because my little blog is growing up!

I just got so sick of dealing with certain type size/spacing issues AND not being able to add page tabs to this blog theme, that I started to think about revamping the blog. The blog started freezing in Safari and only cooperating when opened in Internet Explorer. And then I started to think the theme was a little cluttered and distracting, and I could THINK OF NOTHING ELSE TIL I FIXED MY BLOG.

Which I did this weekend. Check it out.

I'm sure it will go through future incarnations. I ended up with wordpress.com after aborting a short-lived attempt to understand FTP and all that goes with wordpress.org. Maybe if I find a nice computer-geek guy to set all that up for me and show me how to do all that someday, Chai Latte Please will someday have the freedom of advertisements, plug-ins and java. As it is, the move from Blogger to wordpress.com meant giving up my 3-Day Countdown (which is java-based) and the possibility of Google Ads.

But I'm happy with how the new format looks and my own domain name only cost $15 and 10 minutes. But now I have tabs galore and can e-mail commenters (bonus!).

Any suggestions for future changes?
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I personally think blister management (aside from hydration) is one of the most important things to practice while training for the 3-Day. I'm horrible at it, but I really wish I weren't. 

During my first 3-Day, I had no idea what a "hot spot" was or why you weren't supposed to put moleskin directly on fully formed blisters. And let's be honest, I got epically horrible blisters when I walked in D.C. last year. *

It all went downhill the first afternoon last year: I changed my socks at lunch but didn't take my shoes off after that, because my feet hurt. Thus, I didn't realize that part of the reason my feet hurt was newly forming blisters. And once you have blisters, it's that much easier for new blisters to form.

What should you do? Use moleskin/bandaids/etc while training. Try different types of socks/lotion/foot powder to find the right combination for you. And definitely spend way more time that you normally would considering whether the walking shoes fit before you buy them. Once on the event, check out the medical tent at the first or second stop so you know what materials they have and what is recommended. 
And here's the advice from the 3-Day FAQ response:

Blisters are the most common problem seen on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure event and the best way to protect your feet is to prevent blisters from forming. Blisters can be a direct result of a friction rub between the skin and another object (skin, sock, shoe, etc.) or due to pressure in the shoe or moisture from perspiration. Staying well hydrated during the event is important for blister prevention as dehydration allows the skin to fold on itself and create a friction rub.
Proper shoe and sock selection also is key to blister prevention. Purchase a shoe that is a half to 1 full size larger than your normal walking shoe. There should be ample room to wiggle your toes in the toe box. Break in your shoes slowly by alternating at least two pairs of shoes during your training. Do not wear brand new shoes on the event.

Choose a sock that pulls moisture away from your feet. This will keep your feet cool and dry. Synthetic socks such as “Coolmax” or “Dryfit,” or wool socks are better than pure cotton socks for keeping your feet dry. Try wearing two socks or double-layered socks and plan on changing to clean and dry socks halfway through your training walk. If your socks are still wet, try foot powder or spraying your feet with spray antiperspirant. Make sure that your socks fit you well and do not bunch up in any areas.

Hot spots are places on your feet or toes where you feel tenderness, pressure, heat, burning or pain. If you feel a hot spot during training, stop and change your socks. Increased protection can be obtained by applying moleskin, 2nd Skin or a bandage. Moleskin acts as a second layer of skin and should not be removed until the end of the walk to prevent peeling of the skin. Any bandage that is applied should be smooth and wrinkle free. Benzoin liquid, or Nuskin or Toughskin spray found at medical supply stores are sometimes used to “toughen” the skin at problem areas. Do not get a pedicure or try to remove calluses before the event or long training walks. Do not wear toe rings on your long walks; the heat may swell your toes and feet, decreasing their blood circulation.

If you get a blister, try not to pop it. They are nature’s way of creating a protective cushion and intact skin protects you from infection. Small blisters should be covered with antibiotic ointment and a bandage; this is then covered with a square of 2nd Skin or a corn pad for further protection. Do not leave the 2nd Skin on overnight as it will dehydrate and can irritate the skin.

For large blisters that are painful, clean the blister with an alcohol pad and have a medical professional drain it with a sterile needle. Be sure to keep the open blister covered with antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.

Take time during your training to experiment with techniques and products that work for you. Blister care products that you should carry with you in a waist pack during the event include Band-Aids, moleskin, benzoin, synthetic “wicking” socks, alcohol swabs, blister care bandages, small scissors and Body Glide or Vaseline.

Veteran 3-Dayers: What are you tried and true blister-prevention methods?

I'm showing off last year's 3-Day blisters as part of the 2Toms Blister Shield "Worst Blister Challenge." If you're on Facebook, you can check out the link on my wall. I can't figure out how to link to it here.
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(I'm not willing to use my teeth in a fight, 
but I'm still bigger than you, BlackJack! 
Note his devil eyes...)

