Friday, October 26, 2012

Seven Quick Halloweenish Takes

--- 1 ---

My hometown is really weird about trick-or-treat scheduling. This year really took the cake, though (or perhaps took the candy?) because official trick-or-treating was scheduled for last night. 

The upside of this is that you get to see cute pictures of my siblings all the sooner!

--- 2 ---

A brief tutorial on how to react properly to the above pictures. (The situation in the video is the reverse, but it is still relevant.)

The fact that somebody thought to put that clip on YouTube makes me really love human beings.

--- 3 ---

I just spent about an hour redoing my mother's Seven Quick Takes post for her because the HTML or something got hopelessly messed up. (I am not actually sure what happened, but when I carefully transferred the relevant bits to a new post they got dewonkified.) As a result, I am allegedly getting an extra handful of candy in the bag of Halloween goodies they are saving for me.

--- 4 ---

Earlier this week, I was coveting apartments with washer-drying hookups. Then I was envying houses with giant kitchens. (One of my old friends from college is looking at houses with her husband. They are torn between a modern townhouse and a nice but older house. The nice but older house has a kitchen that looks to be about 6 times the size of the townhouse kitchen. (She posted pictures on Facebook and solicited opinions.))

My mother claims the solution to itchy feet is rearranging furniture, so I moved some chairs around today. We'll see if that works.

--- 5 ---

I have been doing a little better on the "sticking to bedtime" front this week. (I'm sure you're all fascinated. Just imagine how interesting this blog will be when I have children!) I have been having a bit of "trouble" with my usual nap, in that I would go to bed and doze for about half an hour and then be wide awake again, rather than falling into deep sleep for an hour and a half or so.

So yesterday I didn't take a nap at all and ended up getting overtired and not going to bed until midnight.

My conclusions from these bits of data: 1) I have the sleep habits of a 3-year-old child. 2) I am probably going to spend the rest of my life sleeping from 10-6 and then lying down for half an hour after lunch. At which point I will just have to cut my hair and dye it dark brown in order to completely turn into my mother.

--- 6 ---

The power went out for about an hour and a half this afternoon. I used my computer until the battery was about 50% gone (my battery runs down fast), then hibernated it, had a snack, and read a book.

I am really glad the power came back, not only because my precious internet has returned (the modem can't do its thing without power), but also because you would not believe how much stuff I have in my freezer, even with it being the end of the month.

--- 7 ---

Speaking of books, I read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes earlier this week and am now working my way through the much thicker Good Calories, Bad Calories.

I find his ideas interesting, but he lost me completely when he claimed milk was too high in sugar. Sorry, buddy, but if I'm giving up bread and sweets you will be prying milk out of my cold, dead fingers.

(I was about 20 years old before I realized there are people who don't drink milk. I mean, other than the lactose intolerant. I don't get this. Milk goes with everything and is delicious.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Seven Quick Mid-October Takes

--- 1 ---

My little sister, Teresa, is six years old today. I'm feeling less of the usual "She's growing up TOO FAST!" thing today. Maybe the difference between six and five is less than the difference between five and four. Maybe she just seems to be growing up slowly compared to Matthew. (Babies are so disconcerting. One day they're all tiny and squishy, and then less than a year later they are crawling around at lightning speed and  kind of saying words and...It's ridiculous.)

--- 2 ---

Last weekend, Scott and I were up in my hometown, so we went to Mass with my family. Teresa sat next to me, partly because she thinks I am awesome, and partly (no doubt) because that way she was way on the opposite end of the pew from Mom and Dad.

At one point we were having a (quiet) conversation about Father purifying the vessels, and she commented knowingly, "He's drinking God's blood, but it tastes like wine." (Over lunch afterwards, I asked her where she learned that and she said "Jesus told me." I think Mom told her a couple of times as well, but hey. Maybe she DOES talk to Jesus.)

