Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Year in Review

Battlestar Galactica
Some might say that I am a television snob. Some might say that I am a television junky. I guess both would be right. When I find something I really like, I watch a lot of it. With so many good shows coming to an end (Arrested Development, Six Feet Under, Sopranos), I am pleased that there is no end in sight for BSG.

Buffalo Chicken Cheese Steak
Okay, people. This is a very special sandwich. I know that most people reserve the term 'special' for events like recitals and people like life-long friends, but it is no exaggeration for this sandwich. The chicken is diced very thin and served on a fresh and soft hoagie bun. The best part is getting the blue cheese dressing on the side. My favorite BCCS is served at a hole-in-the-way shop called Campus Corner near Villanova University. I'll take you there when you visit, but will have to lay off the BCCS with my new healthy lifestyle. This special sandwich will be for special occasions only.

New Jersey Transit
Most people would not put anything from New Jersey on their list, but I am a big fan. I am no longer a Chinatown bus traveler. I have found a more relaxed way to travel to New York City. With only a few transfers, I can arrive at Penn Station in just a few hours.

A Day Late Song Discoveries
It usually takes me anywhere from a month to twenty years to fall in love with music. Take the fetching Shakira for example. She has been around for several years, but it wasn't until this summer when I developed a slight obsession with her. Then, there is Joni Mitchell. Why did it take me so long to discover her greatness? I have always been a fan of the super-smooth Al Green, but I heard "Take Me To the River" by Al and I thought I was going to go crazy! Simply fantastic!

Writing For Me
I just took about an hour to reread some of the posts that I have written over the past year. I give myself a hard time for writing garbage sometimes, but when I reread some things, I feel good. I am so glad that I took some moments to revere what is going on in my life, from simple to the most complex. I just reread what I wrote after losing my friend Mike. I am so glad I wrote it. I am so glad I read it. This blog is as big a part of my life as my morning coffee or my phone calls home to my parents. It is important to me because it reminds me of where I came from and filled with hope for where I seem to be going.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Big Question

I am not sure what I thought I would learn from my boycott of McDonald's in 2006. More than anything, I wanted to see if I could do it. It was simple enough. This is how I achieved such a lofty goal, my friends...

Just don't go there.
Don't stop.
Don't crave.
If you crave, replace it with something else.
Share this challenge with others.
Recognize that it is unhealthy on many levels.

When I stopped to reflect upon these strategies for anti-McDonalds success, I realized that these are strategies for a real, more frustrating part of my life. If I can apply these ideas to a fast-growing McDonalds habit, can I apply them to an all around healthy lifestyle of eating?

Just to see if I can do it?

People thought the McDonalds goal was silly at first. Just another quirky thing that Sara is doing, yet I think it was a baby step for what I am going to achieve in 2007. Over the past few days, I have developed what I believe will be a plan for success with my own health. Let me tell you about since one of my strategies is to share the challenge with others.

I have started using Sparkspeople which is an online support site that has message boards, recipes, food tracking, exercise tracking, goal setting, and more. I want to use Sparkspeople just as I use Blogger, my news sites, and email. The second piece of my success in 2007 goal is working as a team. Tim has decided that he would like to live a healthier lifestyle too. I can't tell you how much this helps. We can keep each other in check. Not let each other make excuses.

There is more to my plan, but it is boring and you probably know what it takes to be healthy. This is the weird thing about me. It isn't the pants size that motivates me or how I will look in the mirror. The biggest motivating factor is just like with McDonalds...Can I do this?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Card Givin'

People have strong opinions about a lot of things.

Bacon vs. Sausage
Hardwood floors vs. laminate
Sugar vs. Splenda
Starbucks vs. Dunkin' Doughnuts
Authentic vs. Knock-offs
Capitalism vs. Communism

Okay, that last one was a bit dramatic, but you get my point. I realized after the third or fourth complaint that people also have a strong opinion about Christmas cards too. This was the first year in six years of marriage that Tim and I have not sent a photo and/or newsletter of some sort. Instead, I bought what I believed to be lovely holiday greeting cards, wrote a message in each card, and sent it with great care and thought.

