Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just Dance.

I'll spare you the boring apologies for neglecting this blog again. I'm writing now. That's better than nothing, right?

Today a package arrived in the mail. A delightful package from Amazon filled with stuff I ordered. I got a gift card as a late birthday present from my dad, and I decided to wait until after Christmas to redeem it. I want to talk about two things that came in that package.

The first is a video game. Just Dance 2 for the Wii. I played the first Just Dance game at a friend's house a while back, and I really enjoyed it. I read the product description of the new game, and I thought it sounded like it would have some fun dances on it.

I decided to pop in the game after I got home from work today, and I was excited to see that it has a mode called "Just Sweat," which is really a workout/training system. It was actually really fun, and I did, indeed, sweat. Quite a lot. It's probably been my lack of exercise for the last couple months that really caused the sweat. I only worked out for 20 minutes total, but it was intense. I'm sure if anyone looked in my window and saw the way I was flailing around laughed pretty hard about it, too. But I had fun. And I might have even burned a few calories.

I just knew I had to quit when I flailed a bit too harshly and knocked my Nintendo DS off the coffee table, then on the next move flailed in another direction and flung my glasses to the floor. Now I get why they always remind you to wear the wrist strap on the controllers.

The other item that I want to talk about is a book. I'll give you the NERD ALERT now. It's a Wheel of Time book.

For you non-nerdy/geeky types, The Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan. I've been reading it for about 8 years now, though the first book came out decades ago. I'm a little behind right now, and the book I got is book 12 in the series, which came out a year and a half ago. I waited until now because I wanted to get the paperback edition that matches all my other books in the series. I want the whole set to be the same.

This part of the story is sad. Robert Jordan, creator of a vast world filled with vivid characters, died before he was able to finish the series. Another fantasy author, Brandon Sanderson, was asked to complete the last book of Jordan's empire.

The first thing I did after dancing a while today was read the forward that Sanderson wrote for this book. I cried. And then I felt pathetic because I was crying over a person I never knew outside of his fiction. Someone who died years ago. And it turns out that this isn't even the last book of the series - it grew to large and Sanderson and the editors decided to break it into three books.

After that, I realized that I was crying over someone real, even though I had never met him, never knew him, and he died a few years ago. All the crying I typically do is because of writers, ultimately, but it's over fiction. Stories make me cry. Television and movies and books most of all. But this time, it was none of that. It wasn't fiction at all.

Now I'm getting sad again, and I don't even know what my point was in sharing this. I should just think about the dancing.

Remember, boys and girls, in less than a year I'm doing a half marathon. I've got to whip myself back into shape. This will be easier once the gym in my work building opens, which will supposedly happen soon, but for now I have the dance, and sweat. And maybe the stray tear or two.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mario: Man of my Dreams

I spent a lot of time with my 9-year-old nephew last Saturday. It was an adventure - by far, it was the most time I've spent with anyone under the age of 10 in a very long time. But that's another blog post.

My nephew is very much a part of our family. He's only 9, but he's already showing off his nerdy/geeky tendencies. He likes books and comics and cartoons - and video games. He really likes video games. I'm sure part of it is his generation, being raised by the first generation of video game lovers who have had the pleasure of enjoying video games for their entire lives. But I can tell that he has a love for the classics.

He asked me a question on Saturday. "Who is your favorite NES character?"

As a big fan of video games, especially the classics, myself, I knew that "NES" referred to the Nintendo Entertainment System - that first Nintendo system that brought Super Mario Bros. into our lives. Just to clarify, I asked my nephew if he meant all of Nintendo, or just the original Nintendo. He assured me that it was original.

I gave it some thought. A lot of the games I enjoy today had their origins on the NES - "Final Fantasy" started there, but the original didn't really have the most memorable characters - that didn't happen until the Super Nintendo came around. "The Legend of Zelda" also began on the NES, and Link - the protagonist character in those games - has always been one of my favorites. But I had to go with the ultimate classic.

"It's gotta be Mario," I replied. "He's where it all began."

My nephew was satisfied with that answer. As a player of plenty of modern games, he knows that Mario has built himself an empire - he's like the godfather of Nintendo games.

It's very true. I love Mario games - the classic platformers. I love the spin-offs, like Mario Kart and Mario Party. I love them all.

Today, I went to the video game page on Amazon to add a game I saw advertised on television to my wish list. That game is for the DS, and it looks like a fun one - it's called "Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem." But I got sidetracked. Right on the front of the Amazon video game page, I saw this:

You can find the info on it here: Super Mario All-Stars on Amazon or here: Official Nintendo Site.

Now, those of you in the know are aware that quite some time ago, a Super Mario All-Stars game came out. For the SNES. It came out in 1993, and it contained Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros - The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros 2, and Super Mario Bros 3. This game, the same. I've even purchased all of those games (except The Lost Levels) through the Virtual Console for the Wii, so I can play them any time I want.

Even so, I nearly cried when I read the product description. It's a giant bucket of nostalgia and I want it. I want the goodies that come with it (a Mario history book and a soundtrack CD). This game encompasses everything that I loved about video games in my childhood.

Those of you buying me Christmas presents: the game comes out on Sunday. It's a mere $30 if you buy it on Amazon (free shipping!) - that's a steal for a new Wii game. Just sayin'. It'll be on my Wish List.

I may be 30 years old, but the chubby plumber with the red hat will always hold a place in my heart as my first true love.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cartoons and Facebook

If you're on Facebook, surely you've seen the latest viral trend to change your profile picture to a favorite cartoon from your childhood. The post most people are adding to their status updates is something like this:

"Change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday (Dec. 6) there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is to support the fight against violence towards children."

There are many variations on the status update - this was just taken from one of the many posts I saw my various friends make. Over the course of the weekend, I've seen a ton of different cartoons from my childhood popping up in my Facebook news feed. It's been a wonderful trek down memory lane, reminding me about all the cartoons I don't get to watch anymore.

Personally, I didn't add the status update, but I did change my profile picture to one of Lisa Simpson. Technically, The Simpsons started when I was a child - I was a kid in the late 80s when the show began. But I chose that picture because I already had it in my file of profile pictures on Facebook - I've used it as my profile picture before. I like Lisa Simpson.

What I really want to address is the last bit of that status update - the bit about fighting violence against children. Me changing my profile picture to an image of Lisa Simpson is going to do absolutely nothing to fight child abuse. And I know that. I just like Lisa Simpson. That's why I didn't bother adding that stupid status update to my profile. I know it's not going to do anything.

And don't get me started on "raising awareness." We all know that child abuse happens, and we all know that we probably should be doing something about it. Remember the first couple posts I made in this blog? I wrote about that Facebook trend where women were encouraged to post the color of their bra to "raise awareness" for breast cancer. I went off on that concept then, and this one is exactly the same.

But you all know this, and you probably all think the same thing I do. You're probably all just like me - you wanted to remember the cartoons of your youth, and you've been enjoying seeing them all infect your Facebook newsfeeds. Right?

Today, I saw something new. Supposedly, the whole idea of changing your profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood was started by a group of child molesters. Supposedly they think that if the kids see a picture of a cartoon, they'll be more likely to accept the friend request.

This may or may not be true, I have no idea. However, I know that my Lisa Simpson picture is not going to make a difference whether or not some sort of pervert is going to try to prey on his next victim. How does it benefit the bad guys if all my friends are posting pictures from cartoons? I don't really get it. Why do the pedophiles need a viral Facebook trend to change their profile pictures to cartoons? I've seen it plenty of times before this trend started - like I said, I've used the Lisa Simpson picture before.

It's all a matter of scaring the masses. The bad people are out to get your children. We're all going to get cancer and die. Everything in the world is bad and nothing is ever good or done just for the fun of it. There's always a group out there with an ulterior motive, and I'm sick of it.

Use your brains, people. If you like cartoons, change your profile picture. If you don't like cartoons, leave your picture the way it was. It won't matter one way or the other.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Feeling Introspective

What is it about the holidays that makes me feel so down in the dumps?

I'm sitting here in my house - both the snowstorm outside and a raging cough are keeping me cooped up indoors, with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. Well, my computer is here, too, and the television. But none of that is real. It's just me here.

