Monday, December 31, 2007

Treadmill Running... Ick.

It was cold and raining yesterday, so my 5k run was on a treadmill at the YMCA. Now that I'm outside most days, I don't like the indoor thing as much as I used to. It's just like the exercise bikes. It was my preferred workout in the days before buying a bike for the real world. Now, I get bored pedaling in place, and miss the wind in my face.

It's supposed to be sunny and 60-ish this afternoon, so I'll drag the kids and dog out for a walk around the 2-mile riverside loop. Tomorrow will be a long run, to start the new year right. Is supposed to be sunny & cold tomorrow, so I'll be slathering on the chapstick and packing a thermos of hot lemon water for the end of the trail.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Commercialismas!

Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, Happy Festivus!

So much complaining about how horrible the commercialization of Christmas is, and how the culture of consumption is ruining everything. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I admit to being annoyed by the early start of the Christmas season. After the first two weeks of Christmas music, I was ready for all heavy metal, all the time. I'm sick of all the "Joy to the World" jokes. The toy ads drive me nuts. Not quite as bonkers as the car ads. I mean, come on, what the hell kind of a gift is it to get your spouse a brand new car on which you'll both be making payments for three to five years of financing, or (even worse) two years of a lease?

When it comes right down to it though, give as much as you want, to who (whom?) you want, when you want. Send cards. Spend money.

Yes. I'm saying the gifts themselves are important. And why shouldn't they be?

Sure, it's best if you've saved throughout the year so nothing goes on credit. It's fantastic to make the gifts - to give a part of yourself to another. It's better to give that one thoughtful gift than 20 pieces of stuff which gets stored or thrown away.

And, it doesn't really matter whether the gifts are given to celebrate the birth of Christ, the miracle of Hanukkah, or the return of sun and life after the Winter Solstice. It's a time for giving generously to family and friends. Not necessarily generous in terms of money spent, but in the time we take to acknowledge the importance of those relationships in our lives.

If January 1st is all about new beginnings, Christmas is the happy ending to the old year. It's our chance to share the bounty of a good year, or to sound a happier note before we close the book.

We're done with stockings, and with presents. We finished annual viewing of A Christmas Story. The chinese food has been delivered and devoured. Super sweet cupcakes slathered with icing have been eaten. (Well, the icing and candy sprinkles were eaten.) D, B, and J are playing with new toys. M is snoozing on the sofa. I'm taking a few minutes to type up my very happy thoughts about today. And to check the weather for the next day or two. It's important to get out and run or cycle off the gingerbread, eggnog, cupcakes, and reeces peanut butter bells.

Christmas Eve 10k

WooHoo! I get to eat whatever I want. I ran 10k, to get my long run taken care of in time to make Christmas an official Rest/Recovery day. M had kids and dog at the park for walking, bikes and playing, so I took the opportunity to run.

Cool and breezy, about 48 degrees. Sunny, which helped.

Finished in 1:08:42, which is faster than my first long run. The ratio of walking to running has definitely gotten past the half & half point. Probably about 60-65% on the running now. I'll need to start pushing longer run intervals on my shorter runs, or try to run a little bit faster during the same intervals.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A very blustery ride...

It was chilly today. About 48 degrees, and breezy. Rode ten miles along the Silver Comet Trail, then turned and came back, for a total of 20 miles. Couldn't make myself go for a longer ride. My ears and toes were almost numb by the time I got back to the truck.

Will have to look into a pair of smartwool socks, and maybe some sort of hat/earwarmer type thing. Or, just ride when the temps are closer to 60.

Wrap up for the week: 20 miles on the bike - just under 12 miles of running.

Am starting off the new week tomorrow with a "long" run, two loops of the 5k trail near home.

Now, back to my hot tea and a cozy blanket.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Adjusting the Schedule

In order to make my rest days coincide with my christmas travel days, I changed the schedule today. It should have been my Long Run day, but I switched to an Easy 4.5 miles. Tomorrow will be cycling (in a brisk 45 degrees), then the Long Run will be Monday. That gives me Tuesday off, an easy run on Wednesday, and Thursday off for traveling.

The training logs at Runners World have made keeping up with this sooooo much easier. I'll be looking over the Kaiser half/marathon training plans, to see where I can put my own goals. (Thanks to Steph at Back In Skinny Jeans for the links to their schedules.)

This week, 3 runs, 12 miles. I'll add tomorrow's 15-20 miles on the bike to that, and call it an official "Not Bad".
I'm planning a similar total for next week, maybe bumping to 15 miles, and will wait until the kids are back in school to really start piling on the miles.

Super thankful for the folks who put together the workout music segments at fitmusic. They really help me keep going on the runs. For cycling, I keep my brain busy with audiobooks from Audible or the podcast version of FreeTalkLive's radio show.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Rebecca, The Space Between My Peers, has been on the quest for, if not the perfect, at least the better-than-average jeans.

A few things she's trying to avoid: the problem of the gaping back, which one of her readers suggests is because of a rise which is too long. Another is the fit around the knee, which is a problem with the tapered legs, skinny, and many of the straight leg variety too.

