Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lamenting Lunch

I have lunch issues.  Breakfast has never been a problem for me, and I could pretty much exist on breakfast food 24/7 if it was actually healthy enough (and my tummy would let me eat eggs without going all 'smells-of-death' on me).  Dinner is easy enough since I have time and am home to cook pretty much whatever I'm motivated to cook.  But lunch?  Ugh.

I am not a sandwich person.  I like them well enough, but more than twice a week is just too much.  I've had my fair share of PB&J, cheese and turkey, and the ever-so-rare ham sandwiches over the years.  Filling, yes, but also not that exciting.  Even when I cut the crusts off and make shapes with the bread.  Even when I spend money on fancy bread.  Bor-ring.  (As for that whole "mayo and mustard" bit, no.  Just no.)

The Man stands incredulous about the amount of soup I can eat without growing tired of it.  He sees all soup as pretty much the same stuff, but between clear broths and creamy bases, loads of healthy veggies, and home-cooked meat, I could almost eat soup every day.  The Oregonian in me just about goes filberts for tomato soup and grilled Tillamook cheese sandwiches.  But those easy-soup-in-a-can deals are gag-me-with-a-soup-spoon horrendous.  Way too salty.  And making soup is fine during the winter, but I often don't have the motivation or desire to heat up the house through the warmer months.

Also?  I stick to a fairly consistent low-gluten diet.  Because I don't like having tummy pain and gas that can clear a two-story house.  Too much information?  Sorry.  (Not.)

So lunches are pretty much my least favorite meal.  I have a hard time being creative, don't always want to spend the effort to make something specifically for lunch, and don't always have enough leftovers from the previous dinner.  Plus there's only so many ways to eat corn chips and cheese.  Or hominy and cheese.  Or the extra special splurge on turkey and cheese with grapes.  Yeah, I was proud of myself on that day.

What's a lunch-challenged girl to do!?

I found inspiration via Pinterest!  Check out these wonderful pictures of all the neat lunch ideas some nice mommies are packing for their very lucky kiddos.  I don't think my lunches will ever be the same again!

Ethan's Kindergarden and First Grade Lunches (great selection, plus lots of food for a kid-at-heart too!)

Lunches To Go (a little more grown-up)

Easy Lunchboxes (plus they sell those cute containers on their main site!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stitched My Weekend Away

The Man and I did not go to Salem on a weekend for once this summer.  We washed and waxed my car on Friday night, played some cards with my parents, and were up far too late.  Saturday included some sleeping in, a little bit of shopping, and a whole lot of sewing on my new machine.  Sunday also saw me stitching away, plus I did some cooking and a touch of cleaning.  That doesn't sound like very much, but we were busy for a lot of the time.

I bought new jeans this weekend.  The dryer had shrunk my last few pairs into a size much too small, so I finally went out and bought some new ones.  $44/pair!  I about cried at the price.  But not having to get a larger size?  Oh that made me very happy.  It was totally the dryer's fault, for once!

I made my very own orange chicken this weekend, but it was a bit too orange-y for me.  The flavor was great, and The Man seemed to enjoy it, but I have to work on the recipe quite a bit in order to make it good to my taste.

Not much happening this week.  We are both working and looking forward to the coming long weekend.

Oh, and one more thing: I'd like to wish my parents a very happy 30th anniversary!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Early Birthday To ME!

The Man and I have birthdays just over two months apart.  Literally, I suppose, since we're both products of 1983.  And now, in this odd gap when he's "a year older," I have to remind myself that 28 isn't so far off for me. It's time to start thinking about birthday presents.

About five years ago, my mother bought me a sewing machine for Christmas.  It was a sturdy little machine, perfect for machine piecing small projects, hemming pants, and one or two decorative stitches.  I made a lot of things with that machine, everything from curtains to clothes to quilts.  The machine is still in good condition, plus I have acquired a few accessories for it.  But quilting a queen-sized quilt?  Forget it.  I've become an expert in fixing thread tension in the last year.  I'm also quite skilled at unjamming, untangling, unraveling thread from the bobbin area.  Not my favorite things to do.

