Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Vacation...Hurrah!

As of tomorrow, I’m officially on vacation. I’m quite excited about that. It’s nice to have time away from the office.

This week leading up to my vacation hasn’t been quite as festive as I’d have liked due to the impairment of my tastebuds and ability to smell the gingerbread/pepperminty scents of the season. However, I’m recovering my senses slowly and defeating this pesky cold.

On the plus side, I still have been able to get all my festive activities completed. I did finally build the gingerbread house, believe it or not. It actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I remember though actually a lot messier. It turns out that it’s all to do with the consistency of the icing. All these years, I’ve been making it too runny. You’d have think I’d have figured it out before this but, finally, I realized if I make the icing very thick, it sticks better and dries faster. Granted, this epiphany occurred after almost drowning in a cloud of powdered sugar. Note to readers: If you’re going to use a bowl that’s too small for all of the powdered sugar, don’t accidentally put the hand mixer on high when you first start mixing the sugar with the water. This induces a rather large cloud that is hazardous to ones breathing apparatus.

Once I got my house standing, it was a piece of cake to decorate it (pun intended). My only disappointment was that the kit only had three types of candy to decorate the house and the picture on the box showed a lot more. I tried to get creative but at some point, I had to concede, when you stick candy on a prefabricated gingerbread house, it still sort of looks like you stuck candy on the gingerbread house. In my mind, I always envision one of those beautiful, immaculate Hansel and Gretel type houses with the perfectly placed icicles, candy cane pathways and everything else you see in catalogues and magazines. In reality, it’s a slightly splotchy, drippy gingerbread house with gumdrops stuck on it. I did manage to pipe a design on the roof but it dripped a little and instead of having a perfectly symmetrical artistically swirled roof that matched on both sides, I had a bit of a Jackson Pollock thing going on.

Nevertheless, the gingerbread house stands. I was triumphant. Next year, I shall try not to suffer from Gingerbread House Amnesia and will not invest in kit. We’ll see if I remember that when I’m feeling the need to dive into Christmas.

I also got all my gifts wrapped. I managed to bake cookies although next year, I’m using a cookie press. I wanted to make these German cookies that my grandmother used to make. They’re hazelnut cookies that are piped onto baking sheets and baked. I managed to get the recipe right but the piping was not quite so successful. The dough was rather stiff and my disposable decorating bags didn’t hold up very well. I managed to get them done but I used up quite a few decorating bags as well as having to resort to cutting the corner off a Ziploc bag and using that. Next year, I think it’ll be worth using a cookie press instead.

Tomorrow, I head to my parents for a while where I’ll spend Christmas and New Years. I’m hoping it all goes smoothly. My dad has a new puppy who is rather adorable. Unfortunately, my own pups aren’t very fond of her. Sookie, especially, does not like the new puppy to come near me. I didn’t realize quite how possessive of me she was until last weekend when she got rather upset every time the new pup came near me. I’m clearly HER person. I’m hoping that since the puppy won’t be quite so new and unfamiliar that my girls will be a little more accepting this weekend. Unfortunately, you can’t lecture dogs on the spirit of Christmas because they just look up at you like you’re demented. Yes, I have tried and yes, I have firsthand knowledge of that look.

We’ll see how it all goes. Regardless, I’m ready to submit fully to the season. Since this will be the last blog until after Christmas, I’d like to wish every one of you a safe and happy Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Colds Stink!

I have a cold.

I hate having a cold. I generally only get one cold a year. Usually it's around Thanksgiving. This year, I triumphantly passed Thanksgiving in full healthy.

Then, about a week ago, I started getting that scratchy feeling in your throat that you know is the precursor to a cold. I started eating more oranges. I started regularly popping my gummi vitamins that have echinacea and zinc in them. I know these ingredients have not been proven to fight colds but psychologically, they work for me and that's good enough.

It seemed to be working. I got to take my mum out for her gourmet birthday meal and had the luxury of having my taste buds unhindered by a cold and I enjoyed it.

And then, the next day, I woke up with a golf-ball in my throat and a stuffy nose. It was downhill from there.

The thing with colds is that it's hard to argue that you're sick because, well, it's just a cold. Even when it's a lousy cold, it's still just a cold. Just because your taste buds are numb, your nose won't stop running and you develop a cough that won't stop annoying you, you still only have a cold.

Still, colds are horrible things. I hate them. I especially hate this one because it arrived during my very favourite week of the year and has made my Christmas fesivities a little damped. Instead of drinking mulled mead or mulled wine, I'm drinking...tea. Lots of tea. I'm eating soup instead of cheese and crackers and I'm generally not feeling too much like decking the halls.

It doesn't help that I was banished from my office yesterday. One croak from me and I was soon treated like Typhoid Mary. I ended up being sent home to work in fear that I'd infect everyone else. One of my coworkers is off to Mexico for Christmas with her family and she most certainly doesn't want a cold to take with her.

Thus, I was banished today as well. It hasn't been so bad. It's rather nice to work from home, honestly. It's just a little, well, hard to work. It's nice to have the dogs to keep me company though. Rory, in particular, seems rather concerned regarding my coughing fits and stares at me worriedly until I'm done. Then she comes and presses up against me which is her way of wanting me to cuddle her. It's very sweet. It's also a bit of a treat to work with the dogs on my lap even if it is a little hard to work.

On the plus side, it was nice to take it easy today. I know I'll be feeling better tomorrow which means I will be back in the office. Even if my coworkers don't like it, they'll have to deal with it. I'm out on Friday for vacation so I figure I should at least show my face in the office a little this week.

It just stinks having a cold. That's all I have to say. I'm hoping that all my tea with honey drinking and my vitamin C shovelling may make this nasty virus go away and that I'll feel a little more Christmas cheer tomorrow especially as I want to do some baking and baking while having a cold is not as much fun as don't have a cold.

As I always think, you can let the cold win or you can beat the cold. I've let the cold have two days of making me miserable. I'm taking control tomorrow. It's been rather nice working in the comfort of my home but it's time to get back to reality.

At least for two more days. Besides, I have mead to drink!

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Thrill of the Wait

I love this time of year. In previous blogs, I've mentioned how I love Christmas Eve far more than Christmas Day because I love the anticipation. I've always been like that. I think I enjoy the excitement and build up of many things in life far more than I enjoy the actual event.

I think it's the thrill of what might be rather than what something actually is that I like. In many cases, the actual event is everything I hoped, sometimes even more but still, the thrill of the waiting and the hope and anticipation is still something I appreciate.

That's why I love this time of year. I'm fully allowed to indulge in everything Christmas-y because Christmas is close. There's exactly a week until Christmas day and this whole next week gets to be a full on Christmas celebration. It's the countdown until the actual event and it's the best time to buy last minute gifts, bake, wrap, watch holiday movies and, best of all, eat.

I usually spend Christmas with my parents. This year will be no exception. I'll spend the 23rd through January 2nd with them. However, before I leave, I get to do lots of Christmasy things at home. I do need to build that darn gingerbread house but I also want to bake, wrap and watch Christmas movies. It's just too bad that I have to work because I have rather a lot of stuff I could be doing instead of working. However, since working pays the bills and funds my Christmas activities, it's a bit of a catch-22.

Still, I can enjoy the anticipation of Christmas and a vacation in the meantime. The week before Christmas is usually fun at work because no one really wants to be in the office. Some of the staff will already be out and those that are left tend to be a little less dedicated. There's usually treats to be had. There's fun conversation and, best of all, everyone finds a reason to slide out a little early which ends up being fine because most offices are the same way which means no one gets any work done after 4 p.m.

So even though we have to work, it's not so bad. It's nice to go home, have a nice evening and know that there are only a couple of days left before a much-needed vacation. It makes it easier. Also, the anticipation of a vacation is pretty much the same as the anticipation of Christmas: just as much fun because there's a reward at the end of it.

It's worth waiting for like so many things. I finally got my snow this weekend. Granted, I had to visit my parents to get it but since it was a great visit, I can't complain. I took my mum out to Joseph Decuis- a fabulous restaurant in the unlikely location of Roanoke, Indiana. It was expensive as good restaurants are but since every bite was worth it, I certainly didn't mind the check at the end. It's the type of place you want to do well so it survives and continues to maintain its excellence but also the type of place you don't want to do SO well that it because too trendy and gets so busy it becomes difficult to get a reservation if that makes any sense.

The fantastic meal was topped off by a lovely snowfall as we were driving home. I'd say that was pretty much the perfect topping to a wonderful evening. Granted, mum doesn't agree but, well, she enjoyed her meal so she wasn't as unhappy about it as she might have been.

Still, now the snow has melted. There's the possibility we might have a white Christmas. I'm going to hope, wear my snowflake necklace and keep my fingers crossed. Even if it doesn't snow, the hope and anticipation that it might is still quite fun.

I'll just be a little disappointed if it doesn't!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Are You, Snow?

I’m very disappointed that we haven’t really had any snow this year. We’ve had a mere flurry or two that lasted less than an hour. It’s been so warm that even if it has flurried, it’s gone as soon as it lands.

I know there are readers of my blog who don’t share my disappointment- yes, mother, I am talking to you- but I can’t help but be a little sad that the world around me has yet to be covered with a soft white carpet and I can have my annual “YAY, it’s snowing” mug of peppermint hot chocolate.

The thing is, it hasn’t really even been that cold yet. We’ve had a few cold days but mostly, it’s been rather mild. Yesterday, for example, it was 63 degrees.

I like 63 degrees in the autumn. I like it in the spring. It’s quite nice even in the summer when it gives you a break from the hot summer days.

It’s just that, well, there are ten days until Christmas and it’s just too…warm!

One of the novelties I always found about California when I lived there is that I’d go Christmas shopping in Santa Monica and it would be 68 degrees, warm and sunny about a week before Christmas. I used to smugly think of my family and friends back in the Midwest who were usually in the middle of a frigid spell and bask in the novelty of the warm weather. Of course, I wouldn’t have been so smug if I hadn’t known that I’d be flying back to the Midwest in a few days and I’d get to experience the cold weather.

