Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Acorn Barnacles (Balanus glandula)

These acorn barnacles were everywhere at Cobble Beach. They are sharp and hurt to put your hand on, but they don't bite or sting (thankfully). As you can see, some have been broken off by humans. The texture of hundreds clumped on a rock was quite incredible, and they are literally all over. I didn't see any open barnacles as the only ones we could find were out of the water. Totally cool if you ask me (though totally pesky to boat owners I imagine).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Almost Not Missing in Action

I'm back in contacts today, thankfully. I wore glasses all morning and switched to contacts at noon. They seated nicely without too much itching throughout the afternoon. Yay!

My right eye feels normal, and the left eye is 80% normal. I'm going to continue rinsing it a couple times a day for a few more days, but I shouldn't have any insane swelling tonight like the last two nights.

I was all set to have five or six days of tidepool pictures, but allergies interrupted my flow, as always. Tomorrow, though, pictures tomorrow.

Tonight includes a dance lesson, yummy homemade salads, and more stitching. I learned to do a satin stitch last night and will need more work on it. At least I'm excellent with the stem stitch--only seventeen more miles of that stuff to do!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Eyes Have It (again)

Remember last year when my eyes got so itchy and red that I went to the doctor? Allergic conjunctivitis? Days of maddening itching? It's baa-ack! Except the whole going-to-the-doctor part. Everyone kept telling me how gorgeous it was outside, how much I needed to "get some sun," how the flowers were beautiful, blah blah blah.

I've been taking Zyrtec for about a month now, and I just started in on the Singulair this weekend. Unfortunately not soon enough for my poor left eye. :(

I awoke this morning to find not only my upper eyelid puffy, but my lower lid stuck out and made me look all sad and sick at the same time. Thankfully cold compresses and a good rinse or two calmed down the puffiness for me to go to work. I wore contacts until noon, a painful four hours. At noon, I came home to rest my eyes and rinse them out again. The contacts just wouldn't sit properly and hurt, so I opted for glasses all afternoon. Thankfully I can drive with glasses, otherwise I would have had to suffer more!

The antihistamines are working better now, so the itching is less than earlier. I was pretty good about not scratching for a long time, but we'll see how the rest of the evening goes. I can't stand eye allergies. At least with nasal allergy symptoms, it's just gallons of snot. Itching is awful!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tide Pools

From top to bottom, California mussels, some sea stars (star fish, whatever), and several anemones. This particular tide pool was at Cobble Beach, part of the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area north of Newport, Oregon.

The picture is incredibly detailed and looks great if you click on it to view the large version. Further proof that a great picture doesn't require a fancy camera. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Perfect Day at the Tide Pools

The Man and I labored over what to do today. Last night, we tossed around a few ideas including a trip to the Benedictine Sisters monastery in Mt. Angel and going to the coast. Neither of us really wanted to drive all the way out to Mt. Angel, and neither of us thought the coast would be much fun. I've geocached much of the territory around Newport up through Lincoln City, so that was out. We aren't into browsing touristy gift shops. We don't like being on the water. And everything at the coast is expensive. Finally, after remembering our last near-death night at the coast, we decided to face our fears and go for it.

We didn't leave Corvallis until 1:30pm, a very late start by most standards, but low tide wasn't until 5:00pm this evening, so there was no reason to get there early. Upon arriving at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, we paid the hefty $7 day-use fee (they used to be $5!) and parked at the interpretive center. The building is new and quite nice, though I didn't learn anything that I know of. We first walked out to the trailheads and hiked Communication Hill, the tallest hill on the property. It was a nice half-hour hike up a decent slope. The views weren't spectacular, but they were pretty good to the south.

After the first hill, we walked down to the old quarry tide pools... which have all filled in with sand. Other than four harbor seals, the only thing we saw was tourists. It was less than we'd hoped. Another long walk back to the car for food and water. And then another walk over to Cobble Beach. We braved the enormously-difficult-to-walk-on cobbles to look at tide pools. Mind you, we'd been walking almost two hours solid already, so it was quite nice to be able to squat down and peer into the water at anemones, star fish (sea stars, whatever), hermit crabs, and tons of California mussels. Only once did we get surprised by a very small wave that was about as deep as an ordinary puddle. We didn't even get our socks wet inside our shoes (thankfully!).

We walked back to the car, drove into town to get some food, and high-tailed it home. We got home around 6:30pm. We both lucked out of sunburns, phew! No trinkets to remember our day, but I took quite a few pictures which are headed to the blog soon. The coast is a nice place to visit about once a year... maybe twice. We had our one perfect day of the year, so I'm satisfied. :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How has the world changed most since you were a kid?

