Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Some years, I'm totally in the mood for the holiday season (To me, that's Halloween through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.) Other years, I just can't be bothered. I'm wondering if it has something to do with my stress level throughout the preceding year. Stressful year=no holiday spirit. Relatively relaxed year=increased holiday cheer. It's just my recent theory—I'll have to think about it some more and try to pay attention in the future to see if this bears out.

If that's the case, then this year must have been positively stress-free, because I can't wait for the holidays! For the past week or so I've been freaking myself out with scary movies, imagining dark, moving shadows when walking the dog in the morning, and checking out a cheesy list of the Most Haunted Places in the U.S.

As most of my family knows, I love the "I Spy" books, and I Spy Spooky Night is my favorite.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find my copy. But fortunately, my sister Amy sent me some links to give me my "I Spy Fix." Enjoy!

I Spy at Scholastic: Here's a few free online I Spy games (including one from I Spy Spooky Night). If you really like it, you can buy a CD-Rom of I Spy games.

M&M's: 50 Dark Movies Hidden in a Painting
: This is a very cool game, but also very addictive. Keith and I spent several hours (off and on) last night trying to figure out the answers. And we cheated a bit. And still only got halfway through. It's worth looking at tonight just to hear the eerie music that plays while you search. Of course, now I'm craving one of my favorite candies: peanut M&Ms.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Retro Design Inspiration

One thing that I've enjoyed about starting a web design and development business is becoming more attuned to web design in general. I'm more cognizant of the design elements and overall layout of the sites I visit on a regular basis. I also make an effort to see who designed sites that I like, and check out more of their work for inspiration.

Sometimes, this takes me down long, strange paths through the Interweb. The other day, Amy at Having No Blog Is Your Blog posted a link to a zine / humor site. I noticed that, in the lower right-hand corner, they linked to Moxie Design Studios as their designer and PixelDecor as the supplier of some of the background patterns. So I cruised on over to these sites and saw that PixelDecor offers fantastic, retro desktop backgrounds at no cost. The image for this post is what's currently on my desktop.

Both of these sites are very different from what I've been designing so far. The color scheme, graphics, layout, and overall feel is way far out from my typical designs. But I think they're both great sites, and an inspiration to me to think out of the box more often. I'm meeting with a potential client tomorrow, whose site I think would definitely need to be more visually stimulating and theme-oriented than some of our previous sites. So I think this was a good time to get new inspiration.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wedding #2

Well, I don't have my act together enough to download the pictures of the wedding from our digital camera. (Download? Upload? I think I always use the wrong one.) Luckily, my mother-in-law is on the ball, and already has some pictures up on Picasa.

It was beautiful, summer-like weather and a gorgeous wedding. Getting back on Sunday evening felt like such a letdown—a return to real-life. Laundry to be done, rooms to be cleaned, dinners to be made. Sometimes I forgot how even just a short weekend getaway can take away the pressures of daily life. But wedding #2 is over and wedding #3 (Keith's best friend, Michael) is almost 2 months away. So I guess I'd better get started on the laundry and the cleaning, because real life is here to stay.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is It Really That Hard? Broken Bones

My friends, it's been a long week. Ever since I broke my finger, everything takes just a little bit longer. Making me just a little bit more irritable. But if you add up all the extra time on tasks, and all the extra irritability .... well, I haven't been very pleasant to be around.

Tuesday afternoon I went back to the doctor for my one-week check-up. Same doctor's office, same x-rays, different doctor. This doctor told me that there'd been a mistake—my finger wasn't broken after all. Fantastic! I could start taking off the splint at night and even stop wearing it after Friday. My hand would still be lovely shades of green and purple for my brother-in-law's wedding this weekend, but at least I could take the splint off for the pictures.

As soon as I got home, I took off the splint and reveled in the feeling of fresh air on my skin. I took a shower, I iced the finger, I tried bending it (without much success, as it was still pretty swollen). I told Keith the good news, and I went to bed happy knowing that I'd be back to 100% much sooner than expected.

And then, Wednesday morning, I started to wonder. What if the second doctor was wrong, and the first one was right? What if it was broken after all? Currently, I had a tie between the two diagnoses. I needed another opinion—something to convince me that it definitely was or wasn't broken.

I tried my regular doctor's office, but they wouldn't look at the x-rays unless I made another appointment, which would mean more time off work and another co-pay. Not that I like to chintz on my healthcare or anything, but I don't particularly enjoy spending $20 every other day because the medical community can't make up its mind about one simple proximal phalanx. Eventually, I ended up calling back the Urgentcare and speaking with my original doctor—the one who said it was broken.

The conversation was reassuring. He said that he had probably made a mistake in his initial diagnosis because he took a quick look. The films had been sent to a radiologist for review, and if the radiologist said it wasn't broken, then that was probably the case. The doctor would review the films when they came back to their office tomorrow and he'd give me a call to confirm.

So, not reassuring in that the initial diagnosis was still wrong. But at this point, I had been given two differing opinions and that fact wasn't going to change. Best-case scenario is that the broken finger diagnosis was the wrong one, and I was in better shape than originally thought. Once again, I took the splint off when I got home from my run, showered, did laundry, etc.

Keith splinted me up again this morning before work—for the last time!—and he left. Ten or 15 minutes later, I grabbed my garage door opener on my way out the door. But my fingers are not nearly as nimble these days, and I dropped it. It fell completely apart, and I couldn't get it to work again.

This meant I had no way to get my car out of the garage. There's no way into the garage other than through the electronically opened doors. No manual override. No extra garage door opener. Just the one that I had broken and was now useless.

A spot of good luck—just then I heard my neighbor leaving for work, so I hitched a ride with him. I was at my desk, wondering what to do about the garage door opener (Do I get it fixed? Where? How long will that take? What am I going to do in the meantime?), when the phone rang. It was the doctor. He'd reviewed my x-rays again and was calling to tell me the radiologist had made a mistake—the finger is definitely broken ... he'll be happy to show me where on the x-ray when I come back in next week.

It feels like I broke my finger all over again (minus the fall and the nausea). All of these things I'd been looking forward to doing without the splint ... I was disappointed all over again. And I have another doctor's appointment=more missed work and another $20 co-pay.

But I'm trying to think positively. I just have to accept that it's broken and move forward. This means that:
  • I'll enjoy seeing how the photographer arranges the family so as to hide my un-fashionable splint.
  • I have a conversation-starter for the appetizers portion of the evening.
  • My pinkie will always be delicately extended when sipping my wine. And I intend to be sipping a lot of wine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Little Frivolity: Dancing with the Stars

Okay, enough about the running! I can talk about other things, I swear;)

I'm very excited that "Dancing with the Stars" is back! It's just such a fun show. I know they have a UK version, too. Is there one that airs in New Zealand, Bren? Otherwise, this post won't make a whole lot of sense to you. Sorry!

This season my favorite is Helio, the racecar driver (shown mid-jive with dance partner Julianne). I didn't know anything about him before the show, but he's a great dancer and he always looks like he's having such a fantastic time.

The show always makes me wish we had more time/money to take dance lessons and, well, just get out and dance! At first I hated to go out on weeknights because the dog was locked in his crate for hours at a time. It was hard to justify that to myself just so I could go dancing. But now that he is free to run around while we're gone, we'll have to try and get out a little more often.

Although we know some swing-dancing, I'd love to learn more complicated moves. I'd also like to learn more ballroom like the tango, the mambo, etc. Plus, it will be a great activity for the winter, when I'm not running so much looking for indoor entertainment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

High Achiever or Dunderhead?

A question that I ask myself on a regular basis, about many things.

Recently it's relevant because I only missed one day of running after I fell last Tuesday morning, breaking my finger and scraping/bruising various other body parts. I didn't run last Wednesday, but I did run on Friday, go for my longest run yet on Sunday (just over 11 miles) and run again yesterday afternoon.

I have been sticking to my promise not to run in the dark until my hands are healed and capable of catching me in the event of another mishap. But I've still been running. And I finally signed up for the half-marathon in November that I've been training for.

And I can't decide if this stubbornness is something to be celebrated or rued. Is it a good thing that I'm continuing to train through adversity? Or is it a sign that I take things too seriously, and I don't know when to quit?

I'm thinking it's probably a little bit of both. I started training for this specific race at the end of June, so I've spent far too much time and effort not to even make it to the starting line. Plus, even before starting this training program, I have 3 years of gradually increasing my running to even get to the point where I would consider running a half-marathon.

I don't think I'm to the point (yet?) where I'm addicted to running. If I'm sick, I take a day off or cut my run short. I always have at least 2 days off every week. And, after November, I'll cut my running way back until after the snow melts in the Spring.

So for now, I'm going to say the balance is on the side of High Achiever. I am stubborn, which is good and bad. But even with the broken finger, I think I have a ways to go, in this situation, until the pendulum swings to dunderhead.

* I'm really mad because I missed the BlogFriday word last week. So I'm getting an early start on this week's word: Achievement.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Five-Fingered Idioms

I think that yesterday was the low-point in my recovery. Or at least I hope so. The day of the injury I got by first on adrenaline, and then spent the rest of the day lying around feeling sorry for myself. Then yesterday I worked a full day. Doing a little typing or answering the phone didn't hurt too much, but after 8 accumulated hours of hand use, I was in pain and ready for a break.

Luckily, I have the best pets in the entire world. I got home and took a nap on the couch. The dog slept behind the crook of my knees, and the cat curled up in front of my stomach. It was heaven.

Today I'm feeling marginally better. Yesterday I wasn't sure if I could make it through a whole day of work, and today it's already past noon and I'm feeling good, so hopefully that means I'm on the mend. I go back for a check-up next Tuesday, so I think there's a good chance I'll have the splint off before my brother-in-law's wedding, which would be a definite plus.

Since hurting my hands, I've spent a lot of idle moments thinking about all of the hand/finger-related sayings we use that now have a unique meaning for me in my appendage-maimed state. Things like:
  • Keep your fingers crossed!
  • Five-finger discount (for me, would that be less than 100% off, since my fingers are at less than full capacity?)
  • I know ___ like the back of my hand
  • I have ___ in the palm of my hand (not a place you'd want to be at the moment)
Feel free to suggest any other relevant and/or irreverent phrases.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Boy, Do I Feel Stupid

So, I'm pretty far into the half-marathon training and I've been starting to worry lately that I'm in over my head. In my runs of late, I've been extra slow, I've had to take a lot of walk breaks, and just in general my legs have felt tired.

This week, I was thinking of cutting back my mileage somewhat to see if that helped. Yesterday I cut my 5-mile run short because of non-running related feelings of crappiness (more to do with pizza and pop overindulgence the night before). So I decided that today I'd attempt my scheduled 7-mile run before work and see how it goes before deciding about tomorrow's 5-mile run.

Over the weekend, Keith and I had bought some extra running gear—water bottles designed to be taken with you on long runs. Keith got a "hydration waist pack" and I got a water bottle that fits to your palm and is held to your hand with a strap. I figured I might as well try it out on my 7-mile run this morning, and get used to it before my scheduled 11-mile run this coming weekend.

I gotta be honest with you: it didn't work out so well. My legs felt great. About halfway in, maybe a little further, I was still going strong. I was feeling a lot better about myself, and the training plan, and ready to tackle my long run this weekend. And then I tripped.

To be fair, it was not yet 6:30am, so it was still pretty dark out. But, to be honest, I have to admit: this isn't the first time I've tripped, and I really wasn't watching where I was going. So I bit it, hard, and couldn't catch myself ... because my fancy new water bottle was strapped tightly to my hand.

Assessing the damage afterwards, I saw that my left palm had a huge gouge out of it, and the fingers on my right hand—my pinky in particular—were already swelling up. They'd been bent back pretty far by the water bottle. Funnily enough, though, my legs felt great! I walked for a while and then started running. Because, well, I had to get home somehow.

Luckily, Keith waits for me to get home from my morning runs before he leaves for work. (And now we know why!) One quick trip to Urgent care and the grocery store later, I was home with:
  • A left-hand swaddled in enough gauze to pass for a mummy
  • A broken right pinky in a splint
  • Coke, Halloween Oreos (my favorite!), and doughnuts
So yes: I managed to trip and fall while running and break my finger. But I maintain that there were extenuating circumstances. Circumstances notwithstanding, Keith has forbidden me from running in the dark until I have the use of my hands back. I think that's pretty fair.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Courtesy of Jonathan, I have a new source of information for blog ideas: blogfriday.

It's a pretty simple idea: Every week there's a new word on blogfriday. You have from 12:00am Saturday to 11:59pm the following Friday to write a blog entry about that word. When you've finished you post the entry title and URL to blogfriday. At the end of the week, the word prompt changes.

It's a way to get new readers, and to find new blogs. And it's one entry per week that I don't have to think up entirely on my own. It's worth participating in, just for that perk alone!;)

This week's word, I don't think you'll be surprised to find, is "journey." So hop over to blogfriday and read all about journey-inspired blog entries.

Journey Across the Pond and Beyond

I've blogged once or twice lately, reminiscing about past trips. In particular, I've been rather nostalgic of late because, at this time last year, we were planning our trip to the UK.

My good friends Elaine and David got married in Glasgow last October. Their wedding was the main reason for the trip, but then we also throughout the country, ending up with a days in London. It was an amazing trip, and I wanted to go back to visit as soon as we boarded the flight home.

I figured Elaine had also been thinking that it had been months since we've spoken when she emailed a few weeks ago and asked for my phone number. Finally we actually spoke earlier this week. I settled in for a long chat about married life, her new house, work, etc. But she actually had an ulterior motive for calling: to tell me that she's pregnant and due in December!

I was surprised—but quite pleasantly so. Elaine and David are going to be fabulous parents. Plus her sister is due 9 days before Elaine, so the entire family is baby-crazy.

However, the happy news got me thinking. Last year had been a big year for Keith and me: we moved to Cleveland and bought a house, traveled to Glacier National Park in July, got a dog, got a cat, traveled to the UK in October. There was always a lot going on.

This year: not so much. We're still in Cleveland, in the same house. With the same dog and cat. I still need to print out the pictures from the Glacier trip and the UK one.

I think this lack of big news, after last year's monumental changes, is to be expected. But it can still be a bit depressing, when it seems like everyone I know it getting pregnant or talking about their babies, their friends' babies, etc. Does this mean that the next time we have big news, it must be that we're pregnant?!?

NOT that a lack of small talk is a good reason to get pregnant, mind you. I'm just saying: we're at the age where everyone we know is pregnant/talking about it/already parents. Any other news starts to feel a little less exciting.

Did I mention that we just bought new rugs for the living room? Pretty exciting stuff!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Office: New Season!

Since the new season of The Office (US version) has begun, I'm reviving my cheat posts, consisting entirely of quotes from the latest episode and lovely pictures of Jim Halpert. Sorry this took so long—but it's up just in time to review before the next episode. Enjoy!

Michael: Okay, well, I did not get the job in New York. But I go the real prize—domestic bliss. Jan made me breakfast this morning. (Eating a bowl of cereal.) Well, she bought the milk. It's soy!

Michael: Ladies and gentlemen, I have some bad news. Meredith was hit by a car. It happened this morning in the parking lot. I took her to the hospital. And the doctors tried to save her life. They did the best that they could, and she is going to be okay.

Stanley: What is wrong with you? Why did you have to phrase it like that?

Dwight: Hey, why did you do it?
Michael: It was an accident.
Dwight: Was she talking back? Were you sick of that face? Did she owe you money? Uh oh, is this downsizing? Did she spurn your advances?


Michael: So Ryan got promoted to corporate, where he is a little fish in a big pond. Whereas, back here in Scranton, I am still top dog in a fairly large pond. So who is the real boss? The dog or a fish?


Michael: So I need a little treat for the gang—something to win their affections back.
Ryan: Back? Why is that, Michael?
Michael: (sigh) I ran down Meredith in my car.
Ryan: Did you do this on purpose?
Michael: No, I was being negligent.But she's in the hospital. She's fine. Recovering nicely. Tiny little crack in her pelvis. But she will be up and ...
Ryan: Did this happen on company property?
Michael: Yes. It was on company property with company property. So: double jeopardy. We are fine.
Ryan: I don't think you understand how "jeopardy" works.
Michael: Oh, right. I'm sorry. What is "we're fine"?


Michael: I wouldn't say I'm "superstitious." Maybe just a little "sticious."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Is It Really That Hard? Concert Etiquette

Is there an etiquette guide to attending concerts? Because if not, there definitely should be.

Keith and I went to the Regina Spektor concert a few nights ago. We got there close to 9 o'clock—after the opening band, and just 5 or 10 minutes before Regina took the stage. It wasn't too crowded; most of the audience was even seated at small tables. We found a standing spot behind one table that wasn't too far back, nor too far to the side. We were pleased.

Until the people in front of us started behaving like idiots. What really struck me is that they didn't seem there to be at the concert. Their actions made it seem like they were hyper-aware of themselves as being people at a concert. If that makes sense. Like when they started singing along (which happened at regular intervals), it wasn't a natural, spontaneous thing. It felt, to me as an observer anyway, like this person had decided singing along at just this point is what one does at a concert. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, it reminded me of some basic concert etiquette questions that bother me nearly every time we go to a semi-large concert. (And I mean "semi-large" very loosely— we were still at a pretty small venue with just a few hundred people, I would guess.)

  1. Why sing along with the singer at the top of your voice? Do you honestly think you're going to sound better than the act you paid to see? Do you imagine everyone around you standing and clapping for you? Perhaps you'll get offered a record contract on the spot?

    Not going to happen. I can understand mouthing the words, or singing softly to yourself. Because you obviously enjoy the music, and feel connected to the singer. But this is the 2nd concert in recent months (the other being the Decemberists, not that that's relevant) where we were near to concert-goers who tried to outsing the band. Not cool.

  2. Are you really so carried away by the music that you have to wave your hands/arms in the air, mid-song? Blocking the view of everyone behind you? I don't believe it.

  3. If you're going to pretend to be a Superfan, then stick with that persona. You can't cheer and scream excessively at the first few chords of every other song .... and then talk LOUDLY over the rest of the song. Are you telling me that this is your favorite song to converse to? Because that's just stupid.

If you're this type of concert-goer, you're still more then welcome to go to concerts. Just don't sit by me. Or—even better—don't go to my concerts. Stick with popular acts at large venues and we'll all be happier.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Benefits of Budgeting

Lately, I've been trying to convince a close friend of mine of the benefits of keeping a personal budget. So far, she's not entirely convinced. Or rather, I think that her better half remains unswayed. Of course, extolling the virtues of a budget makes me consider why, exactly, I think it's so important.

For me, not budgeting is not an option. Call it a personality trait/quirk/flaw/what-have-you, but I feel a very strong need to be as in-control of my little corner of the universe as possible. The files in my home filing cabinet are color-coded. I have spreadsheets to track my calories, my running, my to-do list, my Christmas card and present lists, and—of course—my spending. The budget is such an easy area to track, for my personality type NOT tracking it is really not an option.

But let's say you're more laid-back. You can more readily go with the flow and see where the wind takes you. (Meanwhile I have checked the weather forecast, saw that it would be a windy day, and dressed/planned accordingly.) Why should you budget?

In my opinion, as a natural-born saver, the main benefit to budgeting is the difference between knowing and not-knowing. This particular person's argument is that, as a couple, they spend very little. Their default mode is saving; therefore, if they budgeted, they wouldn't be saving any more than they currently are.

Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say this is true. (I know it wouldn't be for me. I may have a tendency towards saving, but we all have our weaknesses. Mine are books and fancy coffee drinks.) The only benefit in this case to budgeting would be that you know how much you're saving. You know that every month, you're putting $x towards your emergency fund, $y goes towards your vacation/Christmas spending, and $z is funneling into retirement. Or however you choose to break out your savings categories.

You know that, if a minor emergency such as a car breakdown happens, you can cover it. You know that you'll need to replace your roof in a few years, and when you get to that point, you'll already have enough money saved to pay for the new roof in cash. You know that, if you continue saving at this rate, you'll be able to live your chosen lifestyle in retirement. You know that, if you want to have kids, one of you can stay home and you'll have enough money to cover your costs.

All of this knowledge is very important to me. This knowledge—and the fact that we do have money put away for a rainy day—helps me sleep at night. Without knowing exactly where we stand, financially, I would be so stressed out that I don't think I could function.

So, completely independent of any benefits gained from budgeting related to increased savings, just this knowledge alone is worth the relatively small amount of time I spend every month on keeping my budget up-to-date. Is it worth it to you?