Crazy like a Focus Fox

So, Joe is completely right. For some reason, I thought that I had made a post about whiffleball in the past, but that is apparently not the case.

To be fair, I started writing this ol’ blog over a year after the summer of whiffleball ended. And I mean, sure, I know there were games the following summer, but I don’t think anything really lived up to the original league. (Plus, and I know they’re all going to give me grief for even mentioning this, but I spent that summer living in New York, so I wasn’t around to play anyway.)

The whiffleball league came about because Joe (the one from the comments, not my husband) wanted to get outside. (I just spent ten minutes trying to track down the original Facebook message he sent out to all of our friends, but I couldn’t find it.) The back story is that we had spent a lot of nights the previous summer in Joe’s parents’ basement playing Mario Party tournaments. Am I proud of this? Well…I’m not NOT proud.

That’s actually a story in and of itself. If you’re not familiar with Mario Party, it’s basically a giant “board” game, and each “roll” is comprised of a mini game. I don’t know how many mini games there were total, but after you’ve played for a few weeks, you figure out which games each person is good at. For example, Brian developed a special technique that made him really good at the mini game where you had to spin on a snowboard as many times as you could before your player hit the ground, but eventually I got pretty good at the technique and was able to beat him. Peter, on the other hand, excelled at a game where you had to memorize the safe path across (I think it was) these cubes of ice or clouds or something to get to safety. For some reason he could memorize it really fast. I don’t remember the actual name of that game because everyone just called it “F*** You, Peter.” That should give you an idea of how good he was at that one.

The point is, several times a week we would all get together for impromptu tournaments of Mario Party. That’s because Joe really likes to organize tournaments and athletic leagues of sorts. Which leads me back into our main story.

While I would definitely say we all had a lot of (really nerdy) fun in Joe’s basement, the next summer, Joe was on a mission. He sent out the aforementioned Facebook message, the point of which was that we were young and that we should go play outside before we were too old to do it without breaking a hip or something.

There were two teams in the league: everyone who had graduated high school in 2005 and everyone else. The people on the 2005 team (also known as my team) were called Focus Fox. Everyone else was team King Kong.

We played about three times a week, usually in the evenings until it got too dark to see the ball. Throw a giant, scary dog in there and we were basically a more grown-up version of the Sandlot. (Except the only dog in our group was Brian’s cocker spaniel, Daisy, and Joe’s Jake the She-Dog. Not much fear inspiring going on there.)

On the fourth of July, we had our World Series (Green Meadows West Series?) before we all went to a pool and ate hot dogs and saw the fireworks.

Joe would want me to point out that Focus Fox won the pennant. But honestly, that’s not really what I remember the most. Although, I do remember him making this face when I asked him how he felt about it:

(Sorry, Joe. I couldn’t help myself.)

That was a really fun summer. And it was the last summer that we were all together. You know that scene at the end of The Sandlot, the “where are they now” scene? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this. It starts at the 4:50 mark.) That’s sort of how I imagine the end of that summer. Because while we’ve still gotten together since then, the group has tapered more and more every year. I mean, I know that I have a hard time getting back to Iowa because of busy schedules and tight budgets, especially at a time when everyone else is there. And now that we’re all getting real jobs, settling in our own states, getting married, I sort of feel like that was our last summer as kids.

Sure, we’ll all still do reckless, immature things now and then, but for the most part, when we get together again, it’s a little bit like meeting new people. Not in a bad way. Just in a different way.

Anyway. I didn’t mean to get heavy on you there. I just mean to say I’m very glad to be friends with those guys (and the two girls ha). And I’m really glad to have that summer in my memories.

And, ok Joe, I’m also glad we have those pennants.

Beer and Sports (AKA, Manly Things)

A few of my guy friends from high school (who apparently read my blog on occasion…thanks, guys!) have complained that I don’t write enough about manly things. And by “manly things,” they clarified that they mean beer and sports. So here we go.

I don’t really drink beer. I mean, I will drink a beer now and then, but I’m more of a gin and tonic kind of gal. And my regular beer consumption has gone down considerably since moving to New York. Wanna know why? Because they don’t carry my favorite beer here.

