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!