Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chai Me

Around the holidays, someone in my family usually makes a traditional recipe we have always called "peppernuts."  They are not "pepper nuts."  There is no space.  And there are no nuts.  This is a nut-free food.  I'm told the German name for them is "pfeffernusse," so I'm guessing the recipe was passed down for a few generations before it ended up in my kitchen.  In any case, these non-nuts are very hard cookie-bites made from flour, lard, sugar, and lots and lots of spices.  I forget if there is actually any pepper in them, maybe a little, but most of the spice comes from cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and maybe some ginger.  I forget.  I do know, though, that butter and vegetable shortening are NOT acceptable substitutes for lard in this recipe.  It's just not right without the lard.  To eat them, I usually pop one or two teaspoon-sized "nuts" in my mouth and suck on them for a few seconds before trying to bite them.  They're really, really hard.  But they are so amazingly wonderful, completely unique, and traditional for me.  Worth all the work to make them!

I don't really have a good transition from peppernuts to chai, so bear with me...

My sister has been drinking this stuff she calls "chai" for a long time.  Now she's a fan of coffee, lattes, iced coffee, that whole grouping of what I consider "gross" drinks, so when she said she loves chai-whatever, I was certain to put it off my radar.  The only hot drink I tolerate is hot chocolate--and maybe two cups a year.  Water for me, thanks.

This weekend, The Man and I were grocery shopping.  He's a tea drinker, not all the time or even very often, but he does drink tea.  He seems to prefer red teas or oolong teas since they aren't very strong.  I asked him if he wanted to try something different, maybe try this "chai tea" stuff I found on the shelf near the usual oolong variety.  Sure, he said, he's liked chai tea before.

It's kind of a stop-the-presses! moment when he reveals something he likes that I didn't know about already.  It's almost easier to name the foods he likes rather than dislikes, so any agreement to try something new... well, let's just say I had a *moment* right there in the store.  I threw the box of teabags in the cart and went about my day.

Later, while my soup was doing that souping thing it does on the stove at a low simmer, I decided to try this new tea.  I filled a mug with water and nuked it for a minute.  Splash went the tea, swirl went the spoon, and taste went all over my tongue.  I made chai tea all by myself.

And I liked it.

No, no, I pretty much loved it.

Chai tea is warm and fuzzy and sweet and bitter and homey--if tea can be homey--and tasted like Christmas all in one mouthful.  It tastes like peppernuts in liquid form!  I don't even consider it tea in my head, it's just a speedier spice delivery system than crunching on peppernuts, and I'm more than okay with that.  So GOOD!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas was a very typical holiday for The Man and me this year.  We celebrated with my extended family a couple weekends ago, so that left my little family, his little family, and his extended family for the holiday weekend.

With gifts in tow, we sleighed over to my parents' house on Christmas Eve to celebrate with them and my sister and her hubby.  We decided to forego the traditional foodstuffs and dined on tacos and Spanish rice instead.  My uncle commented that it seems Mom and I pretty much only eat "Mexican" food when we get together, and he's pretty accurate.  Mom and I could live on tacos, taquitos, enchiladas, and salads.  What's not to love? Chicken, cheese, lots of veggies, fresh salsa in the summer (even if I do hate raw tomatoes!)... mmmmm.  After lots of eating, we settled in for a gift exchange that netted everyone very good gifts.

The six of us then played the new game Sour Apples.  It's just like Apples to Apples but with a winner and a loser selected, and the loser of each hand faces a random consequence.  The game is only available at Target, and we played for hours and hours.  Lots of fun.  The Man and I finally dragged ourselves home by 11:00pm and didn't get to sleep until almost 1:00am.

At the entirely-too-early hour of 7:00am, we were up and getting ready to drive to The Man's parents' house.  Attitudes weren't exactly pleasant, but we made it there in one piece.  We exchanged gifts and enjoyed some time together before getting the house and food ready for The Man's big family gathering that started around 11:00am.  Everyone seemed to arrive at once, so the house quickly swelled to capacity.  Once everyone arrived, we had a large traditional Christmas dinner, entirely too many wonderful desserts, and a white elephant gift exchange.  The Man and I stuck around after everyone left in the early evening, and we didn't get home until 8:00pm.  It was a very long, very good day.

Monday was also good.  We were able to do some post-Christmas shopping with gift cards, and I got a bunch of groceries to finish out this month under budget in that category.  I cut more fabric for my parents' quilt, organized a bit, cleaned some, and watched a couple movies to boot.  Busy busy, but progress was made.

I don't think I'll be hungry for days after this weekend.  Also, I need more free time in which to play the piano, create with my Cricut, have a moment to quilt, and keep up on bloggy... so much to do! and so very little time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Still Shopping

I still have some Christmas shopping to do.  I'm usually done by the time the Christmas season even rolls around, but this year?  We are so incredibly far behind!  I have some presents wrapped, some waiting to be wrapped, and some not even purchased.  I'll try to get on this tomorrow, and I shouldn't have any problem, but it's just the fact that I'm so behind that makes me frustrated.

Last-minute shopping shouldn't happen to organized people.  It's like an insult or something.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brain Itches

I get brain itches.  My brain doesn't physically itch, but it does, in a way, itch sometimes.  And it's really hard to scratch or rub or get to stop itching.  It doesn't often just go away on its own.  The itches must be scratched.

I don't really know how to describe what these itches are other than compulsions or really motivating desires or something that makes me want to, need to do something.  And they're not like hunger or thirst that can be satiated in one or two moments.  They're not like a disorder either.  The itches are generally rational, normal thoughts, wonders really, that have to be expressed.

I had an itch to learn about corsets recently.  The itch came about because I had been watching The Forsyte Saga on Netflix.  Logical connection, right?  I think so.  The costumes were beautiful, and the whole idea of corsets is foreign to me, so somewhere in my brain an itch started.  I spent about three days devouring every source of online information I could find about corsets.  I learned about boning and busks, about corset construction through the years, about shape and function.  I found patterns and suggestions.  I even researched places to get corsets near where I live, but that was grasping at straws.  I didn't make a corset myself, and I didn't spend any money on the learning process.  It's all knowledge stuck in my head now.

I did the same exact thing for a few days after I read an interesting article about hats.  I'm not an expert now, but I have random bits of hat trivia floating around my noggin.

This last weekend was a Gabriel Macht itch.  He's an actor, a rather good-looking one in my book, and I've been a fan for years.  I rewatched the entire first season of Suits, then set out to find what else he'd been in over the last decade since I sort of lost track of him after Behind Enemy Lines.  He's done some pretty awesome stuff, and some not-so-great work (but I think that was the writing, not the acting).  As soon as one movie would end, I'd queue up the next without missing a beat.  I ate, crafted, and dozed through movie after movie in the last two weeks.

It's not an obsession.  These itches usually die within a week.  I don't need to scratch the itch to survive.  But sometimes I really, really want to.  I want to learn more, I want to learn about something as fast as possible, to consume knowledge and remember it.  That assimilation of information is so empowering to me.  I like the itches.  I like that moment, hunkered down, fully engrossed in learning something new, watching something unfold.  It's like one more tiny bit of the world becomes mine.

I have no way of knowing what the next itch will be or when it will happen, but I am glad when they happen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Movies Movies Everywhere

The Man and I actually went out to see a movie last night, the first movie date we've had since just after we got married two years ago.  We saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie and enjoyed it very much.  Good plot, excellent acting, great stunts.  We get disappointed when films don't get gun fights accurate, so that was a bit of a downer (unlimited bullets, perfectly aimed long range weapons, and using weapons that didn't exist at the time).  On the whole, though, it was a great experience.  The theater was packed for opening night, and we got lucky to be in a good-humored crowd.

During the previews, they showed a trailer for Red Tails, a biopic of the Tuskeegee Airmen.  I learned about these heroes a long, long time ago from my dad, and I've thought for years a good tribute ought to be paid to them.  Finally one has been cast, so I'm hoping it is appropriate.  The airmen changed the war, provided the best air support during the war, and were barely recognized for it, so I'm very thankful the movie is coming out.  It's about damn time.

I think we'll be going out to the movies more often.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Forsyte Saga

I mentioned yesterday that I find Damian Lewis rather attractive.  What I was unable to clearly define was how much I absolutely love his acting.  He was fantastic in Band of Brothers, and The Man and I were in awe of him in Life (curse you, NBC, for dropping the ball on that one).  I've been enjoying his new character in Homeland.  We have seen a few of his other parts as well, and liked them too.  I had the opportunity to see him in The Forsyte Saga this weekend on Netflix.

I should add that I'm not usually one to watch these Victorian love story type films.  I much prefer more popcorny blockbusters, not necessarily violent films, but at least some action scenes or a foot chase or something more exciting than watching hedges grow or seeing women spurned for daring to ride a horse astride (or whatever it is they do in Pride and Prejudice--I have so far been able to miss it).

