Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Butt is Happy

The futon is gone!  Our new couches arrived!  Microfiber, a lovely super light chocolate color, a sort of tan with grey undertones.  SOFT tops with firm-ish cushions so you sink in a little, but not a lot.  The arms are low-profile, so when you sink slightly into the cushion, the arm rests at the perfect height.  Also, the arms make great pillows.  Because, really, a couch with high, useless arms pretty much sucks for laying on and watching TV.  I'm not hosting the queen here, so who cares if they're "proper" couches.  The're pretty while also being comfortable.  Did I mention how happy I was that my futon is gone?

My garage-sale-steal of a futon has found a happy home with my sister.  They had a futon in their living room, but it had... issues.  Now they have one that doesn't slide out from under you mid-sit or separate while you're trying to sleep.  They also can buy double/full-sized sheets and redecorate any day of the week--much cheaper than buying a whole new couch.

I'm also sad to report that "my" brown rocker has taken it's final recline here.  My parents bought the brown rocker before I was born, and aside from a tan rocker they had, the brown one is the only rocker I've known.  It's a Lay-Z-Boy, and while it's structurally intact, the seat is threadbare.  But by golly it still has the original arm chair covers and head mat thingy that fall off every ten seconds and oh my gosh I'm never buying a chair with those again!  I bet it has another ten years in it, fifteen if it is reupholstered.  Dad said his best naps ever were in that chair.  My parents have found a happy home for the brown rocker, likely with a family that needs it more than we do.

Blogging to you live with a happy butt.  You needed to know that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scott Grimes DRIVE

In case anyone around here missed it in the last five years, I'm a huge fan of Scott Grimes.  His last (first) album came out in 2005, Livin' on the Run.  I can tell you without a doubt that his album has been in my car since the day I bought it (literally the day it came out--and my Border's store had to dig the CD out of the new shipment, the one CD they got).  I've switched the disc out a couple times, but I always go back to that one.

There isn't a bad song on the album, and, unlike more popular artists, there isn't a swear word or rap solo or special guest.  It's 100% pure Scott Grimes.  I still haven't been able to pick a genre to put him in since his music is as much pop as it is rock or even a jazzy-soul-R&B-funky-twang.  I think I would officially put his music in the "great for any day, any mood" genre.

When The Man and I were first dating, I introduced him to Grimes' music.  Let's just say The Man is hooked, k?  We have both been waiting, hoping, praying for the next album.  Yesterday evening, I was toolin' around online when I remembered to look Grimes up and check.  While his website doesn't yet offer much information, I did notice one very important little icon in the shape of a CD.  His new album is finally here.

I set The Man down last night and made him (haha) download the entire album for us.  We downloaded legally since we believe paying for music is the right thing to do.  We also wanted Grimes to know we appreciate his hard work and that we love his music!  I mean, really, I would have paid double what we paid.  The music is that good.

I stuck Drive, the new album, in my car this morning.  We're talking... *kisses fingertips* perfect.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I've Had Enough, Funny Man

Has someone ever been super chipper to you, and you just wanted to punch them?  Ok, maybe not punch them, but make them feel a teesy-tiny-eenie-weenie bit of pain?  I did recently.  I was not a nice person to this guy in my head.  Thankfully my brain-to-mouth filter was in place and properly functioning, otherwise I might be blogging from a much less fun place right now.  What could he have done, you ask?  He was entirely too comedic for the job.

You see, I get to eat lunch out one day a week.  That's what The Man and I agreed upon, lunch out for each of us once a week.  It's not a controlling thing or a money thing, just a sort of reasonable limit.  Home food is usually healthier and cheaper anyway, so it's good.  Back to the story, I only get to eat out once a week.  I chose to head out on Monday this week since I knew I was making a big pot of soup and would have leftovers for the rest of the week.  Monday, right at noon, I dashed over to Burger King, my "favorite" fast food haunt (which ain't sayin' much, blah).  

As soon as I pulled in front of the little blue stand with the broken screen and crappy microphone, the loudspeaker erupted with "Goooooooooood morningafternooneveningdaytimehappyday! What can I get for youyesyouyesyou for lunch?"  A barf bag please

I told the voice what I wanted in simple words, "a plain cheeseburger value meal."    

"Uh... plain cheeseburger, like... just the meat, cheese, and the bun?"  Yes, wiseass, unless someone has redefined the definition of plain in the last twenty seconds.  I confirmed that I'd ordered exactly what I said.  