She also brings up the issue of pocket placement. I'd not thought of that being the reason why most jeans make my normally flat rear look almost concave. She's got a great set of photos showing the difference the size, embellishment & placement make.

I'm down to two pairs of jeans now, and one is pictured here today.
Joes Jeans. "Honey". Very low rise, narrow through the hips, and they are supposed to be tight across the rear. Notice I said "supposed". On me, they do the impossible. I actually look like I have a rear end. The wrinkling you see is that I bought the 28 instead of the 27. I wanted fitted, not a pair of denim tights.

There's no gape at the back of these. The waistband seems to be set to taper back in slightly, so that they come back over my hip and stay up. It is such a blessing to not have to spend the day pulling up my britches if I happen to forget to wear a belt. (Yes, it IS the little things in life.)

The front is also tailored in such a way to make my hips appear wider. Not many women want that, but those who have 36" hips and a 29-30" waist do. The horizontal creases do the trick, quite nicely.

I did have to get these hemmed. The inseam was 33", which is far too long for my petite legs. The alterations guy at my dry cleaner charged $10 for "original" hem service, which brought the grand total for the jeans to $148. I think it was worth it.

My other jeans were about $15, but I love them just as much. They have embroidery across the back & hip pockets that provide the same function as the permanent creases. I don't think I have a denim specific photo of those, but I'll see what I can do. Tomorrow or Sunday afternoon will likely end up being another blue jean day.

Skirts - Day 3

Between cleaning, wrapping presents and kid wrangling, I have a bunch of climbing around to do, so I'm wearing jeans today, which I'll cover separately. I came across this picture of one of my "keeper skirts. It's a silk box-pleat skirt from Gap, purchased about 5 years ago. Was originally a size 14, but has been cut down as I've shrunk, first to an approximate 8, then to a size 4 equivalent. I do wear this some during warm spells in winter, but it's really only a 3-season item. Very lightweight.

The top photo highlights the cardigan more than the skirt, so I'll just have to tell you that it hits just below knee. Red canvas flats went with it this summer. (ooh! I have a photo!) Have red heels or black mary janes that I wear for spring/fall, or where I need to be less casual then canvas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Morning Runs

With the kids out of school for the holidays, my schedule has turned upside down. My early mornings and late evenings are usually full of sandwich making, homework checking and uniform prep, and I can be flexible during the school day to fit in exercise. For the next couple of weeks, I'll be rolling out of bed and out the door each day at 6:45. Kids aren't up yet, so it's the only time of day I'm not "on duty".

This morning was the first. The dog spotted my shoes, and practically knocked me over on the way to his leash. Five minute walk, followed by 7 min run, 2 min walk intervals. Stayed in the neighborhood, so had the opportunity to do a couple of big hills.

Total was three miles, avg. 11:13/mile. didn't feel like too much to handle, so will try to go a little farther and/or faster tomorrow morning.

Skirts - Day 2

This is a year round staple. Gap khaki skirt, picked up at the thrift store for $2.99. Had to fix a section of the hem. Took about 10 minutes, no big deal.

I realized when looking at the full length photo that it's time to replace my knit shirts with the next size down. The larges are too baggy, and are adding a visual 5-10 pounds. I'm not obsessive about my weight, just about not looking "frumpy". Will have to hit Gap, Banana Republic & Old Navy sales after Christmas.

As for the argyle tights... what was I thinking, right? It's cold and rainy today, so I'm embracing the age-inappropriateness of them. Sometimes you just have to.

Off to run errands now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Once I finished thinning out the number of dresses in my closet, I moved on to skirts. I've been struggling with this category, because there are several factor to consider before deciding on a particular number. The staples, such as the black pencil skirt and khaki A-line are easy. But, there are winter only skirts, such as this one.

It was picked up at a boutique in Decatur a year or so back. Kaleidescope, I think. It was on sale, but even that didn't bring the ticket price under $125. I actually came back the next day to make the purchase, after I had figured out where in my clothing & lunch money I could cut to keep in budget.

It's a heavyweight corduroy overskirt, with jersey and mesh layers underneath. It has beading detail on the outside, is dryclean only, and is something I am only comfortable in when the high temps are 50 degrees and lower, which is not that often in Georgia.

So, it's not terribly practical, it cost "too much", and it takes up valuable closet space. Do I get rid of it?

No. It may not be cold for long each winter, but when the temps are low, I wear it at least once a week. The combo of casual corduroy and the detailing gives me confidence that I will be neither over or underdressed at any winter gathering. Plus, it is a perfect outlet for the "girl" that's tucked away somewhere in my life as "mom".

So, criteria for skirts has been expanded to include the happiness factor. This will become very important in judging whether or not to keep some summer skirts.

I'll try to get a skirt photo each day for the next several days, as I work my way through the winter & all-season skirts. There are one or two which need to be cut down, so I'll have to hold off on those until after Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shoes I Like like.

I wouldn't say I love these shoes, but I like them. In fact, I Like like them.
They look comfy without looking like something grandma would wear to bingo.

These would be great in place of loafers with jeans when I want to make it just a tiny bit dressier. And with skirts, they also give the benefits of flats, without making my short legs look even shorter, as all those ballet flats do.

