Friday, December 29, 2006

The Good Old Ways?

We used to need these signs, when I was growing up. There was a sizable Amish population around us, as well as a large number Mennonites. They had hitching racks outside the stores in town, and sometimes there would be horses and buggies attached to them. The area has grown up too much - the Amish have retreated. The signs still hang, 'cause my little town has become quite the tourist mecca, and tourists love shit like those signs, but it's been probably 15 years since I've actually seen a horse and buggy clopping down the street.

Right now, I'm thinking they have the right idea. I have no right to whine, really, 'cause I'm more fortunate than most - but that's not going to stop me. Yes, I realize that without a slightly more modern vehicle, the trip home could not have been accomplished in the six and a half hours that it took. Still...

When Dad asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said that the best thing he could give me was time - car maintanance time. My Cherokee went over 98000 miles on the trip home, and some things needed worked on. For one thing, it was oil change time again. For another, I'm really freakin' sick of not having a working heater. The air conditioner not working didn't phase me, 'cause I'm usually freezing and I never turn it on. The heat, though, that's a bit more critical.

So Wednesday, I hauled myself and my Jeep over to my parents' house so Dad could work on it. My brother even promised to help. Well, in the course of changing the oil and lubing everything, they discovered that my U joints were about shot. So I had to haul it over there again so they could replace those. Then on my way back to my aunt's, the damn thing overheated and dumped coolant all over the driveway. Then they got the u joints replaced, and it started shaking at 55 mph. Now they're going to change the thermostat to the radiator and I have to bring it back tomorrow so they can fool around with it some more.

And... my heater still doesn't work. Dammit.

If I feel like being really picky about things, I'll whine about the rest of it too. Like how the pull-thing for the hood broke off a while ago, and I'm currently yanking on the fish stringer line sticking out from under the hood to get it open. And how the driver's side map light only works when it wants to. As does the overhead light when I open any of the car doors - sometimes it comes on, sometimes not. And how passengers can open the window occasionally, and other times the Jeep doesn't like 'em and won't listen.

*sigh* I'm just very lucky that I have people willing to work on it for me. I've tried the mechanic route - last year, I dumped over $3000 into the damn thing 'cause my mechanic replaced the radiator (for nearly $400) and then 'discovered' the crack in the block that required someone to machine it out for over $2600 and THEN my service engine soon light came on - and the son of a bitch charged me another almost $400 to replace an oxygen sensor. Rat bastard. My brother is of the opinion that whatever they did to the radiator probably broke the block. Since they charged me $168 to do the "diagnostic" last time - after I told them what was wrong 'cause Autozone checked it for free - I've decided to find someone new. For now, that would be my brother and my dad.

Just for the record - don't trust a mechanic named Sparky. Especially when he's got $40,000 worth of Matco tool cabinents in his garage.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Glad Tidings, And Yummy Cheese, To All

Well, Gentle Readers, I'm off shortly to brave the mall to finish up my Christmas shopping. Then I will go home, and in the time available before Sunday, I will wrap gifts, clean my grungy home, pack, organize all the things to go home, and load the vehicle. I must also stop by the post office and the bank and the library - and do a bunch of other stuff I really hope I have written down somewhere - all the things you do when preparing to leave for a week.

Once I'm home (and I've been dreading the several hour long car trip for days), my computer time will be fragmented at best. I will pick up as much of my former life as possible, meeting with friends and family, visiting old haunts, etc and who knows how much time I'll have to slave over a hot keyboard.

It is December 21, and here in Chicago, it's raining and 51 degrees. There are worms all over the pavement. It just doesn't feel like Christmas - especially, I suppose, to the worms. I'd rather drive in rain than sleet/ice/snow, so I'll postpone my wishes for a white Christmas until I'm a bit closer to home. But for all of you, I hope your holiday season - whatever you happen to be celebrating - is all that you want it to be.

If, like me, you have a huge annual New Year's party to go to, try this recipe - it is SO good.

Marinated Cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp minced green onion
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2 oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
1 5 1/2 x 2 x 1 inch block sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz), chilled
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, chilled

Combine first 10 ingredients in a jar, cover tightly and shake vigorously. Set marinade mixture aside.
Cut block of cheddar in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into1/4 inch thick slices, set aside. Repeat procedure with cream cheese. Arrange slices alternately in a shallow baking dish, standing slices on edges. Pour marinade over cheese slices. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours.
Transfer cheese slices to a serving platter in the same alternating fashion. Spoon marinade over cheese slices. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs, if desired. Serve with assorted crackers.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ummm Yeah

So, photography is kind of a hobby of mine. I take a lot of pictures. I'm fairly good at it. If you were to wander through the homes of my friends, you will find pictures that I took framed in all of them. I've been told on several occasions that the pictures that I took turned out better than the professional photographer hired for the occasion, and a couple of friends on budgets have just had me photograph their weddings for them.

