Posted in A Day in the Life, Advice, Reviews

Products & Places Reviews: Wet Dog, Seafood, Sharks, and Ratholes


A few times a year, we try to take 4-day weekend roadtrips to get out of town.  Let me begin by telling you that the only thing I enjoy more than roadtripping with my family, is sitting at home with my family.  My husband and my son are both excellent travelers, and you couldn’t ask for better travel companions.  This trip, we added in Hoo, and he was surprisingly good–save for his having minor meltdowns when it started to rain, and when he saw cows for the first time ever.  He lost his mind over the cows.

Hoo's view.
Hoo’s view.

We usually get down to Corpus Christi at least once a year, and spend a day in Port Aransas, on Mustang Island, where the beaches are nicer.  This year, we decided to skip to the chase, and just stay in Port A.  Following are reviews of some of the products I bought specifically to take on our trip, and of some of the places we visited while we were there.

Since we were traveling with Hoo, we knew we needed a good kennel for him.  He has totally outgrown the one that came home with him, which seemed massive at the time.  Since he’s clocking in over 40lbs now–help me–I went with the Dosckocil Pet Taxi, sized 36W x 25L x 27H.  This is made for pets between 30–70lbs.  It was great!  Perfect for him.  We put it in the trunk unassembled, and just put our suitcases in it.  It traveled well, was simple to assemble when the time came, and there was plenty of room for Hoo to stand up and move around when it was time for him to go into Puppy Jail in the condo.  5 out of 5 stars.

This blueberry muffin dry shampoo was perfect for our Hooberry muffin.

 

 

I was worried about that wet dog smell, and that wet dogfish smell that Hoo might bring home from the beach, so I made an impulse buy of Pet Head Dry Clean, blueberry muffin waterless spray shampoo.  You can spray it on wet, damp, or dry fur, then towel it off, or brush it in.  This was another amazing purchase because Hoo never smelled better!  When we would leave the beach, I would hose him down to get the saltwater off, then give him a towel rub, spray him down with the Pet Head, and give him a quick brushing.  He never stank.  In fact, he smelled quite nice.  The bottle was easy to manage with one hand, and Hoo didn’t seem to mind it.  5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Fun in the sunshade!

We planned to spend as much time as possible at the beach, and unless we were going to get a vat of sunblock to dunk ourselves in every 15 minutes, we were going to need some shelter.  Also, I thought Hoo might need a place to rest between barking at seagulls.  I spent a couple of weeks trying to decide between the Coleman Beach Shade and another shade without a floor.  The deciding factor was that the Coleman Beach Shade could be zipped up to make a changing cabana.

For about five minutes, when I was taking the thing down, I wished I’d gotten the floorless model, but outside of those few, sandy seconds, this was perfect!  I was able to put it up by myself (with the help of our next tent neighbor’s loaned hammer) on an extremely windy day (the trick is filling up the included sandbags first, and using those to hold the thing down, or getting a 7 year old to put his foot in a strategic spot), and it came down just as easily.  I even got it back into the tiny bag that it came in!

We fit 2 beach chairs, a 27 can cooler, a dog, and other beach stuff in comfortably, and when we got hit by a sudden storm, the three humans and the dog just zipped up inside until it had passed.  I wouldn’t have wanted to spend a night in such a small space, but it worked out really nicely for what we needed.  Oh, and none of us got sunburned, so mission accomplished.  I kind of can’t wait to take it out again.  5 out of 5 stars.

Those 2 beach chairs were also an impulse buy.  I was shopping for the cooler and Target  had the chairs on sale for $10 each, so I bought them.  These worked out well because of the high back.  We could actually sit and relax, and there was room enough for Thor to sit on my lap through the storm.

