Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Plant Saga Continues

I think I killed it.  Three weeks old, and it's a goner.

I would have been fine had the plant not started smelling weird, but stinky plants have got to go.  I watered it diligently--but not too often.  I kept it in moderate light.  I did everything right including pulling off the dead flowers.  But it smelled weird.  So I put it outside to air out.  And then the temperature dropped and I sort of forgot about it for four days.  And now the lil' guy is knocking on death's door.

If it's not stinking up a storm, I might bring it back in tonight to see if it perks up without any flowers (maybe they were smelling).  If it doesn't look better or smell better within a week, it's getting a new home.

Hey Mom, need another dead houseplant to revive? ;)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fa la la la la

Well hello again dear readers... that pesky little cough I had a week ago turned into a full-blown chest cold.  I didn't do much except lay on the couch for two solid days, and today I managed to get some quilting done between bouts of coughing up a lung and gagging on my own phlegm. The Man has taken to calling me "Pestilence."  I gotta hand it to him, though, this is the first time I've been sick since before we were engaged.  He put up with a lot of me getting up in the middle of the night to hack and cough and sneeze and blow my nose loudly and often.  "Good night, Pestilence," he'd say, "I love you."  Lub you too.

The only thing good about being off yesterday (holiday) was that Band of Brothers was playing on TV, so I could watch that all day long.  There was no good TV on today.  Not even Mythbusters.

Christmas was good.  Thankfully my cold held off for me to get through festivities without being too symptom-ridden.  I tried to keep to myself and not spread any germs, so I'm really sorry if anyone caught my bug (I was not sick nor contagious at my family's thing two weeks ago).  I probably ate way too much, but that's what holidays are for, right?

And then there is my current quilting project, a sort of extremely bright ohio star "lap quilt" pattern big enough for at least three laps.  Since I was home sick today, I did get some sewing done.  I have all of the triangles for the stars stitched down now, so I can do the nine-patch part Friday and hopefully the many, many sashing pieces Saturday and Sunday.  Realistically, stretch that out another week.  Then sewing the blocks together, quilting, and binding... maybe mid-January if I'm lucky.  I still need to buy batting!

That's my whole life the last few days.  I've felt like crap, but I'm getting better.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Holiday Checklist

I got off work at 2pm today.  It's a dead sprint to 6pm Christmas Eve with the following things on my to-do list... Santa's list probably isn't this long.

- Buy more Christmas cards because the hand-made ones didn't exactly turn out as planned
- Address Christmas cards and sign them
- Finish wrapping last-minute gifts
- Print pictures and note cards that go in last-minute gifts
- Monthly mold abatement and prevention in apartment (better safe than sorry, again)
- Bake dessert for Christmas Day
- Pack for Christmas Eve sleep-over at my parents' house
- Laundry, laundry, laundry
- Work on quilt (gotta have some "me" time on the list!)
- Figure out a side-dish for Christmas Day
- Figure out why I have some pesky dry cough

So if you don't hear from me for a couple days, know that I'm off working hard and celebrating much.  Here's to you and yours, a very merry Christmas.  Or Boxing Day.  Or whatever else it is you celebrate... Festivus?  Whatever.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I need another job...

The Man and I have been floating around a few ideas of things we'd like to purchase or upgrade.  We both are dying for a digital piano, but I'm holding out for a weighted keyboard (not some cheap $100 keyboard but one that feels right).  Since he got a new laptop, I have seen my geriatric Vista machine throw in the towel.  Four years old is old enough in computer land... but do I want another desktop or a laptop?  And then!  Last night, I went to a local sew-vac store to get some new feet for my sewing machine.  The nice lady there more than sold me on the necessity of a machine that thinks for me.  It's not one of those does-everything-including-cooking machines either, just a really nice machine with thirty or so stitches.  It doesn't even do embroidery.  And then the lady went so far as to tell me my little Huskystar is junk and will probably break the third time I use it (it didn't).  Way to discredit a potential client...  I was not very impressed by her.  Every one of the things we want is about $1000.  Ugh.  I'm going to have to wait a while, maybe on the piano at least until we get our tax return.  If we get anything back... *crosses fingers*

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas is Here!

