Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick Dish: Crab Cocktail Salad

This past Saturday I was at the Navy Pier in Chicago.  A magical place where adults can be kids and kids can be kids.  However, at no time can kids be adults.  That's just annoying.
View is courtesy from my seat in the ferris wheel.
Mom and I had lunch at Riva on the pier.  Our appetizer was a crab cocktail and it is absolutely delicious!  So delicious that Mom made it last night for dinner.  No cooking involved.

The ingredients are cocktail sauce, fresh lump crab meat (already cooked), mixed greens, and diced avocado.  The avocado was not part of the original cocktail but it should have been. Layer the ingredients by placing the cocktail sauce in the bottom of the dish, place the greens on top of that, the crab next, and then the avocado.  The individual servings should be mixed before eating. 
Not only is the dish lip smacking good but it is quite light.  Gotta love a meal that is filling but doesn't have all of that guilt soaked in it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Make It Rain

When I left Chicago on Sunday at 3pm the temperature was 82 degrees.  When I arrived in Dallas three hours later it was 106 degrees.  There are only a few words that can describe that kind of temperature change: horrendous, stupid, and “what the?”.  There are other words but they are unsavory for the cyber world.
Thankfully, it rained yesterday.  I do believe I had a hand in making it rain.  I wished, hoped and prayed for it to happen.  The weather folks can go back to playing chess, matching those awful ties with the hideous pastel shirts, or whatever it is they do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chicago Living

I am in Chicago for work.  More specifically, for a work conference.  I love meeting new people, learning from other people's experiences and perspectives, and finding out when people don't get the proper work/life balance and then go to a conference they like to get crazy.  Gotta love conference folks!

Plus, the hotel experience is great.  I don't have a lavish room but I do have an air conditioner and I keep it on full blast.  Parkas are required to enter my room.  Awesome!  We could have a snow ball fight and possibly ski jump from the bed to the closet.  Bring your own skis.

Today is the last day of sessions and then I get to explore a little bit of Chicago.  The weather here is perfect.  Sunny with a bit of a breeze and if you sit in the shade you need a sweater.  I can't wait to sit outside and not sweat.  The breeze here is also cooler!

I like this strange land called Chicago. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hit List Honorees

I don’t know who thought it would be hilarious to have two Mondays back to back but whoever they are will be going on my hit list.  The list also includes the DJs who play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, yesterday did turn into Tourette Tuesday.  Another classy day.  Multi-tasking is a way of life for me especially when I have four projects that have to be handled at the same time.  When it comes down to the wire, manners go out the window because I need every bit of brain capacity to get the smallest details right.  When the smallest detail is not right then I lapse into Tourette Syndrome. 

However, yesterday is over.  Today is Wednesday and tomorrow is Thursday.  And you know what that means …

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zombie Monday

Have you ever had one of those Mondays where nothing goes right, you never fully wake up, and you feel like the walking dead?  Well, welcome to my yesterday.  Zombie Monday.
I have two large projects that need to go out at the same time today.  Joy. (Note sarcasm.)  I spent the first part of my Zombie Monday frantically trying to get things done for one of the projects.  To only realize after lunch that I did it all wrong.  I ended up involuntarily spewing out another rainbow of colorful words in front of my boss.  Don’t worry … I denied saying everything.  I should be a politician.

The rest of the day was spent pouring over historical project information, tracking down project managers, and trying to maintain some kind of ladylike composure.  Yeah, I laughed too when I thought about me being ladylike.

Another Monday done.  Let’s hope Tuesday doesn’t turn into Tourette Tuesday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stupid Unicorns

I had a run in with a water bug the other night.  Regular people call them water bugs.  I call them “M$#@!!% F&@?!”.  That is not a subtle way to say I cursed at the bug but that’s the actual words that came out of my mouth when I saw it.

Yesterday I was frantically cleaning my house in anticipation of my mom coming to visit.  The mom house inspection is top notch.  I can build a brand new house, have a HAZMAT team come in and wipe the place clean, and mom will still be able to find something I missed.  She’s that awesome.

