Monday, November 30, 2009

Artisan Cookies

After test-driving the new KitchenAid Artisan, I walked away with some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (at The Man's request). He got to lick the beaters, too, so he was quite pleased. We have very little fear of raw egg in this family.

The mixer did a fantastic job until I started adding flour and oatmeal. I had to switch from the beater to the dough hook, and even then it seemed to bog down. I had to scrape the sides of the bowl often, too, which slowed down the process. KitchenAid has started making new beaters that do scrape the bowl with squeegee-like action which would greatly improve the whole process. I think the mixer does a great job at mixing, but I am very glad I stopped the blending before the motor gave out. I didn't even double the recipe, just a standard 24-cookie batch. I figured with something like 3000-horsepower or whatever wattage that thing is, it should be able to handle some wimpy dough. Alas, the Quaker Oats man proved intimidating. I'll have to see if the same thing happens next time.

I did get a great boost in speed and baking fun by using a measuring scoop to portion the cookies and ratchet them out onto my new silpats. The cookies baked much more evenly and didn't stick at all. Clean-up was super easy too. I only have to hand-wash the silpats and mixer attachments: everything else went into the dishwasher.

All-in-all, it was a good cookie baking experience, but I see that I have a learning curve with the new appliance. Does anyone have any tips for using the mixer to make cookies?

Editor's note: The Man says the cookies are awesome.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Natural Carpet Cleaning Recipe

It has been a busy four days. We ate great food, slept in every day, did some heavy shopping (a stand mixer and a new TV, happy wedding to us!), and cleaned the apartment top to bottom. I did four loads of laundry, baked cookies, vacuumed, mopped, removed a few small carpet stains, scrubbed the tub, bought a few groceries, and watched four movies.

The carpet cleaning was a bit tough at first. I looked into Woolite's Rug Stick thingy, and I checked out reviews of different carpet cleaners on Amazon. I researched pros and cons of different chemicals, considered wet versus dry cleaning, and finally gave up. The carpets could stay dirty for all I cared. But I gave it another go later and typed in "natural carpet cleaner" into Google. One of the first few options was pure genius! Here's the super-easy, extra-cheap, very effective solution I used:

-a good dollop of Dawn--the original blue stuff works just fine
-a half-cup or so of water, maybe eight or ten times as much water as Dawn
-pour into a blender (I used my little off-brand Magic Bullet with the whipping blade)
-blend until ultra-foamy
-using a small nylon bristle brush (like a toothbrush, duh), dab a bit of the soapy solution into the stain working toward the center using small strokes; don't vigorously brush the carpet or you'll destroy the fibers and make a weird spot in the carpet that looks worse than the original stain
-blot the damp area with a dry towel until almost no moisture remains

I am not joking, I took out seven or eight spots in about five minutes with this stuff, and it didn't cost me but a few pennies and some elbow grease. I didn't use any chemicals I wouldn't use bare-handed, and I didn't have to deal with a lingering scent. Fantastic stuff! I tossed the rest of my solution down the drain as I only made a little bit, but the extra solution could be stored in the fridge for a long time. Just re-blend it next time a stain occurs. Also, because I only used dish soap and water, the dishes were a snap (what, you want me to put more soap in to wash it? ha!).

This probably wouldn't be feasible for a larger area and certainly wouldn't replace a carpet shampooing every six months or year (or five), but for the time and cost, it's darn good. I'm pleased.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Which Insomnia Pays Off

I'm a good sleeper, usually sleeping from 11:00pm to 7:00am without waking a single time. Lately, though, I've had trouble sleeping on my shoulder. It hurts like the dickens, so I wake up, turn over, and try to sleep again. This morning, I awoke at 6:00-ish, and I layed there eyes wide open for several minutes trying to figure out why I couldn't sleep. I tried rolling over, I tried getting warmer, tried cooling off, and even tried doing math in my head (an old trick that usually zonks me out quickly). Sleep just wouldn't come. Frustrated, I realized that today is the long-anticipated and much-disliked Black Friday. I should mention now how much I dislike shopping.

Last night, Dad mentioned to me that Bi-Mart had a good sale going on some of their items. I mulled the idea for a while before realizing just how good a few of the sales were. But since everything this year seemed to be in such limited quantities, I put the notion of going shopping out of my mind. I'm not about to beat down an old lady for the new singing/dancing/pooping Elmo.

