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Best friend blues

20180913_205537Six years ago my best friend broke my heart by moving nearly 10 hours away to Athens, Georgia. Sure, she moved there because after nearly a decade of insanely hard work, she got her Ph.D. and was offered basically her dream job teaching at UGA. But this job came with a price: she left me behind.

And yeah, I’m amazingly proud of her and make sure that everyone I meet knows how much of a genius she is, but it doesn’t stop me from missing her like crazy pretty much every day. How can I not? She’s been my best friend for over two decades now and is the one human being who pretty much knows every single thought and emotion I’ve ever had. I adore my husband, but on the rare times my bestie is in town, he knows he and the kids take a backseat.

I know that sounds harsh, but remember, I did say rare times. Sadly, my bestie and I are both educators and ain’t neither of us gettin’ rich from our career choices. Because I stopped at my master’s degree, she has way more crippling debt than I do, so it’s not like we are jetting across the country to see each other every weekend. Still, we always make time for each other.

Usually I pack the kids up and spend a week with her during fall break and another one during spring break. She generally comes to see us during the summer and we do spend our days tooling around town with my kids. When my husband gets home from work is when we say goodnight and have time just for us. And, once a year we go on an extended weekend with our three other best friends from college, which is always one of the highlights of the year.

This year we switched things up a bit because my mom wanted my kids to come visit her, so we got to spend a week running around Athens with just the two of us (and her husband who occasionally tagged along). And, since one of our good friends just had surgery, she came down for my fall break to hang out with both of us.

She only got to stay for 3.5 days, but we had a whirlwind of fun while she was here. We spent quite a bit of time tending to our sick friend, who was just barely starting to get out of bed. But we also got to to our favorite coffee shop, a place we spent at least two days a week at when she lived near me, four times. My kids were kind and sat at a separate table so that we could catch up and gab away for an hour or so each morning. We went shopping at her favorite stores (Anthropologie, Homespun, and Silver in the City).

divvy desserts.jpgWe ate at some of our favorite places like India Garden and Public Greens. I got to introduce her to one of my favorite places, Divvy, where we shared delicious small plates and got to try a dessert flight (the Black Forrest Chocolate is the most amazing thing on the entire menu. I want to drown in it). We even got to try some place completely new to both of us: Just Pop In! Popcorn Cafe. Not only did we get some super yummy sandwiches, but we also had popcorn and wine flights. Sure, we really only got it for the popcorn flight, but the wine was fun too!

Just Pop In flight

The reason I have the blues is because once again our visit has come to an end. I had to say goodbye to her on Sunday morning and before she was even out of the neighborhood, I already missed her like crazy. Even though I know I’ll get to see her again in March, March is so far away! The idea of making it another five months until we see each other is rather soul crushing. I keep trying to remind myself that in just five months, not only will I get to take an amazing trip to Disney World with my family, but my kids and I will also get to spend a week visiting our favorite places in Athens (and we have a bunch).

Right now the hardest part of being a grown up isn’t having to work 60+ hours a week, or pay bills, or be responsible for small humans who still act like they need me to do everything for them. Right now, the hardest part is knowing that the best friend anyone could ever have is so far away and I can’t just plop down on the couch next to her, fire up an old episode of Project Runway and talk about whose outfits we like and whose attitudes we hate.

me and Nancee.jpg

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Wonderful City of Dreams

godiva NYCWhen my best friend was visiting, we made our traditional sojourner to our favorite mall. It’s kind of a fru-fru mall with all sorts of high end shops. Not that we shop at most of them. We just aren’t Armani, or Burberry or Coach girls. We are Anthropologie girls (at least I like to shop their discount rack) and we are definitely Lush, Body Shop, David’s Teas and Godiva girls.

We can never hit this mall without a stop at Godiva. In fact, one of our favorite traditions is to stop in at Godiva and get a couple of delicious chocolate treats to take in to the arts theater at the mall. Instead of spending $10 on a tiny popcorn and a drink, we spend that money on truffles to nibble.

