Tim and I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I am using of this time off work and the general gaiety of the season as an excuse to indulge a little bit.  My employer is shut down for the last two weeks of December, so I am at home in the Quad Cities.  Tim and I are taking advantage of being back here during mid-day to reacquaint ourselves with our favorite local cuisine.

Yesterday we got beef tacos from Bent River Brewery.  Tim and I discovered this delectable treat this summer, when Bent River would sometimes serve them on Saturdays (they only serve tacos on special; they are not a regular menu item).  Eventually, to our dismay, they stopped serving them on Saturdays and reverted back to only serving them on Wednesdays.  We got them yesterday, and they were deeeelicious.  I wonder if they simmer the beef in a delicious stout or something….

Today we are going to get donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.  We drove past a roving billboard for DD yesterday, and it whetted our appetite.  After that we are heading to La Rancherita 2 for a tasty Mexican breakfast.  Our goal is to hit Hungry Boy Deli in Moline (hands down the best gyros in the QC) for lunch.  But,  as Tim and I are not bottomless pits, I’m not sure if we’ll have room.  We’ll definitely need to make it there over the next week or so, though.

We also recently discovered some very tasty treats at the store – Tim Tams and Rold Gold Bavarian Dark Chocolate pretzels.  Our interest was piqued by a Pepperidge Farm display at Target yesterday, advertising an Australian cookie called a Tim Tam.  We figured it would be worth $2.50 to see what all the fuss was about.  Tim tams are chocolate sandwich cookies that are also dipped in chocolate.  Australia has good taste in cookies; I mean “biscuits.”  They are super, duper tasty.  I highly recommend them.  You can follow the link above to get a $1 off coupon (as long as you are not using Ubuntu like I am).

Tim was seduced by a well-placed end cap and bought the other treat that we are currently in love with, Rold Gold dark chocolate covered pretzels. The combination of salty pretzels and not-too-sweet dark chocolate is awesome.  Very tasty. Very dangerous.

So much tasty food, so little time.

Best pajama shorts ever

I’m conflicted about Old Navy.  I never used to shop there when I was in high school.  The store was too loud, too busy, and too colorful.  I preferred the laid-back blue and gray tones of the Gap.  But, over the past few years I’ve wandered in and found some things I like.  I like their lounge pants, for one.  But,  you have to be careful to not dry them; otherwise, they will shrink at least 2 inches with each drying.  That’s the complaint I have with most of their clothes – they are inexpensive for a reason – they’re cheap.  No matter how awesomely they fit when you first put them on, if you dry them, they morph into a boxy, short, bastard version of their original selves.

So, I shop there with caution.  But I found some shorts I liked there last summer, so I went back last month to get some more.  I discovered 2 gems.

1.  I have a hard time finding pajama bottoms that I really like.  Is it just me, or do other people have issues with PJ bottoms that ride up while they sleep?  Maybe I am a really active sleeper.  I roll over a lot or scooch up and down the bed.  I don’t know.  I just know that the wrong pair of shorts can give you a mean wedgie.  You cannot get a good night’s sleep with a wedgie.  So, I thought I would try out the Women’s Jersey Lounge Shorts – for $5 if they didn’t work out, no harm no foul.

But, work out they did!  They are awesome.  They are the perfect length, super comfortable and very cute.  At least Tim always tells me I look cute when I wear them.  I liked them so much that I bought too more pairs.  Best…PJ…shorts…ever.

2. I also love these Mid-rise Zip Pocket Shorts.  The hem around the bottoms pulls in the legs of the shorts so they don’t flair out and make one’s hips look even bigger.  They are a great length – not mom-long and not hoochie-short.  They also have nice, deep pockets that will fit a cell phone.  I went back to buy them in additional colors, but of course they now only have sizes 0, 4, and 16.  Online they are out of size 10s in every color but white.  I am not a person who wears white below the waistline.  That is my other HUGE pet peeve with Old Navy.  They are always out of my size. Whatever I look at there are racks of miniature sizes and huge sizes and nothing for the plethora of us girls who are an average size.  Super annoying.  Hopefully Old Navy will bring these back next summer, so I can get some more then.