It's a lofty question that could be answered dozens of ways: economics, medicine, geopolitical landscapes, technology, even basic sciences have changed. I was born in 1983, the year of the moonwalk (the dance, not the lunar landing), the year The Outsiders premiered, and the year M*A*S*H finally went off the air. MS Word was first released this not-so-pivotal year, and then-President Reagan declared MLK Day a holiday. And I don't remember any of it.

Since then, the Cold War has ended. The country went from being terrified of the Sleeping Red Giant (or whatever they called it) to signing treaties and working with Russia and former USSR countries. The threat of nuclear weapons no longer comes from the taiga but from the desert.

Medicinal changes are, of course, huge. I don't think pharmaceutical companies controlled the industry back then nearly as much as they do now. Small town hospitals have given way to multi-building conglomerates, regional medical centers, and HMOs. AIDS was discovered, and treatments for HIV/AIDS have done wonders for life expectancy, though a cure remains undiscovered. Cancer detection methods improved. Even the ultrasound, such an inexpensive, safe, and widely-used diagnostic tool became much, much more popular.

Computers weren't found in any but the most lavish (and geeky) homes in the early 80s. Today, we all have them (if not more than one!). The Internet evolved from it's early file-sharing roots to it's modern self, Web 2.0 I think they call it. Typing classes went from typewriters to PCs. Airplanes went from joysticks to autopilot. Even microwaves and ovens and VCRs and washing machines... from dials to buttons, from mechanical parts to digital parts.

How has the world changed most since I was a kid? For me, the biggest change is globalization. When I was born, tropical fruit may have been the only food products trucked in from around the world. Beef was still grass fed. Call centers were staffed locally by native English speakers. The "bad guys" lived "over there" instead of next door and around the world. Regional accents defined a person's upbringing. Area codes meant something. Doing business meant walking to the next office or flying to another country, no e-mails or video conferencing. Passports were optional to cross the border into Canada. And things didn't have to happen in an instant.

Twenty-six years. Can we make life slow down?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Too Many Muffins

On Sunday, I made a huge mess of muffins. I should say, rather, that I made two dozen muffins and put the rest of the batter in the fridge. Between Sunday and Monday, I think I ate at least a dozen. Grandma told me that the muffins didn't do a thing to her digestive system when she made them last, so I figured eating five or six bran muffins in a day wouldn't do anything to me either.

I was wrong. Excuse the bluntness, but I could do without another bran muffin for months!

On an up note, the muffins are delicious, inexpensive, healthy, and have plenty of fiber in them. Next week, back to the homemade cookies--the sugary, unhealthy, buttery, non-fibery kind, yay!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cookie Smackin'

I keep telling myself that today could have been worse. It definitely could have been much, much worse. But sometimes that's not as much consolation as I'd like.

On Sunday, I thought I'd make all those muffins instead of cookies so that I'd be less tempted to eat something "bad." Well, I just want a cookie, damnit.

A really big-ass cookie.

That I could use to smack people with in a hypothetical sanitary kind of way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catholics DO Use the Bible

I am an expert at tying french knots after my embroidery project today. They ended up being a lot easier by the end. I whipped out the last dozen in just a few minutes. Hopefully the knots on the back of the fabric will hold. One towel down, four to go!

I'm also learning a lot more than I expected from our current Lenten reading. One of the biggest myths I encountered on my journey to Catholicism is that Catholics don't read their bibles, don't have daily "devotions," and don't use the Bible at Mass. All three of those couldn't be farther from the truth. The author of our current book goes into detail about how evangelicals (specifically, though other faiths are as guilty) promote the no-bible idea against Catholics and how completely unfounded it is. I'm not usually one to want to "stick it to the other side," seeing that I've lived on both sides of the Christian perspective--and respect both sides, but every once in a while it feels good to be vindicated (not self-righteously, just in a mythbusting way).

Finally, while I stitched tonight, I watched The Man play more of Metal Gear Solid 4. I watched someone else play the first three games, and while I find it slightly weird to watch someone play a video game instead of playing it myself, I would rather watch MGS than play. I'm so over the cut scenes, but that's how the game goes.

