Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pentastic

I'll admit that I'm a huge pen snob (among other things).  I like nice pens.  I can't stand the idea of writing with a cheap ballpoint stick pen, and my hand cramps at the thought of slick or shiny pens.  I have several very nice pens, two of them being fountain pens--the dip in ink kind--and a couple nicer pens that I really enjoy using.

One of my most favorite pens, a Retro 51 Cherry Blossom/Washington Monument pen, recently ran out of ink.  The place where I used to purchase ink refills no longer carries that brand.  Sad day!  I wasn't up to buying bulk quantities online, nor did I really want to pay $5 shipping for a $5 item.  The nearest place to get Retro 51 cartridges is over a hundred miles away.  I popped the spent cartridge out and went to the nearest office supply store, stood in the pen refill section for ten minutes comparing what I had with potential replacements, and struggled to find something, anything, that might work.  Parker Quink came to the rescue for me.  I once again have a fantastic and very comfortable pen with really good dark black ink in it.

I also loaded up my Parker Sonnet fountain pen recently and started using it at work.  I can't wait to write things down now.  I have more little notes and thoughts stuck all over my monitor, my bulletin board, my calendar... it's insanity trying to sort through the lists.  While some people use their fancy phones to make their shopping lists, I'm scrambling around trying to remember where I left my favorite pens.

When I can't have my special pens, I generally opt for rollerball pens.  Uniball 207 RT Signo pens are a great cheaper option.  The ink never fails me.  It doesn't smear like many of the other rollerballs, and it's easier to use than a standard ballpoint pen for me.  The cushy grip helps with my tendency to want to squeeze the ink/lead right out of my writing instrument (bad habit formed very young).  And the Signo ink helps prevent check fraud, so that's a bonus.  This is an unpaid testimony for the Signo pen, by the way, since I really do love them.

My most special pen is the one my father made for me.  He turns pens, so I have a matching fountain pen and letter opener set in a stunning emerald green with gold accents.  It can take ink cartridges or use a converter.  Master craftsmanship and attention to detail on that pen, lemme tell ya.

It just feels nice to have a great pen, and I'm glad my Retro 51 pen is back with me.  Loving the Quink, too!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Milestones and Reunions

The Man has returned from Seattle for the second week in a row.  He went north last week for four days and this week for five days, so I'm almost used to being a single lady again.  I looked forward to his return from this second trip for several weeks, dreading the idea of sleeping alone just one more night.

Though I am incredibly independent, I just like having him here when I'm sleeping.  Except when he flails and hits my face with his elbow.  I don't really like that.

We've had a long week apart.  I was using his car the last couple weeks while my car sat with a funky tire.  I finally took my poor car to the shop on Friday and got four new tires and new CV boots put on, so now my car runs sooooooo much better.  My wallet is also a lot lighter, but I know these things need to be done.  Ouch and oh well.

As nice and fancy as The Man's car is compared to mine (same make and model, just sixteen years newer), I still love the feel and sound of my car over his.  All of his electronics are whirring and chirping and smooth.  My older car makes vroom noises and clicks and does what you tell it without having to think about what you want it to do.  The just don't make 'em like they used to...

The Man's mom came down last night for a date with me since I was home alone for so long.  We went out to dinner and then played games for a long time.  I had a very nice time talking and sharing.

Also on Friday, since I took the day off, I set out to accomplish some serious progress on my quilt.  I have reduced 2500 pieces down to about 250.  All of my triangle strips are sewn.  I am very, very, very happy to be done sewing triangles to other triangles.  I have about 650 seams left to put in before the top is completely finished, so there's lots of work to be done still.  Hitting this milestone was a huge step.  I'm taking at least a day off from working now.

Oh, and Thin Mints blended with ice cream?  Best. Milkshake. Ever.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Being Elmo

My usual Wednesday night movie night with a friend was incredibly special last night.  We watched "Being Elmo, A Puppeteer's Journey" on Netflix.  The show is a biography about the man that voices the Sesame Street character Elmo.  His life is fascinating, and his story was really fun to see evolve.  My face actually hurt at the end from smiling so much throughout the 80-odd minutes.  I've always love the idea of puppets, and to watch a man create different characters was absolutely stunning.  He makes his characters come alive.  The suspension of reality is complete even though he doesn't do any form of ventriloquism.

Also, who doesn't love Elmo?

If you want a very happy evening, snuggle in with this movie.  You can't possibly regret it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So Much for Relaxing

When my husband is out of town, I try to stay as busy as possible so that the time passes quickly.  He was gone last week on a business trip, and I managed to not get too scared at night while home alone.  I'm great during the day, but nights aren't so fun.

He arrived home late Friday night, so we tried to spend lots of time together over the weekend.  We had a visit from my parents, and then we went to his mom's college graduation party on Sunday.  When we weren't cleaning or visiting, we were watching movies and catching up on little projects.

