Things I love

The Orangecycle Diaries: Days 1 & 2

090309-Daisy I strongly recommend not taking a drink for 13 years. Because if you do, it turns out your husband might knock your socks off with perhaps the most awesome present of all time: an Electra Townie Original 7D bicycle in glorious, citrus-y orange pearl. At least that's how it worked for me. (Disclaimer: This may not be true of all husbands.) Please meet my new bike, Daisy.

I should start by noting (somewhat sheepishly) that this is actually the first bicycle I've ever owned. I know how to ride one, thank goodness, and I'm not exactly sure why or how I made it this far in life without ever getting one, but there you have it. Good things do come to those who wait. I have the proof.

Since moving to Ann Arbor, a very bike-y town of exceedingly manageable size, I've been toying with becoming a bike owner, getting something used off Craig's List. From time to time, I browse what's available, realize I don't really know what I'm looking for (or, usually, at) and put it off for another season. Every once in a while, as I drive by one of A2's many, many bike shops, I think about stopping in and asking for help figuring out what I need. But the stores are full of bike-y people and their bike-y knowledge and I get intimidated, so I keep on driving past. Fortunately, I have a husband who is vastly more diligent than I, particularly when it comes to research -- and it seems he has managed to find the absolute perfect bike for someone like me. And not just because it's retro-cool and super-adorable.

Turns out the Townie is also the ideal bike for someone like me -- a novice who doesn't need a fancy racing dealio, a million gears she would never use, and who has a number of physical ailments that often render other bikes an exercise in sheer torture. The Townie's designed with flat-foot technology, meaning your feet can rest comfortably on the ground when stopped, so you don't feel like you're going to fall over. The pedals are placed further forward make for a fuller leg extension (more akin to the recumbent bike at the gym), and that's great for someone (like me) with knee pain . It also features a nifty upright riding position -- as opposed to the hunched-over posture on most regular bikes -- which reduces back, neck and arm fatigue. For someone with chronic pain issues (like moi), this is just dandy.

I got Daisy on Wednesday evening, so I didn't have time to ride around much that day. Mostly in the house, which only served to frighten the cats and didn't give me a real feel for the bike. So I had to wait until Thursday to really take her out for a spin. And by spin, I mean a relatively short 'n shaky tool around our neighborhood which, thankfully, is mostly flat. (However, not nearly as flat as you one might be fooled into thinking whilst driving around.)

Mostly, I found Daisy to be a delight right out of the gate. We had good times, she and I, sailing past cute houses and trying to avoid getting run over by various vehicles and, at one point, a pirate invasion by three young boys who looked to mean business. I did have some trouble on the hills, which was humbling, considering they're not very steep around here. I think part of that is because I was still figuring out what gears I needed when, but also because, you know, I have fibromyalgia and sometimes it feels like my thighs are on fire. There's also a remote possibility that being really out of shape played a role too, but I'm not rushing to conclusions.

In particular, taking the hills even at the lowest gear (or would it be highest? hell, I don't know. It was one. Gear 1!) was causing me a remarkable amount of knee pain. Which didn't seem right, what with all of the hoity-toity design features that went into this bike. I was also a little discouraged that I wasn't instantly able to effortlessly ride for tens of hundreds of miles at a stretch and not feel the least bit of effort. And, in the interest of full disclosure, my butt hurt a bit but not nearly as much as it does on the upright bike at the Y.

All of that aside, oh, how I was thrilled to have an orange bike! I couldn't sleep last night for thinking of all the things I'd need -- a decent lock so I could actually ride it to the gym or to Kroger or into town for coffee, a water bottle cage, a basket or bag for holding crap, a bell. Would I need a light for riding at night? So many questions! Turns out that you have to order some of these accessories directly from Electra as a lot of aftermarket equipment doesn't fit this bike. For example, most water bottle cages don't fit, so you have to order an Electra water cage mount adapter  and then buy a cage to put on that. The mount adapter is $9.99, which isn't that steep, but shipping is the same again, so that's where it starts to look a little annoying.

Anyway, I decided a lock was the first order of business in case I ever made it out of the neighborhood. This morning, I went in search of one at Target, but didn't find any U-Locks, which a couple of people had mentioned was better than the cord kind you can cut through. At the bike store, their U-lock was nearly $50 and I wasn't quite ready to shell that out without doing a little look-see around to find out what's what in the field of bike locks. (It should be noted that this sort of restraint from instant gratification is highly unusual for me.)

