Celebratory Caesars for Everyone!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Roll me out the door, I am done. Two long food-filled months have come to an end and I have enjoyed them completely and whole heartedly, much to my waistline’s demise.  The December Christmas celebrations included three office lunches, dinner out with the girls, a birthday dinner for Mommikins, dinner with some of the peeps from my previous office, Christmas Eve at our place, Christmas Dinner at Big Brother’s, lunch with a friend while spending far too much shopping for unnecessary electronics, and two viewings of Star Wars, with snacks. Add in various boxes of chocolates, homemade cookies, squares, and other baked goods, bonbons, etc, and it was no wonder my pants were straining when the New Year rolled around.

As if I hadn’t already consumed enough to feed a small starving African nation, January kicked off with a big birthday bang as I have had two separate lunches with friends, a great steak dinner with Mommikins, drinks at a musical, drinks and nachos with the bosses, drinks and dinner with the peeps from my previous office (double birthday celebration), and cake with the current office gang.  On top of all of that, there were the occasional (*cough cough*) days where I bought lunch at work because I was in such a food coma, I couldn’t be bothered to throw something together before I left the house in the morning.

I have mixed feelings about the end of the celebrations. On one hand, I can’t remember the last time I felt so included, blessed, appreciated and loved. It was wonderful to connect with people I don’t get to see very often. I don’t have a lot of close friends that I hang out with so this was a welcome change in my usually subdued routine. However, the caloric cost of all that socializing and celebrating…yikes. However, I shall not dwell on that – I would rather risk ordering dessert if it means spending a few more precious, wonderful moments with friends and family.

The past two months have shown me how much I miss having people in my life to do stuff with. Despite living in a digital, wifi-enabled, find everything online sort of world, I miss the human interaction of yesteryear (feel free to mock my nostalgia). I admit that I have not always been the best at maintaining relationships, both platonic and romantic, and there have been times where I’ve been an outright bitch in terms of how things have ended (yes, that’s me admitting blame). Regret is not a word I use – if I regretted anything about my past, it would mean I’m not happy with the person I have become as each individual experience has shaped the current “me”. We can all look back and realize we probably should have done things differently given the knowledge we have now but I wouldn’t change anything if I could (ok, MAYBE I would have invested in Apple instead of going to University…).

Earlier this month, my cousin Dan posted a link on Facebook about a friend of his in Toronto who, after a rough year, decided to reconnect with different friends from his past over a Caesar at a different location every Sunday for the next 52 weeks. He learned three very important lessons after his year of Caesars:  (1) variety really is the spice of life, (2) rituals are powerful things that build momentum, and (3) Sundays are always better with friends. This couldn’t have come at a better time. To me, this is a wonderful idea. Caesars are my mixed drink of choice (and a family fave) and I’m looking to re-establish or revive some of my relationships.

I had considered doing my own thing and calling it something like “Bruschetta Buddies” as I love this appetizer.  However, it’s a bit limiting – I would have to meet friends at restaurants that offer it (not everyone does), and not everyone is a fan like I am. Also, not everyone might want to get together and eat; they might just want to have a nice drink together. So…. I’m starting my own “Caesar Sundays” beginning January 31. That’s 48 Caesars and 48 different people. However, I already have other non-alcoholic related commitments for 2-3 Sundays this year and Christmas is on a Sunday, so it’s more like 45. My goal is, just like Mr. Jacobs, to enjoy a drink with a different friend at a different location each week.

2016 Has Begun

Wednesday, January 06, 2016
OMG. Blogger is slowly becoming more user friendly. I know I haven't posted much over the past few months so you'll forgive me if this is old news to the rest of you. They now allow you to just drag and drop photos into the post you're writing! No more having to use the uploader feature. Suh-weet. I know - it doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?

Well, the New Year has arrived. No big celebrations for this gal; I'm pretty low key. Yeah, that's what you call people who go to bed at 730pm - "low key". Christmas was nice and quiet. Big Brother and family came over for dinner on Christmas Eve. As usual, we exchanged our gifts that night. I ended up with a gorgeous new bundt pan from Sonoma Williams. I'm thinking it might be a hint that they want me to bake more. That's fine with me! Christmas morning was spent with Mommikins and the cats, opening presents and relaxing before heading over to Big Brother's house for dinner with extened family. For the first time a long time, they kept dinner to just family (and longtime friend Rudi) so we were all able to fit around the table. Typically we have about 15-20 people running throughout their house for holiday dinners so we split the group between the living and dining rooms. It was weird (but pleasant) eating with the grownups again.
In addition to the bundt pan, Mom gave me a new slow cooker. I was in heaven. And yes, all my presents this holiday season DID seem to revolve around food... I wracked my brain as to what I should try to make first - buffalo chicken meatballs? Some kind of stew/soup? Nope. I decided to go with scalloped potatoes. Now, I'm not usually a fan of cheese on potatoes but this recipe just sounded too good to pass up. Unfortunately my local Safeway does not carry Gruyere cheese so I went with Emmental (still yummy), and I dislike Fennel so I swapped it for onions, and...instead of thyme, which sounded soooooo wrong for scalloped potatoes, I added chives. Also, no bacon. Please, pick yourself up off the floor - you read that correctly - I omitted the bacon.

Oh my sweet bejeebus.

I cannot begin to describe how delicious this was!!!! Unfortunately the cooking time wasn't right but I think it is because my potato slices were too big. I had the right thickness thanks to my mandolin but I should have cut the potatoes in half lengthwise first to make the pieces a big smaller. Regardless, they were still fabulous. Next time, I'm going with the Gruyere and longer cooking time. Great...now I want some. Hmmm.

The holidays are now over and its back to work for me. There are still a number of people on vacation this week so our office is fairly quiet. While its nice and I get a bit of free time to do other things (read my book, blog, Facebook ... um ... organize my desk, clean up), it makes for a long day. Hopefully things will pick up next week. In the meantime, the birthday celebrations have begun. Mommikins treated me to a fabulously overindulgent steak dinner at The Keg last night and tonight we're off to the Jubilee Auditorium to catch opening night of Dirty Dancing. And if that wasn't enough, Big Brother and family are taking me out for lunch this weekend. Woot! I feel spoiled this year.

Finally, while grabbing the link for Dirty Dancing, I discovered that Bill Maher is coming to Edmonton in June so I treated myself with two tickets! Now I just have to find someone that wants to go with me! FYI Calgary peeps, he'll be in your neck of the woods June 25.

Happy New Year everyone!

A Year in Review and Looking Forward

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Well, here we are, at the ass-end of 2015. Following the lead of countless others, I thought I would do a "year in review" post, not that there will be a lot to cover but I'm a follower so ... Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

January started off as usual - I'm unhappy with my weight, have big plans for the year, blah blah blah. Not much changes. However, one bright spot was the start of a 10 week pottery class. I treated myself to the course as a Christmas present and ended up loving it. While I didn't turn into a master craftsperson overnight, and many of pieces were questionable in terms of what they were supposed to be, it was fun. It also got me out of the house and interacting with other humans (shock! horror! gasp!). My chest problems continued and changed and continued to change - a common theme throughout the past year. No definitive diagnosis and no solution. The quest continues. Speaking of quests, Mom took me to see the Indiana Jones exhibit at the Telus World of Science for my birthday. As a child of the 70s and 80s, this was a must see for me and didn't disappoint. 

February through May was fairly quiet. I finally bought myself a stand mixer and then proceeded to bend one of the attachments the first time I used it. Robyn continued to prove she's a fabulous friend by inviting me over to her home and serving tea. Grandma's china and handmade jammie dodgers - that girl rocks. I made over the look of my blog. I joined Instagram. Mom and I moved out of our apartment with the great view to a townhouse on the outskirts of downtown.

In June, I applied for another position in my current office but didn't get the job. One of my two bosses thought this was the wrong decision and my other boss...I think somedays they regret it too. However, life is like that and so we move on. June also marked the start of a new "Learn to Run" clinic through the Running Room. Unlike previous attempts, I had an instructor who didn't make me feel completely worthless for my slower than snot speed and back of the pack position week after week. To top it off, the group who joined this particular clinic were fabulous and I was once again enjoying running.

By July, I was experiencing tightness and pain in both my calves and bottoms of my feet. Nothing seemed to help, even returning to the physiotherapist. I made it through the halfway point of my clinic before I could no longer run with the group. In August, Mom and I walked the 5K portion of the Edmonton Marathon and I ran up the chute to finish my race and into the arms of my running group. I love those folks.

And that was it. My last post was August 25. To say I've been neglectful is an understatement. It wasn't that the remaining months of 2015 were bad and I didn't want to share with the few of you who still visit. I just reverted back to my usuall laziness. Nothing to say of any consequence so why bother? Plus I still hate my Dell laptop that can't hold a f*cking wifi signal for longer than 30 second and to use my desktop computer is not inspiring. However, I'm hoping to turn that around for 2016. 

No, I won't be replacing the laptop but I will be making a more concerted effort to blog a bit more often in 2016. I wrote a whopping 28 blog posts in 2015. That's not even one per week. I miss the act of writing these posts, even when I don't have anything important to say. Words are amazing and I hope to share more of them again in the future. In the spirit of starting fresh, I'm also going to be purging my Twitter and Instagram feeds. I don't really pay attention to most of the stuff that shows up on my feeds; friends, family, news - those are the important things. Most of the rest of it is garbage and noise so I'll be simplifying that part of my social network life.

