Friday, April 30, 2010

pies as far as the eye can see

A couple of weeks ago, my beautiful sister amazomeg got married. And, here's the proof:

Isn't she gorgeous? I've never seen her look more beautiful or happier for that matter. And, that dress, WOW!! Vera really does know how to design a gown.

When she got engaged back in December, she immediately began planning the wedding. Apparently, her cute husband loves pie. LOVES it! As in, hey its my birthday and it may be December, but I'd really like a strawberry/rhubarb pie and not cake kind of love. (According to Jonathan's mom, rhubarb is all but impossible to find in December and yet every year, she managed to find said rhubarb and make him the pie of his dreams!) So, they decided they wanted to serve pie at the wedding---and, that pie should be made by me.

You see, I fancy myself a pretty good baker. I've been known to say the only talent I have is the ability to cook and more specifically bake. I do make PERFECT cookies, just ask me, I'll tell you! (and, I think a couple other people will vouch for my successful cookie baking) With such extraordinary skill, its not uncommon for my siblings to ask me to do the food for their weddings. Amazomeg, being the amazing woman that she is, only wanted my services for pies. 22 pies to be exact. So, being the crazy/insane woman that I am (oh yeah, and there is that little thing about me loving and adoring my sister and being willing to do just about anything in the world for her--including baking 22 pies) I agreed to be the baker of pies.

Now, up to this point in my life, I've made about 20 pies. I only make pie at Thanksgiving. And, I claim that I've been making pies (specifically apple pie) since I was 12 (my mother will disagree with this and claim she didn't force child labor in the house--total lie, but I'm holding fast to this statement and I started making pies at the age of 12!) I was a bit daunted by the task of making an equal number of pies to the grand total I'd made in my entire existence. Fortunately, I had plenty of notice so I could continue to procrastinate the making of pies until almost the last minute. For those who are curious, here is what I learned about making pies:
  • It's always wise to have a sous chef around to do all the dirty work for you--peeling the pears, ladling the sticky sauce, retrieving ingredients because your hands are too gooey (thanks manderate)
  • If at all possible, keep a "dish washer" handy--unfortunately, my dish washer (aka, my pops) decided to leave the country with my mom to serve in the LDS Lima, Peru temple as a missionaries (all is forgiven as he did many a dish after the reception at the house)
  • It's wise to have something to entertain you while you will be in the kitchen for HOURS--Lucky is always good for a laugh (and complete destruction of the insides of low cabinets--she is only 18 months old!) 
  • I also got to watch this thanks to manderate owning it on DVD
  • Continually remind yourself that you agreed to this project and are doing out of LOVE
  • Trust that the cornstarch and gelatin will do their job properly (there were a few close calls, but all turned out in the end)
  • Admire the beauty of 22 pies lined up on the counter looking like a Martha Stweart ad (and remember to get your camera and take a picture--obviously something I forgot to do; hey, I was exhausted and just didn't care at that moment)
  • Graciously accept all the praise at the reception--they were seriously the most delicious pies I'd ever eaten!
  • Add to resume under skills--works well under pressure & can take the heat! And, makes perfect pies (not just cookies anymore)
  • Relish in the fact that you did indeed make beautiful pies for a wonderfully amazing sister (and her new husband) who is totally deserving of her perfect day!
So, if you're looking for someone to bake you perfect cookies or perfect pies for your special day, feel free to contact me. Just be aware that you probably can't afford my services, unless you're family or dear friends--I always cut them a deal!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

customer service, revisited

A while back I posted about my experience with Comcast and their customer service, Within moments of that post going live they had responded to my commentary on their organization. I was shocked (hello, I only have 5 readers!) and surprised and impressed that they would take the time to comment on a blog post regarding their organization. But, more importantly, they proved to me that even if I have had many frustrations with Comcast (honestly, that last post only skimmed the surface of my frustration with them) they are at least paying attention to what is being said about them. I'm amazed at the number of businesses that aren't aware of what is being said about them.

