Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo! Marvelous Monday

Happy Halloween to you from Miles and Laurel!  Maybe I tied for Scariest Costume in my work contest today!

In honor of this spooky holiday, I bring you a Halloween-themed Marvelous Monday:

1. Last night, I went home for dinner with my family.  My dad had warned me via text that his jack-o-lanterns this year were particularly scary.  He was right!  Don't dangle limbs in front of these pumpkins unless you want trouble.

2. My neighborhood gets into the Halloween spirit.  I went for a run at lunchtime today, and there were lots of spooky home displays already set up.  This one has been up for at least the past week:

3. I've tackled a range of Halloween costumes since I was young, from a princess to a witch to Charlie Chaplin. (Unfortunate truth.)  At this time of year, it's fun to look back at them.  This is me with my grandparents and brother.  Who is that super cool troll?!

4. I put away my Jessie costume yesterday and didn't know what to do with the hat.  Luckily, my pumpkin practically cried out for a little bit of yee-haw spirit.

5. Last, because I know Halloween and serious corn dog cravings go hand in hand, I wanted to pass along a special offer, courtesy of the drive-through window at Culver's.  (My brother and I may have obtained some french fries here after our race on Saturday.)

Go get a corn dog (or 10, but not more) and thank me in the comment section, okay?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gray Ghost 5K

Here is how, last week at dance class, my brother convinced me to run the Anoka Halloween Gray Ghost 5k with him:

Brother: Hey, want to run the Gray Ghost 5k next weekend?
Me: No, I'm still too slow from the marathon.
Me: Okay, that sounds fun after all.

Halloween in Anoka, a suburb close to where I grew up, is a Very Big Deal.  Anoka calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World because - per Wikipedia - it hosted one of the first Halloween parades in 1920, with the goal of distracting Anoka youth from pranks and hijinks.  This parade is huge.  When I was in middle school, my middle school orchestra marched in the parade.  (More on that later.  No, just kidding.  I won't ever mention that again.)  Kids wear their costumes, and when we arrived for the race more than an hour before the parade's start time, the streets were already lined with families who had staked out the best seats.  Mayhem.

Earlier in the week, I decided that I wanted to try being Jessie from the movie Toy Story. But I definitely wanted a costume that wouldn't impede me too much, so Jessie's chaps were out.  I saw a picture online of a runner who tried knee socks to represent the cow print.  I went to the fabric shop, got some cow fabric and bought a boy's yellow t-shirt at Target that I could cut up.  I also bought red sequin thread and my first hot glue gun.

And then I dug out an old white button-up shirt that I haven't worn in ages, and the hard work began.

I was wary, to say the least, of how the final product would look, but I started to really have fun and enjoy the project when the red sequin thread came out.  I almost bought a red glitter pen instead of the thread.  It wouldn't have been the same.  A special thanks goes out to the hot glue gun, which made this whole project much easier than I expected.

Here's Jessie: 
And here's my Jessie!

My brother and I drove to Anoka, got our race bibs, and found a less-crazy section of the road for our warm-up jog.  This moment marks one of my favorite parts of the day.  From about 200 yards away, I heard someone yell, "JESSIE??!"  (Just like that, too: doubt and excitement.)  I wondered: could he be talking to me?  I looked back and saw two adult men dressed as Buzz and Woody, the other two main characters from Toy Story, waving enthusiastically at me.  I screamed and waved back.  My friends.

The race got underway.  The first mile or so runs along the parade route, so there's a guaranteed great spectator crowd.  I had picked Jessie partly because it was a kid-friendly costume, but I never could have anticipated the crowd reaction.  During that first mile, with practically every step I took, kids were yelling, "It's Jessie!" "Mom, look at Jessie!" "There's Jessie!"  It was So Much Fun.  I was laughing and waving and getting an unbelievable boost from everybody yelling "my" name.  My mom took a photo of me about five minutes into the race, and this probably mirrored my behavior for about the first half of it. 