For the last year or so since I've become more serious about quilting, I've been price shopping and comparing different makes and models of sewing machines.  There are as many brands and models of those as there are cars!  Domestics, imports, horsepower, all sorts of wheels and tires and belts and lights... wouldn't it be great if there was a sewing machine database where you could plug in the things you need, maybe a brand or two (for loyalty reasons), and get the best value for your dollar?

Since my old machine is a Huskystar E10, and just about everyone in my family has a Husqvarna-Viking, I did want to stay with that brand.  They seem to be well-respected, plus I can find them locally.  In all of my research, I didn't find many complaints about Vikings, especially compared to other brands, and H-V's are pretty popular.  On a side note, The Man thinks it is hilarious that Husqvarna makes sewing machines.  He wants to know where the pull-start is to make the chain-saw noises... and that's why he's not allowed to touch my toys.

To make a long research story short, I found a machine I love at a price I'm willing to live with--on sale.  After our meeting with our financial advisor on Tuesday, I coerced The Man into driving to Albany to buy me an early birthday present (there may or may not have been a bribe involved).  With all of the price shopping, it was very clear to me that Oregon Sew-Vac has the best prices in the valley for Viking machines.  Like, by $200.  Yeah.

SO!  Details?

Husqvarna-Viking Emerald 203:  it's a computerized machine, but that's not saying much.  It can't connect to my computer, it isn't programmable to create a whole project for me, and it certainly doesn't help me select fabric colors.  Those machines cost five digits.  But it does do some neat things that I'll actually use and maybe a few things that are nice to have just in case.

Happy early birthday to me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Evening of Money and Love

It's always scary for me to visit a financial advisor or talk to someone about my spending habits.  I equate it to going to the dentist.  Am I doing a good job brushing (saving)?  Do I have any cavities (problems)?  Am I going to get in trouble for carrying my credit card balance a few months since we bought a piano and didn't want to live on rice and beans for that time?  As any loyal reader will know, I have a hate-hate relationship with dentists. Thankfully the financial advisor was a much less painful experience yesterday.

The Man and I visited a new (to us) advisor yesterday to sort of figure out where we are financially, where we're headed, and how to best plan for our future.  We have done this in the past, but our income and priorities were different then.  The advisor walked us through a few options, discussed how she likes to invest people's money, and how she thought we'd benefit best from her services.  She never spoke down to us or made us feel stupid, nor was she too technical or demanding.  We arrived with all of our paperwork neatly organized and current, so she even complimented our efforts on that front (yay!).

In the end, I don't think we had any cavities.  We're good savers, but we could always save more.  We'll probably have enough for a small down-payment on a house in our insanely-overpriced town in about a year (or less if we buy in neighboring towns and fork out money for gas each way).  And we can work kids into our financial situation whenever God blesses us with them.

What The Man and I don't understand is how people our age can afford a house.  Where are down-payments coming from?  Are our cohorts stupid enough to get into a house without a down-payment?  Or are they lucky enough to have financial assistance from their parents or other family?  I mean, seriously!  Either they make WAAAAY more money than The Man and I do, or they are paying out the nose on fees and interest.  Are you under 30 and own a home?  How did you manage to do that?

At least The Man and I were able to grab dinner out after our meeting with the financial advisor and talk about what we learned and where we are.  We keep hearing that the one thing couples fight about most is money, but we're very thankful that we agree on money matters the vast majority of the time.  And when we don't agree, it's usually about what kind of M&Ms to buy, just so you know (peanut vs. peanut butter, oh the decisions!).  It was a nice dinner together realizing how well we do band together for these life events, how we take on big decisions together instead of against each other.

It's nice to have someone reaffirm what you believe.  Yet one more reason I love The Man.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Saturday Adventure in Portland

For The Man's birthday this year, he and I drove up to Portland with his parents and met his brother in Beaverton.  We had a great adventure seeing some sights, taking lots of pictures, and even (maybe) finding the perfect dining set.  Aside from the heat and some misadventures driving, it was a very nice day.