So today it was just another day of local explorin' for me and my bike. Before I got on for Daisy: Day II in the 'Hood, I decided to register my bike with Electra. I opened the folder that Chris had given me and, lo and behold, was a manual. Huh. Who'd have thought? The very first thing they suggest is adjusting the seat height, which seems like a sensible thing to do and probably the kind of thing a person who'd previously owned a bike would know. So I adjusted the seat height, then it told me to adjust the stem tilt and handlebar tilt accordingly. Only, it didn't really say how to do those things. It looks like I need a specific kind of hex wrench and even then, I wondered if it wasn't something best left to a professional or, say, anyone who wasn't me. Thus, it seemed to me the most logical approach was to ignore the matter completely and go on about my riding.

The conclusions from Day II's rudimentary spin are as follows:

  1. raising the seat completely took the pressure off my knee on the hills
  2. not adjusting the stem and handlebar tilt means the new seat position makes my back hurt
  3. there's a possibility I may one day become strong enough to make it to Kroger without dying
  4. helmets are no friend of the head sweater

Now I need to talk to some of my more bike-y friends to find out if the new adjustments are something I can do myself or if I need to take it back to the bike store and get help with it. Either way, we're getting there, baby! We're getting there! And once we're there, I'll be everywhere! Watch out!

Because I'm inspirational, that's why.

ty4 A few months ago, I got an email from Crate & Barrel thanking me for my purchases over the past year -- in other words, giving me props for snapping up the clearance page stuff other people passed on. They offered me a $25 gift card to spend how I saw fit at At first, I thought it might be a bit of a bogus cross-promotion where I'd click a button and wind up inadvertantly agreeing to buy an $800 patio loveseat. So, of course, I did it anyway. (I've since learned that this is an award-winning effort Crate & Barrel's been making for the past few years, issuing these gift cards so that customers can help direct how the company spends its charitable contributions. Which I think is very cool. Would that more companies follow suit.)

Anyway, I followed the link and was intrigued to find that this is a website where teachers, mostly from high poverty schools,  post pleas for financial help purchasing specific supplies -- books, teaching tools, etc. I picked a project somewhat randomly. It was near the top of the list and it caught my eye. A teacher in Northern California needed $24 more to meet her goal of buying copies of Judy Blume's Superfudge for her class.


I love this one from my pal, Sal. Why does he like books? "Maybe because some are funny."

The project piqued my interest on three different levels. First, my mother was a teacher who felt very passionately about imparting to her students the love of reading. I figured my meager and free (to me) donation would honor her in some small way. Second, I was nuts about Judy Blume's books as a kid and I remember Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge were particular faves. And third, my donation would complete the amount the teacher requested and I do like to be a closer!

I'd completely forgotten about the project I'd selected when I fetched my mail today. In it I found a thick white envelope from and with the following words printed on the outside:  "Hurray! Your student thank-you letters for your donation have arrived!" I vaguely recalled that this was part of the deal -- getting a thank you from the class or the teacher.


"When I grow up I'm going to be just like you - donate stuff to class rooms. Sincerely, Eunice." Yes, Eunice, because that's what I am best known for.

Still, I didn't expect what I found inside -- 24 individual hand-written thank you notes addressed to me. With names and drawings and notes about why they liked the book. I should mention that I'm an unbelievable sucker for a thank you note. I was raised in a household where writing them was mandatory and to skip them an unthinkable sin on par with putting your elbows on the table during dinner time. (Guess you had to be there.) Now it seems there are so few people who write them that to get any at all is always a treat. To get a thick envelope full of them from a bunch of little kids who are loving their books is pretty remarkable.

ty3Kids are so wise, aren't they?

I'm not saying the expectation of thanks is a reason to consider donating to I'm just saying it doesn't hurt.

