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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wow... 3 Weeks Already?

I can't believe how quickly time flies. I also can't believe the walls of my gym didn't cave when I passed through the doors today. I made it back though... thank goodness.

We all suffer from PISD (Post Ike Stress Disorder) -- getting back into the routine of life again is so hard. It makes me realize how much a creature of habit I am. For me, work, food and exercise go hand-in-hand.

25 Days until the LiveStrong ride. The more weight I drop, the less I have to lug around. So if that's not motivation enough to get some extra cardio in, nothing is!

I've also commited to the 2009 MS150. Don't know for sure which team I'll be riding for; Bike Barn, Sun and Ski or Mission Control, but me and my cohorts will definitely find solace among others in a team-friendly environment.

We're still waiting for an adjuster to come to our home and assess the damage Ike did to our home. It's hard being patient, but we know there are others who are looking at the sky through their roofs, or worse have no roof (or house!) at all.

In the midst of all this, my Cassafrass turned 4! We had her birthday party at gymnastics. Not a ton of kids showed, probably because of Ike, but enough to make it fun. I'll post some pictures, but until then, here's my annual video reminder of her birth day:



Here's a funny thing... one of Cassie's classmates said "Ike needs a spanking and a long timeout!" I couldn't have said it better!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cart Wheelin' Crazy

Not bad for almost 'technically' over 40. I was celebrating at my Daughter's birthday party. Now that's something I wouldn't have done 2 years ago. LOL



Update Picture...

Not the most flattering, no hair done... no makeup. In fact, this was the day after Ike blew in and I just cleaned out the bathroom. I was taking pictures of the ceiling!
22 Months ago...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rock It Like a Hurricane... IKE!

Okay, the first thing is we're safe. :)

Second, we've also learned what our threshold is for sticking it out for another hurricane. Before it was a category 4 and higher, we would leave.... after this category 3 and higher. Even then a category 2 was pretty scary to get through.

I'm thankful that Cassie didn't understand the magnitude of what was about to happen, otherwise there'd be no way she would have slept through it! At least someone slept, because Mommy and Daddy sure didn't!

All of our neighbors banded together, which took the edge of the fear and frustration off. We shared food, water and generators -- yes! We were lucky enough to share a generator with someone! We were able to keep our food cold through 2 days of no electricity.

Ironically it was while the eye was passing over us that we saw the transformers blow in our neighborhood. We had water the next morning, only to find it stopped for several hours after. Water service returned but not the electric.

Ike took a good hit at our roof. At one point in the night we thought the roof was going to lift off the house. We called the neighbors across the street to ask them if they could see anything happening. They just said the roof looked like a porcupine with all the shingles standing on end. You could hear them coming off and sliding off. Some of them flung right off the roof with such speed that they were stuck in the fence the next morning!

Water was coming in the roof, leaking through the ceilings and air conditioning vents. After Ike, we got some more rain the next morning and the ceiling to our spare room and bathroom finally gave way to the water and caved in.

We drove around our neighborhood and quickly realized we were very lucky. We lost shingles that caused leaks, but others lost their roof down to the bare plywood.

We have some damage from various leaks throughout the house, but the biggest damage is probably ceiling. Our back doors and laundry room doors are so swollen you can't shut them. There's also a leak in the wall! It just amazes me how the problems just trickle down from the bad roof.

Here's some pictures, in no particular order...

This was the next morning after it was safe to come out...
I had already cleaned up the shingles.


This is evidence of the speed with which the
shingles were flying through the air.

This is the house boarded up, pre-Ike

More of the house boarded up...
we tried to protect our house!

Darren's handy work on the temporary roofing...


The next day, after Ike, this once dead and
written off flower finally bloomed! It's a sign!!! :)
This was just one of many lines at the local
food stores to get non-perishables and ice.

This was the steel frame construction of a new strip mall...
those beams used to stand up straight!

Our ceiling in the spare room...

