Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Random Sillyness

1. EVER BEEN GIVEN AN ENGAGEMENT Ring?
Yep, by some kid in elementary school. I turned him down and gave it back.

2. LONGEST RELATIONSHIP?
3.5 years (the one I'm in now).

3. LAST GIFT YOU RECEIVED?
A green quartz and diamond necklace from Anthony for my birthday (yesterday).

4. EVER DROPPED A CELL PHONE?
All the time, luckily mine seems to be indestructible, I've never had a problem with it.

5. WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU WORKED OUT?
Unfortunately several weeks ago, I'm recovering from some sort of bronchitis thing, and it's not a good idea to work out with gunk in your lungs.

6. THING(S) YOU SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON?
I have a feeling my definition of a lot is much smaller than most people's, but clothing, decorative stuff for the house, and BPAL perfume.

7. LAST FOOD YOU ATE?
Leftover Apple Baked French Toast.

8. FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT THE OPPOSITE SEX?
Probably height if I'm being totally honest.

9. ONE FAVORITE SONG?
Yeesh, that's a difficult one, it really depends on my mood. "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley kills me every time I hear it though. It's a song I feel instead of hear.

10. WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
Lansing, MI

11. HIGH SCHOOL YOU ATTENDED:
Hartland

12. CELL PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER:
Alltel

13. FAVORITE MALL STORE:
It's pretty rare that I shop at the mall...uhm, probably Schulers, the book store.

14. LONGEST JOB YOU HAD:
Working at a Meat Market/Deli. I worked there for 2 summers and 5 Christmases, so a total of 8 months or so.

15. DO YOU OWN A PAIR OF DICE?
Yup.

16. DO YOU PRANK CALL PEOPLE?:
Nope.

17. LAST WEDDING YOU ATTENDED:
Erin and Kyle's maybe?

18. FIRST FRIEND YOU'D CALL IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY:
Erin, but only if I won enough to buy Johnny Depp. Otherwise, I'd probably be boring and invest most of it.

19. LAST TIME YOU SAW YOUR BEST FRIEND:
Unfortunately, at my grandma's funeral and I'll see her tomorrow at her grandpa's funeral. This has not been a good year for grandparents.

20. FAVORITE FAST FOOD RESTAURANT:
Probably the pizza place that's about 3 minutes away. It's good, cheap pizza. And they also deliver macaroni and cheese and ice cream sundaes.

21. BIGGEST LIE YOU HAVE EVER HEARD:
Probably something coming out of our current president's mouth.

23. WHERE'S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT WITH FRIENDS?
Usually their house or my house. We like to get together to cook.

24. CAN YOU COOK?
Yup, I love it.

25. WHAT CAR DO YOU DRIVE?:
One that's new to me, I just bought my mom's '04 Honda Civic.

26. BEST KISSER:
Hmm, me.

27. LAST TIME YOU CRIED?:
A couple of days ago, it's been kind of a crummy holiday.

28. MOST DISLIKED FOODS:
Brussels Sprouts and Bell Peppers. Bell Peppers overwhelm the flavor of dishes, so I only like them in very small amounts. And I'm working on liking Brussels Sprouts, I found a recipe for them roasted with apples and bacon which sounds promising.

29. THING YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF:
Creativity, loyalty, openmindedness.

30. THING YOU DISLIKE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF:
The fact that disappointments really get to me and sometimes hold me back.

32. LONGEST SHIFT YOU HAVE WORKED AT A JOB?:
Probably 12-13 hours, working at the deli/meat market right before Christmas.

33. FAVORITE MOVIE?
Arrgh, I hate questions like that...The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is pretty high up there.

34. CAN YOU SING?
Yup. I used to take lessons. Now I just sing in the car.

35. LAST CONCERT ATTENDED?
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....probably one of the symphonies Anthony and I went to a few years ago.

36. LAST KISS?
This morning when Anthony left for work.

37. LAST MOVIE RENTED:
"Mr. Brooks" and "1408". Both were surprisingly good.

38.ONE THING YOU NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT:
Contacts or eyeglasses...anything else is negotiable...but without those I'll never find my way BACK.

39. FAVORITE vacation spot:
France was amazing, but I also really love Mackinac Island, and Nova Scotia.

43. LAPTOP OR DESKTOP COMPUTER?:
Both! That's what happens when you date a computer geek.

44. FAVORITE COMEDIAN?:
Eddie Izzard. Because men in dresses and high heels always win.

45. DO YOU SMOKE?
Nope.

46. SLEEP WITH OR WITHOUT CLOTHES?
Without.

47. WHO SLEEPS WITH YOU EVERY NIGHT?:
Anthony, and our cats Mercury and Ra.

48. DO LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS WORK?:
Sometimes. I have a hard time with them though.

49. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN PULLED OVER BY THE POLICE?
Twice

50. PANCAKES OR FRENCH TOAST?
French toast or Gingerbread pancakes.

51. DO YOU LIKE COFFEE?:
Yep. I'm a big snob about it though. I really prefer to make it in a French Press.

52. HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS?
in a basket. Also known as Toad in a Hole, or an egg cracked into a piece of toast and fried inside of it.

53. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ASTROLOGY?:
I think the general descriptions of signs are often surprisingly accurate. The ones in newspapers and magazines are a joke.

54. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?:
My parents, they called to wish me a Happy Birthday.

55. LAST PERSON ON YOUR MISSED CALL LIST?:
My parents. They called and sang me Happy Birthday on my voice mail. Then I called them back.

56. WHAT WAS THE LAST TEXT MESSAGE YOU RECIEVED?:
Hmm, probably from my friend Josh. He was driving cross country by himself and wanted to talk to someone to stay awake.

58. NUMBER OF PILLOWS?:
At least two. One under my head and the other to snuggle.

59. WHAT ARE YOU WEARING RIGHT NOW?:
Yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt, Christmas socks.

60. PICK A LYRIC, ANY LYRIC:
"Well I’m not paralyzed
But, I seem to be struck by you
I want to make you move
Because you’re standing still
If your body matches
What your eyes can do
You’ll probably move right through
Me on my way to you..." Paralyzer by Finger Eleven

61. WHAT KIND OF JELLY DO YOU LIKE ON YOUR PB & J?:
Raspberry.

62. CAN YOU PLAY POOL?:
Not well.

63. CAN YOU SWIM?
Yep, I was in the lake before I could walk. I've physically been dragged out because I wouldn't leave the water.

64. FAVORITE ICE CREAM?:
Mayan Chocolate Haagen Dazs (chocolate with cinnamon). Or Pumpkin Spice from the Dairy Store.

65. DO YOU LIKE MAPS?
Yep, although I'm more enamored with what they look like than actually using them. I have a good natural sense of direction.

66. TELL ME A RANDOM FACT ABOUT YOURSELF:
I have a 3 inch scar across my knee from when I cut it open as a child.

68. EVER ATTEND A THEME PARTY:
Yup...though nobody told us that they'd changed the theme from "lingerie" to just plain ol' pjs...so we were definitely the most risque-ly dressed of the bunch.

69. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON:
Fall, absolutely. Although I also really love the few weeks transitioning between the seasons.


70. LAST TIME YOU LAUGHED AT SOMETHING STUPID?
...well I checked "I can has cheezeburger?" a little bit ago.

71. WHAT TIME DID YOU WAKE UP THIS MORNING ?
10am. I've been sick and I'm trying to get as much rest as possible.

72. BEST THING ABOUT WINTER?:
The snow makes everything seems quiet and still. Also, it's my birthday!

73. LAST TIME A COP GAVE YOU A TICKET?:
6-7 years ago?

75. NAME OF YOUR FIRST PET?:
Chelsea, a very bitchy tiger striped cat.

76. DO YOU THINK PIRATES ARE COOL OR OVERRATED?:
Mmmm...Johnny.

77. WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS WEEKEND??
Working.

78. BIRTHDATE:
December 18.

79. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE:
Some kind of therapist.

85. ARE YOU ON A LAPTOP?:
Yep.

87. ARE YOU SMILING?:
More like smirking.

89. DO YOU MISS SOMEONE RIGHT NOW:
Yeah.

90. IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD WHERE WOULD YOU GO?:
To every country in Europe.

92. ARE YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL?:
Thank god, no.

93. DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH?:
Yep. I'm pretty enamored with my cats.

94. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NAME?
Mine actually. Or Maggie. Both derivatives of Margaret.

