Liz’s Oprah’s Favorite Things List

Sadly, one of my bucket items will never be accomplished; I will never receive amazing, free stuff from Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show. I loved that show. It was so fun. It was an afternoon I always looked forward to as I would race home from school. It was joyful and awesome. I always imagined myself in the audience, freaking out and screaming when she announced that we would all go home with t-shirt sheets or a new line of facial cleanser, “You get cleanser, and you get cleanser, and you get cleanser!”   I loved the fact she gave away so much stuff. It got me thinking what stuff I would give away to an audience if I could. I started my own list of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” – items that I have used and loved for a long time. So here they are. Here is my own “Liz’s Oprah’s Favorite Things” list. They are all “Liz tested, Liz approved” and they are all under $50.00, most under $20.00. For what it’s worth, I really do love the following items.

-Talenti Pistachio Gelato. It is seriously amazing. I could easily put a pint away in one sitting, no problem. (Locals, you can get it at the Washburn IGA) blog 1

-Boru Vodka. A few years ago, the trio entered a “Best Bar Band” contest that Boru sponsored, and we ended up in the top ten. Because of this, we were sent some amazing swag including a case of Boru vodka. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Named after the first king of Ireland, it can be tricky to find. (Luckily for locals, you can order it at The Snug in Washburn.)

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-Blackwing 602 pencils. The best. Google it. They make me want to write things by hand.  The eraser comes out, so you can extend the life of your pencil, and the flat end keeps it from rolling.  Also, the graphite is amazing! Pencils.com June 2011

-Neutragena Healthy Skin Enhancer. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s totally make-up, but it also contains sun screen, moisturizer and retinol. I’ve used it for years, but after a few months, I noticed fewer lines on my face. It comes in a pump and lots of shades.

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-Clinique Kohl Shaper for Eyes. My favorite shade is black coffee. These are so cool, because the liner goes on like butter BUT the coolest thing is that there is a sharpener in the cap so you can always have a nice, focused tip. My friend Marcie turned me onto these a few years ago and I have never looked back. The best.

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– Any and all jewelry by Poca Adams. Poca is a silversmith in the Washburn/Bayfield area, and she uses basalt from Lake Superior in most of her designs. My favorite are my sweet pair of earrings, hand hammered hoops with basalt. She finds the stones herself on the beach. Added bonus? Her earrings are lighter than you would think. Check her out on facebook.

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-Sock It To Me socks. They are the best socks around (unless you are skiing, and then I would go with SmartWool) They are fun, funky, and fabulous. They have a great fit; they stay up under your knee without cutting off any circulation, and they breath while keeping your feet warm. They are a little costly (about 10 bucks a pair) but totally worth it. I like to keep them for days when I need a little boost of fun.

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-OPI nail polish, specifically, “I Am Not Really a Waitress” If you are a woman who has ever painted her nails, or gotten her hair done in a salon, you are most likely familiar with OPI. Super fun colors, and even better, super creative and quirky names for the colors. It doesn’t chip or crack and you can even get by without a top coat. I don’t wear nail polish that often, but when I do, it is always OPI.

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– Goslings Ginger Beer. This is amazing stuff. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t alcoholic, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work really well with vodka. It isn’t too sweet, but the ginger isn’t too bitey either, which means a perfect Moscow Mule is on the way! (Goslings, vodka, fresh mint, and simple syrup if you like, but it doesn’t need it.) Serve it in a mug if you want to be traditional. Also, enjoy it alone out of the can, on a hot day or after a workout. It is delicious!

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Man Sitting

A few days ago, a friend’s Facebook status was about some guy next to her who was doing something called “man-sitting.”  I needed to google it, but once I did, I knew exactly what she was complaining about and why she was complaining.  I would have complained too. If you don’t already know, man-sitting is when men (and I am sure some women, but really, who’s kidding who, mostly men) spread their knees apart and take up more than their own space.  Let me be clear, most men do not do this.  My husband doesn’t do this, my male friends don’t do this and my nephews don’t do this.  However, it still happens to me; it is most visible on planes, in meetings, at movie theaters, and on the bus.  It is beyond rude.  If you are female, I bet it has happened to you in the past few months.   Plainly put, it blows.

