Sunday, February 17, 2013

Culture Adventure at Home

Yesterday, I felt like cruising around my city.  I drive around it all the time but I have never mindlessly driven to look at stuff.  There are unique shops everywhere but I'm usually driving past them all on my way to a specific destination at a specific time.

Yesterday ... I had no agenda.  The main goal was to enjoy my surroundings.

I went to the library.  I checked out a book and sat outside near a fountain to read.  The weather was sunny and cool.  Might as well enjoy it while it is here.

My friend, Ashley, met me at the library and then we went exploring.  Ashley and I are infatuated with good food.  I was out of curry paste and she hadn't been to the Asian market in Richardson, Texas.
Tian Tian Supermarket is an adventure!  Amazing Asian spices, pantry items, produce and meat.  They offer cuts of meat that most Americans don't even know you can eat.  Their seafood selection of fresh Tilapia (they are actually swimming around), lobsters and crabs (some bigger than my head) is fun to explore.  There is produce that I 1) don't know how to pronounce, 2) don't know where it is from and 3) not sure how you cook/eat it.  I want to buy all of it!!!

After the Asian market, Ashley and I went to grab lunch at Huong Ly.  A nice, sunny, cool day called for pho soup.  And, boy howdy, it was AMAZING!  The place is a no frills restaurant just down the strip mall from Tian Tian.  There were several dining options in the strip mall but pho was needed!
We both ordered soup and a shredded beef sandwich to split.  The soup is $5.95 for a small bowl.  The sandwich was $3.  Honestly, one sandwich is enough for a meal but splitting it was ideal.  Plus, the sandwich was ungodly tasty ... didn't anticipate it being that good but holy cow it was amazing.  Shredded beef, cabbage, shredded carrots, a sweet sauce and cilantro.  Seriously.  Amazing.

After lunch, Ashley and I then ventured to a place I stumbled upon this morning.  Sara's Market.  It is an unassuming Mediterranean market.  We both bought the pita bread because when you pick up the plastic bag they are in ... it still weighs nothing.  The pita is light, fluffy and made in-house.  Oh, and it is only $1 for a packet of six.
I'm seriously glad I stumbled upon this place.  Their meat section has a wide variety of lamb (which I love) and their produce is fresh.  I honestly can't wait to go back and do a lot more of my grocery shopping at a place that really values quality without hiking up prices.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fancy Dinners are the Pits

This past week I attended an industry conference.  However, this post isn't about the conference.  This post is about the meals that are served at the conference.  And not just the conference I attended but these are the typical meals for ANY conference.

The typical table setting looks like this ...
I don't know about you but I live in a blue collar neighborhood.  My house has one dishwasher.  I have to unload said dishwasher.  There is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that I'm EVER going to set my table with that many dishes/glasses/utensils that must be washed afterward.

Usually, the number of "things" on a dinner table can bring down the quality of the dinner conversation.  Especially if you are sitting with people you may not know very well.  For example, fifteen items for a table setting = REALLY BORING CONVERSATION ABOUT THE ECONOMY.  No table setting (like a hot dog eating contest) = BUST A GUT LAUGHING UNTIL YOU PEE YOURSELF.

I was worried the Thursday night dinner at my conference may end up with the economy talk.  SHOOT. ME. NOW.  However, I wasn't in a mood to fall asleep sitting up and nodding politely while I shovel salad in my mouth.  Instead, my table did the best thing ever.

We played "What's Your Secret Talent?!"  We went around the table and had to say one thing that most people didn't know we could do.

Here are some: enjoys tap dancing, knows EVERYTHING about Star Wars, double jointed fingers (was shown ... got a loud reaction from the table), can stick entire fist in mouth (was shown ... got a louder reaction from the table), and hula hoop aficionado (sadly, not shown at the table).  The conversations that stemmed from these hidden talents was priceless and hilarious.

My secret hidden talent ... I can belch the ABC's and National Anthem.  And, to the relief of my table mates (and my parents), I did not show off at the table.  Besides, it was a fancy dinner after all.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love Birds

Yesterday, my parents celebrated 39 years of marriage.  Maybe you didn't hear me ... THIRTY NINE YEARS!  They met in middle school.  Married young when Mom was 19 and Dad was 17.  They didn't marry for money.  (And, if they did, where the heck is it?!)  They didn't marry for social status.  And they never sugar coated that a lasting marriage takes effort.
Dad's senior year photo.  The '70s were a crazy facial hair time.
Mom on the morning of their wedding.
I've always known my parents to be best friends.  They were a united force in raising my brothers and me even though we tried to get them to take sides.  (Ok, that may have just been me when I wanted to go to a friend's house ... but I digress.)  They had disagreements but they always came back to common ground.  Better yet, they discussed why they had disagreements with my brothers and me.  They showed us that a real life marriage is not a Disney story ... there were highs and lows.  And because of this open communication I had a happy childhood and an amazing family.  And we definitely had a lot more highs than lows.
They were married in Breaux Bridge, LA.  I still go to this church for family events. 
My parents are still a lot of fun.  We goof off, we make jokes, and we are still a strong family.  My parents, with their empty nest, have resorted to being teenagers again.  They like to explore new cities, go dancing, listen to music, and giggle.
My parents still goof off like this.  If this photo wasn't dated on the back I would have thought this was taken last week.
This is written on the back of the photobooth photo.
I'm thankful for having parents that are smart, cute as buttons and extremely loving.  They are the foundation of my successes in life and continue to provide me guidance to keep improving.  Plus, I'm honored to have two people who love each other and those around them.  I couldn't be happier for them to celebrate 39 years.
I don't know whose birthday this was but the '80s sure were brown.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Child's Pose for the Win

