Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Wonderland

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Where've ya been?

It's true, I've neglected blogging lately. So, what have I been up to?


1.) I fixed my broken blender! God bless the internet. I found out how to remove the broken part, buy a new one, and replace it. Good as new (with the exception of some scratches).


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 2.) I went to St. Louis for work.


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My boss was kind enough to drive me from the suburbs downtown so I could see the arch. But, he also stopped at Union Station. Now a Marriott, it's stunning. Seriously. Stunning. I literally gasped when I walked in. As these things often go, my pictures don't do it justice.


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3.) I was being promoted. You might assume that that sounds like something that doesn't take much effort, but that would be an incorrect assumption. Firstly, I had to basically campaign for it, and then had to give a little presentation to a panel. No photos to accompany this. Well, I could put the picture of me driving two of my coworkers in my little car that my coworker took with his cell phone, but...well, it's not that interesting!


So, that's a little of what was keeping me busy. Too much excitement!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

The foot+ of snow has made me stop and focus on things, such as this blog! It's been a busy December, and I'm SO glad we got this pile of the white stuff to quiet things down. I went out for a walk and everyone was being so friendly, including all the doggies in Lincoln Park.


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Everything is wonderful and serene, including my car, seen buried here. I unearthed it, because in Pennsylvania, we clean snow off before it's done, so that it's easier. They don't do that here.


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Inside, all is warm and bright. My decorations have been up since the beginning of December. I added one big item to my Christmas repertoire this year: a vintage aluminum tree. I took a chance on a 4 foot beauty on Ebay, with the only picture on the listing being the box, which was in rather bad condition. But, as it turns out, it was wonderful, and rather affordable at $37 including shipping! The funniest part about this is that the box says that the tree was originally sold at G.C. Murphy Co. in Beaver Falls, PA--on the other side of Pittsburgh from where I grew up.


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The box. If the tree looks familiar, it may be because you recognized it from the pages of Life Magazine! :) 


These aluminium trees are brilliant, both in sparkle and in construction. They fit into such small spaces, they're perfect for apartment dwellers. Much less space than traditional fake trees.


Before assembly 


Here's the tree trunk with two branches in. They come in little paper sleeves and are all the same size, so there's no fooling around with putting slot A in slot B. Besides after seeing the directions, I figured that if June Cleaver could do it, so could I!


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Afterdecorating 

And here it is after decorating! I had too few ornaments, but who cares. The "skirt" is actually a scarf. Ignore the duct tape on the plumbing access panel...I put this tree in my bedroom because I had already put up my pathetic straight from Thailand faux tree in my living room. Despite loving the Sparkler, I can't skip having a traditional tree. I briefly considered getting a real one, but frankly, was scared off by the price tag and the mess. So, here's the traditional one...


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I am now toasty and warm, perched on my freshly vacuumed sofa...enjoying the brief respite from the hectic go go go of everyday life! Hope you too are merry and bright!


 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Home Improvement...or Self Help?

So, the paint's up! My brother came Thursday and got working straight away and was done around 11 on Thursday night. I'll have some touch up to do, but it's looking GREAT! It is amazing to me what something so simple as a coat of fresh paint and some color (albeit neutral soothing rather than saturated bright) can do. All of a sudden, things that seemed disparate in my rooms come together.


What I did realize is that I'm not well adjusted when it comes to having my home in disarray. Someone please dissuade me if I decide to remodel extensively while living in a place. I don't think I could handle it! I have some clean out and clean up to do and things are not where they should be. I think this is good. It's good to shake it up a bit and get the dust off. It's good to change your surroundings and see things in a new way.


Those antique frames I found long, long ago are still sitting where I placed them. So, either I do my little fix up in the next few weeks or they're back on the curb or on Craigslist.


The mirror from my dresser? I either have to sell it or hang it. I have determined the backing it's on won't work to attach to the dresser and I am going to pitch it. The mirror is in great shape though.


I have a ton of other things still hanging around awaiting their fate--my old laptop, my old digital camera, bags of clothes. Now is the time! (Pictures to follow)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There Must Be 50 Ways to Choose Your Color

Well, my next home project is painting. Something I've planned to do for ages. After being here in my rental apartment for 4+ years, the paint's seen better days. It wasn't designed to last--my landlord paints after every tenant, and the average tenant's stay is probably 1.5 years or something. I asked him ages ago if he'd mind if I painted my own colors, and he said "whatever makes you happy" with a tentative "Uh, what colors are you thinking of?"


The answer was I didn't know. And, a year or more later, I still didn't and had gotten no further in my plans. Finally, after deciding to forego buying a condo immediately, in a trip to Home Depot to help a friend pick cabinets for HER new condo, I picked up a few color samples and promptly marked most of my walls with them, precluding me from NOT painting. It was a good strategy. Looking at those stripes, I got desperate last week.  I called my brother, who offered to help me, and he's coming this Friday, bless him, to paint for me.