This might sound strange, but part of me feels like Christmas is already over--and I didn't even get one present (not a bad thing).  Last Saturday, my mom's entire family gathered at Grandma's for our annual weekend-before-Christmas-Eve party.  With the exception of my oldest cousin who lives out of state and his family, everyone was there.  I counted about twenty-five people, and we had more than enough yummy food for all.

I slaved away Friday making baked rice and peppernuts.  Baked rice is fairly easy: stirring in the custard ingredients without scrambling the eggs is just about the hardest part.  Peppernuts take forever, but they were very "worth it."  Just please, nobody tell my grandma that I used Crisco instead of lard... I'm not about to go hunt down lard when I have perfectly good Crisco in the fridge already.  Yes, they tasted a little bit different, but my arteries are thankful.

Though we did have to stand for the requisite "cousins picture" with all of us lined up by age, we did not have to stand for family pictures or stand-in-order-by-shoe-size pictures or the dreaded whole-family picture.  I'm also happy nobody made me play the piano this year since I haven't even been able to touch a keyboard in over a year (sad!!!).

I was able to sit down and actually talk with all of my cousins, which was very, very nice.  One of them is headed south to warmer weather, one is busy with two young boys, and so on... we are all growing up and moving on with our lives.  It was nice to be able to be with them all this (last?) time.

But I gotta say, when I walked home to my own apartment where it was quiet and cool and I could flop on the couch and really spread out, that was nice too.  I was satisfied.  I feel like I had my Christmas already.

Not that I'm not looking forward to more Christmas, of course! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's About Time

My neighbors finally moved their garbage from near the front door to an actual trash bin.  Two weeks.  I went out one day earlier this week to find a wad of slugs near the top of a plastic pop bottle.  I pretty much wanted to hurl right then and there.  I have seen rodent droppings in our porch alcove, so I know the critters are around and healthy.  I sweep our side of the entry area often.

Seriously, disgusting.  If they hadn't moved it by tomorrow, I would have called to complain.  The neighbors upstairs above them have also taken to leaving their trash right outside their door.  It's impossible for me to go home and not see trash bags.

This isn't going to happen again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Candied Orange Peels

I made candied orange peels last night out of four of The Man's two-dozen (or more) oranges he got from work for the holidays.  We already gave a bunch of the fruit away, and there's no way he can possibly eat that many before they mold (one already did), so I used them.

Free experiments are the best way to go in my opinion! :)

Mind you, I don't like oranges.  They've always made me feel queasy after I eat them.  I don't like orange juice, nor do I particularly care for most orange-flavored things.  So when I say I'd never peeled an orange before last night, it's really true.  I peeled four oranges, saving the pulp and juice for The Man, and using the pithy rind for the candied oranges.

I sliced the rind into quarter-inch-ish strips.  With several pots of water boiling at once, I blanched the rinds three times.  Yes, three separate times.  That's a lot of boilin' water, folks!  I then stewed the rinds in sugar-water for seventy-five minutes.  Once the rinds were mostly translucent, I drained them and rolled half of the strips in sugar (in little batches).  The other half are waiting for a coating of dark chocolate.

They still have to dry out for another day before they're "done," but early taste tests suggest deliciousness.

Free successful experiments are awesome!  And you know what, I kinda like 'em.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I am going to learn to procrastinate.

Sorry for the absence this weekend!  The Man and I have been busy.  I finished a little practice quilt, we visited my sister, his parents, and my parents, and I made a birthday dinner for a good friend.  We also drove a lot, ate a lot, and slept entirely too little.  I spent my entire craft budget this month in one spree, and The Man enjoyed more than his fair share of my homemade devil's food cake (with vanilla frosting and a chocolate bar shaved all over the top).

