Monthly Archives: October 2010


28 Oct

Halloween Capes and Capers

Posted by on October 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Halloween is a big holiday for us and a massive time drain. Every year we put in hours and hours of work to plan, decorate, and execute a Halloween party of ludicrous proportions. We love it and hate it but we always end up doing it again. After all, who else would put on something this elaborate if we didn’t?

Jason requested that

Jason requested that I make us superhero costumes this year. I consented but decided I wanted to be a hero related to my intriguing profession. Thus, the Five a Day Avenger was born: saving the world one serving of fruits and veggies at a time! Those that won't eat their veggies will be bombarded by them. My awesome lemonades (like grenades...get it?) were detachable and a lot of fun to chuck at the unsuspecting. Jason was super excited to be my ridiculously useless sidekick Banana Man.

These rotten eggs were a creation of mine a number

I created these rotten eggs a number of years ago but I still love them.

Just love this picture of a cree

I really dig this picture of my cute and creepy spider with glowing eyes.

Since this was our tenth year hosting this madness we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into. We’ve learned from experience just how long it takes to do what and we start preparing in August. Our familiar schedule keeps us from outright panicking as the party too quickly approaches. However, Jason’s weak body put a few kinks in our usual timetables this year. The week of our party, which is always overflowing with to-dos, he decided to get a flu shot when they were offered for free at his work. His body did not approve. Since the flu shot this year is a combo that contains both the swine flu and the regular run-of-the-mill flu vaccines, apparently there is a greater than normal chance for adverse reactions…and Jason’s reaction I would definitely place under the adverse umbrella. In the evening of the day he got the shot he became ill almost instantly; one minute he was saying his stomach didn’t feel too well and the next he was making a mad dash to the bathroom like it was a new Olympic sport. Sadly, that mad dash was just the first of many to come. The explosive vomiting and diarrhea that ensued forced Jason to spend the night on the floor just outside the bathroom so he could successfully make it to the toilet as often as he required, which turned out to be about every twenty minutes. Poor boy! He was utterly useless to me for a couple days and since he represents half of our party taskforce (to be realistic it’s more like 40%) his illness was a significant blow to our preparations. To make matters worse we weren’t 100% certain at that point that it was his shot, and not some contagious disease, that made him sick so we didn’t know if an extended allotment of time on the toilet was my inescapable destiny. With the future a question mark and manpower in short supply I went into extreme party prep mode. I was so distracted by everything I needed to get ready that I am embarrassed, yet quite amused, to report that I forgot to change my underwear for almost three days. Yes, you should be grossed out right now; it’s disgusting and so unlike me! It makes me chuckle just thinking about it.

The Ashleys were

The Ashleys weren't able to stay too long but they were present long enough for me to pelt Jacob square in the neck with one of my lemonades-mission accomplished.

These potion jars were a new addition to our Halloween d

These potion jars were a new addition to our Halloween decor this year. I came across them online and had to buy them. I HAD to Jason.

Silas was dang cute wearing this

Silas was dang cute wearing one of the witch noses I handed out to the kids.

Lauren rocked the contests at our party. She won best costume

Lauren rocked the contests at our party. She won best costume and her Minnie Mouse pumpkin prevailed in the carving arena.

Despite the unexpected challenges, ones that most people wouldn’t admit to in a public setting such as this, come party time everything was ready and Jason and I were both well. We had crafts and a piñata for the kids again followed by Bingo for everyone. Bingo was a huge hit this year. So many people wanted to participate that I ran out of score cards and there were no free seats at the tables so a few players had to stand. I’ve never seen so many adults under the age of fifty get so excited about that game. It was a lot of fun!

Adam

Adam made a great Beetlejuice and won second place for his sweet costume.

The Browns

The Browns' little girls were fascinated by all of our Halloween decor. I love it when kids are wowed by our transformed house; it makes all that work worth it.

My mom and dad played the part of nerd and bag lady very well.

My mom and dad played nerd and bag lady very well. Maybe these roles were a good fit for them?

Jason made this tombstone, along with several others,

Jason made this tombstone, along with several others, 6 or 7 years ago and it's been a standard at our party ever since...but always in a new and creative spot.

Our costume contest was won by Lauren with her bride of Frankenstein outfit. She looked fabulous! She also took home the prize for the best carved pumpkin. Way to score Lauren!

This bunch of hooligans is comprised of the costume contest

This bunch of hooligans is comprised of the costume contest winners and various other party goers that for some reason answered to the call of winner. And yes, you can see Jeremy's bat patch.

Bingo was very intense this year.