They're also available in brown, and it's a toss up which will win. It's just a question of which shoes will be retiring to make space for these or their lovely cousins.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Today, I cycled 10 miles as a warm up, and followed it with the 5k Cochran Shoals/Powers Ferry loop.
It was chilly, but the Brooks gloves and my new winter tights from Performance kept me quite warm. The gloves aren't wind-proof, but they worked quite well at an overcast 50 degrees. And the tights? I'm going to be tempted to wear them when I'm not exercising. Amazingly soft.

The first mile after switching to running shoes was odd. My muscles were warmed up, but they did not want to cooperate with the different motions. Cut to just two minute walk to start, then 5/7/11/11 runs, with 2 min walk breaks.

It was good. I think tomorrow might be a recovery day, depending on how bad everything aches. Definitely want to continue to do this sort of workout when I have the chance though. Good challenge.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Great Outdoors

Blahs banished. Energy up. Petee Dog worn slap out.

It was a good run. The walk/run combo I usually was officially a run/walk combo today.
I usually work up to 5-7 minute runs with 2-3 minute walks to recover between.
Today, I managed 7-11 min runs with 2 min walks. WooHoo! I'm getting better!

Next thing is probably a heart rate monitor, as that's an important number too.

Note to self: Anytime you need a kick in the pants to get moving, wear a top with horizontal stripes. Nothing like an instant visual 10-lb weight gain to shock your brain into action.

I don't wanna...

I hear that from the kids, and instantly say "Tough!"

Is harder to do with myself though. I don't wanna run. I don't wanna even put on shoes. I wanna curl up on the sofa with a book, a cup of hot tea and a blanket.

I'm thankful for my running buddy. He sat down next to my desk and put his chin on the chair arm. It's time to go.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We're having a heat wave...

...a tropical heat wave...

Okay, so 75 degrees may not exactly be tropical, but it's almost the middle of December, and my whole family is suffering from a severe case of spring fever. Thoughts of Christmas shopping have been driven from our heads, the boxes of decorations are stacked by the tree, ignored while we frolic in the yard with soccer ball or frisbee.

I've spent every spare moment the last couple of days outside, so very little has been accomplished. On Tuesday, I took the Petee dog down to Cochran Shoals for a three loop, 90 min., walk/run. Managed to work up to 8-10 min runs, with just 2-3 min recovery walks. Wasn't really keeping track of miles, but was probably 6-7. Was ready to be done at 90 mins, and so was Petee. Except for the squirrel sighting, he was loping slower and slower on that last loop.

Didn't hurt much this morning, but I did take it a bit easier on both Petee dog & me today. He stayed home and napped, I popped out for a 40 min ride. Forgot the computer. And the seat wedge - I did mention spring fever, right? It's a route I know well, and it's about 10 miles. Avg. speed (guesstimate) - 15mph. I didn't even break a sweat. May need to try the back loop with hills next time.

I'm going for another walk/run with the Petee tomorrow. Have several projects in the works, so it probably won't be 90 mins. I don't want to waste the last day of warm weather. It's only going to be 65, not 75 Thursday, and temperatures are supposed to drop, and the rain begin, Friday and Saturday. Oh well, I enjoyed the warming in my little corner of the globe, while it lasted.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Comparing Apples & Oranges

I'm a very fickle reader when it comes to nutritional labels. I buy the ingredients for much of my cooking as close to the original form as possible, so reading isn't as critical. For things I can't or don't make myself, like breakfast cereal, I skim the labels before putting in my cart. Sometimes.

I have shown my kids the side of the fruit loop box before, to point out how much better wheat chex is for them. But let's face it - nutritional labels are a pain. The information is based on whatever portion size the manufacturer decided to use, which will always be the portion making their product look best. To get accurate info I'd need to total up everything by the number of servings and divide by weight. Did I mention I'd be doing this in the grocery store with three children in tow?

A supermarket in the northeast, Hannafords, has started a ranking system (0-3) for the foods they sell. They've noticed an increase in sales for higher ranked foods. Obviously, shoppers want this information. There's a system ranking NNR (naturally nutrient rich) in the works. A group at Yale has worked out a scoring system, Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI). Eventually, foods will be assigned a 0-100 score, based on vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat, antioxidants and other nutrients found in that food, beverage or recipe.

There's a partial list up at the website, and it's an eye-opener. I mentioned cereal earlier. My kids know better than to ask for anything in bright shades of the rainbow or chocolate, but I do get regular requests for Quaker Life cereal. I usually turn those down in favor of Multi-grain Chex, but that's a mistake. Take a look at the numbers for my "regular" cereals:
Multi-Bran Chex (General Mills)....................48.38577
Good Friends Cinna-Raisin Crunch (Kashi)....63.63499
Honey Graham Life (Quaker).......................164.0544
Of the three cereals, the one I don't buy is the healthiest choice? I'm floored. I like Honey Graham Life myself, but think of it more as a sweet treat than breakfast. How'd my cereal choice(s) do?
All-Bran Original (Kellogg's) ....................1101.602
Complete Wheat Bran Flakes (Kellogg's) ...343.9216
I need to stick with sprinkling All-Bran on my morning yogurt. The beverage category didn't hold too many surprises. We all know water is the best beverage choice. This one was interesting:
V-8 Splash - all flavors .................................29.64926
Ocean Spray Reduced Calorie - all flavors...149.7773
I look forward to seeing how this rating system develops. It probably will change the way I shop for food. It definitely will change the way I think about the nutritional common knowledge.