We left our little town at 8:00am and were in Portland by a little after 10:00am (stopped in Salem).  Our first grand tour was at Stanton Furniture.  They specialize in unfinished wood, which was exciting for me.  Their showroom had the most amazing selection of smaller tables and very affordable sets.  Well, affordable for someone with a little money.  We're not talking a "Costco special" or anything.  They charge a bit extra to finish the furniture for you, or they sell stains and clear coats that you can apply yourself.  The salesman was a bit chatty, but he seemed honest and didn't try to force a sale (a very refreshing change from last weekend!).

After collecting prices and debating options, we all piled into one car and ventured forth to the Pittock Mansion where we had a lovely picnic on the front lawn.  Shade? check.  Delicious organic grapes (we splurged), croissants,  some special cheeses, and cupcakes in honor of the occasion? check.  Panoramic views of Oregon's largest city? check.  Yeah, pretty sure we didn't miss a single thing on a great picnic.  The tour of the mansion afterward was nice, too.  The Man's family mostly enjoyed the tour, and I sort of strayed from the group in order to take pictures without bothering anyone.  I don't always take the best pictures or know the perfect angles, but it helps to not be rushed in the pursuit of excellence even if I miss the mark a bit.

Statue in dining room at Pittock Mansion
I do believe the mansion was the high point of everyone's day.  By the time we left there the temperature was into the 90s.  As Oregonians (and valley people no less), none of us tolerate heat very well.  Headaches popped up (not me for once), people started getting more testy than they might have been otherwise, and leather car seats? hot hot hot.  "But it's a dry heat" they say... well hot is hot.  I hate hot.  (Mid-November rains? can't wait!!)
small archway at Japanese Gardens
Next up was the Japanese Gardens.  The water and greenery let a special sort of humidity to the stale air, and a full park didn't help matters.  I struggled to take pictures and stay out of other cameras' ways.  The vegetation was beautiful, but I just didn't get a tranquil feeling at all.  The little trickles in the streams were woefully small, and aside from the largest waterfall and coy pond, I was in serious want of water.

large waterfall at Japanese Gardens
We ventured over to the Chinese Gardens in downtown Portland.  While I wish I could say that this was an oasis in the city, it is decidedly not.  I did appreciate the large pond in the center of the park, and the architecture was beautiful.  The rock-lined pathways were stunning.  I really did feel like I was in a Chinese house garden with all of the bamboo and lotus and pretty flowers.  The pavilions have the most intricately carved wooden screens that I'd love to have in my own dream home.  Perhaps I would have enjoyed this garden more if it was twenty degrees cooler, out of direct sunlight, and had cleaner looking water.  Oh, and way fewer bugs.  Not a fan of bugs.

central pond at Lan Su Chinese Gardens
Now all very hungry, we putted down to the Widmer Brewery pub.  The Man requested that for his birthday dinner, and I am never one to get in the way of good schnitzel, so we went.  I opted for a soup/salad dinner with blackened chicken that was zippy without being too spicy.  The chicken and pasta soup was okay, but I'm not sure my meal was really worth $13.  The Man tried a new beer (Rose City Hipster Golden Ale) and really liked it.  In a fit of insanity, I tasted his beer.  Yup, remembered why I don't drink beer.  *shudder

We drove back to Beaverton to drop of his brother, then on to Salem to drop off his parents, then back home to Corvallis.  It was a long day.  We drove a lot.  But we got to see a few new places, eat some new things, and visit with good people.  I call that a successful day.

(P.S. If you are looking for a quiet getaway in the big city, The Grotto is one of my favorite places.  Exceptionally lush, beautiful year-round, and surprisingly quiet.  Oh, and $4 admission? much better than the $10 most of these other places charge.  You can ignore the religious aspect of this special place and visit for the beauty and quietness if you want.  SO pretty.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

To My Husband on His 28th Birthday

I thought we'd celebrate your birthday in a special way today by remembering all of the wonderful things that happened in the year you--we--were born.  Here's to 1983!

Oh, and Happy Birthday!  I love you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Morris and Tendon This, Dumbass

Blog readers, allow me to give you a short back story before I launch into my rant.  From as early as I can remember, my father has had a woodshop.  Well, he's had a garage or a small shop or some sort of area in which to create dust.  A lot of dust.  Dust that I grew up playing in, dust that my mother was not allowed to clean up, dust that comes from hard work sawing and sanding and shaving wood into beautiful things.  My dad made a large percentage of the furniture in our home.  From my very first bookcase (and I was an early reader) to my desk (that I still use daily) to TV stands, coffee and end tables, and even my parents' bed, he made them all.  He also does little things like six-feet-long trains complete with rolling wheels and the rails and ties.  He made a dumptruck, a backhoe, a backgammon board (beautiful!), and lots and lots of other things, not to mention all manner of home repairs.

