This is more serious than my previous posts, but I do have a passion about politics and more specifically, knowing the facts. I liked and re-blogged this post since it states facts, and not just by focusing on Democrats vs. Republicans, which has divided this nation, and frankly, in my opinion will lead to more meltdown (economic, social, you name it).
Everyone should learn the facts and vote in their elections for the candidates whose actions speak for themselves. I almost don’t care about what the candidates say anymore, it all boils down to what they do.
A large portion of people may consider themselves a Republican for a variety of reasons, but please know what you are doing by voting for them. It may not be what you intended. Learn the facts!

Be a Seed for Change

It’s been more than 250 days since the GOP took control of the House, and Americans are still asking: Where are the jobs, House Republicans?

The middle class is hurting, and the Republicans’ only answer is a plan to end Medicare and give tax breaks to Big Oil and companies that ship jobs overseas.

Learn more about the legislation the House has considered this Congress:

The Republican Default Act»

H.R. 1315 – Assault on Consumer Protections»

H.R…

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Girls Weekend – Napa and San Francisco

This past weekend I went to Napa and San Fran for a girls’ weekend. This was in celebration of my upcoming nuptials, which haven’t been planned yet, but will be soon, we promise! Due to my other friends being pregnant, getting divorced, going to a wedding, buying a house, going to a Memorial Day BBQ, there were only 3 of us going. Guess that is the curse (or benefit, depending on who you talk to) of getting married later in life. Too much going on. Here are the stories and recommendations:

The Plan:

My dear friend J is an event planner – for a while by occupation, now just for fun. Below is her actual email after weeks of planning:

“Really looking forward to our trip. You will find the Friday agenda below, lots of wineries in a limo on Friday. Friday night we will most likely want casual dinner and drinks. Saturday left open for more wine tasting within walking distance or via train and spa or shopping if we so choose. On Saturday we will probably head over to San Fran around 3:00pm or so and then have dinner at Farallon at 8:30 http://www.farallonrestaurant.com/ and of course I will have some nightlife lined up as well.”

Followed by our Friday agenda:

    • SFO Airport pick up at 11:00am (6 person limo with champagne for 8 hours)
    • Bistro Don Giovanni for lunch 12:15 to 1:15pm
    • Mondavi 2:00-3:00pm
    • Beringer 3:00-4:00pm
    • Sterling 4:00-5:00pm
    • Hill 5:30 -6:30pm

Then the most telling part of the email, I called it a “warning”:

“Rest up we will have a fantastic time.”

Awesome. I told my other friend, S, that J doesn’t sleep very much and to be prepared for a whirlwind. I went to Vegas with J (on a work trip, I have to add) and I couldn’t get her to go back to the room at 3AM w/o pouting. She is a ton of fun and I knew she wouldn’t disappoint.

Day #1:

8AM flight, got there by noon CA time; once we arrived, it was on! The limo driver, Vijay, was right there with a sign with J’s name on it – perfect, didn’t even have to turn our heads. This was absolutely the way to go for both the transport from SF airport to Napa and around Napa to the wineries that day. Not only is J a terrific event planner, she is cost-conscious (but not annoyingly so), so I know she did a lot of research on the value. She said to take a Town Car from airport to Napa it was over $200. We got the entire limo for the day for $690, all in. Champagne chilling when we got in; nothing beats that. Company was California Wine Tours – they did an excellent job! (800) 294-6386; www.californiawinetours.com

Next up – lunch and WINE! We ate at Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa, www.bistrodongiovanni.com.  We ate outside and viewed the beautiful landscape. This place is the “epitome” of Napa, per our trusted local source. It is right in the middle of a gorgeous vineyard. Very reasonably priced for a 3.5 out of 4 stars. We sat outside overlooking the vineyard. I had this tremendous duck pasta dish and we all drank great Italian wine.  Perfect place – a wonderful start to the trip!

Back to our new buddy, Vijay.  Riding in the limo was fun and so easy – we didn’t have to lift a finger, which was a good thing, considering the large amounts of wine to be ingested. Onto stop #2 – a wine tasting!