Off to eat more muffins!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seven Dozen Muffins

This weekend has been both a whirlwind and rather relaxing at the same time. I feel like I've gotten so much done, and I know there's more to do, but less of it is pressing. Since Friday, The Man and I have accomplished so much:

- cleaned the bathroom
- watched a movie
- visited with my parents
- washed my car, including using a toothbrush around the emblems and wiping it down inside and out. I vacuumed, cleaned the windows, and even polished the headlights.
- had dinner at the new First Burger in Albany
- put money in the bank
- donated old puzzles (done, cheap, and boring) to Goodwill
- embroidered another section on my tea towels
- Wii Fit for an hour
- chatted with both of my grandmas on the phone
- hung pictures
- selected, sanded, painted, and finished a picture frame
- went grocery shopping
- made seven dozen muffins
- planned meals for the next month (yes, I said month)

I want another day off just to relax!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Restaurant Review: First Burger, Albany, Oregon

Mom and Dad took The Man and me to First Burger on 2nd 1st Street in Albany this evening. It's a small restaurant with about ten or fifteen tables, and it was busy without much of a wait through the dinner hour tonight. Mom, Dad, and I all had versions of the First Burger, their "original" house burger. Dad ordered his with bacon, Mom got hers with extra onion and my tomato, and I got mine naked with cheese (I'm a cheese-meat-bun girl). I did eat my pickles on the side, and they were very tasty. The Man got a Fatty Melt: a burger patty between two grilled cheese sandwiches. All of the burgers came with home fries with sea salt on them. At about $7-8 per plate, the price isn't bad. I was full but not stuffed. The atmosphere was nice, the service prompt, and the restaurant pretty clean. I am not a fan of the vinyl table tops, but they fit the decor nicely (glass just seems so much more sanitary, but I could be wrong). I liked that all of the food comes from local vendors and that the vendors are listed on a card on the table. Not sure if the beef was grass or grain fed, but it was delicious anyway. The Man really liked his Fatty Melt, but for the price we could probably do that one at home anyway.

Though the food wasn't extraordinary, I'd go back. 7 out of 10.

(But I still would rather have the bakery that used to exist in that building. They had the BEST maple bars, almost a foot long!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Embroidery, Too

While The Man works on learning to cross stitch, I've been learning to embroider. There are things I like and things I could live without when it comes to embroidering. I love the freedom of being able to decide where and how to make a stitch. I don't like removing stitches from fabric nearly as much as Aida cloth. I am learning to appreciate the challenge of keeping the back side of my work as neat as the front side, and I'm not doing a bad job of it either.

I pulled out the tea towels my grandma stitched for me before she lost her eyesight to Macular Degeneration. The stitches are so much more even than mine, but I must say her back sides aren't very neat. She was much more precise with her needle placement, a sign of practice I imagine. Hopefully by the end of this first five towel project, I'll have gained some of the experience necessary to make more even work.

Feelin' all domesticated, indeed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm not a fan of loose ends

I've been tying up a lot of loose ends lately, and I don't mean the stitching kind. I finally got around to typing up all of the recipes I got from my mom. I filled some prescriptions. We got the last of our wedding photography drama sorted out and received the correctly-sized 4"x6" pictures, and we put those into frames. I hope to have the frames hung tonight. I got out a new bread recipe I hope to try tomorrow (since it's okay to eat tomorrow, thankfully!), and it just might go well with some baked fish.

The Man has been tying up loose ends too. He finally networked my computer printer with his laptop. He finished a pleasure-reading book. And he finally traded his X-Box 360 with his friend's Playstation 3, so now we can experience that for a few weeks.

Lastly, but certainly in no way least, my sister tied up a very looooooong loose end this week: she finished college. CONGRATULATIONS, SIS!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One Stitch at a Time

Last night, after three crazy-fast trips around town to get all of our supplies and a pizza, we got home, ate dinner, worked out, and showered. We were totally settled down by 8pm when we emptied our shopping loot out on the table: embroidery hoop, seven super thick tea towels, 36 colors of floss, Aida cloth, and hot iron transfers. After trimming and taping some Aida cloth, weaving guide lines, and showing him how to do basic stitches, I turned The Man loose with his first cross stitching project. He's already done with one color and ready to start the next color in only one night! Granted, it's a small project, but his stitches are neat and precise, and he's working hard to not have to rip any more stitches out. (We've all been there!)

My project is a bit exciting as I've never done it before. I bought some hot iron transfers and tea towels so that I can embroider them. My grandma gave me a set a long time ago that I use all the time. They're the absolute best towels for drying dishes or cleaning glasses or wiping mirrors. Zero lint! Plus they're not terribly expensive. After the whole project is finished, I will only be out about $20, and the recipient will have one-of-a-kind cuteness. If only I can get them done by Easter... (Perhaps forcing myself to stitch will be a sort of penance, especially if I stab myself often with the needle--as I am so talented with sharp objects.)

