Sunday, December 31, 2006

New and Improved Photo!

I'm off beta now! And to celebrate, i have linked a new photo. Woohoo! This one is from this year, as opposed to from the year 2003. Sheesh. Has it really been that long since I journeyed to France toute seulle (all alone)? It's too bad that this new image makes my eyes look funny when the photo is shrunk. Ah well.

I suppose i have some updating to do. Christmas was wonderful. daN and i stayed in Friendship at the Bogs' empty house taking care of fluffy. Q joined us for one of the nights, and it was delightful. Being a 25 minute drive from any of our relatives really worked out for us. It took care of all the disadvantages of all other previous Christmases in Maine: 1. Privacy; 2. Familiar sleeping arrangments; 3. No one felt (this time) like they got unfairly less time with us than anyone else. We saw people when we went to visit them, and other than that, we were able to chill out, rest, do yoga to our hearts' content, take walks down to the ocean, and actually feel like we were having some "time off." It was pure bliss. And because of that, we enjoyed the actual time with our families more. Go figure.

The schedule went like this:
Friday, December 22, drive up from Boston to Maine in the pouring rain, right after our oven was (finally) fixed (YAY!).

Saturday, December 23 at 9:00am was daN's Dad's Christmastime Brunch, and we had a lovely time. No gift-opening -- just visiting. And it was really nice to just visit with people. There were lots of interesting tasty dishes like a corn souffle, and things of that ilk. Around 2:00pm, we drove to Rockland to Second-Read it (now rebranded as Rock City Coffee officially!) gave some hugs to owners and staff there, said hi to some regulars who were waiting in line, and said hello to a fellow former member of the Midcoast Children's Theatre with whom i did 42nd Street in 1997. She was a lot shorter then, and i much heavier, but we finally recognized each other. Then daN and i wrapped up some last-minute Christmas shopping (two gifts that we knew we couldn't purchase anywhere BUT Rockland, so we weren't just procrastinating. Don't be so quick to judge!), did some grocery shopping, and drove back to Friendship. Q and Sadie were there when we arrived, so we did yoga and watched a really shitty Bond movie on the Spike Channel -- Diamonds Are Forever. It really was rotten. I fell asleep partway through.

December 24th: wasted most of the morning. Yoga again, slept kind of late, wrapped the aforementioned last minute gifts, went for a walk down to the ocean. When daN and i left to do family stuff, Q did too, thus ended Q time at Bogland (:( ). We went to my Nana and Aunt Kimmie's house in Rockland to commence further Christmas celebrations. Christmas Eve with me Mum's side of the family is always special to me. We also got to see my very cool cousin Asa and my hillarious and awesome Uncle Danda (Anthony) and his partner Chris who both live in Minneapolis. It was so much fun. I always have a blast. It was really great to see how proud we all are of each other, and what interesting folks were in the room. I loved it. We eventually said our goodbyes, and daN and i are vaguely thinking about going out to visit Chris and Anthony in Minneapolis in March.

December 25th: Christmas day! We wake up sort of early, get in some yoga, and drive to Nate and Tara's new house (one of daN's brother and sisters-in-law) for Christmas dinner there. Of course, no one else was around when we got there at 11:00, so we played Guitar Hero 2 on the Play Station 2, and i didn't do so terribly! I'm thinking i might pick up guitar lessons at some point in my life. Eventually, everyone else arrived, and food (including green bean casserole...mmmm....) and good conversation commenced. So did good presents! In the late afternoon, people departed. daN and i drove to Gardiner at Dad's digs (he is now living in the house that Grammy lived in -- a great old turn of the century house that needs some visual updating, but it's beautiful and in good condition). My brother, and Dad's girlfriend and business partner Jeanne and their daughter Yulia were all there. It was a delight! Dad griped a lot about cooking in a kitchen that he wasn't terribly familiar with yet, but he made an absolutely delicious dinner. He likes the non-traditional stuff. He made penne pasta with spinach and porcini mushrooms and a portabello broth, some kind of steak tenderloin, shrimp with a lemon-roasted red pepper sauce, and some apples-and-potatos au gratin. Lots of red wine.

Overall: I was happy. I love all the different facets of my and daN's families. I just had a wonderful time with all of them, in the quirks. As i get older, i've learned how to enjoy people's difficult patches, laugh things off, and honestly be able to enjoy their company. What a great thing to have up my sleeve.

On presents: as an adult, presents are not the highlight of the Christmas season. I love the trees, the music, the lights, and the special-ness of having a different kind of warm atmosphere in cold weather (though it was disturbingly warm in the 40's and 50's the whole time we were up). However, we both got some really great things this year! Among them were some fabulous new knives that have already taken off small bits of my right hand, a knife sharpener, and a cutting board; a wonderful librarian card catalogue style CD case; some wonderful coffee and Ayurvedic tea, Amy Sedaris' new book I like you: Hospitality under the Influence, a some great gift certificates, Debbie-home spun wool yarn, a new towel set, and a painting done by my extraordinarily talented water color artist grandmother. It's unusual and remarkable that we don't end up with something that isn't enjoyable or useful in some major way.