I can't seem to stop myself from watching sappy movies where the girl inevitably finds the love of her life. Happily ever after and all that crap. I cry. Then I remember that it's been over a year since I've even been close to being on a date, so naturally I find myself wandering over to OK Cupid to see what's there... which of course, ultimately, is nothing I'm interested in.

This is the same stupid cycle I always end up in, and it always crops up this time of year. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the short days and minimal sunlight. I get sad because I'm alone. I think about trying to find someone to cure the aloneness, then realize that I couldn't find anyone who would take me for what I am because of my big butt and bigger gut and my chubby fingers and stupid squinty eyes. Naturally, instead of doing something to get rid of those first three (can't do much about the eyes), I consider the fact that I always fail when I try to better myself. I give up before I even start, and I end up sitting on my couch crying, then blogging about it. Next I will, without fail, raid my pantry and fridge for anything resembling junk food. Then I'll continue sitting on my ass watching stupid sappy movies and the cycle begins anew.

My landlord is showing my apartment tomorrow to a potential new renter. I should be tidying up so that the place actually looks presentable. Instead, I'm engaging in self-destructive behavior that I know isn't good for me.

(Huh. Someone is trying to have a conversation with me on OK Cupid right now. Unfortunately, he seems to have no concept of grammar, and he freely admits that he doesn't like to read. Why on earth does this guy claim to want to get to know me? Oh well - told him I'm not feeling chatty and he hasn't written a word since. Excellent.)

Ok, it's time for me to find some dinner now. Then I might go to bed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reflections on November

I know I haven't updated this blog in a long time. I blame the month of November.

It's National Novel Writing Month, and I've been working hard on the Great American Novel. Wait, that's not right. It's more like the Great American Failure. The idea of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I got to 31,000 and just hit a wall. I'm lacking all motivation to continue, and I only have 3 days left in November.

I'm having a hard time lately with personal motivation in all aspects of my life, not just in writing - though writing is where it is most obvious, at least right now.

I don't think I'm a writer. I've written numerous novels - well, at least parts of numerous novels, but none of them are worthy of editing or finishing. Really, they're awful. The only things I write that are even remotely "good" are the posts I make in this blog, and even that is a specific kind of writing. I have fun with this thing, but it's hard to think of myself as a writer - I'm more of a blogger, really. And that's ok.

But it gets me thinking.... why do I bother with NaNo anymore? I don't ever get anything out of it. I just end up mad at myself for not trying harder and not managing my time well. It's just another example of how I start things and never finish them. I've had that problem my entire life.

I should have spent my November doing something more valuable - like cleaning my house and making more jewelry to sell for the holidays. And one of these days I should probably finish my blog posts about Vegas.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friends, Fun, and Frozen Treats or Vegas Vacation Part 2

5:00 AM. That's when my body thought I needed to be awake on Thursday morning. Remember that little note at the end of the Part 1 post? Yeah. Two hour difference between Vegas and home. 5:00 AM in Vegas is 7:00 AM back home. On a typical Thursday, I'm at work at 7:00 AM. My body was confused. Why wasn't I at work? But I had to tell my body that I was in a super-comfy bed that wasn't my own. I could go back to sleep. I had nowhere to be that morning.

I really wanted eggs benedict for breakfast. It was after 9 when I finally made it to the cafe downstairs. Thankfully, eggs benedict was on the menu. It was decent, but the coffee was expensive. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. This day was actually a bit of sticker shock to me. After ordering the $18.99 entrĂ©e the night before, I was a bit disappointed by prices across the board on the Strip. (By the end of my trip, I was used to it). $3.75 seemed like a lot for a cup of ordinary coffee.

My friends weren’t due to get into town until a bit later in the day, so I decided to wander. I had the comfy shoes on.

First, I ended up at Caesars Palace. Not really feeling like losing a lot of money again, I just sat down at a bar and ordered a drink (I felt like I deserved one). Little did I know that one shot of Absolut in a glass of OJ would run me $11.50. Won’t be making that mistake again – I’ll be gambling the next time I have a drink at Caesars. But I did get in touch with my friends who were driving into town. They thought they’d be there in a couple hours.

I decided to wander some more. I really wanted to see CityCenter – it was under construction the last time I was in Vegas. I took my time and wandered through the Bellagio to the tram to Crystals (that's the newest high-end mall on the Strip). It's a good thing I had plenty of time, though. I literally had to walk through the entire hotel. They really tucked that tram away back there.

Crystals was interesting. I’m used to malls, but this mall was like an optical illusion studded with high-end stores. And it smelled new. A little weird. I didn’t stay too long.

I stopped for lunch at Todd English P.U.B. I at least knew these prices beforehand because they had a menu posted outside the door, so I knew what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t a shock. I had the beer called “Todd’s Urban Brew,” or the “T.U.B.” It was really tasty. And I had the buffalo burger for my lunch, and that was easily worth the money I paid for it. Very tasty, all around. I’d eat there again, no doubt. Great ambiance, too.

I played a bit at the casino at the Aria casino (also new), but just basic penny slots. Didn't lose too much in the end, which is good. But as I was sitting at the Monopoly-themed slot machine, I got the word from my friends that they were in town. They were parking down at Excalibur and were going to meet me on the walking bridge between Excalibur and the New York New York hotel. I actually knew where that was!

Of course, getting there was harder than I expected. I ended up on the bridge going across the other street, headed for the MGM Grand. And then I got a message from my friend saying they couldn't find the way out of Excalibur! Disaster! But eventually we both found our way and met up with each other.

All of my friends were staying in a timeshare a few miles south of the Strip. After meeting up with the first pair of friends, I went with them to check into the timeshare, then we picked up another friend at the airport and did some shopping. The timeshare had a full kitchen (it even had a dishwasher), so the plan was to cook some meals there to save a few bucks. And after the money I had spent on previous meals, it was a relief! They cooked that night, and it was good. Much easier on the wallet than another $20 plate of 6 shrimp. And it was probably better for me, too. The timeshare also had a grill out on the balcony! Pretty sweet.

After dinner, we piled onto the timeshare's shuttle that went to the Strip. It dropped us off at Caesars Palace, and I knew exactly what I wanted for dessert. Part of the Caesars facility was the Serendipity 3 cafe. Their specialty dish was something called "Frozen Hot Chocolate." I had seen it on TV and read about it online, but I really wanted to know what it would taste like. There were four of us, but neither of us were particularly hungry, so we decided to share one dessert between the four of us. And, man, that was a good idea. The thing was huge. But it was SO good. It tasted like hot chocolate! But it was slushy and frozen. With lots of whipped cream on the top. We did manage to finish it, but only barely.

That was really all we did that night. I was really tired because my body was still (STILL) on Central time. I went back to my room and they went back to the timeshare. I was asleep in no time.

The (pink) Flamingo or Vegas Vacation Part 1

I know I'm a bit late with this blog entry. I'm sorry for the delay, but I'm hoping to get it all out tonight.

I arrived in Las Vegas on my 30th birthday. Some people may think it was sad for me to be in Vegas alone on my birthday, but I was ok with it. I really wanted to experience Vegas on my own terms. I could explore at my own pace. It was nice.

But it was raining.

Not just raining. It was pouring. Storming. Thunder and lightning. The puddles in the streets were so big they flooded onto the sidewalks.

This was so not ideal.

I took a shuttle from the airport to my hotel. The shuttle driver (from Airport Executive Shuttles or something like that) was a little crazy. He drove like a maniac. Then he didn’t drop me off at the right entrance (where the shuttle drop-off/pick up is). He dropped me off down on the opposite side of the building where I had to walk down the street and all the way through the building before I could find the front desk. Oh, and he had to drive on the wrong side of the street to get me there. Very scary. And rainy. But I’m pretty sure that was the only true downside of the day.

Once I found the check-in desk at the Flamingo, everything was simple. Check-in was a breeze. My room was right next to the elevators. And I was completely in love my room. It had a retro look to it, but it was very high-tech. The drapes were motorized, controlled by a switch by the bed. There was a huge plasma TV. There was even a TV in the bathroom! And the room was just downright huge. I loved it. It even had a fridge and a little coffee pot, which is more than you get in a typical Las Vegas hotel room.