Until yesterday, I had never been to Spark--a Provo establishment that has been getting quite a bit of buzz. I've read reviews, heard good things, but just had never given it a try. Well, the other day I finally took the opportunity to try Spark. Let's just say I was underwhelmed. From the moment I arrived, I felt as if I was more of a nuisance than a guest they were glad to have.  (You'd think that with fewer than 10 people dining there in the close to 2 hours I was at lunch, they'd be thrilled to have some patrons--apparently, the rest of Provo knew something I didn't). I arrived a couple of minutes after my dining partner and we were the only two people in the restaurant. Yet, it still took the only worker (part hostess, part server) 5 minutes to come over and acknowledge us and finally offer us a table. When she did offer a table she mumbled and gestured toward an area of the restaurant as she walked past us to grab some menus. When she came back by, I told her I had no idea what she was saying or where she was gesturing for us to sit. I finally figured out that she was trying to tell us that we could pick a seat near the pillar, but that was certainly not clear to me from the beginning. While I appreciate being able to select a table when the restaurant is empty, it is still nice to feel like you are at the very least welcome in the restaurant (I didn't then or ever during that meal feel welcome at Spark) Needless to say, this lunch was off to a rocky start!

We were seated, poured water and given a few minutes to review the menu. Because I will typically do a quick internet search of a new restaurant before visiting, I knew Spark offers a daily 3 course lunch special. Our server didn't mention to us 1) that there was a lunch special or 2) what that day's special was--apparently, it was on a board in the front of the restaurant (and upon entering the restaurant, I walked right past and didn't even notice). My dining partner, on the other hand (who had dined there before and was obviously more aware of the strange protocol) told me what the day's special was (my dining partner, NOT our server; a task I would expect of any good server) and we both decided to go with the lunch special. The first course arrived--what we were told was apple soup. When we both inquired if there was butternut squash in the soup, she informed us that she honestly didn't know what was in it and said, more than once, "oh, its apple soup!"  (As a foodie, trust me there was some sort of squash in that soup!) The remainder of the meal proceeded without incidence. Our server was polite when we moved tables because of the horrible glare from the large windows overlooking University Avenue (however, since we were the only people in the restaurant when we were seated, it would have been nice if she would have seated us away from the glare! But, I forget, she didn't actually seat us nor recommend an ideal place to sit) Overall, it wasn't a terrible experience (the company was at least fantastic!), but it certainly wasn't a great experience either. Immediately after finishing my lunch, I posted to my Twitter account questioning if I should or shouldn't try Spark again.

had lunch @sparkprovo today. first time there & not very impressed. poor service & the food was only ok. is it worth another try?

There is a chance I'll give Spark another try, but I'll likely have to be talked into it by someone who's had a much better experience there than I have!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

a flat tire that got me thinking about my views on feminism

Today I woke up to this:

 And this:

Yes, that first picture is of snow. On April 22nd. As in a couple of inches of snow on the patio furniture. If you look closely (yes, the pictures aren't the greatest, I took them with my phone) you can see the valley in the background where there is no snow. Ah, the joys of living on the Provo bench. At least by now the snow has melted away and the sun in shining.

That second photo is a picture of a very flat tire. I knew this was coming. Yesterday upon pulling into the garage and exiting my vehicle, I swore I could hear air leaking out of my tire. I listened; I walked away, I came back and listened again; again I walked away. I was certain that I must be crazy because you can't actually hear the air leaking out of a tire. Well, guess what! You can actually hear the air leaking out of a tire and that photo is proof.

No worries, the tire is back in working order thanks to the help of AAA, AM/PM towing and Les Schwab tires. This whole situation (and a comment I made to the guy who came to change my tire) got me thinking.  Upon arriving and observing the tire, I told the guy that I could certainly change the tire myself (and, if forced to, I could) but why should I when I have a AAA card and can get someone else to do it for me. Such a non-feminist statement!

You see, back in college, I considered myself to be the ultimate feminist (not a difficult task when you attend BYU and every other girl you know is concerned with getting married and popping out babies) I took the feminist literature classes, supported all causes female related and swore I wouldn't get married until I was at least 25 (totally having to eat those words as I am far beyond those 25 years and still unmarried) I mocked the girls that were at BYU to only get their "MRS" degree and couldn't believe that someone would drop out of school for marriage and babies. And, had I ever heard of someone doing what I did this morning (calling someone else to change a tire) I would have thought she was a complete embarrassment to the feminine cause!

