Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I am into this month: January

Early morning sun on the bare trees.

On My Nightstand: On Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcey's recommendation, I read A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, which was interesting but not particularly life-changing. I read Sink Reflections and picked up a few good home maintenance/cleaning tips. Meh.

What else, what else? I read a Monk novel (yes, based on the TV show, and the TV show is better) and returned the second one I checked out because the writing style was irritating. I'm working on Grendel, a classic I had never read before.

While looking for a link to Lilith, one of the other books I read this month, I realized that apparently there are many books with that title, all alluding to the mythical figure of Lilith, Adam's supposed first wife who was maybe also the serpent. So, the Lilith I read is a Jean Plaidy historical novel/romance, which, you can't go too wrong with that. I can see those themes in it, but it's also, as I said, a Victorian romance-type novel. I recommend it, but apparently I need to go on a search for one of the actual Lilith tales, which is what I thought I was getting. Oops.

I also read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, which is one of those books everyone always expects me to have read. It amused and informed my grammatical stickler side. One might, however, contrast it with an article from the most recent issue of Wired magazine (which I can't seem to find online), which advocates doing away with standardized spelling and punctuation altogether.

Want to Read: I still have Death Comes to Pemberley on hold, along with a new Orson Scott Card Shadow series novel. The Help finally came in, as well as a book called How the Irish Saved Civilization, which I suppose I'll be reading a month early. ^_^

TV Show Worth Watching: We finished Darker than Black and oh! the best shows always freaking end, man. ;-) But I am also enjoying Once Upon a Time way more than I was before the winter break.

We ran through Netflix's entire supply of Breaking Bad, which was gooooood but not mind blowing the way a friend told me it would be.

Oh yeah. We have Netflix now. We're splitting a subscription with our housemate. So that's nice.

We've also watched two of the three seasons of United States of Tara which is...fascinating. Crude, and definitely not for anyone with delicate sensibilities or children who might be watching. The disassociative identity disorder main plotline is, as I said, fascinating, but the teenage-children-exploring-their-promiscuous-bisexual-sexuality plotlines I could do without. The DDH majored in psychology in college and from that limited expert viewpoint he says the DID stuff seems relatively accurate.

Movies I've Seen (in or out of a theater): I don't think I've watched a single movie this month, in or out of theaters. See above Netflix acquisition.

In My Ears: I guess I'm back to Mumford & Sons, because that's the CD that's still in my car. I tried to make a peppy-but-not-hip-hoppish Pandora station seeded with Foster the People and some other things and it's not bad. Foster the People, Beatles, the Monkees. The DDH doesn't care for it, though. I'd like some suggestions for that, music in the vein of "Pumped Up Kicks." You know, upbeat and cheerful and energizing without being really four-on-the-floor heavy.

What I'm looking forward to next month: Who was it who said February is the worst month? Woody Allen or someone, wasn't it, who made the quip about paying the same bills for fewer days of benefits. But at least we get an extra day this year, as it's a leap year!

Goal Progress: I posted some goals for the new year, and I figured these monthly wrap-up posts would be a good chance to check my progress throughout 2012.
So how am I doing? I slid a bit at the beginning of the year on keeping to the budget, but I did meet my commitments of money toward the cc debt, so that goal is on track. And I've done better sticking to the budget this last time around. I made a shiny new spreadsheet, yay. ^_^ It helps that I've had a few babysitting jobs to kick in some cash.
For the garden, we have treated some ground (mulched, composted, and plasticed) to expand it for this season, and I ordered a big fat envelope of seeds. So that is on track, too!
So far, I've managed to plan and cook at least three dinners a week, too. I've even resurrected my food blog, Reality Chef, to share the recipes with long-distance friends and family (and you, loyal reader). I'm having trouble with the planning part, still, but I am still meeting the commitment to actually cook three dinners, which is the important part.
The craft room goals, though...sigh. I've sorted through half a box of junk while letting the rabbit run around. That's about it. I should have put my other life organization goals on the list so I could show that I was accomplishing something! But yeah. That bugbear remains to be tackled. I'm going to try to get to a chunk of it in February.

