Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday Morning at the Zoo

On Sunday morning we decided to take advantage of the last of the milder days with a visit to the zoo. To be honest, I am not a big fan of zoos. I find them depressing and sad. They also fall into the category of 'been there, done that' because they rarely change and thus tend to bore me. But during this visit I tried to look with new eyes as I snapped pictures with my phone with the intention of sharing them here on my blog. Of course, it's hard to get good photos through fences and snot-smeared windows. So please try to ignore that aspect of these shots. The first photo is particularly bad, but I just had to include it because, while my husband finds these little guys repulsive, I think they're kind of adorable.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updates: Deodorant and Shampoo/Conditioner

Not long ago I gave an update on my soap situation. I am content with my strategy of locally made or handmade bar soap in the shower and liquid soap in reusable dispensers at the bathrooms and kitchen sinks.

I'm also satisfied with the aluminum free deodorant I've been using since 2008. I've been so pleased with it since the very first use that I've never even been tempted to try anything else.

However, I remain thoroughly unhappy with my shampoo and conditioner situation. Traditional products turn me off with their long list of unpronounceable ingredients and Bad Things (sulfates, paraben, etc.). Years ago I tried an all-in-one bar soap from Dr. Bronner's. While it started off well, I abandoned it after several weeks (months?) of use because it left heavy deposits in my hair. It didn't leave my hair feeling clean at all. I've also tried using vinegar as a conditioning rinse, but it didn't win me over either. I don't mind the smell, but it left my  long hair too tangly. Tangles make me batty, so I need a conditioner that prevents that.

Currently I'm using Nature's Gate shampoo and conditioner, but again, I'm not enthusiastic. What products do you use? Do you have any shampoo/conditioner recommendations (preferably free of Bad Things)?

(This is not a sponsored post.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Snowmobiling Outing

Sunday morning I finally felt well enough to go for a ride on our new (used) snowmobile. We drove to the same town park adjacent to the Erie Canal that my husband had ridden from the day before with his friends. Since it was my first outing, he wanted to stay on trails he was familiar with to ensure it went as smoothly as possible.

The first four miles we covered were miles I knew very well. I walk them regularly during the summer months, so it was fun to watch the familiar scenery fly by. We continued along the Erie Canal on a section I've never walked (note to self: walk this!) before turning onto a road to cross a bridge over the NYS Thruway to enter woods and fields on private land.

In the last few days I've learned a little about the sledding culture, but I'm sure I've still got a lot to learn. I had no idea there were official, maintained snowmobile trails (which is what we rode on for the entire two hours we were out). I also had no idea that joining a regional club got you a discount on your sled registration.

My husband is having a new seat made, which will hopefully give us a few more inches and allow for a bit more comfort on our next ride. This sled could be the trick to making winter more tolerable. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Woe is Me

When my husband came down with a cold last week, I was aggravated. Not at him but at the universe at large. Every time he gets sick I catch it. It is inevitable and unavoidable. And this was the 4th time since fall we'd been sick (Sept./Oct., Nov., Dec. and now Feb.). I usually get one cold each winter, so this seems extreme.

My cold symptoms started showing themselves last Saturday. Typical runny nose and sinus congestion. On Monday morning I went to work and was feeling better, thinking it must've been a super mild cold. Then by mid-afternoon I started to feel weird. My back hurt, I had a headache, and then as I drove home the stomach pain started.

I spent that evening buried under a goose down comforter on the couch, unable to get warm and in too much pain to even watch TV. I still managed to whisper some responses to Jeopardy from inside my cocoon. Thankfully I was not scheduled to work on Tuesday because that's when the stomach bug first reared its ugly head.

Five days of pain, discomfort, and general misery later this bug shows no signs that it plans to leave me alone. Desperation is setting in. Is this the new normal? What if it never stops? Oh. My. God.

This morning I had to bail on something I was looking forward to all week. My husband bought a used snowmobile a few days ago and made plans for us to join some of his friends on an all-day ride up to Lake Ontario. But now my new snow pants sit by the door and my new helmet is still in the bag. I'm huddled under my blanket on the couch while my husband rides our new sled without me on what was supposed to be our first outing.

Needless to say, I feel sad and left out. I'm missing all the fun because I'm tethered to the toilet. So yeah, woe is me.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Learning Italian

My grandfather started teaching me French in elementary school. I had a small 3-ring binder in which I would write the new words and phrases phonetically. Grandpa was a master of languages and was fluent in at least a handful. Both my mom and dad had also taken French in high school, as did my older sister, so quite a bit of franglais was spoken in our home.

In school the first available language classes were offered in 7th grade for one semester. Naturally I started taking French and continued through my senior year, accruing 5 1/2 years along the way. I excelled at French because the methods of learning were based on memorization. (I later found equally solid footing in Dendrology during college. Yay for rote memorization!)