95. WHAT COLOR IS YOUR BATHING SUIT?:
Um, one is black and the other is black with red cherries all over. Both are vintage-y looking.

96. DOES YOUR SCHOOL START IN AUGUST?:
I'm not in school right now.

97. DID YOU GO ON VACATION LAST MONTH?:
Unfortunately not. Anthony's gone all the time for work and my schedule is all over the place. I'm not sure we're together long enough to go anywhere.

98. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ON A CRUISE?:
Nope. Not really interested in one either, unless it were a really small ship around the Greek Isles.

99. DO YOU HAVE A SISTER?
Nope, I'm an only child.

100. ARE YOU UPSTAIRS?:
Nope. I'm in the living room of the house we live in.

101. ARE YOU IN LOVE?:
Yes.

102. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE HOSPITAL?
Well, I work in one...so I'm in a hospital 5 days every week. As a patient, yes. The last time was a couple of years ago.

103. DO YOU WISH YOU COULD SEE ANYONE PARTICULAR RIGHT NOW?
Yes. But we've lost contact.

104. WHAT JEWELRY ARE YOU WEARING?
None at the moment, I just got up.

105. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO AFTER THIS SURVEY?
Get something to eat, put in a load of laundry and get ready for work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Getting Ready for Christmas

I never really got a chance to say much about getting ready for Christmas this year. It was unbelievably hectic. Anthony was out of town for work a lot, so I did most of it myself. We did get the tree together, and decorate it. My parents plant blue spruce every year, and we have a gorgeous live tree. Unfortunately the trees are in kind of awkward heights right now, either a bit too big, or too small. In a few years they're be perfect again. But for now we're cutting slightly large trees, and ones that are growing a little too close to the others. So we ended up with a seriously funky looking tree this year.


That's the tree pre-pruned. Normally we just leave it alone, a few crazy branches don't bother me. But it was a little too bizarre this year to do it. So a few well placed snips and it at least doesn't look like it's trying to take over the living room.


It still has a few bare spots, but altogether it was pretty nice. We bought LED lights, since we needed to replace our old lights anyway, but we definitely got the wrong ones. They're the larger bulb, and didn't give our tree the normal magical glow. Luckily, they're indoor/outdoor, so next year they'll go outside, and we'll get the nice small bulb LEDs.

People sent a lot of Christmas cards this year, and we finally found a good way to hang them. Although by Christmas Day we had cards propped up on the dining room window sill that the cats kept knocking over. We may have to hang a second ribbon next year.


Here is the table set for the brunch that never happened. Every year about two weeks before Christmas I have people over. It's usually a dinner to celebrate my birthday. This year, I decided to try brunch. Sadly, the night before we got NINE inches of snow, and no one could make it. So, we dragged in a couple of neighbors, and ate a lot of frittata for the next week. Hopefully next year the weather will be a little more cooperative.


On the dining room bar I added some fresh spruce branches and candles. It looked gorgeous when I lit them, but it was a little nerve wracking to have flames in the middle of dry tree branches.


For the most part I kept things simple in the rest of the living room, a few pine cones added to the candles on the coffee table looked nice.


Unfortunately we couldn't keep most of the Christmas gifts under the tree. The cats thought the curling ribbon was delicious, and spent most of their time trying to chew on it.



One decoration that I put up didn't really fit. I put up a Nativity set. I'm not Christian. I know this is where most of you stop and scratch your head. It was my grandma's Nativity set, and no one else in the family wanted it. It's at least 60 years old, probably more like 80, and I hated the thought of seeing it tossed out. I remember playing with it as a kid. I'd sit on the floor in her living room and arrange and re-arrange the figures in it. She never minded me playing with it, and let me fix it until it looked JUST right to me. I don't think I'll put it up every year. But for the first Christmas without her, I couldn't stand to have it shoved away in a box.



And finally, here are our artistically posed Holiday cats.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How I Learned to Love Lansing Part Two

Lansing is also taking some serious steps to revitalize the downtown. A year or two ago it was more like a ghost town. Friday night at 5pm everyone would clear out. There was nothing that stayed open on the weekends except for a pizza place, and a club that never had very many patrons. But it's starting to pick up. There's some nicer restaurants that stay open late. The club seems to have picked up a bit. There are people living in the lofts that were recently built, and one Saturday night when I drove by on my way home from work there were cars lining the streets. It's still not a city like Chicago or Ann Arbor, but it's not a ghost town either. They've been working on rehabbing some of the buildings downtown too. Mostly to spruce them up, new paint, a new facade, better signs. It really has made a difference. They also repaved Michigan Avenue and re-did the sidewalks when they separated the sewer and storm drains this summer. It looks so much better. They also changed the traffice flow at Michigan and Washington with a really well done traffic circle. It not only looks nice, it seems to flow well.

They are in the process of building new condos across from the ballpark, with stores on the lower level, and three stories of condos to be bought or rented. The building looks fantastic and the prices are fairly reasonable. They might not work for a struggling family of 4, but for a young professional couple, it's well within their means. Which is actually who they are marketing them at. Younger people with good jobs who have money to spend downtown. In the past few months there has been some huge news about upcoming development.

I'm not always a fan of developers. In the area my parents live in, they're running rampant and destroying the natural areas. But Lansing needs development. It needs to take the areas downtown and make the population more dense. It's a way to stop the urban sprawl. I'm not sure that every development that's been proposed is necessarily the best choice. But for the most part they do seem to be well thought out designs and plans that will help bring Lansing back to life. There is talk of a bandshell built along the river to hosts concerts and the annual Common Ground Music Festival. The hospital I work at is undergoing a huge renovation project to be opened in stages over the next several years.

One of the plans recently announced was for a major rehab of the old power plant building, to be turned into office space for a major insurance company, which would bring tons of people to the downtown area. There's even talk of a cafe on the river as part of the building. All along the river there is talk of development, but in a good way. To encourage people to walk along the river for shopping and entertainment. There's a proposal for a huge development along the river with underground parking, retail space and residential living. It would also have a new city market, which there is a lot of debate over. I'm rarely in favor of tearing down historic buildings and putting up new ones, but in this case it seems like it might be a good idea. The market isn't doing well, and from everything I read it's in very bad shape. A new market closer to the river and new residential areas seems like it could bring in new customers and vendors and really revitalize it.

There's also talk of another development by the ballpark for retail and residential space that looks promising. The one that excites me the most is just south of the new condos going in. It's a plan for an environmentally friendly building with apartments and condos. It would have a green roof, environmentally friendly building materials and a new path the the river trail to help encourage people to walk to the downtown/riverfront area.

I'm hugely excited about these projects. There hasn't been this much going on in Lansing for YEARS. There hasn't even been this much talk about anything possibly happening. If even half of them happen, it could have a major positive impact on Lansing. If they all happen Lansing might actually become a living breathing city in the next 5 years. It has so much potential and it's really nice to see that some people are taking steps to actually make it happen.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How I Learned to Love Lansing

I've done my share of complaining about Lansing. But I'm starting to feel like I really belong here. Part of it is because Anthony owns the house. We know we're going to stay there for at least a few more years. And we're both very happy with the house, we love our neighbors and every time we turn into the neighborhood we both do this little happy sigh and relax. I swear my tension level drops about 20% when I pull into the driveway. And now that I have a job I feel more invested in the community. Especially working at the hospital which in a lot of ways is the center of the community.

Part of it is also because we've found some really wonderful things here. Horrock's, the market where we buy our fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Fresh local products for a great price make it so much easier to eat well. We also found several amazing places to eat out.


