Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Things That Suck About Being a Grown-Up

You never realized as a kid just how often dusting is necessary. Dust accumulates at the speed of light.

Your energy reserves have been drained by the time you get home from a longer-than-usual workday. And now you have to go buy milk. Or toilet paper. Or something for the stupid potluck.

$100 used to be a lot of money. Now, you spend six to ten times that amount just to live in a crappy apartment. With spiders. And a basement from hell.

There are little things at your ankles that demand your attention and break all your awesome stuff. Some of them have fur. Others just poop a lot.

You know what's actually in the food you buy now, but can't afford to buy something better for you. Something without cancer in it.

Hey, that thing you were so carefully saving money for? The one you were only a few dollars away from buying? SURPRISE! Health care/car repair bill! No fun stuff for you. Just a muffler. And mufflers suck.

You discover boxes of stuff that you absolutely adored as a kid and all these awesome memories come flooding back. Then you have to throw it away because no one wants an old potato chip bag.

2 a.m. Can't sleep. No apparent reason.

3 a.m. Back pain wakes you. No apparent reason.

You're legitimately skilled at a lot of things, and from time to time, no one will pay you to do them. Cue sneaky hate spiral.

At a certain age, people look at you sideways when you're not getting married, a house, or knocked up. And maybe they don't say anything, but they don't need to, because TV ads shame you so they don't have to. (And part of you still wants to make blanket forts.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Beer 'Stache

Please to enjoy this picture of Spousal Unit. He is wearing the latest fashion in facial hair (yes, you read that right - you're behind the times). His mustache has reached the point where it's starting to curl up on the ends a little bit. The whole of it is called the McClellan, though Spousal Unit wishes me to say that he's "not emulating that jackass."

In his hand, we see a frosty beverage known as beer. But this is not just any beer; it is a Mr. Beer beverage, lovingly brewed by this mustachioed man two to three months ago.

Have a lovely Monday; I'm off to be a mover and a shaker. (Quite literally a mover - we're out of the temp office and work and back into the remodeled acid trip of a space. Hooray.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kidney, Diving, and Internet: They Are the Most Interesting Ties in the World

 Last night, I bought Spousal Unit two new ties. The one on the left below says "Love Your Kidneys" in many different languages. At a minimum, I was able to identify English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, and Norwegian. There are many others.

The other tie is almost weirder. It's a diver in an old-school diving suit. And fish.

As Spousal Unit and I said, it makes perfect sense for those things to be together. But not on a tie.

These two will go well with his Internet/e-mail tie. He's developing the most bizarre tie collection.

This tie is like Bill Gates, "1999" by Prince, and a windbreaker suit had a really weird nylon baby.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

If You Give a Cat a Yarn Ball...

Apparently the cats are big fans of modern art. And installation pieces.

It's not like I was unaware of this; they've made smaller installation pieces before, but always with yarn that wasn't attached to a project.

Whoever made the sock yarn piece was much less imaginative about it.

Luckily, neither of my projects were damaged, and the yarn isn't too terribly tangled. Unfortunately, I was apparently very inspired by their work, and decided to make some installation art of my own.

There's a lot more to this piece, but it's hard to photograph against the white linoleum.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cat Plant Fever

My cat is a plant fiend.

The bedroom has become a veritable jungle of plants, every surface littered with them. Spousal Unit and I keep the door closed so that she doesn't destroy them. There are a select few plants in the living room with which she has no qualms, but I'm really eager for the day when I feel comfortable putting the plants out on the deck. (Yes, we're still at risk for snow.)

As it stands, we've tried several times to let the wee ones in the bedroom at night. Oberon is a gentlemanly feline, content to curl up at the end of the bed or on a discarded pair of pants for the night. He does have his faults, of course (deciding, at  2 a.m., that the world is dirty and must be cleaned, and licking it all with his industrial-strength tongue), but Titania is the real culprit.

