Monday, June 26, 2017

Universal Studios 2017 - The Simpsons!

I love The Simpsons area of Universal Studios so much - it's like the television show came to life there, and I'm one of the neighbors who gets to peek in on how my favorite cartoon family lives.  Here's some pictures from our visit in May:
It took all of my restraint to not run over the bridge toward Krustyland like a little kid.  I mean, come on - it's Krustyland!!!

The path to the main ride is quite interesting - here's the view from the top, behind Krusty the Clown's head:
You can even get a peek at the dragon guarding Gringott's Bank in Diagon Alley, way off in the distance!
Jeff, Allie, and Sam, looking out over Krusty's head.

Krustyland, being a carnival, has lots of games you can play - they cost extra, but Jeff and Sam couldn't resist trying out the Sledge Homer:
The prize was a giant stuffed can of Duff beer - regardless of who won it, it would have gone home with Sam since he drove.  I don't know why we bothered figuring that out, because no one won ::cue sad music::
Jeff giving it his best shot...
And Sam - they both did pretty good, but not enough to win the giant can of beer, darn it!  It would have been an excellent addition to the decor at Sam's house.
Why yes, they DID wear their Duff shirts and take a picture with Duffman - when in Rome...er, Springfield, that's what you do!

Meanwhile, Allie and I found Chief Wiggum and got a picture with him:
Stealing a bite from the police chief's donut didn't land me in jail.

You can buy a real pink frosted donut there, which we did.  It was delicious:
Don't worry, we didn't make Sam eat the entire thing - we shared it.

We got lunch from Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck:
I walked away to "take a picture" but if you look closely, you can see that Allie and Sam have their cards out to pay - bwahahaha, my evil plan worked!
This was some of the best food in the park - Korean beef tacos.  They were fantastic!

After all of the Harry Potter rides, The Simpsons ride is my next favorite.  We went on it several times - if you are prone to motion-sickness, I'd highly recommend using something to ward off nausea because otherwise, that ride will get you.  But is so fun, and where else can you randomly hear as you're flying around on a virtual roller coaster, Ralph Wiggum float by saying "I'm a baby bird!" - all of these homages to the characters of Springfield are what make this section of the park so great!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Mishmash

Is it possible to live on only fruit?  I'm about to find out:
Cherries from Washington, peaches and nectarines from California, watermelon from Texas.

This is what happens when you go to Sam's Club before eating anything.  I might have gotten carried away, but it all looked so good - plus the nectarines and peaches smelled great, so there you have it.  Fruit for every meal!

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Jeff turned 60 on Wednesday.  He was out of town teaching, so I sent him a happy birthday text:
Sometimes I can be funny. 

This is what having a six year age difference brings...suddenly I'm married to a 60-year-old man!

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Just in case you think I only send strange texts to Jeff, this was my Father's Day text to my dad:

That's right, I channeled my inner Mimi from the Drew Carey show with some crazy Snapchat filter.  I remember my dad roaring at that show - it was so funny.  Wish that one would come to Netflix or Hulu - I'd watch it again.

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Finally, sometimes you just get the perfect picture:
I cracked up when I saw this!

From tons of (fake) makeup to no makeup - this was post-run on Saturday, before showering.  We were outside planting flowers when the perfect selfie opportunity with Paco came up - it's one of my favorites with him!

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Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WWU - Heatwave

There's our usual hot in Texas, and then sometimes it's extra hot in the form of a heatwave, which much of the southwest is experiencing right now.  Last week, our temps were in the 90s, with the feels like temps in the 103 - 105 range, and the morning lows were near 80.  Running becomes extra challenging at this point, but I'm pleased to say that we didn't let the hot weather stop us from getting out there.

Diane and I got our Tuesday run of 4 miles in (intervals), and our Thursday run with 2.25 miles in (intervals, then 1.25 miles running w/o stopping).  Saturday, it was really hot, but Cary, Diane, and I took it easy for a four mile interval run, and while we thought we were struggling during the last mile because it felt so hard, turns out we were just doing negative splits once again; that last mile felt hard because we were pushing it!  My theory is that we unconsciously run faster once we get closer to the clubhouse...makes sense, right?

The best thing about being done with our Saturday run would be the cold washcloths:
These bring us back to the land of the living!

After we sort of stopped sweating long enough to change clothes, we headed over to Blue Baker, where the cinnamon rolls looked exceptionally good - Brian's was perfection:
Cue Jimmymeow showing his partially-eaten cinnamon roll for the photo bomb, LOL!