"Ok, what size would you like that value meal today, smallmediumlargejumboextrahugemegacolossal...?" Whatever size gets you to shut up!  

"Small?" I questioned.  

"Are youuuuuu suuuuuuuuure?" the voice parried.  ARGH, yes, yes, just stop talking!  

"Yessir, I'm sure."  

"Ok, what else can I get for you today?"  A stun gun, pretty please?  

"A side salad with ranch, no croutons please."  

Then I heard, "No croutons?  Plain cheeseburger?  I can take the ice out of your Diet Coke if you want."  Ass. Hole. 

"Thanks but just no croutons."  

"All right, that'll be five thousand six hundred..."  I think he caught my rolling eyes at that point and cut out the circus act.  Getting lunch shouldn't be an ordeal, especially in a drive-through.  There's something to be said for having enthusiasm at work, but please, save it for late at night or just with your coworkers.  Don't berate me for having it my way at your restaurant.  Less is more, people, less is more.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Magnetic Menu (Bi-Weekly)

My least favorite question in the entire world is "what's for dinner?"  I remember asking my mother this every night as soon as she got home from work.  Now I understand why she just about ripped our heads off for asking.

I've been meal planning for about six months, and I don't know how I survived before I started doing this.  I love being able to look at my own menu and not have to wonder what to make.  I also like to know right away what I need to get when I go shopping for the week.  Though I plan ahead, most of my meals are flexible.  Unless the meal requires fresh ingredients (salad) or a lot of prep (soups), I can usually move things around within one week pretty easy.  Pasta is dry, and the sauce is frozen (homemade!), so there's no reason I can't move it from Monday to Thursday if necessary.  I just have to be careful about when I start thawing meats or when I buy fresh veggies.  Aside from milk and bread, we can usually get two weeks worth of food at once if we stick to the menu.  Unfortunately our apartment doesn't have space for much more than two weeks of food. :(  I can only dream of having a pantry like my parents or grandma...

I made this bi-weekly magnetic menu just like I made our adult chore cart.  The two frames are side-by-side.  I can look at this week's menu, determine which night The Man wants to cook, put those meals up on whatever nights he wants, and assign him "make dinner" on those same nights on the chore chart.  I'll do the dishes on those nights that he cooks.

I printed the meals on some pink swirly scrapbook paper (pretties!), laminated both sides of each meal, and then cut them into 1" squares.  I used the mono adhesive to stick the square onto a ceramic magnet.  Eventually I'll have more meals than what you see here, but I ran out of magnets.  Another 50 of those, and I'll have quite the meal planning options!  I was just going to make the menu for one week, but I really like the ability to see ahead a bit so we can move things around if people are coming over.

For the record, the meals I have "planned" in the picture are not complete.  Most days will have at least two squares, usually a meat, a starch, and a veggie.  Pasta night often is only "pasta" since I assume there will be a meaty tomato sauce involved, and that's like a meat, a starch, and a veggie (fruit!) all-in-one.  Pizza doesn't really go with anything, so really, who am I kidding?  Pizza night is just pizza.  Pizza and salad if I'm going all-out.  I don't separate "fried potatoes" from "mashed potatoes" or "baked potatoes."  Potatoes just means we're having potatoes.  I'll decide how to cook them based on how much effort I really want to put into making them that night.  "Beans or peas" doesn't actually mean one or the other.  I eat green beans, but The Man likes peas.  I take a handful of each out of the freezer, throw them in a bowl, and nuke 'em for a few so that we each get the greens we like.

The pretty scrapbook paper is from KI Memories Enchanting (March 2010) set.  The laminating sheets are by Avery.  I used Tombow mono permanent adhesive (refill) and ProMAG ceramic magnets.  The font is Copperplate Gothic Light, bold.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adult Chore Chart

This might seem silly to other "grown-ups," but it's something The Man and I have learned we need.  Our adult chore charts aren't about telling each other what to do or proving someone does more or less.  They're simply a communication tool so that we both know ahead of time what we have to get done during our day.  When I wake up, I can quickly look and see that I need to empty the trash or make dinner that night or clean the shower. I can fit it into my schedule.  Also, our chore chart ensures that we're not spending a whole (valuable!) day off doing chores.