Me getting my Norma Desmond on in my beach chair, in the cabana.  No sunburn + Wicked awesome turban = Great day
Me getting my Norma Desmond on in my beach chair, in the cabana. No sunburn + Wicked awesome turban = Great day

While in Port A, we ate at a few different places worth note.  My absolute favorite was Seafood and Spaghetti Works.  The name of the restaurant pretty much sums up the menu.  B had shrimp tacos, and I had spaghetti, Thor had a kiddie pizza, and Hoo got my meatballs.  We were all very happy.  5 out of 5 stars.  We ordered in from Port A Pizzaria on Saturday night because Thor had gotten a little too much heat during the day.  We had pizza, calzone, and fried ravioli.  It was all fairly good.  Nothing special, but nothing bad.  3 out of 5 stars.  We also ate at Castaway’s Seafood Grill and Beaches Cafe & Bakery which were 3.5 and 2.5 out of 5 stars, respectively.

My absolute favorite place to go in Corpus is Pier 99.  I love, love, love their food, and am all about their fried oysters.  They do a really light, cornbread coating, nothing is greasy, and everything is as light as fried food can get.  It doesn’t hurt that they are on the water, right next door to the USS Lexington (which we did not visit this time), and just down the block from the Texas State Aquarium (which we did.)

Thor and a dolphin friend.
Thor and a dolphin friend.

Thor had a good time at the aquarium.  I don’t think it is a patch on the Dallas World Aquarium, but you can’t argue with its view of the Bay.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

beachcomberWe wanted to stay as close to the beach as possible, and the best price we found was for a condo/motel combination called The Beachcomber.  I am putting a picture of the sign here so that you can see it, remember it, and then avoid it.

Now, I’m not high maintenance when it comes to lodging.  I do love luxury, but I also have a deep, abiding fondness for dives.  I don’t expect a lot from a beach condo in the first place.  When I stay at the beach, I don’t want to worry that I am tracking in too much sand, or that I sat down on furniture in a wet swimsuit.  I just want relatively clean, with a decent bed, and a door that locks.

The best thing about the Beachcomber is its location.  It took about five minutes to walk from the front door into the water.  You can’t beat that.  The worst thing was everything else.  It smelled funny, the sheets were stained, the doors were broken–like pieces of the door were coming off–the carpet was outdoor carpet that looked like large rodents might have given birth on it, and it was impossible to close a door without lifting and slamming.

On Sunday morning, the toilet quit working.  We weren’t able to contact anyone to come fix it, so we used the shower in the best case, and drove to Whataburger in the worst.  Like I said, I’m low maintenance on lodging, but I do require plumbing.  Otherwise, why wouldn’t I just go sleep on the beach in my tiny cabana?

.5 out of 5 stars.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip.  I was with all my favorite boys, and we had a lot of laughs.  Nothing is better than being with my family.

Trip score:  5 out of 5

Just a perfect day.
Just a perfect day.

 

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Posted in Advice, Diet, Food, Health

Water Logged: A cautionary tale


As part of an ongoing, uphill battle in the care and feeding of my lazy, pizza-loving bones, last week I made a serious commitment to drinking more water.  I bought a pitcher and a boat load of fruit, and started dressing up the tap with orange and grapefruit slices.  Because I am frequently guilty of acting first and thinking later, I decided to set a water goal of 3 pitchers full. 

Day One, I drank 3 pitchers full of water, and I did not feel great.  On the plus side, I also did not want any pizza.  Or anything else, for that matter. 

Day Two, I drank 2.5 pitchers full of water, and I did not feel great.  I also had a massive headache.

Day Three, I drank 2 pitchers full of water and then started wondering exactly how much water I was drinking.  There was no measurement information on the bottom of the pitcher, so I guesstimated that I was putting about 2.5 bottles of water into the pitcher, and I thought those bottles had about 12 ounces in them.  I decided 2 pitchers was probably the most I should drink.

Days Four and Five I drank about 2 pitchers, and ate Tylenol because my head was so hurty!

I skipped the pitcher over the weekend and just drank normally, and felt better.  Hmm.

So, today I actually measured.  My pitcher holds, including the fruit slices, 3.5 bottles of water, and those bottles of water hold 16.9 ounces each.  I’ve been filling this thing to the brim, meaning on Day One, I drank 177.5 ounces of water PLUS a few cups of coffee.  No wonder my head started feeling like a cement balloon.

The Mayo Clinic would like you to know that while the amount of water a person should drink varies, most women do well with 1.9 to 2.2 liters of fluid per day–water or other liquids.  More than that is overkill.