Things I love: Junot Diaz edition

It's been a long time since I've picked up a book and been so entertained I can't wait to steal away, if only for a few moments, to devour another page. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the Pulitzer-winning first novel from acclaimed short story writer Junot Diaz, is the kind of book you fight through sleep to read, a flashy, heartbreaking, funny, intelligent family saga about a Dominican family in New York. Unapologetic in its refusal to cater to those unfamiliar with Dominican slang, astoundingly original in voice and scope and dishing out devastating foot-noted history lessons about the Dominican Republic with irreverent flair, this is a gem of a book. In other words, you should read it. (Check out this New York Times review for further proof.) And while this tour de force is enough to make an aspiring writer chuck aside her ambition in defeat, Diaz's honest recounting of the "dozens of times [he] had quit this novel only to restart it" in this Wall Street Journal profile proves ultimately endearing and inspiring. Diaz claims to still be scared of writing but says, of his life post-Pulitizer, "what's changed is now I have hope I can write something else."

It strikes me that the last two writers I've posted about here, Diaz and Lahiri, are both writers who speak frankly about how hard this business of writing is -- but, ultimately, that it brings hope. I like that. I need that. It makes me feel not so alone in my struggles to put words on the page and reminds me that there is a reason for doing so.

Things I love: earth edition

Yesterday was earth day and I didn't get you anything. Man, I feel just awful about that. I hope that someone else filled up your earth day stocking with leaves, reusable grocery bags, additive-free-beauty products and hope. Me? I took kind of a literal approach, planting things in actual earth. I went to the nursery and bought some gorgeous yellow and purple pansies and filled my window boxes and pots for the deck. It's really as close as I come -- and as close as I like to come -- to gardening.

Pansies are such a beautiful little flower, don't you think? With their lush little faces shining up at you? They're in good company, too. Chris and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather (finally!) and strolled into town for dinner and, let me tell you, it's a veritable riot of spring in these parts. Gone already are the crocuses that poked their hopeful faces up through the dirt even when spring was not a confirmed notion and in their place are daffies, tulips, hyacinths that perfume the street from feet away, and bright bursts of forsythia.

Perhaps most breath-taking of all, though, are the magnolia trees in the yards of the houses on West Washington. Aren't those the most amazing blossoms? Giant, elegant, the most perfect shape and shades of white and pink. Who came up with those? Genius, I tell you!

Would that I had taken my camera with me! Instead, I decided to try being in the moment and observing these things first hand rather than removing myself behind the lens and filtering the experience. Worthy, I say, but makes it harder to share. So for now, you'll just have to get your own spring.

Wandering into town last night, returning just when it was a tad chilly, reminded Chris and I of why we fell in love with Ann Arbor in the first place. And, for those curious, the answer is yes, it's worth every extended moment of winter.

Things I love: Jhumpa Lahiri edition, part II

Perhaps the most endearing, interesting thing about seeing Jhumpa Lahiri read at Borders last night was the fact that she seemed so uncomfortable doing so. I'm heartened by writers who are just that: writers. And not performers. She struck me as someone far more at home lost in grappling with words at her computer than standing in front of a room full of fans. I like that. The author-as-rock-star phenomena is often so off-putting to me. Although, if I ever publish a book, I plan to only do readings in giant sports arenas. But that's just how I am. I was also moved, quite literally, to tears by her admission that some of her stories were two years in the making. I tend to be so hard on myself when my stories don't emerge fully formed or beaten into submission after a month of revision. I tend to be so impatient with the process because it is so very, very difficult, so very frustrating. And, along those lines, I also took great comfort in Lahiri's admission that winning literary prizes, in the end, makes no difference in the writing process because it is still hard and humbling and it doesn't make it any easier. She said:

"Every time I write something new from scratch, I am on all fours on the ground, trying to stand up...I am like a child, trying and trying and trying to stand up."

Which I think is so raw and beautiful and honest. I love her for not making it seem like writing is easy and, by extension, not giving me permission to give up just because it doesn't come quickly or easily.

And I loved her unabashed passion for the art of writing fiction. In response to one young reader's question, she said she thought that books and fiction are everything, that creating a good novel or a good story is one of the most important things anyone can contribute in a lifetime. Perhaps out of anyone else's mouth, those words would have seemed like hubris. But Lahiri has such humility about her that it was just obvious she was speaking of literature as a whole and not her own accomplishments, considerable though they may be. Of literature, of books and of writing, she said:

"They are my religion.... They give me faith and they give me hope and they guide me when I am lost."

Isn't it strange -- both wonderful and slightly uncomfortable -- to feel so deeply understood, to share such naked passion with someone you've never met, someone whose words and whose attitudes about writing give you faith, give you hope and guide you when you are lost?