Bingo was very intense this year. It was fun to see all of the adults going just as crazy for the prizes as the kids.

We hope you, our illustrious band of friends, enjoyed yourselves at our shindig. We thank you for your company, your amusing costumes, and your shenanigans. We will be eternally grateful to you for making our get-together anything but dull! I’d say I look forward to doing it all again next year but I think it will be a few months before I will be able to say that with complete honesty.

24 Oct

Fall: the Limited Edition

Posted by on October 24, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Fall is my favorite! The brilliant colors, the crisp leaves, the cool breezes with a hint of winter on their breaths.

As much as I love this season it always makes me feel a bit panicky. Since fall is a limited time offer, and the threat of winter only elevates its exclusivity, any moments not spent out in its golden and fiery hues seem a bit wasted. Once I sense that the countdown to the chill has begun, like the ticking of a bomb that is set to go off, I feel compelled to shove as much of autumn into my life as possible while I still can.

This year our fall here in Utah has been unbelievable. The weather has been beautiful and unseasonably warm so I have been especially determined not to squander what precious little is left of the loveliness. Jason and I, therefore, biked three different canyons in three consecutive weekends in a blatant attempt to savor the smell of decaying leaves and enjoy the slanted autumn sunshine: Millcreek, American Fork, and Provo. But biking alone didn’t satisfy my craving to be out in the midst of fall so we crammed as many other outdoor activities as we could into our already stuffed schedule.

The Millcreek Pipeline Trail was, as always, completely delightful but we got a little too distracted by the majestic scenery and somehow forgot about the early approach of darkness this time of year. So the last couple miles back to our car we had to ride like the Flash as our vision became increasingly obscured by the night. (Word to the wise: biking along the side of a cliff on a trail that’s a foot wide does not work well in the dark.)

Size isnMillcreek may be a smallish canyon bit it

Size isn't everything. Millcreek may be a smallish canyon bit it lacks nothing in beauty.

I smashed my rather

I paused on the Pipeline to patch up a booboo.

The Great Western Trail to Pine Hollow up American Fork Canyon, one of our most frequented paths, was our second ride. We biked to my favorite meadow and even though its now-dry grasses weren’t nearly as beautiful as they are in the spring it was still a nice secluded spot for a quick break and snack.

Jason thought the trail surrounding the meadow was not nearly

Jason thought the trail surrounding the meadow was not nearly as much fun to ride as the meadow itself.

Jason

Jason is quite the crazy biker. He cruised down this tricky part.

Big Spring Hollow Trail up South Fork in Provo Canyon, the last ride in our three week bike extravaganza, was deliciously colorful and incredibly warm (high 70s). We hadn’t done this trail in a few years and I distinctly remembered the uphill section being very challenging. This time, however, it was no big deal. I guess recently training for a half marathon does have its perks. Oh the ego boost!

Big Spring Hollow was divine!

Big Spring Hollow was divine...even the pesky uphill section.

Ah...blue sky, red leaves...beautiful!

Ah...blue skies, red leaves...beautiful!

In addition to biking pretty much everywhere, we went rock climbing up American Fork Canyon with my friend David and took on the face of Eight to Eleven where his brother Danny fell and shattered his ankle bone last time we climbed. The memory of that accident gave me a lot of unexpected nerves as I tried to scale up at his fall spot. I got stuck once, probably partially due to my fear and partially due to my short arm span, and had to come down. But the boys convinced me to try once more and this time I relaxed and conquered it. I’m glad they didn’t let me give up because I am not prone to going easy on myself; I’m sure I would have regretted not pushing to the top…not to mention the bantering I surely would have received from those two had I called it quits.

Jason rocked Eight to Eleven.

Jason rocked Eight to Eleven. Being part monkey does come in handy now and then.

Two manly men posing together on a cute little bridge

Two manly men posing together on a cute little bridge; now that's not something you see everyday.

We also took our friend Arvinder, who is visiting from India, up to Timpanogos Cave. He’s not accustomed to trekking straight up mountains but his heart survived the over 1,000 ft ascend and we all enjoyed the unusual innards of this national monument together. Since we were already up in the canyon, after we hiked to the cave we opted to take a detour to Cascade Springs on the way home and see how the season was altering that landscape. I have to say that although Cascade Springs is quite picturesque there are many places in our surrounding canyons that are just as lovely, if not more so, that don’t have dozens of people milling about them. So I think I’ll pass on Cascade Springs next time. Man! Good thing I have feet and a bike to take me to where you only have to do crowd control on chipmunks and mosquitoes.

Timp Cave: I wished my insides looked so sweet!

Timp Cave: I wish my insides looked so sweet!

