Merry Christmas 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Stringing Christmas Lights

stringing Christmas lights

Settling Into Life in Detroit

blue berkley bullock homeOur family has been in Michigan for a few weeks now, and I feel like we’re settling into normal life. Well, as much as possible.

November was a month of transition. Packing, driving cross country, starting a new job, finding my way around, and trying to catch my breath. We were fortunate to be able to stay with the Mero Family in Plymouth for a few weeks, who we knew from our time in Michigan back in 2008. We did the one-car double-commute thing for two weeks, where we’d leave Plymouth, drop Taylor off at the airport in Romulus, I’d drive to work in Troy, and then go back to Plymouth. It was 120 miles round trip, and very exhausting and time consuming. I flew back to Salt Lake two weekends in a row to pack, attend a going away party, and get some last visits in with friends and family. On the second trip back, Rosie returned to Detroit with me.

I began working as an SEO specialist at Moncur Associates, a digital branding agency. I will be focusing on SEO, but working with the social media team to integrate social and content strategies for our clients. It’s been an interesting transition to go back to SEO after doing full-time social media at my last job, but I know that my social media experience makes me a better SEO, and vice versa. When I began working, the office was in Troy. Three weeks later, the office had relocated to Southfield. It’s a convenient location to my house, and a pretty snazzy contemporary office.

wooden dining room setOn the last day of November, we got the keys to our new house in Berkley. Our house is a cozy blue 1920’s bungalow with a white porch, squeaky wood floors, and a good backyard. Berkley is a suburb 11 miles north of downtown Detroit. I know this because we live off 11 Mile Road. When we drove out from Utah, we packed as much as we could into the cars. Because we had to coordinate the moving truck with Taylor’s company, we knew it would be a while before our stuff was delivered. Right now, the estimated arrival date is December 30th.

Our Black Friday was spent furniture shopping. We got some fantastic deals, and purchased a dining room set, couch, and beds. Other than our new furniture and the miscellaneous STUFF we’ve purchased on our multiple Target/Meijer/Costco/Walmart runs, the house is otherwise empty. It will be nice to have all of our dishes, kitchenware, dressers, linens, decorations, and clothes, but for now…we have enough to get by.

7 foot artificial christmas treeWe debated over a real vs artificial Christmas tree this year. I was set on getting a real tree…until I went shopping for a real tree. I don’t consider myself OCD at all, but I started getting frustrated at the “fresh” trees I saw in tree lots. Most were severely asymmetrical and patchy, and really didn’t look very pretty. The ones that were full and looked nice had very sharp needles. Four lots later, I gave in to Taylor’s pleadings and got an artificial tree. As a consolation, we bought a lovely fresh fir wreath. With the tree set up, full of lights and ornaments, this alone has helped our house feel like a home.

Christmas will be simple this year. Taylor will be on a 4-day trip, so Rosie and I will be on our own. Luckily, many new friends and people in our ward have invited us to celebrate with them, so we’ll have ways to be merry in our new city.

Review: Six Nutrition Vitamins for Men

six nutrition vitamins for menAs a blogger, I get a fair amount of emails from brands and PR agencies to do product reviews on my blog. Recently, I was asked to do a review of Six Nutrition Vitamins for Men. I replied to the email saying, “I am not a man, but my husband is. And he is willing to do a review.” They were happy with that response, sent the vitamins, and Taylor has been taking them for the last month.

So, ladies and gents, here is Taylor’s first product review!

In my career as an airline pilot, health and fitness are vitally important. In addition to very long duty days in stressful conditions, I am required by the FAA to have a comprehensive medical exam annually. If I do not keep my health in top form, especially my weight and cardiovascular health, I can risk my license and career.

Staying healthy in an environment where I can’t get consistent sleep and be in a regular routine can be difficult. I try to eat healthfully, but I am often at the mercy of packaged meals and airport restaurants. I’ve tried to make up for that by taking a multivitamin on a daily basis. When asked to try Six Nutrition Vitamins, I was willing to see if this made a difference in how I felt.