Hat tip to Wenchypoo.

Friday, December 07, 2007

$2 Pants + $45 Alteration: Still a Bargain!

I've been on the hunt for the "perfect" wool pants for a while. I had to be picky about them, you see. I live in the south, and it's only cold enough for heavy wool pants 2 months of the year. It doesn't make sense to have a black pair, a grey pair, a pattern... so I wanted plaid. I found a few okay pairs, but the weight was wrong, they were only lined half way down the leg (itchy!), or the fit was off enough that major alterations would be needed. The few pairs I found that I tried and loved were at Nordstroms, and way out of my budget.

A couple of weeks ago, while shopping at the thrift store for school uniform pants....SCORE! The color, the pattern, the material weight. The label said "8", but it looked like it might be a small 8. I checked the waist & hem. Someone had paid to have them hemmed and there were well-done darts along the back at the waist. I tried them on. They were perfect. Almost. The lining had been punctured and ripped, like the previous owner had put them on after putting on heels. A few seconds of math later, I took them to the front and paid the $2.

The tailor charged $45 to put in a full length liner. He did a great job. I picked them up yesterday, and am thrilled. If I'd purchased the $60-100 pairs in the dept stores, I'd have paid another $20-30 for alterations to hem and waist. If I'd gone for the $250-$300 pants, hemming would have been included, but I'd have spent $250+.

At $47 dollars total, I saved between $25 and $250 - and I have a quality pair of pants I'll be wearing for years.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Old Year" Resolutions...

I really enjoy the time on the trail or road. Doesn't matter if it's on the bike or my own two feet, it's a great time for self-reflection. It's also a great time to go completely blank and enjoy the music. Today was the thinking sort of day. I was going over my goals for this year, what I've accomplished, what can be improved over the next month, where I want to take it next year.

2007 resolutions were pretty vague - the typical "get in better shape" goal so many people make on New Years Day. How'd I do so far?
-Started riding to & from store - 3 miles, 3 x week.
-Added a couple of 10-20 mile rides on the Silver Comet Train or Riverside routes each week.
-Added a 30-40 mile ride every other week on the Silver Comet.
-Tried a 50 mile ride. Not ready for that yet, but I finished the ride without too much pain.
-Started swapping some bike workouts for 30-60 min walks, which have graduated to alternating 5 min walk / 5 min run for the full workout.

Weight loss wasn't really a priority this year. I started at a floating 137-140 pounds, and am finishing the year at the same spot on the scale. I did drop another dress size though, which means I'm doing the right things to slowly drop any other excess fat.

I'm working on my 2008 goals. Am going to try to make my exercise goals a bit more concrete this year, and toss in an event or two, so I have official training goals.

Suburban Cycling

McMansion neighborhoods are not my cup of tea. The houses are far too large for my taste, the yards are too small, with too few trees. But that's just me. I think anyone who wants it, go for it. What I do like about a few of the developments though is the pedestrian/cyclist friendly accommodations.

The photo is Columns Drive, just over the river in Cobb Co. It's the main drag going into several "luxury" apartment and townhome complexes, and to the neighborhoods around Atl Country Club. Bicycle lanes on each side of a wide, well-lit street. Chattahoochee NRA parks on each end. Johnson Ferry has hiking trails and river access; Cochran Shoals has just over 3 miles of rolling trail for foot and bicycle traffic.

It's an easy way to get in 10 miles before picking the kids up from school. Two full loops takes 30-40 mins, and I'm de-stressed and wide awake, ready to handle homework, dinner, etc.

I know I said I wasn't cycling today. I lied. The temps made it up to almost 60, so my hands didn't freeze after all. Still need gloves. Spent the time reflecting on goals, mostly of the health & fitness sort. Will get into that later. It's time for me to host the weekly spelling bee between my 1st grader & Molly the dolly.

Snoozing vs. Snacking

I'm tired. Sleepy. Groggy. And Snacky. Okay, so snacky isn't a word, but I am snacky.

The kids finished up their homework, helped with dinner prep, ate all their vegetables, so I got to be the fun mom last night & declare a movie evening, something we usually don't do during the week. We've been recording Tin Man on SciFi, and were itching to get started watching the first part. A 6:30 request for anything other than cartoons or ice cream in my house is a pleasant surprise. I said "sure".

The "re-imagining" of The Wizard of Oz takes getting used to, but I like this darker version. It's funny and magical, and different, in a good way. It doesn't replace the original movie by any stretch - and it's not trying to. It's like the daydreaming you did at the age of 10 after finishing a really good book or movie. It's extra.