So when I say I "grew up in my dad's shop," I'm saying I was out there with him just about every weekend watching him run the drill press, the lathe, the planer, the table and band and jig and hand saws.  I learned that rabbits can be the non-jumping kind and that biscuits can be the not-for-eating kind.  I know about hard and soft woods, strong and less-strong ways to join wood pieces, how to counter-sink a screw, and the difference between Shaker-style furniture and Mission-style furniture.  I understand bolts and screws versus dovetails and glues.  But I'm not an expert.  I just learned things and remembered them.

Last weekend, The Man and I went dining set shopping.  Our Salem hunt began at a fancy-looking furniture store (not Kuebler's, they were nice to us).  We walked into the store and quickly found ourselves "glommed."  That's a word my family uses to describe the action of a salesperson identifying potential buyers and not letting them out of their sight.  We got glommed.

Mr. Slimy asked us what we were searching for, and we answered that we wanted to look at dining tables.  He ushered us up, up, upstairs and began his tour at the most expensive tables.  A pet-peeve of mine, start somewhere in the middle, not like you're desperate to make a buck.  He got a kick out of showing us the "fancy" finishes "that only factories in the continental U.S. can prepare correctly."  Really?  With all of the German and Japanese engineers, they haven't figured out how to protect plain ol' wood?  I didn't say anything.

He showed us the difference between domestic and imported furniture: domestic furniture is all glued and laminated permanently, but imported furniture has bolts and screws and is therefore inferior.  Say what?  Domestic manufacturers never use screws? Liar.  Screws that can be tightened if they become loose?  Screws that allow an upholstered seat to be recovered and reattached?  Oh the horror!  I bit my tongue.

Slimy McGlommerston didn't let us out of his sight.  He wouldn't allow us to browse freely, to look and discuss as we explored.  We were watched like a hawk.  Fed up, I mentioned that I was interested in seeing solid wood, preferably lighter wood like oak, maple, or hickory.

"Oh you'd never want hickory, it will warp and buckle and bend," he told us.  You, sir, are a moron.  I whipped my head around and informed him that my parents just purchased and entire kitchen worth of hickory cabinets.  "Well they should know how it will warp and buckle then."  Yeah, one of the hardest and most durable woods out there.  I am pretty sure Dad knew what he was getting into.  I'm pretty sure I know what I want.

After admiring all of the very expensive domestic furniture, we wandered over to some imported stuff.  He was giving us all sorts of disapproving looks when we seemed to be interested in a lovely two-tone set.  Hey, it's the only one you've shown us that actually fits in our little dining room!  He explained how the finish isn't as durable, how the chairs will eventually all fall apart, how the quality of manufacturing isn't up to par.  Way to make a sale, dude.

And then he ruined my day.

"See, on the domestic chairs, the joints are all 'morris and tendoned.'"  Excuse me?!  What did you just say?!  I glared.  I gaped.  I stared.  He must've thought I was very interested in what he was saying, but I was mostly trying to get over what he'd said.  Morris and tendon?  I have tendons in my arms and legs.  In woodworking, that join is called a 'mortise and tenon.'

I turned to face The Man and mouthed "we need to leave now."  I lost it.  I couldn't say another nice thing to him.  Obviously he wasn't interested in making a sale or helping us find something we liked.  Any wood salesman worth his salt will know what a bloody "mortise and tenon" is.  If I know, they damn sure better know.