We did agree that we needed some sort of incentive to make this work.  Positive reinforcement isn't just for children, right?  We agreed that, if we successfully completed all of our assigned chores in one week (on the right days), we would get a star to put on our name.  Each star at the end of the month equals $5 cash.  That cash can be spent on anything a person chooses that is a "fun" item.  The money does not come out of any special budget, but it can be added to any budget in order to gain a nicer item.  For example, I could use my $20 toward a cookbook, treat us to a movie out, or maybe buy some Legos.  He might spend his money on computer peripherals, books, or music.  Failure to complete a task on any given day (barring reasonable excuses or being able to move a chore to the next day--like cleaning the shower) results in the loss of that week's star and the potential to earn $5.

A few notes about how I made the chore chart:

I used a 12" x 12" piece of metal flashing (purchased at Creative Crafts in Corvallis--support your local craft store!) behind the scrapbook paper inside the frame.  The frame is also a 12" x 12" black wooden frame with glass.  I hung the chore chart using Command picture hangers with stabilizing strips.

The blue background paper has no printed text on it.  I printed the grid with our (real) names on a sheet of transparency, then cut it close to the outside edge of the grid.  I used mono adhesive to stick the transparency to the blue paper.  I then cut a 3" strip of the flowery paper for the top.  The title is on transparency as well (since I didn't know how or where I'd want it).  I printed the days of the week on a strip of paper using my printer.  Both the flowery paper and the strip are adhered using the same mono adhesive.  I ran yet another color through my printer to get the chores and the stars.  Both sides of that sheet were laminated using what is essentially super thick, paper-width packing tape.  I used my 3/4" paper punch upside down to center the text and punch it out.  I used, yet again, that same adhesive to stick the circles to cheap black ceramic magnets.

A word of caution: my original intent was to use the glass half-marbles (mancala stones, anyone, anyone?) to sort of magnify the text on the circles, but ceramic magnets just wouldn't hold up the marbles.  I didn't want to shell out $50 for neodymium magnets, so I just cut out the glass bits and laminated the paper instead.

I suppose I could have skipped the magnet part entirely and just printed the chores on the grid permanently, but I wanted the flexibility to switch up who is doing what and when.  Aside from The Man vacuuming and me mopping, we do change things up from time to time.

You might notice that some of the phrases on my circles are odd.  "Grocery shopping" wouldn't fit on the little circles, so I had to substitute "get food."  "Clean stove" is different than "clean kitchen" since cleaning the kitchen is more of a general all-over wipe-down.  Cleaning the stove involves pulling out the elements and scrubbing the pans (not an everyday thing at chez Jaggy).  We don't have assignments for the dishwasher, trash, or taking out the recycling yet since those don't always happen on any given day, yet they could happen on any day.  Those things get assigned pretty quick when they need to happen.

Are we crazy for using an adult chore chart?  Do you have any suggestions?  What do you use to keep chores straight in your house?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

He Shoots, He Scores!

The Man plays indoor soccer about once a week at a local sports park.  His team doesn't win much, but they're a good team with good sportsmanship.  Every once in a while, The Man will score a goal.  I just happened to snap this picture of his foot connecting with the ball.  About a nanosecond later, the ball went flying to the goalie's left and straight into the goal.  He scored!  My next picture was of The Man sliding across the turf as the opponent in the black and red pretty much smeared him into the ground.  But he scored!  And I got a good picture of it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lunches from the Past

The Man and I were recently discussing some tea mug thingy we found in the store one time and didn't buy when we had it in our hands--stupid us, now we can't find it in stores.  I found it online today made by Aladdin.

That one word, Aladdin, took me back to my childhood.  I carried an Aladdin-brand lunch box to school every day through grade school.  Tonight, I shared the recollection with The Man, a short memory of the red Mickey Mouse lunch box and thermos.  He told me he took an Aladdin lunch box to school every day, too.

So we set out on a quest to find pictures of our long-lost lunch boxes to show each other.  And you know what?  I could only find my thermos.  He could only find his box.

Both of us would just about keel over if someone handed those childhood treasures to us today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homemade Pop-Tarts (gluten-free option!)

After a few requests for my homemade pop-tart recipe, how could I do anything but make that my next post?  If you can make pie crust, you can make these.