20131129-151529.jpgI had never heard of Six Vitamins before, but their product philosophy makes sense. Six Nutrition believes in pinpointing 6 areas: heart, joint, sex, muscles, mind, and energy.

My first impression of the product was the slick packaging. After taking generic Centrum vitamins in a giant bottle from Costco, this was a nice change. I wasn’t thrilled about taking 6 pills a day, but the packaging made it easy to rip open and throw back the pills with a chug of water. The individual packets were much more convenient to pack in my suitcase than a large bottle.

One funny note: the foil packaging is similar to a condom One morning when I opened up a package in the cockpit to take my vitamins for the day, the pilot I was flying with heckled me a bit.

six vitamins for men

It’s difficult for me to decide if Six Vitamins made an impact on my health in the last month. There were a lot of stressful factors that I dealt with: cross-country commuting, preparing to move, and recovering from a head cold. It’s possible that the vitamins made me healthier, but I can’t say that for sure. I feel like I had more energy after a few weeks of taking them, but it’s difficult to quantify energy levels with my varied sleep schedule. There is an element of placebo affect whenever you take a pill…I felt like a healthier man by taking the vitamins, but I don’t know if I truly improved my overall health.

All in all, I think these vitamins are a quality product. I haven’t spent a lot of time researching vitamins and supplements, but they seem more targeted to active men’s health than most of the vitamins on the shelf. I liked knowing I was taking a product developed to improve total body health. The price of the vitamins is a more than I’d personally like to pay, but the Six Nutrition website offers some deals for multi-month discounts. If you’re looking for a better pill than a generic multivitamin, give Six Nutrition a try.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Six Vitamins for Men for free from Six Nutrition as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.

Wordless Wednesday: Morning at KSLC

Delta planes SLC

Holiday Gifts From Uncommon Goods

uncommon goods pick punchIt’s mid-November, which means that Christmas is about 6 weeks away. Not only has life been hectic with the holidays fast approaching, but our family is in the middle of a cross-country move.

We know that a lot of our Christmas shopping will be done online this year.

I was contacted by UncommonGoods to see if I would be willing to feature some of their products in a holiday gift post. I was already a fan of their site, so I was excited for the opportunity to explore their products and review some gifts that called my name.

homemade guitar picks

UncommonGoods is an privately-owned retailer that features unique products and handcrafted gifts. They specifically showcase products that are created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. Most of the products they carry are created in the USA, and about one-third of their collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials. I love the variety of items on the website, and found some things that you can’t just buy at a big box store.

The Pick Punch

The first item I selected was the Pick Punch, which calls to the inner band groupie in me. The Pick Punch allows you to make your own guitar picks by recycling old credit cards, ID cards, plastic lids, and gift cards. Although I don’t play guitar myself, I have a lot of musician friends. I plan to use the Pick Punch to make some custom guitar picks for them.

uncommongoods pick punch

To make the pick, you position the credit card (or other card) in the device so that you see the design that you want, and press down. It takes a little bit of muscle, but it pops through quickly.

To demonstrate, I used a hotel room key card. I liked the pink designs on the card, so I positioned the punch to make a pink kaleidoscopey pick.

Have you ever seen a pick like that in a store? I  haven’t.

The Pick Punch is available on the site for $25.00.

periodic table of the elements building blocks

Elemental Blocks

The next item I chose were the Uncle Goose Elemental Blocks by Uncle Goose. There are 20 hand-crafted wooden cubes with the entire Periodic Table of the Elements printed on them. The building blocks are non-toxic, use child-safe inks, and are good for children (and other budding scientists) aged 2 and up. These blocks are created out of replenishable basswood and made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It seems like so many children’s toys are made out of plastic now. It felt good to play with wooden building blocks. Not only does it help your dexterity, you learn all about the elements in the Periodic Table. I love bright colors of the ink and the printing is very easy to read. Who knows…maybe the world’s next Einstein will get his start playing with these blocks.