But, knowing Damian Lewis as a fantastic actor, I set out with my trusty Netflix queue and watched all six hour-long first-season episodes this weekend.  The second "season" of four episodes is only available by disc on Netflix (stupid, stupid, stupid), or can be found on YouTube (yay!).  You can figure out how I watched those.

You can read the Wiki about the series here.  I will just continue with my review.

How difficult that role would be to play!  Soames Forsyte must be cruel and heartless for much of the series, yet someone the audience sympathizes with in the end.  He is a good man with good intentions, but he goes about things so incredibly wrong.  It was hard to watch him being mean.  It was hard to see him trying to be nice.  He just isn't a likeable fellow through the whole thing.  The acting was superb.  Lewis walked that fine line perfectly, breaking from Victorian stiffness at just the right moments.  I've seen other reviews that call his portrayal of Soames as flat or dull, but I don't think overacting would have been better.  Lewis was right to act as he did to bring out Soames' true colors, be they for good or evil.

I have now been introduced to Rupert Graves also.  Can I just say wow?  Well done on that end too.

If you like Victorian films or epic miniseries (or crazy love triangles told through overly stiff characters), you'll love The Forsyte Saga.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

He's Always the Answer

No, I'm not speaking of God today.  Though God may be the answer for some people in every situation, my story isn't about God.  It's about a man named Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.  In many ways, he's been the answer in my life.

The story begins in high school.  Tenth grade to be exact.  I managed to get into Advanced American History or Advanced U.S. History or whatever you want to call it.  It was not an AP course, not in tenth grade, but it was more challenging than the regular tenth grade history.  However similar or dissimilar they may have been I don't know.  It's not like history changes much.  Anyway, my teacher, Mr. S, taught what he believed to be the most important part of our country's history, the Civil War.  We spent seven months learning the Civil War, one month about WWII, and one month on the rest of our country's history.  Please don't ask me to tell you what the Dust Bowl was or where Fort William Henry was or the route of Lewis and Clark, as I never really got into those points.  They failed to be as important to my teacher as the great Civil War.

Though I may be lacking all common knowledge of our history, when it comes to the Civil War, I dance circles around most college professors.  Who was George Meade you ask?  Allow me to write a dissertation.  What happened at Antietam?  I shall give you volumes.  Mr. S made us draw battle maps from memory, had us able to recognize dozens of officers, both Union and Confederate, by picture or by name.  We learned about war technology (from Gatling guns to advances in battlefield medicine).  We sat, absolutely riveted, through movies and slides about the war.  And he tested us regularly.  Every test had only one requirement: if you didn't know the answer to a question, write "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain."  He would give partial credit for that answer even if it was totally wrong.

You see, Mr. S was a bit obsessed with Chamberlain.  He made that known from the start.  He thought JLC was a hero, someone that should be admired unconditionally, and he helped us to learn why.  At the very end of our Civil War studies, he made us watch Gettysburg, a monstrosity of a film, with Jeff Daniels playing the role of Chamberlain.  Even as a sixteen-year-old girl, Chamberlain's monologue as he rallies his troops before battle made me want to defend the line.  I now own that movie.  I love that scene.  And Chamberlain is a hero.

Several times since high school, I've encountered trivia questions or little moments where I need to whip out my Civil War knowledge.  "Who defended Little Round Top?" or "What unit..." Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine, is the answer.  "Which school teacher led..." and "Which Civil War officer went on to become a professor at..."  Pick me, pick me, I've got this one.

And today, as I watched the eleventh episode of one of my new favorite TV shows (Showtime's Homeland), the main character (played by the very yummy Damian Lewis) took his family to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He was teaching his children what had happened there, and he pointed out almost nothing but the story of JLC and his defense of Little Round Top, his troops and their courageous bayonet charge down the hill.  The way Lewis's voice told the story took me back over ten years to those moments in Mr. S's classroom.  It was stunning to have all of the pictures and battle maps flood my mind.

For the record, I've never really needed to know where Fort William Henry is.  It doesn't come up in conversation much.  The Dust Bowl also doesn't get much air time anymore.  But Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain?  He was the answer again today.  And I'm really, really glad I knew that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Came Early

Some people define Christmas as a single day of the year, December 25th.  Some people think of Christmas as the day they open presents or eat a traditional meal.  Some people celebrate Christmas the day before or the day after the 25th.  Christmas, for me, happens when my mom's family all gets together a weekend or two before the actual holiday.  This year's festivities happened on Saturday.

What is Christmas?  For me, it's people.  Christmas is a too-warm house with too much food eaten by lots and lots of people.  My mom and dad, mom's siblings and their spouses, all of my cousins, and even some of their kids (since we are all old enough for that now) gather at Grandma's.  Gifts are sometimes exchanged as we did this year in a white elephant pile.  My cousins and I used to draw names, but we stopped when we were all giving each other gift cards and the oldest few stopped participating.

Our food isn't traditional with a goose or ham, though sometimes we have ham.  It is usually a hodge-podge of family recipes, some new food adventures, and the requisite mound of sugar cookies.  I made some baked taquitos this year which all disappeared quickly.  I'll have to get on another batch of homemade tortillas soon since I have none left in my freezer now.

I feel like Christmas has already happened.  What I need for my holiday to be complete is done.  I'm thankful for that.  Of course I'd still like to spend more time with all of these people, but perhaps more individually than in such chaos as the dining room.  And I'm thankful I have more Christmas to go.

Four more Christmases to go.  My little family, The Man's little family, The Man's big family, and a very small one with just the two of us.  I am skipping the work one.  I have to draw the line somewhere...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

10 Quick Cricut Lessons

I've had my Cricut for a few days now and the opportunity to sit down and make a full project.  I've learned a lot in a very short time that I'm not sure I've seen explained elsewhere.

1) New mats are sticky.  If you put a sheet of construction-type paper on a new mat, be prepared that you will never get the whole sheet of paper back off the mat.

2) Don't use construction paper with a Cricut.  Not worth the hassle.  Cardstock weight is much, much easier to work with, lifts off better, and doesn't leave as much paper fuzz behind.

3) If your item is less than a full sheet of paper, cut out a piece of paper a little larger than what you expect to use.  Sticking down a whole sheet of paper just to cut out a half-inch circle is crazy.

4) The little lift-off tool that can be purchased separately from the machine isn't really worth it if you have an x-acto knife or two.

5) Picking up tiny little pieces is a pain in the butt, especially if they're stuck to the mat.

6) Measure your project first and decide how big to make your pieces, then cut them out.  I had three different "Berry Sweets" (Simply Charmed cartridge) before I realized none of them would fit in a card envelope.

7) Pop-up dots are amazing!

8) Black paper is awesome for shadows of darker papers, but using grey or other neutral colors as the shadow looks really good for white backgrounds.  Don't always stick to black shadows.

9) Take the time to clean up edges where any tape-adhesive hangs over an opening as it will be shiny and obvious on the front of the card or in a scrapbook page.

10) Hours can pass quickly if you get lost with a new cartridge.  I swear I had just finished eat dinner and it was already time for bed.  Not cool, but I did learn a lot.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Un-Cricut Weekend

Was that a weekend that just few by?  I must have missed it with all I did this weekend.

Friday was a treat as my Cricut arrived.  I purchased a Cricut Expression cutting machine on Amazon on Cyber Monday for half-off.  It came with two cartridges, plus I ordered one on Amazon and bought one at a craft store later.  I also got some paper this weekend, so I'm set to cut, cut, cut!

Saturday was filled with shopping, errands, and my parents came over, so we were busy the entire day.  The Man wiped and reinstalled their old computer's software, so they took us to dinner as a thank-you.  The last updates finished around 11:00pm.  We pretty much went straight to bed.

Sunday was painful.  Sometime, probably Friday night, I must have pinched a nerve in my shoulder or slept on it wrong or something, but it was almost unbearable by Sunday morning.  I took an Aleve before we left for church, and then, after grocery shopping and snuggling in for a movie with The Man, I tried to nap the pain away.  By the afternoon, things were much better.  I could lift my arm enough to shower and fold some clothes.

Between my full day Saturday and a lazy day on the couch Sunday, I haven't hardly had time to play with the Cricut.  That's my plan for tonight.  So excited!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Cyber Monday Exploits

We had been researching TVs for months and narrowed down the field to three or four TVs that we really wanted.  Obviously we don't need a TV, so this was truly a want.  Our living room TV was fine, though small and not full-HD, but the bedroom TV was one of those old boxy, heavy, ugly, outdated things that just didn't cooperate all the time anymore.  We decided to get a new one for the living room and put the old (lighter, thinner, prettier) TV in the bedroom.

Must-haves included 1080p HD capability, at least two HDMI ports, a computer-to-TV connection, and the ability to have more than one game console attached at a time.  We have both an X-Box 360 and a Wii, and swapping connections was not high on our list of fun things to do every evening.

