The chief enemy of creativity... is "good" sense. ~Pablo Picasso

Swim Cap Chaps

   As uncoordinated as I may be... I was drafted to a relay team a few days ago. I'm pretty sure they invited me because I have a slight affinity for costumes and there was a costume contest component as part of the event. You know what... I'll take it!

 I was offered the invitation just a few days before the race so there wasn't a whole lot of prep time... not to mention that the actual "event" wasn't exactly defined. That meant there was no real understanding as to what kind of costumes were needed... in order to win. Were we going to need a lot of dexterity to physically move around, or was it a game of the minds which wouldn't require much movement at all? Were running shoes necessary to stay competitive, or could we outfit our shoes as well? All these questions were largely unanswered, so I had to make sure we were outfitted for anything... without buying anything new... My heart was pounding. I couldn't let my new friends down, but I was secretly peeing my pants... with excitement and fear. These are people who do Ironmans... for fun. They might stuff me in a dumpster afterwards if I let them down!

  As many of you know, I have too much stuff which is why I'm doing this, so multiple rolls of colored Duct tape were in the house, as were a multitude of swim caps! Leftovers from the swim cap dress.

 Our team name was "the furry one, and four fantastic fillies". The relay required us to carry a stick horse and jockey helmet, and was taking place at a horse race. Rummaging through the house, and imagining what my teammates might have accessible to them, we put together a plan. Not my best (which is probably why we didn't win the costume contest) but we managed to make up for it in raw "galloping" talent... some may disagree :) but I didn't end up in the dumpster.

that's my game face... ha! that's duct tape under my eyes, and a swim cap. If you notice the girl behind me, she has a star made of duct tape on her shirt and she's wearing a Brooks running skort. Brooks is one of our races official sponsors, so we all had those already!

We're the team on the far left, and yes... those are chaps... made out of swim caps. The swim caps also went over our feet to make us look more like horses, and the striped socks... well I just love striped socks and I also have a plethora of them.

But what I was really proud of, was the team on the far right... a bunch of boys, who bought nothing new, used the resources available to them (those mylar marathon blankets)and... made quite an impression. One of them even made a tie!

We even brought out the solar powered, PVC stereo from the back of the tandem to the party! Aside from winning... :) the swim cap chaps were definitely my favorite... is there a market for this somewhere??! ha

do's and don'ts

So yesterday I made the ingenious (thank you mom) move to cut open the conditioner bottle and not let those last few drops get thrown away... but I'm new at this, and it's obvious.

Words of wisdom... if you're going to cut open the conditioner bottle to salvage the last of your product... DON'T leave it in a place where the shower will fill it with water.

I'm an idiot. Seriously. I go to use the conditioner and the darn thing is filled to the brim with water.

There goes all my gold.... Is it ironic that the shampoo is for blondes... and I'm a blonde... it's apparent today now isn't it.

To top it off, the built in soap tray on the side of the wall... basically gets pounded with water every time someone takes a shower. That means the water is constantly washing away the soap.

I have since moved the bar of soap and made a rule that it must live in it's new place, away from the flood... geez. This year could get a lot worse if I don't start using my head. uugggh.

it ain't over... till it's over.

Moms love to be helpful :) I think once you leave home... they feel the need to be even more helpful. My mom is uber helpful. She's made curtains for my kitchen... I didn't even know I "needed". She took all the screens out of my windows and scrubbed them in the tub (frustrated because they didn't look any different afterwards) and unbeknownst to me, and TSA, she even surprised me with a bottle of bleach and a package of razor blades... in my carry-on... to help with that stubborn grime. I'll let you imagine how that conversation went.

Despite all that wonderful helpfulness she has bestowed on me, it hasn't stopped there. Luckily for me, she calls me almost on a daily basis with more insight. Sometimes I heed her advice. Other times, like when we were on the phone and she told me not to get a dog... I just smile and nod on the other end, snuggling his little face into mine. Today, I listened.

When I went to squeeze out the last few drops of conditioner... I just got that noise... and air. It's one of my new favorite kinds, and my friend Bethany's favorite too... and that feeling of sadness swept over me.  I was sad to see it end, but I was even sadder to imagine how much better her hair was going to look for 9 months longer than mine... until I remembered my mothers advice.

 I jumped out of the shower, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut that thing apart.

 Inside... was gold. (it really is yellow actually) 

There are at least 4-5 more applications. No Joke.