Finished up and got everybody to bed by 9, which isn't too late. Then it was time for my evening work to begin. Laundry, kitchen cleanup, breadmaking, lunch prep for the next day, ironing.... finished up around 12:30-1:00.
Yuck. Usually I get started on all this while the kids are playing a game, finishing homework, torturing each other with staring contests, etc. But I was as wrapped up in the movie as they were, and didn't do any of that until later.

Getting up this morning was hard. Making breakfast and packing lunchboxes were tough. Having hot herbal tea, instead of brewing coffee, was darn near impossible. The map changes I'm working on are swimming on the page and screen, and I'm fighting sugar cravings. Researchers say... a lot of things, but in this case... that how much sleep we get has direct ties to weight. From the Daily Mail:
People who slept four hours or less per night were 73 per cent more likely to be obese than those who slept between seven and nine hours a night. And those who got five hours sleep a night were still 50per cent more likely to be obese.
Glucose tolerance, hormonal changes, metabolic changes, combined with an exhausted body being harder to force off the sofa for exercise? Sounds like my day. According to the article, a 15 min. nap will do more good than a cappuccino, but I'm not a napper. Can't sleep when the sun is up unless I'm really sick. Exercise is going to have to do the trick. No cycling today. Have to purchase cycling gloves before I ride in the mornings. Thought I was going to lose my fingers last ride. I'll be strapping on the trainers and heading out for a walk/run. Maybe my route will pass Starbucks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Slightly Smaller Wardrobe - Dresses

As I mentioned after thanksgiving, I'm in the middle of fall cleaning. Inspired in part by Rebecca's posts and her links to 34 pieces together, I'm purging my closet. I've been figuring out how long it's been since each item has been worn, trying outfit combos... it's taking a lot more time then I thought it would.
I have managed to complete one section of the closet - WooHoo! Six dresses gone. Two from 30-40 pounds ago, a couple I bought on a whim, and two that I must have been under the influence of cold medications while purchasing. No other explanation.

Here's what I'm keeping:

There was no doubt about this dress. I purchased it for a party just after the birth of my daughter six years ago, and have had it cut down twice to keep up with the shrinking me. I look good in this dress. Always have.
This is linen, but a very dense weave. Fully lined, so no messing about with slips and extra layers.
It's fine as is, or with a cardigan for half the year in the south. For winter, or to wear to work, I add a long or 3/4 sleeve shirt underneath. The shirts will crop up again in a later post, when I get to that portion of the wardrobe, but one is an ancient Arizona white shirt - from the juniors dept., and the other is the convertible camp shirt from Old Navy. I really like items like this pink shirt, where you get polished and casual in one piece, just by changing a button.

Faux-wrap dress, in black - H&M Makes getting dressed VERY easy.
I usually carry the red purse with this, just to keep from being too somber.

I picked this plaid dress up on the clearance rack at Target last month. It's fully lined, zips up the back, and is the only dress of this type of cut that doesn't make the kids in my daughter's 1st grade class ask if I'm having a baby. I wear it with either a long sleeve tee or a turtle neck and black tights with chunky mary janes or flats.

As a bonus, since I bought it for $7.99 (plus tax), the price per wear is down to $2, just in the first month of ownership.

I love this dress, either on it's own or tossed over jeans as a tunic. It may be leaving me in the next purge though, as this dress always leads someone to ask if I'm expecting.

And finally, a couple of 2-3 season dresses. Again, I'm in the south, so going sleeveless into October, and packing away all but the lightest sweaters by the end of March is normal:
It's going to take a few days to get the next segment of the wardrobe finished. I'm trying to cut down to just 2-3 each of Summer, Winter, and 4-Season skirts. I think I have it narrowed down, but haven't taken any photos yet. If you're wondering what I'm getting rid of, here's a sample of a whim dress (or maybe the cold-medicine shopping?):

It's a cute dress, and I love the polka dots.
When you combine the dot pattern with the length, the chunky white buttons and the puff sleeves, I look at this photo and think "mutton dressed as lamb."

Plus, now that I see the photo, the maroon turns my complexion to blotchy. Ick.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Coming soon to campaigns near you....

Limits on donations to campaigns.
Restrictions on what can be said over the public airwaves during the election cycle.
Restrictions on groups who contract for advertisements for or against a particular piece of legislation slated to be put before candidates, if they were elected.
Restrictions on individuals who contract for advertisements for or against a particular piece of legislation slated to be put before candidates, if they were elected.
Laws which weaken the ability of a newcomer to challenge an incumbent.

Sounds a bit like the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, don't it?

Toss in taxpayer funded campaigns, restrictions on publishers, and a slew of other convoluted regulations, including some which might restrict anonymous bloggers, and you get New Zealand's proposed Electoral Finance Bill (EFB).

I've read parts of the bill, editorial writeups on the bill, from both sides, and I can't say I understand it. I want to though, so I'm going to keep reading.

Why am I so interested in NZ politics? For the same reason(s) everyone in the U.S. ought to be interested. Many of the regulations are beefed up versions of things found in our own Campaign Finance Reform (CFR). And if not in CFR, it's being discussed by candidates for the presidential nomination in 2008.

