29 December 2008

WIP: Living With Charm (Lizzie Kate)

WIP - Week One
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Here's my progress after one week of stitching the Lizzie Kate project. The colors in this shot are a bit more accurate than the one from last week. I took this shot in the daylight versus at night last week.

My spacing between Remember and Give is a bit tight, but I didn't want to rip out all the letters in Give, so I just let it be. I had to rip out a significant part of Dream and didn't want a repeat of that.

There are twelve motifs in all, so I'm about 1/3 of the way complete. With the holiday this week, I hope to get a little more done. In fact, I think I'll head downstairs and start prepping dinner and then get to work on Listen and Learn.

28 December 2008

Me and My Shadow

Me and My Shadow
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

On Christmas Day, Mark and I took the dogs to the dog beach in Manasquan. The girls had a lot of fun running free along the beach and Suki even explored the mud exposed by the tide being out.

I had a lot of fun snapping photos of the two of them (and Mark) on the beach, but I also took a few shadow photos of me and Tara - this being my favorite. I like how the shadow makes me look tall (and thin) and her look like a big dog, not the 18 lbs she really is.

24 December 2008

WIP: Living With Charm (Lizzie Kate)

WIP - 23 Dec 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I started work on this Lizzie Kate piece this past Saturday (20 Dec) after coming home from the MetroStitchers holiday party.

After spending a Sunday afternoon correcting my errors, I got some quality time in during Monday Night Football and this evening. I've got the bulk of the second motif (Love) complete and with a bit of luck, I'll be able to start on the third motif sometime tomorrow. I have been stitching the border as I go along -- it's pretty much mindless work and I don't want to save it until the very end.

I had forgotten how much I don't like working on Wichelt linen -- in hindsight, I wish I had gotten a neutral evenweave instead. But I'll press on and finish this on the linen.

Stay tuned for more updates on my work-in-progress.

22 December 2008

Snow, Smiles and Stitches

Current WIP
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

On Saturday morning, I made the drive up to North Jersey to meet up with some of the MetroStitchers for their annual holiday party at a local needlework shop. The MetroStitchers are a group of needleworkers (loosely interpreted to include knitters, crocheters, cross-stitchers, beadweavers, etc.) living in and around the MetroNYC area.

I met many of these women and established friendships while I lived in Brooklyn. Since moving to Jersey, I've kept in touch via email/phone with many of them, but attending actual events has not been one of my strong points. Since this party was scheduled, I had been looking forward to it with great anticipation. So much that the threat of a winter storm on Friday into Saturday had me slightly bummed.

The storm didn't amount to much down in my area so I soldiered on and made the hour long trip up north to sit and stitch with this talented group. They had a lot more snow up there, but they have cleared it pretty well, so I'm glad I made the drive. I saw friends who I hadn't seen in 2+ years -- simply wonderful to sit down, chat and catch up with them. I know I really don't want to go that long without hanging out with them again.

For the better part of a 2-3 years, I've not been inspired to stitch much. But a few weeks ago I got an itch and the needle and thread have been flying. I've made a wedding sampler for one friend (and her husband who's pretty talented with needle and thread himself) as well as starting on Christmas piece for me and a secret piece for another friend. I've been spending the evenings on the sofa, dogs beside me, stitching away. Even my Sunday routine has been slightly altered -- instead of being a barfly all afternoon, I'm not spending part of the afternoon at home, watching football and stitching. (Maybe me and my needle was what was needed for the Bengals to start winning. ha ha.)

The shop we gathered at is a needleworker's idea of heaven - all the charts/designs, fabric, threads, embellishments that you could ever imagine is there. While my dry spell didn't stop me from shopping, my record spending sprees were never challenged during that period. I did do a little damage on Saturday - picking up two pieces that I really liked, one of which I started Saturday evening.

This is a series of Lizzie Kate designs that will be stitched on one long piece of fabric. The designs can be stitched individually, but I didn't much care for them that way. It was when I saw the entire series of designs stitched as one, I fell in love. I saw this several months ago (maybe last Thanksgiving at my mom's LNS) but balked at the cost of the charts. On Saturday, I snapped up all the charts, the fabric and necessary threads. My current progress can be found in my Flickr album, but the photo is what the finished piece will look like - although framed differently, I'm sure.

As with any needlework project, counting mistakes are bound to happen and I spend the second half of the Eagles game undoing the damage done by the frog. (Rip-it, Rip-it - for those not in-the-know about the frog.) By the time of the Sunday night game, I had corrected my error and re-stitched the portion of the design I had ripped out. I actually was able to start work on the second motif (Love) of the design.

I'm quite pleased that the weather held out and I was able to make it up north for this gathering. I missed some of the MetroStitchers who didn't attend (some people just don't want to leave Manhattan) and hope that I'll get to see them in the near future at another event. I loved being amongst people who share my love of needlework and I think this was what I needed to kick-start my creativity again. I'll have to look at the calendar and see when I can schedule a stitch-in at my house -- the infamous Stitching with Stanley event. (Stan proved to be a great host the first time I had the MetroStitchers over, so every any event at my house is now known as Stitching with Stanley.)

15 December 2008

In Memoriam

Alan and Etta
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

One year ago today, my FIL passed away. His wife (and Mark's stepmmother), Etta, had passed away earlier in the year. Add this to the fact that my (step)father, Homer, passed away in August, it's easy to say that 2007 was not the best of years for us.

When we went to Florida in November, we flew into Ft Lauderdale - both Mark and I commented that it was odd that we weren't going to visit his dad while we were down there.

While we lived up north and he lived down south, Mark spoke to his father daily. I would speak to him infrequently, but always enjoyed my conversations with him. Like me, he shared a love of reading and he and I would recommend or swap books amongst ourselves.

Tonight I sit here and remember my FIL with fond memories. I know he had a long life, filled with joys and sorrows. My life is richer for having known him - I only wish that we had more time to enjoy each other's company. I like to believe that Alan (as well as Etta and Homer) are with us still - if not in life, at least in spirit.

RIP Alan. You are missed by all of us.

14 December 2008

Drive-By Santa: 2008 Edition

Drive By Santa 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Every December, Santa Claus comes riding through the neighborhood on a fire engine. You hear the sirens from miles away and finally the parade comes down your block.

The first year this happened, Mark and I wondered what the heck was going on. We heard sirens for quite a while and when it got loud, I went out to investigate. I was probably about 1/3 of the way down the block when the caravan turned down our street and I came running back to the house to share the news.

The past two years the dogs and I waited outdoors to see Santa. This year I was walking Tara and Suki when Santa stopped a few doors down (the local fire chief's house) so I snapped a few shots there.

It's nearly an hour later and I can still hear the sirens - faintly. The dogs and I didn't make it to get their photos with Santa this year, so I'm glad they got to see him come by, even if they didn't get to sit on his lap and tell them what they want for Christmas.

11 December 2008

Mac's Alive!

img 093
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Two months ago, we adopted another cat from the Monmouth County SPCA - Mac.

Mac is the quintessential scaredy cat. You just look at him and he gets spooked. He's pretty much hid in his carrier or under our bed since we brought him home, with the exception of feeding or using the litter box.

However, over the past few weeks, he's been venturing out more. He no longer runs when he encounters a two legged resident, but if you turn your back or break eye contact, he'll scamper away to his safe haven. On Tuesday, while I was out back playing with the dogs, I found him sitting next to Stanley, looking wistfully at the leaves blowing about the great outdoors. When the dogs were ready to come back in, Mackey Mac was nowhere to be found.

Last night as I was watching TV, I saw his face pop around the corner and then he strolled into our kitchen. I stood up and he scooted off, hopping over the baby gate into our dining room. My camera was handy, so I snapped a couple shots of him in new places - under the dining room table, next to the living room sofa.