Last night I went to restorative yoga again.  And, again, it was awesome.  This time, my friend Ashley joined me.  Ashley bought a single session while I was setting up our yoga mats.  When she got to her mat this was the conversation we had.

Ashley: I can't believe I paid $15 for one session!
Me: It will be totally worth it.
Ashley: side eye look as if to say "Your pants are on fire."

This time during the restorative session I did fall asleep a few times during my poses.  I woke up when the instructor started talking.  It was a little bit awkward.  I was having a peaceful rest and feeling pretty limber then realize "OH CRAP! I'M IN PUBLIC!"
Favorite pose of the night.  Yep, that's a pose.
But you know what?  Several other people fell asleep too.  It is just THAT relaxing.

After the session and saying our "namaste" I turn to Ashley.

Me (whispering): So, what did you think?
Ashley (whispering back): That was SO much better than a bar!

So, here's the thing I'm finding out about my yoga challenge ... it is more than just an exercise.  I thought I would do this challenge in order to try a different exercise that I'm not used to.  While it has done that I have also started studying the teachings of yoga.  It is more of a mindset than a pose.  It is definitely part of the way we live rather than an exercise class.

I'm reading a book by Rod Stryker titled "The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom".  He goes into detail of how yoga can offer practitioners a fulfilling life through basic understanding of oneself and how we can influence the world around us.
You can get the e-book here. I checked mine out from the public library. Because I'm cheap.
Funny thing is, the minister at my church shared a message to this same effect a few weeks ago.  His words were "draw a small circle around yourself and fix what's in that circle before you try to fix everything else around you".

Yoga is teaching me more than flexibility and breathing techniques.  It is helping me to be more focused, less stressed and mindful of what my potential purpose in life may be.  For me, yoga is more therapy and healing than breaking a sweat and exercising.  I'm liking this monthly challenge a lot.  I don't find it is difficult for me to get to a yoga session because I've made it a priority.  It allows me to get rid of the outside influences of telling me what I should be doing (work, family, friends, organizations, etc.) and gives me the opportunity to refocus on just being me.

As it turns out, just being me is totally awesome.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Train Wreck of a Week

If there were ever a train wreck of a week this was it for me.  Several late nights.  Several early mornings.  And none of it was because of partying.  Sad face.

Also, I'm out of vodka.  Hateful face.

However, all is not lost.  I worked from home today.  Got stuff accomplished.  Relaxed a bit.  Washed some dishes.  Folded some laundry.  Made some soup.

Then, this happened ...
I used wellness points that I accumulated through a program at work to get a free yoga kit (mat, blocks, yoga strap and carrying case).  I'm so excited!  I have a yoga mat but I didn't have the rest.  Did I "need" them?  No.  Did I "want" them?  Yes!  Did I have to pay for them?  "NO!"  Win-Win!

This train wreck of a week has just redeemed itself.  Just in time for the weekend!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bargaining for Calories

This past Saturday a friend and I went to an Allen Americans minor league hockey game.  A few years ago I went to almost every game they had because, little did I know at the time, I'm a violent person.


I actually think it is an amazing sport.  Constant action with a little bit of fighting thrown in for good measure.  How can you not like a sport like that?!  It still amazes me that they take a hit, fall and pop right back up.  Most of the time I'm yelling at them to "stay down" because I figure they won't get hit again if they are already laying on the ice.

Hockey players never listen.

Saturday's game was a close one.  My friend and I made a pact with each other during the third period: if the game goes into overtime then we were going to get Nestle Toll House Cookies.  The cookies are sold at a kiosk in the lobby of the arena.

Seriously!!!  Hockey + cookies = dream come true.

I was torn.  I wanted the team to win right then and not have to go into overtime.  BUT ... I also wanted cookies.  The fat kid in me was yelling "RUN OUT THE CLOCK!"  The fan in me was yelling "SHOOT THE PUCK THROUGH THE GOALIE'S EYES!"  (So, I might be a little violent when it comes to hockey.)

Sure enough.  The game went into overtime.  My friend and I raced to the lobby to get our ultimatum prize.  However, the cookies were all sold out.  We were devastated.  I wanted to cry a little bit and throw a tantrum.  Instead, I mustered on as an adult and went back to my seat cookie-less.

