Wednesday, September 15, 2010
i've had the same macbook for almost 4 years now. it's a great machine and has been incredibly reliable. much like my honda civic. last tuesday i'm online, putzing around on some websites when my macbook suddenly freezes. i'm unable to get it to do anything so i shut it down then reboot it. upon rebooting, all i get is a white screen with a folder in the middle that has a question mark inside it, blinking. i do some research online (thanks to julie & i getting blackberries the previous weekend) and discover it's most likely a hard drive issue. not good. as in not $500 good.
as i researched more, i found out that in february apple issued a warranty on macbooks like mine for hard drive issues. suddenly things looked brighter. when i went to the apple store at san tan village (a shopping center near where we live), the genius told me the warranty ended on august 15. 3 weeks earlier. my heart sank. he quickly followed that up with saying since it was within 1 month he could extend it to me. yay! the next day i had my macbook back. to top it off, it now has an extra 100 gigs of memory and they upgraded the operating system to OS 10.5. I previously had 10.4.
the only downside is they were unable to save anything that i had save on my computer. fortunately all my music, pics & important documents saved on an external hard drive.
apple definitely went out of their way to make a customer happy. i now have, for all intents and purposes, a new computer that will hopefully last another 4 years. and someone who will be forever loyal to apple.
Friday, August 6, 2010
After my doctor visits each day thi week, I'm happy to report that progress is being made!
My INR (blood thin/thickness) levels have evened out to a therapeutic level. While for a normal person an INR of 1.0 is normal, the goal is to keep my INR between 2.0 and 3.0. On Monday it was 1.6. On Wednesday it was 2.1 and today it was 2.3. I alternate dosages of coumadin every other day and hopefully this will keep it regulated.
I had a dr visit with the Rheumatologist on Tuesday to be able to rule out any rheumatological issues I may be having. Originally back in June, some labs came back high in the rheumatory family so as a precaution, I had a visit with the dr. Also, while in the hospital, one of the potential secondary causes of Minimal Change Disease (MCD) could be rheumatory/lupus related. They did an initial lupus test that came back abnormal so they did a second, more specific one that came back positive. At this visit, the dr explained that for something to be certainly, 100% lupus, there are 7 things/characteristics that they test for and a person must have at least 4 of them to be considered lupus positive. I only have 2 of them. So they have ruled out lupus.
They dr did however say that I have Antiphospholipid Syndrome which is a clotting disorder most likely related to the kidney issues. It can explain why I developed the clot, the MCD and why the rheumatological lab results were off the charts. Fortunately, this is treated with the coumadin. Also, with this syndrome, it can lay dormant and then within 1-2 weeks the symptoms can arise. This is in line with what has gone on with me.
On Thursday I had a dr appoint with the nephrologist (Kidney dr) and found out a lot of good stuff.
While my thyroid and cholesterol are still really high, my protein in my urine has reduced dramatically! YAY! A sign that the prednisone is working! A healthy person should have under 30 units of protein in their urine. When I had the original lab the amount of protein was 7823 units. As of this week, I have 851 units. While still high, it's getting much better! I will continue taking the prednisone for another month at 60mg/day and then start to taper off of it after that.
Now that I'm down past my original weight before all of this started, I can stop taking the diuretic.
My blood clot is still there, most likely, as it takes a while for it to dissolve. The filter will stay in place for now.
In regards to my diet, there are no restrictions except to try to keep a low sodium diet since I've stopped taking the diuretic. No limits to water intake.
I'm still curious as to the cause(s) of all of this. While they don't have a primary cause, there are many secondary causes that could have contributed to MCD and Nephrotic Syndrome. While we've ruled many of them out, there are still some that I wanted to explore. (Thanks Joely for helping me think of these!!!)
- Increased amount of metal toxin - this would be like exposure to mercury or lead
- Only if I've been exposed would this be an issue and if I had, then my blood count would go really high. There has been nothing in my labs that have indicated an increase in metals in my system.
- Scleroderma - an auto-immune condition
- My skin and joints would be pulled tight because of the vessels becoming fiberous. This hasn't happened. Also, the rheumatological tests have ruled this out.
- Hodgkins Lymphoma
- I would have white blood abnormalities, which I don't. Also, the prednisone would make the condition worse, which it hasn't.
- Lyme Disease
- While the drs are skeptical of this because its uncommon in AZ, I've asked to have the blood work run to rule this out because of my living in Kansas City and Nashville. I will have this done next Wednesday.
Ok, so that's all I know for now. I am so grateful for all of your support and prayers as I continue to head to recovery. Please feel free to talk with me about this. It's a lot easier to update on the blog and I appreciate your warm wishes. Much love!
