The April Gym/Exercise/Put-Down-That-Cookie Challenge

I've been trying to decide whether or not to do this, and eventually I was like, "Why not? We're all friends here, right?"


I mean, I may have never physically met most of you, but that doesn't mean that I don't trust you to have my back, cause you're my homies, and that's just how we roll, right? Word to your mother and all, although I'm not quite sure what that means.


Here's the thing: My gym has launched its April Challenge initiative, and this year I'm going to do it. And because things like self-discipline and accountability fly right out the window as soon as a fresh tube of cookie dough gets opened, I'm going to tell you guys that I'm doing it so that two weeks down the road, I won't all be like, "Gym Challenge? Are you sure? You must have me confused with someone else...probably someone who wouldn't eat this second piece of cake".

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to do a major overhaul or anything. I've been going to the gym for a couple of years and I generally like the shape I'm in. It's just that sometimes I tend to...well, slack off. With the workouts. And the cardio. And the cookie vigilance.

But the April Challenge is all about pushing yourself, and accomplishing new goals, and not gorging oneself on Easter candy, so here we go.

This month I will:
  • Do my cardio classes on Tuesday and Thursday and not skip them for any reason other than death.
  • Do the ENTIRE ab workout DVD and not give up 15 minutes into it and watch the rest of it in fast forward while I sit on the couch.
  • Work up to doing 20 minutes on the tread wall at 90 degrees. (At the moment it is killing me to do 10 minutes).
  • Keep my elliptical pace above 130, except for cool downs.
  • Not buy lots of Easter chocolate just because it is there and on sale.
  • Not eat dessert more than once twice a week.
I'm trusting you to keep me accountable, my Interpeeps. My home-dogs. My sistas from another mista (except of course, for my actual sista, who is from the same mista, but you get the point). Pop on every once in a while and be all like, "Did you do your cardio this week? Did you? DID YOU?!" Cause I'm all about the motivation.

And just so you know that I'm serious, this is the before picture, which I am posting as a comparison for the end of the month. (I'm not sure if we will be able to tell a difference after 30 days, but I'm hoping so). If you want, feel free to do the April Challenge with me. Your gym doesn't have to be doing can just piggyback onto my Challenge virtually. Just pick out some exercise goals and spend 30 days trying to hit them. Sound good? Good. It starts April 1, which means you have one day to finish off that bag of potato chips.

The Before Picture (not bad, but there's always room for improvement, right?)
I'm also going to admit that before I let Tony take the picture, I was all, "Wait! I need to put on some lipstick!" and he was like, "For a exercise photo?". Which just goes to show that men do not understand the lengths one most go to to psych oneself up into posting a picture of themselves on the Internet wearing a sports bra and yoga pants. I don't care what you look like.

Wanna Get Away?

You know those Southwest commercials that show some fabulous beach locale and a low low flight price of $49* and then end with "Wanna Get Away?" Well, this weekend Tony and I were like, "Yes, please".

So that is exactly what we did.

(Well, almost exactly. Technically we flew Allegiant air instead of Southwest, but you get the gist).

We decided to take Friday through Monday to do a quick jaunt down to Saint Pete's in Florida. (I think Tony felt like he needed to do something to intervene since the last forecast for snow flurries had me rocking back and forth in the fetal position while pulling out large chunks of hair). To say I needed a beach vacation is an understatement in the worst way.

But I digress.

The flight was uneventful (the best kind to have in my opinion) and we arrived in the Tampa/St. Pete's/Clearwater area just after noon on Friday. Since our hotel room wasn't available for check-in before 3pm, we decided to pass the time with a nice stroll on the beach.

(PS- You should know that I'm a crazy-long beach walker. You know those personal ads that are like, "I enjoy long walks on the beach"? Yeah. That's mine. And not just long walks. I'm talking marathon walks. Miles and miles and miles. Don't even suggest turning around now because I'm walking until I run out of beach. I don't care if the sand has pumiced all the skin from the bottom from your feet and you're leaving bloody footprints in our wake. We stroll on. Luckily, Tony is also an expert beach walker, so he's able to keep up with me. It's one of the millions of reasons this man is my soulmate).