Topics of discussion during breakfast included a lesson on sailboats:
In case you were wondering, you can make a lot of parts of a sailboat sound dirty...

And then we all looked up what the hit song was for each of our birthdates.  Most of us had decent songs (mine was "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore), but Jeff got skunked with Pat Boone's Love Letters in the Sand - ha!  It's always a fun time with our group, and obviously very random as to what we end up talking about during breakfast.

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Yesterday's 4 miler with Diane was hard - not only because of the hot and humid weather, but also because I was a little sore from playing Frisbee on Sunday evening...lunging after the Frisbee used some different muscles than plain old running, which tells me that I should be doing different activities more often.  That first mile was a rough one, but we powered through.  I was so sweaty afterward that everything I was wearing was soaked through - even my visor was completely wet.  Gross, I know.

At this point, I'll be lucky to keep up with my 4 mile runs throughout the summer, but this is why we don't do a half marathon in the fall - can you imagine having to train and run longer distances in this weather?  Summer is for slacking off and having fun...we might just have to go buy a Frisbee!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weekend Fun!

Jeff brought me home loads of baby roses - he chose this color because it was closest to peach, which was our wedding color.  I had enough for two big vases, plus a tiny arrangement.

We started the fun on Friday, which was our anniversary - Jeff came home from work early and we set out to buy some plants for the yard.  We hit the jackpot at both of the Lowe's in our area - the markdown racks had just been stocked with some great plants; usually by the time we see them after we've run on Saturday they are picked over and all that remains are massively heat-stressed plants, but we got a bunch that were originally $10 for $3 each - we ended up spending $27 and were quite pleased with our haul. 

Then we went out to dinner - Jeff had a hankering for steak, while I was all about the ribs...and they were delicious:
Paco also enjoyed some rib bones, so everyone was happy!

We got everything planted, and the yard is looking so fresh and cheerful:
Front - I bought a metal plant stand to raise up the asparagus fern, plus we moved the bougainvillea to this side of the house in hopes that it might start blooming again (it's in the blue pot). 

Jeff liked this pink plant in the markdown section, so we bought it and plunked it into the pot of iceplant cuttings:
When the ice plant blooms, it will be pink, so this might look pretty cute soon.
The riot of color with this one makes me happy every day!

We bought three six-packs of this ground cover:
Blue Daze - I took a picture of the tag, which is the only reason why I know the name.  Supposed to bloom spring/summer/fall.
Planted it here and also in front of the windows on the other side of the front yard.
My new summer flag - I may not be at the beach, but I can pretend...

The backyard:
 
Another new metal plant stand, for the ice plant.  Plus we loaded up the former succulent garden bowl (RIP most of those succulents) with yellow portulaca, which is so pretty!  We also bought a bigger clay pot for the ornamental purple pepper on the right.
The vibrant purple mixed with the green on this plant makes it one of my favorites, and now that it's in a bigger pot, it looks much better!
 Portulaca.  Loves the sun, so it should do well.
More portulaca next to a plant that we thought had died over the winter, but it came back two-fold!  We also planted even more of the portulaca in the front yard bed...we bought three six-packs of this, so we had plenty to spread around.
 
Another $3 find - it's supposed to like the sun and I think it's a perennial.  Might be a salvia, if I remember correctly.
Enjoying the view of our new plants in the backyard.  Also sweating like fiends.  I think we need to get an oscillating fan to bring outside when we want to sit out there - even in the shade, it was still super hot.

Because we just can't seem to get enough of being outside and sweating, yesterday we met up with our fellow Renegades and went to a twilight farmer's market just south of town.  It started at 5:00 and while it was still very hot, there was a breeze, so we managed to stay outside for an hour.  The farmer's market was lacking in vendors, but we all visited the sno-cone truck:
Pina colada for me - yum!

And we found a Frisbee, so we had fun tossing it around:
Jimmymeow
Jeff
Brian 
Me - flamingo pose firmly in place with every throw, LOL
The gang, afterward.
We ended the evening with a round of salads for dinner and got to see this pretty sky when we left the restaurant.  It was a great way to finish out the weekend!

Friday, June 16, 2017

FMM - Super Random Stuff

I was happy to find a Universal Studios Starbucks mug when we were there last month - I looked while we were visiting in November, but didn't see any, so I was pleased to add it to my collection after this visit:
I just love it!

