My Earring Fell in the Brie...and other End of Year Musings

Sometimes blogging inspiration arrives in the most random weird-ass ways.  I've probably written that before, but I'm proven this time and time again.

I stopped by the grocery store on Thursday to pick up a few things in anticipation of being icebound for a couple of days.  Didn't we just have the Pineapple Express - heavy rains and some flooding earlier this month?  We're now back to super duper cold and snow.  Which I actually do prefer over rain and flooding and Lord knows my (sometimes-flooded) garage does too.  And while the ice and snow is beautiful alas it's a bitch to drive in here in our hilly and ill-prepared area of the Seattle suburbs.  I attempted a drive into work that morning after the snow arrived.  Normally if my steep driveway and the road on my main street are fairly clear that's a good sign the work commute is going to be alright.

Not so much on Thursday.  By the time I got within a mile of work the 4-lane arterials were icy and my car fishtailed on a few turns.  I'm no SUV driver and not one to be a super hero out there on the roads either.  So my co-worker and I agreed to leave the office early that afternoon before it got dark and froze up yet again to finish our workday at home.

I stopped by the gourmet cheese section at the Red Apple Market on the route home and looked through all the selections.  I laugh and remember when I tried going vegan - or maybe part-time vegan - maybe a year and a half ago or so?  I have a few vegan cookbooks in my kitchen and they might look impressive on display but are seldom used now.  However, many of the main courses are great side dishes.  I decided that while a vegan diet is super healthy, my love of cheese and of seafood trumps any efforts to fully convert.  Hence, my snooping around in the Brie.

And then *ping* - one of my earrings fell out of my earlobe and right down deep into the bottom of the display!  I'm glad I was alert and noticed otherwise I would have been totally bummed.  So I tore apart the display (err, sorry) and carefully pulled out my earring...phew!  Gotta be careful with this style I haven't worn in awhile - earrings on French wires, as opposed to the posts I usually choose.  At least they weren't super expensive.

So, there is soooo much to reflect back upon in 2010.  My '10 calendar has already hit the recycle bin and a fresh new '11 one (full of beautiful tropical beach scenes) is up here in the home office ready to rock. 

A few 2010 standouts:

- I gave up Diet Coke cold turkey on 1/02/2010 and have NEVER regretted it nor ever looked back one second.  YES!  Gone is that 25+ year 6-or-more-can-a-day habit!
- WORK.  Getting freaking back to work.  I started off the year unemployed and didn't get back to work until my birthday, May 19th.  What a fucking roller coaster of great connections, support, let downs, glorious interviews, a few months pro bono/part-time to help a colleague launch a consulting business and working that phone and email.  Draining my unemployment benefits fund dry meanwhile, and, frankly, sweating it on a few occasions.  Let's hear it for 2011 to be a year of steady employment, prosperity and continuing to grow professionally while rebuilding those savings!
- Falling sheetrock and down allergies!  Huh?  Check out one of my archived February posts.  I had a very brief relationship that inspired probably one of my funniest posts yet to date here in fivenineteen.  Hell, at the time it wasn't funny but putting the fingers to the keyboard helped me get through the aftermath.
- River rafting day trip in July:  I joined my friend J on a guided trip down the Wenatchee River and it was extremely memorable and hilarious.  Again, check the blog arichives.  I am SO ready to do another rafting trip next summer!
- New hockey team!  I made a shift after 7 years to a newly-formed team this fall season and couldn't be happier.  I love my former team however my playing ability just wasn't keeping up as they moved up the league ranks.  Just shows how the Universe takes care of what we need.  I was wondering one day how to hook up with a new team and then one day later got an email asking for volunteers to form a new team. And, voila.
- 3 5Ks!  THIS is a tradition I plan to carry over into 2011 and beyond and have to thank P for lighting this pilot light within me in 2009.  I ran 2 5Ks and walked one as a volunteer.  And I can't WAIT to get back into training for another one this next year.  One of these days I will run one in under 30 minutes - mark my words.
- Getting through the big home repairs.  Let's see...this year I had to replace my garage door opener, my cell phone, my fridge and a few expensive parts in my furnace.  All while being out of work for nearly a year save for a couple months at a lower-paying but very worthwhile engagement.  GUH.  The wallet took it hard in the short and curlies this year, but I MADE IT THROUGH.  And I will never EVER take for granted seeing the furnace at 68 degrees.  Or that motor kicking on so very gently.  Bliss.
- Doing something new:  a new side business!  What happens when you love accessories AND want to accelerate how quickly you rebuild savings?  Why, you start a jewelry business, of course!  And as many of you know, that's Silpada Designs for me - a jewelry brand I have known and have adored for many years.  I am proud to now represent the line and am enjoying learning the ropes as a rep, meet the rest of my team and get my initial round of parties booked!  
- A Full Year of fivenineteen!  What sprung out of unemployment and restlessness back in September 2009 has now turned into a regular ritual for me.  Who knows where this could lead?  If it goes somewhere, great.  If it stays like this, great too.  It's ME and an outlet I cherish.  And I adore all of you who tune in regularly or might find me here on a random search.  Whatever fivenineteen evolves into next, it's a great journey - thank you for being here with me on the ride.