I just "bought" myself at least another week :) That means only 8 months 3 weeks of watching Bethany's blonde hair glimmer in the sun while mine... well, let's just not talk about it.

mixin it up

do you remember going to the gas station fountain machine and making "suicides"? I'm sure that's politically incorrect, but that's what we called them... You'd put in a little of every different kind of pop - in the same cup. Why did we do that? ha

Well I know personally, I have a hard time making a decision. What's for dinner? I almost always try to con someone into "splitting" something with me. Not as in split one dish... like... you order one thing, I'll order another, we'll split them, that way we both have options. And... if one of them isn't so good, you're not totally screwed. Well, it seems the "options" trend carries throughout a lot of things in my life. I guess I never really thought about it until recently, when I've started rationing my toiletries...

I like mixing conditioners. Not so much shampoos, or body washes, mainly just conditioners.

I guess it's kind of like a "suicide" for your hair - only in a good way? Some promise volume, others promise, shine, and if we can't get everybody on board and get it all... we mix! It's even to the point where, if I prefer volume that day more than shine, the volumizing conditioner goes in first... because it gets first dibs at the hair. Then the shine conditioner just in hopes? It probably doesn't even work!

Well, either way, this year I'm relegated to one conditioner, one application, and it's kind of getting to me. Chalk it up there with the rationing of my beloved perfume... But then my klutzy self did just get a brand new iPhone so... I guess I'll take my new iphone and shut my mouth....

headed to the bar...

I'm quickly approaching the end of the last bottle of body wash. Two years ago, we went to Yosemite, where you can only use "natural" soaps... I think. Otherwise I'm not entirely sure why we have these bars. If I recall correctly it was an environmental issue?

Well, as usual I probably got more than we needed, and so we have these bars of "natural" soap to use in it's place. But I haven't been particularly excited about this... (Not to mention that if we do in fact run out, which is inevitable, hotel bar soaps WILL become a staple in our life for the next year)

Now I'm sure they work fine, but have you seen the commercial for bar soaps and they time lapse the video showing it getting all cracked and dried out? I can't even find the video on YouTube right now, but I can promise you it exists. Needless to say, I usually buy body wash because I have that vague recollection of the elusive commercial, and also because the soap scum left behind from a bar is kind of annoying.

Ironically enough, my mom never bought body wash when I was a kid... I was raised on bar soap.

So does this mean the subliminal advertising really has done a number on me? I like to think I'm more savvy to marketing schemes, and don't get caught up in their ploys. Heck, I even have a friend I always tease about how easily she gets sucked in... as long as there is a bright "new" sticker on the packaging, she's in!

 My fear is that, minus the "new" sticker... I have been duped.

I found an article on the cost, effectiveness, etc on body wash vs. bar soap. Of course it depends on where you purchase both and what they're made of, but it was interesting to note that many boutique spa type stores are actually going back to bar variety... There are some upscale stores that even let you make your own!

Now, I have a confession. Before June I found almost a gallon of Salon Selectives shampoo at Big Lots. I love the smell... but it really isn't that great of a shampoo... sooo... I've been using it as body wash! not sure how that would fare in a bar soap vs. shampoo... but whaddya gonna do? I do love that Daniel Tosh....

Do you think Bathtub Gin makes your skin soft? It counts as food... right??ha

That's $15 a night :)

So this was taken just before my senior year prom... Ran to Younkers, a midwestern department store, and picked up the dress on clearance for $30 a few days before... It worked out great... And it's hung in my closet at home ever since. 
Wasting space. 
Or was it?

This June, my parents came out to visit me, not because they particularly like me, but because I got invited to the Emmy's and they wanted to tag along. Glad I could be of good use. 

Well, what do you do when you're trying not to buy anything new for a year, but you have to go to some big fancy party? You call up your mom and tell her to bring your old prom dresses, and hopefully between accessories, perhaps chopping and re-purposing it, etc, you'll make it work. 

Turns out, this one was exactly how I remembered it, and it fit just the same, and so... I wore it! No cutting, sewing, re-purposing necessary. And that is why you try and buy things that never really go out of style. Like Umbros :)

And since I've worn it twice now... that's $15 a night. Take that Extreme Couponers. And I actually used it, not just let it rot in my closet :)

Good Karma :)

So this happened....

The pain is real, even if nobody knows....

Good news. The lady at AT&T knows. She said I could
A. get a "lame" phone until next March when I'm due for an upgrade.
B. See how much it costs to fix the screen
C. Go to Apple and see what they say... she got me an appointment... that night.