What interested me, however, were the responses to her dilemma.  There were 27 comments to her post.  Most of them were from men, who had hilarious and funny responses (“He’s airing out.”  “Is he wearing a kilt?” etc.) and a lot of the responses from women were either commiserate in tone (“I had the same thing happen to me on a plane.”  “That sucks.” etc.) to even a little passive aggressive (“Cross your arms and hold your pen out.”  “Spill your coffee on him…”)

There was one comment however, that for me stuck out.  It was from a mutual friend, Julie, and it made stop and think.  “Give him a bump and say ‘excuse me, you’re in my space.’”  That response was concise, powerful, obvious and personally very, very frightening.  I pride myself in being a strong, independent woman, but chances are, unless I had a few drinks in me, I wouldn’t have said a word.  I would have suffered silently, and after about ten minutes, when I was good and angry, I probably would have done something passive aggressive – like cross my legs quickly, knowing I would “inadvertently” kick him in the shin, and then apologize for it.

Knowing Julie the way I do, I know she would have absolutely followed through with her suggestion without pause.  I mean, it is rather obvious, isn’t it?  Just let him know he is in your space.  It isn’t that hard…so why is it that hard?  Why is it so hard for me to speak up for myself in those types of situations?  Righting a problem should be easier in the moment, than bitching about it afterwards.  Right?  Well, not for me. Julie was always a master of standing up for herself, even to handsome, intimidating, athletic co-eds at frat parties, and she was able to do so in a cheery, smiling manner.  “Hey!  Watch the dancing.  You almost made me spill my drink!” or “You need to stop backing into us.”  I envied that in college and I still do today.  (BTW, there are a lot of female friends in my life who would have responded in the way Julie suggested. I am drawn to these straight-forward, honest, strong women and added bonus, they make great friends.)

Sadly, if I would have had the “balls” to confront a man-sitter verbally, I bet my response would have started with “I’m sorry…” two words I say far too often in my life. I started thinking about women’s role, or more specifically, my role, in this whole “man-sitting” phenomenon.  I started seeing it as a metaphor.  Clearly, there are two roles at play.  There is the rude guy who thinks he is better than the person next to him, ergo he deserves more space, but there is also the gal next to him (me) who allows it.  Why do I allow my space to be taken up by a stranger’s ego?

I don’t think I’m alone, either. We all know it doesn’t just happen on the bus; it happens in boardrooms, in bedrooms, in kitchens, in schools, and on pretty much the rest of the planet.  Just look at the backlash from the “Lean In” movement.  Can you imagine if she would have called it, “Speak Up for Yourself.”  Am I that afraid of being called a bitch?  Or worse yet, being thought of one?

All too often, most men have no problem with being upfront and clear communicators, especially during conflict.   (And yeah, I know how incredibly sexist this blog post is sounding, but honestly, I am speaking from my own life experience.  I am a feminist, married to a feminist, and trying to raise a feminist, and still, I make room in my life for other men’s knees.  I’m not proud of it, and half the time, I don’t even know I am doing it.)  So why can’t I use my voice for my own good?  I use it for other’s good – why not my own?  Why do I feel a surge of fear and anxiety when I need to confront a male about his rude behavior?   Clearly, I have some work to do.

I’m going to try to consciously take a cue from my happy, friendly feminist friend Julie.  The next time I am next to a man-sitter, I am going to smile, tap him on the shoulder, try my hardest not to apologize, and point out he is in my space, even though it will most likely scare the hell out of me to do it.

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Working Out

I was supposed to get up this morning and workout. The alarm didn’t go off. Here’s a newsflash. I wasn’t that upset about it.  I smiled because my “not working out” was completely guilt free.  It wasn’t my fault I got to see the sunshine from my bed rather than stumble around in the dark looking for running shoes. Ha!