I took a moment on the way back to chill in the cool twisted

I took a moment on the way down from the cave to chill in the cool twisted branches of this tree.

Fall may be terminal but while it’s still kicking I hope I will get more opportunities to bike, hike, climb, or just read a good book in the backyard. It would be a shame to squander a season so colorful, pleasant, and fleeting.

13 Oct

Joined at the Hip

Posted by on October 13, 2010 at 7:50 pm

America is losing it. We’ve all heard about how we, as a country, have been losing the international popularity contest and the foreclosures struggle but, no worries, we’re not losing in all arenas. In fact, there is one thing that we have most definitely been gaining: fat. Yes, just when it was beginning to look like our world dominance might be slipping, our people have demonstrated that we can still go above and beyond expectations. Congratulations America! Other nations may think that they can compete in the battle of the bulge but we’ve again proved that America is #1 as we Americans become fatter and fatter at unprecedented rates. Yes! We the people of the United States of America can still succeed at anything we put our mouths to!

It is estimated, if trends don’t change, that by the year 2020 three out of four Americans will be obese. But so what? Why should we care? If we are all obese it’s like none of us are, right? Unfortunately, obesity is linked to a number of health conditions, things that tend to kill you. Heart disease, for instance, is the #1 cause of death in the United States and very much related to obesity and poor lifestyle choices. And, if all the alarming stats on the ever-increasing rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes don’t faze you perhaps the monetary implications of our fatness will. Obesity cost those living in the U.S. $117 billion dollars in the year 2000, that’s $400 for every man, woman, and child. Health care for overweight and obese individuals costs about 37 percent more than individuals of normal weight. What does that mean? The cost of treatment for illnesses related to obesity is comparable to the financial toll of smoking-related disease at about 9 percent of all health care expenditures. Yet, someone who would never be dumb enough to pick up a cigarette may eat lunch at McDonald’s every day and watch 2-4 hours of TV every night. They might never be inclined to exercise and may do nothing to counteract the creeping weight gain cycle they find themselves in-except of course that annual new year’s diet that they will probably give up on after two weeks. They may continue to eat fatty snacks and sugary treats and skimp on the fruits and veggies. They might keep on preferring the couch to running trails, basketball courts, soccer fields, and gyms. Then, as the years go by, they might just find themselves morbidly obese and diagnosed with diabetes or possibly the victim of a heart attack.

Most Americans don’t seem to truly grasp the consequences of their daily habits. They lack the education or motivation to make healthy lifestyle alterations so they stay in their well-formed habit ruts until their arteries look like the inside of a Cheese Wiz can or their blood is sugary enough to be mistaken for corn syrup. The company I work for, however, has been doing something to provide incentives for change.

This year my company participated in the Global Corporate Challenge. What is the Global Corporate Challenge you ask? It’s a contest based off the World Health Organization’s recommendation that individuals should take at least 10,000 steps a day to reduce their risk of disease and improve their health. For the challenge you join forces with 6 of your coworkers, preferably ones that aren’t couch potatoes, and form a 7 person team. Your awesome team competes with all the other teams in your company and in other corporations around the world for the highest daily step average over the course of four months. In order to monitor exactly how many steps they take, the participants have to wear a pedometer every day, everywhere they move, for those 4 months. Sounds like kind of a pain, right? Yeah, a bit, but the results are quite revealing.

When I heard my company was joining the GCC I was all in. I’m an active girl so I thought it would be fun and that I could rock it. So I captained a team of hooligans. We called ourselves The Gait Mates (Yes, another goofy name of my invention.) and began wearing those silly pedometers around everywhere. My team didn’t do too shabby. We averaged 14,875 steps/day and finished 7th in our company out of 37 teams. We were also ranked 1,743 internationally out of 13,972 teams. Sweet! And everyone at my work, not just my team, seemed to step up to the challenge of their rivals. (Oh the puns and references!) As a business we placed 4th out of all the participating companies in the nation. Kudos to us!

This pedometer was with me so much it was practically like we were

This pedometer was with me so much it was practically like we were attached at the hip...oh yeah, we were.

How about me? Did this challenge entice me to drastically alter all my habits? Ah…no, not really. Since I am already very active and regularly involved in mountain biking, running, soccer, racquetball, rock climbing, snowboarding, and any other crazy hobby I can add to my list, I didn’t really need to alter my exercise patterns. In the midst of the challenge I was training for a half marathon and running up to 10 miles a day. That crazy distance seems like it should translate into a ridiculously high daily step average, right? Well, I discovered that that’s sadly not the case. When you’re running you take longer strides than when you’re walking, hence you get less steps per mile even though you are doing more exercise; the more you push yourself with larger strides, as you try to go ever faster, the fewer steps you acquire for all your work. Doh! This means I really got jipped off on my running steps! Oh well. I still managed to get a 14,005 daily step average over the course of the contest. That may not have been the number I was anticipating but hey, I was still way above 10,000 so it’s all good.

