Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let's Hear it for the Boy(s)!

This has been a great weekend, and let me tell you why.

First, I had an excellent Friday night, despite a few calls about power outages at work, going to a punk band practice. It was cool -- the band was really good (a good thing, since they have a show next weekend), and I had a great time.

Then, my brother came to visit on Saturday a.m., and that was an unexpected treat. We had lunch at Klondike Kate's in Newark (great Sassafras salad -- two thumbs up!) and didn't get caught up in UD graduation traffic -- I completely forgot about that!

We visited my grandparents, bearing strawberry-rhubarb pie, on Saturday afternoon, and they were really happy to see us, and we had a lovely visit. My grandma isn't doing so well health-wise, and I've really been making a concerted effort to get up to visit her as often as I can. I was up the weekend of Mother's Day, and now this weekend -- June is pretty packed, but I'll figure out when I can get a few free hours to pop up again.

J. and I also had a great dinner at Jose's Border Cafe -- try the fish tacos -- with perhaps a margarita too many. J. is headed to Miami University to start an M.Arch. degree in June, and I'm so proud of him I could spit. 

Today, I'm heading up to Philly to have brunch with Josh -- our friendship is perhaps the best thing to have come out of spring/summer 2008. Very much looking forward to seeing him, seeing a little more of Philly, and hopefully having something with syrup. :) Josh's choice of restaurants has been fabulous thus far (Pub & Kitchen being my favorite of them, though the Greek place was great too ... ), and I'm excited to see what I'll be introduced to today.

This week promises to be busy -- work stuff, and a tour of the National Constitution Center on Thursday a.m. in preparation for Philadelphia Celebrates Mount Holyoke on September 30 (Joe Ellis will speak: be there or be square). 

And walking. Five miles on Friday. Hopefully six miles this afternoon. Three and four miles each evening this week ... I've got to stay on track, here!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I have (kind of) learned how to drive a stick shift. And in a Jeep Wrangler, I might add, which is really, really cool.


I may only be acquainted with 1st and 2nd gear, but nonetheless, I have at least begun to learn the concept. And only stalled twice. In an hour. I drove on two actual streets, with people and cars (and a roving collie) -- not just the high school parking lot. No one was injured. There were no tears or tantrums.

There was just rock-star quality driving. ;)

Oh, and by the way -- I'm still walking ... don't forget to click on the widget at right and donate some of your hard-earned cash to help find a cure for breast cancer. It's the least you can do.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Good (?) things on a holiday ...

Happy Memorial Day. Please take a minute to remember anyone who's no longer a part of your everyday life -- be it through death, or something less permanent -- especially the brave service men and women who have given their lives for our life of relative ease & freedom.

Then, please take a minute to notice the fact that one of my favorite blogs has posted my recipe for fried chicken. I'm sure she didn't mean to use it without crediting me (could be that it's the most logical possible way to make fried chicken, and that she doesn't know I exist), but nonetheless. If you want to know why my fried chicken (which, I must say, it's been an appallingly long time since I've cooked it) is the best, check this out

In personal news, I am going to attempt to learn to drive a stick shift today. This is a landmark event, as I did not get a driver's license until I was 21 (long story short: I failed the test the first time, hadn't really ever failed anything before, went to a residential college & didn't need to drive ... until the summer after graduation, and then my lack of driver's license hit critical mass, and bless her, e. taught me to parallel park), and am not as one might say, "mechanically inclined." 

I struggle with right and left (and knowing which is which). My dear e. actually used to tell me "my way or your way," which helped. A lot. She usually did.

I do not like doing things that I'm not good at. Hence all the posts about cooking and stuff, and none about auto maintenance or money management or maintaining a relationship.

And -- woe to the person who is going to try to teach me -- I get frustrated easily (especially by things I don't do well), and am prone to fits of hysterical crying.

Now, if that doesn't sound like a fun time, I don't know what does!

But -- it's so damn cool (much like smoking, without the associated death risk). And I really want to learn. And I'm going to be on my best behavior, and really try to understand how it works.

So -- cross your fingers, stay out of the high school parking lot, and tune in later this week for a progress report. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Agree to dis-degree ...

Here's the question of the day.

What's the relative value of a college degree?

Are all degrees equal? Does just having slogged through four-plus years of General Studies *somewhere* have equivalent value to having a degree in Worked-My-Ass-Off-ology at a so-called prestigious institution?

Can you successfully complete a college degree and still have very little substance to offer?

Mathematically, my Mount Holyoke degree is worth about $125k -- and that's not taking interest on student loans into account. Philosophically, my Mount Holyoke education is invaluable -- priceless, as it were. 

But in terms of either social cache or personal merit or she-makes-good-dinner-conversation-ability, what's a bachelor's degree worth?

Twice as much as an associate's?
Two-thirds as much as a Master's?

The mind boggles. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Magic numbers ...

There are lots of different kinds of magic numbers, and no, I'm not referring to that which the phrase often refers. What I'm really interested in is as follows:

How long is long enough? 

