Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Screaming Banshee Alarm Clock

The Man says I keep my alarm clock set to "screaming banshee mode." I'd like to think it's on "wake me up" mode. I'm not a heavy sleeper, not by a long shot, but the alarm can't be turned down. It's an older clock, probably a mid-90s model, but it's the only alarm clock that I can find that has the features I want.

I have a Sony Dream Machine. Dual-alarm with indicator lights, alarm goes off to either buzzer or radio for both alarms, dimmer switch for the light, and BIG numbers (because I'm a bit near-sighted, haha). It has a 7-minute snooze and battery back-up. I love my alarm clock. Of course I don't love it at 6:55, 7:02, 7:09, or 7:16, but I appreciate the features and size.

Now that The Man gets up before me, he needs an alarm clock. He looked at four or five stores before deciding on the perfect alarm clock. He bought a Dream Machine. The models are very different in shape and size, but the features are quite similar.

We didn't even confer before he bought it. We're that like-minded.

And now we have two screaming banshees. ;)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Congratulations on the finger bling, Sis!

I wanted to wait a few minutes to let the dust settle and give them a chance to tell everyone important before I blogged my sentiments. Without further ado...

Congratulations to my little sister on her engagement to her Mr. Wonderful!

He's a pretty awesome guy, having spent quite a bit of time with him, and it's great that she found someone who loves and respects her without expecting anything in return.

She asked her big sister to be her Matron of Honor. In addition to feeling old, that made me rather honored.

Yup, that's the big news of the week. Can't really get much better than that. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Politics, and I don't mean the government kind

One of the hardest things for me is being political. I don't mean talking about politics, I don't mean discussing government or voting, and I am not going to rant about the state of our dear Union. I mean to discuss how relationships and telling or not telling something can be political.

Pretend something happens to me (say I become pregnant). Who should I tell first? The Man, obviously, but after that. Do I call my mom or his mom or my sister or a grandma or friend... and what do I do if one of them is upset they didn't hear the information first? On top of that, I hate having to worry about telling one person who will blab it to the rest of the world before I even get a chance.

I don't like work politics either. I hate having to watch what I say and realizing that every word could be used against me later. I don't like the hierarchy of not being able to tell someone "above" me how I feel. I especially hate the politics of going around a difficult person to achieve a goal.

I am learning the politics of marriage. I'm not good at it, but I'm learning quickly. Marriage politics began with engagement politics: making everyone around me happy while still trying to craft the wedding we, two already stressed people, wanted. At least marriage politics are for a common good--one redeeming quality I can live with.

And I especially hate the politics of blogging. I hate not being able to rant and swear and say exactly what I want to say and have it broadcast to the world because "sensitive" people might hear "bad things." I can't blog about family, work, "real" politics, or marital problems because that might turn people off or make me look bad. I do choose to discuss religion on occasion, but I try VERY hard not to offend or proselytize. Sometimes I come home after a long day at work and just want to rant rant rant about the interactions or projects I experienced. Sometimes I want to tell the world I'm struggling in my role as a wife. Sometimes I want to say things like they are instead of sugar coating them until they're half-truths.

I was never very good at politics.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lord, Save Me From Your Followers

The Man and I watched an incredible documentary this weekend. I was a bit skeptical just based on the title, and he was almost completely opposed to watching it. I promised that if the first ten minutes were so bad that we could turn the documentary off. We watched the whole thing. It was great!

The people who get turned off by the title are exactly the type of people who need to see the documentary! The followers of Christ--Christians--don't always act very Christ-like to outsiders (or even their own families). Those outward actions give Christians everywhere a bad name. This documentary, Lord, Save Me From Your Followers, seeks to open dialogue between people, groups, and denominations. It is not a Catholic-inspired film, and it's not even a staunch Protestant film. It's an all-encompassing "Body of Christ" film that speaks to both Christians and non-Christians.

Much of the documentary was filmed in Portland, Oregon. I was so excited to be able to point out the Burnside Bridge or the waterfront or the skyline. I was also really happy to see the narrator/main guy interacting with some of the local Portland... wildlife. :) He wasn't trying to convert or admonish, just talk.

