Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another year, come and gone, but Mr. Biscuit remains the best cat.

Neither of these cats are Mr. Biscuit. One of these cats got in trouble for getting on a table.

Happy almost New Year, readers! (all 2 of you who still somehow keep up with this despite the fact that I never, ever, ever post!)

I will end 2013 with a link to the best thing I read all year:
Mr. Biscuit.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Soup for Halloween

I can't remember if I've done a chicken soup post, so I'm just going to do (another?) one since I've got soup in its final stages in the crockpot right now.

We're into the cold and rainy part of fall, and it's a good time to make soup. I just got a flu shot, so it's an even *better* time to make soup. This stuff's easy, and you have to put salt in it or it won't taste like chicken soup as you understand chicken soup to exist. I don't like putting salt in it, so I leave that out when I'm making it initially and then I go "why isn't this salty and delicious in the way I expect chicken soup to be?" Every time. I recently read a straightforward egg noodle recipe, so I may try that next time. For now, though, chicken soup.

Ingredients:
Some vegetables (whatever you want! maybe dice them! carrots are good in this situation.)
A potato, if you like potatoes in soup. I had a potato, so I put it in there. I diced it first.
Onion (diced. technically, it will be way more delicious if you saute the onion first before putting it into the crockpot, but this is very EASY chicken soup. Easy does not always mean "maximum delicious." This is the burden we lazy people must bear.)
Garlic (you could dice it, I don't care. I remove the garlic skin and just put the whole cloves in because I'm lazy.)
Some chicken (I got leg quarters from ALDI for $0.85/pound. I used one piece, because it's a small crockpot, and I don't like a lot of chicken, actually! Just put this in however you get it - fresh or frozen, whatever. You want skin and bones going into this for a heartier, fattier soup. Remove the skin if you want it to be less delicious. Leave the bones. Bones go in soup!)
An assortment of herbs. I usually put in some parsley, celery seeds (I don't know, they're in my pantry. I don't even know where they came from), rosemary, black pepper, poultry seasoning (see my note on celery seeds), lemon rind (again, no idea) and anything else that I notice that I think might be nice. I don't like sage. I'm just not a fan. If you like sage, I'm happy for you. Please explain it to me, because it's so, so gross.

Directions:
Put everything in the crock pot and cover with water. Cook on high for a couple hours, then switch to low. It's ready when the meat is falling off the bones. I like to pull the meat out at this point, remove the bones and skin, cut up the meat and put that back into the soup.

Have some soup. Go "why isn't this at all salty?"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why I Enjoy Baking/Unfocused ramblings about baking

Short answer: Because it's fairly straightforward and it makes the house smell nice.

Longer answer: Because my mom gave me her old Sunbeam Mixmaster (is that right? I'm too lazy to walk to the kitchen to check) with the note that "you have to watch it. you can't just leave it alone." This surprised me, because that is my assumption about mixers! I was not aware that there were any mixers that could be left unsupervised during operation! What a world we live in! What a marvelous future! Having a stand mixer on the counter made me think more frequently about baking things, like chocolate chip cookies. Then I started baking chocolate chip cookies. A lot.

I guess that short answer #2 is "stand mixer."

I make excellent chocolate chip cookies now, I barely have to look at the recipe. By the way, Maida Heatter is a wonderful cookbook author, at least for desserts. I've read about a third of her cake book, and I don't even have any interest in baking cakes. I just enjoy reading her cake-related writing. For a while, I was making a couple batches of cookies each month, which was excessive, but it was a pleasant and delicious hobby, and cookies make thoughtful-seeming presents. They aren't actually thoughtful when you're compulsively baking for reasons you don't fully understand and you don't want to eat four dozen cookies every week, but they seem that way!

 Now I've been made aware of quickbreads (two words? quick breads?), starting with this recipe.
Pretty delicious, actually.
It's ridiculously seasonal, thanks to the fact that it is pumpkin bread, but that's kind of nice. I like that element of baking. I'm not much for decorating the house, though I do have a tiny fake Christmas tree and some decorative candles that I put up after Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of a tradition of baked goods for various times of year. There's something appealing about ritual, and baking seems fairly benign. You take simple ingredients, you make something delicious.

People are surprisingly impressed by baked goods. I don't know why this is, though it's probably one of those "you have the luxury to take the time to bake things sometimes. Good for you" sorts of situations. When I started typing this I was thinking "maybe people think baking is hard and they are impressed because they don't think they can do it," but now I suspect it's more "Oh of course, you childless single person with copious amounts of time spent alone, of course you bake."

So that's a rundown on my thoughts about baking. Because it's a pleasant way to pass the time, it's not very expensive, it makes the house smell nice, it makes me feel like my kitchen appliances are justifying the counter space they use, and when it's all over, I get to eat something I made. Or at least look appreciatively at something I made, and then wrap it up to give to someone else as a "thoughtful" present.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Self-aggrandizement

http://gigaverse.com/guides/shena-wolf/

...I would change some things. I wrote this quite a while ago. Mostly the "present/presence" thing. It bothers me. Aside from that, I think it's solid. LEARN FROM ME! <monocle>

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I fix things

I like to fix things. Not all things. I don't know how to do plumbing (yet) and there are many, many things that I know nothing about. However, when something breaks in my house, my first impulse is to take it apart and figure out what's going on. I've been taking things apart since I was little. If it's a small household appliance, I can probably take it apart and put it back together and it will work about as well as it did before I began. After I bought the house, my scope got a little broader. Things like washers and dryers became fair game.

My reasons for this are simple. If something is broken, then there's not a lot of risk involved. It's already not working. At worst, it will continue to not work when I'm finished with it. Thanks to the internet, there are lots of places to find information on the broken thing, as well as helpful stories from other people with broken things, and sometimes tutorials and videos on how to repair broken things. So far, I've replaced the drum seal in my dryer (upper and lower) and now I've replaced the control board on my washer. (I should also add that *that* one also involved learning how to access the error codes, which is super easy, and included in the tech manual that is taped TO THE INSIDE OF THE WASHER. It is amazing. And a little bit ridiculous.)

Both repairs went well, and they didn't take as long as you might have thought. With the washer, from discovering it wasn't working (spin cycle just wasn't happening anymore) to fixing it, I think it's been about six days. That included taking apart, diagnosing, ordering the replacement part and swapping it out. I am, in my heart, a massive procrastinator, so I'm proud that I actually got it done within a week. Proud, and a little surprised, as I am whenever I do something right away instead of waiting, despite spending the last decade developing habits that help mitigate my tendencies.

Another thing I've learned how to do since my last blog post (ages ago! I am not good at blogging AT ALL!) is replacing the front wheel hub assembly on a mid-2000s GM car. I hired a mechanic to come to my house and teach me how to do it. It cost very slightly less than getting it done at a shop, very slightly more than just having the mechanic fix it in my driveway, and now I know a new thing. Here's a key element, though - he did one side, and then I did the other. Watching someone fix something is interesting. Fixing a thing yourself is invaluable. The difference between someone who kind of has an idea of how to do something and someone who knows how to do stuff? Actually doing the stuff.

That's the crux of why I like to fix things. I want to be someone who knows how to do stuff, and every time I dig into something instead of calling someone else, I become more the person that I want to be.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An additional note

All of my profile information is from my hilarious goth poetry blog, and it cracks me up too much to change any of it. Oh, the internet...fine purveyor of all the stuff you forgot about ten years ago...

Starting over

I've had a lot of blogs over the years. Some of have been perfect examples of the overshare compulsions of my early twenties. Some have been hilarious poem blogs. This is my latest attempt at finding that balance between talking about things I enjoy while maintaining the aura of secrecy that fuels so much of my personal appeal. I think I'm going to get a monocle.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A quiet, rainy evening

I live on a quiet street in a neighborhood that was built in the 1950s. Some of my neighbors have been here for 40 years. We keep an eye out for one another. There are some impressively large trees, but none in my yard. I thought I'd plant at least one or two, but I've been here for six years and I haven't done anything like that yet. I keep up with the lawn. I don't keep up with the edging. I try to remember to keep the bushes trimmed (mostly because if I don't do it, my yardwork-centric neighbors will do it for me, and then I feel guilty. I do not feel guilty when they decide that they have had enough and it is time to clandestinely weed-whack my lawn, which they do, about once or twice a year).

There are a number of cats that don't belong to anyone in particular. There's a lovely gray one that hunts in the backyard. I know this because occasionally I'll see it stalking birds. I always wonder if Donald and James wish they could go outside and do similar things, but they seem happy enough to just sit in the windows and on the furniture and sleep.

It rained today, and stayed fairly cool, so the air had that heavy, damp quality that I usually associate with late spring. I stood outside for a while, watching the more motivated fireflies flicker, listening to the rain drip in the downspouts. It's almost August. I hate August. Tonight was nice, though. I have no complaints about tonight.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Post-SDCC blogging

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] Adding a photo, because "photos make the blog," according to Mark Chiarello. He probably did not mean "photos of cats in ties make the blog."[/caption]

I don't usually dayblog, but I'm making an exception.

I have survived another year of San Diego Comic Con. The process of decompressing from this show is a complicated one. It's not exhausting in the same way that Spectrum Live is (it turns out that it's much easier to be an exhibitor than a showrunner) but it's probably similar in intensity.

Traditionally, I come back from San Diego, I do fine for a couple of days, then I get very, very sick. This is probably because, when I come back from San Diego, I have trouble remembering to eat, and I have even more trouble getting to sleep. I assume that the sickness is my body's only way of forcing me to get some rest. Tricky.