But, what color? Unfortunately, the colors I originally tested would not work. I originally had these for the living room:


Ralph Lauren Lamp Room Grey


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On the wall, it just appeared too dark and not right.


Behr Chocolate Froth


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 On the contrary, this one was too light. Too similar to the beige that was already there.


For the bedroom, I thought Behr's Quietude was perfect. I was wrong. 


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It just appeared too bright on the wall. And too cool when compared to the warm white of the trim, which is not being painted!


So, it was back to the drawing board. On Sunday, after church, I settled down with my computer for over an hour, looking at paint sites, primarily Behr and Glidden because I was going to Home Depot. My goal for the living room was to match the "vein" in my rug:



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 (Like my feet?)


So, I kept glancing at the screen, glancing at the rug (keeping in mind they can vary). I settled on a list, which I took to the store and then looked at chips. This was infinitely easier than just showing up there and trying to guess. I then narrowed it down in the store to 2 samples for the living room and 1 for the bedroom. As it turned out, I kind of liked Chocolate Froth in the bedroom. But, I needed to compare. Who knew greys and taupes could be so different!?


For the living room:


Glidden Forest Khaki


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Behr Sandstone Cliff


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I also picked up cards with other potential contenders. But, when I put them on the wall, Sandstone Cliff was the standout. Forest Khaki was still too dark. Here's one of my test areas.


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This is on my back wall.  I also had testing happening by my curtains and by the trim on my front door. Sandstone Cliff is the paint on the bottom left. (Forest Khaki to the direct right). The flash is making it a bit brighter.


For the bedroom, I settled on one sample, Glidden Polished Limestone.


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It was wonderful, though I still am deciding between this and Chocolate Froth. One of the bedroom walls (also three test areas there):


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I tried doing this without a flash because it was making it way bright, but it turned out fuzzy. The Polished Limestone sample is to the top right (you can tell it's eggshell v. flat on the others). Quietude is to the left. Chocolate Froth is the one by the light switch.


I surprised myself by not being as color adventurous as I thought I'd be. I gravitated way away from brights. In some ways, choosing a neutral is harder, I think. I guess I'd be more willing to go with something with more saturated color if I owned my place. I just can imagine the look on my landlord's face if he came in and saw red or black walls. Even if I offer to prime over it, I can just imagine. Besides, to really make that work, I'd feel like I needed to really coordinate my furniture and everything. As it is, I think the neutrals will look better and fit more with my decor choices.


Take aways for your next paint picking project:


1.) Use the computer. Though screen resolution can change colors, it helps reduce the sense of being overwhelmed. Or, go to the store (don't buy anything yet), and get a few (and I mean a few--I know how a few can change into 50), bring them home, and then use the web tools offered by the paint companies to find ones slightly darker/cooler/warmer to find the perfect one.


2.) Though Glidden offers those cute nail polish looking samples with an included brush, these cost the same as the little pot of sample which has much more paint. Might as well get that one and use your own brush. If you don't use it to cover a wall, you can always use the paint for another project or if you choose the paint, to store touch up paint (that was Mom's idea).


All in all, I'm excited! This is my first painting project (that my brother will execute! Thanks, bro!) since I lived at my parents. It's VERY exciting! You know you'll see before and afters!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick and Easy

Saturday, I had one of those days where, because I had nothing concrete planned, and so many options, I had difficulty committing to anything. This led me to actually complete a project I've been meaning to do for awhile--recovering the seat of a chair. After completing it, it's rather embarrassing how long it's taken me.  If you've never done this, it's really easy.  The subject in question was a chair I acquired at an estate sale in my hometown before leaving for the big city (or, the suburbs of Bethesda, MD) and my first apartment.  It's a cute Gustavian sort of chair that serves so little purpose in my bedroom other than holding discarded clothing. But, that is neither here nor there. At some point, I am planning to use it as a desk chair (which I did at one point when I had a desk). I had originally recovered it in a nice purple jacquard. However, I was tired of that. I decided to recover with leftover fabric from my shelf project.


Here is the chair seat and chair as I started to remove the existing fabric.


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And here's the ORIGINAL fabric, which I left on for posterity.


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As it turns out, the bed is a less than ideal workbench. So, I moved it to the living room and my bench. Tip of the day: if it has bench in the name, it will be a better workbench. I wrapped the seat with 2 thin layers of poly batting that I also had hanging around. This is for cushiness. You could also add a layer of foam to the top, but not too much or the fabric won't lay properly.


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The process of applying the batting and fabric couldn't be less complicated. Wrap, make sure it's taut, and then staple the heck out of it. If you have stripes, just make sure they're aligned. I love my staple gun. It's a very gratifying activity. Here is the finished chair. 


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Voila! I may paint the chair at some point, or not. I haven't yet because I don't like to paint furniture (and haven't had much success with it...), but you know you'll be the first to hear about it if I do.
 
 


Sunday, November 1, 2009

20 Questions, Part I

(I'm having a bitch of a time formatting this...apologies, but I can't be bothered to figure it out right now!)


