Archive for "December, 2011"

It’s OK to Spend New Year’s Eve with Dick Clark

Holidays, Lifestyle Dec 30, 2011 12 Comments

They're partying like it's 1999!

From the time I entered high school I had the belief that a social life meant something to do every day. Especially on weekends and holidays. But, the most important night of all was New Year’s Eve. If you didn’t have big plans for the count down, then you were a nobody. Super lame, hopeless, embarrassing.

In high school that meant parties. If you couldn’t wrangle an invitation to the cool kids’ party, at least you were partying with the other regular folks. Staying home or going to the band-geek sleepover was out of the question. Not that you knew any bank-geeks anyway.

After the age of twenty-one New Year’s meant standing in long lines in the cold while wearing very little clothing, to get into the new hot club. We paid the high cover and bought expensive drinks for the chance to be among the “in” crowd. We even had our pictures taken for the bar websites a few times. Score.

No lame New Year’s Eve for me!

But once I turned thirty I didn’t know what to do for New Year’s. On TV and in the movies every town has a big, fancy New Year’s ball. Everyone in town wears a formal gown and they are usually raising money for AIDS or some other worthy cause.

Unfortunately, I live in reality. If my town has a ball, I don’t know about it. And I probably wouldn’t ever make it on the list.

I thought of doing the same old thing and hitting the bars like old times. Turning thirty had brought me a lot of realizations, though. I realized that the cool kids really weren’t that cool. I ran into people from high school who told stories about trashing the popular girl’s house because it turned out popular didn’t actually mean liked. At my high school it meant easy.

The people who were always at the hottest bars and knew about the nightlife were the same ones living in their mom’s basement because they hadn’t had a real job since high school. Didn’t really mesh with my definition of cool.

I wanted to save my money, and my nice car makes me a little wary of drunk drivers. So I decided to be lame and stay home. Actually, to make it even lamer, I went to my parents’ house.

They have a long-standing tradition of New Year’s Eve at home. They make all their favorite appetizers: fancy cheeses, spicy dips, and even caviar. They sip champagne and mimosas and watch movies until just before midnight.

Then, they switch the TV to Dick Clark in Times Square. They count down with everyone on TV and blow noise makers when the ball drops. Their glasses clink, they drink more champagne, and they put on another movie.

I was prepared to feel old and boring. Too young to be at home on such a party night. Instead I had fun. Much more fun than all those nights standing in line in the cold.

Turns out good food, a warm fire, and people I love are what make celebrating fun. And Dick Clark doesn’t hurt.

What are your favorite New Year’s traditions? Have they changed as you have matured?


This Year I Resolve to Be Kind

Holidays, Lifestyle Dec 28, 2011 25 Comments

New Year's traditions can be risky.

The New Year is a time for resolutions. Usually we go for the same ones again and again: lose weight, eat healthy, or find the new job we love.

The past few years I have staged my own little personal revolt. My resolutions were things like: drink more alcohol, eat more chocolate, and spend more time at the mall. I thought I was being sarcastic and showing I was smarter than everyone else.

As usual, I was wrong. Kind of like everyone else.

Resolutions shouldn’t be about limiting ourselves or becoming an alcoholic. They should be a time to look at ourselves and our lives and see what could make us better.

The funny thing is I make new goals every September. Something about the fall seems like a good time to evaluate and plan. I don’t mock and not a single sarcastic comment comes out of my mouth. Maybe there’s a way to do the same thing in January.

So this year I’m being serious.

I’ve noticed patterns in my behavior over the past twelve months, and one stuck out as the most disturbing. I can be mean. Even cruel. Not to other people, but to myself.

If I forget to set the alarm at night and over-sleep by five minutes, suddenly I’m a moron. If I don’t listen to my intuition and make a wrong decision, I’m an idiot with no redeeming qualities. Miss a few days at the gym and I question whether I deserve the piece of chocolate.

Fat, lazy, stupid, not working hard enough. All the things I say to myself that I would never think about saying to someone else. If anyone else said it to me, I’d call Friendship Over and move on. So why was it ok coming from me?

Shouldn’t we all be our own best friends? Champion for ourselves? I shouldn’t expect better treatment from others than I give myself. Something is definitely askew.

So this year, I resolve to be kind. To me. I will treat myself the way I want others to treat me. And the way I believe everyone deserves to be treated. A missed alarm is not the end of the world and a few extra pounds doesn’t make me any less beautiful.

It starts with me. I’m going to be like that great line from Jackie on That Seventies Show. I’m going to run down the beach into my own arms. Figuratively.

I choose me.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Anything positive? Or a list that full of don’t and won’t?