Overtime was great but neither team scored.  However, there was a lovely fight in front of us and the opposing team ended up with a bloody nose.  So I feel like we did get a small victory after all.

During the shootout we ended up losing the game which was heartbreaking.

I still love my local team.  And I still love cookies.  Next time I hope both of my loves pull through for a win.
What I think I look like when eating cookies.
What I actually look like when eating cookies.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

You Have Been Warned

I meet with my boss on a weekly basis.  Well, that's not true.  We meet on Fridays whenever our schedules allow.  So, my boss and I meet (on average) once a month.

I like my boss.  I like to bounce ideas off of him.  I like to listen to his stories.  I like to know what he's doing for our business.  I like for him to know what I'm doing for our business.  We laugh a lot.  It is a complete open communication.  Something I've never had with any other supervisor prior to my current company.

(From our conversations I have found that I admire his wife tremendously.  She's a very strong person to put up with his antics.)

During our one-to-one meetings I tell him everything.  In addition to business related topics, I share with him things about my personal life that may affect my work (trips, health, family, money issues, etc.)  Seriously, I tell him however much I want to tell him.

This past Friday I shared him my 2013 journey of monthly challenges that will be posted on my personal blog.  He looked at me like I was telling him I was going to wear a furry outfit to work from now on.
Photo source.
I explained to him that all of my monthly challenges are meant to explore my preconceived barriers and push me out of my self-absorbed routine.  My challenges are meant to make me a more well-rounded person and better employee.

After I shared with him some of my upcoming challenges he was really excited for me.  And he wanted me to add swimming to my monthly challenges (he's an excellent swimmer and back in competitive swimming).  I politely told him it was my science fair experiment and he should go get his own.

He's been warned.  You've been warned.  I will promise to never wear a furry costume.  Not only is it REALLY weird but I imagine those costumes stink like crazy.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can't Believe It

I can't believe what I did yesterday.  You won't believe what I did yesterday.  But I have the receipt to prove it!

I turned down happy hour with the co-workers to go to yoga.  SHOCKING!
Delicious and comes with your own personal appetizer of olives!  Photo source.
A local yoga studio, The Mat, has a Groupon for one month of unlimited yoga for $29.  Budget and monthly challenge friendly!  I snagged it up and went to my first session last night.  

I went to yoga instead of a bar.  I might be taking this monthly challenge thing a little seriously.

The Mat has a 6:30 PM class on Fridays called Mat Restorative.  A friend at my gym highly recommended it to me several months ago so I thought I might as well use it as the start to my yoga monthly challenge.  While you can do yoga anywhere I wanted to start off my journey by going to a studio.  The instructors help you with form, encourage you through the process, and show modifications for those of us that need them.
Restorative yoga is low stress and quite relaxing. Photo source.
I'm happy to report that my first session of yoga was great.  It was better than great ... it was AMAZE-BALLS!  Mat Restorative is great after a very stressful week (which I had) and perfect for beginners (which I am).  While I love hanging with my co-workers, going to yoga was actually what I needed to decompress.  While trying to clear my mind of the week's happenings never lasted for long during the yoga session I did appreciate the few brief moments I was able to be calm and focused.  Those were the best.  And I'm looking forward to learning how to do that more often.

Now, if I can find a yoga studio AND bar all-in-one I'll be set!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Exploration No. 1: Yoga

There will be crying.  There will be fighting.  There will be tantrums.  And there most definitely there will be name calling.  I'm setting out an exploration.  An exploration of my limits.  I'm leaving the "comfort zone" and entering the "danger zone".  (Cue Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" background music.)

Before I go any further you must understand I'm not doing this for your amusement.  I'm doing it for my wellbeing   Which will, in fact, be amusing.  I have a list of monthly challenges I'll be going through during 2013.  And not every month will have a challenge.  This is my science fair project ... if you don't like how I run it then create your own.

For the month of February I'll be challenging myself to ... (drum roll) ... yoga.  I despise yoga.  But the reasons why I don't like it are the reasons why I'm challenging myself to bend it like Beckham.  (Now, that's a yoga DVD I'd watch!)  The breathing techniques, the quietness, the self focus ... I don't excel at these things.  Also, my posture is bad.  

Honey, I'm from Texas.  I grew up on dirt roads and made mud pies.  (Which I cried about when my dad pretended to eat it and didn't actually eat it.  I spent 10 minutes making it!)  When I got a scratch I rubbed dirt in it and kept playing.  This whole yoga thing is foreign to me.  There is no Van Halen soundtrack to yoga poses, no trophies for doing a crane pose, no gargantuan belt claiming yoga superiority.  
So, for February 2013 my goal is to do 4 session of yoga per week.  That's 16 sessions of focusing on me.  This month also includes a half-week long conference and business travel.  Yoga is one of those workouts that you can do anywhere and I'm really bad about not working out when life gets busy.  At the end of the month I don't know what to expect but I'll be sure to post about it.