After sticking a toe or two in, we decided that the water was still too cold for wading (although there were more than a few people who decided to brave the frigid temperatures anyway), but the sun was warm and the sand was soft and there were shells and sand castles and tourists aplenty to keep us entertained as we walked.
Tony deciding that the water is a bit too cold for his liking and he'd just as soon stay on dry land.

Me, having literally walked to the end of the beach (and back).

Of course, you can't go to Florida without partaking of the really fresh seafood, so Tony and I found a little out of the way locals-only place that was low on frills and high on taste. In fact, it seemed to be a seafood market first and a restaurant as an afterthought. You ordered at the counter up front before sliding into a back room to eat at picnic tables with plastic forks and paper plates. But OH MY WORD THE FOOD! I had the crab legs, and the way I tore into them was almost indecent.

(We don't eat seafood much because Tony doesn't really care for it. He says he doesn't like the taste, but I have a feeling that he just doesn't like the idea of eating something that still resembles its animal form. I, however, do not suffer from that problem and I always enjoy messing with him.)

Me, with fistfuls of crab legs and my face dripping in melted butter: NOM! NOM! NOM! (Glances up) What?
Tony (watching in awe): I assume you're enjoying your crab legs?
Me: They're fabulous! (Crack! Dig! Slurp!) Well, don't mind me. I'm just going to sit over here and dismember this delicious crustacean.
Tony (looking slightly revolted): dismember...crustacean?
Me (reaching for the claw crackers): Yep! I just break his little legs and slurp out his flesh!
Tony (disapproving): Enough playing with your food, Hannibal.

It's so hard to faze him it wrong that I enjoy these little moments so much?

Saturday welcomed us with more great weather: sunshine, blue skies, and a high of 78 degrees. We took advantage by catching a spring training baseball game between the Phillies and Detroit. Apparently everyone else had the same idea though, because by the time we arrived the only seats available were out on the grassy knoll in the outfield. I was worried about grass stains on my pretty new jean skirt at first, but the atmosphere out there was like being on a picnic with about 200 people, so it wasn't long before we were all stretched out, shoes kicked off and enjoying the grass between our toes.

Our sports day continued that evening. Tony, being Tony, had arranged for tickets to see the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Washington Capitals (that's hockey for my non-NHL following friends). Washington is currently doing really well, whereas Tampa Bay isn't, but the majority of the crowd was definitely rooting for the home team, so it was fun anyway. And it was a really great game. Tampa came thiiiiiiiiiis close to scoring roughly eleventy-bajillion times, but Washington's goalie is really, really good. (Not to mention a total cutie-patootie).
See? Jose Theodore, Washington's resident Cutie Patootie, and just one more reason that I loooooove this game.

Sunday dawned with rain in the forecast, so we were in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. I had wanted to visit the Sunken Gardens that day (50,000 species of exotic plants! Beautiful theme gardens! Last day of the orchid festival!), but Tony was worried that a severe thunderstorm (Rain! Lightning! Fierce winds!) might put a damper on the whole flower viewing experience. (At first I thought that he was exaggerating the storm to get out of seeing 50,000 plants, but then I stepped outside the hotel room and was almost blown away by the wind, so I had to concede that maybe he was right on this one). Instead, we headed to the mostly indoor Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see some dolphins and otters and sharks (oh my!) If you ever have a chance to visit the CMA , do it. They aren't just a tourist destination- they're actually a marine animal rescue and rehabilitation hospital. Their goal is to rescue, heal, and release most of the animals back into the wild. The ones they keep on permanent exhibit have failed their official re-release readiness tests.Titus the turtle, whose rear end constantly floats due to "buoyancy issues" after being hit by a boat. Seeing how I have similar buoyancy issues whenever I try to snorkel, I can sympathize.

This is Sunny, the orphaned 4 month old baby river otter that the CMA rescued. She's roughly the size of a small stuffed animal, and was enjoying a fierce fight to the death with her blanket just prior to me snapping the picture.