Part of my cleaning involved moving my couch so I could dust the wood floors underneath.  I’m still pretty skittish after the water bug episode so I was being cautious as to what I was moving around.  When I pushed the sofa I came across this …
I thought it was the LARGEST “M$#@!!% F&@?!” in the history of the Earth.  It only turned out to be a toy that one of my nephews or nieces left under my couch.  However, you would have thought it was a unicorn by all of the colorful words that came out of my mouth.  I might have wet my britches a little but that might just be a figment of my imagination. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The "Getting Thinner" Lady is Singing

I finished!  The juicing diet is done and I’m a better American because of it.  Well, not really.  I mean, I do pay my taxes and I’m not a felon but there is no magic to the diet.  I found that I did sleep better.  Even if I got 5 hours of sleep I awoke feeling refreshed.  Several people commented that my complexion looked great and I found myself being more focused during the day. 

I thoroughly enjoyed going through this experience because it made me realize how wonderful fruits and vegetables are and how filling they can be.  It also made cooking more of an adventure and easier to clean up.  When you don’t have to worry about your food being cooked to a certain temperature, raw meat contaminating other ingredients, or using different knives and cooking utensils during the cooking process you find that you have more time to do clean up and food prep.

Last night I had a girls night at my friend Cathy’s house.  My other friend, Bonnie, and I volunteered to bring food for everyone.  Cathy is vegan and I was still on my juicing diet.  The food offered appeased to those of us on the juicing diet (me), vegans (Cathy), and everyone else. 

Bonnie brought some hummus and fresh red bell pepper as an appetizer.  She also made a vegan chocolate fondue that everyone could dip angel food cake, brownies, strawberries, cherries and bananas in.  The chocolate was not part of my juicing diet but you know what?  WHO CARES!  I tried one strawberry and one banana in the vegan chocolate because it was just that good.  I don’t regret it. 
I brought lettuce wraps.  I had two options: Mexican wraps and Asian wraps.  I laid the various fillings out in small bowls so each person could build their own wrap.  We used romaine lettuce leaves as the wrap and I had the following items for the filling:
  • Fresh grilled corn
  • Green onions
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes fries (I baked them in the oven with a little bit of olive oil and garlic salt)
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Poblano peppers
  • Pico de gallo (I made it the night before)
  • Chicken
  • Fish (tilapia)
Each filling ingredient was labeled.
Everyone loved the wraps.  Having the ingredients separate allowed each person to customize their own dinner and the meat options gave those non-juicers and non-vegans a lean protein.  The wraps are quite filling but low calorie.  Bonus points!

I also made a blueberry tartlet.  I found this recipe in one of my SELF magazines and it is vegan appropriate.  The crust is made by mixing dates and almonds in a food processor until a chunky paste forms.  I ran out of dates so I added a few prunes.  Worked great.
Next, mix the blueberries with fresh squeezed orange juice and the zest of one lemon.  I like to let it marinate for 24 hours.  The blueberries absorb the flavor of the oranges and the lemon zest is a hidden flavor pop.  Both citrus flavors bring out the flavor of the blueberries. 
The tarts can be made for individual servings.  You can form individual “bowls” out of the crust and freeze it.  Take out of the freezer an hour before serving and place the blueberries in them.  I elected to line one of my pie plates with the crust and poured the blueberries into it.  The blueberries mixed with the crust makes your brain think you are having an unhealthy dessert. 
As I said before, I love using fresh ingredients.  It does make a difference.  The dishes I made don’t require a lot of cooking experience.  Everyone can make them. 

On a noticeable and physical scale of how the juicing diet went … I lost 6 pounds and 4.75 inches from my body’s measurements.  Was it my goal to lose weight and inches?  No.  However, I’m really stoked that it happened while I was eating fruits and vegetables NON-STOP.  No one ever gained weight eating fruits and vegetables.  I also was not able to go to the gym this past week because I had a pulled calf muscle.