I prefer Fat Tire, made by the New Belgium Brewing company. Unfortunately, it isn’t distributed anywhere in New York (or much of the east coast). When the hubs and I went to Seattle (you know, that time we got engaged), I was thrilled out of my mind when we discovered that virtually every bar had Fat Tire on tap. (Because it is not nearly as good in the bottles. Trust me.)

(See? I was so excited I took a picture of the SIGN.)

And since I usually can’t drink that much beer because it just makes me feel really full (I’m a girl, blah blah blah), I only imbibe if it’s something I really like.

AND THAT’S WHY I DON’T BLOG ABOUT BEER THAT MUCH. (Although if anyone visiting me would like to bring a girl a six-pack, I wouldn’t hate it.)(And I WOULD blog about it.)

As for sports, lord. You guys know I am the least athletic person alive.

I’m not quick. I’m not great at throwing or hitting or catching. I mean, I’m fit. If fitness were a sport, I would excel. (Which I why I love all those Reebok commercials.) But in terms of actual athletic games, I know nothing and have zero skills.

However. I do run races. So that’s close. And since all of the aforementioned guys complaining about my blog at one time or another ran cross country, that’s just what you’re going to have to accept.

In other words, my second round of half marathon training is going well. I ran eight miles on Saturday, and I have to do 10 this weekend. I feel like I’m in much better shape mentally this time around. I know what to expect, I know where I tend to get tired or distracted during the training.

My last half, I wasn’t very good at keeping up with the Thursday runs. After a longish Wednesday run, and with the super long Saturday runs looming, I would usually slink home after work and rest my weary limbs instead of clock in my extra three or four miles.

Did it hurt me in the final race? I don’t really think so. But I have to wonder if the wall I hit on the mile ten would have a bit gentler if I’d had a more consistent running schedule under my belt.

So this time around, I’m sticking to the program as exactly as I can. If I have to shave off a mile here or there, I try to pick it up in another run sometime during the week. That way, at least my total weekly miles will match up with what they’re supposed to.

Physically, I feel ok. Sore. My back has been really twisted up lately, but nothing unbearable. I’m tired, but I’m kind of used to that. All in all, I feel good and I’m hoping to beat my last half time by at least a couple of minutes. We’ll see.

Welp, that’s all I got on the sports and beer front. Anyone else have a favorite beer to share? (Bonus points if it can replace my beloved Fat Tire.) Or any reader gearing up for their own race? Tell me about it!

On criticism

“Certainly we all need critics, and I suggest that clients welcome constructive criticism as opportunities to see themselves through new eyes, to learn, and to grow. But then it- along with all of the wonderful compliments- must be set aside. While on stage, let prior, future, and even current opinions fade- including your own. They no longer and do not yet exist. All that is present is the moment. Do your best, open your heart, and share yourself.”

{source}

How to: Upgraded Macaroni & Cheese

Now, I don’t want to brag, but I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to macaroni and cheese.

I mean, sure. What red-blooded American can’t say that they’ve had the “blue-box blues” since childhood (well…accept those lactose-intolerant children…sorry about that)? But for me, mac and cheese is more than just a childhood favorite.

I like to think I’ve elevated it to an art form.

The trick to really good mac and cheese is to think of the pasta and sauce itself as more of a vehicle — a catalyst, if you will — for more substantial ingredients. Sure, we all know that what you really want to eat are noodles slathered in creamy cheese sauce, but if it’s combined with lean proteins and vegetables, well, you’ve got yourself a health food right there.

I mix a lot of things into my macaroni. Tuna, asparagus, chicken apple sausage, peas, mini meatballs — nothing is really off-limits. But last week, I discovered my new favorite combo.

1. Non-fat Greek yogurt. My husband jokes that I will put this stuff on literally anything. Well…he’s not entirely wrong. But when you swap this baby in for the milk and butter in your mac & cheese recipe…something magical happens. It turns out rich, creamy, and slightly tangy (the savory trifecta in a sauce). You feel like you’re eating something positively decadent, when really it’s just high in protein, calcium, and skips any fat or cholesterol you might get with other mix-ins. Basically, it’s a food of the gods.

2. Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese. I would be entirely remiss if I didn’t include my favorite prepackaged noodles. A college roommate introduced me to Annie’s, and I’ve never looked back. I’m sure someday I’ll branch out with my own noodles and cheese, but you can’t beat the simplicity of this. Plus, it’s organic, so…you can feel smug about that.

3. Broccoli. But not just any broccoli. I recommend roasting it first. Chop the florets into bite-sized pieces, toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil and some freshly grated sea salt and bake at 375 degrees (F) for about 13 minutes. Trust me, the roasting makes all the difference.

4. Chopped clams. I know clams aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like them, you have never liked them so much as you will like them in this recipe. It might sound kind of weird, but I found it delicious. You can also sub in flaked tuna if you aren’t ready to dive into shell fish.

The point is, you can really mix almost anything you like into mac & cheese, making it not only delicious, but incredibly versatile.

Anyone else have a favorite version to share?

First time for everything

Before I even begin this post, I feel obligated to tell you one thing: I am NOT pregnant.

We all clear on that? No babies. My uterus is still quite empty. And I am happy about that fact. Now let’s carry on with our story.

As of Saturday night, my period was about five days late.

Oh wait. Is that not what you thought my next sentence would be? Well, sorry folks. This is a story that starts with a delayed period. My (albeit small) male readership has probably already blushed an moved on. For the rest of you, here are my thoughts at the time:

Holy. Hell.

I mean, it would be just my luck, right? I wait until I get married to have sex. I have sex for less than ONE year, and BOOM. Baby. BABY FOREVER.

Obviously, I have pretty specific feelings about becoming a parent at this point in my life. I love babies, but right now, you know what I really love? Not having one. There are too many things I still want to do — travel to Thailand and Australia and Scotland and a host of other places, figure out for sure where we want to live and what I want to do when I grow up, have a freaking drink at the host of wedding-related events I have on my calendar this year — that I know would be difficult to accomplish with a pregnant belly or an infant. Plus, as I always say, getting married doesn’t change your entire life, but having a baby? It changes your ENTIRE life.

We would have to find a new place to live. At least an apartment with two bedrooms. Which would mean paying more rent. Which would mean even less money. And you know what else is expensive? RAISING A CHILD.

Even the little things, like knowing I wouldn’t be able to have a drink at my best friend’s bachelorette party, suddenly seemed…I don’t know. Unfair?

I know, my reasons probably sound petty and selfish. But I had more noble reasons too.

I mean, I want to have a baby someday. Maybe even two. But I want the joy of it being something we want and plan for. I want the moment of looking at each other and being nothing but thrilled out of our minds. I mean, I want to have at least been taking a few prenatal vitamins or something. You know I’m a control freak — I just want to at least have had some say in this life-changing event.

So anyway. I didn’t mean to get so intense on you there. This is supposed to be the story of how I took my first pregnancy test. Ever.

When you spend your entire life not having sex, one of the benefits is that you never have to worry you might be pregnant. My period could have been a year late, and I wouldn’t have worried. (Well, I might have worried a little, but not that I was spontaneously growing another person in my belly.) We’re very careful, but the fact is, nothing is a sure thing. (And so ends my safe sex PSA.)

All of a sudden, I don’t have the luxury of never being concerned anymore. So when the ol’ monthly gift was a little less than punctual, I googled “early symptoms of pregnancy.” (A few are: feeling tired and peeing a lot. I’m training for a half marathon and I drink a gallon of water a day. Perfect.)

After five days, I found myself entering panic mode. I waited six days before decided to put myself out of my misery.

Joey was surprisingly calm. (We tend to have the dynamic that when one is freaking out, the other one is scarily put together.) In his words, “If you are pregnant, what is freaking out going to solve?”

Well played, sir. Glad to know our potential children will have at least one level-headed parent.

Finally, I forced myself to go to the drug store. I have been present for the purchase of two other pregnancy test in my lifetime, but I swear to God, I never remember them being this awkward.