He's still skittish, but he seems to be making progress. He'll sleep on the bed now, let Mark pet him briefly, and explore the house. He's quite a nocturnal creature - and gets the other cats involved in his last night hijinx. I wish he were a cuddlebug like the others, but I don't know if he'll ever completely warm up to humans. We'll give him all the time he needs. I have to think he's much happier here, having a house to patrol versus the cage he was in at the SPCA.

10 December 2008

A Gift from the Heart

Wedding Sampler
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Now that the wedding is past and the happy couple are on their honeymoon, I can share the 'top secret' project I've been working on for the past couple months.

I knew from the time Jenn and Kevin announced their engagement, I wanted to stitch them a wedding sampler, but I wasn't keen on the traditional wedding samplers. In June, I did a search on Hoffman's to see what came up and I fell in love with this one by Bent Creek. I ordered it through Elegant Stitch, but for whatever reason, they could not get it in although they ordered it over and over again. With less than three months to go, I began a blitz, calling shop after shop, finally finding the chart at my mom's LNS in Cincinnati. Graciously my mom ran over to the shop, picked up the chart and the required threads and sent them to me.

I hope that Jenn and Kevin will appreciate my gift as much as I enjoyed stitching it. I'm all about handmade gifts from the heart. I chose not to frame it, but to give them a gift card so they can choose a frame to their liking.

As for the particulars - I used the threads called for, but the fabric was a piece of 28 ct Quaker Cloth (Kiwi Illusions - exact color is forgotten, perhaps Merino). All in all, I think it turned out quite lovely.

08 December 2008

Tara's First Snow

img 065
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

...in New Jersey, at least!

We woke yesterday morning to a light dusting. As Tara came from Florida (via the Eskie Railroad) when I adopted her and had lived in Lower Alabma previous to that, I wasn't sure if she had experienced snow in her life.

I opened the patio door yesterday and she and Suki trotted right out. I had to coax both of them off the patio and onto the yard, but once there, Tara acted like nothing was out of the ordinary - doing her business as usual. She did skirt the edges of the yard though once she realized there were some patches without the white stuff.

While Tara took it all in stride, I'm still anxious for some significant snowfall so I can see how she reacts to snow up to her chest. Bring on winter -- I've got my coat, I've got my gloves, and I've got my boots. All I need is snow!

28 November 2008

Holiday Thanks

I realized yesterday, as I was finishing up my baking, that I really do have a lot to be thankful for, but often I take it for granted.

I want for nothing. I have a house over my head, food on my table, clothes to wear (although some are rather too large for me now), a wonderful husband and fantastic friends and family. I am lucky enough to be able to travel the world, indulge myself with assorted craft supplies and books, and hang out with my dogs and cats.

We spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws, meeting in Staten Island instead of driving all the way to my SIL's in Long Island. For that I am extremely grateful! Last year, a normal hour to 1h, 20m drive took us FOUR and a half hours. I did not want to do that again. The food was great, the company delightful. It's not the same as being with my family, but times change. Even Thanksgiving at my Mom's isn't the same anymore without my grandparents. I had fun, enjoyed the cameraderie and that's what's important.

I made a Praline-Pumpkin cake to take with us - it was delicious. Since a couple people asked for the recipe, here it is:

Praline-Pumpkin Cake

1 spray(s) cooking spray
15 oz canned pumpkin
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) fat-free egg substitute
1/2 cup(s) sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
18 1/4 oz unprepared white cake mix
1/2 cup(s) pecan halves, chopped
1/4 cup(s) reduced-calorie margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Stir pumpkin, milk, egg substitute, sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a medium bowl until smooth; pour into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and gently press it into pumpkin mixture to moisten. Sprinkle cake with pecans and then drizzle margarine evenly over top.

Bake, uncovered, until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely before slicing into 16 pieces. (WW points info: 5 points for one slice.)

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

img 004
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

The praline-pumpkin cake is in the oven, but my pumpkins pies are done. Here's a shot of one of them last night.

After debating whether to try a new (Weight Watchers) recipe or my grandma's recipe, I opted for grandmas. I did however made a few concessions -- using fat free evaporated milk and egg substitutes.

Here's my grandma's recipe:

1 large can pumpkin
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
2 c. milk (I use one can of evaporated milk, then top off with regular milk to bring it to the required amount.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Makes 2 9" pies.


21 November 2008

Home Again

Crown Princess @ Grand Turk
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

After 7 days at sea aboard the Crown Princess with stops in Princess Cays (Bahamas), St Maarten, St Thomas, and Grand Turk, we landed in Newark about 12:15 PM on Sunday. Perfect timing - my Mom picked us up at EWR and we made it down to Kelly's for lunch and football before the 1st Quarter of the Bengals-Eagles game was over.

All in all it was a wonderful trip -- for the first time ever, I think both Mark and I were able to relax fully and not think about anything back in the 'real world'.

The Crown Princess is a stunning ship. Our stateroom was on the Aloha Deck (12) and was perfect for the days when we were in port. We sat on our balcony as we entered and as we left port. I took a bajillion photos - some great, some not so great, but that's the beauty of digital photography.

Our first stop was at Princess Cays - the cruise line's private island on Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It's pretty much a beach with not a lot of other stuff to do - although I did discover there was some souvenir shops on the island as we were getting ready to head back to the ship.

Mark and I rented snorkel equipment and he gave it a whirl. I started to, but decided the beach was just a bit too rocky, so I set off on a walk along the beach, looking for shells. In his snorkeling attempts, Mark found a small but gorgeous conch shell which we tossed in our bag to bring home with.

Our first day at sea was also formal night. Earlier in the year, when Mom and I went on a cruise, we didn't bring dressy clothes, so we bypassed formal night. Mark was really into it and we rented a tuxedo for him which was waiting for us in our stateroom. There were a few issues with the fit of the tux, but we managed to get it resolved prior to the first formal dinner. Since I've lost weight, none of my dresses fit, so I had a shopping spree at Lord & Taylor - getting several dresses for less than $35. I took four of them with me, figuring I'd return the ones I didn't wear - and that's what I did. For some reason, I didn't bother asking anyone to take a photo of Mark and I together on formal night, but you can see how we looked all dressed up here (me) and here (Mark).

If it's Wednesday, it must be St Maarten -- or so that's what I thought when I woke up. Our original plans were to go to Orient Beach (St Martin - the French side of the island) but once we were on the ship, we had a peek at the excursions and swapped out a day at the beach for a kayaking adventure. With our French-speaking guides, we kayaked in a lagoon on the Dutch side (although we did paddle to the border), toured the mangroves, and then went out into the ocean and swam for just under an hour at Simpson Bay.

I was really surprised at how hilly/mountainous St Maarten was -- guess I thought the islands were flat and boring. We had to travel a bit around the island to get to our kayaking site - so we saw a bit of Phillipsburg, the Dutch (side) capital. If you've seen on Caribbean city, you have a basic idea of what Phillipsburg looks like. We didn't stop to shop -- even though St Maarten is supposed to be a place for bargains on jewelry and watches, we weren't in the market.

Before boarding the ship, we had a drink at one of the bars in the cruise terminal. Mark decided to try the local beer, Carib. He drank one, then a second one before pronouncing it 'awful'. He said the Heineken served post-kayaking was much better.

Our next port of call was St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. For some reason all passengers had to go through an Immigration Drill before they could disembark. Mark and I had to take a letter to one of the lounges, turn it in, show our passports and were issued a landing card. I think it took the ship's crew longer to print out and deliver the letters than it did to get everyone through the immigration process.

Like St Maarten, St Thomas is a mountainous island as well. Although our ship docked in St Thomas, we didn't spend much time there. We were ferried over to St John for an eco-hike adventure. Over the course of the trip to St John, our guide pointed out the homes of celebrities on the island: Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan (lives just down the hill from MJ; wonder if they ever have pick up games?); Wacko Jacko, and Madonna to name a few. Yes, I took pics.

We hiked the Lind Point trail from Cruz Bay and ended up on Honeymoon Beach. I think this was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been on. The water was so clear and warm -- I didn't want to come out of the water to catch the transport back to the ship. The hike was a lot of fun and I took several pics along the way.