Well, anyway, we've been home since Tuesday night, and we've basically wasted the past few days. I worked on Thursday and had Friday off. I'm really excited to take the daN-drawn-specially-for-me-piece-of-artwork into my office today. I actually cried when i opened it (it was his Christmas present to me). And, my presents to daN went over very well, too! Wicked Tickets, for us, a pair of slippers, and this GREAT game called "Settlers of Katan." We played it the other night, and i LOVE it!

Anyway, that's enough of an update for now. I am going to finish my granola, take a shower, and somehow get started on the rest of my day. I was thinking about going to LLBean in Burlington and getting a smaller vest, doing yoga, and somehow visiting a couple friends before they go out to celebrate New Year's in style.

Happy end of 2006. It's certainly been a big year for me and daN: i got my yoga teacher's certificate, he got a full time teaching job, and i became a fully fledged yoga teacher, and a better student for it. Through all that self-actualizing, i also became a better office professional and got a better office job. Things have been good. My uncle has good advice: "Be good at whatever you're doing at the time." It will matter, and you'll learn about yourself, at the same time providing direction. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Moderate Drinking May Lengthen Life

More Isn't Better -- Heavy Drinking Is a Hazard, Study Shows"

I'm totally serious. Here's the link:
The best part is the Italian version of "moderate."


Dec. 11, 2006 -- Moderate drinking may lengthen life, but heavy drinking raises the risk of death, Italian researchers say.

They define moderate drinking as two to four drinks a day for men; one to two drinks for women.

"Heavy" drinking is anything beyond that. Light drinking is greater than zero but below the moderate amounts.

The Italian study's definition of moderate drinking is higher than the typical U.S. standard of up to two daily drinks for men and one for women.

In the U.S., a standard drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

"Heavy drinkers should be urged to cut their consumption, but people who already regularly consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol should be encouraged to continue," write the researchers.

They included Augusto di Castelnuovo, ScD, of Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy.

Drinking Data

The researchers pooled data from 34 observational studies conducted in Europe, the U.S., Australia, Japan, and China.

The studies looked at more than 1 million people in total, with participants reporting their drinking habits.

The studies lasted from six to 26 years.

During that time, moderate drinkers were about 18% less likely to die of any cause than teetotalers and light drinkers.

Other observational studies have linked moderate drinking to heart benefits. The new Italian report covers deaths from all causes, not just heart-related deaths.

Heavy Drinking

Meanwhile, heavy drinkers were more likely to die of any cause, and the more they drank, the higher their risk of death.

That finding "confirms the hazards of excess drinking," write the researchers.

"Our data show that consumption of little amounts of alcohol leads to a reduction of mortality up to 18%," di Castelnuovo says in a news release.

"But after a certain number of glasses, things radically change," he notes.

People who drink too much increase their death risk "in relation to the amount of alcohol consumed," di Castelnuovo explains.

In short, if you're going to drink, don't overindulge. And, of course, don't drink and drive.

The researchers stop short of suggesting that teetotalers start drinking for health benefits or that light drinkers increase consumption.

They also caution that further studies are needed to check their findings.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This just in from Q! Chocolate is good for you! Again!

Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
By Marjorie Ingall

Listen to the way people malign chocolate: Sinful! Decadent! To die for! There's even that popular restaurant dessert known as "Death by Chocolate." But is this any way to talk about a loved one -- especially during the season of comfort and joy?

Bite your tongue! Evidence is mounting that some kinds of chocolate are actually good for you. Here's the latest about the healthy side of your chocolate habit and taste-tested advice on what to try. Merry munching.

A happier heart

Scientists at the Harvard University School of Public Health recently examined 136 studies on coco -- the foundation for chocolate -- and found it does seem to boost heart health, according to an article in the European journal Nutrition and Metabolism.

"Studies have shown heart benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, and improved bad cholesterol," says Mary B. Engler, Ph.D., a chocolate researcher and director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing. These benefits are the result of cocoa's antioxidant chemicals known as flavonoids, which seem to prevent both cell damage and inflammation.

Better blood pressure

If yours is high, chocolate may help. Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, recently found that hypertensive people who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks saw their blood pressure drop significantly, according to an article in the journal Hypertension. Their bad cholesterol dropped, too.

People who ate the same amount of white chocolate? Nothing. (It doesn't have any cocoa -- or flavonoids.) Word to the wise: 3.5 ounces is roughly equal to a big bar of baking chocolate, so the participants had to cut about 400 calories out of their daily diets to make room. But you probably don't have to go to those lengths. Just a bite may do you good, Blumberg says.

Muscle magic

Chocolate milk may help you recover after a hard workout. In a small study at Indiana University, elite cyclists who drank chocolate milk between workouts scored better on fatigue and endurance tests than those who had some sports drinks. Yoo-hoo!

TLC for your skin

German researchers gave 24 women a half-cup of special extra-flavonoid-enriched cocoa every day. After three months, the women's skin was moister, smoother, and less scaly and red when exposed to ultraviolet light. The researchers think the flavonoids, which absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, improving its appearance.

Brain gains

It sounds almost too good to be true, but preliminary research at West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University suggests chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate companies found comparable gains in similar research on healthy young women and on elderly people.