I took last night away from my blog in order to do some serious cooking.  In one evening I managed to throw together homemade chicken pot pies and a crock pot of jambalaya for tonight.  I sort of invented the pot pies as I went, so I don't have a recipe for those.  The pie crusts were from the store.  I only used carrots, celery, onion, a little bit of corn, and chicken in mine since that's what I wanted.  The "soup" part is just cornstarch-thickened chicken stock.  Spices included pepper, garlic salt, and parsley.

For the jambalaya, I used a recipe that a friend gave me.  I put chicken, andouille sausage, celery, bell pepper, tomato sauce, chicken broth, parsley, thyme, cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and onion in a crock pot, then shoved that in the bottom of my fridge.  When I got up this morning, I grabbed it out, stuck it in the crock pot heater thingy, and went to work.  When I got home, I added the shrimp and made rice to go with the jambalaya.  Easy peasy!

In other news, I got a new keyboard and mouse for my laptop.  As much as I've tried using the touchpad on Lappy, I just can't take it for extended gaming sessions of The Sims.  You did read that correctly, I play The Sims.  I installed the game plus all of its expansion packs recently, so now I have something to do in addition to quilting, movies, the piano, and all of my other fun things to do.  The computer runs so fast, and the game is a breeze to play compared to how it was on the first computer I played those games.

That about sums up the last five days.  I'm exhausted.  My Kindle is calling...

Friday, February 17, 2012

If Ever There Was a Reason to Move

I can't make this stuff up, folks.  *sigh

*shakes head

Our apartment management has struck again.

Every year around this time, the managers and maintenance men tour every apartment in our complex.  I think they are just making sure that nobody is hoarding or attempting to burn the place down, though they claim they look at the water heater, the dryer vents, and behind the refrigerators for dust bunnies or whatever it is they hope to find.  The inspection usually results in absolutely nothing happening, so it's not a big deal for me to allow perfect strangers into my home--while I'm not even there--to look around.  Security?  What's that?

As you know, our apartment has had maintenance men in it in the past.  Their "handywork" has been exhibited to me in appalling ways, so I generally try not to contact them if at all possible.  After contacting them three different times about our front door not latching properly, we gave up and just did without one of the two locks for six months.  The door has miraculously started working better lately, which is good, but we don't know why it works.  I won't even get into the other horrors I've seen them create in our few square feet of home.

We don't have a choice about whether or not to allow these "handy" men into our apartment for the annual inspection.  This Tuesday while we were both at work, the group let themselves into our apartment and had a nice long look around.  They investigated the closet with the water heater, moved everything around in our kitchen (without replacing anything, not even the fridge to its proper position), moved the dryer around, and managed to track lint from one corner of our apartment to the other.  I took pictures.  Seriously, I'm not sure where they even found that much lint, but it was everywhere.  I found lint in the bathroom, in the dining room, out by the couch... no attempt was made to clean up after themselves.  Sorta pissed me off.

They did leave a nice note, though, indicating they'd be returning later this week to fix what they deemed a necessary repair.  Nevermind that the water heater is older than we are, the fridge runs louder than a coffee percolator, and the bathroom faucet knob barely turns.  Ignore that our front door has massive gaps all around it.  Forget the mold I'm fighting in the window sills.  Oh no, they insisted that the one thing that must be repaired was a bathroom cabinet door that hung slightly crooked.

*blink, blink, blink

*shakes head

Thursday.  I return home from work to find the bathroom rug covered in wood shavings.  My beautiful microfiber memory foam rug.  There was mud smeared on the vinyl floor around the rug, grimy fingerprints all over the cabinet doors, and a cabinet door that hung slightly straighter than before.

I slowly opened the cabinet door to inspect the work.

I suspect they used school glue, wood blocks, and all thumbs to complete the repair.

Where once we had an intact cabinet, they hacked--and I mean literally hacked--out a section of the cabinet frame, glued on some hunks of wood, and attached the hinge to exactly the same place it used to be.  The wood hunks are neither the correct size or color, nor are they even a similar wood.  I think one hunk is pine and the other an oak.  The cabinets are probably particle board.  Rather than hacking the living daylight out of the cabinets to replace damaged wood, wouldn't it have just been easier to move the hinge?

I'm not so mad about the shoddy work as I am the condition in which our apartment was left when these strange men worked in our home.  Who tracks lint throughout an apartment without making any attempt to clean up?  Who does any sort of home repair and leaves the resulting mess for tenants?  Just appalling.  Absolutely wrong.

But what can I do?

Argh.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feedering

I don't get the opportunity to cook for lots of people very often.  That's a good thing, I suppose, since it's a lot of work to feed people.  I usually only cook for The Man and myself, and every once in a while I will cook for another person or maybe two other people.  Cooking for six is pretty easy, and I have the pots and pans for that amount of food.