I haven't actually raced a 5K in ages.  Because most of my races are half-marathons or longer, I have zero sense of how to pace a 5K.  (I vow to improve this by the spring.)  To me, it seems so short that I should run as hard as I can at the start! 

That's not a good recipe for success! Between that mentality and the Jessie-related encouragement, I started out absurdly too fast and faded on a couple of hills toward the end.  Oops!  I was treating this race as my first hard effort since the marathon, since it usually takes four weeks or so for me to feel really recovered after 26.2.  It was good to get a baseline for my winter and spring training - my goal is to work on shorter races - but setting a personal best is not on the agenda yet.

Oh, Reader, if this experience sounds remotely appealing to you, I so highly recommend dressing up as a kid's movie character for a Halloween race sometime in your life.  I don't think I've ever smiled or laughed so much in a race.  Something like 2,000 people run this race every year, and an enormous amount of runners dressed up - maybe 80 percent?  90 percent?  It was so much fun to see.  Some people went all out, like one group dressed as the Peanuts characters.  The course involved some corners and out-and-back sections, so once in awhile, I could hear their house rolling down the street.

My sister and her boyfriend dressed as zombies and ran with his mom.  I liked her look:

And my brother had a great, super-fast race!  My mom cheered all of us on.  Afterward, she grabbed a photo of the three of us.

I will be back for this one in 2012.  I'm going to have to start brainstorming soon, though - it's going to be tough to improve on this year's run, and I am not talking about pace!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Part I: Friday night

A party with friends at Gluek's, a bar in downtown Minneapolis, kicked off Halloween weekend festivities last night.  I ended up trading my two tutus from earlier in the week in for one black tutu, but was still undecided about how that tutu would fit into my Halloween plans.  At the very least, I could consider being a ballerina.  Then, yesterday afternoon, it all became clear. Black Swan!

It felt a little dated at first, but I quickly realized that this costume was a winner because it allowed me to wear 1) the tutu 2) fun makeup and 3) a tiara.  I went shopping after work and procured a Little Mermaid Ariel tiara for $6.99 and the cheapest can of black spray paint known to humankind for 96 cents.  I spraypainted the heck out of poor Ariel's tiara on our patio and then waited for it to dry. 

Then came the makeup.  I had also purchased a tube of white face paint and a big stick full of black eyeliner.  I started with the eyeliner and the process went on...and on...and on.  I've never used so much eyeliner in my life and never expect to match that quantity again.  But it was fun!  The white face paint was actually trickier than the eyeliner.  (Again, I'm not sure what I was expecting for 99 cents.)  I put my hair into a ballerina up-do, wedged my tiara in, and sprayed copious amounts of hairspray.  Tutu, black tank top, black leggings, and ballet flats completed the costume. 

I look like a major goofball when I pose for non-smiling photos, but trust me, a Black Swan impersonator with a big grin is way creepier:

Josh decided at about 2:30 p.m. yesterday to take on Brian Wilson, the quirky and loveable San Francisco Giants closer.  He trucked over to the Mall of America and came home with a Giants hat and an LSU t-shirt, where Brian Wilson attended college - and of course, the mandatory beard.  The beard was a little too large at first, and Josh trimmed it down.  We walked through the main bar at Gluek's before getting to our party's space in the back room, and the bar erupted when he walked through.  Who doesn't love Brian Wilson?

Okay, I gotta dash.  It's time for Costume #2. My brother and I are leaving for the Anoka Halloween Gray Ghost 5K in 45 minutes!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's five