The Fairness Doctrine would force radio and television stations to provide equal time to all candidates. While news programs do this as part of their regular jobs, can you imagine having to track down the opponents to answer to the mere mention of a particular candidate during a call-in show? And what of the political ads? Will stations have to give away time to offset the purchase of time by others?

And publicly funded campaigns? We have a matching system now, which has a slew of criteria to meet before a candidate can access funds. There's a limit of $2300 per individual on donations. Non Profit entities have been set up for the express purpose of political advocacy. Big frakking mess.

Take it to the next step. Government provides funds for all campaigns. Government then gets to set the rules for how much money the candidates get, as well as the rules controlling the spending of said money. And who runs the the government? Why, it's the same folks who are taking the cash for campaigning. If it's tough for challengers now, how much worse can it get? And third party candidates who are already having to struggle for ballot access?

Since the natural tendency of government is to grow, and to increase the scope of it's power, this is something we should all worry about.

A growing number of New Zealanders have got it right though. They've been taking their protests to the streets, while they still can. And each protest has been larger than the one before. The support crosses the demographic and political spectrum. From Peter Cresswell, at NotPC:

Momentum is building. Yesterday, five thousand of us took to the streets in Auckland to protest the Clark/Peters/Fitzsimons/Dunne Electoral Finance Bill: protesting the speech rationing, democracy rationing and electoral corruption that this Bill entails: protesting now while it's still legal...
More pics and commentary at MikeE's, including this pic above and the accompanying potent observation:
The above photo shows that freedom of speech and the EFB is no longer a beltway issue. Today we had conservatives and liberals, left and right, maori and pakeha, anarchists and statists marching side by side in disgust at the EFB. Some might claim that this is a National and ACT thing. It wasn't, I spotted: National, Act, Labour, [Libertarianz,] Socialist Workers, Free Palestine, Maori Sovereignty movement, Tuhoe Anti-Terror Bill protestors, war veterans, mothers, accountants, lawyers, students, anarchists, businessmen and women all marching against this disgusting piece of legislation. They will not stop, this bill will will be the end of those politically who support it.
He's dead right, and more mongrel MPs should be listening. As a few free-speech-supporting green friends have said to me, a few of whom marched yesterday, "We didn't vote Green for this!"
5,000 people. In one city. That's beautiful. I don't think we could get 5,000 people in the Atlanta metro area together for a protest for free speech, and the population in this region is greater than in all of NZ.

When Laundry Gremlins Attack

This sweater was my favorite. Or 2nd favorite. Actually, it was tied with the black one I picked up during one of those great 2-for deals at Old Navy a couple of years ago. Soft, comfy and warm, but not too warm, because it's cotton. Super versatile, and now, super splotchy.

I check pockets before putting clothes in the wash. Keys, coins, crayons, rocks, hot wheels cars, lego men, barbie shoes, sharpies, candy, and chapstick are all regularly caught on my fishing expeditions. Apparently, I missed a chunk of dirt. Not dirt, really. It must have been a clod of bright orange-red georgia clay. My sweater looks like it was wrapped around a rusting stove grate. Rewashing, oxyclean, nothing helped.

I'm not sure which of my family members saved that special little memento of the day in the yard or playground, and it's probably better if I don't find out.

Since I'm in the process of whittling down my wardrobe, I figured I'd NOT purchase a replacement. That was before the morning temps dropped below 40. Two mornings in a row, I climbed out of bed thinking I'd wear this skirt or those jeans with my cream sweater.... darn! Just now, while putting away clean clothes, I set out my chocolate cords to wear tomorrow, opened the shirt/sweater drawer, reached for....

So, I'm online, complaining, and shopping for a replacement. Seems off-white, ivory and cream are not hip enough color names. I'm ordering something called "oxygen". And, since when do I show up as a small on the size chart for tops? Whatever.

House Cleaning As Exercise?

End of a very busy week, and I was so looking forward to hitting the trail for a few hours today. Didn't make it. Like I said, it was a busy week, so that means I'm a touch behind on laundry, dusting, shopping, and just about everything else. Had two large maps, and a few smaller projects, in production at the same time, instead of the normal workload. Got everything off to the printer yesterday though, and my weekend is... not quite mine, but at least it's my family's?

Rather than getting in a snit about it though, I'm diving in. Massive grocery shopping trip, as the pantry and fridge were both stripped by all the extra people next week. Scrubbed the kitchen, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, the works. Amazing how much activity this is, when it's all in one day. I'm taking a short break while waiting for the third load of linens to finish drying. Blogging and menu planning as a break? Sigh... I'm such a mom.

The kids are working furiously, bagging up leaves in the yard. Well, maybe furious is the wrong word. For every leaf that makes it into a bag, there's another getting shoved down a sibling's shirt. In a few minutes, my oldest son will remember the amount of payment is dependent upon the number of finished bags, and they'll be back at real work.