I thought that I could get away with it since Tim and I rarely change in a physical sense and not much happened this year. True, we bought our first home, but that is about it. Then, there is the blog. I thought that people had more than enough information about me at their fingertips if they really wanted to know the dirty details of my life. I even throw a picture or two on the blog.

It didn't matter what I thought, people want a picture or letter. More than one person shared their annoyance that I had left out the letter and/or picture this year. I am not going to sweat it because I rarely sweat anything. I don't begrudge the ones who want the photo or newsletter. They just want it for their keepsakes and all. They want to put us up on the fridge next to the other babies and families. This year, we are there in spirit alone.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Chums!

Top Reasons to Love Christmas

  1. The Baked Goods-From a very early age, it was the one day that you could eat anything you wanted. The baked goods table was set up with fudge, caramels, cookies, brownies, and candies galore. There were no parents standing guard or reminding you of the tummy ache these tasty treats might induce. Instead, the treats were yours for the taking. I was reminded of this childhood indulgence when I observed my little cousin, Ian, eating what must have been his fourth brownie in less than an hour. All the grown ups just sat and watched and smiled.
  2. Christmas Eve Church Service-Where I might be a bit of a heathen the rest of the year, Christmas Eve is the night where I go into the church and sing my heart out. I know all of the words. I know some of the harmonies. I even love the pre-teen soloists that have gotten up the nerve to almost sing in tune before the service. The candlelight service never loses its edge with a beautiful rendition of "Silent Night, Holy Night".
  3. Giving to Others-I love to find or make the perfect gift for others. I may strive for perfection, but it is rarely achieved. I would like to think that I have a 80% perfection rate when it comes to the perfect gift. I like to sit and watch them open each gift. It doesn't even have to be from me. I like it when anyone opens any gift. I like to see the surprise and pleasure they get. Even gift cards have the potential to be the perfect gift because I can see people's anticipation of choosing something just for themselves.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I am not sure if this is a true memory or a memory that I have made up along the way as I was constructing my own little version of my childhood. Nonetheless, it is as real to me as the nose on Rudolph's face.
I had to have been about seven years old when I first saw the movie A Christmas Story. It was at the theater with my friend Shelly and if that day was like many others, I am sure our brothers were a few rows behind us.
I knew at the time that I didn't 'get' all of the movie, but I still thought it was funny. As years went on and I would watch this holiday classic each year, I thought it was funnier and funnier.
Even the commercials that lead up to the 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS are hilarious to me. I love the it all. I love when Ralphie says "Fudge". I love when the old man loses his turkey to the dreaded Bumpuses's dogs, and my favorite part during the whole movie is when Ralphie beats up Farkus stringing together expletives like a pro.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Culture Shock

I have lived away from North Dakota for about five years now. Each winter when I return home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, I rarely notice the unique culture that exists in this little nook of the country. However, this is the first time that I have had a small dose of culture shock as I return to my cold, friendly, and laid back hometown.

At the grocery store this morning, I pulled up at 8AM. In Philadelphia, this would be a mental death wish because people would be getting all the things that they need for their morning meetings, like coffee and muffins. It would be a pretty busy place. However, the grocery store is calm and quiet. Just a few elderly people pushing their carts, eyeing the baked goods in the famous bakery. As I carry my bags to the car that I had locked out of habit, I see at least three cars that are running without any people in them. Each of them runs a good chance of being unlocked too. This would NEVER happen in Philly.

I was driving down what is Grand Forks's busiest road when I realized that there was no need for me to drive so aggressively. There wasn't any traffic although it was about 9 AM. Later in the day as I drove my mom to Starbucks, I merged between two cars. She scolded me to "squeezing in", but it is my natural way of driving now. Here in North Dakota, one puts on their signal for a long while, waits until there is at least room for four cars, and then slowly merges. Who can blame me? I have had to adapt to a new way of driving in Philly.

Don't get me wrong. I love North Dakota. I also really enjoy Philadelphia. There is something about this calm, kind, and relaxed way of life that I am thankful that I get to enjoy at least once a year. I am sure that there will be more moments during my week here, but for now, I will just adapt.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Donut Lovin'

I am the type of person that falls into good and mostly bad habits at a quick pace. Two is the number of times that I will do something and suddenly it is a habit. It is a good thing that I stayed away from naughty stuff in my adolescence and beyond because I could be a different person than the semi-functioning adult you see before you today!

My newest and not-surprising habit is a stop at the Dunkin' Doughnuts before work each morning. This might sound familiar to you since I have given plenty of shout outs to DD on the blog, but trust me, this is different. Each morning, before I even open the DD doors, the DD woman has my hazelnut with cream and sugar ready and on the counter. She is very friendly and I appreciate this gesture with a tip in her cup.

On Saturday morning, the same scenario played out, but I also ordered a breakfast sandwich for my train ride. She handed me the coffee, the breakfast sandwich, but an extra bag too! I look inside and it is a glazed donut.

"For me?"

The DD woman nods and tells me to have a good day. I was blown away by this fried and glazed gesture. People don't just do this in Philadelphia so I will add this to my "Reasons I Dig Philadelphia" list.

NYC For the Weekend

I feel quite accomplished this weekend. I took the train to New York City to visit my friend. She lives in Brooklyn so I also took the subway with one transfer to see her. She gave me the directions, but I managed it all on my own. I think now that I did it on my own, I can do it anytime.

I will never take the Chinatown bus again. This was so much more relaxed.

We checked out the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. The tree was spectacular, but the illuminated snowflakes that fell from the Rockefeller Center behind the tree added the magical touch. Shopping in midtown Manhattan was the busiest outing I have ever seen. We walked in baby steps as we checked out the window displays. It was chaotic.

One cannot forget the food when NYC is in conversation. We ate at Mama's in the Village. home style Soul Food. I wished for my camera as I sat down with my fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

It was the perfect weekend to get me ready for two more days of teaching and then, HOLIDAY BREAK!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


It takes a lot to piss me off, but some jerk on the phone really did a number on me tonight.

So, we've been receiving calls for a man named John since moving to our new house and our new number. I always politely say, "I am sorry. You have the wrong number. No one by that name lives here." This usually works. But! There is one guy who keeps calling. Tonight, as I told him my line, he replied with "Well, I will try back later."

I tried to stop him and tell him, "No, don't try back later because he will still not live here," but he hung up. So, I called him back with the caller ID number. He basically told me that he is going to keep calling until I can prove or the phone company can prove that John doesn't live here. I said, "That is harassment."

He said it wasn't illegal which makes me think that he is a bill collector or something to know that it is not illegal. So, I said, "Well, if I need to call the phone company like you said and tell them that we are the only people living at this number, then, I will not expect anymore phone calls from you otherwise it is harassment."

I cannot tell you how mean and assholey this guy was. He was terrible. He kept putting words in my mouth. He would not identify his company or his name. What is up with that? Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Where Have All the Barbies Gone

Kids grow up so fast these days.

I was sitting at a table with a few of my kindergarteners when one of the girls asked, "Miss Sara, what did you like to play with when you were little?" The answer is a simple one. Barbies. Barbies. Barbies. A few paper dolls thrown in as long as they were Barbie brand.

The five year old that asked the question just looked at me and said, "I am too old for Barbies." What?? I am almost positive that I played with Barbies long after I should have been playing with Barbies, maybe 12 or 13. How can a five year old be too old for Barbies? I bet I could sit down and play a proper round of Barbie.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Crazy Kind of Love

There is an exception to every rule. Even for a person like me who is a big believer in rules.

Along with Gloria Estefan, Def Leppard, and others, Mariah Carey is not allowed on my beloved ipod. Heck, they are not allowed anywhere I am currently in control of the radio/television/ipod.

However, I have this one little guilty pleasure at Christmas time. I love that song that Mariah Carey sings, "All I Want For Christmas is You". I think it has to do with the fact that it is sung on one of my favorite holiday movies Love Actually.