SDCC is overwhelming on a number of levels. There's a high degree of social interaction required, there are many late, late nights (social interaction!), there are 160,000 people with an exponentially higher number of germs all packed into a space. People are handling money. Handshakes are pretty common. Sickness! Sickness is inevitable!

It's a wonderful opportunity to get work done, and I always come back from the show feeling very productive. I'm good at what I do, and SDCC is another venue for me to get work done, both for my job and for Spectrum Live. There are connections you make at SDCC that you really can't make anywhere else, in part because EVERYONE is exhausted, and when you do find people you connect with, you bond more quickly than you might otherwise because you're so tired, and there are so many horrible people. New friends become life rafts on a sea of awful.

(I have made a number of lasting friendships at this show, and I continue to meet people who are interesting and engaging. I think that half the battle is wanting to get to know someone. The other half is wanting to let them get to know you. The fact that I come back from San Diego with one or two new *actual* friends each year is pretty remarkable.)

Of course, there's some emotional fallout when I get home, which is the inevitable conclusion to a very long show. There's a rawness to my emotional state which takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to normalize.

It's tied into the physical side of things. It's hard to feel normal mentally and emotionally when your system and your schedule are so out of alignment. I know this about the show, and about myself, and have gotten better at handling it over the years. It's much easier when you realize that you're not losing your mind, you're just very, very tired.

Because I can't help being prescriptive, here are some ways I deal with the show.

During the show:

Vitamin C (so much vitamin C)
Water
Coffee
An attempt to be healthy (vegetarian dishes, solid but not heavy breakfasts, smoothies)

When I get home:

Vitamin C (sense a theme?)
Water
Netflix (I just embrace the insomnia. It lets up eventually.)
Careful consideration before socializing
Frozen eggrolls (key for when it's 2 am and you realize you haven't eaten since lunch)
Cats
Comfortable pajamas

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Broken cars on the highway: How do they work?

Neither I nor people driving by know...in any way that resulted in my car getting fixed. We think it's probably the fuel filter.

I was driving my mom home today when the Alero started to lose power about 10 miles from the next town. It was a bit of a bummer, and not only because the windows on that car do not work.

As I always do when I have car trouble, I popped the hood and looked at the engine, as though that would be helpful in some way. I determined that nothing was on fire, nothing was smoking, and no fluids were spouting out from anywhere. I knew it wasn't the battery, and I knew that I wasn't out of gas. So...that narrowed it down. Based on the way it lost power, and the fact that it would turn on fine and then die, my mom and I suspected the fuel filter. Coming to that tentative conclusion did not actually fix anything, but good job us, maybe!

A very nice person stopped to see if they could help, and they did the exact same thing. Looked at the engine, like 1. They'd figure it out just by looking 2. Be able to effect change with the tools they had in their car (a tiny electrical kit). They suggested that it might be the fuel filter.

On the one hand, I feel good about the fact that I have the same skill level when it comes to broken cars on the highway as random passersby. On the other hand, my car is still broken.

Good things about today:
Dim sum
Ice cream
Bike ride
I have fixed my dryer. Probably. For now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Farewell to (Juice) Spreadsheets

I started this juicing experiment with a lot of skepticism, a free juicer, and a curiosity about the cost of juicing. But over the course of the last few months, I learned a lot about juice. And even more about myself.

Specifically, I learned that I make enough juice to justify the purchase of a juicer. That was really what the spreadsheet was about. That, and my love of spreadsheets. And my desire to know how much it costs to have a regular juice habit. It was about a lot of things.

There are many "things to buy for a kitchen" articles out there, and generally, I'm in the camp of people who think that you can make MOST things with minimal equipment. You need a pot, a pan, a knife, a cutting board, a stirring utensil. You can make a lot of stuff with those things. You can make COFFEE with those things (if you have ground coffee and water). I'm theoretically wary of specialty appliances that do only one thing, but in reality, I have a juicer, a blender, an immersion blender, a stand mixer and a waffle maker. The waffle maker is the most egregious of these "does only one thing" items and I use it all the time. Because waffles are delicious, and amazingly easy to make.

So the juicer...The juicer I have is awesome, and from the '80s. It's that odd yellow color that things used to be (similar to the avocado color of the '50s and then the '70s). It's not pretty, but it's very unique. This is not the juicer I would get for myself, but it is the juicer that my mom gave me for free. I started the spreadsheet with the thought that if I made enough juice, and tracked the cost both overall and per batch of juice, I could, eventually, normalize the cost of the blender that I *would* have gotten if I hadn't already had one just sitting in my kitchen. (And then, obviously, I could get that juicer. HA. No, of course not. But I would think to myself "I could totally normalize the cost of this juicer. But since I have a perfectly good juicer already, I won't." I would get the L'Equip Mini, if my brain were different than it is, for those wondering at home.)

Since January 22nd, I have made 28 batches of juice, and the average cost per batch (when I say "batch" I mean "liter" because that's about how much juice I make. I mention this because very few people seem to talk about recipe yield when it comes to juice, and I think that's ridiculous) has been $3.67.

I think that, while I don't make juice every day the way I did for the first couple of weeks, I still make enough juice to justify the counter space and the theoretical money I would spend on a nice juicer, if I didn't already have a perfectly good juicer. For me, the benefits of having a juicer in the house definitely make it a worthwhile accessory. If I wanted to do a juice cleanse, it would be pretty easy. It's also a good way to use up vegetables and fruits that might otherwise go bad (apples. I'm talking about apples. and maybe also spinach when you get it in the really big bag from Costco.).

Now that I have come to all of these conclusions, I don't think I really need the spreadsheet anymore. Plus, it's smoothie season, so I should probably start a spreadsheet for that instead. (just kidding. Each smoothie batch, which yields about 25 ounces, costs, on average, $1.24.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Smoothie Season!

Just a super fast post to talk briefly about how when the weather starts staying in the 80s and higher, it is smoothie season. Not necessarily my favorite season, but a very good season.

Current smoothie:
2% milk
Whole milk plain yogurt (which is so different from the yogurt I usually get that I don't even think it tastes like yogurt. It tastes like magic.)
1 banana
Frozen mango and pineapple
Frozen raspberries and blueberries

Blend!
Take to work!

I would consider a Costco membership *just* for the savings on frozen fruit. Smoothie season will probably continue well into the fall. I worry that it will negatively impact the amount of juice I usually make/drink, but given that I've been taking a break from juicing anyway (no reason, just taking a break), it would be very hard to prove.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mow all the lawns

I mow two lawns now, every week. Before I got my house, I really didn't like yard work, and one of the reasons I liked living in an apartment was not having to worry about that sort of stuff. Then I got a house, and my cheapness won out over my yardwork avoidance. I am not great at it, I basically mow about once a week (or once every two weeks in the parts of the year where you can get away with this) and my goal is never to have the best lawn, but to never have the worst lawn on the block. It's like that old saying about outrunning a bear. You don't have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the other person. In this case, the bear is yardwork. My dandelion-blessed lawn doesn't make this easy, but it has been all right so far.

Now I'm also mowing the lawn at my parents' house, which is luckily pretty close to my own. I don't think they're going to buy into my "the bear is yardwork" theory, so I'm actually trying to keep their lawn nicer. (They, and I, live on a street of retirees, which is AWESOME. There is no neighborhood watch like a retired neighborhood watch. They know about everything, and they will call the police if they get worried. I know it might seem like a bad thing, but it isn't. It's great.) Retirees love their lawns.

Mowing has become a good way for me to work through stress. It's mindless, there's a clear result at the end of it, and at least at my house, with my mower, there's also the added of excitement of "will this mower keep working until the lawn is totally mowed?" So far, the answer is yes. When it turns to no, then I'll get to fix a mower. It's either a throttle issue or a carburetor issue. I've never tinkered with either of those before, so I'm kiiind of looking forward to it. Small engine repair is fun, unlike painting (not fun. the worst). Plus, thanks to Craigslist, a new (to me), working (ish) mower is never far off, or very expensive. (at my parents' house, it's more a "this mower is so nice. I should get another mower like this for my house.")

I seem to be going the opposite direction with this blog than I did the last time I had a blog (on livejournal! remember livejournal? I do!), where I would tell interesting stories to the internet, and then when I saw people in person, I'd have nothing to talk about. Apparently I'm going for "aggressively boring" this time. Woo!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This is not a post about Spectrum Live

This is a post about what I have to do after Spectrum Live.

And that is basically sit in a dark room, sleep a lot, and try not to interact with people for a day or so, because I'm so overwhelmed by the amount and intensity of social interaction that has gone on for the entire weekend (and then some - things kicked off Thursday night this year) that I need to decompress. The same thing happens to me after San Diego Comic Con, but to a lesser degree. It turns out, the hierarchy of social exhaustion, for me, goes: event organizer, exhibitor, attendee. Attending shows is SO EASY. Exhibiting at shows involves dealing with a lot of people, but at the end of the day, I get to go out and do whatever and I don't really worry too much about the next day (part of this is because I have already planned out how that next day is going to go, with a lot of flexibility built in, and I have been exhibiting at San Diego for 9 years now and I feel very confident in my ability to handle anything that show throws at me). Being an event planner, though...even when I go out after the show, I'm asking people how their day went, and how the show is going for them, and how it compares to last year, etc. The majority of my conversations revolve around the show (and the show is something that I have had a huge part in putting together, so I'm very invested in it going well). When I go to sleep, I have to make an effort to stop thinking about how I can make the next day run more smoothly. When I wake up, usually around 6 am, my first thought is "what are the things I need to take to the show/remember to do at the show, who do I need to check on, etc." And then I get up and start making lists, and then I go to the convention center and do anything that needs to be done before the show opens, and anything I have time to do in addition to all of my usual stuff during the show itself.