1 1/2 c flour (AP or white rice flour or your favorite pastry flour)
1/2 c butter (not margarine, don't even think about it)
1/4 t salt
3 T water (or a little more)

jam or jelly

powdered sugar
vanilla (optional)
sprinkles or other decorations (optional)

Combine flour and salt, then cut in cold butter until you get a coarse crumb texture.  Slowly add a tablespoon of water at a time until you can make a ball of dough in your hand that doesn't come apart.  Turn dough onto a pastry mat and roll into a big rectangle about 1/8" thick.  Cut into twelve or sixteen pieces depending how big you want your tarts.  Place a scant teaspoon of jam or jelly on half of your dough pieces, then cover the jammed pieces with the unjammed pieces.  Press with a fork, fingers, or other device around the edges to seal.  Bake on a parchment- or silpat-lined sheet at 450° for about 8 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden.  Once cooled, make a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze and drizzle as desired.

There are some rules for pop-tart decorating.  Strawberry and blueberry pop-tarts get white frosting and multi-colored sprinkles.  Cherry tarts get pink frosting and red sprinkles.  Raspberry have white frosting and red sprinkles.  Grape get purple frosting with green sprinkles.  That is, if you follow the Pop-Tart Brand.  If you prefer chocolate chips, a peanut butter drizzle over apple tarts, or maybe caramel sauce for dipping, that's totally up to you. :)

If you use rice flour, you'll need more than 5 T of water to get a good dough.  Brown rice flour will also work, plus that'll add some fiber (but not enough to remove any guilt!).  I think half-shortening-half-butter will also work, but it doesn't help the calories or the flavor any, maybe just the texture.  Lastly, I would use more than a teaspoon of jam if you want as much as what comes in a regular pop-tart.  I didn't need more, but I can see how someone else would.

I am not affiliated with Kelloggs, Pop-Tarts, or any other company or business that sells pastries.  My recipe is not intended to compete with commercial brands.  But if you like my recipe, comment, yo!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Create, I Destroy

Whew, I had a fantastic weekend of creating!  Some of my adventures were successful, and one was mostly disastrous.  At least the disaster wasn't expensive.  That definitely makes swallowing the Fail Pill a bit easier.

Friday night included my first attempt at making homemade gluten-free macaroni and cheese.  I used rice noodles and rice flour instead of the regular wheat counterparts.  The flavor was great, and the noodles were perfectly cooked.  However, rice flour doesn't make the best rue, so the cheese sauce had an odd texture.  I think cornstarch will make a better rue next time.  Must experiment because I don't think The Man will ever let me get out of making his favorite food.

My parents came over to watch The Man play soccer Friday evening as well.  His team didn't win this week, but he did score a goal.  I took another two hundred pictures of him playing in order to get two or three fantastic photos (which I will post later this week).  I gave Mom the twelve pairs of earrings that I reconstructed for her and swapped out one she didn't particularly like for another of her own creation.  A baker's dozen went home with her, all much prettier than they were before I fixed them.

Saturday morning came way too fast.  The Man and I got up early and went to Salem to his parents' house.  He got to spend a morning with his father while his mother and I went to a Stampin' Up party.  She'd been to one before, but this was my first time.  Think of it sort of like a Pampered Chef party for rubber stamps and fancy paper, but the host doesn't demonstrate things as much as you just getting to play around and figure things out for yourself.  The Man's Mom showed me the ropes, and we got to sit and chat a bunch while we crafted.  The host lady had a nice little spread of yummy foods that I could eat!  I sneaked an Oreo, too, but I don't think my tummy noticed.  We finished stamping around 1:00pm and then went to lunch.  The Man and I got home just in time for dinner--that I totally didn't plan ahead of time.  We made a $100 trip to the store (ugh!), but I have everything I need for the next two weeks except milk.

Sunday was blissful.  I slept in way late, got up and made hashbrowns, and did four loads of laundry.  I made a quick-ish trip to the craft store to take advantage of a great sale.  After leftover mac for lunch, I set to work in the kitchen making homemade gluten-free pop tarts.

You heard me, homemade pop tarts.

They are delicious!  I took some pictures with my phone, but it's complicated to get those loaded, so we'll see how that goes this week.  I used strawberry jam as the filling, and the crust is a very basic almost pie-like crust.  The Man and I agree that the tarts really need icing, so I showed him how to make some simple icing with powdered sugar and milk.  Since the filling is strawberry, of course I had to put multicolored sprinkles on top.  Everybody who has ever eaten a pop tart knows that there are rules regarding frosting color and sprinkle color.  It just wouldn't taste the same otherwise!