The rest of the house, however, is staying much cleaner, partially due to a few FLYLady techniques and partly due to my nice to-do list system and partly due to sitting down with the DDH and making up a chore list of tasks we're each responsible for. He's actually kept his end of the bargain this month, too, and has even made progress on cleaning out the garage (!), which is like the craft room (a pigsty) but with more bugs.
And I can cross the last goal off the list entirely: I cut my hair.

It's cloudy today but warm. It's been a sunny warm January all around.
I'm certainly not complaining.
 How are you doing on your 2012 goals? What are you looking forward to in February?

Monday, January 30, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Bean soup

Do you want to cook with dried beans (so cheap!) but always end up using canned at the last minute?

Do you want soups that taste like something other than water?

Do you like to read stories about the things people do while they're cooking?

Me too.

Last week, I got those. Mostly, I don't.

Head to Reality Chef to check out The Saga of the Bean Soup.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Bacon and Egg Tarts

The DDH revolted against my healthy dinner plan on Tuesday, and we ended up with these.
Bacon and Egg Tarts
I mention this briefly in the recipe post, but I'll note at a bit more length here: This is, for all its seeming unhealthiness and whatever sort of vibe you get from something consisting entirely of bread, eggs, and bacon, a very local meal.

I made the bread myself, with wheat from a local farm and butter from a local dairy. The eggs came from one of the DDH's coworkers. The milk and bacon came from a dairy and farm in the area.

Only the cheese (and the other ingredients in the bread: sugar, salt, yeast) came from a store. Something has to give in our food budget, and we eat far too much cheese at this point in our life (nachos being our standby I-don't-feel-like-cooking meal), and the local cheese selections are so limited, that we still get Sam's Club cheese.

Given that Oklahoma is such an agricultural state, sometimes I'm surprised at how limited our local food opitons can be. We don't have a year-round farmer's market, for instance.

But the options are there.

We have an every-other-week online order food pickup in the winter, from which we get all that dairy and the eggs (usually; this is the first time we've had coworker-eggs) and bacon.

We have a local butcher/rancher from whom we get most of our meat.

And during the growing season we have several different markets from which I get all of our produce that I don't grow myself.

A lot of this food is more expensive than conventional supermarket versions (in-season produce often being the exception), though not necessarily more expensive than all-natural or organic supermarket versions. We eat less meat than when I bought it all at Sam's Club, and as I said, we still get our main cheese there because it's so expensive otherwise.

And while I firmly believe in the principles of supporting local businesses and responsible farming and ranching practices, I totally understand not being able to afford those things. I've been there. Trust me.

But there's usually something you can do, if those values are important to you.

Growing your own produce is cheap and possible even for most apartment dwellers.

Maybe you pick one item that matters the most--eggs, or milk, or meat--and make an effort to buy that one item locally.

It makes a difference.

And when you're able to make an entire meal and think, not only did I make this for my family with my own two hands, but I have met, personally, all of the people involved in producing this food--well, that's a wonderful feeling.

I know this comes across as a self-righteous or look-how-awesome-I-am feeling, but that's not what I mean. It's just a feeling of belonging to a community, of being an active participant in a system rather than a passive one, of taking charge of what is an integral part of all our lives: food.

We all have to eat. Let's make what we eat good, in as many senses of the word as we can.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I am dressed (don't ask much more of me).

Since the beginning of the year, I've been planning my outfits out the night before.

This has helped me keep my goal of putting together interesting outfits, though often, still, my planned outfits are just a shirt and pants and nothing exciting at all. At least I don't have to worry about it the next morning.

I even managed to put together an actual outfit that wasn't a skirt-and-tights one:

The shirt is actually black-and-white striped, not gray, and is a little overwhelming on its own (especially considering the Christmas pounds I put on last month). But the belt (a thrift store find, woot!) cuts that nicely and ties it all together. I was really quite proud of myself.