After getting settled, I made my way down to the casino. I really like craps, but my friends who were going to be joining me later aren’t really gamblers, so I decided to do the bulk of my gambling while they weren’t there. I found a table that seemed to have some good action, and I gambled the night away.

… well, not really. I gambled until I lost about $80 and decided that I couldn’t bear to lose any more on the first day. Not at a craps table, anyway. And I was getting hungry. It had only been about 45 minutes and I had two cocktails while playing. I needed to find some dinner.

Not being entirely familiar with the Flamingo casino/hotel, it took me an embarrassingly long time to find my way outside. I had heard good things about the nachos at Margaritaville, so I made my way there. Turns out it’s attached to the Flamingo, so I didn’t really need to go outside to get there at all. And I shouldn’t have gone outside, because it was wet out there. Not comfortable. I eventually got a table and did not order the nachos because I’m a fool. Instead, I got the coconut shrimp which was extremely disappointing, especially for the price. I should have gone for the nachos. Actually, I probably should have gone to another restaurant, because I just wasn't enough of a Parrothead to enjoy a Jimmy Buffet-themed restaurant by myself. At least the margarita was decent.

I went for a walk after dinner, as the rain had cleared, but it was still wet outside, and my feet were not happy with me. I should have stayed indoors. But it was nice to see the Strip by night on my birthday.

By the way, did you know that Las Vegas is in the Pacific Time Zone? It was very easy for me to get to sleep after my walk.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flying While Fat: A Follow-Up

I want to talk about Vegas. I really do. But first, I want to talk about my experience in the air.

You may have read some of my previous posts about Flying While Fat. Most notably, this one: Flying While Fat: Part 2. That's where I basically planned my flights to Vegas.

If you don't feel like reading that one, let me sum it up. I booked my flights with Southwest Airlines not only because they were cheapest, but also because they were the most generous with their policy for "customers of size." As a large woman, I've never been comfortable sitting on an airplane.

What I had to do with Southwest was buy two tickets, and after the flights there was a chance that the second seat could be refunded. Since Southwest uses "cattle call" boarding (no assigned seats), I also was able to pre-board because I had to be guaranteed two seats together. There's no point to having two seats if I can't spill over into the second one.

I got to the airport last Wednesday a little early because I didn't really know what was going to happen once I got there. Because of the two seats situation, I didn't want to check in online before my flight.

The person at the check-in counter was a little clueless. But luckily, she was smart enough to ask another person how to handle a "customer of size." Soon, I was on my way to the security line with boarding passes and seat reservation signs. Since Southwest flies out of the Humphrey terminal (excuse me - Terminal 2), the line was short and within a few steps I was at my gate. One of my favorite things about Southwest? They have nice leather seats in their gate areas. Not a lot of them, but if you get there early enough, you've got a comfy option while you wait.

The gate agents were fantastic. You know those Southwest commercials you see on TV where all their employees are happy-go-lucky and totally love their jobs? They're really like that! It was crazy. One dude was even singing over the PA. It was great. I was amused. They were also really good to me when I asked about when I was supposed to board. Turns out I had to talk to them so I could get a pre-boarding pass. Of course, the pass said "Pre-Board on the basis of disability" on it. I wasn't so sure how I felt about that - I don't really see my size as a disability... but it turns out that those are the only pre-boarding passes they have. They also have the option of people paying extra to be able to board early, and those people get the same pre-boarding passes. So I'm ok with that now.

I got on the plane, put the reservation pass on the seat next to me, and settled in for the flight. It was perfect. I didn't feel cramped. I didn't feel like I was invading anybody's space. And no one gave me that "I sure hope I don't end up sitting by her" look. Finally. This is how I plan to travel until I lose weight.

I realize that I'm really talking up Southwest. I should point out that Frontier also has a policy where they'll refund the second seat if the flights are not oversold. I'm sure they're just as fantastic as Southwest - I've just never flown with them before.

So that's Flying While Fat. Next up: Vegas!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back in Blog

I'm such a bad blogger. I haven't posted at all this month! I'm going to blame it on stress. And laziness. But mostly stress. But it's good stress!

Wait a minute... how can stress be good?

All of my stress can be traced back to one thing: I'm crazy busy lately. And busy is good.

I'm busy at work because business is picking up. Also, I'm trying to catch up and get ahead with all of my stuff because I'll be on vacation - starting in 8 days, I'll be on my awesome trip to Las Vegas. I'm beyond excited.

Remember that jewelry show I was getting ready for? Yeah, had that. And it went really well - now I'm working on filling orders. That's right. Filling orders. People liked my stuff so much that they want me to make more of it, and they want matching bracelets and earrings. I'm overjoyed, but it's more work than I was expecting. I had to go shopping for new beads. I have to learn a new technique. But it's all good. Some of my coworker friends have given me the confidence and ideas necessary to start my own jewelry business. I just need to find a web designer and register the domain name, and I'll be ready. But I'll probably start that in 2011. No time now. But keep your eyes peeled for Baubles by Becky.

I'm also still walking, though I'm not going to hit my 30 miles by the time I turn 30. I'm so exhausted these days that it's hard to get outside and walk. I plan to really get back into it once I'm back from Vegas - that way work will be less stressful, and I'll be able to focus on the actual walking. Oh, and I've started running a little bit, too. Fun! But a little scary. I still plan to do the half marathon next year.

On top of everything else, I know that National Novel Writing Month will be starting soon. I plan to try again this year, but I haven't given it a single thought beyond that - no idea what I'll be writing about this time. I hope it's fun, though. I hope I write something I actually like - those seem to be the times when I'm the most successful.

Oh, I forgot about my other element of stress! I need a roommate. Do you know anyone who needs a cool place to live in SW Minneapolis? Preferably someone with a job who can afford $500/month plus utilities? Because, really, I need a roommate. I can't afford this place on my own!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Note to Adoring Fans

Dear Blog Readers:

Sorry I have been neglecting you. I didn't intend to leave you all alone this last week. Really, I didn't. I don't know what happened. I just blinked and all of a sudden, last week was over!

I've also been spending my free time furiously making jewelry. I decided to have a little show at work, since my coworkers tend to like my designs. At least they say they do. We'll find out for sure if they're willing to pay for any of it, I guess. Anyway, I scheduled the show for October 1. "That's plenty of time - a whole month away!" I told myself. It's also a Friday. And a payday.

See, I was thinking ahead.

Except... I wasn't thinking as far ahead as I thought. October 1? That's this Friday. Mere days away.

Did you catch that? October starts this week.

There's so much I need to do before Friday, including (but not limited to): building up my stock so my adoring fans have plenty to choose from, figuring out how to get everything to work on the bus, figuring out how to display everything so it looks pretty and inviting, and I need to price everything and get it ready for sale.

Yowza. It's going to be a busy week.

So, dear readers, I will probably be neglecting you again this week. And I'm sorry for that.

Love, Me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

30 Miles to 30

I realized this morning that in 30 days, I'll be 30 years old.

30 days until 30. Huh. That sounds significant. Something like this should be chronicled. But how should I celebrate? How should I count down the last few days of my 20s?

I made a post on Facebook. Should I watch 30 movies? Eat 30 hamburgers? Write 30 short stories?

Then it hit me. I'm working on walking a lot. Eventually I'm going to run a half marathon. I decided that I will walk 30 miles over the next 30 days. I can do that. That's not far off from my current training schedule.

Yes, in 30 days I will be 30. Now I can also say in 30 miles I'll be 30. 30 miles to 30.

Today was the first part of the "30 Miles to 30" workout. My schedule told me I was supposed to walk 1.5 miles. Not bad. Even better? The sun came out just in time for me to go outside. It had been dark, gloomy, and drizzling all day long. I had a headache. I didn't want to go for this walk. But I did, and the sun came out. It was warm. I got sweaty.

I also learned something new: I am Becky, the Gnat Killer. Yes. There are a lot of bugs out there. Most of them are tiny. Many of them ended up dead on the front of my shirt. Seriously. It looked like the front grill of a car after a long road trip. Completely gross.

I walked 1.5 miles. It took me 29 minutes and 14 seconds. This was my longest workout so far using the Nike+ add-on for my iPod. Celebrating the milestone, Lance Armstrong's voice came on the iPod and congratulated me on the achievement. It would have felt really awesome, but the same thing had already happened on Saturday. I have a feeling that Lance and I are going to become good friends through this. I can't wait to find out who the other celebrity voices they have to cheer me on.