It would be safe to say we didn't spend any money that day.  Exactly none of our money will ever make its way into those glommy hands.  Now excuse me as the memory has made me need another hot, bleachy shower.  *shudder

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dear Furniture Manufacturers

Hi there,

Do you think it would be possible to get a normal table on the market?  My husband and I spent a large portion of our very precious weekend searching high and low for a dining set that fits our style and needs, and once again came up empty-handed.  Our style is pretty basic, and our needs are also relatively easy to fit, but getting the two to match seems to be impossible.  If you could, nice furniture people, make or find us a table with the following in mind:

- Seats 4 to 6 people, or at least four chairs with the option to get two more later
- Smallish, like 36"-40" square with a butterfly leaf that expands to no more than 54"
- Pedestal, not a four-legged monstrosity (our tight fit is going to make it hard enough to get one's legs under the table, no sense making it harder with additional table legs in the way)
- Not counter-height, just regular table height, because I want my feet to touch the floor, thankyouverymuch
- No upholstery, because while I can recover a chair, why don't we just cut out that whole mess
- Oak, maple, alder, hickory, or bamboo with a natural finish (no stains, just clear varnish), solid wood preferred, but thick veneer is also okay for the right price.  Nothing dark.  Espresso is a drink, not a furniture color.  Please move on from this horrific dark-staining/painting wood trend.
- Chairs with no center spindles in the back.  I don't like having to decide which side of the center spindle my spine is going to lean into.  My inner symmetry gets all messed up when I have to deal with that.
- No arrowback chairs.  Can somebody please make a different spindle already?!
- New or like-new since we plan to keep this bugger around for a long, long time

Oh, and if you could do all of that for around $600, that'd be great.  Thanks.

Can't wait to sit down around a beautiful new-to-us table,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SodaStream Review from Actual Users

We bought a SodaStream last weekend and have put in near-daily use record so far.  We have learned more about how it works, plus we will end up saving some money--eventually.  Please note that this is not a paid testimonial, just a simple user review from a pretty normal couple that enjoys fizzy drinks.  A lot.

The SodaStream, for those not in-the-know, is a carbonation delivery system.  You have to buy the unit, the carbonation canisters (and refills) and the flavored syrups (if you want them).  The basic unit comes with two one-liter bottles, so you might want more of those as well.  The whole system is quite an investment up front.  Our most basic Genesis model was originally $100, but after a 20%-off coupon and two additional bottles for $20, we came out right at $100 anyway.  The model we got came with twelve flavors of sample-size drink mixes, a full 60L carbon dioxide canister, and, of course, the black plastic unit.

We have tried the Diet Cola, the Diet Dr. Pete (insert giggles here), the Diet Root Beer, the Diet Lemon-Lime, and the regular Cola.  As you can see, we're mostly diet-soda drinkers.  For the record, being Oregonians, we officially call it "pop," but for the sake of consistency in this post I'll force myself to call it soda.  Pop.  Soda.

Diet Cola soda flavoring is not quite consistent with Diet Coke.  I'm a connoisseur of Diet Coke, and I definitely notice a difference between it and Diet Pepsi, but the Diet Cola is a very good approximation between the two.  It's almost identical to Diet Coke with Splenda since all SodaStream diet flavors contain Splenda instead of aspartame (yay!).  9/10 from both The Man and myself.

Diet Dr. Pete flavoring is startlingly similar to Diet Dr. Pepper.  It even has an odd smell like the brand-name stuff, although the Splenda again adds a slightly sweeter taste.  The Man wasn't as convinced about the similarity as I was, but Diet Dr. Pepper is "his" drink.  He offers up an 8/10.  I generously dole out a 9/10.

Diet Lemon-Lime is undoubtedly a dupe for 7-Up.  It is not the same as Sprite.  However, it is clearly a lemon-lime flavor, is refreshing just the same, and will be considered exceptional next time either of us gets sick.  Being cola people, we'll both give this an 8/10, but probably a 9/10 during our next bout with the flu.

Cola tastes much like the Diet Cola, but sweeter.  Our friend sampled this regular flavor for us and deemed it quite... cola-y.  He indicated it was neither Coca-Cola or Pepsi, but almost a Mr. Pibb or an RC flavor.  Taking his word for it, we'll toss a 7/10 on it.

Diet Root Beer is distinctly root beer, but it is also definitely not A&W root beer.  Being a purist, I was turned off by the sweet, sweet flavor.  This would be atrocious to use as a float.  We all agreed the SodaStream root beer was closest to Mug root beer, and we all agreed it left something to be desired.  I tolerated a full glass with some pizza, but I just couldn't drink more than that.  5/10 at most.

