Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cat vs Internet

This post is brought to you by special guest blogger, Daisy The Cat.

I don't like so much the stayin' home alone thing. My Nicki and my Adam go away this time of year, and it seems no matter how entirely awesome I am, they are not tempted to stay home and play with me.  So while they were gone, I got online - all cats and toddlers can do this now - and I looked to the Internet for guidance.  This is totally weird, but I got distracted.  My fellow cats had really funny facebook posts.  If you think cats are not on facebook, by the way, you are sadly disconnected from reality.  All cats and toddlers are on facebook.  Infants are now issued a facebook profile along with a social security number.

Anyway, my bestest bud Stanley posted about his siblings, Dusty and Marbles, and then mean old Howard the dog called him a dumbo and I read up on my poor friend Sage's flea situation.  (I think he is in remission, thank goodness!)  I changed my facebook pic so more people would be aware of flea infestations.  'Cause I'm a Cat with Causes, ya know?

Anyway, while Nicki and Adam are cleaning and grocery shopping and doing other non-catcentric activities (I know, I do not understand it either) I thought I would take this opportunity to post this link for the benefit of all cats.  WE WILL BE HEARD! Cat Power! 

Stay tuned for my next post: Plumbing: What's Up With That??

Friday, December 17, 2010

What I Want For Christmas

Last year, I was pleased as punch to get normal, white toilet seats from Home Depot.  This year's wish may be a tad harder to obtain.  What I want is the ability to stop time.

Allow me to explain:  I LOVE this time of year.  I love buying presents for all the people I care about, I love Christmas carols, and I love getting cards with cutesie pictures of all my friend's kids.  (They are growing up SUPER fast by the way!)

But, unfortunately, this is not a good time for most engineers/architects.  For some reason, every owner wants to get their building permit in before the end of the year, as though the world will end when the Times Square Ball drops.  (In which case, their building ain't gettin' built anyway...)  So, we designers have to work our butts off trying to make deadlines, and AFTER Christmas, we tend to sit for a month twiddling our thumbs.  This leaves us little time to enjoy said buying of gifts, singing of carols, and writing of amusing yet presumptuous "summaries of our year".

As it is, I think these emails I sent today may give you a taste of my frenzied days of late:

  • Hey, it's me.  I forgot I volunteered to make brownies for the party tomorrow night.  Do you think you could make them?  We don't have any sugar, and only one egg...so while you are out, you may want to pick up some toilet paper and dishsoap.  Maybe stop for some beer.  Oh, and while you are at it...just buy the brownies!!

  • I won't be able to make it to the party tomorrow - we have another one to go to.  But we should hang out after the New Year - loved your Christmas card!  I'll send you one when I get around to it - estimated time of arrival: February.
  • Hey, its me again.  Probably working late...can you pack the car?  Don't forget the air mattresses...

  • Sorry, I thought I would have time for lunch but got stuck in a meeting all freakin' morning.  Maybe next week?
  • (To Architect on Construction Job):  Here is the submittal you asked me to review yesterday.  Sorry, I didn't get to it until this morning.

  • (a few seconds later):  Oops, forgot the subject line on that last email and thought it might go to your junk mail.  Please disregard if you already got this.
  •  Sorry, (insert name of relative here) I haven't really had time to make a Christmas list - but I always like what you pick out!  I still have a few  all my Christmas shopping to do too!
If only I could pause time, squeeze in about 37 hours of work, plus maybe a few hours of shopping, THEN I could really sit back and enjoy Christmas.

Is that too much to ask??

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Diet, Week 2

So, ask me how the dieting thing is going.

C'mon.  I DARE ya.

(Chorus of Constant Readers)  HOW BAD IS IT??

It's bad.  It's gosh darnitall freakin' annoying, is what it is.

I don't think I had super crazy expectations.  I am not out to starve myself, just to be healthy. And to avoid purchase of size 13 pants.  I just want my Wii Fit to tell me that I am "normal" instead of "overweight."  Just ONCE.

So, I started up a spreadsheet and allotted myself meals for a week, with reduced caloric intake.  I had a birthday dinner to attend, which included a gallon sized sangria.  One cannot really plan for such things, but, well, I adjusted.  I went to the gym for an extra class that week, and I walked a bit longer at lunch.  I didn't get around to weighing myself until the end of the week, but when I did, I set a modest goal to lose 2 pounds in 2 weeks.  Nothing nutty.  Just keepin' on keepin' on.  Right?

Wrong.  This past week I have had one beer after work.  One!

I had one serving of cookies when they put out a tin chock FULL of servings in the kitchen at work.  One!

I ate my stupid egg white omelets with kale, and my (actually delicious) turkey chili daily.

I went to the gym three times, and I went on walks at lunch every day despite it being 18 degrees out side.  Every.  Freakin. Day!!

And, I gained 0.2 pounds.

My Wii Fit informed me (after pointing out that I am overweight) that if I continue with my current pace, it will be very difficult to achieve my goal.

Which is now to lose 2.2 pounds in one week.

Un-freaking believable.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Three Hour Diet

After deliberation, denial, debate, and ultimate acceptance, I have come to admit that I am ready to diet once again.  I actually decided this a few days after Thanksgiving (of course AFTER, I am not totally nuts), and I started to blog about it before.  But dieting is just not fun, and not funny, and my blogs were super booorring.  I have spared you, my (hopefully) Constant Reader, a blog about setting up a spreadsheet, another one about the joys of egg white omelets (painfully short), and a rather long-winded complaint about how beer and brownies are so very hard to plan into a spreadsheet unless one has unlimited energies to run on treadmills.  Which, by the way, are also boring.

But man, I gotta suck it up and try to "Grin and Baer It".  Dieting IS fun, and funny...if you put your mind to it.  A few chocolatinis probably wouldn't hurt either.  So, here's hoping my Constant Readers are drunker than I am:

Diet Attempt #1 (approximately three hours before defeat was admitted): the 28-Day Detox Diet.

I came across this little gem while I was cleaning.  I searched for room on my crowded bookshelf, and found a little book called "The 28 Day Plan".  It's one of those mini-books that are strategically arranged along the bookstore line (or queue as this very British book would call it).  Alas, I am a sucker for the crap they set out out there. 

The book has a picture of a skinny chick doing a handstand on the beach, so naturally, I bonded with her as this is so like me.  Inside, there are four plans lasting 28-days each, all of which are intended to help a person feel and look better.  I started with Plan #1, the Detox Diet.

It consists of a list of foods that can be eaten:  fruits, vegetables, seeds, fish, and "non-dairy products" which includes a bunch of soy/almond milks and yogurts.  Foods to avoid?  Everything else.  And oranges for some reason. 

It then lists drinks that can be consumed:  water, juice.  Since this does not take up enough space on the page, they elaborate with drink recipes.  For instance, there is "apple juice":  Place apple in juicer, drink juice. And there is "grapefruit juice":  Peel grapefruit, place in juicer, drink juice.  "Carrot juice":  Put carrots in juicer, drink juice.  Last, there is "Peach juice":  Peaches, juicer, drink.  At no point is it suggested that the juices be mixed, or say, purchased at a store.  Drinks to avoid?  Alcohol, coffee, "fizzy drinks" and anything which is not juice or water.

I looked at the mug of coffee I had poured to sip while I read about my New Diet.

I took another sip.

Next section - planning.  It was in this section that I really began to enjoy the "Britishiness" of the writing style.  So upbeat, yet telling me in a round about way that this diet is going to be arduous and awful.  Like the tips on how to succeed on the Program:  1.  Adopt a positive attitude from the beginning, 2.  Stay focused and remember why you are doing this, 3.  Regard each day as a new challenge.

In the planning section, I was told that I would be in luck if I hate cooking, because most of my food should be eaten raw.  Yippie!

Next section:  exercise and relaxation.  This is where I am told that exercise is good for me and should be fun, and then it lists "housework" as an exercise.  "Its official", it claims, "A vigorous burst of housework can be as good for you as a trip to the gym."  Well great!  No volleyball for me tonight guys!  I'm gonna scrub the toilet!  Woo-hoo!

I took another sip of coffee.

Another exercise listed is "Bouncing".  They suggest jumping on a mini-trampoline in my living room, where I can "bounce in time to the rhythm" of my favorite music.  A picture of a well-endowed woman bouncing on her knees with arms extended accompanies this one.