I'm exhausted, but I have a short to-do list tonight.  It'll all happen... in it's own time.  Maybe tomorrow. ;)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Take Your Trash Out

How would you feel if your neighbors left their trash outside their front door every day?  I'm not talking a huge pile or anything, just two or three small white trash bags and maybe one or two doggy doo-doo bags from their huge-normous pet.  Right outside their door.  And their door just happened to be six feet from your door.  Because you live in an apartment complex.

Welcome to my world.

Our neighbors always have some sort of crap outside their door--literally.  Right now it's a huge bag of recycling that has been there for a week.  Our neighbors are not ill or infirm, nor are they particularly old.  They're younger than 40 and well enough to drive fancy cars and have a nice apartment and both work jobs.  But they have issues getting their trash to the big dumpsters.

I'll admit the dumpsters are quite a distance.  We're talking a good thirty yards away.  For those bad at math, that's about 100 feet (including the little porch, the area in front of the trash can, and accounting for an elevation change of about a half-inch).  If each step is 24",  that's about fifty paces to the nearest dumpsters.  Call it sixty if the steps are short due to the weight of lugging heavy garbage. 

Every time I go outside, I see their trash.  Part of me wants to shout at them and tell them to take it to the dumpster like every other well-behaved citizen.  Part of me wants to just take it to the dumpster to get it out of my way.  And part of me wants to report them to the management office for littering or improper waste disposal or something.

What would you do if you had to see garbage every time you walked out your front door?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Dear Pasta Sauce Makers

Hi Pasta Sauce People,

I have a little request from those of us anti-tomato.  Will you please make one variety of pasta sauce called "No Chunks."  Some of us love tomato sauce without discernible tomato pieces.  I don't want to see seeds or skin or flesh or anything other than smooth pureed sauce.  Meat chunks are okay, and I'm even okay with olives or onion chunks, just no tomatoes.  Maybe call it "No Chunks--Except for the Meat."

I respect that people have different tastes.  I respect that it might be easier to market to the majority that likes tomato chunks in their sauce.  What about one small line of sauces that are smoother?  They make smoother applesauce and chunky applesauce... why not tomato sauce?  Pulp-free orange juice... how about skin-free tomato sauce?  It can't be that hard or expensive to make.  I can make it at home, but it takes me a long time and isn't nearly as easy as opening a lovely jar.

It would make me very happy, nice Pasta Sauce People.  No chunks.  Try it sometime.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Plant Deux

I finally did it: I bought a plant.

Some of you may remember waaaaay back when I had my first plant.  When I moved out into my own apartment in 2007, I bought myself a housewarming gift.  I got a little lucky bamboo plant.  I watered it carefully and gave it light every so often.  It survived for about a year before it started looking a bit wimpy.  I decided to fertilize it, but apparently I misjudged the amount of fertilizer because the plant turned yellow and brown within forty-eight hours.  Something tells me I burned the crap outta that poor plant.

I've been plant-less for several years, and I've had my eyes and ears open to the possibility of getting another plant.  I wanted an "idiot-proof" plant (because apparently that lucky bamboo stuff that was supposed to be indestructible wasn't).  I researched online and talked to people.  I scoped out different areas in our apartment we could keep a plant now that I finally have a south-facing window.  When the blinds are closed (99% of the time), our apartment is super dark inside, so I needed to get a shade-tolerant plant.

The Man and I were at Safeway shopping one day (because that's what you do at Safeway...) and I noticed the weirdest looking plants.  They were called a "Zygo Cactus."  Never heard of one of those before.  I did some digging when I got home and found out it's really just a Christmas cactus.  Aha!

Mom had a Christmas cactus years ago that bloomed white flowers once a year.  It only needed to be watered once a week or less, and it pretty much did nothing between the once-each-year blooming period.  Sort of a green spiny bump in a pot.  And they don't really need much sunlight.  Perfect!