I will provide a partial mini-break from Halloween musings by dishing out five recommendations for things I've been loving lately:
  1. I get hooked on the oddest mix of TV shows.  This season it's "Up All Night" on NBC, starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph.  It's about two new parents adjusting to life with a baby.  Despite the fact that the main characters end every practically sentence directed at each other with "Babe," which I find exceptionally annoying, I love this show.  It makes me laugh out loud.
  2. World Series baseball!  Readers, you are a diverse group.  I think some of you might be waiting for the leaves to fall so I stop posting pictures of them, while others are waiting for baseball to be over so I quit yammering about it.  Both groups have to wait just a little bit longer for me to move onto new topics.  If you have any interest in baseball at all, you know that Game 6 last night was a crazy game.  It was a must-win for the Cardinals, and they got huge hits in the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings to force a seventh game in the series.  I recommend that you watch that game tonight!  If the rest of the series is any indication, it won't be boring.
  3. Books and book club.  I would love to recommend Cleopatra for your November reading list, if only I were more than 60 pages into the book.  My friends in book club fared similarly, but the host coordinated a wonderfully themed party last night, with the movie "Cleopatra" on TV in the background and ancient Egyptian desserts!  Thumbs up for themes!  Up next: On my Kindle, I have Interpreter of Maladies, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society waiting for me.  I think Potato Party is at the top of the list - although I will keep working on Cleopatra, too.
  4. Learning how to use my camera.  I briefly noted this goal earlier in the week, but it is obviously an ongoing project.  I have a Canon Powershot SD 1100, otherwise known as a standard point-and-shoot digital camera.  So far, my biggest piece of progress is tinkering with what I think is called the "long shutter mode," which is making the lens stay open for several seconds (of my choosing) to let more light in for night photos.  (Obviously, you should not accept my explanation as any sort of official language or advice.)  I stood outside my apartment last night and probably confused some neighbors as I took two-second, four-second, six-second, and eight-second photos of the building's lights to see the differences.  So cool!  I can't wait to learn more manual functions.
  5. Finally, I procured a glue gun yesterday from the fabric shop.  I want to get a sewing machine this winter, but man, a glue gun works wonders in the meantime.  I got home from book club and decided to assemble the first phase of Saturday's costume with the glue gun, with the baseball game on in the background.  The game kept going and going, so I hunkered down for the night, and by the time the game ended at midnight, I had unexpectedly finished the whole darn thing - with lots of help from the glue gun.  I am pretty happy with the final product and hope it stays together long enough for me to run 3.1 miles in it.  
I'll share the full costume in the next day or two, but because you are undoubtedly frail with all of the suspense, Reader, here is a little preview:

 Have fun this weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Costume conundrum

Contrary to my well-established affection for themes, holidays and celebrations, I am lousy at Halloween costumes.  I never have a perfect costume idea conveniently spring to mind three weeks before the date.  In the days leading up to Halloween, I'm the one sorting through picked-over costume aisles at stores and scouring the internet.  Each October, my browser history fills up with variations of "2011 Halloween costume ideas" - and when you get to that stage of desperation, you know no good ideas are going to be popping into your head.  

I also fail at committing to an idea and running with it.  I wanted to dress up as Olive from "Little Miss Sunshine" for years and never acted.  I found a beautiful costume idea at the mall last year for $6 and decided to come back later to get it - and never did.  Ugh.  This is the mull-a-decision-over-and-over part of my INFJ personality rearing its ugly head.

I'm not setting up an "until now!" success story, either.  But I am having a little bit more fun with costume ideas this year, possibly because I have a strange range of costume-related activities: a party with friends on Friday, the race on Saturday and a work event on Monday.  I'm not equipped with the creativity to find a costume that works perfectly for all three, so I'm playing around with a few options.

Take Tuesday night, when I went into Target intending to find a red trenchcoat to anchor a Carmen Sandiego costume.  My purchases seemed practical at the time.

I think they are being returned tonight.  Think.  Not sure.  I kind of think I need more opportunities to wear tutus in my life.  That pink guy might stay.

I am also going to a fabric store tonight to push progress on my main costume idea and possibly loop Josh into the plan.  It will involve buying yellow fabric, red sequins, another kind of fabric and a glue gun.  I remember that this store used to include an ad in the Sunday paper, so this morning, I sprung out of bed and started rummaging through my recycling bin, only to learn that the store had apparently discontinued this part of its marketing plan.  No coupons for me. 

If I stick with this idea, it will test my previously established limits of personal craftiness. (That sounds much more devious than its intended meaning, doesn't it?) I'm crossing my fingers that it works out, more or less.