I was spoiled, you see. I got to come home for the holidays and enjoy a taste of winter but go back to a place where it rarely gets below 45 degrees.

Yet I missed my snow. I missed the days when it was too cold to do anything but wrap up in a blanket, make a mug of tea and sit on the sofa watching movies, reading a book and enjoying the fact that winter gave me an excuse to be lazy.

I won’t wax poetical on why I love snow. All you have to do is search my blogs for the mention of “snow” and you’ll see that I’ve already waxed poetical on the stuff. I’m not just a fickle fan of snow- liking it to fall at Christmas because it’s tradition and then wanting it to go away. I’m a real fan of snow. I like it when it snows and I like it when it sticks around. The only time I don’t like it if it’s worn out its welcome in April and is stepping on the toes of spring or when it’s really messing with my life and being rude which usually means the roads are terrible but not terrible enough for me to be able to stay home, my icescraper doesn’t work or it’s not really snow- it’s ice which is a total different thing.

No, I’d like to see a little gentle snowfall now. It’s time. I’m a traditionalist. I’d like a white Christmas. Also, it feels rather wrong to go outside and have it be warm and balmy when you’re in Ohio in December, only ten days away from Christmas.

I’ve even tried wearing my snowflake necklace. It is actually working its magic but it seems to be a little broken because the magic is working for my parents, two and a half hours north, not for me. Each time I’ve worn it, they’ve seemed to have an unexpected snowfall. The first time I wore it, they were supposed to have a warm day with a little rain. They ended up having a cold day and got four inches of snow.

I’m annoyed. I like my snowflake necklace a lot but I’d like it to bring ME snow! Perhaps this is wrong but, well, I like my snow, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times already.

Still, I suppose I should just do the right thing and appreciate this warm spell. In two months, I’ll probably be dreaming of warm days where I don’t have to wear five layers of clothes, sleep under a heavy comforter and have two dogs with freezing noses fighting to warm them on any exposed part of my body they can find.

It’s just…hard. I mean, I’m listening to Christmas music in my car when I drive and it just doesn’t feel the same knowing that it’s warm outside.

Still, this time of year, I shouldn’t be selfish. Not everyone loves snow or even likes it and so they’re probably getting an early Christmas wish.

But I’m still going to wear my snowflake necklace anyway.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unfestive Dogs and Gingerbread House Amnesia

My dogs don’t seem to be quite as fond of Christmas as I am.

It started with the tree. I think my dogs wondered why their ‘mother’ was putting up a fake tree in the house and hanging things on it. They might have preferred a real tree but really, unless it had a squirrel in it, they probably wouldn’t like that either.

They didn’t like the tree going up it an activity that took up rather a lot of time in the evening which meant I wasn’t sitting on the sofa where they could cuddle up next to me. Also, the tree was DIFFERENT and, well, my dogs don’t like DIFFERENT. My dogs like their routine. This is why whenever I get home from work, it is time for a walk regardless of whether it’s bucketing down with rain or not. This is also why when they don’t get said walk due to the torrential rain, they sulk.

My dogs don’t like it when I bake. They mope if I’m in the kitchen because, again, I’m not paying any attention to them. My sense is that they seem to feel that while I am home, it is their canine right to have my full attention. When they don’t get it, they are not happy pups.

I’ve been baking quite a lot lately. Well, I’ve been in the kitchen a lot anyway, not necessarily just baking. The only time that the pups don’t seem to mind when I’m cooking is when it involves cheese. My girls love their cheese. I might have mentioned this. Rory, in particular, is rather partial to the more expensive types of cheese like parmigiano reggiano and gruyere. I know, I know…I shouldn’t give them cheese but…I do anyway. Just not that much.

They love cheese so much that they can actually tell when I’m getting my grater out of the cupboard. This may sound like I’m exaggerating but whenever I reach up to pull out the box grater, there are suddenly two pleading little dachshunds staring up at me whereas moments before, they were in the other room.

So, even though they don’t like it when I’m in the kitchen a lot, they don’t mind when it involves cheese.

However, they also don’t like it when I write Christmas cards. This is also an activity that means I’m not sitting on the couch with them. They don’t like it when I wrap gifts either. Not only am I still not cuddling with them but, also, I’m on the floor where they like to play and there’s a mess of which they don’t approve.

I have several other Christmas activities planned over the next week or two. One involves making a gingerbread house. I bought a kit because when it first becomes permissible to start diving into Christmas without seeming too premature, gingerbread houses seem like a lovely seasonal thing. I mean, gingerbread houses are a little symbol of Christmas festivity, are they not? I love gingerbread. I love houses. The combination seems pretty nifty when it comes in a neato kit with a carrying handle and you have a 50% off coupon.

The problem is that, well, they’re way better in theory than reality. Well, perhaps I should say, they’re way better in the picture on the box and in the images in your head than what generally manifests when you actually try to build one. I know that some of my readers are a lot…craftier than I am and thus may not be able to relate to the trials and tribulations of my former attempts to build gingerbread houses. However, I’ve built a few in the past. I always use kits because frankly I’m too lazy to bake them myself.

These kits usually involve making icing that theoretically should glue the house together. You have to get the icing exactly right otherwise it doesn’t work. And, actually, even if you get it right, it still doesn’t really work. I remember the time I assisted my friend’s son with his gingerbread house. My friend was also building a gingerbread construction with her other son- this was a tree that, essentially, was just a bunch of cookies stacked on top of one another. Our house, on the other hand, proved to be so problematic and the icing so un-gluelike that we literally resorted to duct tape to hold the blasted thing together while it dried. I’m not proud of this. Also, the duct tape did not work. We eventually got some semblance of a house that was standing and we covered the worst parts with lots of candy to hide the problems.

I should have learned from that experience and yet, two years later, I tried another gingerbread construction. This was a little more successful in that I eventually got the house to hold together. However, it did involve multiple dives across the counter to catch the walls as they fell and having to re-build it. Nevertheless, I did end up with a somewhat decent looking house. It just involved rather a lot of colourful adjectives every time I had to save it from collapsing.

I should have learned from THAT experience. Unfortunately, I think I simply suffer from Gingerbread House Amnesia. This is a condition that kicks in at the start of every Christmas season and manifests itself whenever I’m standing in front of a display of gingerbread houses. The amnesia causes me to say “Aw, fun!” instead of “HELL, NO!” and I end up buying a kit.

Then the kit sits in my house. One night, I will think, “time to make the house”. I’ll open the box and pull out that evil bag of icing that will be the glue. Then I’ll put the icing back in the box and put the kit away. This usually happens at least once.

I do eventually make the gingerbread house. I just haven’t done so when I’ve had the dogs. I’m hoping this effort will be slightly smoother than my last ones merely because I get a little mean and crotchety when things don’t go according to plan and I tend to yell a bit. The poor dogs have witnessed this many a time whether it involves my building IKEA furniture, laying down floor tiles, trying to decorate my clock for Christmas with a string of festive berries and knocking the clock off the wall or trying to get a picture on my wall to stay straight. I hate that I do get mean and that I shout but it’s a coping mechanism. It’s rather akin to, say, dropping a hammer on your foot and saying the f-word rather loudly. You can’t really stop it- it’s a reflex reaction. I have dropped a hammer on my foot a couple of times, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, I am eventually going to build this gingerbread house. I just don’t think it will be tonight. Tonight I will wrap more gifts which will not make my dogs happy but it might be a little safer for them than the gingerbread house.

I think they actually like it better when I watch Christmas movies because then, at least, I’m doing what they want which is staying still long enough for them to bury their cold noses in my lap and get comfortable.

It’s even better when I have cheese.

Happy Wednesday and thanks for reading!(And Happy Birthday to my lovely mum and best friend, Saz!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Cake with Caramel Syrup and Vanilla Whipped Cream

For the Cake:


• 8 tablespoons of butter
• 1/2 cup of sugar
• 1 cup of Lyle's golden syrup***
• 2 eggs
• 2 1/2 cups of flour
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
• 1 1/4 teaspoons of ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
• 1 cup of water

(***This is a British thing- if you're in the States and don't have access to golden syrup, you can use maple syrup of agave syrup though, on occasion, you can find golden syrup at TJ Maxx!)

Instructions:Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Warm the syrup slightly in the microwave until runny- about 25 seconds should do it.
3. Beat syrup into the creamed butter/sugar.
4. Add eggs to mixture and beat well.
5. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon together and stir into the cream mixture.
6. Add the water slowly and stir until smooth.
7. Pour batter into a well-greased loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes- whenever a skewer comes out clean.
8. Leave to cool in tin and turn onto a cooling rack when cooled. It's best reheated just a tad when you serve with the caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Easy Caramel Sauce (Warning- this isn't healthy in any way but SO tasty!)


• 1 cup of sugar
• 6 tablespoons of butter
• 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream


1. Before you begin, make sure you have all ingredients measured out and close by. This process is super fast and if you're not ready, it won't work right!
2. Melt sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan by heating on moderately high heat and stirring constantly once it starts to melt. As soon as it starts getting soft, this is when you want to start stirring. A wooden spoon works best. Don't stop until the sugar comes to a boil. If you stop stirring, it will burn.
3. As soon as all of the sugar has melted, the sugar should be dark amber. Add all of the butter and stir until melted.
4. As soon as butter melts, immediately remove pan from heat. Once pan has been set down somewhere cool, add the cream to the pan and stir constantly. The mixture will bubble up. Keep stirring.
5. Whisk until sauce is smooth and let cool for a few minutes.
6. Pour sauce into a glass container and let cool to room temperature. It will be hot at this point so be very careful.
8. Sauce stores in the fridge for up to a week and re-liquifies when heated in the microwave for about 35 seconds.