Ceiling in the bathroom...

It's over... now the real fun begins with insurance!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ready For Ike...


Being about 25 miles from the coast of Galveston, we're ready for Ike. See the little blue house? That's us, courtesy of Google Earth. :)

Of course the media is somewhat sensationalizing it. Go figure. Not that we're not going to have messy rain and lots of wind, but this isn't Katrina... or even Rita (for which we did have to evacuate).

Punkin's daycare was closed yesterday (and today as well). I brought her to work with me and my nearly four year old help me secure my company's technology infrastructure. :P "What's this button, Mommy?" LOL

On my drive home (which was freakin' awesome -- no traffic going South!) I was surprised to see how many major businesses had boarded up. It's just weird to see. I had filled my tank the day before, so I didn't have to deal with finding a station that had fuel. Stopped by the grocery store and picked up some last minute items. The store was crowded and people were literally buying stuff by the cases and clearing the shelves with their arms into their cart. "No canned chili for you!"

Hubs came home from work early, as his jobs operations closed along with NASA (he works for a subcontractor), since they are in a low-lying, mandatory evacuation zip code. He worked with our neighbors to get our houses boarded up. Some of us decided we're going to band together and hunker down for the night. We'll be Wii'ing it up tonight (for as long as we have power) and making the best of being couped up.

We're ready :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Emerald Cocoa Roast Nuts *WOW*

OMG... we picked these up this weekend at Sam's Club. I'm so glad we did!

I like nuts, but in spite of their nutritional value, they haven't always been my snack of choice,

Why, you ask?

Because even though they're full of good fat, I felt guilty eating them because they have more fat than I normally allow. I really am trying to change my ways and have been much better about it. Pat on the back for me!

I recently read an article that listed Almonds as being one of the top 10 foods to reach for if you need a snack before meal-time.

These Almonds are incredibly fresh and have a great crunchiness to them. The cocoa coating is light yet chocolaty, and have just the right amount of sweetness so as not to have that dark chocolate bite. While they taste indulgent, if you are expecting the chocolaty-goodness of real chocolate covered nuts or big ol' dark chocolate almond M&M's then you might want to leave this product on the store shelves for us smart snackers. :)

But... if you're one of us, and appreciate 12 grams of great fats, no trans-fats, only 1 gram of sat fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of high quality protein per serving, then this is a winner!



I think the worst ingredient is the modified food starch, which I suppose it helps keep them from being sticky, because they're not, in the least; as the website says, "sticky is bad." :) Sucralose and "AceK" (acesulfame-potassium) are the artificial sweeteners used; these are probably most difficult to pronounce on the entire label.

We purchased the super value large-sized container at Sam's club for 9.99 -- According to the website, they've partnered up with Amazon, but the Cocoa Roast doesn't appear to be available yet.

Perhaps I will move forward in true MM give-a-way style and offer a giveaway. :) Leave me a note and I'll enter you in the drawing. :)

Monday, September 08, 2008

I Knew It Wouldn't Be Long Before....

Armstrong to return, ride in '09 Tour
7-time winner to come out of retirement and race for Astana, sources say

Lance Armstrong will come out of retirement and race in the Tour de France next year, sources close to the situation have told Velo News.

Armstrong, who will turn 37 years old this month, would race with Astana, the sources said.

The seven-time Tour de France winner will race in the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia, the Dauphine-Libere and the Tour de France — for no salary or bonuses.

Armstrong's manager, Mark Higgins, did not answer questions.

An article about Armstrong's comeback will be published in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, Velo News said.

Armstrong reportedly will reunite with his former team manager Johan Bruyneel, who guided Armstrong and his teams Motorola and U.S. Postal Service to seven straight Tour de France titles.

Sources also told Velo News that Armstrong will post all of his internally tested blood work online to prove that he's clean.