This is all in addition to being the main liason for all of the special guests and generally being helpful and pleasant to all exhibitors and attendees. And I'm very good at doing all of these things, and I enjoy doing them. I just need some pretty serious downtime after the show ends, because I have no patience for anybody by that point. I'm too focused on getting as many things done as possible, not forgetting anything, helping as many people as I can, and making sure that the show runs smoothly in as many ways as I can humanly manage. And I can manage a lot of stuff. I was thinking about what it was about this year that was so much more challenging than last year (I was very busy last year, but I was somehow even busier this year) and I realized that, oh yeah, we had two more special guests than last year! And two more days of programming! Mystery solved.

I said something about this last night at dinner, and I 100% meant it: it's easy to be nice to people who are nice, and everyone I've ever worked with at the show has been really, really nice. But even as easy as it is, in some ways, it takes a lot of energy to interact with so many people and be high energy and, in some cases, literally run from one part of the convention center to another because something needs to be somewhere else as quickly as possible.

Once I can go out in the world again and interact with people in a civil, normal way, it's time to go find frames for all the art I've acquired over the course of the show! That part is way more fun than the "sit quietly, don't talk to anyone, take lots of naps" bit.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576"] Michael Whelan is a class act.[/caption]

I love the show, and I love being a part of it. It's challenging, and involves a lot of different elements to plan and participate in it, and as someone who is both horribly arrogant and highly competent, this is a good match for me. In addition to this, I'm not a natural extrovert, but I do pretty well, all things considered. My normal life involves a lot of time by myself, so this is probably the most intensely social weekend I have all year (followed by SDCC), and it's an odd mix of work and fun. The people are all super cool and interesting, and I enjoy talking to everyone, but it takes a lot out of me once it's over. It's like being on a massive caffeine bender, and as long as you keep going and stay awake, it's great, and then when you crash, you crash hard. I crash hard. It reminds me a little bit of my last year in college, where I was working full time at McDonalds, taking a full course load, and also doing an internship in Kansas City. I'd wake up at 4 am and I'd be going until about 11 pm (some of my classes were night classes) and I was fine as long as I didn't sit down on a comfortable chair. As soon as that happened, SUPER tired.

The show is all I can talk about for several weeks afterward. If you look at this post, you'll see the word "show" a tremendous number of times. I work very hard on it, I want it to succeed, and it holds my attention for quite a while after it's over. It did the same thing last year. I wouldn't call it an obsession, but I might call it a highly focused point of interest. An obsessive hobby. Hobbsession?Sorry, I'm still very tired.

Totally worth it, though. It's exhilarating.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spectrum Live is so soon

But it doesn't make Vacuuming Wednesday any less important.

I've got my Magic: The Gathering cards and I am confident that I will figure out what I'm wearing to the Spectrum Awards on Saturday.

We had an awesome planning meeting, and I can't wait for the show.

Too excited to sleep!

Also, people are apparently turning their air conditioners on. People, it is not that hot. Come on.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

[caption width="538" align="aligncenter"] None of us are tall.[/caption]

This is what I will be doing for the foreseeable future. Not tonight, though. But tomorrow. And every day. Until it's done.

Painting takes so much longer than I thought it would!

Monday, April 29, 2013

I went on a trip but I'm too distracted to properly blog about it

I was going to write about how I went to Moab and had a great vacation, but I'm too engrossed in watching "Going Postal" on Netflix.
So here are some pictures of a horrible souvenir I found in a store called "Colorado Souvenirs" for $5.99. I don't know why it exists. I know only that it is ridiculous.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323"] It is named Poopy.[/caption]

We camped in Moab. Lovely weather. One coldish day (in the 50s) and no very hot weather.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323"] Great view. Mostly.[/caption]

Did a lot of hiking around Arches and Canyonlands.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] People are trying to enjoy the scenery and *this* keeps happening. Terrible.[/caption]

There were even some flowers. They were lovely.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] Lovely.[/caption]

There were some really useful signs in Arches.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323"] I don't think he's dehydrated.[/caption]

I also did a lot of mountain biking, including Klondike Bluffs, which has dinosaur tracks. Actual dinosaur tracks!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] There were better tracks but the were literally along the path and I didn't want to get run over by bicyclists.[/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] That's not a dinosaur, Poopy.[/caption]

Trails we rode:

Dino Flow
Baby Steps
Klondike Bluffs

Sovereign Trail and Salt Wash Trail

Moab Brand Trails:
Lazy EZ
Bar M
Circle O
North 40

Circle O was particularly interesting. It was like a much easier baby version of the Slickrock trail, but without as many possibilities of death. It was really fun, though it was still pretty tricky. Slickrock is really fun to bike on. You can make it up amazingly steep bits if you get your balance right and you have enough power. For the first half of the trail, we were totally alone. Later, we ran into a number of small children biking the trail (they were with adults, don't worry). Moab has some badass little kids. I fell, but luckily not in view of children. Wrenched my back a little, but I'm fine now. It helps to visit people who also happen to be physical therapists. They are great.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323"] He's not breakin' the law.[/caption]

Anyway, I spent a few days in Moab, did some epic stuff. Spent a few days in Fort Collins. Recovered from my fall. Did some mellow biking on their awesome trails. It was great. Came home to yelling cats. They are whiny. But luckily, they are also sleepy, and they snore a lot. When I'm surrounded by snoring cats, I'm home.

When I get home from a trip, I put everything away and do laundry right away. I have to do this stuff. If I put it off, I put more things off, and it snowballs. I am a procrastinator. I might not be procrastinating right now, but it's always around that one thing that I don't do right away. That pot and pan I don't wash immediately after using. I would compare it to the old "There's no such thing as a cured alcoholic," but that seems incredibly disrespectful to alcoholics. I just have tendencies. I try to be aware of them.

Today, I mowed the surprisingly robust (and typically dandelion-filled) lawn and walked to the grocery store.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] This is not my lawn.[/caption]

I didn't check the cupboards before I went, so instead of making lentil stuff, as I had intended, I made curry. It wasn't even going to be curry, it was going to be stir fry. But then I remembered that I had some coconut milk and curry powder. (the recipe would go: make stir fry. add coconut milk and curry powder. Simmer.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323"] Delicious.[/caption]

Glad to be back.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

RPGs: We May Be Doing It Wrong

I play an RPG called "The One Ring" with a couple of friends on Sunday evenings (on the rare occasions when everyone can make it. So...once every month, maybe.), and it's a lot of fun. Other RPGs I've played over the years include but are not limited to, in reverse-chronological order, the Tomb of Horrors D&D module (which, as I look back on it, we *basically* "won," or at least, didn't lose, by running away from things), a rousing game of Mouse Guard (in which I forced a 15 minute discussion about what distances *really* meant - miles? or mouse miles? because human miles would be proportionally ENORMOUS compared to mouse miles! how fast can mice travel? etc etc etc. I am so fun!) and some AD&D stuff. Always very enjoyable.

Currently, I'm playing with a group where no one is any good at fighting. We should be okay at it, but our rolls are just the worst, and we've started handling this by running away. Often. During one fight, Ivar's strategy was to sign us an inspiring song, and then lasso a monster and kick it in the river. Now he's attempting to build an Athelas empire, a la "Breaking Bad." Lif (that's meeee!) is fixated on some severed thumbs we found AGES ago, because clearly they are important! Right? No. Everyone in Laketown thinks I'm creepy. And I've had limited success in trying to stab opponents in battle, even though I *should* be okay at things. I'm not. Terrible rolls. Avina isn't being generally ridiculous (though one battle strategy involved sending her dog to harass attackers), unless fluid dynamics are described in a manner that isn't consistent with real-world fluid dynamics, and this has actually been fantastic. "The lake water is still and mostly clear, but there is turbidity at the bottom." OH NO THERE ISN'T! (because the turbidity wouldn't be right at the bottom...you know what? Just trust me on this. Apparently, Carol is also someone for whom you should not run a module that includes any sort of sewer system. Because you're going to learn about how things do and do not actually work! I find this hilarious and educational.) The last major "fight" we had ended when we rushed our antagonist and pushed him down some stairs. I'm not kidding. The stairs were into a tomb, and in the tomb there was an angry mummy, so it was appropriately game-y, but we did not comport ourselves in a dignified battle manner.

This last session, we ended up using the power of local government to stymie some evil dude's attempt to get Smaug's teeth out of the lake at Laketown. Dragon teeth are never used for anything pleasant, and while we did float some ideas about getting the teeth first, or trying to destroy them, in the end, we suggested that it would be bad for the town's morale to disturb the bones of the dragon that burned it to the ground in its previous incarnation. We told, basically. We Parks and Rec'd that stuff.

We might be doing it wrong, but we totally lived to have another (fight-averse) adventure. And it's super, super fun.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things to do on a Thursday in KC

Did you know that the Screenland in the Crossroads has an arcade? Did you know that they call it a bar/arcade, and not a "barcade"? Why wouldn't you embrace barcade? Did you know that it costs $5 to play as MANY arcade games as you want?

They have the Journey game.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430"] Why does this exist?[/caption]

It is ridiculous, both in that it exists at all, and in its level of difficulty.