The challenge may not have changed my habits but it did lead to a sobering realization. Like many workers, my job requires a lot of desk time. I’m constantly at my computer writing up reports, doing research, whatever. I found that on the days I worked and didn’t go running or biking afterwards I only got about 5,000 steps. Geeze! Now you may be thinking that this was because I park my car two feet from my employer’s door and ride the elevator up to my desk. But no, that’s not the case. (And frankly, you should know better than to think I am that lazy! Shame on you!) I always park my car on the far end of the lot and take the stairs when I’m going in and out of work. Yet, my number of steps was despicably low on most of the days I didn’t conscientiously make an effort to exercise when I got home. What does this mean for all of you? If you work at a desk job and take a seat in front of the tube the second you get home from the office chances are you are taking about 10 steps everyday and probably getting plumper by the minute.

So, while I don’t necessarily recommend that you all buy a pedometer and wear it everywhere you go for months, I would suggest that you become more aware of your activity levels on a daily basis, especially if you, like me, spend way too much time in a life-sucking cubicle. Taking the stairs, walking over to a coworker’s desks instead of calling them, parking a little further away, and taking a walk on your lunch or break can help. While seemingly insignificant practices like those can make a big difference over time, the main lesson I took home from this challenge is that those little things really aren’t enough; they won’t make up for a general lack of activity. So the bottom line is that our bottoms need to find their way off of couches and onto the seats of bikes. Just twenty minutes of exercise a day can literally add years onto your life. Not such a bad investment is it?

Luckily for me I have way too much energy and therefore absolutely crave activity. This antsyness has served me well and getting lots of steps has never been a problem. I know many of you don’t share my odd energetic excesses and to you I say, especially those trapped in cubicleland, just exercise anyway. Then, just maybe, we as a nation can be known for something else besides being lazy porkers.

6 Oct

Devious Exploits

Posted by on October 6, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I love surprises and I am a master plotter. I can keep secrets and cover elaborate schemes like you wouldn’t believe. Though I rarely use this talent for evil, I do often utilize it to deploy the unexpected on my husband.

Jason is keen on all things Halloween and horror movies bring joy to his twisted heart so every October I like to supply him with a fresh selection of scary movies that are tame enough for me to watch. But just giving these films to him in a normal fashion would be rather boring and unnatural for me. After all, Rachel is my name and plotting is my game. Therefore, this year, as always, I conjured up a plan to deliver Jason’s Halloween stash to him in an unforeseen manner.

I decided to make up a basket filled with some horror flicks and movie munchies and give it to him on the very first day of October. I wanted to make sure though that he was thoroughly surprised, not just averagely surprised, by its appearance so I got up in the middle of the night and left the basket for him to find first thing in the morning directly outside our bedroom door. No alarm was needed to awaken me from my peaceful slumber in order to set out the basket; I wake up at some point most nights so I figured randomly getting up wouldn’t be a problem. I was correct. I’m glad my annoying restlessness actually came in handy for once.

The tub

The tub-o-horror came with its own instructions: "Watch it!" Get it? You watch movies and you need to watch where you are stepping when baskets unpredictably pop up in your hallway. Don't get it? Your name must not be Rachel. And yes, I even took a picture of my creation without Jason noticing.

Since Jason typically wakes up for work a bit before I do he was quite shocked, as he was stumbling to the bathroom, to find a container full or horror goodness waiting for him when I was still in bed sound asleep. Yes! Rachel plot accomplished!

The best part of this conspiracy is that I prepared and arranged that basket the night before right under Jason’s nose. I didn’t want to even hint that something was afoot by closing the door to my craft room while I was loading up his goodies, which is what I typically do to hide my deeds when I’m wrapping gifts for him or involved in some similar mischief. Yes, since I needed Jason to suspect nothing I left the door wide-open to completely dispel suspicion and listened attentively for any approaching footsteps hoping that I could quickly stuff everything in the closet if needs be. Thanks to my sneakiness Jason remained completely oblivious to my devious undertaking and while he dallied on the computer across the hall and cleaned in the kitchen I subtly got his cute basket all ready for its nocturnal drop-off. He didn’t catch me and had no idea I was even up to something. Yes! Who’s the master? Oh the cleverness of me.