Then this weekend, Mom showed me her most recent Christmas cactus.  How she got it isn't as important as the condition in which it was received.  It was dead.  Like no-water-in-six-months dead.  Like spines falling off, no blooms in sight, dirt dried to a crisp dead.  She watered it and fertilized it a bit and within just a few days it perked back up and has blooms on it already.  It's a pretty little cactus with pink blossoms.

If a plant can go six months without light or water and still manage to come back from the brink, that's my kind of plant!  So I bought myself a little 4" potted Christmas cactus with red blossoms.

We're up to day three and it still looks good.  Jaggy 1, Plant 0.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Good Weekend

I had a good weekend.  Great weekend, actually.  Productive, restful, just the right length...

Saturday morning saw us working industriously.  The Man and I volunteered to help a lady across town clean out her gutters and put up her Christmas lights.  The Man bravely ascended to the top of her roof and had to look down two stories to see concrete below him.  He was very careful and got both jobs done in about two hours.  He also chopped some wood for her.  While he was busy, I swept her back deck and front porch free of the pine needles.  I wiped off her patio furniture.  Then I went inside and helped her make brownies, cut veggies for soup, and prep the produce for her party sandwiches.  We were there about three hours and earned ourselves a few dollars.

Later that day, The Man drove to Portland to visit his brother.  I stayed behind to work on my projects.  I super-deep-cleaned the bathroom, did three loads of laundry, and got the apartment all tidied up.  My parents weren't doing much, so I went over and visited them.  Mom took me to Costco (she has a card, we don't) so I could get The Man and me new Sonicare toothbrushes (my 4-year-old model D-I-E-D).  Mom offered to make swedish meatballs for us since Dad and The Man don't like them and neither of us will make them just for ourselves (too much work, too many leftovers).  Mom's dinner was fantastic.  I worked on my projects over there for a bit before heading home.

Sunday was very relaxing.  I didn't get out of bed until the double-digit hours.  I did manage to get most of one project done and more than half of our presents wrapped.  We did a little shopping and bought new Levi's for both of us ($32 a pair at Freddies!).  I also bought myself a plant.  More about the plant another day.  Suffice it to say this weekend was expensive.

But it was really, really good!

Friday, December 03, 2010

I *Heart* Crock Pots

I arrived home tonight to a crock pot full of turkey noodle soup simmering away.  The total amount of work I expended for dinner was slicing open a bag of frozen egg noodles and upending the bag to put the noodles into the soup.  Snip, flip, dump.  Dinner's done.

Since the turkey was cooked last weekend and then frozen, I didn't have to deal with that.  I did have to chop carrots, celery, and onions last night, but I did that while the waffles were cooking on my waffle iron (breakfast for dinner = yum!).  This morning, I tossed the veggies all into the bottom of the crock pot, put the thawed turkey chunks on top, poured in the chicken stock and some spices, and set it all on low to cook all day.

The Man stirred the pot on his lunch break.  That means he cooked dinner (according to him).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It's Mine, You Can't Have It

I signed The Man and myself up for life insurance in the coming year.  We have a few little things that we need to have covered should anything happen to either one of us, plus it's nice to know our funerals will be paid for or something like that.  I did the whole "open enrollment" thing this October without a problem, so I was very surprised to see that our life insurance was left off the list when I got my paper summary this week.  Grrr!

I called the life insurance company and was greeted by a non-native English speaker.  Beautiful.  "Good afternoon, ma'am, may I have your Social Security number?"  So I'm sitting there at my desk in my office surrounded by people, and I am pretty protective of that particular number regardless of how kind my coworkers might be.  I told him no, you may not have my Social Security number, is there another number I can give you?  He got very testy with me and made a point to be snotty, "Well I need that number otherwise I can't do anything."

To which I replied, "Please don't take that tone with me.  My Social Security number is not to be used by anyone except the IRS as a means of identification.  You can't have that number."