On the other hand, during Mass she asked me if Halloween was the day Jesus rose from the dead. So I don't think I should rest on my godmotherly laurels just yet.

(Halloween and Easter both have candy, so they're totally the same thing, right?)

--- 3 ---

My mother wants me to mention here all of the free food we've been getting in the last month. So:

1) Almost two weeks ago, we went out for ice cream with Scott's family in honor of Middle Younger Brother's birthday.

2) A week ago, we went to spend the weekend with my family and got lots of free food, including takeout pizza and even more ice cream. Also, my grandmother treated us to a buffet lunch on Saturday.

3) Scott's Team Mom* keeps a bowl of candy on her desk and strongly encourages people to eat it so that she doesn't have to. But then as soon as it gets low she buys more. This behavior puzzles Scott, but I don't care because it means he occasionally brings home candy for ME. I love candy.

*Scott's coworkers are all 20-something men with the exception of one 40-something woman. Judging from the stories he tells, the group dynamic is pretty hilarious. (Yes, he really does call her "The mom of [his team]", when he's not calling her by her name.)

--- 4 ---

Remember the part of the last take where I mentioned takeout pizza? You should; you read it like 10 seconds ago.

Okay, now remember the part where Scott gets very ill if he eats takeout pizza? (Homemade pizza, for unknown reasons, doesn't bother him at all.) You might not, since it's been a while since I mentioned that.

Well, my mother is a generous soul and decided to order something different in the hopes of hitting upon something Scott can eat. So she ordered some kind of chicken pizza with tomato slices and a garlic-butter sauce in place of tomato sauce.

Scott ate three pieces. He loved it and was fine, not sick at all.

His stomach is weird.

--- 5 ---

This week, I relapsed on the going-to-bed-on-time front, staying online until after 11 two nights in a row.

I felt SO awful, you guys, which gives further evidence, I suppose, that my late-night surfing is a contributor to my chronic tiredness and anxiety. Obviously I'm a slow learner, though, since I did it two nights in a row.

--- 6 ---

I made apple crisp this week for dessert, even though we still have a fair number of chocolate chip cookies left. I didn't make any muffins, though, since we still have banana muffins that need to be eaten.

I have been experimenting with dinner as well. On Tuesday (I have gotten thrown off my usual dinner schedule by all the free food) I made soup with ground beef, egg noodles, carrots and celery, and onion and garlic for seasoning. It was very good, but didn't last long enough.

Then yesterday I made a sort of stir-fry with pork, rice, broccoli, and soy sauce. It was good, but too salty. I think I will try to salvage this batch by making up some more plain rice and mixing it in to dilute the flavor. In the future I will remember that a little soy sauce goes a long way.

--- 7 ---

It's bad when you get gas for $3.49 and think what an awesome deal that is.

Also, ground beef was up 20 cents a pound yesterday. I was disappointed, but my budget isn't too tight so I bought it anyway. Bacon is up too, but fortunately pork loin and chicken breast still come on sale regularly. 

To make up for the boringness of that take, here is a picture of a messy baby. (Mom gave him a cereal bar to keep him occupied on the way home from the store, apparently.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Seven Quick Takes in which I am not wasting time on the internet

--- 1 ---

As I mentioned in my last set of quick takes, Scott was singing at First Friday Mass. He had to be at rehearsal at 6:15, so he took the bus straight from work to the church. (I packed him some extra food, same as I do on other Schola days. That time, he ended up just eating most of it when he got home.) I left our apartment around 6:15 and arrived at St. FifteenMilesAway (not to be confused with St. TenMilesAway, our usual Sunday parish, or St. TwentyMilesAway, Liza's usual parish) shortly before 7:00. Mass started at 7:15, ended at 8:00, we left almost immediately thereafter.

Since it is all late in the year and such, it was dark by the time we were driving home. At one point, I was driving along minding my own business when I caught a bit of motion out of the corner of my eye. I slowed down, because that is my default when anything unusual happens while I am driving.