Bike Path Etiquette and Other Randomness

The Teem and I just returned from the jogging on the bike path.  We both had really good runs, but my tranquility was spoilt by my annoyance at the cyclists who kept whizzing by me super fast, without even a grunt to acknowledge that they were speeding up not a foot away from me.  I wasn’t wearing head phones or anything, but I still didn’t hear them until they were right up on me.  If I  would have taken one little step to the left, I would have been creamed.  How hard is it to say, “On your left?”  Dummies.

But, despite the whizzers, it was a still a great morning to be out there.  I’m steadily building up my endurance.  I ran a mile, walked 1/2 a mile and ran a mile back home.  I came home and did this quick little yoga routine to stretch out.  I love this routine – it takes maybe 3 to 5 minutes, but it does a great job of stretching out muscles.  I need to find a new yoga mat, though.  I got a cheap Gaiam mat from Target a couple of years ago, and it’s too thin and makes my feet & hands sweaty.  It’s almost impossible to do downward dog with sweaty hands and feet.  Laura and I did pick up a good mat tip at class on Monday night.  Instead of rolling the entire mat up into a tube, fold it in half first, and then roll it from the folded end.  This ensures you always know what side of the mat touches the floor (and your face), and it also prevents the ends from rolling up once the mat is laid out.

One of my motivators for jogging is a recent purchase of some good workout clothes.  I typically shy away from spending money on nice exercise cloths because, really, who am I trying to impress?  But I have a problem with my running shorts riding up, and I read that if you have a shorter inseam in your shorts, it actually helps.  I thought I would give it a try.  I went to Dicks and spent $90 (of course nothing was on sale) on these items:

Nike Fit Dry Running Shorts

These cost $28.  They are super light and have a convenient inside pocket for keys/tissues.  They have mesh on the sides to keep you cool and a non-restrictive elastic waistband.  They are pretty short, but not too short.  They stay where they are supposed to stay too.

Nike Dri-fit Running Shirt

This shirt is also is super light and breathable.  It has a nice unrestrictive fit, but still has an attractive cut – it’s not boxy at all.  The cool mint color doesn’t attract the heat of the sun like my black gear. Plus it perfectly matches my running shoes.  When I wear it, I actually look put together.  I love this shirt, but I think it’s too pricey at $30.

My final purchase was a running skirt.  Yes, that’s a right.  A running skirt.  I’ve been eying them ever since last summer, but when I tried to buy one at Dick’s last year, they were all out of black larges.  Dicks is ALWAYS  out of  the most sensible colors and sizes.  Which is why I bought these three things immediately without waiting for a sale.  If I waited, I would be stuck with a S or XL in fuchsia.

The skirt is a Reebok Play Dry Medium skirt.  The closest one I can find is here.  Mine is all black  mesh, with grey, very light shorts sewn in to it.  That is one thing that frustrates me about Reebok.  It’s really hard to find the EXACT thing you want online.   If you find a Reebok item you like in the store, buy it, because you will never be able to find it again.

The skirt was $25.  I’ve run in it 3 times, and it works great.  I had Tim run behind me to make sure the shirt doesn’t kick up in the back and show too much junk and stuff.  He says it stays where it’s supposed to.  It’s very light, modest, and fashionable.  I think I could even wear it for casual clothes.  Maybe.  If I start wearing skirts.

If this new gear keeps me motivated to keep jogging, it will be well worth the $90 investment.

I was wondering if I would be able to get myself to exercise today at all.  Yesterday Tim and I embarked on a massive house-cleaning exercise.  We were having company over at 6, so we started up around 10AM.  I worked on the bathroom first.  We often light candles and matches in our bathroom, and all the soot and match residue has been steadily accumulating and mixing with the moisture of the shower for the past 6 years on our white bathroom walls and ceiling.  We have made a couple of half-hearted attempts to clean up the black stains/mildew, which only resulted in worsening the appearance of the bathroom.  Instead of uniformly grimy walls, we had swaths of lighter grimy walls, set off by darker, grimy walls.  So yesterday I drug the ladder up from the basement, mixed some TSP substitute with bleach and set to.  It was a hot, sweaty, frustrating job (the ladder is almost bigger than our bathroom), but it was worth it.  Our walls are 95% white again. I couldn’t get the stains completely off some areas.  Our only solution is to repaint the walls.  But it looks way better than it used to:

That corner in the upper left used to be disgusting.

I am super sore, though, this morning, from contortioning my body into awkward positions and from bracing it against the ladder steps.  My back is rather jacked up, but running didn’t bother it at all.

