Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Cute Guy, A Cheesecake...and a Box

Today is my birthday, which over time has become somewhat of a double edged sword for me. While I love celebrating, being reminded of getting older isn't the most fun thing in the world. On top of that, I've been trying to rebuild my vacation time, so I planned to work. Wednesdays don't exactly scream "Time to party!"

As the day got started, and the birthday wishes rolled in on my Facebook page, I was feeling a little frisky. So I posted this status update....

Meg Jarrell appreciates the MANY birthday wishes ALREADY today! Now the real question...where's my cake with the cute guy jumping out of it?

After work, dinner at Cheesecake Factory with my good friends Micah, Allison, Paul and Yurika gave me both the cake and the guy, just packaged a little differently.

This is my guy! I know Jordan's a little young for me, but I love him to pieces anyway. But seriously, he's Micah and Allison's little boy, and I just adore him. He's walking now, and pronounces word so clearly I know full sentences are going to start coming any day. I can't think of a more fun date for my big day.

And this is the cake....Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake! Yes, it is absolutely as decadent as it sounds, and there was none left.

MANY, MANY thank to Allison and Micah for getting the dinner together. Not only are they two of the best parents you'll ever meet, they're two of the best friends on the planet.

Packages are always fun on your big day, and Michelle's had made it all the way from NYC to my doorstep when I finally got home. Talk about perfect timing!

I opened the box, and the first thing that fell out was one of 3 hockey t-shirts! Oh, she knows me so well!!! Now I have cooler stuff to wear on my dates with the treadmill!

And cushioned by the t-shirts was another gift...beautifully wrapped, I might add...

...containing a BEAUTIFUL, leather covered recipe book! It's almost too nice for my kitchen!

And it's already partially filled with some of Michelle's favorite recipes! Let the kitchen adventures commence!!!

Now that I'm done modeling the shirts and reading through the recipes, it's too late to call and say thanks. That will be tomorrow. So I'm going to bed, grateful for the love and thoughtfulness of my friends. How did I get so lucky?

I guess getting older isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Time for a Makeover!

One of the great things about interacting with people on Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other social networking sites I spend time on is discovering how many bloggers are out there. In addition to checking out content in their respective subject matter or area of interest, I always enjoy looking at how their blog is designed. And the more blogs I've seen lately, the more bored I got with my blog design.

One of the blogs I regularly read is written by my friend Meagan Shemenski. She's a scrapbooker and photo buff like me, and I noticed the other day she got a new format for her blog that totally caught my eye. Part of the beauty of social networking is being able to ask someone "How did you do that?" And just as I was getting ready to shoot her a note requesting more information, I noticed a little title in the top left corner of her blog. One click took me to this site:

There I found wonderfully creative backgrounds and banners, with instructions for loading them into most of the popular blog formats. They even have an entire section just on Blogger, which I use. In less than 5 minutes, I was easily trying out new backgrounds. It took a little longer to decide which one I liked best, and create my new Kings-themed header, but now I have a new design I absolutely love.

Change is good! Welcome to the new and improved A Life Less Ordinary...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bargain Shopping, LA Kings Style

As every sports fan is well aware, compiling a wardrobe of logo gear to support your team is expensive. Now, I haven't priced football or baseball jerseys in a long time, but I would venture to say hockey jerseys are some of the more expensive ones out there at around $200 a pop. And those are the cheap ones.

So any occasion to save on hockey stuff is cause for celebration. Hence my journey to the LA team store at Staples Center this morning, to brave the madness of their outdoor clearance sale. For up to 90% off on some of this stuff, I can be convinced to stand in line for a bit in my comfy shoes. Plus, the Staples staff thought ahead and provided us with some entertainment via a jazz band. The xylophone dude and the bass player have the right idea. It just figures the drummer would be a Clippers fan....

There were bargains aplenty, with most of the stuff outside on sale for less than $30. WAY less in some cases...the Kings paper crowns were a bargain at 25 cents! Calendars were a dollar, so I picked up a couple of those since they normally have good player photos.

But the best deal of the day was the "Grab Bag Special." When you entered the sale, you got a 12" clear plastic bag, into which you could cram as much sale stuff as possible. Everything that fit in the bag would be $50....period. For once, my frequent travel experience came in handy. I am an expert at packing clothes, and I managed to get all these into that little bag....

... along with this !

Two t-shirts, a player jersey, AND a purse for $50. I rule! So what if Sully doesn't play for the Kings anymore. I still love him, and that poor jersey looked so sad laying on the table buried in Lakers t-shirts that I just didn't have the heart to leave it there. Sully deserves better.