I have noticed, in my sort-of-late-40’s, that I have developed something I haven’t had since my sophomore year in college – a gut.  Yeah, I have a gut.  It is no longer a muffin top. It is a loaf of bread – not even like healthy, wheat bread, but more like a big loaf of Wonderbread.  Squishy, doughy Wonderbread.  I had forgotten what that was like, having a gut.  I forgot what it felt like to wear tight pants.  It’s so not cool, especially after a large lunch full of carbs and sauces.

I don’t like having a gut. Seriously, it is starting to bum me out.  Apparently, “couch sitting” doesn’t burn a whole lot of fat.  Neither does trolling on Facebook.  And you know what?  Vodka actually has calories!  More than I was hoping it would.  Turns out pistachio gelato has calories too.  Harrumph.

In college, I drank a lot of beer. Like, a lot of beer –  hence, the gut.  I didn’t like the gut, but apparently, I liked beer more.  After I developed an unwanted allergy to beer (red nose, sneezing, congestion) I lost said gut.  It stayed away for quite a while.  However, now it’s back and I’m not even drinking any beer. So not fair…

When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I was able to lose weight just by thinking about it. “I need to lose 5 pounds” and a week or two later, I would have lost that weight.  It was as simple as that.  Avoid Dairy Queen or fast food for a week or two and the weight would come off.  I have been trying that method for about a year now, and it hasn’t worked.  Jigs up.

A number of years ago, I worked out religiously. (I know, it was so out of character.)  It was the only time in my life that I was really, truly fit. I was actually sort-of-maybe seeing a 6-pack, or at least the start of one.  This is because I set a goal of doing a Triathlon Sprint. (Don’t let that impress you. It isn’t a “real” triathlon – the sprint part makes it sound peppy and über athletic, but it is kind of the opposite.  It is the training wheels of triathlon.  You swim a ½ a mile, bike 18 and run 2 miles.)

triathalon

But for me, at the time, it was a big deal.  Training for it was really, really hard, and after I met my goal of completing my sprint in less than 2 hours, I never, ever, ever wanted to do it again. (I can’t believe people do them for fun.  Seriously.)  The only reason I got through it was because I had set the goal.  That was it.  Getting fit was a great by-product, but it wasn’t my main motivator.  The abs were cool, but honestly, I just had to cross the finish line.

triathalon 2

Clearly, I’m kind of a goal gal.  I need big goals in my life, otherwise nothing gets accomplished.  Little goals don’t work for me.  I don’t direct cute, little comedies, I tend to go for Shakespeare.  I don’t write a sketch, I write a one-woman show.  I don’t write a song, I write and record an album.  I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal.  Unfortunately, recently, I have done more of the “go home” part than the “go big” part.

However, this loaf of Wonderbread of mine is getting out of hand.  As insane as it sounds (especially when I say it in my head) I am considering doing another Triathlon sprint, because my gut seems to be suffering from unrequited love.  It loves me, but I don’t love it.  It isn’t taking the hint.  It seems to be sticking around.  It is annoying me. It vexes me.  I know it’s getting bad, when my always polite and awesome daughter says, “Mom, when was the last time you worked out? You need to work out.”

It doesn’t help at all that some women in their 40’s and 50’s write it off as normal aging. That belly fat is somehow part of normal life for a woman 45 and older… I don’t want to buy into that kind of thinking at all, because I would then have to admit that I am actually aging.  Also, I have a group of friends who are my age and in amazing shape, because they manage to get their asses out of bed in the morning; they do this thing called “Kick Butt Boot Camp” which doesn’t sound fun at all.  It sounds really, really hard and sweaty.  Regardless of how sadist it sounds, they blow that “female age” argument out of the water.  They work hard, their bodies look great.  They have this thing called “energy” and “a positive outlook” and “a clearly defined line where the ass ends and the leg begin.”  I really want that too, I just don’t want to sweat.

