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The good news is that despite what I thought would be mistimings and failed recipes, the Christmas dinner was pretty darned good after all. The bad news is that my mom and I have reached our point of more rather than less head-butting with each other. Can I just hide under a paper bag now, please? No? Okay, then I’ll sit here in bed in the dark with my iBook again. Illuminated screens in the dark are a great way to feign sleeping in order to be done with socializing.

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I thought the turkey in particular turned out above average. This time I differently blasted it at 450°F for the first fifteen minutes to sear the outside and hopefully lock the moisture in, then cooked it at 400°F until the little thingy popped out, which was about an hour sooner than I was expecting. Consequently, I barely had my side dishes started before the turkey was finished. I overroasted the Brussels sprouts. The butternut squash gratin, which looked great on paper but then which seemed quite less than spectacular while putting together, ended up being everybody’s favorite part of the meal. I paired the redux of yesterday’s excellent homemade cherry pie with Odell Friek, the combination of which I had been anticipating all weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Nor did my (now) perennial favorite, Ommegang Three Philosophers, with the meal. Thanks again to Tori and Aaron for introducing me to that one a couple years ago.

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But then it came to cleaning up time, and in my mother’s infinite desire to be helpful and my nearly infinite desire for her to just sit down and relax and stay out of my way, we had a major clash. I’d tell you the gory details, but I guess it wouldn’t be very becoming. Suffice it to say my mom and I are both very stubborn.

And yay, there’s a day and a half to go. Stay tuned.

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After I went into denial about the $130 grocery tab yesterday and just started making stuff, I thought everything was fine. Until 3:00 a.m., that is.

I went to bed feeling pretty accomplished. I had:

– baked the chicken for the Tex-Mex soup
– concurrently baked the turkey sausage for the Sausage and Mushroom Strata
– concurrently cooked a bag of pinto beans, some of which to throw in the soup, the rest to freeze
– made the Tex-Mex soup
– cooked a bag of garbanzo beans, some of which to throw into the Greek Salad with Sardines, the rest to freeze
– made the three helpings of Greek Salad, hold the sardines until I’m read to eat it
– washed all the kitchenware as I went, as I have a tiny kitchen (I reused the Dutch oven for three jobs without having to wash it)
– relaxed with a delicious Bellatoria frozen pizza and several tasty beers that I picked up at the Ale Jail the day before
– relaxed with three hours of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece

However, it’s true that I did no housecleaning in preparation for having visitors, nor did I do any of the work overtime that I could and probably should have.

But, I was asleep before 11:00 and optimistic that I’d be perfectly able to get up early to go work out and then continue on with a productive Monday.

Enter 3:00 a.m.

Okay, fine, I have to get up to go to the bathroom. With the amount of water that I drink, that’s to be expected one to several times a night. Usually I’m able to fall back to sleep immediately upon regaining my horizontal position.

Not so last night.

I am a more than occasional sufferer of Sunday Night Insomnia. I’m not going to look it up now for a link to information, but it is a recognized condition in which you can’t sleep Sunday nights because you’re stressing out about the work week ahead. 

I am stressed out about work. Last week, the entire office ground to a halt on regular projects so that we could bang out this iPad app that we are making in time for the Christmas hangover. That means I am now a week further behind on the work that I’m already behind on. That means that I know it won’t be long until it starts being wondered if others should kick in to help me, and once again I won’t be able to finish a couple of jobs that I have good ideas for. That means I’m stressed  out. Couple that with my self-inflicted stress about my parents’ impending Christmas weekend visit, and blammo! I was awake until after 6:00 a.m.

It is not helpful when that happens.

I had a reasonably productive day today, but the specter of stress plus PMS was lurking in the background the whole time. I tried to minimize the level of interaction I had with people in order to prevent as much crankiness as possible. I don’t think I was entirely successful. I wasn’t the only one who was a little off their game today.

The evening was a brighter note, though, as I bowled well (808 for four games) and am getting to bed before midnight. Hopefully I’m tired enough that I will sleep all night and get up in the morning for that workout I missed today.

It???s easy being green

December 14, 2011

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I hope I don’t get any preachier than my standard “if each person recycled just one more, or even their first, [insert item here] …” Because it’s true. If you held on to one more empty pop can until you came across the next bright blue receptacle, you would have helped your life’s host, Mother Earth.