And where would we be without not one but TWO dolphin videos? (Don't worry, they're short). I apologize if the camera movement on the jumping video makes you a bit nauseated...I was trying to keep the dolphin in the frame. (Bonus material: If you listen, you can hear me go "ooooooh!" every time the dolphin jumps. I know! It's this kind of movie magic that is going to win me an Academy award one day.)

No, this is not me with Tony. This is "Patriotic turtle". I have no idea why I made Tony pose with him other than to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I could continue with Monday's account, but everything about it was pretty mundane; the checking out of the hotel, returning the rental car, and grabbing a quick lunch before hitting the airport. I will say that we spent every last moment we could outside in the sun before dashing into the airport to catch our flight back home.

Where ironically, it was once again spitting snow.

*Well, $49 one way, plus the additional $49 to get back, plus the airport fees and the fuel surcharge fees and the baggage fees and the online reservation fees and the no-longer-complimentary drink and peanut fees...all of which actually ends up meaning that you can get away for about $140.**

**Which is still not that bad all things considered.

Strauss and Wagner meets Smith and Wesson

On CNN today...

News Reporter:'s a bit unusual, but one couple recently held their wedding in a Bass Pro Shop...
Me: Dear Lord, please don't let them be from the South! It's hard enough to fight the redneck stereotype as it is.
News Reporter: ...the bride had a white and camo themed wedding dress specially made...
Me: Anywhere but Tennessee! Anywhere but Tennessee! Anywhere but Tennessee!
(Cut to interview with groom, whose accent is so thick you could spread it with a knife and eat it on toast).
Me: Just not this part of Tennessee, Lord! Let them be from Memphis! Let them be blissfully joined in holy matrimony in a Bass Pro shop 7 hours away from here!
News Reporter:...the new Mr and Mrs Honeycutt from Sevier County Tennessee!
Me: Oh jeez.

Now, before I sound too harsh, I would just like to say that I send my sincerest congratulations to the happy couple, I really do. And I think that a bride has every right to have the wedding of her dreams without anyone saying boo about it. But seriously? A camouflaged wedding dress in a Bass Pro shop? That doesn't sound like every little girl's dream. That sounds like a media stunt. In the Bass Pro Shop closest to me. And then replayed on national TV for the world to mock. Which makes me wince and shudder at the same time. Because how are we as a region ever going to overthrow the hillbilly stereotype if we keep acting like hillbillies?

I swear, we'll be honeymooning in Wal-mart next.

On Lent, Maritime Punishment and Tiny Chicken Sandwiches

Dad and I were having a discussion on the phone today when an interesting question came up.

Dad called because Tony and I are going to see Mom and Dad tomorrow morning and Dad was going to order Chick-Fil-A Chick-n-minis for breakfast for us. Which was a totally awesome gesture because there are few things on this Earth I adore as much as those minuscule bites of chicken and biscuit-y goodness. Sadly however, I had to remind him that it was a Lent Friday, and therefore by church decree, no minis would hereto pass our lips.

(And if you've ever had Chick-Fil-A's breakfast chick-n-minis, you can imagine that there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth over that).

(It is my sincerest belief that when the devil was tempting Jesus in the desert and he offered him food and drink, he totally had chick-n-minis in mind).

Anyway, I thought about yelling, "Get ye behind me, Satan!" at him, but Mom and Dad don't observe Lent, so it was just an honest mistake. (Plus accusing Dad of being Satan would probably greatly reduce any future offers of chick-n-minis, and I've already admitted how much I love them). By the way, none of this has anything to do with the interesting question...I just wanted you to know that I had to turn down chick-n-minis so you could be impressed with my Lenten devotion.

(And yes, I realize that completely defeats the point).