They had Tapper, and their website said they had Root Beer Tapper, but Root Beer Tapper wasn't...ahem...on TAP tonight. HAHAHA! Haa...Tapper is really fun, without being fiendishly difficult in the way that so many '80s video games are. Gauntlet has incredibly sarcastic narration! It was hilarious.

Other things: I am incredibly bad at Paperboy, BurgerTime is very difficult, Q-bert is also very difficult, Mortal Kombat II sounds like a Three Stooges movie if you can't remember what the actual moves are, and looks like it, too. Baraka and Shang Tsung in an epic slap fight to the anticlimactic "finish him." <slap> Ridiculous. Old arcade games are very hard! And very fun.

Four hours later, $5 poorer, many popcorns heavier, best Thursday night ever.

EDITED TO ADD: As of AGES ago, there 1. is no Screenland in the Crossroads, and the arcade in its $5 unlimited play incarnation is GONE. AND THIS IS SO SAD. I miss it every day.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Juicing: I Should Probably Keep Doing This

You may remember that I was *very* excited about juicing a couple of months ago, and I was making juice every day, and it was awesome, and I was keeping a ridiculously detailed spreadsheet, etc. Well, I got sick because that is how my body handles the transitions between seasons, and I stopped making juice for a couple of weeks. Then I got better, went to SXSWi, got a sinus infection, and ended up not making juice for a little over a month! (I know this because of the spreadsheet.) I did go to Jamba juice a couple of times while in Austin, but that hardly counts (it did reawaken my love of smoothies. Can't wait for summer!). Why didn't I make juice while sick? Laziness, habit, kept forgetting to buy kale, all these reasons and probably more. Actually, no. I think that's it.

When I was making and drinking juice almost every day, I noticed that my junk food cravings waned, and eventually almost disappeared. I'd have a soda once a week (at the Spectrum Live planning meeting), but I didn't really miss daily sodas, candies, or other traditionally awesome snack-type things. A couple of weeks ago, after not having had juice in several weeks, I started buying Kit Kats (when I say "buying" I mean "buying and immediately eating" and when I say "Kit Kats" I mean "like half a dozen Kit Kats") and drinking soda regularly and baking cakes (initially mistyped as "cats." I would never bake cats). It was very noticeable, and very weird. Today, I got a bag of post-Easter robin's egg candies (the ones that are basically malt balls) and ate half of it. Also I got a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper and drank several cups. These are facts. Another fact: My stomach hurts.

What I am trying to say is that, normally, I have a ridiculous sweet tooth (my ability to eat candy is legendary and terrifying) and absolutely no desire to curb it. What I noticed when I was drinking juice regularly, was that I just wasn't interested in the snacks that I would usually gravitate toward.

I've heard other people talk about not wanting the kinds of junk foods that they liked before they started making juice, and while I believed them, I was surprised that it was the same for me. I was also surprised by how *quickly* this shift occurred. So there's that.

This isn't to say that juice is a magical, life-changing thing. Juice can have a lot of sugar in it! I'm fine with that! I just think that I'm probably, personally, better off drinking juice than I am, say, eating 2 pounds of Twizzlers, which I WOULD have done over Easter weekend, but lately, every time I go to get Twizzlers, the regular strawberry ones are sold out and all they have are the pull-and-peels, which are disgusting, or the weird tropical flavors. Or Red Vines. Red Vines are *fine* but they're not *inspiring.* Not like strawberry Twizzlers. Other things, while I'm bragging about candies I have eaten: I used to pour Skittles into juice glasses and just eat them until my jaw hurt so much I couldn't eat any more. I also used to live on Raisinets, Mountain Dew Code Red, Twizzlers, McDonalds food and V8. The V8 was for health. Obviously. Also I'm not kidding. Shockingly, I do not have diabetes. Yet.

Back to things that aren't focused on my amazing ability to consume sugar, which I am weirdly proud of, and other people are openly horrified by:
Previously, I would make one particular juice recipe (mean green, outlined on this blog and many other places on the web), and if I didn't have those ingredients, I'd go to the store so that I could get them, and while that's an awesome and economical juice (about $3 per batch, which is just under a liter of juice), I decided that today was the day I was going to get back into juicing, and expand my juicing horizons.

Today's juice recipe:
2 large gala apples
7 carrots
1 lemon
a bunch of spinach (I stuff handfuls of lettuce into a container and then I use one or two containers per batch, depending on whether or not I have other dark leafy greens to use)
4 stalks celery

Yield: just under 1 liter of juice.
Taste: delicious.

I just have to remember to keep a couple of key elements in the house (haven't decided which those are yet - maybe apples. Apples are always nice to have around, since they make good snacks, and are a good delivery system for peanut butter. Apples, lemons because they last forever, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables. There! Solved it!) and I have to stay in the habit of making juice. Because it is awesome.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What to do when you have a bag of vegetables and no plan

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="639"] Vegetable dinner.[/caption]

My friend Steve came over with a bag of vegetables, and we managed to make an awesome dinner of kale stuff, Brussels sprouts, stir fry and rice.

Rice:
Make some rice in whatever way you usually make rice.

Brussels sprouts sauteed in butter, with salt and pepper. A classic, but delicious.

Vegetable stir fry:
Ingredients:
Broccoli
Asparagus
Onion (diced)
Garlic (minced)
Olive oil
Sesame oil
Fish sauce
Sweet chili sauce
Soy sauce

Everything is pretty much to taste. This is how stir fry works!
Saute onions and garlic in oil. Add broccoli. Add asparagus. Add sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and some water. Cook until broccoli and asparagus are ready.

Kale with stuff:
Onion (diced)
Garlic (minced)
Olive oil
Chicken broth - 1 can
Dijon mustard - 1 tbsp
Apple cider vinegar - just a quick dash
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Kale - as much as you can fit into the pot
Lingonberry preserves - 1 tbsp

In a medium pot, saute onions and garlic in oil. Add broth, vinegar, mustard, sugar. Bring to a boil. Add kale. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes (or until kale is done). Add preserves and stir in. Serve over rice!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things You Can Do Over a Weekend

1. You can go see a play!
I saw "Slashdance" at the Coterie After Dark. For anyone living in Kansas City, the Coterie is an institution. Their not-for-children productions are often very original and very good. The set design is inventive and the performances are excellent. I have never seen "Flashdance," so I don't think that I fully appreciated all of the jokes, but it was still an excellent horror/spoof/comedy. As good as "Sorority House of the Damned," and better than "Children of the Damned Corn."

2. You can subscribe to a hippie magazine!
After spending some quality time in the Barnes and Noble in Zona Rosa, I was sufficiently intrigued by "Mother Earth News" to subscribe for a year. Things I said to Mike this weekend, after reading the latest issue: "You could raise chickens!" "We could build a greenhouse!" "We should go to this hippie fair in Lawrence in October!"

3. You can prepare for a storm by going to the store!
I got chocolate milk, marshmallows, Reese's peanut butter cups and Kit Kats. Prepared!

4. You can make a terrible mocha and drink it very quickly.
Maybe don't do this one.

5. You can watch "Safety Not Guaranteed."
I didn't know what to expect going in, but it was so much more, and so much better, than I could have imagined. Given that the three leads are fairly prominent presences on sitcoms, their performances were familiar but not expected. Everyone was excellent. The story was interesting and emotional without being maudlin or overly contrived. There were two very slow chase scenes, which were unexpectedly hilarious. I felt more feeling than I expected to feel. The description of longing for something that has gone away was achingly poignant and beautiful. I really liked this movie. You should watch it.

6. You can shovel a driveway.
Ugh.

7. You can almost buy a mo-ped on Craigslist.
Don't do this one. You don't need a mo-ped. You have a bicycle! (right? no? get a bicycle! they are so great!)

8. You can do laundry.
Maybe it would be a good idea if you have some time!

9. You can get very paranoid about a wall in your basement that has ALWAYS bulged a little bit, to the point where you call your neighbor who knows about this stuff to make him come over and look at it and tell you that it's okay.
This is another one that I can't really recommend, but it's certainly how I spent part of my evening! (and yes, it is okay!)

10. You can sit on a couch so your cats can hang out and fall asleep on you.
This is probably the best thing you can do over a weekend.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When bored in gloomy weather, make some food

A few things happened today.
1. I have been reading too many finance blogs, and feel a little bit bad about driving to the grocery store, which is only a mile away from my house. Mostly because the one I stayed up until midnight reading last night is written by a bike evangelist. Bike everywhere! Stop driving! Why do you keep driving places?
2. It snowed and was all gloomy and grey all day.
3. I had a discussion with a friend about how it is much, much cheaper to bake an ENTIRE cake than it is to buy a single cupcake. Also, I don't particularly care for cupcakes, on account of the frosting to cake ratio (it is too high!). She pointed out that the downside to baking a cake is that you then have an entire cake. You could eat an entire cake. I disagreed with the "downside" assessment.

Because of these things, I ended up coming home from work, walking (I'm still sick! Biking was too much!) to the grocery store to get supplies, then making chili (I had meat in the freezer from my "I think eating meat is a great idea!" days and I hate to waste things. Also chili is one of my very favorite things to make and eat) and baking a cake.