I also put a roast in my crock pot.  I'd been craving it, and The Man swears he's not a fan of roasts since they're often super dry and gross.  But after four hours of cooking away in onion soup mix with potatoes, I had a pound-and-a-half of the juiciest, most tender roast I've ever seen.  And it tasted like, er, well, it tasted like something I'm not supposed to say in public.  I don't know what I did, but that was $5 worth of meat and potatoes we aren't eating.  I talked to Mom and have several ideas of what to do next time.

I'll have to write tomorrow about what I did with the rest of my weekend.  It's complicated, plus this post is long enough.  And I want to go eat another pop tart.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Company Conundrums

It's always a difficult decision for me: how much should I clean and tidy before company comes over?  Certainly there are different levels of "company," a gap between how much I will clean for my sister and how much I will clean for friends coming into town from far away that will be staying the night.  Not that I don't want our apartment to be spotless for my sister, but I don't feel judged by her (and, really, we shared a bathroom for eighteen years: she's seen me at my worst).  If my parents or in-laws come over, the bathroom gets scrubbed (except the shower), and the kitchen will be spruced up, but the bedrooms can be a disaster.  If friends our age come over, the bedrooms are pristine, but I won't have taken out all of the garbages beforehand.

Of course, how long someone is staying dramatically effects how much I will clean for them.  A quick stop to pick something up?  I'll tidy the living room.  Staying for a night or two?  I'll clean the entire bathroom including the shower.

But sometimes there's the question of whether to clean before someone arrives or after they leave.  If I'm having a bunch of people over, forget the floors.  I'll sweep and mop after the party.  If those bunches of people use the bathroom, I'll do a quick wipe-down before they arrive and a full scrub after they leave.  It's our apartment, our living space with our germs, not theirs, and I don't feel like I need to live in after-party-yuckiness.

Sometimes I will judge myself as I think others would be judging me--the worst possible thing on an ego.  I'll watch people walk through our apartment and make mental notes, "I can't believe I left that book out!" or "Ugh, the pillows on the couch do not match anything.  Sure, they may be pretty, but they don't match." or "Look at that pile of clutter in the corner.  I know I've been meaning to clean it up, but why did I wait?"  The little devil on my shoulder (Murray? remember?) gets me going, and then I feel like a total failure with every purchase and decorating decision.  I have to remind myself that I don't have a personal decorator nor the money to spend on such frivolous things, and if my guests are really that judgmental, they won't be coming back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lent 2011

We're one week into Lent, and I have to say things are not going as well as I had hoped.  Lent is one of my favorite seasons, which is odd since I'm not so into all that spring brings (more sunshine, pollen, jelly beans).  I am doing two things this year, and if I get one of the two accomplished in any given day, I'm considering myself successful.

The Man and I discussed what we could to together for Lent quite a while ago.  We decided we would read as much of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy as we could.  Of course, the entire book is quite thick at two inches, but two or three cantos a night should get us close to finishing all 100 cantos during the 40 days of Lent.  As the history of the Catholic Church and the traditional idea of purgatory, limbo, heaven, and hell cannot be entirely separated from Alighieri's work, we thought the book would be a good choice.  The book is not, in itself, spiritual, nor does it hold an ounce of clout on ecclesiastical matters, The Divine Comedy can help us (in one way or another) better understand our faith.

Plus the sacrifice of having to get together and do something we might not actually want to do for fifteen minutes is more than enough for me to believe it qualifies.  Sometimes we just don't want to read together.  But we made the commitment.  I think we're up to Canto VI, so that puts us about fourteen cantos behind.  Ugh.

Probably more difficult in practice is my goal to do something nice for my husband every day during Lent.  We should always want to do something nice for our spouses, of course, and for all people.  In the day-to-day humdrum of life, we (I should say I) often lose track of little kindnesses.  Whether it's leaving him a nice note or not complaining when he forgets to do something or extra special praise, I'm trying to do something, anything, nice for him.  He might not even notice that I'm doing something nice--and that's okay.  If nothing else, I feel like I'm still trying to impress him in a way, and that sort of brings back the fun of dating.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We Bought Couches!

After a long three-day weekend, I thought I'd arrive to work today all refreshed and ready to tackle the week.  Not so much.  I could really go for a four-day vacation and another weekend right about now.

Friday was both lazy and busy.  I got the things I needed to get done wrapped up, but I also waited around all day long for a call that never came.  Frustrating, but it was nice to just chill at home by myself for an hour or two.