And that's so important! Talking, being open to hearing a different viewpoint even if you don't agree with it, it's so important. The communication part is something we all seem to forget.

I quite agree with the filmmaker and was excited to finally have my voice put into a documentary. Yes, I follow Christ. But I don't follow so closely that I step on heels and toes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Expensive but Productive Saturday

I slept in past 9am. It is rare that I can even sleep past 8am, but to sleep until 9 made me feel so refreshed. Granted, I was up a bit later than usual last night having been to my parents' to cut Dad's hair and visit with them. The Man went out for a guys' night video game thing, so he got home even later. After dragging my feet to get motivated, I made blueberry muffins for breakfast (in bed, no less, for husband!). We were dressed, organized, and ready to shop by noon.

First stop, Home Depot. We got a new toilet plunger, some more desiccant, and a bottle of mold and mildew killer. The plunger was in response to a need this morning when our old plunger (mine from forever ago) finally croaked. Thankfully the problem has been resolved and we're the owners of a new high-tech plunger. I didn't even know high-tech plungers existed until today. Wow. The desiccant is for our DampRid dehumidifiers in the window sills and bathroom. I've found that, for a few dollars, we can drastically reduce the humidity in our little apartment. The mold had already started growing when we got the dehumidifiers, though, so trying to keep it abated with bleach wasn't really working. I learned that bleach does NOT kill mold. It will make the mold colorless and nearly invisible, but it won't kill the roots. We got a fairly inexpensive mold/mildew killer and preventative solution that worked SUPER fast and very, very well. After some elbow grease and a handy toothbrush, the window sills look better now than the day I moved in!

Second stop, Safeway. After reading and committing to memory as much from Eat This, Not That as possible, we went in search of healthy food. We got all sorts of produce (apples were $0.39/lb!) and plenty of whole grains. Some deli sliced turkey, a roasted chicken, and some new blueberry oatmeal happened to fall into the cart as well. It wasn't our cheapest week, but we definitely bought more healthy foods than we have in a while. Slowly, slowly, we are ridding ourselves of HFCS and processed crap.

We arrived home by 2pm, had a late lunch, and then I set to work in the kitchen. I cleaned and pieced out the roasted chicken for three meals, chopped carrots and celery for salads and soup, and set a pot of potatoes on to boil for dinner. Using some fat/sodium-free chicken stock (only Swanson's is MSG-free, I've looked!), four large Russets, and carrots, celery, and roasted chicken in approximately equal parts, I attempted to make a sort of stew/soup/chowder dinner. We had some Bisquick biscuits as a side and some homemade Tollhouse cookies for dessert. The Man actually liked the chowder and biscuits!!!

Side note: Tonight marks the first time in my entire life that I've used a whole bag of chocolate chips for a single batch of cookies. That might not sound daring or crazy to you--apparently it's quite common--but it was a huuuuuge thing for me. I felt so... gluttonous. Rebellious. Delicious. :)

And THEN! I hacked my Swiffer so now it's reusable! I boiled water and immersed the cap from the bottle in it. Using some adjustable pliars, I got the cap off. I then used nail clippers to trim the little tab thingies inside the cap so now I won't need to boil and ply it off next time. I filled up the empty solution bottle with Pine-Sol and water (yay, no more Swiffer icky smell!). My mop heads fit on the Swiffer velcro more or less, so I just used those. No throwing away, no purchasing disposable products, no wasting money! I do mop by hand about once a month to get deep into the corners, but the Swiffer works really well after spills or when I need to do a quick once-over.

The kitchen has been cleaned top to bottom. The bathroom got a really good scrubbing between yesterday and today. The floors have been mopped. The windows look clean and mold-free. And we are well-fed with healthy (ok, the cookies aren't healthy), tasty, home-cooked food. I am going to go sit in front of the TV now and stitch.

Phew!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook: DISLIKE

I've had a Facebook account since 2005. Back then, the only people that could see my profile were the six friends I had at OSU. Nobody outside of OSU could even find me. I had a profile picture, a few pieces of information, and a status that began with "Jaggy is..."