After checking out every store in our rinkydink town on Black Friday, we started looking online.  Online shopping poses a small challenge for us since whatever we order online has to be delivered to us.  We can have things delivered at our apartment complex office, but they are only open until 5:00pm, so retrieving our purchases always has to wait until the weekend (booooo).  Or we can have purchases shipped to work, and that has always worked well for me, but having a brand-new TV shipped to work poses a how-the-heck-do-I-move-this-thing-to-my-car problem.  Yuck.

Newegg, Dell, and Best Buy were all very competitive on prices, but we ended up going with Best Buy so that we could pick the TV up at a store at our convenience.  I paid for the TV online, and we drove down Monday night to pick it up.  Except for the fact that the lady waiting on pick-up customers was scary, the guy manning the counter by the front door needed to lay off the java pronto, and that we lost two hours driving down and back, it was a very nice trip.

We saved about $200 thanks to sales.  Not bad!

...And then I promptly sank that $200 into a Cricut.  I'm doomed, but in a very happy kind of way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No More Turkey

Thanksgiving was awesome.  I spent time with family every day over the four-day weekend, acquired the bulk of my next project, spent lots of time in the kitchen, and shopped just the right amount.

But if I have to look at another turkey between now and next November, it will be too much to handle.

Wednesday night saw Mom meeting me at an undisclosed location to transfer The Turkey.  I used caps there to indicate this bird as the "official" bird used for the Thanksgiving dinner.  You know, as opposed to any ol' turkey I might be cooking in late November.  Dad got a turkey from his employer, and Mom had the fridge space to thaw it out, so she did that.  In the doling out of cooking duties, I got the bird, so she had to meet me somewhere to give it to me.  I also requested her roasting pan (which was a ton easier than last year's turkey-on-a-cookie-sheet debacle).  The turkey sat in my fridge overnight, jammed between the SodaStream bottles, milk, and leftover pizza.

On Thursday, I got up early and stuck The Turkey into a turkey bag, squeezed it into the roasting pan, and cooked it.  I cooked it and cooked it.  Nineteen pounds of bird took three hours in my little oven.  I watched TV and lazed while it baked.  At 12:00pm, I slid the hot, juicy turkey out of the pan and onto a cutting board--after letting it rest a few minutes, you know, like they do on those food shows.  I washed the roasting pan before setting both legs, both wings, the neck (for Grandma--she likes it), and the majority of both breasts back into the pan for transport back to Mom's kitchen.  I had to work very, very fast to keep the meat as hot as possible during the half-hour drive.  All of the drippings went into mason jars with lids to keep them hot and liquidy during the trip so that we would have fresh gravy.  It was quite an ordeal.

And just for the record, aside from the fact that my mother measured out the butter and flour to make the rue and poured the drippings into the pan (tasks of which I'm absolutely capable), I made the gravy.  Technically I just stirred since Mom did the whole 'applying to pan' bit.  But it was really the stirring that made the difference.   And it was awesome.  The Turkey was fantastic, perfectly cooked, juicy and hot still an hour later.  The entire dinner was amazing.

Black Friday anyone?  The Man and I got up around 7:00am to get to Fred Meyer for socks.  We also got new sheets at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Their Palais Royale flannel sheets are perfect.  That was pretty much the extent of our shopping.  We were home by 9:00am and were rather lazy until the afternoon.  Mom and Dad went with me to the Philomath quilt store where we picked out lots and lots of fabric so I can make them a king-sized quilt.  No details yet, just big.  It's going to be massive.  If I've counted correctly, we're looking down the pipe at over 3,000 pieces.  Ouch.

Saturday included a trip to The Man's parents' house where we played games, went to Mass, and then out to dinner.  It was a nice, quiet day sitting by their fireplace.

Sunday saw the other half of my turkey saga.  My sister's husband received a turkey from his employer, and my sister isn't so hot on handling poultry (any meat?).  I offered to help her wrangle it from her fridge to the oven, and she offered me the bulk of the meat in exchange.  Whoo, free turkey!  The twenty-two-pounder put up quite a fight, but we got it stuffed into the roasting pan and into the oven pretty early Sunday morning. We crafted, talked, and cut fabric while the turkey (lowercase) baked.  Three-and-a-half hours later, we judged it to be done.  It was a beast to cut up, portion into freezer bags, and dispose of, but we made it.  I'm so done with turkey this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Orange Lone Star Quilt

It is finally done!  I received the pattern for this quilt not quite a year ago from my aunt.  She has been a quilter forever, and she was kind enough to send me the pattern along with a couple books from her personal quilting library.  I determined the quilt would be my next project after I finished hand-quilting my last quilt at the end of May.  Here we are, six months later, and I can say it's finished. 
The pattern is sometimes called a Lone Star Quilt, other times it is a Le Moyne Star Quilt.  I have seen them called sun bursts, star bursts, gradient stars, and other names.  My orange and black (Go Beavs!) pattern was machine pieced and machine quilted.  I purchased the fabric at the Philomath quilt store.  The wonderful ladies there were incredibly helpful with the fabric selection when I told them what it was for (so if you ever visit, don't be afraid to ask for help--unlike the big box fabric stores, these people are good).
I learned a few lessons as I was piecing this beast.  First, cut your pieces correctly.  I had all eight points pieced into blocks when I realized I'd have to tear everything apart due to incorrect cutting on my part.  Don't get me wrong, the pieces were cut perfectly.  They were just a half-inch larger in one direction than they were supposed to be, and I'm not exactly sure where that happened or how I missed it, but kicking myself and cursing myself didn't help anything, so I sat there with a seam ripper for two nights destroying my own work.  Repiecing was painful, but I made sure things were exactly correct the second time.

Lesson number two: don't rush.  Bad things happen when I rush.

And lesson number 3?  Have faith in yourself and in your project to turn out better than you ever expected.  I hoped and prayed and wondered if my five incredibly daring color choices would turn out the way I wanted, not Halloween-y or harvest-y or ugly.  I hoped for an orange star, a beautiful orange star of brilliant color and movement and blending... and it worked.  It all worked. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Belated, but Perfect

Though my birthday was weeks ago, due to conflicting schedules I was unable to celebrate with family until this weekend.  My mom spoiled me rotten with her homemade swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and green beans, three things The Man and I never have together as he's mostly opposed to them.  After a very yummy dinner and homemade cinnamon rolls for dessert, Mom, Dad, my sister, brother-in-law, The Man, and I sat around a table and played games together until the little-number-hours.

I also finally finally finally finished my orange quilt last week.  Pictures coming soon.

With absolutely nothing on my plate yesterday, I was able to sit and do nothing.  My brain was able to zone out, my sense of self was restored, I relaxed.  I relaxed through ten episodes of Private Practice.  I love Netflix.  This weekend was perfect.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wings

Via Netflix, I successfully watched every episode of Wings.  All approximately 150 episodes.  If there was a better early '90s sitcom, I have yet to see it.  Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Barnard, and Tony Shalhoub were the larger part of a fantastic cast.  I was so sad to see the show come to a close, but the ending couldn't have been better.

What do I do with my evenings?  I watch old TV shows on Netflix.  And, at least when it comes to Wings, I'm pretty okay with that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not In My House

Dear World,
Please stop with the glitter.  No, I don't want to encrust my shoes with glitter.  No, I don't need glitter wallpaper.  I definitely do not need to glitter up my KitchenAid stand mixer, tiles in the shower, or parts of my car.  I'm not even a huge fan of glitter in my make-up.  Glitter is bad.  Glitter is the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving no matter how hard you try to get rid of it.
Sincerely,
Glitter is the herpes of the craft world.

P.S. To the woman I met at a Stampin' Up (greeting card making) party last weekend that stated, "I want to put glitter in my hair!" No.  No you don't.  Step away from the shaker bottle, ma'am. Just... step away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Be Not Afraid

The Man and I encountered something new, something completely unexpected, yet understandable.  We have noticed this in the past, but we never actually discussed it.  Recently, we went over to our friends' house for dinner, and before we ate, our host said a prayer of thanks.  No big deal, right?  Except we all had an air-clearing moment where our non-Catholic friends agreed that it's somewhat awkward to pray before meals in front of Catholics.  I think I've sensed some apprehension about mealtime prayers when The Man and I are with my family as well.  Apparently we are an intimidating bunch.

Having spent the majority of my life on the other side of the Tiber, I understand this more than our friends can know.  Catholics pray very differently than Protestants.  First there's that whole Sign of the Cross deal, then there's the memorized prayer recitation--but sometimes it's made up and you don't know it wasn't simply recited, and then another Sign of the Cross.  Three Amens after all is said and done.  It's confusing, elaborate, and intimidating.  To a Protestant, it can seem like Catholics know the right way to pray and that Protestants are just making things up.

But, having become a Catholic, I can tell you for sure that those made-up-on-the-spot prayers are totally fine. Yes, [some] Catholics have lots of memorized prayers to pull from our hearts on any given occasion.  We have a mealtime prayer, a bedtime prayer, a prayer for hope, a prayer for help, prayers for everything including the sun.  Having these tools doesn't make them better or more right, it just means that we think someone else said it better first.