So, the problem started with socks. Mine, specifically. He ran off with a freshly laundered pair of black socks, but since they were cheap (and I was lazy) I just let it go. Crystal came home and tried to take them away from him (cause, you know, dogs shouldn't eat socks). He growled, I got involved, he growled more AS IF HE THOUGHT WE'D FEAR A 27-POUND FLUFF-BALL WITH SERIOUS ALLERGY PROBLEMS.

Crystal went upstairs. And let's be honest, I was afraid he'd bite me if I tried to take the socks away. He was using his really mean growl. When "trading" for a treat didn't work, I got mad and told him to go to his "house." (IE, plastic crate with a metal-bar door. Prison would be an apt name). In he went. With the socks. And still growling when I got near him.

So, instead of fighting harder, I fought smarter.

I shut the cage door. And placed the treat about four inches away from the front of the door. Close enough to smell, far enough away that there's no chance of getting it.

Take that, little spoodle!
I really, REALLY wanted to like Rob Ryan. He's the narrator in Tana French's debut psychological suspense novel who takes us on a journey through his flawed memory and (even more flawed?) personality as a detective investigating a 12-year-old girl's murder in the same woods where his two childhood friends disappeared two decades earlier. Sometimes he tries a little too hard to string together witty metaphors, but that can easily be forgiven in a character who tells you upfront that police lie:

"The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Mobius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.
"I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass and nasty."

See? Since I am the person who once dealt with the stress of writing about a juvenile pimping trial by watching several hours of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, he had me hooked by the end of the second page. And kept me wound around his little finger until the middle of the book when we slowly begin to learn the truth about Rob Ryan:

: : : spoiler alert : : :

He has the regrettable habit of shutting women out after he sleeps with them once - which causes his relationship with Cassie to implode. His narration includes a few half-hearted but likely honest explanations for his bad behavior toward Cassie, but months later, when he calls her to tell her he loves her, she pretends he's got the wrong number and he listens as she climbs back in bed with her boyfriend. He wonders if she realizes she didn't hang up the phone and whether she was trying to hurt him or simply giving him the peace of listening to her sleep one more time. 

(Get a clue, buddy. When her boyfriend asked who was on the phone, she said some guy saying he loved her. But it turned out he was looking for someone named Britney. Yes, she knew you were still on the line, and yes, she probably wouldn't have been upset if you were hurt.)

Oh -- and he gets sucked in by the victim's psychopathic sister and manages to muck up the investigation against the teen who isn't quite legally an adult. Then, he tries to tell us readers that we got sucked in by her, too. As some readers pointed out here, they didn't. And we're left not liking the main character we started out adoring.

We readers are also left hating that French doesn't solve the original mystery. 

Overall, I'm OK with the book's lack of resolution (and so is this reader). 

1) We don't get to know everything about life, anyway; 2) We get to see several mythical motifs surrounding the murder site. I don't think there's any significance to that other than the fact that humans tend to look to myths and the supernatural when they can't explain things; and 3) We all kind of toy with the idea that Ryan is responsible for his friends' disappearances, but in the end, he's not a manipulative psychopath or else we wouldn't all think he's a bit of a loser. He didn't have any real motive for making them disappear, and if anything, I'm willing to bet he panicked or just stood there when something bad happened to them.

But that's just me. We'll have to wait to see if French decides to explain it in a sequel...

Or I might read it again to see what I missed.
It's true. I love strawberry Special K cereal and home-brewed Dunkin' Donuts coffee and reading books cover to cover. I over-schedule myself only to embrace procrastination with a zeal I otherwise reserve for chai latte or Chipotle burritos. I can be trusted with secrets, but when bored, I am prone to purposefully making bad decisions just to see what will happen... What? Oh yeah, I've made a ton of bad decisions out of ignorance and poor judgment, too. No one gets THAT bored.

Other simple truths:

1) I love my job. One might say it has few opportunities for advancement, and it's certainly not going to make me rich. But journalists get to see the muddled mass of humanity with the bird's eye view few others have. Under certain circumstances I might deny it, but I love the rush of breaking news, negotiating for access, balancing conflicting ideas, struggling with words at break-neck speeds, and really, just watching people. I'm not sure if I've stared pure evil in the face, but I've seen a ton of selfishness, greed, addiction, pain, love, generosity and boring ole life. 

Sometimes I think MY life is passing me by while I'm busy writing about other people's lives -- but after doing a little living of my own, I've concluded that there are worse ways to pass the time than by banging out an article or two.

2) I'd rather be smart than pretty.That might be why I am. Or maybe it was a matter of chasing what was possible. At any rate, unless you're really good at manipulating people, you're better off complimenting my writing or asking my opinion about something. If you tell me you think I'm pretty, I'm likely to think you're 1) drunk; 2) stupid, or 3) don't get out enough to realize how many truly gorgeous women populate the Midwest.