The Periodic Table Building blocks are $31.00.

Other Gift Ideas

Needs some other ideas? There are plenty of options for adults and children. Check out some of these products. Happy shopping!

Aquafarm http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/aquafarm
The Chillsner http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/chillsner
Kinetic Sand http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/kinetic-sand

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Disclosure: I received free products from UncommonGoods for the purpose of this post. I received no other financial compensation. All opinions are my own.

Wordless Wednesday: Woodward Avenue, Downtown Detroit

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Wordless Wednesday: Mount Rushmore in the Snow

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How I Survived My Adult Tonsillectomy

surviving adult tonsillectomyThree weeks ago I had a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. Much to my surprise, I’ve had people ask me to write a blog post full of TMI and the gritty details of recovering from an adult tonsillectomy. So here’s the full story…you may want to skip this post if you have a weak stomach.

I feel like I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but this surgery knocked me down good for two solid weeks, and I’m still not quite normal. I’ve had a few surgeries, and this was definitely the worst.

The Backstory

I had spend the previous 6 weeks battling peritonsillar abscesses. Three rounds of antibiotics (IV, shots, and oral) didn’t help. I was not positive for strep. Steroids only worked as long as I was taking them (and I gained 15 pounds in a week from them). In addition, I had a bout of viral tonsillitis and the worse sinus infection of my life within a 2 week period.

On my 3rd visit to urgent care, the doctor did a large variety of viral testing. The abscesses were cause by Epstein Barr, which meant I had an active episode of infectious mononucleosis. My ENT doctor said the only way to stop the abscesses was to have a tonsillectomy. So I scheduled it as soon as I could.

The Procedure

My tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A) was done at a surgical center under general anesthesia. This was a relief to me, as an urgent care doctor has suggested that I go to the emergency room to have the abscesses lanced (and would probably just numb me up and take out the tonsils). My doctor used electorcautery, which basically cuts out the tissue and seals it by burning it. Pleasant, eh?

The average T&A takes 20-30 minutes to complete. However, my procedure took 45 minutes because there was so much swelling from the peritonsillar abscesses. I was numbed up pretty well when I came back into consciousness. The nurse gave me a few refillable ice packs to help with swelling, and those became some of my most necessary items on my recovery.

Post-op Recovery

I got a prescription for both tablets and liquid Lortab Since my gastric bypass surgery, pain meds absorb differently. The liquid works more quickly, but the dose doesn’t last as long (about 4 hours). The tablets are harder to swallow, but tend to last closer to 6 hours. So I played around with a mixture of half-doses of liquid and tablets at once so it worked fast, but didn’t drug me out too much.

On my first night at home, I was surprised at how well I felt. I are some mashed potatoes with no problem, and came under the false assumption that recovery would be easy. Boy was I wrong.

tonsillectomy popcicles

Between post-op days 2 and 8, my pain and misery became progressively worse each day. I kept to a strict dosing schedule for my pain meds, but it never seemed to be enough. For the breakthrough throat pain, I gargled with “mouth magic,” which is a combination of viscous lidocaine and liquid antacid medicine. Unfortunately, the liquid numbs up your whole mouth. I was glad when the numbness wore off so it didn’t make me drool.

Eating and Drinking

The day before surgery, I did a lot of shopping…sports drinks like G2 and Propel, popsicles, mashed potato mix, cream of wheat, and broth-based soups. I am a big fan of the real fruit based quality Popsicles, but they ended up being far too acidic for the first two weeks. So many people recommended cheap twin pops and Otter Pops…and they were right. The artificial flavoring and slushy consistency was easier to swallow. Sometimes I mashed up the popsicles and mixed it with diet ginger ale.