One of our favorites is Restaurant Mediteran. It's downtown so it's within a 15 minute walk or so, and a 5 minute drive. The man who owns the place runs it with his wife, she does a lot of the cooking, while he does the serving. The food is an interesting mix of Middle European dishes. The food is so fresh and the salads are always just a little bit different. Whatever fruits and vegetables are in season they incorporate into the dishes. There's an amazing salad I've gotten a few times that at first glance seems like a Cobb salad, but is actually far more interesting. One of our favorite dishes is pork medallions with a mushroom sauce over spaetzle. Probably not the healthiest dinner, but the taste is unbelievable. And at least I know what's in it. No mystery gravy made mostly out of unnatural ingredients. The owner is fabulous, after dinner he always brings us dessert. He picks out something from the refrigerated case to surprise us, and never charges for the desserts. One time it was tiramisu, another time a strawberry rhubarb pie. We leave huge tips and always come back again, so his strategy is definitely working. Although he never seems to do it just because he wants us to come back. In fact, he really seems to just enjoy how much we love the dessert.

Anthor place we love is Ukai, a really fabulous sushi place in Okemos. They just recently opened a second restaurant called Ukai Two on our side of Lansing, so that's on our list of places to go. In fact, I may request dinner there for my birthday. We celebrated my birthday and our anniversary at Ukai last year, but now that the new place is open I think we may give it a try. All of the reviews so far are really positive so I don't think we'll be disappointed.

There's also the most fabulous pet store ever. Preuss Pets is in Old Town (a really neat area on the North side of Lansing). They had been in this part for years, but in the Okemos/Haslett area. A couple of years ago they moved to Old Town and it's incredible. More fish than even Anthony would know what to do with, a huge mural on the outside of the building, a man made river that runs through it, rabbits, birds, cats, reptiles, rodents, etc. The animals are well taken care of, the people who work there are friendly and knowledgeable and its just a fun place to be. More like a zoo and aquarium than a pet store.


Tonight there is a really fun sounding celebration downtown called Silver Bells in the City. There's a light parade, lighting of a huge Christmas tree in front of the capitol, fireworks, cider and doughnuts, and shops stay open late. It's apparently been going on for years although I hadn't heard about it until this year. I'm debating if I should go or not. Anthony is up north camping with friends and it just isn't quite the same to go by myself. I don't mind going places by myself, but it would have been nice if we could have gone together. We're close enough to downtown that I could walk from the house, but it isn't really safe enough for me to go by myself. As much as I hate to be limited just because I'm a girl by myself, I have to be reasonable. And not put myself in positions where I could get mugged and/or worse. I could drive to the library and then take the bus to right in front of the capitol. But I'm not sure if I'm motivated enough to go by myself. Hmm. Maybe I'll see if the neighbors want to go.


I also found a really great website the other day for the various Art and Cultural Venus in the area. There were a lot of places I'd never heard of, and I want to try to get to more events in the next year. There are even plays and concerts with free admission, so I can't use lack of money as an excuse. I'd like to try going to something once a month. Maybe Anthony and I have a "date night" (cheesy as that sounds) once a month and go to a museum, or a concert or play or to the planetarium. I've complained that there isn't enough to do in Lansing but I haven't been taking advantage of everything it has to offer either.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cider Pressing

I didn't get a chance to post this earlier. But in October Anthony and I went Up North to press cider with Trevor's family. Trevor is one of Anthony's closest friends and every year his family gets together on his grandparents' farm to press cider. Anthony went for several years before we were dating, and we went to together for two years. It's several hours north of here and the drive is incredible. Even along the highway it's fairly rural and the trees were just beginning to really turn. It was overcast and the colors were so vibrant.

When we got there we had a huge Thanksgiving type dinner and then headed outside to do the pressing. Trevor's grandpa lives near many apple orchards and gets the apples from the owners. First the apples are dumped into a huge barrel of water to rinse them clean.

Then they're thrown into a grinder the breaks them up into a chunky pulp. Here's is Trevor's grandpa sorting the apples and throwing them into the grinder.

The bucket of pulp is dumped into a cloth lined press and then a heavy weight is placed on top. The press is hand cranked and we all took turns cranking. It's a two person job to work the press, one person to crank, another to keep it from sliding across the ground. This is Anthony and Trevor's dad working the press.

The cider pours out a spout into a 5 gallon pail. When the pail is full, it's strained again and then poured into gallon and half gallon jugs.

Here is the work of of about 10-15 people. Seventy or eighty gallons of cider.

Here is one very happy dog. There were four of them running around being adorable, but this one was my favorite. While people rinsed out jugs and buckets with the hose he ran around and around begging to be sprayed with the hose. When he was, he'd leap up into the air and wag his tail like a lunatic.
And a final photo. One of the gorgeous apples we used in the cider. There were 4-5 different varieties of apples and it made for fantastic tasting cider.

We brought home 12 gallons of cider, and gave away a gallon to several of our neighbors, to my parents, and to drink when Erin and Kyle and Suzette and Darren and Anthony and got together for our October dinner. We froze 3 partially full gallon jugs and drank the rest. We're going to ration the frozen cider. Maybe pull a gallon out at Thanksgiving and wait a while for the other two. We gorge on it the first few weeks we have cider and then are so sad when we realize we're almost down to the last few jugs. If only we could have gallons of it stashed away to last a whole year.

Good News!

The last few weeks have been pretty depressing. But it hasn't been all bad. I got offered a part time position at my job. It's a huge step up from the per diem position I had before. I was guaranteed to be scheduled 8 hours every two weeks, and had no benefits when I was per diem. Granted, I was getting more like 40 hours every two weeks, which was enough to pay the bills.

But a part time position guarantees me 32 hours every two weeks (I've been told I'll get more like 60-70) so I should be able to start some savings. Most importantly I now have benefits. Well, health insurance starts in December, and Vision and Dental in March. So not quite right now, but soon. It's such a huge relief. Without insurance I felt like I was taking a huge risk every time I got up in the morning or left the house. I now have a 10,000 dollar life insurance policy (so if I die mysteriously anytime soon, my parents may be to blame, since they'd be the beneficiary). I'll get my prescriptions for a MUCH better price. I could get tuition reimbursement for classes I took (granted, not all would qualify, but some probably would).

And it's good to know that my manager is really happy with me, and that it's all going well. I enjoy my work, I like the people I work with. Basically I'm just really really happy to be working.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gifts

The day after the funeral and the looting of my grandma's stuff, my mom and the half of the family that we're currently getting along with went back to my grandma's house. We went to take care of the perishable items in the house. Technically it wasn't our responsibility. We aren't the trustees of the estate. But none of us wanted things to go to waste or for there to be a mess in her house. That seemed disrespectful of my grandma. And whatever issues we all have with the way she acted toward us, we weren't going to let her house be trashed. We sorted through the refrigerator, the two HUGE chest freezers in the basement that hadn't been cleaned out in years, and the cupboards. Anything still good was divided up and Anthony and I took home 3 huge bags and a cooler full of food. There was as much for every other person to take home as well. The old food in the freezer was taken out of bags and containers and buried. We tried to throw as little in the trash as possible.

The night before, as people were leaving, my uncle told my mom to "take whatever you want". So we did. We barely scratched the surface of what my grandma had in her house. She wasn't a true hoarder, she kept the house neat and clean. But she did have an astonishing amount of stuff. I'm sure part of it was that she grew up during the depression. And that she was living in the house she had physically been born in. She never moved. In 85 years she only lived in that one house. So it had never been thoroughly cleaned out. The attic is jam packed, and every room has things tucked into every bit of storage and nook and cranny. But we sorted through a bit of it looking for some of the most important things to us.

It was hard. In some ways I felt like I was no better than the members of the family that I've been complaining about. But if my mom and my aunt had been in charge, we would have waited weeks or months to touch anything but the perishables and mail. We would have sat down as a group, made a list of items that were important to us, and then compared them. Found a way to compromise on the things that more than one person wanted. It's what my dad's family did when his mother died. It was civilized, and everyone worked together and there were no hurt feelings. But it was too late for that. The ransacking had begun. My uncle doesn't seem to be interested in the sentimental side of all of this. He just wants to get the house cleared out and sold and we were afraid that if we waited, we'd never see the things again. So we sorted through her possessions, and found what matters to us.

There were a couple things that were important to me. I wanted the Dominoes set my grandma and I used to play. A teacup I used to use, some old hats of hers, a scarf I had knitted her. Her library card. Altogether worth less than 50 dollars. And there were other things I chose too. Even though they don't have as much sentimental value, they are lovely and I will use them and treasure them, and have a deeper connection to my family because of them. There is a beautiful old glass fronted bookcase, a black bed and dresser set. A little bit of her costume jewelry. An old white pitcher and bowl set. A few books, several pens with her name on it, a cast iron skillet, two wooden cutting boards (one that my dad made for her) and some serving dishes.