That's okay, right? I can hate on something all year through and break the lovin' out during the warm and fuzzy holiday time. Something that would be repulsive to me during any other drive time karaoke session can hold some enchanting ability to make me sing and bounce back and forth in my car without shame. And it is exactly that. I have no shame. I know something like five people in the whole state of Pennsylvania so I am never embaressed when some guy looks over at me while I am doing my best Mariah screech.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nigella Crush

Over a year ago, I wrote about the concept of having a GIRL CRUSH. Calm down, boys. It is nothing more than being completely infatuated with another girl who has something quite special to offer the world. Scarlette Johanson, Doris Day, and Anne of Green Gables are just a few of my past girl crushes.

I am happy to add the fantastic Nigella Lawson to that list. I knew this woman existed, but I recently watched her cooking show on food network, Nigella Feasts, and I am totally enamoured with Miss Nigella. I love how she loves food! I love food! I love how she is not a stick figure, but instead she is curvy and so classic. Everything she makes looks so good. I also love how she has her children in her kitchen.

Usually, I like anyone who loves food as much as I do.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Coffee Mishap

I am not sure why I keep making the same mistakes. Not that I have ever given birth, but I think my life is kind of like forget what it was like so you go and do it again.

For example, let's take Starbucks. I haven't gone to a Starbucks since this summer when I was without my beloved Dunkin' Doughnuts in the midwest. Besides the high prices for their drug, their coffee is never hot enough for me. When I am in a routine with Starbucks, I always remember to ask for "extra hot". Tonight, after a bitterly cold shopping trip to some outdoor stores, I stopped off at a Starbucks for a peppermint mocha, perfect for the holidays. I was so overwhelmed by all the options of coffee treats and crap that they were selling that I forgot to say "extra hot". Bummer. I got into my car and brought the cup to my lips for a moment of grand disappointment. I couldn't wait to get home and warm it up in the microwave.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Light Up My Life

The Philadelphia folks do it up right with their Christmas lights. In my new neighborhood, I am just a few houses away from what can only be a Griswold inspired light display. Not only that, but Tim and I are making plans for next to visit Longwood Gardens and walk through their light display with coffee (me) and hot cocoa (Tim) in hand. I guess they decorate the lights of the garden and it is something quite special.

Something occurred to me tonight. I was driving through a very upscale neighborhood when I realized that every house looked like it was right out of a Lexus add. You know what I am talking about...huge mansions with amazing, perfectly placed white lights.

Something else occurred to me too. These are not the type of people that get up on the ladders and spend hours placing each white light in the perfect location to make their homes appear more festive than the next. They hire this type of work out. I am not sure what I like better. The garish displays in my neighborhoods that regular folks spent many Saturdays perfecting or the obviously tasteful and swanky white light displays. I will say this...I do not like the blowup decorations. I like lights. I don't the plastic nativity scene that lights up. I like wreaths on fences and candle lights in windows. Let's keep it simple, people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Moment of Zen

This isn't the first time that I have had a musical beef with that Jessica Simpson. Remember when she covered "These Boots Are Made For Walking"? Terrible. That is one of my top five karaoke songs. Now, NOW! she takes it upon herself to honor the busty one, the lyrical one, the humble one...Miss Dolly Parton! This video says it all. Don't worry, you won't be dumber for watching it. I tested it for you.

Car Thoughts

I was driving down the road this afternoon and the relationship issue of burning bridges kept flowing through my mind. I am always amazed at how easy it is to mess up a relationship. On the other hand, some relationships can weather many storms.

I sometimes wonder if people know and appreciate the harm they do by doing nothing. By doing nothing, a person can basically injure a relationship through the ever-powerful tool of apathy. Can a bridge be burned through detachment? Or does it deteriorate through simple neglect?

Just some thoughts today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Things That Never, NEVER Get Old For Me

  1. Soft serve ice cream.
  2. Taking pictures with my camera.
  3. Rapping to Biggie in my car.
  4. Saturday Night Live skits involving, but not limited to, Will Farrell, Bill Murray, Bill Clinton impersonations, Bob Dole/Real World, and Mike Myers.
  5. Fantasizing 'bout having long, shiny hair.
  6. Plaid.
  7. Longing for the central time zone.
  8. The Philadelphia accent.
  9. Wedding dances.
  10. My email when it says NEW MAIL!
  11. Waterslides and roller coasters
  12. The Nutcracker Ballet

Oh, Snap

Well, I think the cold snap has begun in Philadelphia.