Before we hopped back on the ship, we stopped for a drink. I had a Diet Coke while Mark tried the 'local' brew - Virgin Islands Summer Ale. He proclaimed it to be quite tasty, but was disappointed to see it was brewed in Maine. We both agreed that we liked what we saw of the USVI and thought we'd like to come back and stay at a resort for a week or so.

Remember that beautiful conch shell Mark found for me in the Bahamas? On Friday morning, he noticed something trying to crawl out of it. Eek! I asked him if it was empty when he found it and he thought it was -- but there was a crab living in the shell. We decided to take it ashore in Grand Turk and return it to the sea.

We docked in Grand Turk shortly after lunchtime on Friday - unlike St Thomas and St Maarten, Grand Turk is f-l-a-t.

I knew that Grand Turk had been hit hard by Hurricane Ike in September, so I wasn't expecting too much. Other than the beach, diving or snorkeling - or getting drunk at Margaritaville - there ain't much to do on Grand Turk, even without Ike's help. Our original kayak excursion had been canceled, so we opted to do a catamaran/snorkeling excursion instead.

We joined several others and hopped on the cat and after a brief sail and snorkeling tutorial, we found ourselves at the Grand Turk Wall. Before our visit, I'd never heard of the wall - but I saw it when I went snorkeling. My words won't do it justice -- but imagine swimming in the ocean water about 25 deep and then all of a sudden it drops off; to 6000-7000 feet. Yes, that's 6 to 7 thousand feet deep. To see this while snorkeling, along with many fish of all different colors, made me wish I almost was certified to dive. Almost. I'm still kind of freaked out about diving after reading Shadow Divers.

After the snorkel, we boarded the cat again and she put in closer to shore so we all could swim for a bit. I jumped right in (lovely warm water) and Mark grabbed some snorkel equipment for a second go around. The cat's crew mixed up pitchers of rum & coke/rum punch and swam out to serve the other swimmers. Once I was back aboard the cat, I looked to see Mark snorkeling with his rum punch held up out of the water. I tried to take a photo, but never quite successfully caught him face down/cup up.

We had one last day at sea while we traveled from Grand Turk back to Port Everglades. Because of this, we slept late and decided we'd hang out by the pool. At breakfast we ran into one of the couples from our dinner table who invited us to hang with them.

I went to claim lounges poolside while Mark went to the room to get his book. When he came back, I was in the hot tub, strawberry daiquiri in hand. When he tells me it's too early to be drinking, I insist it's 10:45 - at least that's what my watch says. When our dinner mates arrive, I ask them to confirm the time - 9:50 AM. At this point, I'm horrified to realize I've been drinking since 9:15 AM -- but as you know, it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.

We both woke up early Sunday morning before the ship was docked, so we sat on our balcony as the ship pulled into Port Everglades. The debarkation process was quite smooth and quick -- we were at the airport by 8:45 AM and managed to get on an earlier flight. We were back in Newark before our scheduled flight left Ft Lauderdale.

Would we cruise again? Definitely!

On Princess? Oh, hell yea!

We purchased future cruise credits and are looking at a 10 or 11-day Caribbean cruise in 2010. I just need to figure out which itinerary interests us most and keep an eye on pricing. We'll definitely do another balcony -- sitting out there as we entered/left ports was delightful. In the meantime, we're looking to go to Ireland together in 2009 and I'm booked on an Alaskan cruise (with my Mom) for May 2009.

It's hard to believe a week ago, I was on the Crown Princess, enjoying temps in the low 80s. Here in Jersey it's in the 30s and they're saying we could have snow early next week. While I'm glad to be home, part of me wishes I were back on the islands.


P.S. For the record, I gained 3 lbs on the cruise - which I didn't think was bad. I did step on the scale in the ship's gym and it told me I had gained 9 lbs. Of course, all scales are not equal, so not knowing what I started out as on the gym scale, I was quite pleased with only a 3 lb gain on the WW scales. I've tried to eat well this week so I'm hoping that those 3 lbs will be 'alcohol weight' and disappear quickly.

20 November 2008

Another SPCA Star

Check out the cat at 0:20 -- it's Mac!

Update: Lauren just left a comment on YouTube that Mac's featured about 3:55 as well. Go Mac - you're a star!

08 November 2008

One Day More

The bags are packed, we've checked in for our flight, and I've confirmed our 4 AM pick-up with the car service. We're ready. Now if Paloma will just stay out of our travel path, everything will be hunky dory.

I'm a bit stressed -- feeling like I've got a million and one things to do before we leave. Mark wasn't helping much saying stuff like "We can finish up in the morning. We'll have time." Don't know about you, but I don't function well at 3 AM -- especially on a short night's sleep.

I'm trying to unwind a bit now before taking the dogs for a last walk and showering before crawling into bed. Mark's been in bed for about an hour already -- he's sleeping. I guess he'll be all bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. I'll be grumbling looking for hot tea.

I drove the car to Philly this morning and left it at the airport for my Mom. She'll be arriving tomorrow to dog/house sit while we're gone. Took the train back to Trenton where Mark picked me up. Not a bad trip -- about 1h, 20m from the airport. Not that I'll do it frequently, but it worked out well this time.

At this time tomorrow, we'll be out to sea and heading towards our Caribbean adventure. I'll have plenty of photos once we're home again. Looking forward to warm weather and hopefully a bit of sunshine.

04 November 2008

Election 2008: Get Out and Vote!

I believe polls are open across most of the Eastern US now - so my fellow Americans, get out there and VOTE!

Not even 100 years ago US women didn't have the right to vote. But a movement that started small and grew into a loud voice called for change. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucrecia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul stood up for what they believed was right. In 1920, their dream came true -- American women were given the right to vote.

I don't care who you vote for just as long as you do. Please, just vote. Even if you don't care for either of the Presidential candidates, there are local races where your vote can make a difference.

I have just come back from casting my vote for the next President of the United States. Although I didn't have any line at my polling place here in Central Jersey, the poll workers told me there were between 40-50 people waiting on line at 5:30 AM. (Polls open in NJ at 6:00 AM.)

I will be staying up tonight to watch the results as they come in -- and surely missing Tim Russert. I pray that the results are obvious tonight. I do not want a repeat of 2000. I want the people to decide who our next President is, not the Court.

So, if you haven't voted yet -- what are you waiting for?

01 November 2008

Halloween Recap - It's O-V-E-R

Tara - Halloween 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

We survived. Tara donned her Indian costume and sat with me as I greeted the trick-or-treaters. Suki, sans costume of course, sat with us and greeted the kidlets with her mighty bark.

I didn't go all out this year with the full size candy bars like I did last year -- instead, I got fun size Tootsie Rolls. Went through a bag and a half, so I'll return the one I didn't open today. (Yea, I'm thrifty.) I purposely held off buying candy until the actual day. I didnt want to be tempted to nibble on it. I did pretty well, until I got some of the mellowcreme pumpkins. (Two pumpkins = 1 point for my WW pals.)

There were an assortment of costumes - my favorite was a little girl dressed as a NY Jets Cheerleader (her first time going trick-or-treating) and her Dad was dressed as Brett Favre (as a Jet). The worst -- a six year old in a burqa who told me she was a "terrorist." I'm still shaking my head over that one.

What really annoys me and has me to the point of turning off my light and never giving out candy again is the lack of manners some kids have. Several rang my doorbell and when I didn't answer immediately, they bolted to the next house. Fine - you don't want to wait, that's okay with me. But what really burns me up is that I open the door and they stand there looking at me. When I ask what do you say they stare at me. If you want candy, you better well say 'Trick or Treat'. Or the kids who start grabbing for the candy. Geez louise.

I'm grateful for the parents who come up the drive with their children and remind them of Halloween ettiquette. Or the kids who come and say 'Trick or Treat' without prompting and 'thank you' for what I'm handing out. Are simple manners just not taught by parents/guardians any more? I know my Mom would have been there to gently remind me if I neglected to say thanks -- even if I didn't like what given to me.