Finally, it gets to the "relaxation".  Here, it is suggested that I exfoliate my dry skin every day with a skin brush, and that I take some time daily to soak in an epsom salt bath.  Also, if it has been a long time since I had a "jolly good laugh"  I should "hire a comedy video" and enjoy a few chuckles.

So, that's about it.  Eat nothing good, drink nothing exciting, and practice deep breathing regularly.  The following pages are suggestions on how to implement this simple plan.  It begins with some suggested recipes, including, of course, juice (mixed together!) and porridge.  Porridge?  Did I miss a "grains" section in the "Foods I am Allowed To Eat" section?  I flipped back to discover that "eat only foods from this list" apparently means, "eat mostly foods from this list."  Suddenly, the diet had potential.

My enthusiasm waned slightly when I got to the dessert recipes and found that "Strawberry Delight" is soy milk yogurt with strawberries on top.  Joy.  Turns out I had already eaten "Banana Bliss" before I poured my coffee.

I considered a second cup.

Last, a "typical day on the detox diet" is laid out.  As you will see, even a working woman or a busy mother at home will seamlessly incorporate the plan into her daily life.

7:00am - Drink hot water with lemon or lime juice and then invigorate skin with a dry skin brush followed by a shower.

8:00am - Breakfast of muesli (again with the grains) over soy yogurt.

9:00am - Give yourself a facial.

11:00am - Time for relaxation and breathing.  You know, since you have been working so hard all morning.

1:00pm - Lunch, eaten slowly, which will give it more time to digest.

2:00pm - Relax for a while.  After all, you have earned it.  Read a book or watch TV.  Then, go for a brisk walk.

4:00pm - Time for pampering before you prepare your evening meal.  Give yourself a massage and drink some herbal tea (not on the allowed drink list, which is becoming more and more flexible and will soon include Jack and Coke.)

6:00pm - Evening meal of steamed vegetables.  Mmmm...

7:00pm - Visualization.  Sit in a quiet room and think positive thoughts.

8:00pm - Pleasant aromatherapy bath.

That's it!  Sounds pretty good in the end part there, does it not?  Oh, and the next 28 days?  Should be spent in almost exactly the same way.  So, just have Jeeves take care of the cleaning, and send the children to Mumsie's for the next few months.  You may want to get your workplace to hire an intern - one that can perform massages a plus - to take care of your next few projects, as you will be in the bathtub.

I actually did make it through the first few hours - I had a nice skin brush and shower, and I drank most of a cup of hot lemon juice.  The skin brush was totally awesome and I have been doing it every day since.  This is the first winter I haven't rubbed myself raw with itchiness.  Unfortunately, I had to go grocery shopping, get the car oil changed, rake up about a bazillion leaves from the yard, and paint a shed ramp that day.  And Jeeves was off.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Glog, I've been forced to ground myself for a few days, resolving to never drink again again.  This past Saturday, Indiana hosted Penn State football in Washington, DC.  (It's some ploy by NFL stadiums to convince universities that they will increase enrollment by traveling around the country.)

Naturally, since my house is only 1.5 hours' drive from DC, the family roosted at my little nest before heading down to Fed Ex Field.  And, naturally, we had a few cold ones.  My diet for the day (to the best of my recollection):
  • one cupcake topped with cute little caramel turkeys with pretzel legs, stuffed with more cake crumbs, and sitting on a bed of green cornflakes that looked like lettuce.  Very cute, and very caramel-y.
  • four to five cookies of various flavors and sizes
  • one piece of pumpkin spice flavored sticky bun
  • one moderately sized brownie
  • one mystery dessert which I will deem a "maple bar"
  • a few bites of crab dip on crackers
  • a test bite of taco-flavored ground beef which looked like it was something made of brown sugar
  • one slice of spice cake with orange glaze
I think that about sums it up.  All of this was consumed before 11am, and, you will note, was carefully orchestrated to eliminate nearly all nutritional value from the system. The family fried a turkey, and made all the trimmings including mashed potatoes, corn, and green bean casserole - but I was a stuffed bird.

Top my buffet with several shots of Canadian whiskey and several more cans of domestic swill known to vast majorities of the population as beer, and you get a small glimpse of my state of mind later in the evening.  (And if you did happen to glimpse my state of mind?  Please let me know how awful it was.  Because I can only assume - very.)

After a brief time passed out napping in the car, I was returned to my sofa, where I took in about six hours of shut eye.  And then, for some reason, I didn't feel very well and ended up thinking about how I could have cleaned the toilet last Thursday instead of watching TV.

I hate when I have to ground myself before holidays.  My goal for Thanksgiving is to remember to eat a vitamin or two, and to keep the correct end pointed at the porcelain.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself...and Geese.

 Click here.  I promise, it is funny. 

Every day, I take a walk around a man-made pond near the office, and every day, I must deal with a couple of geese.  I have a healthy fear of geese.  They can be pretty mean, you know.  When I was a kid, I had a friend whose parents raised geese and it was her job to feed them.  She was terrified of those suckers.  So, perhaps, this is where my personal fear began.  Or perhaps I am repressing a horrible Incident.  Maybe my fingers are actually grafted on, because my original appendages were bitten off by irate geese.

For whatever reason, I HATE walking past these two geese.  Usually I have a friend who makes me feel ever so slightly safer, allowing me to scamper past them with my head held high.  But the other day, I had to walk between the geese because they were situated on opposite sides of the path.  I considered not taking a second turn around the pond, or walking a different, non-goose infested route.  But honestly, these two particular geese have paid even less attention to the humans near their pond than George Bush paid to the Constitution (zing!).  I thought about how SILLY and IRRATIONAL it would be to change my plans because of some freakin' geese!

So, boldly, I continued to walk along the path.  My hands began to sweat, and my heart began to race.  I clenched my fists and thought about how I would fight if, per chance, I were attacked.  I tried to calm my brain, because animals can smell fear.  I tried to take deep breaths and act large and in charge.  One goose crossed the path to join its mate as I neared.  It was slow and deliberate.

I squelched what appeared to be possibly tears.  It was definitely some sort of leakage.  I tried to laugh at myself, about how SILLY and IRRATIONAL this was.  I walked past the geese, giving all the appearance of calm, cool, collected, and most definitely, not, freaking, out.

And nothing happened.  I walked past the geese, and they held up their end of the bargain by pretending I wasn't there.

I would love to tell you that next time it will be different, that I will march along and not even notice the water fowl.  But that would be a lie.  I am just wondering - don't these guys know they should be flying south by now??

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Soup for You!

I was just sittin' here killin' time because "my stories*" aren't on yet.  I decided to check on the ole' facebook page, mostly out of boredom, when one of those targeted ads off to the side got me. 

I hate those ads, and I hate them even more when I am tempted to click on them.  I know they use "cookies" and my internet history and keywords to determine what I might like.  What I find frightening is how danged accurate they are.  I often get ads for Phish related paraphernalia (tickets and CD's of course - what are YOU thinkin?), cooking related gizmos, and books by Stephen King.  I also get a lot of things about sustainable buildings and structural engineering books and I'm all "Ha, ha.  I have no interest in that when I am in my PJ's and not at work!!  You don't know me, Man!"  And then I start getting Weight Watchers ads as if even my computer needs to remind me that I could stand to lose a few pounds.  It probably heard me talking about the (shh!) Netbook I plan to buy.

Today's ad was from Victoria's Secret, implying that by a simple click of my mouse I would be re-directed to a site where I could buy (drum roll...) Penn State underwear!  This combines my love of unmentionables with my joy of buying overpriced crap that happens to have a Penn State logo on it!  How could I resist?

Well, I was sorely disappointed.  Not only does clicking on the "exclusive Pink collegiate collection" website take one to a general ad listing all universities, the model in the ad is wearing Michigan clothing.  Also, when one does get to the Penn State page, one finds that A) the stuff is not Pink and B) it is not underwear.  In fact, one finds the exact same stuff to be found at any Penn Sate clothing store on campus, and it costs an arm and a leg (just like at any Penn State clothing store on campus).

That's OK.  It is perhaps for the best that I do not have underwear that says "WE ARE" across the back...

* Umm...yeah.  That would be "Criminal Minds", the crime show...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanks a Lot, Mr. Fanklin

It's that time of year when time starts messing with my mind.  It always takes me about a week to get used to "falling back" and even longer to adjust to "springing forward".  Last spring, I missed the memo on the topic and showed up an hour late for yoga.  I was so PISSED!  So this time around, I made it a point to remember to change the dang clocks.  Unfortunately, I never just change them all at once.  I usually get the oven clock first, which is near the door and most often used for (ahem) timely departures.  When in the car, I get that one.  At some point, I might get the microwave, but then I tend to get mixed up.  Did I change the bedroom one?  Or not?  I might end up with as many as three hours difference in the times noted on various clocks, and then I have to consult the cell phone, because it knows all. 