With cardigan
I did do my skirt outfit as well, with a pair of supremely comfortable navy tights. I wish I could remember where I got them. Oh well. As you can see, I wore it with a cardigan against the AC in my office, but here it is without:

No cardigan.
I am fairly partial to my cozy cardigan collection, honestly.

Anyway. Yes, I've been a terrible blogger lately. It's been busy at work, and I am falling victim to the perfectionism virus: I have a post or two planned but don't want to do them until I have time to do them perfectly; therefore, they never get done.

Also my mother keeps making me post recipes. This is my personal wander-about-random-stuff blog. I gave up my food blog mostly because I think so many other people do food blogs so much better. But I really do enjoy it because I really do enjoy cooking and sharing that with other people. So I'm not too upset about its little revival.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a picture of a girl who's always impeccably dressed:


Monday, January 23, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Coffee Chocolate Chip Muffins

In case you needed a caffeinated snack to go with your morning cup o' joe, try baking some coffee chocolate chip muffins.

Eventually I'll write a real blog post and not just keep linking to my cooking blog, promise. ;-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Caramel Corn

Are you already wondering what to make for dessert tonight?

Are you thinking, "I really can't justify making a dessert tonight because it's January and resolutions blah blah weight loss blah blah diet blah"?

Stop being silly and go make some caramel corn.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I am dressed (don't ask much more of me)!

Ok, kids, I actually remembered to photodocument a skirt outfit this week.

This is actually, if you will allow me to be impressed with myself, a sweater over a dress so the dress looks like a skirt instead of a dress. That was a really long-winded way of saying something I'm sure real fashion bloggers have a succinct term for. Either way, I was very impressed with myself.

I love that sweater (cowl necks in general usually work well for me). I like the dress as a dress, too, but wanted to wear the sweater. The gray sweater tights and boots I think I've photodocumented before. All in all, a fun outfit.

I'm not going to whine at you about SOPA/PIPA stuff, but if you use the internet, you should maybe check it out for yourself. Assuming you haven't, which, if you use the internet, you probably have.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Lasagna

Have you ever messed up your significant other's favorite dish?

Do you ever try to recreate a childhood favorite for someone you love and it totally bombs?

Yeah, me too.

Hop on over to the food blog to read how not to make lasagna.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I am a cheapskate Tooth Fairy.

So I am going to pretend there are actually people who read this blog and ask a poll question:

How much money does the Tooth Fairy leave?

An acquaintance-friend recently asked on Facebook, as her sixish-year-old son has his first loose tooth.

The average of the eleven responses was $6.45 for the first tooth. (!)

Three parents pay their sixish year old children TWENTY DOLLARS for losing a tooth.

Twenty dollars! To a small child! For an event over which the child has no control. It's not like it's some tremendous accomplishment that the child worked long and hard to achieve, overcoming great obstacles and showing great fortitude of character.

It's a tooth, people, and it was going to fall out all on its own no matter what the darn kid did or didn't do.

Is this some recent development? As my mom said in her comment (which brought that average price down a quite bit), "I swear that a quarter was the norm when you were a kid, Katie."

Is she right, or were many of my little friends receiving fat stacks (as they say) for their baby teeth back in the nineties?

Sometimes I am just poking along in my ordered little life when something like this slams into me out of nowhere, and I realize just how many things I never consider in life because I don't even ask the question.

I mean, why are we paying kids for losing teeth anyway? It never occurred to me before how intrinsically strange that is.

Anyway. In case you were curious, some people gave "special" coins (fifty cent pieces, gold dollar coins) or bills (two dollar bills), which I think is neat--something that's more about what it is than about how much it is. (But then, I am certainly a collector and packrat so of course that appeals to me.)

One other parent seconded my mom's quarter, while the majority of the parents pay five dollars.