The Man asked me if it was weird to see him stitching. I told him no, I didn't think it was weird. I don't know many people who have never cross stitched or embroidered, so it's not weird to me at all. Maybe some people have never seen a guy fish a needle through fabric, and maybe some people would consider it "woman's work," and maybe some people are just narrow-minded. Whatever opinions others may have, I'm proud and happy. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another weekend gone, another week to go.

Saturday was busy for us. We went to Albany to visit Dad, cut his and The Man's hair, and have my car's oil changed. While I'm quite capable of changing my own oil, Dad has the tools and space to make the job a lot easier, so he does it for me. Likewise, he could go get his hair cut, but I have the tools and skill, so I do the job for him. Saves us all a lot of money! My sister gave me quite the make-over with her new make-up products. She broke me out of my neutrals with a smokey purple color, plenty of shadow and some soft eyeliner. It was dramatic! (Thanks, sis!)

We stopped to see Mom at Grandma's where they were busy visiting, then we buzzed home for dinner. We watched a great documentary about four filmmakers and their search for the legendary John Hughes. Both of us were rather glued to the TV throughout the documentary. While the ending was neither happy nor satisfying, it was quite an ending.

Sunday morning dawned too early (stupid time change!), and we roused ourselves to meet The Man's brother for a movie. We actually went out to see Green Zone. All three of us really enjoyed it. Hungry, we returned to the apartment for some Zuppatoni (my tuscan soup) and video games. I snoozed in the rocker after dinner. After showering and a little more napping, I watched two documentaries about the life of Christ. Neither were very well done (plus too many commercials!).

Not exactly a thrilling weekend, but we had a good time visiting and watching movies. Can't really ask for more, can ya?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Random Questions XV

Stolen from MissKris:

1. How old is the oldest pair of shoes in your closet?
I don't think there are any shoes in my closet. We store all of our shoes by the front door since we take them off when we enter. My oldest shoes are probably six or seven years old.

2. Did you buy Girl Scout cookies this year? If so, what variety?
I didn't personally buy any, but an associate bought some and delivered them to us at work as a gift. We had shortbread cookies, and they were very tasty.

3. Do you know how to ballroom dance?
Yes!

4. Were you a responsible child/teenager?
I never got in trouble with the law, never had detention, always made honor roll, and generally did the right thing. I think most people would have called me exceptionally responsible.

5. How many of this year's Oscar-nominated movies did you see?
After having to look up the list, I can see that I watched two: The Hurt Locker and Up.

6. If you're going to have a medical procedure done, such as having blood drawn, is it easier for you to watch someone else having the procedure done or have it done yourself?
It's way easier to watch unless the needles are really big, then I'm out.

7. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
Whatever day involves sleeping in, getting to craft, baking something sweet, and watching a great movie. That's typically a weekend day. I'd like it better if it was a weekday and I was getting paid for it.

8. Do you miss anyone right now?
Not really. I'm thinking about people, but I can't call to mind anyone I particularly "miss."

9. Do hospitals make you queasy?
Hospitals bring out a mix of emotions: disgust, fear, relief, worry, anxiousness. Not queasy...

10. At which store would you like to max-out your credit card?
At whatever store also pays off the balance of the credit card after I max it out! I can't afford to run up big bills like that, so it's a bad idea to spend the money I don't have. But if I can imagine a point in my life where spending that much money for fun would be okay, either a bookstore or a shoe store.

11. Are you true to the brand names of products/items?
What does "true to the brand name" mean? There are a few brands I enjoy, and a few I tend to wear often, eat often, or buy often, but if I can get the quality I want from an off-brand for a price I like better, that's what I'll buy. Levi's, Merrell, Diet Coke, and Lucerne are brands I go back to time and time again.

12. Which is more difficult: looking into someone’s eyes when you are telling someone how you feel, or looking into someone’s eyes when he/she is telling you how he/she feels?
Neither. Eye contact doesn't scare me in the least.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Un-Fish Fridays

As The Man and I have worked our way through Lent this year, we've been more than 90% faithful to our commitment to read together each night. We missed one night because I was dead tired (slept eleven hours straight), and we missed another night with no good excuse. We've dutifully abstained from meat on Fridays. And The Man made a solid effort to fast on Ash Wednesday. The Church's requirements aren't difficult for Lent, and I think we've done a pretty good job so far.

But I've got a bone to pick with the tradition of "no meat Fridays." The original idea was that meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, venison, etc.) was a luxury that no one would want to pass up. The foods that come from animals, including eggs, cheese, milk, and butter were also banned so that people didn't get any "tasty" or mouth-watering food on Fridays. We're supposed to realize (through our stomachs) the sacrifice Christ made. Since the tradition began long ago, the year-round Friday abstinence from meat has been reduced to Lenten Fridays only, and foods made with eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are now totally fine. Just no meat.