Of course, his 8X10 glossy was my best deal of the day - only 10 cents.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Business Travel

I may have mentioned this before in a previous blog, and if so, I apologize for repeating myself. But this message bears repeating to any of you out there that think traveling for business is glamorous. Don't be deluded by the myth. IT ISN'T. Business travel is a giant pain in the ass most of the time.

When I was starting my adult work life, I thought traveling everywhere on a job would be pure heaven. Always in different places, meeting new people, yada-yada-yada. What I didn't think about is the hassles of delayed flights, hotel beds that try but don't feel like home, and crappy rental cars. Actually, it's the rental cars in particular that have me the most irritated in my recent business travels, so I'm going to take this opportunity to rant a little (or maybe a lot) about Hertz.

It all started two weeks ago with an innocent trip to Phoenix. I arrived in town late afternoon on a Monday and was promptly greeted by 116 degree heat smacking me in the face. I had a busy morning with a couple of conference calls before I even headed to the airport, and I was tired. So when I noticed I got a scratch-and-dent model even though I'm a Hertz Gold Glass member, I was irritated, but not enough to really care.

Just a little red paint left by some inconsiderate prior renter and not fixed by Hertz, because they probably didn't care either. When I returned the car 3 days later, I realized how wrong I was! They accused ME of causing the damage and hauled me off to the customer service kiosk to fight it out with a manager. When I told him they were being ridiculous and the car has scratches and dings all over it (which it did), he thrust me an incident report. This, of course, pissed me off to no end. I'm running to catch a flight, and I have to waste my time documenting something I didn't cause because Hertz doesn't want to pay to properly maintain their vehicles, even for the use of their best customers. So I wrote, in the biggest block letters I could, "I DID NOT CAUSE THIS DAMAGE," signed the form and stomped off...only to find my flight was delayed 30 minutes. On the night I had tickets to see Joan Jett!!

Fast forward a week, and I'm picking up another rental car in Tampa, FL. Given my previous experience with Hertz, you can imagine how overjoyed I was to find this....

Is there a lot agent to be found to report this damage? Hell no! So I have to walk all the way back into the rental counter after spending the entire day flying across the country because Hertz doesn't care about it's image. The girl behind the counter was nice enough, but I commented how disappointed I'd been with Hertz the last two weeks, with two damaged vehicles under my belt. Not one ounce of sympathy, or acknowledgment of the crappy state of their fleet on her part. Judging by the look on her face, I'm guessing she's getting a lot of this lately. At least no one accused me of damaging the car this time.

Message to Hertz loss control: I DARE YOU to call me about the Phoenix car. You'll wish you hadn't when I'm done with you.

Now that I've ranted, I can share a couple of happy moments I experienced traveling this week. The canceled connecting flight from Vegas to LAX on the way back from Tampa was not one of them, but I was amused to be sharing a plane with Matt Leinhart.

If you don't follow football (like me), he's the current quarterback for the AZ Cardinals. The only reason I know this is because he's a big deal in LA from his college championship years at USC. And he fathered a baby out of wedlock with his former college sweetheart, which made him tabloid fodder for a while. I was mildly entertained, but it's not like I was on a plane with Sid Crosby.

When I finally got back to LA, The Parking Spot shuttle gave me reason to smile for having this posted on the wall. Thank you LA Kings!

And this is my first trip from the airport home to the new place, and I gotta admit...the view is pretty nice, in spite of the traffic.

No more work trips until September, so Hertz has some time to regroup. We'll see what happens. I'll be here to keep you posted...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meg's Guided Tour of LA

My sister and brother-in-law decided to visit the West Coast this summer, and luckily I had a weekend in between business trips to take them around and give them the insiders view of LA. We had a lot of fun, got a little sunburn (had to do the tour top down in the EOS, of course!), and got to catch up. They were even nice enough to take me out for an early birthday dinner!

They arrived on Saturday morning just in time for lunch, so we headed out for Mexican. Dave (my brother-in-law) is a picky eater, but he loves Mexican food, and no one doesn't like a margarita in LA, right? So we headed out to Los Compadres on Sunset, home of the flaming margarita.

It was fun to go back there for me too. When I moved to LA 10 years ago (jeez, has it been that long?), Los Compadres was my favorite hang-out with my co-workers Peter and Scott, especially since Peter's house is right around the corner a few blocks.

With our hunger satisfied, we did a little driving tour of Sunset, Melrose and Santa Monica Boulevards so I could point out some stuff for them to check out later. Then we headed to the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Liz promptly ran into the President....

....while Dave hooked up with Marilyn...

