You’ve got mail.

Today I got a parcel in the mail from my friend Sarah who lives in Australia.

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With great anticipation, I opened the box to find a cornucopia of goodies.

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Inside I found some mini packs of Tim Tams in limited edition flavors.  I love these things.  They’re like crack, you can’t eat just one!

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I also got a bunch of cute notepads.

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The cover of this journal made me laugh out loud.

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I also got a cute bookmark, a humorous eraser, and some other interesting stuff.

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I’m dying to open these pencils so I can read all the hilarious saying on them.

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Where have these stamps been all my life?!

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Sarah also burned me copies of several New Kids dvds.  I’m looking forward to watching the Fenway dvd.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for my box of goodies, Sarah!

 

 

 

The diet that isn’t.

Disclaimer: Please note that I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor, so I can’t tell you what to do to lose weight.  You should consult a doctor or nutritionist before starting any diet plan.   

hilarious-quote-about-diets

Back in November, I had to go to the doctor because I was suffering from episodes of vertigo. Turns out, it wasn’t anything to be worried about, but I got the shock of my life when I got on the scale at the doctor’s office.

We hadn’t had a scale in the house in over a year, after our last one got broken. So I hadn’t been keeping track of my weight. I knew I needed to lose weight because my clothes (especially my pants) were too tight. Plus, I wasn’t exercising at all, whereas before Chaos died, I was walking with him 4-5 times a day.

But I still wasn’t prepared to see the number on the scale: 192 pounds. I was shocked, and also horrified that I’d let things get that bad.

So the next day, I bought a fancy Weight Watchers scale that not only tells you how much you weigh, but also tells you your BMI (Body Mass Index), percentage of body fat, percentage of body water, and percentage of bone mass.  I did my baseline weight the next morning, which was 190.1 pounds with a body fat percentage of 36.6 (my target range is 24.1 – 29), and a BMI of 30.5 (my target range is 20 – 25).

I wasn’t actively tracking my caloric intake at that point, but I was trying to eat smaller portions.  A little over two weeks later, I was seeing some progress, but I wanted an easier way to track what I was eating.  I discovered the myfitnesspal app after reading about it in Cosmopolitan, so I decided to give it a try since it was free.  At the time I started using the app, I weighed 186 pounds, with body fat of 35.4% and a BMI of 29.7.  I also purchased a digital food scale in order to weigh things like meat, since many times a chicken breast or steak weighs more than the standard serving size (which is 4 ounces).

The app works for me because you put in your height, current weight, age, and activity level and it calculates how many calories you can consume each day.  Exercise ups your caloric intake, so I exercise five days a week for at least 25 minutes a day.  Based on my activity level (sedentary), it calculated that my max was 1420 calories per day, with a minimum of 1200.  (Any less than 1200 and my body could go into “starvation” mode and stop losing weight.)  I’ll be honest, at first I was hungry all the time.  So I started drinking more water, and in doing so, realized that what I took for hunger was actually my body telling me to drink more.  Another good thing about tracking everything that goes in your mouth is that you become aware of what amounts to empty calories.  I love chocolate, but I had to pretty much stop eating it, at least at first.

But as I adjusted to my new eating pattern, I noticed that I didn’t have cravings like I used to.  I also didn’t experience the after lunch “crash” either.  Because I was eating smaller meals, and eating more often, my blood sugar was stable.

Eating out requires a bit of research first, but it is doable.  I usually Google the nutritional info for wherever we’re planning to go and narrow my choices down that way.  Then I can’t get sidetracked by something that looks good but is too high in calories.  For the record, we eat steak maybe once a week.  Pork is another that we eat maybe once a week.  If we’re eating pork in a given week, we won’t have a steak later in that same week.  We stick mainly to chicken and fish, since both are both fairly low in calories.

As of this writing, I weigh 158.2 pounds.  My BMI is 25.4, and my percentage of body fat is 28.9.  For those of you keeping count, that’s 31.9 pounds lost, 4.3 points lost on BMI, and a 6.5% drop in body fat.  I’m just outside the upper range of my target number for BMI, and my body fat is actually in the upper range of acceptable.  Counting calories is working for me and part of that is being aware of portion/serving sizes.  Plus, if I have an event or special occasion and exceed my daily intake, it’s no biggie.  Unlike fad diets, I won’t completely wreck my weight loss plan if I go off the rails once in awhile.  The biggest reason diets fail is because they make you change what you eat in addition to how much.  By tracking calories instead, I can eat the foods I love, just in smaller amounts.

My current goal is to get down to 145 pounds.  Once I’ve reached that goal, I’m going to decide whether to keep losing or to start maintaining.  Considering how much I’ve already lost, another 13 pounds is a cakewalk.  I don’t even consider what I’m doing a diet.  I even got my husband to use the app and he’s lost over 50 pounds!  I’m proud of both of us for sticking with it over the last six months.