My problem is that it doesn't seem like a sacrifice to me to be dining on fish instead of pork or beef. The rule says no land-based meat, only fish for a source of protein or no meat at all. I'd much rather eat salmon or tuna than a steak. Eating fish was a treat for me growing up, and I look forward to going to seafood restaurants much more than steakhouses. If I'm supposed to remember Christ's sacrifice in some tangible gastric way, I ought to be giving up fish, not running toward it as fast as I can. I ought to suffer though a steak instead of halibut. A grease bomb burger and limp fries would be worse than mahi-mahi.

Some would say that giving up fish would be sacrifice enough for me since I'm not the biggest fan of beef or pork. But I can make pasta with marinara sauce or sautee some potatoes or eat PB&;J and feel no less at a loss. Even a bread and water diet for me isn't punishment (if only for a day). I love bread!

So instead of giving up meat or fish or other tasty foods, I've found it's easier to give more of my time or pray longer or do something meaningful. Like make rosaries. The one pictured was a gift to The Man's brother. Onyx and emerald beads, the emerald just barely visible in the picture. I made this one last summer I think.

What do you think? Should the whole "meatless Fridays" be re-evaluated to mean "no meat at all," or should Catholics just give in and eat any meat? Is a different sacrifice a good idea if fish isn't causing any suffering? And just how much suffering needs to be done anyway?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Puzzling

I'm still alive. Lots on my mind lately, plus lots keeping me busy. I have been trying to do a solid half-hour of Wii Fit every night in addition to making dinner, chores, relaxing, and the usual stuff. We're still teaching one one-hour dance lesson each week to my sister's boyfriend. He's proven himself a capable student. A few more lessons to go until he finishes his fourth dance in as many months. Not bad!

Recently, The Man and I have taken up puzzles. We found a few really good quality puzzles at the local dollar store, 500-piecers. Between the two of us, that's about a three-hour puzzle. My coworker was going to donate a dozen puzzles to Goodwill but thought to ask if anyone at work wanted them. I took the whole lot and will donate them when we're done with them. Mom and Dad have a few also that they're willing to share, but they have "keeper" puzzles. Knowing Dad's penchant for difficult and pretty puzzles, I have a feeling those puzzles will never be finished around these parts (The Man and I have almost zero patience between us).

I had a long week. Frustrations, joys, annoyances, killer banana bread and cookies, and not nearly enough sleep. We finished our first book (part of our Lenten reading plan), James Martin's autobiography, In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. In a twist of fate, we saw the author being interviewed on national television tonight and both recognized him at the same time. Great story, hilarious at times, but definitely not a comedy. It's a real life, his life, neither glamorous nor dull, but his insight into what poverty is and how to approach a truly Christian life is inspiring. We were up to late reading some nights, thus the lack of sleep.

I'm definitely not going to be up late this weekend eve. (Just one more puzzle piece, then I'll go to bed. Just one more...)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Name Limbo

I'm stuck in name limbo. No, dear Catholics, not that Limbo, just a generic limbo. I got married about five months ago and changed my name in accordance with tradition. And I like my new name. I am incredibly lucky that I married a man with a "normal" name, easy to spell and rarely mispronounced (though oddly it occurs). I went from having a rather ordinary and common maiden name to a non-ordinary but still recognizable new name.

But now I'm stuck between names. When I see my maiden name, I recognize it as my own, yet part of me feels no association to it anymore. When I see my new name, I get excited that people are recognizing this new part of me, but part of me doesn't see "me" in the name yet. I am getting better at signing the new name, reminding myself less and less each day that I'm different now.

There is a sense of loss, a part of me that will always miss my birth name. It's not a tragic loss, a "ripped right out from under me" feeling, but more like a nostalgic longing. It was the name my family gave me, a part of my heritage, a history of people connected by namesake to me. It was the very first thing I ever learned to write in cursive, and it was probably the most practiced thing I wrote. Then again, lots of people have that name, and I was rarely related to any of them.

And there is a hesitancy to take a new name. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband, I and am proud to share his name. But does taking a new name fundamentally change who I am? Do I need to make a point to embrace the name? Do I need to have a funeral service for my old name? What changed? Yes, my name changed legally, but what really changed? Anything?