Anyway, the interesting question had to do with keelhauling. (Quite a jump from chick-n-minis, I know, but try to follow me here). Dad was talking about something that happened with his job, and how he'd like to keelhaul his co-workers for endangering one of his accounts. (Dear ol' Dad doesn't mess around). But then he figured that this person (being of a mid-western nature) wouldn't understand what keelhauling was. And I said surely even people who didn't live on the water were familiar with keelhauling...I mean, you don't have to grow up on a boat to know port and starboard, right? And he thought, no, that it was mostly coastal people who would know the term, but it would be interesting to take a survey to see if that was true. So I ask you, dear readers, are you familiar with the term keelhauling, and do you live near the water? And if you answered yes to the first and no to the second, do you remember where you happened to first come across it? We're just curious. I grew up knowing the term, but then I grew up on the water, so maybe it is just a regional thing. So if you could be so kind as to leave a comment and let me know, Dad and I would appreciate it.

And it would keep my mind off of how delicious a chick-n-mini would be right now.

PS- If you're really curious, you can find the definition of keelhauling here. (Although I warn you that it isn't pleasant, as keels are covered with razor-sharp barnacles and all).

The Evolution of Lunch

I'm hungry. It's time for lunch, and I can't decide what to eat. I've been standing here in the kitchen for the last 10 minutes, waffling between the freezer, the pantry, and the refrigerator. (Soup? Nah. Lean Cuisine? Eh. Panini? Had one yesterday. Salad? The lettuce looks iffy). Back and forth, over and over, as if something new and delicious will magically pop out of the crisper drawer if I just look hard enough.

Today's culinary indecisiveness reminds me of school lunches growing up. It wasn't always good (or even edible if you considered the occasional enigma that was the disturbingly vague "Casserole Surprise") but at least the decision was made for you. Walk in, grab your tray, and get a scoop of whatever the head lunch lady felt like dishing out to you that day. You had no choice. You ate it or you went hungry. (Unless, of course, your mother loved you enough to send a packed lunch to school with you...then at least you had brand name food with which you could trade and barter).

Some years I was allowed to take my lunch, some years I wasn't. Mom insisted that school lunches were hot and delicious (snort!) and nutritionally balanced...unlike the chemically injected, high fat, high sodium, imitation-meat-and-cheese-on-a-cracker Lunchable that I longed to tote to school. (Back in my day, Lunchables were the Holy Grail of lunch food...the prison cigarettes of trade at May Howard Elementary, and something that my mother flat out refused to buy). My loss, because a Lunchable could get you anything. Double if it was one that included a tiny candy bar desert. (Oh Lunchables! How triumphantly you reigned over the cafeteria with the sweet seductive power of marketing and processed turkey medallions!)

By comparison, hot lunch cafeteria food had no trade power whatsoever. It was worthless. Even the "chocolate pudding" was too suspect to be useful. Luckily, I was best friends with a girl who not only had a mother who bought Lunchables with blessed regularity, but also a kind and sharing spirit. To her I give credit for me not starving during those formative years.

By high school, popularity was judged on more ambiguous and enigmatic criteria than lunch food, and I returned to purchasing what the school offered. Finally acknowledging that not everyone liked tuna and turnip casserole (or, at least getting tired of hearing us complain about it), the school superintendent expanded the daily lunch menu offerings, even if nothing was actually done to improve the taste. (Honestly, I think my high school discovered that they could sell more food if they offered pizza and french fries in addition to whatever was on the daily menu).

We would parade in, eyeball the mystery blob swimming in a pool of lumpy congealed gravy that was the daily offering and reach for the pizza and fries. (Not that it was "real" pizza, mind you. It was that famous school rectangle pizza with microscopic "pepperoni" bits, a chemical-ly tasting sauce and no edge crust. It wasn't good compared to anything else bearing the name pizza, but at least it was identifiable, so we flocked to it). There were many a week where I had pizza and fries EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We got to where we loathed it. But we ate it anyway, because as predictable as it was, it still beat liver and onions.

Not that the daily offerings were all bad. The tacos were okay, and if you could somehow dislodge the film that had formed like a crust over the cheese sauce, nacho day wasn't bad either. (As a matter of fact, my friends and I composed a little jingle about exactly what was edible in the cafeteria. It went "pizza and fries, pizza and fries, hamburger, NA-chos, pizza and fries. Pizza and fries, pizza and fries, salad bar, TA-cos, pizza and fries". We would sing it while we waited in the line to get our food).