This still begs the question: What on earth is a six-year-old spending twenty dollars on, anyway? While I could see an argument for using this as an opportunity to teach stewardship and saving and happy fun financial responsibility, seriously, that's a lot of money for a little kid.

Isn't it?

I can tell you what I saved my allowances up for at that age.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

I am achieving my goals.

So remember how one of my goals for 2012 was to cut my hair?
I had this elaborate plan to save up a bit of money and watch Groupon emails for a deal to a nice salon and go in and have a nice special trip to a fancy salon and a fancy shampoo and cut.

But it was really irritating me yesterday.

So when I got home from work I chopped it all off with a scissors.


My usual hairstyle before.

This is from a few weeks ago, but it was about this long.



It took the DDH an hour to notice, despite the fact that this

Next to a paper towel roll for scale.

was lying on the kitchen table.

Once he noticed, though, he said it looked very nice. Isn't he a dear?

He also said it wasn't quite even but that he was not going to fix it for me. That doesn't seem quite fair considering he's always expecting me to shave the back of his neck evenly, but oh well.

A friend of mine from the gym has offered to even it up on Monday for me.

In the meantime, though, I like it. I feel a small pang of regret for all that hair--it's the longest it's ever been. I hadn't cut it since October 2009.

But as my mom always said, "It's hair. No matter what you do to it, it will grow out."

And I can check a goal off my list just thirteen days into 2012.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I am dressed (don't ask much more of me)!

For something different, here's a pants outfit that I actually rather liked.  

I think I mentioned that I have two pairs of black slacks and two pairs of gray. Here's one of the gray (not that you can really tell), with a blue blouse and a navy cardigan (both of which I got with mad sale/couponing skillZ at Old Navy) and my nifty long necklace.

You can't tell in the first picture but the blouse is actually a pattern. It's also an actual blouse and not just a t-shirt. I liked it enough to buy two, this blue-on-blue one and a black-and-white one.

Black and white version. Ignore the fact that this
is the most unflattering picture ever.
I didn't get any pictures of my skirt outfits ONCE AGAIN. Nor did I take a picture of the dress I wore yesterday. SIGH. Photodocumenting fail. Still, I am managing to keep that little mini-resolution, which is nice.

I like the cardigan/blouse outfit. It felt put-together and like an actual outfit instead of just clothing. Yay. The big necklace is fun, too, though it gets in the way sometimes.

Anyway, as you can see from the background of the first picture, this is from last Wednesday, when Babydog Beagle was sick (the giant crate in the background). I missed out on a lot of sleep Tuesday night and was bleary-eyed and running late Wednesday morning.

This could have been--and would have been, in the past--a terrible clothing day. BUT as part of my new organizational routine, I decide what clothing I'm going to wear the night before, which meant I already had the outfit, including jewelry, all picked out and ready to go. I know it's trite, but that has made such a big difference. It really helped me keep a positive outlook all that worrisome day.

In Other News:

My church workout classes officially begin today. This is good, because Zumba last night about killed me, and before my Christmas relaxation break I had been getting pretty peppy about that Zumba. I'm excited for that, though not for the pain I will probably be feeling tomorrow.

Choir practice also begins and kids, I just cannot shake this stupid voice issue. I guess it was adrenaline that got me through the Messiah, because it came right back and I croaked most embarrassingly through our Christmas program. I fear that I might need to look into food allergies or something, but since I suspect this will mean giving up cheese and ice cream I am incredibly hesitant. I don't know what else could be causing this sort of long-term slime in my throat, though.

Babydog Beagle seems all better and is greatly enjoying being fed giant amounts of food to fatten her up. Her crate is still upstairs and Labbydor has been enjoying having the door to that room open so he can sleep on the human bed all day. Yes, I know, I'm a terribly interesting person with all my dog stories, aren't I? ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I am a bookworm.

I would like to announce that I have memorized my library card number. It is only shallowly memorized; I could not recite it without a pause or type it without a number pad. But I am getting there. Victory.