Fast forward to now; my new state of feminism. I'm perfectly capable of changing a tire, carrying a heavy box, lifting a mini-fridge off the shelf at Costco and loading it into my car; I just choose to not do these things. You see I've adopted a new attitude; why should I lift, haul, carry or change when I can get someone else to do it for me? I pay an annual membership fee to AAA so I don't have to change a tire, jump start a car or trek to get gas (as a side note, I've only run out of gas once in my life, when I was 16 and it will NEVER happen again. My father has taught all of us that you fill up with gas when your tank is 1/4 full--which really means, as soon as you're below the 1/2 mark, stop and get gas!) I've learned to accept help from stronger (and probably more able bodied) men in carrying items that weigh 50lbs or more or that are awkward. Like I said, its not that I can't do these things, I'm making a choice to not do them. I smile and say "thanks!" and (I like to believe) they were happy to offer me the help.

Its interesting how time, life and experiences change our perspectives. I still think of myself as a feminist, not the "bra burning" type of feminist so popular in the '60s and '70s, but a supporter of and believer in the ability of women. My new brand of "feminism" includes more of a feminine approach. I'm a girl who likes her high-heeled shoes, lots of lip gloss and being pretty. I also like being one of the guys and consider myself to be a pretty tough chick (I have been called "muscles" by my sisters!) I've even been known to let a guy order for me on a date (without biting his head off--which would have happened back in college!) But now, sometimes its nice to be able to sit back and let a man change the tire, carry the heavy box or even treat you like a lady and get a door for you or order your meal. I just hope they don't revoke my "feminist" card, because I still believe women have so much more than the amazing abilities of child bearing and homemaking to offer this world!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

so, i decided to google myself

And, do you know what I learned?

I'm on the first page of google, for real! (or F'Real) and with no effort. I must be an SEO genius! But in all seriousness, I am on the first page of google. And, its my twitter account (@runwithmel). I hope this leads to more and more people following me (because I am a Twitter whore!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

race day rituals

I have a love/hate relationship with race day. Obviously, I must love doing races because I pay good money to go and run or swim/bike/run crazy distances (well, crazy to some, sane to others) I started running marathons back in 1996 and since then have done 13 marathons, even more half marathons and countless 10Ks. Then, a couple of years ago I decided I should add triathlons into the mix. I've done far fewer of those, but one thing remains the same--how I feel about race day.

I've learned it doesn't matter if I've trained long and hard or not at all, I have this strange love/hate obsession with race morning. And, if I'm being honest, this anxiety and stress begins the night before race morning. I've got my pre-race rituals and my race day rituals. Any one who has witnessed this can attest to the insanity that ensues! Worst it ever was: Boston Marathon 2006. I seriously took an entire duffel bag full of running clothes and shoes (remember the days when you didn't have to pay for your checked baggage!) I wasn't sure what I would want to wear on race day and needed (wanted?) to be prepared. The night before the race I spent a good 30 minutes running up and down the hallway in our hotel trying to decide which shoes I wanted to wear. I then spent another 30 minutes laying out my clothes, organizing my nutrition, pinning my race number on my jersey and stressing out over whether or not I'd selected the right attire. At the very least I provided some great entertainment for my sisters.

Over my years of racing experience, I've learned I have to be a bit flexible about my pre-race rituals. And, along the way I've learned to have a bit of fun. Yes, I still get stressed and nervous before every race (who know what that's all about!?! It's not like there's cash or fame on the line; I'm certainly not a professional racer) However, I've learned that sometimes racing can just be fun.

I ran the Salt Lake half marathon over the weekend. (a race I always swear I'm never going to run again, but that's a different story for a different time) I headed up to Salt Lake on Friday night to hang with my dear friend @runnerrhielle (she's also starting a trail run series in Park City that you should totally check out). I must say, my entire pre-race and morning of race rituals were thrown off and it made for a great event!