He became insistent, so I hung up.  No sense beating a dead horse.  I then called up my human resources representative to confirm my benefits were all active, and she asked for a number too.  She asked for my employee ID number.  I gave it to her readily!  I heard some clicking and typing and was told that everything was fine, I just needed to fill out two more forms and everything would be fine.  No SSN, no snotty tone, no other questions, just kindness and answers.

I'm not giving that number out if I don't have to, and I don't think that's an unrealistic expectation.  The "last four" or the "first two" or something like that doesn't bother me, but the whole SSN?  No way.  Just the government forms, that's it.  It's my number, and you can't have it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gosh and By Golly!

I've been fighting a lot this week, but in a good way (mostly).  I've saved myself a bit of money in the process, too!  Between AT&T, my apartment complex, my health insurance company, and The Man's student loans, we saved (or prevented having to pay) over $400.  Because apparently people don't know how to do math.

Let's start with the apartment complex.  They're nice people, and they've done a great job since we moved in.  I've kept a good ledger showing what we've paid and when, so when we got an overdue notice for $14.50, I was shocked.  The amount wasn't awful, but what on earth did we forget to pay?  So I called them.  I explained that I paid all of our rent on time and that they have a problem.  We receive a credit on our rent each month due to my place of employment (yay!), so I told them they were overcharging us.  In the end, they figured out they forgot to give us our rent credit for September--yes, three months ago, and we're just hearing about it.  We were issued the credit and all is well.

AT&T was a nightmare to deal with tonight.  My phone has been fritzy lately due to the battery.  Sometimes the battery doesn't seat correctly, and it almost never holds a charge more than a day now.  I finally went into the store to get it looked at while it's still under warranty.  The very nice (read: slimeball) salesman I spoke to first informed me that my "very outdated" phone would need to be replaced with a brand new phone and wouldn't I love to have an iPhone?  I got the phone less than a year ago.  They not only no longer carry the phone, but they don't have accessories or batteries for that phone anymore either.  Since I'm not eligible for an upgrade until mid-to-late 2011, he told me I'd have to pay full price for a new phone.  No. Freakin'. Way.  He directed me over to a very nice "sweetheart" of a girl behind a counter to assist me in my new purchase.  When I explained to her my problem, she told me the guy was full of $#@! and that she could get me a replacement battery since my phone was still under warranty.  A phone call later, and a new battery will be shipped to me at no cost next week.  If the battery doesn't work, they'll send me a replacement phone (same model) at no cost to me.  Is it too much to ask for a working phone?


I got a bill in the mail earlier this week indicating I had not paid some $202 for my endoscopy pathology last August.  I was dumbfounded that I hadn't paid some huge bill--granted, I'd never even seen a bill like that or from that company ever, but if I didn't pay right away, they were going to send me to collections.  Like Hell!  I got on the phone yesterday with my health insurance company (which was surprisingly nice and easy to work with...).  They conference-called the pathology service and informed them they keep double-billing me for one procedure.  The pathology people said they never received the insurance company's portion of the bill, so they were sending the full amount to me.  But then they discovered they'd created two accounts for me and that the two accounts were exactly the same, except one was paid and one was not.  So I don't have to pay the bill.


The Man has been paying his student loan off on one payment type called "income contingent."  I pay mine on the "standard plan."  He pays based on what we earn, and I just pay the same flat rate every month for the life of the loan.  Neither of us are interested in paying off the loans super fast since we get a huge tax credit back for our student loan interest, plus it's not bad debt.  However, with us both working, his "income contingent" rate has him paying way more than the "standard plan," so if we switch over (which is allowed with no penalty), we end up saving ourselves over $100/month.  And we won't be paying as much interest.  And we will pay the loan off in the same amount of time.  Yeah, not sure how that works, but we are both happy about it.

Just wait until tomorrow.  The story gets better: I have a real humdinger for ya!