3) For writers, typos are like toilet paper trailing from the bottom of a shoe. If you love someone and somehow she doesn't realize she picked up a little extra paper in the bathroom, OF COURSE YOU TELL HER. If, however, you are that snarky girl who keeps hitting on the guy she likes, you're better off letting someone else point out TP - er, typo. It's not the biggest deal, but she's likely to add it as a mark against you.

4) I sometimes pretend I have a bad cell phone connection just so I can hang up on someone.

5) I have never done that to Maria or my mother. They both actually hang out in places with poor reception.

6) I ache for things that never really quite were. I used to think regrets were wasted sentiments, because we are more often shaped by our struggles than our successes. And then I realized I had no real idea what regret was before I finally experience something regretful. Now, sometimes between sleep and awake, I long for the times when my fiance (now ex-husband) kissed me on the nose and love seemed deep and perfect. Or the time when someone told me I was making a difference in that little town. Or the time I thought an afternoon's walk through a bad public housing project would provide enough truth for a story. 

It was, and it wasn't. It did, and it didn't. I'm not cynical enough to deny all that was, and I'm no longer naive enough to not recognize all that wasn't. But don't we all want to believe in Santa Claus, sometimes?

7) I believe I need to accept people for their faults, forgive them, and limit how much I allow their faults to hurt me. I still have no idea how to actually do this.

8) I really, REALLY want to wear sandals and flip-flops to work every day. I would, only I fear people already don't find me professional, so I only wear sandals two days a week. Or so.
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These aren't super-official instructions or anything. I first saw these at a breast cancer walk fundraiser years ago and just bought a bra and played with it until it worked for me. (And no, I have no idea if people actually carry these as purses. I haven't - but I would. I'm pretty sure I would, anyway).

Step one: Go shopping for bras. I usually get a nice, large padded bra, because those seem to keep their shape the easiest and seem the most likely to hold up against keys, etc., being placed inside. I also either look for convertible/strapless bras or bras with cute straps that can easily be made into a purse strap.

Step two: Slice and dice. Once I have a bra, I cut out around the cup, leaving as much of the strap as I want to use for the handle. Then, I cut a slit near the top of the inside of the cup so I can wiggle out the underwire.

Step three: Decorate and sew. Without the underwire, the cup is flexible enough that the cups can be matched up and sewn together. I usually add the embelleshments before I attach the two cups. If I'm using trim or string for a handle, I usually knot the trim and sew it into the top edge of one of the cups before I attach them. When attaching the two cups, I usually glue them together first with a fabric glue and then go back and stitch it together to reinforce it. After I sew, I go over the cut edges of the cup with a fray stop or fray guard to prevent it from unraveling. (If you do this earlier in the process, it can be difficult to sew.) Sometimes I line the inside, and sometimes I don't.

Step four: Don't let anything spill out of your cups. Depending on the shape of the cup, sometimes I use a button or hook and eye in the middle of the open end so the "purse" can close.

Like this exact purse? You can purchase it (via E-bay) here. (Auction ends May 15.)

Need some creative inspiration? This Etsy crafter uses slinkier bras. This one uses lots of color. And this one appreciates fringe.
As soon as I decided the Friday FundRAISER series was coming to an end, I stumbled up tons (OK, a bunch. Not literally tons) of ideas. So I had to share:

* How 'bout them cupcakes? Have a bake sale for breast cancer. Bake cupcakes of various sizes from very small “mini” size to very large. Put 2 cupcakes together and wrap in clear plastic wrap. Sell as cup size “A” cakes, cup size “B” cakes, cup size “DD” cakes, etc. The larger the cup size, the more charged for the pair. Then host a cupcake party for your friends and neighbors. (From 3-Day Coach Kristin Harris in the 3-Day's April news)

* Gift wrapping: Around the holidays, utilize a large space, such as a church basement, for a gift-wrapping service. Donors can bring packages for you to wrap for a donation. Offer a television (or two) and snacks so donors can occupy themselves while their packages are being done. This saves them the time and trouble of wrapping presents out of sight of the kids. (From a new, but loyal, ChaiLattePlease reader)

* Temporary tattoos: A blogger I enjoy reading is having a quirky fundraiser: Donate at least $25 in a specific timeframe, and she'll write your name on her body the day of the event --- and provide photographic evidence! Check it out here.

* Raffles and whatnot: Before you get creative, keep in mind that states and local communities have laws governing many fundraising activities, including raffles, auctions and other promotional activities. Compliance is the responsibility of each participant, and the 3-Day for the Cure cannot render legal or tax advice on these matters. Web sites like http://rafflefaq.com/united-states-raffle-laws/ provide links to raffle laws for each state, to help you with your research. Please also review the 3-Day for the Cure fundraising policies. (From the 3-Day's March news)
Last spring, all I could think about was boobs. And walking. And money.