It's a question that merits consideration in a variety of arenas -- but let's just consider the "how long since you broke up with your ex?" scenario.

How long should it be before you're considered date-able again? A month? Three months? Six months? What about a year?

I know it's relative and subjective and all of that vague stuff, but there must be some kind of curse-has-been-lifted kind of timeline. 

'Cause I got asked today "how long it had been" (it's been a year -- almost precisely), and I suddenly felt like maybe it wasn't long enough, and that there might've been a wee bit of judgement.

And then I realized that I'm just the teensiest bit over-sensitive, and that maybe it was really just a question.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, you know.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pins & needles

Kind of literally.

Not as in straight pins and sewing needles, but as in that half-asleep feeling in your foot after too long in lotus position. 

But in my hands. Both of them. Kind of like gloves -- prickly, pins-'n-needles, invisible gloves, whenever I'm touching or holding anything. 

Yes, I do think this is of at least mild medical interest, and yes, I've already made appointments, and scheduled tests.

However, the point is not the pins-'n-needles feeling in my paws, but the psychic pins and needles that I've been waiting on for the past 12 years -- ever since the first doctor said, "sounds like you have fibromyalgia." Now, granted, I wrote off that opinion largely on the basis of a) no actual medical evaluations having been conducted, and b) the doctor in question knowing an awful lot of family history, that while relevant, was probably prejudicial, and c) the lack of actual medical tests confirming said diagnostic utterance. Did I mention that there were no medical tests? Not even an ANA or an RF level? (Oh, I guess I did.)

There have been such tests since, though, and they've been largely inconclusive, due to my totally wacky thyroid. But, I figure, sooner or later, the other shoe will drop. 

So here I am, likely totally blowing tingling hands out of proportion -- what? don't your hands tingle for four days at a time? -- and fearing the worst.

This is what's been on my mind. However, there have been several delightful distractions in the past few days, and I'll mention those now, in lieu of more belly-aching.

- getting flowers at work. The card said "Happy Tuesday." That pretty much rocked my day -- as did the flower-giver's later appearance.

- catching up with a friend that I've been seriously missing, though I'd have picked a cheerier topic if I'd been choosing.

- the fabulous posts at Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman. Hello, Deb & Ree: will you be my friends?

- excellent weather. Finally.

- visiting my grandma on Saturday. It made her so happy.

- OPI's 'Magnifico Mexico.'

- digital cable, coming soon to a TV near me on Sunday. I caved. I'm buying digital cable, though I only have to pay the difference between the digital and what's already included with my condo. I'm wicked excited about it -- on-demand, here I come!

-  fabulous, generous donations for my 3-Day walk! (Don't forget to click at right to give!)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mmm. Spring.

First of all, I have *got* to find some rhubarb this weekend -- it's crazy that I haven't seen any yet, and I'm dying to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie (because there are fresh, local strawberries), and I also want to try out this amazing rhubarb cobbler from, you guessed it, Smitten Kitchen.

Second, it is so nice that it's lighter earlier and longer. After 11 days of rain, I was definitely feeling some seasonal-affective effects yesterday, and just when I thought I was going to have to crawl under my desk & cry for a while, the sun came out. Seriously -- it was like the heavens opened and the angels sang, and my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad mood was almost instantly cured. (I'm sure my co-workers were grateful; prior to that, I'd been seriously contemplating fake-'n-baking, for the UV exposure.)

There's also something about this weather that makes you want to, well, find some ... extra-curricular activities ... whatever that might mean to you. There's definitely something in the air -- or in the case of my office, maybe in the water: we've had more babies in the last year than anyone can remember before. 

Speaking of babies -- one of my co-workers is having a baby shower next week, and instead of bringing cards, we've all been asked to inscribe a children's book for her baby. It's a lovely idea -- and I'm all over the place with book ideas. Perhaps you have some recommendations?

Here's hoping the sun stays out for the next couple days. My mood could use it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weird, bad, good ...

Things that are weird:

- when people turn up unexpectedly in places that are, frankly, unexpected. This is disconcerting. And I prefer to be concerted ... or something like that.

- when the sheets & towels in the dryer all roll up in a ball (but are still dry).

Things that are bad:

- Comcast's sudden decision to take MSNBC (and therefore, Rachel Maddow) away from me, unless I subscribe to digital cable. While I see the relative merits (hello, on-demand!) of digital cable, my regular cable is already included in my condo fees, thank you very much. Decisions, decisions.

Things that are not weird or bad (and are, in fact, good):

- the amazing & generous donations that are finding their way to my 3-Day account. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

- Villainess Soaps. Good. Very good.

- the Cooper Sharp & ham omelet that I had for dinner, in lieu of another piece of leftover lasagna.

That's what I've got for today. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy birthday to Miss Courtlyn, who is four years old today -- completely unbelievable. Her mother would like me to tell you that she was born on 5/5/05, and will be 20 on 5/5/25. We both think that's super cool -- and were both excited on 3/3/09. We are, apparently, both nerds.

Happy birthday to Wendy, without whom my job would be sheer misery.