How to Beat the Boxing Day Blues

Holidays Dec 26, 2011 12 Comments

The After-Christmas Effect.

I don’t know about you, but something happens to me the day after Christmas. I wake up a little depressed. There are no more presents to open, but we’re left with piles of wrapping paper to recycle and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. For me, the worst part may be that there is no longer an excuse for all the cookies and peppermint mochas.

Back to lattes. How depressing.

As a kid, my mother planned out annual trip to the ballet for Boxing Day. Christmas may have been over, but I got to wear my new dress, see The Nutcracker, and eat a cookie at intermission. For her, it was probably about the ticket prices going down after the holiday. But, for me it extended the fun of Christmas one more day.

Now that I am an adult, the day after Christmas is about cleaning up. Like unpacking a suitcase after a fun vacation. Something I’d rather not do. To beat the post-vacation-blues, I start planning my next trip. That doesn’t really work with Christmas.

Once all the gifts have been opened and everything tried out on Christmas day, the joy begins to wear off. Even for the kids. The remote control car or new Wii game is a little less fun the day after Santa came.

So maybe it’s time to bring back the fun of childhood and start some fun Boxing Day traditions.

Movie Marathon Day. The cable TV channels do it for a reason. It’s fun to watch movies or a TV series one after the other and spend all day in your bathrobe on the couch. We could even pick a theme: chick flicks, spy movies, slap-stick, or tear jerkers. Then see if you can find something that runs through all the movies.

A BFF and I did this one day, in the summer, when we watched ten romantic comedies in a row. Yeah, I said ten. It was awesome. We realized that all romantic comedies have a running scene toward the end. He runs through the airport to tell her she is more than a friend or she runs after the boat to say she really does love him. Fun research even if the findings don’t cure cancer.

Cooking Contest. See which person in the family can create the best new dish with Christmas dinner leftovers. I have to admit, I have an amazing ability to make last night’s dinner into a delicious breakfast. During Thanksgiving dinner this year I mentioned that the stuffing would be good in the morning, fried with an egg. It was a hit. Pick one meal, or spread the contest out over the day and make dinner the finals. Winner gets first pick of left over desserts.

Gift Fashion Show. Holiday fashion shows are fun before the holiday because they get you in the spirit. But I say they can be even more fun after. Everyone can gather up their gifts and put them together into different looks. Clothes, toys, games, and silly hats all together can create a certain theme. Clear out space in front of the tree for a runway, which makes cleaning up a little more bearable. Then choose some upbeat music and have everyone take their turns going down the catwalk. You can even give out prizes for best strut, foxiest pose, and most Christmassy ensemble.

Needless to say, all of the above should be done as a Pajama-jam: try to stay in your pajamas all day.

What traditions do you and yours have for after the holidays? How do you beat the Boxing Day blues?


Holiday Traditions: Stop! Pajama Time!

Holidays Dec 23, 2011 15 Comments

Guess what's under the tree?

Every family has holiday traditions. Some are them are fun, like deep fried Turkey on Thanksgiving and baking cookies on Christmas. There are others that we don’t look forward to. Liver spread at Hanukkah, even if they don’t make us eat it, and hard boiled eggs at Easter. Yuck. Yes, I’m sensing a pattern. Everything has to do with food. But we have other traditions in my family, too.

My dad is an old movie fan. Especially when it comes to Christmas.

Every year he makes us all sit down and watch Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m not into black and white movies and I can’t stand the way the women talked back then. Those could not be their real voices. Come to think of it, the men bugged me, too. And the kids. Whenever I hear, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” I want to scream. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

My idea of a Christmas movie is A Christmas Story or Home Alone, but the old movies make my dad cry. Even though he knows what’s going to happen because he sees them every year. That makes them worth sitting through.

My part of the tradition is complaining about the movies and imitating the annoying voices. Good times. I know my dad likes it, even though he won’t admit it.

My favorite Christmas tradition is the one started by Santa and my step-mom. I think they planned it together in the beginning, but now it’s all up to her. On Christmas Eve we each open one present from Santa, clearly marked for the night before Christmas. It is always a pair of pajamas. Somehow Santa knows our styles. And we are always matching: My dad with my brother and my step-mom with me. We wear them to bed Christmas Eve and all day on Christmas.

Even through dinner.

We warn people who are invited to eat with us. They usually dress in casual clothes, and sometimes the join us in P.J’s. The fun ones at least try.

There is something special about a day that you don’t have to get dressed. There is nothing more important than cooking, eating, and spending time with family. And we have an excuse not to go out in public. Wouldn’t want to be seen in pajamas.