So, my last evening of the juicing diet I forced some dear friends to my vegetable and fruit life.  I think everyone liked them.  Cathy was excited that Bonnie and I brought vegan dishes.  I was interested to see how other people would react to a super healthy dinner.  Reactions were great and several comments included “Oh, wow, this is good!” and “If the diet includes this kind of food then I could do it.”

I am excited about my life after the juicing diet.  There are so many more opportunities to include fruits and vegetables into my every day diet.  The best thing the juicing plan has done for me is rekindle a love with all things fresh produce and surprise myself in being able to make REALLY delicious meals without recipes.  Yeah, I recommend the diet plan for anyone who is interested.  And, yes, I do expect you to invite me to dinner.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Time to Come Clean

My name is Julie.  (Crowd collectively says "Hi, Julie".)  And I'm a veggie and fruit lover. 
I am thoroughly enjoying this juicing diet.  I love discovering the varieties of fruits and vegetables and combining them to make something amazing.  Plus, using fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, and herbs helps me lovingly remember all of my oversea adventures.  Greece uses fresh mint in several dishes, the spices from Paris bring back a flood of memories, and the pico de gallo in Mexico is NOT store bought.

Yesterday was probably the hardest day for me because I played volleyball right after work and had to run by the grocery store after that.  I didn't end up getting home until 8pm.  I went a little over 4 hours without having a snack and by the time I got home I was pretty hungry.  However, I made the "no pasta" dish again and munched on veggies until it was done.  I survived.

Today is the last day of the juicing.  I'm excited to complete the seventh day and thrilled to have explored the world of fresh produce.  I foresee a lot more freshness in my future dishes and healthy snacks at the office.  I was worried that the week would be torturous but it wasn't.  No outburst of hunger rage or crawling under my desk in the fetal position.

Tonight I'm sharing a girls night with some wonderful women.  I will be supplying part of the evening's meal and the hostess is vegan.  Check tomorrow's post to see the dishes I made that I can have as well as the hostess and other attendees.  And their reactions of the food.  We are also doing some paintings so the evening will probably end up in fits of giggles.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Weapons at La Madeleine

I had a business breakfast meeting at La Madeleine yesterday.  I drank my juice before going and had water throughout the meeting.  The smells of the restaurant were great but it didn’t make me want to jump over the counter and pistol whip the cook into making me something full of carbs, eggs, and bacon.  I was quite excited that I survived with my dignity and juicing diet intact.

In case you are wondering what I do during lunch, I eat my lovely salad at my desk and pretend that it is not 100 million degrees outside.  And I watch a British show, Monday Monday.  I have found myself talking properly and quirky like British folks tend to do.  I don’t usually eat at my desk but it allows me to watch a fantastic show, write my blog posts, save gas, and not rush to eat my lunch.  It is kind of nice.  I also have purposefully not scheduled any lunch meetings this week if I can help it. 

I made dinner for the boyfriend last night.  He is craving carbs in a way that I crave Gerard Butler.  Ok, maybe his cravings aren’t that bad.  However, the boyfriend is not a cook so I treated him to a dish that falls in line with our 7-day diet program and will hopefully help him forget about carbs for a few more days.

The no-pasta "pasta" dish included:
  • 2 zucchini, julienned
  • half an onion, julienned
  • 2 carrots, thinly shaved
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 cup of brocolli florets
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • spices/herbs (parsley, shallots, garlic, sea salt)
  • juice from half a lemon
I cooked the zucchini, onion, carrots and sea salt in the extra virgin olive oil.  After a few minutes I added the brocolli and covered the pan so the brocolli steamed.  Five minutes later, I removed the pan from the heat and added the tomatoes.  I combined the extra virgin olive oil, spices/herbs, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl before I started cooking the vegetables so the flavors could combine.  I poured the mixture over the "pasta" right before serving.  (This same olive oil mixture is the same as my salad dressing.)  This dish is heaven on Earth!  The boyfriend was quite excited to be eating something with flavor and filling.
I also made a dessert by heating lime juice, honey, strawberries, blueberries, and minced ginger.  I heated it through until the liquid formed a syrup.  I served it in coffee mugs and sprinkled it with slivers of green apple for some crunch.  All I can say is "Martha Stewart, eat my shorts!"  Folks, I might actually be a super hero.  My super power is creating meals that are so unbelievable good that bad people will turn from their evil ways and only do good from now on.  Ok, maybe not.  But I'm close.
Two days left.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cinco de Jugo