I guess the same could be said as a Catholic.  Sometimes I worry that if The Man and I recite our very common Catholic mealtime prayer complete with the Sign of the Cross at either end that we'll seem over-ritualized or lacking emotion.  I wonder if our non-Catholic guests are scared of, in awe of, or even mind when we cross ourselves.  I know I used to be weirded out by those rituals.

I think there are two important lessons to take away from this:
1) Praying in front of anyone from a different faith or tradition is scary!
2) It's okay to talk about these differences and reassure people that neither side is going to take arms about a simple mealtime prayer.  Despite the multitude of differences between Catholics and Protestants, food isn't one of them.  If nothing else, give thanks for that.

If you pray before meals (even once in a while with the "big" family), what do you say?  Are you scared/intimidated/worried about praying in front of other people?  Do you all join hands or clasp your own in front of you?  Do you have a favorite mealtime prayer?  Do you get annoyed when someone doesn't do it "your" way?  What do you think about all of this?

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Watched, We Laughed, We Learned

The Man and I have been very fortunate this week to have watched some fantastic stories.  On Wednesday night, we were in need of some comedy.  We enjoy comedians, but I think we're both pretty picky as to what we consider "good" comedy.  I don't like a ton of swearing, crass jokes, or potty humor, but there's a time and a place for a good fart joke.  The Man isn't big on dry humor or English comedy.  We lucked out when we chose to watch Adam Ferrara's comedy on Netflix.  It was hilarious.  I had tears running down my face, neck, and hands as I desperately tried to catch my breath from laughing so hard.  We were both in a great mood afterward, and my tummy muscles felt the workout a little the next day.

Tonight was a very different show.  We got In the Shadow of the Moon on disc from Netflix.  The documentary follows the Apollo space missions as they set out to put Man on the moon.  The Man and I, both born well after these lunar landing missions, have only been able to experience the overwhelming unity the world felt as these courageous men attempted to walk on a different space rock.  Yes, Americans were the first to get there, but I think the whole world was American in that moment.  There was hope.  There was so much of it.  The Man and I both agreed that never in human history have all humans been so united in one mission, one hope, and that we likely never will again do so.  The thought is both powerful and disappointing.

Two very unique experiences in one week.  We are thankful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Trip to Boise, A Trip Through No Where

For those of us living on the west side of Oregon, the land east of Bend is often considered a wasteland, a deserted, sagebrush encrusted, cattle riddled expanse of nothing.  Valley people tend to stick to the valley.  It's just safer that way.  Last weekend, The Man and I set forth from the densely wooded, blindingly green surroundings of home and drove through our fair state all the way out the other side and into Idaho.  Next time?  We're flying.
Hwy 20, Santiam Pass
The Man's oldest childhood friend and his wife recently moved to Boise, Idaho, from Oregon.  We had not seen them in four or five months, so we set out on this trip to spend some time with them, see their new life, and enjoy far too much good food with them.  We left the valley early on Friday and made it to the Santiam Pass around 10:00am.  We saw our first snow in the trees and on the ground a little bit past Cascadia, but thankfully we never encountered snow or ice on the road our whole trip.  Except when we were in Sisters and Bend, we could see at least some snow or a couple inches of snow almost all the way to Ontario.  The Man drove the first leg to Sisters, and then I drove to Burns where we traded back.  Our road food consisted of sugar cookies, some cheese slices, a tube of crackers, Halloween candy, and all the pop, juice, and water our bellies could hold.  We took about nine hours to get to Boise including the hour lost for the time difference.
View from Table Rock, Boise
In Boise, we were able to experience lots of new and exciting places.  Our friends took us to the top of Table Rock where we took lots of pictures and enjoyed the snow dusting.  We visited where The Man's friend works and toured the huge facility.  We also toured the Idaho State Capitol building which was fantastic.  Our friends commissioned a special cake for my birthday complete with a sea monster fondant sculpture that was very, very special.  We played games, shopped, went out to a movie, ate lots and lots of yummy food, and slept well each night.  That's what great trips are made of, right?
My "sea monster" cake
Our drive home on Sunday was no less exciting.  We broke back into snow just after we crossed back into Oregon and didn't leave it until we dropped into La Grande.  Cabbage Hill proved to be as annoying as ever, thankfully The Man drove through that nightmare.  We stopped for a couple hours at the Oregon Trail Museum in Baker City, a place we've both seen before but as children.  We were the first visitors of the day, a very slow day from what we could tell, and had the museum almost entirely to ourselves.  SO nice to visit a place like that and not have to worry about getting in someone's way or moving slowly or wincing over screaming babies.  Also?  The view from them museum over the valley there was spectacular.  Yay for the Oregon Trail!  I took over driving once we got into Hermiston, and we pushed through to Troutdale without so much as a pee stop.  The Man drove the last leg from Troutdale to home since I am not a huge fan of city traffic.  The drive took about eight hours if I don't count the stop in Baker City and the time difference coming back.
Idaho State Capitol
We loved visiting our friends, and we are glad to be home.  That was too much time in the car for this couple, though, and next time we will definitely not be driving through what I still consider the barren wasteland that is Eastern Oregon.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Blog Year Retrospective #6

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Six years and counting.  I'll be the first to admit that my posts aren't as frequent as they used to be.  In my own defense, however, I've progressed from single lady on the town to married, very busy, and not at my computer as often in the evenings.

Just one year ago I finished my first queen-sized quilt.  Yeah.  I've officially been a "quilter" now for a little over a year.  Still loving it!

In December I bought Plant Deux.  Though I thought he was a goner just after Christmas, Planty is still kicking. I don't expect any blooms this year, but we'll see.  He is green and shiny and looks pretty good for having been watered, oh, about six times in the last year.  Whoever said a Christmas Cactus is for non-green-thumbs was absolutely correct.

January was very exciting.  The Man and I both received new job offers within a day of each other.  I transitioned into a new office that month, and he moved from a part-time job to his first full-time position (which he hated within days).  Thankfully, he was able to find another position in August that seems to fit him much, much better.  We are both thrilled with his new job.  I also went gluten-free around the first of the year in the hopes of figuring out why my guts were in rebellion constantly.  Only this past summer did I reintroduce gluten with some success.  I'm thinking getting out of a bad situation at work and ending some stresses in my life also contributed to feeling better.

With new jobs came new money.  The Man and I are so very thankful to finally be living on two full-time incomes.  We were able to upgrade our old college furniture to new couches, buy a much-wanted digital piano, get a new sewing machine, acquire phones that actually do things other than make calls, and upgrade two computers this year.  We also stuck a chunk or two away into savings toward an eventual downpayment on a house.

We did some exciting things, too!  I finished my first hand-quilted quilt in April, joined Twitter, and got stuck with a newly crowned tooth this summer.  I tackled my first real home repair job when I recaulked the bathroom--rather than fighting with our apartment maintenance again.  We bought a SodaStream and love it!  The Man had an exciting birthday outing in Portland.  We took a few days of work/pleasure in Seattle.  We took a few classes about how to buy a house.  I took some cooking classes.  And we celebrated our second anniversary as a married couple.  Oh, and this last weekend we traveled to Boise, Idaho, by car, over and back in under three days.

We also didn't do some things this year.  I missed out on making homemade strawberry jam and canning applesauce.  We didn't get to see friends as often as we'd like since many of them have moved away.  We didn't kill the upstairs neighbors and their annoying stompy children (good thing they moved out before our plan could be hatched). I didn't get as much quilting done as I would have liked.  We didn't get as many books read together as we should have.  I didn't take my camera out half as often as I ought to've.  I'm not sure if we went dancing even once this year.  Just put those things on the list for next year...

But we discovered new places, made or renewed a few friendships, learned to do a few new things, practiced compromising, and loved and were loved a whole lot.  Not really sure we can ask for much more. Here's to another year on the blog, another 365 days of life recorded for all to see.  Happy 6th Blogiversary.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Twenty-Eight

Yesterday I had only been on this blue-green space marble a mere twenty-seven years, but today I rounded it out to twenty-eight years, you know, just for the fun of it.  No birthday cake in sight, although I did make a double-batch of Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownies last night (in addition to the leftover cookies from last weekend and a slug of Halloween candy).  Somehow I will manage... oh, oh the misery. ;)


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sheets Snob

I'll admit it, I am a total snob when it comes to sheets.  My mother taught me well.  Never buy less than 300-thread-count sheets.  Never buy less than 5oz flannel.  Never buy sateen.  These are easy rules to live by, easy to follow, easy to understand.

But finding 300tc or 5oz or non-sateen sheets isn't always easy on my budget!

The Man and I got very lucky and found some 600tc sheets at Ross that actually fit our bed over the summer.  They were off-white, which I don't really like, but they were good sheets.  Now that it's cooler at night, we want our flannel.  I should say, we want our flannel.  We love flannel sheets.  Love.