Will you dress up for Halloween?  Are you all set, or are you scrambling, too?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Party 2011

You didn't think pumpkin carving was done for the year, did you?  

My friends established an annual pumpkin-carving party a few years ago. Two?  Three?  Four?  No one is quite sure.  Regardless of the timeline, we are all quite enthusiastic about it.  Paul and Christine host everyone and set out long tables and lots of cardboard and garbage bags. Paul cooks a big pot of soup, and we all get started.  BYOCarvingTools. 

Each year, the whole production gets a little more elaborate.  Case in point: this year, power tools came out. 

Over time, we have debated the integrity of stencil use time and again and realized it's not unlike debating politics or religion over a holiday dinner: best to simply agree to disagree.

[Cue photo onslaught.]

Josh and I arrived around 7:00, and this was the scene that greeted us.  I told you it was serious.

 We got to work, with the World Series game on in the background.  Texas won!

Paul was trying to collect the pumpkin seeds to make pepitas.  It looked more difficult than he originally anticipated.

I am astounded by how talented some of my friends are, in both carving skills and creativity.  This is Mike's pumpkin, representing the United States.  But the amazing thing is that he carved this pumpkin free-form - no stencil, no design.  He loves geography.

Trash-talking commences mid-carve and keeps going until the lighting ceremony.  See, there is a grand prize awarded each year, plus a Viewer's Choice/Spirit Award.  The stakes are high.  I can only imagine what someone was saying to Sara.  Also noteworthy: Sara's pumpkin was the only green one, and the only one that was grown in the carver's garden!  She argued that she should win because she had technically cultivated her pumpkin for about four months longer than the rest of us.  I liked the cat stencil.

 But as soon as the lights go down and the candles go up, we pipe down.  It's a beautiful sight.

Any guesses on which one is mine?  I'll reveal the answer shortly.

These are three of my favorites.  Josh did Woody from Toy Story (a front-runner in the stencil category).  Another carver worked on a QR code image, next to Woody.  Above them is the pumpkin on which Hannah and Christine were drilling away. 

The house in the middle of the image below is the official grand prize winner.  It's Paul and Christine's house!  You can also see Sara's cat pumpkin just above it.
And which masterpiece is mine?  I'll proudly share that this bad boy even garnered a few Viewer's Choice votes for its classic jack-o'-lantern look:

This morning, I brought the new additions to our pumpkin ensemble outside. 

That's the strangest, sweetest little quartet I'll see this month.  Have you carved a pumpkin yet?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marvelous Monday

In traditional Marvelous Monday fashion, I bring you five tidbits about the start of my week:

1. I got to squeeze in a little run over lunch today.  The sky was blue, the leaves were rocking, and the temp was a pleasant 57 degrees.  I stumbled awkwardly over a root because I was looking at some orange leaves against the sky.

2. It's World Series time, and I love the World Series.  I've realized that part of why I've started getting so excited for my Tennessee games now is because I'm transferring my baseball enthusiasm to SEC football and thus not feeling quite as sad that baseball is nearly done for 2011.  That sounds more dramatic than I intended. It's not really that serious. I just welcome all sports-related excitement.

3. On that note, my brother convinced me to run a 5k next weekend with him.  (Okay, it didn't take much persuading.)  I will treat it as my first kind-of-hard effort post-marathon, so no world records will fall.  The exciting part is that it's a Halloween 5K in Anoka, otherwise known as the Halloween Capital of the World.  Hence, many runners will be in costume.  I think I need one!  I have a fall-back costume I could wear, but I am open to new ideas that don't impede me too much.

4. Tomie DePaola, author of the awesome children's book Strega Nona, is reading at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul on Thursday! I love Strega Nona!  I think I'm going to go, even though I'm a little uncertain about whether attending a children's author's event sans children is very odd, a little bit odd, or just plain old literary inspiration.  Which author from your childhood favorites would you love to hear read?

5. I've started working on learning more about the manual settings on my camera so I can take better pictures.  This is partially motivated by my love of photos taken at night - and seasonally, my love of creepy pumpkin pictures. I'm excited to practice and I want to find a book to learn more!

