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Obsessed With Bejeweled Blitz

I’ve chronicled my passionate love for Bejeweled Blitz here a couple of times. If I have a few minutes to kill at work, or just need to zone out and clear my head, I’ll log on to Facebook and play a few rounds. There’s something about the falling jewels stacking up and clearing out, and the Bejeweled announcer rooting me on that relaxes me.

And then the developers upped the ante. Last Tuesday they released an updated version. It was already an addiction for me, but now the jewels are more dazzling, the sounds are all tinkly and crystally, and the announcer gets really worked up when you do well! “Good Job!” “Excellent!” Really, everyone should hear those words once or twice a day.

They also added a few new way to rack up points. They already had the Hypercube, which appears when you line up five of the same jewels. Click on that and then click on any one jewel next to it and it clears ALL of the jewels of that color off the board. To jack up the points they added the Flame, too, which gives you a flashing jewel if you line up four of the same color. You can either match that with two more of the same to get a bunch of points or if you don’t, you still get a bunch points at the end just for being on the board.

Then they added the best feature—The Last Hurrah! And that’s exactly what it is. When the game ends, it automatically searches through possible matches and finishes them off for you, giving you gajillions of bonus points.

Overall, I think each match is worth more too because I seem to bet getting a ton of scores like this:

Still can't get the 150K badge...

Still can't get the 150K badge...

I’m insanely competitive about this. You can see your friends’ scores and I get jealous when they hit 200K, 250K…and I get determined to beat them. I realized I had a serious problem today when I walked away from my computer after playing for 5 minutes…um, okay 25…and my eyes were red, watery and glassy. I had to cut myself off. And then 15 minutes later I was jonesing to play again.

The worst part? Every Tuesday the scores clear out and you start over. I hate Tuesdays.


Getting Nailed

I’ve been trying to be smart about money lately.

(Yeah, I actually typed those words.)

It’s something I should have been doing all along anyway, but lately with uncertainty about my job, and with the holidays coming up, I’ve been cutting back on the non-essentials.

Like getting my nails done. I like my nails to look neat and clean, and my cuticles get a little gnarly, so I was going every other weekend for a mani/pedi.

manicure-1Plus, it’s an hour to myself to sit and relax, reading a trashy tabloid while someone massages my hands and feet. And even though the place I go isn’t very expensive, it adds up. So I’ve started giving myself manicures and pedicures at home. Now I remember the real reason I’ve been paying money to have someone do my nails: I suck at it.

I look at it like painting a room—it’s all about the prep. I’ve been getting my nails done for so long that I know all the tips and tricks the manicurists use, but somehow the whole thing never comes together for me.

I don’t keep my nails long—I like a little length, but not much beyond the top of my finger—and I like just the edges rounded a bit (not square and not oval). But when I’m done wielding the nail file, it looks like I hacked at them with a saw. The nails are a little asymmetrical and they’re always still a little raggedy.

I soak my hands in warm, soapy water to soften up the digits, I push my cuticles back and I slather on lotion. I dab a little rubbing alcohol on each finger to absorb the oil from the lotion, and make sure everything is dry for the polish.

And the polish is where everything really goes wrong.

I will usually go wild with color on my toes and keep my fingers more natural unless they’re a nice length and look somewhat even. Otherwise, my hands look like Britney Spears’ in her crazy days…

Nice manicure

Nice manicure, Britney

But whether I use a more natural color or something bolder like Opi’s Lincoln Park After Dark, the result is the same—the polish looks like Ray Charles was turned loose with some spray paint.

I apply the base coat, and no matter what I do, no matter how flat and stable I keep my hands, the base coat seeps into my cuticles and builds up in the edges. I try to smooth it out, or clean it out with an orange stick, but it just stubbornly slides back into the cuticles. I wait a minute for that to dry before I apply the main color, but it doesn’t matter. The base coat slides down the same way, collecting into the cuticle. And if I’m using color, especially a dark red, the color settles in making my cuticles look like I’ve been gnawing on them for lunch—they look red, dry and ragged.

I apply the polish the way the pros tell you—just three swipes of color: start in the middle, then do one side of the nail and then the other. I try to keep the right amount of polish on the brush, but no matter how many times I swipe it against the opening, it’s too much. It glops and goops. I try to clean that up between coats, but if I use polish remover and a little brush, the remover oozes into the polish, making it an even bigger mess.

The next coat is supposed to add more coverage and smooth everything out, but it always seems too thick, too viscous. And then I have to wait an eternity for that mess to dry before I can even tackle the top coat.

When all is said and done, I’m left with nail polish that peels and bubbles, cuticles polished like an old window painted shut, and raggedy-ass nails.

And, of course, the more it peels, the more I peel it. And the more raggedy my nails get.