But the $120 set from The Company Store?  Fuggedaboutit.  L.L. Bean has some nice ones for about $90.  Eddie Bauer's prices are ridiculous lately, so I didn't even bother with them.  Target, Kohl's, Fred Meyer, and other stores don't sell sheets by weight, and you never, never, never buy flannel sheets without an ounce-weight.

So when we were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond this weekend looking at sheets, I was absolutely floored to see 6oz flannel sheets for $70.  That's... like... unheard of!  Both a weight and a low price!  We quickly picked out a nice green color, paid for them, took them home, washed them, threw them on the bed, and waited impatiently until bedtime.

Let me just say this: two nights in, and I have yet to wake up in the middle of the night either cold, too hot, or uncomfortable.  They are perfect.  They are snuggly warm perfection.

Love.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Lappy486

I finally did it.  I bought a laptop.  After ten years with two desktops, I opted for a laptop.  That's not bad, I figure, at five years per system.  I made a Vista (nightmare) machine go four years and counting, and that was two too many.

The Man has had laptops as long as I've known him, and he upgraded last year to a fantastic gaming laptop that made me a little... well, okay, I was totally jealous.  Always tied to my desk, always having to sit in one place to do things, always fighting the same stupid problems...

I wavered for months about which laptop I'd get, which operating system I wanted, and how much I was willing to pay.  Is it better to spend a lot and get a great laptop that will be awesome three years from now, or should I get the cheapest laptop I can find and continuously upgrade?  Wavering.

The Man is a bargain hunter (it runs in his family, and we're not talking just a little bit), so he was on the lookout for great laptops at great prices.  My mom also did a ton of research before she purchased her new computer last month.  And, naturally, I talked to my geek friends about which computers are best right now.  It was not a short process of elimination.

My biggest hurdle was getting a laptop with nothing on it.  I wanted it to arrive on my doorstep completely unusable, void of any software, no operating system, nothing.  I wanted a very expensive brick.  The reason?  So that nobody else could install all the junk computers typically have pre-installed.  The only programs I want on my computer are the programs I put on there.  It's my lappy, I'll do what I want with it!

Thankfully the very awesome people at Powernotebooks.com are willing to sell systems without software.  YAY!  They even shipped the lappy to my workplace so that I wouldn't have to wait until the weekend to pick it up from our stupid apartment complex that doesn't stay open past 5pm.  Double yay!

I got the Sager NP5160 with a few customizations.  I had to get the matte screen, a better processor, and more hard drive space.  It's a sweet configuration, so incredible that my super computer-savvy brother-in-law bought the same laptop.  Well, he bought his own.  And he may have some different upgrades.  But he's in the computer field by both education and trade, so his opinion is pretty important to me when it comes to computers.

Oh, and no more Vista.  I purchased Windows 7 and installed it myself.  My headache machine is gone!  Until you've had to deal with Vista, you will never know what horrors I've suffered.  I won't exactly be mourning any losses.  Happy dance!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Burning the Pavement North and South

Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  It seems like I never have time to post on those days anymore.  This weekend was no exception.  We were busy.  Next weekend?  Same story.  Weekend after that?  Oh please let it be boring!

I can't complain.  Friday was busy since The Man's parents came down and went out to dinner with us.  Then, later, at home, I was busy playing with computers and watching old Wings episodes on Netflix (Tim Daly = awesome!).

Saturday was slightly more relaxed.  We got up and ran some errands.  We gassed up one car, took a load to Goodwill, purchased more SodaStream flavors, and had lunch with my parents.  In the afternoon, I made five dozen sugar cookies and frosted them.  Then I made dinner.  Between computers and another movie that I didn't start until 10:00pm, I was up very, very late.

Sunday morning arrived entirely too early.  The Man and I dragged ourselves (each other?) from a warm bed only to drive two hours to the outskirts of Banks, Oregon, for a family Halloween party.  We carved pumpkins and gourds, had too much awesome food, rolled pumpkins down a hill (that's way more fun than it sounds!), and spent a great afternoon with his extended family.  Thankfully we only got rained on when we were driving.  Also, yay for dinner at Sweet Tomatoes on our way home (blueberry muffins, how I love thee!).

We didn't get home on Sunday until after 8:00pm, so that was pretty much when we both fell over exhausted.

It was a good weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Locked and Loaded

Sorry I didn't post earlier, but for safety reasons, I had to wait until The Man returned to tell you all about what happens when I'm left to my own devices.  Last week, The Man's employer asked if he could go to Seattle again for a few days.  I was able to go with him last time, just last month, but there was some doubt about how long he'd be up there this time, and I didn't want to be bored in a hotel room alone for three days.  No matter how much I insisted he could handle this work via video conferencing, he said he was going.

Thus began the first three nights I've slept alone since we got married two years ago.

And I really don't like being home alone at night.

Remember, our apartment door has two locks, one of which doesn't work, and the other only works after much difficulty.  We've given up trying to get it fixed as the dumb maintenance men clearly don't know what they're doing.  Our windows all lock and are doubly secured with little plastic thingies that stick down into the window sill.  We have no attic or crawl spaces above us.

As he left Sunday, I mentally walked through securing each entry point.  I was ready to sprinkle shards of glass on the sills.  I calculated how much time and force it would take to move the couch in front of the door.  I located all of the knives, distributed them into each room just in case.  My cell phone was never less than 75% charged.  I had cash in my pockets, food in my bag, and pepper spray within reach.

I. was. ready.

Aim for the eyes, I told myself.  If it comes time to use a knife, stab and twist.  Run in zig-zag patterns.  Scream "FIRE!" not "help!" and set off as many car alarms as possible.

I don't think I slept two winks on Sunday night, my first night alone.  I was so keyed up, so wired, almost shaking, but very exhausted.  Monday night was easier, partly because I was so tired.  Tuesday night dragged by one hour at a time.  I was counting the hours until The Man's return, until I could relax, until I'd have someone else to kill the creepy crawlies and bad guys and things that go bump in the night.

This, my dear readers, is what happens when I watch too many "Unsolved Mysteries" episodes, the news each  night, and "Home Alone" for the eighty-sixth time.  The Man claimed, upon return, that I was "overreacting."

But you know what?  Thanks to careful planning, constant surveillance, and being prepared,  I survived.

And no, there is no way that my survival was merely due to nobody breaking in.  It couldn't possibly be something so obvious, so boring, so... rational.  I mean, really, this whole "rational" thing is so overrated.  I could have died here, people!

(On The Man's first night back home with me, he managed to very firmly jab me in the eye while we were sleeping.  My biggest injury from this whole ordeal was from my husband.  Karma?  Anyone?  Anyone...?)

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Which My Little Sis Turns 25

I have to admit, for once, I'm glad the weekend is over.  The Man and I spent far too much time in a car for our liking, twice more for him than me.  On Saturday, we drove up to the Widmer brewery for my sister's birthday.  We took a tour, got to taste some beer, and then had lunch at their restaurant.  The drive wasn't so bad going up except for that one spot where some new driver tried to push us off the I-5-over-the-Willamette-River bridge in Portland.  If looks and thoughts could kill, that driver would have been instantly vaporized.  I have enough trouble going over normal bridges: I don't need psychos trying to send me to the watery depths on the big, scary bridges!

It felt kind of weird going on a brewery tour since I'm a non-drinker.  Thankfully Dad was with me and could be a non-beer-drinker with me.  I always find it awkward being the only tee-totaler in a group, so it was nice to have someone else "on my side."  For the record, I'm a non-drinker because I simply don't enjoy the taste of alcohol.  It's not a principle thing or a health thing or an attitude, I just don't like it.  Like tomatoes or oranges or mustard.  Eew.  Plus The Man always has someone to drive him home when I don't drink.

Lunch at the Widmer Gasthaus was delicious!  I had a chicken pot pie that was amazing and some root beer to wash down the sausage sampler appetizer which meaty perfection.  Pretty sure I could live a long, happy life on German food.  Spaetzle and schnitzel and sausage are comfort food to me.

We also made a stop at Bob's Red Mill where we picked up some granola, a shortbread cookie mix, and a buttermilk biscuit mix.  I'm also excited to try the sweet rice that The Man found.  Each time we visit we pick out new foods we haven't had from there before.  My favorite is still the Gluten Free Pancake Mix, though I have to give them a hand for their Gluten Free Brownie Mix.  The brownies are to die for.  In the last six months, I've been able to add small amounts of wheat flour back into my diet without many problems, so we eat less specialty G-F food and more homemade or semi-prepared food from the store.  Wheat no longer turns my tummy into knots of pain, but it'll give me gas the likes of which a swamp hasn't seen, so it's just a matter of how much I want to deal with it the following day.  Happy thoughts!

We went back to my parents' house to have a small fiesta with family before cake and ice cream and presents for my sister.  Mom had a very special cake made for her with Hello Kitty on it.  The cake tasted incredible with probably some of the best frosting on earth (non-greasy buttercream is my fave!).  The Man and I had to pop out and get home at a decent hour so we could get up on Sunday and start a whole new adventure.