I ascertained that the moving thing was a white grocery bag. A few milliseconds later I ascertained that it was being held by a man wearing a black hoodie and black pants, jogging nonchalantly across the middle of the road. He got to the other side and I went my merry way.

Hey, I don't have a problem with going and getting yourself some pop and cigarettes (or whatever) at 8:15 on an October evening. I don't even have a problem with you crossing nowhere near a crosswalk; sometimes going all the way up and down the street can be a total pain.

But if you are going to be doing those two things, WEAR REFLECTIVE CLOTHING.

--- 2 ---

That wasn't even the weirdest thing that happened on our drive back. At one point, we were approaching a railroad crossing when the lights started flashing and the bars started going down. I stopped. A train approached from our left and then stopped. Scott and I wondered what was up. Then, as we both watched in amazement, it started backing up and going the other way. The bars came back up. I hesitated a second before I went ahead and drove across the tracks, just to make sure the train was really gone.

I'm glad we were both there, or else we might have had to write it off as a sleep-deprivation induced hallucination.

--- 3 ---

This past week, I have been enforcing a "No computer after 10:00" policy. (Which turns into a "No computer after 10:15" policy sometimes, but hey. Nobody's perfect.) See, I "need" to be on the computer from 8-10 because that's when I can Skype my friends. (Mari is almost always on, and when other people want to Skype I tell them to catch me between 8-10 p.m.) But then after 10 it devolves into mindless surfing. Lately, I had been getting off at 11:00 or 11:30 and then doing my bedtime routine, which goes thus: Hibernate and unplug computer, put on pajamas, brush teeth, get a glass of water, set all 3 of my alarms, make sure the front door is locked, make sure the sliding door to the balcony is locked, resist the urge to go downstairs and make sure my car is locked, get meat down for dinner tomorrow, make sure the stove is turned off, make sure the front door is locked again, go into the bedroom and recheck all 3 alarms...etc, etc. When that happens I don't go to bed until 11:30 or 12:00 and lie awake for an hour because I'm too keyed up to sleep. This means, for those of you who are mathmatically challenged like me, that I fall asleep between 12:30 and 1:00. Then I wake up at 5:45 to start my morning routine and wonder why I'm so grumpy. (I do take naps, but naps are a band-aid on the gaping wound of not enough sundown-to-midnight sleep.)

I need to go to sleep earlier, because I can control that where I can't control my anxiety levels, and if I get more sleep the anxiety levels will drop of their own accord and I will have less trouble getting to bed (because of all the checking) and falling asleep (normal for me is 30 minutes, not 60). Screentime doesn't directly affect that (as far as I know), but it gives me something to do when I'm up late. I can "concentrate" on mindless surfing far longer than I can concentrate on reading a book.

--- 4 ---

Besides being more well-rested and less anxious, this "No screentime after 10:00" policy means that I've been reading again. Up until about my sophomore year of college I was a voracious reader. Then I got burnt out, and having my own computer with readily accessible internet made it easy to use my free time to just mindlessly surf instead of reading actual books that require concentration. (My blog reading actually shifted during this time as well. I used to read deep theological stuff online. Now I mostly read blogs that are cute or funny. I was a theology major; I didn't need any more treatises to read.) I think I really am getting less burnt out, too, because I've been wanting to read even when I could be on the internet instead.

--- 5 ---

The other thing that's been keeping me off the internet this week is my novel. See, I've been working on this particular novel for 5 1/2 years, and this particular draft of this particular novel for 2 1/2. The first draft, as you might guess, took 3 years of on-again, off-again writing. (2007 to 2010, so about half of that time was post college-induced burnout.) I let it sit for a few weeks and then tweaked it and sent it off to my beta reader, who reported that one day she went to read it and found herself hunting for a hard copy book, before she remembered that my book wasn't published yet and was in a file on the computer. I was very proud of myself. Then said beta reader decided to go through it chapter by chapter and tear it into tiny little pieces. So I've been rewriting it to make it even more better.