My best to each of you for an adventurous, wonderous, restful and peaceful New Year.


Food Overload? Food Hangover?

Family + Food = Fabulous Christmas Holidays.  And some hard workin' pants zippers over here.  Oh boy.

Yep, I'm stuffed.  Between Christmas Eve dinner and last night's Christmas dinner this girl is happy.  Too bad I didn't snap a couple pictures with my phone to get the real shots; this picture from the nice people at epicurious.com will do just fine.

How does baked halibut with spinach and artichoke sauce sound?  With wild rice on the side? And a salad starter with fresh pear and dried cranberries?  This is one of my Mom's signature holiday dinners and it's to die for.  And even better given my Dad caught the halibut on a fishing trip in Alaska over the summer.  We polished off dinner with homemade biscotti and fudge for dessert.  YUM.

Why is it that after a huge, satisfying dinner I'm hungry the next day?  Since this "next day" was Christmas Day this was a good thing.  Off to my Aunt and Uncle's house for their fabulous annual dinner tradition:  prime rib with Yorkshire pudding (which is kind of like popovers).  And Mom's famous seafood lasagne with shrimp and artichokes.  We had spinach salad with sliced red onions and some heavenly vinaigrette for a starter (I NEED this recipe something fierce), a side dish with crisp, fresh green beans and then peppermint ice cream pie with drizzled chocolate sauce for dessert.  Homemade ice cream, everyone. Isn't this sounding incredible?  My mouth is watering just remembering it all.

I feel very fortunate having incredible cooking talent in the immediate family here.  I like to think I'm a pretty good cook but given I don't entertain on the scale a lot of my family does I guess some of my talent lies a little dormant.  Although I do have a butt-kicking corn chowder recipe with potatoes, fennel and bacon and a paella recipe I'm dang proud of. 

Tonight I'm thinking it's gonna be linguine with shrimp and pesto...and maybe a nice glass of pinot grigio.  With just me at home in my PJ's watching the Canucks game (ahhh, Boxing Day!) and later the latest Real Housewives of Atlanta episode.  Yep, I'm hooked. 


The Inky Blackness of the Solstice

OK, I'm trying to get in the mood to write this post but we've got amazing, bright sunshine pouring in through the windows right now.  But not complaining one iota....especially since it starts getting dark so early this time of year.

Dark dark dark.  Get up when it's dark, go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark.  When it's grey, dreary and dark it's like living in a black and white TV set!  And my eyes feel dragged down and tired.  Hard to explain. 

But the deep rhythms of changing seasons are fascinating to me.  No matter how rushed and busy we have become over generations, no matter how much new technology gets infused into our lives...the seasons chug along the same way they have for probably millions of years.

I rush around to various parties and search for just the right Christmas gifts.  Yet deep within me there is a sense of Still. Of Iciness. And of Calm.  This is the bottom of the big roller coaster of our seasons.  Summer tips over to Fall and whooshes down to Winter.  Then, we climb out and back up again to Spring.  I know people who literally whoop with joy when the Winter Solstice passes, for that means the days will slowly start getting longer again. Me?  I just take it all in stride and enjoy the uniqueness of each time of year. Yeah, so it gets dark at 4:30pm - who cares?  In a few months it'll still be light out at 10:00pm.

THIS Solstice will be a doozy, for there is a full Moon AND a total lunar eclipse!  How fascinating!  I admit, I'm a geek about stuff like this...I'm really excited to witness as much of it as I can, and pray the clear weather holds so we can watch!  I actually have a super late hockey game Monday night (an 11pm face-off, yikes), so by the time we are done the eclipse should be in progress.  And because it's the Solstice the moon will be super high in the sky.  I can't wait to see this!  And I hope I can stay awake.  I've already warned my co-workers I have a late game and will likely be in a fog the next day.

But it's the holidays and where I work now the last couple of weeks of December are both quiet and herky jerky.  Lots of people take the entire two weeks off, while others take just one. Either way, not much gets done.  As a consultant, I'm going to be on duty the entire time save for the Christmas and New Years holidays, but you know what?  I'm OK with that.  I had a ton of downtime earlier this year when I was out of work.  I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks of catching up and getting things organized for next year.