And now -- a few more fun things:

- I know you didn't ask, but I love Hot Tamales. Irrationally. They are nothing but sugar and artificial flavoring, but I love them. 

- I am thrilled to report that our class met our Annual Fund fundraising goal. This is good news, ladies -- it means we can totally rock our $25k goal for next year!

- I am proud of myself for walking tonight, despite the fact that 15 minutes into my five-mile walk, it started to pour. Buckets. Cats and dogs and hamsters and giraffes. Awful rain. And I gutted it out. Yay me.

- I believe I've mentioned the delicacy known as Creme de Menthe cake before -- and I baked another one tonight for our celebration of Wendy's birthday tomorrow at the supervisors' meeting. It is a little slice of mint-and-chocolate heaven. With Cool Whip on top. 10 points if you can name the restaurant I bastardized that tag line from -- bonus points for identifying the menu item to which the slogan relates.

You can make your very own Creme de Menthe cake (photo coming tomorrow). It couldn't be easier, and people will go nuts for it. You'll need:

- one white cake mix (or make your own -- fancy-pants!)
- one 16 oz. can of Hershey's syrup (I actually do like to mix things up & make ganache)
- one tub of Cool Whip
- 2 Tbsp. of Creme de Menthe (or you can cheat & use 1 tsp. of mint extract + green food coloring -- I won't tell) plus a splash more for the frosting

Mix cake according to package directions. Add creme de menthe (or mint extract/food coloring) and mix well. Bake as directed. Let cake cool completely -- really, I mean it -- then top with Hershey's syrup & chill overnight. 

Add a splash of creme de menthe to Cool Whip & frost cake. Keep chilled, or serve immediately.

I promise. It's that good, you won't care that it's totally store-bought & processed. Sure, you can read Deb's blog & learn how to make the perfect cinnamon raisin bagel from scratch ... or, you can read my blog & bake Midwestern desserts with the best of 'em.

And hey -- I walked five miles in the rain entirely because I'm committed to the 3-Day. Perhaps I should *be* committed, but until that happens, please find it in your pocketbook to donate ... click on the widget at right. 

Friday, May 1, 2009


I finally did it. 

I've lived here for almost a year (a whole year on June 21, thank you very much), and I haven't done it yet. But today I did.

Yup, I finally locked myself out of my house. 

And let me tell you how.

Crazy night at work last night (I won't go into details, but suffice to say, tires were slashed, police were called, and people were arrested), and I was exhausted, but slept horribly (too much angst about work -- surprise, surprise!). So, I overslept this morning, and was in a rush to get ready & get to work, because it was Family Day.

My co-director called me at about 8:25, as I was putting the leash on the dog, and getting ready to head out for our walk. We talked for a couple minutes, and then Hadley & I headed out.

And once the door clicked behind me (the giant, metal door to the main stairwell that keeps out the unwanted), I patted my pocket to reassure myself that my keys were there, as I do every time I hear the door click. (Note to self: check for keys *before* door clicks. Duh.)

No keys. No cell phone. Just a socially-awkward dog, a raincoat, and a dollar in my pocket.

I did not panic. (I don't care if you don't believe me, I still didn't panic.)

I calmly walked the dog around to the back patio -- which has a 3.5" wall around it, and checked to see if any of my windows were unlocked. Being a good, safe sort, they were not. 

I thought brightly to myself, "Oh -- there's that hide-a-key that Dad gave me, for just such an emergency!" And then I remembered that I'd never hidden the hide-a-key. Crap.

I picked Hadley up and over the wall (which he was none-too-thrilled about, I might add), and then climbed over to survey the patio. Doors -- locked. Check. Windows -- still locked. Check.

I pried up the edge of one of the screens (with my beach umbrella -- very MacGyver of me, don't you think?) and checked the smallest window again. Still locked. I thought about breaking the window, and thought that surely, this would be the least expensive to replace (as in, less than the two sets of French doors). I seriously considered breaking the window for a hot minute.

And then I heard it. The sound of some sort of small power tool, coming from the maintenance garage at the end of the drive. I shimmied back over the wall, and went to investigate, hardly daring to believe my change of luck.

Saved by a power sander. And by the nicest maintenance guy ever. I was only a little teary when I asked if he could please let me in (because I'd locked myself out, and I was really, really, really sorry) -- which, of course, he did.

Catastrophe averted.

The day got only marginally better -- one of the low-lights was merging from Rt. 1 onto 95 (across 5 lanes of traffic) while driving a school van with a let's-just-say *pharmacologically-liberal* mother, and having her say to me (after I apparently hadn't heard the questions she'd been asking), "So, you just don't know anything, is that it?" That was special.

My day ended happily, though, with a really lovely (and inexpensive -- score!) manicure & pedicure. My feet are now ready for sandal season (with the exception of the calluses quickly building up on the soles -- thanks *so* much, 3-Day training!), and my nails are pretty & happy. 

I do have a giant bruise on my thigh as a memento of my morning escapade, and I'm pretty sure I'll be hiding that hide-a-key as soon as I get a(nother) spare made.