Bloggity Friend Wende posted a question to readers: a request for 20 questions of any sort. See here for the original post. In the spirit of participation, I'm answering the meme in line with Wende, so I'll go wtih the first five she answered.


Would you rather eat Reese's Cups or Peppermint Patties?


Um, this is too easy. Now, I don't ever reject any candy (with the exception of the second Hershey's bar offered by my ESL student...actually NOT my ESL student anymore...awkward, hence, chocolate rejected). Anyway, Reeses. Peanut butter and chocolate trumps mint. Next. 


Would you rather never listen to music again or lose your TV?
Talk about Sophie's Choice, for Crissake.  I guess TV (I say as I watch "Snapped" on Oxygen...how could I miss such quality?) I'd probably be better off.


If you could visit any one time period in history, when would it be?


Boy,tough. Probably the 1940s so  could wear the clothes and have my hair arranged and have a torrid affair with a soldier before he was going off to war. I could also meet my grandparents as young adults and my parents as babies, which is a bit of a novelty. I could also introduce birth control surrepitiously to help our current approaching Social Security burden. The rest of the time would suck though because, well, war sucks. Guys in uniform sure don't, though.


Would you rather die peacefully, but unexpectedly in your sleep at age 60 or die at 90 after suffering for years from disease?


90. Always pick quantity over quality.


Do you think that questions such as "what's your favourite colour/ice cream/album of all time" help you get to know another person?


Yes, because you have to start somewhere. It also depends how you answer, of course. If you say "blue" and that's that, well, maybe not, but if someone says "blue, because it reminds me of blue skies, which reminds me of my childhood days looking up at clouds," well, that gets you somewhere.


That said, I have a hard time with favorites. Someone once said if you have no favorites, you don't like anything, but I don't think that's true. I have several preferred colors. I like fuschias and purples and pinks as well as teal and sort of robin's egg blue. I also love orange. My favorite ice cream, hands down, is peanut butter and chocolate. I was recently disappointed that Annapolis Ice Cream's PB&C wasn't as good as I remembered. I was first introduced to the concept by Baskin Robbins, which still does a fine job. However, I will generally eat any ice cream (see question 1 above). I had a fantastic cantaloupe gelato at the gelati place on P Street this summer...yum. Album of all time. I have a hard time with favorite music or books, and honestly, rarely listen to music as composed in albums anymore, with the advent of Itunes,but with this one, I'll go for U2's the Joshua Tree.


There you have it. Join in if you wish!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Falling Into Fall: Home Edition

So, to not make my blog all drudgery about economics (I realize what a complete GEEK it makes me to have looked up the REPORT on Walmart's website!), here are some little home changes I've made for fall. Tonight is one of my favorite nights--extra sleep! :)


I've changed the arrangement of my stuff around the house. I like little doo dads, but I often tend to not want to clutter up with them. Part of this is not really knowing what to do with them. My friend, and frequent blog commenter, Kim is an excellent creator of cute vignettes with the vintage items she collects. I tried to take some inspiration from her in these arrangements!


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Here's my coffee table. I tried to put together some fall things and wrapped the hurricane in orange yarn and put some black river rocks in the bottom.  The gourds I got in Pennsylvania this year (along with a boat load of Honey Crisp apples at Peters Orchards) were super cute. I like the little gnomey one in the forefront.


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I'm kind of pleased with this. I mostly just added some of the objects in the front. Still deciding exactly how I want it. But, I'm happy with the spacing of things...


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 Here's more of my fall bounty from my PA trip!


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To the right of my dining table is actually a SUBTRACTION. I sold my Ikea bookcase on Craigslist Friday for $10. Nice to have the extra space! (And, the reason for the awkwardly placed picture.)


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This photo is a two-for I recently added a sheepskin to my ole Ikea chair--a nice cozy addition. You will also notice testing patches for paint. I am planning on painting sometime soon...and now that I've done these tests, I have to. (Though, neither is quite the right color).


So, that's the wrap up. Little things can make a big difference! Now I'm getting ready to go on a Capitol Hill ghost tour with Angela for Halloween. Boo!
 

Walmart's Shady Economics

One of Walmart's current commercials boldly states that it saves the average American household $3,100, regardless of where they shop. If they had just said that they saved from a price comparison basis, I wouldn't have paid attention, but the "anywhere" part had my brain perked up.



As an economics practicioner, I'm no dummy when it comes to the vagaries of methodology. Sorry, in English: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. I know better than many that you can make numbers say almost anything you want them to say; it's the analyst's responsibility to both balance the influence their own prejudices are placing on the analysis AND to clearly state the way they're going about the analysis with all of the caveats and cautions (that would be that "methodology" word).


So, let me state my caveats up front. I hate Walmart. I think it's evil and the epitome of a corporation growing at any cost. I understand why people shop there, and I feel fortunate that I can choose not to.  I would seriously rather spend twice as much on paper towels than give them a dime of my money. Some people don't have this luxury.