The chili won't be ready for a couple more hours, which is disappointing, but I'm excited about lunch tomorrow. Also, this is a HUGE batch of chili. It's going to see me through the last of this lingering winter weather. It's not even my usual oddly vegetable-heavy "recipe." ("Would you like some chili?" "Yes. Wait...did you put a bunch of vegetables in it?" "No. Well, carrots." "You always put carrots in chili!" "Well I always have carrots in the house!" This is true. Sometimes I put broccoli and cauliflower in chili. That's...not the best. At some point, it just becomes an aggressively tomato-heavy vegetable stew.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Chili without a bunch of vegetables. Aka "actual chili.""][/caption]

The cake was supposed to have chocolate frosting, but the frosting I had was very, very old, and I didn't trust it. I thought about making frosting, and then decided to just have plain chocolate cake. Because that's totally good too!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="The cake, in this case, is not a lie."][/caption]

Recipes!

Actual meat-heavy chili without a bunch of vegetables (this makes a LOT of chili. As they said in "Jaws," "We're going to need a bigger crock pot." You will, in fact, need a very large crock pot. You could also make this in a very large pot on the stove, but I like the crock pot because it requires very little supervision)
Ingredients:
1# ground turkey
1# ground sausage
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 onions
5 or 6 medium sized carrots
1 cup assorted dried beans (in this case, half Great White Northern beans and half pinto beans)
1 can light red kidney beans
2 largeish (14 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
2 small cans (4 oz? 6 oz? they were little) tomato paste
1 small can of sliced mushrooms
1 can cheap beer (Budweiser is great for this)
1 tbsp cumin
lots of chili powder
pickled jalapeno brine if you have it, to taste

Slice onions and carrots. Thaw meat, if necessary.
Saute the garlic and onions in a skillet until fragrant. Add ground meat and brown (I had to do this in 2 batches, it'll depend on your skillet).
Put everything in the crock pot. Add water if necessary, so that there's a good amount of liquid (you'll need it for the beans). Cook on high for 5-7 hours, or until the beans are done (the Great White Northern beans are the best ones to test, because they take the longest). Add water if necessary. Stir occasionally. Add hot sauce at the end (preferably something with cayenne and vingar).
Eat.
Feel better about this whole "cold weather in what is now technically Spring" thing.

Cake:
It's a box cake mix. It was $0.99. Read the box. Make the cake. Let the cake cool before you try to cut it or it'll just be a mess.
Eat some cake.
Think about how awesome it is that you have a WHOLE CAKE now!
Package up majority of cake to share with others.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to make, and then make better, some gravy stuff

Last night, I essentially made a roastless pot roast in the crock pot. Sliced carrots, celery and potatoes, with half a package of stuffing mix that I'd had in the cupboard. I added water, set on high, and cooked for several hours. The result was uninspiring, as you would expect roastless pot roast to be.

Today, I took that disappointing roastless pot roast and turned it into chickenless, pieless chicken pot pie. I did this by cooking butter and flour in a skillet, then stirring in the stuff from last night.

Delicious. Given the various names, and math, all you are left with is "pot." But I'm going to call it "gravy stuff" instead. It is the latest addition to a proud line of "what do I have in the house, and what can I make with it? And can I use my crock pot to do this?" recipes.

Gravy Stuff Recipe:
Whatever conventional vegetables you have on hand (carrots, onions, celery, potatoes). Slice them.
Cook on high in crock pot with spices, or stuffing mix, along with enough water to cover about 3/4 of the vegetables. This will take a couple of hours, but not too long. It's just vegetables. You could also do this on the stove. Once they are done, stir butter and flour into a roux in a skillet, then pour in the liquid from the crock pot. Stir until the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper.

If you had cooked chicken (or canned chicken) handy, you could easily add that and end up with a "chicken a la king" type dish.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some observations from a tv/nap weekend

My cats can outnap me. I know that shouldn't be surprising, but I've been sick. I didn't get out of bed until 2 pm. Then, I watched television for almost the rest of the day/napped. Because I did this on a sofa, my neck hurts. Most of the TV/naptime was spent with one or both of the cats sleeping on or near me. I really thought I was going to outnap them. It didn't happen.

TV shows that I have been watching:
Parks and Rec
New Girl
Mindy
Community
Suburgatory
Raising Hope

"Suburgatory" and "Raising Hope" are new, surprise favorites. They initially seemed very cartoony, but I have come to love them. They have overarching storylines (sometimes buried beneath wacky one-off type episodes) and the casting for both shows is amazing. I'd encourage anyone looking for a new sitcom to give both of these a try, with the caution that you have to give both shows a few episodes to grow on you. Unless you start with the "Raising Hope" episode with Christopher Lloyd. If you aren't immediately won over, then I don't know what's wrong with you, but I feel sorry for you.

I have spent the last two days watching marathons of all of the aforementioned shows on Hulu Plus, which I sometimes, in the past, haven't thought was worth however much a month it is. I take it back. It's great, and I'm so glad I got it. It's the difference between hooking my television up to my computer, and just watching things via my blu-ray player. It's a tiny, tiny thing, but it makes binge-watching television so, so much easier.

Another thing I have learned this weekend is that I am loathe to get into hourlong shows, even when I am interested in them. "Once Upon A Time" and "Revenge" used to be my hourlong go-tos, but I haven't watched either of them in ages. I am very interested in "Nashville" and "Heart of Dixie" (in no small part because of recaps from The Fug Girls) but I just can't bring myself to start watching them. I have no idea why this is. I watched HOURS of television today...but it was presented in half-hour chunks. That, for some reason, is totally fine.

Enough rambling! Back to television! Or napping! Depending on when this Sleepy Time Extra tea kicks in.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Robot and Frank" review

It's not JUST a review. It's also an outline of how to still have a lovely Saturday night when you and one of your friends are very sick! Sick date!
Ingredients:
two or more similarly ill people
pho
tea
movie
supplemental materials:
SNL "Pirate Convention" sketch with Peter Sarsgaard
SNL "Old Glory Insurance" sketch with Sam Waterson

Tonight's movie: "Robot and Frank" starring Frank Langella and a Robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard. Also other people (Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Sisto, some other jerky dude). Main plot points (these are in the trailer, so I don't consider these to be spoilers): Frank Langella has something elderly dementia-y. The robot is supposed to help take care of him. Frank Langella is also a former cat burglar. In many ways, the movie plays out the way you would expect it to. However, the performances by everyone, especially Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, turn the movie into something that is somehow more poignant and depressing than you could have guessed. It was excellent.

This review would be longer, but I am still sick.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SXSWi

I went to South By Southwest Interactive. It was awesome. I attended 14 or 15 panels. Some of them were good (Survey Monkey CEO talk! Behavior Change As Value Proposition talk!) some were terrible (WEATHER COMPANY CEO I AM LOOKING AT YOU. No umbrella could make up for making us watch not one but TWO actual commercials FOR THE WEATHER COMPANY. Terrible!). Austin as a city is lovely, and I saw the bats at twilight, and I walked around City Lake (which is really the Colorado River). Ate at a lot of food trucks. Got a lot of interesting receipts (sorry, accounting department).

The meet-ups were all really helpful, and I met a lot of really interesting people. I learned that people who work at Campbell's Soup have amazing business cards. I also learned that the American habit of not dancing to bands is very weird to Europeans. "You all just stand there and kind of nod your heads. It's very weird." - Swiss dude I kept running into in panels. We both agreed the Weather Company panel was terrible. Also I lost the umbrella they gave me (wellll...I left it in the Comixology panel because I didn't feel like carrying it anymore).

On the last day, I got a sinus infection. I had to travel sick! It was terrible. I'm still sick. It's still terrible.

SXSWi: pretty awesome. Would go again. It has a very steep learning curve, and I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing until the second day. It's very spread out, and there are way too many fascinating presentations going on all the time, so it's impossible to see all the things you want to see. I eventually settled on a strategy of focusing on a certain geographical area, and only trying to get into panels that I found personally interesting. The descriptions are often incredibly inaccurate, so things that you might think would be useful for your job often end up being long commercials for services you won't use. It's a much better idea to just go see things that are interesting. Dynamic speakers will have things to say that apply to whatever it is that you're doing. I definitely learned a lot. I also ate a lot of food.

This would be a better-written blog post, but I've got a killer sinus infection. Blargh.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"The Flying Dutchman" (subtitle suggestion: "Not the best, but technically an opera!")

Kansas City is fortunate enough to have a wonderful arts center and an opera company, as I have discussed in the past. I have enjoyed almost every production they have put on. UNTIL NOW.

The opera playing currently is Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman." I have many thoughts about this production. The nicest things I can say are: It was very German. Everyone sounded very good. It certainly was an opera.

This is similar to my mother's review of the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which went "Well, the background music wasn't too loud, there wasn't any bad language, and Keanu Reeves looked nice in his suit."

All of these things are true.

This is not a criticism of the performers. Everyone was in good voice, and the acting was fine. This was a failure of direction and staging. It's also, frankly, a failure inherent in the opera. The story is weak, and at times laughable. It's a flimsy foundation.

If you're not familiar with the story, a dude declared that he'd sail around a cape if it took forever, the devil heard him and cursed him to sail the seas forever, every seven years he goes on land to try to find a faithful wife who will love him unto death, he meets a sea captain with a daughter who has been obsessed with his legend and his portrait, he marries her, he thinks she's been unfaithful but she hasn't, she vows to be faithful unto death, and then...it ends! It just ends. It should be so dramatic and interesting, but it's just not. It reminded me of nothing so much as this "Cul de Sac."