Things I love: Jhumpa Lahiri edition

I'm in the midst of reading Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary for (gasp!) the very first time. How I missed reading a classic such as this in my expansive liberal arts education, I don't know. But I did. And now I'm making up for it. I could tell you that I am fueled by some passion for the classics but the truth is I kind of struck a deal with a writer friend of mine, whose favorite book this is, and am trying to make good on my end of the bargain. I'll be taking a respite from my reading this eve to head down to the downtown Borders (trivia: Borders started in Ann Arbor) for a reading by a very different writer indeed, the lovely and amazing Jhumpa Lahiri. She is, perhaps, about as different a writer as you can get from Monsieur Flaubert, even if both are given to plumbing the depths of human unhappiness within the family structure. If you haven't read her stuff, you may have seen the film The Namesake, based on Lahiri's debut novel and featured either Harold or Kumar is, of course, of course, not nearly as good. It doesn't count. You must still read the book.

It has been, in fact, a long time since I read and was instantly drawn to a writer the way I was when I first read Lahiri's short stories. (An exception may be Junot Diaz who, I was delighted to hear, just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction yesterday for his novel The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.)

Lahiri is a spare writer, somehow achieving a balance that I find infuriating to accomplish: rich emotion without sentimentality. How? HOW, I ask you? I do not know. It is my hope, however, that if I go and bask in her presence and listen to her share with us her own written words, it will somehow rub off on me and I will become an equally magnificent writer through nothing other than proximity.

It could happen, right?

Things I love: Eddie Izzard edition

izzard.jpg I'm a very slightly superstitious person. It's not so much that I believe in the power of jinxing something as much as it is I'm afraid it'll turn out to be real and powerful and I might have been imprudent in failing to observe said power. Thus, I don't plan too far in advance for celebrating anniversaries or birthdays or things as I don't want the universe to think I'm being cavalier and that they're a given.

Yes, I'm insane.

Anyhoo, I decided to tempt fate this time around by making plans for Chris' and my seventh wedding anniversary two months ahead of the curve. I feel fairly confident that we will make it to that milestone unless I discover that, say, instead of fighting stock fraud, he's been committing it. On the other hand, that might just make me proud of him and a lot, lot wealthier -- both worth staying in the marriage. But I digress. Focus, Julia! Focus!

I noted while on the Ticketmaster website, laughing at how much one might pay to see the double bill of The Police and Elvis Costellos*, I noticed that the singularly fabulous Eddie Izzard is doing a show in Detroit the day after our wedding anniversary. And what better way to celebrate your love than seeing live one of my idols, an acerbic, dazzlingly intelligent, mildly insane cross-dressing British comedian? Answer: none!

If you haven't experienced Eddie Izzard's one man show-stylings, rent the DVDs. (I think I like Dress to Kill best) His is a truly unique approach, offering up a dizzying array of historical observations and blink-and-you'll-miss-it sly bon mots. Keeps your brain on its toes, so to speak. (You may also be enjoying Eddie's pretty-darn-good American accent on FX's The Riches, which I also, naturally, dig.)

In other words, I can't wait. (Plus, the show's at the Detroit Opera House, which is supposed to be a stunning venue. Double score!)

*Answer: $94-$229.50 for Pavilion seats at the DTE Energy Music Center! A mere $44.50 for lawn. LAWN! And that's before the ridiculous fees they pile on.

Things I love: Maira Kalman edition

Maira Kalman - Chair Oh, I'm sure I've blogged about her before but after spending this sunny Sunday morning curled up with a cup of coffee in a perky orange mug and a copy of Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty, it all seemed worth repeating, worth expanding upon, worth gushing about.

I confess that I don't recall exactly how I first heard about Maira Kalman -- illustrator, painter, author, thinker-of-things, collector-of-stuff -- but I think it was when I stumbled upon a copy of her Max the dog (and poet! and dreamer!) childrens books in a sale bin. This seems odd to me in retrospect because I don't generally read childrens books; I'm not one of those grown-ups. But there was something about the whimsical but sophisticated style of her drawings that grabbed me -- no doubt because I recognized it, subconsciously at least, from her numerous New Yorker covers. Not to mention the fact that the storylines and the copy are so sweet, so crazy and namecheck a zillion philosophers, musicians, poets, painters and writers and other folk you don't normally find in the pages of childrens books.