The first few chapters were easy; I just had to tweak some things and work on making the "voice" truer to the characters. (When I'm writing from the perspective of the character who doesn't like to read anything more profound than a bus schedule, I have to use different language than when I'm writing from the perspective of the character who likes epic poetry and philosophical tomes and such.) But then I started getting to the point where I had to kill subplots that weren't going anywhere and add subplots to set up for things that came out of nowhere in the first draft, in addition to paring down sections that were too wordy and beefing up sections that were too perfunctory. It was basically writing the whole book over again. It took a discouragingly long time, and half the time I didn't know if I was even making it better.

Now, though, I'm at the point that was the last half-dozen chapters in the previous draft. I had forgotten that when I get to the end the story just kind of sweeps me up. It's like I've been spending 100 pages setting up an elaborate pattern of dominoes and then I tapped the first one and now it's just a matter of keeping up with them as they fall.

So, yeah. I've been spending a couple of hours per day writing the novel. Doesn't leave much time for mindless internet surfing.

--- 6 ---

I am totally going to make these as mini-muffins this week. And I am going to make an apple crisp, because we have lots of apples and I just bought vanilla ice cream. (Okay, that sentence isn't quite logical. I bought the vanilla ice cream because I was going to make apple crisp, not the other way around.) After that, I am going to make a pumpkin roll. (Something like this. I picked that one because it has a pretty picture to go with it; I have not yet decided what recipe to use.) I have never made one before, but why should I let that stop me?

Now I just need a house elf to do all the dishes for me afterwards. And I might need to steal my husband's metabolism for a while.

--- 7 ---

Here is a picture of a baby rejecting his bottle in favor of an apple. Matthew is apparently enjoying having teeth. (Mom was trying to eat the apple herself.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October grocery shopping and menu planning part 1

These groceries were purchased on Thursday, October 4.

Chicken: About 9 pounds for $15.30 at Meijer.

Eggs: 2 dozen for $2.98 (!!!) at Aldi. (Is there something wrong with the chickens this month?)

Green beans: 2 pounds for $1.99 at Meijer.

Bacon: $3.19 at Aldi. (It used to be $2.99. Boo.)

Milk: $1.69 at Aldi.

Parmesan: $2.39 at Aldi.

Cream cheese: $1.19 at Aldi.

Sliced provolone cheese: $1.99 at Aldi.

Lunchmeat: $3.49 at Aldi.

Shredded cheddar cheese: $2.99 at Aldi.

Salsa: $1.69 at Aldi.

Pickles: $1.49 at Aldi.

Applesauce: $2.19 at Meijer.

Potatoes: $1.99 at Aldi. (That's a really good price. I didn't realize that until now; I just chucked them in the cart.)

Vegetable bouillon: 2 packages for $2.38 at Kroger. (I always get two because it's impossible to find.)

Sweetened condensed milk: 2 cans for $2.38 at Aldi.

Lentils: 1 pound for $1.29 at Kroger. (And then Meijer had them on sale, 4 for $5. Oh well.)

Chocolate chips: $1.57 at Kroger.

Total: $52.18 (See? I told you it was unbelievably low.)

Grocery > Other Total: $13.16

Menu plan:

Friday: Leftover veggie soup, fresh garlic-cheddar biscuits

Saturday: Meatloaf, potatoes with parsley and butter, applesauce

Monday: Potato soup

Wednesday: Chicken alfredo, green beans and bacon

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September Grocery Shopping Part 3

These groceries were purchased on Thursday, September 23.

Muenster sliced cheese: $1.99 at Aldi

Orange juice: $1.29 at Aldi

Sour cream: $1.29 at Aldi

Bread: $1.29 at Aldi

Eggs: 2 dozen for $2.78 at Aldi (!!!)