This time we skipped the movie, but did not skip the trip to Godiva. I was thrilled to see they had some new chocolates to try. While both my BFF and I like Godiva quite a bit, our biggest complaint is that we’ve gotten a bit bored with their offerings. I know it’s because their case hasn’t changed much in the nearly two decades we’ve been visiting our local boutique. So, whenever they have anything new, it is my vow to try it.

That’s how I found myself selecting all three of the Wonderful City of Dreams chocolates they offered in the case. For some reason, they did not have the Shanghai Lychee for sale as a single piece. I’m sure this is probably a ploy to get people to buy the box, but since the box was $20 for 9 pieces (2 of each new piece and one standard hazelnut heart), I resigned myself to forgoing the lychee treat and being satisfied with the other three.

Inspired by my most recent trip to NYC, I started with the New York Cheesecake. I really enjoyed the fact that the creamy cheesecake filling in this treat has bits of cookie in it, which definitely reminded me of the delicious graham cracker crust of a real cheesecake. The choice to cover this in a blond chocolate was an interesting one. I was worried it might make it overly sweet, but surprisingly it didn’t. It added to the creamy taste of the cheesecake without leaving a film in my mouth that white chocolate often does. I also really liked the imprint of the Statue of Liberty’s famous crown on the top of the piece. It was cute and the second I saw it, even without knowing the flavor, I immediately thought of cheesecake.

Godiva TokyoNext up was the Tokyo Yuzu Orange. I’m not entirely sure what the building on the top of the chocolate is. It looks a bit like the Empire State Building, but I am assuming it is a famous building from Tokyo. I do like the little orange branches that surround it though. I’m not sure I’ve ever had yuzu before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. While the milk chocolate shell was creamy, the inside had a distinctive bitter taste that I was not fond of. It was far more grapefruit than orange. To be honest, I couldn’t really taste the orange at all. All I got was the bitter aftertaste of grapefruit….and maybe yuzu. It was really hard to finish this chocolate. And I know this will sound odd, but it left an odd taste in the back of my throat that reminded me of espresso.

Godiva LondonI decided to finish my tasting with the London Fraise Violette. This one have an image of the iconic double decker bus on it (even if it is more pink than red), and since I am leaving for the UK in four days, I was the most excited about this one. I was worried that the hints of violet might be overpowering. I’ve eaten several different types of floral chocolates and if the balance is not good, it ends up tasting perfumey, which is simply awful. I really wanted the strawberry to balance it out. At first, the violet hints were just that. I got a slightly floral taste at the back of my throat, which did remind me a tad of baby shampoo, but for the most part it was slightly sweet strawberry. It is not as good as the strawberry filling in their strawberry and cream truffle. I’m not really what about this piece screamed London, as so much of what I’ve eaten in London seems to be centered on lemon curd, toffee and black currants, but for the most part I liked it. It did leave me with a slight perfume taste afterwards and I found myself needing a drink to wash my mouth clean.

For the most part, these pieces were definitely better to look at than eat. As much as I love some of Godiva’s standards, lately their new pieces have not been impressing me much.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Appearance: 10/10
Value: 6/10

 

 

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: Missing my BFF

Saturday was my best friend’s birthday. Despite talking to her, texting her and posting notes for a happy birthday on her Facebook wall, I didn’t actually get to spend her birthday with her.

Not that I didn’t want to. I wanted more than anything to spend the entire day with her. Ideally we would have started the morning at our favorite coffee place where we’d split a scone. We wouldn’t want to eat any more than that since we’d have lunch plans, but as neither of us would have eaten breakfast and caffeine on an empty stomach is not something we deals well with, the scone would be a must.

Next, we would have headed over to the mall so we could hit all of our favorite stores. Since it was her birthday, I would have happily spent the extra hour walking around Athropologie, long after I’d exhausted all the things I wanted to try on, so she could make sure she looked at everything in the store. We definitely would have stopped at Godiva to at least get our free May piece of chocolate. Knowing me, I would have grabbed a couple extras as well.

By this time we’d be actually hungry, so we’d head out to either her favorite Indian buffet or maybe to our favorite brunch place where we’d probably split some of their delicious cinnamon toast (what can I say, we are carb girls) and continue to gab away the day.