Manicures and pedicures are suddenly starting to feel less frivolous and more of a necessity. I may have to do the unthinkable and cut back on my Starbucks. Or food. Or something.


I signed Gracie up for Agility lessons. If you aren’t familiar with it, agility is kind of like an obstacle course for dogs. There are jumps, climbing obstacles, poles to weave through, tunnels and—god help us—a table that she needs to pause on, usually mid course.

Not Gracie

Not Gracie

I figured that this would be fun for her, and I thought it would be a great way to burn off some of that insane energy I can’t seem to get rid of any other way. And bonus? If I can actually train her to do these obstacles, I might actually have a chance of, ehem, actually training her to behave.

This Isn't Gracie Either

This Isn't Gracie Either

Our first class was on Thursday and even though she was a week behind (all the newbies started while we were on vacation) she caught up quickly and did really well. I’m kind of excited about this—even though I have to run alongside to coach her through the obstacles.

And Neither Is This...

And Neither Is This...

She’s still not finished doing regular dog shows, but we only have two more points to go.

Sometimes I think my life has gone to the dogs.


The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. —Anonymous

I think I’ve thoroughly established around here that Julie the Cruise Director Bill is a doer, a planner, a get-up-off-your-ass-and-move kind of guy. He is always on the go, making plans, going places, meeting friends. He likes the idea of sitting still, of just being, but can’t really wrap his head around actually doing that.

For my part, I’m The Master of Chill. I have no problem lounging around, doing not much of anything except riding the couch, watching the TV and/or reading a book. For me, there’s a lot of pleasure in doing nothing. A perfect day is one that extends infinitely ahead of me without plans or demands. It’s how I get my bearings, find my center.

Most of the time Bill and I balance each other our pretty well. He drags me out (sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes willingly) to do things, and 85% of the time I’m glad he did. Some days I insist that we’re doing nothing and I plant myself somewhere and refuse to budge like a willful child. About 85% of the time Bill will tell me later in the day that he needed to do nothing that day.

Until a few days ago, though, I wasn’t really sure why he was so unrelenting with doing. There’s almost an urgency to it sometimes, as though if he can keep moving…what?

We were having one of those State of Our Marriage talks that happen from time to time. Nothing serious—more like a check-up more than anything. You good? Yup. You? Yup—and the topic of living life came up. Bill was reminding me that it’s not just doing what you have to do, but really living life—actively participating, taking charge, having fun and not letting it pass you by.

I’m all for that, but I’m a proponent of balance, too.

And then he said something that made everything click in place:

“I’m 55 years old. My father died when he was 75. If that’s any indicator, I’ve got 20 years left. I’m not about to spend that time waiting, watching life pass me by.”

That slapped me hard. Suddenly, 20 years doesn’t seem that long.

Granted, it’s a somewhat fatalistic view of life, but I suppose there’s a lot of truth in it. We talk about going here, doing that, writing more, traveling, doing things that make us happy. So what am I doing? What am I waiting for? I want to spend more time with my husband, doing things together, having fun. And not just because he may only have “20 years left” (truth be told, he’ll outlive me!), but because I don’t want life to pass me by. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 80 and wonder what I did all my life. Because as much as I love my Tivo, it’s not what I’m going to remember when I’m sitting in my rocking chair at the old folks’ home.

I’m not going to live my life like a game of Beat the Clock, but I will definitely say “Yes” more. I will try to get out more and burrow in my house less.

What have I got to lose?

Grace Face

There are few things in life that Gracie loves more than her soccer ball. She sleeps with it, she plays with it, she chases it and she squeeks it until it makes my eyes bleed. It’s funny to watch her play because she drop kicks, dribbles and does headers better than David Beckham (seriously, have you seen him play lately? Hawt, but totally losing his edge). She’ll chase and fetch this ball for hours—with our without us. And sometimes at random times—um, 3:00 a.m., really? This is a rare photo of her not in motion with her beloved ball.

Look at this sweet smushy face

Look at this sweet smushy face

Happy Martini Day *hiccup*

Chill those glasses, stuff those olives and shake (or stir) that vodka because today is National Martini Day, boys and girls! And you know—there are few things we like better around here in the Land of Snark than a perfectly chilled martini.

The classic martini consists of gin and dry vermouth, but James Bond substituted vodka in his—“Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.” Personally, I’m a vodka girl. Specifically Belvedere. As far as shaking vs. stirring? “Shaking cools a drink more quickly producing a chilly fog (by creating tiny bubbles) and creating a slightly different taste, but dilutes the drink more than stirring does” (so says Google). I shake.

I used to be an apple martini girl…

The Apple Martini

The Apple Martini

…and once in a while I’ll have a chocolate martini…

This photo is the product of bad photography while drinking...

Vodka and Chocolate. Two great tastes that taste great together.