In the middle of the night, she'll get up and start munching the plants. We have not yet gotten through a night without her green hunger awakening, and thereby waking us. The cats get kicked out and we try again another night. I've tried a cat grass plant before; they ignored it and then knocked it over.

Look at this poor thing. I'm just glad dragon trees are so resilient.

How can she be such a terror one moment, and so sweet the next? The world may never know.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brain Wave Radio

Over the course of the last week, I decided to write down the songs that randomly popped into my head - things that my brain radio played that weren't a result of hearing a song on the radio. Here's that weird, random list of songs I get stuck in my head at work.

98.6 - Keith (I get this in my head a lot, because at work I have to check percentages. I often run across 98.6, which puts this song in my head.)

Daydream Believer - The Monkees

I'm Sensitive - Jewel

Fine Again - Seether (I didn't even know this song's name or artist till I looked it up, but it ends up in my head quite frequently)

Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me - from Monsters Inc.

Be Prepared - from The Lion King (because I was walking down the hallway singing, "New pants! New pants! La la la la la la!" Also, that link is four minutes of that line in different languages. Worth it.)

Thrift Shop - Ryan Macklemore

Pure Imagination - from Willy Wonka

Elephant Love Medley - from Moulin Rouge

Penny Lane - The Beatles

She Works Hard for the Money - Donna Summer (the version from The Birdcage)

Shoo Fly (yes, the children's song)

Killer Tofu - The Beets

I can only conclude that my brain radio is mostly a mix of oldies and stuff from movies. I think I'm okay with that.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tall and Resolute by The Summarily Dismissed

I heard a great song on the radio last weekend, but I've had trouble finding a full online version to listen to. The song is Tall and Resolute by the Summarily Dismissed. You can hear a clip of it on Pandora, and it is available on iTunes.

It's a fun, jazzy tune, and I love the melody. But my favorite thing about it is that it's paired with great lyrics, too. (My friend Joe talks about the connection with much more authority than I.) The song is about a woman who is... vertically challenged. You can read the full lyrics here, but my favorite lines are as follows.

I call myself a femme fatale, but other folks refuse
And say I'm just cute
'Cause I'm not tall and resolute

Mostly, I love that the word "resolute" is rhymed with throughout this song. The words are intelligently chosen.

Speaking of music, I plan to do a post next week of all the songs that randomly popped into my head this week. I highly doubt there will be any connection between them, but we'll see.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gumbo Is Good for the Soul

To preface this post, I'd like to say that this morning, I found a whole, unopened can of soup in the fridge. I put there last night when I was prepping today's lunch. Absent-mindedness may follow.

I've been craving gumbo for nigh on a month, so when I finally had a Saturday afternoon free, I jumped on it. Gumbo is always better the longer you stew it, and I find that it's even better the next day, when the flavors have had even more time to intermingle.

I adapted this recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (you know, the one with the red-checkered background). In my version, I used Penzeys Cajun seasoning, which I found is a little too sweet for my taste, at least in large quantities. I'd go lighter on that next time, which is reflected in the recipe. I also used bacon grease (from CSA bacon) for the oil because I had some on hand. And because humane, local meat juice is tasty.

I'm not a bad vegetarian. I'm a smart one.

Vegetarian Gumbo
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cooking oil
1/2 c. chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 c. chopped celery (2-3 stalks)
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Habanero sauce (such as Tabasco) to taste
2 c. veggie broth
1 pkg. Smart Sausages, smoked style, sliced
1 c. frozen okra
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning

In a large pot, whisk flour and oil together until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook another 10 to 15 minutes. The mixture will darken; this is the roux. (It's important not to burn this.)

Stir in all veggies (except the okra) and the peppers, including habanero sauce. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or till veggies are crisp-tender.