Speaking of my mugs, I've been considering doing a display like this for them:
Can't remember where I saw this, but I know that the system is from Ikea.

Of course, I could only fit one row of mugs between my countertop and my cabinets, so it wouldn't look exactly like this, but I do love my Starbucks mugs and it would be fun to see them on display.  But what's stopping me is that I go toward more of a minimalist vibe in my kitchen, so this might drive me crazy after a while.  It's probably a good thing that I don't have an Ikea nearby, otherwise I might have already jumped on this.  So, I'm still pondering.

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I got a sample of a sunless tanning towelette in a beauty box a few months ago and finally used it, and I was really pleased with the results!  While I'm not looking for anything really dark, I do like my legs looking less ghost-white and more on the ghost-who's-been-outside color spectrum.  Plus, when it's so hot, I change into shorts after our Saturday run to go to Blue Baker instead of wearing some long joggers, and I feel more comfortable taking less-white legs out in public.  This is what I used:
 I have to say, the name appeals to the former California teenager in me...

It's kind of expensive - you only get five towelettes per box, and it's about $15 at Target but I found it for about $12 on Amazon.  I figured that I will only need these through the summer, and I only use them once a week, so why not?  The smell is much more pleasant than the regular lotion sunless tanners that I've previously used, too - and my "tan" lasted most of the week.

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I was sitting and knitting earlier this week when I heard snoring.  Looked over to see this:
Goofy dog - his nose was smushed against the pillow!  I'm surprised he was getting any air in!

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Oh - speaking of dogs, have you watched the new TV show Downward Dog?  It's on ABC and is so good...you can tell that the writers have devoted dogs, because they've nailed the dog in this show perfectly.  Catch it online or on Hulu; I promise, if you're a dog person, you will love it.

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Speaking of sitting and knitting, I have been doing a lot of that, but can't show you anything for a while as they are baby gifts.  In between the baby items, when I need to do some mindless knitting, I'm working on a sock, so maybe I'll at least get that done soon.  Be prepared for maximum cuteness, though, when I can finally show you the baby stuff - anything in tiny form is just so darn adorable!

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Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary - yikes!  I'm hoping Jeff can take the afternoon off and we can do something exciting, like go to the nursery and get a couple more plants for our yard.  The secret to a long lasting marriage is...heck, I don't know.  But having some shared interests helps, so making our yard look nice is on the agenda.  And maybe tomorrow we'll run 3.3 miles, although that doesn't seem like much.  Hmmm.  

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

WWU - There's No Explanation

I've been running since 2009, and I'm still mystified by why things go the way they do sometimes.  I mean, I understand when running is tough - living with heat and humidity like we do makes for most of our runs in those conditions feel like a beatdown.  But every once in a while, I get a good run, which gives me hope and keeps me going.  However, last week?  I had four good runs, which is unheard of, even in cooler weather.  So naturally, I feel the need to document each of those runs because of the rarity of that happening.

Run number 1 - Tuesday:  Four miles with Diane.  Temperature was 70 degrees, humidity was 100%, with a very slight breeze.  We ran our usual intervals (run 1:30, walk 45), but we were running faster than usual, and we both mentioned it, but didn't really slow down.  The nice thing about doing intervals is that yes, you can run faster than normal, but it's only for a set period of time before you get a walking break.  By the last mile, we weren't chatting at all, and when we finished, I realized why - that was our fastest mile, by close to a minute!  Crazy - usually we start off fast and then slow down.

Diane and I after our 2 miles on Global Running Day.

Run number 2 - Wednesday:  Global Running Day, which meant of course we were going to run!  While I prefer to have a day between runs, we couldn't pass up the celebration.  I've made it a point to run every year on Global/National running day since 2010, except for the year of my injured ankle.  Temperature was 70 degrees, humidity was 88%, no breeze.  We ran our usual intervals, but once again, were running faster than usual for us, and our last mile was one second faster than our fast last mile the day before!  What the what?!  It was weird.
Brooks had an online event for the big day where you could sign up to become officially endorsed by them and get a check for a dollar (I'm thinking I'll splurge and buy a GU with that buck, LOL), and you could also upload a picture - I just happened to have one from my birthday run where I was wearing a Brooks shirt and visor, so I had to do it.  What can I say - I enjoy the crazy camaraderie of being part of the running community!