We’d round out the afternoon with manicures and pedicures before heading over to her house to hang out until her husband was ready to go grab some dinner.

We’d probably end the night watching a movie, possibly at a theater, but more likely at her house where it would be easy to analyze it afterwards.

Finally, I’d make it home, exhausted, but happy to have spent a perfect day celebrating the most important person who is not related to me.

But alas, four years ago she got her dream job in Athens, Georgia and as much as I wanted to spend this perfect day with her, driving nine hours there and nine more back this weekend wasn’t in the cards. Especially not since I had a ton of grading to do.

Instead, I had to make do with my phone and Facebook, two very poor substitutes for the real thing. Instead of spending the day with my person, I spent it doing chores, grading papers and running my daughter to a birthday party for her classmate.

I love my best friend. I hate that she is so far away.

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Wildcard Wednesday: I’m the birthday girl

Yes, that’s right, it’s my birthday. Happy 43! Wait, am I 43…let me do the math again…yes, I am 43 today. I don’t know if it is a sign of my age or a sign that birthdays have become much less of a to do or a sign that I am still trying to hold on to being younger than I am, but I almost always have to stop and really think about how old I am.

I don’t generally consider myself someone who is embarrassed by my age. If someone really wants to know, I have no trouble giving it. In fact, I’ve used it quite often in debates on social media when someone gets condescending and tells me that when I get a little older I’ll understand. This happens to me quite a bit since a) I have always looked younger than my age and b) I have a lot of friends on social media who are former students who are quite a bit younger than I am. Many of the other “adults” in their lives like to blow off their opinions and insights because they don’t have enough “life experience.” I’ve had quite a few people who clearly just assume I am also college-aged based merely on my association with former students and try to belittle me in the same way. That’s when I’m thrilled to throw my age out there as a badge of honor.

I know some people still make much ado about their birthdays, but I am not one of those people. It’s not because I don’t like a good soiree. It’s because my birthday always comes during crunch time at school (my AP Lit test is once again on my birthday this year). Plus, I have two elementary aged kids and a lack of babysitters in the area, so I don’t get out nearly as much as I’d like. Generally my family goes out for dinner and sometime near my birthday I’ll get together with some of my good friends for a girls’ dinner or brunch. And that is fine by me.

I’ve even gotten bad about helping my husband figure out gifts for me. I think I’ve hit that age that if I really want something, I’ll just go buy it myself. Why wait to get it as a present? I’m not a jewelry person. I have a dozen or so necklaces, and maybe half as many bracelets, but I just forget to wear them. I always want books, but if I truly tried to feed my literary addiction, I’d be broke. Mostly I borrow from the library (thankfully I have the public and school varieties to pick from). I like music, but usually I listen to audio books in the car. I’m very picky about my clothing, so that’s usually not a good gift. Chocolate is always an option, but there is only so much chocolate one can get. That basically leaves small, knick knacky items and I have so many of those.

It’s not that I don’t want presents. I’m getting older, but I’m still human! I just can never think of any specific thing that I want. In reality, what I really want is to travel the world and see everything. But unfortunately, that’s not in the budget. I know it is frustrating for my husband as he wants to get me something I’ll really like. I just never know what that is.

So, it’ll be interesting to see what he gives me tonight at dinner.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Laundry is the bane of my existance

I do not like cleaning my house. I know that many people are in the same boat I am in. We clean because we have to, not because we enjoy it. Sure, there are those complete weirdos out there who love the thought of getting out a vacuum or a scrub brush, putting in some real elbow grease and getting things to sparkle.

I will never be that girl.

As much as I generally despise most household chores, I will admit that when I clean my kitchen or bathroom or living room, I do get a small wave of accomplishment and maybe even a bit of pride in how good it looks. It’s never long lasting and it’s never enough to make me want to clean, but it’s enough for me to at least feel good about the time I spent cleaning.

This is true of pretty much every chore I do around the house…except laundry.