In the words of Homer Simpson, “D’oh!”  I finally looked up the program for the juicing diet and realized I can have cooked vegetables.  You might not think this is a big deal but it is.  Like I said before, the juice actually taste pretty good.  However, day in and day out of green juice and raw veggies or fruits as snacks can get boring.  Having a cooked “meal” is heaven.

Also, if you juice kale it doesn’t produce as much as spinach does.  So you end up buying kale by the tons in order to get enough juice to make it worth your while.  However, cooking kale is easier on the wallet and I love the texture and taste of it when cooked with a bit of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice.  Devine.  I try not to cook it too much so not to dwindle all of the nutrients in it but enough to take out the natural toughness of the plant.

Last night I made Asian lettuce wraps.  Simple recipe but oh so good taste!  Ingredients include:
  • butter lettuce leaves as the wrap
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ginger sauce (Bring to boil 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce, half teaspoon of sea salt, 2 teaspoons of fresh minced ginger and 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice)
I cooked the carrots, sweet potato, onion and broccoli in the olive oil until tender.  I then poured in the ginger sauce and made sure everything was coated well.  Serve the cooked vegetables with several lettuce leaves.  OH! MY! I cannot express how happy this meal made me.  It did make me dance a little when I took my first bite.  Healthy food, filling and quick since it cooked in less than 15 minutes.
Day four went well.  I still don’t have any cravings partly because I love snacking on cherry tomatoes and grapes.  Also, drinking plenty of water helps me stay full.  Part of the juicing diet is to make sure you are still drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day.  The juice does not replace water.  However, the boyfriend is having a difficult time.  An email he sent me read, "I am so hungry!  Fruits and vegetables cannot satisfy my hunger."  Poor guy.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to talk about my favorite things … cooking and food.  However, that is not the case.  I have not come across anything that makes me crave having mac & cheese, cereal, pad thai, trout, etc.  I’m confuddled (confused + befuddled) because I’m the last person on the face of the planet to have willpower yet I like this 7-day plan I’m on.

One of my friends said he did a diet plan similar to my juicing diet for a month.  I asked him how he felt at the end of it and he said the biggest difference was that he could go to bed at night and sleep soundly.  When he woke up he was actually refreshed.  I’m starting to notice that I do sleep better at night, too.  I also have battled two serious staph infections within the past year so I’m hoping this cleansing will clear my body of all the medicine I had to take because I am not able to take regular antibiotics anymore.  I end up taking four strong antibiotics at the same time just to get rid of a sinus infection. 

Do I think this juicing diet is a miracle worker?  No.  Do I think our country is pill happy?  Yes.  So, one of my goals is to become a healthier individual who doesn’t need multiple pills.  After battling horrible staph infections I would say that is a small miracle in my own life.

Three days left.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inappropriate Salad

Honesty is key.  While the boyfriend and I are in the process of our juicing diet we did agree to one thing that is not part of the regimented program.  We agreed that if you can juice it then you can eat it raw.  Meaning that if I can’t stand another green juice then I can eat uncooked fruits and vegetables.  It helps because I can snack on tomatoes, carrots, celery, blueberries, etc. throughout the day and never feel deprived.  Plus, it is easier for me to bring unjuiced fruits and vegetables to the office instead of a bag gallon of green juice.

Yesterday’s lunch in the office consisted of spinach leaves, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, and half an avocado.  I made a dressing that involved juice from a quarter of a lemon, 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, and some spices (I used my spice mixture from Paris).  I don’t want to toot my own horn but … WAIT!  Yes, I do!
The salad with my homemade dressing is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  This might be my go to office lunch even after the juicing diet is finished.  Next dinner party, I’m making this salad.  Actually, as soon as I get home I’m going to make the salad again and go eat it in my closet.  I want to be alone with this salad so I can relive the first bite.  My infatuation with this salad is highly inappropriate.  You should try it.