Good loving (maybe)

Finally, Italian researchers wanted to know whether chocolate truly is an aphrodisiac. In a survey of 143 women published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, those who ate chocolate every day seemed to have more sex drive, better lubrication, and an easier time reaching orgasm. Pass the Godiva, right?

Not so fast. The women who ate chocolate were all younger than the ones who didn't; it was age and not chocolate that made the difference. Still, if a double-chocolate raspberry truffle puts you in the mood, why let science get in the way?

New York--based writer Marjorie Ingall loves milk chocolate but says she's ready to go dark this year

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"The Most Incredible Knife",20036,1145812_1304110,00.html. daN sent this to me today. It's rather incredible. It's the Swiss Army Knife with everything. Literally. It bears a stronger resemblance to a chainsaw.

What I've Been Up To Lately
Benchmarks version:
December 1st: our oven had a major gas leak and had to be turned off.
December 2nd: the technician who was scheduled to come never came and never called.
December 4th: daN and i went out to dinner at a restaurant called "Ten Tables" in Jamaica Plain. It was fantastic. Special occassion? Oh yes -- we were celebrating our SEVEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Wow. It was one of the most magical evenings of my life :)

December 5th: I flew down to New York City for a training on the program that we use at the Foundation to keep track of gifts made. I was there for four days, and I stayed at the Millenium Hilton Hotel, which it turns out is directly across the street from two holes in the ground that used to be a couple of World Trade Center Towers. As i remarked to my friend Q, it's a good thing i didn't know anyone who died in that -- otherwise, it would have been really depressing. However, it was a lovely hotel just the same -- great bathroom, incredibly comfortable beds, and the training itself for the computer program was extremely well done and worth my while. In the evenings, i caught up with old friends -- ONE of whom i hadn't seen for over seven years! SEVEN YEARS! It was so wonderful, and i can't wait to see her again someday. Flying hint: the Delta Shuttle is one of the chichi-est flights available. Complimentary everything, and i got several liquids through security with no problem. I'm pretty sure that people were calling each other "Muffy" and joking about their stretch SUV's. When i got off the flight, more than half of the people on the flight had coaches waiting for them... including me. It's good to be on a paid business trip for a wealthy company.

December 9th: came home, hung out. Got a Christmas tree with daN, and we decorated it!

December 10th: celebrated my 27th birthday with a small group of friends at a bar/restaurant we really like called "Christopher's." We had a lovely time.

December 13th: My birthday! The stove/oven technician FINALLY came! ... and brought parts for the wrong model number. Next available technician date: December 22nd. I broke down into tears. I love cooking. We have been living off salad, rice cakes, food that can be prepared in the microwave or toaster oven, and take-out. I was SO ready for the stove to be fixed after two weeks of that, only to find out that there were another 9 days to go. Still waiting, but we know that the right part came in the mail today.

December 14th: The Fidelity Company Holiday Party. MAN, do they know how to throw a good time! I saw The Fidelity Follies -- a short "play" where employees got to make fun of the CEO while he sat right there. And then I spent the rest of the night on the dance floor. My co-workers told me that my dancing was inspiring, and they loved to have me there! Ha! The band was great, the music was great, and the place didn't look like the Boston World Trade Center at all (that's where the party was held.) It was decorated as India, Japan, Canada, The UK, and the US, all the places around the world where Fidelity has offices. And it was so well done! It was amazing, and i'm already looking forward to next year's.

December 16th: Q's Christmas Shindig! I had a blast dancing my p-tooty off. Again.

December 17th: Our landlords tell us that they feel so terrible about the stove that they're going to reduce our rent for the month by 200 bucks. Sweet! Good month for it! I would have far preferred to have had a fully functioning stove and paid normal rent as usual, but hey! I REALLY appreciate it, and that's nice on the pocketbook.

December 19th: met Razz, daN, the Bogs and Kal-El for dinner at the Border Cafe in Harvard Square for a farewell goodbye session before Kal-El moves out to California :( I'm really going to miss him, but we had a great time all together.

December 20th: today. Christmas shopping is all but done, wrapping as well, and i'm honestly looking forward to going to Maine. We are most likely going to stay at the empty Bogdanove home, housesitting style, while they drive their son to the other coast. That means that we'll have one place to keep our suitcase, toiletries, PJ's, and one place to sleep. We'll still be bouncing around seeing people everywhere, but we won't be dragging our worldly belongings with us every time we enter and exit a domestic residence. It won't be such a production to go to and from people's houses, because we'll just have ourselves and presents. We're getting away from the fiasco of the last couple of years (most recent trips to Maine) where we had ourselves, presents, presents we'd already received, and our suitcases. Whew! AND, we'll have DOWN TIME! YEAH! I'm really looking forward to this. It's amazing what a difference that can make.

So, if i don't write again before Christmas, which i probably won't, Merry Christmas. That's what i celebrate. If you celebrate Chanukah, Happy Chanukah, too. May it be a relaxed and blessed time of year where you get to enjoy what it's really all about -- being with loved ones. I know I'll be enjoying it :)