As for why I'm menu planning AFTER the grocery trip, it's more of re-planning. A few of the items were unavailable, so I'm adjusting the plan for meals I'll be cooking tomorrow for later this week. The produce section had been picked clean of all the desirable peppers, tomatoes and lemons, and the broccoli bin was empty. Cauliflower has to be fixed a certain way to make it past one particularly picky eater, so I'm figuring out how much extra cheese sauce I need to make tonight. I can add salsa to it tomorrow to go with grilled chicken & chips, and save some for Monday with the cauliflower. Yea, me!

I've pulled most of the items that are leaving my closet this weekend and set aside for drop off. I'll start taking stock (and photos) of the pieces I'm keeping next week. Building up a virtual wardrobe, I guess.

Now, back to work.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fall Cleaning

Except for a brief bit of sunshine on Saturday, which allowed for a trip to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for a scavenger hunt with camera phones, the icky weather gave me the opportunity to do a bunch of clearing around the house.

Pulled outgrown clothes from kids' dressers and closets. Got photos finished and have made up my list - so I'm dropping off three paper bags of winter clothes at Goodwill later today. Woo Hoo!

Have noticed it's damn near impossible to get my daughter to part with anything. If it's worn out, then it's her favorite, and she wants to keep it because it's too sad to throw it away. If she's outgrown it, then she wants to keep it for her dolls. Ack! Have finally had to take a hard line - if she wants a replacement, then the old one has to go before we go shopping. It's working so far, but there are still tears shed over the sizes 4 & 5 that were put in the bag.

I also started on a complete purge of my wardrobe. Some of it was needed anyway, since I still have several 8s and 10s hanging at the back of the closet, and even a couple of 12s. After 2-1/2 years in size 6 and under, I think it's safe to let those go. I'm also weeding through and putting aside my favorite things, in preparation for taking a hard look at all the indifferent items. Anything that doesn't either serve a specific purpose or make me happy will be going. I was inspired by, among others, 34 pieces together, the blog of a young lady who made it a goal to do more, fabulously, with less. I don't know if I can get down to that small of a list, but figure that 40-45 pieces is a good target.

At some point, I need to figure out how to put a link list down the side. Maybe I can figure that out later this week. After all, I only have two maps going into the final production and proofing stage over the next two days, and sleep isn't that important, right?

Thanksgiving Dinner...

Thanksgiving = Chaos.

Three days of food prep turned out a fabulous dinner, if I do say so myself. Since everyone was coming in Thursday morning from out of town, the cooking was all mine. (Cue evil laugh.)
Finally, I got to make changes to the typical Turkey dinner menu. No green bean casserole! No burned or slightly overcooked crescent rolls! No cranberry from a can!

Sweet potatoes with maple & pecans. Mashed potatoes & parsnip. Fresh cranberry compote.
Steamed french beans with butter & almonds. Homemade Applesauce (4 types of apples)
Succotash. Corn Muffins. Stuffing w/apples, cranberries, tons of veg & sweet italian sausage
Apple Butter & Pumpkin Pie. (I cheated on the crusts - freezer section)
And, of course, Turkey.

Family visited from out of town, so my tiny little home housed seven adults, two children, three dogs and one very crabby cat. Did I mention it was cold and rainy, so we were a very close knit bunch.

Kept the kidlets busy Thursday morning with this fun tabletopper for the kids table:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Death & Taxes...

Yeah, Politics. Next up, religion and money.

How many issues do you need to have in agreement with a candidate before you can support him? One? Two? Five? Maybe all but one?

I know so many people who say they support a particular candidate, BUT he's...
...been known to support gun bans
...raised taxes
...increased state spending, or voted to increase federal spending
...voted to limit free speech
...voted to increase government control over individual decisions

Why is that okay, but it's not okay to support a candidate who truly supports shrinking the size and power of government in our daily lives, just because he doesn't support a war which he believes to be against the constitution?

How many other candidates even weigh their decisions and stated views against this "goddamned piece of paper" we call The Constitution of the United States of America?

Anyway, his name is Dr. Ron Paul, he's a congressman from Texas, and he's a rare thing in politics - a man of conviction.

Scheduled to the 9's

Book fair week. Ugh. As much as I love all the books, and seeing the rugrats perusing the stacks at the Scholastic Book Fair each year, I really miss sleep. In order to find time to be at both schools, work gets pushed back to evenings for a few days this week.

Have picked up a few items for myself, um ahem, that is to say, the kids.
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
-Comes with a movie poster, which the DD & B2 are fighting over
The Artemis Fowl Files, by Eoin Colfer
-Contains short stories about Mulch. How can one miss out on gassy dwarf stories?
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney
-Looks like a lot of fun, will read when B2 finishes.
Beowulf, by Gareth Hinds - Graphic Novel
-Yeah, this one is just for me. The kids can read it, but it's mine.
A 36 yr old with an occasional comic book jones, ack.
And, finally, The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau.
-I'm really looking forward to reading this outloud for bedtime over the next week or two.
It looks to be one that should strike the fancy of a 6 yr. old, her brothers, 8 and 13,
and their dear old mom. (I'll have to keep my fingers crossed on the 13 yr old appeal.
He's in the "that's boring little kid stuff" phase.