But laying in bed wide awake on the busiest shopping day of the year didn't sit well. I figured a trip to Bi-Mart in little ol' Corvallis wouldn't be as dangerous or time-consuming as a trip to, say, Woodburn (where all the crazy people go from what I have seen). Bi-Mart is only a mile or so from where we live, so I woke up The Man, informed him that I was going to Bi-Mart, and that I'd be home by 7:00am. I threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt, not even bothering with contacts.

Bi-Mart's little parking lot was almost barren. I wondered if the 5:55am opening didn't happen, but the bright lights inside the store spilled out into the morning darkness. I flashed my membership card and sauntered past the only two people in the entire store as I made my way toward the stand mixers. The regular price for a Kitchenaid Artisan mixer is $299 no matter where I go. The colors are always white, red, maybe black or navy, and sometimes a yellow or pukey green. We had one on our wedding registry, but nobody got it for us. Bi-Mart advertised $100-off, a huge sale. I snagged a pretty metallic silver one, not the darker "imperial gray" that we wanted, but one color I can learn to love. The box also had a $30-off rebate stuck to it.

I made my purchase, drove the short distance home, and rejoiced in my insomnia. I purchased a $300 stand mixer--the nice one that I wanted--for $169 after the sale and rebate. That's incredible! The nearest price I could find was $230 at Sears. Even Target and Wal-Mart's sales weren't that good.

I'm makin' cookies tonight!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Donny's Mirror Ball Trophy

Congratulations to Donny Osmond on his Dancing With The Stars win last night! I did not watch the show all season, nor do I much care who won. I have nothing for or against Mr. Osmond, but as I spoke before the season began, he was destined to win. Donny has more talent and experience than most A-list stars (let alone some of the hacks invited to attempt dancing every season). He's been learning and memorizing song and dance routines his entire life. He's a tap dancer. He drew good dances. He's an great entertainer, a man I must respect even if I am indifferent about him as a person.

Donny's dances were very similar the first few weeks. He got stuck with the Charleston, Jitterbug, Quickstep, and Jive in short order. While each dance is distinct, the quick movements and fast pace are quite similar to tap dance moves. The Foxtrot isn't terribly different, though it is more smooth. His hardest dances were the Argentine Tango, the Viennese, and the Paso Doble, although it's arguable that Dancing With The Stars cheats by allowing choreography instead of true dancing, therefore taking a great deal of the challenge out of these dances.

There were other good dancers this season, as there are every season. The problem is that they didn't stand a chance. Donny has a multi-generational following (plus the entire Mormon vote). He's the best true entertainer the show has ever seen. He's old enough (read: mature enough) to hold his own as a lead and give the dances credibility, yet he's agile enough to squash the younger athletes in a dance. Donny was going to win unless he got injured or dropped out, no contest.

Like I said, I have nothing against him. He can dance. While I think he'd probably make more money singing (duh), I'm glad he took the opportunity to challenge himself. Even though it was a landslide. A happy landslide, but still, no contest. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I am one with the cranberry juice - again

Yesterday afternoon, I realized I was starting to get a urinary tract infection. I've had them before, no big deal. I went to Urgent Care after work, peed in a cup, waited for the lab to confirm what I knew anyway, and then waited again for the doctor to give me the antibiotic prescription. After the incidents with sulfa-based antibiotics in September, I made sure to get non-sulfa drugs this time. The Man kindly went with me to the doctor and then to the pharmacy where we were able to get the prescription filled (even after 8pm!). By the time I could take the antibiotic and get the Phenazopyridine in me, I was in terrible pain. I was beginning to urinate blood and what looked like little red boogers of my bladder lining. Oh yeah, it was fun. By midnight, I couldn't stand up. I called a nurse care line provided by my health insurance. The nurse was as sympathetic as she could be, but after explaining that I'd already been to the doctor and that I was drinking enough fluids to have to pee every half-hour, she essentially told me to buck up and get over it. Oh, and take some Tylenol. Thanks. I took some Aleve as acetomenaphen usually makes me nauseated, crawled into bed next to my concerned husband, and prayed for the pain to end. The Man humored me by telling me a funny story, by holding me and trying to take my mind off the pain. I finally fell asleep around 1am.