Vanilla Whipped Cream


• 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
• 1-2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract depending on how vanilla-y you want it.


(Note: I have a nice stand mixer which makes this very easy. However, before I had a nice stand mixer, I had a cheap $7.99 hand mixer from Walgreens. This works too. Either way, place whatever bowl in which you're going to whip the cream in the fridge or freezer. I usually try to put it in the fridge for a few hours but if I forget, which is often, I put it in the freezer for less time.)

1. Combine cream and vanilla.
2. Beat in chilled stand mixer bowl or in a chilled normal bowl with a hand-held mixer, slowly increasing speed until you're on high. Beat cream until nice and stiff.
3. Serve.

I like to drizzle some sauce on the cake, top with whipped cream and then drizzle a little more caramel on top but that's up to you.

I did mention this wasn't healthy but, well, it's a great recipe for this time of year and we can all make it our New Years' resolution not to eat like this anymore, right?


A Very Busy Food Weekend!

This has been a rather busy weekend. This is why I don't find myself awfully shocked on this Sunday evening that it's gone by already.

This was a very food-based weekend for me. This is not to say that most weekends don't involve food but I entertained twice this weekend and since I've become rather fond of entertaining, I like to make sure I plan the right menu.

My first event was Friday night. It wasn't really an event as much as my friend coming over to dinner and to watch "The Holiday" with me. This has become a tradition for us over the past three years. Usually we watch it at her house and she cooks but this year, we decided to watch it at mine.

Since she was coming to mine, it involved planning dinner. This was not an issue except she's a bit of a picky eater. I like a challenge, however. Most of my 'classic' dinner recipes usually involve quite a lot of vegetables and she's not a huge fan. She does, however, like strong flavours like garlic, onion, etc. Thus, I decided to make my thick and hearty potato leek soup. I use bacon as a base which sounds rather unhealthy but, actually, one serving of the soup still only has 7 grams of fat and 290 calories and considering it's nice and filling, it's pretty good for dinner. I also decided to be festive and for dessert, I made a gingerbread cake with caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream. And yes, I actually did bake this cake from scratch. I made it last year and it was a hit so I figured I'd try it again. It was a hit this year too. My friend seemed quite happy with the food I made and we ended up having a great evening while enjoying a great movie.

My second 'event' was my parents' coming to visit. They like to come down at least once before Christmas to stock up at Jungle Jim's on treats/food for the holidays. Normally, I make them a sit-down meal. This year, I decided to challenge myself while also 'treating' them. Usually, on Christmas night, my mum and I prepare a cold buffet for the family that takes a lot of preparation. The problem with this is that it's hard to enjoy the buffet as much when you've had to prepare it so I decided to make a mini buffet for my parents. This particular buffet included the following:

• Cheese and crackers (Cheeses: Wensleydale, Coach Farms goat cheese, Stilton, Seriously Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere and smoked Gouda)
• Steamed shrimp
• Smoked salmon
• Homemade guacamole and homemade tortilla chips,
• Black Bean soup
• An antipasti tray with prosciutto and salami and assorted pickled treats
• Roasted beet salad
• Crusty bread
• Homemade cheese straws
• Sausage rolls
• Cream cheese and watercress finger sandwiches
• A small vegetable plate
• Roasted ham with a cumin, garlic and thyme glaze

For dessert, I baked another gingerbread cake, whipped some more cream and used the leftover caramel sauce from Friday since it keeps for a while.

It was rather a lot of food but one thing I like about a buffet is that it's fun to have a selection and people love to nibble. While I had a lot of leftovers, there actually weren't nearly as many as you'd expect and I got to send my parents home with half the ham, the sausage rolls and shrimp since I don't actually like shrimp. I also have plenty of food left for the week and a nice cheese selection which not only will last me a while but I can also bring out when I have guests.

All in all, it was a very food-heavy weekend. The buffet prep took a long while but, sadly, I enjoyed every minute of it, even beheading, deveining and peeling all of the shrimp which I've never done before. I'll post my gingerbread cake recipe just because it's a pretty easy thing to make and seems to be quite popular whenever I make it.

Now it's Sunday night, my parents have gone and I'm alone with two sleeping dachshunds. I plan on enjoying the rest of my Sunday evening by relaxing since I don't seem to have much time for that.

Also, I think I might have to eat some leftovers. I have plenty to choose from.

Happy Monday and thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Baked, I Conquered...I Cheated...

Lately, I’ve been trying to bake a little more. This is partially due to the fact that the stuff I want to eat isn’t easily accessible in stores near me. However, it’s also because I simply know I’m not particularly good at baking and want to be a more well-rounded cook.

While I lack the patience to ever be a very good baker, I will admit it’s rather fun to bake something, pipe frosting onto it, decorate it and give it to people to eat. This is particularly why I like making cupcakes.

When it comes to cupcakes, I have a confession: I’m a dirty rotten cheater. Sure, I can make the cakes from scratch but, well, I’m a bit lazy. Also, due to the fact that I’m not the most precise baker, my cakes never quite taste right or rise right. So, I use a box of cake mix. When I make the mix, I do often embellish as was the case on Saturday with my peppermint chocolate cupcakes. I added peppermint extract and mini chocolate chips to my devil’s food cake box mix.

Now, I do make the buttercream icing myself. It’s easy and tastes fantastic. Oh, fine, it’s terrible for you because it’s pretty much just butter and sugar but I wager it’s no worse than those cans of frosting that are made primarily from Crisco and corn syrup.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of people ask me for recipes. Thus, I decided to try something new and paste them on my blog. So, I’ve put my whoopee-pie recipe below. The filling is my own recipe based on my buttercream frosting. The Candy Cane Kisses do make it rather rich but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you probably won’t mind.

They’re super easy and quite fun to make. Also, people think they’re pretty nifty if you take them to a party. When people are fighting over the last one and someone steals it to take home, you know you’ve got a hit on your hands:

Whoopie Pies

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
• 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 large egg


• 2 egg whites , beaten
• 4 tablespoons milk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 4 cups powdered sugar (10x)
• 1 cup shortening
• 12-14 Hershey Candy Cane Kisses

Instructions for the Cakes
• Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
• Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.
• Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.

Instructions for the Filling

• Mix together egg whites,vanilla, milk and 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Beat in the butter and the remaining sugar. Chop, grind or mince the Candy Cane Kisses until they're in small pieces and add to the sugar/butter mix and stir/blend until smooth.
• When cookies have cooled, spread a dab of cream filling on flat side of cookie and top with another cookie to form a pie. Voila!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Muddled Near-Winter Days

Some days, it just rather hard to be productive. This week at work has already been a bit of a muddle. Yesterday, when I got into the office, I was later than normal because I’d had to drop a candidate off for her first day of work. When I logged in, I discovered that I had no internet access.

Now, even a few years ago, this would have been a pain but not a HUGE problem. Nowadays, however, it’s actually quite a paralyzing thing not to have internet access. In my job, I use both my email and the web almost exclusively to do my job. Oh, sure, I have a phone but in order to call people, I generally need to have access to my email and the web to locate resumes, phone numbers, etc.

It turned out that we had quite a large problem with the internet. My boss, always trying to help people out, had allowed one of clients to come in this week and use our conference room for training. There were five people in there using the internet. Combined with the eight of us in the office, there were 13 users. Our internet firewall only has room for 9 users so as soon as we exceeded that amount, we started having issues.

Since we can’t kick out the trainees, my boss had to come up with another solution. Our IT Guru did something with a new router which finally arrived in our office today. In the meantime, he let the account managers work from home. Since I’m not an account manager, I didn’t get to work from home. I’m not bitter but I was a little disappointed. I suppose my bosses logic made sense: Recruiters need access to the phone and the printer more than the account managers. However, since I have two phones and two printers at home, I would quite easily stayed at home on this dreary, drizzly day, worked in my comfy clothes and had the girls curled up nearby.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Thus, I’ve been in the office all day which is a little like a ghost town since half the staff is working at home. I’m not quite sure how hard they’re actually working since, well, I’ve only actually heard from one of them today but, well, that’s not my business.

Fortunately, even though it was difficult to be productive, I have had a productive day. Lately, it’s been a little too quiet in the office. While I adore the holiday season, it’s not a very popular time for employers to be seeking candidates for jobs or for candidates to be looking. Generally speaking, if it’s their choice, employees generally like to keep working around the holidays rather than quit a job to find a new one.

It hasn’t helped that it’s been dreary outside. Yesterday, it poured with rain to the point where my back garden was nothing but one giant puddle. The poor pups had difficulty finding anywhere to do their business where they weren’t standing in two inches of water. It finally stopped sometime last night but since then, it’s been bleak and grey outside. We’re supposed to have some flurries tonight which would be nice. I’m ready for some real snow now. Not only do I very much want my traditional white Christmas but, also, I just love my snow.

Still, on the plus side, it’s a lot easier to leave the office when it’s already dark outside knowing that I have the glow of my Christmas tree in my living room. The dogs haven’t quite got used to it yet. Sookie casts it a suspicious glare whenever she bumps into it. I’ve hung jingle bells on the bottom row of branches to discourage too much roughhousing underneath the tree. My little dachshunds are just the right height to roll underneath the branches and when they’re playing with one another, they often get a little rough. It’s fun to watch because they’re having fun but it’s a bit alarming to see them tackle one another and bounce off one another into inanimate objects. They never hurt themselves, thankfully. More than anything, they just seem surprised that a table has appeared out of nowhere in the middle of their game.

The problem with the darker evenings is that they don’t get to spend much time outside. We try to walk when the weather cooperates. The girls do go out and play but they just don’t stay out as long as they do in the summer. On one hand, it’s nice not to have to keep checking to make sure they’re not Up to No Good but, on the other, I feel a little bad that they’re not as active and they can’t go exploring outside the way that they like to when the weather is warmer. The ground under my toolshed is probably thankful, there are a couple of holes that are becoming craters thanks to my industrious pups. They haven’t figured out that they really won’t dig under the shed as much as next to it but I think it’s funny that they’re trying.