I also took her recipe cards and books. I am going to scan them and type up the recipes. I want to put them on a CD and give them to everyone else in the family. I'll even send the CDs to the other half of the family. Even if we aren't speaking. Even if the worst happens and I never see them again. I still love them, and I don't want to keep something as important as family recipes from them out of spite. That's immature and I'm better than that. They may have hurt me, but I refuse to stoop to their level.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Acceptance

I still have no idea if there will be a way to heal the split in our family, and it will take a long time to come to terms with the issues I have with my grandma. But I have found a way to deal with some of it. In a lot of ways, my grandma died along with my grandpa. She was never the same afterwards. The grandmother that I grew up with was gone.

I have incredible memories of her from when I was younger. We played Scrabble and Dominoes, we read books, she made me snacks when I got off the school bus and spent a few hours at her house after school. We had a "snowball" fight in July using the blossoms off of the snowball bush growing near the house. My grandma, my mom and I picked strawberries, cherries, raspberries and blueberries together every year. We decorated the Christmas tree together. Our whole family would get together at her house for homemade pizza. We'd play Pokeno for the pennies she had in a tin, returning them back to the tin when we were done, so we could play another time. We all played the game Pit, screaming to trade cards until my grandpa would get up and shut the door between the kitchen and living room. She and I drank lemon tea at the kitchen table and I felt so grown up. I helped her with her physical therapy after her knee surgery. And I'll never be able to smell Oil of Olay lotion without remembering hugging her and feeling her soft skin against my cheek and smelling the lotion. I love that woman with all of my heart.

But she disappeared when my grandpa died. And the memories I have of her after that are much fewer and farther between. Some people might say I'm being ridiculous to do this, but I've made a choice. I'm going to remember the grandmother I had growing up. It won't do me any good to dwell on the bad things that came later. It won't fix it, and it'll just make me miserable. I'm not in denial, I know she had her faults. But if I can remember the good things I'll be able to find some peace.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Anger

Maybe I'm just too optimistic, or naive, but I truthfully thought that things would go well after the funeral. It's a very long complicated backstory, and one that I don't completely understand, but there has been a huge dramatic argument going on in the family for years. Despite the fact that to everyone outside the family my grandma seemed to be an amazing woman who was nearly a saint, she had her flaws too. And unfortunately, there were some pretty serious ones. She truly believed that her children and grandchildren should go along with whatever she wanted, without any argument. That isn't feasible, and it isn't fair, but it was what she expected. And it got much worse after my Papa (my grandfather) died. She expected her 4 children to do what she wanted, without question, and often without her ever asking for it. She expected them to read her mind. If you know me, then you know I'm not comfortable with people being passive-aggressive, and that I won't blindly do what someone wants me to, if I disagree I speak up about it when I can. My mom, her older sister and my two eldest cousins are that way too.

My other aunt and uncle, and their spouses and children were more willing to go along with what my grandma wanted, and so she loved them more. I know what you'll say, that of course she loved us too, and that she wouldn't have loved her children and grandchildren unequally. And yes, she did love us, but she didn't treat us the same way. And if you love people, you don't treat them badly, or at least you shouldn't. Until she died I wasn't really sure how she felt about me. I wasn't part of most of this, I was away at school, and dealing with everything going on in my own life. But mom lived close and she had to bear the brunt of it. Not only did my grandma hurt my mom very deeply, but she and my eldest aunt were taken off of the will as being executors of her estate in favor of my other aunt and uncle. Which brings me to the biggest part of the drama that we had to deal with this weekend. My grandma had written a notebook with a page for each member of the family, listing which of her possessions should be left to them.

None of them were particularly valuable items. Mostly sentimental. We were all included in the notebook, and there were wonderful and special things for all of us. Apparently she also made a second notebook more recently. There were some major differences between the two. In fact, in the second I was left out. There was a page with my name on it, but it was otherwise blank. It took me a minute to realize what that meant. My brain couldn't wrap itself around the idea that my grandma had intentionally slighted me. I knew she and my mom had problems, but she had always been very sweet to me. I didn't know that while she told me she loved me, she also somehow thought I wasn't worth leaving anything to. I don't care about the monetary value of any of it. I just wanted something small to remember her by. And to know that she cared that I remembered her.

The evening just got worse from then on. Instead of giving it all some time, and talking to each other about what grandma had left them, my aunt and uncle and their children proceeded to ransack the house. Not only did they immediately take the things that my grandma left them they took other things. They didn't ask the rest of us if we wanted anything they were taking. And we sat there in shock. It was looting, pure and simple. Maybe a little more polite, because they didn't break things and trash the house. But they rooted around in her things, took what they wanted, and left. It was one of the most heartbreakingly sad things I've ever seen. I sat there and watched our family split in two, and I don't know if it can ever be repaired.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Grieving


Last weekend I got a call saying that my grandma was in the hospital and that she was very very ill. I'd known the moment was coming, although it happened sooner than I expected. She was diagnosed with a heart condition several years ago but decided not to have the surgery that would fix it. At 85, there was a chance that she wouldn't survive the surgery, but the doctor gave her a 95% chance of survival, which was extraordinarily high for someone of any age. I'm sure there were a lot of reasons why she chose not to, although I think that it was mostly because she was lonely. My grandpa died 12 years ago, and it was very very hard on her. What made me the most sad was that she refused to discuss it with the family, or be upfront about it.

She had a little over a year of good health, but we all started to notice some problems in the last few months. Labor Day weekend she looked tired and her circulation was bad. But she had been quite active until last Saturday. My parents took her into the hospital at 9pm on Saturday night because she was short of breath, and she died just before 3am Sunday morning. I wasn't able to get to the hospital until after she was dead, but I had a chance to say goodbye, and to mourn with my family. We stayed with her until one of my aunts could get there at 6am, and then spent the night at my parents' house.

The week has been a blur, fitting in work and normal things around the house. The visitation at the funeral home was Thursday evening, and the funeral was Friday morning. They were both very nice. It was one of the happiest visitations I've ever seen. Not that she was dead, but that had lived a long life, that she had died with family there and without suffering. Everyone reminisced and enjoyed being together. It was full of people talking and hugging and even laughing. And as several people there said "she would have loved it." She would have been right in the middle of it, meeting new people and happy to see the people she knew. And

The funeral was officiated by the current priest at her church, and a former priest that she was very close to. It was in a small church, packed full of people who cared about her. The weather was gorgeous for the burial, and at her request there were balloons released by the little kids in the family, and bubbles blown. It was a nice way to say goodbye. There was also a dinner at her house later, and although it was strange to be at her house without her there, it was also a nice way to remember her.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hotness

In celebration of my new job which comes with a paycheck (a wild and foreign concept) I got a haircut. I was long overdue. Between the move, and the lack of paycheck and such, I hadn't had my hair trimmed since December.

I went in today and said "fix it." And she did. It's fabulous and I feel very hot.

And yes, the photo is all "artsy and shit" (thank you Erin). But it's very difficult to do self-portraits with my camera and not have them look like they were taken by a MySpace wanna-be. I'll have someone else take a few photos this weekend, and eventually I'll get around to learning how to use the timer feature on my camera.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Busted

I'm busted. I went to get a book out one of the boxes in the office today. The books I wanted were in the bottom box of course. I picked up the top box, and went to set it down on the floor. It started to slip out of my hands and instead of letting it go, I lunged forward and something in my lower back went funky. I could barely get out of the room, and I only made it as far as the hallway. I laid down on the floor for almost a half hour in pain. I've twisted things, and strained my muscles before, but this was by far some of the worst pain I've ever had. Eventually I made it down to the living room, and laid down on there floor there for a while. Every time I got up I got dizzy and lightheaded.