Lunch meat: $3.49 at Aldi

Peas: 99 cents at Aldi

Shredded cheddar cheese: $2.99 at Aldi

Mixed veggies: $2.19 at Meijer

Beer: $14.99 plus 98 cents tax at Meijer (This was my dad's birthday present. Scott and I did not drink any of it.)

Pickles: $1.49 at Aldi

Diced tomatoes: 59 cents at Aldi

Tomato sauce: 2 cans for 58 cents at Aldi

Cream of mushroom soup: 69 cents at Aldi

Onion flakes: 99 cents at Aldi

Spaghetti: 2 pounds for $1.69 at Aldi

Egg noodles: 99 cents at Aldi

Total: $41.29

Grocery > Other total: $24.06

September grand total: $198.38

September Grocery > Other grand total: $49.22

Yes, I only went shopping three times in September. We apparently haven't been eating, because I came in about $17 under budget in terms of "food actually purchased for us" and was therefore able to incorporate my dad's present into our grocery budget, which is good since we don't really have a gift budget--if we want to buy gifts we have to cut back somewhere else. (Had our loaves and fishes not been so multiplied, Dad would have gotten a smaller package of beer.)

I honestly can't remember when we ate what. Perhaps Scott will remember for me. Anyway, at some point we had the following meals:
Leftover cheese pizza
Veggie soup and garlic cheddar biscuits
Hamburgers provided by my parents (we were visiting for my dad's birthday, naturally)
Stroganoff and peas
Spaghetti and meatballs
Chicken noodle soup
Pork roast with random leftover sides
Pork chops with random leftover sides

(WHERE is all this food coming from?)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seven Quick October Takes

--- 1 ---

The other day, I complained that Scott was crowding me. (I have a very large personal bubble even with my husband.)

Him: "I can't help it. I'm just drawn to you."

Me: "My gravitational field must be stronger because I'm bigger."

Him: "I think that has more to do with mass than volume, though in this case they're probably the same thing."

Me: "Yeah, I think all humans are equally dense."

Him: "That explains a lot."

And then we both dissolved into giggles. (Manly giggles, in Scott's case.)

--- 2 ---

The Christian radio statio to which I listen while driving is having their fall pledge drive this week. I find pledge drives annoying at the best of times, but the thing that really rubs me the wrong way is the fact that they're pushing an "Easy $40 a month donation." Newsflash, radio people: $40 a month is not pocket change to some people.

Look, I'm not saying I'm poor. We're well above the poverty level over here and even "poverty level" in America is pretty cushy compared to, you know, Haiti or something. I am writing this with my handy high-speed internet access, after all. Still, I also don't blow $15 a week on Starbucks or anything.

Let me hasten to say that if you do spend $15 a week on Starbucks, that's fine, as long as you're not starving your children or something in order to afford it. That's just the most common example I see/hear in A) money-saving articles (Packing your lunch instead of eating out can save $50 a week! Giving up one fancy coffee a day can save another $15!) and B) fundraising campaigns. (They haven't said it yet, but I can bet you that they will at some point say that the easy $40 a month donation is like NOT going to Starbucks X number of times. The Starbucks is basically a unit of currency.) And it annoys me because it assumes we all have this lifestyle that, while valid, is completely foreign to my experience.

--- 3 ---

You guys, I get SO MANY coupons all the time. Really. I just sorted coupons for the second time this week and I have a legal pad's worth of paper on the floor next to me.

It wouldn't be so bad if the coupons were a TINY bit targeted. But I get ads for Medicare and electric wheelchairs and carpet cleaning* and roofing and yard care services and I just think about all the trees that died to tell me how I can save money on things I'm not going to buy anytime in the foreseeable future.

*It says in our rent contract that we have to go through the landlord if we want our carpet cleaned.

Oh well. At least I do have one Dairy Queen coupon for BOGO sundaes. Hot fudge, nom nom nom. I think I need to suggest to Scott that we go out on a date sometime before November 30.

(In case you're curious, in light of my last take: We average maybe $5 a month on our dates.)