If you don’t count the coffee, on Day One I drank 5.25 liters of water.

Days 2–5, I drank somewhere between 3.5 and 4.375 liters of water.

Go big, or go home.

I think I’ll be dialing it back a few notches.  Like 2 notches.  1 pitcher of water a day is plenty enough.  I’d hate for you to have to wring out my sodden corpse after I collapse from Water Intoxication.  Although, it does explain the headaches.

Posted in Advice, Career

I am Interested in This Position Because…


One of the lessons I learned from acting came from the audition process.  That was that no matter how great you are, if you are a blonde who wears a B cup bra, and they are looking for a redhead wearing an A cup actress, you are not getting the gig.  I learned to separate the word “No” from my self-esteem.  Being told no didn’t mean I was a bad actress.  It meant I wasn’t the right good actress for the part. 

That has served me well in job interviews.  I look at them like auditions.  I’m going to go in there, give my all, and hope I am the right height, so-to-speak.  If something is wrong that I can change (or if I can change something semi-permanently, like my hair color) I’ll go out and make sure I have developed the skill for my wheelhouse.  If there is something I can’t change (like how that REM video called for people who could dance…yeah. no.) I let it go.

Two job interview stories:

I really wanted to work for KCM.  At the point that I first interviewed for them, I had everything they wanted, but I was lacking even basic computer skills and my typing was too slow.  They loved me.  They told me how much they loved me.  They wanted to work with me.  They gave me 30 days to get my skills up to par, and I went after it like a madwoman.  When I went back to test again, I passed all the computer skills at a beginner level, but still couldn’t meet the typing minimum speed of 35 wpm.  They called me back in to tell me face-to-face that they couldn’t hire me, and the hiring manager and I both cried.

But I am not one to accept defeat when I can affect the change to get something I really want.  What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in determination.  With a bonus from work that year, I bought myself a computer.  I also made a very purposeful change of job that allowed me access to a full suite of software training.  I worked on my computer skills diligently and I spent hours working on my typing skills in Compuserve’s chat rooms.  (Yeah, I’m calling it time spent building my skills, not time wasted talking to fake British men.)  When another position in my area opened up about a year and a half later, I passed all the computer skills at an advanced level, and was typing at a speed of 70 wpm.  I got the job.

I changed what I could and it paid off.

Many years later, I was up for a promotion there.  Hiring Manager told me I had everything she wanted.  I went through an extensive interview process, which included travel for a 3-day long on-site work audition.  That is, I did the job for three days without any formal training.  Because I had all the skills and knowledge the job required, I knocked it out of the park.  I don’t mind telling you that I was amazing because everyone else involved said I was.  Hiring Manager told me to expect an offer when we got back into the office on Monday.

Monday came and went.  Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I got called up to her office.  She told me I was perfect, that she’d never seen a more capable candidate, a harder worker, or enjoyed an employee’s company so much.  But she had decided not to hire me.  Why?  She reminded me of the story of how David became king of Israel.  How Jesse brought all his perfect sons before Samuel, but none of those perfect boys were quite right.  She said she couldn’t put her finger on it, but there must be something wrong with my heart.  She and I both cried.

Well, clearly there was nothing I could change there.  If she wasn’t even sure why she didn’t want to hire me, I couldn’t work on making myself more hirable.  I was pretty sure that I wasn’t hiding any horrors in my soul.  I won’t lie and tell you that was easy to get over.  It wasn’t.  It was personally (and at that time spiritually) hurtful and disappointing in a way that being told I was too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too shrill, too well spoken ever was. 

The point here is, I couldn’t change it, and I really couldn’t dwell on it.  Now, it’s a funny story.  Sometimes hiring decisions are just completely arbitrary.

I still can’t change whether or not someone has a gut feeling against me, but I will always work to build my repetoire when a hiring manager suggests it.  I’ve ended up with some awesome jobs that way.