...and two of the shortest members of KISS I've ever seen!

Meanwhile, Liz attempted to muscle through the crowd around Michael Jackson's star on the Walk of Fame.

Even this many weeks after the funeral, it's still a madhouse. I wasn't even gonna try to get in there. Luckily I live here, so I can go back on a week day if I ever need a picture.

We were all pretty exhausted at that point, me from the sun and Liz and Dave from a very long trip west that started at 2 AM their time. So I dropped them back at their rental car, and they headed to the hotel and off on their own for the evening.

The next day, Dave had gotten tickets for all of us to the Dodgers Game.

Lucky for me, it was LA Kings Day at Dodger Stadium, and our assistant captain and defenseman Matt Greene was throwing out the first pitch! I shot some video, but our seat location in the left field pavilion meant you can't really see anything. If you want to see Matty's pitch, here's a link to the Kings website that has a much better video.

We did have a quite nice view of Manny Ramirez all day, and boy does he love working the crowd! If only my nephew Will had been here, we might have gotten a ball!

In honor of our famous left fielder, Dave bought himself some replica "Manny-dreds."

It was a great game, although it was hot as Hades the entire day, and the section we were sitting in had NO shade at any point in the day. The air temp per my iPhone was 90 degrees, but if felt like at least 100 in our seats. Needless to say, we downed several of these...

By the end of the afternoon, we had survived the heat, and the Dodgers beat the Houston Astros, aided by a beautiful homer by Matt Kemp. Then it was home to shower and take a break, followed by a trip to LA Live and dinner at the Yard House.

Thanks to Liz and Dave for a great weekend! Unfortunately, this tour guide is off to Florida in the morning...all work and no play this time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Love Rock & Roll!

Joan Jett's album "I Love Rock & Roll" was the soundtrack of my early high school years, but I've never had the opportunity to see her perform live. So when Tammy alerted me that she was on the artists roster for this years Orange County Fair (one huge benefit of living in LA), we went. You can't beat this deal, either. A ticket for $12.50 includes the show AND entry to the fair!

Getting there was a little stressful due to a delayed flight home from Phoenix, but Tammy and I both made it in one piece and didn't miss any of the show. And Joan did not disappoint. She's still rocking the leather pants and studded bracelets, and sounds as great as ever. I think she's a testament to the fact that when you do something you really love, age and time have no meaning. Just throw yourself out there and rock it out!

Of course, I had to shoot some video of the ubiquitous title track. Enjoy! And don't stop rocking and rolling!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cool Stuff (Besides Hockey) That Happened This Weekend!

For those of you not interested in hockey, or just wondering if I have any kind of life that doesn't revolve around hockey in some form, don't despair. Plenty of good non-hockey related fun was had this weekend!

Friday after work, I needed a pedicure, and the mall down the street from my office has a great place with massage chairs. Toes prettied up and sufficiently relaxed, I realized I had not been to a movie in as long as I can remember, so I headed over to the theatre (this mall has everything) to see "UP," the new animated feature from Pixar.

Now, I simply cannot go to a movie without popcorn. It's un-American and not fun, plus I consider melted butter a necessary part of the food pyramid, and I was overdue for a dose of happiness. This is one of those theatres that has the do-it-yourself extra butter application fountain, so I loaded it on. You probably can't tell from the photo, but you should feel your arteries start clogging about now.

Even though I was supposed to have my cell phone off, I couldn't resist seeing what kind of picture the camera phone would grab. Pretty good resolution, if I do say so myself! This is not from the movie itself, but shot during the previews. Because using my cell DURING the movie would be the only thing ruder than the entire row of teenagers yakking it up behind me.

As for the movie itself, all I can say is GO SEE IT. NOW! Without giving too much of the plot away, this flick has a talking dog named Dug and and the most awesome female bird named Kevin. She stole the show for me. And Ed Asner as the voice of the main character...perfection. And don't be fooled by the animation. Totally appropriate for kids, but you adults are gonna bawl your eyes out, so take your Kleenex.

After the first rookie scrimmage Saturday, I had my first official visitor to the new place!

My co-worker and music buddy Tammy came over, and we walked downtown to check out the Grammy Museum and have some lunch.

The Grammy Museum was lots of fun, and well worth the $10 summer admission special. Lots of the exhibits are electronic and interactive, including one where you record yourself singing, aided by some direction from Janet Jackson producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis via taped video.