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Egg Nog Blasphemer

I bet you didn’t know that rum is the holiest of all Christmas drinks.  It’s true.  That’s why they sing about it in that carol, “The Little Drummer Boy.”  When you think about it, it’s obvious.  Rum is what you put in egg nog, which is a Christmas drink but also, egg nog has a holy beginning.  I bet you didn’t know that.  Listen and learn.

Mary and Joseph were so poor they had nothing to drink. They were so poor they had to drink eggs right? And not eggs from the store, but like eggs from real chickens that Joseph had to chase down, which is hard to do in a dress.  So, when the kings showed up and that was all they had, Balthasar put some frankincense in it and then spiked it with rum as to not make them feel bad because they were drinking eggs.  I mean, everybody knows that royals are like, used to good food.  (That’s why that Lordes girl will never be a royal, because she’s too skinny and clearly doesn’t eat rich, king-like food.)

The wise kings had rum because they were from the south, and everybody knows rum comes from the tropics, and Nazareth can get pretty hot.  Also, they had to take the long trip on a donkey, so I am sure a flask of rum would help make that journey less horrible.  Of course, Mary didn’t have any.  She had just recently given birth, and regardless of whether or not she breast feed baby Jesus (some scholars think he might have been above that sort of thing) she didn’t think it would look good in front of the kings.  Joseph however had some.  That’s why we drink rum at Christmas.  And wine.  Because for Christians, it represents Christ’s blood, and that’s how some Christians choose to celebrate the holiday.  By drinking that sweet little baby’s blood.

Happy Holidays.

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Christmas Wish Lists

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My family is doing an online Secret Santa gift drawing this year, and my nephew, who is knower of all things tech, hooked us up with this online site called “Elfster.”  (I know, I know.  Me too.)

Anyway, part of Elfster is creating a wish list for yourself.  I have an aversion to “wishlists” because a married couple absolutely broke me of it.  (I want to say for the record that I didn’t really know these people – they were friends of friends and clearly, my friends thought their list was so ridiculous that it ended up being emailed to me, and I shared it with anyone who would read it because it was so self-indulgent and FREAKING STUPID.  No, I’m sorry, you don’t get a case or two of fine, organic, low-sulfate wine for your engagement.  No, I will not be creating an art piece that showcases your amazing love with natural items found on a meaningful walk through a forest.  Go away, now.)

Of course, I was incapable of writing anything serious on the Elfster site.  My first request was a Porsche 911, and I don’t even like Porches…I’m more of a Subaru Outback kind of gal.  Then I think I asked for the Hope Diamond, and a sack of potatoes.  Clearly, I wasn’t taking Elfster very seriously.

Anyway, it got me thinking.  What would my real wish list be?  If money, power, time, and reality were no object?  Way better than a Subaru Outback let me tell you.

1.  A time machine to go back to 1993, the year the movie Tombstone was released.  I would like to somehow manipulate the Oscar nominees to make sure that Val Kilmer is not only nominated, but wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor for his pivotal role as Doc Holiday because seriously, he was amazing.  Not fat, crazy Val of today, but slim, intense, pre-batman Val of days of old.  I would SO be his huckleberry.

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2. A Subaru Outback, loaded – with heated seats, automatic start, weather radio and wings.  Yes, I want my Outback to fly.

3. I would drivefly my Outback (with my friends in tow) to England to see David Tennant on stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of Hamlet…or maybe his current production of Richard II might do as well, however they are 10 years apart.  Wait!  See #1.  Done and done!

4. Take my time machine back to when I was 17 and got a bad perm and crushed the right front quarter panel of my mother’s brand new MG convertible all in one night.  I would tell myself to stay home and skip both of those damaging events.  If I didn’t listen, I would have the sense to bring a gun and some duct tape.

5. I change school policy to be able to keep a monkey in my classroom, so my student’s can gauge their behavior.

6. I would hire the Allman Brother’s Band to play for my 50th birthday party.

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7. I would clone a polar bear.  Why not?