Our schedule got swapped around a bit due to slight flight delay so we had to consolidate. We went to the Hill Family Estate in Yountville for a wine tasting (see “Best Memory” below) and then to Beringer.  http://www.beringer.com/ 

At Beringer, we got a tour of the wine caves and had the VIP tasting back at the family house. I am borrowing the following from a local work colleague of J’s since he had great recommendations and didn’t steer us wrong:

Some favorites are Beringer, Chateau St. Jean & Mondavi. When you wine taste location is important because they are spread out and you could spend all day driving if you try to see wineries in different counties on the same day.  One mistake people make is to try to hit too many wineries in one day. It is best to pick 2-4 (depending on proximity) and take your time, enjoy the wines, stop for lunch in the middle, etc. You can even do some shopping in between. Great downtown areas in St. Helena & Yountville in Napa County, as well as Healdsburg & Sonoma in Sonoma Valley.

If we had a full day, I would have wanted to hit 4, but considering the timing, 2 was plenty. We checked into the hotel, which was nice and in a perfect location, a 5 min walk from downtown Napa.  http://www.napa-riverterraceinn.com/

Before dinner, we took a much-needed “Nap-a” after drinking all day in Napa. We ate at Angèle, a French restaurant. The least favorite place of the trip, unfortunately, but that says a lot about the trip. Apparently everything shuts down at 10PM in Napa but we didn’t know that, so when we arrived at 9:30 we were told that the kitchen closed at 10.  That sounded just fine to us and we just ordered everything right away.  They seemed mildly annoyed about our timing so the service was a bit strange.  In addition, the place was packed so it wasn’t like we were the only ones there.  Food was only average and it wasn’t cheap, but we had read several good reviews so maybe it was a bad night.  A positive was that they had an interesting wine list that offered one of my all-time favorite wines, “The Prisoner”, for $65, which is a deal. Typically it is $35 or $40 in a store and $90 in a restaurant, so I was happy.

No nightlife in Napa (thankfully) so we walked back to the room and went to sleep – what a day!

Day #2:

We had a fabulous brunch in Napa – we walked over to the Oxbow market, about a 5 min walk,  near the downtown area we ate at the night before – www.oxbowpublicmarket.com/ 

The market was awesome and had several choices. We ate brunch at the Kitchen Door – delicious!  I highly recommend the Kobe Burger, but the food all looked very good. For my first glass of wine for the day, the waiter recommended a nice Coppola red blend to go with the burger and it didn’t disappoint.

And of course more wine before our ferry to San Fran. We sat down in the market at a cute wine bar called Ca’ Momi.  We tried all of the reds and really liked the Cab & Merlot blend. They are a small boutique winery and you can order wine online at their website. http://www.camomiwines.com/

Made it back to the hotel for the cab to take the ferry to San Francisco.  We took the ferry from Vallejo http://www.baylinkferry.com/ (about a 20 min cab ride -$45). We used Black Tie Taxi Company- it was actually a Town Car so it was very nice. http://www.blacktietaxi.com/  I recommend the ferry for transport to SF, it was only $13 each and took about 45 mins or so.  Scenic as well; we went under the Golden Gate bridge (happy 75th birthday!).

We arrived in one piece at the next leg of our journey, San Francisco!  Traveling tip – if your iPad map tells you that a walk is 1.2 miles and that sounds OK to you, remember that it is much tougher with luggage.

We stayed at Hotel Nikko in Union Square. Very nice room and location. Reasonably priced for a big city, especially for a holiday weekend. We upgraded to the club floor for $40 which actually paid for itself by the free happy hour and breakfast.

Dinner that night at Farallon was very upscale and amazing if you like seafood. http://www.farallonrestaurant.com/.  Obviously it was very fresh and of course we had more good wine!  A friend that could not come on the trip bought us a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon.  It was quite good and very nice of her to do that.

We then tried to go to a club in the immediate area but it was not our scene.  Clubs in Chicago actually contain people over the age of 25 but not SF apparently.  It was way too crowded for being so early by club standards (about 11:30PM).  We stayed for 15 mins and went back to the room.  Oh well, we had lots to do on our last day!

Day #3:

Shopping!!

Shopping  in another city than Chicago is always rewarding since the sales tax is usually much less. So I thought about my shopping in San Fran as buying things on sale, which made it OK!  In addition, there are usually more small sizes in cities like NYC & LA. San Fran was similar. Is this because there are more small people or less? I don’t know and I do not care, since I got a pair of size 35.5 Prada coral espadrille wedges that I had been eyeing for 40% off (and 5% less tax- oh yeah!).  Didn’t receive them yet but I will post a pic in a future shopping post.