…but then I was introduced to dirty martinis and never looked back.

Olives, a twist or cocktail onions are all acceptable garnishes. My personal favorite is a dirty martini with three olives.

Dirty Girl Martini

6 parts vodka

2 parts dry vermouth (I prefer actually rinsing vermouth in glass and dumping it out)

1 part olive brine (or my personal favorite Dirty Sue)

Cocktail olives

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with olives.

Dirty martinis are fun to share with friends, too…

Lesley and I have a long history of drinking martinis together...

Lesley and I have a long history of drinking martinis together...

So mix up a batch, grab your friends and loved ones, make a toast and drink up!


PS: Some sources claim National Martini Day is today; others say tomorrow. I think it should be both. In fact, it should be a four-day weekend.

PSS: No alcoholics or martini glasses were harmed in the making of this post.

Is It Really That Simple? (Warning: Self-Indulgence Ahead!)

On the road to Happiness

On the road to Happiness

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. I know—shocker. It’s not like I’ve been keeping that little tidbit to myself.

I’ve been wrestling with the whole job situation (which is finally resolved), and I feel like I went a few rounds with Brock Lesnar in a UFC cage fight. I feel battered, bruised, worn out and a little…blah. In a word: Unhappy.

A couple of nights ago Bill and I were talking about all of this. I was trying to explain what was bothering me and what was rattling around in my head, and while he’s understanding and supportive, he and I approach things very differently. Sometimes I’m not sure he “gets me.”

His response to all of this? “You just have to make up your mind and be happy.”

Really? It’s that simple? Just make up your mind and that’s that. Well, shit, why the hell didn’t I think of that?

I clearly don’t come from a place of happy. Which isn’t to say I’m constantly unhappy. Or even depressed. But I get do get those feelings of…meh.

Where I get stuck...

Where I get stuck...

Not to belittle Bill’s advice, but I do believe that we’re hardwired to either be easy-going and go-with-the-flow people, or we’re more anxious and stressed people. I’m clearly the latter. I think it’s like height. No matter how much I wish I were taller, I will always be 4’11”. No matter how much I wish I were easy going and relaxed, I’m the Glass is Half Empty girl. Period. Do I like it? Not really. Am I satisfied with that? No. It blows. It’s a crappy way to wade through life. But I don’t believe it’s a simple as making up your mind. I think it’s got to be more complicated than that. If it’s not, I’m clearly doing something wrong.

Wikipedia defines happiness as “a state of mind or feeling such as contentment, satisfaction, pleasure or joy.” (Yeah, I know, this shouldn’t really be my source, but whatever.)

Using that definition, I get satisfaction from working hard and doing a good job. I get pleasure from spending time with my husband and friends and family and Gracie. All of the things researchers say are keys to happiness. But joy? I don’t know. That’s a tough one for me. Personally, I think joy is a spiritual term, one that I’m not connected with right now. To experience joy you have to fully open up to life, which I’m clearly not doing.

But I think it’s much deeper than satisfaction. Engagement and meaning are crucial to happiness (and to joy), and that’s where I fall short. Life is dynamic. It’s constantly changing and evolving. I want to evolve with it. The irony is that I’m so busy “evolving” that I’m regressing. It’s not that I’ve checked out. It’s that I get hung up. I dissect everything. I have to analyze, examine, mull, ponder and chew on it. I tend to overlook the things that matter because I obsess over what really doesn’t. I am not fully engaged in life because my head is stuck firmly up my own ass.

Bill is much better at letting things go and getting on with his life. He is fully engaged and has found meaning. He’s better able to focus on what matters: relationships and service. He finds meaning in his family, his friends and service to the community. He’s able to get beyond the bullshit and minutiae of life and actually embrace life.

This is where his Julie the Cruise Director personality and my Gregory House personality collide. 

So how do I get from where I am to where he is? How do I pay attention to the happiness that I know is there? How do I stay focused on that? That’s the million dollar question. I wish there was a switch that I could just flip. Some people recommend keeping a Gratitude Journal. The theory being that if you stop and consciously think of the good and record it, you will become happier. There are versions of that all over the web. I’ve even tried to do it, but I gave up on it.

And it’s not that I don’t feel I have anything to be happy about. (I’m cynical, but not that cynical.) I think my problem is that I always want more. I always want to do better, be better. Instead of being satisfied with where I am and what I’m doing, I wonder what else I can do, how much better I can be. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t believe ambition is a dirty word. But there’s a stepping stone between that and happiness and for some reason I keep trying to leap frog over that.

Where I want to be...

Where I want to be...

Do I just wake up tomorrow and commit to being happy? Can it really be that simple? Is it more in what you do and how you go about it? Or is it part of your “factory wiring” as Lesley calls it?