--- 4 ---

One of my neighbors always parks directly over the yellow line so he's using two spaces. (All cars are "he" in my world, even the ones with actual female drivers.) I've been assuming the car's owner is handicapped and needs the extra space to get in and out, because otherwise why would you do that? I mean, I get that we all get 2 unspecified, unassigned spaces in the parking lot (that's another thing on the rental contract), but if you only have one car it's polite not to hog two spaces anyway.

At least they're not doing this, though:


--- 5 ---

Some Matthew spam:

That is apparently what he does to avoid diaper changes. He can't even walk yet but he can do THAT. Oy.

Teresa was and is a climber too. Just the other day Mom found her with her picnic table pushed up against the trunk of one of our big old trees; she was trying to get high enough to reach the lowest branches so she could climb it.

Dad was taking some pictures to show how patient Tammy-cat is with Matthew and managed to capture this moment for posterity: Matthew putting the end of Tammy's tail in his mouth and biting it. Mom (you can almost see her sitting next to him) pried it out of his mouth and the cat was fine, but Tammy apparently decided to revoke his tail-grabbing privileges--now she pushes his hand away with her paw whenever he tries.

I hope that clicking will embiggen that. For those of you who can't figure it out: Dark blue is my dad, light blue is me, green is my mom. (And red is my uncle Mike.)

--- 6 ---

I still have one piece of cheesecake left in my freezer, but that stuff keeps for months. I know this from experience. So on Tuesday I baked chocolate chip cookies. (I could have, theoretically, eaten the last piece of cheesecake on Tuesday and made the cookies on Wednesday, but Wednesday was a cooking-dinner day and Tuesday wasn't so it seemed better to trash the kitchen on Tuesday.)

Then on Thursday I didn't have a lot of groceries to buy (Really, I spent about $60 when I normally spend about $110 my first trip of the month. I have no idea where all this extra food came from.) so I got another bag of chocolate chips (I bought three bags at the end of last month because it seemed like a good idea at the time and then used one of them for cookies because I had never bought Kroger brand chips before and wanted to make sure they were good. FOR SCIENCE.) and two cans of sweetened condensed milk. So sometime this next week I am going to make plain fudge (this recipe) and freeze it. And then I will make marshmallow fudge, and then I will make cookies and creme fudge (I invented my own recipe for that last year), and then I might make one or two experimental types of fudge as well. You can never have too much fudge, right?

(Yes, I am planning on giving away some of this fudge. Be prepared, friends and relatives!)

While I was impulse-buying fudge fixings on Thursday, I saw pumpkins for sale and almost impulse-bought some of those too. I have declared to Scott that we are going to get some and color them with markers and display them for a little while and then chop them up and cook them into puree. (Geek Lady reminded me of this with her post.) See, if you draw on the pumpkins with markers you can still eat them, but if you cut them up as jack-o-lanterns then you get bugs and whatever inside your pumpkin and have to throw it away. (Or so I've been told. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) Scott seems okay with this plan, but he might have just been tired and distracted when I told him about it.

Incidentally, am I the only person in America who grew up drawing on pumpkins? I was well into my teens before I realized actual people (not just, you know, characters on TV) carved pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. I think this clever bit of propaganda just came about because there was no way Mom was letting either Andrea or me handle knives. (Last year was the first time she made her own puree, so it can't have been that.)

--- 7 ---

This week is Scott's busiest Schola week for the entire fall "semester", unless his director decides to spring another performance on them out of the blue. (And I think she promised to not do that.) He had his regular practice on Monday night and then this evening he's singing at First Friday Mass and on Sunday there's some kind of Mass with the Archbishop for some unspecified reason. It might just be the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. 

I'm using that as a cop-out quick take so I can go clean my kitchen or something before I have to leave for Mass myself. (Note to blog-stalking thieves: There's nothing worth stealing here except delicious chocolate chip cookies, so don't bother coming by while we're gone.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!