Diet Orange is delightfully orange-y.  From experience, I can caution you that this syrup stains counters if you aren't careful.  However, once properly mixed, the orange soda is among the best orange sodas available.  We both give this a solid 10/10.

Diet Lemonade soda fits the bill on warm summer days.  The Man isn't as much of a fan as I am, but others have supported my claim for a quite refreshing fizzy tartness.  While the cloudy syrup threw me at first (as if there is really lemon juice, shocking!), the cool sweetness won me over in the end.  8/10 unless I'm sweltering, then a no-questions-asked 10/10.

We still have many more flavors to try, and I'll keep everyone updated about the flavors we love and hate.  Now onto some math to see just how much money we'll actually be able to save by making our own soda at home instead of lugging all of those cans home from the store.  I did not figure in Oregon's can/bottle deposits since we always take our own cans back and redeem the money.  I also didn't figure in the cost of gas to get pop or more syrup or carbonation.  That should equal out since both stores are less than one half-mile from home.  Water is free for us since we live in an apartment and *gasp* drink straight from the tap *horror*.

We have been purchasing name-brand soda at Safeway regularly on their buy-two-get-two sales.  We get 48 cans of soda (or 576 ounces) for $14 or $0.025 per ounce.  That's the easy math.

The flavoring for the SodaStream is easy enough to figure, too.  Each bottle of syrup will make 12L of soda or approximately 400oz at $5 per bottle.  That comes out to $0.0125 per ounce of soda.

The carbonation is also pretty easy to figure.  The small canisters of carbon dioxide sell for $30 each, and refills are $15 each.  One canister came with our unit, so I'm only figuring on refilling it.  $15 will get us 60L of soda or about 2,030oz.  I worked that to $0.007 per ounce of soda.

So the flavoring and the carbonation come up to almost exactly $0.02 per ounce, a half a cent less per ounce than if we buy pop on sale at Safeway.  We save six cents per can of pop or seventeen cents per liter.

At that rate of seventeen cents per liter, we will have to refill our carbonation canister ten times to completely break even.  According to SodaStream, an average family of four goes through our of canister in six to eight weeks.  We estimate ten weeks then, for even rounding.  Ten canisters at ten weeks works out to not quite two years of an investment.

HOWEVER!  We have determined that we only need 3/4 the amount of flavoring to achieve our preferred level of sweetness, so all of that ugly math figures up at twenty-six cents per liter savings over Safeway sales or just over one year of use to make our unit pay for itself.

But none of that math can change the fact that we no longer have to store twelve-packs of soda, empty bottles and cans, lug them back and forth to the store, poke them in dirty machines, and remember our little refund slippydeal at the checkstand.  We can also store the syrups for a very long time, so if we have friends who hate all of our diet soda, we can whip up some regular soda just for them.

Oh, and coupons?  Yeah.  We can save even more by buying the syrups using coupons.  Ain't that a sweet deal.  After all the math and figuring and refiguring, it was a pretty easy decision.

But we're still going to call it pop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Made a Purse!

I made a purse, and it doesn't look like some crappy DIY job either.  It's something I'm comfortable using around town, and that's saying quite a lot considering my overwhelming dislike of all things purse-y.  Eddie Bauer backpacks, Timbuk2 messenger bags, and all other things made out of ballistic nylon are much more my speed.

A few months ago, my sister and I were wandering around a local craft store when we spotted a super cute pattern.  The pattern includes pockets on the inside of a purse, something we both demand.  We're not talking one or two pockets, something more on the order of eight to ten.  Yeah.  Ten pockets.  Bring it on.
I allowed her first crack at the purse-making since she's much more into purses and had the time.  Hers turned out wonderfully, and she picked up on all the pattern quirks for me (thanks!).  After finally wrapping up eighty-eleven other projects, I snagged her to go fabric shopping with me this last weekend.  $25 later and almost two hours later, I had all of my fabric, a snazzy magnetic clasp, and two zippers which aren't even called for in the pattern (no zipping pockets = need for ditty bags, oh well).