Four days left.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Worst Part

The worst part about the juicing diet is TV.  In case you haven't noticed, TV has a lot of commercials.  A lot of food commercials.  And product placement.  I'm starting to notice how much our boob tubes affect our consumerism in subliminal ways.  Curse those marketing people!
I am trying to stir clear of those messages and have enjoyed reading my books or watching long forgotten movies.  Or, I do house chores that I'm always meaning to do (fixing the back fence, hanging up artwork, organizing the linen closet, etc.)  This juicing diet might actually get my entire life in order.

The cravings have not hit me yet.  I do think about grabbing a handful of chips from time to time but the cravings are not going to kill me.  However, today will be the first day in the office where I'm willing myself to abide by the juicing diet rules.  Let's hope I don't start foaming at the mouth.

Two down, five to go.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Too Bad

The first day of the juicing diet went well.  I didn't throw a tantrum and I didn't starve.  I'm noticing that the biggest part of this cleansing is the willpower needed to turn down sandwiches, pasta, roast beef, etc.  However, I keep telling myself that I only have 6 more days.

The juice de jour is a smorgasbord of vegetables and fruits: spinach, celery, cucumbers, green apples, blueberries, peaches, pears, and an orange.  Yep.  All of them together.  Taste is not that bad.  Color is questionable.
I needed something different for dinner so I made a "soup".  The mixture included tomatoes, half a lemon, half an onion, fresh ginger, fresh basil, and carrots.  I poured the mixture into a bowl and ate it like a real soup.  I did not heat the juice as that will diminish the nutrients but I did add some fresh avocado slices to the soup.  It was wonderful!

The soup had the right amount of spice from the ginger and onion, the proper amount of acidity from the lemon, and plenty of sweetness from the tomatoes and carrots.  The basil was hidden behind the other flavors so I may leave it out next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It Begins

I previously posted about my juicing adventures.  However, those were only experiments and curiosity.  Now, I'm jumping in with both feet.  Along with the boyfriend.

Today begins the first day of our 7 day juicing diet.  We will only be juicing vegetables and fruits in hopes of ridding our bodies of processed foods and toxin buildup.  We were encouraged to do this after watching 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead'.  The end result should be more energy, a revamped metabolism, and better food choices.

The boyfriend does have the upper hand in this situation since he works from home.  It is easier to follow the juicing regiment if you are near your juicer but my plan is to freeze some of the juice so I can have it ready for lunch at the office.  The co-workers have been warned and they are prepared to stir clear of my hunger-induced rage.

I'm excited about only going to the produce section of the grocery store and not having to worry about cooking over a stove during the week.  I'm not excited about facing my lack of willpower.  The boyfriend has his work cut out for him in being my sponsor (in AA terms).

So, this week of postings will be dedicated to my juicing diet, the anxieties that come with doing the right thing (juicing kale) when I REALLY want to do the wrong thing (McDonald's at 2am), recipes that stole the show and recipes that will never be heard from again, and how my body reacts to being super healthy for the first time since 1985.  I apologize now for staring longingily at your dinners and cursing the Frito Lay truck. 

But this is only for 7 days ... today is day 1.  Six more to go.  Fingers crossed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tramp Stamp?

I play in a co-ed sand volleyball league and I have witnessed something strange on more than one occassion.  Sadly.

Several guys at the courts are quite buff and play shirtless.  The scenery is nice.  However, I have begun to notice several tramp stamps.  On the guys.  In case you don't know, a tramp stamp is a tattoo on the lower back just above the butt crack. 
I'm not a fan of tramp stamps on women but now they are showing up on guys.  I'm confused and disoriented by this new revelation.  So confused and disoriented that I'm at a loss for words.