None of the performers seemed to connect to any of the other performers, and this disconnect seemed deliberate. There were moments that were clearly meant to be mysterious or moving, but instead were unintentionally hilarious. If the Dutchman is going to appear and disappear from dark doorways, it doesn't add to the drama when I can see him running from one doorway to another like someone in "Hee Haw." When a ghost chorus appears, and living sailors drop to the floor and raise their hands dramatically, it shouldn't bring to mind a badly done Lady Gaga video. When Senta declares her faithfulness at the end, the Dutchman, who has JUST SAILED AWAY suddenly appears next to her, takes her hand, and then a giant picture frame is lowered so that they are now in a "portrait," and all the actresses portraying Senta at various ages appear in front of the "picture" and turn creepily toward the audience. AND THAT IS IT. That is the end of the opera. I still have no idea what happened. I guess it worked out for them? The people behind me were pretty sure that Senta should have stuck with her non-cursed hunter boyfriend. I agree with them.

It was entertaining, but certainly not in any of the ways it was supposed to be. This was a rare misstep for the Lyric Opera, and I look forward to seeing their production of "The Mikado" in the spring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Twas the night before Spectrum judging and I got to go to the dinner

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="I get to do neat things."][/caption]

My favorite thing about working with the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live show is getting to know people in the industry. Well, my favorite thing might be the art. But it's tied for first with getting to know people in the industry. Everyone has amazing stories, and in many cases, I'm getting to talk to people whose work I've been impressed by for a very long time. This is a neat thing. (My job is like this too, but as per usual, I won't be talking about that. Suffice to say, my job is awesome. My work with Spectrum Live is awesome. My cats are awesome. Caffeine is awesome. Why is it so late? I have to get up early tomorrow! Look at my life! Look at my choices!)

Tonight, I got to have dinner with Tim Bruckner, Irene Gallo, Tim Kirk, Mark Nelson, Michael Whelan, John Flesk, and Arnie and Cathy Fenner. I can't even get into the stories because there were too many of them, and they were all hilarious and amazing. I've been a science fiction and fantasy (and comics) fan for as long as I've been able to read, and to get to listen and participate in these conversations is very, very cool.

Also, I got a shout-out in a ridiculous holiday video that I somehow managed to miss when it was posted! Clearly, I should set up a google alert for my name (I'm not going to do that, that sounds terrible).

Seriously, though, art is clearly #1

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lentil stuff

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="403" caption="The best part is getting ambitious with the hot sauce and then drinking a lot of water because it buuuurns. The other best part is taking GREAT PHOTOS."][/caption]

This recipe is from The Hairpin, but with some modifications.

Mostly, measure NOTHING. Just use whatever onions and carrots you have in the fridge. Then forget what kind of tomato stuff you're supposed to use, and use whatever you have in your pantry. It will be fine. I'm serious.

Ingredients:
onions
carrots
lentils
garlic if you have it
tomato stuff (I've used tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and probably tomato paste, too, at various times, and it was always fine in the end. Different, but delicious. OK, maybe not tomato paste)
other stuff that you want to use up, like, maybe, meatless "ground beef" from Trader Joe's

Slice the onions and cook until soft in a pot of appropriate size for the random amounts of stuff you're going to be cooking (olive oil or butter...do you want to be vegan? or not-vegan?)
Slice the carrots and add them to the pot
Add whatever weird other things you've got sitting around but aren't sure what to do with. Stir.
(wash the lentils) Add the lentils to the pot, along with an appropriate amount of water for the amount of lentils
Cook for a while.
Add some hot sauce (sriracha, random very hot hot sauce in your fridge that your mom made, both, whatever)
Cook longer until the lentils are soft.
Did you put too much hot sauce in? Maybe you should have made some rice! You can make rice later and have it with leftover.

This stuff keeps for a really, really long time. And I think it gets better as it ages, like chili.

I don't have a good way to work pictures of cats into this.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323" caption="...but I won't let that stop me!"][/caption]

 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snow snow snow

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="I love shoveling snow!"][/caption]

We got about 10 inches of snow last week, which was exciting and pretty and all of the things that go with snow. It also caused a number of businesses to shut down (mine included, but we all just worked from home anyway) and many, many buses to slide off the road. 10 inches of snow on a north-facing driveway means lots of snow-shoveling. Which worked out fine, because I have excellent snow-shoveling clothes (they include a Columbia ski bib from the one time I went skiing in 1999, excellent snow boots, ski gloves - also used only once for skiing, but many times for shoveling - and a very heavy hoodie. Plus heavy wool socks, because I am obsessed with SmartWool socks and have many, many, many pairs. Pairs I never thought I would use, they are so warm!

I have a couple of neighbors who do things like shovel other people's driveways and mow the lawns of the elderly (I live on a block with many retirees, which is something I'd highly recommend, as they keep an eye out on EVERYTHING, but they're not great at shoveling because it is cold and difficult!), and one of them has a snowblower. I was offered the use of this snowblower, but refused because I am stubborn and young enough to shovel my entire double-wide driveway ON MY OWN! I am also young enough to SLEEP ON A FUTON for no good reason! What I am saying is that I am young enough to make terrible choices, and also my back hurts a great deal now.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Go KU! (my neighbor made this!)"][/caption]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Here's a novella about my Spectrum live feelings!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="376" caption="Spectrum Live!"][/caption]

So aside from my day job, which is basically the coolest job I can think of (yet describe in the most boring way possible, and will not talk about in this space, probably), I have been working on Spectrum Fantastic Art Live for the last few years.

What is it? It's an art show with a focus on fantasy and science fiction. It includes concept art, three-dimensional art, oil paintings, sketches, digital art, bronzes, dolls...it's a long list. If it can be imagined, it's probably represented.

Basically it's a spotlight on art and artists, and a way to bring these artists and their art to the public. If you're a nerd like me, you'll love it. Trust me.

It all started at a Dead Dog Party at San Diego Comic Con in, oh, probably 2009 or 2010. I was talking to Arnie and Cathy Fenner, and they floated the idea of a convention centered specifically around artists. If you've been to SDCC in the last ten years, you know that there are MANY areas of focus, and some (Hollywood, video games, television shows) are taking over more and more attention and floor space. The Fenners thought that an art-focused show would be great for fans and artists alike, and I thought it was a great idea.

If you aren't familiar with the Fenners, they publish an art annual called "Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art," and they have been doing this for the last 20 years. 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the book, and it's an amazing publication. If you've never seen one, go to a bookstore or comic shop and find one (and buy it). It's an amazing collection of art. I was lucky enough to be a judge for Spectrum 18, and it was both an amazing experience and quite an education into the kind of work that's being produced. Amazing. Fantastic! (if you find a copy of Spectrum 18, you'll see my photo in the jury section, wearing my Carrie Donovanest glasses.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="409" caption="It's this one!"][/caption]

Anyway, they know their stuff, and they've been focused on this art for a long time. A year or so after our SDCC conversation, they asked if I would be interested in being involved in making this theoretical show happen, and I said yes. Of course.

We had to put together a show from scratch - getting the word out to potential exhibitors, figuring out the floor plan, scheduling programming, everything...not to mention the logistics of finding a venue, figuring out all of the little details (insurance! security! how money works!) that add up to a show. We thought it would be hard, and we were totally right! It was super hard! We had weekly meetings for more than a year leading up to the inaugural event, which was May 18-20, 2012, in the Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall in Kansas City.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="408" caption="The scene of the convention...pre, you know, *convention*."][/caption]

We also put together a number of events around the show. We had a special screening of "Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffery Catherine Jones," by Maria Paz Cabardo. It was inspiring and bittersweet and just remarkable. If you ever have a chance to see this film, do it. We also had a late-night live drawing session at the top of one of the convention hotels, which drew a great crowd, and I missed because 1. I don't draw 2. I was soooo tired.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="376" caption="This was obviously staged, but I WAS very tired."][/caption]

I did, however, make it to the first ever Spectrum Awards.

Each volume of the Spectrum book includes category winners, and the winners have always been announced in a press release. Because we had a physical event, we decided that it would be a great opportunity to finally have an awards show to celebrate the winners of these categories. We booked the Midland Theater, planned even MORE stuff (Quixotic performed! My favorite thing about this was that when they were announced, the crowd was kind of "I have no idea who this is because I am not from the KC area, but okay, polite applause," and when they finished, the applause was deafening. Way to go, Quixotic. Way to be awesome!) and all these amazing artists, art directors and other people involved in art community managed to tear themselves away from KC's famous BBQ to give speeches, accept awards, and have a great time.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Phaedroid also performed. Amazing."][/caption]

So we did this amazing show, we had over 250 exhibitors from all around the world, art directors from every discipline (comic books, video games, board games, movie studios, AND MORE!) and people like me! Fans. Well, I was technically the "special guest wrangler" which sounds a little weird, but I got to have walkie-talkie conversations that went like this "Does anybody have eyes on Mignola?" "Yes, I see him...3 o'clock...where's his panel?" etc. Best guest-wrangling experience was being told that the Shifletts hadn't showed up for their panel yet, and finding Jarrod watching Iain McCaig's presentation. Artists are fans of each other! It's so obvious, yet also so wonderful to see in action.

Looking over that "from every discipline" bit reminds me of an article that ran in my college newspaper back in the day. I lived in the scholarship halls at KU, which was kind of like the Greek system, without the money and the social skills. And nerdier. The newspaper would sometimes run profiles of rooms, and they ran one of a room in Battenfeld, which was the schol hall next to mine (Watkins!). The money quote was one of these young men saying "We have over 200 pounds of books, and we have everything from science fiction to fantasy."