It's over for another year. Now I hope that people will take down their big obnoxious blow-up Halloween decorations. I do love this holiday, but the blow-up decorations look ridiculous in front of peoples' houses in my neighborhood. Of course, now come the big blow-up Santas, reindeer, snowmen, etc...

23 October 2008

Cruise Countdown

Cruise 2008 - Day 4
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Only 17 more days until we leave for our cruise. It seems like plenty of time, but there's so much to do before we leave.

We'll be sailing on the Crown Princess, departing Ft Lauderdale and calling at St Thomas, St Maarten, and Grand Turk. It'll be my second cruise and Mark's first. I'm excited and hope he is too. He rented a tux for formal nights, which I think is kind of cool. Of course, I've got to get busy and make some jewelry to go with the dresses I purchased for the cruise.

For the next 2.5 weeks, I'm gonna be busy taking care of last minute details. While the 3 AM wake up for our 6 AM flight is going to come early, I know once I'm on the ship I won't have a care in the world. At least not for 7 days.

19 October 2008

Six Months Later...

Allaire State Park
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

It's officially 6+ months since I joined Weight Watchers. While this isn't the best recent pic of me (love that I'm looking over my glasses), it's from yesterday's walk with the dogs at Allaire.

As of this morning, I'm down a whopping forty-seven pounds. I'm still agog that I've lost that much weight and sort of depressed that I got to the point that I have that much (and more) to lose to get down to a healthy weight.

I did go to WW on my birthday, but I went to an earlier meeting than my usual 10:30 AM slot due to other engagements that morning. I lost 0.6 lbs last week, which I was grateful for after the bridal shower on Saturday, but what I was really celebrating was the fact that I had been there 6 months, I continued to lose weight (some weeks better than others) and the fact that I had a great support group in the others at my meeting and a fabulous group leader. I got a little teary eyed sharing my thanks with the members of the 9 AM meeting -- but really if it wasn't for other members sharing their successes and reminding me that I'm not alone on this journey, I don't know what I was have stuck with it as long as I did.

It's not been easy - I've had my share of roadblocks. (As much as I'd like it to be, candy corn is NOT a vegetable.) But I've also learned that I can eat whatever I want -- within reason -- and still follow the program. Plus, exercise is a lot more enjoyable than I ever thought it could be. I still don't like running or lifting weights, but I've discovered that I really enjoy the aquatics and yoga classes at the gym. The verdict is still out on pilates.

Speaking of the gym -- I had my quarterly assessment with the nurse last week. My initial assessment was in July -- since then I'm down 19+ lbs and have lost 2" each in my bust, waist and hips. I compared that to my initial measurements from when I went to try on bridesmaid dresses in March and I'm down a total of 18" inches (all inclusive).

I'm down 3-4 sizes depending on the item and designer. Mark used to tease me about shopping at what he calls "The Forgotten Woman" -- now I'm shopping in the misses department. I'm wearing mediums in some items -- which absolutely floors me. I've cleaned out my closet again. I've got plenty of new tops to get me through winter, but I need trousers/slacks still. Clothes shopping is fun again. (Okay, I still don't love it -- but I don't get as frustrated as I used to get.)

I've still got a ways to go to reach my goal -- about another 30 lbs. I'd love to be able to do before I reach my 1 year anniversary, but it'll come off in due time as long as I stay on program. Whenever I'm tempted by a not-so-smart choice, I hear the voice of my meeting leader in my head asking "What do you want more?" Nine times out of ten that's enough to make me put down the offending item. However, sometimes one just has to has to have the cheesecake.

Here's to hitting 50 lbs total before we leave for our cruise next month. It would be nice to hit that milestone beforehand, but I'll still have to watch myself while I'm on the ship.

18 October 2008

Allaire State Park

Allaire State Park
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Yes, it's another dog photo!

Mark and I took Tara and Suki over to Allaire this afternoon. We walked through Allaire Village for a bit and then along another path. I let go of Tara's leash at one point and snapped this shot of her boogie-ing down the path.

17 October 2008

A Dog's Life

Dog Beach - Manasquan
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

This afternoon, after going to the gym and having lunch, I took the 'girls' out to the dog beach in Manasquan. For the first time, I let both of them run off leash.

Doesn't Tara look like she has no cares in this shot? Heck, if I had her life, I'd have no cares either.

Suki stayed close to me most of the time, not really sure what to make of some of the "big" dogs (Labs, Weimerainers, Shephards), but Tara ran off to make sure they knew she was there. It was pretty funny to watch my 18 lb Eskie run up to these bigger dogs, bark and run off.

More pics of the day can be found in my Flickr album.

15 October 2008

Shower Survivor

Jenn's Shower
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

It's over!

The big bridal shower was held on Saturday, October 11th and I survived. It was a great success -- the bride had a blast (and I hope she was at least a little bit surprised). So many people, from near and far, showed up. I was amazed we fit them all in the bride's mother's living room, especially with the number of gifts there were!

After stressing for weeks about whether or not I'd make it to the day, I did. The lunch was fabulous -- I still can't stop talking about the pasta salad (fusilli pasta, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes). I don't normally eat pasta salad, but this was the best. pasta. salad. ever. The cake was delicious too - I was quite impressed with Stop & Shop's bakery.

I am relieved it's over now. I feel like I can relax and have a little 'me time' now although there's just a few more engagements I have to deal with before we leave on our cruise in 25 days. I am going to be so glad to board the ship and think about nothing but having fun for 7 days.

14 October 2008

Shore to Please - An EtsyNJ Treasury

Treasury 14965
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I logged on to etsy this evening just in time to grab a treasury. As usual, I used my space to feature my fellow EtsyNJ street team members. While summer might be over, the blues/greens of the Jersey Shore are still alive in my memories.


13 October 2008

Another Etsy Treasury

Etsy Treasury 10/12/08
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

What a pleasant surprise to discover I was featured in an etsy treasury on my birthday. I don't think I know the curator, so that a total stranger chose to feature my earrings in her treasury makes it even sweeter.

08 October 2008

Dog Walk 2008

MCSPCA DogWalk 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

As promised - pics from the Dog Walk can be found here.

Tara and Suki were both well behaved and made many new friends. Tara met Elwood, the world's ugliest dog. If you have a peek at the pics, you'll see she tried to give Elwood a run for his money with the tongue loll.

Idid meet my fundraising goal (thank you everyone!) and according to the email I received from the SPCA this afternoon, over $125,000 was raised for the shelter. Yea! That means more animals can be saved and housed until their forever home comes along.

Besides the walk around the campus, there were many vendors there selling pet related goodies and others giving away freebies. I got a ton of food samples for the girls to enjoy. In hindsight, I should have had Mark get a bag and fill it up with samples as well.

We also met several dogs available for adoption -- I was particularly drawn to Maud, a beautiful 7 month old black lab. As much as I would have loved to have brought her home with me, I wasn't ready for a puppy. Plus, I don't think the cats would have been too happy to have another 'big' dog. They get along just fine with Suki and Tara - both of whom are less than 20 pounds.

While we were at the shelter on Sunday, we were surprised to find several photos of Henry on their alumni wall of fame. Two were definitely those I sent in, the others were from his time at the shelter and or Santa Paws. (There was the photo of him and Suki at last year's Santa Paws event.) Many of the shelter volunteers remembered Henry and told us how wonderful it was that he spent his last years with us. I sure do miss that dog.

Thanks again for everyone who made a donation to me or Team Henry. As you know, we're big fans of the shelter and adopted another cat from them this week. That's it though - th e zoo is full.

06 October 2008

Meet Mac

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Our latest adoptee from the Monmouth County SPCA.

Mark and I went looking at cats yesterday and decided that shy Mac needed a home to call his own. However, since they now require a vet check and asked for us to bring the dogs in to see how he'd react, he didn't come home with us yesterday. I took Suki and Tara up for the 'meet and greet' this afternoon and as you can tell - it was successful. Neither dog nor cat seemed phased by the other.