Much of my spare time went into planning a wine-tasting fundraiser - plotting about food, publicity, raffle prizes, etc. I solicited prize donations from area businesses and strangers on Etsy. I even made a few brassiere purses myself (which I still think are super-cute). Food was a cheese and cracker tray, a fruit tray and a bunch of cute pastries from a local shop.

The event was held at a local wine shop, which charged me $5 a person and allowed me to keep anything above that in ticket sales. The owner was really nice and helpful, and he also donated a portion of the wine sales from that evening to the walk.

On the day of the event, I lived in fear that NO ONE WOULD COME. Except my aunt and (then) boyfriend, who kindly wore a T-shirt I had bought him that said "Real men wear pink." (Is that a relationship test or what?) Anyway, people came. 18 people. Not as many as I would have liked, but at least I wasn't standing there by myself.

In the end, I came home with most of the fruit and cheese and crackers and $465. $50 of that was money I had contributed for change at the door, and I took out another $100 for the food. So, that left $215 to fight breast cancer. Better than nothing, but certainly not as much as I had hoped for after weeks of work.

But, in retrospect, I could have used my resources better. If I were to do it again, here are some things I would keep in mind:

1) Publicity is king. I spread the word through Facebook, work friends and a short blurb in the newspaper. That probably wasn't enough, especially if the event is in a location that doesn't have much traffic. In retrospect, I would suggest using fliers, newspaper resources, church bulletins, friends, etc. at least 6 weeks before the event. Don't spend any significant amount of money on your promotional efforts, but make sure the materials tell people how to donate if they can't make it to the event. And repeat the publicity efforts as much as possible up until the day of the actual event. Publicize until you are sure you are annoying people. (Because, honestly, people are busy. You probably aren't annoying them.)

2) Apparently people buy wine in the fall, not the spring. The shop owner pulled my boyfriend aside half-way through the event last May and mentioned that he gets most of his sales in the fall leading up to the holiday season, when people tend to drink more wine and use it as gifts. So, depending on when your particular 3-Day event is, a wine-tasting might a good option for your first event of the fundraising season in late October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) or early November.

3) Don't go overboard on food. I could have done with half (or less) of the food I had. The food ate into the proceeds, and if I had run out, I'm not sure any of the guests would have been disappointed. They were there for wine and to support breast cancer ... and the wine portions were not so large that I felt people needed to consume food or risk leaving intoxicated.

4) Spend more time on publicity; less time on raffle prizes. I sold raffle tickets, so of course I needed raffle prizes. I ended up having 10 packages - and yes, because I had 18 people come, more than half the people who came won something. You need something for people to look at and talk about, but your time is probably better spent trying to get people in the door that trying to get prizes for the prize tables.

Of course, everyone learns through experience. And most 3-Day walkers do not have business or marketing degrees. My attitude throughout fundraising was to simply to keep at it and avoid putting all my eggs in one proverbial basket. After one fundraiser, I already knew I would be working on another so it was easy to keep the pressure light.

Anyone else have any suggestions on strategies to keep in mind while planning a fundraising event?

P.S. Want to make your own brassiere purse? I made a few more after stumbling upon a clearance rack at Wal-Mart. I'll post some instructions on how I put them together next Friday :)
Someday, I will point you, dear readers, to happy blogs. Blogs about cute puppies, fun craft projects and interior decorating.

If you know me at all, you probably know that is a COMPLETE LIE.

Happiness is nice for five minutes or so, but I generally figure it's only a small slice of the story. Real life is this big messed up mix of cute puppies AND bad economics; fashion AND discrimination; charity AND crime; interior design AND high-schoolers who for some reason think it's acceptable to manipulate the social spectrum and bully someone until they are suicidal or beyond. So, I am drawn to people and stories and situations that illuminate people who deal gracefully and courageously with life's more cruel and callous situations.

Bridget of My Big Girl Pants is doing just that. She's a five-year survivor of metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic is a fancy way of saying the cancer that started in the breast has spread to other less-than-nearby areas. It's advanced, and as far as cancers go, it's not good. So, when she says she's a survivor, she means that she's survived three recurrences in the last five years and finds herself in somewhat uncharted territory in that new and improving treatments are allowing more people to live with a cancer that in the not-so-distant past compelled discussions about exactly how much time was left.

Yesterday, she found out that the spot on her liver is cancerous. She and her husband went out for an insanely expensive dinner to allow themselves a night to feel sorry for themselves. Today, I gather, she plans to put her big girl pants back on...
After my internal temper trantrum last week about weight loss and clothes that are suddenly too big (yeah, I know, I'm not saying it was a rational tantrum), I figured I deserved a little brag moment to reflect upon how far I've come. Big accomplishments are really just a series of little accomplishments all strung together, right?

So, here's a picture of me taken at my parents' place last summer:

Here's a picture from the 3-Day in October. (I'll admit, the fanny pack was not an aesthetic improvement. It was purely functional.)

