Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Danielle's Top 5 -- Sing-In-The-Car Songs

I'm going to start another feature on the blog called "Top 5". In this feature I will feature my top five... somethings. If you have any suggestions about things that I might feature in my "Top 5", feel free to shoot them my way. I reserve the right to change my "Top 5" opinion if another new and exciting thing comes along to bump it off the list.

Now that you've had your introduction, on to the first ever Danielle's Top 5...

Danielle's Top 5 
Songs to Sing in the Car

Every year as the weather starts to get nice, I start to want to sing at the top of my lungs doing about 40 mph down a back road with the windows down. There's something oddly therapeutic about singing in the cars like a crowd of 40,000 is watching you, when really it's just the other people driving by... if they even notice. And God, who loves to hear us sing anyways.

 There are some songs that are my absolute favorites to  belt out for other traffic jammers to hear, and here they are in no particular order:

Guster - "Mona Lisa"

This song isn't particularly upbeat, but I love it. I think it's the lyrics and the way that Guster always has the awesome bongo drums as their main percussion. I've been known when alone to put this song on repeat and sing it over... and over... and over...

Christina Aguilera - "Dirrty" 
(specifically the version featuring Redman)

This song isn't exactly small-child friendly, but lucky for me I have no small children in the car with me on a regular basis. This is one of my must-plays as soon as the weather hits 70 degrees, it's sunny, and the weather is perfect for those windows to go down. I even dance in the car to this song, I don't care who sees. I ring the alarm and I throw elbows during the opening. I'm not scared to admit that.

Janis Joplin - "Me & Bobby McGee"

Now this song I love for sentimental reasons. My mom used to sing this song all the time on her guitar growing up, and so even now I can be found singing it all the time. In the shower. While I cook. In the car. It's one of the greatest belt it out and feel it in your toes songs to sing. If you've never sang this song in the car, and you're a girl - I highly recommend it.

Goo Goo Dolls - "Big Machine"

I've seen the Goo Goo Dolls 5 times in concert (they are my FAVORITE to see live, by the way) and at least 2 of those times they opened with "Big Machine". The guitar in this song is great to just blast while you're driving. In total disclosure... I could list lots of Goo Goo Dolls in my top songs to sing in the car, but this one is definitely my favorite to just let rip apart my speakers. Since I should probably just narrow it down to one for the sake of a "top 5", Big Machine wins. It's probably because at the end of the song once you've totally rocked out you get to say "God it's good to be alive". It's just a great release at the end of a stressful day.

And finally...

Simpli Lauri - "Let it Rain"

Now... remember I mentioned earlier that my mom sang all the time growing up? Well... clearly that meant that when I got married the one requirement I would have was that my mom sang at my wedding. She did - and she surprised us with an awesome song called "Let it Rain", which... was oddly appropriate. The last verse of the song talks about the singer's daughter getting married outside - and it started to rain. And she didn't care. Oh and by the way - it downpoured on our wedding day. I remember my maid of honor leaning over and saying "Your mom is going to make me cry!" as my mom sang this song. (Side note - my mom does not have "Let it Rain" on You Tube. So this is another one of her songs, "Body to Body", but since everyone else got a video, I wanted to let her have one too. However - if you go to her Myspace Music page and go down her list, you can hear it there... and the featured picture is from our rehearsal. How cool is that?)

So that's it - my top 5 songs that I love to sing in the car. What are yours?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Playing with the Crock Pot

Anyone who has ever moved knows that in the weeks before your move you do whatever you can to consume the food you have in the house so that you have less to take with you. We've been in the process of doing this for a little bit now, but now we're in full swing. I had these cans of chili-ready tomatoes that I needed to use up and while driving last weekend I had an idea.

This is where most people say "Uh-oh". In our home, it's when we say "What's going to be delicious now?"

Today before I went to work I threw some stuff in our Crock Pot and VOILA! Dinner. Delicious, yummy, dinner.

Danielle's Crock Pot Tomato Chicken

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 stems celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 vidalia or sweet onion, sliced (Admittedly I did not have this today, but I'm getting one for next time. It was definitely missing) 
  • 1 can diced or stewed tomatoes (I used chili-ready, but any kind would work.)
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Fresh ground pepper (I think I did 3-4 turns)
  • Place both chicken breasts on bottom of crock pot
  • Crush garlic cloves on top of chicken breasts with a garlic press. If you don't have one, finely chop garlic and sprinkle over chicken.
  • Layer the celery stems, green pepper, and onion over the chicken.
  • Pour the can of tomatoes over everything that's already in there.
  • Sprinkle chili powder, cayenne pepper, and fresh ground pepper over chicken.
  • Place lid on Crock Pot and cook on Low for 6.5 hours.
When I got home tonight, the chicken was done. It had been on "Keep Warm" for a couple of hours and was ready to be eaten. I paired it with some sweet potato "fries" (I par-boiled them for too long) that I made using a spice blend that I got from a friend of mine for a recent Christmas. It's a great spice blend and went well with the sweet potatoes.