I have a point and shoot type camera that I love - partly 'cause it's got a super cool little remote. I also have a Pentax ME Super that my dad got me for my birthday years ago. It's an older one, and completely manual. (I'm still figuring out some of the buttons and dials.) I've got a couple of flashes and several different lens, and a very official-looking bag/suitcase thing to lug them all around. I have gotten into places I had no business being 'cause people assumed I was a news person.

So, the taking pictures part of the program is not the problem. The problem is the rest of the procedure. I currently have nine rolls of film, spanning a couple of years (plus two rolls of film from eleven years ago - curse you, Seattle Filmworks!) that still need to be developed. That, unfortunately, is only part of the problem as well.

The rest of the problem is what happens after they're developed. I have 2 dresser drawers, plus an entire drawer of one of those huge four drawer lateral filing cabinets, plus a couple of boxes FULL - stuffed full - of pictures, and frames. I have some things organized into albums, but not many. Most of them are still in the packets from the developer, waiting for me to do something with them.

It's one of the things on my "to-do" list for the new year is to organize them. Of course, that has been on the to-do list for a couple of years... But now that I have a kitchen table, I have a work space, so maybe it'll happen. Hey, it could happen!

I will look, lookingUp, for the tree-rock picture. And I will develop the pictures of the new (now six months old) kitten. And I will find the wedding/baby/random cool pictures that I owe to so many people. And hopefully it will happen this year. Sometime. But not now. Now I'm busy freaking out over the holidays. But, if, erm when, when I find them, I'll post. Promise!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Here A Slipper, There A Slipper

So, just the other day, I posted about what an icky gift slippers were. Maybe I should have been more specific. They're an icky gift to give me. I have four or so pairs right now (all gifts), and I very rarely wear them. Even in the depths of winter when my toes are like ice cubes, I prefer to be barefoot while in the house.

Last Friday, I went to a work friend's fourth annual holiday party. (I'll have to do a whole post about my crazed, but really fun weekend. Good Lord above, it's almost like I have a life or something!) Part of this party was a gift exchange, so I needed to hunt down a cool $10 gift. I am not good at buying random gifts when I don't know who will be getting it. Even if I have no clue who the person is or anything about them, if I have a name, I can stalk their friends and find something that I think they'll like. Just a random gift - I'm clueless. And what if no one picks your gift, and it just sits there, the last one on the table? It's like getting picked last for the kickball team at recess. The pressure was killing me.

Thank the stars for jewelry parties - I picked up a bracelet for $11. Then I went to Target and got a really cool box to put it in. But the bracelet looked so small in the box that I went rooting around in my craft stuff and made a tree ornament to go with it.

I'm still not completely clear on the concept behind stealing gifts at these exchange things, but that's probably just me. Everyone picked a number, and of 16 people, I was number 14. Then we went in order. You could pick an wrapped present or steal someone else's unwrapped present. If you stole, that person got to chose another wrapped one. Each present could only be stolen three times total. There was some really cool stuff too - a very pretty handbag, candles, bath stuff, chocolate, a tin of homemade cards, etc. What did I get? Go ahead, guess. Did you say... slippers? Yup. *sigh* The fates were obviously retailating against me for being an ungrateful chit about the whole slipper gift thing.

And actually, it worked out well. My friend's gift got stolen from her and she ended up with coffee, which she doesn't drink. But, she'd worn holes in her last pair of slippers. So we waited 'till we were walking out and we switched.

Then (and this is the really sad part), I was wandering around the internet, looking for a suitable slipper image to head this post when I found these. Are they not the cutest things ever? Bunny slippers don't count towards the slipper geis. I want a pair! And, I bought a pair for my best friend for Christmas. So, I think I'll just pipe down about slippers 'cause I obviously don't know what I'm talking about.
(And as it happened, my gift was a hit. It didn't get stolen from the original person, but since she threatened people with bodily harm if they took it from her, that isn't a major surprise. We work at the same company but in completely different departments, so I rarely see her - but she was wearing the bracelet the last time we bumped into each other. Score!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ah, The Talent...

Isn't it pretty? I made it myself, and then hung it in the window of my cube. Yes, that would be my head at the bottom. Peek a boo! So, I'm just all full of myself right now. I made a pretty 3D snowflake, which was cool. Then (and here's what gets me all atwitter) I took a picture of it with my shiny new phone and then, using the same shiny new phone, I emailed the picture to myself. How cool is that? Once again, I'm feeling quite technologically savy.