Today, I believe I have finally seen the end for Facebook. No longer will I allow my information to be distributed without my express permission. No longer will I stand and watch my profile change and settings switch behind the scenes. And not one more time will I be forced to link to something I didn't intend to be linked to.

Facebook, old friend, I do not want you to take my favorite TV shows and link my profile to pages that share my preferences with the world. If I liked JAG way back when, that's my business. If I wrote that I liked JAG on my Facebook profile, then it was my business and any of my friends that I decided could see I enjoyed that TV show. Now, if I put JAG as a favorite TV show, my profile contains a link to a JAG page with thousands of other people capable of communicating with me. No thanks.

And the worst part: I tried removing all of these things I'd listed as favorite TV shows or activities and Facebook wouldn't let me!!! I had to select at least one option for my profile to be saved. I removed as much as I could, typed in something to the effect of, "My interests are things that I generally enjoy doing, but if I list them here, then Facebook will create a page for each of them." And then Facebook created a page for that title. Without my permission. And I can't not have something in those boxes.

If I choose to share information, that's my business. If I choose to participate on Facebook, that's my business and maybe a few other peoples' business. But if I "like" something my sister says, I don't really want that broadcast around the world thankyouverymuch. So I will stop liking things. I will stop posting information unless I can determine who sees it.

The Dislike Button starts right here, right now: Facebook = Dislike.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lots o' Yays

Yay for half-days at work, but boo to having to go to the dentist.

Yay for clean sheets, but nay for having to fold them neatly.

Yay for someone else cooking me dinner! (no complaints here!)

and, lastly, *pout* for not having anything new to blog about.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Organza Flower Garland

This beautiful and easy garland looks feminine and classy hanging in my kitchen window. It adds a hint of color and fills a rather empty frame ever so slightly. The lightweight fabric also hangs without needing to be stuck to studs in the same way that cheaper garlands (like the crappy ones on plastic chains from Michael's need to be). And because it's made by hand, you can change the colors, the number of flowers, the attachment method, or the size to fit your fancy!

Now, on to the instructions:

First, purchase organza. What is organza? According to Wiki, it's "is a thin, plain weave, sheer fabric traditionally made from silk, the continuous filament of silkworms." According to a randomly sampled dictionary, organza is "a thin, stiff, transparent fabric made of silk or a synthetic yarn." And in plain terms, it's a see-through shiny fabric that is moderately stiff. It won't drape like silk, nor is it stiff like canvas: organza is in between. Do not purchase chiffon for the flowers. Chiffon is too light and won't hold its shape. When in doubt, look on the ends of the bolts (the flat rolls of fabric at the fabric store). I bought a half-yard of four colors of organza, more than enough to make about a hundred flowers five layers thick.


For the leaves, I purchased a fabric simply called "lining material" which is commonly used to line coats or jackets. It is very lightweight and not stiff. Satin might work, though it would be heavy. Wide ribbon could also be trimmed to make leaves, especially if it has a center wire. I bought a yard of lining to make 200 leaves with plenty of fabric left over for another 100 if I cut carefully.

Other materials you might need include a candle and matches, needle and thread OR brads, pins, a marking pen (Sharpie) and ribbon. You can use nails or tacks to hang the garland if you choose to do so.


There is no need to pre-wash any fabric: it's not going to be worn. Fold the fabric over until you have sixteen layers. Using pins, tack the layers together so they don't slip. Begin to draw basic flower shapes conserving as much fabric as possible between flowers. Make some smaller than others. A good artist could get many more flowers than I did out of the fabric. I cut each flower apart from the rest before cutting out the petals (less hanging on to cut around). Leave the pins in until the very end, otherwise they tend to separate and go everywhere. I used paper bags to keep the colors separate while I worked. Having finished the project, one piece of advice: cut off the Sharpie lines. They can be burned off, but the flowers look so much better without black edges.