Gradually add the broth, sausage, bay leaves, and Cajun seasoning. Cover and simmer as long as possible (at minimum 15 minutes). Add okra and simmer for another 15. Discard bay leaves. Serve over brown rice.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why Terrorism Upsets Me So Much

*This may be upsetting. Proceed with caution.*

I haven't really been able to put this into words before, but I need to try.

I get incredibly distressed anytime one person or a group decides to kill innocent people. I know this about myself, and I know I should stay away from news outlets, keep the TV off, ignore the radio dial, and distract myself with humor. I inevitably feel guilty for trying to get away from it, but the involuntary level of obsession I develop is destructive. I bury myself in humor for my own mental health.

All the while, I'm still thinking about what has happened. I may be curled up on the couch with Spousal Unit to watch Big Bang, but I'm still worrying and upset even as I laugh. And even though I know I should keep the radio off (because if I turn it on, I have trouble going away from it), sometimes I can't help it. I obsess over learning what has happened, imagining how the people involved feel, and who would do such a thing.

My best explanation is that I obsess because I don't understand, and I am desperately trying to.

I've never understood the level of suffering human beings inflict on each other. I don't understand wanting to die or kill for your religion. I don't understand why you wouldn't share the money you have to help those in need. I can't fathom wanting to kill someone because they are different, or because you can't control whatever's going on in your head.

So I try to learn more about what has happened and who has done it, in the hopes that there can be some understanding. At the same time, I know I don't want to know.

My writing skills work against me at these times. Even when I try my best to hide from that unnerving curiosity, I still find myself staring into the distance, imagining what has happened. I imagine the atmosphere of a race's finish line - the sheer elation, coupled with exhaustion. Others around you are just as thrilled, and maybe your family or friends are there. A race is pure joy at the finish line.

Then I imagine what it's like to have that disrupted by death. I imagine, as a runner myself, what it would be like to lose a limb at the end of a race, when you had planned on a celebratory dinner, or sightseeing. I imagine the chaos.

There's no point in me going on. Suffice to say I have an overactive imagination. Except when it comes to destruction.

Edit to add: Good Samaritans at the Boston Marathon. Because destruction like this is caused by very few people. The good, helpful ones are the majority.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Baa-sking in Cute

One day, you are all going to be so sick of farm pictures. But that day is not today, because I have lamb pictures. For some reason, lambs like containers, so these little spotted guys are hanging out near (and in) one.

My main purpose in going to the farm was to work with wool, but new lambs are a bit time-consuming (and adorable) so I didn't do all that much with fluff. But I did make the blue and brown ball of roving, which is ready to be spun into yarn or used for needle felting. Turned out decent for my first one!

These two were only a few hours old when I met them! Their names are Simon and Sigfried. (I went *squee* in my heart so many times while I was there.)

A few of the lambs have to be bottle-fed. Some lost their mother during birth, and some are just so cold in this awful spring that they have to be reminded that food is awesome.

This tiny fuzzball is one of the oldest this season at two weeks. But she's the runt of the litter, and while others have grown to twice her size, she's smaller than my cats. I got to bottle-feed her and carry her inside to get warm in the wood box.

It's impossible not to love that little face.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stormy Sun

Don't be deceived by the sunset picture; we haven't actually seen the sun here all week. (Okay, maybe twice, but it was through rain clouds.) The lack of sun is starting to grate on me, which is why I'm so glad it's Friday and I'm going to the farm to help with wool. I'll spend the whole time waiting for the sun to peek its head out, and then I'm going to soak up all the vitamin B I can.

And all the rest of the weekend, I'll be cuddling my kitties, traumatized from their vet trip, and giving them extra treats. At least their test turned out well.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Very Depressing Children's Books

I've still been going through old boxes from my days living at home. My recent awesome finds are some old children's books about a cat and various dogs. I read these over and over when I was little, and I think at least one of these came out of my mom's old collection.