There. That’s out of the way.

My own newest shtick to contribute to the well-being of our planet is to, at the office, walk my trash back to the communal waste basket in the kitchen rather than throwing it into the smaller one under my desk. 

A couple months ago, a new cleaning company started. I wouldn’t have even noticed, because they do every bit as capable* a job as their predecessors, only they put my waste basket back in a slightly different position. I’m an only child who doesn’t share well. I notice when my things have been messed with.

Pondering the altered location of my waste basket got me to pondering the waste basket itself. If it was in a different spot, then they did something with it.

I don’t usually have much to throw away. My day’s trash is unlikely to be more than a tea wrapper or two and maybe a tissue or two. I have always taken my paradoxically wasteful styrofoam to-go box from lunch back to the kitchen receptacle not because I think it will become smelly, but because in some weird way I don’t think it’s anybody’s business (least of all the cleaning people who likely make substantially less than I) that I spent money on lunch out, and I don’t want to provide evidence for the guessing of what it might have been. 

As an aside, if there’s any way I can tell the food place to just wrap it in foil rather than putting it in a whole box, or to skip the enclosing carrier bag, I do. See? There’s another simple way to conserve. But I digress.

I got to wondering if the cleaner who tends my waste basket indiscriminately gathers up the entire plastic garbage bag containing its tea wrapper and tissue and tosses it into the giant other bag on the housekeeping cart, or if he or she recognizes that it is small, unmessy, minor trash and just plucks it out for a quick transfer. They all wear protective gloves these days, so there would never be the possibility of contamination.

Nevertheless, I made the decision not to take the chance. I slightly inconvenience myself to take my tea wrapper back to the kitchen basket in order to remove any chance that my desk bag will be sacrificed for eight square inches of paper. The thought of an eight-gallon plastic bag going into the landfill every day for virtually nothing horrifies me. It should horrify you, too. 

If that didn’t sink in, how about the thought of 5 bags per 52 weeks for a total of 260 in a year. The next time you take the trash out, wad up the new bag before you install it. How much landfill space would that take up? Even if it’s for only 1 in 100 people, or 1000, or 10,000. Or even if that eight-gallon bag gets tossed only every other day. It adds up fast. It’s not difficult to actually do.

Okay, I’ve gotten preachy again but you get the idea. Now do something about it. It’s easy being green(er).

 

*Every bit as capable a job, except for the dead housefly that’s been on the kitchen window sill for weeks. We finally immortalized it.

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December 5, 2011

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I did not bowl well tonight. I mean, it could have been worse and has been many a time, but when you play a sport you have certain achievement goals and tonight I did not meet mine. I blame Scramble CE.

Scramble is the word search game I play on my iPhone when I go to bed. It helps me relax right to the point of falling asleep. I used to read in bed but I never got very far because it would usually put me to sleep immediately. For a number of years I’d work crossword puzzles because I could stay awake a little longer. Then I got my iPhone and went back to reading, because I could take off my glasses, lay down, turn off the light, and if I fell asleep I wouldn’t lose my place and the iPhone would also go to sleep and everyone was happy. Then I discovered Angry Birds and Scramble.

Angry Birds isn’t a good bedtime game because I get too worked up. Not at the pigs, but at my lack of dexterity with the slingshot and timing the extra things the birds can do. But Scramble is a nice, leisurely, two-and-a-half-minute word search. I play in Advanced mode which means I have to find words of four or more letters.

I love this game. I can usually stay awake for four, five, ten rounds. I’d get a lot more sleep if I switched back to reading.

A consequence of my Scramble stamina is a tennis elbowy kind of thing that happens in my right elbow or, as I call it, my bowling elbow, because I use my right index finger to drag around the screen. At first I thought it happened because I laid on my left side so that my right arm could be free-swinging to facilitate faster wording. I conditioned myself to be comfortable playing as I lay on my right side, with my arm mostly resting on my pillow. My left arm doesn’t have nearly the staying power being up in the air, but that’s its problem. As for playing with my left hand instead, I am slow and clumsy and it’s just not a viable option.

