Holiday Survey 2011

o' christmas tree

It’s a few days before Christmas and all through the house, the kittens were sleeping dreaming of mouses…

Ok, so that was a bad attempt at a parody of a classic Christmas story. My creativity isn’t the best at the moment, so today’s post is “borrowed” from Angela over at Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat: a holiday survey!

25 Holiday Questions

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Hot Chocolate, definitely. Adding a bit of peppermint schnapps doesn’t hurt either! 😉

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
When I was a kid, “Santa” left the presents in piles for the six of us kids in the living room. Now, I give “Santa” the night off – he’s got enough houses to visit without having to come to mine.

christmas lights.
3. Coloured lights on tree/house or white?
Always white. I was never a fan of colored lights unless they were the HUGE bulb kind.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, because it’s poisonous to the kitties. Same reason I don’t have poinsettias at home: kitty health comes first!

All on the bed at the same time!

5. When do you hang your decorations up?
Never before Thanksgiving. Typically I get them up a few weeks before Christmas.

Now, taking them down is another story! If I get them put away by my birthday (mid-January), I’m on top of things! 😉

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I don’t know if you could consider it a “dish” but I love having crescent rolls and the ubiquitous jellied cranberry sauce!

Cranberry In A Can

With ridges!

I really don’t eat either one during the year, so it’s my favorite holiday treat!

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Playing ice hockey on the river with my siblings and cousins. Too much fun!

8. What is on your Christmas wish list?
I have a ton of books, a Kindle, a small point-and-shoot camera, and that’s pretty much it. I have simple tastes.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Since my family doesn’t do Christmas Eve – we celebrate the holiday the weekend before or the weekend after (this year it’ll be January 14th!) depending on everyone’s schedules – Tim and I open all our gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas day is for being lazy and eating too much! 😉

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
I have a bunch of silver, pale blue, and white metallic sheen glass bulbs, shiny silver teardrop “garland” and a couple of random ornaments that don’t fit the color theme (a Vikings football ornament, for one!) and the pre-lit (white lights) artificial Xmas tree.

The tree

This year, I was feeling lazy and just put the tree up sans-ornaments/garland. Surrounded by presents, it’s still festive in my book!

11. Snow? Love it or dread it?
I really like the snow, but I hate the cold. If it stayed between 15 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit all winter, I’d be a happy camper. But, since I’m in MN, I can look forward to a January and February of below-zero temps for weeks at a time. Oh boy.

12. Real tree or fake tree?
Fake. Never had a real one (see #4) as I’m sure it would turn into a messy, kitty playground.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
When I was a kid – I think I must’ve been four years old – I got the Weebels Micky Mouse Clubhouse.

I was SO EXCITED when I found that from “Santa” in my gift pile! I need to dig out the photo of me playing with it in the midst of Christmas morning chaos. I was a cute kid. 😉

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?
That I no longer work retail.

Seriously, it took me YEARS to enjoy Christmas again after working many years of retail full-time. People can be horrible to retail workers (the stories I could tell!) and the rampant consumerism soured my view about the holiday and I was very much “Bah Humbug!” about it for many years.

Now, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am to have such an awesome life: I’m married to the love of my life, my family is awesome and we have such amazing friends. Life is pretty damn good.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Cheesecake. Always.

16. What is your favorite tradition?
I don’t know if you could consider it “tradition” but I strive to not take off my pajamas Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Most years I’m successful!

17. What tops your tree?

18. Do you prefer giving or receiving?
I prefer to give. I’m not a materialistic person and I tend to be practical when people ask me for gift ideas (books, power tools, etc). I never want to ask for anything frivolous because I feel I don’t need it. Which makes it hard to buy gifts for me. 🙂

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Oh, this one is a toughie, because of past retail experiences I don’t like Christmas music. You try to listen to Christmas music 40 hours a week (starting mid November!) while being yelled at by uptight shoppers and see how much you like it!