And yes, I did spend quality work time playing with paper and tape. Why not? The last reorg (shared a week ago, effective on the first) has essentially made me a file clerk so I'll be over here, applying to every job on Monster and making snowflakes 'till I get the f*** outta here.

If you'd like to make your own cool snowflake, check out this site. I had no idea it existed, but I've found all sorts of nifty things.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ramblings and Random Babblings, Part 2

Ramble, babble or rant - you decide.


I have to conclude that cat people are crazy. Okay, I'm a cat person - I live alone with two of them. One day soon, I'll really start collecting them and I'll end up on the news or something. Hey, everyone needs a goal. But some cat people are a cog or two short of a wheel. (Whisker short of a kitten? Fin short of a tuna? Tuna short of a school? Something, anyway.) I posted something several months ago someplace else about the kitten - something along the lines of "What the hell was I thinking?!?!" I updated this post in the last couple of weeks ago with a new listing of the things that the demon has destroyed, and then I goofed. Totally blew it. I mentioned in one post that I intended to have her declawed in the front and (oh, the horror!!) I feed Sophia Purina One. Wow, did the fur fly!
I should be drug into the street and shot. I shall rot in hell for all eternity for being house-proud. I'm putting my furnishings, my clothing and my flesh above my sacred cat's happiness and well-being. AND, I'm trying to poison the other one while I'm at it. If I loved my cats, they would be invited to shred anything that was in reach of their unmolested little daggers, and I would spend my days dicing up mice and endangered songbirds for them to nibble on, while they sipped from bowls of freshly melted Antarctic glacier. Sure.

Okay, people. Lookie over here at the shiny light. See it? It's called reality. I know it hurts, but let's look into the light for a moment, shall we? Sophia is declawed in the front. She came from the shelter that way. Her little nose has a bloody scab on it now from the hellspawn swatting her, daggers extended. That beast's claws ARE coming out. The fact that Peanut spends her days jumping up the walls and shredding the paint and wallpaper enforce that this is the right decision. I rent. I have a security deposit that, greedy wench that I am, I'd really like to see again. Deal with it.

On to the poisoning. I've had Sophia for three years now. She's been on Purina One (hairball formula!) since the day she came in. The vet says she's in perfect health. And, she won't eat canned food. Or organic free range protein enhanced this-is-really-meat-honest-we-swear cat pellets. And she drinks mostly from the bathroom faucet, so she won't be ingesting too much of that flower water I would buy, if I were a good petparent. She and the kitten both drink the water in the saucers after I water my plants - dirt, dead leaves and all - so don't try to guilt me into buying spring water for them either.

Maybe I'm being unnecessarily bitchy here, but if you spend that much money on "essentials" for your "furbabies" (a word I personally loathe) and that much time, I am going regard you with a look very similar to the one I usually reserve for fat old men in shiny red convertables. Get a life. I may be bursting a bubble or two here, but your cat is not your child. If you die in your home, they'd better find you fast 'cause cats survive, and they're pretty unsentimental about it.


Speaking of free range, wild animals, if you have a chance, you should really try to watch Hogzilla. Believe it or not, it's a National Geographic Explorer. I can only assume that NG has been bought out by the Weekly World News. But, I think one of the best job titles ever is "Feral Hog Expert." How does one become an expert in this? Can there be enough need for this expertise (hard won, I'm assuming) to sustain life?


Monday, December 04, 2006

Ramblings and Random Babblings, Part 1

I've got oodles of things floating around in my brain that I've been meaning to dump here, and holy crap, it ended up being way longer than I thought so I'll split it up somewhere in the middle.


I finally got a new cell phone. I had my old one for 8 years. Yes, eight years. It drove my friends nuts. They called it either the brick or the ghetto phone. Sprint hated me 'cause I had been gloriously plan free for like six years or so. I was like the free range, wild chicken of cell phone plans.

Between the phone just not working well - I haven't had an undropped call in weeks - and Sprint making me spend an hour or so on the phone to customer service every month while they "reprogrammed" my phone so it would call out instead of calling them - "You owe... zero dollars... and must pay... zero dollars" - I finally decided that it was time.

Of course, I've tried before. Last winter, I went into a Sprint store at home. Sprint signs everywhere. Little guy in a sprint shirt came zipping over to help me, and I told 'em I wanted a new sprint phone. His whole face fell, and he informed me that he couldn't help me. He didn't have any Sprint phones. *blink* Beg pardon? It turns out that up 'till the week before, they'd been a Nextel store. They had the signs and everything, but no phones. Glad Sprint had its priorities in order, right?