As a series of nights goes by, I find that I gradually roll more onto my back to liberate my right arm, because I’m still faster that way (well, faster, assuming my brain is willing). Over the weekend I realized that my elbow, and even my hand, had the very mild tendonitis indicative of too much Scramble. And tonight, my bowling scores reflected the weakened state of my right arm or, as I call it, my bowling arm.

I must put myself on a Scramble moratorium for a few days or a week. This will be difficult but, if I am to save my bowling average, it is completely necessary.

I suppose I might play a little Angry Birds in the meantime. For that one I do use my left hand because that’s the side from which you launch the birds. If I used my right hand I wouldn’t be able to see what I was aiming for. I’ve always kind of thought that a nice feature of Angry Birds would be to have a choice of launching end.

As you can see, Scramble includes words from some Martian dictionary, so if I find a third of the possible words in a round, I feel good. I also like to get at least 50 points which can be challenging if the total points possible for the round is 150 or less. 

In case you’re wondering, my high Scramble score is 209, my longest word is DEPOSITOR, and as of last night I had made a total of 30,090 words, none of which begin with X. 

My family crest

October 19, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago we were challenged to draw a family crest for ourselves. I scribbled mine out during brief interludes in the relatively autopilot production project I had going at work. Usually I like to hand-draw (as much as you can call what I do “drawing”) with my navy Sharpie, but I don’t have one right now. Nor do I have my other favorite color, the brickish-maroon (I’m sure I’ve horrified some Sharpie executive with that description). I used a lowly graphite mechanical pencil for the initial line drawing which turned out to be a good thing, in this case, because then I could get it right (as right as what I call “drawing” can be). Usually I like to do free and easy gesture drawings on which I don’t waste too much brain power, but a little more care was called for in this case. I had intended to color it with the bazillion colored pencils we have at the office, but they seem to have disappeared in the last clear-out, so I was left with fabric paint markers or crayons. Crude crayons it was!

It will come as no surprise what I included.

Animals. Crests often have some beast of valor. I used beasts of favor, the rabbit that has become my symbol, and the closest I could come to a cat in the same style. Interesting side note, I only ever draw the rabbit facing to the left, so it was utterly awkward to draw the cat the other way.

Activities. You will often find a weapon on a crest. I included my weapons of choice for the zombie apocalypse, a bowling ball and bowling pins. Oh wait, no zombies? Bowling is the quest upon which I embark twice weekly. Still appropriate for a crest. The pins give the animals a platform for sitting.

Foliage. What crest would be complete with some kind of viney, leafy thing sinewing its way around? You guessed it. I gave my crest a few hop vine leaves and hop flower cones, representative of the beverage that keeps me going strong, beer, in particular, hoppy ales.

Shield. The above elements will be arranged around a central anchor, usually some kind of shield shape. I decided to use a beer bottle, upon which the cat and rabbit can lovingly gaze. I took poetic license with perspective and had the thumb hole of the bowling ball double as the opening in the bottle.

Banner. Well, isn’t there always some wavy thing containing the family name? This is my least favorite part at the moment. It’s like a big old cummerbund around the bowling ball’s beer belly. And it’s my username not my real last name. But it serves its purpose.

I am mostly so pleased by how it turned out, and I fully intend to create a more refined version on the computer. Then I can adjust some of the things that bother me. 

It was a very fun little project. I challenge you to make your own family crest. If you do, post a link to it in the comments!

 

October 3, 2011

Potter-no-more

October 16, 2011

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Today I completed my consumption of Harry Potter. It began not altogether intentionally on June 8 of this year when I clicked Play on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I theretofore had had no interest in the boy wizard, but my work colleague gave me the audiobook mp3s (1), so I thought what the heck. I figured I’d listen for an hour or two just to say I’d given it a chance and then put it back in the drawer.

Merlin’s beard, was I wrong! I’m pretty sure that it was less than 30 minutes before I was completely sucked in.

I’m convinced that a large part of the reason why I fell so easily was because I was listening and not reading. Afternoons at the office belonged to Harry. I found that he was the perfect accompaniment to my graphic design work (as long as it didn’t involve thinking). I was able to offer just the right amount of attention while working that the listening required. As much as I enjoyed it, I don’t feel like I would have stuck with it if I had been training my eyeballs on the paper versions.