Fashion Valley Mall is a very nice mall. Parking there on a Friday night is not very nice. Between the Cheesecake Factory couples out on dates, to the movie going duos, girls looking to have their nice foreign boyfriends buy them nice foreign expensive clothes, to the idiots like me who HAVE to go there, it's certainly a venue where I can lose my marbles.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures. I show up early for my 8:20pm appointment and sit down at one of the tables with a computer. Just for kicks I google replacing the screen on an iPhone. Turns out Apple can do it for about $200, someone on Craigslist might be able to fix it for about $75-150 or you can try your hand at it yourself. Umm... we can clearly see what my hand does to an iPhone, so that was out.

About that time, a nice young man named Jason came over and asked how I was doing. I jokingly told him a story about an instance I had on an airplane recently. Apparently my voice "carries" and is "penetrating" as told to me by a fellow passenger... Much to my chagrin, I didn't think it was penetrating enough to shatter my iPhone... he played along and gave me a chuckle. not my best joke, but at least I wasn't being a jerk like the guy next to me.

I was taking full responsibility for my klutzy ways, and was sure they would "blacklist" me for such behavior (breaking the iPhone - although bad jokes probably do the same)ha

No tears, no pleading, no begging, no nonsense. I'm a klutz Jason, what do I do? Get a better case? Don't drop it he said. Point taken.

He pulled up my account on his beautifully well taken care of iPhone and within a few seconds looked at me and grinned. I thought for sure he was going to tell me that when I bought a computer from them a few months back I promised to come in and take classes (it gets you a discount)... but I have yet to actually attend any classes... I was due for a lecture.


Jason looked at me, smiled and said... today is your lucky day. I'm going to replace your iPhone. For free.

I could have cried just then, but I just can't seem to muster tears for much other than sappy country love songs. However, I genuinely thanked him and explained how this really was for a good cause... then I pulled up the blog and explained to him what I was trying to accomplish this year and that spending $675 on a new iPhone certainly wouldn't fly. Originally I thought about pulling up the blog first in hopes that he would feel sorry for me, but I hate to be that person. So I held out... and it worked.

Ironically enough Jason looked at me and said... you know I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day about how wasteful our country is and how I'd like to be better at not being wasteful.

It was like divine intervention for us both. I hope he felt as though his good deed for me, was at least part of a greater good deed that will go on all year. We took a picture on the new phone of Jason holding the shattered one, but unfortunately when I restored my phone, it disappeared. I wish I could show you the nice young man who single handedly made this blog possible this weekend, but maybe it's better you imagine Jason however you imagine one of the most wonderful Apple employees this side of the Mississippi :)

round #2 - one in one out

In order to obtain a level of sanity around these parts - the rule was made, if something came in, something must go out.

well... it's that time of year, and since Brooks shoes are the official running shoe of the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Series - I got a new pair!

If you recall, I received a sweet pair of K-Swiss shoes a few weeks back and so I gave my niece a sweet pair of Under Armour shoes. Good news - she likes them! She sent me a picture of her first day of school wearing her new sneaks... and sporting a pretty rad new backpack :)

The one in one out rule applies to anything. This means that just because I got a pair of shoes doesn't necessarily require another pair of shoes go out... rather SOMETHING must be gifted in exchange. Well I know a few things my friends "covet" - I hesitated using that term because of the negative connotation but it's true! ha

Well it seems much of my Rock 'N' Roll "gear" is what is most desired... but who knows... is there something I'm missing? anything I've got that you want? Or you think I have? ha


Revelation #1 :

Since I can't buy it, I want it, even though normally... I wouldn't...?

So I contemplated concert tickets. I haven't been to a concert in quite sometime. A few YEARS in fact.  It's very hard for me to justify paying a lot of money to go to a concert, only to watch the performer like they're an ant. I know live versions of some songs are better, but if they're that good they inevitably get recorded and we get to hear them. (Garth Brooks added verse to Thunder Rolls, Eric Clapton's live version of Tears in Heaven, etc)

Don't mistake me, it's not that I don't appreciate a great performer, because I do... but I'm not exactly in a position to pay thousands of dollars to sit in the front row, and I'm not so lucky to win them it seems either. I've done the... mom calling from the house phone, dad calling from his cell phone, the neighbor on her cell phone, and me on my cell phone trying to win tickets on the radio and so far my track record is... Zero.

And yet... today as I was driving I caught the last few words of a  DJ announcing some performance "this saturday night and your chance to win tickets in 10 minutes!" I pulled the car over, parked and waited - 10 minutes. Am I really getting sucked into this again? Yep.

The emotions waiver between...

"maybe this is my chance... Maybe it's a sign!"


"Hello, are you seriously going to sit in the parking lot of 7-11 and wait??? The phone lines are always busy..."