I'm feeling a bit better today. The pain has slowly decreased throughout the day as the drugs start working. I am peeing umpteen shades of painless neon orange, though that's a welcome change to hurting. The most frustrating part of all of this has been a sort of inquisition. I mentioned to a few people that I had another bladder infection, and they got a bit accusatory. I felt ashamed, defensive, angry, and disappointed both in them and at myself.

Please understand that I'm not only fastidious about my body, but I'm knowledgable when it comes to bladder infections. I've had them before. I had them as a child, and I've had a few as an adult (three recently). I wear cotton panties. I wipe front to back. I shower daily and wash thoroughly--but not too thoroughly that I might cause a yeast infection. I urinate after having sex every time (I'm married, I can say that, sorry Mom). I drink five or six glasses of water every day in addition to any pop or juice, and while I can't say I drink cranberry juice every day, at least I know that's a smart choice so please don't remind me about it.

This UTI snuck up on me with only a few hours warning before I got to the doctor. It was incredibly painful, but I'm on the mend. I am frustrated that I keep getting these, and I hope people understand that sometimes it's not about how clean a person is or how diligent they are in avoiding UTIs, but that some women are prone to them. A little understanding goes a long way. Not sympathy, not even special words or anything... just understanding.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm over stormwatching on the coast

I was a blogger no-show this weekend because The Man and I were out of town. We joined his parents Friday afternoon at Gleneden Beach for a short getaway. The weekend included shopping, good food, some games, and lots of reading. We stayed in some friends' beach house that I estimate was built and forgotten in about 1970 (this will come into play later). It was cozy and slightly warm, a nice alternative to the hissing surf less than fifty yards away (twenty at high tide). The Man and I went a short distance on the beach once, though we didn't venture beyond some packed sand. We had a nice time overall and are thankful we had the time with his family.

EXCEPT for last night. I'd seen the weather report right before we left. The weather man was predicting a slight disturbance moving through late Saturday night. Maybe I was paying attention to the forecast for the valley, or maybe I got interrupted... whatever the case, I missed the forecast for gale-force winds, upside-down rain, and panic attacks.

About 10pm Saturday night, The Man and I decided to go to bed. We snuggled to keep warm in the drafty bedroom, and I think I fell asleep for a half-hour or so. About 11:30 or 12:00, I could hear some heavy rain pattering on the windows. I am a native Oregonian: rain on the window makes a soothing, wonderful, awesome noise. After listening to the "tap, tap, tap" of rain, I started hearing a louder popping noise. It always corresponded to the wind, "whrrrrrrr WHRRRRRR! pop! pop! pop! WRSHHHHH! pop-pop-pop-pop! POP!" The noise sounded like it was coming from the window at first, like a branch was hitting the glass panes, but once I sat up, I realized the noise was coming from overhead. I layed back down and tried to snuggle, to pull the blankets over my head, but the wind wouldn't let up. About 12:30, after a solid half-hour of creaking and popping noises echoing throughout the beach house, I awoke--yes, awoke--my sleeping husband to inform him that I was thoroughly dissatisfied with our sleeping arrangements. Musty lumpy bed is one thing, intermittent skylight another.

He held my hand as we peered out the windows to confirm that there wasn't an offending branch scratching the siding or windows. We couldn't really see outside at all with it being dark and trees moving every which way. I pulled him out into the front room to look out the huge plate glass windows. We moved our blankets out of the noisy bedroom to the couch where I attempted to even close my eyes. The wind screamed down the fireplace, howled through the stove vent, and set the roof to popping every second for at least two hours. The tide had gone out, and the surf didn't look much heavier than usual, but the wind pushed so hard on the glass windows that they bowed and domed, bowed and domed. Exhasperated, exhausted, suffering with a migraine, and terribly fed up with the whole situation, I reasoned that if I was going to die, I was going to die in bed. We moved all of our blankets back to the bedroom where my husband tried to calm me down over the roaring storm.

I've never been through a hurricane or tornado, though I've seen, heard, and even felt a couple good wind storms. A 60-mile-per-hour gust up the valley gets stopped by trees, buildings, hills, and all sorts of little things. A gust that big on the coast has nothing in its way. I checked NOAA, and KATU confirmed, the biggest gusts at Gleneden Beach last night were over 80-miles-per-hour.