But, I love the Canadian Brass Christmas album and my favorite track is “The Carol of the Bells.” I tried to find a video clip of the song, but my Google-Fu has failed me.

20. Candy canes, yuck or yum?
In theory, yum. However, they’re too unwieldy and sticky once you start eating one.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
I love A Christmas Story!

(You'll shoot your eye out, kid!)

22. What do you leave for Santa?
I don’t leave out anything since he doesn’t stop by.

23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
Pajamas. Coffee. Some sort of fancy egg-bake. Movies.

24. Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?
Online, definitely. (see prior retail employment)

25. Christmas letter or Christmas card?
I always strive to do Christmas cards, but somehow time slips by and I end up not sending anything. A letter would just take more time that I seem to not have!

Merry Christmas!

Winter Colds


Despite my post about the flu shot and staying healthy this winter, I’ve already had my first illness of the season.

It was a short-lived 36-48 hour fever/sneezing/exhaustion illness that I can attribute to one thing:


That and I wasn’t super-vigilant with my clean hands/not touching my face plan. Well not anymore!

Since people aren’t willing to use a day or two to stay home, take care of themselves, and get over whatever bug is infecting them, they instead come to work and are sick for a week (or more!) and getting everyone around them sick.

The person that I’m pretty sure “shared” their germs with me is still sick and have yet to take a day off because of it. Now I took yesterday off and hit the Emergen-C hard, drank a lot of water and slept. Today, I’m back to normal. Well, “normal” as in “not sick.” 😉

To me, that extra day of PTO isn’t worth being sick for a week. Plus, it’s a bit rude to make all your co-workers sick, IMO!

Perhaps it’s just me.

* * * * *

I’ve discovered a new favorite tea: Tazo Thrive tea! It’s a blend of teas and botanicals, including: green Darjeeling and Mao Feng teas, green yerba mate, spearmint and green rooibos. It’s such a nice change from the normal green tea I’ve been drinking at work.

Happy Friday!

Flu Shot: Yay Or Nay?

Flu Shot

There was an article on Minnesota Public Radio on October 25th regarding a new study from the University of Minnesota discovering that the flu shot is not as effective as previously thought. Most especially for the individuals that need it the most: the young and the elderly.

I can’t take the flu shot. It’s not because I have an egg allergy – the viruses in the vaccine are grown in eggs – but because I’m allergic to the preservative used in the shot. With my allergy to chemicals and man-made synthetics, I’m sure there’s a whole slew of things that I’ll react to!

Because of this allergy, the two times I got the flu shot, I was sicker than a dog and got the flu worse than I even thought possible!

Now, instead of getting the shot, I make sure I exercise, eat right and wash my hands often. Another thing I do is to not touch my face (i.e. eyes, nose and mouth) unless I’ve freshly washed my hands. Studies have shown that it’s not airborne contact that transmits flu and cold viruses/bacteria, but by physical transmission by touching your eyes, nose or mouth, which are gateways to your body for these germs.

Day 266 - Fresher's fluThus, if I need to itch my nose or something when I’m not sure of my hand’s cleanliness, I use a fresh tissue to do the itching/rubbing, then I dispose of the tissue.

Just by following these few things – healthy diet, exercise and awareness of not touching your face – will be a HUGE reduction in your risk of contracting the flu or the common cold.

It’s worked for me the past 7 years! 🙂

Now there are some people who seem to bathe themselves in hand sanitizer or use all anti-bacterial products (or both!) during the cold and flu season. I have a BIG problem with that.

If you’re continually stripping your hands/body of all germs, you will be negatively impacting your immune system, which is using germs to build up its own strength. To quote Dr. Oz:

Did you ever wonder why the kid that never played in the dirt seemed to get sick most often? If his body never got introduced to a germ then it’s very possible his body never learned how to defend itself from an invasion. And let’s be realistic, no matter how sterile you are, unless you are sanctioned in a specialized clean room, you are going to be exposed to germs. Your body needs to learn how to fight those intruders.