Here are the key Things I learned at the Grammy Museum during the course of the day:
  • My singing sounds much better in the car or shower than through headphones on a good quality audio playback.
  • Stuff that looks great on stage looks cheap up close (see the exhibit of Neil Diamond costumes). And Michael Jackson's costumes are just plain heavy....
  • Eminem has the handwriting of an axe murderer
  • Taylor Swift is SUCH a girlie girl..handwritten lyrics in red pen
  • Mixing is fun! I'm much better at mixing than singing....
And the best part of the museum was a theatre featuring every single Michael Jackson video ever made, running continuously in chronological order. Weird to remember he once looked like this...

And with that, another fabulous weekend in LA comes to an end. At least the non-hockey related part...

Kings Prospect Camp

Ahhh....the smell of ice in July!!! It's been a long time my last Kings game in April, and watching the Stanley Cup play-offs on TV is fun, but not the same as chilling in an ice rink seeing a bunch of guys chase after a little piece of vulcanized rubber surrounded by great friends!

I have to think attendance at the Kings prospect camp set records. The place was packed every morning this weekend, which was great to see. People are starting to believe Dean Lombardi can lead us to a future of play-off contention, and the excitement was palpable in the crowd chatter. Spending time with my buddies Jen and Bri, Shawna, Nadine, Jon and Matt was a bonus!

And I just love watching our coach, Terry Murray, do his thing on the ice! He's so composed, provides clear instruction, and reinforces the guys in a positive way. As a teacher myself, I learn so much watching him. He's the coolest!

All the guys looked super, and you could tell they want in on what the Kings have going from the level of physical play. Of course, I always pick out a few new favorites, and I have to follow at least one dark horse. This year, my pick is Garrett Roe.

He reminds me a little of John Zeiler, one of my favorite 4th liners on the Kings. He skates like a DEMON, incredibly fast and barely on the edge of control. He's not graceful, but as they say in hockey circles, he's got wheels. On Saturday, he scored an amazing goal while getting knocked off his feet by a hard open ice hit. The kid has grit! He does have a problematic little habit of chewing on his mouth guard WHILE HE'S PLAYING, which left me wondering how long it will be before he swallows it on a play!

Brayden Schenn, our top draft pick a few weeks ago, was everything I expected him to be. Big body, solid skater, nice shot. The more OHL players I see us draft, the more I'm convinced the best hockey players in the world come out of that system. I had a hard time getting a good photo because he was on the move all the time, so I included a little video. It also features Thomas Hickey, captain of this years Canadian World Championship team and another of our top prospects. Based on the way they play, it won't be long before we see these guys on NHL ice. Hickey is #37, and Brayden is #55.

Great scrimmages boys! Keep working hard, and hopefully we'll see you with the big club one day!

August cannot get here soon enough!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Before and After

So my new drivers license arrived in the mail today. Now that I look at the old and the new side by side, I'm surprised anyone let me into a bar, much less on a plane, for the past 5 years. If I was a bouncer, I would have arrested me for trying to pass a fake ID.

Here's the before....

And the after....

See what I mean?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunction

Every trainer I know has a few good horror stories of classes gone wrong or crazy mishaps while they're facilitating a session. One friend of mine split his pants open bending down to point out something on a car to student and had to teach the rest of the class with his boxers in view!

All in all, I've been very lucky during my training career, with the exception of one crazy weather related incident in Sacramento a number of years ago. Not brave enough to share that one! Most of my mishaps have amounted to little more than walking around a body shop with a grease smudge on my face none of my students bothered to mention until I saw it in the bathroom during a lunch break.

Until this week! I was in our training center in Tempe, AZ doing a class on coaching skills for a group of my fellow trainers. It was close to the end of the module, and I was leading a discussion when out of nowhere, I felt a snap across the bridge of my right foot. I looked down to discover the top of my shoe coming apart! Without missing a beat, I tried to stay in the same place as much as possible to keep the shoe from flopping around since practically nothing was holding it on my foot.

While my students were taking a break, I found a MacGyver solution. Thank goodness for masking tape. Because the show must go on! So I just cycled the roll a couple of times and basically taped the shoe to my foot. And of course, posted it on Facebook!

Here's a close-up of the "carnage." I do love these, and I'm hoping my shoe doctor can repair it. Looks like a clean break...nothing a few stitches can't fix.

But in the meantime, I needed a dress code acceptable replacement for work the next day. Because of course my shoe would fail during the one trip that I packed NO OTHER SHOES besides flip flops. And those don't exactly meet our work dress code.

So it was off to dinner with some friends from class (wearing the flip flops), followed by a trip to Scottsdale's Fashion Square Mall, where I found these....

Hello, lover! Stuart Weitzman, 65% off. Macy's, I am forever in your debt. And note to the shoe whore you are and bring at least 3 pairs on your next trip!