We never did lose the roof. Between prayers, general pleading for my life, and my husband trying to get me to go to sleep, I was up until 2:30am. The storm gave one final kick around 4:00am, and I slept then until about 7:00am. It was a very, very long night.

I don't know how people who live on the coast can stand windstorms, but I am officially over stormwatching on the coast.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Snuggly Warm

I despise the new fad, the "Snuggie," but I do appreciate being warm. The Man and I have finally outgrown or worn our childhood (and college) blankets. We got some great bedding for our wedding, but we didn't get any good blankets. I love flannel, and I was going to make a flannel blanket for him, but he wanted a special print, so I ended up making him a blanket out of fleece.

Fast-forward a few days. We were snuggling on the couch, maybe watching a movie or reading together, I forget why exactly. Whatever the case, we discovered that one fleece blanket was not going to be enough. Okay, I discovered it. He was toasty warm under his blanket.

One night this week I went to the store. I picked out some fleece for myself, matched another color for the back side, and bought it. I took it home, trimmed and stitched it, turned it, whipped the opening, and BAM! no more sharing.

Now I'm snuggly warm.

But I do NOT have a "Snuggie." (Well, I do, it's called a robe, and I can put it on backward and save myself the damn $15 those things cost.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mario Bros. Last Name

The Man and I came up with an interesting question at lunch today. What is the last name of the Mario Bros. from Nintendo's famous game? The last name isn't Mario. The game shouldn't be called Mario Bros. Mario is a first name. Mario's brother is Luigi. The game could have been called Luigi Bros. as easily. Is anyone making sense out of this? Mario's name isn't Mario Mario. Luigi isn't Luigi Mario. It's just Mario and Luigi with no last name.

They are not the Mario Bros. I don't think my sister would appreciate it if I referred to us as the Jaggy Sisters. That would just be silly. Yet the name stuck, Mario Bros. I'm going to call them the Luigi Bros. and give Luigi his ten nanoseconds of fame.

...just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crispy Eska-ho

My dear sister has coined a new word/phrase that I believe ought to be shared with everyone. I give her full credit for the term as I had no part in its creation.

Have you ever been walking in Corvallis (or another city, these people are everywhere) and spotted one of the rare orange people? I'm not talking like "I see orange OSU people," but literally orange-tan-colored skin. The awkward color is usually accompanied by platinum blond hair and sometimes streaks of black or pink for good measure. The "crispy" part of her term comes from the fact that these people spent waaaaay too much time under the fake-sun broiler.

BUT! Her term includes a subset of these crispy people. These special people choose to wear Ugg boots (or cheap knock-offs in most cases). Super fake-n-bakers that like you to believe they spent too much time in the sun... in Alaska. Not that sunburns can't happen in Alaska, but the whole orange-skin-bleached-hair thing kinda throws a loop in my image of the typical Alaskan.

Also, note that we have nothing against Eskimos. It's the Eska-ho look that we're trying to discontinue here. Especially the Crispy Eska-ho look. *shudder*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yet One More

I've been sitting here trying to think of what to write for half an hour while watching The Man try to defeat the last bad guy in an insanely annoying video game. He died once already. It's been a long night.

The Man had a job interview last week for a position he really wanted in Portland. The call came today while I was home for lunch: no job offer. But the company really liked him and wants him to apply for another position they're opening. He lost out to an internal hire, so it's not like he didn't hold his own... it could be that the company already knew who they were going to hire. Little comfort anyway.

We had comfort food for dinner: homemade-from-scratch mac and cheese. Thinking a root beer float isn't far off.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dear Food Network

I'd like to make a few suggestions in your programming. While I adore Good Eats and Unwrapped, I'm not so fond of your general show line-up. The shows are okay, I suppose, but the food people dream up and put on TV, well, not all of us can really do that. Not all of us are EVOO connoisseurs, and some of us just can't afford the good stuff. Plain ol' canola oil is going to have to do the trick. Peanut oil? Are you kidding? Safflower-lavender-parsnip-and-cow-tongue oil? Seriously, if I can't cook it either with vegetable oil--the off-brand stuff--or no oil at all, I don't cook it.