When we sat down for dinner, it was judgment time. Steve was honest - he said that when he got home the apartment didn't smell as he had expected it to. He opened the Crock Pot and smelled the veggies and was unsure about my latest experiment. Then he sat down to dinner and tried it and was glad to find out that it was, indeed, pretty tasty.
Dinner with the flowers I got for our anniversary. Yes that's a Star Trek glass. Shutty.

It's a good thing he liked it too. I still have 2 more cans of chili-ready tomatoes and a package of chicken to use before July 3rd!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Giraffe

Last night we went to our friends' house to watch the Celtics/Lakers game over appetizers and conversation. About halfway into the first quarter, I made a comment about how I am admittedly not a fan that watches every C's game (I follow the write-ups on the games in the news), but when I have caught them and Pau Gasol (one of the players on the Lakers) is playing - for some reason his faces annoy me.

My friend Laura (who is a much bigger basketball fan than I am) said: "Yes! I think he looks like a giraffe!"

I looked at the TV again and waited for him to come back on.

Then he did - and I exclaimed "YES! Oh my goodness - he totally does look like a giraffe!!"

What do you think?

From that moment on in the game I could not stop thinking about it. Every time they showed him I thought - giraffe. It was like a bad car wreck in my brain. Every time he came on I thought (and I think said) "There's the giraffe again...". At the end of the game when it was apparent that the Lakers were going to lose - he looked like a sad giraffe. Laura commented that she was glad that I agree with her because apparently other people haven't seen it when she's said it in the past. I don't see how people couldn't see it really...

Sad giraffe.

To note - an internet search to find pictures for this post this morning also turned up this gem comparing Pau Gasol to a llama. Aren't llamas & giraffes related?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

ENT Adventures - Turbinate Reduction

The time had arrived for me to get my first real medical procedure of my adult life other than a dental filling: it was time for my turbinate reduction.

A few people have asked me what the heck this is. From what I can gather (and I am NOT an ENT doctor, so this is about as basic as a basic explanation can get), inside your nose on the walls of your nasal passage are these turbinates. They interact with your body to make sure you... something... and secrete mucus whenever you cry, have an allergic reaction, get a cold, etc. When these things happen, they can also become enlarged and end up as assisting in getting sinus infections or continual discomfort because of these other things going on. Well, because I have so many allergies - my turbinates were working in overtime and were basically permanently enlarged. This procedure's purpose is to relatively permanently reduce or shrink my turbinates.

I got to the doctor's office and (thankfully) had Steve in tow. I hopped up in the chair and waited for Dr. Postal to come in, chatting with Steve while I waited. I noticed that the machine in the room looked like something out of one of those old-school sci-fi films you see featured on MST3K, and made a joke to Steve about them implanting a microchip instead of doing the procedure.It was right around this time that the doctor came in. He explained the procedure, strapped an RF grounding pad to my arm, and got to work.

***WARNING: The next few paragraphs might be a bit graphic - if you aren't big on medical procedures or procedures involving Novocaine: DO NOT CONTINUE READING! Go to the part where it says I indicate I'm done and read from there.***

This is basically what I had done. I'm 4 days into a 1-3 week healing process as of today. (Image found on

The doctor prepped some cotton on his little table (think similar to what they do to numb you up before the shot at the dentist), turned around, and shoved it up my nose. After 5 minutes or so, he said "Your front teeth should start feeling funny right about now." I hadn't noticed so I pressed my tongue against my 2 front teeth and yes indeed, they did feel a bit funny. After a bit longer (maybe another 5 minutes), he returned and advised that he was now going to remove said cotton and administer the Novocaine. He handed me a stack of tissues and said "This is incase you end up coughing. Because it's a needle there's probably going to be a little blood, so if you cough then catch it in the tissues so you don't ruin your shirt. Besides, it never looks good to the other patients if you come out of here with blood on your shirt."

My doctor thinks he's hilarious. So did Steve, incidentally, who chuckled at his joke. I, however, was nervous with a giant wad of tissues in my hand waiting for the Novocaine shot.