The claims Walmart makes in its commercial come from this document (Download 2008_Global_Insight_Price_Impa) from their web site. The report looks at how the consumer price index changed in response to there being a Walmart in the metro area. Without getting too much into this, because I don't think most of my readers care for reading my analysis of this, and because my whole point of this is not the structure of the study so much as the point that's being made by it. I think this quotation sums it up nicely:




"Wal-Mart is likely to have had a significant impact on price inflation across the MSAs largely for three main reasons. First, its sophisticated logistics and distribution innovations have increased total factor productivity, lowering its overall cost structure and allowing Wal-Mart to provide its goods at lower prices. Second, Wal-Mart's integrated purchasing system and its sheer size has led its suppliers to offer significant volume discounts, which Wal-Mart in turn has passed along to its consumers. And third, its lower prices have pressured its competitors to adopt more efficient processes and to lower their prices."

Number one goes without saying. Walmart's supply chain is one of its greatest strengths.  


Let me translate number two for you: Walmart has its suppliers by the balls. Selling to Walmart is much like selling your soul to the devil. You become beholden to them. It's obvious why someone would want their stuff sold at Walmart. Uh, duh...talk about sales! But, what is seldom thought about is that once Walmart gets your product on their shelves, they're going to push you to reduce prices. A lot. And, by this point, so much of your bottom line is dependent upon the quantitiy of sales you get at Walmart, that you have no choice but to continue and do what they say. This is not just the little guys. This is Proctor and Gamble, and other big companies.


Okay, on to number three: this is where the shit hits the fan. What is not covered in this document is the spinoff effect, of how a Walmart drives other companies out of business because of their inability to compete. This is the key data not factored into this "saving households" concept. It doesn't take into account the impact of local businesses going belly up and the spinoff effect on the economy. In short, small, local businesses' typically keep a greater percentage of their expenditures around the same area by buying from other local businesses. 


I just felt the need to point this out because essentially, Walmart is bragging out their ability to bully the rest of the business world. That is what "saving the average household $3,100" means. It's just such a joke and it makes me angry because obviously, not everyone seeing that ad knows economics.  


This $3,100 number leaves so much else out: such as how much induced spending occurs by Walmart shoppers (i.e. someone sees something there that they wouldn't have elsewhere and because the price is so good, decides to buy it...and spends more than originally intended. We've all been there!). Anyway, the point is that you can't trust advertising. And, numbers can lie. But you all knew that!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mobile thoughts: clothes shopping

I really should have chosen a career that either allowed me to wear scrubs or jeans everyday. They don't mention how annoying shopping for career clothes can be. I'm sure Stacy London & Clinton Kelly would have problems with that, but hey, it's hard work finding clothes. I went shopping yesterday and bought a few things but they'll probably go back. I already have a pair of pants from Filene's Basement in my work bag going back. I realized on Friday when I had to dress for a client meeting that I don't have a fall/winter suit that I like. I dont have many suits period and even fewer that I actually like. You'd think that a black suit would be easy. It's not. I like to think it's because I wear a 18 w but I'm sure it would be a problem even at another size. All I want are a few comfortable outfits that make me feel good and a few pairs of comfy cute shoes. Is that too much to ask? I'll tell you what...I normally pay anywhere from $40 to $100 for pants and about the same for shoes. I'd easily be willing to pay 2-3 times that if I knew I was getting quality and fit. Problem is that half the time you're buying walmart quality made in China crap where you're paying for branding. And who knows how they'll actually fit once you start wearing them. SO frustrating!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fat Phobia Sweeps the Nation! Story at 11!

Yeah, so it's no secret I'm obese. My BMI is above the "obese" mark. America would put a big red "O" on my dress if it weren't for the fact that conveniently, everyone already knows already. My doctor sure knows. He can barely keep it together enough to tell me anything else other than the importance of diet and exercise. I don't disagree, but what I do disagree with is the assumption that all fat people are walking time bombs and all thin people are naturally healthier. It was this assumption that led an endocrinologist I saw to suggest weight loss surgery within a few seconds of meeting me. Can you say "kickbacks"?


It is also this assumption that is leading a new trend (reported on this week) for companies to charge a higher insurance premium to its obese and overweight employees. (To be fair, they added smokers to it too...and the irony of the State of North Carolina being at the forefront of this is too good to pass up. But that is easier to hide, isn't it.) This is ridiculous for so many reasons. Why not charge people with more problems? Despite what "scientific" studies tell us (as reported by the media who we all know love nothing more than talking about how bad fat people are), not all fat people are unhealthy. Do you charge former smokers? Former fat people? People who eat fast food regularly but are not fat? Do you charge African Americans differently because they have a higher propensity for certain diseases? Or those from Mediterranean backgrounds? Or Asian? See what I mean? So MANY factors play into a complete health risk picture.