My mom doesn't know how to change her car clock so she just leaves it.  It is correct for half the year, but I can't remember which half.  I know I "fixed" it for her once and she was unaware of my nicety, so she did her usual compensating only to be two hours late for dinner.

My cat, who is oblivious to time change, does know what time it is in the morning.  She has "Time to Stomp on Nicki's Kindeys So As She Will Get Up and Feed Me" time, she has "Time to Sit on Nicki's Lap While She is Trying to Eat So As She Might Give Me Some Food Time", and she has "Time to Avoid Nicki So As She Will Not Give Me a Pill Time."  So, kidney-stomping time commenced as usual on Monday, but it was ineffective because Nicki was sleeping for an extra hour.  Or rather, she was trying to sleep an extra hour, but that is difficult to accomplish once kidneys have been stomped upon.

Throughout all this confusion, I wondered:  Who thought up this crazy idea, and just how much crack was he/she smoking?  Sure, light in the evening, saving energy, blah, blah, blah.  But what about the fact that we willingly subject our bodies to a sudden and dramatic shift in its sleep patterns and eating times?  Regular sleep is the one thing that doctors agree could cure all ailments and save the whales.  Or something.  Anyway, its important.

Turns out, it was Benjamin Franklin who thought up daylight saving time - as a JOKE.  Seriously.  He wrote a letter about how people in Paris weren't getting up before noon and the sun was rising at 6am or earlier and they were missing at least 6 hours of daylight, so he figured Parisians should be banned from using blinds and they should make it 7am for the sun so they'd miss less daylight.  He also suggested loud church bells or, and I am not making this up - cannons be used to rouse people out of bed.  He argued that if people got up before noon they might go to sleep earlier and burn fewer candles thus saving a lot of money.

So, thanks a lot Mr. Franklin.  Thanks to your little joke, it is common practice to wake before noon, and the government is rationing my candles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life Begins at 90

I have to admit I stole this title and picture from my brother's facebook page:

Yep, this is my grandmother, who turns 90 years young today.

And yep, that's a bottle of Crown Royal.  But the cigarette is a fake.

She is on her way to the party we threw for her a few weeks ago, since her actual birthday weekend happened to be a Penn State home game.  We had a 1920's theme, since she was born in 1920.  It was a lot of fun, but the best part was seeing a 90 year old light up with a smile that would rival any 3 year old at their birthday party.  She invited everyone, and I mean everyone, she knew.  Her hairstylists, her mailman, her cleaning lady, a person she hadn't seen since she was 12, some random guy at the supermarket - all invited. 

All I can say is, her 100th birthday party?

might need government subsidizing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUBBIE!  I can't wait for the next!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maybe Sometimes Excuses Are OK

Operation "Get Back to Gym" aka "Mova da Butta" is well into its second week.  I read the beginning of an article this morning about how one should stop making excuses for skipping the gym.  Things like "I forgot my sports bra", it says, should not be acceptable since there are plenty of things one can do (such as lifting weights) that do not necessitate the binding constraints of a sports bra.

Meanwhile I am thinking, "Sports bra? 90 percent of the time, I forget my whole gym bag."  In fact, I keep a spare set of (ugly) clothes at the office, complete with old sneakers.  (The ugliness is an attempt to make me learn my lesson and remember my s**t the next time.  It doesn't work.  If I cared what people thought about my appearance I would probably not be taking dance related classes at all.)

Today, I forgot my hair tie.  Normally, of course, I avoid this issue because I keep a stash of about 20 hair ties in my bag, thus allowing me the chance to disremember putting it back in the bag now and again.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to put an infinite supply in there.  So I ran out.*

Plan B (technically Plan C if you count "remember-to-put-hair-tie-into-bag-you-dumbass" as Plan A) is my typical MacGuyver move.  I get my hair into a braid, then slip my ring over the end, and slide it up as tightly as possible.  I have thin hair so this usually holds pretty well. 

Not today.  I don't know if my hair got thicker or my ring got smaller.  Had to have been the hair. Maybe it's the hard water at the house. (Please ensure Adam that my ring size remains a 5.) 

Anyway, I was really struggling.  I thought I could just work out with my hair loose, and then I swallowed a hair and it got caught in my throat.  I'm in the middle of this class, trying to pry a hair out of my throat by alternately gagging myself and horking up hockers.  (Does anyone know the proper spelling of "horking"?  Spell check can't find it....)

Needless to say, it was very gross.  Not to mention distracting.  I wasn't getting many of the step aerobics moves in between gags.

Finally, finally, I came up with this, which is actually still in place now:
Ok, it's a little blurry (you try taking a picture of your own head), but it is the ring and a small hook that came on my water bottle, gathering up about three quarters of my hair.  I got this in place about halfway through the class.

And you wonder why I haven't been to the gym?

*Also I was 10 minutes late, because another common reason for skipping the gym is that I get caught up in whatever I am doing at work and suddenly it is too late to get there in time for a class.  (Yes, they have treadmills.  Evil, boring treadmills.  Yuck.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lefty Loosey

Where Haven't I Been?
I haven't been a lot of places, like Tahiti or Hawaii, or Kansas.  And lately, I haven't been to the gym.

I am trying - no! going! - to change that, and it all started last week.  Again.


It is very very easy to divert myself from this goal, and I LIKE going to the gym.  For instance, tonight, I wanted to vote.  This requires that I drive near my home, and then drive away from my home to the gym.  It also requires that I attend a much dreaded class called Body Jam due to the change in schedule.  Even with careful pre-planning and mental pep talks about how Body Jam is not totally terrible and I might be able to keep up, I still found myself sitting in the car after voting, at a traffic light without a turn signal.  (For you Marylanders out there - this signifies that a car intends to go straight through the light.)  "Hey, Slacker!!" my brain yelled, "the gym's THAT way!"  My left hand flicked on the turn signal just in time.  (Once again Folks - the blinking light on the left?  Means I'm turning left.  Crazy, I know.)

So there I stood in Body Jam.  This is a class that uses dance moves to trick participants into exercising.  Personally, I think its stupid because you are already at a gym so you'd think it was obvious that your motive is to exercise.  Also, it is too hard.  But mostly stupid.

Putting the negativity away, I resolved to really try this time.

The class was going pretty much as it always does to about halfway through.  The instructor was yelling out "Now, flick!  And twirl! And step, step, glide!"  And I was having trouble flicking on the correct foot, leaving me to miss the twirl, causing my neighbors to gracefully crash into my non-moving patoot while I hurried to the final "glide" position.  This would all be fine except (for me) that when I spend most of my time avoiding being stepped on and looking confusedly at my flawless classmates, I don't break much of a sweat.  Granted, I'm not exactly sitting on the sofa eating leftover Halloween candy (mmmm...Butterfingers....)* but I'm still not getting the workout I hoped for.

So right about then, I had an epiphany of sorts.  Use the left brain.  It's the left brain that's creative and artsy and natural.  It's the right brain that's practical and learned and uses correct grammar.  I thought maybe, if I could concentrate less on the actual steps and more on the movement, I might be on to something.

You see, my job makes me use the right brain waaay more often than the left, and poor Lefty is a little neglected.

But then I remembered a scene from wedding I attended this past summer:
HIM:  Why are you wearing those shoes if they hurt when you walk?
ME:  (flicking foot in the light)  Dude!  Look how glittery they are!

So, Lefty's still in there.  She just has to hunker down and hide as I navigate my way though the male dominated office space on a daily basis.  Today in Body Jam, I let 'er loose.

And it actually worked.  I realized I didn't have to look at the instructor's feet or arm movements as much.  I listened for the verbal cues and heard the music.  Suddenly, the class was becoming fun and I didn't even have to watch the girl in front who never missed a step.

and then THUD!

The girl was writhing on the floor because her knee popped out of socket (or something - I actually tried not to listen too much as this kind of talk tends to make me feel like I will pass out).  Point is that the class stopped because the girl was injured and she said this awful thing with her knee happens all the time and it was suddenly all better and then she walked out.  She didn't even limp.

I feared all this knee popping talk might cause me to lose my zen, but it didn't.  When class resumed I was back on track, not necessarily getting every step right but at least not crashing into people.  And I was actually having fun and breaking a sweat.  It was great!