Taking a Rest

For the last few days I have been taking a rest. It seems that I may have been over-training. I'd never accuse myself of that before, but the facts are the facts. I've been realllllllly tired and have not been sleeping well at night. Add to that I injured my right tricep Brachii.


After thinking about it, I think I can pinpoint the weekend it started -- when I took the spin and lift class back-to-back, and then lifted the next day. My lifting sessions have been of hefty volume and I've just be constantly sore. I had not be able to fall asleep at night and have been waking up repeatedly. One morning, a Saturday, I woke at 3:30 am and could not go back to sleep!


I admit, on the weekends, I am not nearly as militant about eating every 3 to 4 hours. I'm usually running around getting things done and grab food when I can. So, since last Wednesday I've been resting, going to bed early and I think I'm getting back on track. I was able to sleep through the last 3 nights pretty soundly. Thank goodness, because I can be a cranky-pantz when I am tired.


I'll return to my workouts this week, but only light to moderate. My arm is feeling better, so hopefully that's no big deal. I've got two months to get miles in for the LiveSTRONG ride the end of October, and I'd really like to do the 90 mile route. After the MS150, I know I can do the mileage, I just don't want to take all day to do it! I think getting on my bike a little more, and during the week, will be helpful.


On Saturday we recovered my dining room chairs... I know, fun! They have off-white cushions and we just had them cleaned, so they needed to be covered ASAP. Later that afternoon we headed to Galveston. We went to Mario's for dinner and took a walk on the beach. It was one of the few weekends, weather-wise, that I enjoyed living in Houston. :)






Originally Cass wanted a Barbie Mariposa party. I had made some really pretty invites, but couldn't find Mariposa party stuff! If I was doing it at home I probably could have been more creative with decorating, but we're doing it where Cassie takes gymnastics, so we're limited. It was a bummer for her, but now Punkin's birthday party is Mickey/Minnie themed. I did the invitations... they came out cute!



What else is going on? Let's see.

I am going to volunteer to register voters this weekend. I've never done that before, so it will be a first.

I'm finally going to get my hair done... can't tell from the picutres, but now my gray roots look like highlights... and not the flattering kind

Mom and my nieces are coming to visit (for the birthday) -- they'll be here in 10 days.

I need to paint Cassie's Room... just got her some new bedding... I have a ton of great ideas, but not nearly the time I need for execution! The bedding is pink and brown with little sequin, rhinestone and tulle accents. I was going to go Disney, but all the bedding I found was not anything comfy that I would want to sleep in... it all felt as if you washed it once it would fall apart. I think she'll like this when I'm done...

I want to do her walls brown, halfway up and the pink on top. but instead of a chair rail I might make it wavy and trim the wave with something sparkly. Darren and I are going to cut her a daisy shaped headboard from plywood, and I'll repeat the daisies on the wall as a border I think. Like I said, lots of ideas, but no time to execute! It's hard too when your preschooler wants to help you with EVERYTHING! :)

That's it for now... ought to get to work!



Friday, September 05, 2008

Luverly...

Sorry... I don't mean to get all political these days, but health insurance and taxes alone are serious issues to me and my family...

McCain's Plans Considers Health Insurance Taxable Income?

Sen. McCain's tax plan includes a new proposal that would result in higher taxes on the middle class. As even Sen. McCain's advisers have acknowledged, his health-care plan would impose a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years on workers. Sen. McCain's plan will count the health care you get from your employer as if it were taxable cash income.

Even after accounting for Sen. McCain's proposed health-care tax credits, this plan would eventually leave tens of millions of middle-class families paying higher taxes. In addition, as the Congressional Budget Office has shown, this kind of plan would push people into higher tax brackets and increase the taxes people pay as their compensation rises, raising marginal tax rates by even more than if we let the entire Bush tax-cut plan expire tomorrow.

Wall Street Journal Article

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What I Heard...

On my drive in I listened to Palin's speech on XM. I was totally insulted and was reminded of how Republicans feel the average people really have no place in government, despite the fact we all (party affiliations aside) put them in their seats, we were essentially bashed for supporting their "opponents".