And here is a picture I took on Friday:

So, as some passerby commented a few weeks ago, there is less of me than there used to be. One pound at a time...
All the garage sales I've ever had essentially: 1) allowed me to get rid of stuff I didn't want to move, or 2) were exercises in carrying stuff outside ... only to carry it all back inside two days later. So, when I saw another 3-Dayer talk glowingly about her garage sale fundraiser, I asked for tips. Here's what Lynna said:

1) Make it a group project: "My neighborhood does a yearly giant yard sale, and we advertise in the local paper, hang fliers in local businesses and put out directional signs EVERYWHERE!!! I did start asking for items about 3 months in advance. I had people from church dropping off car loads FULL of stuff!! Granted, there was some weeding though that we did - one lady seemed to bring us all her old things that by rights, should have been taken to the dump. Some of it was usable, so I didn't argue too much. We got furniture from people, bikes, car seats, sooooo much!! It was crazy!! By the last two weeks, I was not able to park in the garage anymore, and we had to ask our neighbors if they minded us using part of their yards!!"

2) Advertise, advertise, advertise: "I put posts up all over Facebook, announcements in the church bulletin, my kids helped make posters to hang....it was pretty well organized."

3) Let everyone know it's for charity: "One thing that helped me also, was that I had posters up all over my driveway and tables what the proceeds of the sale were going for. I had copies of my credentials and donation forms so people would know I was being legit and not just "using" the name for my own gain!"

4) Make it easy for people to shop: "My husband (who is awesome!!) stayed up very late the night before and helped me get everything organized onto tables. We had "aisles" of kids clothes, kitchen appliances, Christmas/Holiday decorations, toys, etc. Everything was categorized and prices marked. Of course, we would bargain a bit, but we always made it clear that we were donating the profit, so most people backed down."

And for you McHenry County folk: Boobalicious Babes (yes, I did just have to check to make sure I spelled boobalicious correctly. It's not in spellcheck :) is hosting a big garage sale for the Chicago 3-Day at the Lake Julian Trout Farm in Cary on May 22. Each of the six team members will be contributing items for the sale ~ three are repeat walkers, and three are newbies.

So, next week, to conclude my Friday FundRAISER series, I'll talk about my wine-tasting fundraiser last year. I loved the idea, loved the actual event ... and was a little disappointed I didn't raise more money. So, I'll talk about what I would do differently if I were to plan it all over again. Have a good weekend!

I threw a bit of a temper tantrum this morning.

No one heard - I didn't ACTUALLY yell - but I was running late AND nothing fit right AND the damn scale told me I weighed exactly the same amount as I did last week. Despite eating properly (except for a Butterfinger yesterday... and that donut I discovered as part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics) and exercising (except for those two days I took off when I was busy).

See, I've lost about 25 pounds since January first.

Which is great and I bought new clothes and people said all sorts of nice things. Which one might think is a reason to celebrate. UNTIL I CONSIDER I NEED TO LOSE 25 MORE POUNDS. According to some chart in my doctor's office, taking 25 more pounds off would put me at the top range of "healthy weight" for someone my height. So, I suppose I really need to lose 30 more pounds so there's some sort of buffer. Whatever.

In a way, it's kind of like letting someone who has just run a half-marathon stop for water and stretch and then pushing them along their way. Of course, I realize that must be done if said runner is ever going to finish said marathon, but I might just start crying.

And even worse than the fact that the scale barely seems to budge anymore is the fact that these khakis I bought NOT EVEN THREE WEEKS AGO don't fit. Without a belt, they literally slide right off my hips while buttoned and zipped. Cinched up with a belt, they look completely ridiculous - like those boys who "sagged" their jeans so far in middle school that the principal gave them rope to use as a belt. My khakis were a little loose when I bought them but now -- can't wear them.

Of course, I realize something (not bad) must be happening to my body if clothes are fitting differently. And despite mentions of Butterfingers and skipped workout, I have been staying on track with a few little splurges - not falling off the bandwagon. But still, sometimes I can't help but feel frustrated that this isn't easier.

The signs that I must keep going are all around me. Yours Truly Trayce called upon a Janis Joplin quote when she wrote about being in a similar place: "Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." She's right; I can't give up on myself just because things get harder. (Sigh).

And then Leanne talked about drinking tons of water. I HAVE been choosing coffee and Diet Coke over water too often lately. So much so that I bought Visene because my eyelids seemed to be sticking to my contacts after 6 p.m. or so. Surely that's a sign of dehydration, right?

And then another 3-Day blogger wrote about not accepting excuses. And so did MakeUnderMyLife. And I know that even though I haven't been living unhealthily, I don't have anything but excuses for not digging deeper and trying harder. So, yeah, I'll shut up and get on with it all ready...
Last year, one of the lovely Ms. America Tatas from California shared a Tatatini recipe. And I think Tatatinis are meant to be shared, don't you?