French was not only the class I routinely received the highest grades in, it was also a favorite subject and taught by one of my favorite teachers. We called her only Madame (Mme), pronounced with our best French accents. Another French teacher was not accorded the same respect. She was called Madam X, using the English pronunciation and her full last name. Usually said with disdain.

During senior year, Mme cooked with us on Fridays, hosted movie nights at her house, and generally allowed herself to become somewhat cozier with the students. I had every intention of someday traveling to France and of course, maintaining my use of the French language. Ah, the naivety of youth...

Off to college I went, where first semester I took Italian. My professor spent the whole semester scolding me in front of the class for speaking Italian with a French accent, which was odd because even though I excelled at French in high school, no one ever accused me of having a well-honed French accent. Then I transferred to a small science college, where the main focus was on SCIENCE and the rest is history.

My husband and I have been talking about taking a trip to Italy ever since we started dating. We both have Italian heritage (I am 1/4 Italian through my mom, he is 1/2 Italian also through his mother) and both place Italy as number 1 on our international travel wishlist. From the beginning we also talked about buying Rosetta Stone for Italian, but it wasn't until this past fall that we did. My husband decided it would be our Christmas gift to ourselves.

Unfortunately, his enthusiasm flagged fairly quickly, whereas mine has not. The way it is taught feels almost like a computer game (nerd alert!), so in small doses it is actually quite fun for me. I miss the way languages were taught in high school though- the long lists of vocab words and verb conjugation. I miss the way I could memorize definitions. I'm still memorizing now, but I'm memorizing images with words or phrases that have no English translation. Sometimes I have no idea what the pictures are supposed to depict. I remain unconvinced that this is a superior learning technique. Maybe by the time I complete the course I will change my mind, but at least for now I'm enjoying the process.

While learning Italian isn't brave the same way leaving a job or starting a new one is, I think deciding to learn a new language in your late 30s does require some bravery. So here's to being BRAVE in 2014 and learning Italian!

(This is not a sponsored post.)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


On Saturday we spent about four hours working at the marina, most of which was spent cleaning the kitchen. Many more hours will be required before we reopen in the spring. Shortly after we arrived the two resident swans made an appearance, so I zipped down to the river with my cell phone to snap a few pictures. They are as slow and methodical about walking on the ice as I am. Not that I would ever consider going out onto the ice on the river.

On Sunday we drove south to Ithaca where we enjoyed a hearty lunch of polenta fries, antipasto, and wood-fired pizza before making a stop at Buttermilk Falls. The falls were almost completely frozen over in a gentle cascade of ice. I would've loved to have hiked up the trail along side the falls, but my husband's back was bothering him and a light rain was falling. Perhaps not the best conditions to tackle what was likely a slippery route.

We also dined with friends and family, watched a basketball game, and tuned in to the halftime show during the Superbowl.

Did you do anything fun or photogenic this past weekend?

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Watching: The Blacklist. We record a bunch of shows on the DVR, but we didn't start watching The Blacklist until a couple weeks ago. I tried to catch up watching the past episodes On Demand, but they charge! Other shows are free, but not this one. I don't get it, but I refuse to pay so I just started watching the current episodes. I'm not as lost as one might expect. Unfortunately, my husband has decided the show doesn't interest him. Oh well, I'm still digging it. Although I don't love Lizzy's big hair. What is this, the 1980's? Oh yeah, apparently it is. Also, she reminds me both in appearance and voice of the actress from Dances With Wolves.

Reading: I'm reading two books right now, as is the usual state of affairs. I read one on my Nook only while using the elliptical and I read an actual book-on-paper the rest of the time. The Nook ones are freebies I download on Fridays through their Free Friday program. They tend to be mysteries or thrillers. This one is Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo. The real book I'm reading is one from my Christmas stack, Bringing Up Bebe Pamela Druckerman. It's non-fiction but very readable.

Relieved about: carrying around 3 less inches of hair. I'd been avoiding getting my hair cut to save money during the job transition, but my hair had gotten so heavy and the ends were an absolute mess. I finally gave up and went to the cheap-o hair-cuttery up the street and had them lop off 3 inches. So much lighter now! Plus, now it won't get stuck in my armpits as I toss and turn at night. I'm such a poor sleeper that even something like that awakens me due to irritation.

Taking a break from: Setting monthly goals. I found the goals were a good way to distract me from my job-related misery, and since that is no longer an issue I am taking this month off from setting goals. I may return to it at some point in the future, but for now it no longer feels like a meaningful practice.

Learning: Lots of new job-related stuff.  I'm familiarizing myself with a new-to-me software system and set of related tasks. It's so refreshing to feel like I'm making a valuable contribution to an organization. I can't remember the last time that happened.