Friday night, Rhielle, Ashley (her husband) and I all headed to dinner - and ended up eating Indian food. Delicious stuff, but definitely not what I would normally eat the night before a race. She graciously offered to let me stay at her house so I wouldn't have to make the trek to SLC from Utah County early Saturday morning. We stayed up much later than I anticipated watching shows I don't even care about (sorry all you Survivor fans!)

Saturday morning we had to get up bright and early. Now, for those that know me, you're aware that I am known to wake up as early as 4:30 to get in a morning workout. For some reason, 5am on race day seems far earlier than a 4:30am training wake-up call. And, because Rhielle is a pre-race/pre-workout eater, I decided I should eat a little something before heading to the race (half a banana and toast w/ honey--if you were wondering) And then, it was time to hit the road and this is when things became far more fun than any other race morning. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I had food in my tummy, the early hour or that I was with a good friend, but I just couldn't help myself.

As you know, I've recently become a twitter junkie. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was my continual plotting of an exit strategy from the race, maybe it was the fact that I had my phone along for no logical reason (unless I was considering actually live tweeting the entire race) or maybe it's just because everything about race morning is conveniently 140 characters long. Regardless of the reason, I just couldn't stop myself. Everything I declared, I would then loudly proclaim "TWEET!" (you know, as if I were actually sending out all these expressions via Twitter)

"I don't see any 26.2 stickers. What's up with my peeps" TWEET
"Seriously, you're going to make me walk how far to catch Trax to the start?" TWEET
"I just spotted my favorite thing - people wearing the race shirt to the race!" TWEET
"You know how I feel about LOLing" TWEET
"I honestly hate this race. Why do I continue to run it every year?!?" TWEET

"You'd think they could figure out the whole 'bag drop' thing. I know I could do a better job" TWEET

OK, looking over it things definitely aren't as funny in the light of day as they were in the early hours of Saturday morning. However, I have great memories of those predawn, pre-race hours with Rhielle. Our antics only continued for the first half of the race; she went on to run her faster pace and left me to continue to TWEET on my own (OK, it was only in my head, but it did help me make it to the finish line.) And being the dear friend that she is, she was waiting for me right as I crossed the finish line. It was great seeing her soon after finishing (I needed someone to celebrate my small victory with!) I definitely think we need to make this race (the dinner before, the sleep over and the pre-race rituals) an annual tradition. Just next year, I think we can skip the Kneader's breakfast so soon after the race!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

let them eat cake

Recently, the Cookie celebrated her 9th birthday. I can't believe the girl is getting so old! It wasn't that long ago (ok, its been 5 years but it seems like just yesterday!) that she and I would watch the Food Network together, decide if the meal looked "good enough to eat" and then do the shopping and the cooking. We had a great time! (Probably one of the highlights of living with my brother, his wife and their then only 3 kids)  Since her mom was very pregnant with #6, I offered to make the Cookie's birthday cake.

She wanted a chocolate, chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chip garnishes. Yes, this was the request of a 9 year old girl. Initially I tried to convince her that it was way too much chocolate and perhaps we should have just plain buttercream frosting (because that wouldn't be as rich!) Being the wonderfully sweet and kind girl that she is she agreed that this compromise would be acceptable. And then I realized something, why should she not have exactly what she wanted on her birthday! Who cares if there would be people at the party who aren't lovers of chocolate and wouldn't eat the cake? Should it really matter that what she wanted was so rich and decadent that most people would eat a very small amount or none at all? Within moments of convincing her to change her order, I went back to the original plan and agreed to a chocolate, chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips as garnish.

Later that day, after I'd headed home and began thinking of which recipes in my arsenal I would use, I realized something. You see, I'm a people pleaser. A people pleaser to a fault! I will forgo my favorite meal in order to meet the needs and likes of other people (even on my birthday). I will compromise on the dessert I want because someone in attendance doesn't like a certain ingredient. I will give up items that I like or want because I perceive that someone else wants them more than me. I am a total people pleaser and at times, I hate this quality! I'm not condoning selfish behavior nor am I condoning always giving into the wants of others. Yes, life is about compromise but sometimes, ESPECIALLY on your birthday, you're allowed to be selfish and put your needs first. It is something I struggle with and something I am working on in my life.