A true Tatatini with a kick:
Rub lemon slice around rim of martini glass and dip in pink sugar.
Add 1 to 2 tsp. of Raspberry puree to the bottom of the glass.
In shaker with ice, mix:
Two parts Raspberry Vodka
Two parts Pink Lemonade
One scant part lemon drop mixer
Dash of Raspberry puree
Pour into glass.
Top with a dry rose sparkler.
Make a toast to all the ladies walking for the cure and enjoy!

And if a mocktail is more your style:


  • Tonic Water
  • Citrus Juice
  • Lime Juice
  • Cranberry Juice

Quantities for one drink:

  • 1 Oz Tonic Water
  • 1/2 Oz Citrus Juice
  • 1/2 Oz Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Oz Cranberry Juice

Blending Instructions:

  • Shake tonic water, citrus juice, lime juice and cranberry juice vigorously in a shaker with ice. Strain into a martini glass, garnish with a lime wedge on the rim, and serve.

I grew up in a 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath old house on Michigan Avenue in Saline, Mich., where a patchwork of new subdivisions encroached on good old farming territory. It's just a 45- to 60-minute commute from the major automotive employers in Detroit and Dearborn and a 15-minute drive from Ann Arbor.

It was a nice house, lots of hardwood inside. Across the street was the gas station where a dog collected cash and credit cards at the pump, and a block away was a historic-looking mansion that took up a whole block and was doomed (through someone's will, I think) to be repainted the same greenish color for eternity. When I was 12 or so, I delivered newspapers throughout the neighborhood to pay for horseback-riding lessons and holed up in my bedroom reading for hours. I kind of wanted to BE Anne of Green Gables.

The house wasn't exactly energy efficient. My hamster once went into hibernation when I pushed its cage too close to a drafty window. My mom assumed it was dead and tossed it in the garbage; the little guy warmed up, snapped out of it, and bit my brother when he discovered it after school. We called the detached garage a barn because, well, it looked like a barn, complete with wooden doors that swung out. The upstairs bathroom toilet had no tank on the back; instead, the tank was in the basement. I don't really understand how that worked, but sometimes the water pressure or SOMETHING got off kilter and water shot out of the toilet.

With all its 1920s-era quirks (and a rabbit, several hamsters, fish, and a mixed-breed dog named after the Dow Jones Industrial Average), the house was still big enough to shelter all the insecurities and self-loathing of a teenaged girl who secretly - and sometimes not-so-secretly - thought she was never good enough. There, three siblings fought over whose turn it was to use AOL to connect to the Internet. Our parents paid for the Internet by the minute. We shared one computer. And one phone line. Cellular phones weren't accessories for teenagers yet, but I definitely remember marveling at three-way calling and call waiting. Can't remember if we had caller ID; we did have a fax machine, though.

Now, (I think) my house houses some sort of business accounting group, whose owners ripped out my mother's gardens to make room for a parking lot. But they saved the barn. I vaguely remember standing outside the house a few years after my parents moved away, staring at how different everything was and feeling something indescribable between annoyed and irate. Someone (I don't remember who) mentioned that the secretaries who worked there got freaked out because they thought they heard noises coming from the basement, where a concrete cistern collected rainwater.

We used the cistern water to water outdoor plants. There was a time I figured the cistern would be a good place to hide a dead body or two, so I could see how housewives-turned-secretaries could get the heebie-jeebies. But I figured anyone loosely associated with the people WHO PAVED OVER MY BACKYARD deserved an eerie feeling every now and then. Those voices would be the SOUNDS OF MY LOST CHILDHOOD, folks. (In reality, noise likely carried through the large heating vents in an old house that was never updated. But really.)

I've hung my pictures and clothes in several cities since then, many which left enduring marks on my personality. But that house housed me back before I really knew anything and was eager for everything new.

That was back before I knew small towns operated under false (but entrenched) perceptions. Back when I loved the smell of ink as the press printed the Saline Reporter just hours after we slapped the stories on the page using a wax machine and roller. Back when I wrote poetry in honor of coworkers' birthdays and unabashedly gave it to them. And crushed on guys who never seemed to crush on me back. (OH! And a girl was run over by a tractor in my high school parking lot on Take Your Tractor to School Day. She recovered, but seriously, my high school had Take Your Tractor to School Day.)

I haven't been to Saline in years. They built a mammoth new high school a few years after I graduated, and now my high school is the middle school. And somehow I doubt anyone drives tractors there. I'm sure nobody would know me from Adam, or remember the girl who angered old ladies by referencing Barenaked Ladies lyrics in the first sentence of a newspaper article. And I certainly haven't been tempted to use song lyrics as a lede in at least a decade. But Miranda Lambert's song kind of makes my mind wander...
This is the final weekly giveaway, and it features a little cell phone charm left over from several I gave donors the first year I walked. It has a silver ribbon charm and two pink beads. 