I think I will stop avoiding this class so much.  It might be good for me to step out of the comfort zone and let 'Ole Lefty out for a spin now and again.

*and I forgot how yummy Twix are!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crisis Averted

I have just returned from the grocery store, a place where I went without my wallet.  "Is not a wallet a very important thing to take to the grocery store?"  you ask?

"Why yes," I reply. 

I was very disappointed with myself, but I came up with a solution used more often than it should be - my emergency cash.  I have kept $10 in the car ever since driving to Ohio on Route 80, where unbeknown to me, it becomes a toll road.  I was without cash, the ATM at a rest stop was out of money, and I had to request a bill for $3.50 sent to my home from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The emergency cash has been a great solution for similar events, but lately has been used to purchase more Chinese food at non credit card taking shops than I care to admit.

Today, I hoped to buy as a minimum a pound of ground beef and two cans of tomato sauce for a casserole, and if possible, some chicken or beef to toss into my fajita making kit for later in the week.  And maybe some peanut butter.  Luckily, I was able to get the meat, the sauce, and a can of refried beans - but only if I used the "club card price".

I have a club card.

In my wallet.

And I usually use all fake-ish information on the application, a trick I learned in college when I wished to own the free tee-shirt offered for filling out a credit application, but not the gas card.*

So the point is, that I know the information I put on the application for my card at the grocery store was valid and rememberable - like I probably used my work number.  (Ironically, even if the information was true at the time, I have had like five phone numbers in the last eight years as I have moved from place to place.  And updating my information on a card that is really only used by The Man to determine how often I buy Colgate brand toothpaste is not high on my priority list each time I move.)

The cashier - who was wearing curlers and looked as though she hadn't showered - asked for my card, and I explained that I did not have it as I entered my work number on the thing and handed her the $10.  "It's $14.02," she said.  "Do you have your card?"

"I told you, I do not have it, but I entered the number on the keypad," I said.  She asked for the number again and re-entered it.

"It's not working," she said.  "$14.02 please."

"Look, I need to use the card," I said.  "Can you just use the store card?"

"You can fill out an application if you don't have a card," she said.

Ok, breathe.  "I have a card," I said, "I just. don't. have it. with me."  I tried to be patient.  I was beginning to get annoyed, because I could see the freakin' store card right there on the register, and this woman who doesn't care enough about her job to take a gosh darn shower before work won't give me a stupid discount that is actually the true price of the items I wish to purchase.

I was about to get angry when she explained that by giving her fake information on a form I could get items for the price listed on them, when two guys behind me said I could use their cards.

Crisis averted.

The cashier handed me the change for my $10, and said, "You saved $4.52 on your purchase today, Ms. ah, Marks."

Yeah.  Great.

It was on the way home that I realized she was probably dressed in her pajamas for Halloween.


*They are on to this trick, so you have to use information you will remember in case they quiz you.  For instance, I lost out on a South Park Frisbee when I was not able to repeat the phone number I had just written on my application.  I have since refined my technique and received many free items, but not one of those cards is on my credit report.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where Have I Been?

I have been...

...making excuses.  My most common excuse of late: I-Can't-Blog-Because-I-Have-To-Go-Into-Another-Room a.k.a. I-Need-A-Netbook.  It would be totally cool to multitask - I could watch LOST and blog about it at the same time.  I could blog at lunch time.  I could blog in the shower.  (They're waterproof, right?)

I could blog in a plane
  I could blog on a train
    I could blog while driving
       I could blog while scuba diving

The thing is, this Netbook has become my excuse for a lot of things.  If I had a Netbook, I could track my calories and restart my dieting.  If I had a netbook, I'd be able to skype with my sister and eat dinner at the same time.  If I had a Netbook, I would solve all the world's problems, run for office, and effectively manage my time before breakfast.  And my facebook statuses would be off the hook y'all.

But alas.  Apparently I am not meant to own a Netbook because I have discovered that they go on sale often, but only people who pay attention to things like sales, and the times of sales, are eligible to purchase sale items.  This makes perfect sense, I suppose, but I wish I could just go into a store and buy the item that just two hours prior was priced fifty bucks cheaper.  I wish I could pay with money, in the store, the price that the item costs, instead of having to follow up with a letter including my receipt and a UPC symbol in order to receive a check for the amount I overpaid, which then has to be taken to my bank and re-deposited.  I wish I could buy a Netbook without a sticker on it and within 50 miles of my home.

Allow me to explain.  Attempt #1 to Buy a Netbook was at a newly opened HH Gregg Store that is approximately 4.5 miles from the house where I live.  I did not get around to buying the Netbook until later in the day, and when I arrived at the conveniently located store, I was told they were sold out.  The guy said he would take my money and my name and add me to a list of potential Netbook Owners maintained within the store, and IF a Netbook came to the store, I would be called so I could go and pick it up.  And if a Netbook did not come to the store I would be refunded my money.  If you are thinking this is a retarded plan, you would be correct.  I just want to buy a freakin electronic device, not adopt a puppy.  So I asked the guy if I could just buy it online for the sale price.  He looked at me in wonder and said he hadn't thought of that, but sure, it could work. 

So, crazy kid that I am, I went online for Attempt #2 and found the Netbook and added it to my cart and entered my name, address, favorite ice cream flavor, and pet's name (I am not making this up) before I was given the option to ship or pick up in the store.  I decided to pick up and avoid shipping charges, and entered my zip code so it would find the nearest store for me.  The nearest store was Wilmington, DE, a decidedly inconvenient 60 miles or so away.  It turns out the 30 or so stores between here and Delaware* are all sold out.  And shipping fees were so much that it would negate the sale price altogether.

No Netbook for me.

Attempt #3 began a few weeks later when Adam told me he saw Netbooks for the reduced HH Gregg price at Target of all places.  I should have known because Target has all I could ever want or desire, but I hadn't thought of that.  So, to Target I went.  There, I found a silly display of a cardboard Netbook with a price tag marked "clearance" that said $211 !!  Giddy up!  I went the the counter to tell the worker to get me a Netbook from the back and she said all they had was the display.  Display?  It was just a fake Netbook made of cardboard, right?


It was an actual Netbook with a sticker on the screen, intended to show a person what the real screen (located just under the sticker) would look like.  "Is that a sticker?" I asked, "Or just one of those removable plastic peel off deals?" 

"Oh, it's a sticker," she replied, and then demonstrated how the sticker would not come off completely, and the screen would need replacing.  "It came to the store this way," she explained.

"So...it's $211 and the screen will need replacing," I said.

"Yep," she agreed, "and there are holes in the keyboard from where they screwed this plastic cover plate over the top so you can't press the buttons on the display."

I couldn't decide if the Netbook adoption list was dumber or not.

I plan to get the Netbook on, gulp, Black Friday.  And by golley, it better be under $200 and sticker free.

*Every time I tell this story, I am told that I could have had so-and-so's brother's uncle's roommate pick it up and they could transport it here when they're in town for the next gun convention or antique car show.  I appreciate the sentiment, but I still maintain that picking up in Delaware is inconvenient.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where Have I Been?

I have been...

...shopping for jeans.  Ugh.  It is painfully apparent that my generation is no longer "in".  Thus, we are not the target audience for today's fashions.  My generation has lived through the eighties.  We wore blue eye shadow, and tied our faux pearl necklaces into knots.  We folded up the cuffs of our acid wash jeans the "cool way".  We had Swatch watches and big hair, and we donned more than one pair of pastel colored socks all bunched up.

We learned our lesson.

In my quest for jeans I have gone to store after store, not realizing that the fashion gods have once again decided that "skinny jeans" are a sensible trend for a country overtaken by obesity.  Perhaps it is an indirect ploy to get America dieting again, but trust me:  the interim is not going to be pretty.  It will consist of millions of fat people in stretchy pants.

I am strongly in favor of a simple system wherein we downplay the awfulness of our most prominent body parts by drawing attention to parts that aren't so bad.  I long for the days when jeans were larger at the shins, thus making the thighs look thin by comparison. 

But the days of sensible fashion are apparently in our past.  I figure I can go with the flow, but I maintain my stubborn refusal to buy anything larger than a size 12.  I have been to more stores than I want to admit, taking my 12's from the rack - no use even pretending a 10 might fit past mid calf.  Calmly, I have exhaled all oxygen from my body and attempted to tuck sections of butt flab back below the pantline before beginning the sit test.