And...time to reflect and make goals for 2011.  This year has been a roller coaster, kind of like those seasonal rhythms I mentioned earlier.  But I hope my own personal roller coaster calms down and stabilizes. 

2010, love you but you were a big bitch too.  I'll have more on that in next week's post.


Wonders of Winter

Wow.  OK, it's not technically winter yet - we're about a week away from the Solstice but work with me here.
Remember how a couple weeks back we had record cold and my furnace crapped out?  Fast forward to yesterday and we're now 30 degrees warmer and getting slammed with heavy rain.  And all that wonderful new snow in the moutains - heaven for our skiers?  Melllltingggg...which makes the flooding potential that much worse.  This phenomenon is called the Pineapple Express - warm air from the tropics swoops in.  Most of us here call it a major pain in the ass.  I need to run a couple errands and joke I'll probably need a rubber raft.

But hey, the holiday season's in full swing!!  My tree's up (oh the joy of a faux tree, takes 3 seconds to set up), all decorated and I'm going to spend this afternoon wrapping a few gifts.  I've got quite a bit more shopping to do but everyone on my list is local or will be here in town for Christmas, so no mad rush to get things shipped.

Had a lot of fun shaking up the routine last week with 3 nights out in a row!  A co-worker suggested we get our nails done the night before our company Christmas party and she had a coupon for her favorite nail salon.  I'd never been but noticed my chipped nails (hey, it was from hockey - ya gotta take a few for the team sometime) and thought sure, why not? 

Full mani and pedi with an arm and leg massage for $28!  WOW.  I think the prices at the spa I go to for nails or waxing or brow tinting start at that and go even higher.  I was impressed with this nail salon.  No waiting when we walked right in!

Our company holiday party was at Wild Ginger at the Bravern.  I've blogged about the Bravern before - a wonderful jewel of shops, offices and condos in downtown Bellevue.  Long gone is the Dairy Queen and the dance studio where I took ballet as a kid on that prime piece of real estate.  Major upgrade!  Wild Ginger is wonderful Thai food, injected with pacific northwest influences.  Thai fusion I suppose.  Whatever it is, it's great.  Our consulting firm had a fabulous private area with a buffet, full bar and lots of room for mingling and conversation.  Floor to ceiling windows with amazing views of downtown Bellevue.  It was very intimate and lively at the same time.  Just a great way to reconnect with the people at this consulting firm and celebrate all the help they've put into getting my current work assignment all set up.  Can you believe it's been 7 months now? I've been in touch with them for over 3 years; tenacity pays off! 

As I've probably mentioned before, great people, food, drink and conversation is pure bliss for me.  Doesn't matter if I know everyone in the room or none.  I just enjoy the small talk, laughs and networking. 

Some how I made it through the next day (Friday) on pure adrenaline. And 3 cups of coffee.  I didn't get to sleep until probably 2am - I was so invigorated after the party I didn't realize it was around 11pm when I'd left! 

After work it was girls night out with 3 of my co-workers.  We met at Parlor Billiards at Lincoln Square for drinks and munchies and then headed to the skybridge overlooking Bellevue Way for the snowflake lane celebration!  During the holidays they do a nightly show with a drum corps all dressed up like toy soldiers parading through the streets and drumming along to Christmas music.  And the light show on the buildings around Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square are amazing!  And of course...(fake) snow!  Funny how we had our own REAL snow back in mid November.  It was a beautiful night - not raining at all.  Yummy dinner at Palomino with a nice glass of Pinot Gris and believe me this girl was beyond satisfied.  And stuffed.

Yeah, it's the parties that get me in the holiday spirit.  Oh and the music, big time.  I just put a bunch of Christmas music in the CD player.  When I sing along I almost feel like I'm transported back in time.  I feel 25...or, maybe 9.  I remember singing and later learning to play a lot of Christmas songs on the piano.  I close my eyes and can picture all those piano music books piled up at home.  The Nutcracker music.  Piano duets I played with my Mom. And the choral arrangements in high school and college.  The 15 years playing in our handbell choir at church.  Yep, music resonates at the core of my being.  And I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had incredible teaching and inspiration through my family, my teachers and conductors.

So, the year is winding down and it's time to focus on the plans and joys for next year while drinking in and enjoying every second of the holidays. I'll have a lot more to write about this later for sure.

Whatever it is you celebrate, enjoy the magic and wonder of the Season!


Wearing My Inventory!

...and rockin' it proudly too!  You know, it never occurred to me that a major perk of being a Silpada Designs independent rep was that I get to wear my inventory!  Well duh already! 

And I'm learning how to change my typical responses to questions or compliments about what I'm wearing.  Trust me, I eat up compliments with a spoon - a warm, genuine smile and 'thank you' is all you need!  Work it!  I'm not shy if you haven't picked up on that.  Now, I'm starting to say things like, "Thank you! It's Silpada...have you heard of it?"  And see where the conversation takes us. 