I was really worried that I wasn't going to be able to make it to work. There's no way I wanted to call in on my third day on the job, but driving while in pain and almost passing out didn't seem like a great idea either. After almost an hour I was able to get up and take some medication. I took a hot bath and tried to relax it as much as possible. It was enough to get dressed and go to work. And amazingly work wasn't too bad. It's still horribly painful, but I'm relaxing on the couch with a hot pack for a few hours before bed. It's just the left side of my lower back. And it feels like when my lower back is tight and it needs to crack...but sharper. That moment just before the muscles relax and the pain goes away. But this won't go away. If it's still really bad tomorrow I'll see if my mom will pay for me to go to a chiropractor, just to make sure that I didn't do any actual damage. I don't think I did, I think I just strained it, but I'd like to make sure.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Job

Today was my first day at the new job. It went really well. It was a nice short day too, which was probably good. Since I haven't exactly had a regular schedule in the year I've been looking for jobs, jumping right into an 8-5, 40 hour a week job would have been a huge shock. I worked 3.5 hours today, and I work 6.5 hours tomorrow. And then I get Sunday off. I got my schedule for the first week, and I'll have 40 hours, so I am ridiculously relieved. It sounds like they are short staffed and really need people with a flexible schedule to fill in. And since my schedule is completely open right now, I shouldn't have any trouble getting a decent number of hours.

Unfortunately I won't get to dress quite as nicely as I hoped. It looks like I'll be wearing black pants/khakis and either a sage green polo shirt or a pale yellow cardigan sweater set. So yes. I will be dressing like a 70 year old woman who shops at Land's End. Compared to wearing my grossest jeans and an XXL hunter green polo shirt with a picture of a cow on the back like I had to wear at my last job...it's a definite improvement. And I no longer will be up to my elbows in raw ground beef. Sitting at a desk answering phones and giving directions is pretty much a dream come true.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Waiting for October

Despite the fact that it's supposed to be 90 degrees and humid today, or maybe because of it, I've been dreaming of fall. I'm a jeans and sweater kind of girl, forget the shorts and tank tops. I'd rather be taking a walk through the woods than sunbathing. I prefer hot spiced cider to ice cold lemonade. If something is pumpkin spice flavored, I'll buy it, no matter what it is. Granola bars, body butter, cat litter...I don't care. Sadly, they have yet to invent pumpkin spice scented litter, but it has to be more appetizing than the floral scent they usually use.

I've been collecting fall recipes. Cider Braised Pork Chops, Roasted Squash with Sage, Pumpkin Spice Bread. I want tweed skirts and cable knit sweaters. I bought a rusty orange suede and brown leather purse in June. I want to knit chunky warm scarves. Sip orange spice tea and curl up under a heavy blanket while I read. I want pumpkins on my front steps and gusting winds. Crisp, dry cold air and the scent of leaves. I want to enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon and swirl it through deep orange batter. I want to lean up against the warm stove and relax. I want a giant steaming bowl of squash soup with crusty rustic bread to dip into it. I want cider and doughnuts. I want to pick crisp apples off of the trees and make pots of chunky applesauce.

I want to wear my fall perfumes. I want Jack, "The scent of warm, glowing jack o'lanterns on a warm autumn night: true Halloween pumpkin, spiced with nutmeg, glowing peach and murky clove.". I want to smother myself in The Hesperides, "Their perfume is that of sturdy oak bark, dew-kissed leaves, twilight mist and crisp apple.". I want to light candles and listen to the very mellow and dark band Morphine while it drizzles rain outside.


Take your blue skies and fluffy clouds, and bring me heavy grey skies and bright colored leaves.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What I'm Reading...Books

I've still been reading a lot. I finished A Clash of Kings and tore through A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows. In the process I forgot that he hadn't finished the rest of them yet, and nearly cried when I found out that I was going to have to wait to keep reading. I'm not very patient, especially when it comes to books. I want more books...and I want them NOW. Obviously, the four I have read are very good, and very interesting. I won't say much more than that until I finish the series.

I also got several books at a garage sale for 10 cents each. They were in good condition and part of my favorite series. There are a series of books by Laurie R. King, she is a really good writer, and I always enjoy her books. I love historical fiction, and especially historical mysteries. But it can sort of be a dangerous genre. There are many terrible historical mysteries. Either they're poorly written, or they are romance novels in disguise. Masquerading as legitimate fiction. Now don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against people who read romance novels, but let's be honest here, they're basically erotica. I understand that not everyone is comfortable admitting they enjoy reading about sex, but frankly I'd be more embarrassed to be out in public with a book that has a woman in a low cut bodice being mauled by a bare chested pirate than a genuine piece of erotic fiction. But that's just me. I've certainly read them, and some of them are pretty darn entertaining. But it's usually because I can't stop laughing at how cheesy they are. Like I said, no insult to people who read them, my 85 year old grandma certainly does.

Ahem. To veer wildly back on topic after my tangent there...the books by Laurie R. King are very good historical mysteries. I have read all of her Mary Russell series. The basic premise is that Sherlock Holmes has retired to the countryside of England, and he meets a young woman named Mary who he ends up taking on as an apprentice, and then a partner and eventually marries. That basic plot has some serious possibilities for hokeyness. But she's such a good writer it never falls into that. It's very believable. Mary is an intellectual match for Holmes and she bullies him into giving up the Victorian ideas that women are inferior. She's (gasp) an early feminist. The books I enjoy most usually have very strong female characters, and she's one of the best. I've read all eight of the books that are out, and when I got the books at the garage sale, they were books 1, 2, and 4. I think I now have the complete series. The first is The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the second is A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and the fourth is The Moor. I hope she comes out with a new one soon. Again with me being impatient. Definitely a series I would recommend, especially if you like mysteries.

I also read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, of course. I truly do love the books. I did my best to ignore them when they first came out. Anything so wildly popular seemed like it had to be absolute crap. But I finally gave in and read the first one, and I've been hooked ever since. I won't say anything that's a spoiler, just that I very much enjoyed the book. There was a small part I was disappointed by and that I am sad that the series is over. I actually hadn't planned on reading the book immediately. We never got around to pre-ordering, and we figured it would be impossible to get so we figured we'd wait. The Saturday after it came out we were at the grocery store and I noticed it on top of the U-Scan checkout. AND it was on sale for 40% percent off. So we grabbed it. Anthony mentioned that he'd be taking it with him when he left on his work trip that Monday, so I had to read it right away. I read for two hours the first night, and three the next morning. Yes. It took me 5 hours to read a 750 page book. Yes. I am a freak of nature. And that's why you love me, right?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Surprise!...I'm not dead!

I haven't even been that busy. We haven't done much on the house thanks to the insane heatwave. We did make a trip to Kentucky for a weekend to visit Anthony's brother, which was fun, if a bit of a whirlwind. Other than that, I've been working my butt off to find a job. And guess what? I got one! I'm not so sure that it was because of anything I did in particular, I think it was just a matter of luck. But I'll take whatever I can get.

I applied for a ridiculously large number of jobs at the local hospital a few weeks ago, and got called for an interview last Friday. I had the first interview Monday, and a second Wednesday and got the actual job offer call today. I am so ridiculously excited. Which is sort of pathetic. It's not exactly my dream job, AND I am guaranteed very few hours, but it's a job. And after almost a full year of searching, I don't care. It's basically for a position at the Information desk. It's a per diem position, so not even part time, I'm only guaranteed 8 hours of work every two weeks. But pay is 9.50/hour (and a 2% raise in November, and then raises twice yearly) which was way more than I expected. And the woman I interviewed with said that there are usually quite a few options to pick up more hours, and that I'd be eligible for any part time or full time positions as they open up. And in 6 months, eligible for other open positions at the hospital. It's a good opportunity to get my foot in the door, which would be huge.

So I'm thrilled. It's an enormous amount of stress gone, which has been really rough to deal with this past year. I feel like I'm no longer stuck in neutral and that I'm going somewhere. And being a productive member of society, and such. Hooray!!!!! Plus, I get to actually dress nicely and sit at a desk and work, which is wonderful. I was dreading having to resort to working at a fast food place. Which is a terrifying thought.