For you men out there (how I envy you!):  the sit test is why those benches are placed in dressing rooms.  Oh, since you don't need to try things on (you suck!), trust me - there are benches in dressing rooms.  A lady who has decided that her potential purchase is, in fact, zipable without causing excessive* numbness in her lower extremities, will then need to test her range of mobility.  Thus, she will attempt to bend her knees and sit on the bench without ripping the potential purchase.  Assuming this is successful, she will carefully examine herself in the mirror checking for malfunctions.

A common malfunction in my case is the butt crack, hangin' out for the world to see.  Another one is the shins, revealed when the pantleg creeps inexplicably above the knee.  Somehow, jeans that were the correct length in the standing position are approximately four inches shorter on each end when sitting.  A girl has to look very carefully for these and any number of malfunctions, flaws, and deformities.

After a long and arduous search, I am proud to say that I have purchased a pair of jeans.

I tore off the price tags and modeled them proudly for Adam.  "What do you think?" I asked.

"They look a little tight," he said.

This is why a girl should never ask what her man thinks.

* minor numbness is unavoidable

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Earliest Memory

I was two years old when mom and dad left me.  I don't actually remember when they left, but then they came back.  And they brought this:

 Yikes.  I remember they came in through the garage - where they used to park the car - and my first baby sister, Tiffany, was carried in a blue, white, and yellow blanket crocheted by my grandmother.  She wasn't much fun at first, then she was cool.  For a while there, she was SO uncool and we fought ALL the time.  Then, she became cool again.  And now, she's not only my sister, she's my best friend.

Today, that memory is 30 years old. (Yikes again.)

 Here's to many years of looking at something slightly away from the camera:
...To our years of terrible dancing (These are participation awards)....

...To the 80's (eek!)...

...And to Birthdays!!

Happy Birthday Tiff!  My only sister, until...

history repeated itself!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where Have I Been?

I have been...
...watching LOST.

I never watched it when it was on TV.  I always heard you needed to know the whole story, and I hadn't been aware of the show until it was three years in.  We aren't much for TV 'round these parts, which sometimes makes it surprisingly hard to relate to people.  I guess most folks assume it's something we all have in common, but 90% of the time, when a conversation starts, "Ohmygod, did you see (insert name of hot TV show here) last night?"  I say, "Ummm...never heard of it."

And I never saw "Katrate Kid" either.  Deal, ok?


Sorry, I got a little emotional there.  I do sometimes feel like I am disconnected with the world because I don't watch television every night.  And yet, I feel like I watch a lot of TV.

Anyway...so lately we started watching LOST.  It was on our Netflix options through the Wii, and we were pretty much immediately hooked.  We watched season one in about 15 days, and we're on to season two.

All I can say is, now I know.

And I really hope Shannon doesn't die...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where Have I Been?

I have been...
...building a shed.  FOREVER.  Ok, ok.  Only for the last three weekends.

We looked at the cute little wooden sheds, complete with flower boxes and real working windows and opted for a do-it-yourselfer vinyl kit.  Why?  You ask?

Personally, I would have opted for the Amish model - super cute, complete with flower boxes, and, most importantly - built by Amish.  I would even have opted for the Lowes model, which is only slightly less superior because the Amish do not, as a general rule, work at Lowes.

This because I have come to grips with the fact that I work 40 hours a week, and do not have time, tools, or patience to build my own shed.

My better half, however, has not come to terms with this.  He is in denial, and perhaps does not see the piles of building materials in the basement, purchased nearly a year ago, for a project we have only barely started.  Perhaps he does not remember how it took me 14 hours to put up curtains, or how it took him an undetermined amount of time* to install an electrical outlet.

But, I did not wish to argue, and so we compromised.  We bought the kit.  Day one was spent buying the materials.  Yes, it took five hours to go to the store, buy some large heavy stuff, drive the rented truck to the house, unload the large heavy stuff, and return the truck.

Day two left us with a false feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.  We built the floor base, except for a few joists and the plywood topping.  We were keeping the weight down as much as possible, since we would have to carry it down to the yard.

It took nine more days before we managed to have time for the shed, and about 13 hours to get the stupid platform level and mounted on its foundation.  We tried a few methods - tying strings to corner posts, and pouring water down a hose.  Adam especially liked this one - the water would have to be at the same elevation at each end.  We worked at it diligently for about an hour, with the end result - mud.  Oh, and we decided the string was not to be trusted.  In the end, we cut one post, then used the 24' ladder and a level to figure out the length of the other posts.

It was another seven days before we got the plywood on, and we embarked on kit instruction #1 - getting the track in place and square.

I was excited to finally have gotten to "step two" of the kit instructions - begin assembling the walls.  The walls are vinyl plastic sheets about two feet wide, which slide together to create the full width.  The picture in the book shows two happy people - one on a ladder, and one holding up a wall panel.  The second panel is lifted above the first, guided into interlocking slats, and it slides effortlessly down to the ground.

In much the same manner, we attempted this.  It slid a bit before it got stuck, and Adam had to bang the top with a rubber mallet.  Each hit moved the panel about 1/4 of an inch, so after 250 or so hits, the panel was down and only slightly damaged from the banging.  Breathlessly, he mentioned that this method is very tiring.  So we got a few beers, and pondered.

We introduced soapy water, oil, and brute force into the equation.

And, three hours later, we had all the panels put together.

Someday, I hope to add a roof.

* (not finished yet...)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summertime Bounty

I can't believe it's August already.  The summer is flying by and I thought I still had all this time till my sis left town - gone.  My sister, a teacher, took a new job in North Carolina and is officially moved in.  Seven hours away.  We haven't lived apart from one another since 2000, the lonely year I spent living solo in Baltimore before she graduated from Penn State and joined me.  She talked about living near the beach since she was like eight years old, so I'm glad she's following her dreams....but I will miss her.

OK, I was about to get overly mushy there, so let's just move on.  Let' talk vegetables.  I am glad I joined the CSA instead of attempting to grow all this stuff from scratch.  First off, my garden books state that plants feel stress, which causes them to be unhealthy and sickly.  My particular plants were overturned in a traumatic Wheelbarrow Incident, then placed in rocky, uncultivated soil, and subjected to record high temperatures for weeks on end with little (ok no) watering.  One of the pepper plants was almost immediately removed from the garden by a rodent of unusual size - possibly a groundhog whom I have named Barry.  He lurks about the yard daily.  Barry (or possibly some other member of my little wildlife community) dug a hole right in the garden, then dug his secondary escape on the other side.  We are at war with one another - I fill in his holes and he digs new ones.  Always in another spot though, so I am hoping he will figure out the boundaries here, even if it means he will eventually touch upon every inch of my little plot.  The tomato plants (that survived the Incident) are not faring much better because their leaves are routinely served at some scrumptious animal dinner party.  I suspect the deer - there are hoof-prints in the soil - but everyone else seems to suspect Barry.  Either way, my plants could be a tad stressed.  They actually don't look that bad, but they aren't producing any vegetables either.

Luckily, Sarah and Tom, who run the Flying Plow Farm, are better at taming the Barrys of the world than I.  I am no longer getting weirdo greens, though I expect them to return when the weather cools again.  I'm not so scared of them anymore - I realized they can be added to pretty much any recipe, including oatmeal.  This I learned vicariously from Cameron Diaz - she told Oprah (or Ellen), and my sister told me.  Honestly, kale in oatmeal with a few walnuts on top makes a nutritious, yummy breakfast.  And makes you look like Cameron Diaz, apparently.*

I am incredibly proud (almost smug) because I have not wasted a single vegetable (that I liked**) from the CSA.  And we get a LOT of vegetables.  This has changed my cooking routine - like I decided to make a Mediterranean Tuna Salad that called for celery.  Celery has not, thus far, been included in my CSA and I thought, I wish it called for cucumber as I have about 3 or 4 in the drawer.  Then I thought, cucumbers instead of celery.  So I substitute whatever I have, don't buy what I don't have, and things usually turn out ok.  For instance, yellow squash can be used in place of zucchini - even in zucchini bread.

It is still a lot of work though.  I have frozen about three pounds of green beans, and the beans are "you pick" so I actually pick them, clean them, boil them, cool them, and THEN freeze them.  But they will taste oh so good in January.  I have to set aside "CSA days" occasionally, because prep is the key to using the food.  If I open the fridge and see "uncleaned carrots" vs "string cheese", the cheese always wins.  "Cleaned carrots" have a better chance of being eaten (with some string cheese).