Hey. My headache is gone! Awesome. Though that might be a result of the ibuprofen I took before my walk.

30 Miles to 30: 1.5 miles down, 28.5 miles to go.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


For once, I am not talking about a TV show. Though, for the record, I hear "Community" is a great and hilarious show. I saw an episode on an airplane last winter and it was pretty funny.

No. This time I'm talking about the actual word "community." Not a proper noun. Just a regular, everyday, run-of-the-mill noun. has many definitions for the word "community," including:
  • "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists"
  • "similar character; agreement; identity"
  • "the community, the public; society"

Now, aside from my annoyance over the use of a word to define itself, I think those are pretty clear. Generally, these three definitions are what I have in mind when I talk about community below.

Good, that business is out of the way. Time for the meat of the post!

I graduated from college in 2002. I went to a Lutheran school, and while I was there, I felt I had a church community to which I belonged. I also had my school community, and many of both of those groups remain my friends today.

However, shortly after graduation, I realized that the whole church thing just wasn't for me. I no longer identify myself as a Christian, and most often refer to myself as an atheist. (We can save the religious debates for another time - I have given a lot of thought to this issue over the years, and it's not what this topic is ultimately about).

I have a group of friends - fantastic friends, the best a girl could ask for - who are probably best described as the "Becky Community," at least from my point of view. They're my community, but it's a small one. My family, smaller than my group of friends, also fits into this group, as I share a lot of friends with my family members.

I have a job, and with that job comes a number of coworkers (hello, coworkers!) who I consider to be my work community.

Aside from that, I have nobody. No more communities from which to meet new people. No outreach beyond the limitations of Facebook. Since I no longer belong to any church, I don't have that group to draw from.

I suppose, geographically, I have the city of Minneapolis as a community. But these days, no one goes out and talks to their neighbors. I talk to the people who live in the other side of my duplex because we share a garage and a front door. I've spoken to the neighbors in the next house over because their dog will sometimes run over to our yard. But that hardly makes it a community. Generally, we're a society of loners. Loners who don't trust other people with their names, let alone open themselves up to the vulnerabilities of friendship.

Where the hell am I supposed to meet new people? I can't just go knocking on people's doors - they'll think I'm trying to sell them something!

"But wait!" you readers yell, "There's one community left! The Internet!"

Right! How could I forget about you, my beloved interwebs?

You see, everyone who reads this blog becomes part of this online community. We share our stories and our thoughts. That's one of the things I learned at the Minnesota Blogger Conference, after further reflection. There is a strong blogger community here in Minnesota. In the last week I've met a lot of new people, and even more people have stopped by here at Things You Really Didn't Want to Know.

(Hmm. Just realized how wordy my blog title is. Might need to think up a new one and make "tyrdwtk" the subtitle.)

So I want to thank all of you. Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your blogs and your thoughts with me. Thank you for being my community.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Athletics - Both Personal and Professional

Lots of topics to cover in today's post.

If you didn't know already, I'm currently training for a half marathon. Thankfully, it's over a year away. Today in my training schedule, I was supposed to walk for twenty minutes. That's it. A mere 20 minutes. Not much, right? For me, it's quite a bit. I managed to go a whole mile today, and I'm happy about that. I have 13.1 miles to conquer before next November, and I'm getting close on that first one.

As for professional athletics, my heart belongs to baseball. And as long as it's still baseball season, I'll watch baseball if the Twins are playing. The Twins have been having a great year, and I look forward to watching them until the bitter end. This week, starting tomorrow, the Twins have a three-game series with their rival team, the Chicago White Sox. I'm insanely excited about this series. It should be fantastic.

Being the geek girl that I am, it's a bit surprising how much I enjoy sports - at least baseball and football. I'm in two fantasy football leagues this year (and, being the total nerd that I am, I want to add the word "final" before the word "fantasy" any time I talk about fantasy football - I've played too many video games). My teams haven't been so great. But I think I figured out why I enjoy fantasy football - it's all about the stats. The way your team scores points is purely based on individual stats from the game itself. I love it.

Though, I must say - I'm starting to question my choice of Joe Flacco (of the Baltimore Ravens) for my quarterback. I'm watching him play tonight and he was sacked and fumbled the ball on his first play, and just now threw a massive interception. I hope this game is a fluke.

Another reason I like football: it includes terms like "sack" and "tight end," and my personal favorite "long snapper." I don't know why that last one amuses me so much, but it always makes me giggle.

Side note: I'm watching Monday Night Football on ESPN, and I keep seeing commercials for a movie called "Devil" about people trapped in an elevator where horrific things happen. Yes. This will surely cure my fear of elevators.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Unbridled Narcissism

In the immortal words of James Lileks, writing a blog is "unbridled narcissism."

That's just one of the things that I learned at the Minnesota Blogger Conference today. I learned a lot.

I learned that it's not unusual that I write about myself. Apparently a lot of bloggers do. Really, looking back, I shouldn't be surprised. I read a lot of personal blogs, and I know that others write them. I guess it was just reassuring to see and meet a bunch of other people who basically keep a journal as a blog, like me.

I learned all about Google Analytics. I already have it set up on this blog, but it was really great to learn how to use it better and learn more about the visitors to my site.

I learned about blogging tools, like Posterous, Tumblr, and SquareSpace. I'm contemplating moving my blog to a new place, but I have a lot of research to do on the subject. If I really am serious about this blog thing, though, I really should consider something more serious than Blogspot.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I'm shy. Of course, I already knew that I was shy. I've been shy my whole life. But this is the first time in quite a while that I've been thrown into a situation where I don't know anybody. I'm not good at talking to people I don't know. I'm not good at introducing myself. It kind of felt like the first day of school or the first day at a new job. Also, there was no booze. I'm way more outgoing when booze is involved (just asked the folks who shared a table with me at the Bulldog after the conference... it doesn't even take much to get me talking).

Wow, I just realized how sad that sounds. I don't need alcohol to meet people. It just makes things easier for me. I think I was just intimidated by the number of people there - over a hundred bloggers in one room. And a lot of these people were successful, making lives and careers out of their blogs. Mine is just a lark, really, something I do for fun.

Of course, that gets me thinking, too - was this conference even for someone like me? A casual blogger who sporadically posts about her life? I don't know. I enjoyed it, so that has to count for something. I did take something home from it, too (and I'm talking about more than just the notebooks they gave to every attendee). But I doubt I'll ever achieve the kind of success through blogging that many at this conference have gotten.

Well, whether I belong or not, I still believe James Lileks with the whole unbridled narcissism thing. I started keeping this blog because I like talking about myself and the things on my mind. Is that so wrong?

(Side note: the spell check on the Blogger web interface does not think that "bloggers" is a word, nor does it think "Blogspot" is a word. However, "blogger" singular is a word, as is "blogging" and "blogs." I think they might need to expand their dictionary to encompass more words related to their subject matter.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quick Update

No time for a full-length post today.

I just finished watching my DVR-ed episode of Master Chef from last night. There was a little ad in the corner of the screen that announced the auditions for Season 2 of the show.

Of course, I went to the website after I was done watching the show. Not a lot of info up yet, but there's a spot where you can submit an application. You have to include a picture of yourself and a paragraph about why you think you should be the next Master Chef.

A picture? Really? I mean, I know it's ultimately a TV show. If you're on the show, your face is going to be broadcast across America on television. But I don't think how you look should play a part in whether or not you get to audition for the show. I mean, it's about cooking, right? Food? Not how well I photograph.

Whatever. I don't know if my half-marathon training will get in the way of this. I might postpone the Master Chef auditioning until after the Valley of Fire trip. It might be too much to handle if I were to get anywhere in the audition process - because I'm certainly not going to abandon the half marathon.

I don't know. Need to think about it. I'm also waiting for more info to be posted on the Master Chef auditions. For example, if they're going to come to the Twin Cities, I might have to go for it. But I don't know...

... yeah. Not sure.

Ok, I guess that post wasn't so short after all.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

American Cuisine and the Stairway of Death

Today's topics are completely unrelated. Mostly.