It makes Christmas day different from every other day. Even if it’s only because I don’t get dressed.

What holiday traditions does your family have? Any that you’ve started?


Is It Better to Give or to Receive?

Holidays Dec 21, 2011 17 Comments

Christmas is all about give and take, especially in this country when much of the holiday revolves around gifts. We spend time shopping for others and making our own Christmas wish lists. There is an old saying that tells us giving is more important. But is it really more fun?

Personally, I like both sides of presents. Shopping for someone you care about is fun. Especially when you find the perfect gift. And definitely when that person is someone who enjoys receiving.

I love holidays and presents, no matter how small. I have been told many times that I am fun to give gifts to because of the way I react. Knowing that someone took the time to think of me makes me feel special. And I do love things. So when someone hands me the wrapped box or the pencil with the “diamond” on top they brought back from the Kardashian store in LA, I am going to get excited. I will scream and holler, for sure. There will probably be some jumping up and down. And several hugs.

Is it because it’s the most beautiful pencil I’ve ever seen? Actually, it was. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone took the time to think about me. They planned something special for me. Because they love me. And the fact that they chose something perfect just shows how well they know me.

That is special. Special enough to scream and jump about.

The side of giving involves shopping, something I love and am very good at. At Christmas I get to think about the people in my life and pick out something that will make them smile. This is sort of like being a personal stylist or shopper, only for loved ones instead of stars. I love styling other people and picking out things that would look good on them. And I much prefer working with loved ones than divas who might throw a cell phone at your head. Your mother can’t fire you even though she might not want to hear that it’s time to get rid of the fanny pack. So pick out the perfect purse for her.

The time at the mall or looking at boutiques gives you a chance to get to know loved ones better. Which sweater would he like more? Would this perfume make her think of France or a street walker in Hollywood? It’s almost like a game of How Well Do You Know Your Family?

What could be more fun than that?

Just the look on their faces when they open the perfect gift. They will see how much you love them and how well you know them. And then it’s your turn to open a present.

So, is it better to give or to receive? I say the answer is yes, all of the above.

How do you feel? Do you prefer giving presents or getting presents?


The Five Best Things About Christmas

Holidays Dec 19, 2011 23 Comments

Christmas lights and decorations.

This time of year can be stressful. The decorations go up before November even arrives, and people start planning. Shopping, cooking, wrapping, traveling. It can seem like there is too much to do. So, I say let’s stop and think about the best parts of Christmas, and the entire holiday season. And, no, presents aren’t one of them.

1. Peppermint mochas. Or carmel brulee lattes, or even pumpkin spice lattes if you’re into that, which I’m not. There is just something fun about a special coffee drink for the season. Maybe it’s knowing that you can’t have it in July, no matter how refreshing it might be. Or maybe it’s something special about the mint and chocolate combo. But, that super sweet drink is enough to make me smile when it’s way too cold outside. It’s even enough to get me out of the car in the rain. And that’s saying a lot.

2. Singing. Full disclosure: I am someone who sings a lot. I come from a family of singers. Actually, we’re silly singers. My brother once invented a song about my butt and my step-mom still knows the words to the pasta song. I regularly sing things instead of saying them, often into a butter knife or magic marker. Because it’s just more fun that way. But, at Christmas everybody sings. I am not alone in my need to sing about things like the weather. Plus, I can just say it’s a Christmas carol and people don’t think I’m strange. What? You never heard the one about the Christmas ham?

3. Glitter, sequins, and sparkly things. I love them all. And this is the time of the year when they are acceptable no matter the situation. Just last week I got to wear a silver sequined tank top to a lunch, because it was a Christmas lunch. If it were Easter, I would have been out of place. We can put sparkly powder in our cleavage and wear rhinestones and shiny red bells to the office on a Thursday if we want, because it’s Christmas. No one will think it’s over the top. Or, at least they won’t say it outloud. Especially not if you stand next to the woman in the hideous holiday sweater. Every office has one.

4. Cookies, candies, cakes, pies, tarts, and other sweets. Christmas is a time for baking. And giving the treats out to other people. We can benefit in two ways. One, people will give us treats either as a gift or just to get them out of the house when they fear their butts are getting too big. Second, we can bake for joy and tell ourselves it is for others. But I know I eat more than I give away. Two for me, one for you is my usual formula. I don’t worry about my butt. That’s what velour tracksuits are for: stretching. And Christmas is the perfect time to indulge because you can just say that your New Year’s resolution is to work out and people will believe you. Because they’re spreading the same lies, too.