Peppermint by Dorothy Grider 

Peppermint is the runt of a litter born at a candy shop. (Talk about unsanitary.) The shop owner begins selling the kittens for 15 cents a pop, right next to all the lollipops and gumballs, and I bet the parents were pissed. A little girl comes in, sad that she doesn't have a kitten for the upcoming contest, and the shop owner gives her Peppermint. The girl's mother wisely decides the cat needs a bath, and the cat (naturally) freaks out and falls into a tub of bluing right next to the bath. The little girl cries again. And the blue cat named Peppermint wins the contest.

Yes, this is from 1966, but who the heck has a tub of bluing next to the kitty bathtub? It's like the mother was hoping for a blue cat. And the little girl is such a whiner. But despite the very depressing kitty on the cover, this is kind of a cute book. Because there are kittens.

Patchwork Puppy by Katherine Brown

Hey, another depressing book about animals. This plain little puppy asks his beautiful mother if he's beautiful too, and she says no. (Mother of the Year Award right there, huh?) The puppy goes for a walk, asking various creatures if he's as pretty as they are. Not only do they all say no, but they hit him and rip his cloth, too! They essentially beat him up for asking if he's comparable to them. And each time, he goes home and his mother patches him up with brightly colored cloth. In the end, he's a gorgeous patchwork puppy. But it's only then that his mother says that if he's happy, he's beautiful inside and out.

While I love the fact that the puppy who wants to be pretty is a boy, this is a pretty terrible story. The message of being beautiful if you're happy definitely should have come at the beginning; placed as it is, it's still saying (in a way) that you'll only be happy once you're beautiful.

And you'll only be beautiful after someone beats the crap out of you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Travel by Imagination - Now With More Zombies

I've made some good progress on my novel. My newest goal is to reach page 300 by the end of April. I'm on page 281 right now. I think I'll pass that goal with flying colors.

That's kind of weird to say. When I started this beast, it was only based on a small grain of an idea (when in doubt, zombies). After NaNoWriMo blew over, I was left with 175 poorly written pages full of great ideas, which had spiraled out of control and taken over my plot. (I still kind of feel that way, and it won't get better till it's all written out and I rearrange this thing like mad. With scissors.)

It's been a long time since I started it - four years, in fact - and I started working on this draft last summer. It's weird to feel like I'm close to the end of the story and to have 78,445 words, all of the same purpose, in one place.

It's still weird to tell people I'm writing a novel, but I'm quite proud of myself. For two weeks straight, I've written a little every day except one. And I made up for that last night by writing double what I usually would. It's all flowing better, and the words are more poetic than they were at the beginning.

I'm going places, even if they're only in my head.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Box of Ancient Treasures

Lately, when Spousal Unit and I visit our parents, they yell at us. Things like, "Why do you have all this crap here? You don't live here anymore. Why isn't it gone yet? Here, take anything you can fit in the car!"

That's only a slight exaggeration of the verbal pyrotechnics from my visit home this weekend. But I'm glad to have taken this stuff home. Here's a sampling of my middle school and high school selves: buried treasure in one little box.

So. Much. Star Wars junk. Literally. I found several empty chip bags and empty trading card containers, which I must have thought would be valuable someday. I was obnoxiously excited for Episode I to come out, and saved everything in sight having to do with the movie.

Including this Anakin Skywalker action figure, still in the package. It's probably worth less than I paid for it.

Not only did I find the Star Wars trading cards, I also found my old baseball and football cards. I doubt there's anything good in there, but Spousal Unit was impressed by my having a Mark Grace card (he played on the Cubs).

Weird tidbit: Anyone remember the Sweet Secrets lockets that held lip gloss? The band around the baseball cards is from that series.

Yes, I saved a jar of Gilbert Brown peanut butter and two cans of Coke. The Packers can had almost entirely evaporated, but the little one still fizzed when I opened it. I told my mom about that, and she joked that I should have drunk it. My limit is 15 years past expiration; that can was 16.

And as you can see, the peanut butter expired in 1998.