I learned something very valuable from the Cookie. You see, she didn't act selfishly or even complain when I asked her to make a compromise. She was so willing to give up her wishes, even on her special day. But I realized, why should my people pleasing ways infringe on her desires. She knew what she wanted and because it was her special day, she didn't care what others would think. So, I made her a triple layer chocolate, chocolate chip cake with cream cheese chocolate frosting and a chocolate chip garnish. I arrived at the house the day of her birthday (with at cake that weighed in at close to 10 lbs - no joke!) The look of sheer joy on her face when she saw the cake made all my hard work worth it. It was EXACTLY what she wanted! The cake was unbelievably rich; most people couldn't even finish their tiny pieces. And, even those who claimed to HATE chocolate proceeded to eat an entire piece.

If you were wondering, she's already requested the exact same cake for her birthday next year! And, I'm working on being a people pleaser only 90% of the time (instead of my usual 99.5% of the time)!

Friday, April 2, 2010

its true, i'm a geek

I used to think I was a closet geek. You know, even though I like geeky things, I was good at keeping it hidden. People didn't just look at me and think GEEK! Don't get me wrong, I love geeks and even like being a geek myself; I just preferred to keep that a little secret about myself. Well, the other day I was informed that I'm not a closet geek and my geek was out there for the world to see.

In an effort to embrace my inner geek, here are all the reason's why I'm a geek:
  1. I'm a closet fan of sci-fi. No, I'm not a Trekie. In fact, I've never even seen an episode of Star Trek. (I did see the most recent movie and rather enjoyed it) I do however, love the original Star Wars movies. I enjoyed every second of Firefly and Serenity (and wish the series had lasted longer than 1 season). And, I was recently talked into watching Battlestar Gallactica by Jet Set (now if only someone would loan me the DVDs so I could really get my geek on!)
  2. I love gadgets and electronics gizmos. I don't know if I would survive without my iPhone. Seriously, I think I check my email about 200 times a day. Every time my phone beeps I have to see who it is (when I force myself to leave it alone, its as painful as if a limb is being removed) I have been known to hang at parties (and even on dates with other geeks) comparing apps, looking at which twitter tool others use (and which I need to add to my phone) and actually carrying on twitter conversations while sitting next to someone!
  3. I'm a crossword puzzler. Yes, I love words and language and wish I knew so many more words than are currently in my vocabulary. I figure if I keep doing crossword puzzles I'll learn even more words and be able to use obscure words in everyday language and sound really smart when conversing with friends and family (unfortunately, most in this category are smarter than me.)
  4. I'm addicted to twitter and have single-handedly (at least that's how I see it) encouraged people to get a twitter account or start using their current on and start tweeting! The irony? I've had a twitter account for about 2 years but only recently started using it. I don't tweet incessantly, but do tweet more than I ever thought I would. I also find it fascinating to read every tweet that comes into my feed and see what others are up to. And, I LOVE getting a mention via twitter. It makes me feel like one of the "cool kids" (sad, but true). So, please follow me and tweet about me @runwithmel
  5. I own about 20 different domain names that I'm not even using. Why am I so obsessed with buying domain names that I may or may not ever use? I'll tell you why - they only cost $10 and I might want to start a company where I will need that domain name. Yes, I do realize that I'm currently spending about $200 annually on domain names that are parked. But, someday I just may want to start that business that will require the use of and I'll be so grateful that I already own the domain. I used to think something was wrong with me; was it normal to buy so many different domain names. Then, I started hanging with other geeks and learned, that yes, something is wrong with me. I don't own nearly as many domain names as the rest of the geek world!
In all fairness, there are parts of my life that are totally ungeeky. I'm not a gamer (although I do own a Wii). I love shoes. I bathe on a regular basis and have good hygiene habits. I actually care what I look like in public. I do triathlons. So, I think @candybottomgirl was right there is another term for my geek, HotGeek, GeekChic.... I'm open to suggestions.