This week at work, we had a taco feed for faculty and staff in order to raise money for the local food bank.  I volunteered to make the flour tortillas and the chicken.  We also had ground beef, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream, refried beans, cilantro, and olives that a couple of other people made or brought.  The sign-up sheet included about twenty names, and we hoped each person would kick in at least $5 for their meal, so we aimed for $100 in profit.  That's a pretty good fundraiser, right?  It's something.

I spent Tuesday night rolling tortillas until my back just couldn't take it anymore.  I think I ended up with about fifty tortillas.  They each have to be rolled with a rolling pin and then cooked in a very hot cast iron pan very quickly.  I was done start-to-finish in under two hours.

On Wednesday, I got up a little early and threw twelve chicken breasts into my crock pot with some water.  The chicken cooked on low all day until I got home from work.  I took the meat out and shredded it a little, cleaned the crock pot, and returned the meat to the pot.  I dumped two packets of taco seasoning, nothing special, on the meat.  It sat in the fridge over night, and I just grabbed the crock of meat and my tortillas out for my trip to work this morning.  The chicken sat on low all morning and was perfectly hot at lunch.  The tortillas were easy enough to throw on a plate and warm up.

Within an hour, every last tortilla was gone.  People were stuffed.  Money was raised.  And my culinary skills were appreciated very much.  The greatest compliment to my cooking is a clean plate and satisfied people, so I believe we were successful on both fronts.  I have a little bit of chicken left over, which is good, but even non-chicken eaters were enjoying my efforts there.  I enjoy feeding people perhaps as much as I like eating my own cooking.

I'm always scared someone is going to nominate me for one of those "Worst Cook in America" shows after they eat what I make, but so far I don't have any worrying to do.  The Man certainly enjoys my efforts in the kitchen, and I don't have any trouble eating my cooking, but it feels nice to hear good things from other people.

No chance of me opening a restaurant, though.  Not going to happen.  I don't like cooking that much.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mended

The Man and I are finally over the plague, or whatever it was that had us sick for a full week.  We were able to spend some quality time with both of our parents on Saturday.  My mom's birthday was fun: we went out for lunch, then popped back home for some very yummy homemade cake and ice cream.  After that, The Man's parents came down and took us out to dinner.  Yay for a whole day of not having to cook!

With both of us sick last week, we did a lot more eating out than usual.  Neither of us needed or wanted to be in the kitchen, so almost every night found us at another local dive.  We are so lucky to be able to eat out like that if only for a week.  It was a lifesaver for me to not have to worry about cooking.

Sunday was also fun.  My sister, her hubby, The Man, and I went out to see a movie and then out to dinner one last time before I got back in the kitchen.  We played cards for a while and had a nice visit before they left. I don't think we got two moments of down time this weekend.

I'm back, healthy, and ready to cook! and blog! and be part of the vertical world once again.  Tonight will find me cranking out four dozen tortillas for a fundraiser at work this week.  I also need to get chicken in the crock pot so it can cook while I'm at work tomorrow.  We're having a taco feed to benefit a local food bank, and I volunteered to make the tortillas and chicken.  (That way I have some "safe" meat to eat, because, well, no, I don't trust other people's kitchens or their food handling "skills.")

Tomorrow night might be busy, or it might be relaxed.  Or both.  Thursday night includes more quilting.  I haven't made much progress on the Big Purple Quilt lately, so I need to get crankin' on that.  Plus I bought some minky fabric and flannel for a new blanky for me, so there's time I need to spend there.

I'm glad we're both mended.  It feels good to be up again.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

We Have The Crud

The fact that I'm sitting at a computer and typing coherent thoughts is a major improvement over the last few days.  The Man and I caught a bug this weekend that hit us hard on Monday.  We both made it to work Monday but quickly realized the day wasn't going to be as long as we'd planned.  I left at noon and promptly took up residence on the couch.  The Man followed me home shortly thereafter and made his way to bed.  Neither of us moved much on Tuesday, nor did we go to work on Wednesday.  We both managed to get to work today, though I didn't make it past noon.  We definitely have the flu complete with a horrible cough, stuffed noses, aches, and chills like you wouldn't believe.

We both commented that neither of us thinks we've ever been this sick before.

I had a fever over 100° for three days, and I'm not sure it's entirely gone yet.  I woke last night several times completely drenched in sweat, so I know that my body is working hard to fight off the nasty critters, but that doesn't make the whole experience any more enjoyable.

At least one of us has been able to get up and get the other more water or juice, a sort of silver lining in that we've been able to stagger our ickiest-feeling moments.  We mowed through two boxes of Kleenex before I realized where they'd gone.  I have been struggling to keep up with laundry since I've been having to change sheets and clothes so often.