I really just want to roll up a newspaper and hit them over the nose while yelling, "NO!  BAD!"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Neat Little Trick

I found an easy way to keep your car cool while at the office during the blistering hot summer.  I discovered this neat trick yesterday.

First: Show up to the office before the sun rises.

Second: Leave the office after the sun goes down. 
Poof!  Cool car.

There is a downside ... I'm way too tired to care.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tween on Vacation

My family went on a vacation through New Mexico a long time ago.  So long ago that I was tween age before "tween" was even a word. 

My family of five (dad, mom and two older brothers) were road trippin' in our mini van.  I still can't believe my family owned a mini van.  It was awesome.  It had AC, sat up to 8, and had a cassette player.  I'm pretty sure my brothers and I ruined the 'More Than Words' tape by Extreme in that cassette player.

On said road trip we were driving through the New Mexico desert.  Lots of desert with some mountains in the distant and maybe a buzzard circling our van waiting for us to die.  So much desert.  I finally had the back seat of the mini van to myself so I could stretch out and not have to share the middle seat with one of the brothers.  Back seat privileges were awesome.  It was our own piece of paradise on a never-ending road trip.
I spent my paradise moment laying down reading 'Nancy Drew' books.  I easily devoured one book a day and I absolutely love mystery novels.  Once I started reading the only thing that could break me away from my book was a earthquake, nap time, or Gerard Butler.  Ok, Gerard Butler was not in my vocabulary then but you get the idea.
At one point during our travels through the NEVER-GOING-TO-STOP New Mexico desert my dad had enough of my book reading and yelled "Dang it, Julie!  Sit up and look at the scenery!  You may not get to see it again!"  Only if Christmas came early would that come true. 

The only honest reply I could come up with was "I looked up 10 minutes ago and you know what?!  It is the same scenery!"  Quickly thereafter I lost my back seat privileges.  However, I continued to keep my nose in the book.  You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Perfect Day to Work

There are several days were I think "what I wouldn't give to be at home today" instead of in the office. Those days either have really bad weather (I could be at home laying in my bed reading a book) or gorgeous weather (I could be at home laying by the pool reading a book).  Those are the days in the office where I sit in my chair and stare outside daydreaming.

However, I have met the extreme opposite.  There are now days that I'm excited to go to the office.  Mainly because the AC in the building is on full blast.  The Texas summer of 2011 will go down in the books as being the hottest summer in recent history.  It will also be the summer that I couldn't get to the office fast enough.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Turn On the Memories

I found an old lamp at a garage sale in 2000.  It had hideous gold accents and was in desperate need of cleaning.  However, for $0.25 it was a bargain. 

I brought it home, changed the gold accents to silver, added a new shade and cleaned it.  The reason I bought the lamp was because it had a glass vase as the body.  Over the years I have placed various wine corks in the vase.  Favorite wines, wines I've bought while overseas, colorful corks, etc. 
The lamp project has turned into a vase of memories.  Each cork is from a special occasion, special trip, or special friends.  One quarter is not a bad price to pay for a wonderful reminder of a life lived in happiness.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Professionally Nasty Messages

I work in a service industry.  I know that if we don't provide clients with top notch communication, customer service, and keep our promises that the client can go down the block and find another firm who is willing to bend over backwards for projects.  I preach that sentiment on a daily basis.

So it boggles the mind that other companies don't hold true to the facts of business: if you don't treat customers well, then you don't keep customers.

For example, the bank I have been with for over 17 years thinks it is ok to change things in mid-stream without telling me.  I do not respond well to that type of customer service.  This is the same bank that has my mortgage account.  The same bank that dragged their feet in getting my loan completed and caused me to close a day late on my house.