I'm curious now if the food was really as bad as I remember it, or if the grumblings of a finicky teenaged eater has colored it somewhat. (Is it better or worse than those microwavable healthy choices I sometimes get? Does it beat a hot pocket? Why do I still eat this junk?) And what did the lunch ladies think when they spent hours coming up with nutritionally balanced lunches, only to watch us swarm the pizza? Did they care, or did they refuse to eat cabbage stew also?

Kinda wish I had someone to make my lunch now.

Bloggy Spring Cleaning

Don't freak out! It's still Quirky is a Compliment! I've just been messing with the design. Spring cleaning of the blog, if you will. In addition to changing the design, I've made some stuff easier to locate (see home, about me, email, RSS feeds and reader favorites up at the top) and removed some clutter from the side columns. I'm still tweaking things here and there, (like fonts and the comments...AGAIN), but hopefully the new look will be easier to read and navigate.

Edited to add: Comments are back up again, although I'd like to point out that the little clicky-dohickey is up at the top of the post (right under the title) as opposed to at the bottom. Please make a note of it.

Edited again: I just managed to create (after about two hours of playing with designs) a little purple Q favicon (the little picture next to the web address in the browser bar) for your viewing and bookmarking enjoyment. Can everybody see it? I know it works in firefox, but I haven't checked it in any other browsers.

Sunshine on My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

Greetings my Interpeeps! I'm in a fabulously good mood today because the weather has been great (read mid-60s!) for two days in a row, and in addition to doing my official spring happy dance of joy, I have been wonderfully productive! (That seasonal affective disorder? I must have it. For months now I've been trying my darndest to hibernate, but as soon as the thermometer hit 60, I catapulted off of the couch and launched a full-out yard-work blitzkrieg). I raked, I sucked leaves, I weeded, I preen n' greened, I pruned bushes, I made rock borders, I moo-nured everywhere, I cut down winter grasses, and I spread mulch like nobody's business. All because it got warm and sunny! I swear I must be solar powered. Common sense tells me that we haven't seen the last of winter weather (in my neck of the woods, our last frost is typically right around one puts their tender annuals in until tax day) but I really really really hope that this weather will stick around for at least a little while so that I can soak up some long depleted vitamin D.

(Yes, it really is a blog post about the weather).

(Because nice weather makes me happy, that's why).

(Hey, it can't all be movie-of-the-week riveting).

Yesterday I watched this giant crow fly to a tree in my back yard and snap off a twig. Then he'd fly off to the neighborhood behind ours. Over and over. 4 or 5 times. Fly up, grab twig, fly off. Rinse and repeat. Obviously, he's building a nest and only our top-quality twigs will do. (Although if I was a crow, I'd probably be lazy and/or smart enough to just build my nest in our tree and save myself some flying, but that's just me).

(I suppose that's like me trying to live in aisle 3 of the Home Depot or something though).

(Which, apparently, they frown on for some reason).

(Oh yes, I've tried).

Actually, I suppose that in a way, I do look like this crow. I'm sure that if you could zero in on me from space, you'd see me driving to the home improvement store, buying up as much as I could carry, and then zipping back to my house to improve it. Over and over. 4 or 5 times. So you know what this means, don't you? Obviously, me buying things at Home Depot is instinct. A most unavoidable primal inclination. An evolutionary proclivity. And you can't ignore 100,000 years of evolution.

Home Dept is necessary for survival.

I can't wait to tell Tony that.

It's Like That Game Mousetrap But With Music

Okay, so I first came across this video when another blogger was talking about it on her blog, and because I am a total idea stealer fan of Rube Goldbergian devices, I thought I'd post it on my blog too. Because it's a cool video.

And imitation is the purest form of flattery.

And I'm lazy.

(C'mon people! It's Friday! How can I come up with a real post when my brain is taxed enough just trying to figure out what meat-free things to cobble together for dinner? Do you have any idea how many cheese dishes I've eaten today?!?)