But YOU can help it, you say. To a degree, yes. If people are honest with you, though, they'd tell you they don't fully understand why certain people are fat and certain people aren't. There's no doubt that if I were absolutely "perfect" with my diet--ate 1,500 calories a day and worked out every day, I'd be smaller. I would probably NEVER be able to maintain what the CDC considers "healthy" though. I find sticking to a 1,500 calorie diet difficult even when I try really hard. Why? Because the world (and by the world, I mean the U.S.) makes it so easy to NOT do that. Foods are calorie dense and everywhere. You have to really plan to get low cal foods prepared, and if you work late or the kids are sick or whatever other reason you can't, you have some difficult choices to make. Anyone faced with food choices at, say, a hotel snack bar in the middle of a rural area can attest to that (may I recommend the peanuts?).


The short argument is this, everyone is dealt a set of cards--genetic, social, mental, emotional, and othewise. And you make the best play you can with what you've got. Some people, like in populations living in poverty-stricken areas, can't go to Whole Foods to get their organic skim milk for $4 a half gallon. They walk to the Checkers to get the 2 for 1. I am fortunate to not be in this category. But, for the "system" to pick on a category of people, in this case "the fat," without treating the underlying causes, that is just discrimination.


What is particularly awful to me is that things to cause obesity (like subsidized corn--got high fructose corn syrup anyone?--and other food industry atrocities, suburbanized development patterns that prevent walking, etc) have been institutionalized, and now the same institutions are trying to do an about face and pushing the cost to those affected by the policies.


I really didn't mean for this to be a tirade, but I guess it turned out that way. What I REALLY intended to share was this GREAT blog I found devoted to exposing some of the hype in the media about medical issues, and one of those is obesity. (http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/)  In general, I don't trust much of the "establishment" to tell me anything about anything. More often than not, there is a profit motive. Follow the money. If that makes me a radical, well, braid my hair and call me Moon Flower!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Busted Blenders

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I don't use blenders very often. And I have two, a Kitchen Aid full size blender and a Cuisinart stick blender. And as of a few weeks ago, neither were working. Pffffft. The less than one year old stick blender has been out of commission for awhile now. At first, I thought it was just the chopper (it comes with a chopper attachment). It is not the chopper, though unfortunately, which I found out after my run in with blender number one.


I have had this monster Kitchen Aid blender now for about 10 years. It was a gift one Christmas when I decided I NEEDED a blender and it NEEDED to be a Kitchen Aid (I couldn't just, say, get the blender thing out of my system with a $10 Kmart blender. To put this in perspective, I can count on one hand the number of times I use my $100+ Kitchen Aid blender each year. However, the $7 toaster from Target? I use that about every day.) I remember the chain of events...my friend Terry got me loving homemade smoothies when I visited her, and then Daisy told me she got a Kitchen Aid blender for her wedding, and that it was great at ice. Well, whatever...so, despite not really using it, I have hauled it around because, you know, it's expensive.


Don't get me wrong, I've used it. It put on a good "Smoothie night" for my floor when I was a Graduate Assistant in the dorms in grad school. I make my "famous" Butternut Squash soup with it a few times a year. But, on a "per square inch" basis, it's probably not earning its keep.


The other week, I was craving a nice smoothie. I had berries and yogurt I wasn't eating, so I thought "Why not DRINK them?" I made a nice frosty smoothie, and when I returned to the kitchen to clean up the mess, I noticed the rubber thingy on the motor had come off. Not come off, crumbled off and all over the blade assembly. Sigh. Of course, it's not under warranty at this point, though I can either send it in or take it to a certified Kitchen Aid repair place, which as far as I can tell, don't exist. Ugh. So, I'm deciding if that's worth it.


In the meantime, I try to make a smoothie the next day with my handheld. As it turns out, this too is kaput. The whole thing doesn't work. I ended up trying to hand make a smoothie with a spoon, a knife, and some shaking. Not. Advised.


If the past interaction with Cuisinart is any indication, I'm sure they'll replace it to my satisfaction, but it's just such a pain. So, what would YOU do about the blender? I would like both companies to know that I'm watching their responses very carefully...because I'm considering a food processor sometime in the future!


p.s. I know I've been a crappy blogger. All I can say is sorry...I've been bummed about my job, thinking of buying a condo (that's a whole other post I could write), and generally just running around doing life's little errands.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Commuter Sentences: mi musica es su musica

So I'm sitting on the bus with a woman
who clearly never learned the concept of how to behave in public. Though this is a common feature on my commute, because I've been "enjoying" her music for the last 20 min, it's grating on my nerves. Is it that she really likes to share? Does she need a sense of validation that her music is okay? Is she running a social experiment on peoples breaking points? I'll never know...Commuter Sentences: mi musica es su musica

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Commuter sentences: smell ya later

It's about time to do a commuter sentences. Namely because i'm on the damn bus and confronted by a smelly homeless person. The "pc" person in me realizes this us not "pc" bit as with many things like that, it's true. Poor Asian lady (also not pc but true) looks like she's going to puke. Culprit? Smelly homeless guy I nearly poked in the face with my umbrella.