Monday, August 2, 2010
silversun pickups - "swoon": i love the guitar effects this band uses. while their 1st album, "carnavas" wasn't that impressive, "swoon" is full of stand-out tracks. they have some elements of shoegazer (always a fav for me) with moodiness thrown in for good measure. "panic switch" and "the royal we" are a couple favorite tracks.
bobby womack - "the soul of": this is actually a best of collection. at some point over the past year or so, i heard "across 110th street" (a song he wrote for the 70s blaxploitation film of the same name) and the chorus seemed permanently stuck in my head. this meant only one thing. i had to get the song. i can't say i like every song on "stop on by", but bobby womack had a knack for writing great hooks. the 1st song on the album, "daylight" i am completely addicted to. simply great 70s soul.
jonsi - "go": if you don't know, this is the 1st solo album from the vocalist of sigur ros. their album "takk" is easily in my all-time top 10, so i was eager to hear what he would do on his own. i became even more excited after hearing his interview on npr's "all songs considered" back in march. he does so much with song textures and sweeping orchestral arrangements. epically beautiful. the songs "tornado" and "animal arithmetic" are great examples.
stavesacre - "against the silence EP": alas, this very well could be the swan song for one of my all time favorite bands. 5 songs of bittersweetness. i do realize that's not technically a word, but i'm going with it. it comes very much in their recognizable melodic hardcore time signature. my favorite song is "...the band played on", followed by "the dash on my headstone".
that's a small peak into my recent music addictions & i can't wait to hear what other ones i'll come across in the future.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Well it's been a crazy week!
I went into the ER at the county hospital on Sunday July 18th with some pain in my left arm, a rapid pulse and a hard time breathing. we decided to head to the ER to be checked out since my health has not improved and, to be quite honest, we were tired of waiting for answers when i have to deal with pain and discomfort every day because of my health problems. after the staff at the hospital brought me into the ER, they gave her an EKG, a CT scan, an ultrasound and ran some other tests.
from the ultrasound, they saw that I have fluid around my spleen, liver and lungs but not my heart.
from the CT scan, they determined that i have a rather large blood clot in the aorta leading to my right kidney and I also have Nephrotic Syndrome, which can be caused by a number of things.
after a kidney biopsy they drs determined that I have Minimal Change Disease, which causes the Nephrotic Syndrome. It can be treated with a host of medications but I should hopefully start seeing some progress within 12-16 weeks and if all goes well and my body responds positively to the treatment, should be good by the end of the year. There is a good chance that I'll relapse within the following 6 months after that (Jan-June 2011) but we'll see. I'm on steroids to help calm down the kidneys.
i also had a filter inserted to keep the clot from traveling to my lungs or heart or brain. if the clot stays below my knees, then that's good. but its still in my kidney area.
once/if my kidneys start to calm down and become less inflamed, then the other issues should start to go away and I hopefully, will be able to wean myself off of the medications.
High Cholesterol - because my kidneys are inflamed, my liver is freaking out
Swelling (Edema/Anasarca) - bcz of kidneys not holding protein, i'm retaining fluid, but this should even out too - I switched diuretics and this one seems to be helping. I've lost 12-15 lbs so far!!!
Thrombosis (blood clot) - same with kidneys, if I have a predisposition to clotting, and my blood protein isn't able to even out the clotting factors because there is no/little protein in the blood, then I could keep clotting. but again, once the clotting evens out because of the blood thinner, then hopefully that will be ok. I will probably have the filter out in the next 6 mo.
I was released on Friday July 23 and will have many follow up appointments and a rigorous medication regimen. I will keep you posted as my progress continues!
Brian and I have been very impressed with the treatment I have received at the county hospital in phoenix. the staff have been courteous, compassionate, caring and thorough. we're grateful we are finally getting some answers on what's been going on!
Thank you to all of you who visited me or Brian in the hospital. It was so reassuring and uplifting to have your presence with us. We also thank you for your prayers for continued wisdom on the part of the doctors and nurses who are taking care of me. And for your friendship and love for us - we are so loved and blessed by you!
thank you for your care and love,
Julie and Brian
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I know it's been a while since I've blogged but there’s been some stuff that's happened recently regarding my health. I’ll try to make this an annotated summary. :)
At the beginning of June, I started having some swelling in my feet/ankles and woke up one day with a very tight chest and was short of breath. My stomach issues flared up and was uncomfortably bloated. My dr reconfirmed IBS and also prescribed blood work.
After various reactions to medicines and steroids, I found myself in the ER having more blood work, an EKG and a chest xray. Turns out, my sedimentation rate (how fast my red blood cells fall in a tube in 1 hr) is either high or low (can't remember right now) and so they think it could be something in the rheumatory family (arthritis most likely). Urine tests show that I'm NOT pregnant.
Later that week, the dr said that the initial tests that they did came back slightly hyperthyroidism. They also said that I have elevated labs and that it's probably an autoimmune disorder. More of the tests they had run came back indicating an overactive parathyroid which could be causing the fatigue and swelling (edema).
At the beginning of July, the diuretic didn’t seem to be working so they upped the dosage and then still no results and then upped the dosage again (80mg/day). I have a Vitamin-D deficiency and am on a thyroid pill.
After even more blood work, my cholesterol levels are higher than they were 1 month ago. My albumin and calcium is low as well. I've gained almost 40 lbs since the beginning of June and my joints and muscles are very tight and stiff. It's quite uncomfortable!