Once all of the organza flowers are cut apart, it's time to start burning the edges. You can use any candle you want. I pretty much hate candles, so I used unscented floating candles. Because the fabric will burn slightly, it's also important to have a WELL-ventilated area (who knows what noxious fumes could be created!). Ventilation creates wind, though, so the candle flame tends to move all over. Try to keep the wind to a minimum (a ceiling vent works well for this as it doesn't create wind but still vents--think range vent). Light the candle and hold the EDGE of the organza flower a few inches above the flame. The edge will start to curl up or down. I never did figure out a way to force the fabric to go up or down, and it doesn't really matter. Even if the flower gets burned quite a bit, the effect won't be hurt. This really is a project for people who aren't perfectionists.

After burning several petals, stack them up so that the smaller ones are on top of the larger ones. Four or five layers looked good to me, but you might like more or less. It might be easiest to pin them together and finish burning the rest of your petals rather than to stitch, burn, stitch, burn. If you do stitch them together, you could use seed beads to make pretty designs inside the flower. You could also use a pretty button and sew it in the center of the flower. I am not always a fan of sewing, so I shoved a brad through several layers and called it good (saved me days of effort, especially since I used the brad to attach the leaves and the ribbon, too!).

The leaves can be done in the same way using the candle. I attached two leaves to the bottom of each flower in a sort of V shape. Then, after measuring and laying out my flower pattern, I attached the flowers and leaves to the ribbon. I used some nails to hang it in my kitchen window. Easy, fun, and really pretty.

Total cost: $15 for fabric, ribbon, and brads. I had the marker, pins, and candle already. The crappy garlands at Michael's cost between $10 and $20 for a similar product, but you'll get fewer flowers, ugly colors that don't match anything, and tons of green filler leaves. Also, the garlands are on a type of plastic chain that can easily be broken. They're impossible to hang as well.

Crafter's notes: This project would look beautiful as car decorations for the "getaway vehicle" at a wedding. I think it would look great draped under the windows of each door or along the back window or back bumper. It is illegal to drag anything behind a car, so don't even try it! Forget the tacky window paint, the stupid tin cans or shoes behind the car, or balloons. Draped flowers would look classy. Also, individual flowers would look great attached to barrettes or headbands. The flowers could be grouped or used individually for boutonnieres. They could also be a part of the table centerpieces, pew decorations, alter flowers, or even attached to wedding programs (not invitations, not good for mailing).

Try layering different colors of organza for different flower effects.

Different colors of leaves will add more depth and richness to the project, but it could also potentially increase the overall cost.

Curling wire ribbons around pencils or dowels would make really neat vines hanging down from the center vine.

(Click on any of the pictures to embiggen.)

Editor's note: I fully realize "embiggen" is not a word, but you knew what it meant, right?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crafted my Weekend Away

After feeling crappy Friday evening, I woke up with determination and inspiration for Saturday. I'd visited three craft stores, filled my car with gas, and got the week's groceries by noon. Total spent on crafting supplies: $15.00. Not bad! I'd planned to get some wood forms, tile, and grout to make a holy water font to go by the front door, but the wood forms were awful, the tile ugly, and the entire project waaaaaay out of my price range for this month. Plus Michael's had such a long line I just put the few things I thought I wanted back and left emptyhanded. No point in waiting that long for stuff I didn't really need. I picked up three yards of fabric from JoAnn's and some brads from Creative Crafts.

Just after noon and lunch, I set out crafting. I'll post the instructions and some photos tomorrow for the organza flower garland. It's quite amazing. After burning myself several times over the flame, melting the fabric to my finger once, and six more hours of flaming, I quit for dinner. We went for a walk, showered, and sat down for a movie. I convinced The Man that he needed to see a new TV show on ABC, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Having seen the first five episodes now, I'm absolutely convinced that today's kids are eating garbage, that Jamie's really trying to change the world, and that we should all do more to stand behind his cause. Sure, I bet Corvallis is right on track feeding it's public school kids all sorts of organic food, seeing that this town is so stuck up it makes me want to vomit. Nevertheless, there are plenty of Oregon schools who could do much better to feed kids local food. Jamie's chicken nugget demonstration cured me of ever wanting those again. I went to bed on an empty stomach.