But I realize the telling of the beginning of our love story is boring. Suffice it to say I have continued to cultivate a love for all things Kalman, including her illustrated edition of the classic grammar book The Elements of Style (which was given to me by my friend Margaret who didn't even KNOW how much I loved Maira Kalman!!!). I ogle online the textile designs she has produced for Kate Spade and Isaac Mizrahi. I fantasize about owning a print of one of her New Yorker covers.

Right now, as I said, I'm really enjoying reading The Principles of Uncertainty, an illustrated collection of writings that detail a year inside her kooky, sad and beautiful mind. (The writings originally appeared as a New York Times blog and you can still read them online if you don't want to own the book and hug it to you frequently.) There is, I think, living in equal measure with her kookiness, a real sense of sadness and conflict in Kalman's observations about life. There's a wistfulness and a melancholy that coexist with the joy of small, beautiful things and a deep-seated sense of gratitude.

To wit, one of my favorite pages from the book:

Maira Kalman - Step

Isn't that just beautiful and sad and true?

If I haven't overwhelmed you with all things Kalman by now, you might also want to check out this terrific interview with her over at Media Bistro, conducted following the release of The Elements of Style. A couple of gems from it, if you're uninclined to read the whole thing:

Regarding the comparison of the writing and painting processes:

"I try to paint in a narrative way and I write in a painterly way. I don't' know if one is harder…I think there are different difficulties—no, there's always the same difficulty in finding your voice in whatever you're doing, and being both inspired and natural at the same time, and traveling the lines of extremes, being smart and stupid and happy and tragic."

I love that last part: smart and stupid and happy and tragic. What a goal to strive for in painting and in writing and in life, no?

Also, regarding breaking rules in the creative process (a response which I think applies to all expressions of creativity):

"Well, you can decide what your definition of a rule is, but I think there has to be a moment in the process where you make a leap outside of what is expected. There can't be an original piece of work that isn't conceived outside of some constraint. Even if you're bound to grammar, you're doing something within that context that's inventive or experimental. That's how things change and things progress, and that's why we have new things and things that are inspired. I think it's learning how to have fun, or the sense of play—it's thrilling to be able to do that. And also for the reader, or for the person who's looking at a painting, that there's some kind of fresh spark that's set off in you, how to tell your story in your own way. And not everyone wants to do that or needs to do that."

I think that second line is fascinating: "There can't be an original piece of work that isn't conceived outside of some constraint."

Sigh. So much to think about in this world, isn't there? I'm so grateful that Maira Kalman is out there noticing things, thinking about them and then writing and/or drawing about it. (I also hope that I don't get the pants sued off me for publishing, without permission, the two illustrations above, which I nicked from the New York Times website. I'll just say I conceived the idea outside of their restraint and see where it gets me.)

Things I love: 90's sitcom edition

newsradio2.jpg It's snowing again here. I'm not complaining; I still love the white stuff. It's just that I don't think I've ever lived somewhere with as much snow as we've had this year. I must say it makes me really, really glad for the pair of Merrell Polartech boots I snagged on clearance sometime last year. Expensive? Maybe. Worth. Every. Penny.

And I do love to snuggle up at home on a snowy afternoon or evening and watch hours of mindless TV. Without cable, that's kind of tough. But I've been able to find enough drech (as the Scots say) to watch on, a site that offers a limited number of TV shows with "minimal commercial interruption." I think I've blogged about it here before, but Hulu is to blame for my watching the entire first season of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares back to back over the course of a weekend. Talk about love-hate.

Now, talk about love-love...Hulu just added most (though not all) episodes of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, NewsRadio. It's always strange to watch a show you loved what seems like a lifetime ago and you get this almost nervous-y feeling that it won't hold up. But NewsRadio's been a treat -- still funny, still kooky. Makes me nostalgic for the days when Andy Dick wasn't yet completely drug-addled-mental; when Dave Foley was fresh off The Kids in the Hall, still young, cherubic and funny and not, say, hosting poker shows on Bravo; when Stephen Root had not yet achieved cult status as The Stapler Guy in Office Space; when Joe Rogan was actually mildly entertaining and not yet the grating host of the awful Fear Factor; and, most of all, when comic genius Phil Hartman still walked among us, breathing life and hilarit into the preposterous news anchor Bill McNeal. The latter alone is worth checking out the show, even if the technical quality of the episodes isn't the best.

