run. The majority of the time, we run in the morning before work. But this day, I couldn't drag myself out of bed in time. Plus I knew I only had to go 4 miles, so I could do that after work.

What I'm getting at here, is that when you run after work, you see a different group of people. To my mind, these runners and walkers are much chattier. More ... awake. In the murkiness of pre-dawn, a short head nod suffices as a polite, almost gregarious greeting. But the harsh, full light of late afternoon apparently requires more acknowledgment.

So Monday afternoon, Beckett and I were running. Not only other runners, but Beckett is also more enthusiastic in the afternoon. So enthusiastic that my leash arm seemed precariously attached to the rest of my body. And 8 inches longer than the other arm.

We passed a runner heading the other way. The runner looked at us once, and then again. He grinned and called out once we were close, "Who's running who?"

I grimaced and hoped it passed for a smile. Does he not know that I've heard this many, many times before? I don't understand why I'm supposed to find this amusing.

He's saying I can't control a 40-pound dog. Which is true. I know it, but I don't particularly like to acknowledge it. Or have it pointed out by a complete stranger.

Yesterday, I ran in the morning. Even though I could have slept in and run in the afternoon, it wasn't worth it. And for the record: I'm the one holding the leash, so I'm in charge.

Monday, September 17, 2007

BlogRush Addition

Loyal Readers,

As fascinating and witty as my content is, your ranks don't seem to be swelling appropriately. So I've decided to give another widget a try.

It's called BlogRush, and you'll notice it on the left-hand side of the page, below labels and archive (although I think that's a little too far down, so I need to figure out how to change it). Its purpose is to bring like-minded readers to similar blogs.

So I've gone to BlogRush, and told it a little about my blog. It brings up other blog titles of a similar nature in the box on my page—these are blogs you might be interested in reading. Similarly, on other blogs across the world, it will sometimes display my blog title as a link of potential interest.

Honestly, I have no idea if it will generate any traffic or not. It's a brand new service, so the jury's still out. But I thought it was worth a shot! Next up: raffles for a hand-knitted scarf!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Sad Farewell to Fiona

I can't believe I haven't written about this yet, but I thought you should all know that Fiona (my Chrysler Neon) has moved on.

Last November, when she was stolen, I was devastated. I didn't get a chance to say good-bye! Then, miraculously, I got her back.

I had planned on driving her for many more years. But at her 100,000 mile check-up over the summer, I got bad news: the frame is severely rusted from so much salt over last winter. According to the mechanic, Fiona wouldn't make it through another winter.

"You can't tear the frame apart with your hands yet," he reassured me. "But it would come apart with a wrench, for sure."


So, since early summer, we've been saving money for a down payment and considering our options. We figured we'd get something used, that would last for many more years. We also hopefully wanted something a bit bigger than our two compact cars.

Finally, last week, we took the plunge. Thursday we looked around and found a 2003 Toyota Matrix that had okay mileage and a decent price. Friday morning I drove Fiona to work as usual. After work we drove Fiona out to the car dealership and left with the Matrix.

It was almost easier, in a way, when I didn't get a chance to say good-bye. I felt so terribly guilty for getting rid of her when, to this point, she's been a great car. And no matter how much I tell myself a car is an inanimate object, I can't help but think about the many good memories we "share." Or that I have, with that car.

As we drove off in the Matrix, I felt terrible for betraying Fiona after her years of faithful service. She was my first car. We've been together in Dayton, Cincinnati, and now Cleveland. Ahhh, the memories!

I know it had to be done. It was better to move on before I started having problems and was faced with pouring money into the car just to keep it running. I know we did the right thing.

But I'm still sad when I open the garage door and she's not there. I guess it'll just take some mourning time. The Matrix is a nice car. I know we'll be happy with it. But I still need some time to get over the loss of Fiona.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Writing Group Angst

My writing group meeting yesterday lasted almost 3 hours. Not because of an enlightening discussion on literary techniques, nor was it due to a heated conversation about one member's work. Most of the meeting was taken up with deciding whether or not to admit a new member.

I am the newest member of the group. So this whole process was new to me. For my "induction," I thought the process was relatively painless. I submitted some writing, attended a group, had my writing critiqued and also participated in the discussion about another writer's work, and was told, a week or so later, that I was in.

This time, it hasn't worked out like that. When the potential new member came to a session, the critique of her work went on, and on. And on. For whatever reason, the atmosphere felt tense and uncomfortable. Although there wasn't one glaring fault with the writer or her work, in the end (after hours of circular discussion) the group decided that it wasn't a good fit.

I think that this was the right decision, primarily because if we need hours of discussion, it's probably not a good idea. A small, mean part of me was also jubilant to realize I'd been accepted into a writing group that actually does, on occasion, decline to offer membership to applicants. (I'd like to think that was a very small part of me, however.)

This has been dragging on since July, I think, so mostly I'm just relieved that a decision has been made and it's all over and done with. Until another new member is proposed—which happened at the end of the meeting last night.

I agree with another group member who suggested that we "stop dating" for awhile, until we work through our current issues and get settled into a comfortable pattern. And usually, a relationship opportunity appears right when you're not looking for it. Although this is obviously a very different kind of relationship, all of last night's discussion and emotions made me even more glad to be very happily, very permanently, married.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Surprise Revealed

Well, Keith and I had a great time on Saturday at The Big Surprise: aka, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.

It was somewhat tricky—I had told Keith it was a place he'd never been before. Which was true in that he'd never actually toured the house or grounds. But we had been there last summer to see a performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth on the grounds.

At that point and several times since, we'd discussed how Keith had never actually been in the house and that we should go sometime ... but had never actually done it. So last week, I decided that we'd waited long enough! I figured we'd talked about it enough that I knew he'd be interested in going, and I could get away with making it a surprise.