That said, here are 4 questions I think are good to ask in an interview situation, and why:

  1. If you don’t already know, ask why the position is open.  This can tell you a lot about the environment.  Was it a promotion?  Was it a firing?  Did the other person leave?  Don’t be shy about asking why either.  The Hiring Manager should be asking you why you want to leave your current job/left your last job.  It’s the mirror image question, and as the potential seat filler, you deserve the heads-up.
  2. Ask what qualities make the person in that position successful.  Jot down notes as the HM answers because you are going to use those notes later to detail how you have every one of those qualities.
  3. Ask how the position fits into the overall success of the company and department, and what you can do to help them achieve it.  This is going to tell you a lot about the company as well, and shows that you are forward thinking.  Take notes here, too. 
  4. Ask if the HM has any hesitations about hiring you.  It’s bold, and you need to be ready to hear the answer, but it also gives you the opportunity to address any questions the HM might have about you.  Better to clear up any misconceptions in the interview and get the job, than miss the chance and never find out what went wrong.
Posted in Advice

Little Fifteen: What advice would I give Little Me about boys?


I like Amy Poehler a lot.  I like that she is smart before anything else, and funny after that.  I like her Ask Amy series of advice vlogs for girls, and I think most of her answers are charming and helpful.  In a recent vlog, she answered a question from a 15 year old girl, who wanted to know how to get boys to notice her.  The girl said she had tried everything–being just friends, and trying to be attractive–and it wasn’t working.  Amy’s advice was “stop trying.”  I would like to expound on that thought.

Teenagers are funny, special creatures with the enthusiasm, hopefulness and energy of small children in the bodies of adults.  They have the capacity to think and reason like adults, but are awash with brain chemicals that make it biologically impossible to behave like them.  They are caught in between worlds, where the only people who can truly understand them are their equally as biologically whacked out peers.  The best adults can do is empathize and try to remember how it felt.

Do you remember 15?  Ugh.  You’re too young to drive, too old to want to be with your parents on a Saturday night, but you might still secretly want a snuggle with your mom.  What your peers think of you means a lot.  I had the fortune of having changed schools so many times that I was somewhat inoculated against the full-force concern of how I was regarded.  I was used to being regarded as an outsider–interesting at best, an interloper at worst.  And, I never figured I was going to be anywhere long enough for it to matter.  So, aside from (or maybe because of) that devastating year in 6th grade, the other kids were never my biggest problem.

Still, I wanted to be liked.  I wanted to be noticed.  And most of all, I wanted to be liked and noticed by boys.  I remember that really well.  Really, really well.

So here’s what I would tell 15 year old me:

Fifteen-year-old Lane.  Braces, check.  Bad hair, check.  Frightening 80s fashion, check.  Date to Homecoming, THANK GOD, check.
Fifteen-year-old Lane. Braces, check. Bad hair, check. Frightening 80s fashion, check. What this child needed was some style advice.

 

