Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comfort Ye

I've been spending a lot of time listening to classical music lately. This is a new thing for me, I've always loved classical music and listened to it frequently, however, it's all I listen to lately. The primary piece I have been listening to is "Messiah" by George Frederic Handel.

This was my mother's favorite music and we listened to it several times during the week she was dying. I'm usually not a maudlin person that holds onto things because they 'belong' to something or someone that isn't with me any longer, but lately, this music is providing me with a lot of comfort. “Comfort Ye My People” indeed.

The "Messiah" is an Oratorio. Similar to an opera, an Oratorio has a libretto; however, an Oratorio is usually associated to a sacred theme such as the passion of Christ. An opera is a theater piece with characters, a story as well as an orchestra, choir and arias and have more typically secular themes. An oratorio is usually suitable for a church. Protestant composers typically focused on biblical themes and Catholic composers tended more towards the lives of saints as musical inspiration

George Frederic Handel was a prolific oratorist, with "Messiah" being the most well known today. Composed in just 24 days, it's said that the patron that requested the piece was not happy with the result created by Handel. He felt that Handel had ruined the intent of the libretto he gave him with the music he composed. Little did he know about that this would become as beloved as it it has over the past 300 years.

There is no "authentic" arrangement of this production as Handel would change the arrangements of the music to suit the instruments he had available for the production. In my opinion, this adds to the beauty of the piece as it is able to evolve based on the current modes of instrumentation rather than being constrained to a vision that was popular three centuries ago. This allows us to enjoy such productions as the Silent Monks singing the Hallelujah Chorus without a hint of sacrareligiousness. (so worth watching when you need a good laugh.)

When I listen to this music, my heart swells with the majesty of it. The instruments speak to each other, questioning and answering, providing their own track of wordless lyrics. When the Hallelujah Chorus plays, it's all I can do not to jump up to listen to it when I'm at work. I did once without thinking and ended up with a welt on my face from the backlash of my ear bud cord.

I love the way the word are pronounced. The suffix 'ed was pronounced separately in the music. "Call-ed" and "Despise-ed". From my research, this was common for the time, in both music and poetry. I love how the words are matched by the music. Handel was known for "word Painting" which was matching the notes to the meaning of the words (i.e. the word 'high' would always be a high note and a low note would accompany the word 'low').

Speaking of phrasing, up until I was in my 30's, I couldn't figure out why it mattered that the chorus liked sheep. I didn't understand that the phrase was "All we, like sheep, have gone astray" not "We like sheep and the sheep that we like have gone astray". I giggle every time I hear this part now, even though I know it's a serious topic.

The music brings my mother to me. I feel her presence when I listen; knowing how she felt about the music has helped me to appreciate it even more than ever.

Consider attending a production of the Messiah, either as audience or participant in a sing-a-long, this year. The beauty and meaning of this music is moving and helps reconnect us to the Annunciation, the Passion, and the Aftermath of the life of Jesus Christ through a vehicle that can be meaningful to everyone. I have found one here in Chicagoland that I hope to attend the first weekend in December. I know that I will attend with the brush of my mother against my heart.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I Will Miss...

My mother, Ann Lucille Kelso Culbertson, passed away last night, August 23rd, 2010. She died peacefully after a ten years of contending with Parkinson's Disease and in the last few years, Lewy Body Dementia. I was fortunate to be there with her during her last days and I will always treasure that time.

My mother was born February 6, 1938 in Wallace, ID to Elva Lucille Rock Kelso and Weldon Lowell Kelso. Due to family moves, she lived in several places in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho while she was growing up.

She attended the University of Montana where she met my father. They fell in love over games of double solitaire while she was recuperating from mononucleosis in the hospital. Dad proposed on her 22nd birthday in February and they were married just after she graduated in June. They were married June 19th, 1960. My mother was 22 and my father was 21. They had a small wedding in a Presbyterian church in Spokane, Washington.

My sister, Kris (short for Kristine) arrived in 1961 and I followed in 1965. My earliest memory of my mom was when I had the chicken pox when I was about three years old. I remember sitting on her lap watching The Beverly Hillabillies on TV. I was a somewhat sickly child and my mother nursed me through two bouts of mumps, the chicken pox, scarlet fever and numerous bouts of strep throat and tonsillitis before I was five.

Some of my favorite memories are of walking through the woods on a girl scout outing and my mom pointing out the wildflowers and finding beauty in the mundane parts of the coast range forests. She also taught me to sew, cook, and call spatulas "rubber giggers" (I didn't learn until I was much older that no one outside of my family calls them that).

My mother was a librarian by profession. She was organized as the job requires, but also saw the creative part of the job which I think escapes many people. She was not the stereotypical librarian shushing people, instead, she wanted people to have access to the books and the treasures within. I have many fond memories of going to the library after school and "helping" check the books in, mend them, sort them and, later when I could read, hiding in the stacks to read my favorites. My mother is the one that led me to series such as Cowboy Sam, The Happy Hollisters, The Boxcar Children, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Little House series as well as gems such as Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan and Charlotte's Web.

Due to my mother's influence, I'm still an avid reader and find my escape in books. When my dad teased me for re-reading some favorite books, my mom said "Re-reading books is like finding an old friend". I still frequently re-read books and always hear her in the back of my head saying that.

My mother and I didn't always see eye-to-eye but I have always loved her without reservation. While I haven't lived close by for 15 years or more, I always knew she was there and available and part of my life. I will miss that most of all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back in Colorado....

Well, back in Colorado, under protest, way earlier than planned. I went to Washington on June 10th with the intention of staying there through the end of August, however, due to someone at my corporate office that is unhappy because she can't work from home complaining that I wasn't at my assigned "remote" location, I'm back in Colorado a bit earlier.

I feel for this woman on many levels. It must be torturous to live that way, always jealous of what other people have. Rather than setting an intention to get what she wanted and working towards that, she went out of her way to take something away from someone else. I suspect that her whole life is missing the things she thinks she should have.

I had a great time in Washington. I love the weather, sitting on the deck in the evenings with my dinner looking out over the pond, spending time with my parents. I really appreciate the time I got to spend with them. I had a lot of time to myself and rediscovered voracious reading which I haven't done in a long time. I was back to my old 2-3 books a week standard. Now that I'm home in the thick of things with Alex, Jeremy and Lucille, I've slowed down again.

We have a new family member, Ranger. He is a 7 month old boxer/lab mix. He is very cute, but if he chews one more cord (two keyboard cords, a laptop power cord, and an ethernet cable so far, along with a pair of shoes and the corner of my living room rug) he may be banished to the outside.

A 900 square foot house with three adults, an almost three-year-old, three dogs and two cats is not peaceful. But - I love the controlled chaos of having my family with me.

Monday, May 31, 2010


I know it isn't the first official day of summer, but Memorial Day always feels like the start. I alternately dread and look forward to summer for various reasons. In the past, I dreaded it because I had being too hot. Being 100+ pounds overweight was not conducive to being comfortable in weather in the upper 90's. In the northwest, it wasn't so bad because the upper 90's were the exception but here in Colorado, it's the rule for most of July and August and frequently September as well. And don't tell me "It's a dry heat" - once you pass about 85 that doesn't make a difference in my book.

Last summer after my by-pass surgery, I had the best summer since I've lived in Colorado. Granted, it was an unusually cool rainy summer, we still our share of 90-ish days. Being 75 pounds thinner made a huge (pun not intended) difference in my comfort level.

Regardless of the weather, I love the pace of summer. When I was in college, I always took classes in the summer. I loved the laid-back pace of the classes and the short terms (anywhere from two-eight weeks instead of the usual nine week quarters). My favorite summer class was an intensive French class that went for six hours a day for four weeks. I think I got 12 credits for that class and then still had about eight weeks of summer vacation before fall classes started again.

Now that I'm part of the workaday world, I still love the slower pace. I've worked as a salesperson or in sales operations in technology companies for most of my career. Summer quarter (July through September) is usually slow for the first two months from a sales perspective so it's a great time to work your day and then go home and enjoy the long sunlit evenings.

This is where I need to pause and mention how much I miss twilight. Because of our proximity to the mountains here in Boulder County, we don't have a twilight. Once the sun starts to dip behind the mountains, it goes from being day to night in what seems like minutes. When I lived in the Fourth Corner (NW Washington State), the days lingered for seeming hours. The sun would sink down below the horizon but the light would linger, giving us the illusion of day pausing to recollect the preceding events before giving away to the night.

I'm fortunate that I have a job that allows me to work from any location, so this year have decided to spend the summer in the Blaine Washington area in order to spend some time with my parents, my sister and attend a wedding in Oregon in August.

I'm really looking forward to the change of pace and seeing my family. However, I'm not sure what I will do without my daily hugs and kisses from Lucille. She is growing so fast and changing every day and I'm loathe to miss it. Thank goodness for cell phones and digital pictures across the internet. I will miss her every day.

I'm dreading this summer less than most and looking forward to it more than most. About the time I am ready for change it will be fall and I will regret any time I spent dreading the season. While I know that I won't be able to stop missing Lucille and her parents, I hope I can embrace the days and twilights I will have while in the northwest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lost Cow Here

In the mid -90's, I lived in the farm town of Snohomish, Washington on Lord's Hill outside of town in a small farm house. I loved living in a small town and hope to live in a town like that again. One of my fondest memories of my time in that town was driving home from work one evening and seeing a 12 or 13 year old kid along side the road with a cow tied to a rope and a sign penned on a piece of cardboard. He obligingly held up the sign he had made when I drove by so I could read it's message: "Lost Cow Here".

My dog, Chewbacca also known as Chewy, disappeared sometime on Sunday night. We are not sure how he got out of the yard yet, but did patch several possible escape routes. We are suspicious that perhaps a neighbor opened the gate for him. I have a couple of neighbors that would not be above doing that (my neighbors are a post all to themselves).

We searched the neighborhood on foot and by car and didn't fin
d him. I checked the Humane Society to see if he had been picked up, we checked 9th Avenue (which is a fairly busy street) to make sure there weren't labradoodle remnants (egad!) anywhere. At about noon, I got the call from the company that makes the locator chip installed in Chewy's back. They had a call from someone that had found him. She had the presence of mind to take him to a vet to be scanned and was able to get the Pet Link contact information who then in turn contacted me with his location. He was only about 4 blocks away.

I am completely sold on the microchip technology for pets. I thought it was a great idea before, but probably wouldn't have invested in it if the Denver Dumb Friends League hadn't provided it as part of the adoption fees. I plan to have a chip put in my other dog, Snoopy's shoulder before leaving to spend the summer in Washington state (alas, not Snohomish). We will be staying at my sister's home in Blaine Washington. Their five-acre lot is not fenced. While Snoopy stays close to home in general, I think I will take this step to protect him just in case. It's a quiet area with minimal traffic, but I will feel much better if I know that Snoopy can be easily identified should something happen to

While the effectiveness of "Lost Cow Here" signs may work great for livestock (although I have no idea if the lost cow ever found his way home like Little Bo Peep's sheep), I like knowing that my pets can be identified and I can be notified that they are found no matter what the circumstances are.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Monday would have been soon enough....

When walking through the airport last week, I overheard a phone call between a doctor and patient. In the midst of a noisy airport with announcements, people talking, swearing at their luggage, crying children tired of traveling, the doctor asked if they had an oncologist lined up. Based on the doctor’s silence after his question and his follow-on comments, I gathered that the patient had not had the news broken to him/her yet. Cancer. Lung cancer. The doctor stumbled over the news and apologized that the patient hadn’t heard the news as of yet.

To his credit, the doctor continued the conversation and tried to reassure the patient while advising him that he couldn’t make any prognosis without having more tests such as an MRI completed. After about three minutes, the doctor finally interjected and asked to call the patient back later as he was in an airport and couldn’t write down the information he needed to notify the patient’s primary care physician.