So, whether it’s gel or foam in a pump dispenser, squeeze bottle, or spray, instant hand sanitizer is great to have on hand for times when it is needed. However, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use it every time you walk past someone on the other side of the street. If you’ve been holding the hand rail at a movie theater and you’re getting ready to grab some popcorn, you may want to sanitize. But you probably don’t need it after every trip down the aisle in the grocery store. When you come home, wash your hands with soap and water and you’ll be as good as new.

Playing in the dirtAs a kid, I played in the dirt (and manure! (I grew up on a cattle farm.)) and I was never sick with colds or flu. The two times I remember being sick in school (K-12) was when I had the chicken pox in 2nd grade and pneumonia in 7th grade. Funny enough, the pneumonia was the first indication of my antibiotic allergy!

My dad is deathly allergic to penicillin, and as a precaution, none of us kids were given penicillin in case we too had the allergy. When I had pneumonia, they gave me sulfa. In turn, I broke out in CD-sized hives all over my body. Fast forward to now and there’s one antibiotic that I *can* take – amoxicillin – and even then I only take it when I absolutely NEED to take it, lest I get an immunity to it.

Anyway, back to keeping yourself healthy. The human body is a wonderful machine and if you keep it running right, it’ll fight of most viruses and infections. Save the medicines, anti-bacterial products, hand sanitizers, and antibiotics for when you REALLY need them.

How do you stay healthy during cold and flu season?

Are you a germaphobe or do you let your body fight your battles?

Will you get a flu shot? Why or why not?

Working Out In The Winter

That's a lot of drifting

In a few days it’ll be Halloween. After that, it’ll be November.

While this fall has been pretty nice, it’s only a matter of time before the view out my front door resembles the photo above (which is the view out my front door after a snowstorm in 2007). For someone who loves to run outside, winter creates a number of problems for me:

  • I won’t run in the dark. I’m not a morning person, so working out after a full day at my job works the best for me. Since it gets dark around 4:30pm in the winter – when I’m leaving work – it’s completely dark by the time I get home.
  • I won’t run in temps below freezing. I have year-round allergies and running in below-freezing weather causes me no end of respiratory problems. I can handle lower aerobic activities like snowshoeing, but running is a no-no.
  • I won’t run in the snow/ice. Too slippery and I’d rather not injure myself. Plus, combined with the darkness, it’s hard to see any items that would make you trip or fall.

Because of this, I’m relegated to running on the treadmill at my gym over the winter.

As a distance runner (I think anyone who can run more than a 5k on a regular basis is a distance runner), there’s nothing more painful than transitioning from running outside to running on the treadmill. I try so many different things to distract myself from the fact that I’m running nowhere and staring at a wall while I’m doing it. I try audio books, podcasts, and music and it helps somewhat, but I just can’t help but think “am I done yet?” when I’ve barely put two miles in on the treadmill!

To help this year (inspired by Angela’s goals), I’m going to try a number of new items. First, I’m going to try transitioning to running in a minimal shoe – like a Vibram Five Fingers or a Merrell Barefoot – which will allow me to initially run a shorter distance on the treadmill and give me a goal to build up my distance. I picked up a pair of the Barefoot Pace Gloves this summer just to wear out and about and they’re quite nice, so I already have all the equipment I need to start!

Secondly, I’m going to try fartlek workouts on the treadmill. Yes, I know I just said “fart” (heh), but fartlek is Sweedish for “speed play” and it’s training that will help improve your overall speed. That’s one thing I really need to work on over the winter as I’ve lost a good minute per mile since my injury.

Finally, I’m going to try and stick to this plan of exercise throughout the winter months:

I think combining those two plans and following my structure of working out to get me through each week, I think this winter will (hopefully) go by fast!

What’s your winter workout plan?