Well, mostly his adventure.  I got left to my own devices.  We'll see how that story turns out next time...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Get Me Outta Here

Sorry there isn't much new to report tonight.  I've been terribly busy taking some classes about how to buy a house, making dozens of tortillas, trying to keep our apartment clean, and doing that whole 'going to work' thing.  Quilting? Ha.  I've managed to pin about a dozen pieces of fabric together in two weeks.  Not one stitch, or at least not one stitch that I won't have to remove (again) later.

Seriously, my only free time has been spent watching a single episode of Man, Woman, Wild or Wings on Netflix before I go to sleep at night, usually far later than I should be going to sleep.  The darker mornings are making getting out of bed tough enough, and adding to it by staying up late reading or TV-ing isn't helping.  Though I am quite thankful the mornings are darker now.  Having that damn sun-ball right outside my window at o'-dark-thirty was thrilling for four months.

In case you missed it by the whole "our apartment manager sucks" theme in the last few weeks, the fact that we're taking classes about how to buy a house, or that I'm sick and tired of dinky kitchens, we're finally, finally, finally getting started on the path to home-ownership.

Now if only we could afford a house in this overpriced three-horse village.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yay for Cooking Classes

My mom and I got together a couple times this month to take some cooking classes from a local chef.  We learned how to make homemade flour tortillas and Spanish rice.  The tortillas are simple in that they take very few ingredients, but they're a laborious process.  I've made about six dozen tortillas in the last two weeks, and after much practice, I can do them in about two minutes each.  Since I always do at least three dozen, that's a solid hour of rolling, rolling, rolling stiff dough.  My arms and back ache afterward.  The result is totally worth it though!

I poach chicken breasts ten or twelve at a time, shred or chop them up, and freeze dinner-sized portions so I can just reach in and pull out chicken when I need it.  Thawing only takes a few minutes in the microwave, and then I season the chicken with whatever spices I want for each meal.

The Spanish rice doesn't take much longer than plain rice to cook, about 30 minutes total, so I generally cook rice whenever we're going to eat it, but I sometimes make a double batch and freeze half of the rice.

All of that prep means that I get to have fresh tacos, fajitas, and taquitos in less than twenty minutes tonight.  Ten for the oven to heat up, ten to bake the taquitos, and poof! dinner's on.

I could live on tacos and rice and be a very happy person.  Now I just have to convince The Man that the tortillas are good with things in them (and not just plain or with cheese).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Second Anniversary to The Man and Me

I've been looking back on two years of marriage a lot lately as today is our second anniversary.  Two whole years!  The traditional gift for a second anniversary is cotton.  Not really sure what to get that's made out of cotton that we don't have already.  Maybe we'll get some new sheets.  Yeah.

I could get all mushysmushy here.  I really could.  I'm pretty head-over-heels for The Man.  So to save some space and stumbles trying to put in all of the right words, allow me to finish with a yippee, two years, yay, I love you!

P.S.  Thank you for taking me out to dinner tonight!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TED: Trusting the Ensemble

Sometimes on my lunch hour at work, I sit in my office and watch TED talks. TED is a sort of recurring event in which people can present their innovative, intriguing, or inspiring ideas. Their tagline is "ideas worth spreading." Some talks are definitely more exciting or applicable than others, but all of the talks are worthwhile in some capacity. I've been interested in TED talks and learning more about the subjects for probably a good year now.

Today, I found this TED talk. It's by Charles Hazlewood, an orchestra conductor, and he discusses how trust plays a role in group environments. Having myself conducted before, I completely related to what he was saying. It was a fascinating talk, especially at the very end (which I won't spoil for you).

When you get 20 minutes to sit and watch this, take another five or six to really let it sink in. How can you apply this type of trust elsewhere in your life?

Monday, October 10, 2011

TV-holics Anonymous

Hi, my name is Jaggy, and I enjoy watching TV.  A lot.  Like, "too much" according to some people.  But I don't really think it would be fair to call me "addicted" as I don't need to watch TV in order to live.  I just enjoy the downtime, having my mind focused on something else for an hour or two each day.

The other part about my TV habits?  I craft.  I'm always busy when I'm watching TV.  Unless it is a currently-airing favorite show, I have either a quilt on my lap to sew or paper to fold or something that keeps my hands busy and my mind off the annoying commercials.  So it's not like I'm glued to the TV set.  It's entertainment while my fingers work.

This weekend, I mentally counted all of the TV shows I've watched over the years.  After running out of room on my internal list, I decided to write all of this down.  I know I'm forgetting some shows, but those listed are the shows I've definitely watched at length.  I didn't include any miniseries or this list would be even longer.  Also, this list doesn't include shows I've seen from time to time like Dual Survival or Oregon Field Guide or *gasp* Toddlers and Tiaras.  I'm certainly familiar with hundreds more shows, but the ones listed are the ones I made a point to watch.

You can look at the full list on my Pinterest page.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

I am NEVER Calling Apartment Maintenance Again

I can't make this stuff up, people.  In my wildest dreams, I had no idea people could be this stupid.

In June, as temperatures became warmer in Oregon with that whole "summer" thing approaching, The Man and I elected to fork out $50 to have our apartment complex maintenance crew install our air conditioner.  $50 well-spent I figured, what for the coolness of our apartment and the cooler heads that follow from not having to monkey around with installation.

Our last apartment complex (last summer) managed to get the same unit installed on a second-floor window with three screws, an L-bracket, and some weatherstripping.  It wasn't necessarily a pretty job, but it was incredibly secure and absolutely watertight.

Packing tape, not actually stuck to anything.
Our current complex?

*shakes head in dismay, long loud sigh*

From somewhere they acquired a plank of siding and cut it to fit the exact same size as the base of our air conditioner.  They opened our window, removed the screen, set the siding on the windowsill and sort of cantilevered it with a flimsy bracket that was more-or-less attached to the siding slab.  They set a badly-cut piece of the worst looking plexiglass above the air conditioner so that it was on the inside of the window frame. The window was "secured" into position with a thumb screw.  The plexiglass and air conditioner were then secured to the window with packing tape.

Why didn't I tell the world about this installation job last June?  Because anyone could have stood outside our apartment and realized that if they pushed on the plexiglass they'd have full access to our entire apartment.  We're not even talking a hard push.  Just enough to break the packing tape seal.  The air conditioner was only attached to the plug in the wall, not one other thing.  It could have simply been picked up and moved out of the way for robbers to slide in through the window.  Yeah.  You wanna know how safe I felt at night knowing all of this?

Fast-forward to October.  We're through the warm part of the year and have a couple-hour window between rain showers.  Yay for it being fall in Oregon!  Yay for the rain!  Nay to paying our apartment complex $50 to remove the air conditioner.  I'll just do it myself.
Thumb screw decoration, not
actually screwed into anything.

The thumb screw holding the window in position?  Pure decoration.  It wasn't actually attached to anything.  It was just sitting there on top of the window sill.  The packing tape?  Only attached to the window.  There was no seal between the plexiglass and the top or wall side of the window as the tape never adhered to the caulking or paint.  Which is good, I guess, since I didn't have to remove any goo from the caulk or paint, but horrible in the sense that all sorts of bugs and critters could have just crawled right in.

After unplugging the air conditioner and noting that it was not attached to anything, I asked The Man to lift the unit off the crappy siding slab.  He did so, and I backed out a couple screws and picked up the ultra-flimsy piece of waterlogged siding.  I spent a good few hours cleaning the windows inside and out, installing the screen again, and then another couple hours scrubbing the crud off our air conditioner before we put it away for the winter.

BUT WAIT!  IT GETS BETTER!

When they put the air conditioner in, the maintenance guy cut our window blinds.  Rather than moving the vertical slats to the side and calling it good, he cut the blinds to fit around the air conditioner.  Fine, we thought, he grabbed other slats and kept our original long ones in storage with our names on them.

Wroggedywrongo!

I called last week to see if they had our slats available for us to pick up since I took out our air conditioner.  Yes, you heard me, I took it out all by myself without assistance from a big, strong man-type person.  Yes, I denied the complex my $50 by doing so.  No, I don't need someone to put the screen back in, that's already done.  Can I just get our slats back please?  Oh, you want the maintenance man to install them for me?  Hell no.

So The Man and I went down to the main office on Saturday to pick up our slats.  Which they didn't have.  But they could send a maintenance man to install them.  We told them to have him place them inside our door, remember, the door that doesn't lock correctly because they've tried to fix it three effin' times!?


Window blind slats, delivered by monkeys?
We arrived home late last night to find the seven slats buried between our couch and our bench seat.  Sort of an odd place to put them considering "next to the door" or "on the bench" or "on the dining table" or "out in the middle of the floor" all seemed like much more logical places to put them to me.  But whatever, he squirreled them away inside our apartment.  Fine.  Thanks.  I grabbed them and went to put them up when I noticed the mud and crud smeared all over them!  Every slat was disgusting.  There was mud on both sides of each slat, some dried, some sticky.  Of course I grabbed my camera, snapped a dozen photos, and cleaned the slats off before I hung them.