... it ended up being tickets to the wrong concert anyway. So yes. I wasted 10 minutes hoping this time would be different. And yes, I got the message. Concert tickets count as something new, therefore, get over it Ann... you should be spending that time rolling out your IT band anyway. ugggh.

You see there are very few performers who are worth driving and parking in chaos for... although I admit I would be willing to go through it for this particular individual. But of all the people... I think she will understand why I won't be there. I don't know her personally, but from what I've read, seen and heard, I think we'd be good friends :) So I'll just listen to the CD while I go for a run later and imagine.

Revelation #2    It's important to NOT become a Hoarder - even though you can't buy anything new for a year...

This means using the hotel toiletries while in the hotel... but NOT stealing more from the housekeeping cart :)

Just because you can't buy anymore clothes, doesn't mean you should KEEP the clothes that have clearly NOT made the cut. I wore a pair of pants this weekend that suck. Plain and simple. They shrunk in length, they don't stay up well, and they're not particularly attractive. They must go away.

Caveat: Just because certain styles are "in" doesn't mean you should toss the things you love that are "out" like Umbros :)

"open your eyes"

No one will argue that I have the memory of a goldfish. There are certain things that are cemented into my memory, unfortunately, and there are other things that almost immediately upon arrival are forgotten. Today I was reminded of a "good idea" I once had... that I'd forgotten :)

I purchased hand soap dispensers and instead of being wasteful I purchased the large refill bottle which would also allow fewer trips to the store... in theory. The big bottle however, was lost underneath the sink, and not being used. Instead, whenever I'd see us running low on soap I'd use it as an excuse to head into Bath & Body Works (if I was feeling ambitious - it's in a mall), the grocery store (if I was feeling like my time was worth more than money), or the .99 store (if I was looking for a challenge). 

Well, the truth is, I didn't need to go any further than my own kitchen...

So there they are... The newly refilled soap dispensers.

I guess what I learned from this is... "open your eyes" ha!

a formal complaint...

It's like they know... 
"hey there's this chick out there, and she's trying to use up all our product... scraping the sides of the bottle, turning it upside down. we should mess with her"

Well suckers... I gotta butter knife and I know how to use it. ha. 

There are a lot of products whose packaging makes it very difficult... As I find them I'll alert you :)

 I mean even Folgers wants you to enjoy their coffee which is "good to the last drop".

Bare Minerals makeup - I too would like to enjoy YOUR product to the last drop.

Do you remember before the iPad even formally came out, people were getting early versions, busting them open trying to figure them out... maybe we could do that to these toiletry companies and cause a ruckus! Who's with me???

Out of desperation comes innovation?

I enjoy looking like a fool. Part of my "ann-foolery" includes fun ribbons in my hair. Bad news. They don't sell old ribbons down at AMVETS, or the Goodwill, or the Salvation Army...

This weekend is Rock n Roll Chicago, and I was starting to worry about the ribbon situation. I think there's an expression out there along the lines of, out of necessity stems creativity, or out of desperation comes innovation... anyway... it's true.

Ms. ADD, Ms. impatient... took two seconds to think about  it... and rummage around a little... and bam!

I have a plethora of staff badges from a myriad of different races. 

and if you just cut those suckers off... you've got yourself some real nice ribbon :)

If you're in Chicago... I might see you wondering around the expo, or you might hear me getting all crazy at the start and finish lines of the big half marathon - otherwise there's a good chance I'll be stuffing my face at Lou Malnati's :)

Here's how it turned out!!

That's my friend Dave Mari who ran the race, and documented the new bows for me :)

Rocking to the power of the sun :)

I ride bikes... but I don't love riding bikes.

That being said, I do drive 27 hours across the country (one way) every year to ride my bike across Iowa.

You see, I met this cute boy and he loved riding bikes... So I lied.
"me too!"

Next thing you know, he's online, signing us up to enter the lottery for the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Through the smile, I secretly prayed we would NOT make the lottery. Shucks...

For months, I dreaded the date we would be told our fortune (he didn't know any of this).

Then, the phone call came in...
"Hi, yes may I please speak to the lucky participant who has been chosen as one of the fortunate few to rider her bike across the wonderful state of iowa????" (He's kind of a jokester/radio personality type)
"Get ready to have the time of your life ANNNEEE!"

My heart sank. He had already arranged to have me borrow my friends bike, helmet, etc. and our tickets were booked. Not a minute later he was rambling on about which tent to bring and Thermarests, fans, bike jerseys, tire pumps, butt buttr, Cliff bars....

Excuse me... butt buttr???