Run number 3 - Thursday:  I woke up feeling a few twinges in my hip and ankle, but we had a plan for today's run, so run we did.  Temperature was 72 degrees, humidity was 78%, with a slight southern breeze.  Diane and I ran the first mile doing intervals, and then we ran the second mile straight through.  This is the first time I've run a mile straight through in forever - seriously, it's been close to a year, I'll bet.  But it's something I've been working on for the last few weeks, and I've been building up to that distance on our Thursday runs - and I did it!!  I had a bit of a side stitch for the last quarter mile, which I haven't experienced in a long time, but that's OK - it was still a great run.

We were treated to a beautiful pink sunrise on our Saturday morning run - it was hard to capture in pictures, but it so nice to see in person!

Run number 4 - Saturday:  Group run with the Renegades!  I ran with Diane, Cary, and Julia - we set out to do 3 or 4 miles (gotta love not being in training mode).  Temperature was 68 degrees, humidity was 94%, with a whisper of a breeze occasionally.  I felt great the entire run - we ran intervals, chatting and enjoying each other's company, and as we were nearing mile 3, I suggested taking a little half mile detour but was voted down - hah!  However, as we approached the turn toward the clubhouse, Diane said she'd keep running with me if I wanted to go a little farther, so we kept going, but so did Cary and Julia...we ended up doing an extra half mile, for a total of 3.5 miles.  Once again, I finished a run feeling fantastic - what a great way to end a week of running!

As you can see by the temperature and humidity levels I listed for each run, we didn't have optimal weather; I might be getting more accustomed to running in it, but that still doesn't explain so many great runs in a row.  Sometimes, there just isn't a rhyme nor reason for why running feels so good, but when it happens, it's cause for celebration!

Monday, June 12, 2017

In Defense of Sugar

Recently, the hospital where I volunteer removed all sugary soft drinks and candy bars from the vending machines located throughout the building.  Several years ago, they stopped selling sugary soft drinks in the cafeteria, although I've noticed that they carry little 8 ounce cans of Coke occasionally.  Of course they offer juices and milk (including chocolate milk) along with iced tea, coffee, and diet sodas, but if you want a real Coke or Dr. Pepper, you have to come to the gift shop - we have a refrigerator full of all kinds of soft drinks - some diet, but most are your standard sugary drinks.  We also sell a variety of snacks, including candy.  The gift shop is jokingly referred to as the black market because of this.

Now, I'm not one to judge when it comes to whatever our customers choose to buy.  We are in a hospital, after all, and there are a lot of stressful situations that staff and patients are dealing with, and as I know from personal experience, sugar can help to calm you, to momentarily relieve some anxiety, to soothe when things are bad.  Never was that more apparent to me than when my mother was diagnosed with cancer six years ago - I'd be doing OK in dealing with all that I was hearing, and then suddenly I would feel overwhelmed and that's when I discovered the magical powers of Coconut M&M's.  I swear, they got me through some really rough times.  I no longer drink alcohol, so that might have helped in lieu of the sugar, but any case, it's not always appropriate to have a glass of wine, so candy was a better choice for me, regardless.

I can't tell you how many times a staff member has come in and bought 10 candy bars for their department, citing a stressful day.  Other times it's been 10 or more bottles of soda, for the same reason.  Working in healthcare is not always the most joyous thing, and for every happy event like a baby being born, the staff are caring for the sick patients, and while they are very, very good at their jobs, it still is emotionally taxing in certain situations.

Then there's the families of our patients.  A couple of years ago, I had a frustrated father ask me where he could get a Dr. Pepper - he'd been to the cafeteria and saw that there were none available, so came to the gift shop next.  I was so pleased to be able to open the fridge and hand him one; apparently his son had been in the hospital for several days and was finally able to eat, and his first request was for a Dr. Pepper and his dad was bound and determined to get that for him.  It's not a big thing, and yet it's everything in that moment.  And now, if that moment isn't between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, when the gift shop is open, people will have to leave the hospital to search out their sugary solace, because they can't even get something from the vending machines.

And I think that's wrong.

I understand that a hospital should promote good health, and have healthy options available - and this one does.  But they also should not be the arbiters of what they deem healthy, because a bottle full of chemicals, aka diet soda, is no healthier than a bottle full of sugar, aka regular soda.  And sometimes, you just need that swig of soda or that bite of chocolate to get you through a stressful situation.  Don't take that away from people.