Between the washing, ironing, cutting, fusing, stitching, re-ironing, stitching, re-re-ironing, and more stitching, I made a purse.  It's even cute!  I still have to get a cardboard bottom to help that hold its shape, but otherwise the whole project wrapped up in about eight hours.  A nice weekend project for someone as busy as me, but it might be an afternoon/evening project for a really organized person with lots of sewing experience.

I used this pattern, and these fabrics in a swirly black, pink, green, and patterned print.  All of the fabric and notions were purchased at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

The first picture shows the outside front of the bag.  The other side is identical except for the smaller pocket which is only on the front side.  Pleats are not my favorite thing to sew, but I learned a lot once again.  The second picture is of the inside pockets.  Note the pink trim and pink ditty bag (with green lining).  The third picture is the green ditty bag with pink lining.  Zippers no longer scare me!  And finally, the fourth picture is of the snazzy metal clasp.  The original pattern calls for a loop and button hook deal, which takes so much work to do and undo, so really?  Magnets.  Yeah.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

So Much Done, So Little Blogging

Ack, I keep reminding myself I need to blog, but then I forget, and that's how we end up here with several days gone and no updates.

Sunday was a whirlwind day of activity for me.  I got up late, got started a little late on a project, fought too long with the printer, and only finished my project around 11:00pm.  But it's done.  More about that project tomorrow.

Sunday also included a little investment/purchase.  We bought a SodaStream!  More on that purchase later this week.

Monday?  Migraine.  Sorry, I didn't feel up to posting.  But The Man made us taquitos from Trader Joe's that weren't bad.  They weren't so bad that I was able to eat five of them in one sitting even with a pounding head and didn't have any digestive complications like the Delimex taquitos give me.  They were a cheap $3 dinner that filled both of us up for a while.  The Man rated them a 6/10, and I'm going for an 8/10, mostly because they mean I don't have to cook.  The Man did mention that my homemade baked taquitos are on his last-meal list, though, so it looks like I still have to cook every once in a while.

A friend loaned me The French Chef on DVD, so I might spend this evening watching Julia Child teach me how to make bad meat taste good, good meat taste bad, or whatever it is the French do to food that makes my tummy turn.  The Man will get his full Julia Child indoctrination, too.  So excited!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

New Phone Love

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, but I officially conquered the bathroom.  All of the caulking is down, dried, and beautiful.  The new shower curtain is hung on the new shower rod (which was raised six inches to normal height).  The new rug is down, squishy, and completely wonderful.  The artwork for the walls is in progress and should be finished tomorrow.  Yay for a bathroom overhaul for under $100!  I should post pictures of the re-do soon.

In other news, The Man and I got new cell phones this week.  We got each got a super fancy Samsung Infuse.  Considering our last phones were five years old in his case and battery-dying-daily miserable in my case, we were pretty desperate for new phones.  Neither of us have ever had data phones before, and we knew we did not want to sell our souls to Apple, so we stuck with the Android operating system.  We can easily sync our home and work e-mails to our phones, plus we have acquired a few apps that help us with our budget (yay EEBA!)  We've had quite the learning curve with fancy phones, thus several busy evenings this weekend spent on those and not on bloggy.

Remember Plant Deux?  I was sure I killed it at the end of last year, but it survived the winter and spring, and it is as green and shiny as ever.  The poor thing doesn't get sun at all, not even a little bit.  I'm as amazed as ever that it made it this far.  With a little confidence, I think I'm ready to try another type of plant.  I'm still thinking I'll go with a succulent since my ability to remember watering is right up there with my ability to resist all things peanut-buttery-chocolate.  Rare indeed.  Does anyone have experience with Kalanchoe plants?

Laundry to do, dinner to make...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Bathroom Caulking Job from Hell

Toilet Before: note extreme nastiness
Allow me to begin by saying I hate my apartment maintenance people.  They do not know how to do their jobs.  When the contractor built this apartment, the caulking guy on his crew did a good job with plumber's putty and latex caulking.  Really, it was a fine job: not too much caulking, not sloppy, nice even work.  The bonehead repair guy that followed him with silicone caulking must have used his elbow to smear it out, then he used snot or something equally vile to add texture or whatever it was I saw embedded in the caulk.  Eew.