Finding all of my old flute music made me break out the instrument for the first time in years. Surprisingly, I can still play pretty well. (My embouchure is shot, of course.)

I had Ben Glenn, the chalk artist, sign my sketchbook when he visited my middle school. The signature is kind of cool, but the artwork inside is ridiculous.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Holy Random Fruitcake, Batman!

It's been a while since I provided you with a bunch of random links. Here you go.

 - A look at what the things that don't kill you actually make you feel and do: What Doesn't Kill Me

- Quotation marks in weird "places": Unnecessary Quotes

- Some books do not belong in libraries. Others might be surprisingly awesome to discover: Awful Library Books

- My friend Joe has been on a role with his blog posts lately! "Sexy and I Know It" Is a Great Song. Seriously.

- Fonts can be annoying even if you're not a literary nerd: The Font Police

- There's nothing quite like corresponding with your mom... Some of these made me laugh till I cried: Postcards From Yo Momma

- I love these stoneware tea cups with a faux metallic glaze: Osaka Black Metallic Tea Cup

- The Oatmeal has a great series of literary posters. I'd love to put these up at work: How to Use an Apostrophe

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mother Nature is Like, "Slooooow Dowwwwn."

Lately, these have gone by too quickly.

I blinked and March blew away in a wintery haze. I sighed, and the first few days of April vanished. I've been looking forward, forward, so much lately that time is passing unnoticed, and I didn't realize it until a month had disappeared.

Each moment is a memory, and I've been forgetting to enjoy, to savor, to bask. I want to remember more sunsets.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guide Me, O Instructor of Safety

I'm a fan of all things weird. We all know this and agree that it makes me quirky and eccentric rather than strange and weird myself. (Here's where you nod your head in placating agreement.)

One of the weird things I've always had a special place for are weird safety instructions. You know, the little things people never read about their new devices, which leads to strange accidents and the instructions getting even more bizarre in the next iteration.

The best source for these, I've found, is usually a device whose instructions are written by someone who does not speak English, whose words of wisdom are then translated by someone else who doesn't know English. I've run across several like that myself, though the fount of all such wisdom is usually Engrish.com.

This is not the case today, as I found this little gem in the box for our Blu Ray player.

"The second rule of Fight Club is..."

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Awkward New TV

Last week, Spousal Unit and I got a new TV.

It's a 39-inch Insignia, and we paid a damn good price for it. (This doesn't change the fact that my thrifty Norwegian sensibilities were all in a tizzy at shelling out so much money.) We spent a good deal of time in the store debating whether to get 60Hz or 120. What's the difference? I'll tell you.

60Hz looks like normal TV. Good, but normal. Nothing about looking at it makes me uncomfortable.

120Hz is for action movies and things that move quickly - higher quality, sharper picture. It makes me intensely uncomfortable.

One of the first things we watched on the new screen was the finale of Trinity Blood. (We can now watch Netflix on the TV through Blu Ray.) That was fine - wonderful, even - because it was animated. The details were sharp, and we saw so many things we'd missed on our little computer screen.

But then, we watched Star Wars Episode I.

Believe me, I was against it. The event was delayed for a day when the disc went missing. Spousal Unit accused me of throwing it away, because I'd so vehemently opposed it. I did not. As much as I dislike Jake Lloyd and JarJar, the lightsaber finale is awesome.

The next day, we found the disc in the XBox, rather than the Blu Ray player. So then we had to watch it.

Here's what makes me uncomfortable about such high-quality TV. You can see everyone's pores. All the little details show up - the things the director probably worked very hard to hide. And when the movie has a mix of CG imaging and reality, it just looks awkward. Here's what I think it is: the people look so much more real, that the graphics look more fake by comparison.

It also makes me feel like I'm intruding on something. Like I'm standing right in front of these people as they act, but they don't see me.

It's like I'm standing in someone's bedroom without their consent.
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