Another fabulous thing is that I just sold 20 of my photo greeting cards. There is a girl I know online who makes custom gift baskets, and she bought the cards for those. Which is unbelievably exciting, because not only do I get the money she paid me for them. But if they do well, she'll buy more. And I'll print my email address and web address on them, so if people like them, they can buy more. Speaking of web addresses. I'm starting to work on my website again. I really want to get it put together, and get business cards printed so I can actually sell my work, and try to get some photography gigs. It's not really feasible as a full time thing now, but in addition to the job at the hospital, it would be perfect. Wish me luck! It looks like things are headed in a really great direction for me, and it's such a good feeling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

R.I.P. Captain Jack

I wish I had written that title to talk about the final Pirates of the Carribean movie coming out. On Friday night, Anthony and I had to rush my rabbit, Captain Jack to the emergency vet clinic to be put to sleep. He's been sick on and off for months now with some sort of weird digestive issue. But it looked like he was finally cured. We switched brands of hay, and about a week and a half ago he stopped eating much of it. He lost quite a bit of weight in a short time, and so I switched back to the normal hay, and he seemed to be doing better. He was still really thin, and a little weak, but he was eating tons of hay and seemed happy. Friday morning we debated if we should take him to the vet anyway, just to make sure he was doing alright, but I decided to wait a few days. We left for the day and when we got back late Friday evening, he was passed out on his side nearly unconscious and he had lost all control of his digestive track.

We called our vet's office and got the number for an emergency clinic and rushed him there with me sobbing and clutching his carrier the whole way. The guy working there was a complete ASS, and had absolutely no sympathy. While I'm sure our vet would have told us basically the same thing, that it would be prohibitively expensive to find out what was wrong with him, and that it might still be incurable, and that in the meantime he would be suffering. But he would have told us politely, and been very sympathetic and caring. The guy we went to was horrible, he never said he was sorry, and he was very brusque about everything.

We decided that Jack needed to be put to sleep so we spent a little while saying goodbye to him. He was at least alert enough to respond to us, so I know he heard what we were saying and could feel us petting him. Because Jack was so sick they had to use a gas anesthetic, so we couldn't go in with him. I hated the thought of him having to die alone in a room with that horrible man, but there was nothing I could do.

We took him home, and let Squirrel see him, and say goodbye. We also let the cats say goodbye. We buried him in the backyard at the base of the lilac tree that we just planted. Anthony had to explain to the neighbors what we were doing, since they were out and looking somewhat suspicious about him digging a grave while I held a tiny bundle wrapped in a towel while I cried.

I've spent the past few days a complete mess. I'm trying not to feel guilty, and it isn't really working at all. He was only 3 and he should have lived for at least another 5-8 years. I feel like there is so much more that I could have done for him. If nothing else I wish we had taken him in Friday morning, because at least that way our vet could have put him to sleep, which would have been much much better. I've been through every stage of grief in no particular order, and currently I'm stuck at bargaining, "I'll go through the hell of last year just to have him back." And wishing that it was Squirrel instead of Jack that was gone. I love her, and she is a very sweet bunny. But Jack had so much personality. He was my baby bunny and while he was a complete pain in the ass, he was also a never ending source of amusement.



Goodbye Jack. I will miss you and your whiskery little bunny nose. I love you buddy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pissed Off

Well, my very good weekend took a turn for the worse. Anthony's dad is giving him a small rowboat with an outboard motor. Anthony looked in the area for a hitch to put on the Civic to haul it on a trailer when we were visiting them last weekend. Of course there were none to be had, so he ordered one from an auto parts store and it was supposed to be delivered to our house. He got a call the other day saying that there was a mistake and it had been delivered to the store. Very annoying. He's out of town for a work trip, so I went to get it today.

A guy there carried it out to the car for me, and gouged a chunk out of the bumper. It's a three year old car with almost zero scratches, so I was really annoyed. I went back in and talked to the manager about it. She wrote up a statement about what happened, and gave me a card for a body shop to get an estimate. Then she tried to tell me that they couldn't guarantee that they'd pay for it all but they'd pay for at least part of it. If it had been my car, I would have brought down my wrath and told her that they WOULD be paying for all of it, and that if they didn't we would get a lawyer involved and we certainly wouldn't be shopping at the store again. But since it's Anthony's car, I figured I would let him take care of it.

He's ferocious about negotiating and I've never seen a manager or anyone he's had to deal with not back down and do exactly what he asked for, so I'm not too concerned that it won't get taken care of. It's just ridiculously frustrating that we have to deal with it. If they had shipped it like they were supposed to, none of this would have happened.

Invisible Friends

For a few years I've been a member of an online forum. It's an unbelievably wonderful group of people. Most forums I've checked out are a complete mess. People are snarky and immature and feel the need to lash out at random people for no apparent reason. Not to mention the complete and utter lack of organization by the moderators with duplicate posting and no coherence to the threads. Obviously, I haven't checked out every forum on the internet, I am sure there thousands out there, and some of those are probably wonderful. But from what I've seen, the average one isn't really my thing.

I was completely blown away when I ran across this one. It's well moderated, everyone is expected to be polite, and if they aren't, they're nicely asked to rephrase what they said, or to find another site to join. But they're welcome to express differing opinions, and there are a lot of interesting debates. They just don't spiral into bitchy personal attacks and pointless name calling. Plus, everyone is very intelligent and interesting and manages to write in complete sentences and use proper grammar. Imagine that. You'll notice I'm not mentioning the name of the community. It's because I am a selfish bitch and want to keep it to myself. It's really wonderful to have something I can have as my very own. Well, me and a thousand other people who are members...But it's something totally separate from all of the other people in my life. There is a core group of people who are on pretty much all the time and very involved with the site. In two and a half years of being a member, I'm one of those. After real life friends like Erin, they're the first people I go to with a question, or a problem or to tell about my day. They were there for my during the hell of last summer, and sent me an amazing care package with chocolate, and bath stuff, and gift cards, and a zester and a teapot. There were wonderful cards and letters and so much support and love. It seems impossible that people who have never met in person could become so close. But despite the odds, they've become some of my closest friends.

Yesterday afternoon I got together with four of them to meet, and have lunch. They're all in the Michigan area, and we spent a whole afternoon relaxing on a deck talking. I got there at 3:30 and left at 2am. It was an instant success and they were people it seemed like I had known for years. Which I suppose is technically true that I have, but I never expected it to translate so easily from internet life, to real life. We clicked immediately and it was such an amazing feeling to be a part of it. I am just so incredibly glad I found the group and that I had the opportunity to join it. It isn't always easy to meet people in the area who are smart, and interesting and into a lot of the same things I am. I know I'm being all mushy and sappy, but I can't say enough about how wonderful all of these people are, and hope thrilled I am to be part of the community.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why?

Because when someone asked me what I did tonight I wanted to be able to say "balanced on a deck railing while trying to unhook a 200 pound flower pot at 11:30 at night."

That or because Michigan and Mother Nature are having a bit of an argument and she decided we needed frost. In May. Bitch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reason Number 4,692...

I spent last week babysitting two little guys. My cousin and her husband had to go out of town for work. Amy was in Detroit, and Michael was in Mexico. I got to their house Sunday evening. We had dinner and then Amy left. Michael left at the ungodly hour of 2:30 AM. My job for the week was to get up at 7 and get the boys ready for the day. Benjamin is 6, so he goes off to school. And Jonathon is 2, so I spent the day taking care of him. And then when Benjamin is home from school, make dinner, and get them ready for bed. They're really well behaved but it was still exhausting.

If I'd ever questioned it before, I'm even more sure I'm not cut out to be a Mother. I'm just not willing to give up that much of my time. Along with 4,691 other reasons of course.

But we did have a fun week. They're smart and funny kids and I didn't really have any discipline problems. I had to come up with a few creative ideas for sharing Legos, but once that was figured out, it went really well. They both made me laugh quite a few times. I was pushing the two year old on his swingset and he said "push me up into the sky!" I think that's the best thing I've ever heard. I remember thinking that when I was little. That if someone just pushed me high enough I'd be able to fly.

Also, when he was eating lunch one day he was so tired he kept nodding off. He'd eat a bite and chew very slowly and his head would droop and he'd jerk himself awake long enough to take another bite. He looked like a little tiny drunk the way he was weaving around. After he finished lunch he slowly walked to the ottoman and passed out draped over the ottoman with his feet still on the floor. So cute. I laid him down on the couch and he slept for two full hours.