Have you ever changed your name? How did it make you feel?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bathroom Invasion

So there I was, taking a shower. I love showers. I was washing my hair when I heard the bathroom door open. No big deal, I thought. Sometimes my husband joins me for showers. Sometimes he just needs to pee really bad and can't hold it. We have an opaque shower curtain, so I don't mind him being in there. We're married, it's all good.

But just as I cleared the water from my ears, I heard the bellows of Hell roaring on the other side of the curtain, the sounds of plopping and splashing. I looked around the shower curtain to find my husband sitting on the toilet stark naked looking up at me with this little boy grin. I could tell he was expecting praise.

Meanwhile, I'm trying not to giggle, breathe, or scream. He flushed the toilet, washed his hands, and jumped into the shower with me. I finished washing my hair before I could look at him with a straight face. I think we both thought the same thing: how could we possibly be more in love than to allow the other person to do as they wish in the bathroom while we are in the shower?

...and then the stench finally hit me, and I chastised him at length for being an icky gross boy. Love indeed.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Weekend Bits-o-Tid

Fridays have been a challenge this Lenten season. I know I'm supposed to give up meat and feel suffering and anguish. But I really like fish. I love fish sticks and rice all mushed up together. I love halibut. I adore shrimp, especially fried shrimp. Lenten suffering for me should be steak as I could pretty much care less about beef. I only eat red meat now for the iron and a bit of variety so that I'm not growing feathers from chicken-chicken-chicken.

Last Friday night, I opened one of my three fish steaks from the freezer that Grandma gave us. My uncle went fishing last summer and gave her a bunch of fish, and she kindly shared it with us. It's not just any fish, but salmon. As we do not have a grill, I baked the salmon steak in butter and lemon juice in a shallow foil-lined pan. I also baked some broccoli with parmesan sprinkled on it and made some cheesy rice as a side. Anyone who says cheese and fish don't go together is stupid: I love them together! The salmon was delicious. I was suffering oh so much. ;) On Saturday night, I broke up the leftover salmon and added breadcrumbs and an egg with spices and turned it into salmon cakes. They were a bit fishier, a bit more interesting, and not quite as good as I'd hoped, but they were tasty nonetheless.

My parents came over on Saturday for a late lunch out to Local Boyz, and The Man's parents, brother, and aunt were here on Sunday for hiking out at Beazell Memorial Forest and then dinner at Blue Sky. Add in the chocolate chip cookies I made Sunday afternoon, and it's safe to say we were eating well this weekend!

Today has been the first day I've missed on Wii Fit, but I did go hiking, so there's no guilt here. We're a little behind in our Lenten reading, shame on us, but we hope to catch back up tonight.

Five loads of laundry, turned the mattress, cleaned the bathroom, worked on the budget, and managed to plan meals and go shopping for the whole week for less than $40. Got lots done, but I am going to go sit on my butt and do nothing until bedtime. That sounds nice.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

I Found A Man Craft

As most readers know, I'm a crafter. I'm a Michael's and JoAnn's junkie. And I don't really discriminate in my crafting: sewing, paper crafts (especially origami), beads, wooden figures, painting and drawing, and clay sculpting. One of my favorite things to do is browse a craft store looking for new ideas, drawing inspiration from familiar products. I'm a crafter through-and-through.

My husband, however, is not a crafter. He dreads the words, "just a quick stop at Michael's for one thing." He doesn't understand, gets frustrated when I try to explain crafting, and could care less when it comes to how much I enjoy creating things (he appreciates my talent and when we save money by my making things instead of buying them though).

Today, we made a quick stop at JoAnn's to look at Easter crafts. He wandered off for a while before coming back so we could check out and leave. As we were walking out of the store he asked, "What is it that your dad does with that wooden stand in his recliner?" Needlepoint or cross-stitching, I said. I also pointed out that it's a relatively inexpensive craft. Just Aida cloth, embroidery thread, and needles, all of which can be found for a few dollars.

And that's when it hit me. Counted cross-stitch could be his man-craft so that he would want to go to craft stores with me! I knew he'd never be into stitching landscapes or flowers, so I thought for a moment. ...And then another lighting bolt! Guns. My husband loves guns. Dad has a neat cross-stitching program that converts images into stitching patterns, so I told The Man he could stitch a picture of a Glock (his gun of choice). I think he drooled with excitement.

I found a Man Craft. *fist pump*

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wedding Photographer Nightmare

I am going to attempt to summarize what has to have been my most frustrating week in years in a short blog post. I don't think this is going to be short. Sorry. I'm also not naming names, so I can't be sued for defamation. This is the my side of the story to the best of my memory.