 

Bad Service

I got the idea for this post from reading entries on the Livejournal community bad_service.  I thought I’d share my experience with the exercise bike we purchased from Sears.

On February 22nd, we purchased a new exercise bike because our old one was giving us problems (the pedal arm kept falling off) and we were tired of fighting with it every time we used it.  So we took a drive south to a larger town where there was an Academy Sports, in addition to a Sears.  Academy didn’t really have much selection in store, so we went over to Sears to have a look.

At Sears, we found the Schwinn 270/Journey 2.5 recumbent bike.  It looks like this:

bike

The bike that has given me nothing but problems since we bought it.

Looks like a nice bike, doesn’t it?  We thought so too, and decided to give it a try, since in the past we’ve purchased Pro Form/Nordic Track bikes and they just don’t hold up to regular use.  (Our previous bike, a Nordic Track, had a pedal arm that wouldn’t stay on.  We’d been using the bike less than a year.  Doesn’t say much about the quality, does it?)  So we decided to give a different company a chance.

If only we’d known what we were getting ourselves into.

After two weeks of use, we noticed that buttons on the control console would randomly stop working.  The Programs button seemed to be the main one affected, although the fan button was also not responding.  So on March 10th, I called up Sears and spoke to one of their Warranty Service people who declared that the power cord that came with the bike was the problem.  The included power cord apparently didn’t supply enough power to consistently run the control console.  Great!  Problem solved.  Send me a new power cord.

I was told that I would get an email confirmation of the part being ordered, and another with tracking info when it shipped.  After a few days, I called back and learned that the cord had shipped on March 11th.  Since I was aware that it would take 5-7 days for the part to arrive, I wasn’t too concerned.  I did reach out via Twitter to find out why I never got the promised emails.  Someone was supposed to look into it and call me, but no one ever did.

After a week of using the bike with the new, improved power cord, it was obvious that there was something wrong with the console.  It was still acting as goofy as it had previously, with added quirks like the fan not wanting to shut off and not letting us switch between profiles.

So I called again on March 24th and all the customer service rep wanted to do was send a technician out – in three weeks!  I told him I didn’t need a service technician to tell me that the console was the problem.  He hemmed and hawed a bit, claimed he couldn’t locate the part (the console) in the computer, so he couldn’t say whether or not it was possible to order me a replacement.  He also said that since I was past the thirty day return policy, if I wanted to return the bike, I’d have to clear it with the store manager first.  Are you kidding me?!  The goddamn bike is under warranty – electronic parts for one year, mechanical parts for two years, the frame for ten years.  I’d say this qualifies as an electrical problem, wouldn’t you?  Needless to say, I was pissed off.  I let him make the service appointment for today, April 17th.

I stewed on his incompetence for a little while.  Since part of the problem was that he couldn’t locate the part in the system (and I couldn’t give him the model number of the bike, just the name), I got on Schwinn’s website, located the bike and got the model number.  Armed with this information, I called back and got a much more helpful CSR this time around.  I explained the situation, gave him the model number, and he found the part I needed.  Only it was on back order.  With no anticipated availability date.  Of course.  Nothing about this was going to be easy.

At any rate, the helpful CSR ordered a console, tied it to my service appointment and told me that as soon as one was available, it would ship directly to me.

Two weeks passed with no word from Sears about the console.  So I called again on April 1st to find out what the status of the part was.  Still on back order.  The customer service rep did send a message to the Parts Department requesting them to contact me with a time frame for the part.  A few days later, I got an email from Sears saying they’ve opened a case on my order.  I called to find out what the hell that meant.  According to the girl I talked to, since the part is on back order, they are tracking the situation in order make sure that this is resolved to my satisfaction.  At this point, I think I had called and complained via Twitter an equal number of times.

Then yesterday, I get a phone call from Sears asking if I’ve received my part as they’re showing it was delivered.  I checked my front porch and finally!  The console had come in.  The fact that it showed up when it did was a total fluke though, because the Parts Department was showing it wouldn’t be available until mid-May at the earliest.  I think if we’d had to wait another month, the bike would have been returned and we’d have bought something else, somewhere else.

The service technician came today and put the new console on.  He agreed with my assessment that the console was buggy from the get-go and that not having the proper power supply just made the problem worse, to the point that it fried the console.  He checked the new one out and it’s working the way it should, so maybe this is finally over.

At this point, I’m less than impressed with both Schwinn (because of their product) and Sears (because of their ineffective methods of dealing with the problem).  But at least my bike is fixed.

 

 

I’m on tv! (Well, my tweets are, at any rate.)

From Mountain Monsters: Uncaged, "Wampus Beast"

From Mountain Monsters: Uncaged, the “Wampus Beast” episode. (photo by me)

Also from the "Wampus Beast" episode.

Also from the “Wampus Beast” episode. (photo by me)

Last night was the premiere of the second season of Mountain Monsters on Destination America.  Prior to the premiere at 9 PM, Destination America was airing reworked episodes from the first season with additional footage, production notes, and viewer tweets.