Many of us don't exactly splurge on sea salt when we can get the Tub o' Salt with the umbrella girl on it for 1/10th the price. And let me tell ya, sea salt and table NaCl taste pretty much exactly the same. It's salt. And it's really not that good for you in large quantities, so stop using it in every freaking recipe.

Why do all of your shows feature half- or under-cooked meat? There are a few of us in the world that actually like our meat cooked. We like no pink. We like juicy, flavorful, amazing DONE food. We take the time to prepare food that isn't going to kill one of our family members because some butcher can't keep his knives clean. We get our meat above the high temperatures that kill bad stuff and make the food taste better. The only meat that should be pink when served is salmon thankyouverymuch.

Oh, and what is it with all the fish? I live less than an hour from the Pacific Ocean, but there's no way I can afford to cook fish more than once a month or even once every few months. Halibut? Are you really considering what some people earn? Maybe you should try highlighting fish sticks, the cheap yellow-box kind, covered in Tabasco, mushed up in some rice, and shoveled down with beer. Because I bet more than a few people live on fish sticks and rice.

Calm down with the garlic, chill out on the grilling, and for all that is holy, please knock off the food competitions. I don't care who makes the best banana chili, I just want recipes and ideas of things I can actually afford to make for my little family. Not meals that serve 18, not super-fancy table settings, not six-ingredients-or-less, and not something that has to be done in 30-minutes (can't stand that woman!). Normal, ordinary, make-it-on-the-weekends comfort food for two or four people that doesn't kill my budget. That I don't have to go to five stores to find all the ingredients. That isn't mexi-japanese.

Oh, and fire that Bobby Flay turkey. I don't like him.

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Annual Traditions

It cracks me up when I see something written as the "First Annual" anything. Something can't be annual until it happens at least twice. The first incarnation of a-hope-to-be-annual event is simply the first occurrence. It's a one-time thing. In the second year, something could be called annual, and by the third year, sure, but not in the first year.

I've been thinking about traditions lately and the traditions I've been forced to face. We broke a few traditions at our wedding. We didn't have a garter or bouquet toss, nor did we have a vocalist sing songs or a big, tall wedding cake. We aren't planning to save a piece of the wedding cake for our first anniversary. We didn't leave for the honeymoon the night of our wedding. I didn't get a wedding band to go with my engagement ring. The Man wore his wedding ring before we were married. We're not really big on following all of those traditions--they didn't mean anything to us.

And yet we're Catholic. Our faith is, almost by definition, traditional. We rely on centuries-old doctrine to define our values and beliefs. We look to ancient traditions to help us understand our modern faith, our modern world. The Man and I are surrounded by tradition that we love.

People have asked me what our traditions will be. What will we do to "traditionally" celebrate holidays or "traditionally" usher in life events. I ask, how can we decide ahead of time what we will be doing two or three years from now that will be traditional? Wouldn't that be a forced tradition? What if we do something one Christmas morning or for an anniversary that we don't want to do the next time around? How exactly do traditions get created? Should traditions be created for traditions sake?

The Man and I sat down and discussed the traditions we grew up with and considered whether or not to continue those traditions. We talked about doing them because of what they are or what they mean to us, and we decided that we each come from some unique and meaningful traditions. Christmas isn't Christmas to me without sugar cookies, and Christmas isn't the same to him without stocking stuffers (for a couple examples).

In the end, our decision was easy: we aren't going to force traditions. We aren't going to follow a recipe for making our holidays the same one year to the next. If we want cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving one year and pie the next, it doesn't matter to us. If we like having cinnamon rolls, we'll have cinnamon rolls. We're not going to make traditions so that we can say we have them: we'll have traditions because we love them.

Do you have traditions, and if so, how did they come about? What do you think of forcing traditions?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Seattle Underground

What you see here is a bit complicated. The left of the picture shows a boardwalk created for the underground tour. Between the wooden boardwalk and the brick wall is the original sidewalk to Seattle. The brick wall is part of a storefront to a meat market (or that's what they told us on the tour). The "ceiling" is the substructure to the current Seattle sidewalks. The current street would begin approximately over the boardwalk, maybe just to the left of that. For scale, the height of the "room" would be maybe twelve feet from concrete sidewalk to wooden rafters. The space widthwise between the brick wall and the wooden boardwalk would be maybe fifteen or twenty feet.