Please chime in with costume ideas, photography tutorial recommendations and/or children's book authors - and of course, think about what is marvelous about your Monday.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

B-b-b-bad to the bone

The spicy coconut lentil soup is complete, dinner is done, and both Josh and I gave the soup a surprised thumbs-up.  See, right off the bat, I was sure I had burned it.  Then, while it was simmering, I was convinced that the Anaheim pepper, ginger, garlic, red onion, cumin, coriander, paprika, coconut milk and coconut oil combination would prove to be too complicated. 

Why did I doubt Marcus Samuelsson?  It was good and warm and the coconut oil made for a fresh flavor - and good smells.

Once I got over the hurdle of encountering oil in solid form, I was fascinated by its texture.  That stuff is like candle wax!  I scooped out my heaped teaspoon and kind of just looked at it for awhile. 

 Later in the culinary process, coriander was inadvertently flung.  Oops.

I call this recipe a success.  It's probably not something that I'd make more than once every six weeks or so - but on second thought, now that I have this massive stash of coconut oil, the rest of the ingredients are pretty economical.  Maybe I will invite this soup back more often.  I'm glad I tried it.

This weekend was a full one.  My Tennessee football team fought very hard and finished the first half tied with Alabama, a very good team, before getting absolutely obliterated in the second half.  Josh and I prowled the Mall of America along with at least five million other shoppers.  I found a very nice sale at JCrew.  I ran six miles.  I went to a baby shower to celebrate Natalie, my friend and former colleague and soon-to-be fabulous mama.  Get this: Stef, the shower's host, moved into the house a week ago and not only had everything in sight unpacked, painted and looking home-like but also threw a beautiful party for Natalie and made it look effortless!  (Also notable: Stef made the full-blown huevos rancheros recipe from Hell's Kitchen, a legendary Twin Cities brunch spot.  Yum.)

After the baby shower, Josh, Mom, Brother, Sister and I met at the Cinema Ballroom to cash in the first of four group dance classes we wrangled this summer through Groupon.  (Seriously!  Four classes for $15!)  It should be noted that this isn't a typical family gathering for us and also that we aren't particularly known for our dancing skills.  This class is an hour-long introduction to two different styles, and each week it's something different.  This week was Viennese Waltz and East Coast Swing. 

My recap of this hour is probably not complete without paragraphs from the perspective of each member of our group, because we all had different reactions at different times, which was kind of neat.  I could be floundering through a series of steps, for example, and look over and see my sister tapping away happy as a clam - and five minutes later, it might be the reverse.  (Well, to be fair, I think she consistently fared better than I did.  But that's beside the point.) 

I was nervous at the start.  I wish I could've taken a photo of my mom, sister and I after the first round of instruction, because we were all wearing identical expressions of trepidation.  But we settled into the lesson and had various highs and lows of catching on and then falling off.  The Viennese Waltz is a faster version of a traditional waltz, and most of my party got more out of that half-hour than the East Coast Swing section.  East Coast Swing is really hard!  I think we each culled helpful pieces we can take forward, which indicates a successful lesson, right? 

By the end of the hour - especially after hopping around trying to East Coast Swing - we were hot and thirsty.  We traipsed across the street to the St. Clair Broiler for malts.  We are fortunate to have three more dance lessons in our Groupon package, because my mom dubbed the afternoon Malts and Waltz, which we all obviously loved.  I am excited for more Malts and Waltz.

I will leave you on this Sunday night with my favorite find this weekend: a kid-size sweatshirt that I procured for five dollars.  I really wanted to wear it to dance class, but for now, it's relegated to cooking duty.  (Maybe next week.) I'm not normally a holiday clothing kind of gal, but this seemed just right. 

Bad to the bone, yeah?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cleo, cooking and coconut oil

Oh, hello there, Weekend!  Today at lunch I drove around town getting ready for you!