We didn’t watch any of those episodes (being aired under the title Mountain Monsters: Uncaged) because we watched the original episodes when they aired last year.  Instead, we watched the network shows we always watch on Fridays: Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods.  We were dvr-ing the season premiere since it was on at the same time as Blue Bloods and I wasn’t going to miss Blue Bloods.

After Blue Bloods went off, we pulled up Mountain Monsters on the dvr and started watching.  Occasionally, I would tweet something about the episode, but mostly I was watching the action as the boys hunted for the Kentucky Hell Hound.  The episode was almost over when I started getting tweets asking me things like “how do you tweet on the show?” and “did you know your tweets are the only ones getting on tv?”  I thought maybe the premiere was being rebroadcast with viewer tweets or something, so when the Hell Hound episode ended, I told my husband about the comments I was getting.  We flipped the channel to Destination America just in time to see one of my tweets flash on the screen during an episode of Mountain Monsters: Uncaged.  I’m not sure which episode it was, but the tweet read: “These guys are country as a truckload of goats.”

Turns out, my tweets were popular with the Mountain Monsters folks.  Maybe because I tweet silly/funny comments for the most part, I don’t really know.  Or maybe because there weren’t many people watching it the first season, my tweets stood out?  I have no idea.  At any rate, I recorded three episodes of Uncaged that aired later that night (“Wampus Beast”, “Devil Dog”, and “Wolf Man”) and watched them this morning to see if any of my tweets made it on air.

The “Wampus Beast” episode featured two of my tweets, pictures of which are posted above.  I’ve got my dvr set to record episodes of Uncaged so I can see how many more of my tweets made it into the show.

I’ve got a feeling that more of my tweets could end up in future episodes of Uncaged, since the Mountain Monsters twitter account (@DesAmericaMM) favorited a handful of my tweets from last night.

My advice for those with aspirations to get a tweet aired?  First, keep it clean.  Tweets with foul language/curse words can’t be aired.  Second, make it relevant.  If you’ve had an experience with a weird creature, tweet it!  I know I saw at least one tweet from someone who said it was like seeing their childhood experience come to life.  Tweets about how much you enjoy the show are always good too.  I saw several of those during the three episodes I recorded.  Third, hashtag it.  The network follows the #MountainMonsters hashtag on Twitter.  If you want to better your chances of your tweet being seen, use the official hashtag for any tweets about the show.

I’ll be tweeting about Mountain Monsters again either next Friday night starting at 10 PM or Saturday afternoon.  To follow the insanity, follow me on Twitter at @courtney_bolton.

Supernatural: Nevermore

I wrote this review ages ago, but thought I’d share it here on the blog since I don’t have anything worth publishing at the moment.

nevermoreI don’t think Keith DeCandido did as much research on the show as he claims he did in his author’s notes in the back of the book. He shows a decided lack of insight into the personalities of both Sam and Dean, in particular, Dean. Hell, he couldn’t even get their physical descriptions right! All we get are vague descriptions that could be anybody. Or maybe he just assumed we would know who he was talking about from a few brief lines of text?

The inconsistencies abound in this book. For starters, Dean rarely surrenders the keys to the Impala to anyone, even Sam. And Dean get lost? Yeah, right. Also, while Sam can be a major pain in Dean’s ass, the Sam in this book doesn’t compute with the Sam we know from the series. Both characters lack a personality, which as followers of the series know, both boys have in spades.

Too many pages are wasted on descriptions of the Bronx and its environs, pages that could have been used for character development instead. The supporting players in this novel are weak at best and definitely poorly developed. I have to agree with one Amazon reviewer who stated that if John Winchester had really known the Poe expert Pym, he’d have shot the guy just because he’s so freaking annoying! And the female cop, McBain? Nobody gets away with talking to Dean the way she does in this crappy book. Hell, even Hendrickson got over that pretty quick once he realized the way things really are in the season 3 episode, “Jus in Bello”.

Don’t get me started on the two “cases” presented in this book. For one thing, Sam and Dean don’t even fully resolve the case of Manfred’s haunting by a former girlfriend of one of his fellow bandmembers. Stupid, for one thing, and NOT something that Sam and Dean would do, for another. These two don’t believe in leaving loose ends. They always resolve the cases they take on, one way or another.

The whole Edgar Allan Poe case was just silly. It was obvious who the “villain” was, so there was no suspense and no real payoff in the end. It also bugged me that for someone supposedly intelligent, the villainous professor was a total idiot. Someone who is an academic would have done more research on the so-called resurrection ritual and quickly realized that it was something that a charlatan pulled out of his ass.

Unfortunately, it seems that those who write fan fiction based on Supernatural have a better grasp of the characters, their personalities and the mythology of the show than Mr. DeCandido does. I sincerely hope that Mr. DeCandido did a lot more research on the series before writing Bone Key, his second Supernatural tie-in novel.