Sunday saw the conclusion of my burning fabric project. I tacked everything together and assembled the vine of flowers. It looks really, really pretty above my kitchen sink! By 10:00am, I'd finished three loads of laundry, made a batch of cookies, and picked up the apartment. After lunch, The Man and I curled up on the couch and took a nap together (aww!). I had amazing dreams of flying kites and dancing through wildflower fields... much better than my Excedrin-induced dreams which usually scare the heck outta me.

Homemade mac and cheese for dinner, showers, and off to Mass this evening. I might even get to spend some time embroidering before bed! I love crafty weekends. They make life so much better.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Balsamic Vinegar and Cilantro Pork Chops

I had a crappy day. Migraine afternoon, lots of not wanting to move, some sleep, and feeling guilty for not being at work even though I would have been nothing more than a warm body. Never looks good to miss work on such a sunny day, but seeing as how I would rather have a rainy day off than a sunny day, everyone can rest quite assured that I was a zombie on the couch.

Our meal plan this week got shuffled around a bit. Tuesday's pizza got pushed to Thursday, and Wednesday's dinner never happened (we went out for burgers). I moved Monday's dinner to Friday. Friday's meal choice switched to Tuesday. It's all very confusing, but no food was wasted. I'm glad the more complicated meal could be on a day where I had as much time as I wanted, but it sucks to be in the kitchen when I just want to lay in the dark.

Easy recipe, tonight's dinner. I made two cups of rice cooked in low-sodium MSG-free chicken broth. The broth adds a ton of flavor and a few more nutrients than plain water. I set that to go in the rice cooker while I marinated--yes marinated, the word I hate to use in reference to meat--some pork chops. The thin-sliced pork chops bathed in some balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and rough-chopped cilantro for about half an hour before hitting the grill. They dried out quite a bit since I trimmed every bit of fat off of them (I trim my meat clean and cook it completely--all meat). After letting the pork chops rest and steam to finish, the rice was done. Apple slices were a quick and easy side to the pork chops and rice, and they had a juicy crunch I needed to help the chops.

Not the best meal I've ever made, but it was darn good for a first try. Next time no cilantro. I love cilantro, but it was rather soapy or chemical tasting. The brown sugar and balsamic vinegar worked beautifully together, and I imagine a little citrus would help more. I'd like to work the apples into the recipe a bit more, perhaps using apple juice or stewed apples with the chops. There has to be a slow-cooker recipe out there for that one.

As for dessert, well, ice cream seems to be calling my name.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fellowship

As The Man and I have been reading together and discussing our book, and as I've spoken with friends recently, the word "fellowship" keeps entering our conversations. I'm not small-minded, nor am I unlearned about my faith, so to keep hearing this word in conjunction with discussions about faith has me perplexed. What is this "fellowship" I keep hearing about?

I've never heard a Catholic say to me, "Why don't we fellowship this evening?" in the same way that I've heard Protestants say it. The Man and I don't get together and "fellowship" with other people. We share meals, share conversation and fun, and even share our faith, but we've never "fellowshipped."

As far as I know, the word isn't even a verb, it's a noun. Fellowship can be realized, but it can't be done.

From what I can gather biblically, "fellowship" is a gathering of people who share the same ideas supporting each other in a sort of worship-type meeting. Protestants, therefore, couldn't be in fellowship with Catholics as the two have different views about salvation and authority. Episcopalians couldn't be in fellowship with Methodists. Even some Baptists couldn't be in fellowship with other Baptists for not having the same ideas.

To the best of my knowledge, "fellowship" has overtones of "being in communion with" another person or group. I can have a fellowship with the Catholic Church because I am in communion with said church. I cannot share a fellowship with my parents as they are not Catholic. If I understand the text correctly, the noun "fellowship" also requires an element of worship. A gathering of people for a meal cannot be a type of fellowship. A get-together where one prayer is said before a game isn't exactly a type of fellowship either. I think it requires more than a "Hi God, we're here, bless us and thank you, Amen." I think it takes more serious discussion and sharing of faith, Bible or no, church building or no, and agreement among the people there. Unless there is the exchange of ideas related to faith that can be agreed upon, fellowship won't exist. People can't get together and study the Bible or pray the rosary and then go out for dinner and call the going out part "fellowship." Some might call the Bible study or the rosary recitation a "fellowship" of people. I call it a Bible study or rosary circle. The going out to eat thing is still just going out to eat.