It’s just a change from a few months ago where I sat outside, glass of pinot grigio in hand, watching the fireflies. The variety is nice and I like my cosy evenings inside where the wine has been replaced by a mug of tea and the fireflies have been replaced with a good book. At the moment, I’m reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which I’m enjoying very much. It’s a dreamy book but it’s compelling and I’m fascinated to see how it ends. Since it’s a two-week Kindle library loan, I have an excuse to read greedily and quickly instead of savouring the book. By nature, I’m a greedy reader. I like to gobble up a book instead of chewing slowly. It’s a bad habit but one that’s been cultivated since childhood when I learned to read and all I wanted to do then was…read.

After a muddled day at work where we did finally get things up and running, it’ll be nice to go home to have a cosy evening indoors. Things should be back to normal tomorrow since our internet is supposedly fixed. We shall see if that actually happens once everyone is back in the office working.

Part of me hopes that it doesn’t work. That’s awful, I know…it’s just that it’s actually kind of fun when things are muddled.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmasy Weekends and another Bridget Jones' Party Experience

It's another Sunday evening where the weekend has flown by entirely too fast. It's a wet, chilly night out there- the rain has been coming down for a couple of hours and with the glow of my Christmas tree lights, it seems positively cosy in my living room.

I've tried to have a very Christmas-y weekend. I decided earlier in the season that since I adore Christmas so much, I was going to make the most of it and try and be as festive as possible this year. It's hard to avoid jumping right into the Christmas spirit when the stores are festooned with yuletide glory, the radio is full of Christmas music and it seems like it smells like cinnamon everywhere.

I put up one of my Christmas trees on Friday night. Normally, I only have one. However, for the past couple of years, my sad, Walmart Black Friday $20 Bargain Tree has been looking a little forlorn and pathetic even when I've tried to hide the gaps with decorations and garlands. So this year, I splurged and got a new tree. It's very nice with no gaps and it looks somewhat real. I'd actually rather have a real one but since I spend Christmas at my parents' house, it seems a bit of a waste. I contemplated one of those burlap-bulbed trees so I could replant it but even though my little Toyota Corolla can haul far more than you'd imagine, I'm not quite sure even I could figure out a way to get a Christmas tree home in my car.

So, I got a nice artificial one. The only problem was that I couldn't bear to part with my little forlorn tree. It was the first tree of my own that I ever owned. Thus, I decided to bedeck my Tuscan room with my forlorn tree and use the new one in my living room.

Friday, I put my new tree up. I drank mulled wine and watched "Elf." I baked chocolate chip chocolate cupcakes and whoopie pies for a friends' party on Saturday. It was a very festive evening and I enjoyed every minute of it. By the time I was done, my tree looked rather nice, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, I did some Christmas shopping in the morning and then came home, put up my simple outdoor decorations- just a garland and bow around my little lampost and a couple of little pre-lit porch trees. Then I put up my forlorn tree in my Tuscan room. I also frosted the cupcakes I'd made with peppermint buttercream and filled my whoopie pies with candy-cane Hershey Kiss buttercream. Then I headed to my friends birthday party.

The first sign it wasn't going to be a great success was that just as I was lifting my cake carrier that was stuffed with cupcakes off my car seat to transport them into my friends' house, the stupid lid came off. It was my fault- I should have checked to make sure it was still locked and hadn't come loose during the journey. Needless to say, I had quite a few cupcake casulties which was rather too bad because they tasted rather yummy if I do say so myself. Still, the whoopie pies were safe since I'd packed the seperately.

The second sign that it wasn't going to be a terrifically fun party for me was that I quickly realized it was going to be another Bridget Jones Night. It was small gathering in honour of my friends 45th birthday. She was doing something unique- a blind wine tasting in which she would decide the winner, no gifts but, instead, we would bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots that would have been something our hostess would have liked as a child and a concert by a local university acapella group which my friend had 'won' in a silent charity auction.

My wine was pretty good- I know my friends' tastes which are quite similar to mine so I brought a nice Zinfandel. My toy was Scrabble- my friend loves to read and write and oddly adores English grammar.

The problem was that every single person there aside from me was married. Now, when I lived in L.A., even when I went to similar gatherings, it was ok- the 'marrieds' were independent enough that they circulated seperately from their spouses and it was just a gathering o' people. However, in the Midwest, it's a little different. Here, the spouses come as a pair. When one spouse is separated from the other and forced to talk to the lone singleton at the party, this spouse starts to panic and say things like "I wonder where John is!" Well, this would be ok if it was, say, a large house and there was a possibility of John being more than 25 feet away but in this case, my friends house is not huge and the reality was that John was 15 feet away in the next room talking to Bob whose wife is holding his arm possessively.

I know, that's a little harsh. I'm sure not every gathering in the Midwest is really like that but the few I've been too where I've been the lone singleton have been very much like that. I try very hard to be social but it's rather hard because couples seem to like to talk to other couples and discuss their children, how much they're paying the sitter and who their kids' teachers are.

Needless to say, it was a difficult evening. Fortunately, there was wine and cheese. The wine tasting went well. I came in second. I would have come in first, I suspect but the winning wine was the first one everyone tried and someone said, "Hey, wine #7 is good!" so everyone had to try wine #7 and it went fast. This meant that our hostess couldn't have a second taste of wine #7 to compare it to my wine and it won by default because it was so popular. I tried wine #7, for the record, and I found it to be a bit plummy. Also, wine #7 happened to be brought by the hostess' closest friends who'd been staying there that weekend. Yes, I probably sound bitter but three hours of standing around feeling more and more alone in a room full of smug married people made me feel a little bitter. Also, the hostess' dad asked me where 'my other half' was in reference to a former coworker I'd once showed up to a party with a few years ago. I've been to several of my friends' parties since without this coworker but he clearly thought we were a couple. I shouldn't have been surprised. An unmarried woman in the midwest in her thirties is bound to set off a few suspicions. Still, it was a bit like throwing salt in a wound by this point.

The party itself was lovely. My friend throws a good gathering. The acapella group was amazing though and it was nice to have a break from mingling to listen to some music. I was a little surprised that people were raving over my whoopie-pies which I found cloyingly sweet. They were actually fighting over the last one. Meanwhile, my lovely, hand frosted, crushed peppermint decorated cupcakes sat virtually untouched.

By the time it became safe for me to leave without being rude, I did so. It was a relief to get in my car, crank up the Tran-Siberian orchestra and drive home where I was greeted enthusiastically by my pups. It's nice to show I'm loved even if I am a pathetic singleton who apparently gives of lesbian vibes. Not that there's anything wrong with that it's just that I'm not a lesbian.

As much as I hated that it did so, my party experience made me feel a little down on Sunday. It's one thing to know I'm alone and accept it but it's another to be reminded of how alone I am at times. Still, I decided to fight off my blues by some intensive cleaning and organizing and finishing putting up the final Christmas decorations.

Now, I'm sitting inside, listening to the rain pour down, finishing some laundry and feeling sad that the weekend is already almost over. Tomorrow, it's back to work as normal. However, on the plus side, I now have the glow of the multicoloured lights of my Christmast tree when I come home in addition to my lovely pups who constantly love to show me how much I'm loved.

It's not all bad. I just need to stop going to parties where I'm the only single person. I think they're bad for me.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Rant: Why Charging for Happy Meal Toys is Not Going to Solve a Large Problem

I don’t usually get political with my blog because I generally like to not offend people or come across as left-leaning, right-leaning or any type of lean at all.

However, today I might make an exception. I know I’m a little behind on the times but I just read an article in which I learned that San Francisco passed legislation recently to ban giving away toys with high-fat, bad-for-you kids meal like Happy Meals in an effort to cut back on childhood obesity.

Now, while I’m not arguing that childhood obesity is a bad thing, I can’t help but think that the money and effort that’s gone into this legislation is a little…misdirected. Sure, I don’t argue that kids who eat McDonalds on a regular day are heavier than other kids. I’m also not arguing that McDonalds isn’t exactly the healthiest food on the planet.

However, the idea that simply giving away a toy with a meal is why kids eat McDonalds in the first place is just…a little silly. Yes, kids are susceptible to things they see on TV and they do like toys. Thus, to have a meal that comes with a free toy is a nice bonus.

Yet the key word is bonus. You can also use the word treat if you prefer. While I know that there are people and kids out there who love the McDonalds toys and go through the drive-thru just to get the one for the week, if you ever go to garage sales, you’ll see that for the most part, these toys basically end up in 10/$1 bins.

Which is ironic because San Francisco McDonald’s have found a way around the new legislation by, yes, charging 10 cents per toy in addition to the cost of the Happy Meal.

Now, my thoughts (and keep in mind these are just MY thoughts) is that perhaps the toy is not really the problem. Everyone knows that McDonalds is fried, fatty food that can taste really good when you’re really hungry. However, I don’t think I’m wrong to say that those of us who know that’s really bad for us regret eating it once we’ve stuffed our faces with those french fries and cheeseburgers and, if we were really hungry, a Big Mac. After all is said and done, it never tasted as good in hindsight to deserve those extra fat calories we consume.

Still, McDonalds serves a purpose to those of us who do have some sense of food-logic. Even though it’s bad for us, it fills a need. I love french fries. They’re one of my ‘cheat’ foods of choice. However, I don’t have them very often because I do try to be a somewhat healthier eater. Also, they taste way better if you haven’t had them for a while and they’re a rare treat. So, McDonalds can satisfy my french-fry craving. It serves that need for me. Also, if you’re in a hurry, are starving and need to eat before your next activity/engagement starts, the drive-thrus are conveniently placed in order to get a combo meal, pay and get out in a few minutes flat. That’s another purpose that McDonalds serves.