I was torn. I really liked this guy, and I hate to suck at things, but... buttering my butt that first morning, falling asleep in a lawn chair almost immediately upon arrival at camp that night, heat rash on my thighs when I awoke the next morning and a cold shower at a high school... wasn't exactly the "bonding", "let's get to know each other" experience I was hoping for.

Too late. Day two was 86 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing. Fear and an eagerness to impress were the ONLY things making this "vacation" possible. All those "pie" and "frozen snickers" and "slip n slide" signs were just cruel. Were they mocking me?

I was afraid I wouldn't make it 86 miles in one day already... let alone if I stopped every coupla' miles and ate candy bars!

What had I gotten myself into... Each day that year, I rode more than I ever had in my whole life. I was scared to death to drink a beer like the other 30,000 people because.... what if I died??

You can tell that I knew NOTHING about anything... really. Thankfully I don't like to sound stupid so I actually listened to this cute boy and diligently heeded his advice.

Drink all your water in between towns.
Drink this gatorade.
Eat a piece of pie, and make sure you get ice cream, you need the calories.
Take a video of this slip n' slide, it's going to be a great marketing tool for our friends...

Marketing tool?? I swear, one hour, into day one, he was already planning his strategy to get our friends to Iowa for this ridiculous bike ride...

4 years later... There is now a painted "short" school bus on the team, an english bulldog (who doesn't do well in the Iowa heat) as the mascot, a roof rack capable of carrying 20 or more bikes, a 65 year old Special Ed teacher lady as the driver, and any crazy we can talk into joining us. Sounds nuts right?

Throw in a tandem. A bicycle built for two. Sounds romantic right?
Well let me tell you that what isn't advertised in that cute little photo...  a tandem bicycle requires constant communication. Good communication. Oh we both talk a lot... but that isn't good enough.

We've since then talked to a lot of tandem bicycle  duos and most of them put in hundreds of training miles before RAGBRAI to make sure their "communication" is good enough to get them through a week of 90+ weather, 60% humidity, hills, and camping - without killing each other.

We showed up with our brand new tandem with 0 miles ridden together.

There should be a group called "Tandems anonymous"...

Year one on the tandem... went ok.
Year two as a tandem... went ok, with one MAJOR improvement - in our communication :)

that my friends is a homemade solar powered stereo, wired up to my iPod, conveniently located on my handlebars. Talk about ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness... and a MIRACLE :)

Someone a little sore and tired in the morning?
      - switch on a little Coldplay, some Chris Brown and suddenly the group is pedaling together, and even the crowd is thanking us for bringing a little motivation.

Someone gets a little mouthy up front...
      crank up Rihanna and the next thing you know, you don't hear a thing.

The hills, yes HILLS in Iowa, kickin your butt?
     some Thunderstruck from AC/DC gets your head banging, and the next thing you know, you're at the top enjoying some free watermelon.

I've heard him explain how he made it, but I still don't completely understand. Does every guy just know how to make stereos from nothing?

And in case you were wondering... it's not a laptop on the back... that's the solar panel :)

One of the greatest gifts to a tandem - a communication blocker outer! ha

dark chocolate + carmel + sea salt = more please

Since food is one of the few splurges I have this year, let me tell you... I sure am enjoying them more than ever :)

A few weeks ago while I was in Seattle for the Rock N Roll Marathon, my friends came in from Whidbey Island and took me to one of the most amazing restaurants I'd ever been to - Purple. The lobster mac and cheese couldn't be passed up and was amazing,

 but it was dessert that almost created a scene right there in the middle of a perfectly sophisticated restaurant.

Upon arrival of the dessert menu (something I almost always torture myself with - I shouldn't even look but don't you just wonder???) Well I didn't even get a chance to read through the list before the menu was snatched out of my hands as my friend mary addresses the server with our orders.

Mary: "We'll have 3 of your dark chocolate sea salted carmels"

Server: "They come 3 on a plate, so one plate right?

Mary: "No. Like, she needs 3, she needs 3, and I need 3"

Really? I thought...

Mary: "Trust us"

Soon after three plates with three chocolates on each were handed out. No words were spoken from the other two, so I followed their lead and bit into the first piece.

You know that feeling you have when you taste something so ridiculously good that you almost put it back on the plate as if it's poison? I mean there's food for sure that you take a bite and then ravenously go in for another because it's so good. But then there's the kind that is so darn good, it's almost hard to comprehend, and so your fork just puts it back almost in denial?? These carmels, are deadly.

They were so good, that the next night we ate at a different restaurant just to mix it up (not sure why we always feel the need to do that too, but whatever) but as we walked home that night we instinctively ended up back at the dark chocolate sea salted carmel restaurant and ordered 3 sets of 3 to go... All of us shaking our heads in disapproval and yet anxiously standing at the hostess stand like rabid dogs.