5. Lights. Oh, and decorations. Maybe you count these in the shiny things category, but I love lights so much they count as their own category. I love seeing even boring things like porches and garages wrapped in strings of lights: white and colored. I prefer white lights inside and on trees, but that is just me. I also like to pick a theme for decorations. My current favorite is metallics and blues. Yes, I like to mix gold, bronze, and silver. I’m a rebel that way. Other people put lights up, too, and we can go visit them. There are whole neighborhoods that decorate and offer tours. The smart ones sell hot coco for the walk.I even love lights in hot places, like draped in palm trees in Mexico. It’s always Christmas if there are lights.

What are your favorite parts of the holiday season? Please, don’t say fruit cake!


The Ben and Jerry’s Diet

Diet Dec 16, 2011 14 Comments

Yum, yum, diet food.

I have tried dieting many times in my life. The only
difference they made in the way I looked or felt were the cranky mood swings and hunger pangs. Until I discovered the Ben & Jerry’s diet.

I didn’t find it in a magazine or touted by a fitness guru from Women’s Health. I found it by following my instincts and listening to what my taste buds and stomach had to say.

It didn’t even start out as a diet, just an idea in the freezer isle at Winco, “I like ice cream, so I should have some.”

The movies always show the girl crying into a gallon sized tub of ice cream, while watching another chick flick. But the smaller containers are rich and creamy, and the Ben & Jerry’s diet isn’t about drowning any sorrows.

I started with Phish Food: Chocolate ice cream with a river each of marshmallow and caramel, and little chocolate fish swimming upstream. I made my way through Everything But The, Karmal Sutra, and Half Baked . Then I circled back around to Phish Food and my tongue declared it winner.

There was no measuring or calculations, I just ate some ice cream when I wanted some. I didn’t change any of the foods I was eating and I kept the same gym schedule, averaging four days a week. I’d come home after a workout and settle in on the couch with a bowl of Phish Food and watch The Biggest Loser. Something about watching other people exercise made the chocolate taste richer and the caramel sweeter.

My outer body transformed into the best shape it had ever been and my inner self was content. When I was eating what I wanted I didn’t obsess about food and I could have cared less what I weighed. My fingernails grew long and strong for the first time ever and my hair had a shine and bounce I had never known.

Maybe it was the added calcium in my diet, but I’d like to think it was a side effect of happiness. Happiness that comes only from ice cream.

What food brings you happiness? Any special diets that make you smile?


The forehead-to-cheek-to-crooked-tooth ratio: Why Do I Look So Bad in Pictures?

Beauty Dec 14, 2011 31 Comments

E.T. phone home. And ask for a retainer.

We all know people who are photogenic. Even if they don’t look so good in real life, in pictures they could be a model. I even have one friend who will make you stand on a chair and tilt the camera at the perfect angle to take her picture. Yes, including random moments and while chaperoning the kids at the amusement park. She never has to worry about a bad picture.

I look better in real life. People who love me put it nicely. “You’re cuter in person.” Was what my step-mom said when I asked her to help me choose a profile picture for FaceBook. And the one time I was set up on a date, blind for me, I saw relief and surprise in his eyes when he saw me. He even told me I was prettier than he expected. Smooth. He must’ve seen a picture.

To solve the problem, I always forgot to take my camera with me. I used the same profile picture for years, the one my picky friend took on the beach. She was determined to find the right angle. In pictures with her, I looked like an alien with my giant five-head. Yes, that’s one finger wider than a forehead.

Then there was the crooked tooth to deal with. Small children have been known to ask if I’m a vampire. Not, it just looks pointy because of the way it’s twisted. The last dentist I went to said he could file it down and cap it. It sounded both gross and painful, and wasn’t covered by insurance. See mom, I told you I needed braces.

I tried bangs to cover the forehead, but that was when I learned the straight line just emphasized my cheeks. High cheekbones turn into a chipmunk hoarding acorns when I smile. I know I’m not fat, and most of the time I even think I’m cute. I’d think I looked fabulous, but then I’d see the picture. Hello, Vampire Chipmunk From Mars. I didn’t know what was going wrong.

Could I be the world’s most un-photogenic person?

Over the summer I had headshots taken. I hadn’t really planned on it, but one of my best friends is married to a professional photographer. She thought it would be fun. I thought I’d rather get a root canal.

We made a whole day of it: a make-over at the channel counter and playing dress-up in her closet. It was fun with her as my stylist.

But then came the dreaded camera. Thank goodness that Ryan knows me well, because I was a crabby pain in the butt. I was sensitive and hard to please, a total diva. He made fun of America’s Next Top Model and my friend danced around and made me laugh. Eventually I loosened up.