My first experiences with body odor and transit came in Southern Spain, on the buses of Malaga. There's a shortage of water there, you see. And ample fried fish and garlic.


This, however is in a different class. That was "Euro" stink, sometimes experienced here, often by foreign exchange students and tourists. This is homeless stink. A combo of a long time of not bathing, not washing clothes, public urination and defecation and a general lack of self awareness. Again, not pc, but true.


My first experience with this breed of stink was also in Europe--in Prague when I was homeless (for a night). My friend and travel partner Terry and I boarded a tram to stay warm. There was a REALLY stinky guy. Nighttime Czech revellers were spraying perfume on him. I think the driver kicked him off. It was seriously gag worthy.


All I can say is that in comparison, I almost LIKE being bothered by overwhelming perfume, our third variety of transit odors, or fried food, our fourth. In fact, I'm craving a nice medly of Coty and fried chicken 'bout now!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cleaning Out E-Trash

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I managed to make a dent in my purge pile this week. Not completely gone, but it'll get there. I sold 4 books on Amazon (That was $23 I didn't have!). I also took 2 big bags of "stuff" to Goodwill and gave the 5 flower pots and potting mix that I've had for a few years stored beside my clothes drier to a Freecycler. Next on my list is my once-used drill sander, my VCR and VHS tapes, and more books! These are all "in process/"


One thing I have put off getting rid of for awhile are a bunch of old electronics and media, not because I wanted to keep it, but because I didn't know what to do with it. I found several resources to begin to thin them out. I'll list those below for you. For my part, I took a bunch of old data CDs and videotapes to the DC E-cycling drop off (though the guys kinda laughed at the tiny bag I brought--most people were off-loading monitors).


The major things I have are my old nonworking laptop, nonworking digital camera, and cell phone. Of course, all of these items have corresponding batteries which cannot be disposed of safely in a landfill. I am contemplating trying to sell the camera and laptop for parts on ebay. They may also end up going the way of the e-cycling center. Here are some of the resources I found. This is by no means a comprehensive list.More can be found at www.earth911.com.


Printer Cartridges--Staples accepts most if not all brands, and gives credit on its Staples Reward card. Some (if not all...) post offices also have a place you can drop off spent cartridges and cell phones. HP will send mailers to customers to return its own brand of cartridges.


Various--DC has its own e-cycling at the Benning Road Transfer Station (3200 Benning Rd NE...not for the faint of heart...the place is kind of scary) or at the Fort Totten Transfer Station every Saturday 8 am to 3 pm. They accept cds, dvds, most computer equipment, household chemicals, etc...check the web site, and check your own community's public works department for what they may collect. 


CD Jewel Cases--List these on Freecycle, Craigslist, or try your local library. My library was more than happy to accept them!


CDs and DVDs--if they have data, recycle. If it isn't sensitive, offer on Freecycle or free on Craigslist. You never know what someone may want them for...art, reuse. If they are media, sell on Amazon/Half.com or offer for free on one of the previously mentioned sites. Online services such as Greendisk offer recycling. Having never used them, I can't vouch for what they do, but it's an option to try.


Batteries--Aside from public collections such as DC's, many electronics manufacturers and retailers accept rechargeable batteries for recycling. Also, Radio Shack accepts many types of batteries (lithium ion and that sort, not alkaline) at their stores.


Photo by Maciej BliziƄski from Dublin, Ireland on Wikimedia Commons, under the CreativeCommonsShareAlike2.0 license.


 

State of the Blog at 300: Blogging and Happiosity

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This is my 300th post! I was going to post the other day, but was struck by a need to make 300 significant. Well, it isn't. I have thought a lot about blogging, the blog, and the blogger, in no particular order, as of late. Partially to do with seeing Julie and Julia last week. The question I keep grappling with is who is the blog for? Me? My readers? Is it a money making machine (that's a big no as of now!)? Is it a fame-seeking machine (Another no as of now!)? As my friend Eric said when he started his blog "I see how easily they can become self-indulgent or just a monopolizer of free time." It's the self-indulgent part that's most concerned me.


When I had my first blog, back in 2003, I was even less clear of these questions. I just felt the need to HAVE one because it was the it thing. In Accordance With the Prophecy is still on the web, but not updated. It was kind of like a journal, which was of course, the original intent of blogs, and was very self-indulgent.


Now, they're like little publications, with advertising and everything. They propel their writers/owners into quasi-fame, and have people seeking this sense of approval from number of hits or whatever. I personally shudder every time I see someone purposely promote their blog within other blog comments. It's just creepy. (Not when there's really a point, but when people are clearly just looking to get their stats up for some reason...and that's the height of self-indulgence.)


I've seen blogs explode and take on a life of their own--like Apartment Therapy. When I first started reading it, I think in 2004,  it was only in what could be called its pre-pubescence. It definitely had a readership, but was relatively small, to the point that the comments section was like a little community. Now, not nearly as much--it's turned into a different animal. Not bad, just different.