To say I'm perturbed is an understatement.  Therefore, I resort to professionally nasty messages.  You will be amazed at what you can get when you utilize a company's contact information.  Here are a few of my "don't mess with me" moments.
  • A driver in a food delivery truck flipped me off on the highway.  When I got home I sent the company's President an email telling him what happened, at what time, and where.  I also made him aware that if I were to ever have the need to use their service or influence other's who needed a food delivery company that I would, in fact, adamantly discourage the thought because the company only hires unprofessional people who have little respect for themselves, the company they work for, and potential customers.  (The regional manager called me the next day, apologized, and took care of the problem.  Kudos for customer response!)
  • When my bank failed to finalize my mortgage loan on the original closing date I emailed my loan officer to let her know that their lack of urgency shows where they prioritize their customers.  To summarize the rest of my email: the bank had 24 hours to correct their wrongs or I'd take my mortgage loan and my other accounts to a competitor bank.  Within 12 hours, I closed on my house.
Professionally nasty messages do not include anything in it that I wouldn't feel embarrassed to have my Preacher read in front of the church on a Sunday morning.  It includes doing research on the company (pointing out that their actions do not meet their mission statement), reminding them that customer service is what keeps and wins over clients, and pointing out that they are not a monopoly.  It also helps if you can send your message directly to the CEO/President/Manager (FYI, public companies' annual reports have their contact information in it). 

I also send messages to companies when I get great service.  I hope that if there are bonuses, awards, or promotions that my simple message may give someone the edge over their competition.  Additionally, if their company were to go through layoffs I would hope that my message would help them keep their job because they are the reason why I would keep going back for their business and recommending friends to them as well. 

What would happen if we all let companies know what we thought?  Through the good and the bad.  What would happen if large corporations started taking notice of how their cashiers put a smile on customers' faces or how the delivery truck driver is talented enough to flip me off while talking on the cell phone driving 70 miles per hour?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Charts are Fantastic (Part 2)

This is a continuation from my previous post.

My attention span throughout the day.
Describing how to destroy the Death Star.
How to find Waldo.
Awesome Slip-N-Slide.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shout Out: Klein Embroidery

During a recent mad rush to get corporate gift items for a board retreat I turned to Klein Embroidery.  The owner is my college roommate and, therefore, I tend to stay in constant contact with her to make sure she is not telling college stories about me.  I’ll admit, EVERYTHING I did in college should never be repeated.  I’m surprised I survived.

Anyhoo … the college roommate started this embroidery company a few months ago and it has really taken off.  They are a local establishment in the Dallas area and, depending on the size of the order, can usually have embroidered items ready within five business days.  Which is unheard of unless you want to pay an arm and a leg.  However, the price quoted was shockingly reasonable.  Unfortunately, Klein Embroidery didn’t give me a discount because of our personal connections (I have dirt on the roommate, too).  I did receive a discount for being one of the first clients, though.  Wunderbar!
 
Klein Embroidery can do anything that can be embroidered.  They specialize in dog collars, corporate gifts, baby items, and birthday gifts.  If you ever thought “Dang!  I should have gotten that blanket personalized for Aunt Gertrude’s birthday” then you should hit up Klein Embroidery.  I love supporting mom & pop places and this mom & pop place is run by a young married couple that I actually know (and really like … I’d say I’d love them but that would just get awkward).

You can bring your own items to them to get personalized or they can provide the product for you (they have a list of preferred suppliers).  The corporate gifts that I had done were messenger bags with the organization’s logo embroidered on it.  The college roommate did a fabulous job to have them done for me within three days (saved my booty!).  Klein Embroidery actually picked up another client when the bags were presented to the recipients.
I would jump on this company quick if you want to get something done right, under budget, and keep your business local.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday Resolve

Tuesdays are my only evenings of not having anything on my busy schedule.  And I try to keep it that way because I need what little bit of sanity I can get these days.  Ever since finishing ‘Lost’ I have promised to never get that hooked on a show again.  Therefore, my Tuesday evenings usually involve balancing my checkbook, listening to (and falling in love with) music, and whatever else I can do inside my air conditioned house.

Some weeks I paint pictures.  Other weeks I play the piano.  Sometimes I go through photo albums.  Other times I bake goodies.  Most evenings I dance around my house.  I try to do something that revives my spirit.  Having that one evening of creativity and reflection during the week keeps me on my toes and gets me excited about the next adventure.