What fascinates me most about the underground is how different parts of the sidewalk and buildings have settled. Some places are very level and even, and other places are scary. Nothing smelled funny, though, so at least it seemed less eerie.

Photo taken on our honeymoon to Seattle on October 20, 2009, on what I estimate to be a 3-second exposure. The photo is a good estimate for actual lighting in the underground.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The New Holy Water

The Catholic Church has made some changes in light of flu season this year. We have been told to not hold hands during the Our Father. We aren't supposed to shake hands or exchange physical greetings during the Sign of Peace if we have had any flu or cold symptoms in the last twenty-four hours. Some parishes, especially large ones, have stopped offering the cup except for people with gluten allergies who aren't showing symptoms of being sick (St. Mary's still offers it, but I don't see many people partaking). Parishes have also been encouraged to change the Holy Water frequently, thoroughly cleaning the basin or font between each filling. I know that these changes may not coincide with Tradition, but I'm pleased that the Church is responding in some way and helping ensure the health and safety of it's visitors and members. St. Mary's even installed hand sanitizer dispensers near each entrance.

This weekend as I was walking into the church to find a pew, I noticed a man walk in behind me. He walked up to the hand sanitizer dispenser and received a dollop of goo. He smeared it all over his hands then made the Sign of the Cross. A few people started giving him a funny look. He must have noticed because the next thing I heard was, "What? It's the new Holy Water!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Girl 1: Laundry Shelf 0

I recently put up a shelf in my laundry closet. A single wire laundry shelf just like I imagine a few hundred million people have in their laundry closets. The shelf is not important in this story: it's the "putting up" part that matters.

I've been living in my apartment over two years, and each week when I've tried to do laundry, I have had to reach waaaay over and behind my laundry hampers to reach the soap or the dryer sheets. Though the stretching is probably good for me, the stretching became obnoxious. I can't keep the soap on top of the dryer as it just shakes right off. So, after seeing the simple shelf on sale for $7.89, I decided my stretching days were over.

When I got up the next morning, I sized up the project. Seven screws, seven wall hanger thingies, one shelf, and no way to get the wall hangers into the wall. Grr. The Man and I do not have power tools of any kind (not that we don't believe in them, we do, we just can't afford them yet). We did our many errands for the day before stopping at my parents' to borrow one of Dad's drills. He asked me, "Do you know how to tighten the drill bit into the drill? Do you know what size hole you need to make?" Yeah, sure, whatever Dad.

Sunday morning arrived, and I fixed myself on getting that shelf put up. I eyeballed the hole placement after drawing a level line. I put the drill bit into the drill. Power on! Power off. Uh... um... crap. See, I've watched my father use a drill probably a thousand times (honestly, no exaggerating). I understand how they work, and I know what they do. It's not like I was picking up a loaded firearm without any gun safety classes (I even took out my contacts so I could use my polycarbonate glasses as safety glasses while drilling). But watching Dad poke holes in walls is nothing like doing it myself. I understood, "finger on trigger, bit to wall, push." I guess I didn't understand how all that was supposed to go together.

The Man, from his vantage point on the couch behind me, giggled. He paused his video game to watch the disaster unfold. I turned around and pointed the drill at him and pleaded, "come help me?" He smiled, "nope, you're doing just fine killing the wall without me." I pouted. He begrudgingly walked the ten feet to show me how to poke better holes in the wall. It's not that I NEEDED his help, but I'm glad he was there to help. I finally grew some... confidence and drilled the other six holes as I'd marked.

I screwed in six of the seven screws (one screw arrived to me mangled, so I just left it out of the hanger thingy). The shelf popped right on, brackets attached, and I had meself a shelf! The cleaning rags have a new home, and I no longer have to bend over to get soap or dryer sheets or dryer balls. And I did it all by myself. Except that first hole. I had to make his hole bigger, so I vote his doesn't really count anyway. So there. ;)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Blog Year Retrospective #4

Four years. 1258 posts. Over 280,000 visitors. I can't believe I'm still blogging. Here I am, though, writing my fourth Blog Year Retrospective. Each year I sit down to review the last twelve months and wonder where I'll be in the next twelve months. If someone had told me a year ago what I'm about to write, I probably would have peed my pants.