I started this blog after reading my friend Kim's and seeing that it could really cultivate a mini virtual community where you could share interests with people from near and far. (Thanks, Kim!) Since then, I also connected with many fellow Apartment Therapy readers and others...which is really fun!


I was confronted somewhat with the question of who the blog is for when I was approached by email by a company offering for me to do a giveaway. I have no doubt they sell great stuff, and probably usually have more hits than misses in customer service, but seeing as I had one less than fantastic experience with an affiliated company, I declined. It conjured up feelings of approval seeking that many bloggers face--"this means someone loves me!" "I have to do this for my readers!" I totally sympathized with the Julie character in the movie...


What is prompting this posting now, aside from it being my 300th post, is that I have hit a mini third-life crisis (assuming I live to be 99). Anyone who knows me knows I have these about every 6 weeks, so it should not cause alarm. But, I just had this moment, sitting at my work computer, doing something I don't like, thinking "What do I do in my life that I like?" Answer: not a whole heck of a lot. I don't pretend that this is anything but a first-world concern. It's only because I can decide what I do with my life that I can worry about whether what I'm doing is the right thing. I just need to increase my happiosity.


Happiosity is what my economics professor in grad school referred to as happiness, or the currency in the economics equation. Essentially, humans are always striving to increase their happiosity. Silly, but somehow, this seemed fitting to express what I am looking for--more than happiness. This boils down to a few key life areas: job, personal life, free time...I expect to try to cover these in more depth at some point in a way that does not amount to sophisticated belly button gazing. The highlights for now:





  • Job--I used to actually give a care (wanted to use another non family friendly term here) about what I did. Don't get me wrong, I care about doing a good job, but my motivation now is external. The only happiosity I get is from my paycheck (the 80% of it I still get) and the motivation is not getting one or of getting approval from superiors/advancement (of which I get very little to none).



  • Personal life--I've gotten to the point in my life where I am meeting few new people, and the ones I do know and love are dropping like flies, by which I mean, they're getting caught up in other life committments. I have very good friends, that I love, but I need to continue to add to my social circles to give myself a full and happy life. This would also include the infamous "dating," though I've had never had anything in dating that approximates fun. It more closely approximates "pain" than "fun." It is just a lot harder than I think it needs to be! I'd love to have one date this year that doesn't have me wishing I were a lesbian or a gay man at the end of it. (Sure, go ahead, laugh if you want...)



  • Free Time/Avocations--I spend a great portion of my free time doing stuff that is not fun or that I don't increase my happiosity doing. There are pursuits I like and care about that I don't do. Why? I don't know, but I need to get to the bottom of that. I fill up my time with unfun tasks and TV watching, which as I've covered in this blog before, amounts to nothing more than self-medication/tranquilization. 




My mind turned to my blog when I thought of what interested me...it really does contain all that which I find engaging. So, the very fact that I haven't been blogging lately is indication that I need to turn back to things that are meaningful for me.



So much for not navel gazing. I hope that this is interesting for you, my dear readers, to read as well as for me to write. This post has strayed into the "journal" a bit much, but I promise to have interesting posts that are not explicity about me, me, me, soon!


I included the above photo because sunflowers are so happy, don't you think? NPS Photo by Jim Pisarowicz, from here, which offers a plethora of wildflower info. Who knew!?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I mean, it's free...

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, and that's true but there IS such a thing as free paint, furniture, wood, and just about anything people want rid of. Of course, scavengers and dumpster divers have always known this. But, in the digital age, fortunately for us, there's Freecycle.


Freecycle is an online place to offer and request just about anything (though no medications, illegal stuff, or pets!). It's locally based but you can find yours at Freecycle.org. It's philosophical aim is to keep stuff out of landfills.


I've mostly listed things as offers (though I have gotten stuff too...like my microwave and a Swiffer handle when mine broke). This brings me to the whole point of this post...I managed to offload a few things yesterday including makeup sponges and bug spray that I didn't need. Someone is supposed to pick up makeup today (part of a set, too dark). Small items, yes, but in a small apartment little things make a big difference!


What never ceases to amaze me, however, is how people--to whom you are giving FREE things, i.e. something for nothing, will blow you off. It's ridiculous. I have a zero tolerance policy... If someone blows me off, I give it to someone else!


Anyway I'm making a dent in my mountain of discards. I expect this weekend to see vastly more!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Organizational Therapy

For some reason, starting 2 weeks ago when I hurt my back, I started to organize and clean out like crazy. Every so often, I become afflicted with purge fever, and feel the need to clean out, organize, and reorganize.


My back was injured during the linen closet clean-out. And, because I couldn't actually complete that, I think that fueled the fire. I had to look at the incomplete project with stuff spilling out into my bedroom. Sure way to make me nuts. The only therapy? More organizing!