Saturday was busy-ish.  The Man and I ventured forth in the hopes of finding a couch and loveseat we both really liked.  After a previous weekend of shopping and price-comparing, we were thrilled to find the perfect set for us at a price we were willing to pay.  Yay for feeling all adult-y!  Lots of people offered us a lot of suggestions about what kind of couch to buy, but in the end we got what we wanted.  No sleeper-sofas, no flip-up footrests, no ultra-high arms, and definitely nothing uncomfortable.  We chose something in a microfiber fabric, not leather or suede.  And tan.  Boring, safe, tan.  A tan that we won't have to switch out every time I redecorate, which is, oh, about never.

Because, really, what's the point of decorating when none of our stuff matches anyway?  We're still using patio furniture as a dining set.  And the rocking chair we have is the only rocking chair I've ever known since my parents got it before I was born.  Yeah.  Matchy-matchy I think not.

Let's see, Saturday also included my first gluten in several weeks.  It promptly gave me gut pains that didn't disappear until this afternoon.  I also had a nasty migraine, all of which had disappeared the last four weeks.  It was a delicious donut, but I'm not going to do that again, ow!

Sunday was a bit lazier.  After a little wind storm ripped through town, we popped out to get some groceries.  My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner and cookie making.  We even made our own oat flour that got stirred into oat-flour-oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies that are super yummy!  Even more boldly, I use every chocolate chip I had (like, half a quart jar).  They're just a tad more crumbly than regular oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, but I think an extra egg would bind everything together just fine.  Maybe I'll try that next time.  No recipe forthcoming, sorry, that particular recipe is a family secret.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

So Much for Friends, So Much Indeed

The Man is a social guy.  He likes spending time with people.  He has really close friends that he doesn't get to see nearly enough, and he has lesser friends that seem to flake as often as possible.  For me to watch them turn down his offers of entertainment, food, and lifelong friendship is heartbreaking.  He tries so hard.  They don't even have the courtesy to tell him they won't be able to make it before the planned event happens.

One night, about two months ago or so, The Man set up a movie night to go see a movie in the theater.  Five or six friends were going to meet him there.  Had he not needed to switch theaters and contact everyone very shortly before the show started, he would have simply been stood up by all of them.  Each one, independent of the other, decided against letting him know in advance that they couldn't make it.  The Man and I stayed home, bummed, just the two of us, again.

Sometimes The Man will invite friends to our apartment.  He'll offer them dinner (which I will inevitably be cooking), yet they'll bail an hour or two beforehand.  The whole dinner thing is a major inconvenience to me as I usually need to make an additional trip to the store, buy larger quantities of food, and cook it.  And it's always super special when The Man gets a text message just as I throw a pan of food in the oven that his friends can't make it.

I know there are good reasons to break appointments.  I'm sure many of his friends had valid reasons.  But it's hard for me to believe that 90% of the scheduled events have fallen through for valid reasons each and every time.  And I wish, oh how I wish, that 90% of the scheduled events in the last six or eight months falling through was an exaggeration, but it's not.  We're lucky if we get people to do something with us once a month (outside of family, who are, not surprisingly, much kinder at sticking to plans).

We're nice people, generous to friends, and always willing to fill bellies with yummy food.  We've had a standing weekly appointment with one (good) friend, and he is always letting us know as far as possible in advance if he can't make it.  Likewise, if we need to reschedule, we tell him as soon as we know.  It's a matter of simple decency and respect!

I don't know how much more I can take.  If The Man's plans fall through again, he'll be devastated.  I'll be sad, too.  For him and for the friends missing out on a great evening.  Argh.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Latchkey Me

I was a latchkey kid.  My sister, also, was a latchkey kid.  We never knew any different. So when I read an article today about a mother being ticketed for "cruelty" for leaving her capable 14-year-old son home to care for a younger sibling, I about had to scrape my jaw off the floor.

Latchkey children, for those not "in the know," are kids who went from school to their unoccupied house, let themselves in, and entertained themselves until their parents arrived home.  In my case, I'd get out of school around 2:30pm, walk straight home as quickly as possible, and chill by myself or with my sister until Dad got home around 4:30pm.  A whole two hours of quiet freedom after the chaos of school.  Those were the good ol' days.