I love talking about what I love - don't we all?  And I'm having a blast sharing my passion for this jewelry - I bought my first piece about 3 years ago at a neighbor's party.  A bracelet with beautiful, flat square, warm-toned stones framed in sterling silver with a toggle closure.  I've worn that bracelet at least twice a week since and always get compliments.  It looks great with casual workwear, a t-shirt and shorts or a dress!  I probably paid around $170 for it and it was worth every penny.

The hot UPS man delivered my Silpada start up kit on the Monday of Thanksgiving week - two large boxes full of binders, training CDs and DVDs, order forms, catalogues, and...of course...my first jewelry!  And a few of you who tune in here regularly might recall that was when I was still waiting for my furnace to be fixed so it was damn cold in here! [My furnace died on 11/19 and did not get fixed until 11/23.  Trust me, that's a longggg time to go without heat - not to mention the snow and record cold temperatures].  It was funny trying to try on necklaces, rings and earrings - brrrr that silver was cold against my skin!

So check out the picture here - and pardon the weird hand positioning.  This is an attempt to hide my desperate need of a manicure as I snapped this with my phone, ha ha.  The ring is sterling silver with beautiful scrollwork and the stone is a chalcedony.  A WHAT?  That's 'kal SED nee.'  Yep, it fooled me too.  It's a semi-precious stone in the quartz family.  And it's stunning.  And as I like to describe this jewelry... 'heft but not heavy.'  Meaning, it feels solid, not chintzy, but isn't uncomfortable and heavy.  THAT'S the perfect balance.  If jewelry is too heavy it's going to weigh down my hands as I work. Heavy earrings pull my earlobes down too far.  No thanks.  And gross.

And that incredible bangle?  Gorgeous, hand-hammered sterling silver.  It's absolutely fantastic and I could probably wear it daily.  It's fun pairing it up with other bracelets too.

What am I learning?  Never ever EVER go anywhere without a catalogue or at minimum a few business cards (I got business cards and a rubber stamp as part of my start up kit!).  Case in point:  I walked over to a cafeteria in a building across the street from mine at work yesterday (nice change of pace and it wasn't raining.  Plus I needed an ATM as I was out of cash).  I got a nice cup of corn chowder to go and the cashier simply gushed over that bangle - "OMG!  I LOVE silver jewelry!!"  I said oh thanks, it's Silpada, have you heard of it?  Probably not the best time to start up a conversation during the lunch rush. I was totally surprised and caught off guard.  And a little tongue tied.

So what did I do?  I walked back to my building, got a business card, walked back across the street to that cafeteria, stood in the (long) line again, and when it was my turn I said, "Hey it's me again, I'm {fivenineteen} - here's my card.  It has a link to my website and our catalogue.  I do individual orders and home shopping parties.  Please contact me anytime if you have questions or would like more info!"  She smiled and thanked me.  Who knows what if anything will come of it.  BUT.  I'm glad I spotted an opportunity.  Because you never, never know.  I keep a couple catalogues in my laptop briefcase too.  I've already had a few questions from co-workers - the two women I share an office with, to chit chat at the ladies room sink!  Love it.

Know who else admired the jewelry?  The furnace repair guy.  He spotted my pieces all displayed proudly on my dining room table and said oh gosh, my wife makes jewelry!  We'll see where this leads to.  And even my 7 year old nephew over Thanksgiving weekend hugged me as he was leaving and said "Auntie, I like your jewelry."  His Mom (my sister-in-law) bought me a beautiful Silpada stretch bracelet set with copper and silver beads for my birthday a couple years ago, so I guess he's had good training! 

So between the furnace repair guy, my nephew and the cafeteria cashier, I got a good healthy dose of boomboomboom real life learning - you never know who will ask...and ya gotta be prepared to respond!

I'm also getting used to hearing NO.  I do home shopping parties - well, I will be, but I have to start asking people I know if they'd be interested in hosting a show of their own.  The idea is to get parties booked and from there follow up with guests to see if they'd be interested in having their own show to keep your sales going.  And whomever hosts the show gets a portion of her party's total retail sales as credit toward her own free jewelry.  How cool is this? 

One of the speakers at the Founders Tour downtown a couple weeks ago said something that really resonated with me.  "If you're not hearing 'no,' you're not asking enough."  Meaning, get used to hearing no!  All you need to do is ASK...you don't own the response!  And find out if a no means 'not now' or 'never.'  No is no problem!

So, I keep my trusty spreadsheet updated - who I've called or emailed and the responses.  I'm really excited to get this business off the ground and am learning it takes at least 10 no's before you find a yes. 

Enthusiastically sowing the seeds here.  I can't wait!