A recent visit with the dr determined that my kidneys are not retaining proteins for my blood, rather I'm peeing the protein out. And, I'm retaining the fluid and it's going into my blood which is causing the anasarca (localized edema).
They will measure exactly how much protein I'm releasing. If it's more than 3 grams, then it could lead to something called Nephrotic syndrome.
They don't want to prescribe any more medicines at this point, even a cholesterol one. They want to try to address the underlying problem with my kidneys first. I'm still on the diuretic and vitamin D (for a deficiency), and levothyroxine (for thyroid). The diuretic doesn't seem to help relieve the retention, but at least it's holding it so that the weight gain has leveled out this week.
I have upcoming appointments with a rheumatologist and a Nephrologist (kidney specialist).
Since Brian is working at a hospital through a temp agency, he’s not considered a full time employee and therefore does not have health insurance. I have a part time retail job but am considered seasonal/temporary and therefore don’t have access to health insurance either. We applied for the state funded health care but because we make more than the allowed amount for a couple ($600/mo – which is ridiculous!) we are over qualified. We have a found a medical clinic through the state hospital that allows us to have treatment wit ha payment plan based on our income.
It's been a long journey and its not over yet. Brian and I thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
i felt emotionally drained after the match. i was quite excited to watch it, and was glad to have my fellow soccer dork, rex, join me. by the end, after watching a great 0-0 game go to overtime, my frustration and hope had collided with each other too many times.
the atmosphere in the pub we went to was good, with about 70% supporting spain and 30% for the dutch. the netherlands definitely played a little dirty, which explains the amount of yellow cards they received. i do still feel that howard webb, the main referee during the match, did a poor job. he's the same guy who handed out 3 yellow cards to 1 player in 1 match in the european championships in 2008. the rules state it's 2 yellow cards an you're out. how he was able to ref the biggest sporting event on the planet after that display is beyond me.
in the end, i'm not sure if spain were necessarily the better side. thanks to the ref stopping the game so much to hand out yellows, neither side had a chance to develop their individual styles of play. the netherlands definitely had their scoring chances, with 2 by arjen robben that he should have capitalized on. but after heitinga was taken out it was simply a matter of time before spain scored. the netherlands should have gone into the match with a better game plan than playing as dirty as they did. i just hope this isn't going to replace the total football they are known for.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
check out this video for highlights of the netherlands v. uruguay match.
on sunday morning i will be at the tilted kilt in tempe, az proudly wearing my netherlands team jersey, rooting for the clockwork oranje.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
1) it is a sport you can literally watch year-around. each country has it's own league (including the MLS here in the states), with some playing during different parts of the year. the european leagues play september thru may. while the MLS plays during the spring and summer. between the various leagues and all the international matches (many of which are play-offs for the world cup), it's hard to go a couple weeks without an important game or two going on. it's great to be addicted to this sport. you don't have time to suffer from withdrawal.
2) it's not called "the beautiful game" for no reason. when you watch games from the premiere league (the english league), la liga (the spanish league) or serie a (the italian league), there's an artful flow to the game that doesn't happen in most other sports. due in part because there are no time-outs. the development of "total football" in the 1970s by the dutch added to the flow because all the players on the pitch became interchangeable. teams like arsenal in the premiere league and barcelona in la liga also have a history of playing in a manner considered "beautiful". long, arching passes combined with excellent ball control add to the art form. many of the world's best players tend to play in these three leagues, making them the best ones to watch.
3) it truly is a team sport. yes, there are superstars within football. current players like ronaldo, wayne rooney, didier drogba and lionel messi definitely take their teams to the next level. but it's really rare for a team to rise and fall simply on the ability of one player. although maradona and pele are exceptions to that.
4) the sport is a reflection of the cultures in which it's played. read the book "how soccer explains the world" by franklin foer to get a good picture of what i mean. it really is an international sport, which is why the world cup deserves to be called the world cup. unlike baseball's championship, that for some reason is called the world series...where only teams from the u.s. and canada are able to compete.
those are a few reasons why i enjoy football. i hope you take advantage of the coverage of the world cup on espn and abc to watch some games, and begin to understand why the rest of the planet is so passionate about it.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thx Jay for this great commentary: the character of a city is not found in how it responds to a disaster in the first week, but rather what it is doing in week 6 and 7. http://bit.ly/cfKJt8
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
yesterday (june 7, 2010) president barack obama spoke at my high school's commencement ceremony. to be honest, the only real memory i have of my high school graduation is when my friend jim and i dunked our heads in the fountain outside of the auditorium afterwards. i think the students who graduated from kalamazoo central high school this year will remember more.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Hi again! This time I'm here to tell you about a hair product that I'm really looking forward to trying. It's called Smooth Operator Lustre Lotion and it's by a company called göt2b®.
I've always had pretty manageable hair except for the flyaways! Maybe call them wispies or baby hair, but I've often had them stick straight up which doesn't help for my personal or professional image!