(200 pounds of books is not that much, dudes. come on.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="324" caption="Imagine that I'm also holding "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes" and "The Complete Far Side" and that's 200 pounds of me, cats and comics. Not that impressive."][/caption]

This is so rambly...I'm so sorry. I'm just trying really hard to not let it turn into marketing text. It's like finding religion, or drugs, or being on fire, or having an experience that you want to share with everyone but you just know you won't be able to explain it sufficiently. I want, so badly, to convey how important, wonderful, energizing, amazing this show was, and I know that nothing I can type here is going to make you feel the way I felt at the show.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Just like how nothing I post can make you understand just how fuzzy James' belly really is. Language has failed me even more thoroughly than T9 predictive texting when it was pretty sure I spent all my time playing "videohands.""][/caption]

Sunday night, everybody hung out in one of the hotel bars to drink and talk and decompress. This was the first SFAL ever, and no one had known what to expect. I went around and asked for feedback, and I honestly expected a mix of good and bad. What I heard was overwhelmingly positive (and some constructive criticism which I did write down and we took to heart for 2013). I had been really tired, and I thought about just going home, but all I could think was that this was happening in MY CITY. And I helped make it happen. And there was no way I was going to miss out on the last night with all of these amazing people.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Paul Tobin! If I remember correctly, we were talking about Frank Lloyd Wright, and I was probably talking about how he never made livable spaces and was a huge jerk in his personal life. Because those are the kinds of conversations I insist on having with talented artists from around the world."][/caption]

I was overwhelmed by how amazing the show was, and how uplifted I felt during and after the event. I was seriously dazed for a month after, because I couldn't believe it had really happened, and it had gone so well. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, for me, it was a life-changing experience.

I'm one of the organizers for Spectrum Live because sometimes, the only way to go to the kind of show you want to attend is to build it yourself.

We have a Facebook page.
And a website where you can buy tickets to the show and book hotel rooms if you're coming from out of town.

The show this year is May 17-19.
I really can't wait.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christopher Walken is amazing

"Bear costumes are funny... Bears as well."
-Christopher Walken

I watched "Seven Psychopaths" a couple of days ago and was struck by how nice it was to see Christopher Walken in a role that understood what a *good* actor he can be. He's in a lot of movies. It is said that he never turns down a role, and this seems likely. He's often the best part of a bad movie (often the best part of a good movie, frankly) and I always enjoy watching him, no matter what he's doing. But he's a really talented, award-winning actor, and that sometimes gets lost in the sheer volume of work that he does.

He's also a fantastic dancer, but I don't think anyone really forgets about that. If you haven't seen "Pennies From Heaven," well, I wouldn't really recommend it, because it is a disturbing, unsettling movie, but he has an amazing tap-dancing/stripping scene on a pool table that must be seen to be believed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kind of about handbags, kind of about the difficulties inherent in replacing things that are perfectly functional when you are a terrible cheapskate

I like handbags. This is becoming a blog about things I like! I do like handbags, but I don't tend to buy handbags. I look at handbags, I think seriously about purchasing handbags (when they are sufficiently on sale) and I admire the handbags of stylish people. When asked what I did in a given day, often, "I looked at a handbag and then didn't buy it" is part of my answer. ("long story about my cats" and "made juice and/or chili" are also popular answers)

The problem ("problem") is that I like very expensive handbags, but I can't ever justify paying a great deal of money for a bag. Even when a nice bag is on sale, it's still ridiculously expensive. Compare this to, say, socks. I can understand why you'd want nice socks. Socks are very, very useful. You need multiples of them! They come in handy for hiking and really anything you'd want to do outside that involves feet. When they go on sale, they can be very reasonable. I could get a whole new sock-robe (ward-sock?) for far less than the cost of one nice, on-sale bag.

Of the bags I like, I'm most conflicted about Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. line. They veer from "that is the best bag I have ever seen" to "that is the worst bag I have ever seen." Sometimes I need a second opinion to make sure I'm not accidentally filing one of the latter items into the former category because I have been blinded by the label. Just because Gwen Stefani can pull it off, doesn't mean that I should make the attempt.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Oh sorry, were you talking about handbags and materialism? I was reading this informative pamphlet about Harvesters and thinking about charitable giving."][/caption]

I think the post I originally intended to write was really just about how I'm weirdly fascinated by handbags while simultaneously mentally unable to justify purchasing them. But another blog I wanted to write was about how it's really hard to justify purchasing nicer versions of things I already have. When you set up a household initially, you get things that are functional and you think "I will replace these later when I have the money to get what I really want." Easier said than done, younger self! This is very difficult for me to do. I am pretty sure that I will eat off of the stoneware my mom got me from a church sale in 2003 for the rest of my life. I will look at new, elegant china sets, and I will think "but I have a perfectly functional stoneware set at home which is both microwave and oven safe!" Similarly, "I would like to get a nice new down comforter for the nautical room, but instead, I'll just put four blankets on this bed!" Works great!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Donald doesn't mind that there are a bunch of blankets under here!"][/caption]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Could God make a bar of soap so big he couldn't use it without dropping it?

One of the things I like is nice soap. I think it's in response to a childhood of very sensitive skin, which drastically limited my soap options. Now that I am older and less allergic, I can appreciate a fancy soap. I usually just get Dial glycerin soaps, because they are nice, not too strongly scented (I still have a fragrance sensitivity, and a tendency toward migraines. A winning combination!) and cheap. The cranberry soap is very nice in the winter - it's festive.

When visiting my parents recently, I discovered that my father has gotten really into going to T.J. Maxx and finding ENORMOUS fancy soaps.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="377" caption="This soap was not made for human hands."][/caption]

I took several minutes to stare in horror, take photos of the soap next to other objects, and determine a strategy for using a soap so unwieldy.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="This is one of those bars of Dial cranberry glycerin soap I mentioned. Such a reasonable size!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="These are not travel-sized tooth-brushing supplies. These are full-sized tooth-brushing supplies!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="377" caption="Do you know about "Cul de Sac"? It's the best comic strip ever, and its collections are slightly larger than this soap."][/caption]

 

It's very nice soap, especially if you want to feel very, very small.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The charm of a good potato

I'm still working on that chili I made a couple of weeks ago. I talk about chili a lot, but I don't think I give enough credit to really good potatoes (and, honestly, it doesn't take a lot to achieve "good potato" status. Is it recognizably a potato? You're all set! Good potato!).

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="509" caption="This is a bad potato. Actually, this is David Foster Potato, my desk friend potato from 2011."][/caption]

There is a certain, boring thrill I get when the microwave (I'm lazy) beeps and the floury smell of potato wafts out. Then, I cover it in chili, pickled jalapenos and hot sauce. It gets a little less thrilling after the second week, but on a cold night, even leftover leftover leftovers have their charm.

 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Many paths to happiness

One of the things I wanted when I got a house was to have a dedicated guest room, so that if my friends wanted to visit, it would be easy for them to do so. I just had a friend from New York stay with me for the weekend, and it was awesome. I got to show off my house, Donald and James got to make a new friend, and visitors are always a great excuse to go do things in Kansas City that I might not normally do. Things like driving around at night and pointing out the different awesome buildings and neighborhoods (Kauffman Center, Bartle Hall), going to special occasion restaurants (Port Fonda), seeing the symphony (okay, that's a normal one for me) and going to pop concerts (Lady Gaga!). We'd stay up late watching movies, then I'd wake up in the mornings and make coffee and juice, sit in the breakfast nook, and generally have a nice time.

Sometimes I worry that I'm too excited about showing off my life, if that makes sense. This is where I live, these are the things I do, this is the city that I love...I know that I am very fortunate to be in this position, and there are many factors that play a role in it. One of them is that I'm just happy with things as they are. I like it here. I don't spend a lot of time wishing I was somewhere else, I can't image a job that I'd enjoy more (and I have side projects that I'm just as excited about) and I make an effort to become friends with people who are interesting and uplifting.

I believe that there are many ways to be happy.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="One of James' paths to happiness involves helping make the bed."][/caption]

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Breakfast for dinner

When I was in grade school, once a month, the cafeteria would offer "breakfast for lunch." This was one of the most popular lunches, and looking back on it, I have no idea why. We'd drown the Eggo-style waffles in so much maple-flavored syrup that they were totally soggy, the sausages were okay but not amazing, and the eggs were standard scrambled eggs. I distinctly remember being fairly unimpressed by pancakes and eggs at home, so I don't know why, when breakfast was moved to lunch, it suddenly became an amazing culinary event. My conclusion is that kids are weird, and I don't understand them.

As an adult, breakfast for dinner is definitely awesome. It's an easy thing to put together if you* want to invite people over, it's novel enough to be appealing yet easy enough to be quick and fairly cheap. (If you're buying fancy local humanely raised guilt-bacon, like me, you may need to add scare quotes around "cheap." However, and I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, this was probably some of the best bacon I've had.) Fancy glassware can be used to serve orange juice, which is delicious, and waffles are a treat for the waffle-iron-less. Waffles are also incredibly easy to make, even when you have a very finicky waffle maker with no timing element, a tendency to get hotter the longer it's on, and an undeniable bent toward destruction. Even slightly over- or underdone waffles are delicious.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Faaaancy glassware"][/caption]

I don't really have a point. It might have something to do with "night coffee isn't a great idea, and now I'm writing this at 12:30 am instead of sleeping." Also, if you're going to do breakfast for dinner, a dishwasher is a very nice thing to have.