Today was the first day that my toes were very cold during recess. I think circulation gets worse with age. I recall standing out in the North Dakota recesses when I was required to send the children out unless it was 32 degrees BELOW zero and my feet didn't get so cold so fast. Maybe I have lost my North Dakota edge that I wear on my sleeve. Whatever the case, I am going to buy some boots. I need to buy some cute boots, not ugly ones. I won't wear ugly boots. However, they have to be warm too. A challenge.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Home Sweet Home

This is a photo of our living room as we viewed it when we put an offer on the house. Enjoy the baby blue walls and peach trim.

This is the living room after we painted it HUMBLE GOLD and white for the trim. Of course, our stuff is in the living room now. We are currently on the hunt for a picture or something to go above the fireplace. I am also a little home decor challenged so I am stumped with what should go under the tall white shelf above the book shelf. Any suggestions? The doors leading to the three season porch are still taped and ready for painting, but for now, they remain peach because it is too cold and I will end up painting them shut. I am also looking for suggestions for drape colors. See the window by the steps? I am not sure what color I should use there.

Check out some more pictures of this room. I will add some photos of the dining room once I have done a little more work to it. I am not sure if I need anything above the television center. What do you think?

One thing that I noticed as we put things away with this move, our stuff seems smaller. We've always had little apartments with very little wall space. Our wall decorations seem so small, like they are trying hard to fill a big space.

Holidays Are Here Again!

Saddest Christmas Song: I'll Be Home for Christmas

It is such a tease of a song. "Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree". What is the point of all of that if you are there "only in my dreams"? Although it is a bummer of a song, it is also one of my favorites. I have stumbled upon a version sung by the group HEM. Beautiful. Check it out on itunes.

Funniest Christmas Song: You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

I am not sure when this ditty became a holiday classic, but it is great. I was driving yesterday and getting my curse on when this song came over the radio. I couldn't help but be amused. It is more than a song, it is all the times that I watched this cartoon as a child and enjoyed it each season. With lyrics such as " You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch. You're a nasty, wasty skunk. Your heart is full of unwashed socks. Your soul is full of gunk," you have to enjoy it for it's eight year old humor.

Favorite Christmas Ritual: Decorating the Tree

We have this little Charlie Brown Tree that has followed us from apartment to apartment. Each Christmas, I receive more ornaments from students and the little Charlie Brown tree greets them with open branches. Now that we have a larger space for our tree, we just can't seem to get rid of it. It is perfect for us. No mess, no fuss. This is actually an activity that I do by myself. As a child, I always decorated the tree with my dad. We both loved pulling out the ornaments each year and pressing the buttons to hear the music or carefully placing each memory on the tree. Now, with my own ornaments, I like to remember the child, friend, or family member who gave me each ornament.

Favorite Gift to Receive: Christmas Cards!

I love going to the mail each day in December (sometimes into January) and receiving a pile of red and green envelopes filled with photos and greetings. People are so clever with their letters and updates. Although I know what most of my family and friends are up to on a daily basis, I still love to get the photos. For the past two years, I have scrapbooked the Christmas photos and I can look back and see how the children and families have grown. Although we do not have children, we still send out a photo each year. I usually do a letter too with our favorites from the year, but this year, just a card and a photo.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Movie Night

Tonight, we will watch Spinal Tap. I hope it isn't like Blazing Saddles. Everyone thinks it is great and I couldn't stand it. People always have a list of favorite movies, but I can never think of any. Sure, I like The Godfather and Good Fellas a whole bunch, but other than that, I am usually stumped. So, after much consideration, I am adding two more movies to my list. This might surprise some people but I am adding Elf and Something's Gotta Give. I love both of these movies. Both clever and laugh out loud funny.