Thanks to friends and family who sent love and offers of help to us while we were down.  We would have loved for someone to come over and clean and cook for us, but to enter our toxic swamp of plague was more than we could subject anyone to.

I imagine we'll both be at work tomorrow for the full day, but then we'll spend our weekend resting and generally not being exciting.  We do hope to be well enough Sunday to help my mom celebrate her birthday.

Not that I really want to spend two more whole days stuck in that apartment... being sick sucks.


Friday, February 03, 2012

Home Shopping Un-network

Have you seen all the fun new things available in stores, online, and on TV?  There are miracle squeegees, tattoo-like eye shadow (apparently it won't budge even with sandblasting), and shoes that make your nether-regions do gymnastics while you run!

Too good to be true?

I admit, I get sucked in by gimmicks.  Whenever the GT Express 101 infomercial comes on, I totally watch it.  Even the semi-annoying Magic Bullet infomercial entertains me.  When we were in the cereal aisle, I feel like I just had to try out the new peanut butter Cheerios (which were delicious!).  Don't even get me started on the Windshield Wonders I've purchased recently... All of these new things are so much fun to see and experience.  And they all cost money.  I don't exactly need all of these new things either, but I feel so compelled.  Evil marketing tactics strike again!  

Recently, I've embarked on a plan to shop at home.  Not online or by phone, mind you, just at home.  We have lots of stuff sitting around that we use so rarely.  I have stockpiles of cake mixes and pasta and SodaStream flavors that haven't been touched.  That's spent money looking me in the face every time I open the cupboard.  I don't need to go to the store to try the new cashew-peanut-butter-coconut desserty thing when I can open the pantry, grab out a box of cake mix, and whip out Chocolate Crinkles or cake pops or just plain cake.  I have some stuff that I'm sure I've completely forgotten about by now that needs to be used or it will go bad.  No sense bringing home more new stuff to do the same thing.

I'm shopping my make-up at home, too.  After taking time to clean my brushes at least once a month and sanitizing all of my powdered make-up, I have clean-as-new stuff sitting there ready to use.  Packs of eyeshadow forgotten at the bottom of my drawer has been resurfaced.  Colors have been shifted around to force me into new habits and routines.

Craft items?  Oh my, I had no idea how creative I could be until I forced myself to say "no more" to buying new things until some old stuff disappeared.

It's not that we're not shopping still, oh nothing of the sort.  We still need fresh foods and clothes and all those other things people replace, replenish, or just need to get (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.).  I don't know if I'm actually saving money by passing up good bulk sales to shop at home, but it does feel nice to not throw things--my money--away.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Watch Out!

The Man has been on the hunt for a watch for several months now.  His old watch, a Fossil brand watch, lasted him several years with a couple new batteries.  However, the crystal has been scratched, and the watch keeps the time but not the date.  He has tried everything under the sun to get the watch to function correctly including taking it to a Fossil retailer for his batteries and repair.  No luck.  His watch is no longer stocked, so they can't simply give him a different one, and, of course, they aren't willing to give him something nicer than the one he has.

We visited several watch shops and stores over the last few months, everything from Timex cheapies at Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart to the counters at Harry Ritchies and online.  The Man and I run into a trend that doesn't exactly work for us: we both have small wrists, but most watches these days are the size of wall clocks!  If you don't believe me, pop into any department store and look at the two-inch-plus dials on some of these things.  Honkin' tickers, I tell ya.

This last weekend, The Man determined he'd be buying himself a little gift for having finally achieved the job he set out for after he got his master's degree.  He's titled, initials after his name, the works.  And a watch seemed to be a fitting gift.  Classy, dressy, and timely.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

We spied some beautiful watches at the JC Penney counter that were shockingly normal-sized.  They were tasteful and handsome watches that I could see The Man fall in love with instantly.  He was completely smitten with one watch in particular, but the price was bound to be sky-high.  A very friendly lady behind the counter told us the price, a modest $250 for the same watch we'd just seen previously for $350 in another store.  He said he'd think about it, and we walked away.  His eyes were so sad.  He found a watch he absolutely loved, but he just didn't want to spend that much on himself.  Knowing that this was a gift for a special occasion and replaced a broken watch, I agreed that he should have the watch he really wanted (especially since it was a screaming sale).

You should have seen the giddiness pour out of him as we walked back over to the watch counter!

The Man got a Citizen Eco-Drive watch that is powered by light, both indoor and outdoor light.  The titanium band is super lightweight, too.  We won't ever have to swap out the batteries, and he'll probably tire of the look before the watch ever gives out.  If watch batteries are $25 each (for nice watches, not Timex cheapies), even replacing one battery every year for ten years has the watch paying for itself.  Not to mention how incredible it looks on his arm!

I am pretty sure this is the model he ended up getting.