That was about when the light caught the difference in color between our new slats and the old ones, so I knew right away that these new slats clearly aren't ours.  It's so obvious that it is comical to look at them from the kitchen.

I'm glad our security situation has improved.  For that I'll sleep a bit better at night.  But the odds of me ever calling for maintenance help again are still greater than the odds of them doing a job correctly the first time.

Friday, October 07, 2011

All The Bad Stuff All At Once

Sometimes I don't like blogging.  Sometimes I want to say things here that I know I shouldn't.  I want to swear.  I want to rant about how incredibly frustrating and annoying people, things, events, moments can be.  I want to rail against the stupid, the inept, the clearly-unable-to-process-oxygen.  I want to share with the world exactly what I do for a living and who my apartment complex manager/tormentor is and what, exactly, I think of politics, unions, and the justice system.

But I can't.

Because saying mean things about people isn't nice.  Because swearing isn't ladylike.  Because judging others isn't the right thing to do.  Because then nobody will want to read what I have to say, and even though I mostly write this here bloggy for me, I do quite enjoy people sticking around.

Because telling people who I am, where I live, what I do, and where I'm going isn't safe.

Because words can hurt.

There have been a few blog posts written over the years that haven't seen the light of day.  I just had one I wrote five or six times from scratch before I decided not to post it at all.  It is so hard to be in a position of wanting to share and knowing it just. isn't. right.  I feel like I want to rip that scab off one more time, let it bleed and fester, and then finally let it heal, but I know it won't help me, won't help my blog, and certainly won't help anyone else.

I don't really know what the lesson is in all of this, but it ain't an easy tongue to bite, that's for sure.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Google Ngram Viewer

First, a tiny bit of trivia: I received my 100th follower today.  Thank you all so much for reading!


And second, a large bit of fun: Google's Ngram Viewer.  The Ngram viewer shows how often words have appeared in books in the last several hundred years.  For example, if you type the word "Oregon" into the Ngram search box, you can see that Oregon was really popular in the late 1800s and, for some reason I don't understand, in the 1940s.  If you type in a word that did not exist some time ago, the word tends to have quite an upswing ("Pakistan" and "Internet" come to mind).  Capitalization is important, so be careful with words when you search.

You can watch a short (~5min) video about the project on TED's site.

Here are a few that I found to be interesting graphs:

thee, thy, thou (and what's with the uptick in the last few years?!)

first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth (not sure what was happening in the 1700s...)

radio, phone, Internet, network

toilet, bathroom, shower (the trend in the '60s and '70s scares me)

What other interesting timelines can you find?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Apartment Management Madness

You'd think after the door-mangling incident, I'd learn not to call our apartment management for anything, but our lease ended.  We had to talk to them.  Believe me, stabbing my own eyes out sounded more pleasant than dealing with them.  We tried to be open-minded and hoped for the best.

They sent us a letter early last month indicating our lease was about to end, and we responded that we'd like to take out another six-month lease.  We could have signed a new year-long lease and received $200 off our first month of rent, but we don't hope to be in the apartment that much longer.  Several days (a week?) passed, we finally got their paperwork, we signed it, and returned it as soon as we could.  That was the last we heard about our lease.  We never received a signed copy back from them.  I usually write the rent check as I'm the first one that remembers, but I didn't remember exactly what our new [an arm, leg, and severed head] rate would be.  Since I was off taking my tortilla-making class with Mom, The Man took the checkbook up to the complex office and wrote the rent check.

Let's just say that our rent used to be $800/month.  It wasn't, thankfully, but we're rounding here.  We get a discount (since I work for a very large employer in our town) of $20/month.  That meant we paid $780 each month.  With me so far?

The management raised our rent, shock and awe entirely missing on my part, by about $20 or $30/month (that's the part I don't remember).  That means our new rate would be $820-$830, but with the $20 discount we would only be paying $800-$810/month.  Not a huge bump, not something we can't afford.  The math?  Easy peasy, right?

Oh no.  Nothing could possibly be that easy with our apartment complex.  The woman working in the office informed The Man that we get a $200 discount for signing a new lease, not the $20 discount we usually get, and that we can't double-discount in any given month.  He wrote the check for the amount she told him and thought no more about it.  When I got home and saw the check stub, I knew there was a problem.  We don't get the discount for signing a six-month lease.  We only get the $20-off for my discount.  We had not paid the full amount we owe based on our rental agreement that we just signed (of which we still don't have a copy).

Well, piss!

I called the complex office as soon as I could on Monday to sort the whole thing out.  The woman I spoke to was not the same woman that helped The Man write the incorrect amount on the check.  This woman is typically mean, snarky, generally disingenuous... a real pleasant lady.  And by "pleasant" I mean making me want to stab my eyeballs out (see first paragraph).  What follows is as accurate as I can remember our conversation:

Me:  "Hi, I'm calling to let you know that my husband was down at your office this weekend to write our rent check and was told an incorrect amount.  We don't qualify for the $200 discount since we signed a six-month lease, but we do still get the $20 discount.  I know we need to send more money, but I don't know how you'd like us to go about doing that.  Since you never returned a signed copy of our lease, I don't know what the total amount should be."

Lady:  "Oh, let me check your file.  Yes, I see that your husband made a mistake, you don't get two discounts in one month."

Me:  "Yes, I know that.  That's why I'm calling you.  Your coworker told him the wrong amount."

Lady: "You need to give us more money than what you wrote the check for."

Me:  "Yes, that's why I'm calling."

Lady:  "See, when you signed the new lease your rent went up, and now you owe more money that you did before."

Me:  "Yes, I understand that.  We were told an incorrect amount, and I just need to know how much to write the new check for."

Lady:  "You don't get the $200 discount, so you shouldn't have written the check for that amount.  You only get one discount in one month, so you can't use both the $200 discount and the $20 discount."

Me:  "Yes, I understand that we don't get the discount, that's why I'm trying to talk to someone.  How would you like us to make up the difference?  An additional check or a replacement check?"

Lady:  "No, you don't understand, your husband was mistaken, you don't get a discount, and you need to pay us more than what you paid us."

Me:  "Okay, yes, it was entirely my husband's fault that he went down to your office, was told the incorrect amount, assumed that he would be given accurate information from management, and wrote a check for less than what we owe.  It's my fault for calling to settle up as any honest person should, for hoping that you could see the error your coworker made, and for confusing you with simple questions.  Please return my check, and I will write you a new check for the correct amount by tomorrow so that you can't charge us any late fees."

Lady:  "I'll have to search around for your check if you want it to be returned.  We charge late fees starting the day after tomorrow, so you must get the check to us as soon as we open tomorrow so that we have time to process it.  You should read your lease paperwork more carefully next time so that you don't make these kind of mistakes again."

Me:  "Of course.  Thank you."  -click-

*repeatedly stabs eyeballs with any available blunt instrument*

Monday, October 03, 2011

Tortillas!

My mother and I took a class this weekend and learned how to make tortillas from scratch.  While the class wasn't as thorough as I wish it could have been, we learned a bit and had fun eating the fruits of our labor.

You can find dozens of recipes for tortillas on the Internet, so I won't post the one we got here.  Yes, we used shortening.  Yes, I think I'd prefer real (unhydrogenated) lard.  No, you can't substitute butter.  And yes, even though the tortillas contained wheat flour, I did eat them.

At the end of the day, we both smelled like flour.  Lemme just say, that's not a pleasant smell six hours later.  I think I'm still digging flour out from under my short nails.

I went home and had to practice again using my tools, my surroundings, my much-more-sanitized-and-less-scary surfaces than what we had to use in our class (then: questionable closet rod as a rolling pin; at home: grandma's oldy-but-goody real rolling pin).  I also don't have a huge cast iron griddle, but I do have a cast iron frying pan.  Slower to do one at a time, but then I don't burn them because I'm paying attention to each one.  Except when I'm trying to clean up as I go.  Okay, one burned.  I just "heavily toasted" it.

After experimenting at home, The Man deemed my skills excellent and demanded that all of our tortillas are homemade from now on.  While I agree with him about the deliciousness, I'm not sure I agree with him on the work part.  That "Little Red Hen" has some helping to do!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Of Lights and Chairs and Bathroom Bins

No, this is not a home furnishings review.  This is war.  This is what The Man and I go around and around and around about.  This is "he-drives-me-crazy-whens" and "she-needs-to-watch-herselfs."  This is what marriage is.  Or what our marriage is anyway.