The only bad thing about breakfast for dinner as a social event is that you'll probably have to eat in the dining room, as opposed to the breakfast nook (if you have a breakfast nook). This ties into my earlier post about houses, though...breakfast nooks are delightful. Not a dealbreaker for a kitchen, but an unexpectedly delightful bonus.

*I have no idea why I'm writing this with a prescriptive bent. Obviously, I am talking about myself. I do appreciate any opportunity to use my fancy glassware. And my waffle maker is obnoxiously tricky to use. It makes a lion, an elephant and a clown. The clown is the smallest, and always ends up a little burnt, like the bucket brigade didn't quite make it in time.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Breakfast for breakfast at the breakfast nook.This clown is a little deformed, but pretty perfect as far as "not horribly burnt" goes."][/caption]

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New sheets

I am kind of into bedding. I like high thread counts, nice flannel sheet sets, interesting quilts and blankets, and old army blankets. I also love down comforters.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="He's helping."][/caption]

James likes bedding too. He reeeally likes bedding. I can't make a bed in the house without his help (which translates to him attacking the sheets, burrowing under every set of sheets and blankets as they go on the bed, and generally being a terrible nuisance).

Anyway, I've got two nice sets of regular sheets and one set of flannel sheets for both my master bedroom and guest room, and a couple of "Bed in a Bag" (do other people know what I mean by this? The cheap, 200-threadcount sets that include comforters and shams and ruffles and stuff. Generally in soothing, neutral hotel colors.) sets for the futon in the office. I had a Kohl's gift certificate to spend, and nothing I really needed from Kohl's, so I thought I'd check out their flannel sets. Now is, weirdly, the time when those start to go on sale. It is freezing outside. It is bitterly, bitterly cold. Now is the time to hike the price up on flannel sheets, department stores! Stop trying to sell bikinis! What is wrong with you? Anyway, I went to Kohl's and found an amazing sheet set for the futon.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="He's trying to catch the owls."][/caption]

My only complaint is that these owls aren't dressed in winter clothes. A lot of flannel sheets feature characters wearing hats or mittens or scarves. Maybe because flannel sheets primarily get used in the wintertime! Anyway, owls wearing scarves would have been better, but these are pretty fantastic. As I was telling my boyfriend earlier this evening, if I were to have friends visit, and they had small children, and those children go to stay in the office, and were also really into owls, they would think I was really cool.

He said that was a lot of hypothetical stuff going on to justify these sheets, but I feel good about it. That imaginary kid and I are going to be great friends.

One of the many nice things about having your own house is that you can do things like purchase pink owl flannel sheets for the office futon and no one can try to stop you. HAHA!

 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Still doing this juice thing

I have made a batch of juice every day since January 22nd. I have spent $30 on supplies. I have started a spreadsheet that tracks what I'm buying, how much I'm spending, and average cost per batch of juice. Each batch is about a liter. I average 6 minutes for prep, 10 minutes for juicing and 7 minutes for cleanup, though today, I managed to do everything in 20 minutes.

The takeaway from this is that juicing is kind of fun, and I really, really enjoy spreadsheets. I enjoy spreadsheets as much as the cats hate the sound of the juicer (it is a lot).

So far, I have managed to not buy any more containers, and I've started taking a big bottle of juice to work in the mornings. I typed "it's better than coffee" and then deleted it. It is not at all like coffee, and it's not better (nor is it worse), but it does have an energizing effect without the caffeine crash.

I have also been tweaking the juice recipe. If I see dark leafy greens on sale, I try them. Tonight, I got a bunch of turnip greens for $0.69 for a big bunch. I am pretty sick of turnips, but the greens worked well in juice and weren't as bitter as kale. I've also switched to collard greens over kale. Another thing I have learned? I'm not a huge kale fan! Why is it so popular? I've been adding spinach to the juice, because I have a huge bag of spinach from Costco and I'm worried that if I don't use it, it'll go bad. I've learned that cucumbers are oddly expensive at a lot of stores, and that a little ginger goes a long way. I've also determined that 2 apples makes for juice that's a little sweeter than I'd like, so I've subbed in a couple of carrots.

Current recipe:
6 stalks turnip greens/collard greens/kale
several handfuls of spinach
4 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1 granny smith apple
1 cucumber
1/4 lemon
thumb-sized piece of ginger

Friday, January 25, 2013

Unsolicited house-buying advice and juice update

I am helping certain people with their house hunt, and I often think about my house hunt, how much I love my house, how terrible my house-buying timing was (I bought RIGHT before the bubble burst, and RIGHT in the tiny window between one set of new homeowner tax breaks and the next set of new homeowner tax breaks) and how my house-buying experience was not really stressful in the ways that I assumed it would be.

Houses are a huge investment. This is probably the largest purchase I will ever make. The short list of things I did was 1. Found great people to help me do stuff. 2. Had a very clear picture of what I wanted. 3. Didn't settle for anything less than amazing.

Here is a long list of the things I did during my house-hunting process:

1. Researched mortgage rates and talked to multiple banks before deciding where to go. Things taken into account included rates, fees, closing costs and customer service.

2. Went with a local bank that told me that while they contractually *could* sell my mortgage, they probably wouldn't, since they hadn't ever sold mortgages to other companies. This came in really handy when interest rates plummeted. Modifying a loan is much, much easier than refinancing. I think it took me 5 minutes. On the phone.

3. Found a realtor. I lucked into this one, actually. I decided I wanted to find a realtor, I went to a condo open house, and talked to the listing agent there. I liked her a lot, and she agreed to work with me. She is amazing. If anyone in the KC area is looking for a realtor, I have a recommendation for you. The thing about a good realtor is that, ideally, they will know more about houses than you do. In my case, I thought I wanted a condo. When I described what I was looking for (size, dedicated parking, $120K limit), I was told that what I probably wanted was a house. Yes. Turns out, that was totally accurate. I was able to make a list of things I really, really wanted (true ranch, 3 bedrooms - one for me, one dedicated guest room and an office - garage, basement, hardwoods would be nice) and that helped narrow down houses. She was also very good at seeing what was wrong with houses. As someone who had previously lived in apartments, I did not know things about, say, foundations. She did. That's really helpful. If you can swing it, I highly recommend working with someone who has rehabbed houses, or who has an extensive background in something like that.

4. Looked a ton of houses. I looked for about three months, I looked several days a week, and I looked at two or more properties each time. This was grueling, but it helped me figure out what I liked and disliked about real-world houses. Since my intention was to buy a house that I would stay in forever, I needed to find something that I loved.

5. Initially thought I'd get a fixer-upper for cheap, but then changed my mind and decided it would be worth it to just get a house I already liked and could occupy immediately. I think a lot of people do this. There is something very appealing about getting a good deal and learning how to do useful things with houses. However, I've found that getting a house, any house, comes with a lot of on-the-job learning opportunities, so to speak. Only now can I fully appreciate how unprepared I would have been to fix up a house!

6. Made an offer on a house that I felt okay about, but didn't love. That offer was not accepted. THANK GOODNESS. I would not have been happy in that house. That was an "this is close enough and I'm so tired of looking at houses" house.

7. Found a house I loved, looked at it twice, and paid for a home inspection. Always get a home inspection. It helped me get a handle on the things I'd need to do if I bought the house (in my case, I had to get the furnace flue relined, install a new garage door, get some siding replaced and get the chimney cap sealed. None of these things were awful, and knowing what I was getting into was incredibly helpful).

8. Checked on the utilities. In Missouri, at least, if you're looking at a house, you can usually just call the utility companies, explain what you're doing, and get a monthly bill average for the last year. This is somewhat helpful, but by no means a perfect system. It can give you an idea of how much your bills might be, if people have been living in the house. Though your energy/water/gas usage will probably be different, it's a start. The more information you have, the better.

9. Listened to my realtor when it came to making an offer and things to ask for. A home inspection is going to turn up a LOT of stuff. Some of it is really important. Some of it isn't. I had certain things that I wanted the sellers to fix, and I had certain things that I was okay with taking care of on my own.

10. Closed quickly, and had about a month where I still had my old apartment and the new house. This made moving a lot less stressful. I didn't feel rushed. I also had a very motivated friend with a truck who decided that we were going to move my bed to the new house very early on in the process. It turns out that when your bed moves, you have effectively moved as well. This gave me plenty of time to sort through items in the apartment and clean it up in preparation for my departure.

The end result of all of this is that I've been in my house for almost six years. It's a solid house, it's had a totally reasonable number of house issues, which I have either fixed myself or had fixed by others. I've gotten to be pretty handy, and I feel comfortable tackling a range of house projects. I also never look at other houses and think "I really wish I could live in that house." At most, I think "that house is really cool." And then I think "I really love my house." I do occasionally have fancy apartment envy, because fancy apartments are soooo nice, but it is fleeting. It is more than overpowered by my hatred of moving and my love of this house.

To sum up: It took a long time! It was a lot of work! Totally worth it! Find a good realtor!

Juice update:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="323" caption="Super green."][/caption]

I keep buying containers for juice. In addition to the glass carafe, I now have a 2-liter jug (for big batches!) and a to-go cup thing (not pictured). I made a double batch today with kale, collard greens, spinach, cucumbers, apples, a lot of ginger, lemon and celery. I have made juice every day since the first day I made juice (which I believe was Monday). I have also started a juice spreadsheet to track how much I have spent on things for juice (it does not have a containers column, but if I get any more, I will have to add one). The batches of juice (each batch is just under a liter) have averaged a little under $4, when I take into account the fact that I have a lot of vegetables and fruits that I have purchased but not yet used.