Once we got there, I was also pleasantly surprised. Even though I'd visited a couple times before, I didn't realize how much I hadn't seen yet. We spent a lot of time wandering through the grounds, seeing the Great Garden, birch alley, Lagoon, Japanese Garden, and the Dell. Unfortunately, there was a wedding party taking pictures in the Walled English Garden, so we couldn't go in there, but I decided it didn't bother me too much because it just left something for us to see next time.

Before we left, we bought a book that lists all of the flowers planted on the grounds at Stan Hywet. It gives a picture of each, plus information about amount of sun needed, when they flower, how tall they grow, etc. I'm looking forward to re-creating a bit of the Great Garden in our own front yard.

Friday, September 07, 2007


I'm so ready for the weekend. Why do the short weeks always feel so long?

Earlier this week, I told Keith that we had plans for this weekend. He doesn't know what they are yet—I've just told him that he's busy from noon to 4:30 on Saturday. I'm pretty excited about it. For obvious reasons, I can't go into more detail here.

But I'm just sitting here at my desk, thinking about how much I love surprises. The thrill of anticipation, wondering and guessing about what it might turn out to be .... of course, I already know. (Or do I? Maybe my big plan is to take a nap on the couch or there is no plan except to not make plans.) But I think of Keith guessing, and I still get a vicarious thrill of anticipation, hoping that he likes the surprise. Also hoping that he doesn't pull the dreaded, nonchalant response to the reveal of, "Oh yeah, I thought it might be this."

So, fingers crossed that Keith's in the dark. And when the surprise is revealed, he is as excited about it as I am. I'll update you all next week!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New Specs

I have seen the light, and I'll never go back to buy glasses the old way again.

I've been putting off getting new eyeglasses for a long time. And I mean a loooong time. I mean that my glasses were about 2 or 3 prescriptions old (which is what? Like 6 years?). The lenses were all scratched up, and the screw on one side kept working loose, so I would have to remember to occasionally tighten it or my glasses would fall apart. They were in bad shape.

But glasses are so expensive! And I had a hard time justifying the expense when I already buy new contacts on a regular basis--did I really need new glasses, too? I mean, I could *pretty much* read road signs. What's the big deal?

I really did want new glasses. But every time I thought about it, I could also think of many other things that I'd rather spend a couple hundred dollars on. And I'd convince myself that my old glasses were good enough.

Then I had a brainstorm. Which was actually very overdue, considering how much time I spend online: Why not buy my glasses online? I figured if you could get contact lenses on the Internet, then why not glasses, too? It was at least worth a shot.

So I looked around and found a ton of eyeglass vendors online. The deciding factor: Zenni Optical was cheap. Dirt cheap. So cheap, in fact, that I could get a pair of prescription glasses, plus shipping, for under $20.

At that point, I figured: why not? I ordered my glasses, they arrived in about 2 weeks, and they're great! At first I was shocked at how much stronger the prescription was than my old glasses, but it just reinforced how sorely overdue this glasses purchase was.

I chose these glasses, in blue. I like them, but the frames are a little bit wider than I was expecting. In the future, I would recommend measure the frame width/height of a pair of glasses you like, so you can compare those measurements to the glasses you find online. I'll probably do that for the next pair of glasses I buy.

And at prices that are actually affordable, I may be buying another pair very soon! Anyone driving around the Cleveland area can rest a little easier now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Resolutions: Checking In

It's been a while since I've given any updates on my New Year's Resolutions. Not that any of you are particularly interested, but knowing I'll report on them here keeps me somewhat honest and slightly more motivated. Of course, not too motivated, because I know there's several I won't achieve and a few more teetering on the edge of oblivion.

1. The Year of Nonfiction Writing
So. Not. Happening. More like The Year of Talking about Writing.

2. Start a business with Keith
Check! Bloom Web Solutions is a registered Limited Liability Corporation, we've had several clients (including one that actually pays us!) and our website is up.

3. Read 50 books (8 classics, 6 biographies)
Similar to last year, I think I should do okay with reaching 50 books (I'm at 39 now), but my classics and biography goals are in jeopardy—I'm currently at 4 and 3, respectively. Now that Harry Potter is out of the way, I'd better get cracking ...

4. Run sub-30 min 5k
Check! I'm pretty excited about this one. After trying—and failing—to achieve this for 3 years, I race a 5k in June and finished at 29:15ish. Even better, I ran a 5k on Monday morning in under 29 minutes, so the first one wasn't just a fluke. I may actually be getting faster!

5. Lift 6 times/month, keeping track on Fitday
Nope. I managed to keep this streak alive until August, when I only did 5 strength training sessions. I'll still aim for 6x/month for the rest of the year, but sadly this resolution is kaput.

6. Visit 12 new places in Cleveland area
I think this shouldn't be a problem. I've got 9 or 10 checked off already. Mostly all restaurants, but there's nothing wrong with that!

7. Actually stick to a budget for 4 months
I'm ashamed to say it, but this one is also in question. We've managed to be in budget 2 of the past 8 months. Can we squeeze in two more months before the end of the year?

8. Volunteer/give money to charity
My friend Halle found the perfect volunteer opportunity, helping middle-school students with literacy. Unfortunately, I just don't think I can commit the time with started our own business. We have given some money to charity, but it's been sporadic and spontaneous and I'd still rather formulate a well-organized giving plan. I'm guessing this resolution will not be accomplished.

9. Visit Sara and Jason in Toledo
Check! We had a great time seeing their house and hanging out with them. Dare I resolve to do this two years in a row? That's probably asking too much.

So, out of 9 resolutions, 3 are already accomplished, 2 definitely won't happen (#s 1 and 5), and 4 are possible. Not too bad for September, I think.