I’d like to think that most of us know McDonalds is bad. When we eat it anyway, it’s not necessarily with shame but maybe a wee bit of guilt that we’re consuming a cheesy mess of carbohydrate laden fatty goodness instead of, say, broccoli or a salad.
I don’t have kids but I have nephews and nieces who like Happy Meals. I know that the toys change once a week. If McDonalds has a series of toys that the kids like, they generally want to go back the next week for the next one. Even I’ve fallen for it before when they had the mini beanie babies a few years ago.

Yet, if you’re a parent/aunt with a sense of food-logic, even though you know you shouldn’t indulge the kid with a Happy Meal, if it’s only once a week, it’s not that terrible. Besides, nowadays, you can substitute fries for apple wedges, soda for milk so if you’re concerned about your kid getting, well, chubby then there are ways to treat them to McDonalds without completely compromising nutrition.

The problem is that there are an awful lot of non-logical food people out there. I’ve watched “Super Size Me”. I’ve watched documentaries on why lower-income families tend to have obese children: It’s far cheaper to stuff them full of cheap food that fills them up than go out and buy healthy food. It’s a sad fact of life. I’ve actually been quite poor in my life. When I lived in L.A., I was very, very hard up for money for the first couple of years. If I didn’t have a coupon, it wasn’t on special or couldn’t buy it in the 99 cent store, I didn’t buy it. I used to make sure I had money in my budget for vegetables and fresh produce because, well, I have that food-logic gene. However, I can also see why parents who have to stretch out very little money to feed their kids opt for the giant box of macaroni and cheese on sale for $1 than paying $1.29 a pound for broccoli which doesn’t provide a whole meal but just a side dish.

Also, the irony of it is that many lower-income families tend to have parents who work hours that aren’t conducive to having time to spend cooking low-calorie, nutritious meals out of their limited pantry. This is where McDonalds steps in. You can buy a Happy Meal for about $3. It fills a kid up. It takes five minutes at most to run through the drive through to get it. If you have to go to work but you also have to feed your kid, it’s a quick, easy solution.

It’s just not very healthy.

I’ve seen articles where the older latchkey kids are left money to go get dinner. If there’s a McDonalds in walking distance, guess where they mostly head? By this time, McDonalds has been introduced into their lives as an acceptable meal choice because it’s most likely what they’ve been eating since they were old enough to chew solid food. It’s a comfort food to them because it’s what they know.

And it’s not just McDonalds. I’m only picking on them because they were the subject of the article I read. Many of the other fast food chains offer similar Kid Friendly Meals: Burger King, Wendys, KFC…etc. Kids grow up with the concept of a kids meal that comes with a toy but it doesn’t mean they only want the meal with a toy. I mean, you don’t see kids refusing to eat their Tyson chicken nuggets and Oscar Meyer wieners at home because they don’t get a toy, do you?

Kids are kids. There are some great kids out there who like healthy food. There are also kids with strong, smart parents who feed their kids right and even get their kids to get healthy snacks as a treat and reward. There are kids that do like Brussels sprouts and broccoli with their hotdogs and pizza. Yet, some kids just don’t like that stuff. I don’t know if it’s genetic. I don’t know if it’s psychological. They just simply don’t like green stuff and only like familiar food. My nephew, for example, is a very fussy eater. He wouldn’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving so with a slight shudder, we served him hot dogs with his trimmings because, well, we wanted him to eat and even though my mum and I know hot dogs are terrible for you, I’d rather see him eat something than nothing. Some of these kids become adults who still haven’t changed tastes. My brother in law is in his thirties- he still only likes hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and chicken nuggets. He doesn’t like salad. He doesn’t like anything green but peas. My old coworker was the same way- she was thirty-three and ate like a five year old boy.

With intervention, I think some of these kids can be helped and taught that not all healthy food tastes bad. Yet, it requires a heck of a lot more than charging 10 cents for a Happy Meal Toy. Perhaps the money and time that was spent passing the legislation to outlaw free toys with greasy kids meals should focus more on the root causes: How can we make kids want to eat healthy food? How can we get parents to see that cheap, quick solutions to feeding kids can be found in other places than fast-food drive thrus? Why does it cost more for a pound of apples than it does for a bag of frozen supermarket-brand french fries? Why are there rarely any coupons for fresh ingredients but tons for processed snacks, canned items and microwave meals?

My point with which I’m almost bludgeoning you is that you can’t try to stop a major problem like obesity by banning a toy with a meal. It’s like sticking your finger in the hole in a boat to stop it sinking or throwing a glass of water on your house when it’s on fire. Sure, it might have a quick effect but in the long term, what’s it really going to do? That house is going to burn and the boat will sink anyway unless someone comes along with a plan to fight the fire or, even better, make the boat harder to sink in the first place.

I’m not a politician and I would never want to be. It’s a hard job. You need to make an impact in a short time so that people feel that you’re worthwhile, that you’ve done something right. In my opinion, the best politicians are the ones that move slower, who dedicate themselves to a cause and fight for it from the ground up. They don’t just come in, slap a band aid on a problem and pat themselves on the back. The world doesn’t work like that- it never has and never will. It’s why I like lobbyists way more than politicians. My good friend Saz, for example, has been working hard on a bill to make button batteries safer due to their deadly nature if swallowed by a child. Now that is a worthy cause. She and her organization, The National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association are working to change something, to make it safer. I salute that. I’d salute San Francisco a lot more if they’d decided to work at helping make kids and parents understand what causes obesity and how to work against it rather than making them pay 10 cents for a toy they can get a few miles away outside city limits for free.

There is a lot more I could rant about or soapbox about but I think this is long enough for one day and I think I’ve made my point. Free toys are only a symbol of what’s causing childhood obesity. You can ban the symbol but the problem remains.

Ok. I’m stepping down off my soapbox now. Really. Besides, I’ve got a sudden craving for McDonalds fries. Ooh, Maybe I’ll see what the toy in the Happy Meal is this week…

Just kidding.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things That Never Cease To Surprise Me

Things that never cease to surprise me, by Captain Monkeypants:

1.How many cars seem not to come with turn signals these days. I find it quite amazing how often I’m driving and the driver in front of me decides to turn and I feel silly for not being able to telepathically read his/her mind. If I could read their minds, I’d know that they were either about to cut me off by crossing into my lane on the interstate, they were going to cut me off in order to turn left in front of me or they were simply just going to…turn. Perhaps I got lucky when I got my car- it has this nifty device that you use to signal when you’re going to turn. I believe it’s called an indicator. Perhaps car manufacturers should look into putting them into new cars again. They’re quite useful!

2. How there are times when you’re out and about and you simply seem invisible to the people around you. They walk into you as though you’re not there. They pull out of an aisle with their cart, nailing you with it and they walk off without even apologizing. You can be behind someone who’s going through the door and they slam it in your face. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does, it seems to be a day of it constantly happening. Perhaps we do all have ‘invisible days’ where only the people we’re with know we’re actually there.

3. Oranges. Sometimes you have an orange, clementine, mandarin, etc. and it’s the most succulent, juicy piece of citrusy goodness that you’ve put in your mouth in a long while. Then, a little later, you decide it was so good you’re going to eat another fruit. The orange-fruit of your choice came in the exact same package, possible off the same tree and it turns out to be the driest, most tasteless orange-fruit you’ve had in ages.

4. Pencils. I love to write with pencils. I try to have pencils for every season. I even have my own electric sharpener because no one else in my office shares my fondness for pencils. However, no matter how even I try to sharpen my pencils, they always end up having an extra bit of wood at the end that interferes with being able to write properly. If you pick it off, the pencil tip gets dull. If you re-sharpen it, the graphite breaks and you have to start all over again. I’ve tried those plastic pencils that kids use where they have replaceable tips that are stored inside the pencil but those break easily. I don’t like mechanical pencils either. I like my Christmas pencils. I just wish they’d sharpen better.

5. Drivers who appear not to be able to read. Now, I know there is a literacy problem everywhere. Reading can be quite tricky. However, you’d think that if someone was going to be allowed to pass a driving test, they’d have to be able to read. I mean, how do they take the test otherwise? Yet, when you’re driving, the simplest words seem to elude them. Words like “STOP” and “YIELD”. Even numbers and letters like 55 MPH seem to confuse them.

6.Christmas songs. I’m not talking about the nice, classic carols. I’m talking about the annoying ones that are played everywhere. Who on earth thought “Santa Baby” would be a song people actually wanted to hear? Sure, I guess it’s a Marilyn Monroe sort of song but, well, alas, she’s dead and anyone else singing it is just annoying. Also, I’m sure “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” is quite charming when you’re, say, five or six but as an adult? Sorry…not for me. By the way, I actually just typed “Reindoor” which you’ll be pleased to know gave me a rather strange image of a door with antlers. Speaking of reindoors/reindeer, let’s talk about Rudolph. I’ve never been a fan- I’ve always disliked the message of that song: Pick on the poor, disfigured outcast until you realize he has value and then use him regularly. Perhaps if the song included an apology to poor Rudolph for all the snubbing and teasing he had to endure?

7. How much guilt I feel whenever I don’t say “yes, I want to donate a dollar to X charity when cashing out at a checkout.” I get why I’m being asked. It’s an easy way to make a tiny difference in the world without having to do very much. I actually get the same feeling of guilt when I pass by one of the many, many Salvation Army ringers that seem to have multiplied in the past few years. It’s not that I don’t want to donate. I do want to help those less fortunate than me as much as I want to provide a $1 towards helping homeless pets or giving the little local girl $2 for towards the leukemia foundation or I want to help St. Jude’s Hospital and so on….it’s just that while yes, I have a job and yes, I can spare some pocket change, it starts to add up and you simply can’t do it every time you to the store. My problem is that I’m very softhearted. It explains why hearing that Sarah McLaughlin song play while showing pictures of sad, abandoned dogs and cats makes me want to weep each time I see/hear the commercial. It’s just that...I don’t want to feel bad for saying ‘no’ and, unfortunately, sometimes I have to say…no.