Below is one of my favorite Tuesday evening songs by Melody Gardot.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mornings and Julie Do NOT Mix

In case we have never met … I am NOT a morning person.  I am the type of person who thinks Christmas morning should start around 11am.  The one gift I ask for my birthday is to let me sleep in.  The rising sun and I are mortal enemies.

Which is why a 6am Body Pump workout class sounds hideous to me, yet it works.  I get up at 5:40 in order to get to the gym by 5:55.  I am dressed to the 2s (nowhere near the nines that so many fashionistas talk about) in shorts, a baggie shirt, and my hair in something similar to a pony tail crossed with a porcupine.  I am dead sexy at 6am. 
I’m not sure how I get to the gym because I don’t actually wake up until 6:30.  By 6:30 I realize that I’m working out and I automatically want to go back home, crawl into bed, and sleep for another 30 minutes until my favorite infotainment show comes on, The Today Show.  (Matt Lauer is still damn sexy with a balding head.  Grrrrr!)

However, I don’t want to look like the horrible monster that I am so I stay in class to push through the remaining 30 minutes.  The bad part is that I am now awake.  And I hate everyone who is in the gym.  I especially loathe the instructor.  Who is way too chipper for that time of the morning.  I automatically assume the instructor is a Communist.  Only Commies can crack jokes, smile, and put you in agonizing pain by doing 3,000 squats before 7am. 

By the time my punishment is done I’m soaked in sweat (yummy, I know) and awake.  I get home in time to water plants, take out the trash, tune into Matt “Sexy Pants” Lauer before Ann “I’m Trying Too Hard” Curry ruins the fantasy, and make a protein shake.  I get ready for work and make a half-butt effort to look normal.  If I lifted the right amount of weights in Body Pump I walk like a robot the rest of the day and can’t lift my arms past my elbows.  This makes going to the restroom difficult but, thankfully, not impossible.

The Body Pump class does wonders for my legs, arms and soon to be buns of steel.  However, it does nothing for my need to sleep-in.  It is not making me a morning person but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is making me a more tolerable person before 10am.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I followed this recipe on how to make homemade laundry detergent.  My pictures turned out exactly the same as the one in the recipe so no need to double them up.  The batch makes 2 gallons so the boyfriend and I split up the concoction.  It is so incredibly simple to make.  If you have all of the ingredients it takes less time to make detergent than actually going to the store to buy some. 

The boyfriend has a top load washer and I have a front load washer.  This detergent is good for both.  When washing, the detergent will not make suds.  But who cares.  Suds do not mean clean.  Soft drinks have suds.  Get my point?

I do recommend getting a very handsome, strong man to grate the soap bar.  Soap doesn’t take much to grate but it is fun to watch buff muscles in a kitchen.  Swoon!

Also, bringing a gallon of water to a boil takes a while.  I recommend playing video games to the pass the time or watch an episode of the Twilight Zone (but make sure you stir the pot every once in a while).  The boyfriend will try to increase the heat under the pot to make the water boil faster but that may burn the sides of the pot and/or cause settlement in the pot to stick.  I would suggest keeping the boyfriend busy by asking him to show you his new video game.  Works every time.

The total cost of the ingredients (and where I bought them) is as follows:
  • Water: FREE
    • I got it from the tap.
  • Borax: $6
    • Grocery stores carry it.
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda: $5
    • Home Depot does not carry it but if you live in the Dallas area Elliott’s Hardware does.
  • 3 Bars of Soap (Caress brand): $2.50
    • Bought mine at General Dollar.
In case you don't know what Borax and Washing Soda looks like.  I seriously hope you know what a bar of soap looks like.
I have enough ingredients left over to make two more batches (soap as the lowest common denominator … based on the largest quantity, Borax, I would have enough to make 8 more batches).  Each batch makes enough for 60 washes.  In total, I can do 180 loads of laundry for $13.50.  Or the Borax equation is 480 washes.  If I do one load of laundry once a week, each week for a year, I won’t have to buy more ingredients for homemade laundry detergent for over three years (I’ll only need to buy the bars of soap).