That's what I could glean anyway. Is "fellowship" something you do or something you have? How do you create it? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Feel Your Boobies!

Today marks five years since my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. After chemo, radiation, and a recent double skin-sparing mastectomy, she's alive and doing well. We're about five or six years apart in age, so her diagnosis and treatment brought breast cancer into full light in my life. Congratulations, cousin!

And to all the other ladies out there: feel your boobies! Forget what the doctors and insurance companies tell you about not paying attention: you should know your body better than anyone else, including the mammogram specialist. Feel 'em up gooooood, even if you only do it every other month or when you remember, do it.

(And if you're married, let your husband help out! I'm guessing he wouldn't mind. :D )

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Alligator Spoon

It delivered Dimetapp, sweet grapey deliciousness. Occasionally it would deliver Robitussin, cherry drops of sticky disgustingness. And every once in a great while, it would deliver bubblegum flavored medicine, probably antibiotics. Being sick isn't fun for grown-ups, and as a child, it is really unfortunate. But being sick meant we got to use the alligator spoon, a placebo of sorts in itself. Even though we felt sick, the joy of sticking the wide jaw of the alligator into our mouth and swallowing something that we knew was going to make us feel better... one of my childhood's most vivid memories.

I found the picture online, so I know these things are still available. Alligator spoons come in many different varieties and a few different colors, but there was only one for us. Other doppelgangers have no raised eyes, no separated toes/claws, or even no arms sticking out, just a stupid bar. Unless it's green with raised eye bumps, arms, and claws, it's not the Real McCoy and won't get the job done.

If you don't believe me, ask my sister: The alligator spoon really works.

Whenever we decide to have kids, this is one thing that will definitely go on our must-have list. Camera, alligator spoon, diapers. Then we'll be set.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I love three-day weekends!

I sit here dreading the idea that tomorrow I must go to work. Not that I dread my job or anything, but after sleeping in until 10am the last two days, I've surely spoiled myself. 7am will dawn too early.

Friday was eventful. I took the day off so we could go shopping without so many crowds. We left home by 8:30am and made it to Washington Square right at 10am when JC Penney opened. As we still had wedding gift cards for the store, we both agreed that clothes were a bigger priority than, say, lamps or fancy griddles. We're out of room to store things in the kitchen anyway. I needed dressy casual shirts and maybe some nice khakis or slacks. The Man is my best shopping buddy, so we had a plan and were armed with gift cards. Yay!

After two hours of trying on clothes, lamenting cap sleeves and cropped pants, and mostly hating the fashion industry for the 900th time, we walked away with armloads. I got a pretty black shirt (that The Man picked out!), and three colorful bras (not white or nude, amazingly) in my favorite style, and The Man got new Levi jeans in his favorite style, a nice T-shirt that doesn't have obnoxious or offensive designs, and three OSU T-shirts. At original prices, we would have spent $244. After sales and coupons, we spent $111.94. After gift cards, we paid $3.58 out-of-pocket. Um, yeah. We scored.

Lunch found us at one of our favorite restaurants, Sweet Tomatoes. BOGO coupons meant that we only paid $14 for two all-you-can-eat lunches including drinks. The Man's brother also works in the area, so he joined us for lunch.

After lunch, we drove down to Bridgeport Village so I could finally go to The Container Store and a Merrell shoe store. Neither store was up to my expectations, especially the Merrell store. They had nothing on sale. Even a 1% sale would have been better than full price, so after chatting briefly with the creepy sales guy, we ducked out. Most of the shops in Bridgeport Village were waaaaaay out of our budgets, not to mention things we don't need.

We only hit a little traffic past Wilsonville on our way home, thankfully. We decided to stop and drop off some stuff at my parents' house on our way south. They weren't home from work yet, so we chatted with my sister. She took us into Costco since we don't have a membership there--and we were nearly out of toilet paper, not good. After a side trip to Target, we got back to my parents' house to find Dad home. Mom got home shortly and Sis left for work. Mom and Dad offered to take us out to dinner to Los Dos Amigos (my favorite Mexican food!) after a few more side trips.