Mind you, I didn't get to be home by myself at all until I was probably eight or nine (for my parents to go grocery shopping or something like that), but by middle school I was riding the bus and letting myself in the house.  And there were rules I had to follow.  Before the days of caller ID, I had to wait through four agonizing rings of the telephone and let it go to voicemail so I could know who was calling before I picked up.  We didn't have a peep-hole in our front door, so if the doorbell rang, I could sneak up to a window and peek through the blinds and maybe recognize a car or the UPS man.  Unless it was a car I knew, I never opened the door.  Not for friends, not for neighbors, not at all.  I was not allowed to use the stove or oven, not allowed to use any appliances but the microwave, and certainly not allowed to play outside in the front yard.  I didn't try to sneak in some TV in the afternoon because I knew what was expected of me: go home, get a snack, get to my homework.  When the work was done, I could have fun.  Those time management skills have benefited me immensely as an adult.

By the time I was twelve or thirteen, my sister would join me after school.  If she got home first, she'd let herself in.  If I got home first, she better have her key.  Unless one of us sounded the secret-sister-I-forgot-my-key-knock, we didn't let each other in.

From the time I was twelve until I was nineteen, we spent every summer home together, just the two of us, for nine hours a day, five days a week.  That's seven summers we spent locked inside a house with no place to go.  Though I may have thought I was in charge, I was not.  We got through squabbles and tiffs, sat through hours of craft shows, read hundreds of books, and made up some of the dumbest games.  We didn't call Mom or Dad unless one of us was bleeding to death--and even then, a limb had to be severed off, not just hanging by the skin.  We couldn't get online.  We didn't dare call our friends.  And God help us if we left a mess or didn't pick up our toys before Mom got home, especially on the kitchen counter.

There were expectations, clearly outlined and enumerated.  We knew what we could and could not do.  No questioning, no fudging, no blurring the lines.  We learned obedience and a great deal of independence from those nearly 4,000 hours of unsupervised summer bliss.  We learned to rely on ourselves for entertainment.  We learned how to have a lot of fun with a deck of playing cards, some string, or a ream of paper.  We learned simple household repair, like how to cover up that dent in the hallway or how to get stains out of a couch without leaving a big smear right before a parent arrived home.  We learned what not to put in the microwave (a few times).  We also learned how to re-pot flowers that got knocked over, how to remove nail polish from counters, how to take Sharpie off the table, how to cover up food dye on our fingers, and what happens when you lie about what you've been up to all day.

To this day, I have an irrational fear of opening doors when I'm home alone.  Unless it's someone I know and am expecting, I won't do it.  Call me first, then come knocking.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Perfect Day

Today was pretty much the perfect day.  The Man and I were on the same wavelength and never bickered once (a fight is rare, but bickering common).  We were able to sleep in until 9:30am, quite a bit later than our usual 7:00am wake-up time.  After snuggling and wondering what we'll do with a whole day to ourselves, we roused and puttered about.  I made hashbrowns for breakfast, sort of a rarity, but will probably become more common considering they're easy to make and don't hurt my tummy.  We did three loads of laundry--and The Man folded his own clothes (yay!).  Around 11:00am, we went over to Borders for The Man to pick up a book he's been waiting over two years to get (it was finally released late last week).  I got a wonderful gluten-free cookbook 40%-off.  It's so rare that I get a cookbook with one or two recipes in it that I really want to try, but the cookbook I got today is over half Jaggy-acceptable!  We also finished our week's grocery shopping and bought gas (the one downer of the day, ugh).

Lunchtime flew by since we were both engrossed in new books.  We finished up the last load of laundry.  I started a load of homemade jerky in my new food dehydrator.  I'll start another load of dried apples before bed.  In the later afternoon, I threw a few ingredients in the bread maker and am still hoping for the best on that front.  I also made brownies while dinner was cooking--tacos and hominy.  We had a bit of time to go downtown to a furniture store to get ideas of the type of couch we might want to buy soon and may have found a steal of a deal, but we'll see what we can find elsewhere too.  Before Mass tonight, I hope to get a couple more little chores done and maybe some stitching.

We both had a relaxing, easy day.  Nothing (other than gas) was expensive.  I did get a lot of things cooked for this week, but it was all set-and-forget type cooking.  We both have new books, and I am working on a few pleasurable reading books besides my cookbooks.  Our apartment was actually warmer than 65° for much of the day without having to turn on the heat.  I didn't have to go on mold patrol.  We're both looking forward to Lent beginning this week, and I have the month's menu planned around our meatless Fridays.

No meat on Fridays does not mean no homemade macaroni and cheese on Fridays.  Potato soup, pancakes and eggs, shrimp salads... and fish sticks and rice!  I think we'll "suffer" just fine.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I'll Meet You in the Creek

I don't know what has gotten into college girls lately, but this whole pants-inside-ugly-boots thing has got to stop.  Unless you're under ten years old (and even then I dislike the look) or riding a horse, there's no need for your pants to be inside your boots.