We had a lot of fun in SF in a short time.  We were only there for 22 hours and went shopping, ate 3 meals and walked around a ton.  Look at those hills!  Talk about working on your glutes!

Next time we will plan more time to do other touristy stuff like Fisherman’s Wharf, riding a trolley car (I took a pic at least!) and hitting China Town.  We had all done those things on previous trips so we elected to stay in our immediate area and just enjoy our short stay.

So that’s it – we all made it home just fine and the dogs mauled me when I opened the gate. They apparently were waiting patiently until they heard the key open the door.  I missed my family!!

Best Memory:

Loved Napa and getting the VIP wine tours and tastings. If I had to pick one specific memory it was the excellent host we had at Hill Family Estate winery, Ryan Hill.  www.hillfamilyestate.com

I highly recommend going there to taste the spectacular wine and you will enjoy the company as well. If I could have gotten a picture of my friends’ faces when Ryan walked in the room, that would have been absolutely priceless.  (Go to the pictures on their website if you can’t figure out why!).

Thanks Ryan for the hospitality and signed bottle of Pinot Noir.  I told the girls that we will drink it when we finally set our wedding date!


My Journey to 10K

I have always been active and in pretty good shape, doing such things as kick boxing, step aerobics and boot camp training classes, but I have never considered myself a “runner”. Until May 2011, that is, when we were herded down to Grant Park in Chicago for the Chase Corporate Challenge. We all work for Gatorade, so it was difficult to tell my coworkers, “No, 5K (3.1 mi) is too much for me, I will take a pass”.

When the experienced runners wanted to “warm-up” by running from our office to the starting line, I was leery and lagged behind with a few others.  Seriously, were they crazy?  Not only was it 40 degrees outside, it was at least 3 miles to the start of the 5K race.  We took a cab to Starbucks, which was fairly close to the starting line.  Warm-up complete!

So there I am, freezing and waiting to run, hoping I will complete the distance without killing myself.  Most of my coworkers run marathons and compete in triathlon races so I would be lying to say that peer pressure did not have a hand in getting me outside to run.  Did I mention that until now I had only jogged on a treadmill?  Running in a race with thousands of people in downtown Chicago is entirely another story.  My approach was to run at a pace that made me comfortable since I didn’t train at all for this, therefore I didn’t have a gauge on how long of a run I was doing. It worked and I survived; time was 27:41, not bad.   I felt pretty good about it, actually  So I decided to keep running.  Next up – a 10K.

We have a lot of trainers and scientists that work for our brand and I was determined to utilize the information at my disposal.  To be honest, before I started working here, I didn’t realize the scientific benefits of Gatorade or electrolytes or even carbohydrates.  I knew carbs gave you energy but my knowledge stopped there.  At this point in time, I was working on a project to launch a new beverage to drink before you workout, G Prime (4oz pre-game beverage). I learned that before your race or workout, you need something that will give you energy (calories, carbs) but not leave you jittery (caffeine).  This particular product has 30g carbohydrates and 110mg of sodium.  The specifics of why I needed these things did not resonate at the time but I started drinking it before I ran and I really noticed a difference.

I never ran in the past because I did not enjoy it, plain and simple.  I never reached that “runner’s high” or state of relaxation I hear people touting.  I got stomach cramps and muscle cramps and that was enough for me to not push forward with this activity.  After I started drinking G Prime before and Gatorade during my workouts, I realized that these things that prevented me from running in the past weren’t happening anymore.  I have a degree in Industrial Engineering so I am a problem solver by nature.  I knew I introduced a new variable to my workouts but I wanted to understand this better.  After talking to my peers and other subject matter experts, I started to understand a little about the science behind the great-tasting red (or blue or purple) drink.

By adding Gatorade to my workout, I was easily able to start running faster and farther.  I had the energy to keep going and wasn’t stopped by stomach or muscle cramps.   This is mainly due to being hydrated (Gatorade is 94% water), and by adding sodium and potassium (the other 6%) which helps with the cramping.  I learned that you had to drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration without over-drinking.  When I drank just water, I felt too full and had that “sloshy” feeling in my stomach (note that is not a term that the Gatorade scientists used).