He needed to do two shots of Novocaine - one on each side - and started first on my left side. At first I felt a pinch, then a sharp pinch, then I felt liquid running down my throat. The liquid started to feel numb, and I went into an involuntary cough. Good thing I remembered the tissues, which I promptly lifted to my mouth. However, the doctor couldn't really rip the needle out of my nose; he expertly stayed with me - not once slipping on the needle - and continued to administer the remainder of the shot. All this time I'm coughing, I started crying (it freaking HURT before the numb!), and my legs were convulsing because of the pain/numb/coughing discomfort.

Also I was freaking out. Why was I freaking out? Because if all of that wasn't enough - I heard and felt a buzzing in my ears. This was possibly the most unsettling thing I had ever experienced. In fact, as the buzzing got worse and I felt a couple more tears flowing and another cough coming on, the doctor mentioned: "Oh, and sometimes patients have experienced a buzzing in their ears. This is normal and will pass in a few minutes."

Thanks, Doc. Now you tell me. I rolled my eyes and looked at Steve. I felt so bad for him but was so glad he was in there. He said: "Buzzing?" I nodded.

After a minute of letting the left side settle down, he proceeded to do the right side. This side went much smoother than the first, which of course my observant husband noticed. Never one to allow curiosity to escape him, he asked the doctor about it. "It seemed like that side went a lot easier than the first side. Is that normal?"

The doctor replied, "Yeah... she has a deviated septum on that other side. That always makes things a little more challenging."

Again - Thanks, Doc. Now you tell me.

***OK. The worst is over now. The rest is pretty tame and not so graphic.***

After that was all done, he got to work on the actual procedure. I'm not even joking when I say I did not feel a thing. I heard a "bzz-bzz-bzzzzz" come from the machine... and that was it. He spent about 2 minutes on each side with the radio frequency wand doing his thing, gave me some instructions for care over the next 8 weeks, set up a follow up appointment, and sent me on my way.

The day of the procedure (Wednesday) was awful. I couldn't blow my nose so instead went through a box and a half of tissues keeping up with a nose that had been poked at. Thursday wasn't as bad, though I still couldn't exercise at all really and was still coughing a good amount. Yesterday (Friday) was even better in terms of nose blowing, and today has been the best day so far. I've blown my nose a lot less and was even able to go for a walk this morning (even though I didn't feel 100% while I was out there). I expect each day to get a little bit better, and am just making sure that I stay on top of the regimen that he prescribed to me. I expect that next week I'll be able to go to the gym again, and by the end of next week can do weights again (no heavy lifting for me for a few days). 

Steve and I expect that between this procedure and the changes that the move to the new house will bring, by the time my 8-week follow-up appointments for the allergist & the ENT hit, I will know if I'm able to breathe any easier. The big hope at this point is that I won't have to go through the procedure again. We'll find out at the beginning of August!

Friday, June 4, 2010

ENT Adventures - The Allergy Test

For the next couple of blog entries, I'm going to catch up on the latest & greatest in the world of trying to make me breathe easier. I forgot to do the update of my allergy testing back at the beginning of May, so we'll start there.

I got to the ENT office, checked in, and waited my turn to be called. When I was called, the allergy nurse brought me to the furthest room in the back of the office (to which I thought - are the needles that bad that they need to put the people in the back to stifle the screams?) and sat me in a chair. She pulled out a questionnaire and asked me a series of questions: do you eat this, are you ever around that, do you have this or that pet, do you find it easier or harder to breathe at certain times of the year, etc. I answered each one and she made some notes on her sheet. When she was finished the 20 questions, she pulled out a tray of tiny beakers and said what each one was. Turning one of the needles in my direction before she put them in the tray, she suggested that I touch one to see what the test would be like. Seemed harmless enough, almost like touching the end of a sewing needle and poking yourself in the forearm. She wrote on my arm with a ballpoint pen so as to not lose track of what pricks would be what, and began the testing.

 Image from

The first round of testing was an initial screening and tested for airborne allergens such as pet dander, various pollens, and cockroach droppings (yes, seriously). She pricked my skin with 30 samples, set the timer for 10 minutes, and went on her way while we waited. I grabbed my book and after about 2 minutes noticed a few hives beginning to develop on my right arm. After 5 minutes, three of the hives had developed even more and were excruciatingly itchy. I took my eyes away from my book to see what they were - and they were the first three in the first row.

Cat dander, dust mites, and dog dander. 

There went my hopes for beige carpeting and a shih-tzu. I pretty much already knew about the first one (if you get asthma attack like symptoms when you're visiting a friend who has a cat...), was suspicious about the second, and the third was a bit of a surprise.