I still have the number from my childhood card memorized, for I had truly and completely internalized it. 29075010876189, if you are curious.

How many hours did I spend in that little library on Juan Tabo? Too many to count. Browsing book by book through the juvenile paperback section. Searching for sequels on the fancy new computer catalogs with their black screens and blocky green letters (I am of an age where I had to learn how to use a card catalog in school but have never actually used one). Methodically checking out every book available by a new favorite author. Daring to wander the aisles of the adult side of the library. Listening to the whirring clunk sound of the self-checkout machines. Triumphantly collecting every. single. summer reading prize available by reading more books each week than most of the children read all year.

I was so proud to be able to do all of that myself. Mom would go off to the adult side of the library looking for her books and my siblings and I would scavenge the youth/children's side. We'd claim our cards from her wallet and place books on hold all by ourselves, on our own personal accounts, on those creaky old computers. Eventually, I didn't even need the card--that awesome power, the Library Hold, was available to me based only on information I had memorized in my own head. Oh, I felt like a Professional Reader, my friends. I was the Best Library Patron Ever.

Now I almost never spend more than two minutes inside my local library branch. I log in online, request books on my reading list, and stop by to pick them up when I get the email that says they've arrived.

Admittedly, the entire building for the library in my neighborhood, including the bathrooms and the ginormous conference room, is barely half the size of the library we frequented in Albuquerque. There's not much there to browse, and it's always crowded with, well, children, who I would like to think are as excited about the World of Books as I was but who really are arguing loudly over computer time and blocked websites and listening to music with the volume turned up so high I can hear it despite the giant padded headphones they're all wearing.

But here I am again, twenty-five years old and just as excited that I've memorized my library card number. I'm just as excited about that World of Books, that world of entertainment and knowledge and Story that once again stands open before me, unlocked by this information in my head.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I am cooking up a storm: Granola bars.

Another food post today over at Reality Chef (my old food blog that is being revived by my penchant for posting food pictures on Facebook).

Do you spend way too much money on essential snacky foods like granola bars?

Yeah, stop that.

Bon appetit.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I am getting tired of cleaning up messes.

I was going to post yesterday about how it looks like Babydog Beagle is all better, yay.

But then she was sick again last night. Not as badly as Tuesday, but still. Came home after dinner to a mess and she woke us up in the middle of the night with another. Poor thing.

I'm also feeding her as much as I'm feeding the Labrador to try to fatten her up. I'll probably put her back on a boiled-chicken-and-oatmeal diet this weekend. Sigh.

In other news, I finally mailed my Christmas packages and a first round of Christmas letters yesterday! Nothing like procrastination, amirite? I told everyone to consider them Epiphany presents.

Speaking of which, happy Epiphany! Christmas is now officially over. Time for the decorations to come down. But maybe I can manage to hang on to a bit of that Christmas spirit.

That's certainly what I need.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I am cooking up a storm.

So before I had this little meandering blog about which I have told no one in my Real Life, I had a little cooking blog, the main purpose of which was to share recipes with my mother and catalog successful cooking endeavors.

I haven't used it much lately, but received so many requests for this sweet potato enchilada recipe that I thought I'd share.

So if you like food, in this case seasonal vegetarian Mexican food (vegan if you use oil instead of butter and leave off the cheese), check out what's cooking at Reality Chef.

So this is heartwarming.

Did anyone see the Target ad this week? Since Target ads still come in that creaky old dinosaur the newspaper, we don't get them.

But, if you do, perhaps you noticed that one of the children's models was a boy with Down Syndrome.

Or perhaps you didn't. Because Target didn't call attention to the use of a "special" model. They just stuck him in there with all the other kids, looking happy and having a good old time.

Someone posted this link on Facebook, which is how I saw it. I don't necessarily have much to say on the topic. I know a number of people with Down Syndrome, of various ages from a little baby through to adults, but I'm not exactly qualified to speak to the topic other than to say that people are people.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's Wednesday, so theoretically I should have a What I Wore post up, but the only picture I've apparently taken and uploaded is a singularly unflattering one of me in a blouse and slacks--a blouse I like enough to own two of, mind you, but still. I hit my goal of a fun skirt outfit last week, but apparently failed to photodocument the event.