So I trained for about 3 months, running 1-2x per week, for my 10K.  I continued the other portions of my workout (kick-boxing primarily) since I wanted to cross-train.  I tried to run at a comfortable pace, increasing distance without compromising how I felt.  I was not as regimented as most runners with my training schedule but I did what worked for me.  By the time I got to the weekend of the 10K, however, I was getting cold feet.  I realized I had never run that far in my life (6.2 miles).  But yet again, I had peer pressure to contend with, as this was a charity race for Susan G. Komen and I was leading the team to organize our company’s participation.  So again I had to do it!

The unfortunate part of running races is the early morning start time as well as the cold and rain in this particular instance (i.e., not fun), so I was a little concerned about the outcome. But I ran the race in about 54 mins and the seed was planted.  I was determined to keep this going and improve my time and distance.

After all of this, I still had a lot to learn.  This was a work in progress. I knew I needed to continue doing what worked for me but not much more than that.  At this point, I started thinking about my next race and goal.  There was a 15K coming up in 2 months so I signed up for that.  Training for that was a little more serious (9.3 miles – that was scary to think about) so I knew I needed to learn more about how to ramp up to that distance.

Next up….a 15K!

Got Botox?

If you read my first post, you know I am now on a “budget”. I have categorized my spending in great detail and I know that I spend an average of about $200 each month on beauty products. This does not include hair cuts, nails, etc., just products. In 6 months, that is $1200, 1 year, $2400, you get the math. This also does not include my new addition to the beauty repertoire, Botox.

I got Botox yesterday for the 2nd time for $360. During the visit, the Dr. asked me what my skin care regime was and I rattled off several high end department store brands like La Mer eye cream (the “miracle broth”!) as well as my new purchases from Barney’s, Dr. Sebagh (Cindy Crawford’s dermatologist – I would think he knows his stuff).

After hearing the extensive list of products, he stated that the department store products will never do what Botox can do for wrinkles. This is not the first time I have heard this, other dermatologists state this in articles, blogs, etc. Now, you skeptics out there may be saying, “They want to sell their own product lines.” OK so let’s go there. Before blowing $1100 on Dr. Sebagh’s line at Barney’s, I used Dr. Perricone’s skin care line, which is fairly expensive ($100 for eye cream, $250+ for his premium products). I asked my Dr. about those; he did hedge a bit and state that the Dr’s lines are better but still not at par with Botox and surgical procedures.

So…my thought is this: Should I stop spending so much on serums, creams, masks and exfoliating scrubs and just get Botox every 6 months or so? Or taking it a step further should I save that $ for a eye lift, face lift, etc. when nature calls for those measures? I am not against plastic surgery by any means; obviously I am not against Botox (however my fiance is but I think it is very sweet that he loves me as-is). Bottom line, I am conflicted to not use these products; I mean who really knows what they do? I could look 10 years older now if I didn’t use the products I swear by. Or I could look the same. But I only have one face and I want to keep it as young as possible for as long as possible so I guess I will continue on my current path.

More to come; I go back for my 14 day checkup to see if he used enough or he needs to add more. At $18 per cc (used 20 cc’s between my eyes on my forehead), it can add up pretty quickly. Last time I got Botox, no one noticed this but me, but I did notice less annoying wrinkles between my forehead after about a day or so and after a couple of weeks I seriously couldn’t find them anymore, even obsessively looking into my magnifying mirror (BTW, do not look at this after drinking or if you are depressed – it will not help, trust me).

For those of you that are nervous about it, don’t be; it would take a ton of Botox to give you that “frozen” look. Using normal amounts will stop your furrowing brow from happening, not stop you from having facial expressions. Who wants a furrowed brow anyway? That isn’t a pleasant look. You can always communicate your feelings if you choose (e.g., “I am confused.”) rather than have them show up on your face and inevitably morph into wrinkles. So I give it a thumbs up. But please go to a dermatologist that actually does this for a living, not some fly-by-night spa in your ‘hood. With something as important as your face and health, better safe than sorry I say. You have to remember, wrinkles do not give you character and they only look good on Bulldogs.