Apparently Mac has 'grown up' in the shelter. He was adopted out once (in 2006) and returned because the resident cat was beating up on him. We decided to give him a chance - he's quite scared at first, but once he's on your lap, he just wants to stay there and be pet.

I spent over an hour with him this afternoon, just petting and comforting him. He's still timid, but I think he'll be that way for some time. Just hoping he'll come around soon enough -- although I'm not sure we need a fourth cat on the bed.

04 October 2008

Indian Princess Tara

Tara - Halloween 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Since Snaggletooth (aka Suki) refuses to wear a costume unless she can draw blood, I went the easy route and subjected Tara to the humiliation. Honestly, she doesn't seem to mind - she just goes about her normal routine dressed as Pocahontas.

03 October 2008

Walking for Henry - Update

Joyful Henry
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC


A huge thank you to everyone who responded and donated to Team Henry for the Monmouth County SPCA Dogwalk. As of last night, we were only $10 from our goal and I think I can scrape up enough coins from the sofa and car to reach our goal.

With four animals (and counting) adopted from the Monmouth County SPCA, I think it's pretty obvious how grateful I am to this wonderful shelter. Henry, Suki, Sadie, and Lily are just four of their many alumni who have found happy forever homes. While I constantly surf their site, I know that I can't take every dog and cat home with me; although some are really hard to resist.

Tomorrow is the big day. For those local, it's not too late to join in the fun. Grab your dog and head on over to Brookdale Community College and join the others celebrating the good deeds of the Monmouth County SPCA. Photos of the event will be coming tomorrow or in the next couple days.

28 September 2008

42 Pounds, 29 Weeks Later

42 Down
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Twenty-nine weeks after I started Weight Watchers, I have lost 42 pounds. To see where I was when I began the journey - go here.

This photo was snapped today at a luncheon with my sorority sisters. The dress I am wearing is one I purchased several weeks ago for our upcoming cruise. It was a bit snug then, today it fit beautifully, if not a little loose in the bosom.

It's not been easy - there have been times that I've felt like giving up, but the idea that I can be a 'hot mama' (okay, forget the fact that I'm only a dog or cat mama) with a little more work keeps me going. My husband has been encouraging in his own way. Of course, even if I lose 100 pounds, I doubt that my bum will ever be small enough for him. I've accepted the fact that I'll never rid myself of my thunder thighs or ample bum. It might be smaller and firmer, but I'll always have curves.

I continue to go to the gym regularly. I've become quite a yoga-holic. I was taking a yoga class every Friday morning, but it was cancelled due to a lack of students. (There needs to be an average of 8 students over 8 weeks, and we were always just under. *sigh*) I chose that class because I really liked the instructor. I tried the Sunday 7:30 AM class again today. There was a new instructor from the last time I took it (in July) and I liked her quite a bit. I think that I'll be back in the groove of taking yoga on Sunday mornings again -- provided I'm not out until the wee hours on Saturday night.

I hoped to make it to 50 pounds lost by my birthday in two weeks but my gain last week threw a crimp in that plan. While I am only eight pounds from reaching that goal, I won't be upset if I don't make it by my 41st birthday. As long as I keep losing, that's fine with me. I just need to stay focused and work towards my ultimate goal - WW lifetime member.

18 September 2008

Walking for Henry

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

On October 4th, Mark and I, accompanied by Suki and Tara, will be walking in memory of Henry at the 2008 MCSPCA/RBVH Dog Walk and Pet Fair to raise money for the Monmouth County SPCA.

Henry and Suki, along with two of our cats (Sadie and Lily) are MCSPCA alumnae. While many shelters wouldn't have given an older dog like Henry the time to find his forever home, the SPCA knew his family would come along eventually. Although our time together was short, I truly believe we gave Henry the best years of his life. He never wanted for anything and was one spoiled pup.

This year, I decided I was going to walk and raise money for the SPCA to give back to them for giving Henry (and many other animals) a chance to find happiness. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss my dog. But I know that he spent the last years of his life with people who loved and cared about him instead of in a cage at the shelter.

If you feel so inclined, the link above will take you to my fundraising page. No amount is too small. Please help me help the many animals waiting, like Henry did, for their forever home.

14 September 2008

Forty Down - Getting Closer to My Goal

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

This morning, I weighed in and while I had an inkling it was going to be a good day, I was shocked to have the scale tell me I lost 5.2 pounds this week. Although I was doing Core Plan, I did fall off the wagon a bit this week -- Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses -- but I guess that fall wasn't too far.

Although I promised photos monthly to show off my weight loss, I haven't been too good at keeping to that. This shot was taken last Sunday in Belmar where we went to see what sort of surf TS Hanna was churning up. That's after 35 pounds lost, but it's close enough. If you don't remember what I looked like when I started, you can see pics here.

Last week I purchased some capris/shorts on clearance in a size 14 -- that's a misses 14, not a 14W (women's). I can already get them on and zipped up without sucking in the gut, but they're just a wee bit tight. I'm hoping that 5 more pounds will make them comfortable so i can wear them on the cruise. I've also got two pair of size 12 jeans that a friend sent me and hoping those will fit by the time the colder weather rolls around. It's about 4 weeks to my birthday, so I'm eying 50 lbs lost as a goal by then. I think it's doable.

On the subject of clothes, as I was purging my closet, I came across several items I'd ordered from Coldwater Creek in October 2006. I called them to ensure I could return them and I took the first batch back to the shop on Friday for a $113 credit on my Visa. Woo hoo. I've got a few more things to return to them so I'll probably get another $80 or so back. Sometimes it's worthwhile to clean out your closet afterall.

I'm off to a brunch with my sorority sisters this afternoon, but since I don't know what's on the menu (other than the Ambrosia I'm taking), I'm having a bit to eat here with Mark first. That way if there's nothing appropriate for me, I won't be hungry.

12 September 2008

Les Misbarack

I'm a huge fan of Les Mis (the musical) and when I saw this clip I laughed so hard, I cried.

09 September 2008

Turn That Frown Upside Down

I was a bit melancholy today as it's Henry's adoption day. Two years ago, that lovable pup joined our household. As he was a senior dog, I knew we didn't have forever, but I had hoped it was longer than we did.

I found myself moping around a bit today, thinking about how much I miss him when I received an email from Stacey of Three Red Trees. I had contacted her several weeks ago and asked if she would make me a custom sock dog -- a Henry. She accepted my challenge and today, she emailed me that Henry was done and ready to make his way to his forever home.

I'm pretty pleased with the photos she sent -- one of which I've posted here. What do you think? I can't wait to see my Henry sock dog in person. What a fabulous ending to a day that didn't start out so happy.

06 September 2008

Waiting for Hanna

lucite beads
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I woke up to a cloud covered sky this morning. Took the dogs out to for a morning walk and was hit in the face by an oppressive humidity.

I am anxiously awaiting Hanna's arrival on the hopes that she'll blow through and bring some relief. We could use the rain -- both Mark and I remarked over dinner last night that we can't remember the last time it rained here. Our neighbor's grass is brown, but ours is still green (thanks to the sprinkler system).

I'm enjoying my last weekend of nothingness before the madness starts. After this weekend, I'm pretty much booked solid every weekend with an event either relating to Phi Mu, my friend Jenn's wedding, or football. Granted, going out for pizza at Pete & Elda's on Sunday to watch the football games isn't a hardship, but it really does infringe upon my 'free' time.

We leave for our cruise in a little over 2 months. We finally decided on what we'll do while in St Maarten and I've ordered Mark's tux. I still have several cocktail dresses hanging in my laundry room and need to decide which ones will be going on the ship with me. I bought the pictured lucite beads to make jewelry to go with one of them. Now to sit down and make my jewelry -- it might not be gemstones and gold, but it'll be much more my style and no one else will have anything like it.