  1. Little Bad-Haired Lane, better than half of what you are feeling is hormonal and it is 100% normal.  It is good and healthy that you want boys* to like you.  You aren’t going to be able to stop that feeling or desire because you aren’t consciously making it happen.  Chemicals are doing this to you.  It is a biological imperative.  Nature is driving your impulses so that you will want to procreate and propagate the species.
  2. Before we go any further, I want to be sure that you understand that Biological Imperative, and Good/Healthy, and Normal are not license to bareback every boy who offers to take you behind the bike racks.  Those boys are dealing with similar biological imperatives, and, like you do not have the impulse control or long-term thinking ability required to deal with the results of unprotected or risky sexual behaviors.  I highly recommend that you hold off on any activity that could result in a baby until you are financially prepared to deal with those consequences, i.e., you have a full-time job with maternity leave.  Do whatever else you want (taking appropriate precaution to avoid the Herp and the Derp), but avoid any sperm to egg contact until you can pay for your own zygote.  Yes, my brace-faced darling, we will have this part of the conversation every time we talk about anything remotely romantic.
  3. All right.  We have out of the way that you are normal for feeling desperate for this attention, and that it isn’t a great idea to get pregnant right now.  What’s next?  You want boys to like you, but don’t know how to make them.  Well, here is a sad truth:  You cannot make anyone like you.  We’ve covered before how that doesn’t mean  you aren’t worthwhile, but you are a teenager with cheese in your brain so you might want a refresher.  Letting boys get physical with you won’t make them like YOU.  It will make them like your willingness to get physical.  Changing your looks won’t make a boy like YOU.  It might make them like how you look, but that isn’t the same thing as who you are.
  4. TV, books and movies might have given you the idea that if you could just tweak something about your appearance, you could conceivably get a boy to pay attention to your looks long enough to get to know the real you, and fall in love.  This is a lie.  Boys at your age do not have attention spans appropriate to this ruse.  I just want to be sure you understand this, Four-Eyed Lane, so that you won’t miss out on lectures because you are afraid Jeff will see you with your glasses on, and forget that he was falling in love with the color of your eyes.
  5. People–all people–are attracted to confidence and passion.  Find something you are good at and love doing, and do it.  You will attract boys and girls because everyone wants to be around someone who is active and happy about it.  You will attract boys and girls who also love to do what you are doing, so you’ll have something in common other than Genus, which is particularly helpful in making any kind of relationship last longer than week.  Bonus: You’ll be doing something you love, and that will make you happy, and you won’t feel that same desperation of need.  Doing things you like changes your brain chemistry, and helps balance out all those chemicals that are making you want to make out with that guy you don’t even like behind the stage curtain at the school play, just because he’s given you the time of day.  So, my little Drama Geek, keep acting!
  6. Treat boys like you want to be treated.  Don’t treat them like Pokemon.  They are not there for you to catch.  I realize that at your age, Confuzzled Lane, you want boys to want to chase you.  You want to be the Daphne to their Apollo–but remember how that went for Daphne.  Remember how those chases turned out for EVERY woman in Greek mythology.  Yes, it is thrilling to be desired, but then what?  You are fifteen.  “Then what” is you go home and do your homework and snarl at your mother because she won’t let you stay out all night.  Or go out period because it is a weekday.
  7. Finally, if you want someone like to like you, do things that are likable.  I don’t mean flash your panties or give out free cupcakes.  I mean find ways to make a difference in the world.  Get involved helping people who are helpless.  Get involved visiting seniors at the local nursing home.  Get involved with a soup kitchen.  Get involved as a volunteer at the local hospital.  Find a way to make yourself useful.  Just like in #5, this will attract people to you because everyone loves a helper.  Bonus:  You’ll feel good about yourself because helping feels amazing.  And, you’ll gain some perspective on your own issues.  Fifteen-year-old Lane, you don’t know this yet because you are right now in the middle of all your volunteer activities, but I can tell you from almost 30 years down the road, you are building yourself a strong interior infrastructure, and your Elder Self appreciates the heart you have for others.  It’s one of your best features.  Just ask anyone who loves you.

I’m sure Amy would say this in a funnier, shorter way, but that’s what I would tell me.  It’s okay to want.  It’s okay to need. There is no magic bullet–it takes time and effort to achieve anything you desire.   But the best ways to bring it all home to you are to get out and be who you are, and help people with what you have.  The most attractive things in the world are confidence and compassion, and when you build those into your life with balance, the most wonderful people want to be around you.

 

*That is not to say that it is not good and/or healthy for anyone else to want their same gender to like them.  I’m hetero, so that’s what is good and healthy for me.  You get on with your bad self if you like something else!  Just remember that whatever your something else is, it needs to be human, consenting, and age appropriate according to the law.

Posted in 2the9s, Advice, Beauty, Personal Shopping Network

Exciting News!!!


The Outside Lane is excited to announce the grand opening of The Outside Lane Personal Shopping Network

I am open for business as your Personal Stylist, Career Clothing Counselor, and Perfect Present Picker.  Save time and tears, and let me help you get dressed for a special event, for daily life, or just pick out a present for your Great-Aunt Thelma-who-has-everything.

Click the link to my Personal Shopping Network and let’s get shopping!  I’ll provide you with options based on your details, then you pick and I click–I’ll have it shipped to your door.  You can be the belle of every ball, the best in every boardroom, and everyone’s favorite gift giver–they never have to know you were actually me.