This weekend saw much much cleaning out. I dragged out the box of "techno trash" I've had in my closet for awhile--an old laptop (inoperable), an old digital camera (also inoperable), old VCR "blank" tapes with TV shows taped on them, my old cell phone, and who knows what else. I also have a bag of rags (basically clothes that are too worn to be donated), a bag with some random housewares and other items.


This weekend, I finally admitted to myself that I probably haven't used my VCR or associated tapes in well over a year. (and probably multiple years--how can I confirm this? See photo.


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It's hard to let go sometimes. Even when you know that you have absolutely NO use for something. I have walked myself through some of these difficult choices by telling myself that it's nice to release the unimportant things to make ROOM for the things AND the experiences that ARE important.


I'm also working on thinning out some of my books. Books are much harder to let go of than VCR tapes for me. Having books around gives me a sense of comfort. But sometimes, comfort isn't comfortable. I'd say 98% of the books I own I rarely touch let alone read. I think it's OK for some of them--most of my poetry books are nice to have around to pick up every once in awhile, and some have sentimental value to some degree, but for others, there's just no reason. It would be one thing if I had a library in my house, but I don't. I have this:


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An ugly second bookcase that cost me $19 at Ikea. I would LOVE to get rid of it to give my apartment some breathing room. I've managed to weed out some books. For now, they're piled on this case awaiting their final fate.


Right now, it looks like I'm getting ready to move (and I'm not!). This is a good thing--I haven't had moving as a motivator for 4 years!  I've piled things in the corner of my bedroom. Next step: finding a place for all my junk!


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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Christine's Weekend Miscellany

You'll have to excuse me if I'm all over the place. My mind tends to be all over the place these days, which is acceptable since my back has me firmly in one place. I did something (yet to be determined by xrays taken last Thursday) to throw my back out. This has limited my ability to do much. In typical Christine fashion, I not only injure myself but then remain persistent in finishing whatever I was doing. I'm impatient. The back thing happened while I was--surprise!--organizing my linen closet last Sunday. I did stop organizing, but persisted in making steak and potatoes and chickpea-mushroom-brown rice burgers. I have no pictures of the burgers, but I give you chickpeas, which I soaked and cooked the day before the fateful incident.


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The burgers can only be described as "meh." Need more spice. But, they sustained me all week, and there's something about making stuff from dried beans that makes you feel very frugal.


The burgers must have appealed to someone, because I got home on Wednesday to a bunch of little visitors. Ants. The smallest ants I've ever seen. I put out some Terro liquid (best ant killer EVER), and they went to town.


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They are now mostly gone. I haven't seen one since Friday. I felt kind of bad as they started to disappear. The remaining ones looked confused, like, "where did our friends go?" Yeah, that remorse lasted about 2 seconds. This reminded me of a thought I had once before when I was ant-killing. I was thinking "Stupid, ants, look at them, can't get enough of that stuff...even though it's going to kill them!" I think I was probably sticking a doughnut in my mouth at this point, and that drove the lesson home quicker than you can say Aesop. We humans put a lot of crap in our bodies that isn't good for us. Something to think about...


So, this weekend, was mostly relaxing and waiting for the back to heal. I did make it to Eastern Market this morning, and bought some pickles. Bread and butter slices!


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Because of my back, I resisted getting too much produce, but did buy some blueberries, cucumbers, and peaches to supplement my grocery order set to arrive from Peapod tonight. I had to skip the "eat local" thing today--carrying groceries didn't seem prudent!


Because I was waiting for Eric to come for brunch, I had some time to kill, and found myself ducking in out of the rain and into Hill's Kitchen, a great kitchen store/demonstration kitchen with lessons by Eastern Market. I bought a great cookbook, "The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever." ($25) I plan on trying some recipes out of that soon. I LOVE casseroles--because I can basically cook once and eat all week! And, typically, casseroles tend to be things that reheat well. I rationalized my purchase by saying "Well, if I have a great cookbook, I'll eat at home more!" :)


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I'll let you know if I find any goodies! Have a great start to the week!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blossom Experiment

So, you saw my squash blossoms I bought last week at the farmers' market? I had to make them quickly--within a day--because they're very ephemeral. The recipe I had was deep fried (I know--very healthy, huh?) and suggested stuffing with ricotta. Since I had some of my favorite Lamagna Lite Ricotta from Western PA, I mixed up that with some herbs and garlic and "stuffed" the blossoms. The bottom line? If I were to make these again (which I won't), I wouldn't stuff them--most of the stuffing oozed out. They were yummy (as fried foods generally are), but not good enough to go through all the work and mess they required. No fridge longevity, messy batter dipping, lots of oil that you need to heat up to a high temp...in short, the only way I'd make them again would be if I were growing my own zucchini and wanted to curb my crop and had a proper space to deep fry! And even then, I might consider just sauteeing them. Here's the process!


First, the stuffed blossoms...notice how the filling is oozing...


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Next, the batter. It was made from flour and wine.


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Scary hot oil.


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Sizzle Sizzle...


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Yummy fried goodness...


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