Laundry is the bane of my existence. No matter how hard I try, there is always at least one load of laundry in my house that needs to be done. I’m not sure how it is even physically possible for four people to go through clothes the way that we do, but every single time I turn around, I have to throw another load into the washer. Rarely in my house does anyone wear more than one set of clothes per day. We use towels more than once. We wear jeans more than once. We wear jammies for multiple days. Every weekend I wash at least four loads. And yet one of the five laundry baskets in this house is ALWAYS overflowing.

Oddly, it’s usually my son’s.

I don’t actually mind gathering up the laundry. Putting it in the washer and starting it is on real problem either. Moving it from the washer to the dryer is pretty simple too. However, the second that drier buzzer goes off indicating those clothes now need to be taken out of the dryer and folded…that’s when my body starts rebelling and I do everything I can think of to avoid folding clothes.

I hate folding clothes in large part because no matter what I do there are always clothes to be folded. I feel like Sisyphus every time I even get near the laundry room. In fact, right now, I am staring at a clothes basket full of clean laundry that is just waiting to be folded and put away. And I know I have to do it because the next load is in the dryer, which stopped quite some time ago.

Despite my knowledge that I will eventually have to give up, give in and get folding, I have been known to hit the “damp dry” setting on my dryer two or three times to avoid the inevitable.

How can we have so much laundry? Why does it never cease? Why do I dream of being suffocated in a laundry avalanche?

Ok, it might not be quite that bad, but if I had to pick one task to never do for the rest of my life, it would be fold laundry. It’s not that the task is hard. It’s not. I know it. It’s so very simple. It’s just the frequency with which it has to be done that makes me look for absolutely anything, and I do mean anything, to keep me from having to grab that basket and start folding. I’m pretty sure I’d rather watch golf on TV than fold clothes.

How many times can I turn the dryer back on before I start doing real damage to my electric bill?

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Throwback Thursday: Best friend time

Buldog side viewI write about my friends a lot. I can’t help it. They are the most amazing people in the world. They are my family and I cannot imagine my world without them. Unfortunately, the years have scattered us across the country. Of our core group of 5, only one of them still lives near me. One spends a great deal of his time hiking in Colorado, one is trying to uncover the seedy underbelly of cyber security in DC and one is teaching Victorian sci-fi and horror in Georgia.

This summer my best friend and I got to spend four days bumming around DC with our reporter friend. It was amazing since it was the first time I’ve gotten to visit him in his new hometown (and it’s been his hometown for over a decade…yeah, I know, bad friend).

Last month, we all got together for another for another glorious four days in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. We rented a beach house, stayed up late, went on ghost tours and generally had a blast.

Then, just last week I got to spend part of my fall break visiting with my best friend in Georgia. Sure, she still had classes to teach, but in between those classes, we got to hang out at the coffee shop, go shopping, take my kids on adventures, eat a lot of super tasty food AND, most importantly, watch our favorite girly movies and talk, talk, talk.

One of our very first stops was Jittery Joe’s, a local coffee chain that has 16 locations: Nine are in Athens, four are in other towns in Georgia, one is in Tennessee and very unpredictably, one is in Japan. Athens actually has a surprising number of local, sort of chain restaurants, which I think is cool.

Jittery Joe'sWhen my best friend used to live around the corner from me, we spent countless hours at our favorite local coffee shop. Although neither of us are huge coffee fans, if we tried to count up all the spiced chais we drank over long talks about every aspect of our life, we could probably fill a swimming pool..and I’m not talking about a dinky backyard pool either. Because my best friend lived right around the corner and our local coffee shop was just right around another corner, my kids practically grew up there. In fact, they are friends with the owners’ kids, so they always loved going to the coffee shop with us. They’d bring books or electronic devices, share a cookie and let us talk for hours.

At Jittery Joe’s, we all fell right back into our old habits. Well, almost. The barista accidentally made a pumpkin spice latte and offered it to me for free, which replaced my usual chai. I also had to change out my usual cookie for a chocolate croissant. JJ’s has cookies, but they are flat and sort of hard. On my very first trip to Athens, my BFF warned me not to be fooled by the cookies because I would be horribly disappointed. As we share nearly identical sweet teeth, I trusted her. Thankfully JJ’s does have some good brownies, muffins and some passable croissants. The kids were happy playing their devices and I was thrilled to get some major best friend time in.