Yeah, that will get me to change my vote. Bashing shows total respect. :-/

If being a little tree-huggin' in my belief that ordinary people can effect change, then

so be it. I can't say that I've believed it where politics are concerned, but at this point I am willing to share what I believe to be true in my personal life and apply it here. I am willing to make the effort to make the future brighter for my family.

I felt that in the spirit to which politics typically yields, that the Democrats' "pot-shots" at the Republicans, were not slanderous, disrespectful, cynical, insulting or hateful. Okay, I can keep it real: it's a convention... there might be a little embellishment for dramatic affect, but overall I felt that their pot-shots were more respectful than I anticipated they would be. Definitely more respectful than what I was appalled by last night.

It occurred to me too, that this new breed of Republican is the reason I hate politics so much. Some might call them "tough", but I call it tiring. If they weren't afraid, they wouldn't be on the attack with such force.

Even in everyday life, politics aside, what's the first thing someone who is ego-filled does to make themselves feel better? Attack someone else. I applies here too.

I listened to Palin's speech this morning. I admit it: I like her spunk. I don't appreciate her cynicism or insults to those who support the Democrats, but conversely there is something about her that is strong and I appreciate that. It doesn't mean I'd vote for her, but I respect the hard work which has brought her to where she is now.

I also hated they way she disrespected Obama and Biden. Referring to them only as "opponents" and rarely by name, and when their names were used, only twice (that I noted) did she even refer to them as Senators. Good grief! It's that kind of stuff that gets me. I hate the way things are twisted and taken out of context.

She says that Obama "isn't the same man in every state." That he "was different in Scranton than San Francisco." Inferring he was two-faced, well take a look at your buddy Ms. Palin:

http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/325.html

Okay, get my point? So maybe some of this was taken out of context, my point is, see how effective it is? It works as negatively to one party as it does another, so be choose words wisely.

Overall I felt the speech was effective, in that she introduced herself, her family and her experience. She's likable -- and I found out she's more than just a pair of cute glasses. :) Of course I had no idea who she was when I heard her name. When describing her family and relationships she was very casual referring to herself as a "gal" and her Husband as "still my guy" and was somewhat endearing. Do I think it boosted McCain's campaign? Not really. I think it helped his current supporters get-to-know, his VP choice. I don't believe that it swayed people from one camp to another.

To her credit, I respect her for clearly blaming the major media for the slander taken at her family, and not Obama's camp, which is more than I can say about some Republicans who candidly and frankly said that it was Democratic strategy. I believe Obama's clearly pointed objection on the subject of the media frenzy attacking Palin's family is totally in line with his core values as it relates to family.

She expressed her desire to make things better; you know the normal political rhetoric of Republican vs. Democratic approaches. And while there were no "real" solutions to issues presented, there is no doubt she will work hard... if elected.

She's just not MY "gal"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wii!

Well, we took the plunge. We finally bought a Wii and a Wii Fit on Saturday. I scored one on Craig's list, brand new. We didn't get a "deal" on it, but since they're so hard to find anywhere, it was worth saving the shipping/tax I suppose.

We bought a few games for it. The Mario Kart (for Darren), Guitar Hero Legends (for me) and a Disney Princess game (for Cassie). Of course we spent time on the Wii Fit as well.

I don't believe the Wii Fit is completely accurate, but I will say it is fun and it gets you breathing. I was doing the Yoga poses and breaking a light sweat; I was surprised.

What was real disturbing, and yeah, pretty funny, was how the Wii reshapes your "Mii". The "Mii" is a character form of you, the player, that you can customize with traits that resemble you. After the Wii Fit assessment ran and it told me I was obese, it then made my Mii fatter, and rode her shirt up! What the hell!?! :)

Anyway, on a rainy day this will be lots of fun. I won't be a real-life Guitar Hero anytime soon, trust me. I'm probably better off shooting for being a star Yogi. :)

I'll Take a Nonfat Latte with My Oatmeal

SEATTLE — Starbucks (SBUX) is on the brink of rolling out a serious reinvention of its breakfast food.