Since I'm trying to make better decisions about what I'm putting in my body (to coincide with the whole getting-fit thing I'm trying out), I decided to have a salad instead of the four-cheese chicken penne pasta. Of course, being the fat-addict that I am, I choose one of the least healthy salad options: the Caesar Salad. One of my favorites, too. From the restaurant downstairs from my office, the salads typically come with a piece of bread. I told the guy behind the counter to skip the bread.

"Do you still want croutons?"

"Of course," I replied. I love the croutons in this salad. Of course, that just means that it's even worse for me, health-wise.

It's also, in true American fashion, large enough to feed a family of four. I will probably eat the whole thing, too.

However, I feel like I deserve it today. We had a fire drill at work. In our old building, that meant that we gathered around the entrance to the stairwell and talked about what we would if there were a real fire. In this building, it meant we actually had to evacuate the building. Oh, and the elevators were turned off.

At least it's down and not up. But even down is more work than I ever would have expected. I started getting dizzy after only about five floors. By the halfway point, I had peeled off my fleece jacket (it's cold in the office) and was starting to sweat. At about the 8th floor, my ankle started to hurt and my calves were feeling sore. By the time we walked a block away from the building, I'm surprised I was still standing. My legs were shaking. Every time I shifted my weight, I thought I was going to fall over.

Thankfully we got to take the elevators back up. My legs are still a little sore, but I think I'll be fine in the end. What I learned about this experience is that in the event of a fire, I better get a five-minute head start - because I took those stairs slowly. I didn't want to fall!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not Feeling it...

You name it, I'm not feeling it. I'm not in the mood to write a post today.

I'm not in the mood to be at work.

I'm not in the mood to go to Pub Quiz tonight.

I'm not in the mood to do laundry or make dinner.

I'm not in the mood for anything other than sleep.

Except maybe watch some TV. I could probably do that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Growing Up and Moving On

Today I went to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

When I was a teenager, I absolutely loved Fest. It was my favorite time of year. My first job was out there, and I started working there when I was only 14 years old. I sold disgusting potato skins with cheese sauce and bacon bits. I counted out change and shouted "Huzzah! Twenty pounds for the king!" any time someone handed me a $20 bill. I spoke in a bad English accent. I loved it. I lived for it.

It was hard work - that I can't deny. I learned a lot about life (though not much at all about the actual Renaissance period) and even more about working for a living.

But, to be honest, it was more fun than anything. I got to hang out with other Fest devotees. I got to see all the acts. I learned how to juggle (and I still can). I watched the glass blower and the falconer and the jousting. I rode an elephant and ate a turkey leg. Maybe the best part was that i got to wear a costume - one of those bodices that squished up my boobs and displayed them prominently (though I didn't wear one of those when I was 14 - that came when I was older).

Today was my first trip out to Fest in a few years. Increasing admission cost and just a general lack of time has kept me home. I was kind of excited to get back there.

But once I was there, it just wasn't as exciting as it once was. I wasn't even interested in most of the food. I looked at a lot of jewelry, and other hand-crafted items. They're all very nice, but most of it just isn't my taste anymore. I guess I've grown out of dragons and fairies and swords and amethyst. I did find a few pendants and stones and a pair of earrings, though.

I also enjoyed a couple comedy and juggling shows. I ate beer cheese soup in a bread bowl. That was tasty.

In the end, though, I think I'm done with the Renaissance Festival. It just isn't for me anymore. Those days are behind me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Team Becky

I'm completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for my decision to run the Valley of Fire half marathon.

I had comments on the post here, tons of comments on Facebook where I posted a link to the post. I got emails and private messages and text messages. All messages and comments of support and encouragement. I even had a friend offer to train for the same half if it keeps me motivated.

Go Team Becky! We're running a half marathon!

Training starts tomorrow, where I'll get in a few hours of walking around the Renaissance Festival. The real training starts Tuesday.

In other news, I'm watching the Twins Legends Game on TV right now. I'm beyond entertained seeing these Twins greats playing at Target Field. A lot of them are not in baseball shape anymore. Someone just threw his glove at a line drive that he had no chance at catching.

I'm so amused. The game just ended. Everyday Eddie Guardado got the save. It was very strange to see Bert Blyleven in a Twins uniform again (and a bunch of other guys, but especially Bert since I see him on TV all the time). Very fun to watch.

But now it's time for real baseball. Go Twins!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Adventures in Fitness

I am not in shape. Not by any means. Going up a flight of stairs leaves me winded. Walking more than a couple blocks makes my lower back hurt. My feet are constantly swollen, and I can't fit into most of my shoes. I'm not in shape.

This is a fact.

I want to change myself. I want to be in shape. But it has become such a daunting task that I'm afraid to even begin. Also, I'm so stubborn and set in my daily routine that I don't want to devote the time to working out.

This needs to change.

In my life, I have done (I believe) five 5k races. I walked all of them, a few of them with some running thrown in. My best time was 52 minutes. My last 5k was Thanksgiving last year, where I finished in an hour. It was hard work.

I have some key friends and family members who are into running. They're runners. They do events. They train for marathons and triathlons and relays. To most of them, a 5k is nothing.

One friend has been researching half-marathons to run in the end of the year this year. She narrowed it down to two races: the Tucson half-marathon and the Valley of Fire half-marathon (that's a state park near Las Vegas). After weighing the pros and cons of both, she said to me "I'll do the Tucson one this year if you do the Valley of Fire one with me next year."

I freaked out.

I can't even walk a mile right now. How on earth would I be able to run thirteen miles in a mere year and a couple months?

I'm very good at talking myself out of things. I need others to help talk me into them.

My friend offers words of wisdom. I talk it over with another friend. My biggest fear at this point is, what if I try and work and think I can do it, then get there and fail? How much will that crush me mentally? How destroyed will I feel? Suddenly the fear of failure is worse than the fear of beginning.

My other friend brings up a good point: "Just think of what kind of shape you'll be in a year from now if you do this. Think of that compared to how you are now."

And that was enough. I haven't told my friend yet (she'll find out by reading this), but I'm going to do it. I'm going to start training next week, and I'll do the Valley of Fire half-marathon in 2011. After a bit of research, I've learned that there's a 10k at the same time as the half. I figure if I work towards the half, but don't feel ready (really don't feel ready - not just insecurity, but actually not ready) for a half, I can do the 10k instead. But that's just a safety net.

I'm training for a half-marathon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Extended Weekend

Today is the first day of my four-day weekend. I slept in until 8 this morning. It felt great. I made coffee this morning, but it didn't taste great. I think my coffee might be bad. But that's all right - I know how to deal with that.

I think I'm already on my way to making myself feel better all-around. I haven't really been myself lately, and I think taking this extra day to relax will be good for me in the end. You know - getting myself back on track and all that.

And what would the real me do right now? Talk about what I watched on TV last night, of course.

If you haven't watched last night's Project Runway yet, do not read any more of this post. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

I'm totally addicted to Project Runway. I love it. This season is amazing. Not because of the fashion - in fact, I think the fashion has been particularly awful, but I don't "get" fashion. They always love what I hate and they hate what I love. But that's not what the show is really about. It's about the drama surrounding the people and the game - and boy has this year brought drama.

Anyway, even after that lead, I'm not really going to talk about the drama. I'm going to talk about a dress.

I've said season after season (since I started watching - this is only about the 3rd season I've seen) that they need to do a plus-size challenge on Project Runway - where they need to make something fashionable and flattering to women who wear large sizes. Enough with the stick-skinny models already. Bring on the girls with some meat on their bones. These are the women that your viewers can relate to.

This week wasn't exactly what I hoped for. It was a challenge where a bunch of women came out in their bridesmaid's dresses that they had to wear for their friends, and the designers had to take those dresses and turn them into something that the women could actually wear again - therefore, the women who owned these dresses were the models for the challenge. Some of the women were thin enough to be models. Some of these women were average-sized. One woman - the last one picked, in a bright magenta dress, was big. Maybe not as big as me, but she was big. I was excited to see where they were going to go with this.

The designer, Michael D., was ready for the challenge. Unfortunately, he had no experience designing for a plus-sized woman. He took an ugly color, and just tried to cover it up. He shortened the dress, but didn't help its shape. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't much of an improvement. The model was pleased with it, though. The judges, however, were not.

Michael D. was not going to win this challenge. He didn't deserve to win.