Ready for Saturday? We moped around for a while before I decided I needed to search Ross and Dress Barn for nice dress pants. No luck anywhere. I couldn't even find a nice black shrug for one of my dresses (that has funky sleeves that I hate). I did run into the new Rite-Aid in Corvallis to check it out--and buy my make-up for the next year, a whopping $20. Good sales, not the greatest store, just the usual stuff. Poorly organized! Meh.

We watched The Informant, one of the worst movies I think I've ever seen.

I started getting ready around 4:30, and we were out the door by 5:30 to go to our friends' wedding. We gave the couple a review dance lesson early last week, so we were excited to watch them dance at their reception (and they were fabulous by the way). Nice wedding, thankfully all indoors. Not a fan of the screaming girls sitting behind us--there is no screaming or clapping in any church I've attended (unless it is after Mass). We finally got home around 10pm.

Sunday. I motivated myself to do three loads of laundry by 4:00pm, and we went grocery shopping for the week. Super meat sales led us to finally buy some pork chops. I've yet to make them, so it could be an interesting meal. I may have to use them to test out the new grill! We also got some chicken. I learned my lesson (again) when not buying Foster Farms. Too much fat left on that had to be trimmed and trimmed to finally get down to meat. Yuck. But the pork is portioned out in the freezer, as is the chicken both filleted and cubed ready for grilling or sauteing. I made the last of our bran muffins this afternoon. I think we have enough food to last quite a while now!

I feel accomplished. And hungry. And poor. But so very blessed.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Saving Money on Groceries

We've been working hard the last few months to really focus on tracking our grocery spending habits and try to reduce our average monthly bill below $300. While $300 isn't terrible for two people, it's still more than I want to be spending. We tracked our spending for last month and figured out we came in at around $230! Plus our monthly average $100 eating out expenses went down to under $30! We saved $140 on food in just one month compared to our averages, and that was in a longer month. Of course, we spent money on a parking permit for work and a new operating system for The Man's computer, so we didn't come out ahead, but those weren't things we could do without (life or death we could have, but life is much easier with those two things).

How did we manage to save $140 on food last month? Planning, coupons, sales, and remembering to eat cheaply. The oddest thing was that we spent a lot of money on expensive food like vegetables and fruit, name brand cereal, and pop. I remember splurging on deli lunch meat more than once last month. Having a meal plan is incredibly helpful. Neither of us have to ask what's for dinner, and we can do lots of shopping at once to minimize trips to the store (when cravings kick in and impulse buys take over). The meal plan also gives us fewer excuses to eat out since we know we have the food a plan.

I'm not a big couponer, but they do help. I bet we saved $5 using coupon last month... coupons we don't get from a newspaper since we don't subscribe to any. They're from the Internet or from products we already bought (like inside cereal boxes where I'd much rather find a prize). We also took some pop cans back and saved about $7 that way. The rest of the savings was from sales and eating cheaply.

Now if only we can keep up the savings longer than a month!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bring Back Paper Billing!

I realized today how much I hate electronic payments. Sure, paper bills "waste" paper, but then I not only get a reminder, but then I have a physical representation of what I actually paid. Recently my student loan switched from paper trails to electronic debiting. They refused to send me anything via U.S. Mail. Dumbfounded but not deterred, I set up the recurring payments last month. When I checked on April 3, the money had still not been deducted. Grrr. I got worried that maybe the first recurring payment notice got to them a little late, so maybe the first official month would be next month. I set up an immediate payment so that I wouldn't be late on April 7.

In a fit of curiosity and generally keeping tabs on things, I checked my bank account today. Not only did the April 6 payment get debited, but the recurring payment debited on April 7 as well! At least I wasn't late, right? Hopefully I can push the second payment to next month or apply it to the principal. It doesn't hurt my loan to pay extra, but I'd really like to have that money back in my pocket.