First, a little background on me: I have a camera and routinely take pictures. Therefore, I believe I'm allowed to call myself a "photographer." I've been commissioned and paid, so I am pretty sure that makes me a sort of "professional," though photography is not my profession. I enjoy it, but I'm not trying to make my living by it.

Second, a little background on the story: The Man and I are incredibly lucky that his brother offered to pay for our wedding photography as his wedding gift to us. One of his best friends is a professional photographer who regularly shoots weddings. We were thrilled to have someone we knew helping us on our big day, someone we trusted and felt comfortable being around. Our engagement photo shoot was fantastic, and the pictures look amazing. Of all of the tiny details on our wedding day to worry over, the photography was the least of my concerns.

Fast-forward to this last weekend and Monday: We ordered fifteen prints of our wedding photography through our photographer. Fifteen prints, $120. Thankfully we had a big coupon. After applying discounts and credits, we ended up paying $25 (slightly better, but astronomical nonetheless). All of the prints we ordered were 4" x 6" so they'd fit into our new frames. The Man put the prints on the dining room table, so when I got home they were right there waiting for me. He said he didn't want me to look at them. As I opened the box, he slowly backed up. Our beautiful 4" x 6" pictures were oddly sized 3" x 4" images on 4" x 6" paper. Some were almost correct, but one wasn't even the right size paper! There was white space where our pictures were supposed to be! This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I sat down and drafted the harshest e-mail I could muster, and then I waited twenty-four hours to cool off before sending it. The Man and I had a very long discussion about what we wanted to do. We called his brother and brought him into the loop. On Tuesday night, we fired off a revised (slightly cooler-headed) e-mail to our photographer.

Our complaints included:
- Horrendous lighting issues with the church photography
- Poor editing (that was outsourced by our photographer instead of him doing it himself)
- Waiting four months to finally get our pictures
- Not liking the album the photographer designed for us (at ALL)
- Receiving low-resolution photography on the disc given to us
- Incomplete/incorrectly-sized photograph prints

Our photographer's rebuttal included:
- Having relied on our word that the church's lighting was excellent, he arrived unprepared and without all of his equipment and wouldn't have been able to move us to another location within the church (he didn't come to the rehearsal in order "to save gas;" and his equipment "wouldn't have helped much anyway.")
- He and his wife claimed that all churches have poor lighting due to the many stained glass windows and uncontrollable lighting "issues." However, The Man and I captured stunning photographs at the cathedral, and that church has dozens of HUGE stained glass windows.
- He and his wife spent days editing our photos, but because she was doing a better job editing them, he let her do the whole editing job. (And I'll admit, her work was far superior to his in every instance, including taking pictures.)
- Apparently we weren't even going to receive a disc with photography on it. They only did that "to be nice." They wanted us to order all of our photos through them. At $15 per 4" x 6" print, there's no way we could have afforded to get one print, let alone several.
- His whole "product" was the album. Nothing else mattered. He edited the pictures solely for the album. He claims that he listened to all of our suggestions, but I made several more that were ignored entirely.
- The 4" x 6" prints were oddly sized because pictures "are cropped one way for a reason." They didn't want to change the shape of the pictures to fit in our frames because they believed the way they cropped the pictures was the only "correct" way that picture should be viewed.

In the end, we requested 100% of our original unedited photography to be delivered to us on a CD via mail. In an effort to keep friends happy, he agreed. Had he not agreed, we were going to ask for money to be refunded. He's also reprinting our prints to our exact specifications (full-size 4" x 6" just like we ordered the first time).

Looking back on the last four months, I remember tears and frustration, anger, and a bit of dismay. I knew from the first time I saw the pictures that the raw data was insufficient. But it's impossible to relive a wedding day, to reshoot those pictures. Short of that, nothing will make me truly satisfied. The photographer should have said something right away when he realized the lighting was bad. He should have been very clear in what the contract specified he'd provide and stuck to it (instead of leading us on several false paths like extra photographers, the CD of images, and allowing us believe we could help design our album). He should have called or e-mailed to find out what our prints' dimensions would be. And we should have been more forceful and mean the whole time. We tried to be nice and understanding, but we've learned that lesson the hard way.

Two more lessons were learned:
- Never do a business transaction with family or friends unless all agree on the EXACT SAME ideas
- The Man and I successfully fought our first battle from the same side. We stuck together, worked together, and consoled each other. If there is a silver lining, it's that we learned how to go at life shoulder-to-shoulder. That feels good.