Yesterday, I spent about three or maybe even four hours prepping - I made the Mediterranean Tuna Salad, plus Veggie Bean Burrito mix for my lunches.  I cut up two cantaloupes (I actually froze some of the pieces because I'm the only household member who eats melons - we'll see how that turns out.  I am thinking smoothies).  I pulled edamame off their stalks, crushed up some dried basil and froze some more pesto, I made a Tomato Relish for tonight's dinner, and baked a zucchini cake.  I still have lots of zucchini and squash to freeze, more beans to clean, and a watermelon to cut - I gave away the other watermelon.  I just don't want anything to go to waste and four melons is a bit much even for me. 

I finally bought some canning supplies, because I have about 10 pounds of tomatoes ripening in the sun.  I had hoped to get to that today, but I thought they would ripen faster.  I guess I will try to squeeze "making tomato sauce" into this week's schedule.

If you're interested, here's the list of veggies I have gotten so far:  leafy greens - romaine and red leaf lettuce, bok choy, escarole, endive, kale kale and more kale, Swiss chard, spinach, mizuna, yukina savoy, mustard greens; broccoli, turnips, radishes, kolrabi, potatoes, onions, scallions, basil times infinity, parsley, sage, rosemary, and yes, thyme, oregano, lavender, fresh cut flowers, peas, snap peas, green beans, yellow wax beans, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes (regular, cherry, and paste), tomatilloes, peppers, edamame, cantaloupes, carrots, and watermelons.  My diet is much much fuller of good for me food for a change!

* If you are Cameron Diaz.
** Turnips are just icky.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Farewell Old Friend

When I signed over the old car care of my uncle's dealership, I gave the salesman a complete folder containing almost every service record which was lovingly preserved.  I began to tell him about the anti-lock brakes, which I never fixed - but he cut me off.  He told me it didn't matter, because the car was going to "death row."

Death row?

I was just a little tired of $600 bills, I didn't want it to go to "death row"!

I emailed Uncle Tim:

ME:  Uncle Tim, My old car won’t be sent to “death row”, will it?  I was thinking maybe a nice pasture where it could romp around with the other Cavaliers until it rests in peace?

HIM:   It will continue its life as a productive member of the transportation community. The adoption agency (auction) will place it with a new foster family. After some nursing back to full health it will go to a permanent home.

Ahh, thank goodness.

Farwell Old Friend!*

  * Sorry about the potholes.  And the poor parallel parking.  And never cleaning you.  You served me well!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trial and Error

That Darn Cat!  I was so excited to tell y'all about my new car, and she went and let the cat out of the bag.  Ah, well, se es la vie.

The car is totally awesome and I love love love the hatchback and the cute rear wind shield wiper.  Do not ask me about gas mileage or safety features.  But I can tell you the cup holders are conveniently located, it has cruise control, and the radio works pretty well.

Naturally, the first thing I did was sit down and read the owner's manual front to back.


Instead, I have been pressing random buttons in futile attempts to do something.  I tried cruise control, but have so far managed only to light up a "cruise" light on the dashboard.  The light gives the appearance that speed regulation is occurring, but the needle going slowly and steadily down after my foot is disengaged from the gas pedal seems to imply otherwise.  I messed around with the wind shield wipers (including cutie in the back!) and tried to clean the window.  I was convinced the washer fluid container was empty, so I searched for the hood release.  After accidentally removing the fuse box lid, I figured I should maybe peruse the manual.  Hood up (hydraulic!) and fluid full.  Hmmm...back to manual.  Oh! So that's how you do it!

This morning, my friend wanted to know how I liked the car.  Nice, I said, but so smooth.  Normally, I attempt to miss potholes (I swear!) and pretty much hit every one.  But this car runs so smooth, I can hardly feel potholes.  Perhaps I have finally managed to avoid them?  I think not...I told her it was so smooth I couldn't even tell how fast I was going.

At lunch, I put the key in the door to unlock it and --- WHA! WHA! WHA! WHA! WHA!  AWEEEOAWEEEOAWEEO!  Shit!  After slight heart attack I began mashing buttons on the little button thingie.  Thankfully, they all stop the beeping.  So.  The car has an alarm.  And it goes off when you use the key in the door.  I filed that little gem away for future reference, but I am sure I will forget at the most inopportune time, like when I am late for a funeral and everyone has just bowed their heads for a moment of silence.  (I apologize in advance.  I just never had one o' these button pushin' thingies.)

Also?  I have never had power windows.  I have awful memories of my parent's minivan with non-working power windows.  The driver side one got stuck permanently down, in winter.  Driving in 36 degree sleet is really not fun with the window all the way down.  Then, my dad got some plexiglass and affixed it in the opening, but it was summer by that time, and I probably don't have to tell you the AC didn't work either.  So, I have boycotted power windows.  Who needs em?  But unfortunately, I found power locks  to be a necessity since I have had four doors to worry about and power locks don't come without power windows.  So, every time I have stopped the car, I have had to put the key back in the ignition switch, and power up the friggin windows.

On the way home, it was smooooth sailing.  Until I met up with an unmarked police vehicle in the opposite lane.  He kindly flashed his lights and motioned for me to turn into a street on the right, and I figured there might be an accident ahead but I didn't know this detour.  And then the guy follows me in, and I think maybe he is pulling me over.  Apparently, I was going 53 in a 35 mile an hour zone.  I didn't have to feign surprise because I was honestly shocked.  Luckily, I had the paperwork to prove my claim (Seriously officer, I just bought this car yesterday!) and he let me off with a warning.

So...sure, I could read the manual.  But where is the adventure in that?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wastes of Money

This Message Brought to You by Daisy the Cat:

Shhhh....I'm blogging in secret.  But I don't think Nicki will find out, 'cause she's been really really busy and she hardly ever sits at the computer any more.  So I figure I have free reign to rant about a few things that have been bugging me.

You see, all I wanna do is go outside, run around in the neighbor's garage for a bit, then eat the other neighbor's landscaping.  After that, I really wanna check out the big pigeon coop across the street.  Apparently, that is too much to ask.

So, I never get to go out, and even though Nicki said she might buy me this totally awesome cat carnival, she has been spending her money on other things.

Like, she has been on the phone with all these dirty guys with cement all over their jeans, and they say they're gonna build a place INSIDE the house to put fire!  Isn't that crazy?  Why would anyone bring FIRE into the house!  I actually don't mind when those guys come over, though, because it gives me a chance to sneak sneak sneak outside, and Nicki is too busy looking at bricks to notice me.  Still, this fire business is gonna require way more money than my cat carnival, yet she doesn't seem to bat an eye.

And then there are all these vegetables.  Ewww.  It seems to totally consume Nicki, and she spends all this time in the kitchen trying to cook stuff so she can use them up.  Again, I say it's a complete waste of money.  Why buy vegetables, when you could buy meat?  Or cat carnivals?

But today, she went and bought the craziest thing ever:

She bought a new car!  Now, I don't know much, but I think a certain cat carnival would cost a LOT less.  This is the last straw!  But...shhh!  I have a plan.  You see, this car is WHITE.  And the inside is WHITE.  And lets just say, the next time she takes me to the vet?  Well, I won't give it away.  But I have a plan.

And one of these days, maybe she will let me out.  (I only hope maybe I will be let back in.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Mizuna

Today's veggie is another leafy green, mizuna. This is a pretty veggie, and many fancy restaurants serve it on salads.  I tried mizuna in salad, including the stems, which are a bit bitter and stringy.  So it's okay in salad, just make sure you cut off the stems.  I tried a recipe from Gourmet magazine, but gourmet, I am not.  The recipe was hard to follow and I substituted a few times for items I could not find, or ones that were icky.  In the case of beef suet (which I had to look up), it sounds icky, and I was unable to find it.

My resulting recipe was dubbed "Miso Mizuna Stew" because the base is very much like the miso soup you find in Japanese restaurants.  Miso is very salty because it is essentially just soy sauce.  However, you can add (or subtract, if that's your fancy) water as needed to change the saltiness.

Check it out on my recipe page at http://www.nicolebaer.net/.  Click recipes, then Mizuna. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Queen of Domesticity

This is not me.

My house is a constant mess and this gets on my nerves.  My counter is full of papers.  My mail is unsorted.  My laundry is in various stages (from dirty to clean but unfolded to folded but not where it belongs).  My toilet is icky, and my sink is full of dishes.

And yet, I get home from work, and I survey this mayhem, and I choose to eat a bazillion pretzels while sipping a beer and watching TV.  What the heck is wrong with me??