When my BFF was not teaching and we were not hanging out with my kids, we got more quality time in watching (and partially talking through) some of our favorite shows and movies. After my kids go to bed, we have a habit of putting a show we both love and have seen 100 times like Friends on in the background. We usually start off watching the show, but then start talking. Before we know it, three or four episodes have gone by with us only catching about half of what is going on, but not even remotely caring. We also like to hang out, browse the internet and read fun bits of information to each other. On our last visit together (when she came to see me before DC), we spent several hours reading hilarious book summaries and reviews to each other on Amazon. Yeah, I know, we are total geeks, but we both teach literature for a living, so this is big fun for us.

We also continued our tradition of watching movies our husbands don’t really enjoy. We re-watched Bride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. We broke out into songs in several places and debated the hotness of William Darcy (played by Martin Henderson) and Balraj (played by Naveen Andrews). It was a hard call, but in most scenes we went for Andrews. Of course, that could be because of our undying love for his character Sayid from Lost. While the movie was playing I found myself looking up the actors to see what else they’d been in. When we found out Henderson had played Brittany Spears boyfriend in her “Toxic” video, we had to watch that as well.

My Cousin Rachel was also on our to view list. Neither of us had seen it before, but she’d read the Daphne du Maurier novel it is based on and really liked it. We both really liked the movie and it lead to a great debate about our thoughts on Rachel’s guilt. One thing I desperately miss about my BFF living 10 hours away is our discussions about movies, books and TV shows.

On my last night in Athens, we also kept up a long standing tradition of watching a Mystery Science Theater production. Every Friday her husband makes popcorn and they watch either a Rifftrax or an MST3K. This time it was The Final Sacrifice. Like all movies featured on MST3K, it was horrific, but the jokes of Mike Nelson and his robot pals made it a wonderful, laugh out loud night. I love watching one of these movies the night before I leave because it makes the leaving just a tiny bit easier. Or at least it distracts me from it.

Junkman'sThis trip we did not get to do nearly as much shopping as I’d like. We weren’t able to get a babysitter and since dragging my kids clothing shopping is worse than a root canal (or so I’m told, I’ve never had one, but my BFF assures me, having done both, that this is true), we only got to pop into one store. Usually we get a few hours to shop all our favorite places in downtown Athens and I go home with an outfit (or two) more than I arrived with. My BFF is the best person in the world to go shopping with. She gives me an honest opinion every time and encourages me to indulge, which is something I rarely do. I, on the other hand, keep her desire to spend too recklessly in check. We perfectly balance each other out. Plus, we have a lot of similar taste in clothes. Since there was no way we’d be able to enjoy clothing shopping together, the only store we got to go in is the Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, a really strange and eclectic Athens institution. My kids love going in there because they have lots of unique items (and TOYS!). I love it for the same reason. The owner seemed really keen on showing us all the anti-Trump merchandise that had come in. I cackled a bit when he said the only good thing about Trump being elected was all the anti-Trump merch he was able to sell. I told him I was glad Trump was making someone happy.

As usual, the visit was over way too soon. It seemed like before I could blink it was time to load my car back up and head back home. My kids and I left at 7:30 in the morning and there were tears all around. My kids were crying because they were going to miss my BFF (and her amazing dog) so much. My BFF and I were sobbing because it will be five more months until we see each other again.

We’d gotten a bit spoiled seeing each other three times in the as many months and this stretch is going to be hard. Even though I know I will see her again on spring break and we will have an amazing time, it was just as hard to leave her on Saturday as it was the first time I pulled away from her house four years ago. She is my family and without her, home just doesn’t seem quite like home.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Fitbit Charge 2

fitbit charge2I’m not quite sure how long I’ve had a Fitbit in my life. Even before I upgraded to the super fancy digital version, I’ve had some sort of pedometer strapped to my body for at least a decade now.

Although I would never call myself a health nut (I’m eating Lays bacon wrapped jalapeno chips as I type this), I do make an honest effort to get in a minimum of 10,000 steps each day, in large part so that I can eat things like bacon wrapped jalapeno chips.