I've gone back on the Flex Plan this week and I've struggled a bit. I'm not sure if weigh-in tomorrow will be a plus or a minus. I'm hoping for another loss as I'd really like to hit the 40 pounds lost mark, but if it doesn't happen tomorrow, then I'll just regroup and focus on hitting that target next week. It's just over a month away from my birthday and I'd like to get over that hump and be closer to 50 pounds lost -- which is my goal by the time we leave for the cruise.

It's past noon now and no rain yet - just lots of clouds. Guess I'll take the dogs for a spin around the block one more time. Better to take them out when it's dry -- wet dog smell isn't one of my favorite scents.

01 September 2008

Oh, the cuteness!

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

26 August 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

I hit a little bump in the road last week - gaining 2.6 pounds. It's my biggest gain since I started Weight Watchers back in March and although I was totally aware that I was slipping up during the week, I couldn't quite get myself back on track. When the scale told me that I gained, that was the impetus needed to shape up. I was hoping to reach my goal of 40 pounds lost by Labor Day weekend, but unless I lose 5 pounds this week, it ain't happening. That's okay - I'll get there.

I was doing the WW Flex Plan for the first several months, but in early August, I switched over to the Core Plan to see if I could give my weight loss a jump start. It worked. I lost 5+ pounds lost that first week on Core; almost 2 pounds the second week. (Let's not remember the Week 3 slip-up, please.) Core is a bit more challenging to me - I have to really think about what I'm eating and plan ahead. But when I do that, I find that I'm not nearly as hungry throughout the day. Yes, the pasta/rice/potatoes are limited -- but considering I can have them once a day, I'm not missing them too much. (I still haven't acquired a taste for whole wheat pasta, but that's a topic for another day.) I find that Core forces me to eat a more balanced diet - ensuring I get in my dairy and fruit/veggie servings more easily than Flex. Those 100 calorie packs are just a little too tempting on Flex, but on Core I don't want the 'spend' any of my weekly point allowance on them when I'm just as satisfied with fruit, popcorn, or (my new favorite) pudding.

Last week was a bit challenging because I ate out a lot -- probably the most I've ate out in a single week since I started WW. I made smart choices at times, but other times the menu was so limited I just fell back and ordered the usual. My gain wasn't unexpected, but I had hoped it wouldn't be as bad as it was.

That said, I have had fun trying new recipes since I've been on the Core Plan. Two of my favorites (provided the links work) are Spicy Black Bean soup and Pan-Seared Chicken with Garlic Sauce. I modify the soup slightly -- as I don't like corn in soups, I substitute an extra can of black beans instead. The chicken is wonderful -- but as the recipe calls for 12 cloves of garlic, you better like garlic. I served the chicken with brown rice -- the rice soaks up the extra sauce on your plate and gives it an delicious flavor. The other WW recipe that's become a staple in this house is the Moroccan Chicken with Chick Peas (or as it's now known amongst my friends - Mo Rocca Chicken). This dish calls for white rice, but as I prefer brown rice, that's what I use.

I'm still focused on my goal to lose more weight. I'm pleased at (and proud of) how far I've come since March, but realize I have a ways to go yet. I think I'm FINALLY down to what I was (or less) on my wedding day. If I had my wedding dress here, instead of at my Mom's in Ohio, I'd try it on to see if it fits. I feel a thousand-fold better - I have much more energy and stamina. I don't remember where Mark and I were a few weeks ago, but I flew up a flight of stairs effortlessy - before I would be winded before I got to the top of the stairs.

While I'm not wearing a bikini this summer as my husband hoped, I'm optimistic that next year it may be possible. (Not really sure I want to wear one as I've always have thunder thighs, but we'll consider it.) I'm enjoying discovering new foods and find that I'm not missing a lot of things that I used to eat. Although yesterday I did splurge on a Goo Goo Cluster. K-mart had them on sale for $1/box, so I bought one and tried one. It was good, but I put the rest of them in the freezer. If I'm tempted in the future, I'll have to wait for it to thaw out.

20 August 2008

Rant du Jour

lucite bracelet
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Over the past week, I’ve received three invitations from friends/neighbors/co-workers to various jewelry parties – Lia Sophia, Silpada, you name it. I’ve wavered between finding it amusing to being slightly annoyed with these invites.

In the case of my co-worker who probably doesn't know what I do outside of my day job, I’m more forgiving. With my friends and neighbors, it’s been quite hard to sit there with a smile on my face and politely decline when I’m fighting back a response along the lines of “Uh, hello? You know I *make* jewelry. Whatever gave you the slightest idea that I’d want to purchase some overpriced, mass-produced crap?

Granted, there’s a time and a place for this sort of jewelry – just not in my jewelry box.

I’ll admit I can’t make everything – either because I’m not skilled in the technique or I have no interest in working with certain materials, so I am still in the market to purchase jewelry from others. But I don’t want to have the same jewelry everyone else has – which is why these jewelry parties turn me off so. I want to buy handmade. I want jewelry that is different from what everyone else wears. I like to support these artists at the local craft fairs or the not-so-local artists who sell their wares on etsy. (I may sound a bit like an etsy shill, but I’m in awe of the work of some of the sellers there – jewelry or otherwise.)

I’ve been considering hosting an open house/trunk show event and asking a couple of my fellow EtsyNJ team members if they’d be interested in participating – but the reality is that my autumn schedule is already pretty solidly booked. Off in the distance is an idea of hosting a jewelry party of my own after hours at work. Just things that are mulling around in my head, but that would possibly help me and my work get noticed – and in the long run, maybe fend off some of these unwanted invites. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to a day in the studio on Friday. Ideas are bouncing around in my head and I’d like to either get them down on paper or the beadboard.

14 August 2008

Remembering Henry - in stitches

Remembering Henry
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

When my mom was visiting over Memorial Day, we took a trip to one of the cross-stitch shops in the area. I saw this chart which reminded me of Henry sitting with his back to us. Of course, the colors of the dog on the chart were different, but I bought it anyhow, knowing that I could customize it to match my beloved pup.

This past weekend, I felt the urge to pull out needle and thread again, so I grabbed this chart and went in search for Henry appropriate colors. While watching Michael Phelps win gold medal after gold medal, I've been stitching away on this piece. I swapped out the entire thread/fabric choices. It was charted with yellows, but I went with the reddish browns instead to capture Henry's coloring.

Now that I've finished the piece, I need to decide what to do with it - frame it, make it into a mini pillow (it's approximately 4.5 inches tall x 2 inches wide), or put it into the drawer under the bed with all my other finished and unframed projects.

The particulars on this piece are:

Designer: Ever So Little
Fabric: 28 ct Light Mocha Cashel Linen
Threads: Weeks Dye Works Hazelnut and Cognac, DMC 801

13 August 2008

Oh My Begonias!

Garden Flowers 2008
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Just a quick post to say that I am alive and well - but exhausted.

There's this little thing called The Olympics that has been occupying my time -- or rather a certain athlete whose name sounds an awful lot like Michael Phelps. I don't think I've been in bed before midnight since Sunday. It's catching up to me. Since Phelps is not swimming in any finals tonight, I just might crawl into bed at 8 PM and read until I can no longer keep my eyes open.

Some of the begonia bulbs I planted in the spring have started to bloom. This one is right outside my front door, next to my new stoop. I think I'll move it next year -- just so it can have a bit more room to grow. No flowers on the other begonias yet; hoping it's just a matter of time.

The weather here in Jersey has been simply gorgeous the past few days. Temps are in the 70s/80s during the day, low humidity. We turned off the AC and opened the windows. I can't believe this is the middle of August - it feels more like September. But I won't complain -- I'll gladly take this weather over 90+ degrees and 90% humidity.

While I've been watching The Olympics, I've been busy stitching a piece in remembrance of Henry. I'm almost done with it - just need another night or two and then I'll take a photo and post it. I've adapted the colors in the piece to better capture his coloring. I'm excited at how quickly it's stitched up.

Okey doke, gotta walk the dogs one last time before bed - then it's lights out for me.