So many thoughts and feelings came rushing in for me; I had to sit down in order to process them all. My heart broke for the person on the other end of the phone. Anger at the doctor’s callousness for breaking the news in such a manner. Sadness at understanding that another person would be victim to the worst possible news. Sympathy for the doctor that had to break the news. Overwhelming fear that I could be at the other end of the phone again someday.

I heard the news of my cancer in a phone call. It was 4:00 on a Friday afternoon at the end of April. I checked my cell-phone voice mail and heard my GYN’s voice on asking me to call back for the test results from the biopsy she had performed earlier in the week.

We had scheduled the biopsy simply as a check-point leading up to an ablation procedure I wanted to help control the heavy periods I had had since I was a teenager. With a grandchild on the way and being over 40, I gave up the tiny hope that I would have more children and asked for the procedure that would likely end my child-bearing years.

My doctor had wanted to perform the biopsy just as a cautionary check-point as due to my weight I was at an increased risk for cancer. When she performed the procedure, she said everything looked healthy and we would be in touch soon to discuss next steps for the ablation.

When I hear her voice on my voice mail, I simply thought, how nice, the doctor called me personally to discuss the next steps for the ablation. I called her office; they initially said that she was in with a patient so I said I would leave a message. When I gave my name, she asked me to hold and a few moments later, my doctor’s voice came over the phone.

Still unsuspecting, I said hello. She said I’m sorry to tell you this over the phone, but I didn’t want you to wait over the weekend to get the news and told me that the biopsy had returned cancerous.

I was sitting in a conference room that was being used by myself and two other people as an office. They were getting ready to leave for the weekend, as I didn’t know them that well, I fixed a smile on my face and said “Wow, didn’t expect that” in a bright cheery voice. The doctor paused for a moment, not sure how to respond to me. I waved good-bye to the people leaving the office and got up and shut the door.

I took a deep breath, willed myself to keep talking and told her I was now alone in the office. I don’t remember what questions I asked, and what she answered back other than the fact that I would have to have a hysterectomy sometime in the next three weeks and that she had made an appointment for me with a gynecological oncologist in Denver.

I hung up the phone and sat for a few minutes. I couldn’t make sense of anything I was thinking. I felt the sobs start to well up. I took several deep breaths and walked out to the main part of the office. I found my friend, mentor, and one-time manager’s cube and walked in and asked her to come talk to me. She said “What’s up?” and looked up from her computer. The look on my face must have told her everything because she grabbed me and pulled me into the ladies room. I sat down on a chair and started to sob. I gasped out the news. It was the most horrible thing having to say it out loud. At that moment it became real. Cancer. Horrible, deathly, dark. Hanging over my head like a shroud. I could feel growing inside of my body as I sat there paralyzed with fear. I wanted to rip out my innards, destroy them for betraying me. My hands curled into claws, wishing I had the strength of will to just do it myself.

Kristy guided me out of the restroom and took me to the office of our Human Resources director. I continued to cry as Anita and Kristy comforted me. They told me not to worry about the surgery; they would help me navigate the leave process. Kristy asked who she should call for me. I couldn’t think so she and Anita decided to call Nancy.

Nancy and I had planned to meet later for dinner. She got in her car and drove the 25 minutes into the office to pick me up. As I waited outside for her, the enormity began to settle on me. I thought about my daughter and how much I loved her and decided I wouldn’t tell her until I knew more about what was going to happen. I thought about the rest of my family and how they would take the news. I wondered if Donna was having a good time in Minneapolis and briefly considered calling her. I decided to wait until the next day to talk to her in person when I picked her up from the airport. I thought about losing my hair to chemo and had a wild fancy that it would grow back in thicker and curlier like I had always wanted. I wondered what color ribbon stood for uterine cancer.

Nancy took me out to dinner, to the book store and home. We made plans for breakfast the next day so I could go pick up my car. I went home and sat in the silence and wondered how I would get through it. I called my sister and left her a message to call me. I called Amanda and told her. I made the mistake of getting on the internet and looking up uterine cancer. I found lots of information, none of it comforting.

It was late Friday night by now and I couldn’t call anyone. There was no one for me to go to, no one for me to ask questions of, I was simply alone with the internet and my thoughts. As someone who really enjoys a being by myself, this was the one time I couldn’t find any comfort or joy in solitude. The tears started to flow and didn’t stop for a long time. I find myself wiping tears from my eyes just remembering those moments.

This brings me back to the doctor in the airport. While I appreciate that he was in a rushed situation, trying to balance his travel process with the phone call from his patient and accidentally breaking news he thought had already been broken, I honestly wonder why he was having that discussion at all. News like that should not come over the phone. I would have rather had a nice weekend, enjoyed the good weather, finished painting my hallway (which had been my plan) instead of spending the time wallowing in my self-pity and fear. Monday would have been soon enough to hear the news.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Year Plus

I've spent the last month thinking a lot about how things have changed for me in the past year. The anniversary of my gastric-bypass surgery was February 2nd. I had wanted to post a wonderful retrospective of the year but every time I tried to write it, I couldn't come up with anything that felt worthy.

On my last trip to Chicago I saw something that made me realize how many small things have changed that I hadn't really internalized yet.

At the end of my trip, I returned my car to the rental agency, gathered my things and headed to the bus shelter. The driver kindly helped me load my luggage. I boarded a bus about three-quarters full and found a seat facing the door and the waiting shelter. There were about 4 single seats left at this point.

A gentleman of some size approached the bus. He poked his head in, scoped out the seating situation and backed away from the bus. The driver approached and offered to load his luggage, he declined and said he had forgotten something in his car and headed the other direction. He got as far as the other side of the shelter then stopped.

The driver then closed the doors and moved the bus away from the curb. I turned to watch as the gentleman then turned around and boarded the following bus.

It broke my heart. On so many levels. I recognize that behavior as a former extremely obese person. I see the frustration in having to scope out every situation to decide if your butt will fit and to decide if it's worth the embarrassment or not.

I've lost many of my "fat" habits but they are always lurking in the distance. I don't know if I will ever be entirely free of them, but it's nice to have them on the sidelines.

While I haven't lost as much weight as I had hoped I would be this point, I have to say that if I didn't lose another pound at this point I wouldn't feel like I had failed. Just maintaining what I have lost so far is a win as far as I'm concerned. I feel so much better and am treated far better by most people. I haven't been oinked out when I'm out walking for a good year. (I used to get jeered at or oinked at at least once a month before. I mean really, did they think I didn't know I was fat?)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Best Bloody Mary EVER

I recently hosted a brunch for a friend that is moving to Seattle soon. While I'm so sad that she is leaving town (OK, she has already left, just the house hadn't sold yet so they had lots of reasons to visit - now the house is almost gone - closing on Monday - so I won't have the opportunity to see her very often), it did give me a great excuse to host a party. Those of you that know me, know that I love to have people over because it's a great excuse to make some great food and enjoy the wonderful people in my life.

To that end, we made the best Bloody Mary mix, better than Lucile's and WAY better than the ubiquitous Mr. T's from the grocery store. My friend found this recipe in a travel brochure at a coastal hotel in Washington. The recipe comes from the Half Moon Bay Bar & Grill in Westport, WA. It was amazing. Just spicy enough and practically a meal unto itself with the veggie and shrimp additions. If you look at the picture closely, you can see pepperoni and chunks of cheese too. We used peppers, pickled cherry peppers, cocktail onions, olives, and shrimp. With a little Cajun seasoning sprinkled on top, it was to die for.

Here is the recipe as published in the travel magazine. You can also find the information at

Halfmoon Bay Bar and Grill at the Islander Resort Bloody Mary Mix

this makes quite a bit of mix

4 - 46 oz cans of premium tomato juice
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup horseradish
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh minced garlic
2 tbsp celery seed (please grind first)
3 tbsp ground sea salt
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients and mix with emersion blender.....We highly recommend pairing this wonderful mix with Absolut peppar vodka....Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Sell Or Not To Sell

I'm really struggling with what to do with my house. Part of me is ready to move on from it. It's small and we are crowded in it. But on the other hand, it's my house and I love being at home in it.

After spending a significant part of the past month in hotel rooms with decent sized bathrooms, I'm ready for a house with an actual counter in the bathroom as well as linen storage. Living in a home with a single bathroom doesn't bother me. I've never quite understood people who live by themselves saying definitively "I couldn't live in a house with only one bathroom". However, I really would love to have a bigger bath room then I do now. The bath in my house is only as wide as the bathtub is long and as long as is needed for a bathtub, wall attached sink, and toilet. No cabinetry need apply as there is no room for it.

Over the past ten years of owning the house (I can't believe it's been ten already), we have improved it significantly, adding a closet here, a new window there, landscaping (which still has a long way to go) and other general improvements. There are lots of things yet to do, including refinishing the wood floors and putting up a fence to block my crazy neighbor's back yard and her dog who is dead set on attacking my poor old men dogs.

Another few doors up from the crazy neighbor, a house just went up for sale. Unfortunately, the house is a direct comp to mine and she is listing about $15K under where I would like to be for my house. It's not that I mind walking away with no money, I just don't want to do a short sale or take money to the table.

Also, a very good friend whose opinion I respect immensely, especially when it comes to money matters, once told me that real estate is something that you should always hold onto as long as possible because it builds wealth. While I don't have a ton of equity in my home, it's probably the only positive I have on my balance sheet right now so it makes sense to hold onto it until I need to move or can afford to buy/build my dream house.

Between the current housing market, the need for a modicum of financial stability, and the fact that I have too much upheaval in my life already, I think I'm going to hold off a couple of years before making a decision. In the meantime, I will keep updating the house and make it a great place to live. Just wish I had room for a counter in my bathroom.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Fine Art of Dining Out Alone

Eating alone is so challenging. I'm mostly eating in my room as previously mentioned in my earlier posts, but I'm going out some and it's always a bit of a trial. How it goes depends on what my state of mind is at that time.

When first in the door you have a choice to either be seated in the dining room or at the bar. At the bar is less risky because bartenders are typically easy to talk to. Failing that, other singleton's at the bar are usually open to conversation. The dining room option usually means poor placement, a table near the restrooms, the kitchen walkway, the servers station, or in a generally dark, drafty spot.

I have learned to turn down tables that look uncomfortable and generally undesirable. If I encounter resistance and it's clear that other tables are available I let them know that I will go elsewhere. So far, it's worked every time. If the restaurant is obviously crowded, I usually just take what's offered even if it's not optimal.

I usually take the dining room option unless I'm in a chatty mood. Most of the time by the time dinner rolls around when I'm on business travel, I'm done being sociable so I usually take the dining room option. It also helps that I don't drink if I'm driving at all so it's easy to not sit in the bar.

The next choice you have to make is whether to just sit and enjoy your meal alone with your thoughts or to read a book. Sitting alone and enjoying your meal without the distraction of a book or a phone call can be challenging, especially if you are a person that doesn't like to be alone with your thoughts so a book is a great prop to keep your attention.

I usually end up with the combo option: my book comes out after I order, but is closed once my food arrives. I enjoy good food and have learned to enjoy it without a book in front of my nose. It's also good discipline in terms of managing my eating. As most of us have learned over the years, eating with a distraction leads to mindless overeating.

Next, you have to decide what to eat. If you are a person that is concerned about what people think of you, then order a salad and no dessert. That was my MO until recently. I spent a lot of time worrying about what people thought about my weight and the relationship to what I was eating to what I weighed.

I have learned, and I will be the first to admit that losing a significant amount of weight has helped this, to not worry anymore. I order whatever I feel like eating. Part of that is due to my surgery, since I can only eat small amounts and I'm full for hours afterwords, I tend to choose whatever is piquing my interest at that moment. Tonight it was a Reuban sandwich with waffle fries. I ate about half the sandwich and about a quarter of the fries. While I feel guilty knowing that the food will go in the garbage, I at least don't feel so bad with all that food not going to my butt.

I like eating on my own when I travel, but miss having dinner with Alex and Lucille. I always prefer to eat with people, although when I travel I like it when they are people that are easy to be with instead of people I have to be on my best behavior when I'm dining with them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Movieless Saturday

I was going to go to a movie this afternoon, but ended up just coming back to my room and relaxing. I had planned on going to see "Sherlock Holmes" but decided I will wait until it comes out on DVD. I pay Netflix every month for movies, might as well actually watch some of them.

What drove the decision is my annual resolution to address my debt load. Last night I totaled up the amounts I owe and figured out that I should be able to pay it off by the end of the year as long as I limit the little things I spend money on, like movies. So - put $15 extra towards a credit card today and stayed in watching TV. I am going out to dinner, but since the company covers my meals while I'm on business travel I don't feel too guilty.

I went out last night also as I was tired of looking at the four walls of my hotel room (even though the kitchenette is cute). I went to a Mediterranean place in Highland Park called
Phoenicia Mediterranean Cuisine. It was amazing. The owner served me and was as excited about the food as I was. He recommended the special, braised lamb with cinnamon scented rice and fresh vegetables. It was fabulous. I was sad I could only eat about a third of it after eating part of the soup that came with it. (Cream of carrot and Blended Lentil - one scoop of each in the same bowl - again the owners recommendation - again, amazing.)

I found this restaurant through United Airlines of all places. They have a mileage earning program partnerships with restaurants all over the place. You just register a card with them and every time you use it at a participating restaurant they credit you with 1-5 miles per dollar spent. Since I'm trying to get enough miles to go to out to the NW this summer I'm looking for opportunities to earn miles everywhere. (I get miles for my hotel stays, my car rentals, and groceries too.)

At any rate, the list of restaurants is pretty extensive and mostly locally owned places to eat. Tonight I'm headed out for Italian and tomorrow to a local bistro for lunch. Next week back on the grocery store plan until home on Friday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Diversionary Tactics

Staying through next week as it turns out but staying at my current hotel and working in the office except for one day next week when I will be a the meeting in Chicago. Apparently the woman who does the event planning doesn't like party crashers and gets very wound up if someone horns into a meeting so I have to sneak in. It's kind of a funny thing. My boss and I decided that if there is a moment when the event planner might see me she will throw a pen on the floor under the table and I will dive for it and hide until the planner leaves the room.

When I interviewed with this company it was at an event at this same hotel in Chicago as the interview team were all (official) parts of the meeting. Apparently getting interview space had to be approved by a VP to get this planner to budge on creating a space other than a janitors closet for me to talk with the team.

So clearly I'm on the computer instead of knitting and relaxing. Maybe this weekend. I think I'm going to go out for breakfast and then to a movie on Saturday. As much as I'm enjoying cooking in my room, I am ready to see something besides my room and the office for a day or two.

Do what I mean not what I type

It's been snowing all day here which I enjoy as long as I don't have to drive in it. I have to say I'm glad it snowed because it actually had to warm up so it could so it's not as cold in the room I'm in as it was earlier in the week. I have spent the week in a conference "war room" implementing the code that we have spent the last six weeks developing and making sure that everything is working. It's been fun but the room has been freezing.

On the downhill slope on the implementation. Got my code working finally, although it took all day yesterday and someone else to find the typo that was causing it to break. I was so mad! Who would think that a plural vs. a singular would have that much impact on success or failure. Stupid computers. They should just know what I mean and not what I type.

Tonight I'm going to work on my knitting project and watch tv - no work, no checking email, etc. I need a creative break from all this left-brain stuff I've been doing all week. It's still up in the air where I will be next week - may get to come home early. There is a training session at another Hotel in Chicago but I wasn't budgeted in for it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I don't know how people that travel for a living function. I enjoy business trips just because they break things up, but overall I'm basically a homebody. Traveling just feels like a lot of work to me and then add on top of that all the work I'm doing anyway as part of my day-to-day stuff, I'm just tired.