But that doesn't mean his look was the worst. I think there were at least two other dresses that were worse. (Gretchen, I'm looking at you).

Naturally, due to the judges' hatred for the look, he ended up in the bottom three.

All I wanted was for him to be safe. I don't particularly like Michael D. - he's not one of my favorites this season, but I also don't hate him. But I didn't want the one person who had to make a plus-sized dress to go home for it. For some reason, that just didn't sit well with me.

Maybe it's because I'm sometimes an optimist, and I want to believe that there's a chance that nice, cute clothes can be designed for fat girls. I wanted some sort of confirmation that it can be done. And sending home the designer who tried to make something good for a big girl was the exact opposite of the message I wanted to send.

In the end, Michael D. did not go home. He was safe, but only barely. I was relieved (and sad to see Peach go, because she was entertaining).

I'm still hoping for an entire runway full of plus-sized designs on Project Runway, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon.

I feel like I had an actual point to this post. But I lost it. Took me too long to write it. Extended writing, like my weekend.

... maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September The Second: the Blog-a-Thon Rolls on

Just in case anyone was wondering, it's still September. Oh, and today might feel like Friday, but it's not. Today is Thursday. You're welcome.

I've been having some trouble sleeping lately. I haven't been tired at my usual bedtime (between 9:30 and 10), so I've been laying awake in bed trying to fall asleep - because of my early work schedule, I don't want to stay up doing other things or else I'll be a total zombie at work the next morning. (Brains... er, I mean coffee. Coffee...). It's been really frustrating - in addition to having trouble falling asleep, I also have been waking up in the middle of the night.

Not cool, body. Not cool.

Last night was particularly awful. I made one of my favorite dinners - chicken and taco rice. I cut up a chicken breast and season it with taco-related seasonings and saute it. The taco rice is just one of those Lipton "Rice Sides" dishes. Super easy to make, and not bad tasting, either. Add some "taco" cheese (you can buy shredded taco cheese at any store) to the mix and it's a delicious meal!

However, around 1:00 AM, disaster struck. I woke up with the worst acid reflux attack I've ever had. I also felt like I was going to be sick. Naturally, I start to panic. Did I not cook the chicken all the way through? Had it gone bad? Everything tasted ok at the time, but this feeling was not good at all. Far from it. I kept telling myself over and over again not to throw up. When something I eat makes me vomit, I can't eat it again for years. (Those of you who went to college with me - remember how much I hated frosting? That incident that brought that on happened when I was about 11, and I only just started eating frosting again a few years ago). I don't want that to happen with chicken and taco rice. I especially don't want it to happen with something I cooked myself, because I don't know if I'd be able to trust my own cooking.

I ate a few saltines to try to calm my stomach. I took deep breaths. I swallowed a lot. I drank some water.

Eventually, things started feeling normal again. Eventually I was able to lie down. After about an hour, I was starting to fall back asleep.

Of course, my alarm starts going off at 5. Duty calls.

Commence zombification...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to September

Hello. My name is Becky and I am a blogger.

I've recently realized this about myself - that I may not really be a writer, but I am a blogger. And to celebrate this recent discovery, I'm going to write a new blog post every day in the month of September.

Hey, did you know September starts today? Crazy, right? What happened to summer?

Through the blogger grapevine, I learned about the September Blog-a-Thon. I heard it from my friend "Luther Liz", who has been very supportive of me in my adventures in blog-land. (By the way, her blog is great and you might want to check it out!)

Why blog every day? I just need to get into the habit of doing it consistently. Usually I only write here when something happens, but I feel like I need to work on my writing skills for even the non-interesting days. I want to take the boring out of my life and make it into something awesome. Maybe I'm naive for thinking I can do this through writing, but it won't hurt to try, right?

Besides, if I can write a novel in 30 days, there's no reason I can't write blog posts for 30 days. There isn't even a word count goal for blogging!

Bring it on, world!

In other news, I'm debating whether or not I want to go to the Minnesota State Fair on Friday. I'm taking the day off work. I don't really want to spend the money on it, since I'm saving that for Vegas, but I absolutely LOVE the Fair and the thought of missing it this year just makes me sad. But maybe once it's done I won't feel sad anymore. I don't know. I do think it would be good walking practice for Vegas, but eating all the deep-fried food-on-a-stick would really hinder the whole concept of trying to get into shape for Vegas. I guess money has to be the deciding factor. Spend it now or save it for later?

Friday, August 27, 2010

On Getting Carded and Turning 30

My 30th birthday may still be two months away, but I'm well aware of it. It's looming on the horizon, a significant milestone on the highway of life. The thing is, I'm not scared of it anymore. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have denied that it would even happen. Last year I threw my "first annual 29th birthday party," with every intention of having the 2nd annual party this year. I'm still calling it that (or "29th Birthday 2: Electric Boogaloo"), but I have - without a doubt - come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be 30.

I'm actually kind of excited about it now. With age comes wisdom, right? And I'm finally starting to feel "grown up" in other aspects of my life, so why shouldn't I embrace the new decade of my life? I have no reason to resist and every reason to welcome my 30s with open arms.

As for now, I'm twenty-nine and I have a very low tolerance for any person under the age of 25. Even worse is when people think that I'm younger than I actually am, and then they refuse to believe that I'm rapidly approaching 30.

In particular, I hate being carded to buy alcohol. I'll admit that I do look young for my age, but if you look closely, some of those hairs on my head are silver. I am aging, just like everyone else.

They say I should be flattered. I never am. It's more of an annoyance to have to dig in my purse for my wallet and remove my driver's license. I'd rather you assumed I'm older.

I understand that there are laws in this country, and I accept that establishments have to abide by those laws. They err on the side of caution. Generally, the guideline is to card anyone who looks like they're under 30. Great. That means I'll be getting carded for at least the next 5 years, probably longer.

There's a reason this topic is on my mind. I went to a ballgame at Target Field on Sunday. Beer was consumed - it's a part of baseball, in my mind. At the concession stand, I ordered a $7 Bud Light (I didn't have a lot of options at that particular stand), and immediately the woman taking my order asked to see my ID. After inspecting it (front and back), she looked at me and said, "There's no way I would have guessed you were born in 1980." I think I rolled my eyes in response. She obviously thought I was younger. All Target Field vendors are told to card anyone 30 and under. If she thought I was born earlier than 1980, she would not have asked for my ID.

In the stands at the game, I was sitting on the aisle. A vendor selling Mike's Hard Lemonade came by, and I bought one from him. As he's opening the bottle for me, he says something along the lines of "I don't need to see your ID, do I?" To which I respond, "I'm 30." He chuckles and starts to count out my change. "Actually, I'm 29." I'm not a good liar, even when it's a little tiny lie.

"I'm supposed to card you if you're under 30," he responded with a smile.

"I mean I'm 31!" I corrected. The vendor laughed. It was a good exchange, and I think he understood my mentality on the subject.

Sure enough, when he came back around at last call at the end of the 7th inning, I bought another Mike's from him. He's a good salesman.

Really, getting carded isn't that bad - and it doesn't really happen to me all that often. But I think that's why I find it so annoying. But I doubt I'll ever long for my youthful days when I was carded all the time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All-New Food Adventures Part 2

Previously, on "Things You Really Didn't Want to Know:" Becky went grocery shopping for some exciting new recipes, made a salad with mango and collard greens and managed to do a load of laundry. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.

After finishing the salad, which I admit took longer than I was expecting it to (I blame my poor mango-slicing skills), I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to start the Sloppy Bombay Joes before my laundry was done in the dryer. I don't iron (don't even own one), so all my clothes have to be promptly dealt with after coming out of the dryer so that they don't wrinkle to death. Believe me - death by wrinkle is not the way you want to go. Being unfamiliar with the recipe, I didn't want to have to stop in the middle of it to take 10 minutes to hang up my clothes.

I decided to wait for the laundry to be done. I knew there was about a half hour left on the dryer, and I conveniently had a half hour show saved on my DVR that I still hadn't watched. I sat down with my not-kale salad and ate that while watching the show.

All right, let's skip ahead to the next round of cooking. The Twins game was starting, so I put the TV on that channel and turned the volume up a bit so I could hear what was going on as I cooked.