(Please excuse the less-than-good photograph. I'm a bad photographer to begin with and seem to have misplaced my digital camera. So, this came via my cell phone's camera and my limited understanding of proper lighting. Seriously: The keychain is sitting on an olive green sofa in real life, but not so much in the picture...)

Here's how to enter:
- Leave one (and only one) comment here. If you comment on the Quilt Raffle fundraiser post, that will count as an entry, too.

- If you tweet about this week's Friday FundRAISER post go ahead and enter again in the comments section here. 

Example: 3-Dayers: A quilt raffle can be a wonderful way to raise money and showcase a friend's or loved one's talent. http://bit.ly/9BWJO7

- If you post about this give-away/fundraising tip on your blog, do the same and enter again in the comments section here.
- The giveaway will be open until next Friday. Then, I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner. Make sure to leave an e-mail address or some other way for me to get ahold of you if you win. 
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I kind of wish I could quilt. An ex-boyfriend bought me a sewing machine for my birthday last year - and it was the perfect gift. But I've only used it once, because I've been too busy to dedicate myself to any major craft project. Especially one that involves learning how to work new equipment. (Just figuring out how to thread the thing involved about an hour and harassing my roommate's grandma.)

But I secretly suspect I will be involved with the 3-Day in one capacity or another for years to come. So, I asked a former Ms. America Tata how she handled a quilt raffle last year, JUST IN CASE I have tons more time next year. Here's how it went, in Shelli's own words:

My Mom makes beautiful quilts, so I decided to ask her if she would be willing to donate a handmade quilt for my raffle. Instead of making a donation she donated the materials and her time, so we raise funds that would be equal to or greater than the value of a home made quilt. Those of us who have been lucky enough to receive a quilt, made by loving hands, appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. She made a beautifully crafted Pink Breast Cancer Quilt.

It was so much fun to sell raffle tickets for this quilt. I sold tickets at work, to my neighbors, to family and friends. I even took the quilt to a family campout. This was a great place to raffle off the quilt. There were lots of people with us which made the event so much fun! I sold the tickets for $5 each or 5 for $20; everyone loves a bargain!! I didn't want the price to be too expensive. I figured it would be better to sell more tickets and hopefully make more money that way, than to discourage the buyer before they even got a good look at the quilt! I think the key is to raffle something that you and the buyers can be passionate about.

I met my goal and raised over $500 for my 3-Day Walk. I was also able to talk with a lot of people and hear their stories of why they wanted to support such a great cause.

I really like Shelli's point about raffling something you and your buyers can be passionate about. A word to the wise, though: Check with your local municipality about their gambling laws, especially if you are raffling something of significant value. Some areas require permits and have specific criteria for how charity raffles must be structured to protect people from scams, and the last thing you want is the have a successful fundraiser shut down because you didn't plan ahead.

Next week's Friday FundRAISER will feature advice on hosting a successful charity garage sale. And I'm hosting my last weekly giveaway this week. Details are here, but you can enter by commenting on this post, too. Be sure to leave an e-mail address or something so I can contact you if you win :)
It is NOT.

Just ask the people who had to listen to me complain/vent/whine about the person who expressed surprise that I am in my LATE 20s. As in, this person thought I was much younger. I did not ask this person what gave him/her that impression, but suffice it to say, this person has been around me enough to: 1) gather I have clearly graduated from college, 2) be familiar with my professional work, which I HOPE implies a certain amount of experience, and 3) note my wardrobe choices.

See, even writing that list made me worry that I walk around masquerading as a journalist for 7.5 hours a day and everyone I encounter thinks I'm completely clueless. And an immature dresser. And concludes that I'm somehow 18 or something.

Apparently insecurity doesn't go away with age, either. (Never fear, I went to a Big 10 university, was a White House intern, and have won several journalism awards. I even have a 401(k). I AM competent, even if I don't have a husband and kids and an SUV.)

Anyway, I bring up age because Cari, the fabulous lady from California who organized my team for the breast cancer walk last year, is looking for votes for a looking-fabulous-and-gorgeous-after-40 contest in More magazine. (You may remember her from such blog posts as "Friday FundRAISER: Just ask for a donation" and "Tatatinis and Teammates." She writes:

During my late forties I survived breast cancer, a double mastectomy, back surgery, and a rare reaction to Botox. All of these experiences enlightened me. I will never take good health for granted again. My husband of 27 years and my two beautiful daughters, along with many wonderful friends, made me realize I am truly loved.

She's 50.

Yes, click here and look at her picture. She does make 50 look great, right? As long as you're looking at her picture and how fabulous she is, scroll down and vote for her. The top 100 vote-getters move on to the second round, and three prize winners get money and a photo shoot in New York. Hmm, I wonder what she'll do with that prize money....
If you are quasi-obsessed with Black Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston like I am (I know you probably aren't), then you probably know the fairy tale of Alice Walker revitalizing interest Hurston's work in the 1970s, years after the books fell out of print and after Hurston's death. Between Walker and Oprah Winfrey, Hurston's works were thrust into the literary canon more than a decade after she died in 1960, too poor to provide for a funeral or headstone herself.