As someone who has that common human fantasy of writing books for a living, I soon realized that some of what I found so fascinating was being aware of Jo Rowling’s craft. If I ever get around to long-form writing, I know it will be difficult for me to spin the tale in a leisurely enough manner so that all the interesting flavors have time to develop. She is a master.

I was really excited Thursday afternoon because I finished listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. One hundred fifteen hours of enthralling narration in total. Friday afternoon I had the shakes.

The same coworker also has all of the DVDs. So when I finished listening to a book, he’d bring me the movie to watch. He is my Harry Potter dealer.

The movies I found to be hit or miss. And why wouldn’t they be? How do you trim a twenty-hour book down to a two-hour movie? Even the shortest book was eight hours. Stuff is going to have to be left out. I wonder how people who hadn’t read the books got along with the movies. I was glad I knew what went in the gaps.

One thing that I absolutely loved about the movies was much of the casting. Who other than Dame Maggie Smith could have been McGonagall? Who other than Robbie Coltrane could have been Hagrid? Conversely, though I love Gary Oldman, he didn’t quite fit as Sirius.

So this afternoon I watched Deathly Hallows Part 1 and then this evening, a little thrill as I made my way to a movie theater for Part 2. That was some of my motivation for not wasting any time listening to the books. I wanted to finish in time to still find Part 2 in a theater so that I wouldn’t have to wait for the DVD to come out. Success.

It was kind of weird, though, too. I got to sit with 500 of my closest non-friends and listen to them rustling wrappers and chomping on the delicious real popcorn with real butter at this neighborhood, second-run theater. For the first half hour I had some trouble hearing the movie. Seriously.

Things eventually settled down and a good time seemed to be had by all. Applause broke out three or four times, which brought a tear to my eye (I’m much sappier in my advancing age). I do, however, look forward to watching again in the privacy of my own home in a few months.

So there you have it. Now what am I going to do with myself?

(1) I listened to the Jim Dale version and I thought he did a wonderful job. I know there are those who are every bit as enthusiastic about Stephen Fry’s reading. I found a respectful back-and-forth here.

Laundry socks, er, sucks

October 9, 2011

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I hate doing laundry but at least I have clean socks again. I ran out on Thursday. More specifically, I ran out of white socks. You see, it has been unseasonably mild for a Minnesota early fall. The daily high temperature has been over 80°F/27°C for close to a week. That means it’s still shorts weather, and shorts mean white socks. Fortunately because it’s so warm, I could wear sandals for a couple of days and it wasn’t a big deal. But I’m kind of done wanting to look at my toes for the season, so I’m glad to have clean socks again.

I have enough socks (of all colors) and underwear to keep me going for weeks. I have so much because I hate doing laundry and wish to avoid it as much as possible. I know that in the end, whether I do a load a week or wait until running out of socks and/or underwear finally forces me to do four loads on one day, the amount of laundry is the same. And I don’t even mind the washer and dryer part so much. But I absolutely loath the folding and putting away. There again, if I did more frequent loads it might not seem like such a monumental challenge and I might think more kindly toward it. 

But that doesn’t seem to be how my brain works. I will consume a Saturday or Sunday with multiple loads and then fold in the evening while I’m watching a movie or Masterpiece Theater (sorry, PBS, I haven’t gotten used to how you now call it Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery, and Masterpiece Contemporary). I feel good because I’m multitasking rather than just sitting and watching the tube.

At least I don’t have to travel to communal laundry room. Shortly after I moved into my condo, someone else moved out and sold me his old Sears Kenmore portable washer and dryer. I wheel the washer over to my kitchen sink and connect a hose to a special faucet attachment and I’m good to go. The dryer vents through a reticulated, wide hose to a box with about an inch of water in the bottom to trap lint and vents on the top to release the air. I like laundry day in the winter because my furnace nor my humidifier have to work as hard. 

Having the washer and dryer in my unit saves me from having to pass four doors each way every with every visit to the laundry room. I’m sure my appliances aren’t the most energy efficient, but I sure consider that $50 to be well-spent. I don’t even care about all the quarters I’ve not had to scrounge. I just adore the convenience, since I hate the task.

So that nice, clean pair of socks is now upon my feet, and I’m heading out with toes safely concealed in shoes.