8. Selfish parents. Sure, I get that you want to see “Breaking Dawn.” I mean, you’ve probably read the books, enjoyed a bit of a crush on Edward and have been waiting for the movie for months but, lady, your kid is SIX YEARS OLD! I’m sure you’ve got her excited about the movie ‘cause if mommy loves it, so will little Joanie and little Joanie thinks she wants to see it. However, don’t you think little Joanie is a wee bit too young to watch a vampire impregnate his new wife and have her baby delivered in a rather gruesome sick fashion? And maybe a werewolf falling in love with a baby is a wee bit…adult for a kid? Just ‘cause you want to see the movie, lady, doesn’t mean it’s ok to bring your kid to it. Sure, it’s only a PG-13 but the kid is SIX. (Thanks to Miss P. for help on that one but I’ve seen it/heard about it so it still doesn’t cease to amaze me.)

9. Why Justin Bieber has armies of girls/woman screaming over him. I simply just don’t get it. Even if I was fourteen, I still don’t think I’d get it. He looks like Mary Stuart Masterson in “Some Kind of Wonderful” half the time.

10. How time in the evening flies by but when you’re at work, it drags on by as though every minute is actually three minutes. I think it’s a trick of the universe that time spent at work IS actually longer than time spent doing something fun.

11. Midwestern weather. Tonight, I went to my garden and picked some fresh parsley and thyme. Both were in great shape, ready for my mushroom soup. Yet, while I picked them, it was snowing. Seriously. There's something weird about picking fresh summer herbs while it is snowing. I'm not complaining though, just musing about the irony of summer vs. winter in a study of herbs.

Ok, that’s it for now. As always, I try to keep it light. Feel free to add your own comments regarding what doesn’t cease to amaze you below. I’d be curious to see how mine differ.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday...Another Year of Chaos, Another Year of Bargains!

Well, Thanksgiving has been and gone already. I hate when that happens. One minute, it's Wednesday evening, I'm heading to my parents after having left work early and the next, it's Sunday evening, the turkey's all gone and it's back to normal tomorrow.

I did have a good Thanksgiving though. As always, it was a nice calm day where my mum and I worked together to get everything prepped and ready for the meal. Then people started showing up, the food started being ready and chaos ensued. It's always getting the food from stove to table that seems to be the hardest part of a large meal.

However, it all turned out fine in the end. It was a delicious meal, I got to see almost my entire family- my poor sister had to work- and find out some ideas of what gifts I wanted to shop for on Black Friday.

Black Friday, of course, is definitely part of my Thanksgiving traditions. This year, due the annoying schedule of the stores, my sister and I did things a little differently. We did make it to Walmart at 10 p.m. Well, actually, we got there around 10:40 p.m. since my sister had to work until 10:30 p.m. Amazingly enough, my sister got everything on her list- quite a surprise considering we weren't there for the mad rush of the beginning of the sale.

Though Walmart was much busier than normal and the aisle with the electronics that were to go on sale at midnight was already a scary, scary place with people waiting, the rest of the shopping experience wasn't too bad. The trick is to know where to look for items. Sure, Walmart puts the specials in the middle of the aisles and provides a map but they don't go to the actual shelves and remove those items. Thus, though the salespeople said they were out of the Leapfrog Tag system my sister wanted for my niece, we merely went to the shelf, found the same item sitting there, price checked it to make sure it rang up at the Black Friday price and moved on. It was a little too easy, actually. I didn't buy anything at all. The only thing I wanted was a wireless media player for my TV but since that was part of the midnight sale, I wasn't about to stick around.

Besides, we had to be up and at 'em early the next day. We were up and out by 5 a.m. Our first major sale started at 6 a.m. at Menards. We were part of a line that wrapped around the building. However, in previous years, due to Walmart's 4 a.m. sale, we've never quite made the opening of Menards and always got there late. This year, we actually got there as the doors opened AND we secured a basket. Never before, in the history of our Black Friday shopping have we secured a basket in which to put our stuff.

Unfortunately, the basket soon became full and also, my sister decided she wanted to purchase a rather nice spa box for my sister-in-law that appeared to be on sale for less than $10. It was about 24 inches by 24 inches and weight about 6 pounds. Due to the fact that my sister is pregnant and I'm a little overprotective, I gave her the lighter basket to carry and the spa set became my carrying vessel on which we piled stuff that wouldn't fit in the basket. We were almost 100% successful at Menards. I purchased two rather nice 1.5 quart crockpots for $2.97 each! Now THAT is a bargain for me. I'm not greedy enough I wanted both- I got one for my mum. I also got dog toys, slipper socks and various other useful items. While some of them were for gifts, I also find Black Friday to be an excellent way to get items that I actually need/want at bargain prices. I only buy things I don't ask for as gifts, by the way.

However, even with the triumph of finding everything on our lists giving us energy, by the time we got to the checkout, my forearms were rather tired from holding the spa box and all of its cargo around the store. Also, Menards was a madhouse- people WILL fight to the death for a $3 Snuggie. (I don't buy Snuggies, for the record). THey also fight for $1.49 fleece blankets. I did join the fray for one of those. The girls and I like to snuggle on cold winter nights and last year's bargain could easily be replaced.

By the time we were next in line to checkout, I had jelly arms. Finally, success! My sister and I seperated our buyings so that she could pay first. I was not unhappy to release the spa box. Unfortunately, when it rang up, it was $29.99, not the $7.50 it was labeled on the shelf. We did think it was an awfully good deal but it also was Black Friday. There turned out to be no rebate and suddenly, $29.99 did not seem like a deal so my sister asked the cashier to take it off her receipt. I didn't blame her but it would have been helpful to know that I hadn't had to carry that rather heavy item around the entire store for 30 minutes.

Ah well, we moved on to Target which had started its sale at 10 p.m. the night before. Surprisingly enough, with the exception of one board game, my sister also go everything on her list. We moved on. Since there was a different Walmart there, we stopped in so I could see if they had my wireless media player. Lo and behold, they did. In fact, aside from the $2.99 chopper and $9 griddle that eluded us last year also, Walmart also appeared to have almost everything from their ad except for the HDMI cable which I needed for the media player.

After Walmart, we went to the local mall and managed to get several gifts checked off our list. By this time, it was 10 a.m. and the insanity of the die-hard, early morning shoppiers had died down.

We ended our day with a tasty lunch and headed home. It was a very successful Black Friday. I even ended up getting my $10 HDMI cable- I wanted to look at Christmas trees so my parents and I headed back up to their local Walmart after I'd had a bit of a break. Lo and behold, they had lots of the $10 cables which the other Walmart did not have.

The moral of this Black Friday tale is that while it's sort of fun to join in the chaos of being one of the early morning shoppers, it's not always necessary to score a deal. Just like we weren't the first customers at Walmart the night before but still managed to get a Wii for $99 (my sister's purchase), we managed to get everything on our lists at almost every store without being there at the opening. Menards was the exception. That's the one store that has such good bargains that you do have to be there as early as possible. People tend to really go for the $2.97 crockpots, $1.99 unstuffed dog toys, 99 cent furry slipper socks, $1.49 fleece blankets and, of course, $3 Snuggies.

When all was said and done, my sister and I finished another Black Friday successfull. I am further ahead in my shopping than ever, have ideas for gifts and am well on my way to being ahead of the Christmas shopping game. While I love Thanksgiving with my family, eating yummy turkey and cooking the meal, I also love Black Friday. It's a tradition between my sister and I and I enjoy the lunacy of being up, awake and shopping at 5 a.m.

It ended up being a good weekend. However, like all good weekends, its followed by a return to work tomorrow. Since I like my job, I'm not dreading it. I do wish I had another day but, well, that would be greedy. Now it's time to relax with the pups, review my Christmas shopping, check out Cyber Monday deals and settle in for the night.

There could be far worse way to end a weekend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Resorting to Dog Trickery

It hasn’t stopped raining all day. Generally, I rather like rainy days but I prefer them when I can stay home, be lazy, listen to the rain and snuggle with the dogs. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days and, instead, I had to venture out into the wet landscape to go to work as usual.

The pups don’t like rainy days. It’s actually quite funny to see them. They get so excited when they get up in the mornings and I let them outside. They run out the back door and then…they stop. You can almost hear their little legs grinding to a halt as they realize it’s raining.

The unfortunate part is that they generally turn around and come back inside. This is fine if they’ve been out recently but when they just wake up after a night’s sleep, generally you’d think they had to go outside.

Even if they do, their desire to stay dry apparently overrules a full bladder. Since they’re completely housebroken and that they’re pretty smart, I used to assume that if they really needed to go, they’d go. Unfortunately, I discovered that this was the case only they decided to go indoors after I went to work.

This only happened once. Since then, I’ve found ways to get them to go outside. The meanest way I have is to trick them. It works well, I must admit. It’s pretty simple: I have two doors that lead to the back garden. They are in the same room, the Tuscan sunroom I redecorated earlier this year. The back doors face one another on opposite walls. One leads out to the patio. The other leads to the side of the house. On a normal day, I open up the door that leads to the side of the house and the pups run out.

On rainy days when they refuse to go out, I simply open up the other door. I step out onto the patio which has a slight overhang that keeps me dry. My loyal little pups follow, curious to see what I’m doing. Then, when they’re out, I quickly go back inside, shutting the door behind me. Meanwhile, I’ve left the other back door open. This means that they must go outside to get back into the house which inevitably leads to them realizing they might as well go to the bathroom since they’re already wet.

Yes, this is a mean trick. However, when I’m in a hurry and I have to get to work and I can’t coax them out any other way, it’s the best method to ensure they go outside. Also, they don’t seem to mind and come to greet me when they come back inside, trying to rub their little wet bodies against my legs- a small price to pay for my slightly cruel trick.