Things I love: Right chuffed for Falling Slowly

Not only didn't I win an Oscar again this year -- in truth, I'm not sure I was even nominated -- but I didn't get to watch the broadcast. Still, I'm thrilled to bits to learn that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won Best Original Song for the gorgeous, melancholy "Falling Slowly" from the lovely, melancholy uber-indy flick Once. I'm such a sucker for the little guy (and gal, in this instance) winning bi and it's really nice to see "real" independent musicians and singer-songwriters triumphing over manufactured Hollywood power ballads and Disney Instant Soundtrack Hints. Although I didn't actually think that the Academy Awards performance of the song was the best (I caught it today on YouTube), with the full orchestra treatment overshadowing the spare ballad's simple beauty, I thought that Glen Hansard's acceptance speech was sweet and genuine. Even classier was John Stewart's bringing Marketa Irglova back after the break to give her acceptance speech after she was cut off by the orchestra. Well played, Stewart. Well played. (Both Hansard and Irglova's acceptance speeches are in this clip from, yep, YouTube.)

Things I love: In my cups

Anthropologie Cups I don't normally buy stuff from Anthropologie. They make beautiful, beautiful things that I love to look at, most of which fit neither me nor my budget. But a couple of week ago, I followed a link to their website sale section and discovered these lovely cups, which are actually just my size and on clearance.

They're such cheery colors -- which is, I admit -- a little unlike me and I love their retro feel. Plus, they stack together beautifully to conserve cupboard space, another plus. And they were a shockingly low $2.95 each. Last I checked, they still had a bunch in stock, so if you dig them, dash on over and grab some. I must say they are making my morning coffee infinitely brighter.

Things I love: Arrested Development edition

Okay, it's not quite on par with the possibility of getting to meet one of your writing idols -- and I don't normally post about these things -- but I just read online that there is officially an Arrested Development movie in the works. I'm wary enough to know that TV shows rarely translate well onto the big screen, but if they can retain even a fraction of the smarts, quirk and humor that made AD one of the best TV comedies of all time, then it'll be a rollicking success. Yay!

Things I love when I'm sick

I'm not one to criticize the infinite wisdom of the universe. I'm just sayin'. After what I went through at the beginning of the week, it might strike some (myself included) as unfair that I should wake up this morning with a lousy cold, the day before I leave for St. Louis, no less. Still, I'm hoping that if I can rest up today, I'll get it out of my system and feel good for the weekend. I can live with that. Thus, I thought I'd focus on the silver lining in this snuffly cloud and share with you a few things I love when I'm sick. sofa

My couch. It's an Ikea Ekeskog couch that's about a thousand feet long and ridiculously deep. So deep, in fact, that it makes it a tad difficult for casual sitters to do so without falling into the abyss. Still, when you want nothing more than to lie on a couch, this is the one for it. Ideal for napping, wide enough to accommodate two. Although I'm not sharing today.


My teapot. Last year, Chris bought me a beautiful persimmon crackle green teapot from Beehouse. I've been through a number of teapots over the years, most of which seem to taunt me with their inability to pour without spilling. This is the cream of the crop, something I never would have splurged on myself. And while I love it all the time, it's extra nice when you're feeling lousy to have something beautiful from which to pour large cups of lemon-zinger-green-tea blends that soothe the throat.

neti pot

My neti pot. A different kind of pot entirely. Nothing soothes nasty, dry sinuses like this ancient tool and, I must say, even though I don't know if it truly helps speed me through a cold, the ritualistic feeling I get when using it certainly makes me feel better. Not recommended if you're completely stuffed up, otherwise you just end up with salt water cascading down your chin. Trust me.

Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, TheraFlu and Cold & Flu bath soak. The first really works, the second soothes and the third...what can I say? Soaking in some sinus-clearing, chest-easing goodness is as close as you get to feeling good when you're feeling bad.

Netflix Instant Viewing. Ideally, you want to lie in bed with magazines and books, but sometimes that gets old or your headache makes it hard to concentrate, at which point, the urge to lie on the couch watching old movies and TV reruns becomes almost all-consuming. For those of us without cable, it's a bit tough. Fortunately, our Netflix membership includes the ability to instantly watch pics from their library of Instant Viewing materials, including tons of old (and some not-so-old) movies and TV shows. And they just expanded the service so that you get unlimited hours of viewing each month. I just prop up my laptop on the coffee table and go to town. Thanks, Netflix!

And now, back to said couch...