Anyways, didn't have time for putting in any miles today, but tomorrow I'll hit the track. I needed the recovery day after this past weekend. Solid hour of jogging on Friday, a 1 hour group ride on Saturday (with hills), another hour of running on Sunday. It was all I could do to make 25 loops of the track on Monday.

Now, time to catch up on some Ron Paul reading, and then get back to mapping.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Beginnings of My Addiction, part 2

Today's going to be a bit short. Super busy schedule of prepress and map work, puppetmaking with the 1st graders, reading Invisible Fran, a Franny K Stein book, to the 3rd grade class. After that though, I'm hitting the road. Granted, today is on foot, but I'll get to ride tomorrow. But, back to how I met my new best friend.

October. 2007 bikes went on sale. This would include a $200 discount on the bike I needed. (Notice that I say needed. Was not a want.) It was painful to go home the day I saw the sales sticker, but I did. Later that week, stopped by to grab an extra water bottle and inquired about the availability and pricing. Was told that I could take an extra $100 off. That was it. I paid for, NO, let's say I paid adoption fees for this new member of my family:

Yes, I know. I will have other bikes. Road bikes which will cost me far more, and have all these fancy gadgets, and be made from better and better components. But this little beauty is special. First time I broke 20 mph under my own leg power. The big jump from 10 to 15 miles becoming my standard "quick" ride.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Beginnings of My Addiction

So, how to exercise in a practical way? A bike. A little store by the name of Trader Joe's opened up exactly 1.25 miles from my house. I had the inspiration I needed. A bicycle, a basket, and three small grocery trips a week. That's how it started, one mild week in April.

My Columbia hybrid became my morning cup of coffee. I started buying the smallest amount I needed, just so I'd have to ride back to TJ's the next day. (A side benefit was that my grocery bill dropped. not much room for pricey junk food in a bike basket with the essentials.) Soon, that 2.5 miles a day wasn't enough. I needed more.

So, popped the bike in the back of the truck, and started riding the trail at Riverside Park a few afternoons before picking the kids up from school. Pretty soon it was almost every day, and one trip each weekend.

Bought a computer, so I'd know how far I was riding. Then added cage pedals. Then I started paying attention to my speed, and working on maintaining a certain pace, with the help of Their BPM mixes are fantastic!

A friend of mine, PJ, suggested I try the Silver Comet Trail. He rode with me a few times, and Wow! did he ever help me take it up a level. I was planning a 5 mile stretch down the trail, figuring 10 miles was the longest I could handle. But, thanks to his gentle pushing and wonderful conversation, 15 miles flew by.

I started going for longer rides 15 miles during the week, 25-30 miles on the weekend. I started renting the Trail Bike at the Silver Comet Depot to attach so I could take one of my children with me. (Those rides are shorter, just 10-12 miles) Picked up cycling shorts. The temps in Atlanta were climbing into the 90's, and it didn't bug me. I was still riding, loving the heat, going on 40 mile rides each Saturday. Felt great, but I wanted to go faster.

My hybrid is a great commuter bike. Comfort seat, the basket & mount on the handlebars, great for riding with the kids, but 40 miles takes a really long time at 12-15 miles an hour.
The tires are 650's, the frame is heavy, it's just not meant to zoom. So, I started trying out road bikes.

Specialized, not bad. Fuji, pretty nice. Schwinn flatbar road bike, liked it. Trek, 's okay. Then, I saw it. A beautiful blue bike, the seat just even with my hips. It called to me. I handed over my drivers license and took it for a spin. My sneakers slipped off the pedal clips, and the shifting took getting used to, but... I flew. The wind was actually loud in my ears.

And the bike was the perfect fit for my short legs and long torso. No stretching, no scrunching. No scooting around on the seat to get comfy. It was perfect. It was also $950, way beyond what I planned for my first road bike. So I went home.

The bike stuck with me. I'd stop by each time I rode the Silver Comet, drool a bit, check the price tag, and walk away. For that bike, I'd even learn how to use cycling shoes. Even if it meant falling over. I'd wear a helmet on a regular basis. I'd give up my plan of upgrading my 2nd generation iPod for another year.....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Starting Again...

I'm trying this blog thing again. I didn't really have a clear purpose when I started, and it showed. My updates were extremely few and very far between. Now, they're gone.

I'm using this as a way to keep myself motivated on several fronts. With this being sort of public, I'm calling myself on the carpet. So here goes...

To start, let's tackle health/fitness. I've never been one to exercise.
That's a lie.
I have been one to exercise, but in fits & starts. The person who goes to the gym every day for a week or two, then avoids all exercise for months on end. Was okay when I was 22, but helped pack on 40 lbs by the time I was 32. I was disgusted with myself, so lost weight. No chips, no sodas, no burgers, and no exercise.
Looked pretty good, but still felt fat. Not in a vain way. I didn't want to lose more weight for beauty or fashion. I wanted to walk my big dumb dog without being winded. To chase along my daughter as she tried to ride without training wheels.
I knew that exercise had to be a part of my regular day. If it was an effort to drive to the gym, or to arrange childcare, or juggling group exercise schedules to fit my schedule of work, volunteering at school, three kids with music and swim lessons... you get the idea.