The first errand was a sigh of relief.  Yesterday I squeezed in a wonderful run before going to the Twin Cities in Motion volunteer banquet.  I was in such a flurry of excitement over these running-related activities that I completely forgot to pick up the last CSA box of the season.  I called the pick-up site and learned that they were holding the neglected, unclaimed boxes until this afternoon, so I scurried over.  

Good thing.  I was especially excited about this box because it included a bag of apples from an orchard near Featherstone Farm, which produces my CSA.  I am used to receiving pretty cauliflower and squash and salad mix, but apples are a special treat.  Look at this beautiful bounty!

Good things will be concocted on the stove this weekend.  I have to confess, though, that the main project doesn't even involve any of the above items.  I was reading a serious Huffington Post column when a teaser for another article caught my eye: "8 Great Soup Recipes to Keep You Warm" from Marcus Samuelsson. The first recipe was Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup.  

For a recipe that sounds right up my alley, I am a complete newbie regarding several of the ingredients - namely, coconut oil.  I went to Whole Foods today to find some after striking out at Target - but in fairness to Target, I may have missed it because I was scanning the aisle for a bottle, not a jar.  Good thing the recipe calls for a heaped teaspoon, because buying 14 ounces of coconut oil for a mere teaspoon would have been ludicrous.  At least now the whole "heaped teaspoon of oil" thing makes more sense.

This is Dr. Bronner's Magic "All-One!" Fresh-Pressed Coconut Oil.  I had the choice between white kernel and whole kernel.  Does anyone know what this means?  In exchange for the answer, I will tell you on Monday what is Magic about this oil.

Lentils are also a rare presence in my cupboard.  But I am not as timid about lentils as I am about Dr. B's oil, mostly because of how darn pretty they are.  Zoom:

Some of my time this weekend will be spent outdoors, because it's supposed to be another 58-and-sunny kind of weekend.  For a few days, I will be able to disregard that this thing moved from the back seat of my car to the front seat this week.  (Insert sad face.)

As previously mentioned, the leaves are flying off the trees now in Minnesota.  This makes for pleasant, crunchy walks around the neighborhood.  It is a nice time of the autumn because you get the crunch but also still get to see trees with leaves that are still clinging for dear life, like this one that I saw during my lunch travels.  This morning the scene was extra-beautiful because there was frost on the ground and the sunlight was shining on it through the treetops.

Despite the sunny forecast, though, some weekend activities must take place inside:
  • I am attending a baby shower on Sunday for an old friend from my newspaper days.
  • I am investigating a couple of Halloween costume leads. 
  • I am watching my beloved Tennessee Volunteers take on #2-ranked Alabama on Saturday night.  This month is a tough one for Rocky Top.  Last week they played LSU (ranked #1) and this week sure won't be much of a break against Bama.  I'm also planning to watch at least part of that night's World Series game with friends.
  • Sunday afternoon will involve dance lessons with my family at the St. Clair Ballroom.  More on this later.  I hardly know how to explain it in advance, okay?
  • Finally, I must spend some quality time with Cleopatra, this month's book club pick.  I am inside the one-week window before our group's discussion, and so far, my progress can hardly be described as admirable (see below).  I like the book so far but just haven't reached that moment where the book hooks you and you can't put it down.  I know it's coming.  Cross your fingers for me, please.

Happy weekend to you, Reader!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taking inventory

With 100 posts under my belt, I guess I can now describe myself as an avid blogger.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I am a big fan of sneaky ways to squeeze reflection and introspection into the day.  Dating back to the days of diligently completing teen magazine quizzes, I've also been a staunch advocate of assessments and inventories as a starting point.

A couple of years ago, I joined a leadership development group through work, and one of its integral pillars was the Strengths Finder inventory: completing it once at the beginning of the year-long program and once at the end, plus giving the book to two other friends and talking about their own results.  

I love this exercise because it's so easy to center daily reflection simply on what went wrong and dwell on what mistakes were made - and this inventory identifies five tangible strengths of what you bring to the table every day at work and home.  You're supposed to consider teaming up with people whose strengths are opposite yours, contrary to the easy appeal of pairing up with people who are similar to you.  I still think often about this approach, long after I finished that program.