A year ago I was dating The Man. I was relishing life in my own apartment. I was helping friends celebrate weddings and birthdays and new jobs, never considering that this year I'd be celebrating my own special moments. My life has gone from content to fantastic, from simple and easy to complex and busy. More than anything, I'm learning what it means to feel blessed. I'm not sure where to start, so this year I'll go in order of my Filed Under section (for the most part).

Unique things have happened to me. I made the family's sugar cookies at Christmas last year, a huge deal for me since Mom finally let me in on her recipes. My favorite TV show, ER, ended it's fifteen-season run. I was in third grade when the show premiered, so it's safe to say I grew up with the show every Thursday night. Life and The Unit, my other two favorite shows also went off the air last May. I don't watch as much TV now. Also, I started taking Singulair to help combat my seasonal allergies, and it greatly helped through the worst months.

We had some adventures this year! The Man joined me for some ice skating in Portland, for a weekend at the coast, for a road trip to La Grande for some friends' wedding, to Portland again for a business meeting in July, to the Enchanted Forest for his birthday, and finally to Seattle for our honeymoon! We're well-traveled up and down I-5 from Portland to the Hwy 34 intersection after this last year.

Apartment life hasn't changed much aside from the massive five-day clean-out I accomplished to make room for The Man as he moved in right before our wedding. Blogging sometimes took a backseat to wedding plans and living life, but I've tried to document everything I can. Crafting, likewise, along with Geocaching, photography, and writing poetry all took a backseat. You won't find much under those files for the last year.

Dancing has been a part of my life since the first year I was a blogger, but this year has seen a different kind of dancing. The Man and I have transitioned from social dancers to teachers. We've had four students in the past six months, and we're excited to help others find joy in ballroom dancing. We did a little dancing on a scant few occasions, plus we danced at our wedding reception, of course.

Family has changed a bit for me and us. My parents built a house this last year and moved in during the summer. I think they're finally settled, though the backyard is still in the works. My parents met The Man's parents for the first time in January. In October, we officially gained new sets of parents. My parents have a son, and his parents have a daughter, a first for both families. One big change for me is that Dad has finally let me cut his hair. As a little girl, I begged to have him let us put barrettes and ribbons in his hair, but that never happened. At least now I have clippers and can make him look as good or goofy as I want (always good).

I've ranted about weddings, traditions, drivers, cyclists, clothing and shopping, and grammar. I've shared favorite recipes. I even had a funny incident with a Waterpik I'll let you hunt down. But two very big things in my life changed this year, two things more important than everything above. I was baptized and received into full communion with the Catholic Church in June, and The Man and I exchanged marriage vows in October.

Religion has been a fascinating aspect to my life for over two years now. I owe a lot to my husband for his patience as he's held my hand through a trip to Mt. Angel Abbey, through trips to visit and talk to priests, and finally through a few sacraments. I've tried hard to be a good student and learn as much as I can about the church to which I now belong. I separated all of my religious posts into another blog for a while, but shortly after my baptism, I rolled both blogs together. I love being Catholic, love having history and some tradition to fall back on when I don't know what to say or do, and I am learning how to share my faith without smacking people with it. St. Francis has been a help with that part.

And then there were two. We became engaged on January 29th, and from that date to last month, we were in marriage planning mode every single day. We created registries, selected and crafted flowers, went through pre-Cana classes with a married couple, had our engagement photos taken, bought his ring, my dress, and a ton of other stuff, put together chocolate favor bags on the hottest day of the year (never again), went bed hunting, attended wedding showers thrown in our honor, and learned what it means to stick to a budget like never before. We experienced issues with the church double-booking reservations the day of our wedding. We fought over stupid things, rejoiced in absurd details, and remained loyal to each other the entire time. Our wedding was beautiful. Our honeymoon was fun. Now we're learning what it means to love, especially the unconditional kind, every single day. We're learning the give-give-give-and-take. We're learning not to hog the sheets.

Every year I review the last and wonder what on earth could be more exciting than the year I just lived. A year ago I was dating this guy, this person I thought I loved and sort of knew, and now I'm married to him. What will next year bring? I'm not sure, but I'm not afraid either. This time I'll have somebody at my side to fight the battles and celebrate the victories.

Life is grand.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Catholic Music Selections

I found a playlist of some of the songs I listen to and sing at Mass each week. The website is Spirit and Song, a division of Oregon Catholic Press. To hear the specific songs, go to the Music on Demand section and then under "Quick Links" to the left, under "Playlists" select "Choose Christ."