Just so you know, when your pants are inside your boots, it looks like you're wearing mini-hip-waders.  So attractive *sarcasm.  The Ugg boots look over pants is my personal favorite: nothing says "I'm cool" like jeans showing off far too many curves and then slipping inside furry mini-hip-waders that make your feet look huge.  Even rubber boots, those all-too-trendy-and-unsupportive-insoled abominations, ought to be reconsidered as everyday wear.  They're made for stomping in puddles, not for wearing to class (or, the horror, work!).  Only a few inches taller, and you could wade right into the creek after school without fear that your precious skinny jeans would become damp and shrink, thereby squeezing off a leg.

The whole skinny jean thing is a crack-up, too, but that's a whole 'nother rant.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

My New Favorite Cornbread Recipe

I love cornbread.  It's like the perfect side-dish to just about any meal.  Big salad? Cornbread side.  Big bowl of soup?  Side o' cornbread.  Sandwich?  Bowl of cereal?  Apple?  They all go deliciously with cornbread.  I've eaten it by itself as a meal many times.  And while some people enjoy their cornbread with honey or maple syrup or slathered in butter, I'm a purist.

Growing up, I ate Jiffy cornbread.  Since I started cooking, I've decided I like the Marie Callender brand better.  I recently tried the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread, but that left much to be desired (like real flour?).  I've finally given up trying to find a great mix and decided to start from scratch.  The recipe is as close to Marie Callender's cornbread as I've found, plus it's not too complicated.  It can be made with different flours.  It can be made more or less dense, more or less cornmeal-y, and more or less sweet.  I call that fantastic!

1 1/4 c flour (AP or brown rice flour work best)
3/4 c cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1/3 c sugar (I use a 1/2 c for extra sweetness)
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c milk (whole milk is best, I use 1% without a problem)
1/4 c shortening (butter flavored would be yummy, I used plain Crisco)
1 egg

Cut the sugar into the shortening with a pastry cutter or two forks.  Add the egg and milk and mix well.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and few lumps remain.  Place into a greased 8" or 9" baking dish and cook at 400° for 25-30 minutes.

If someone was really savvy, they could make the mix ahead of time and just add milk, shortening, and egg when they wanted a batch.  Methinks some Ziplock baggies are in my future!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I Won't Stand for Trash Talking

Dear AT&T,

The Man and I were recently in one of your stores to discuss potentially upgrading our phones.  We had no intention of making any purchases or changes to our service during our visit as we needed more information in order to make a decision.  Upon entering the store, we were greeted warmly by several of your employees.  Since the store was relatively vacant during our visit, we had the undivided attention of a sales associate.  He gave us several sales pitches and answered our questions quickly and kindly.  We were chatting with him, asking questions about other cell phone carriers, when he blurted, "I like to talk trash about the competition every chance I get."  Both my husband and I were taken aback, but we said nothing to the employee.  It isn't our place to tell him his attitude is completely inappropriate.  His manager was standing next to him and offered no apology or reprimand, not even a flinch at his forwardness.

Can you imagine what would happen if every company "talked trash" about their competition?  It's one thing to bad-mouth a rival sports team or college in the workplace, but to have an employee openly declare his dislike for Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile loudly for the whole store to hear, that goes too far.  The statistics he offered next regarding AT&T's superiority in the market were unnecessary, not to mention a complete turn-off.

We have a friend in the real estate business.  She works for a local and well-respected company.  When we asked her what she thought about her competition, she said she'd rather not say what she thought.  She wouldn't even "talk trash" about the competition with very close friends over a casual dinner.  A mark of honor, I'll say.  It would behoove AT&T's employees to learn some honor.

Though we've considered upgrading our phones, we will be waiting for quite some time before we enter an AT&T store again.  Unless that employee finds himself at another branch or in another line of work, we won't return to that store ever.  We don't do business with people or companies who bad-mouth others.  It's inappropriate and unnecessary.

AT&T, you can make this right.  As a loyal customer for nearly ten years, I would appreciate an apology on behalf of your slanderous employee.  In lieu of an apology, my husband I would like to be released from our contracts without penalty.


P.S.  To any real AT&T employee reading this, leave a comment.  It'll go straight to my e-mail without posting on the blog.  Leave your contact information, and I will respond to you.  Remember, you can make this right.