Oh well. When the 10 minutes was up, the allergy nurse returned and "read" my arms. She took notes on where the allergies were obvious, cleaned up the pen marks, and gave me an ice pack to relief the unbearable itching of the three huge hives on my arm. Oh sweet coldness, how I loved you in that moment.

Round two of testing was uneventful. Same pricks, but this time there were food allergens based on my normal diet placed on my skin. Just as I had thought - no food allergies. Since she tested for coffee - this was a huge relief. That would have been an absolute disaster.

Round three was more pricking with the airborne allergens, but this time with a bigger needle right under the first layer of skin on a select few. She drew up 10 vials to double check my pollen allergies (we narrowed it down to just tree pollen, so now were trying to see WHICH trees), some molds, and just incase it was a false negative - let's throw some more mouse & cockroach droppings in (why not, right). That round of testing showed that I am allergic to maple & hickory pollen as well as one or two kinds of mold. Still no mice & cockroaches...
No, Mr. Cockroach. I am not allergic to your crap. (Image found on

Then it was time for the last round. This set of pricks under the skin was just to see the severity of the maple & hickory pollen allergies as well as narrowing down the mold. She made more notes on my file, muted the Food Network (yes, I was watching TV... at that point I had given up on reading, TV was a better distraction to the itching), and gave me an education lesson on avoiding dust mite allergies. I walked out of there that afternoon a little bit less afraid of needles and a little more knowledgeable about how to manage my allergies. I go back in for a follow-up in August to see how I'm coping with some changes we'll be making, and if needed we'll discuss any alternatives to treating my allergies.

All in all, it was a great appointment. I geared myself up for the next step - turbinate reduction.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy 100K, Lil' Car!

Everyone remembers their first car. Mine was a navy blue 1988 Ford Taurus that my parents gave me at the beginning of my second summer in college. While I was away on vacation with friends they had the transmission repaired, and then it was mine. I remember driving to work at UMass Lowell that summer down 110 along the Merrimack River with my 4-45 "air conditioning" "blasting" (for those that don't know that expression: 4 windows down going 45 miles per hour). It was MY car... no more borrowing friends' or my parents cars - I now had freedom.

Picture from Wikipedia. This wasn't MY car, but mine looked just like it.

Like any first car, it had its share of mechanical problems that eventually led to its retirement. The last one was a pinhole in the exhaust that caused my Taurus to fail MA State Inspection - and could never be found. Since a permanent rejection sticker is illegal... I moved on to my 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix. This is the car I had for most of my college career; it was teal and I decorated the back with stickers from various bands I enjoyed. When that car was toast, I moved on to my 1992 Buick LeSabre. It was when I found out it was leaking four different fluids (power steering, antifreeze, oil, and transmission fluid) and started making an awful racket when the wheel was turned all the way to the left that I knew it was time to go.

Steve and I went car shopping for me and in my head I knew exactly what I wanted. It didn't take long to find it - there she was on the Toyota of Nashua lot. A 2004 Toyota Corolla in Indigo Ink Pearl. Only one year old at the time with just over 19,000 miles.

Me in 2005 at our first apartment, not long after I got Lil' Car. I was dorky & excited. :)

And yes - I was excited that the color name was "Indigo Ink Pearl". One test drive and I was sold.

I think that any car owner will agree that you develop a relationship with your car. You get to know its quirks, its noises, and when something is wrong. It fits you, it fits your personality, and in some cases you even name it (mine is Lil' Car). And when it breaks - you're devastated. Within a month of owning my car, someone smashed the driver's side mirror while I was at an overnight girls' night at a friend's house. Then on Labor Day 2007, I wrecked my poor Lil' Car and we were worried she'd be totalled.

Poor Lil' Car! Sept. 3, 2007 after I t-boned a '93 Lexus. (No one was hurt... and a college friend was the EMT to respond to the scene. I was freaking out. That was super awkward.)

The fine folks at the auto body were able to fix her up and that fall Steve got her a vanity plate when we re-registered her: LIL-CAR (plate now retired). That was almost 3 years ago, and last week after her oil change on Wednesday, Lil' Car turned over to 100,000 miles. This weekend to celebrate, I took her for her post-winter vacuum (first chance I've had!), washed her up, and bought her a brand-new Yankee Candle Lemon-Lavender car gel. I hope to have her for a while longer - the last (almost) 5 years with her have been fun and driving has been comfortable. She still runs great and I can't wait for her to see her spot in the new garage next month. She deserves it!

Happy 100K, Lil' Car!

Here she is - today, sitting in our apartment driveway. Shiny & clean! Minnie Mouse antenna topper to make me especially nerdy. Love my Lil' Car!!