Details of the chain's long-anticipated move into better-for-you food — so hush-hush that it had its own code name, Morning Source — will be unveiled Tuesday. It comes as Starbucks' U.S. stores are struggling with drops in traffic and comparable sales growth as many cash-strapped consumers hesitate to shell out $4 for their java fix.

The more nutrition-friendly food — fewer calories, more protein, fiber and fruit — will show up Sept. 3 on the breakfast menu at most of the 11,570 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Six new items include hot oatmeal, an energy bar and a whole-grain apple bran muffin with fruit pieces.

Starbucks plans to revamp its lunch and dinner menus, too, in 2009. The goal is to lure back core customers who are visiting its stores less often and spending less when they do.

"Food has been our Achilles' heel," says corporate founder and CEO Howard Schultz in an interview in his office. He calls better-for-you food, part of Starbucks' evolving health and wellness program, a "billion-dollar" idea. Says Schultz, "This is as big an initiative as anything we can do."

Even so, Starbucks is late to the better-for-you food trend. It's made modest efforts in recent years to bolster the nutritional value of its beverages and foods, such as removing trans fats from its foods and switching to 2% milk. But for the most part, the company has been content to sit back and rake in profits.

The effects of an ailing economy on its sales have left Starbucks little choice but to up the ante on food quality. The move also comes as more cities require fast-food chains to post nutrition information on menu boards.

This year has been a nightmare for Starbucks — and for Schultz, who forcefully took back the CEO job in January. Since then, he's overseen closing 600 U.S. stores, laying off thousands of store and corporate staff, shuffling top management and scaling back domestic growth plans.

Still, Starbucks' stock is down nearly 25% this year. Schultz hopes better-for-you breakfast food targeted at its core customers breaks the bad-news cycle.

But Schultz, 55, concedes to a second driver for the menu upgrade: his own health.

During a physical exam last year, Shultz was strongly advised to lose weight and lower his cholesterol. He immediately replaced his usual breakfast at home of a bagel with butter and black coffee with a homemade protein shake. (He still drinks several Starbucks coffees daily, he says.)

Also, because of achy knees, Schultz recently gave up the pounding of rough-and-tumble basketball for lengthy bike rides.

He's lost 12 pounds since February and looks svelte. His cholesterol is down. He says he feels great. He's also had private consultation with Dr. Mehmet Oz, known for his Oprah appearances. Schultz says that Oz has helped him to view pursuing health and wellness as less a chore than a positive way of life.

He says the menu overhaul will give folks a chance to make "healthier" decisions inside — not outside — Starbucks.

Wooing the regulars

Industry consultant Malcolm Knapp says, "Starbucks is following a fundamental trend: People want to eat better-for-you food that tastes good."

He says Starbucks' real motive is less about selling more food than it is about luring back core customers to sell more highly profitable coffee.

He says it also will help Starbucks better distinguish itself from McDonald's, which now sells premium coffee and plans to install McCafé coffee bars in many of its 14,000 U.S. locations in the next year.

Frequent Starbucks critic and New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle embraces the new menu: "This sounds groundbreaking. If it works, it will influence the whole industry."

For customers such as Lynn Schilaty, mayor pro tem of Snohomish, Wash., it comes not a moment too soon. On a recent afternoon, she took a homemade energy bar to Starbucks, where she sat with a friend drinking iced tea. She says she wouldn't mind paying for baked goods at Starbucks but doesn't find much that appeals to her.

"I come here because I love the coffee," she says. But she says she'd probably go more often if she also loved the food.

Jeff Pettit, a project manager for Boeing in the Seattle area, says he likes Starbucks' food — but not the high calorie count of some items. "I won't touch the doughnuts or scones," he says, noting he checked online and found one scone was close to 500 calories.