A few of the songs I really enjoy include:
Blessed Be Your Name
Come to the Lord
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
God of Wonders
Here at This Table
Here I Am
Just Like You
One Bread, One Cup
Open the Eyes of my Heart
Our God is Here
Shout to the Lord
Sweet Redeemer
You Alone

One thing that might surprise people about this selection is that though it is contemporary, the songs are quite traditional and are mostly appropriate for either Catholics or Protestants. While I love the traditional hymns, sometimes its nice to sing something with a little range or a bass guitar floating in the background.

I'm excited to find the songs that have been stuck in my head week after week!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Name Changing Made Easy

Changing my name as been a bit of an ordeal. Some places need four kinds of ID, including pictures and proof of address, notarized documents and credit scores. Today, though, I called Comcast and Pacific Power. I told them my old name, told them my new last name, confirmed my address or birthdate, and poof, done.

Poof. Really. No proof of who I am or that I am who I say I am, just thank you, have a nice day.

It's like someone actually trusts me.

Just wait, they're going to charge me for this, aren't they?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another Year Older

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes, greetings, calls, e-mails, and Facebook messages and wall posts! My 26th birthday was yesterday, and I celebrated by not being at work in the afternoon. The Man and I went to the bank to sort out our checking accounts (again). We did a little wedding gift card shopping, though we didn't actually buy anything. We went to my parents' house for Mom's awesome spaghetti and some chocolately goodness for dessert. It was a nice day.

Tonight's plans include figuring out a way to organize The Man's desk, designing a charging station since we don't like any that we've seen in stores, and catching up on some TV. I'm kinda blah this evening, so if I get to the TV first and the rest doesn't happen, meh. Capital meh.

Thanks again for the birthday wishes!

Monday, November 02, 2009

In Which I Find my Checkbook

We turned the entire apartment upside down. We emptied every pocket of every bag we've touched in the last year. We even looked in the freezer. Where had the checkbook decided to hide? Let's just say my everyday bag has a hidden compartment even we didn't know about. I turned the bag upside down several times and shook it violently to dislodge every crumb and speck of dust. Timbuk2 bags are fantastic, and I dearly love mine, but that hidden pocket is a doozy. It's sort of like an un-pocket behind a series of pockets where skinny things can disappear. Call it the money stealer. Call it my three-day headache. Call it whatever you want, but the checkbook has been found. PHEW!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

We got stuff, and I lost stuff

After careful price shopping and comparing items, we took our largest gift cards out for a stroll today and got some much-wanted stuff as wedding gifts. I've dreamed of having a mandoline slicer since I moved out two years ago, but it was always "in next month's budget" or "maybe I'll wait for my birthday." We bought one. I can't wait to make homemade baked fries or julienne carrots for stir-fry or make potato slices all the same thickness.

We bought a bathroom scale (ho dear, maybe a bad idea); a Houdini wine bottle kit thingy that pretty much drinks the wine for you or something; some new kitchen towels in pretty, grown-up colors; Silpats; measuring cups that aren't stuck in a permanent ring so that when you use them you have to use all of them--ugh; new silicone spatulas and a wisk; and a grocery bag holder.

We're going to wait for the after-Christmas sales, or maybe even Black Friday sales to get a KitchenAid stand mixer because the one I originally wanted should be marked down quite a bit. Why get the classic when you can get the Artisan for the same price? Not that I really need the extra large motor, but nothing says baking like having cookie dough launched to the ceiling. ;)

After shopping for a while, having lunch, getting groceries, and contemplating the results of the bathroom scale, we opted to sit down and play some games. I mixed up some delicious fruit smoothies in The Man's "new" blender (it makes quick work of ice, yay!), and we played both Sorry! and Scrabble. I lost both games.

AND somehow, in the melee of a wedding, honeymoon, going umpteen different places to change my name, and packing/unpacking/returning gifts, I've managed to lose my checkbook. We called the resort in Seattle, and they don't have it. We've emptied every pocket of every bag, coat, and pants we took on our trip and found nothing. It's not in my desk, in The Man's desk, in the car, in the kitchen or bathroom, and it's not in the safe. Where would you look for a lost checkbook?