Good news for me, I was back in Seattle just a few weeks later for TriRock Seattle. This time I wasn't in the city... but as you know now, I tend to obsess when I love things. I had visited the website for the restaurant as we waited that second night and knew they had a few locations...

As I sat explaining these delightful little squares of perfection to my co-workers it dawned on me, there might be a suburban location... right?

When I google mapped it in my phone - to my astonishment, the original location was just .5 mile away. Frantically I called the restaurant and ordered a dozen, sure to impress my new friends I even offered to go inside and get the beautifully tied up boxes in my ridiculous swim cap dress.

It really makes yout think twice about wasting calories on sweets that aren't that good. I love sweets... like more than the average person, and it's a problem. So... to try and remind myself that I should hold out and just splurge for sweets that are truly outstanding, I took that ribbon and tied it around my wrist...If I eat too many sweets with this bracelet on, my wrists will turn Purple and I won't be able to go to Purple anymore...


To Iowa, with Love :)

I just returned to California after a few weeks spent in the Midwest.

I know I'm biased, but Iowa really is an anomaly nowadays.

Amidst the fields of soybeans and corn... sprout major business headquarters like Pella windows, Maytag and Amana appliances (and of course our beloved Pancheros)

Next to old pickup trucks down at the only cafe in a town of 500... park Royal Prevost double sided coaches bearing the names of the newest Presidential hopefuls eagerly trying to sway one of the most influential and coveted voters.

Along the roadside of the the longest, largest and oldest bicycle touring ride in the world... beckon signs proclaiming pie after pie after homemade pie...

or in this case... free cake!

And although goofy looking school buses abound, albeit for one week of the year... the students in the state are attending some of the best schools in the nation, not to mention holding doors for people, initiating conversation with adults and saying please and thank you... regularly.

To many people, Iowa, is one of those backwards states. The last ones to know the latest fashion, to hear the newest hits, to still make things for dinner from "scratch". Talk about a blessing...

Imagine if there were no US Weekly, People, and well I guess there is no more "News of the World" (although I wasn't keen on that one anyway :)

Every year, backstage at Fashion Week I would ask designers what their 'inspiration' was. Their answer was inevitably a time since passed. So they're recycling? right? Isn't that what we all do??

Now, the new thing is mixing and matching the generations styles, adding your own spin and calling it "chic". So what you're saying is, whatever I want to wear is cool - as long as the powers that be approve?

I'm pretty sure I saw somewhere that denim on denim, formerly made fun of and nicknamed the Canadian Tuxedo, is now REVERED! Who decided that? And why do we all listen? Why is it that just because one group gives their blessing... all the sheep quickly do a 180?

One of the most important people of our lifetime, in our history is an inventor named Dean Kamen. You've probably heard of him... because of me. I'm slightly obsessed. He invented the first diabetic insulin pump, the mobile dialysis machine, the ibot wheelchair, the Segway, and now a water purification system that can be powered by dung.

He's been wearing denim on denim for decades. If you ask him, "it's functional". Well good news Dean, you're now a fashion icon as well as one of the most revered and influential peeople in the world. Like he cares. He flies his own jet, and helicopter, forgets to eat because he's too busy inventing, and almost never spends the night in his beautiful home because the worlds problems beckon him to offer what he can.

He's my hero...

I don't care that Kim Kardashian is getting married, or that she wants 5 kids, and I'm sure she doesn't care about me or my dreams either, or else she'd call more often.

I don't lose sleep wondering if Rachel Zoe approves my outfit made of swim caps... she has no idea the looks of confusion, wonder and sheer delight I see on the faces of the people who look at me like I'm an absolute lunatic...

People ask me where I'm from... I like to make sure it's clear that although the home where I receive (the most) mail is in California, make no bones about it... I'm from that random state in the middle where the seasons come and go in equal proportion.

Where we pride ourselves in showing up to the prom in a John Deere 9630 tractor that costs twice as much as your Maserati, in a dress we sewed ourselves. That's "couture" right Ms. Zoe? :)

It's also that place where a thank you card is accompanied by a homemade loaf of banana bread because not only did our parents instill manners and values they also taught us how to use those appliances in the house, not just how they match the shabby chic decor. (and because despite what everyone says about eating raw dough... licking the beaters, the bowls, and the spatula... is fine)

Iowa is the reason I am who I am... California is the reason I appreciate it.

Going home was a good reminder of how buying nothing new for a year, isn't really so much about sacrifice, as it is about reassessing.