One of the strangest things for me was how my tease buds changed. I hated the taste of plain water because it tasted like dirt, so I used sugar-free Italian syrups to flavor my giant cups of icy water. I craved black licorice, black olives, and anything really salty. I also craved curry, and it was funny how the slight burn of the mild yellow coconut curry I drank was soothing to the burning pain of the tonsillectomy. I also craved pumpkin at first, but got burned out on it after making pumpkin smoothies and pumpkin protein pudding.

sonic iceComfort Measures

Two of the items that were the biggest comfort measures were ice and a good humidifier. My friend Julie offered to be on ice delivery duty, and brought by gigantic coolers full of pebble ice. When she wasn’t able to be there, I got bags of Sonic’s pebble ice. Between the bags and coolers of ice, I went through over 100 pounds of ice in two weeks. Obviously some of the ice melted in the coolers, but it stayed a better non-clumpy consistency than it would in the freezer.

I used a cool mist humidifier constantly. I had it propped up on a table so the mist hit me directly in the face while I laid in bed. When I sipped water or sucked on ice, my throat stayed moist. But when I couldn’t handle swallowing, the humidifier helped make up the difference.

The day that surprised me the most was day 10…the day the scabs started coming off. Scabs in your throat sent like scabs on your skin. They are not thick and hard and red. They are white, thin, and slimy. And they hurt like a mother when they slough off. This will happen a few times.

Miscellaneous Details

Insomnia was a big issue for me. Because I was dealing with acute pain, my ability to sleep was dependent on how long my Lortab dose lasted. I spent a fair amount of time sleeping through the first 10 days, but never more than about 4-5 hours at once. I watched a lot of Netflix and read on my iPad, but dozed off really easily. I wanted to delve into some shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while, but my attention span was so short. I ended up spending most of my time watching Gossip Girl and 90210. Don’t judge.

Expect to drool a lot. Make sure you have something you can spit into when it’s too hard to swallow your saliva. For me, it was thicker than normal, and was much easier to spit out.

Around day 5, I started a gargle routine. First I would swish with warm salt water. Then with the viscous lidocaine. Then with water again. Then with mouthwash. That seemed to keep funky tastes out of my mouth…and keep my bad breath at bay. No matter how much I brushed my teeth, my mouth was not a happy place to be around.

I had a hard time with food getting stuck on the healing pockets of my throat once I was back to solids. They would fill up and have so much pressure, it could make me dizzy. I figured out this way to get them out with this open-mouthed gagging neck-scrunching move. It sounded frightening and looked even worse, but it was the only way I figured out to her the stuck food out when gargling wasn’t enough.

Three Weeks Later

At three weeks out, I still think a lot of food tastes funny. I want things that are strongly flavored…spicy (but not too spicy) and very salty. I crave drinks with lots of ice, and sip often to keep my mouth moist. My pain comes and goes, and is manageable with Tylenol. The only time it REALLY hurts is when I yawn…it feels like I’m stretching and breaking the newly healed tissues. There are some slightly raw spots in my mouth where the most recent scabs came off. I still feel fatigue, but I think it’s due to all that I’m doing (traveling, moving, etc) instead of just the surgery recovery. I’m up 10 pounds since August, but I know that’s a combination of so many weeks in bed, steroids, and being limited on physical activity. Once I’m back to the gym, I’m sure it will come off without too much hassle.

If I’d had the chance to get this done as a child or teen, I would have preferred it. So many years of strep throat and tonsillitis episodes have been rough, but it’s never been frequent enough to warrant surgery. If you ever get a peritonsillar abscess, get those tonsils out ASAP. Don’t wait 6 weeks like I did.

Flashback Friday: “Flood” by They Might Be Giants

they might be giants flood albumLast week, Rosie and I roadtripped down to California. As is a necessity with any long car ride, you have to have a great roadtrip playlist. Since I updated my iPhone to iOS7, the shuffle function is wonky when I connect it to my car’s stereo system. Songs were playing by artist in clusters, and “Particle Man” came on. And “Whistling in the Dark.” And “Minimum Wage.” And “Istanbul – Not Constantinople.”