I also like to have my hair lay smooth since its on the thick side and the ends can sometimes have a mind of their own.
The makers of Smooth Operator smoothing lustre lotion have this to say:
"göt2b® smooth operator smoothing lustre lotion shapes, smoothes, controls fly-aways and gives your hair an amazing weightless lustre that's touchably soft. Plus it protects against damage from heat styling and contains a UV protectant, too."
Here are the facts:
- Recently reformulated with an indulgent cashmere infusion
- Protects against heat damage from our favorite heat styling tools and contains a UV protectant
- Comes in a sleek and modern 6.8 oz dispenser with a newly improved pump and unique charm
- Perfected for use on all hair types, wet or dry
- Features a luxurious fragrance fit for a goddess
- Available at grocery and drug stores (including Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid)
- Suggested retail price of $5.99
- Part of a full line of göt2b® smooth operator products
- To apply, pump the lotion into your hand and distribute it evenly through towel-dried or dry hair and style away
So in my attempt to be like my foodie friends who take amazing photos of their culinary creations, here is my latest. We were given a starter of an Amish Friendship bread mix. I remember hearing about it many times but didn't have the patience or the ingredients or enough pans to actually make it. The entire process takes 10 days and this was our second round of making it. We ate the first loaf and gave away the other two. This time we kept the entire (larger) loaf for ourselves. Yum!
All together now
Want to get the full Blast effect? Use the entire Blast Collection to get amazing vibrant and dramatic looks:
1. Apply base color with Smoky ShadowBlast
2. Highlight crease and lashlines with Smoky ShadowBlast
3. Lengthen lash look with LashBlast Length Mascara
4. Define and shine lips with ShineBlast Lip Gloss
Check out this great video courtesy of our friends at BzzAgent:
I'm still trying this product out. I need to tweek the application instructions just a tad for my asian eyes. But here's what it looks like so far:
Monday, May 10, 2010
BzzAgent sent me another product, actually two products, to try out and give my reviews. They want me to share with you my thoughts about them and encourage you to try the products as well!
Introducing Covergirl's new Smoky ShadowBlast and ShineBlast lip gloss. These are some new products to help amplify your eyes and play up your lips. The Smoky ShadowBlast allows you to achieve that smoky look with two easy steps! The ShineBlast lip gloss has a high gloss finish with light reflecting shimmer.
Here are the facts:
- Easy Two step eye shadow stick with specially designed applicator tips to easily deliver a colorful smoky eye.
- Step 1 - Rounded end for shading the lid
- Step 2 - Tapered end for lining the crease and the upper and lower lids
- 6 Sophisticated color combinations
- Silver Sky
- Bronze Fire
- Citrus Flair
- Onyx Smoke
- Purple Plume
- Tempest Blue
- Found Everywhere Covergirl products are sold - the suggested retail price for this item is $7.99
- Hypo-allergenic and suitable for sensitive eyes; dermatologically tested.
ShineBlast lip gloss
- Breakthrough ShineSculpt applicator hugs your lips' contours for optimum, smooth application and 4x more noticeable shine (than bare lips).
- Available in 16 vibrant, shimmer behind the shine shades:
- Dazzle, Flare, Ignite, Heat, Aglow, Radiate, Smolder, Beam, Ablaze, Glimmer, Sparkler, Firecracker, Glow, Fire, Ember and Gleam.
- Also, found Everywhere Covergirl products are sold - the suggested retail price for this item is $7.99
I received one of each product and I had to choose the color. But, they already had the pair (one eye one lip) together so I had to choose a certain color combination. I was a bit disappointed in this because the color combination that I wanted was not offered. I received the Silver Sky (805) eye combo and the Fire (880) lip color. I must say the lip color is a lot brighter than on the website.
I am excited to try this product as I've mentioned in previous BzzAgent posts, its hard for me to know how to apply make up on asian eyelids/lashes, etc. So here's to trying a new product! Stay tuned to how it works!
Check out the Covergirl website for more information!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
So, I set my privacy settings on FB and Twitter for a variety of reasons mostly because while I may blog about things, I don't necessarily need to have everything public. But I was reading a friend's blog and she had a post from Susan Isaac's blog about Spokeo.com. I went to my profile page and they had lots of information listed that I was uncomfortable having as public record. So I'm passing on how you can delete your profiles as well.
1. Go to spokeo.com: http://www.spokeo.com
2. Type your first and last name in the search bar at the top of the page
3. Locate your profile and click on it (the names are separated by state)
4. When your profile appears, copy the URL from your browser address bar
5. Scroll down to the very bottom of the screen and locate “PRIVACY” in the bottom right corner
6. Click on the “PRIVACY” link
7. Paste the copied URL in the text box
8. Enter your email (you’ll receive a notification email with further instructions)
9. Enter the captcha code displayed to the right of the text box
10. Click the “REMOVE LISTING” command button
11. Go to your email and follow the instructions to confirm deletion
Saturday, May 1, 2010
the other night, i had a red-letter moment. as i've mentioned previously, i've taken advantage of the park a block behind julie's parent's house for the past several months by running around it repeatedly in an effort to get healthier.
when julie and i moved to arizona, i was weighing in at around 230 pounds. for someone who is only 5'9", that's not good. when i weighed myself a couple nights ago, i discovered i am down to 199!! that's the 1st time in years i've been below 200 pounds in years. it's a great feeling, realizing success like that. while i'm not to my ideal body weight yet, i know i'm well on my way and can't wait to be there later this year.
i've noticed that i have 3 basic pieces that have made this weight loss process successful so far. the 1st is regular cardio exercise. by running for about an hour 3 times a week (at least), it's really helped me burn through calories and keep my metabolism up. the 2nd is portions. i've paid a lot more attention to how much i eat, realizing i don't need 2nd helpings all the time. the 3rd is watching what i eat. i still eat sweets and drink sodas. i just have less of them. this process may not work for you, but it has for me.
what i've learned (so far) in this process is that real weight loss is about a lifestyle change. i don't use any special diets, aside from making sure i eat vegetables and fruits everyday. and i cut down on carbohydrates. but it's really deciding each day that the goal of losing the weight is more important than the short-term satisfaction of that candy bar...or bag of potato chips...or eating fast food.
i also want to thank julie for pushing me along in this process and encouraging me to get out and run regularly. especially in the beginning.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
this morning, julie and i woke up bright and early (5:30 a.m.) to participate in the 6th annual pat tillman run. julie's best friend kristyn joined us in the early morning "fun" and was kind enough to actually drive us to the event.
Monday, April 5, 2010
No, Brian and I aren't having one nor adopting one right now. I wanted to tell you about a great new film that's coming soon!
As a BzzAgent, I got a recent opportunity to share about a new film that follows 4 babies in different countries, on their journey from their first breath to their first steps. The film premiers on Mother's Day weekend (May 7th) this year and it has amazing cinematography.
Here is the link to watch the trailer:
And if you happen to have your own baby, here's a great sweepstakes you can enter to win some great stuff!
We hope you enjoy this great film!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I usually don't go into rants on this blog but this issue touched a nerve within me and I just can't let it go. I'm going to try to censor myself but be prepared, I'm going to rant. I can feel my blood boiling while I type this.
First, the facts.
For those of you who don't know, recent actions by the TX Board of Education voted to remove Thomas Jefferson, Cesar Chavez, Oscar Romero, the topic of sex vs. gender, and any specific mention of Tejanos from their the social studies curriculum. They also have changed referring to the USA as a democracy to a "constitutional republic." They also omitted the concept of separation of church and state. Here are some recent articles and editorials about the changes (note: some of these have been proposed since mid-2009).
Now, my rant.
I am INFURIATED by the fact that a bunch of right-wing conservative republicans have decided who and what constitutes significant contributions to history. I am OUTRAGED by the fact that racism and sexism (and plain 'ol F***ing stupidity) can be blatently justified with such intentionality toward children's education.
I would be more sympathetic toward this board if they instead proposed to present a more wholistic view of these issues. I hope that all of your children and grandchildren rebel against your actions and condemn your behavior! HOW DARE YOU!
It makes TX take a million steps backward in terms of social progress to the pre-1950's Mississippi-esque era. WTF people!!?!???! I mean do you really think that you can erase history? Do you really think your children will be better off by NOT learning these things? Do you see how your dangerous and damaging right-wing religious moral conservative bullshit is TOTALLY crossing the bounds of separation of church/state? (I know you do bcz that's why you want Mr. Jefferson removed.)
I try hard NOT to be one of those "liberal democrats" who thinks I'm right all the time and I at least try to understand another person's differing point of view to the point where I could defend it as my own. I may not succeed but at least I try. And even if I don't understand, I at least try to withhold slandering that point as not to make myself be insensitive nor ignorant.
I understand your point. I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH IT!!!!!
Here is an excerpt from a recent article:
Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said that because the U.S. is a republic rather than a democracy, the proper adjective for identifying U.S. values and processes should be "republican" rather than "democratic." That means social studies books should discuss "republican" values in the U.S., his report said.
And, it makes me vomit in my mouth and wants me to completely stereotype and bash my conservative republican friends. You give a TERRIBLE name to the republican party.
AND FURTHERMORE, this has NOTHING to do with being a Christian. I am a Christian and I think you have overstepped your bounds. Who the HELL gave you the right to decide what can and SHOULD be taught???? You have disgraced our nation. You and the people who voted for you should keep your ideologies to yourself and out of the schools. I don't even think you should pass these "values" on to your children. You should be prepared for an outcry from people who are APPALLED and ASHAMED of your actions. SHAME ON YOU!
You and Glenn Beck. Awful. Awful. AWFUL! You abuse your power and it should be taken away from you. I HATE it when you proof-text.
I applaud Ms Mary Helen Berlanga and Ms Mavis B. Knight and others who voted AGAINST your racist, sexist, narrow minded decisions.
One thing for sure, I am GLAD as F***ing HELL that I don't live in TX and I CERTAINLY NEVER will.
Perhaps I'll write my own social studies curriculum and leave the entire state of TX out of it.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
The first full weekend every month is Bank of America day at many museums and other public places nationwide. It's a great opportunity to explore new places plus admission is absolutely FREE! Perhaps there is a location near you: check here.
So, the first weekend of March, Brian and I visited the Phoenix Zoo and had a great time! Here are some of the highlights.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Brian and I have visited many restaurants after being in Arizona in an attempt not only to try new places but also to (re)familiarize ourselves with the area. In addition, we have had some good times taking photos and reviewing wonderful food through our involvement with the Phoenix Tastecasting group.
So, in response, we'd like to begin posting our own reviews about restaurants we visit. It is to share our own personal, unsolicited opinions about food, restaurants and our experience in general.
These posts will be titled after the great Food Network show by Alton Brown, Good Eats.
We hope you enjoy our reviews and some good food as well!
He will be here on April 2nd (along with his wonderful parents!)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
today was my lucky day for 1 reason: i saw my 1st roadrunner! well, actually my 1st and 2nd roadrunners. 1 was plump like our cat squiggs and the other was skinny like our other cat panini. if you don't know, pretty much ever since i came to arizona for the 1st time, i decided that a goal would be to see a roadrunner in the wild. it finally happened this afternoon as i was stretching outside just before my run. they walked over to julie's car after casually hopping down from the roof of the house across the street. they would stop every few feet or so and put their tails almost straight up in the air. i'm not sure if it was for balance, or as a sign of being alert for predators or perhaps both. either way, i experienced a few incredible minutes while watching these 2 creatures walk and run in our little cul-de-sac.
unfortunately i didn't have a camera on hand when it happened. the only piece of electronic gadgetry i had was my ipod (which was playing "canadian girl" by the walkmen during this event). it would have been great to take a picture, especially since 1 of the birds came within 30 feet of where i was standing.
although real roadrunners look nothing like the character from the classic looney tunes cartoons (as the above picture shows), i thought i would post an episode in honor of this monumental day.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
so like i said, we were on 1 of our dates last night. we went to black angus restaurant for dinner. we then decided to walk off part of our dinner by heading to the mall. we wandered into the lego store and eventually found ourselves in the apple store. i found myself playing with an iphone while julie headed over to the ipod section. in my normal a.d.d. fashion, i grew bored with the iphone after a bit & played on some of the macbooks. i discovered a fun program called djay that allows you to be a turntablist using songs on your itunes. awesome.
i then wandered over to where julie was listening to an ipod, somewhat curious as to what was keeping her attention for so long, especially since she has her own ipod. this is when that aforementioned moment happened. she was listening to some songs via the bose quiet comfort headphones that apple attaches to their ipods. holy crap the sound is amazing. she 1st had me listen to billy joel's "we didn't start the fire" and then to a couple other songs. we loved what these headphones did for the effects and texture of the songs. i listened to starflyer 59's "concentrate" and immediately noticed drum effects that i didn't notice on my own ipod.
all of this made us excited about listening to music, getting lost in it when that perfect song hits you and julie being able to really understand why all of that happens to me so often. it was a great moment, and i thank apple for making it possible.
[as an aside, have any of you seen the new microsoft windows retail stores? why is it that they look exactly like the apple retail stores? microsoft should have tried being different instead of copying their competition.]
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Our most recent TasteCasting event took place at Avalon Restaurant in Scottsdale on Feb. 10th. this is a chef-driven restaurant that frequently changes its' menu according to the season. we were there shortly before valentine's day, so we sampled some of the menu they were serving for that day. the atmosphere here was trendy, but this one focused more on clean, simple lines with a circular motif with lots of brown and white. When designing the restaurant, they brought in a feng shui expert in order to help harmonize the layout. The live band brought additional energy to the atmosphere.
shortly after we sat down, the head chef personally came out to greet us and to introduce us to the menu for the evening. he stressed that they only purchase top-of-the-line ingredients for their foods and all of their seafood is purchased fresh and served within 24 hours of it being purchased from the auction house. Chef Charles prepared and served us each dish which made the excellent service more memorable.
we were served chilled hawaiian ahi tuna for our first appetizer. it was served on flat, plain rectangular plates. the tuna itself was nestled in an asian spoon with a tartare/carpaccio/ponzu/sesame dish on the side. the texture reminded me (brian) of sushi, but the taste was not too impressive for me. the side dish added some fresh, complimentary flavors to the tuna.
To me (Julie), the ahi tuna was a brave step for my tastebuds. I am not a particular fan of raw fish or sashimi or sushi. I gathered my courage and took Chef Charles' advice when choosing fish, to lead with my nose and then my eyes. The tuna had a smoky flavor and the hint of sesame was nice. The fish was moist and tender although it had a strong aftertaste. It was good even though I'm not a big fish person.
Our 2nd appetizer was quite fun. their soup blt offering. in this case, "blt" stands for bacon, lobster and tomato. 3 different soups served in espresso-like coffee cups. the creamy tomato bisque was awesome for me (brian). it had a wonderful slight spicy afterbite to it as it went down my throat and the taste made me think of cold winter nights. perfect. my 2nd favorite was the bacon potato chowder. it had a creamy, cheesey wonderful bacon flavor that made me feel warm and comfortable all over. great comfort food. the 3rd was the lobster bisque soup. while i enjoyed it, it was not as enjoyable as the other 2.
I (Julie) REALLY enjoyed the BLT soups. My favorite was the Bacon potato chowder. The cream was heavenly and calorie laden, I'm sure. The bacon flavor was quite delish! The lobster bisque was not as creamy as the chowder but it was still tasty. It had a nice rich and buttery flavor. And, the creamy tomato bisque was also an adventure for me. I normally don't like tomato soup but I dove in and am glad I did. As brian said before, the tomato had a nice spice to it and was like eating a VERY NICE marinara sauce. It was definately not your normal Campbell's Tomato soup. After this, I might just become a tomato soup convert!
We were then served samples of 3 of their entrees. Bacon-wrapped kurobuto pork tenderloin, Butter Poached Maine Lobster and Aged Prime New York Strip Steak. The last was specifically for their valentine's day menu.
(Brian) the pork tenderloin tasted wonderful. the bacon had a nice crispness to it and it was served with a caramel apple/parmesan polenta/currant side dish that added a perfect complimentary sweetness. the lobster was chewy and was a bit plain-tasting to me. it tasted fresh, but could have used a bit more flavoring. the last entree was the NY strip steak. crispy, juicy and wonderful. the way NY Strip steak should be.
(Julie) I was highly looking forward to the lobster but was a bit disappointed when I didn't get the plate of it served at my spot. When I tried a bite off of another person's plate, I was greatly disappointed. The lobster was served with ricotta gnocchi and asparagus in lobster butter. I didn't get any of this, only a small bite of lobster, which ended up being very chewy and not very flavorful.
What I did receive, was a nicely plated piece of aged prime NY steak. The piece was very tender and juicy and had excellent flavor. It had a nice crispy crust as well. The steak was served cooked medium rare and I must say that I have slowly begun to change my opinion about how I want my steaks cooked. I have always been a well done kind of girl, however, due to being more brave with my fellow foodie friends, I have actually tried, on several occasions, steaks that were in the medium rare/medium well range. The flavor is deeper and the steaks are juicer. I do appreciate having tried this and I think next time I order a steak, I will try medium well and see how it goes! :) The steak was served with bone marrow bread pudding, spinach and a bordalaise sauce. I don't like bread pudding and I have never tried bone marrow anything but it added a nice complimentary flavor to the steak and while I probably won't order it again, it wasn't bad.
I also tried the pork tenderloin and would agree that it was my favorite. The pork was very tender and juicy and I loved the parmesean polenta with which it was served. The caramel apples and currants were a nice addition.
At long last came dessert. Red Velvet Cheesecake and Cream Cheese Anglaise were our offerings. (brian) the cheesecake was incredible. the creamy cheesecake was served as a wonderful Ice-cream looking scoop on top of the red velvet cake. creative plating that added to the taste. the cream cheese anglaise was yummy, rich and fluffy. it almost sweetly floated in my mouth.(julie) ditto!
as an additional treat, we ordered the Chocolate Decadence with Dark Chocolate mousse and Chocolate Sponge cake to go. It was just as it sounds and would have been just as scrumptious if we would have eaten it while at the restaurant.
The Avalon Restaurant experience is a great one. they know how to treat their customers. we also appreciated the locally-owned/non chain aspect to the restaurant. it allows them to independently create menus and an ambience that works for their clientele. Perhaps we will return to Avalon to sample brunch or lunch!
p.s. we both forgot the camera for this tasting so that is why there are no photos of this glorious food. Perhaps you can check the Tastecasting.com site and click on blogs to find a post with photos from this tasting!
On January 27th, Brian and I participated in another Tastecasting event - this time at Radio Milano - a trendy italian restaurant in the Arcadia area. I recognized the area because it was my paternal grandparents' and dad's old stomping grounds. Funny thing is that it is a few doors down from a former seamstress's business that my maternal grandma used to use. The area has seen some urban renewal and there are some other trendy restaurants/stores in that area.
The tasting went well and I enjoyed the great atmosphere - low lighting, couches and high tables/chairs, and industrial-esque setting (exposed cement walls, wood beams, metal accents - similar to Chipotle but higher class).
The place was very busy with a steady stream of various clientele. Even the valet parking in the small lot didn't discourage eager patrons.
i (brian) also enjoyed the trendy atmosphere. the windows in the restaurant reminded me of windows you would see on a ship. a couple reminded me of port windows. i noticed they did little things to hold to the "radio" theme. they had the classic "on the air" indicator hanging on one of the walls as well as an abstract painting which included the words "stay tuned". the staff of radio milano was very attentive and made sure everything was to our liking.
Among the seven of us, we sampled a variety of appetizers, entrees and wonderful desserts. One of the fellow Tastecasters has a wonderful review about the yumminess.
as for the food, i (brian) was impressed with most of it. they served 4 appetizers to us. deviled eggs, crispy calamari, shattered potato chips & caprese salad. the shattered potato chips were definitely my favorite, mainly because of the ketchup/chipotle mayo dip sauce that came with it. i normally do not enjoy mayo, so that should tell you something. the calamari was my 2nd favorite. nice & crispy. no rubberiness to it, which is my biggest concern with that dish.
The appetizers were a nice variety of items. I enjoyed the tomatoes and burrata cheese. The toms were slightly charred and the cheese was very soft and fresh.
The deviled eggs were like my thanksgiving deviled eggs only 10 times better! The red pepper, onion and bacon were a nice blend of flavors and an accurate acidity.
I (Julie) also liked the smashed potatoes, as crispy as they were with the compliments of the mayo.
the main dish i (brian) had was the roasted organic chicken with potatoes and beans. it was a large portion and the smell of garlic that came wafting to my nostrils when it was set before me immediately told me it was a winner. the chicken skin had a nice carmelized, juicy texture and the meat inside was just as juicy.
I (Julie) ended up having the papardelle which was described as having butternut squash, asparagus, brocolini and was disappointed when the dish arrived and only had sugar snap peas, tomatoes and goat cheese among the soft homemade noodles. The dish had a nice light flavor and was a great vegetarian dish even though it was missing the first few ingredients named above. One person next to me, who is a regular at Radio Milano, says that each dish is often unique because of the availability of ingredients for each dish. Perhaps they were out of butternut squash, asparagus and brocolini that night.
naturally the entrees were followed with dessert. radio milano had us sample 3 of the desserts they offer. gelato (pistachio, orange and hazelnut), olive oil cake and chocolate pudding.
i (brian) surprisingly discovered the olive oil cake to be my favorite. it had a nice sweet moistness to it that had my tastebuds asking for more. i know. olive oil cake? i honestly did not think i would like it before i tried it. i was happily surprised.
Radio Milano is closed on Sunday and only open for dinner. They use a mesquite grill to cook with and it brings a nice flavor to the dishes. Others that night sampled the small chopped salad, scallops, cowboy ribeye steak, linguine and clams and a sunny meatball crostini. We would recommend Radio Milano for a nice meal!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
We will post soon about our two latest Tastecasting adventures - Radio Milano and Avalon! Yummy goodness!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Back in December, I posted this about a new campaign through BzzAgent. The task was to try the Lash Boosting Serum and Mascara for 4 weeks. The serum claims to help give lashes a conditioning boost and the mascara claims to prime and extend lashes up to 80%.
I applied the serum almost every night and every other day. I wore the mascara 5 days a week.
Some things I noticed:
- Wearing the serum alone, my lashes didn't seem to have any noticeable change.
- When I would apply the serum, primer and mascara, my lashes looked clumpier and heavier, and not necessarily longer. With all three products applied, my lashes bothered me by their weight, strangely enough. There was just a lot of product build-up rather than light product with lengthening properties.
- When I applied all three products, it was essential to let the serum dry for about 10 minutes before applying the primer and wait about 10 minutes before applying the mascara. Being a novice at lash boosting products, it would have been nice to know this beforehand. Otherwise, the product simply slides off my lashes and doesn't coat like it should.
- I noticed that the mascara would flake off occasionally after rubbing my eyes. But for the most part, it seemed to hold up well through tearing up even though it's not marketed as "waterproof."
I tool before and after photos before and after the trial period. You can judge for yourself if there was noticeable difference.
Each of these photos were taken WITHOUT serum, primer and mascara to test the real effects of the products on my lashes.
Here is a photo of my lashes WITH the serum, primer and mascara on, just so you can see what it looked like.
In the end, this product got me into the habit of wearing mascara regularly, however, I can't say that I noticed very much difference in my natural lashes. Perhaps that was not the point, that when wearing the product, I would actually see the results. And when I did wear it, I did see a difference. But in the end, I'm not all that excited about putting a lot of unnatural product on my lashes on a regular basis, so close to my eyes to make them appear longer. I don't think I would pay $24.95 retail for this product if I didn't know about it.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
last weekend julie and i drove 4 hours northwest of phoenix to lake havasu city, az. what a great time it was. we went up to visit kristyn, julie's friend since the beginning of time. of course we made a stop at the london bridge. what? you say. the london bridge in some podunk town in arizona? yes. apparently the town founder decided to purchase a bridge in london that spanned the thames river and move it to his city. so, he did. it was shipped from london to lake havasu city and rebuilt exactly the way it was in london. here's a view of it as we were walking by it, along with a pic of us in front of the fountain near the entrance to the bridge.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Not only is this the original version of the commercial BUT they have a Halloween AND Thanksgiving AND Christmas versions! Watch the characters on the cakes to see the difference!
Here's the Halloween one:
And the Thanksgiving one! YAY! I love the turkey!