8. I would send 1,000 pizzas to Kanye West’s house on April Fool’s because he doesn’t seem like he can take a joke.  I would love to see his face…oh, Kanye!

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9. I would invite Brett Farve over for dinner.  I would have his family.  I would not ask him about Instagram or sexting.  It would be all business.

10. I would like to create a dog park where people actually picked up their dog’s poop.

11. I would make it a law that cell phones had to shock students if they held it in their hand in a classroom.

12. I would make everyone call me “Lil Wonda.”

13. I would make the Eagles go back into the studio and make more music, but with more of a focus on Joe Walsh.  Then I would make everyone who trashed it on Twitter get a sliver in their texting thumb.

14. For one day only, make Lake Superior a gigantic jello salad with marshmallows.  I think it would make sailing even more fun.

15. I would make everyone find something so funny every day, that they laughed until they cried.  Every flipping day of their lives…

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The War with Dishwashing

I hate doing the dishes.  I really hate it.  Kriner hates it too.  We would have been divorced a long time ago if it weren’t for our dishwasher.  (Not hyperbole)

My abhorrence for doing dishes has actually kept me from cooking certain meals.  If it takes more than two pots to prepare, forget about it.  Seriously.  I love good food, but I hate doing dishes more.  “That recipe calls for a sauce?  Hmmm, maybe pizza tonight.”  “Wait, pasta with sautéed veggies AND caramelized onions?  Prego is fine.”  Also, it is verboten in my house to eat oatmeal.  Ever.  The pots are impossible to clean.  Frosted Flakes were good enough for me, they’re good enough for my kid.  (However, using that logic, playing with mercury from a broken thermometer, jumping off the roof into a pool, and sneaking beer and stealing cigarettes from my parents are also good enough for my kid…might need to rethink the Frosted Flakes.)

It’s a funny thing to hate.  I don’t hate laundry, or vacuuming (even though Kriner handles that) or even washing the floor.  I just hate doing dishes.  I have been ruminating on this for a while and I think I have come up with a reason why.

A few weeks ago, we went to my sister’s for Thanksgiving.  Every year the women do the dishes after the meal, usually because Steve, my brother-in-law does all the cooking.  That activity is actually better than tolerable because my sisters and my mom join in to help.  We drink or sing or gossip…it’s time well spent.  Also, their sink is located in the island of the kitchen, so people can sit and chat while you are washing up.

However, when I do dishes in my home, it is a solitary and lonely exercise.  I feel as though doing dishes in my small kitchen, looking out the small window in my small life should be portrayed in some dark, depressing Russian short story by Tolstoy.  Maybe I need a sound track of “Laura’s Theme” after dinner when I wash up.

My sink is located on a wall, so when I do the dishes, I turn my back on the whole kitchen, and ultimately, the house.  It’s like I’m back in Mrs. Stannel’s 4th grade class at Wilson Elementary, and I (once again) need to be disciplined.  “You’ve been laughing at inappropriate times again, Liz.  Go stand in the corner and do dishes!”

Washing dishes would be more fun if it were a team sport.  Of course I could ask Kriner to help, but even though it is difficult for me to comprehend, his revulsion of doing dishes is even greater than mine.  So, even though he wants to be a good guy, and wants to help, he is in such a foul mood after the dishes are done, that I regret asking him in the first place.  Why make two people miserable when only one has to suffer?  Dumbledore drank all that poison himself to get to the horcrux; he didn’t ask Harry to have a shell-full, did he?

I think someone needs to introduce a sink on wheels.  That way, I could roll into the living room while scouring a pot and see what’s going on.  “Are you two in here having fun without me?  Well, not anymore!”  Or maybe at the least roll it into the dining room, and rinse the plates right then and there before they go into the dishwasher.  (And can we please give a moment to roll our collective eyes at THAT?  What brainiac created a dishwasher that is so piss-poor that you have to rinse, and sometimes actually wash the dishes before they get washed.  Could someone please invent a dishwasher that does just that?  That washes dishes?  Seriously?  Like, now?)