Instead, I will tell you about the beagle. Skip if you're squeamish. It will be safe again after the second picture.

The patient.
I came home yesterday to an awful stench and discovered the poor thing soaking in a crate full of diarrhea. I dragged the crate outside and released her into the yard, and luckily the DDH came and valiantly cleaned the crate and the beagle and then the carpet when she ran out of the bathroom after her bath and did it again, on the carpet.

Thank God for the DDH.

Anyway. We finally let the poor sad sick beagle back into the house. I tried to fence her in the kitchen so at least additional messes would be on the linoleum, but no. She climbed over the fence, cuddled up sweetly in the chair, then got up and promptly voided a greater volume of mess than I thought her entire digestive track could possibly hold.

Sigh. She seemed ok the rest of the evening...till she woke us up at 4:30 in the morning with a huge puddle of mostly bile on the floor by her bed. And then, after we got everything cleaned up and were starting to drift back to sleep, with a giant puddle of bile all over OUR bed.

So after cleaning it up and changing the sheets, we stuck poor beagle in a different crate for the rest of the night.

She was very upset when she didn't get breakfast this morning.

Brother and sister.
I'm worried, because she's also lost quite a bit of weight recently. We had cut back what we were feeding her because she was getting fat, but somehow in the past month she's become gaunt. We've been feeding her more the past couple weeks, but now this...I don't know. The poor thing. And I don't know what to do. A vet bill would eat up pretty much the entirety of our savings account...but if she is still sick tomorrow, that's what we'll do.

Labrador is adorable, very concerned that his little-big sister is sick. We put her crate upstairs because it's warmer but left the door open so he could check on her. We have learned the hard way (our back door no longer has a door jamb from Labrador height on down) not to separate them while we're gone.

So this is not the post I wanted to write today. It's not about What I Wore or about my new planner system or how I'm doing with my new goals for the year. It's just me worrying about my poor sick babydog and letting you know how absolutely awesome my DDH is.

That's life, I guess.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I am planning ahead.

Happy New Year!

I don't really do resolutions, but I do have some general plans for the new year. I suppose I might as well share them here.

Some goals for 2012:

  1. Pay off credit card debt (this is leftover from the DDH's school days slash the three months he was unemployed this year). It's not insurmountable, but the problem is that we've paid it off before. So that leads me to
  2. Stick to the budget. Now that we have one and both of us seem to have stable employment. If we do, we can have the debt paid off by October, sock a bunch of money into savings, and make payments on his loans, as well as all the other bills we have. Yay.
  3. Garden it up. Expand space (need to start on that this weekend, actually), try some new plants (excitement!), keep them alive (I'm surprisingly ungood at that), preserve produce (it helps if enough plants survive long enough to give you a surplus of foodz).
  4. Plan and cook at least three dinners a week. You would think that would be easy, but between different evening activities and the fact that two people go through leftovers very slowly, that would actually be an impressive accomplishment.
  5. Make the craft room useable. Theoretically, do a good cleaning/purge of the rest of the house and keep the whole thing in useable shape. But I'll settle for one room. In related news, the DDH and I recently drew up a chore battle plan of sorts and it would be nice if we stick to it.
  6. Then, use it. I've got a bunch of pictures from Europe printed, and there are countless more that need to be printed, not to mention every other thing I've done since then. I need to make some progress on this scrapbook, or get rid of all my supplies and stop pretending it's my hobby. If I don't at least book the photos I've already printed, that's it. Also, I would like to actually have the space and organized materials to try some of the DIY projects I'm always emailing to myself.
  7. Cut my hair. Well, it's been 2.25 years. I think it's time.
That should be enough to be getting on with, right?

What are your goals or resolutions for 2012?