Starbucks has heard from lots of customers like these. On its mystarbucksidea.com website, better-for-you food is a top request, says Sarah Osmer, director of health and wellness.

Making the cut

Even before that website went live five months ago, Starbucks regularly heard the request from both customers and employees, says Schultz. The problem: Starbucks' options were limited because Starbucks relies on outside suppliers to make its food.

With more than 70 suppliers nationwide, inconsistent quality also was an issue, Schultz says. To get consistency in the new food, the supplier list has been whittled to fewer than 12, he says.

Before the cut-down, Starbucks challenged all suppliers to help create the new menu. Of 200 food items considered over two years, says Lesley Zavar, director of the food category, these six were selected:

•Oatmeal. The whole-grain Perfect Oatmeal is served hot in a cardboard to-go bowl. For $2.45, buyers also get to pick two of three mixes for the oatmeal (served in separate packs): dried fruit, nuts or brown sugar.

Executives expect the instant oatmeal to be the most popular new item. It will roll out with the promotional tag line: Make Morning Good Again.

Schultz says they "cracked the code" on oatmeal, and its aroma does not detract from the coffee aroma in stores.

Nestle, the nutritionist who's not a fan of Starbucks coffee, says she'll try the oatmeal. But she wishes it was served with fresh, not dried, fruit. "I don't see why they couldn't do that."

Apple Bran Muffin. The $1.75 muffin with 330 calories is made with whole-wheat flour, oats, wheat bran, apples, cherries and honey. It replaces the current bran muffin.

•Multigrain roll. The $1.60 roll has 280 calories and seven seeds and grains. It's served with almond butter or strawberry preserves.

•Energy bar. The $1.75 Chewy Fruit & Nut Bar is made with oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and honey. It has 250 calories.

•Power Protein Plate. The $4.95 Power Protein Plate has a hard-boiled egg (from uncaged hens), a small whole-wheat bagel, a 70-calorie pack of peanut butter, a cheddar cheese wedge, apple slices and grapes. It will be sold at stores that have cold cases.

•Fruit pastry. The $1.75 Berry Stella started rolling out last month. The whole-grain pastry is made with seasonal fruits.

These will be offered in the same place that also still sells a 24-ounce Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino (with whipped cream) loaded with 670 calories.

Starbucks executives say it's about choices, which now will include better-for-you grub.

"One year from now, the entire food case will look different than it does today," says Michelle Gass, senior vice president over all Starbucks business categories.

It's working on new beverages, too. Out in July was Vivanno, a $4 fruit smoothie — Banana Chocolate or Orange Mango Banana. Based on early success, more flavors will come in 2009, says Schultz, who drinks two a day.

But organic food is not in the plan. Organic has not been a top request from patrons, Zavar says.

The Baby Boomer factor

The biggest market for the new food may be Baby Boomers "who want to extend their lives without sacrificing taste," Zavar says.

One such Boomer is Beth Hamlin of suburban Seattle. Though a frequent buyer of Starbucks coffee, "Breakfast at Starbucks hasn't been an option for me because of the choices."

Her husband regularly gets its breakfast sandwiches, but she won't touch them because she says they're "too fattening."

With some skepticism, she recently sampled oatmeal being tested at a Starbucks outside Seattle. She was surprised to find she liked it and says she'd buy it.

That's music to Schultz's ears. And, perhaps, future money in the till.

The way he sees it, the health and wellness program will let Starbucks act as a better-for-you food and beverage "editor" for customers. He says the company is being approached by many makers of high-quality foods that want to sell them at Starbucks.

If the new food is a hit, Schultz says, the day will come when he no longer will hear this most common of Starbucks complaints, one he visibly loathes to even say out loud: "The food's not as good as the coffee."

TELL US: Are you awaiting Starbucks' new food? Do you even buy food at Starbucks?