Oh did I tell you about the solar powered stereo I got to play with all during RAGBRAI?? I'm too sleepy right now... but I promise tomorrow.

a day late...

and a pair of underwear short.

 this could have been a good thing...

Too bad I was in a car yesterday for 17 hours driving across the desert... Keep 'em coming Vicky!

Ex "peer" iences

I found myself in Rocky Mountain National Park today...

Boy am I glad that someone spoke up and fought for the idea that portions of the country be protected from development. It was quite literally a "breath of fresh air". I mean Colorado is an absolutely beautiful place, but even this great state has caved to subdivision after subdivision of homes all from the same color palette... But back to the beautiful park!

Like most people... I had to use the bathroom before we got very far into the park, which meant a stop in the Visitors Center and the adjoining gift shop and restaurant.

As the daughter of an English and History major I've seen my fair share of battlefields, national parks, museums, etc. Almost all of these places are accompanied by a gift shop. As a kid I would pour over the turquoise rings, the fringed bags, I even got pretty good at identifying prints as opposed to original C.M. Russell paintings.

Obviously today I had to walk straight through the gift shop trying my best to just enjoy the gifts and not wonder which one I could talk my parents into purchasing :)

Usually I find myself looking at the mini license plates for my nieces - which they don't even care about. I've even gotten sucked into those bracelets whose colors mean harmony or peace or whatever. But as the last two months have taught me... I now find myself in front of the food section. Flavored popcorn, candies made to look like rocks (or in Iowa, pig poo) But today, to my surprise, there were dark chocolate carmels with sea salt. They looked just like the ones I raved about in Seattle. For a measely $2 I got two of them, packed them in with my sack lunch and headed out. But there was that tinge of guilt that because I couldn't buy anything for anyone because I can't buy anything for a year... that I was somehow shortchanging them. Or was I?

Unfortunately, or fortunately the world has become uber aware (thank you Oprah) to the national park system and the parking lot near Bear Lake was completely full. We found ourselves parking on the side of the road to tackle an entirely different hike.

The good news about a hike that is entirely up for the first half, means it's entirely downhill for the last half. After carefully watching my step up the mountain side, and not really seeing much more than the trail, we reached the lake we were in search of. Bierstadt Lake.  It was quiet, and peaceful and not a house or development or gift shop in sight. I sat there taking it all in, and pulled out my chocolates.

As I ate my only purchase, which only I was going to enjoy, the guilt came back. But as I looked around and thought about the last few dawned on me...  the time spent daydreaming on the back of the tandem, the moments spent holding my nieces hand as we made our way on to the high dive for her first time, even just falling asleep on the living room floor with my dad while he watched his documentaries on the couch, meant more than anything in those gift shops.

I ate the chocolates. They were good. Not great. Certainly not like the ones from Purple. But I'll tell you what... the view of one of God's unbelievable creations made it that much sweeter... or was it saltier? :)

Instead of being satisfied that I purchased some insignificant souvenir... I vowed instead to give more experiences...

more sugar than sweet...

So it's a friends anniversary... and the guy in the relationship wanted to buy an edible arrangement, those fruit basket bouquet things. He called me and asked if I could help him pick one out for his wife of 11 years.

Now, don't get me wrong they're a great idea, but pretty darn expensive. I figured our local grocery store might offer something similar but at a better price. Ol' Steve the  manager explained that he had indeed looked and experimented with the idea of offering a similar product. It turns out, he understood why a small Edible Arrangement costs $60 because fruit isn't cheap, but more importantly, labor was intense. I thanked him for his honesty, looked at my mom and said, we can totally make one of those ourselves.

We rummaged through the fruit section, and since she had recently been a recipient of one of these Edible Arrangments, and a bit of a packrat, she had cleaned and saved all the sticks and the basket! Problem was I saw a picture of a watermelon carved into the shape of a basket and wanted to really outdo ourselves (fully intending to stick the one stick that said Edible Arrangements in the top and see if we could fool my friends wife).

Well, we're both pretty darn stubborn and our "visions" for our fruit bouquet were not the same. She actually wanted to make it look like a real Edible Arrangment and I wanted to sort of mix what I'd seen them do, with some other ideas I'd seen some crafty magazine like Real Simple (talk about resourceful...but we know the dilemma with magazines... or do we?)

Anyway, I cut the watermelon into the basket, and attempted to make watermelon balls - damn near impossible. Then I thought maybe squares, not easy either, so I ended up slicing them into really small wedges. Not sure you get that much fruit out of it but it's the only way they looked nice. Mom tried slicing the pineapple thin, since you don't get much pineapple to begin with, it all fell apart. Next thing you know the two of us are consuming more fruit, using more marshmallows, because they don't fall apart, and we have made ourselves a mess.