That being said, I will say that the Residence Inn with it's kitchen is quite the revelation. I do feel more grounded staying here where I can make my own food, put my feet up and watch TV at night, and not have to stumble around the office in the morning and being nice to people I work with looking for a decent cup of coffee. (I will say that the coffee they have in the rooms here is truly heinous, honestly, probably some of the worst hotel coffee I've had in a while. Glad I had the foresight to buy some decent coffee at the grocery store.)

I will say that working away from home is bad for my eating habits in general. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and if it's time to eat and what I want to eat and feeling guilty about not eating the right thing and and and...

I miss being home and watching my TV and spending time with my family. On the other hand, I like being in the thick of things at work. I didn't get a lot done today, at least not the things I wanted to get done. Maybe tomorrow.

I think I'm disgruntled today because I spent an hour-and-a-half plus listening to two people discussing Chicago and where to live and who was a snob and the politics of Chicago and on and on. Normally, I would find it interesting to listen to but one of the people doesn't finish their sentences and changes the direction of the conversation mid-thought and the other had a heavy accent. It got old after about 5 minutes. I honestly don't know how they get any work done if this is the normal MO. I finally started tuning them out even though they kept trying to draw me into the conversation.

At least I'm reading a good book. Conn Iggulden's Emperor series on Julius Caesar. It's pretty good. I really love the Genghis Khan series too, although I haven't read the last one yet, I've only been able to find it in hard-back and I won't spend money on that. I haven't been in town long enough to try to get it from the library - maybe when I get back.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Eating in a Hotel Room

I'm traveling a lot with my new job. I was in the Chicago area for two weeks, staying at the Marriott in Deerfield the first part of December. The room was great and I really enjoyed my stay, however, I got so sick of eating out for every single meal over the course of two weeks.

I'm back in the area, again for two weeks but this time I'm staying at a Marriott Residence Inn - which translates to cheaper rates (which as a good corporate citizen, I don't mind), no room service and a kitchenette. It is surprisingly well stocked in terms of kitchen equipment. Mind you - not as complete as my kitchen, but then again I'm such a Pampered Chef junkie that I'm the first to admit my kitchen is a bit of overkill. Not that I'm getting rid of anything yet though.

The other problem with eating out is that I don't make typically make the right menu choices when I eat out. In general I'm not a "salad for a meal" person, but even less so in the winter. (And it is really cold here right now.) On my last trip I gained 5 pounds and add that to the 3 pounds I put on over the holidays, I'm up a net of 8 pounds. I worked way to stinking hard and went through too much to get the by-pass surgery so I'm not blowing it by traveling and eating out all the time.

At any rate, I went to the grocery store tonight and spent $100 on groceries so that I can eat in for the duration of my stay. It was really hard because I don't typically eat food that can be cooked on a two burner cook-top and not in an oven or toaster oven. Fortunately Alex had some good ideas for me from their days living in a similar hotel when they first moved to Clarksville while they were waiting for housing to become available.

I ended up buying several mixes that you stir-fry on the stove or heat in the microwave. I also bought salad ingredients and some dressing, fruit, and pre-cut veggies ready for microwaving/steaming.

Tonight I had a Bertolli Oven Roasted pasta dish ($4.99). It was 4 Cheese Ravioli with Parmesan Cheese Sauce. It was pretty good. About 15 minutes in the microwave. That with a salad on the side and a cup of green tea I feel pretty good. There is enough left-over to have lunch tomorrow and maybe enough for a snack later in the day as well. Not that the cafeteria at work is bad, just not great and again, I'm totally challenged making the healthy choice. (Although today, I did have salad with a hard-boiled egg on it for protein she says patting herself on the back.)

Now - I will say that pre-surgery, it would have been only one meal for me. I'm always surprised when they say 2, but then it was eat or be eaten. Tomorrow for lunch I will take the left-overs along with some grapes and a salad for an overall meal cost of about $4.00 or so compared to the $8 or $9 for lunch and $20 or so for dinner. Plus I get to sleep with a self-satisfied smirk for being a good corporate citizen and saving the company a lot of money on my meals, I don't have to eat out and I get to write a blog post all about my dinner. It's a win-win.