We spent a lot of time playing with Legos, and trains and plastic food. The two boys "cooked" me dinner over and over with their plastic food sets. All in all it was a good week, but I was glad to get home. If I never watch "Bob the Builder" again, I will be intensely grateful.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Public Service Announcements

I hate to be a pain, but I have two subjects I'm feeling very passionate about right now. Cats and string, and rental insurance.

Mercury has been sick for almost a month and a half. It started with her repeatedly throwing up a clear foamy liquid. We made many trips to the vet, and blood tests and x-rays couldn't prove what was wrong. We brought her home and she seemed to be doing much better. All of a sudden she stopped eating, lost a lot of weight and was very lethargic. This weekend we tried feeding her moist food in a syringe, and she kept down the first amount we gave her, but threw up the second. She also threw up several feet of thread. So on Monday we took her to the vet, and they kept her overnight. She had lost over 1/3 of her body weight. She went in for surgery Tuesday morning. It was very very bad. The vet ending up finding another 5-6 feet of thread. He said if she had been a dog, or an old cat, she wouldn't have survived. She woke up slowly from the surgery because it was a very long surgery. But she started to respond really well. We visited her for an hour or so every night this week. Every time we saw her we were amazed by how much better she was doing. I brought her home this morning and she's eating and mewing a lot and enjoying the sunshine on the porch. So, please, check out your house. Find any sort of string or thread or anything of that sort that you cat could get into. Do NOT let them play with it. Even if they've never acted interested in anything string-like at all...it's not worth the possibility of losing them, or the 2,000 dollars we spent to get her well.

My other rant involves money too. I picked Mercury up at the vet clinic this morning. I was almost home when I noticed a police car blocking off the street, and smoke. From where I was at, it could EASILY have been our house. Of course I am freaked out and starting to have a panic attack. It's several weeks shy of when the apartment burned down last year, so of course I was terrified that it's ours. I tried to stay as calm as I could and drove a street over and pulled over to the side. From there I could see that it was the house across the street and two over. But the entire block was taped off. I talked to two nice policemen who said there was no problem with me walking through and that I was welcome to stay parked in the no parking zone. That they most certainly wouldn't give me a ticket.

So I hurried Mercury through, cause I know the noise and smoke are extra stress she didn't need. I went to put my key in the door and broke down sobbing. But I got her in, and situated her in the bedroom with food and water and her bed, and clean litter. And then proceeded to have a panic attack. I am alright now though. One of my best friends, Katie, brought me lunch (including a giant chocolate chip cookie which I totally needed) and we hung out for a while. It was a huge help.

The fire was caused by faulty (meaning old) wiring. Everyone got out okay, but the critters they had didn't make it :( So sad. The neighbor's house has some melted siding and broken windows, but other than that it's ok. The house that burned down had two families in it (it was a duplex) and they lost EVERYTHING. Neither of them had any insurance though. The house is torn down already because it was so damaged, and such a safety concern. If we hadn't just had to spend so much to get Mercury well, we would help out, but there's no way we can afford it. I'd really like to, but it just isn't possible right now.

Here's my public announcement... GET RENTAL INSURANCE!!!!!!! It is NOT worth risking losing everything. It is worth giving up 10-15 dollars of your spending money to get insured. It literally doesn't cost any more than that. Anthony paid 10 dollars for 40,000 dollars worth of coverage in conjunction with his auto insurance. Give up coffeehouse lattes or a magazine subscription. It's worth it to know you're covered. I am a total pain in the ass about this, but there is absolutely zero reason for anyone to go without rental insurance. Even if you're on an incredibly tight budget already.

So, keep your cats away from string and make sure you're fully insured. They're both way more important than hopefully you'll ever realize. If you never have to use the insurance, or get surgery for your cat, then you are a lucky person. But if you don't have it, or your cat eats the string, you'll realize how important it was.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Surprise!

As per usual, Lansing is hiding all of the cool stuff. There's a market we've driven by numerous times, but we never went in. From the outside it looks fairly small, and like a green house with a farmer's market attached. It looked interesting, but not like a place where we'd actually be able to shop for groceries on a regular basis. Well...we were wrong. Someone Anthony works with mentioned it so we decided to check it out last night. I was completely blown away, it totally made grocery shopping on a Friday night worthwhile. It was incredible.

I know a lot of people find fault with Whole Foods, but I'd kill to have one in this area. I'm lucky to have a mom who goes on a semi-regular basis and brings me things from there. It's hard to compete with the quality of their fish, and they charge MUCH less for certain products. Rip on them for their prices all you want, but when you go to buy Canola Mayonnaise, are you going to spend 3 dollars on their large jar or 4.50 for the small jar at a store up here? In this area, the only health food options are whatever Meijer happens to carry, which admittedly, is getting more numerous. Or the unbelievably over-priced things at the actual health food stores. It's a struggle to eat healthy balanced meals and not spend a ridiculously large amount of money.

Horrocks to the rescue! They're a gourmet market with incredibly good prices. Every two weeks I make up a menu and we shop for the two weeks of groceries. Typically, we spend about 125-150 dollars. That does include things like toothpaste, and paper towel, and litter for the rabbits and cats. But the majority of that is spent on food. Last night, we spent 44 dollars at Horrocks. Granted, that wasn't for everything, but we got all of our produce, some of our meats (we already had some in the freezer), dairy, and a few splurges. We got really incredible gourmet salami, and marinated feta with olives. Their prices are high on canned goods, so we went to Meijer for those. At Meijer we spent almost an equal amount on canned beans and tomatoes, whole grain pasta, a few frozen veggies, whole grain bread, rice, couscous and spices . Our new shopping plan is to stock up once a month at Save a Lot on all of our canned goods. They're significantly cheaper than Meijer, and the quality is comparable. We'll go to Meijer for the few things we can't get there, like whole grain bread and pasta, toiletries, litter, etc. And all of our fresh food we'll buy at Horrocks. I'm betting we can keep our bi-weekly grocery bill (including what we get at Save a Lot) under 100 dollars, and closer to 80.

Plus, I feel much better supporting a local, independent store as much as possible. As we left Horrocks and put our bags in the trunk of the car, we found a five dollar bill on the ground and no one around to claim it. Clearly a sign that buying healthy local food is the way to go.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Menu Reviews 2

Pita Sandwiches – These were so simple to make and so delicious. Whole wheat pitas stuffed with lemon hummus, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and feta. I usually buy the pre-crumbled feta. It’s a good price, convenient and quite salty. The store was out, so I got French sheep’s milk Feta. It’s much less salty, and strong but in a different way. I will have to figure out what to do with the rest of it, besides crumbling it up in my salads. Anthony added sliced green olives to his pitas, but I usually prefer black olives to green so I decided to go without them. We the sandwiches with tomato soup (canned) which made the meal really nice and filling without being heavy. We’ll definitely make the pitas again.

Sweet Potato Soup with Miso and Ginger – A really unusual tasting soup. Most sweet potato soups taste very fall-ish, but this is a nice soup for any time of year. We had it with whole grain bread, but it would have been even better with a crusty whole grain baguette. I used ground ginger instead of fresh, because the ginger root had gone bad. Next time, I will try it with the fresh and I will replace half of the chicken stock with water to cut down on the salt. Definitely worth making again.

Spicy Ginger Pork in Lettuce Cups – I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while and I am glad I finally did. It was simple to make, healthy and really delicious. Next time I would add a little bit more ginger and crushed red pepper. I might try a different type of lettuce, the Boston lettuce had a tendency to rip easily, and something a little sturdier might have been easier to eat. I really liked the contrast between the warm spicy pork and cool lettuce. Sometimes I don’t like the flavor of celery, I feel like it overwhelms a dish, but this was the perfect amount and the celery and water chestnuts add a really nice crunch. It was also really good cold as a leftover the next day.

Toad in a Hole – Despite the numerous references to it, and the fact that it always looked good, we’d never gotten around to making these. On the spur of the moment, we both decided they sounded good, so we made them for breakfast. They were very quick, and simple. The whole grain bread tasted good and was nice and sturdy. We experimented with a few different sized holes in the bread, and the ones made by the small juice glasses seemed to work the best. Anthony left it nice and runny in the center. Salt and pepper added a lot to the taste of the egg, and it was best when it was added before the egg started to cook. Anthony had his with passion fruit jam which he really liked, and I had mine plain. We’ll definitely make these again and I’m sure we’ll try it with different jams and maple syrup.