So Walker went to Fort Pierce, Fla., in search of the grave site, waded through waist-high weeds that probably hid snakes in a neglected, segregated cemetery. She had Hurston's grave marked with a headstone and an epitaph declaring her "Genius of the South," which was a phrase borrowed from a Jean Toomer poem.

Walker wrote about this adventure in an article Ms. Magazine published in 1975. I tracked that article down in a compilation of essays and other writings by Walker called In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. (Walker uses the term "womanist" to describe "a feminist of color.")

The reality (for me, anyway) wasn't as great as the fairy tale. I found it hilarious that Walker falsely told several people that she was Hurston's niece to get them to open up about the impoverished author who had died 13 years before. Walker's continued shock and outrage that fewer people remembered Hurtson in her hometown of Eatonville (which was the first all-black incorporated town) and in Fort Pierce is alternately endearing and annoying.

Perhaps part of Walker's outrage stemmed from the fact that she, herself, was a less-than-rich black female writer (or perhaps I am too reliant on socioeconomic stereotypes of my own time), but I personally don't find it that shocking that folks living on the same street in a VERY modest neighborhood had no idea that a literary genius lived across the street until her health failed more than a decade before.

Consider: 1) Hurston was not widely known at the time; 2) the folks Walker met hadn't lived there at the same time as Hurston (the only reason I have any clue who lived in my neighborhood 10 years ago is because it's new construction - it was a field 10 years ago, I believe); and 3) one can easily imagine that lower working class families with multiple young children don't have time to consider or appreciate many cultural gems around them.

Anyway, once you get past Walker's disappointment in the local population, you get to embrace her reaction to searching for Hurtson's unmarked grave in "Garden of the Heavenly Rest" with a hand-drawn diagram and an employee from the funeral home:
"I stand still for a few seconds, looking at the weeds. Some of them are quite pretty, with tiny yellow flowers. They are thick and healthy, but dead weeds under them have formed a thick grey carpet on the ground. A snake could be lying six inches from my big toe and I wouldn't see it. We move slowly, very slowly, our eyes alter, our legs trembly."
Walker struggles to align the map with the actual cemetery she sees before her, but finally decides on a place for the headstone based on a depression in the ground in what seems to be the right spot (and a few rounds of simply shouting Hurtson's first name. To the relief of the lady from the funeral home, no one responds.) Then, she laments on her inability to afford an extravagant headstone but buys a more modest stone from a "monument man" who sends her back with a flag to mark the proper spot.

This entire narrative begs one major question, for me anyway: If Walker was willing to spend the time and money to fly to Florida, meet up with a (white) student writing her dissertation on Hurtson, and wander around until they found her likely gravesite, WHY didn't she just take it upon herself to clear the weeds out of this one-acre cemetery to make sure they found the right burial site? If no one has maintained the cemetery, how much trouble can one really get themselves into for taking a weedwacker to the weeds? And maybe burning them in a nice little bonfire?

As a dorky side note, Walker indicated on the headstone that Hurston was born in 1901. She wasn't. She was born in 1891 but lopped 10 years off her life when she was 26 and wanted to finish public high school, according to this bio.

As another dorky side note, you need not fear that the town of Eatonville does not appreciate its most famous one-time resident any more. A local association started an annual festival in Hurston's honor. It was part of a larger effort in 1987 to prevent a road-widening project that would have destroyed much of the small town's historic area. As of the 2000 census, Eatonville had about 2,400 residents, 89.3 percent of whom were African American, according to Wikipedia. About a quarter of the population lived below the poverty line.
This week's giveaway is a pair of pink shoelaces I bought two years ago from Shop Komen. I got 10 or 15 pair and gave them to various friends and teammates, but I still have a few left. The pair in the giveaway (obviously) have never been worn.  :)

Here's how to enter:
- Leave one (and only one) comment here. If you comment on the Perfect Mother's Day Gift fundraiser post, that will count as an entry, too.

- If you tweet about this week's Friday FundRAISER post go ahead and enter again in the comments section here. 

Example: What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than by donating to the fight against breast cancer? http://bit.ly/9m9glX

- If you post about this give-away/fundraising tip on your blog, do the same and enter again in the comments section here.
- The giveaway will be open until next Friday. Then, I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner and post another giveaway. Make sure to leave an e-mail address or some other way for me to get ahold of you if you win. 

Last week's giveaway: A cooling headband

Pamela Croft won last week's giveaway for a cooling headband/neck tie. 

And another commenter was kind enough to let me know I hadn't remembered where our team got these items. Apparently, the Cooldannas were kindly donated by www.zanheadgear.com. Looking at the Web site, I see there's no need to freeze the bandana; simply soak it in cold water for 10 minutes to activate the crystals. 
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