I was weirdly self-conscious, like I didn’t want anyone else to know that I might be pregnant. As if keeping the possibility a secret might help keep if from being true. I kept fiddling with my wedding ring just in case anyone who figured it out would know that AT LEAST I WAS MARRIED OR SOMETHING. I made a big show of buying mini packs of tissues and a hair brush as if that might help the cashier completely overlook the hot pink box marked “PREGNANCY TEST.”

And let me just tell you, you are never quite so aware of every baby- and/or pregnancy-related thing in the media until you think you might be joining their ranks. As I waited in line at the grocery store, the following two items stared me down:

Subtle, universe. Very subtle.

When I got home, I nervously peed in a cup, which you KNOW I love, dipped the test stick, and sat down to wait for three minutes.

Ever feel like your life is moving too quickly? Give yourself three minutes to find out if you’re pregnant or not. Suddenly time is just crawling.

As I said in the beginning of my post, I’m not pregnant. The test (and back-up test) was negative.

I mean it! Fine, here’s the proof:

Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

The sense of relief I felt is indescribable (unless you’ve been in a similar position, in which I would imagine you get it). I still have to take a deep breath whenever I think back on how I felt mere seconds before that single pink line showed up.

One day, I’m sure I’ll be praying for the opposite result. But today is not that day.

Wedding Guest Attire…and BEYOND.

Welp, I finally just did it. I finally bought a dang dress so we can all I can stop talking about it. Who finally stole my heart? Well, this little number.

I know, I know. It’s nothing like what I said I wanted. Well, it turns out what I said I wanted doesn’t exist. (Remember? I bought that blue dress, but it was too big and they don’t have my size and MAYBE I JUST CAN’T WEAR DRAPED DRESSES OKAY SO GET OFF MY BACK.) So I went with what I do well: one-shoulder, A-line skirts with cinched waists and modest price tags. Done and done.

Plus, I can also wear it to Annie‘s rehearsal dinner in September. Which means I’m basically paying $20 per wear. Which, if you’re well-versed in the world of dress purchases, is a pretty good deal. I’ll take it.

Now we can move onto more important things. LIKE ACCESSORIES. (I deeply apologize to anyone truly not interested in this topic. I promise this is the last time it will come up. But when I get focused on something, I literally cannot think about anything else. It’s a blessing/curse.)

NOW BACK TO WHAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT. (Again, so sorry.)

Here’s what I’ve put together so far. (Because I’m still obsessed with mood boards.)

1. The dress, as I mentioned, came from Ruche, which I had never heard of before the day I bought the dress. Fortunately, The Everygirl, (via Pinterest) had my back yet again.

2. I’m kind of obsessed with the look of white enamel and yellow gold lately, so I’d love to¬† pick up a pair of polished drop earrings, like these Beaded Floral Earrings from Forever 21. (Noticing a trend with my style? Cheap is the only way to live when you’re not a gah-billionaire.)

3. Speaking of enamel and gold, I’m also dying over this Alexis Bracelet from Pree Brulee. If you haven’t heard of Pree Brulee…just know that they are my new go-to accessory place when I want to invest a little more than I would at Forever 21. Learn to love ’em. (And yes, I see the irony that the bracelet costs the exact same amount as the dress. Save-here-splurge-there is the name of the game.)

4. In the name of continued savings, I’m probably going to wear my nude heels from Aldo (these Capeforal Patent Court Shoes are similar).

5. And finally, just to prove that I may shop like a penny-pincher but still have luxurious aspirations, in my dream ensemble I would carry this Grand Street Kaley bag from Kate Spade. In real life, I’ll probably sub in my Harrison Street Lacey wallet that I bought on super sale about a year ago. Either way, it will indulge my Kate obsession, so I’m going to be happy.

So what do you think? Ladylike and pretty? Or beyond boring? (It doesn’t escape my attention that there’s a lot of beige and ivory happening up there…) But can you see it? With hair either half up or maybe twisted back a bit, a la this:

Eh? At least I know I could do that look myself. (MEANING EVEN MORE SAVINGS!)(I’ll stop now.)