06 August 2008

To Quench Your Thirst

Lemon Lime Earrings
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Yes, after a few weeks, I finally put some of my bead booty bonanza to use. Just listed in my etsy shop are these pretties. They're lightweight, lovely and all around summery. I feel like a glass of ice cold lemonade (or limeade) right about now.

There's a bajillion other resin beads just screaming for me to put them to good use, but this will have to do for now. My mojo is back - for now - and it's time to get those ideas that are in my head into reality.

03 August 2008

Review: Pledged - The Secret Life of Sororities

An above-average read.

Don't let this fool you - this isn't a tale of everywoman's sorority experience. It's the tale of FOUR women Robbins followed over the course of a year. Binge drinking, drug use, cattiness, eating disorders - yes,while those things happen in sororities, they are not isolated to sorority women. Trust me - I saw plenty of that in my (all women) dorm.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a sorority woman. I could relate to some of the events in the book, but much of it was foreign to me. My chapter didn't have a house; however, one year I lived with some of my sisters in an off-campus apartment. I believe we would have faced many of the issues we did regardless of whether or not we were sorority sisters.

One bit that I did find interesting was Robbins' comparison of the traditionally white sororities versus the traditionally black sororities. I've often questioned why many women I meet who were intitiated into NPC groups don't consider themselves a sister after their college years; those who pledge an NPHC group are sisters for life. While the NPC groups do have national philanthropies (for which many of their events are fundraisers), the NPHC groups focus on community service. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned from the NPHC groups.

Twenty-some years after my initiation, I am still active in an alumnae chapter. I have lived across the USA and have belonged to many different alumnae chapters. Wherever I've gone, I've found me an instant family -- and like a biological family, I've had sisters who I didn't particularly care for. However, my current alumnae chapter has provided me with great friends who I can count on in good times and bad. I'm definitely proud to be a sorority woman -- and believe that it's for a lifetime. While my collegiate experience was an overall positive one, it's the alumnae experience that has taught me the value of sisterhood.

31 July 2008

Buy Local, Buy Handmade

Here's a reminder for those of you in the area to check out the Handmade Faire - Halloween Edition on October 25th, 2008.

The Handmade Faire is organized by one of my fellow EtsyNJ team members - AbbieRoad. Unfortunately, due to other scheduling conflicts, I haven't applied to be a vendor there - but there will be plenty of other artists and crafters selling all sorts of handmade items.

The spring event was a great success and I'm sure this autumn event will be too. If you're looking for unique gift items that you won't find at the local big box store, be sure to check it out. I'm trying to figure out how to get there in the morning and make my afternoon/evening commitments in the northern part of the state without too much stress.

28 July 2008

Girls in their Summer Cuts

Tara and Suki
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Always a Springsteen reference from me, eh?

Suki and Tara went to the groomer this morning. For those who have followed my blog for any period of time, you'll know that the Diva - aka Drama Queen Suki - is anything but easy to groom. We've resorted to giving her tranquilizers just to get her calm enough to be handled.

Today, I took her and Tara to Purr N Pooch in Wall Twp. The tranqs were just starting to kick in as I dropped her off and every time my cell phone rang, I was certain it was going to be the groomer telling me she was unmanageable.

After running a few errands, I called to check on their status and was told they'd be ready in about 30 minutes. I opted to have lunch and then pick them up. When the door opened and I saw Suki all shaved down, I squealed in joy. She looks great - a little funny - but that's less Suki fur to deal with on the carpet, the sofa, the bed.

The groomer herself said something I thought I'd never hear in regards to la petite Cujo - that she'd welcome the opportunity to groom her again. Apparently she had her moments -- she doesn't like it when someone gets near her face or tail, but otherwise she was fairly well-behaved. Perhaps with a consistent grooming pattern with the same groomer, she'll learn to trust.

They're pretty much conked out on the floor now. It's a warm day, but I think they'll be happy to have "shed" some of their fur, particular Suki. I'm pretty much sold on the groomer and despite it being a 20-30 minute ride (depending on whether I can remember WHERE they are located), with this success, I'm willing to make that trip.

I'm anxious to see what Mark thinks about their new cuts -- he'll be back Wednesday evening.

26 July 2008

Bead Bonanza

AC Moore Clearance Bounty
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

This evening, I ran to AC Moore to purchase a flag case for the flag we got at Mark's dad's funeral as he was a Navy vet. Of course, while I was there, I spied a bead clearance section -- I couldn't not look.

I came home with at least two strands of everything pictured here -- resin beads and some Paula Radke dichroics. They were all marked 50% off and on top of that I had a coupon for 25% off my entire order. My entire bead purchases cost me a whopping $60. I think I did pretty good; I don't think I could have gotten the dichroics for less wholesale.

I'm hoping this little splurge on beads lets me find my mojo again. It's gone walkabout. Mark is out of town Monday and Tuesday nights, so perhaps I can hunker down in the studio and see what springs from my bead board. It's been a long time since I've made anything with these hands. Too long.

20 July 2008

The Weekend that Wasn't....

Friday night I drove up north to have dinner and play poker with my sorority sisters. It was a good time, even though I didn't win. I was home by midnight and didn't encounter any DWI checkpoints on the way.

Saturday, Mark purchased tickets to the Trenton Thunder game. It was hot and muggy during the day, so the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a ballpark and watch a game while the sun sets in my face. Nevertheless, we jumped into the car and drove to Trenton. As we approached the ballpark, the lot is empty. Then, I notice the stadium is empty. At this point I look at the tickets and realize they're for NEXT Saturday, the 26th. I still haven't stopped giggling at that oopsie.

Today, I went to WW in the morning (lost 0.8 lbs for those who want to know) and stopped at Nordstrom while I was at the mall. I'm a little miffed that no one from the Philosophy counter bothered to call me about the anniversary sale specials. I didn't manage to snag a bottle of Amazing Grace body wash, so I'm gonna have to order it online (if I want it).

When I got home, we decided to go to the beach. We changed into our beachwear and applied sunscreen and hopped in the car. Got to Spring Lake, found a park spot, paid our beach fees, and parked ourselves in an open spot. Not 10 minutes later, the skies opened up. The rain came down in buckets -- it hurt! We waited it out, crouched under our umbrella before I finally said to heck with it and we made a dash for the car. Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the rain abated and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds again. We said to heck with it, dried ourselves off and went to grab a bite to eat.

This evening, we attempted to go see the B-Street Band (yes, that's a Springsteen tribute/cover band) at the Headliner, but when we got there - no parking to be found. So we went back to Freehold and purchased tickets for the 8:30 showing of The Dark Knight. We had 90 minutes to kill, so we went over to Jersey Freeze and then Border's. We got back to the theatre to find the line for ticketholders snaking down the side of the building. After about 10 minutes of debate, we returned the tickets and decided we'd catch the movie at a later date.

On the way home, Mark asked me if I wanted to play mini golf. Knowing that he doesn't enjoy it, I said no. He then proposed bowling. I didn't have socks on and neither did he, but I remembered my gym bag was in the back seat. I found two pair of clean socks, so we pulled into the lot of the bowling alley.

We played two games - I won both. According to my husband, since I'm part Polish, it's only natural that I'm good at bowling. (I'm not sure scores of 113 and 109 respectively make me a good bowler, but at least I was in triple digits.) I had a lot of a fun bowling and would love to do it more. Of course, now I have to figure out how many activity points I get for an hour's worth of bowling.

I'm hoping that we'll get to see The Dark Knight later this week -- but am fearing that Mark's interest will wane and I'll either have to see it alone or else wait for it to come to DVD. A pity, as it's the first movie in a long time that I've been excited about seeing. But not enough to risk having a crappy seat in a packed theatre. I'm working on getting him to agree to a matinee.

18 July 2008

Hank's Legacy

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Today, it finally hit me that Henry's gone and nothing's gonna bring him back. (Well, his ashes will be here soon enough.) There's an empty space in the house, but at the same time, I feel a little relieved because I don't have to worry about what I'm going to come home to each night.