Well, last week, I finally managed to motivate myself, only very slowly.  I decided, no matter what, no matter how tired I am when I get home, or how many beers I had at happy hour, I am going to clean ONE room, EVERY day.  Yeah!  Go me!

It turns out I make exceptions when I am busy getting slightly drunk and a little lost in NYC.  But this was OK, because I was in a different state.  And a little drunk/lost.  (It's a long story.)

So, it took a little longer than expected, but I have officially cleaned every room, and I will begin on round 2 tomorrow.  The house looks much better, and each room gets cleaned once every week.  This has been so motivating, that, drunken escapades aside, I have de-cluttered in non-designated rooms on several days.

This led me to tonight's discovery.  I pulled out my under-the-sink com poster (even though it was bathroom day) and noted it was full.  I pulled out the bag of organic contents for disposal in the big bin outside.  Everyone who composts says the pile of rotting organics does not smell as long as  you refrain from putting meats or animal fats in there.  In general, I have found this to be (basically) true.  Until tonight.  I cannot describe the horridness of this smell.  There turned out to be a brown liquid in the bottom of my inside bin.  The liquid was leaking from the bag liner and it spilled onto my floor as I tried very hard not to puke on top of it.  It was FOUL, and it stunk up my entire kitchen in a matter of seconds.

I soaked up the majority of the liquid with paper towels and tossed them to the garbage.  I then used disinfectant wipes, bleach, a swiffer mop, and finally an old towel to wipe up the damage.  I threw everything away and took the garbage out.  I hosed down the side walk just outside the door where some of the liquid had fallen.  I sprayed disinfectant.

And it still smells.  It is like a combination of poo and BO.  I think I can taste it.  I feel ill.

That'll teach me to clean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cat in the Box Part 2

What to do about my outdoor loving cat?

I began to research outdoor enclosures, figuring that there MUST be other stupid people out there who have learned these same lessons.  There are.  Incidentally, they appear to mostly be in Australia or New Zealand.  And these people are not just stupid - they are also rich.  And they have a LOT of time on their hands.  And they do not mind an absolutely hideous cage like thing stuck haphazardly on the back of the house.

There are tons more of these monstrosities (most costing more than $1000, though I don't know how Aussie bucks compare to the real kind).  I love my cat, but I found no solutions that were within my price range, nice looking, or easily constructed from universally understood instructions with cutesy pictures.

Then I found this:

Isn't it awesome??  (I mean, without the tacky birthbath inside.)  It's called the "Kitty Grand Prix" and I love the description:   "Designed to allow your cats the ability to run uninterrupted to their hearts content without having to stop at the end of the enclosure, turn around then run off again. The Kittywalk® Grand Prix is great for either one cat or can comfortably accommodate two to three cats happily together at the same time."  

But alas, "Kitty Grand Prix" is over $400.  I can afford only a 10-ft straight section similar to the round thing.  I guess kitty will have to stay inside for now...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cat in the Box Part I

Prior to moving to our loverly new home, I was worried about my Puss.  She had accompanied us on two prior moves.  The first one, when I moved from the "Towson ghetto" -- which I thought was just fine and I wasn't actually aware of this reputation until after said move -- my Puss was just a year or so old.  On moving day, she was holed up in the bathroom with a litter box and some food, and she sat happily in the window sill.  She acted a bit wacky when we crated her up and took her to her new home, but later that night, she emerged from under the bed and seemed not to notice that she was relocated.

Move number two, the Puss was older (and wiser?), and she was FREAKED OUT by her new home.  She slinked about for nearly a month, sniffing around in a confused manner.  She seemed to recognize that the things around her were her things, but the dwelling was all wrong.

I attributed this to her age, which was about five.  I am more set in my ways at my ripe old age of 32, so I can relate. I figured she would be even more freaked by the house.

Turned out, I need'nt have worried.  Puss was more at home in the house than we were.

But now, it is summer, and the Beast wants O-U-T!  (We have to spell it, but I think she is catching on to that - I'd say she's a genius, but she was just in here a moment ago chasing her own tail for a spell and is likely puking somewhere now.  I don't think many geniuses do that.)  I figured all I would need to do is train her regarding the boundaries of the yard.  Stop laughing.  Seriously!!  She is (mostly) aware that she cannot jump on counters or dining tables, and I thought we could use similar tactics (squirt bottle) to teach her where she cannot roam.

OK, are you done laughing?

I'm waiting....

Well, HA!  I did teach her the boundaries of the yard through consistent reinforcement of the lines.  She is absolutely aware of where her yard ends, and the world begins.

What I hadn't counted on was that she just doesn't care.  She wanted out SO BADLY, that it seemed cruel not to allow her to go.  Who am I to deny a fellow mammal the joy of grass between her toes and blue skies above her head?  But, she was consistently vacating the premises.  I watched her pretty diligently, but invariably, I would turn my eyes away because watching a cat sniff for more than ten minutes can get surprisingly dull.  The instant I let my guard down, she zipped away.

Frankly, it was starting to get embarrassing.  I would be seen by many a neighbor, looking for the damn CAT!  One would likely be wondering why I kept letting her out.  But one would not know how she begged and wanted to be out so badly.

So, I bought a cat harness.

Oh yes, they sell these at Pet Smart.  For cats.  They also sell ties specifically for cats.  I did not buy one because it was only 10 feet long.  I got the 40 footer.  (Which, it turns out, gives Miss Puss the ability to walk nearly the width of the whole yard.  My property is very long, but not so wide.)  It also turns out, Miss Puss does not care for the harness.  Totally expected.  But I did not realize she'd be able to get out of it.  Apparently, cats do not have shoulder blades, and this allows them to dislocate their shoulders at will and without pain.  Also, their necks are thicker than their heads.  It is as though cats were designed to get out of harnesses.  Luckily, I can use the 40ft tie as a clothesline....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Yukina Savoy

Today's veggie is the spinach-like leafy green, yukina savoy.  I wasn't able to find many (any) recipes for this wacky veggie, but lots of farms are growing them for CSA's, leaving many a blogger to pontificate on what the heck to do with it.  I just substituted it for spinach in a recipe for Lebanese Beef and Rice, and it turned out great! 

Check it out on my recipe page at http://www.nicolebaer.net/.  Click recipes, then Yukina Savoy.  I might figure out how to direct link...but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

I am happy to report that this recipe did receive two thumbs up.  It has a great flavor, and the yukina savoy is subtly mixed in with a lot of meat so my live-in carnivore was not too resistant.  My only complaint is that it turns out a little dry since there is no real sauce for the meat.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Birth Story

Yesterday was the anniversary of my entrance into the world.  (This is me about a year and 6 months after the event - with my great grandmother who passed away in 1988.)

Rather than read about my birthday, you have to read this.  It is the most real story of giving birth I have ever read.  It's funny, it's scary, it's a bit gross, and in the end, it's beautiful.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Bok Choy

Today's recipe is Cashew Choy Chicken. (Picture by others).

Check it out on my recipe page at http://www.nicolebaer.net/.  Click recipes, then Bok Choy.  I might figure out how to direct link...but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

This recipe got one thumb up from me, and a thumb down from Adam.  This is to be expected for most recipes involving green leafy things, so don't let it deter you.  I thought it was delish!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CSA, Week 1: Is There an Ap For That?

I thought joining the CSA was a well researched, completely thought out plan.  As usual, it turns out I had no clue what I was doing, so I am sure amusing blog-worthy stories will result.

I nearly forgot to pick up my veggies on Friday.  Amidst the stinky chaos of a crying pussy cat and the contents of her digestive system, I was driving home when I realized I had totally spaced on the CSA.  I cursed a little bit, for some reason thinking that pick up hours ended at 2pm instead of just starting at that time.

But, as luck would have it, I was able to swing by the farm on my way home.  With kitty in car, I rushed to gather 16 types of vegetables.  Sixteen?  Yes, sixteen.  I am not entirely sure we even eat sixteen meals in a week, so this was my first inkling that I may be in over my head.

I rushed back to the car with mostly leafy things, and found kitty to be perfectly at ease.

I planned to do some internet research on the wierdo things I got, but the monsoon of Friday night caused a power outage.