Intro: Me and My Family (and Other Tidbits)

This is my first post.  Like any “first”, this is certainly exciting. Not only am I satisfying a goal to start writing, I finished my work for the day and am able to write about something fun, me. To be fair, me and my family. We think we are fabulous, intelligent, funny, and just downright fun. I hope others do too. Or if not, maybe you are bored and/or irritated enough by my adorable picture that you keep reading.

So who am I anyway? I am happy, however much more so with my personal life than my professional life. I thought I would be further along in that arena, but more about that later. I turned 40 last September and am engaged to a wonderful man who I met when I was 35. I was bitter and cynical and sick of dating and luckily so was he. We both had prior dramatic relationships and sticky breakups and wanted none of that. Bottom line, I learned that your perfect mate is out there but you have to put yourself out there, your real self, not your “representative”. How would you describe yourself? How would others describe you? If that answer skews widely from reality, you will most likely be dating until the end of time. If you know what you really want you will find it. You just have to state the cold hard facts.

Real conversation excerpt:

“I absolutely do not want kids.” – Me

“I don’t either.” – J

“Perfect.” – Me

This was about 30 mins after we met. Completely sober might I add. We talked about politics, religion, sex, money, previous relationships and all the things you weren’t supposed to talk about until date #3. In my opinion, date #3 is way too late. You have already invested time, money and you probably like the person enough to get naked with them (it is date #3, after all). Then you find out they are a staunch Pro-Life Republican that is happy Romney is the GOP’s choice – what do you do then? Date #3 is too late – talk about the tough things first, trust me. If he is an asshole you will figure it out before the check arrives and save a lot of aggravation.

We bought a house in Sept 2009, during the worst stock and housing market crash since the depression. We each owned a place and didn’t want to combine into one small place, we wanted one bigger one. How hard could that be? We are smart people with a plan, right? Wow. After 2+ years of searching, countless offers and frustrated realtors, 6 contracts on 4 different houses, we finally found our dream house. A real house – no shared walls! Drama at every turn but I wouldn’t have done a thing differently. It all worked out with a lot of hard work and time spent. After that experience we didn’t know what to do with our time. So we filled it up!

With our SFH (like my real estate jargon?) purchased, we expanded our family. We now have 4 pets, it is a zoo at best; 2 pit bulls, 1 shepherd-husky and 1 cat. We have a lot of fun and they are very cute. Z, our new pittie, is about 5-6 months and was totally untrained. She was from the shelter, so of course that makes total sense, but I think we were hopeful she would be a little less rough around the edges. 4 weeks later, we are getting better, channeling our inner Cesar Milan on a daily basis and instilling discipline while keeping our sanity. Easier said than done. Our savior? Doggie daycare. S picks them up, wears them out, then brings them home. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know J loves me with all of his heart but I do have one flaw – spending money. Mainly shopping for luxury goods but I can spend a ton at Target too. Anything new I like, whether it is a new YSL bag or Jimmy Choo heels, or even new candles for our house or flowers for the garden, I love it all.  We recently agreed that I would be better about this and stick to a real “budget”.  We’ll see how that goes.  In any case, I know a lot about shopping and fashion and generally looking good so maybe some of that will help some of you.

Back to my other passion then I will leave you for the day – pet rescue. I work hard to educate and spread awareness that pet adoption is the way to go when you want a pet, not a breeder or a pet store. Despite all of that, we have close friends that recently bought a dog from a breeder. Seriously. If you follow me on Twitter (@tobeyk), you will see that I tweet about pets or politics primarily. If you follow me and do not know where I stand on those topics, you are dumber than a box of rocks.  Even a box of rocks would be able to clearly follow that I do not support dog breeding, especially pit bulls and other bully breeds. Then our friends BUY their dog. I still can’t believe it. It is really the 800lb gorilla in the room.  They sheepishly told J about it and I heard second-hand that they BOUGHT their dog. That actually looks like our dog. That was a stray.  Anyway, I can’t stay mad for long, I just have to continue to spread the word. #AdoptDon’tShop – you will be saving more than one life – you are making room for others to live and breathe another day in the shelter system by doing do. And you are also not perpetuating the cycle of breeding for money and profit, then dropping off the leftover puppies at the shelter, and so on. You get it, right? I know you do, you are smarter than a box of rocks.