What's more, I'm not even going to give the original blogger credit because I can't find where I first saw it, even though I looked through roughly eleventy-bajillion blogs. (I profusely apologize if you are the one who posted this first and are now feeling totally ripped off and without due credit...I can't remember who you are, but I love your blog!) *Grins sheepishly*

Anyway, without further ado:

Busting Out a Little Round Ball

Here's something different: Tony and I went to a Tennessee men's basketball game tonight. They were playing Arkansas, and it was apparently senior night, so we said why not, might be fun.

And it was. Which was kinda surprising, because normally we're not that big into basketball. Hockey? Absolutely. Baseball? Okay. Football? I can even follow that. But basketball? Not something I've ever really gotten into. (On TV, it just seems like a bunch of running back and forth, back and forth. But live? Actually pretty exciting if I do say so myself).

Of course, good tickets help A LOT. Some guy at Tony's work has season tickets on the SECOND ROW right behind the UT bench. He couldn't use them tonight, so we ended up with them instead. ON THE SECOND ROW! How sweet is that?!? We were so close I could have offered Bruce Pearl some of my hot pretzel. (I didn't because he was all busy stomping back and forth and yelling and I didn't want to interrupt his whole coaching mojo thing, but the point is that if Bruce had looked the slightest bit hungry, we soooo could have been pretzel buddies. Next time, Brucey baby, next time).

Also? Second row gets you into TV shots whenever they pan the bench or do a closeup on Pearl. (And knowing this, I very craftily wore my cute new pair of cargo pants which were purchased not two days ago and were just begging for local tv exposure). Not to mention that if you're going to be sitting on the second row with roughly 20,000 people behind you, it's always a good idea to bring the cuteness. Besides, all the pockets meant I could bring my phone/money/PDA/lip balm into the arena without having to drag my purse around and/or be searched for weapons at the gate. (See how smart these cargo pants are? I heart them.)

Being close to the action doesn't actually mean that you'll understand it, however. Every time they blew the whistle, I was asking Tony, "What happened? Why'd they stop? Is there a foul?" (Foul is the only basketball term I know). And he, without ever taking his eyes off the court in that way that men do, would say something like, "The call was an illegal screen in the backcourt by the blah, blah, blah more technical basketball terms here and now the defense has the ball." And I'd be all like, "Yes, but should I clap or boo?"

Another thing? Whenever there was stoppage of play, all these little kids with towels would run out and crawl around cleaning the floor. Every single time. Maybe a dozen of them, all out wiping away on their hands and knees, happy as clams. And I was like, heeeeeeey! They're really onto something here! I'm not sure how they got around the whole child labor law thing, but I'd like to order two please. First they can wipe up my floors, and then, if they're really good, they can maybe even scrub my bathtubs. Like little under-aged scrubby bubbles, complete with their own mini-towels. Sign me up for that.

Somewhere around the second...half? (Period? Regular playing interval?) I noticed something written on the back of the Arkansas shorts. (I know, I know, my first thought was "bootylicious" too, but that wasn't it). I couldn't quite make it out, but Tony said that it probably read "backs". And I was like, "They need it to say back? Can't they just look for the tag? Or the drawstring or something?" (I mean, I know it's Arkansas and everything, but surely they can dress themselves without having to label everything front and back). And he just stared at me for a minute before going, "They're the Arkansas razorbacks...they're called the backs for short". (And then didn't I feel like a maybe I should be the one with labeled clothes). But you know, in my defense, what kind of nickname is the backs? And wouldn't you wonder if you saw it on the back of someone's shorts too? Exactly. Besides, how hard is it to spell out razorbacks? Put forth a little effort, Arkansas.

Of course, in the end we won (although I couldn't tell you by how much since I've already forgotten the score) and I was able to wear my cute pants and watch Bruce Pearl turn purple from all his yelling, and clap and boo (sometimes at the same time) while all the players ran back in forth not 5 feet in front of me. All in all, not a bad evening. This whole basketball thing is growing on me. I might even look forward to doing it again sometime.

I'll even share my pretzel.