Maple Roasted Chicken Thighs and Sweet Potatoes – This was such a simple recipe. It took about 35 minutes to cook, but the prep was incredibly simple. Some chicken thighs, sliced onion and chopped carrots and sweet potatoes. A little salt and pepper and maple syrup on top. It’s a small amount of maple syrup but it adds a lot of flavor. Next time I would add a little oil in the bottom of the roasting pan to keep the veggies from sticking, and I would turn down the temperature from 450 to 425 or so. It took less time than the recipe called for to cook and I think they would have cooked a little more evenly at a lower temperature. I will definitely make this recipe again.

Tuna Melt – This was a really simple recipe, just a basic tuna fish sandwich with cheddar cheese on top, and then cooked in a pan like a grilled cheese. It was really good comfort food, and quick to make. Worth making again.
Carrot Raisin Salad – Also quick and simple, although next time I might buy pre-shredded carrots instead of grating them myself. The sauce is a little bit of plain yogurt with spices and salt and pepper. The recipe called for cumin, but I added a little bit of cinnamon too. Anthony wasn’t thrilled with the recipe, but I liked it. It was the cumin he disliked, so I might try it with cinnamon (and maybe ginger) next time. I thought it went really well with the tuna melt.

Chinese Pork Noodles – I modified this recipe quite a bit. I had just made a recipe with ground pork, so I substituted small slices of pork chops. Also, it called for Napa cabbage, and I used peapods and peas. I also used soba noodles instead of the spaghetti noodles it called for. It turned out really well. The peapods were a nice texture, the pork was tender and the sauce was really flavorful. I would definitely make it again, with my variations, and the original recipe.

Italian Sloppy Joes This recipe really came in handy the night I made it. I was really tired and my head hurt and this went together so quickly. I used lean ground beef and drained off all of the fat after I browned it. I added some bottled spaghetti sauce, a few extra herbs and topped buns with it, and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. I toasted the buns first, and then put them back into a warm oven to melt the cheese. Anthony really liked them and I did too. I don’t normally like “cheater” recipes that use mostly bottled sauces, I prefer to cook from scratch as much as possible. But this was really delicious and simple.

Braised Chicken with Scotch and Chutney - I halved this recipe, and it was just the right amount. I browned chicken thighs, onion and garlic in a little olive oil, and poured in the sauce ingredients, and put the skillet in the oven for a half hour. The chicken was really tender but the sauce was still really thin. I took the chicken out, and put it on a cookie sheet in the warm oven for a few minutes while I reduced the sauce on top of the stove. I topped the chicken with the sauce to serve, and it was incredibly good. It was sweet, and a little spicy and the chicken was almost falling apart tender.
Blue Cheese Greens – I served the chicken with mixed baby greens tossed with peas and green onion and a small amount of blue cheese dressing. I left the greens slightly damp from when it was washed and it helped the dressing coat the greens lightly. It was really delicious and went very well with the chicken.

Barbeque Baby Back Ribs – We didn’t have time to make a homemade barbeque sauce, so we bought Sweet Baby Ray’s, one that we knew would be really good. Anthony cut the ribs into individual pieces, and put it in a crockpot with a bottle of barbeque sauce and cooked it for 6-7 hours. It was almost falling apart when he took them out and caramelized the sauce on the grill. They turned out really well, and were tender, moist and very flavorful.
Rancho Beans – This is one of Anthony’s family recipes. It’s beans, onion, ground beef, sausage, and yellow and Dijon mustards. It cooked all day also, and is very simple. I like it, although I'm not nearly as crazy as he is.
Citrus Green Onion Coleslaw with Walnuts – Anthony wasn’t crazy about this recipe but I was really happy with it. He doesn’t particularly like coleslaw of any type, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. Instead of Napa cabbage I bought pre-shredded broccoli slaw and rainbow slaw (carrots, cabbage and broccoli). I bought two small bags, but it seemed to multiply so I think I will cut the recipe in half next time. The recipe called for shredded cucumber, but I decided against adding it. I used orange zest, plain yogurt, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper for the dressing. I added green onions, chunks of orange, and walnuts. It was light, fresh and summery tasting and much healthier than traditional coleslaw.

Gardenburgers – We needed a quick meal so we had Sundried Tomato and Basil Gardenburgers. They have a pizza sauce flavor, and go really well with a little bit of mozzarella melted on top. They’re one of my favorite quick, healthy meals. I had leftover coleslaw with it, which actually went better than I expected.

Crockpot Raspberry Chicken – I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while, and I am glad I did. The sauce is very simple, raspberry jam, yellow mustard and a little soy sauce, but it adds a lot of flavor. I cooked the chicken leg/thigh quarters in the crockpot with the sauce all day and they were incredibly tender. The sauce wasn’t very appetizing looking though, and neither was the chicken, so Anthony put the chicken on the grill for a few minutes and I made up a second batch of the sauce. He basted it on the chicken and it was absolutely fantastic that way. I loved the sauce, and the combined crockpot cooking and grilling was wonderful, but I don’t think I’d ever serve it straight out of the crockpot.
Wild Rice – I served the chicken with wild rice. The flavors went really well together. I added a bit of salt and a small pat of butter to the rice, and it really added depth to the flavor.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Patrick

This is going to be sort of an odd post, but apparently it's something that's really been bugging me since I've had a couple of dreams about it.

Seven years ago I met Patrick. We dated for a little while and were officially in a serious relationship for eight months. It ended, and not particularily well. But we later got to be friends again. He had a habit of disappearing occasionally, but we reconnected the fall after I met Anthony, and we had dinner and hung out and talked and watched a movie. It was really nice to be able to talk to him and I really thought that we were going to stay in contact. But he disappeared again without a trace. I emailed him a few times, and called, but he never answered the emails and his phone number had been changed. The phone number wasn't so much of a surprise, I've never seen anyone change their phone more often than he did, but it really made me sad. I've been hoping he'll somehow reappear; without any luck.

Last month Anthony and I went to go see Macbeth at MeadowBrook Theater with my parents. On the drive home we stopped to get gas. Anthony went in to get water, and two guys came out and got in a truck. The truck backed up in front of me, and then paused. I stared at the driver, and he stared back at me. It felt like an electric shock and being kicked in the chest. Every tiny part of me KNEW that was Patrick. I sat there, stunned, and DIDN'T DO ANYTHING. I didn't wave, I didn't smile, I didn't get out of the car and run over to the truck. I was completely frozen and I don't know why. All it would have taken was for me to do something, anything...and I would have known. Sure, I would have been a little embarrassed if it hadn't been him, but I would have survived it. And it was at a nice, clean, well-lit gas station with my boyfriend 20 yards away, it would have been safe enough. Instead...I sat there with my mouth open and did nothing. I let the truck drive away and now I'll never know.

And since, I've been dreaming about him. No, get your minds out of the gutter...not that kind of dreaming. Dreams where we have a mutual friend who gets us in contact again, or we somehow stumble across each other. Dreams where I'm smart enough to do something. I had another one last night, and I'll never forget how elated I was. I was so unbelievably happy to be talking to him again, and when I woke up, how disappointed that it wasn't true. I do have one way I could possibly get ahold of him. His sister is rather well known in the fashion industry in New York and an author, and I could contact her. But I only met her once, and since I'm not actually a crazed stalker, I wouldn't ever do it. But it's so tempting.

I'm sure some people think I'm insane. How could I possibly care so much about some random ex from forever ago. Well, I do. It's as simple as that. I care deeply about all of my friends. Call it crazy, or blame it on the fact that I'm an only child. But I would walk through fire for any of my friends. And despite, well everything, Patrick was a friend too. And I can't just stop caring about someone I loved so deeply. This isn't some weird relationship issue I can't get over. Or a longing for a past boyfriend. I don't want to dredge up our past and understand what went wrong. I've already been through that. I don't need the past boyfriend, I need the friend. So if you're out there Patrick, whatever your reasons for disappearing again, don't let them stop you from getting back in contact with me. I miss you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kitty Pictures


Mercury




Ra



I thought I'd put up a few new pictures of my adorable kitties. Hopefully I'll be able to take some new ones of the bunnies soon too, now that Jack is feeling better.