For starters, I decided to do what the TV chefs always tell me to do first: prepare my mise en place. This meant that I had to mince some garlic and ginger, dice and onion and red bell pepper, and get everything else ready that I was going to need. In hindsight, I probably could have done this step while waiting for my laundry to get done, but it worked out all right for me in the end.

In my adult life, I've only ever owned hand-me-down knives. They're not very sharp, and they're not that great. I'm sure that 20 years ago when they were new, they were fantastic knives, but now they're crap. As an aspiring home cook, this really didn't help my chopping skills. Now that I've got this fancy new set of knives, I got to experience what it's like to use some actual sharp knives. Like the pros.

Not wanting to get into anything too messy just yet, I started by coarsely chopping some pistachios. Piece of cake! Only took about 30 seconds. Beautiful. However, if you look at the recipe, it never says you have to chop the pistachios. I think they were supposed to be kept whole. But that's ok. I chopped them anyway. (I think I was confusing this recipe with the one for the creamy pistachio pops, which does call for chopped pistachios).

Next adventure: ginger! Most of my experience with ginger is in dried, ground form (for gingerbread cookies) or pickled on my sushi plate. I've never used fresh ginger before - but I've seen TV chefs deal with it loads of times. I got out my vegetable peeler and got rid of the... skin? rind? whatever that outside layer is called on ginger. Sliced it, minced it and had a little tablespoon-sized clump of ginger. Beautiful! Garlic was more of the same (excepting peeling it is much easier). Beautiful!

The onion was on deck. (Since I was listening to a baseball game, I figured I'd go with a baseball metaphor for this paragraph). The previous 3 ingredients all got base hits (actually, the pistachios just walked), so the bases were loaded for the onion. Onions make me nervous. I always strike out with them. With a new knife (bat), could this aromatic veggie finally hit a grand slam? The knife comes down, and... well, it was a bases-clearing double. Not out of the park. Turns out I just don't know how to properly dice an onion, but at least it was fast with the super-sharp knife. And it didn't make me cry!

Next up was the red bell pepper. Those of you who know my culinary tastes are probably surprised to see this ingredient. I did buy a small one. I've always hated red bell peppers (and yellow and orange ones, but the green ones are ok). There's just something about them that isn't right, and their flavor always infects anything they touch. But it seemed to be a major part of the flavoring of this recipe, and I couldn't just leave it out. It also didn't seem right to replace it with a green pepper, so I went for it. Red pepper. That was way easier to dice than the onion.

I don't really need to give a play-by-play of the actual cooking for the most part. I just followed the recipe and did what Aarti told me to do. Heating up the raisins was funny - they really did plump up, and I was afraid they were going to explode! I was surprised at how little of the Indian spice, garam masala, went into the sauce. I was terrified that the flavor wasn't going to come through when the whole dish was put together.

So I was happily cooking along, step-by-step. Everything added as I'm told. I got to the point where the ground turkey was done cooking and I added the sauce to the turkey, red pepper, and onion. I want to tell you that it smelled amazing, but it really didn't. It just smelled like food, nothing special (yet). The last step on my recipe print-out was: "Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes."

"Wait a minute," I told myself. "There's something missing here. Where's the half & half, and the honey? And when do I add the raisins and pistachios back in?"

I read through the recipe 3 more times, and confirm on the ingredients list that those items were actually supposed to be used. It all seemed good. Then where was the rest of the recipe? Thankfully, my phone can use the internet (I didn't have time to wait for my laptop to boot up), and I found the recipe on the Food Network website in record time. I was missing a bit of the recipe! I felt like such a fool. Why didn't I check to make sure the whole recipe was there when I printed it out?

In any case, I added the half & half, honey, raisins and pistachios as directed, and finally, my dish was complete.

It still didn't smell special.

Tentatively, I took a bite.

It tasted fantastic. Freaking fantastic. It was rich and flavorful - it really came alive inside my mouth. The honey and raisins added a nice sweetness to the dish.

The best part? I even liked the red bell pepper. It didn't infect the whole dish! I actually LIKED it.

It was a bit more spicy than I expected. I did keep the jalapeno in longer than the recipe suggested, so that could be the source for the heat.

I really didn't need more than that teaspoon of garam masala - I could taste it.

I was fully prepared to "dress up" the dish with some more spices and flavors, but in the end I'm glad I didn't. It really tasted excellent and I probably would have ruined it. A sprig or two of cilantro would have been nice, but there wasn't much I could have done about that.

And that, loyal readers, was my first adventure into Indian cooking, even if it was just one step into the culinary realm. It was fun, exciting, and I'll certainly keep the recipe on hand so I can make it again.

Oh, and here's a picture of the finished product. I didn't buy any buns because they tend to go moldy before I can eat them all. I just ate it out of a bowl. And it was tasty.

All-New Food Adventures Part 1

I love to cook. But more than that, I love to watch TV. For someone like me, what's better than the Food Network? I watch it all the time. The current season of "The Next Food Network Star" recently finished. For those of you who haven't figured that one out yet, it's a reality show competition where the prize is your own show on the Food Network. I was rooting for Aarti the whole way, and she won. This last Sunday, her new show aired for the first time. I decided I wanted to make everything that she made.

Aarti is Indian (that's from India, not Native American), so naturally she cooks with a lot of Indian flavors. Something she does well is to take typical American dishes and recreates them with Indian flair. In the first episode of her show, she made Sloppy Bombay Joes, and I decided that I just had to give them a try. I also wanted to try the other things she made in her debut: Massaged Kale Salad and Creamy Pistachio Pops.

Monday I went to the store. Because my roommate works for Target, we always do our grocery shopping at Super Target. There's a longer story in there, but I don't want to get into it now. I was afraid that Super Target wouldn't have all the crazy ingredients I needed. I needed kale. Ginger. Cardamom and garam masala. A Serrano pepper - I didn't even know what one of those looked like, and I couldn't remember what it was from when Aarti cooked the recipe on TV. I needed cumin seeds, when I only had powdered cumin. I needed shelled pistachios and pumpkin seeds. I wasn't even sure if they'd have a mango.

Monday night is apparently not a good night to go shopping for exotic (for suburban Minnesota) produce. The label underneath a bunch of leafy greens said "kale," so I picked up a bunch. I didn't bother to check the label that wrapped up the bunch. When I got to the checkout counter, I noticed that the lady rang it up as collard greens. I figured she just had the wrong item number. Turns out it said "collard greens" right on the little label that held the leaves together. I bought the wrong main ingredient for my salad. Never mind. I'd make it anyway.

They were out of cilantro. Completely out. I even asked the produce guy. They were also out of Serrano peppers. I picked up a jalapeno instead. Knowing absolutely nothing about Serrano peppers, I had no idea if the jalapeno was even close to the intensity of a Serrano, but I was familiar with a jalapeno. Looking at this chart, I wasn't too terribly far off, and I erred on the weaker side. Considering my Minnesota taste buds, this was probably a good thing. I also couldn't find pumpkin seeds, shelled pistachios, or cumin seeds. In the end, I decided to leave out the pumpkin seeds, shell my own pistachios, and use the cumin powder instead of seeds. "It'll be fine," I told myself.

I also couldn't find Popsicle molds for the Creamy Pistachio Pops. I decided I'd just make it in a bowl and eat it like ice cream. The recipe even says I can do that.

My roommate also bought a set of knives for me - it's an early birthday present. The reason she bought them now ties into the reason we shopped at Super Target on Monday, and - again - not worth getting into it now. Let's just say that I got some new knives and I'm really excited about them.

Tuesday was cooking adventures day. It was also laundry day. I probably should have just stuck to one domestic endeavor, especially considering the experimental nature of the first domestic task, but laundry needed to be done. I got the first load of laundry into the wash, then started preparing my kitchen for the adventure ahead of me. I had to unpack and wash all the knives since they were new. I also had to clean a few dishes and put the weekend's dishes in the dishwasher. The Creamy Pistachio Pops had to freeze overnight, so I decided against cooking them - I'll make it another night. Instead, I washed the collard greens and removed their stems. By the time I was done slicing the collard greens, my laundry was ready to be moved to the dryer. Took care of that and got back to the salad.