Even though I got my tonsils removed two weeks prior, it is practically impossible for me to listen to TMBG without singing along. So on this trip, I croaked a little and mostly danced on my seat. I looked across the car to my 13 year old daughter, who knew every word to the songs. She reminded me so much of myself at her age when I started listening to TMBG.

My first introduction to They Might Be Giants was in the fall of 1992. I was in a church production of “Hello Dolly” with my mom. Most of the rehearsals, my mom and I rode together. But when it was just the teens rehearsing, I usually got a ride with my neighbor Danny. I thought Danny was soooo cool. He was cute and mysterious and wore Converse All-Stars and t-shirts for bands I’d never heard of. My favorite part of these car rides was listening to these bands that I never heard of, or never played on the top 40 radio station.

One night we were coming home from rehearsal, and he turned on TMBG’s “Apollo 18” album. From the moment that “the statue got me high,” I was immediately in love. I wanted to listen to the whole album that night, and he let me borrow it. I asked Danny which other albums the band had released, and he said “You have to get Flood.” So I walked to Fred Meyer the next day and bought both albums.

They Might Be Giants 1990It’s crazy to think that it was over twenty years ago from that experience, because TMBG had already been around for a decade. John Flansburgh and John Linnell formed TMBG in 1982. Flansburgh (guitar, black plastic glasses) and Linnell (accordion, keyboards) met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and began writing songs together in high school. They attended different colleges, then later moved into the same apartment building in Brooklyn after college.

The first time that they performed, they went by the name El Grupo De Rock and Roll, and most of the audience members spoke Spanish. They quickly ditched that band name, and switched to a name  based on a passage of the book Don Quixote. Quixote thinks that the windmills look like evil giants. A friend’s ventriloquism act went by the name for a while, and Flansburgh and Linnell adopted it when they were looking for a band name.

After a bike accident that kept John F from performing, and John L’s apartment was burgled, they took a hiatus from performing. They began recording their songs onto an answering machine, and advertised “Dial-a-Song” in the Village Voice newspaper. People called in to listen to their songs, and it eventually led to a record deal. Flood is TMBG’s third studio album, preceded by the self-titled album “They Might Be Giants” in 1986 and “Lincoln” in 1988. Although the mixing process was analog, Flood was the first TMBG album to be digitally recorded.

The track list for Flood is as follows:
they might be giants dial a song

  • Theme from Flood
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • Lucky Ball and Chain
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  • Dead
  • Your Racist Friend
  • Particle Man
  • Twisting
  • We Want a Rock
  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
  • Hearing Aid
  • Minimum Wage
  • Letterbox
  • Whistling in the Dark
  • Hot Cha
  • Women & Men
  • Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Road Movie to Berlin

Flood debuted on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart the week of February 10, 1990, spent 22 weeks on the chart, and peaked at #75. In the UK, the album peaked at #14 and was on the charts for 12 weeks. Flood is TMBG’s most popular and best-selling album, yet when it was released, Rolling Stone only gave the album “2 out of 5 stars.” On the album’s 20th anniversary, Flansburgh and Linnell’s greatest album was again featured in Rolling Stone. It’s a pretty fun recap.

Istanbul they might be giants

“There’s only one thing that I know how to do well
And I’ve often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that’s be you
Be what you’re like
Be like yourself
And so I’m having a wonderful time
But I’d rather be whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark”

When I moved to Utah in 1993, one of the first friends I made was Emily. We met in science class and started about the things we liked. While most if our music tastes didn’t mesh, we both loved and bonded over show tunes and TMBG. In fact, in 9th grade geography class, we did a combined project making up an imaginary land based completely upon They Might Be Giants. We were geeky, TMBG is geeky, and we didn’t care. A few years ago, Emily gave me a blue canary nightlight.

Although TMBG has released many albums since the early 90’s, none of them hold the same appeal for me as Flood. It’s juvenile enough to be appealing for kids, but clever and catchy for adults to love.

What is your favorite TMBG song? Do you have memories you love of listening to Flood? Can you listen to “Minimum Wage” without pretending to crack a whip?