I liked learning what my strengths were because they represented parts of my personality that I knew I valued but for which I sometimes didn't have the words to describe.  Others probably come as no surprise, for you and me both.  My top strengths:
  • Positivity
  • Learner
  • Input
  • Empathy
  • Relator
Recently I stumbled on an adaptation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, one of the classic personality inventories.  I had to complete it when I was a junior in college, during my first week at an internship, and I can't remember for the life of me how I scored.  Obviously, I was long overdue to re-assess.

I'm not sure if the adaptation matches the original wording of the questions exactly, but some resonated strongly with me:
  • You prefer to act immediately rather than speculate about various options.  No.
  • You feel involved when watching TV soaps.  Um, yes! 
  • You find it difficult to speak loudly.  Story of my life.
Others required more brain capacity than I was working with that day: "You value justice higher than mercy." I have to choose "yes" or "no"?

Anyway, 72 questions later, it turns out that I am an INFJ: a moderately expressed introvert, a moderately expressed intuitive personality, a distinctly expressed feeling personality, and a very expressed judging personality.

Once you get your results, there are a few links for how to actually explain those little letters.  This is from, which breaks down each of the 16 combinations into longer descriptions.  INFJ is under the "idealist" subcategory and is officially dubbed the Counselor. I run the dual risk of soul-baring and over-sharing by quoting Keirsey, but here goes:
"Counselors . . . find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, Counselors do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that . . . they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Counselors are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, Counselors prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.
Counselors . . . can be hard to get to know, since they tend not to share their innermost thoughts or their powerful emotional reactions except with their loved ones. They are highly private people, with an unusually rich, complicated inner life. Friends or colleagues who have known them for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise."
I included this not with "Whee! Look at me!" intentions, but because I was floored by how closely it hit home - and not in a horoscope way, where one can bend a vague sentence to match his or her day exactly.  Like StrengthsFinder, it articulated traits that I didn't know how to describe.  Besides literally identifying the two paths my professional work has taken so far, it's true that I can be a Major League Goofball with the people closest to me and more reserved elsewhere.  

I think this blog has helped me blend those two sides.  At best, it has given me an outlet for sharing what's on my mind with friends near and far away.  At worst?  Well, at worst, Reader, you've gotten a look at my "unusually rich, complicated inner life" consisting of Boofus, Pin Man, clouds, and frozen pizza.

In keeping with my INFJ bad self, enough about me. The whole point of this post: I want to drop a challenge on you.  Try the quiz or something similar!  It takes 10 minutes.  Do the results surprise you? Do you like this stuff?  Do you believe in it?  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trivia triumph

Everyone has a trivia category that's made for him or her.  What is yours?  Sports?  Movies?  Politics?  Besides my illustrious bank of tidbits gleaned from US Weekly, I stumble at trivia.  I have never found the category that elicits the fierce confidence that prompts everyone at your table to crane their necks to see the answer that comes out of your brain.

Until now!

Last night, Josh and I joined three friends for trivia at Green Mill.  A few years ago, a big group of us used to go weekly, but our attendance dwindled this year.  The trivia is divided into several sections, and whoever gets to the restaurant first takes the first crack at the back page: the image round.  This involves identifying 10 visuals grouped around a theme, but the puzzle usually involves altering part of each image via a black bar or white-out. 

Josh and I grabbed our table yesterday, and when he looked at the page, he said, "This is your image round!" I doubt the two of us have ever been more excited to tackle the puzzles.  We were an A+ team.  By the time the next friend arrived, we had sheepishly dubiously proudly demolished the whole thing. 

Read it and weep.  I may flounder or fall silent in other categories.  But you know what?  After many years of practice, I know my frozen pizzas.

The only way the image round could've improved would've been if the trivia guy drew a smiley or star or "A+!" next to our 10 points.  Those points helped the team nab third place and a $10 gift card to Half Price Books.  I never dreamed that my generous, strange affinity for frozen pizzas would reap any sort of positive benefit - but last night, it paid off big-time.