Steve was on to something...

Mom used those little styrofoam squares to help root her sticks, I had nothing. I thought about making a cake to put in the bottom but i figured the fruit would be too heavy. Rice Krispie treats would have worked (we had all the marshmallows) but no Rice Krispies. Finally we made popcorn balls, wrapped them in Saran wrap and prayed. Talk about a disaster...

You be the judge. Mine is the watermelon basket looking thing, hers is the one with all the Kale sticking out of the white basket... Just remember although hers may look better... Mine have popcorn balls and more marshmallows!!! :)

I also carved mine...

I'm only pushing the attributes of my fruit because we actually sent out a text to some friends and she won! 4-1

I will quote Daniel Tosh once again. Edible fruit Arrangements are not easy to make, they are not cheap to make, and they sure as heck don't look like the ones the Edible Arrangement people make... and so for that Edible Arrangements, I salute you.

P.S. did you know they make chocolate mint marshmallows??? I didn't either. They weren't exactly fitting for this, but we got them anyway and tried them. The bag says you can melt them on top of brownies! definitely doing that sometime.

Have I mentioned how glad I am that food is not considered new?? ha it's my only release!


Someone sent me this cartoon before I left... and boy was it pertinent.

 It was very hot.

I meant that as in the sound corn makes when it gets hot and turns into popcorn. But for those of you who aren't from the midwest... it's also what we call that flavored fizzy drink that comes in a can. Pop :) One of the many reasons I love coming home - to see signs on the road advertising Pop, and glad I'm not the only one wondering if they have Mello Yellow. (it's back you know...)

I made a rule that the bike could not stop moving until it was in the shade. Rule #2 was that when I started getting mad because I was too hot I was required to find a frozen snickers :) Needless to say I contributed my fair share to the Mars brand... until I came across my beloved Schwan's man... oh how I've missed the Shwans man and his Schwan's truck. They used to drive around your neighborhood selling frozen food, but the only thing we ever got was a box of ice cream sandwiches once in a blue moon.

The last day of RAGBRAI my butt was in a lot of pain, I was tired and hot and the end was in sight, which is actually not a good thing. Needless to say I demanded that the semi pull over if only for the memories...

I've found a lot of things from my childhood are not nearly as impressive as they were when I was a kid. You know that house down the street that seemed like a mansion, only when you drove by last summer just to check it paled in comparison to your recollection. Or... I had a teacher who I thought was absolutely beautiful when I was in elementary school. Years later I asked my parents if she really was the most beautiful woman in the world and they looked at me rather puzzled because although she wore Exclamation perfume... there wasn't much else to exclaim about... (the slogan for the perfume was "make a statement...without saying a word!" ha I think you can still buy it at Wal-Mart!

Well I can tell you that although I've had a lot of other kinds of ice cream sandwiches that may actually have more pizzazz, more girth, and a lot more calories... the reminiscing that overcame me while that ice cream sandwich melted in my hands made up for it.
But... I would like to say that although a few things haven't held up as well as my memories may have recalled... The movie Goonies, The Boy Who Could Fly, and pop from a big glass bottle have stood the test of time.

I can't find The Boy Could Fly, but Luckily Goonies is on tv for free all the time and pop counts as food...  so do ice cream sandwiches :)


So every year 30,000 people ride their bicycles across Iowa. This year the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees (even at night) and the humidity didn't dip below 60%. As much fun as this may sound... it's more funnerest than you can imagine :) and the people you meet on an adventure like this are even more impressive...

Can you guess what this thing does?

It's a homemade pancake cooker. This contraption was the brainchild of some firemen in a town with a population of less than 1,000. (Yes I said firemen, because they were all men, I'm not being sexist) I was mesmerized by this wonderful piece of ingenuity and resourcefulness. It's a large wheel barrow type base on the bottom. The turntable sits under the large metal wheel and it's timed just perfectly. One firefighter would squirt the pancake dough out of the bottle and a 1/3 of the way later it would come to the next firefighter who would flip it, and then when it reached the third firefighter he would flip it onto your plate. Even the dispenser for the dough was a large bucket they had drilled a hole into the bottom of and then made a spicket to fill the bottles. I was so impressed with their invention, obviously taking pictures like a fool, they didn't really think much of it :)

When I got home and showed a friend these photos she said their firefighters in their town of 100,000... catered their "fundraising" pancake dinner. Lame huh. Talk about making something from nothing. Just another reminder of how dependent we've all become on having other people create things for us, do things for us. I guess Nike really was on to something :)