Speaking of words, one success I had in 2015 was my Good Reads reading challenge. I amped it up (at least for me) this year, and aimed to read 30 books. With a week and a half left to go this year, I've already made it to 31. And I will likely finish off the two books I'm currently reading before the year is up! I embraced reading this year more than I have in the recent past and thanks to the upcoming holidays, I have rediscovered the joy of paper books and Hrothgar, my glorious eReader, is taking a much needed break. And since I managed to surpass my original goal for 2015, next year I'm amping it up to 35. 

So there you go, no big promises or "resolutions" for the new year. Just letting you know whazzup.

The Good, The Bad, and The Very Ugly

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
This weekend was a bittersweet one for me. I completed the Edmonton Marathon’s 5K race, walking it with Mommikins and we finished it standing tall and smiling (and having passed a couple or 6 people along the way). It was also great to see three of my clinic buddies (the only three to finish the clinic in the end) show up and run the 5K course. It was the first time racing for all three and they all did amazingly well – they all had times under 40 minutes which was great! And it was so uplifting to see their smiling cheering faces as Mom and I crossed the finish line. Hugs all around! However, it was a reminder that I wasn’t able to run as I had originally planned and that any plans for running have to be put on hold.
 A big low moment for me was seeing the pictures that all of us took of the team together both before and after the race. It’s very apparent that I have gained weight, even since I stopped running, and it all seems to have gathered in my middle and my neck. The middle I’m used to but the huge neck that stared back at me from every picture I was in? Depressing. I don’t see it in the mirror or in pictures I take of myself but I certainly see it in pictures other people take of me. It was extremely upsetting.

Shortly after leaving the running clinic, I joined a gym. I figured if I couldn’t walk/run, I had to do something and I have rarely ridden my bike since moving. I’ve only been a few times so far but part of me regrets not joining the Y downtown. From the sounds of it, Mom (who joined the Y) gets unlimited trainer sessions, or at least more than the two measly sessions my gym offers. And one of those two is the intake where they weigh/measure you and you really don’t do any exercises. The couple of times I’ve talked to my trainer she’s told me how most of her ladies train with her 2-3 times / week. Some of us don’t have that kind of money. I have a feeling I’ll be figuring out a workout plan on my own. Plus, if I want to go right after work, it takes 45 minutes by bus and at this time of year it’s hot, stuffy and sweaty. Sigh. I’m going to go to yoga tonight after work and see what their class is like. I need to get more bendy.

Yes, I’m fully aware that is a horribly constructed sentence.

I’m also cutting way back on the soda. Since moving, and having access to a grocery store that offers cheap cases of my dark bubbly elixir, I have been going a bit crazy. Combine that with heavy snacking at work (almost always with a Coke nearby) and it’s no wonder the pounds have been piling on. Portion control, eating healthier and an overall better awareness of what I’m doing to myself is vital moving forward. Speaking of moving – I must do more of that (hence the gym).

Sigh. How many times have I said all of this before?

Learn to Run No Longer

Sunday, July 19, 2015
You'll have noticed  there was no recap of Week 5 of my Learn to Run clinic. That's because I am no longer taking part in the runnign part of the clinic. There were no upsetting comments from our fabulous instructor, Miles, like there was the last time I took this clinic. And no, its not because I'm being lazy and don't feel like going, like the time before that. Its all to do with my health.
As you know, I've been experiencing cramping and pain in the arch of my left foot and my left (and right) calf when I run. Week 4's first two runs went relatively well, although the pain continued, and I had my first visit with Marcel in over a year. While the foot problems alone are enough to keep from continuing, I was determined to stick to it and finish this damn clinic. Four attempts and I have never made it to the end. I skipped the Sunday morning run for Week 4 to give my feet a rest and to continue with my stretching. However, before I could dive into the first run of Week 5 the next night, something happened that I was hopeful would never return. I once again began to get chest pains.
While we know that it there is nothing wrong with my heart or my lungs (3 ECGs, 1 Stress Test, 12 rounds of bloodwork, two emergency dept visits, and a CT Scan all say so), I'm not taking any chances. Given the prevalence of heart problems in my family, I'm wary when it comes to my ticker. So, when you put the two problems together... Feet + heart = no running.
Thankfully it was only one day (so far) that I've had the chest pains and they weren't nearly as bad as last year, I have the almost constant icy heartburn like feeling which spreads across my chest as it did for the 5 months or so that I was undergoing all the problems last year. Lucky me! The unknown inflammation is back! Anti-inflammatories and prevacid for everyone! 

I haven't shared the chest pain situation with my running clinic yet. They know about my feet and that's enough for now. While I am no longer running with the group, I am planning on still attending on Monday nights for our talks. The same information they share applies equally to walking and running, and I'm hoping that once the foot thing gets a bit better, I will go back to walking longer distances (no racing...maybe). Miles and the ladies in my run group were bummed that I couldn't continue with them but are happy that I'll still be stopping by to spend one evening a week with them. They're a great bunch and I'm really glad that I got to run with them, even for only a short while.
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