So now you know what my week's been like. :)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cupcake Petit Fours

Last weekend, I made cupcakes with a friend. She and I decided pink would be the most festive color for a non-holiday-after-a-long-winter-Friday. We used a new dipping technique to achieve smooth frosting. I think they look pretty good! My only complaint is that the frosting isn't very thick on the cupcake. While it is smooth and even, it's minimal. I piped over the top with some white frosting to add some color and design, so there was a tiny bit more height. On the flip side, buttercream probably isn't exactly healthy. We double-dipped the cupcakes, so we did put a bit more frosting on later, but it wasn't as even and tended to run a bit. The second dipping was very difficult on the smaller cupcakes as I hadn't baked them in papers. They were just falling apart. Oooooh, these were so yummy!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Reconnection Rejection

I've been giving memories of high school a bit more thought lately and realized something important: with incredibly few exceptions, I have zero desire to reconnect with my graduating class (or any other class for that matter). I'm already in contact with the friends I wanted to keep, either through Facebook, e-mails, or "real" life.

High school was a means to an end. Both state and parental law required me to attend school, so it's not like I had a choice. While I did very well academically and enjoyed most of my teachers and subjects, friendships from that time seem like foggy spirits. I know they existed, but I can't quite picture them anymore. As active as I was in the various music ensembles, the memory of such hard work and dedication leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I loved being a musician, but I hated the petty crap and incompetent director.

A few of my current friends from high school are still friends with other people that went to school with us. My friends like to throw parties and invite all of their friends. I'm then faced with a dilemma: do I go simply because I was invited, or do I not go because I have no desire to reconnect with old familiar faces that weren't exactly nice to me for four years? Should I try to interact with people that I am satisfied not knowing? What do I tell my friends when declining their invitations, "Sorry, I'll spend time with you, but I don't want to see Joe/Bill/Frank ever again"?

I'm not trying to be malicious or cruel toward those 500 students I started 9th grade with. They didn't pay me any attention for four years, and I have no intention of becoming their friend--or acquaintance--now. It's not about overcoming or forgiving or anything other than living my own life without forcing awkward conversations over beer at a mutual friend's house.

Is it an ugly truth to not want to be a part of alumni gatherings or reunions? Is it a good thing to not want to be re-stereotyped or labeled as the "geek" or "ugly girl" or "nerd"? I'm just starting to feel comfortable as a woman, a wife, an adult: I don't need to feel less than I am for the benefit of some people I don't want to care about ever again.

But there is this little tiny part of me that wants to go back for my 10-year-reunion and dance with my husband in front of everyone. Conservatively skimpy clothes, a few sequins or a little make-up, and a huge slap in the face to those who teased me for having short hair, no boobs, and too many brains for their likes. I want to Samba and Waltz and West Coast and watch them stare in awe... not because I'm a good dancer (hehe, no), but because it would highlight a beautiful, successful, intelligent woman who managed to snag an equally impressive husband. Because nobody teases someone who can Waltz.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Letter to TLC's What Not to Wear

Dear TLC,
While I am a fan of several shows on your network, What Not to Wear has to be the worst show on TV. How dare you take professional, successful women and shame them for choosing to dress differently than the rest of the fashion sheep. How dare you throw away clothing that the women spent their time and hard-earned money to obtain. And how dare you chastise these women for failing to maintain your big-city make-overs longer than two weeks.

There are, in fact, some women who don't live in the big city, don't need to wear high heels to get promoted, and don't need to spend $500 on a jacket. There are some women who look radiant and glamorous without a lick of make-up. There are even some women who can get away with jeans and sweatshirts and look positively stunning. I'm not bashing dresses or looking nice or trying to empower women who wear overalls. My point is that the show needs to be pulled ASAP.

If you won't remove the show and stop trying to convince women to spend, smooth, and cover, at least invite me over to New York City as one of your fashion "victims." I want the show to feature a woman with curves who is modest--and not for religious reasons. I want the show to feature a woman who can wear jeans in a professional setting every day. Yes, jeans! Comfortable, wonderful, non-stretchy or dark wash jeans. I want the show to feature a woman who doesn't actually fit into "low rise" pants or tube tops. I also would like to see a woman featured who actually understands make-up, because not all of us are idiots about make-up application, some of us just use less of it than circus freaks. Lastly, I'd appreciate all of my clothing donated rather than being thrown violently into a trash bin. Though the clothes may not be what you pick out, they're still useable pieces of clothing that could help many people.

And if you could do a show about how to dress on a budget, a real budget based on what someone living at or below the poverty line makes, I'd be thrilled. Take your $5000 and shove it. Show me fashion on $10/month. Because that's all I have to maintain my glorious style.

Signed,
Jaggy, Clothed and Fabulous