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I stopped by a Radio Shack for batteries (which, btw, ended up being of a sort that they had never seen before and certainly didn't carry *sigh*), realized that they had Sprint phones, and grabbed a pretty one. I started out with a Katana or some such thing, but that had a mail in rebate and the Razor was an instant one. I now am SO trendy, with my spiffy charcoal Razor phone. Now if only I had some clue how to work it...

The part I shall really miss about the old phone is chewing on the antenna. It's a wonder I haven't fried myself.


What else? Oh, the drive home for Thanksgiving was trippy. I encountered freezing fog. My cousin lives in the mountains in Oregon and she's told me about this stuff. She's sent pictures, and it's really pretty. The drive across Indiana wasn't pretty. It was like driving through a cotton ball. A grey one. As water would condense on the Jeep, it would freeze instantly. I had to stop a couple of times and de-ice the antenna 'cause it was waving around and I was sure it was about to snap off. When I got to my brother's house, the whole front end of the truck was encased in ice. Weird.

Between that and the thundersnow, I'm really starting to wonder about our weather. (The thundersnow happens when you have thunder and lightning while it's snowing. It's really cool looking. I'm not sure what braintrust came up with the term thundersnow, but I am not mentally capable of saying it without sounding like an announcer for WWF Raw or used cars or something.)


Another thought: as you go about your gift giving this season, don't give slippers. Just don't. Given, I'm a hick and prefer to be barefoot. Also given, I LOVE shoes. Shoes do not equal slippers, people. And trying to smile and show appreciation for slippers with huge mutant Scooby heads on 'em is tough. Especially after you try to walk in them and fall flat on your face. Believe me on this one.


I can't decide whether or not to put up a tree. I have one of those pre-lit things in a box. But, most of my ornaments are glass. I haven't really posted much about my adventures with the kitten, but suffice to say, she's a demon-spawned hellchild. No ornament anywhere on the tree would be safe. Hell, the tree wouldn't be safe. And my Sophia, much as I love her, is no slouch in the tree-destroying department. Last year, I had a small tree (about 2.5 feet high), and I had to wire it to the wall and the table and then wire all of the ornaments onto it. It took me a couple of hours. And every night, I'd come home to find a glitter-covered kitty 'cause she'd spent the day whacking at it, trying for a weak spot. These aren't my cats, but the idea is the same.


I find this hilarious. People are destroying their TVs by throwing their Wii remote thingies at 'em and having the strap break. Then the remote thingie goes winging into space, until it impacts something expensive and breaks it. OMG, people, turn it off and go outside!


Solid wood furniture weighs A LOT. I brought my table and chairs back with me from Thanksgiving. The table is a pedestal-style, and we had to remove the top to get it crammed in the Jeep. Turns out that this was lucky for me 'cause there is NO way I could have pried it out of the Jeep with it still attached. As it was, I laid down blankets in a path from the Jeep to my door and rolled the table top into the apartment. Yesterday, I put it back together and hauled it upright. HEAVY! But, I now have a dining room table, and chairs! Yay!


Check out tomorrow for the rest of this brain dump.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Snowing!

Okay, so they said it was going to snow yesterday. I totally didn't believe them.

'Cause they always say it's going to snow and it never does. Didn't believe 'em even when they showed me this:

Well, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn 'cause holy crap, we have snow now!

It was raining last night on my way home. Okay, actually, it was kind of slushing but even then I didn't believe their storm warning. And later, I could hear icey-sounding things hitting the windows. Still didn't think a whole lot about it.

I woke up this morning to a wonderland. We had over 10" on the ground and it is still falling. And it's the heavy, sticky kind of snow that makes for a great snowball fight. It's killing me to be here at work today. I wanna go play in the snow!

I may go sledding this weekend, or just out walking. The snow is sticking to the trees and everything - it's beautiful. Yeah, I know. I've moaned and groaned about winter for years, but for some reason, this snow is making me happy. Maybe 'cause it's Friday and I don't HAVE to spend time out in it if I don't want to. Or because this is the first significant snowfall of the year and I've still got enough kid in me to think it's kinda magic to wake up to a whole new world.

I'm going to fill a storage tub with snow tonight and drop the kitten in it. It will undoubtedly keep me entertained for quite a while. And I think I'll build a snowman. Maybe I'll go completely wild and try to photograph a flake or two. Whatever I end up doing, happy winter everyone!