Years ago, I was bitching about how much I hated doing dishes (because it’s that big of a thing for me – that apparently I have carried this vengeful attitude toward dishes for decades because everything else in my life is so freaking fabulous that this is the only thing I have to bitch about…) and my friend Anne said, “I love doing dishes.  I like putting my hands in warm water, and it is a moment of quiet after a busy day.”  I envied her in that moment.  The thought of my hand in warm water harkens back to poorly executed sleep-over pranks (did that work on ANYONE?) and quiet for me is difficult; it always has been.

Tomorrow night we are having friends over for a pot luck.  We will be using paper plates.  (Don’t judge, we got the nice kind…with like designs and crap.)  Also, pot luck means guests will be taking their dirty dishes home with them.  Now THAT’s a party I can get behind.

 

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My Secret Online Identity

If you only know me through Facebook, you would think that I was a syrupy-sweet Pollyanna whose glass is always full; full of what is a whole other story.  Those of you who know me, know that I am not this person.  I can get snarky and bitchy with the best of them.  On certain days of the month, I could give Dorothy Parker a run for her money.  Why then do I find myself being über positive online?  I have pondered this very question, and I think I have an answer.

While some folks feel courageous with the complete anonymity of being online, and perhaps allow themselves to be more critical and judgmental in cyberspace than they would be in real life, I oddly feel more exposed and more vulnerable online.  I get that this last statement is the opposite of what it should be, but bear with me.

If I was snarky and bitchy in a social setting, (I don’t know, say, a bar or at a friend’s house a glass of vodka in my hand) and maybe I was gossiping as I am want to do, there is wiggle room if it comes back to bite me.  Let’s say that someone I was talking to reports back (tattles) to the person (victim) I was talking about.  I can back pedal that shit ‘til Tuesday.  “No, it was a joke.”  “I never said that.”  “Seriously?  That’s what they think I said?”  “It was misinterpreted” or the classic “OK, but I was drunk.”    Also, there are times I don’t even need to say anything.  I am a master of the silent sting.  It has come from 22 years of teaching.  My eye roll alone speaks volumes.  My icy stare is as good as a witty comeback.  If asked “What did you think of the play?” all I have to do is half-smile and sigh, and the message is sent.  If asked about my negative response later, I can say “I didn’t say anything!  How can you accuse me of being cruel?  Honest to God, I didn’t say one bad word about it!”

Online I can’t take anything back.  Everyone sees it for exactly what it is.  I can’t sugar coat a status update like “What a bitch” or “He’s an idiot” or “She reminds me of Ann Coulter.”  I can’t deny a status update like “For the love of God, avoid that play like the plague because it is worse than a pap smear.”  I mean, where would I start?  “You’re taking it the wrong way.”  “I didn’t mean it literally.”  Those don’t seem to fly in this scenario.

So my facebook status updates are usually relegated to the following: love for my husband, love for my daughter, love of literature, love of theater, love of teaching, love of the out-of-doors (which if you know me, you just rolled your eyes) love of life, love of art, and, on occasion, something political.  I make myself sick, but I can’t help myself.  Online I have turned into someone I never thought I would; I’m sweet.

Maybe online, I am the person I wish I could be.  The nicer, sweeter Liz Woodworth.  Ever since I was a little kid, I heard things like, “Lizzy, be nice” and “Honey, be polite” and “Good God, not so loud” and later, “Must you use profanity in every sentence?”  I have tried to be kinder and sweeter and quieter than I am by nature, but after years and years of failing, I’m thinking of giving up the pointless battle.  Maybe my facebook personality is the last gasp of that ridiculous and impossible self-improvement idea.  The truth is, I am snarky and that’s that.  I enjoy a good zinger.  I relish pithy critiques of others.  I am loud, irreverent and critical.  And maybe, just maybe that’s OK, because it is authentic, unlike my facebook posts.

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