He was all about all lighting, artsy and interesting. I just wanted to like the way I looked. He took over 300 pictures that day and I honestly liked most of them. I was smiling. I looked happy. There was something fun behind my eyes.

Maybe I’m not so ugly in pictures. I guess I just have to find the right ratio of forehead-to-cheek-to-crooked-tooth. And be ok with it when I don’t.

How do you feel about having your picture taken? What are your best and worst angles?


We Don’t Need Prince Charming to Find Our Glass Slipper!

Fashion, Holidays Dec 12, 2011 35 Comments

Me in shoes by Ms. Wood.

I got one of my Christmas presents early this year. My step-mom took me to the holiday fashion show at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland. We had already been to one fashion show this year, during Portland Fashion Week. So, I was expecting pretty much the same thing.

What I got was the complete opposite.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at Portland Fashion Week and I plan on going again next year. But, it was definitely an event focused on cool. The location: a cold, open air warehouse. The designers: funky, urban, and indie. The food and drinks: sushi and hard liquor. The clothes were gorgeous, but not anything you could wear in real life unless you are a movie star or a Kardashian.

This fashion show was in the ballroom of a warm building with wood paneling on the walls. Women walked around in sequins and cashmere, and waiters in black-tie passed out glasses of champagne with a splash of something fruity. I felt like a VIP instantly, without the red rope or the expensive tickets.

And at this fashion show I had a backstage pass, my step-mom. She was on the planning committee and introduced me around. Then she asked if I wanted to go behind the curtain.

Did I want to go backstage? At a fashion show? She knew the answer before she asked.

I knew ahead of time that one of the designers I loved at Fashion Week, Ms. Wood, was going to be there. She makes kimono inspired jackets and robes and leather dresses and belts. But, she is most well known for what she does with wood. At the Fashion Week show her models strutted in platform wooden wrap sandals that would make Lady Gaga drool. They were like walking pieces of art.

We went back stage and met all the people involved in the show, make-up artists, photographers, producers, directors, and the emcees who are local celebrities of sorts. And then I met Ms. Wood.

She was small and blonde and wearing flats. Kind of not what I pictured at all. And she was so nice. She told me about how she and her husband started designing from wood because he is a carpenter who actually makes furniture.

Then she said the seven most beautiful words in the English language: Do you want to try them on?

I set down my champagne and pulled off my boots. Ms. Wood helped me slip into the shoes and wrapped the leather around my ankles. She tied a bow to the side and told me to walk around. I was at least four inches taller than normal, but they were actually comfortable. I walked to the giant mirror across from the racks of clothes the models would wear. They were beautiful. And I looked great in them. Ms. Wood’s assistant even said I obviously knew how to walk in them. Meant to be.

The wedges of wood were light brown, almost a tan. And the leather was black. I love contrast. One of my favorite parts was a slight indentation in the middle of the heel where the leather wrapped around the wood.

Walking art. That was easy to walk in.

I kept them on for a little while and walked around backstage, looking at the clothes and watching the models in the make-up chairs.  I stood tall and my shoulders
went back on their own. I belonged. Backstage at a fashion show. In those shoes.

Eventually, Ms. Wood needed the shoes for the show and we needed to go get our seats. I untied the shoes and handed them back. But I had already decided that I would get a pair. Those shoes were made for me.

My step-mom led me to our seats right next to the runway and waiters served us a salmon lunch and more champagne. There was even chocolate crème brule for dessert. The fashion show was fun and lively, with upbeat music and smiling models. The clothes were from local designers and boutiques. Beautiful things you could actually wear.

I loved most of the looks that went down the run way, from jeans to formal gowns. But nothing effected me like those shoes. So, I made a decision. I am going to have them.

It will take me some time to save; they are an investment. But I am worth it. And I look forward to buying them for myself, by myself.

I can get my own glass slippers.

How do you feel when you buy something special for yourself?
Is there anything you’ve been wanting but haven’t bought? What do you really want?


Fun Friday: Goodie-Goodies, The Grinch, and a Dick in a Box!

Fun Friday, Links Dec 09, 2011 4 Comments

It’s that time of the week again, Fun Friday. There
were so many fun posts this week that I can’t wait to share. I realized that the holiday season is in full effect because 1. so many people are blogging about Christmas, and 2. I keep singing Christmas carols in public without realizing it. So, to prepare for the holidays two of my three favorite posts are holiday related.



Myndi Shafer had a hilarious post about the Grinch, where she provides proof that he is actually pregnant.

August McLaughlin’s naughty or nice post explains why it’s ok to be a goody-goody.

Jenny Hansen reminded us about Justin Timberlake’s classic Christmas video, Dick in a Box. I still laugh just thinking about it!

Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend.