Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 52. COMPLETED!!

(mmm... pass the plate!)

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In thin mints? Somoas? In trefoils?
In cups of cola?
In root beer, in Tab, in Fanta, in Sprite?

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about looooove? How about loooooove?
How about love?
Or Chips Deluuuuuuuuxe?
Try Chips Deluuuuuuuuxe?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand snack times to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand ix hundred minutes
How do you measure the health of a woman or a man?

In truths that he learned
Or in times that he cried
In dreams which he yearned
For the sodas deniiiiiiiiied?

It's time now to chow down
For the struggle finally ends
Let's celebrate
Remember the year
then have cookies with friends!

Remember the love
(Oh you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(And soda's a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love. Give love).
Measure in love....
(Measure, measure in Chips Deluuuuuuxe!)
Seasons of love...
And Chips Deluxe....

It's been a year! I did it! It's nice to know that self-restraint is possible. Now it's over. Oh thank heaven, it's no longer 2011! Give me that plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies over there! Nom, nom, nom, so good!

The 700 Club!

(is this the little blog I carried, is this the little blog at play...?)

As 2011 comes to a close, the blog has come to a fun milestone. 700 posts! I cannot believe I have written so consistently here for 4 years. Thanks to everyone out there on the interwebs who has stopped by in the past several years to see what I had to say about whatever. Be it a theater review, or Olympics coverage, or a TV recap, or a love letter to Rafa, or my Year Without Cookies, my little google stats thing lets me know that people continue to come by. :) I always think I have the best readership because almost nobody ever leaves comments. I don't say that sarcastically. The occasional, "good post, O!" is always a treat, but I don't think I could really deal with a bunch of really intense ALL CAPS misspelled comments every time I posted about an episode of SYTYCD in which anonymous people tell me how I'm a dumbass who doesn't know anything. It's nice enough that people stop by now and then, read and go on with their day. :)

As I reach 700 today, I went back and read my original post about why I was starting to blog. It was called "Plans" and you can read it in full here. But my basic idea was this:

"I believe the Lennon quote goes: Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans. But what if you are not busy making other plans? What if there are no plans and no momentum towards making them? I am not by nature a self-planner. I mean, it's my day job to organize other people's schedules and make plans for them, but that's different. It's like with chefs who don't cook for themselves at home. Right now I have peanut butter and jelly prospects for the future.... I have lofty ideas about what I should be able to accomplish in my life and it ain't gonna happen unless I get out of my comfort zone and try new things. When I get inspired, I will follow through. Now that's my plan."

So that's where the whole title for blog came from. Reading that first post back, I am satisfied that I have continued to follow last marching order. When I get inspired now, I will follow through. And the past four years have been filled with inspiration. And love. And boredom. And anger. And comfort. And self-discovery. And objective achieved. And facing new challenges. And setting new bigger goals. In essence, making plans.

I'm glad I've developed a place where I can come write about it all. :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Supplemental: Other Dessert Sitchies

(WARNING: Objects in picture are larger than they appear!)

As the Year Without Cookies clocks down its final hours, I feel like it must be noted that while there were no cookies consumed and no sodas imbibed, it certainly wasn't a year without sweets. DEFINITELY not a year without chocolate. I probably relied more heavily on things like mini chocolate bars or mini-peanut butter cups or low-cal pudding packs to get my chocolate fix. Desserts in general are delicious, and I cannot go without them. But even so, I must have put a bit of a dent in my sugar intake by eliminating the two greatest offenders.

That being said, they serve a dessert at the Museum of Natural History that I consider simply over the top. Just looking at it gives me a sugar rush and has me reaching and inspires a Pavlovian need to reach for a glass of milk and guzzle it down. It's a brownie served on top of a cupcake. Really? I mean, REALLY? This thing is crazy. It's just too much. Of course Migu always asks me to get him one for a snack, but even if we shared it, that would be overkill. Could you imagine me trying to get him to sit down and do his homework after eating even half of one of those things? He'd be spinning around like the Tasmanian Devil.

So not all desserts are created equal - especially in terms of sugar and calorie intake. If I was going to eat this thing, I might as well just down a whole carton of Chips Ahoy's and call it a day.

Less than 48 hours to go! Woohoo!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 51

(Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow...) 

The Panettieri house, after Christmas dinner...

Owen: I have not eaten cookies all year.
Dad: WHAAT??
Dad: OH...

Neither of us is hard of hearing. We just talk LOUD.

Merry Christmas, Folks. The last largest hurdle has been jumped. Less than a week to go now.. It's almost done. There were many wonderful Christmas cookies on display this week, but I avoided them all. It was a tough one. Home-made cookies. Store-bought cookies. Somehow they always taste sweeter at the holidays.

I bought myself a post-New Year's box of Mallomars this week. Somehow they always seem to disappear from store shelves during Christmas week. So I've got those delicious treats chilling in my fridge. Less than a week to go. It finally ends!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Other Christmas Gifts

(Soon to be found on the Island of Murderous Misfit Toys)

I was xmas shopping for my nieces last week at Barnes & Noblez and came across lots of great gift ideas for the girls. Fun and crafty toys and games were in abundance, and there were no lines! Weekday shopping is the best. Among the cool toys I found, there were even these monster Barbie doll things that seemed popular among the few shoppers there that I wound up buying, even though I thought their insanely thin arms and legs promoted poor body image (I at least bought the versions of the dolls that were wearing the most clothing so they're not totally slutty on top of starving.) Among the cute and cuddly toys section of the store, I came across a display of dolls that creeped me the eff out.

 (She is not your friend. Neither is Bunnicula sitting there next to her.)

What is up with the eyes? Maybe you can't tell from the glare on the packaging, but they have dark button eyes that make them look like Other Mother from Coraline.

(See the resemblance? Gah!)

Other Mother was a scary frightening monster! Why would you want plush dolls that looked like her? At least the slutty monster Barbies I bought don't look like they're out to murder you and eat your soul. They go to high school! Learning is fun!

Clearly I don't understand the Lalaloopsy design aesthetic. Regardless, you won't be finding these Other Xmas Gifts on this Santa's sleigh this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice from Xena, The (Possibly) German Warrior Princess!

Everybody Loves a Good Winter Solstice - including Xena, Warrior Princess. Since Holiday-Themed episodes on TV are a must, and the events of Xena pre-dated Jesus and Christianity (mostly. Eventually the One God and Archangels and Heaven and Hell were thrown into the mix), Xena and Gabrielle instead celebrated Solstice. Since all Holiday Episodes on TV must be shout outs to older Holiday Movies, the second season of Xena featured a riff on A Christmas Carol. I tried to find a decent clip of it online to share on this special holiday occasion and youtube did not fail me. It's the whole episode dubbed in German! (At least I think it's German? Yeah, I'm gonna go with German.) How did Santa know all I wanted this year was a German Xena? Youtube is the gift that keeps on giving. Gods bless us, everyone.

Good Solstice to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 12 Recap! The FINALE!

(These are the champions, my friends.)

Episode Twelve Fake Title: If We Had One Million Dollars, We Could Get Ourselves Out Of This Dump!

Starting City: Panama Viejo, Panama
Pit Stop City: Hotlanta, Georgia USA! USA!

1st Place: Team Bert & Ernie  Reward: $1 Million
2nd: That Other Dating Couple
3rd: Footballers Lives

Roadblock: One team member had to type out the team's next clue by using an old-school typewriter. It had to be free of mistakes and the paper had to have been loaded correctly so the message was straight on the page. The typewriters did not have a 1 key, so the person typing had to figure out that the lower-case l was the same shape. This task was lame. I mean, it was sorta funny to see all the teams momentarily flummoxed by a non-computer typing apparatus. And they did have to figure out that an l looks like a 1, but it's the LAST LEG. Is this a task that's really worth anyone's time? It was kind of a bust. 

Also of Note This Week: No actual Detour this week, but plenty of side tasks along the way to the finish line:

That Other Dating Couple and Bert & Ernie, lamented the final US city destination because it happened to be Atlanta, the city Footballers Lives calls home. Marcus and Amani were obviously excited to have it work out as home-field advantage, until they actually got there and almost immediately fell behind.

Once in Atlanta, teams traveled to FlightSafety International, picked a  flight instructor and then  hopped into a Learjet flight simulator. They had to successfully complete a simulated landing from an altitude of 2,500 feet to get their next clue. One team member was pilot and the other co-pilot. It seemed like this task actually took some time to complete. TODC got things done right on the very first try. It took Bert & Ernie two attempts and Footballers lives got absolutely sunk when it took them TWELVE attempts to get it right. Marcus kept veering off the runway during the landing. Amani remained patient and supportive throughout because she's amazing. Once they got stuck at the flight simulation, Footballers Lives was out of contention for the win for good.

The clue from FlightSafety, told teams to go to "the residence formerly known as 'The Dump'" That's a reference to the house of Margaret Mitchell, which the teams had to figure out on their own, and was the site of the typewriter Roadblock. Somewhat hilariously, That Other Dating Couple actually wound up at a giant used furniture store in Atlanta called The Dump. They spent so much time there that they too fell out of contention for the win. The last few seasons ended in very close finishes, so it was kind of bizarre that it became obvious so early in the hour that Ernie and Cindy were clearly going to win.

After the Roadblock, teams had to figure out the numbers in the typed-out clue had to do with Hank Aaron:and had to go to Turner Field, and the parking lot where Aaron's 715th home run is commemorated. Once there they had to deal with a large vertical map and climb along it, tracing the Race course by looping a rope through a series of carabiners on the map. The countries were not labeled. One team member worked on the map while their partner could shout directions from the ground. Teams were not allowed to use notes while working on the task. Cindy took the task for her team and sailed through it. The other teams were still so far behind that there was little suspense. Man, final legs in previous seasons were MUCH tougher than this.

The Amazing Race editors tried to make the ending look closer than it was by making it seem like Cindy and Ernie were getting screwed up by the taxi driver's constantly recalculating GPS, but TODC were too far behind after their trip to The Dump. So Team Bert & Ernie wins! They plan to use the money to build a company that will save the world. Hooray! The world is saved!

I am actually content with a Bert & Ernie win. I looked back at my early predictions and thought they'd be Top Half, so it's good enough for me!

But... I do think overall this Race was easier than those in the past. I can't recall any needle-in-a-hay-stack challenges (after the very first task), giant puzzles, eating challenges, physical endurance challenges or extreme sport challenges. It was a lot of go from A to B, do something pretty pedestrian, keep on moving. The speed bumps were super easy. The Hazard came and went with little fanfare. It seemed like the Unfinished Business season last Spring was a lot tougher. I mean, I appreciate the Race going to new locations this season, I just wish the actual challenges within the Race were more... challenging. This might be the first season where Killer Fatigue never set in for any team out there. I think that's a sign that the Race needs to take it up a notch for Season 20. I still love the show, and generally enjoyed the season. I think they cast it with very agreeable teams this year. So that's a plus. I have faith the show can recapture the magic of previous seasons. Just remember this formula, Show. Likable teams + varied foreign locations + difficult challenges = a successful season. I will still be watching in the Spring. Onward Racers!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 50

(The Last Delicious Temptation of O)

FIFTY WEEKS! Very nice, O. Very nice. It's just the final two hurdles of Christmas Week and New Years Week and we're done.We can build this dream together. Standing strong forever. Nothing's gonna stop us now.

Yet temptations abound. I was in my boss's house this past week and there were homemade cookies and I was told I could "eat as many as I want." I honestly don't know if my boss is even remotely aware that I've been on my Year Without Cookies and how close I am to finishing. It must have come up at the office at some point, but I don't think he's that conscious of it. He was probably just trying to be a good host. Unless he's trying to undermine me right at the end. Neither option would surprise me. He sometimes likes his psychological games!

I did take a good hard look at what I was missing. . oh, home made cookies look so good! They are much harder to turn down than store-bought cookies. Still, none were consumed. I'm sure they will come to haunt me in my dreams.

Soon we will be down to single digit days! AAAAHHH!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

They Called It Puppy Love

(Someone is not taking the loss of this cute-ums pup seriously.)

So I'm ashamed that when I saw this flyer hanging on the wall of the elevated subway platform last week, my initial reaction was something along the lines of, "They want their dog back, even if it's dead? They would give money to the person who returned it dead? Would they give more money if it was still alive? There must be an incentive to not killing the dog before getting the money, right? Unless they are following some kind of Pee Wee's Big Adventure philosophy where the person who returns the dog is obviously the person who stole him originally, so he/she doesn't deserve any reward!"

And then of course I thought about it for two more seconds and realized some asshole must've scrawled "Dead of Alive" on the poster just to be funny/cruel. So I am ashamed I was momentarily confused by this defacing of a Lost Dog flyer. The little guy is super cute and I hope the family that lost him gets him back - alive, please - this Holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 49

(yum! yum! gimme some!)

This week, I was walking through CVS and came across the display shown above in the cookie aisle. Soon all of this will be mine again!

Week 49! I can't believe it. On-Maternity-Leave Co-Worker Suki came by the office this week and while we mooned over her totally cute-ums baby girl we both marveled over the fact that the year was almost over and I was actually going to make it. It's very exciting to be right at the end, my friends. Very exciting indeed.

My time in the cookie aisle reminded me that I have so many tasty options to sort through on my eventual Cookie Reunion Tour. I assume I will first go for chocolate chip cookies, because that only makes sense. And I have to buy myself a box of Mallomars this week to keep in my fridge for the beginning of 2012. It's too hard to find them after the holidays.But after those kinds are gobbled up, there are so many more varieties at the ready. Woohoo!

Next Week: We're at 50. FIFTY!! I love it! I love it! I love it! I love it! I love it! I LOVE it! At this point, I might become a licensed joyologist.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 11 Recap!

(Not pictured: Front Runners & Obvious Finalists, Team Tricky. Oh... wait...)

Episode Eleven Fake Title: Someone Called and Now He Knows Something and We're Going Somewhere.*

*-actual quote from Cindy as three teams race blindly toward what they hope is the Pit Stop. Welcome to the Semi finals!

Starting City: Brussels, Belgium (Again)
Pit Stop City: Panama Viejo Panama

1st Place: That Other Dating Couple   Reward: Trip to Turks & Caicos
2nd: Team Bert & Ernie
3rd: Footballers Lives
Last Place: Team Tricky - Eliminated!

Roadblock: One team member had to cross a tightrope between the San Francisco Bay Towers in Panama. The  rope was 35 stories high and 65 feet cross. Giant safety harnesses were used. Nobody seemed to fall of the wire. Boo! Not that I wanted them die! Remember I mentioned the safety harnesses!

Detour: A choice between Fillet and Sole. In Sole, the more popular task, teams traveled to the Salsipuedes Market where they had use a piece of leather to make the sole and strapping for a pair of sandals for a customer. Once a cobbler cleared their work, teams would receive their next clue. In Fillet, teams traveled to Panama's largest fish market, El Mercado de Mariscos, where they had to deliver fish (using their hands) to different marked stalls each only only accepting a certain kind of fish, and a certain weight. Once they were done with their deliveries, the fishmonger would give them their next clue. Footballers Lives were the only team to do Fillet even though their cabby brought them first to Sole. This was the first example of how the cabbies were trying to work together to get the teams to the same places without really listening to the teams. Personally, when dealing with a bunch of crazy American tourists who don't know where they're going and have cameras following them, it seems like a sensible approach on their part.

Also of Note This Week: I kinda thought the Detour and the Roadblock were kinda lame this week. Making sandals? Carrying fish? Walking on a rope? Meh. We're trying to get to the finals here!

Before getting out of Brussels, teams had to dress up as the two bumbling detective characters from the Tintin comics and figure out their names. There were three options, and teams covered all of them.  Thomson and Thompson,  Dupond and Dupont, and Johnson and Johnston. I guess as detectives they have aliases. Then, they had to find a man dressed as Tintin standing in front of the Tintin mural at the metro station (Belgium loves Tintin!) and tell him who they were dressed as in order to receive their next clue.Team Tricky thought they were Charley Chaplin. Oof. No. They even knew that had nothing to do with Tintin and still went with it. This was the first of a few bad decisions on their part this leg.

Once they got to Parara Puru in Panama, teams signed up for times to receive a temporary tattoo the next morning. The tattoo would give them their next location: the San Francisco Bay Towers in Panama City. This was also kind of random and inconsequential. Go for REAL tattoos! Now that I'd be interested in watching!

At Cathedral Square, teams had to find the name or image of the Pit Stop (Panamá Viejo) in the dresses and jewelry of dancers in the plaza: This was kinda tough because the racers didn't know exactly what they were looking for. It seemed like only one of the dancers had the actual words written on her dress and most of the time she seemed to be holding her skirt in a way that obscured the actual words. Team Tricky, who got their first with a sizable lead, misinterpreted the words on the jewelry and think it has something to do with Balboa. That leads them on a wild goose chase to the Panama Canal and then to a statue of Balboa at Avenida Balboa, both of which are wrong. The other three teams arrive at the Square pretty much together and though TODC gets the best information about the Pit Stop, once all the teams go back to the cabs, the three cabbies talk over the phone and decide where they are supposed to go and how best to get the teams there. Again, I think this has less to do with the cabbies caring about it being a race and the teams competing against each other and much more to do with them coming to a consensus as to where they, as drivers, ought to go since their passengers are so clueless. Eventually, the three teams DO get to the Pit Stop ahead of Team Tricky, so the Snowboarders fall from first to worst and get eliminated.

I'm actually okay with Team Tricky exiting. They certainly have enough fabulous parting gifts from winning so many previous legs. They would've been heavy favorites to win had they made it to the final leg, but now we have three pretty evenly-matched teams heading into the finals. TODC have not been particularly strong on any leg, but I believed they would completely collapse under Killer Fatigue awhile ago and they did not. Bert & Ernie are solid competitors but almost always mess up right at the end of a leg and lose first place so we'll see if they can beat the odds in that regard when it matters most. Then there's Footballers Lives who work great together, are solid competitors in tasks but can't seem to navigate themselves anywhere when driving is involved. If they have to drive themselves anywhere toward the end of the last leg, I would not count on them pulling through. Luckily the last leg usually involves a lot of taxis. I guess that's so contestants don't cause accidents as they drive recklessly toward a million dollar paycheck.

Next Week: This one's for all the money! Panama to the U.S of A. Dating Couple. Engaged Couple. Married Couple. Someone's bringing home that check! None of the teams have been heinous to each other throughout the race, so I'm okay with however it plays out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spain wins 2011 Davis Cup!

 (The Reign in Spain falls mainly on every plain.)

Congrats to Our Hero, Rafa Nadal and his Spanish teammates for winning the Davis Cup trophy this weekend over Argentina. This marks their 5th Davis Cup Trophy in the past 12 years and 3rd on the last 4 years. Clearly, the depth of the Spanish roster has been quite impressive over the past decade to produce such consistent results. It's also a very nice way to end the season for Nadal, who had a rough go of it at the ATP World Finals last week and suffered a string of tough defeats in Finals throughout 2011.

 (Rafa grabs Monaco's ass, before handing it back to him in the first match of the tie.)

This weekend he absolutely thrashed Juan Monaco in the first rubber 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 and then held off a strongly contested Juan Martin Del Potro in the 4th match  1-6. 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (0). In between, David Ferrer came back against DelPo in the second rubber 6-2, 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to give Spain a 2-0 lead and then David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank won a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory Saturday over  Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez keeping Argentina's hopes alive, but still on the brink of elimination.

Spain hasn’t lost on clay in Davis Cup for 23 ties, and holds the record at 21straight on home soil.

Argentina was trying for its first Davis Cup trophy in its fourth final.
Always the Bridesmaid in Argentina! :( I'm very glad Rafa got to win 2 points for his team and his country. I hope these wins inspire him to come back in 2012 with renewed aggression and determination to win. 4 Grans Slams await, plus the Olympics in London! Time for Rafa to be #1 in the world again!! Vamos!!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 48

(Happy Minty Holidays!)

Wow. Week 48? Is there really so little time left in 2011? It has all just been flying by. It still doesn't feel quite like Christmas. Maybe it's the climate changey high temps in the 50's and 60's in NYC. Maybe when I get my tree next weekend it will start to hit home that I have to buy gifts for people. This week marked the arrival of some Christmas candies - not cookies! - that I ordered from a couple of co-workers' kids in their annual school drive months and months ago. Delicious mint chocolates! yum yum yum! I am planning to rely on Andes Candies to get me through the holidays. Andes Candies always make me think of my Grandparents. They knew quality chocolate treats!

The long runs have finally started kicking in (and kicking my ass) with Marathon training. I'm so glad i'll have empty cookie calories to enjoy the week prior to the race. And I really miss having a nice tall glass of Sprite with my carbo-loading pasta dinners. Soon. SOOOOON!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 10 Recap!

(Mmm... Delicious Detour! Cindy and Ernie make the most out of a truly tasty challenge.)

Episode Ten Fake Title: The Untrue Pigeon

Starting City: Brussels, Belgium
Pit Stop City:  ...Brussels, Belgium? We didn't go very far, did we?

1st Place: Team Tricky   Reward: Customized Ford Mustangs!
2nd: That Other Dating Couple
3rd: Team Bert & Ernie
4th: Footballers Lives
Last Place: Team Out-To-Pasture - Eliminated!

Roadblock: One team member had to test drive a Ford Mustang. Teams first had to accelerate to 100 mph and then brake at a designated spot. They then had to go through a slalom course within 16 seconds and without hitting a giant airbag, and then finally two victory doughnuts before they received their next clue. I would not have liked the slalom. That's not really my speed. Pardon the pun. Andy seemed very jealous that Tommy got to do the Roadblock for his team, but then he prayed that the Lord would take away his negativity and it lifted right off of him. I think maybe he could've gotten over it without Divine intervention. But that's just me.

Detour: A choice between Water and Waffle. In Water, teams used provided materials (pontoons, rope, and wood) to build a raft and paddle down the Lieve canal for two halves to their next clue. In Waffle, teams had to build a waffle stand and then bake and decorate 18 Belgian waffles to the chef's satisfaction before receiving their next clue.I definitely would've chosen the waffles. At this point in the race, I would not have had the patience to try to build a giant raft that could conceivably fall apart in the river. On the other hand, making lots of waffles (and conceivably snacking on a few that weren't up to presentational standard) sounds much more up my alley. That Other Dating Couple had two waffles arranged in the wrong order

Also of Note This Week:  After being spared elimination (again) at the the end of the last leg, Bill and Cathi did not even have to complete a speed bump this week. It didn't really help though as they couldn't get out of last place for the rest of the leg. They got close, but navigation issues kept holding them back.

At Muur van Geraardsbergen, teams released 100 homing pigeons and then were given an address to chase the pigeons to. Once there, teams would be able to retrieve their next clue from one of the pigeons. The address was not as far as some teams seemed to think it would be. Signage in the town might have been bad as well as Team Bert & Ernie got very lost and went from 1st to 3rd. That Other Dating Couple actually had one of their best legs to the huge surprise of yours truly. By the time Bill and Cathi got there it was too late at night to release the pigeons, so they just got the address of the other destination and drove themselves there to get the next clue.

Bill and Cathi got a nice Greatest Moments edit at their elimination. There was falling. There was flirting. There was a lot of love and support as they got lost driving. There was hard-body weightlifting posing. These two came across as lovely people who were definitely life partners in every sense of the words. I'm glad they lasted so long so we got to know them better. Nice Race, Bill and Cathi. Nice Race, indeed.

Next Week: We leave Belgium! We head to Panama! There is walking outside way up high between buildings. The fight is on to reach the Final 3! Onward, Racers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rafa-Less 2011 ATP World Tour Championships, The Finals!

(To the victor goes the spoils, and several tons of confetti!)

Woohoo! Roger Federer beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 for a record sixth title in the ATP World Tour Finals.This marks Roger's 70th title in his career. Simply amazing. Well done, Fed!

It looked for a moment like Tsonga might repeat his come-from-behind Wimbledon victory over Fed after taking the second set tie break, but Fed reclaimed dominance in the third. Federer really was a cut above everyone else this week. He never lost a match, looked fresher than the three higher and (much younger) seeds and was just his usually elegant and awesome self. It's really been an amazing end of the year for, Roger. You're making 30 look like the new 20, FedEx! Thanks for that!

Now Fed can go relax with his lovely wife and kids, Murray and Djokovic can recover from their physical problems, and Rafa can go play some MORE tennis this weekend in the Davis Cup Final for Spain against Argentina and hopefully regain some mental edge with some victories there. Vamos!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Rafa-Less 2011 ATP World Tour Championships, Semifinals

(Fed can beat you with his eyes closed.)

Semifinal Results!
Federer def. Ferrer 7-5, 6-3
Tsonga def. Berdych 6-3, 7-5

This year's ATP Finals bring more career milestones for Fed! He has now reached his 100th career final by beating Ferrer. If he wins tomorrow he'll claim his 70th title for his career and a record sixth season-ending tournament title.

Tsonga is into the final for the first time, in only his second appearance here. Good for him!

With this win, Federer climbs past Andy Murray to No. 3 in the year-end rankings, with Djokovic and Nadal keeping their No.1 and No. 2 positions respectively. That feels more right to me. I didn't like seeing Federer ranked below Murray. Fed's got 16 Grand Slam titles and Murray has zero. I'm just saying.

Federer becomes the fifth player to reach 100 finals in the open era, joining Jimmy Connors (163), Lendl (146), John McEnroe (108) and Guillermo Vilas (104). 

Federer has really been on fire through the end of the season. It would be wonderful to see him finish off the ATP Finals on top again and I hope he makes it! He's already beaten Tsonga once here, but Tsonga is tricky! He's bested Federer before. He knows what he needs to do. We'll just have to see how it goes! I'm rooting for you, Fed!

Rafa & The 2011 ATP World Tour Championships, Round 3

(Tough times for Rafa. I will have to rename the blogpost for the semis...)

Oh, boy. Here's how the groups were ranked at the end of the 3nd Round of Round Robin:

Group A:
2-1 David Ferrer - ESP - Semifinalist!
2-1  Jurgen Melzer - GER - Semifinalist!
1-2 Novak Djokovic - SRB
1-2 Andy Murray -GBR / Janko Tipsarevic SRB

Group B:
3-0 Roger Federer - SUI - Semifinalist!
2-1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - FRA - Semifinalist!
1-2 Our Hero, Rafael Nadal ESP
0-3  Mardy Fish - USA

So in a surprising twist, the top 3-ranked players in the field will not make it out of round Robin play. Djokovic, Nadal and Murray all were upset by lower-seeded players. Murray got injured and replaced, Djokovic admittedly ran out of gas after having such a successful season, and Rafa has seemingly misplaced his explosive on-court nature. I feel for him. I hope he has a good showing at the David Cup Finals and that it inspires him to find that mental match toughness in 2012. I still love you, Rafa!

Looking ahead, Ferrer will face Federer in Saturday’s first semifinal, and then Berdych will take on Tsonga in the late match. This will be interesting! It's a really great opportunity for all these guys. Federer has to be the favorite to take the title at this point, but Ferrer should provide a great challenge before he gets there. And for the other three guys, they have a chance to take the year end title for the first time! I'm hoping the tourney winner is whoever wins the Federer-Ferrer match. Should be fun! Vamos (Ferrer)! 

A Year Without Cookies - Week 47

(Thanksgiving Cookies! Gobble, Gobble them up!)

Turkey Time! A time to give thanks!  I am thankful that there are only 5 weeks left in the year for me to be living without cookies and soda. I had a delicious feast with family out on Long Island. Very few veggies to be seen on this T-Gives. Lots of turkey and stuffing and potatoes and cranberry sauce and yams with marshmallows - all so good! There were many desserts. I brought special thanksgiving themed cupcakes for my nieces from the local bakery by my house like I do every year. It's nice to supply the dessert that my nieces prefer over the other 5 or 6 cakes and pies that are on hand. There were, of course, homemade cookies that looked SO GOOD, but I had to pass on them. Soon, home made cookies, soon you will be mine again.

5 weeks to go! The finish line is just around the corner!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rafa & the 2011 ATP World Championships, Round 2

(Rafa's just not feeling it in his fight against Federer.)

So I'm already a little behind, but here's how the groups were ranked at the end of the 2nd Round of Round Robin:

Group A:
2-0 David Ferrer - ESP
1-1 Novak Djokovic - SRB
1-1  Jurgen Melzer - GER
0-2 Andy Murray -GBR / Janko Tipsarevic SRB

Group B:
2-0 Roger Federer - SUI
1-1 Our Hero, Rafael Nadal ESP
1-1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - FRA
0-2  Mardy Fish - USA

You will note that Murray did in fact leave the competition due to injury and Tispsarevic took his place. Tip than lost to Melzer. So he inherited a losing record and did nothing to improve it. Group A is still a bit of a toss up though. I think if Novak beats Tip and then Melzer beats Ferrer. that would put them all at 2-1 and then I'm not sure how they rank them by points to figure out who makes it through.

Nadal needs to beat Tsonga to move to the semis. I think this is a tall order. Rafa got so totally handled by Fed in their match up. Rafa says it's not injury or illness that contributed to the lopsided loss. I just don't think it's in the cards this year. But we'll see soon enough! Vamos!

Food! Glorious FOOD!

(Lots of people out there could use some more.)

Ahh, Thanksgiving. How long I have waited for a plateful of home cooked turkey and stuffing!! Maybe there will be a stray vegetable on the dish as well. Sometimes they have a way of sneaking in there and taking up space that should be occupied by delicious baked-in-the-bird stuffing. Hmph. Vegetables.

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year, not the least of which is for the food I'm about to receive. The idea of being hungry without food troubles me greatly. Considering my usual hobbit's daily diet of 1st Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, Snack, Supper, Dinner, and Dessert, food should always be at the ready. Yet so many people, young and old go without. It makes me sad. Times are very tough and local food pantries struggle to keep up with the demand. I urge everyone who is traveling home to enjoy a delicious meal today to consider making a monetary or dry goods contribution sometime between now and Christmas to an organization that helps the less fortunate. I'll provide links to two charities I like - Citymeals-on-Wheels and City Harvest below. If you have time to volunteer at a soup kitchen or toy drive or something of the like this season, you're aces in my book as well. Aces, I tell you!

Gobble it down and enjoy, my lovelies. And give thanks!

For more information and to make a donation to Citymeals-on-Wheels you can go here.

For more information and to make a donation to City Harvest go here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 9 Recap!

(Phil is ready to Hulk out if the judges give him a low score on his posing. PHIL SMASH!)

Episode Nine Fake Title: Flex Your Muscles in Brussels

Starting City: Copenhagen, Denmark
Pit Stop City: Brussels, Belgium

1st Place: Footballers Lives   Reward: Trip for two to Panama
3rd: ???
4th: ???
Last Place: ??? - presumably not eliminated

The episode ended on a "too be continued" with us only knowing who came in first, and that despite the check in, all teams were to immediately keep racing. D'oh!

Roadblock: One team member had to memorize a poem on the base of a statue of Hans Christian Andersen and then take a bike and navigate themselves to the Teatermuseet i Hofteatret, where they would have to recite the poem exactly (with dramatic flair! don't forget!) in order to receive their next clue. A map to the theater was located on the front wheel of a bicycle they were to ride to get there. If there were any mistakes with the words, or they did not perform it dramatically, a judge would make them ride back to the statue and start over. Most teams lost some time on this task having to do it more than once, but Cindy actually got it done on the first try, even though a group of tourists decided to sit and take pictures on the statue while she was trying to learn the poem!

Also of Note This Week: This was an interesting leg in that the teams jumped through three countries: Denmark to Germany to Belgium and they still don't get to enjoy a pit stop after all that. They are gonna e tired and cranky next week, that's for sure!

Despite all the country-hopping, there was no official detour this week According to the interwebs, the Bodybuilding Pose task in Brussels that concluded the episode was actually part of a Detour during the Race, but no one chose the other task, so it was made to look like just a required additional task in post-production. I wonder what the other task was that nobody wanted to do? Was it the eating-related task I keep waiting to see this season? For the Bodybuilding task, teams arrived at the Concert Noble and competed in a posing competition in honor of Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka "The Muscles from Brussels". Racers put on speedos and bikinis, covered themselves in posing oil, and had to learn a series of poses for judging. If the 3 judges gave them a combined score of 12 or better, teams would receive their next clue.The judges were so tough on this task I thought people were doing fairly well, but the judges kept scoring them with ones and twos! Damn. I thought all the teams looked pretty good in their very skimpy outfits, and of course Out-To-Pasture seemed to be in great physical shape even though they are the "old people."

Mid-leg the teams all had to go to Legoland Billund. There they had to find the Pirate Carousel which is sort of like Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Disney. Spinning Tea Cups galore! Teams were given a box containing Lego puzzle pieces. While the ride was spinning, they had to assemble the puzzle to reveal their next destination. Teams could only work on the puzzle while the ride was spinning and then they had to raise their hands when the ride stopped like they were at the end of a Top Chef Quickfire challenge. Several teams experienced motion sickness in this challenge and I would have been right there with them. I do not like to be spun. One go around would've been okay. But multiple successive rides while trying to focus on assembling a puzzle? That's too much for my sensitive tummy. Luckily, everyone got through with just nausea. That Other Dating Couple had to try the puzzle twice after pieces got flung out of the tea cup on their first try.

Team Bert & Ernie were doing a great job at maintaining their lead until all the teams got bunched again on the train from Germany to Belgium. Then they lost their connecting tickets for a mid-trip transfer! Luckily the conductor didn't come through on the second half to check their tickets and they were in the clear. Also, after several legs of strong racing, Team Out-To-Pasture once again couldn't figure out the right way to get anywhere, getting lost multiple times in multiple modes of transportation. It will be interesting to see who is the last to complete the bodybuilding challenge and if the last team to arrive gets hit with a speed bump.

Next Week: To be concluded! The Pit Stop order is revealed and then they hit the ground running for more fun in Belgium! Make-shift raft building! A crazy trip to a speedway! Onward Racers!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rafa & the 2011 ATP World Championships, Round 1

 (Rafa is ready for the Year-End Championship!)

So while those of us here in The New World will be celebrating the Thanksgiving Holidays this week, across the Atlantic, nobody really cares about that too much. Instead, they are focused on TENNIS! The 2011 ATP World Tour Finals are happening in London right now! The top 8 players of the season face off - first in two round robin groups, followed by single elimination semis for the two in each group with the best records, and the winners of those face off in the finals! Woohoo!

Here's how the two groups are comprised, by current rank:

Group A:
1. Novak Djokovic - SRB
3. Andy Murray -GBR
5. David Ferrer - ESP
7. Jurgen Melzer - GER

Group B:
2. Our Hero, Rafael Nadal ESP
4. Roger Federer - SUI
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - FRA
8. Mardy Fish - USA

The Finals are played on an indoor hardcourt, which with its quickness and ball bounce is least suited to Rafa's game. This is one major tournament he has never won. It will be tough for him to take the title in best of 3 set play. But this is an interesting field this year of contenders this year and he might have an opening. Djokovic has been dealing with some nagging injuries at the end of his stellar season, so he might not be in the best condition to take this title. Federer hasn't won a Major in awhile, but he comes in here having won his last two tournaments and looking great. Murray is a giant question mark. Ferrer can be a real threat if he's mentally and physically peaking at the right time. Fish and Tsonga I don't really think have a shot, but Tsonga has some impressive wins over Federer, so we'll see how it all shakes down. Rafa should definitely make it to the semis, but from there forward it's anyone's guess who actually makes it through to the Final match. He hasn't played at all since mid-October, opting instead to mentally and physically recharge from his string of losses in Finals this year. It should be really exciting how these guys all match up right now

After one round played in both groups, the current standings are:

Group A:
Djokovic 1-0
Ferrer 1-0
Melzer 0-1
Murray 0-1

Group B:
Federer 1-0
Nadal 1-0
Fish 0-1
Tsonga 0-1

It was a good first round. The only real upset was Ferrer over Murray (who seems to be injured) but all the
other matches went to a decisive third set. Nadal and Federer face off in the next round. Should be an exciting match and it should tell us if Nadal taking off so much of the fall season was the right choice for his match readiness. I'm sure hoping Rafa can do it. Vamos!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 46

(You were always on my mind...)

So this week, while meeting some new people for the first time, I told them about my year without cookies and they were amused. I told them about the dreams I had about how I would think I was drinking soda, and how they were like addiction dreams and they were intrigued. I told them I no longer had those dreams and they were slightly disappointed. But then of course after having that conversation, what did I dream about that very same night? What else but finding myself with a glass of coke on the rocks in my hand, sipping away at it eagerly and then feeling horribly guilty! Oh, talking about the dream summoned the anxiety and imagery right back to the forefront of my subconscious (if such a thing can even exist.)

Up next, holiday season truly begins. All sorts of new and festive cookies enter the marketplace and into kitchen cookie jars across America. Here comes the last brutal test. I am ready for it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 8 Recap!

 (Speckles will get you through your Detour- quick as a bunny!)

Episode Eight Fake Title: In Speckles We Trust

Starting City: Samali District, Malawi
Pit Stop City: Copenhagen, Denmark
1st Place: Team Bert & Ernie   Reward: Trip for two to Fiji
2nd: Team Out-To-Pasture
3rd: Team Tricky
4th: Team Footballers Lives
5th: That Other Dating Couple
Last Place: Team Nemo -Eliminated!

U-Turned Teams:
Team Out-To-Pasture, Courtesy of Team Bert & Ernie
Team Nemo, Courtesy of Team Out-To Pasture

Roadblock: One team member had to dress in period costume and learn a three-part dance from a similarly costumed instructor. Once the Countess okay their dance, they would receive their next clue. These were some of the best costumes ever on TAR! So expensive-looking! I thought Cathi and Amani looked the best, but the boys and Sandy also looked good. The dance didn't look THAT hard. Zac sure lost A LOT of time trying to figure it out.

Detour: A choice between All Hopped Up and All Churned Out. In AHU, teams had to properly construct a Kaninhop course (a steeplechase run for the cutest bunnies EVER), then both team members have to a run a rabbit of their choice through the course without any mistakes. Once complete, the bunny handler would give them their next clue. In ACO, teams had to make six sticks of butter by using a butter churn and then stamping out the sticks using a special mold. Once complete, the dairymaid would give them their next clue. I cannot believe almost all the teams initially passed on racing the bunnies! Sure animals can be tricky, but BUNNIES?? Thank goodness it was a double U-turn so two more teams had to work with the bunnies and we got to hear that much more of the delightful bunny theme music and see the cuties jumping over the little fences. SO GOOD. Snaps to Speckles the Rabbit who successfully completed the course for both Out-To-Pasture and Team Nemo.

Also of Note This Week: Where do we start? There were so many changes of the team order tonight. It was very exciting and I was almost afraid that it would be non-elimination and render all the repositioning irrelevant. Luckily that was not the case.

I'm not sure how much time they had at the last pit-stop but there's no way it was twelve hours. The first teams left in the afternoon and there's no way they finished the last leg at 2am. I wonder what the deal was there. 

Teams were given a flight from Malawi to Copenhagen but were allowed to hunt for better flights if they wanted to. All the teams did this at various travel hubs along the way, except for Footballers Lives. In my opinion, this was WAY too passive a move. It didn't get them eliminated, but it certainly could have. The fact that the other teams had to wait for the morning to search for their next clue erased most (but not all) of their lead on Footballers Lives. Oddly the team who got the best flight actually wound up getting eliminated. Granted Team Nemo did lots of other things wrong this leg.

Once in Copenhagen, teams had to climb to the top of the Vor Frelsers Kirke, locating two clues on the top of the tower. The first was a flag at the very top that said "Borg Slot" and the second was a banner on a nearby building that said "Frederiks". Once combined, it named their next location: Frederiksborg Slot. The banner was not always visible. That Other Dating Couple did not get the clues right and lost all the time advantage they had over Footballers Lives who were on the later flight. Footballers Lives then got completely lost on the way to the castle, putting them squarely back into last place.

So we get another double U-turn this week and neither team who took the opportunity to use it, used it on Team Tricky! I couldn't believe it! Neither could they! Bert & Ernie used it on Bill and Cathi because they just wanted to win the leg and to give them some breathing room to do it. Honestly, it looked like Ernie was gonna pass on using it again, but Cindy was not having it. After losing first by inches last time, I understand that she wanted to increase their lead and get the win. It actually didn't effect where Out-To-Pasture finished, but Bill and Cathi's u-turn of Laurence and Zac contributed to them getting eliminated.

Lots of navigation issues this week. Footballers Lives got lost on the way to the Roadblock. TODC got lost on the way to the Detour and Team Nemo, most detrimentally, got very lost on the way to the Pit Stop.

I don't buy that Team Tricky couldn't have beaten Out-To-Pasture to the mat. They must have believed that Cindy & Ernie had already won the leg and that second or third wasn't gonna make that much of a difference. It seems like a crazy thing to assume, (Bert & Ernie could've also gotten lost en route to the Pit Stop) but I can't believe that Bill and Cathi can beat those two in a foot race and they arrived in the parking lot at basically the same time.

We learned over the course of the roadblock that Bill and Cathi met in middle school and married the day they graduated college. Cindy and Ernie met over shots in a bar. I like both these couples very much. I still  can't imagine Bill and Cathi winning, but they are posting consistent front-of-the-pack finishes now. They could make it to the final.

Team Nemo seemed finished while they were still racing. I don't think they had Killer Fatigue per se, but they were just not mentally in the game. Too many mistakes for far too long.  No real expressed passion to hang around. No emotional reaction to being eliminated. No real emotional arc to their relationship for the season. For such accomplished sailors, the wind was definitely taken out of their sails weeks ago.They seemed content to stop where they were. The rigors of the Race were not for them. They weren't unpleasant, but I won't miss them in the field.

Next week: Acting Lessons! Tea Cup Rides! SPEEDOS. Body building poses. I'll tell you right now Bill even at his advanced age has a better body than you or me. Basically, he could be in the Immortals. Or Captain America. Jeez. Only 5 teams remain! Onward, Racers!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 45

(The Higher Learning of Bad Eating Habits)

Another week marked down in the books. We are almost there! I can feel it more and more as a reality. I can remember a time long ago in college when I would consistently eat Chips Deluxe chocolate chip cookies and a can of Mug root beer for BREAKFAST (yet still to this day, no cavities!) and look at me now! Being 45 weeks in, it feels like the time has flown by, but those early months certainly didn't feel that way. The constant cravings. The addiction dreams. I just have to get through the next two food-based holidays and then life can get back to a new normal. What will that new normal be? I was talking about it with a friend earlier today, and I will certainly reincorporate cookies and soda into my diet, but in a more measured way. They won't be the foundation of my diet as they were in the past.

That's all for now. Week 46 is coming up fast. I forget how quickly these last few holiday season weeks all rush together. I need to start thinking about gifts and ornaments and non-cookie desserts to bring for Thanksgiving Dinner. Mmmm... it's almost Turkey Time!! Gobble gobble gobble all those non-cookie foods!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 7 Recap!

(Awkward Photo Finish - Andy and Tommy edge out Cindy and Ernie for 1st Place at the mat. But will this short-term gain come back to haunt them in the long run?)

Episode Seven Fake Title: All The Fight Has Gone Out of Them

Starting City: Kumbali Village, Malawi
Pit Stop City: Salima District, Malawi
1st Place: Team Tricky   Reward: 15K Gift Card
2nd: Team Bert & Ernie
3rd: Team Out-To-Pasture
4th: Team Footballers Lives
5th: Team Nemo
6th: That Other Dating Couple
Last Place: The Squabblings -Eliminated!

Roadblock: One team member drives a bicycle taxi, taking a customer carrying fish to one of three different destinations written on tags on the fish. After they dropped off their customer, they take the fare and bring it back to the bus station to trade in their earnings to the dispatcher for their next clue. How far they actually have to travel is unclear, but it looks like some racers go off in the wrong direction for quite some time. Jennifer from the Squabblings lost the leg on this task. After she found her fish location and got the money she realized she left her clue with her brother and didn't know what to do next. Instead of going back to the dispatcher to get the clue (which was what she was supposed to do anyway) she just stood still, hoping another team would come by.. They didn't. And after what seemed like a VERY long time, she finally went back, but by then it was too late to catch up. Amazingly, the siblings didn't fight about it all. As soon as they start getting along, they get cut! Sadness.

Detour: A choice between Dugout and Lugout. In Dugout, teams participated in a canoe race on Lake Malawi using traditional canoes (read: heavy, difficult to paddle) to go out far into the lake and circle around a buoy and then paddle back to shore to receive their clue. In Lugout, teams had to wade out to a ferryboat on the lake and unload cargo and passengers (!!) from the ferry by carrying them to shore. The list went: two boxes of cabbage, two bundles of sugar cane, two bundles of brooms, one chair, one fan, and eight passengers, before they received their clue from the boat's porter. The Lugout task was insane. As hard as it was to operate the canoes it was SOOO much harder to carry eight adults back to shore without anyone getting wet. I have no idea why Amani and Marcus chose to do this one over the simpler canoeing. Marcus looked WRECKED afterwards, and that's a strong dude right there.

Speed Bump: Before the Roadblock, Footballers Lives had to solve a slide puzzle that, when completed properly, looked like the Malawian flag. It seemed to take them awhile. Those things can be tricky, especially if you feel crunched for time. I wanted to push them out of the way and do it myself. I love slide puzzles.

Also of Note This Week: It seemed like there was a drastic temperature change throughout the day in Malawi. People were wearing layers and you could see their breath in the morning, but by the afternoon they were kayaking on the beach and it looked HOT. It made me wonder what time of year it was during filming. or if that's just how it normally goes in Malawi.

The episode interviews told us that Justin is gay and that his sister is supportive of him and loves him. I immediately became nervous that having them become mutli-dimensional characters who got over their initial racing problems meant they were not long for the race. Sadly, I was right. But I'm glad that Justin is out and proud and supported by his family and I'm glad he did not blame his sister for their elimination when she obviously felt terrible about how she slowed them down.

Tonight featured a Double U-Turn - where you can force a team that's behind you to complete both U-Turn options instead of just one before they can advance. Three things of note here. 1) Lots of teams seem hesitant to U-Turn people, citing that it's a not nice tactic and you make unnecessary enemies, but I would TOTALLY stick to a competitive team if I got to the U-turn before them and definitely if I was in the back of the pack and needed to create some space with the team behind me. Take out your competition! Team Bert & Ernie had a chance to take Team Tricky down a peg and make them do the second Detour. They opted not to do it. Team Tricky paid them back by running as hard as they could to beat Bert & Ernie to the mat for their 5th (FIFTH! in seven legs!!) leg win. Bert & Ernie were NOT pleased. It wasn't a very chivalrous move on Tricky's part. I get their competitive spirit, but they've won a lot, and it was just one leg. Careful boys, there's more than one way to make unnecessary enemies on this Race.

2) Team Nemo was toward the back of the pack and U-Turn'ed Footballers Lives. Unfortunately in terms of strategy, Footballers Lives was already ahead of them and the U-Turn was wasted. What is with Team Nemo?? They just can't get it together. I don't understand their decision making process at all. It's almost like they never watched the show before racing. I just don't get it.

3) The U-Turn Station is now all high tech like you are ordering a Blockbuster Express movie from a vending machine instead of just sticking a cardboard picture of the team to a U-Turn sign. I don't know if this technological upgrade was really necessary. It sure looked weird in the middle of such an undeveloped area as the lakeside beach of Malawi.

Team Bert & Ernie used the Express Pass they won in the first leg to skip the canoeing. Unfortunately, they could not find the "Jamaica Shop" to get their next clue to the pit stop and, as mentioned before, got overtaken by Team Tricky only a few feet away from the Pit Stop mat. So the Express Pass is now out of play. Let's hope that eating challenge never shows up!

Team Out-To-Pasture keeps showing themselves a much stronger team than That Other Dating Couple despite the decades between them in age. Out-To-Pasture might be older but they are definitely wiser, with much better communication skills. Over on TODC, Sandy keeps telling Jeremy not to yell at her every time they have a disagreement. All I want to do is yell at her, "HE'S NOT EVEN YELLING AT YOU!" Seriously, he's not. She just seems really uncomfortable with any frustration or annoyance or exhaustion that creeps into his otherwise level speaking voice. I have seen people yell at their boyfriends/girlfriends on this show before. Jeremy is not even in the Top 10 of worst offenders. Not yet, at least. There's always next week!

Next week: Off to Denmark! There are bunny races! Bunnies are actually jumping miniature fences! Yes, Show! YES! Footballers Lives seem to experience airport woes. Bert & Ernie seem to rethink their U-Turn Strategy against Team Tricky when the opportunity once again presents itself. Ooh, DRAMA! Onward, Racers!

Monday, November 7, 2011

If I Win The Lottery You'll Never See Me Again...

I posted this to my facebook wall, but I wanted to leave a link to it here too. Last week, Global BC (as in British Columbia) sports anchor Barry Deley won a lottery for B.C. Children's Hospital for 2 million dollars or a new luxury home, (Take the money, Barry!) which is awesome if not exactly newsworthy, but the REALLY awesome part is that the drawing was being broadcast live by the station he worked for. He won live on the air!

He was not at the studio when it was announced, but the response of his coworkers who were behind the news desk is delightful. At first they weren't totally sure it was him, because the guy drawing the winning ticket actually read the name wrong, but as the reality of the situation settles in for them, their excitement in trying to get in touch with Barry is so sweet. Watch for yourselves!

I especially like how the female anchor has her smart phone just out of the shot presumably so she can text and check her email as soon as she's not on camera. :) I also like the way she tries to get the intercom phone away from her co-anchor who does not trust to operate it. She actually snaps her fingers at him! And the male anchor just can't believe it it happened. And the BC accents make the whole thing that much more adorable. They miss the whole sports segment talking about it! We'll never know what happened with local BC football!

It's also very sweet that Barry has a personal connection to the hospital running the lottery. as his daughter had a successful battle against leukemia seven years ago and the Deley family has been very supportive of the hospital ever since.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 44

These are my friends.
See how they glisten.
See this one shine...
How he smiles in the light.
My friend.
My faithful friend...

Speak to me friend.
I'll listen.
I know, I know you've been locked
out of sight
all these years, like me
My friend...
well I've come home to find you waiting.
Home, and we're together!
And we'll do wonders.
Won't we?

This was a tough week for wanting cookies. Someone decided to truly test me by stocking the cookie jars with Nilla Wafers. Man, how I wanted a tall glass of whole milk and a dozen or so Nilla wafers for dunking.

One assumes that my cookie fast will be broken with chocolate chip cookies, but Nilla Wafers and Mallomars are also going to have their day in the sun. First Soda could go so many different ways. Root Beer? Cream Soda? Cherry Coke? Sprite? I just don't know. But I have 8 weeks left to dream about it!


(Taking it to the bridge! Onward Racers!)

Congrats to everyone who ran the ING NYC Marathon today! It's such a great event and whether it was your first time or your 20th time I applaud you taking to the streets of the five boroughs to complete your 26.2 mile journey. I'm so thankful (as I'm sure all of you are as well) that our freak snowstorm hit last weekend and not this weekend and that instead of a windy slushy nightmare, you were treated to an absolutely beautiful fall day for running!

Knowing how important it is to have cheering faces all along the race, I took the N in to Queensboro Plaza and got out to watch the masses of runners take that important turn around mile 15 up onto the 59th street bridge. Running on that bridge is tough because you are running on an incline, there are no spectators, minimal sun, maximum wind and it's just TOUGH. I was happy to take an hour and stand on the corner and wave and shout last words of encouragement as people made their way onto the bridge. The crowd was great, the cover band that was helping everybody run to some rockin' tunes was awesome and it was just a really inspiring experience.

 (Birdseye view from the elevated platform at Queensboro Plaza!)

I stood with these two women on the corner who were looking for separate people and charting their progress along the route on the iphone apps set up for the race. Those things are great. The NYC Marathon really is a the forefront in making the race a really interactive experience for spectators. I didn't see the people my new friends were there to support but I did spot Top Chef Winner Richard Blais running by as well as Survivor Winner/Amazing Race contestant Ethan Zohn amongst the runners (for the record, Blais was running ahead of Zohn, but Zohn seemed to be holding up better physically at that point in the race.) It's fun just to see people with their names on their shirts and you can scream for them and most of the time they don't actually see you, but you can see it register on their faces and sometimes it gives them a little boost of energy. That's a great feeling.

(the runners just keep coming!)

I love Race Day in New York. It's so inspiring. And it makes me realize I have been too lax in my prep up until now for the Disney Marathon in January. November now has to be all about running and writing. those are the two main focuses for the end of the year. It was great to watch the Race today and remember how gruelling it is but also how personally rewarding. I can't wait to be ready for it again!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 6 Recap!

(Justin and Jennifer perform "Who Got Paid for Driving To The Pit Stop?" from their sibling cabaret act for the locals in Malawi.)

Episode Six Fake Title: That Wacky Tobacky or Good Golly, Malawi!

Starting City: Bangkok, Thailand
Pit Stop City: Kumbali Village, Malawi
1st Place: Team Tricky   Reward: Trip to Private Island
2nd: The Squabblings
3rd: That Other Dating Couple
4th: Team Nemo
5th: Team Bert & Ernie
6th: Team Out-To-Pasture
Last Place: Team Footballers Lives - Not Eliminated!

Roadblock: At a giant tobacco warehouse, one team member had to put on a workman's uniform and transport ten 200-pound bales of tobacco leaves through a maze-like path to a drop-off zone using only a hand-cart,one bag at a time. That's 10 trips! This seemed like an incredibly physical task. Throughout the path, there were many workers blocking their way, cheering and shouting and dancing, perhaps because there were 14,000 pounds less of tobacco they had to move themselves that day. Once completed, teams got their next clue. It must have been extremely hot in there because whenever someone finished they looked absolutely wrecked in the taxi afterward.

Detour: Teams chose between "All Sewn Up" and "Not Grown Up." In ASU, teams went to the White Horse De-Sign Tailor Shop in an old packed-crazy market and used a manual sewing machine to finish the suit of a customer in order to receive their next clue. In NGU, teams went to Lilongwe LEA School where they use provided everyday materials to build toy trucks. Once it was properly constructed and functional, the headmistress would receive their next clue. I cannot imagine the nightmare of trying to sew on one of those machines. I still have anxiety flashes about trying to sew scrap pieces of fabric together in Basic Production Techniques for Theater Studies at Wesleyan. Still, I guess if you can sew this seems like a no-brainer. Most teams chose the school and had a delightful time building toys for the children there and interacting with them.

Also of Note This Week:

The flight path from Bangkok to Malawi had to be one of the longest in race history. The Amazing Yellow Line bounced around the globe through Singapore all the way to Johannesburg and then up to Malawi. It looked like a day of flying at the very least.

Half the legs so far this season have now ended in non-eliminations. Producers, I like this cast too, but eventually you are gonna have to start letting people go. I'll give you a pass this week, because the team that would've gone home was Team Footballers Lives and I just said last week they were my pick to win. So naturally they had a close brush with elimination.

Team Out-to-Pasture and That Other Dating couple are getting increasingly lopsided in their Roadblock distribution. I'm pretty sure no team member can do more than 7 throughout the race. They are already at 5-2 in favor of the men. Cathi and Sandy are gonna have to start taking some challenges for their respective teams. Especially with the threat of an upcoming eating-large amounts-of-strange-things challenge looming on the horizon. Neither of these ladies look like they could pack away a lot of exotic cuisine.

Team Tricky didn't mention God once this week and I didn't miss hearing about Him one bit.

Team Footballers Lives got added character depth by talking about a daughter with unspecified "special needs." I think she's basically okay though since they're alright with separating from her for the weeks required to run the race around the world. It seems like the show is trying to manufacture some family drama that might not really be there. Regardless, Marcus and Amani have been conducting themselves throughout the race that would make all of their children proud. I dig these two.

After the detour teams raced to the R-K Furniture Shop, where they had to pick up and transfer two handcrafted wooden beds to Kumbali Village, by vehicle and then physically carry the beds to the Pit Stop map.Teams would use these beds for an overnight stay at the village. I was just thinking to myself earlier in the day that they hadn't done a pit stop camp out in a while!

The clue at the Furniture Shop also told them they could ask the shop owner to call a truck for them to move the beds. So of course Team Nemo doesn't read this and tries to have their cab shove the the beds on top or inside their tiny cab. The cab driver sanely declines. THEN they read the full length of their clue. Guys, read the effing clues in their entirety! Useful information is provided all the way to the end!!!

Team Tricky wins their fourth leg so far out of six, but it's their THIRD where they won thanks to penalties faced by teams who got to the mat ahead of them. This time it was The Squabblings neglecting to pay the truckers that took them to the village that caused a last second reshuffle of the order. Team Tricky are strong competitors. The other teams can't afford to let these late-in-the-leg stupid mistakes give the snowboarders these freebie wins.

On the march to the Pit Stop, Cindy of Team Bert & Ernie tried to balance the bed on her head as she was walking. This was... ill-advised as it was way too heavy for her to walk that way. Ernie was too far away carrying his own bed as she collapsed to the ground - uninjured, thank goodness - but rather hilariously she wound up completely flattened by the bed frame. Both Cindy and Ernie laughed about it which was endearing to see.

Less endearing was the increased bickering of That Other Dating Couple. The bickering is increasing. Tempers are high. Nerves are fraught. They are still using the Race to decide the future of their relationship. If that's the measuring stick they want to go by (and I don't think it's a good one) then it looks like they should split up. They both seem nice, but The Race seems like a more intense experience than their relationship is ready for. Sorry! :(

Phil mentioned via voiceover how Team Bert & Ernie still has that Express Pass in their pocket allowing them to skip one task. They haven't needed it yet, but I wonder if they will actually get out of Malawi without using it since Phil brought it up. If i was them, I'd be holding it for that aforementioned Food Challenge that by looming. Skipping food or a needle-in-a-haystack challenge would be the best use of that Pass. They'll have to play it sometime soon though. I don't think they get to keep it past Leg 8 or 9 per the rules.

Next week: More Malawi. More bickering for That Other Dating Couple. Racers work as Bicycle Taxi Drivers. The shoe is on the other foot now, Racers! A Speed Bump task for Footballers Lives that will probably take 15 seconds to complete. Onward, Racers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Daria Returns?

I've walked past the following billboards in Times Square several times in recent weeks.

Somehow, when I catch this out of the corner of my eye, my brain processes this as a billboard promoting the return of Daria.

You can understand how that's possible, right? I mean, Daria is basically a cross between Zooey Deschanel and that odd cartoon baby character voiced by Jonah Hill.So if you are rushing by fast your brain just smooshes the two together.At least mine does. So there's a moment where I think "Daria, is coming back!" and get excited, but then I look again, and catch my mistake. It's too bad. Daria was such a fun show. As far as I know, there are no real plans to bring her back, but Beavis and Butthead made their way back to the small screen so never say never. :)

A Year Without Cookies - Week 43

(A Birthday Week Without Cookies.)

My birthday was Wednesday! I took a page out of the Parks and Recreation play book and spent a week celebrating "Treat Yo Self 2011" style around my birthday. I took in a bunch of shows, hung out with friends, bought myself some fun gifts, but still did not indulge in cookies or soda. I did have a wonderfully delicious mint chocolate cake for my birthday. - Thank you, Gracie! - and that more than made up for the lack of cookies. From a small party with friends at my place, I am left with about 3 liters of soda in my fridge. Sigh. Maybe it'll keep for 9 weeks. Then I can go CRAZY!

9 Weeks to Go! 2012 is so close! But in the way stands the greatest test of all... A Christmas Without Cookies. I am note prepared...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 5 Recap!

(Operation Dumbo Droppings - The Doublemints have the time of their lives cleaning up after the cutest baby elephants you ever did see.)

Episode Five Fake Title: I'm Gonna Get You on a Slow Bus to Bangkok...

Starting City: Phang Nga Province Thailand
Pit Stop City: Bangkok, Thailand - M.R. Kukrit Heritage House
1st Place: Team Footballers Lives (they were thrilled like they won the whole race) Reward: Trip to Bali
2nd: Team Out-To-Pasture (also thrilled like they won the whole race and they didn't even win the leg!)
3rd: Team Bert & Ernie
4th: The Squabblings
5th: Team Tricky
6th: Team Nemo
7th: That Other Dating Couple
 Last Place: The Doublemints - Eliminated!!

Roadblock: Surprise Double Road Block! In the first Roadblock, one team member had to search in the jungle for a man playing a traditional Thai flute. They then had to search underwater in the pond in front of him for a bundle that contained a ceramic carp. There was a clue in the carp that led the teams to a nearby location where they had to take apart a traditional spirit house which they then delivered to Wat Chalong. The second Roadblock saw the team member that sat out the first Roadblock rebuilding the spirit house they picked up after the first Roadblock. Upon assembling it exactly, a monk would give them a bag of food and their next clue.

Speed Bump: Liz & Marie had to shovel elephant dung and wash an adorable baby elephant before they could proceed to the first Roadblock. The Doublemints were over the moon for both tasks, screeching with glee upon seeing the elephants. If they had to be eliminated, at least they didn't miss out on the elephants. 

Also of Note This Week:No Detour on this leg!

Teams did not start exactly where they checked in from the last leg. I'm not sure why they moved off the floating soccer field, but they did.

Teams got to ride elephants to the first Roadblock. This was fun for some (Tricky, Doublemints) and stressful for others (That Other Dating Couple.)

The clue about the Spirit House did not tell teams they would have to reassemble the Spirit House when they brought it to the next location. Some couples thought to take notes or pictures (Footballers Lives, Out-To-Pasture) while others had to go back and look at the proper placement for all the decorations (Nemo, Bert & Ernie). I find it amusing that while so many teams have difficulty reading their clues, on this task mos of them intuited the twist that they ha to reassemble it. I am sure if the clue actually SAID they had to reassemble it, somehow more teams would've missed that info and lost time. :)

Team Tricky out of nowhere suddenly got the Super Religious Christian Edit. I don't know what that was about. I firmly believe God doesn't care where you end up in a reality competition. I like when they are more fun and taking it all in and not praying to God to pull them through to victory. That's just me.

Team Nemo is having some communication issues based on the power dynamic of the relationship. They made two big blunders this leg - first when Dad-partner Laurence dismissed Son-Partner Zac's idea to take notes on the Spirit House before taking it apart, and then Dad getting mad at him for having to go back and take notes, and then later Zac wrongly convinced his dad they had to get off the first class bus they were taking to Bangkok for a local bus instead, forcing them to go back to the bus station and lose several hours of travel time on other teams.  They don't really fight, but they don't listen to each other in stressful situations, which is weird to me given that they are experienced sailors. You'd think they'd be strong communicators, but they seem increasingly out of their element - even last week when they were lost in the boats! Even at the mat this leg, Phil was like "you can't win racing like that."

Getting to Bangkok by bus proved crazy for almost everyone. Most teams took regular buses that travelled overnight and took FOREVER. Then they had to cab a million other places. Cabs were ripping people off left and right. Except for the Doublemints who had ZERO money and were given charity rides seemingly all over the country. They were very humble and grateful for it though, so that was nice, but clearly it was their time to exit. Ernie & Cindy  had the sweetest deal by taking the (not forbidden by the rules) express bus while everyone else had the local.In Bangkok, teams went to Noi Canal, and fed fish at the canal using the food they got from the second Roadblock, before they got the clue to the pit stop. this struck me as a pretty random task, considering it was still another taxi ride to get to the pit stop, but I guess they had to do something before ending the leg in Bangkok. Maybe it was a cooler experience in person.

The Doublemints were very gracious in their exit. They obviously had a very tough year with the passing of their father, and while they were not the strongest racers, I enjoyed their positive adventurous spirit and their expressed understanding of the special opportunity the race is to see the world. They will be missed.

Team Footballers Lives continue to be lovely and awesome and strong and smart. They are my current pick to win! Hopefully this doesn't doom them to be eliminated in the next leg!

Next week: Racing through tobacco fields? Does next week's episode come with a warning from the Surgeon General?? Onward, Racers!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 42

(Were they really sold out of coconut or did they not even bother to stock them since everybody wants chocolate chip?)

Have I discussed the Subway Dilemma before? I feel like maybe I did. It's been 42 weeks of this, so it's more than possible it's come up before. It's hard to find new territory 40 entries in. Just pretend like it's new to you.

So I enjoy getting myself a subway sandwich from the show down the street from my apartment every now and again. Their 5-dollar foot long sandwich offer is a good deal, even on the occasions where the sandwich maker tries to cheat me on tomatoes or green peppers. But occasionally I get it as a meal which comes with a gigantic drink and a snack on the side. There are many snack options but my favorite one of course is the two (sorta) fresh cookies option. I have not been able to partake in this option all year and it creates a unique sense of sadness in my heart. I like the subway cookies. The chocolate chip, the double chocolate chip, the white chip macadamia nut, the chocolate chip with M&M - you can mix and match to your heart's content. There are also oatmeal raisin and peanut butter and a couple other flavors, but... eh. The whole point is the chocolate!

So instead I get sun chips. The sun chips are fine but they're not as good as cookies. I will not be missing them for much longer though as there are only 10 weeks left in the year! That's right! Only 10 weeks!! It's crazy. Maybe I will do a countdown of fond cookie memories for the next 10 weeks until the self-imposed ban is lifted. Man, life is about to get sweeter....