The cats are starting to venture downstairs again. Sadie actually came into the family room and napped by the door to the patio for a bit. With a bit of luck they'll not be intimidated by the girls and I can move the litter box back into the laundry room. Henry liked the cats just a little too much -- he didn't quite understand they weren't squeaky toys -- so they've been living primarily upstairs for the past 20 months. I think they'll be glad to have the full run of the house again.

This photo was taken on the Sunday before we said good-bye. I brought him upstairs into our guest room and just lay down and hugged him and told him how much I loved him. He didn't often stay in bed with us, but he let me hold him for quite sometime that evening. Thanks for that quality time, Hank.

Over the course of the past week, I've been cleaning house - taking his stuff that the girls can't eat/use and giving it away. I've sent some stuff to a friend in Texas who does rescue, given odds and ends away to co-workers for their dogs, and lastly I've got a bag of stuff to take up to another friend tonight to see if her dogs can use it. I like to think that Henry's smiling down on me and saying "Way to go!"

Thanks to those of you who've made a donation to the Monmouth County SPCA in Henry's memory. I hope that another dog (or cat) will benefit from your generosity and be well cared for until they find a forever home as Henry did.

15 July 2008

By Request

Every Picture Tells a Story
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I originally wasn't going to post this collage, but a friend at work told me I should because it might be inspiring to others. So here I am, over the past 6 months -- 30 pounds lighter in July 2008 than I was in Dec 2007/January 2008.

Some of the comments I've had from friends/neighbors/coworkers:

  • "I just told asked my mom if you were anorexic. You look great!"
  • "Is it just me or have you lost a ton of weight?"
  • "You're the incredible shrinking woman!"
  • "I was checking you out the other day - you're looking good."

There's still a significant amount of weight that I want to lose to achieve my goal and become a lifetime WW member. If you had told me I would have lost 30 pounds in 4 months, I would have laughed in your face. But now I believe. And I'm actually okay with people taking pictures of me again.

14 July 2008

Remembering Henry (1996-2008)

Henry - Belmar (April 2008)
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Although he was approximately 12 years old, Henry only joined our house at the estimated age of 10 years in September 2006. Twenty two months and four days later, we said farewell to him. My heart is aching and the tears won't stop even though I know it was the right thing to do.

When we adopted him from the Monmouth County SPCA we knew that we wouldn't have forever, but we were determined to give him the best life he'd known, for whatever time we had. I think we did. For a dog with arthritis, he loved to walk - and walk, and walk. Whether it be at the reservoir or at the beach, he was always eager to get out of the car get moving. It was rare that he'd tire out before us.

The last few months have been difficult. He had his ups and downs, his good days and his bad days. When we thought he was on his last legs, he would rally. I took to calling him the Amazing Rebound Dog and his rally after the events of last Thursday amazed me again with rebound on Friday.

By Saturday afternoon though, we knew the end was near. He rallied, but then crashed. We came to the decision that it was time and tried to make his last day at home as comfortable as possible. If our V-E-T had office hours on Sunday, we would have been there. I briefly considered taking him to the emergency V-E-T, but in the end decided that I wanted to take him to Dr B for the last time. I spent a chunk of time both Saturday and Sunday nights on the floor with him, petting him and telling him how glad I was that he chose us. He really was the best dog in the world. I like to think that he's off chasing kitties or rabbits right now - free of pain.

On the way home from the V-E-T his leash and collar were on the seat next to me. At a red light, I picked up his collar and out of curiosity put it around my neck. It fit. Now I'm trying to figure out how to adapt it into a piece of jewelry I could wear. Typical Marci, eh?

As for phone calls and emails - please don't be offended if I don't answer or reply right away. Although I'm blogging, I'm not sure that I want to talk about Henry at his time. I'm still a blubbering mess and probably will be for the next day or so.

And please, don't quote the Rainbow Bridge poem to me either. I know it's meant to be comforting, but at this point, it's more annoying than anything. Henry's in a better place - where he's happy, healthy and free of pain. That I do believe - and with a bit of luck, one day we'll meet again.

When we lost two of our cats in the course of a week in March 2005, many friends sent cards or gifts. If you feel the need to do so this time, would you consider a donation to the Monmouth County SPCA in his memory instead?

For those of you with dogs, cats or other pets, be thankful for their love and companionship - and give them a little extra love and affection today. They can never get too much of that.

13 July 2008

Full Frontal

Surf Club - Ortley Beach
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

Here we are at the Surf Club in Ortley Beach on Saturday night.

We went to see John Eddie and Gary U.S. Bonds play there tonight. Stayed for John Eddie, but left around midnight and walked back along the beach to Seaside Heights where our car was parked. A nice workout walking in the sand, but hopping the gate in Seaside wasn't my most graceful moment.

For the first time in I don't know how long (years!), I'm happy to have pics taken of me. It's only been 25 pounds lost, but it's made such a difference. I'm still not fond of full body shots, but this one doesn't make me look too huge. I've got a fair amount of weight to lose still, but I'm happy to smile for the camera again.

11 July 2008

The Last 24 Hours...

Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I came home from work last night to find Henry dazed and disoriented, collapsed in a pile of his own waste next to our wall unit in the family room. No idea how long he'd been there, but he was totally unresponsive when I called his name. I scooped him up, put him on his bed and called the V-E-T.

As I waited to reach them, I started to clean up the mess he had made. Ick. I got hold of the V-E-T and sobbed out my story to them. I really thought this was the end for my guy. I was told to bring him in and at this point I called Mark to tell him to meet me there when he got off the train.

I took Henry out back and hosed him off a bit -- he still wasn't able to stand. If I put him up on all four legs he was fine as I held him, but the moment I took my hands away, he collapsed. *sigh*

I wrapped him loosely in a towel and put him in my backseat for the ride to the V-E-T. (So glad my door is fixed!) He whimpered quite a bit on the way and struggled to sit up, but couldn't manage it. When we arrived, there were several other dogs in the waiting room, so I told the techs I'd wait outside until they were ready for him. I eventually brought him in as it was warm outside and he just laid on the seats in the waiting room. Even the techs who know how lively he usually is could see something was not right.

Mark arrived and it was our turn to see Dr B. Henry did manage to stand up and walk to the exam room - but very gingerly. When he hit the floor of the exam room though, he lost his footing and went boom. Dr B gave him a thorough exam and nothing was broken or sprained, but based on his scrapes (he's got big gash and bump on his nose) he thinks he fell and hit his head good. After much talk between us and Dr B, we opted to have him get an injection (anti-inflammatory) and take him home to see if he improves. If he perks up in the next day or so - great; if not, we'll have to make a decision on what we're going to do next.

I spent a good chunk of the night downstairs on the couch in the family room where he sleeps. Around midnight he started to cry and struggled to get up. He lost his footing on the family room floor so I helped him up and walked him out back. He was shaky, but he managed to get out to the grass and do his business. I brought him back in and settled him in on his bed for the night. He fell asleep and so did I. When I woke this morning he had gotten up and made it into the kitchen and was laying on the floor.

I don't really know what's going to happen, but after last night, I'm exhausted. I do think I'm going to head out this afternoon to look for some runners or throw rugs that I can put down so he can 'get a grip' and walk around a little easier. There's a few patches of bare floor which he struggles with, so I'll try to make him a path from his bed to his food dish to the door.

I'm not sure if we're nearing the end or he'll rally like he usually does when he has a bad spell. All I know is my heart was in my throat when I came home last night and found him laying there. When he didn't respond, I imagined the worst. I got a reprieve this time, but I"m not sure how many more times I'll be that lucky.

07 July 2008

Viva Paws Vegas

Tara does Elvis
Originally uploaded by MarciNYC

I found the Elvis costume while searching for my Sirius receiver today. (No, I haven't found it yet.) I decided since I had so much fun with Stanley way back when, this time it was Tara's turn.

A few more pics can be found in Tara's Flickr set.