The first thing after chopping the greens was to "massage" them with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. I've never massaged a vegetable before, so this was a new experience for me. I gently caressed the greens, taking care not to tear them or break them. On TV, Aarti said it would start smelling like bananas after a minute or so. I never smelled bananas - it must be something to do with the kale.

Have you ever tried to dice a mango? It's not easy. Those buggers are slippery once the peel has been removed.

I've never made my own salad dressing before. This one consists mainly of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. Now, I have a confession to make. I'm not really a big fan of olive oil. I hate the way it smells. The taste is all right, but I can't eat it without smelling it. This dressing has a lot of olive oil in it. A lot. I think that if (when?) I make this salad again, I won't use quite so much oil. It was too much for me.

Overall, the salad was quite tasty (except for the whole olive oil thing), and it would have been nice to get a little crunch from the pumpkin seeds that were supposed to be in there, but it wasn't bad. I'd really like to try it again with kale.

Here is a picture:

Since this post is now the length of a short novel, I'm going to make you wait for the next installment.

To be continued!

Next time, on "Things You Really Didn't Want to Know:" Becky learns about the usefulness of sharp knives and the wonders of ginger. Find out what happens when disaster strikes and Becky realizes that the entire recipe didn't print out. What will she do???

Monday, August 23, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friend

That's the Samsung Vibrant, my fancy-pants new phone.

I'm already a little bit in love with it. Although I have to say - it did come with quite a few features that I didn't care about at all. For example, to show off its amazing HD video capability (seriously, the screen on this thing is awesome for a hand-held device), it came loaded with the movie "Avatar," which most of you know I have no desire to see. I watched the first 30 seconds of it to see what the picture was like. That's about the extent of it, though. Now I just have to figure out how to delete it.

I wasn't planning on getting this phone. I wanted something cheaper. Instead of top-of-the-line, I wanted the top-of-the-line from last year. You know - the phones that have dropped in price to a place where they're affordable. No, I wasn't planning on picking up the most expensive phone in the store. But there was one thing that swayed me: included pre-loaded in the phone was an Amazon Kindle reader.

I've been having an internal debate about the Amazon Kindle (or the Nook from Barnes & Noble) for months now. Is it worth the money? Would I actually like it? Will I stop reading paper books if I get one, making my entire book collection moot? Is it really worth the money?

For this one, I didn't have to pay a dime (well, I had to pay for the phone, but I probably would have gotten it anyway). How could I say no? I already downloaded a bunch of old classics that are available for free. Even better, using the application on my phone doesn't seem to have too much of an effect on the battery level, which seems to be the main weak point with this thing. The battery barely lasts all day if I use the phone too much. But from what I understand, that's common with smartphones - so if that's my biggest complaint, I think I'm satisfied.

So I have a new phone. I love it. It's so pretty.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thinking About Phones

For some reason, I'm getting the itch to finally upgrade my smartphone to something actually current.

For those of you who aren't up-to-date on the Saga of the Smartphone, at the beginning of the summer I decided that I wanted a smartphone. After some shopping and reevaluation of my budget, I decided I could do it, and conveniently, my dad had an extra Android Google G1 phone laying around. It's an excellent introduction to smartphone technology, and I've really been enjoying using it. Plus, it was free!

But it's old. It's kind of slow. The camera is only mediocre and doesn't have a flash.

In the post I made before, I broke down a lot of the phones T-Mobile had available. Now a lot of those prices have come down, and there are newer, state-of-the-art phones available. I'm thinking of stopping at a T-Mobile store after work to see what I can afford these days. It seems to change quite frequently.

In other smartphone news, they finally started charging me for the data plan. I thought it would have happened last month, or even the month before. But I got the first 30 days free... except it was more like I got the first 80 days free. Oh well. I'm glad they finally added it to my bill, though. I was afraid I was going to get stuck with a huge charge for the data usage once they finally realized what was going on. At least now I'm paying what I was expecting to pay all along.

Edited to add: Friday. That's when I'm going phone shopping for real. I'm doing summer hours this week, so I get out of work at 2, I get paid, and there's no reason I should stop myself. This is something I've wanted to do all summer. Why not Friday? It also gives me something to look forward to.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Thanks to a post from Grammar Girl on Facebook, I learned that Penguin Books is accepting unsolicited manuscripts until the end of October.

I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. Dig through a box of my memories, and you'll stumble across a spiral notebook with a blue cover. Inside, on the first page, you'll see the title of the first novel I tried to write: "The Planet Ruled By Dogs." After the obligatory chapter designation, you will see (most of) the first sentence: "Once upon a time in a gala." That's it. I'm assuming I meant to write "galaxy" there, but I had no idea how to spell it, so I stopped writing.

In my youth, my writing adventures also led me to write a novel about my Lego pirate characters (way before pirates were cool), and the story of a female TV reporter who became a detective. I also tried my hand at sci-fi and wrote about an alien space vessel running from the evil alien overlord Gorgaxx.

At one time, I even created a pen name for myself. Not sure why I needed one, but it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. For a while, all the stuff I wrote included a "by Michelle Hamilton" tag line. I'm surprised I remember that one. I think I really wanted to be a Michelle when I was a kid.

The January after I graduated from college, I made a New Year's Resolution to do some writing - real writing, not some silly email I had to write for work or anything - every single day. I stuck with it until about September. I actually made some significant progress in what I considered my "real novel." That one even has an outline, and a title. "Tragically Flawed," it's called. It's a semi-autobiographic novel about a woman a lot like me who goes on a lot of first dates trying to find a good guy. She also has other challenges to overcome - at one point, she makes a life-changing career move. But after that year, I didn't really work on it again. It remains unfinished.

I've written since the downfall of "Tragically Flawed," but nothing serious. National Novel Writing Month comes and goes every year. Sometimes I finish, sometimes I quit. But I've never created anything there that's worth working on or polishing. Certainly nothing I could bear to submit to a publisher.

You could say that I am a writer. You're reading my writing right now. And I really enjoy writing in this blog. I guess I just always pictured myself to be a fiction writer. This blog is far from fiction, and I don't really know how to translate this kind of writing (the kind I'm best at) into something as lengthy as a novel, or with any kind of plot. My hairstylist once told me I should write essays like David Sedaris. I do like David Sedaris, and I could likely fill a book with all the stories I can tell, but if that's the sort of book that I want to submit to Penguin. I think I lack the necessary confidence. And experience. Maybe even talent.

But at the same time, wouldn't it be great to tune into NPR and hear me reading one of my essays on "This American Life?" I would enjoy that very much.

Perhaps the best thing for me now is to keep doing what I'm doing. I'll keep up the blog and you'll keep reading it. Fun for everyone, even if it's not NPR.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

Why do I feel like I've written on this topic before? I really do. Maybe I just put it in a status update on Facebook or something, because I looked and didn't find it in my blog history here or in my notes history on Facebook.

If I have written on this topic, I apologize for the redundancy. If not, then please disregard this disclaimer.

Dating websites. That's nothing new. We all know that I use the internet to meet men. If anyone is surprised by this, you must be a first-time reader. Name the dating website and I've probably used it at some point in time.

My favorite dating website is still OK Cupid, mainly because it's free. Today I went there to just check and see how things are. I clicked the button to "roll the dice" for a random match's profile to be displayed.

The guy who appeared is reasonably good-looking (if a bit thin), seems nerdy enough but not too nerdy. The profile was mostly well-written except for a misused "your" in one section (he should have used "you're"). He's 30 years old and lives in Minneapolis. But he's in a wheelchair.

Now, I like to think that I'm progressively-minded and that I take people for who they are, not by their physical limitations. Don't judge a book by its cover and all that. But there's also part of me that wonders if I'm just too shallow to date a guy in a wheelchair.

Suddenly, another thought rears its ugly head in my mind. What if I'm only thinking about contacting this guy because it means that if I end up dating him, I won't have to walk up any stairs while out on a date? I get really sweaty, and it's sometimes embarrassing while I'm out with a man and my back starts sweating because we climbed a particularly large flight of stairs. Is this a lose-lose? Am I shallow AND an awful person?

I don't know. Maybe I'll hold off and try to figure out if I'm actually interested. Or maybe I should figure out if he's interested in me. I saved him as a favorite on OK Cupid, and the site will notify him that someone has done that. If he contacts me, I'll give it a shot and we'll see what happens...