My nicer, kinder method to getting them to go outside is to simply go out with them. If it’s not raining too hard, I step outside for a minute. They follow. Then I go back under the overhang so I stay dry. They’re ok if they know I’m out there. If this doesn’t work, I have been known to stand out in the rain with an umbrella. They like it a lot more if I hold the umbrella over them too but, let’s face it, that’s just a little too indulgent. They seem content to be in the rain if they know I’m out there too.

If it’s not raining too hard, they don’t mind going out. It’s only when they get soaked that they mind. Of course, this is all dependent on their mood. There are times when they run out in the rain anyway. It seems that once they’re soaked, they figure that it doesn’t matter if they stay outside- they’re already wet. They tend to stay out for a while in this case. The bad part is that they’re soaked when they come in and if I’m not quick enough with the towel, they divebomb the carpet, rolling with glee as they get the beads of water off themselves.

Today was a day when they didn’t want to go out. In the morning, I had to resort to my cruel trickery. At lunch, I stood out there with them. This evening, well, I left the door open enough so that when the rain slowed and they really had to go out, they could go.

The only downside is that like young children, the dogs get bored if they’re stuck inside. Rory will lie on the floor and stare at me. When I look at her, she barks at me as if to say, “HUMAN! AMUSE ME! NOW!” Sookie, meanwhile, has given up and decided to resort to her favourite activity- sleeping. When I decide that playing with Rory on the floor is the best way to amuse her, Sookie automatically sprints up to join in. She does NOT like to miss out on fun. Usually, all I have to do is grab a squeaky toy and play tug-of-war with Rory and bam! Sookie is suddenly there, wanting to play too. Eventually, I try to sneak away and let the two play tug-of-war but this doesn’t last long and before I know it, Rory is woofing at me again.

It’s a vicious cycle. Last year, I resorted to those toys that are supposed to occupy dogs for a while- you stuff treats inside and the dogs are supposed to figure out how to release the treats. Unfortunately, my dachshunds tag-team and figuring it out takes half the time it should because one holds it down and the other sticks her tongue inside, forcing the treats out.

I suppose I should be happy that I have smart dogs. The problem is that they’re not quite smart enough that I can sit them down with a book or jigsaw puzzle.

Still, while they might get bored when it’s rainy, their presence ensures that I never do. Besides, when they do come inside and they’ve dried themselves on the carpet, it is rather pleasant to have them snuggle up beside me even though I know it’s 50% love and 50% need to warm up/dry off by using me as a human towel.

Besides, I think I owe them for tricking them into going outside. I always feel a little guilty about that.

Happy Wednesday and have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's hard to believe it's just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. So far, weatherwise, it's been so mild, it's hard to believe it's November. While there have been a couple of cold days, for the most part, it's been slightly balmy and pleasant.

I can't say I'm completely happy about the balmyness. I mean, after all, it is November.Inside, I really want to wear my snowflake necklace but due to its supposed influence on the weather, I've been forbidden by several people.

Ah well, I don't really mind. My sister and I are determined to get an early start on Black Friday and if that means getting up and driving off in my car without having to defrost it from a thick layer of ice, I'm pretty happy. Also, it's nice to go out without worrying that my skin might freeze should that cruel wind blow too hard against me.

Also, the milder weather allowed me to explore the weekend in an outdoor fashion. For a start, I got the remainder of my garden cleared. The dead tomato plants and zinnias are now gone. I retired the gnomes to the shed as well as the solar lights I installed just a few months ago. Even though the weather is pleasant now, this

Still, the is the Midwest. This means that even though it was 65 degrees today, it could easily be 10 below tomorrow it a blizzard. Thus, even though my gnomes looked a little pitiful as I forced them into hibernation, they're safe from any winter weather that may decide to fall our way.

In addition, I got to explore ChristKindlMarkt- a Christmas festival sponsored by the Germania Society of Cincinnati. Even though I was born and raised British, my granddad is German and I was also raised with several German traditions. Thus, I felt like it was something to explore.

It was definitely worth attending. Germany does have some lovely Christmas traditions. One of my favourites is Gleuwein- hot mulled wine. It was rather lovely sipping a mug as I explored the booths. I did come home with a few gifts/keepsakes, my favourite being a handblown dachshund Christmas ornament that looked very much like my Sookie Sue. I also discovered that while I'd love to buy my sister the cuckoo clock she once said she'd love to have, the reality of it is that cuckoo clocks are very expensive. Overall, I had a lovely time and enjoyed the fact that I was in a place where it was perfectly ok to carry a cup of beer around while browsing the merchandise. I'm not a lush or alcoholic by any means but I am a Brit. It's just nice to see a relaxed approach to people drinking. Also, the smell of fresh apple strudel coupled with mulled wine and cheated on by dill pickle soup is a specatular sensory prompt to feeling in the mood for the holidays. Also, there were cute baby goats that bleated and sheep that baa'd as I approached the festival- it made me almost feel that I was in a German village for a second. By the time, I'd finished my mug of mulled wine, I positively felt that I was in a strange German enclave of Cincinnati. It was rather a nice experience although I was slightly disappointed that Sookie and Rory weren't as impressed at their handblown likeness as I was when I showed them the ornament I bought.

All in all, it's been rather a nice weekend. Even though it was tinged with Christmas, it really is the last weeked I'll have before the holidays kick in with full force. Next weekend is Thanksgiving. After that, it's all about Christmas. It was rather nice to have a weekend that was lazy enough to reflect upon the craziness that will happen over the next few weekends.

Even though the weekend is rolling to a halt, it's not so bad knowing that it's a three day work-week that ends in turkey and shopping. Being a fan of turkey and the slightly control-freakish, manic planning that goes along with plotting a meal for 14 people, I'm looking forward to this Thanksgiving. I also like the shopping that comes afterwards because Black Friday is really the gateway to opening the doors and letting Christmas flood in.

Still, for now, we're just on the cusp before the holidays take over and where we can still enjoy the relative calmness of Autumn. Now, if we could just have a little snow and cooler air, I'd feel a little more festive.

Ah well, if it doesn't happen, there's always my snowflake necklace. It's ready, willing and waiting. So am I, for that matter. Nevertheless, I'll hold off for a couple more weeks based on the promise I've made. Of course, promises can be broken....

But I'm not that kind of Monkeypants. At least...not until I worry that we might not have a white Christmas. Then I'm bringing the necklace out. Desperate measures and all that.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Changing the Traditions of Black Friday

I’m a little annoyed about Black Friday this year.

Last year, after Black Friday, I wrote a blog complaining about how irritating it was that Walmart had two sales- one at midnight on Black Friday and one at 4 a.m. Due to the midnight sale, those of us who got up early to make the 4 a.m. sale were screwed out of most of the good bargains. I know it served both me and my sister right for being lazy for not wanting to stay up really late after a day of spending time with the family, helping cook a massive meal, wrangling dogs and entertaining children. Instead, we chose to sleep a little and then got up super early to go to the Walmart 4 a.m. sale and then go onto the other 5 a.m. sales.

So, imagine my irritation this year now that Black Friday has become Black Thanksgiving. Walmart is now starting their sale at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Toys R’ Us are starting at 9 p.m. Never mind the fact that some people actually want to spend the day eating turkey and relaxing with family without having to plan on how they’re going to be able to make it to the store at 9 p.m. in order to try to compete for bargains.

I suppose the easiest thing for me to do would be to just shut up and not bother going to the sales if I really am that irritated at it.

It’s just that, well, I don’t like having to make that decision. Most of the stores are opening at midnight this year- Target and Macy’s come to mind. This means that shoppers can celebrate Thanksgiving and then, after probably drinking wine with their meal, heading out to wait in line for the stores to open. Alternatively, they can spend a portion of their day sleeping so they are refreshed in order to go out and about and shop.

Either way, it seems a little bit rude to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Ironically, I’m British. My family wasn’t raised with Thanksgiving. We only started celebrating it because we moved to the States and it was part of the culture. Now we celebrate because we have American ‘interlopers’ in the family who do celebrate.

Still, given that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time for relaxing, reflecting, spending time with family and/or friends and, you know, BEING THANKFUL, isn’t it a little disrespectful to interrupt the day making people have to decide between tradition and bargains?

I’m not the only one who thinks so. A Target employee from Nebraska started a petition online requesting that Target open at 5 a.m. like always because opening at midnight is ruining Thanksgiving for the employees who have to work.

I agree with him. I don’t work at Target but I did work in a video rental store that was open 365 days a year and, let me tell you, it sucks to have to bolt down your Thanksgiving dinner and then go listen to people complain because you don’t have a copy of “Dumb and Dumber” in stock. It also sucks if you go home and you have to have your Thanksgiving dinner reheated on the plate ‘cause you had to work while everyone else in the family had time to eat.

Also, it’s just awkward timing because there are stores opening at 5 a.m. Now the choice becomes do you want to go do some shopping on Thanksgiving night, get home at 1 or 2 a.m. sleep for two hours and go back out or do you want to stay up all night?

Either way, I don’t like it. I’m not a late night person, I prefer to get up early and get out and about. I liked it when people called my sister and I crazy but getting up at 3:15 a.m. in order to get to Walmart and be there when it opened at 4 a.m. Sure, it was crazy but it was the beginning of a day where we’d move on to other stores, pause for lunch somewhere and be done by 2 p.m. Now, if we follow this plan, most of the stores opening at midnight or earlier will most likely be out of the doorbuster bargains and it really won’t be any different to shopping on a regular day.

I’m disappointed, I admit. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small thing to be disappointed about. It’s just that like Thanksgiving itself, the 4 a.m. shopping trips were tradition for my sister and I and I don’t like it when people mess with tradition. I love the time with my sister because we don’t get to go out together as much as we used to and this has become our day.