Comcast sucks the money from my bank account every month too. I hate it (and them!). Pacific Power has the right idea: they send me an e-mail informing me to pay my bill. I then go to their website, log in, and tell them it's okay to take my money. While I'd still prefer a paper bill, an e-mail works pretty well. Can we bring back paper billing, please?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My Head Overflows

We taught one dance lesson last night, and we have one more lesson to do tonight. Neither of us really fancy ourselves as true dance instructors, but we're having fun sharing our experience with others.

My new ear piece and headphone set arrived, so now I can listen to music or receive calls hands-free. I was a bit worried about compatibility with my phone, but no worries, it all seems to work well. Plus, I saved $70 at Newegg (from $90 to $20, I am not complaining)!

My left eye is still bothering me on and off. I get a couple days with no itching then a few days of painful burning and itching. My eyelid is raw from being rubbed and dry from having wet compresses on and off.

We finished our second Lenten reading, David Currie's Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. We both enjoyed his story, but his constant use of scripture to defend his faith was obnoxious. The text was heady at times, and while his humor was good, it was rare. Unlike James Martin S.J.'s books, we just wanted to finish the book quickly. We're now reading Scott & Kimberly Hahn's autobiography, Rome Sweet Home. After that, I think we might take a break from the Catholic reading and try something a bit less orthodox and preachy... like Pearls Before Swine or Calvin and Hobbes. Forget the cup, my head overflows!

Monday, April 05, 2010

If there's an Easter, why isn't there a Wester?

Some weekends are quiet, and some weekends are busy. Easter weekend was crazy. The Man and I had an at-home date night Friday night. We started a new and very difficult puzzle together, and we spent several hours dipping pretzels and other foods into melted chocolate.

Saturday included laundry, cleaning, and then lots of visiting. We saw both of my grandmas and had dinner with family. Sunday saw us up too early and waiting for Mass to begin in Salem. Easter Mass was nice--aside from the two adorable children sitting in front of me distracting me the whole time. I tried to pay attention to the priest, I really did! We had lunch with The Man's family in the early afternoon. We were able to get out and walk a little bit in Salem around the Willamette University campus. I enjoyed the walk, though I find the campus small and sterile. There isn't a single cornice or flourish on a windowsill or roofline. I enjoyed their lake and stream, though... OSU would do well to divert Oak Creek to central campus and install a large "water feature."

We tried to do a little shopping this weekend, but the stores were all too busy on Saturday and then closed on Sunday. Have to say I'm almost impressed that so many stores closed to honor the holiday.

No more chocolate for a while for me, thank you. One waxy chocolate bunny was enough.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I bought the Wilton Chocolate Pro melting pot the other night as a cheap fondue pot and also to be used for its intended purpose, chocolate melting. I have successfully melted chocolate in it, and then I dragged a few dozen pretzels through the goo. After applying a few colorful sprinkles while still wet and then letting them harden, I had to taste one.

And then another.

And then ten more.

They are so good! I am not a pretzel fan. I'm not a salty food fan. The sweet melty chocolate over the crunchy pretzels... oh that's just too delicious.

So tonight we're dipping the whole bag of pretzels and other things for two Easter celebrations this weekend. A few pretzels might not make it very far down the road...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cobbles

Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head is unlike any other beach I've been on. There is no sand, but rather there are billions of rocks. Apparently the rocks are "cobbles," but as they are neither made of coal or are appropriate for roadwork, I think they should just be referred to as rocks.

If one happens to be at the beach when the tide is "perfect," one can hear a unique sound of the rocks hitting together in the waves. I never did figure out what tide height is "perfect," but it seems likely to happen four times per day.

The pictured hands belong to my husband. He's holding some of the smaller cobbles. Some are as big as a hand, and some are smaller than the side of a fingernail. Most are about this size. As the rocks are round and smooth, they slide and roll when you try to walk on them. We had a difficult time walking in the larger rocks and down the slope to the tide pools, but thankfully the smaller rocks don't move quite as much. It's a workout to walk on them!

And for the record, we did not even consider bringing a rock home. The cobbles belong on the beach, not at home. The only things we took were pictures. :)