I do something--or don't do something--that makes The Man spitting mad.  When I am standing at the bathroom sink getting ready in the morning or after my evening shower, I use a Kleenex for whatever needs to be done, and then I toss it in the general direction of the trash can, you know, generally to the left and down just out of sight.  But sometimes the bin is rather full, and the Kleenex bounces out and lands on the floor next to the bin, sort of behind the toilet, and definitely not where The Man wants it.  So he gets after me to watch where I'm throwing things every single time I need to dispose of a simple Kleenex or Q-tip.  If it was a snotty Kleenex, sure, I can understand why he gets up in a huff, but grab an unused corner and assume I meant for it to go in the bin.  I'll try to do better next time.  (Nevermind that taking out the garbage is his job.)

It's not all rosebuds and lollipops living with The Man either.  I don't know if it's a "cannot" or a "will not," but he has ever-so-rarely pushed in a chair or turned off a light.  Maybe it is his stubborn streak refusing to cooperate.  Maybe he just doesn't care about our power bill or my stumbling-into-chairs problem.  I don't know what his problem is, but this is one fight from which I won't back down.  Every time he doesn't push in his desk chair, I have to move it just to get to my desk--impossible with both of my hands full with a project or breakfast or something else.  When he doesn't push in his dining chair, I have to move it to get to the piano.  These chairs are in the way.  We don't have the space luxury to not push in a chair.

Apparently he's never heard of task lighting either.  We have two Ott lights, several lamps, and plenty of cozy reading spots.  What does he choose?  The overhead light and his desk chair.  The crappiest lighting we have that casts the most horrific shadows and sallow color on everything it touches.  Even with new (stupid) lightbulbs, the lighting in there is atrocious.  If we open the window on a very sunny day, turn on the overhead light, and both Ott lights, we can only marginally fix the lighting in that room.  It's bad bad.  Just don't turn it on in the first place.  Use task lighting.  Use a flashlight.  Use something, anything else that you will remember to turn off at the end of the session.  (I'm not talking about quick trips out of the room to get food or pee, I'm talking about leaving the room to watch a movie or go to work or something.  There is some rational thought to my request.)

I don't think his request for me to be a little more careful is unwarranted.  I'm trying.  I really, really am.  He hasn't had to remind me in months to pick anything up or watch where I'm throwing things in the bathroom.  I also don't think my request for him to push in chairs or turn off lights is all that crazy.  Are we both nuts?  Or is this just how marriage is?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Found MY Foundation

When it comes to make-up, I'm picky.  Like with most things, I tend to buy the same item over and over again if I know I like it, trust it will last, and feel like I'm getting a good deal.  But what about trying something new?  Ugh.

I recently went on a research expedition into the world of foundations.  There are so many options out there, so many colors and finishes and liquid-to-powders and powders-to-liquids.  I was overwhelmed before I even got started.  But with the help of Makeup Alley, Amazon.com reviews, and a few good words from family and friends, I was able to narrow down the criteria for the Perfect Foundation:

- Long wearing.  This is foundation we're talking about, the bedrock of my entire look.  I shouldn't have to touch up my foundation at all during the day.
- Light-to-medium coverage.  I must be one of the only people on earth that doesn't want to cover up every freckle on my face.  I'd look so silly without my freckles!
- Non-greasy or oily.
- Contains SPF10 or higher.
- Inexpensive, like <$15 regular price for an item that must last at least two months of near-daily use.
- Easy to find in my area in person.
- Comes in my skin color, which is to say, "off white" rather than "off tan."
- Good for sensitive skin.  We're talking really sensitive skin.

I found a winner!  Almay Truly Lasting Color liquid make-up.  It contains SPF15, is about $12 in my area, is non-greasy, comes in "ivory" which is my exact skin color between my freckles, is a medium-coverage foundation, doesn't cause break-outs or irritate my skin, and it lasts all day.  We're talking sixteen hours of wearability here, and I usually need no more than twelve.  Plus it's not hard to wash off when I do want it gone.  I usually top off the liquid foundation with a little matching powder for a little extra softness and shine reduction.

You must think I'm crazy for being so excited, but I've never once been able to find a liquid foundation that actually works for me.  We're talking love-at-first-wear here, so it's a big deal.  BIG deal.  I am so excited!

(Okay, the fourteen-year-old in me is so excited!  The grown-up in me mildly enthused... ;)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In case anyone every thought we were mature...

We visited our local Izzy's recently and  left them this very helpful comment card.  

(Sorry about the very crappy picture, but their lighting left much to be desired.  The food was great though!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Participate: What Do You Know?

A conversation with a friend recently got me thinking about what I know.  Well, about what I know I know.  Those things I can do.  The things, the thoughts, the processes that I understand and can explain.

She mentioned that there are lots of things she thinks people think she should be able to do, but she's never done those things.  Like changing a tire on a car.  She has never done it.  But she should be able to, right?

Stop and take a minute to think about all of the things you can do.  Pretty amazing, huh?

Now take your individual skill set back in time a hundred years.  How is your ability to navigate the Internet going to help you?  How will you explain the concept of a wireless device to Joe 1911?  Can you translate your ability to multitask between document crafting, e-mail writing, Facebook stalking, web surfing, and blog following to any tasks that existed just a short hundred years ago?

But wait.  What about all of those things people did a hundred or two hundred years ago that you have never done.  Are you comfortable saddling a horse and caring for that horse as your major form of transportation (or even pleasure riding)?  Would you know how to churn butter or skim cream off warm milk?  Can you pickle and preserve vegetables to last through the winter? What about polishing silver with non-commercial cleaners or crank-starting a car or making clothes?

Now you're thinking about all of those things you can't do, right?

It makes me mad when older generations call younger generations "stupid" or "inferior" or "worthless and lazy" without considering the changes of time and space.  I've had coworkers and other older adults get frustrated when I tell them that I have no clue how to diagram a sentence (or drive a stick-shift car).  I didn't have to learn that in school. Instead of learning sentence diagramming, I was busy with four years of French, learning every instrument I could get my hands on, advanced math classes, and instant messaging my friends (ICQ!, waaaaay before text messages) every chance I could get.  It doesn't mean I'm stupid or inferior, it just means I haven't had the opportunity to learn that skill yet.

What can you do that amazes people around you--and where did you learn how to do that?  What can't you do that you wish you could do (money not being an issue, legality still important)?  What things or processes do you think people have forgotten about that we should re-learn?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Young Become "Lost Generation" amid Recession: a Response

You can read the full article and comments here.

As a member of this "Lost Generation," I take considerable offense to the comments saying "young people are whiny slackers who were spoiled by mommy and daddy."  They also say, "just work harder to find a job."  Or they comment, "don't get degrees in fields that aren't hiring."

I am a young person.  I'm a late 20-something that was definitely not "spoiled" by my parents.  Who put me through college?  Who paid for my food, gas, insurance, healthcare, and fun?  Uh... yeah, that's right, I did.  My parents supported my decisions, and they were there if I needed a little cushion, but I paid them back every cent.  From the time I left for college, I was financially independent.  Spoiled with love, absolutely.  Spoiled economically, not even a little bit.

Why are kids not moving out and continue to live with their parents well into their twenties?  They have no where else to go.  Housing costs were so high three years ago that I would never have been able to save up for a 30% down-payment.  Rental costs in my town are still astronomical.  My city has a vacancy rate of less than 1/10th of 1%, so moving anywhere is out of the question.  Any of the neighboring communities are nearly that bad.  Kids around here don't have a choice!

Work harder to find a job?  Say what?  My husband was unemployed from the moment he got his MBA and project management certificate.  That's right, he has a master's degree in a field that--when he started the graduate program--was an incredibly open field.  Job opportunities were being thrown at graduates.  When he finished in 2009, he couldn't even get a job flipping burgers.  He was overqualified.  He worked his ass off eight hours a day, nine sometimes, submitting thousands of applications all over the northwest.  He had interview after interview for jobs.  Companies were hiring internally.  Companies wanted more experience--and he couldn't find a job to get any!  A car dealership ended up giving him a part-time job.  That dealership had three employees working as courtesy drivers, every one of them with a master's degree or higher.  (Now you know where kids with bachelor's degrees won't be able to compete.)

I have a degree too.  I studied the sciences.  I have a well-rounded education from a major university.  Do you know how much money I was offered in my first job right out of college?  Below the poverty line.  We're talking a full-time State of Oregon employee.  Below the poverty line.  I have qualified for food stamps more in my adult life than I have not--yet I've never taken that money.  Why?  Because my parents taught me how to manage my money.  That whole "not being spoiled" thing taught me to rely on myself.

So what if I'm part of this so-called "lost generation."  Just don't lump us all together and call us whiny, spoiled slackers who don't know how to work hard to find a job.  You know what pisses me off more than being called a slacker?  Someone unwilling to get out and interact with young people, some armchair blogger who doesn't have a clue how hard young people are working to find jobs, start careers, and begin life away from our parents.  And if it's your kids you are calling slackers, it's your fault.  Please think before you stay stupid things in comment sections.  All the "lost generation" wants is a chance at happiness too--and the opportunity to work for it.