I just don’t like that it’s not a straight shot anymore. You can either eat turkey, shop, go to bed and get up again, you can eat turkey, run to Walmart, run home, sleep for three hours and then go out again or you can skip the sleep entirely and most likely be quite unpleasant the next day.

Still, even with the petition, the circulars are printed and the store hours are set, at least for this year. The sad part is that now the stores have changed the tradition, they’re probably going to keep the new one for a while.

Is it so wrong that I want to enjoy my Thanksgiving day without having to think about fighting people in Walmart for a $3 chopper a few hours after eating my turkey?

Happy Friday and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Craigslist: The Usefulness and Presumptiveness that Comes with a Great Creation

I find Craigslist to be a fascinating place. You can pretty much find anything on Craigslist from dates to jobs to obscure personal items for sale. Unlike the classified ad section of a newspaper, you don’t have to wait until the next day for something new to appear. It’s pretty cool how it’s an ever changing landscape of weirdness.

I’ve used it several times to get rid of items I don’t want. For example, per my friend Emily’s suggestion, I decided that Craigslist might be a better option to get rid of my collection of unwanted doors than simply throwing them away. I personally probably wouldn’t want to get free doors off Craigslist but like my mother said, people will take anything if it’s free.

Besides, I figured that there might be someone out there who had a desperate need for some new doors and no budget. Thus, why not give them away? I’ve done this before with an entertainment centre and a large collection of cardboard boxes that I used to move into my house.

My mother is right. People will take anything if it’s free. They will also, however, be quite rude and presumptive.

For example, with the doors, I decided that I didn’t want people picking and choosing the doors. I had a picture of people coming to examine the doors and deciding which ones they did or didn’t want and leaving the left behind. Thus, in my ad on Craigslist, I described the doors as best I could. I’m no door expert. I know there are different sizes but these were pretty standard sized. I had four sliding closet doors, one back door and one outdoor screen door. My ad said, “No picking or choosing- you must take all of the doors.” Also, I stated “You must load and haul away.” Not that I wouldn’t assist with the loading if necessary but well, I figured it didn’t hurt to be clear.

So…after I placed my ad, I began to get emails. The first couple were standard “Do you still have the doors?” emails. Then I began to get “Can I come look at them? I only want the screen door,” emails. Then people started being more specific, asking me to please measure the doors.

Now, I suppose that it would have been nice and smart to measure the doors. However, the lazy part of me felt that if someone was going to get six free doors, they could measure them once they got them home. I did say they were standard sized. Granted, if I didn’t have an inbox full of mail from people who didn’t care if measured the doors, they just wanted them, it would have been different. I could be lazy and so I was.

In the end, I started with the first reasonable email. The guy wanted me to call and leave my address on his voicemail. Unfortunately, while I really, really wanted to lose the doors, I’m also not an idiot and I am not about to leave my address on the voicemail of a complete stranger. So I told him to call me. I gave him four hours. No call. I decided to move down to the next email- I wanted the doors gone and my preference was for someone to get them asap. Well, the second guy told me that he couldn’t the doors until next week but would I deliver?

I moved on. The third time was a charm. I spoke to a nice man who lived 10 minutes away. He agreed to come in the evening. I had to leave work a little early because we were supposed to have nasty storms and I didn’t want the guy to get stuck hauling doors in 45 mph winds. He did arrive as promised, didn’t inspect the doors but just took them. He said that he had a friend who’d moved into a stripped house that had nothing and he wanted to give him the doors. I was happy- this is the exact type of person I wanted to donate my doors to and so I felt not only that I’d helped a new homeowner but, also, I got rid of the blasted things.

It just makes me laugh about the presumption of people though. With my entertainment centre, I measured and took photos of it and I put it up on Craigslist for free. People wanted to know if it would fit in “x” sized room. Well, since I did provide the measurements, surely they could figure it out. I had someone who wanted to know if I’d remove the glass doors for them and then they’d take it. I ignored that one.

I guess my attitude is wrong but I can’t help but think if something’s free then surely you can’t be too picky…right? I mean I suppose if you’re going to come and pick up some doors, you want to make sure you can use them but, well, when someone clearly says “No picking and choosing” in the ad, that generally means NO PICKING OR CHOOSING…right?

With my free boxes, I folded them flat to make them easy to store. I took pictures and put them on my Craigslist ad. I had people ask if I could assemble the boxes before they picked them up. Uh, no….sorry….for one thing, they’re way easier to move if they’re flat and, well, you want 50 free boxes, you can bloody well assemble them yourself.

I’ve had experiences on the other side of Craigslist too. For example, I wanted to build a privacy fence when I first moved in and I was so sick of Dog Whisperer’s noisy beasts, I decided to shut them out. I found a guy on Craigslist who charged a reasonable fee for his hourly rate, would pick up the materials provided I paid and build the fence. I got in touch with him. He seemed decent. I arranged for him to come inspect the garden to see how much fence I’d need. He never showed up. I tried to call. I never heard back from him. Now, it is entirely possible that some nasty fencing accident befell him and he was unable to contact me but, alas, his ad on Craigslist appeared again two weeks later.

I suppose I’m a sucker. I can’t help but think if someone agrees to something, they should follow it through. I know people who buy things on Craigslist and more than one has showed up to a place and no one’s been home or the item wasn’t as promised.

It’s a shame that there are abusers of such a nifty service. I’m still a big fan of Craigslist. It’s a fantastic way for getting rid of crap. My brother in law has used it to trade things- he started out with a ton of junk he got from garage sales and he ended up with a car. Granted, the car didn’t run very well but I thought it as a pretty good trade. My sister didn’t agree since it stood in her driveway for a while but…I was impressed at free car.

Still, in the end, I got rid of my doors. I do have a couple of angry messages from people who really wanted my doors but were too late to get them but I can ignore those. It really does prove the saying, another person’s junk is another person’s treasure. My only rule is that if my junk is your treasure, you come and get it. It’s worked pretty well so far. I did feel a little bad about not measuring the doors but, truth be told, I kind of figured that most doors were the same size. It just goes to show that I’m a door-ignoramus.

Ah well, the only ones I have to deal with now are the ones already in my house, being used. I have a much cleaner garage and I got to help someone.

And it’s all thanks to Craigslist and people who will take anything for free.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekends...Holidays and...Everything in Between

This has been a strange weekend. We are in that strange period between Halloween and Thanksgiving where it's no longer Halloween but not quite Thanksgiving but Christmas is trying to usurp the territory of both.

I still haven't figured out where I should fit. I know it's too early for Christmas but the Christmas lover in me is gravitating towards the music and glitter of the holiday displays. I hate it and yet part of me is, like, "CHRISTMAS!!!" and it's easy for me to want to start sipping hot chocolate, singing carols and decking the halls.

The other part of me is "BAH HUMBUG! It's not even Thanksgiving! WHY would "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells" be good things for me to hear? Exactly! IT's TOO EARLY!

So, you get it. The commercialism of the holidays is starting to infect me. My rational brain has taken over but it doesn't mean that the minute I hear any interpretion of anything remotely Christmas by Transiberian Orchestra, I'm not going to go out, buy a new tree, bedeck it with candy canes and toss iciles upon each and every undecorated branch.

I'm trying to fight it. Sure, I bought another Christmas gift this weekend as well as a couple of ornaments for the tree..but it doesn't mean I'm into Christmas....right?

Just kidding. Sort of. I tried to fight the Christmas spirit the weekend. I did so by embracing the Indian summer we sort of had and enjoy the outdoors. This involved taking Sookie and Rory for a walk over in the park. It went well at first. On the way back, however, Rory decided she'd walked enough and sat down. When Rory sits, this means no one else walks. She's quite good at sitting her bottom down and refusing to move. As a result, I ended up carrying her. I wanted to be amused but when you've already walked two miles and you're carrying a 20+ pound dachshund and alreay out of shape, being amused comes in second to being out-of-breath and annoyed that I parked the car so far away.

Still, Rory and I both made it. I spent the rest of the weekend...being productive.

Sometimes, I long for weekends where I do nothing but, the truth is, I'm not good at doing nothing. I like to be busy. Thus, for the remainder of my weekend, I was busy. I cleaned out the garage for the first time since I moved into my house. It was a mess to say the least. However, in spite of quite a few extra doors and window screens, I managed to come out on top. While I know the old lady who owned the house before me meant well by preserving every extra door...and screen, the truth is that I have no extra room. Thus, I now have six doors I need to lose. I'm hoping I can put them out with the rubbish on Wednesday but we'll see. I emailed Rumpke to check....I'm not sure what to do next.

However, in spite of the extra doors and screens, I have a clean garage. This was a triumph of my weekend. In addition, I managed to write 4000 words towards my new novel which may not seem like an accomplishment but when you're competing in NaNoWriMO and it takes 50K words to win, every word counts.

In short, it's been a good but productive weekend which seems the way good weekends go these days. I anticipate them from about 7 a.m. on Friday morning and then when Saturday hits, it's a blur until Sunday.

Still, for now, I don't mind the rushed blur of a weekend. As always, I wish they lasted longer but I'm ok for now. However, ask me when I get closer to Christmas and I might be in more of a panic. It depends how many store I enter/commecials I hear that tell me that I should be decking the halls, baking cookies and being done with shopping. I'm not usual so suspectible but this year, it seems a lot more serious. I'm trying to avoid it but, well,I can't lie and say it's working.

Ah well, next there's still another weekend before Thanksgiving which means an extra weekend to get Christmas stuff done.

There's something weird about that,isn't there? Surely it should be turkey before tree....right? Unless it's tree before turkey which is rather confusing since we British ex-pats eat turkey on Thanksgiving and>

Ah well, I love Christmas. I love turkey. I love Halloween. I guess this means that anything goes...right?

Deck the halls...with turkey and pumpkins...that's the way I like it...

I think.

Happy Monday!