Tub Before: only stuck to the tub
Since we moved in to our complex a year ago, we've had the maintenance crew in our apartment a number of times.  They have told me I didn't know what I was talking about regarding a dying fan in one of our wall heaters... I did.  The installed and secured our air conditioner with packing tape.  Yeah.  Our bathroom faucet broke, but rather than replacing the entire structure, they just unscrewed one handle, smudged some grease on the bolt, and screwed on a "new" handle.  And by new I mean run-over-by-a-semi-in-a-muddy-vat-of-oil-scratched-until-highly-textured.  I won't even start about the mold issues we have in the window sills, the garbage the neighbors left outside their door for almost two weeks, and the noise level we've had to endure.  So when I noticed the cracked and rotting caulking around the tub and toilet this winter, I didn't exactly have the highest confidence in quality repair.
Tub: tape removed, *shudder
On the other side of my story, I am my father's daughter.  If I'm going to do the job, I'm going to do it right the first time.  And I'll do it myself.  Okay, the I am my mother's daughter bit also played a role in how completely disgusted I was not being able to see clean, white caulk after cleaning.  I'll do the damn job myself.
Tub: after cleaning
So I did.

Monday evening was spent scraping and scraping at the horrible latex around the toilet.  It was nauseating work, back-pain causing, and not exactly fun.  I ended up having to use a putty knife, a utility knife, a stupid scrapy tool from DAP, the edge of an old gift card, and green scouring pads to get the whole lot of gunk up.  I took Tuesday afternoon off (yay, haircut!) and ripped up the caulking tape that was next to the tub.  Never, ever use that stuff!  Behind the tape, oh my, it was nasty bad.  I worked carefully, breathed little, and scrubbed much.  Within two hours I had a beautifully clean area.  I layed down my blue painter's tape to create a clean edge.  That was a trick I learned on YouTube.  (When in doubt about how to do a job, watch videos online.  Just be sure to watch more than one.)  I squirted a stripe of caulking into the corner, slid my angle tool along the floor and tub, and poof! nice clean 45° angle.  Well, almost that easy.  It was tricky at first since I was unsure of myself, but I kept reminding myself that no matter how bad of a job I did that it would never look as bad as it had looked before.
Tub prepped: note realistic coloring
What do you know? It looks better.  In fact, I'd say it looks great!  I still have to caulk around the toilet, but I have learned a lot now and can put those skills to use tomorrow.  So I might not post again.

Oh, and if my apartment maintenance guys get mad at me for doing their job for them, well, they can just... Exactly. 
Tub After: YAY!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dominion Gaming

A week ago or so, The Man and I made a trip to Borders to see what we could score in their big closing sale.  We both got books, and we also purchased a game called Dominion.  We had been searching for the game for several months and lucked into getting it on sale.  Yay!

With the trend being big party games right now, it's been difficult for The Man and I to find 2-person games.  We play games together sometimes.  Scrabble is one of our favorites.  We also like Sequence, play the occasional Go Fish or Speed, and Trivial Pursuit from time to time.  Our shelf of games is pretty large at this point, full of small group or couple games with the exception of Apples to Apples (love!).  I like Cribbage, too, but The Man and I haven't played it for some reason.

Dominion is a card game with a dedicated deck, meaning it doesn't use regular cards.  You have to buy the game in order to play (unlike, say, poker or blackjack or rummy that use standard 52-card decks).  Without going into detail about how to play the game, I'll simply say that when The Man and I play, things move quickly and are cutthroat.  It's fun.

We went to The Man's parents' house this weekend to have a picnic with them.  It was a posh picnic in the backyard under a shady tree complete with roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and fresh local fruit.  Yum!  We taught them how to play the game, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Later in the day, we stopped to visit my parents and ended up teaching them how to play the game.  It takes a full game in order for someone to moderately understand what is going on, and I think I played five or six games before I developed any sort of strategy.  Teaching the game is rather exhausting, but we're learning how to better and more efficiently explain what goes on with each hand.

Since there are so many cards in the set (500!) and each game only uses a portion of the total, every time we play we get to experience a new game.  Sometimes we kick ourselves for not having purchased a fun thing a lot sooner, but we really appreciate having the game now.