Completely unrelated sidebar:  Someone at work has a Droid.  You know, those google phones that compete with the iphone?  Adam wants one because he can program his own aps for this totally open-source platform.  How do I know someone at work has a Droid?  Because the sound you hear on the commercial, "Droid" is the default sound byte for the email alert.  And this guy at work gets an email every. five. minutes.  Thank goodness he is sort of new and he doesn't get emails every forty five seconds like I do.  I am hearing "Droid" in my head now, randomly.  It is like a bad song that won't go away.  Several people have asked him to change the setting, but he can't figure it out.  He said it goes off at 2am when spam mail trickles in, and it wakes up his dogs.  But he finally got it synced with his stereo system so he can voice dial... Me?  I would have made the "Droid" thing a higher priority.

But I digress (more).  Adam has been thinking up some very cool ideas for Droid aps.  I won't give them away here.  But trust me - he is a super genius.  And on Sunday, I thought of an ap, too:

I need to search the internet by picture.  Not like now, when you google in a known item and you get a list of images.  I mean you have a picture of an unknown thing, say, a green leafy vegetable from a CSA, and you search for the thing.  Wouldn't that be great??

So, if there's an ap for that, please let me know.  In the meantime, I researched "green leafy Asian vegetables" for several hours before figuring out what I had.  And then I researched how to use them. 

The results of my internet time were beneficial, and I have started posting recipe pages specific to these weirdo veggies for other CSA members.  These will just be links on the ole' blog - one thing I found is that if you're looking for useful info on how to cook misome, you ain't interested in the story of how I thought I had misome but actually had yukina savoy so sorry no help here.

The veggies I have:  romaine lettuce (trust me, it gets weirder), tat soi (see?), kholrabi, bok choy, green and red mustard greens, mizuna, yukina savoy, radishes, baby turnips, basil, parsely, dill, broccoli, and kale.

Looking forward to next week!

***If you are interested in joining my CSA, there are still spots available!  This is a great way to support local people, teach yourself and your kids about how veggies grow, and try new things.  Just Click Here to learn more.***

Monday, June 7, 2010

CSA, Intro

Welcome to my newest endeavor, CSA.  That's "Community Sustained Agriculture" to you newbies out there.  Perhaps y'all have known about and enjoyed a CSA for years.  Perhaps like me, you've been reading books and watching movies about the food industry in this country, and fallen victim to the hype of "the damn lib'ral hippies".  True, this is a liberal, hippie idea - and a good one. 

Basically, you pay a farmer in the beginning of the year for a share of his or her crops.  This gives the farmer some cash up front which can be used to purchase seeds, pay employees, buy equipment, etc - all the normal start up costs of a business.  Many CSA programs offer payment plans, and will allow you to work on the farm in exchange for veggies, which leaves lots of options for people without the income to pay up front.

I know, I know - I said that I wanted a yard so I could have a garden and this is still true. 

**Warning - round of excuses beginning.** 

I bought a gardening book which said I should start a garden in the fall.  I do not know the area I moved to and thusly do not know what is best method for hiring someone or borrowing or renting a tiller.  I was not certain how to start a garden from yard.  I did not have the proper tools.  and:  I did not know how much / what to plant.

**OK, I think I am done.**
So, I decided joining a CSA would help me learn what to plant and how much, and allow me to start a small garden on my own time this summer instead of Mother Nature's.  Because in January, February, and most of March, I was busy with house buying/moving/painting/decorating. 

I found my CSA through a really useful site called Marylands Best.  At first, I was looking for the Farmers Markets near my new house, so I sort of stumbled across this idea.  I tried valiantly to be a regular marketer last summer, but many Farmers Markets are held during weekday mornings.  Out of 20 markets near my old apartment, I had a list of three that were conveniently (enough) located and at a reasonable time which did not require time off from work or waking at ungodly single digit hours on a weekend.  Farmers Markets tend to operate using this crazy old fashioned currency made of paper and metal.  I hear tell the stuff can be gotten from machines, but I rarely remembered to visit one of these before the market, and this was another deterrent.

As I read about CSA's on a whim, I realized I need not alter my lifestyle for the sake of produce.  I paid in one lump sum, thus erasing the need for that paper stuff, and the pickups are once a week after work.  As a two person household, practically 1-1/4 since Adam refuses nearly all vegetables, I was looking for a reasonable share size that was reasonably priced and reasonably close to home.  I found all three!  Yippee!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Little

Never ask if something can get any worse.  It can.

After writing my blog yesterday, I went out to the car to clean up the damage.  (Yeah, that's where my priorities lie.)

I was acting quickly, because the sky was ominous, and the thunder was nearing.  Just when I thought I had beat the storm, it rolled in to tell me otherwise:

This picture isn't great, so allow me to point out a few snippets.  First, I am soaked after the walk from my car to my carport, which is approximately two steps.  Second, the white lines behind me are not camera errors.  That would be rain, and lots of it.  Just behind me, in the grass, are three of the four car mats.  I figured I would let nature do the work.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy

I took off early from work today so I could take the cat to the vet.  She was just there a few weeks ago for an emergency visit so the typical time elapse in which Miss Daisy forgets the trauma was not there.  So, knowing trauma was still fresh in kitty brain,  I stealthily retrieved her Kat Karrier.*   I did learn a new trick for getting kitty into the Karrier.** Cover her eyes.  Yeah...cats aren't all that smart...

I loaded crying kitty into car, and was on my way.  She whined, and I comforted, and she whined some more.  All was well for about ten minutes. (Did I forget to mention that I am still taking her to the old vet despite moving 45 minutes away??)

Then, the whining became more pronounced and I began panicking because I knew this tone meant "I am about to excrete something from my body."

I slowed the car, hoping to reverse what I knew to be an irreversible process.

And then the cat puked.  And puked.  And puked.

The smell.  My Lord, the smell.  It caused me to gag.  And gag.  And gag.  With tears in my eyes, I pulled into a parking lot and fished through the trunk for supplies.  I removed the cat from the Karrier, and scooped more puke than should reasonably fit in such a small cat out onto the pavement.  (Hey, it's biodegradable!  Quit judging!)

But it gets worse.

I decided it would be ok to leave her out of the Karrier, even though she invariably crawls under the passenger seat and I have to pry her out by the legs hoping I won't be reported to Animal Services each time I do that.  She seemed content enough on the floor, but I was rather nervous because Miss Daisy has a reputation for excreting from both ends when she gets this upset.  I figured she must be feeling better after such a massive ejection, and we were nearly on the highway by then, so I crossed my fingers hoping for smooth sailing.  After about five minutes, she tried scooting under the seat and I (safely) began playing goalie and blocking the entrance while driving.  So she peed right there.

Whoa.  That was a new one.  She was on the mat, and the smell was not too bad, so I focused on the drive and tried to Grin and Baer it.

But it gets worse.

At this point, the cat has no place to sit that isn't pee covered or puke infested.  I patted my lap and encouraged her to sit nicely for the duration of our trip.  Unfortunately, she hadn't wiped, and I immediately felt moisture on my leg.  Nice.

But it gets worse.

Unhappy on my lap (or perhaps satisfied that my jeans would now require washing), the cat began sniffing at the floor below me.  I did have to draw the line of safety there, as I began imagining how I would explain to the officer how I couldn't stop because a cat was lodged under my brake pedal.  Reluctantly, I let her go to the passenger side, knowing she would crawl under that damn seat.  Which she proceeded to do.  I began to smell more unpleasantness which was totally unsurprising.  I wondered if it was possible to imagine a smell because you think it will come, and my mind is just playing tricks on me.  As I thought of this, kitty thankfully crawled onto the back seat and meowed at me once again.  I turned my head briefly to look at her and saw the pile of poo.  I was dismayed but slightly relieved because it was not under the seat and quite reachable.

But it gets worse.

Kitty began to meow insistently again, and I thought, what more can she do?  Spontaneously explode?  Because really, the only bodily fluids she could possibly have left are blood and earwax.  Having destroyed all floor options for sitting, she apparently was uncertain where to sit next.  She meowed and paced about in the back seat, and even tried out sitting on the back seat head rests for a spell.  Meanwhile, we are nearly at the vet, the number two smell is mingling with the number one and vomit, and I am beginning to lose patience.  We sat through an entire light cycle without moving an inch because some asshole was blocking the intersection.  Ugh!  If he only knew the chaos in my car at the moment!  The cat meowed again, and I turned to tell her we were almost there when I noticed that she had stepped in the poo and tracked little pooey kitty paw prints all over the back.

Thank god, at that moment, the light turned green and the intersection was free.  The vet weighed her and noted that she had lost weight since her last visit.  Go figure.

Could It Get Any Worse??

*Why is it necessary to spell this way?
**No really.  Why?