Tim also removed the door separating our kitchen from the basement stairs.  We leave this door open always anyway, so Lucent can get to the litter box in the basement.  The only purpose the door served was to annoy me – when the door is open, it partially blocks the basement stairs.  I always run into it while carrying things up and down the stairs.  Last weekend, while I was negotiating around the door with basket full of laundry, I stubbed my toe on the steps and tripped up into the kitchen.  Not only did my toe hurt like a mother, but I was also super embarrassed ’cause I tripped.  While I was cleaning the bathroom, Tim surprised me and removed the door.  I am amazed by how much more open the back entry-way looks now.  Once we paint the basement stairwell and the closet that used to be hidden by the open door, it will look awesome.

All-in-all we had a very productive Saturday.  Our friends came over at 6, we ate Tim’s delicious (and healthy) chicken tortilla soup, guacamole, and macho nachos, and then played a rousing game of Settlers of Catan.  I was totally in the running to win (despite being repeatedly attacked and robbed by Teem), when our friend stole my Largest Army victory points, flipped over her secrete Discovery cards and stole the show.  It was still fun, despite losing.

Our guests brought delicious treats for dessert – turtles made of pretzels, Rolos, and pecans.  They were super tasty and cute.  I say “were” because all of mine are now eaten.  We have 3 left, and I’ve reserved them for Tim.

So goes another weekend, way too fast.  I wanted to plant some vincas in my pots today, but I went to Green Thumbers at 11, and the parking lot was packed to the hilt.  I didn’t feel like pushing an unweildy cart through narrow lanes of flowers, clogged with the after-church crowd, so I drove through the parking lot and came on home.  Maybe I’ll sweet talk Tim into picking up some flats of vincas and impatiens for me during the more sane week-day hours.  At least I pulled out all the pots from the garage (gingerly tapping each pot to scare out any mice or other creatures who had taken up residence over the winter) and rinsed them out with our mice-eaten hose.  Get me some dirt and some flowers, and I’m good to go.

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

My favorite sweatshirt

A couple of years ago my brother bought me a California Fleece Raglan sweatshirt from American Apparel.  Wow.  It was amazing – super soft, beautiful shade of blue, long, long sleeves – just the best thing.  I wore it almost all winter.  Unfortunately it didn’t survive multiple run-ins with my Proactiv.  By the end of the winter it had bleach stains all over it.  But, I kept it.  Figured I could use it for painting or something.

So, I bought another one – exact same shade, exact same size, exact same cozy softness.

It, too, did not survive the Proactiv.  To my credit, I didn’t immediately realize that it was the cleanser bleaching my beloved sweatshirt; otherwise, I would have been more cautious about wearing it while washing my face.  The thing is, it’s too wickedly comfy, and I don’t want to take it off.

I tried to table sweatshirt number two, relegate it to the “painting” stack.  But, I couldn’t.   Every time I was chilly,  I looked in my closet, and it was there, whispering its sweet nothings in my ear.  So, put it on I would – all bleach stained and everything.

I finally took pity on my husband and decided I should stop looking like a gross slob every winter evening.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the sweatshirt’s siren call, so I donated it to Goodwill.

It might be rather uncouth to donate bleach-stained clothing to Goodwill, but I loved the sweatshirt too much to simply throw it away. Maybe someone will buy it for $ 0.50 to add to their paint clothes collection.

Since I live in a small city in the Midwest, 2.5 hours from the nearest American Apparel store, I ordered my 3rd installation online.  Of course, it was on backorder.  Everyone must know how amazing these things are.  I had to wait 3 weeks for my new, baby blue sweatshirt, but it is so worth it.  It’s buttery soft, lean and long, with considerate non-binding cuffs around the wrists and bottom.  This one I’ll keep far away from cleansing products and maybe even our washing machine.  I’m pretty sure it’s from the 194os and knows not the meaning of “gentle.”

I also have the California Fleece Zip Hoody in 3 colors.  It also fits nice and lean.  I must say, though, that boy does it SHRINK – each and every time it’s washed.  I might have to get a XL next time.  I don’t put them in the dryer anymore; I just hang dry them. It keeps the fit a little looser, but you pay for that with crunchiness.

So, if you’re looking for a spiffy, comfortable sweatshirt that’s not emblazoned with a sports logo, check out American Apparel.  You won’t be sorry.