As much as I loved my old school red pedometer I bought at Target, which clicked every time I took a step, it was highly unreliable. I’m a pretty animated talker and sometimes I’d be in the middle of an intense conversation with nothing but my arms flailing, and I’d hear the “tink, tink, tink” of my pedometer. Other times I’d be sitting at my desk nervously jostling my leg and I’d once again hear, “tink, tink, tink.” And don’t even get me started on how inaccurate it was on the rare occasions I decided to jog. Still, it was a good start for me and even though the “tink, tink, tink” drove me nuts at times, it was was still comforting.

About five years ago I decided to take a real leap forward and buy a Fitbit. When I bought my first Fitbit, there wasn’t much in the way of variety. I had a choice of one that could hook onto my clothes, which was only a tiny step up from my Target version or the Fitbit Flex which offered to not only count my steps more accurately, but also to help me track my weight, caloric and water intake, sleep patterns and gently wake me up vibrating alarms. I doled out the big bucks for the Flex.

For the most part I was pretty happy with my Flex. Since I work on the second floor and my house has a basement, I was a bit annoyed it didn’t count steps. I also didn’t like the fact that unless I logged on to the computer (and later my smart phone), I couldn’t see the exact number of steps I’d taken. Sure, if I tapped it, little dots would light up and flash to help me estimate to the nearest 1,000 steps how many I’d taken, and while that may have made me feel a bit like a Cylon, it also left me frustrated.

Even though there were elements of my Flex I was not fond of, when it fell off in the Kroger parking lot (because I’d ordered cute knock off bands with inferior clasps) and was run over by a car, I still decided to replace it with another Flex.

Fast forward to last month. While I was still wearing my Flex religiously (this time without the knock off bands), I was getting frustrated with it. It wasn’t holding a charge for long and I often had trouble getting it to charge at all, despite leaving it in the charger for 8 hours. I think something in the connection was just failing. I definitely wanted an upgrade. After trying a knock off fitness tracker I bought at Target, I decided I needed a new tracker, but this time I wanted one with a few more features. I definitely wanted to be able to see the exact number of steps I’d taken, I wanted a watch function, a heart rate monitor and an alarm function. I’d grown very accustomed to ditching the alarm clock for my Fitbit.

After a ton of research, which included quite a lot of feedback from my friends, I decided on a Fitbit Charge 2 because it was the only tracker I found that met all my other guidelines and had the alarm option.

I LOVE IT!

I love that I can see the time and date as well as every little step I take, including the ones I take when I’m pushing the cart around at the grocery store, something my Flex never did. I love that it tracks my stairs–so far only 3 today, but some days I do as many as 11 flights. I love that I can track specific times for my exercise routines and that it has a variety of routines to pick from. I love that I can see my active and inactive alarms so that I can make sure an alarm is actually set without having to get on my phone or my computer. I can also enable or disable my alarms from my Charge, which is fantastic! I like that it gives me little reminders to move every hour so that I’m at least taking 250 steps an hour. I even like the guided, meditative breathing function it has. It’s amazingly relaxing, which I know is the point.

When I had my Flex, I was sometimes really pushing it to get in all 10,000 steps. Some days I’d felt like I’d walked all over creation and it was still barely registering 8,000. Since I’ve had my new Charge 2, the only days I haven’t hit my minimum are days I’ve been on vacation. I’m actually averaging closer to 12,000 each day. I don’t know if it’s the added accuracy or just a burst of new pep in my step thanks to my new tracker.

fitbit bandsPlus, unlike my Flex, I’ve been able to order cheap, knock off bands for my Charge 2 and they are amazing! Thanks to the design, there is no way my Charge 2 will just fall off of my wrist. They are high quality and 12 of them only cost me $15. I actually just ordered another band that has adorable owls on it for only $8.

Unfortunately I did not think that the face of the Charge 2 needs a bit more protection than the Flex did. I have a tiny scuff on it, so I also found myself ordering protectors on Amazon today. Once they get here, I have a feeling my Charge 2 will be the perfect accessory.

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