August 29, 2007

I'd Like a Job, Well Done and Hold the Drama, Please

I'm not one to bitch about work on my blog because A) I want to keep my job and B) I NEED to keep my job. Not that I think that anyone I don't trust can find me, but you never know. But, for the sake of putting it out there, if there could be just a little less drama in my work life, I would be a much happier, healthier person.

It seems like every year, I have to fight fights that I've already won at least once (and generally several) times before.

And, if we could have a little less whine (from people who are being paid far more than I) with our main course, that would be great, too.

Posted by LoWriter at 10:45 PM | Comments (2)

August 23, 2007

How to Love the First Three Weeks of August

I haven't posted in awhile. I was busy having fun (for the most part), but I don't think that I've forgotten you all (all three of you!) or that I'm not sorry. I am very, very sorry to have neglected you!

The month started out with a trip up north to see my folks. I helped combine. I actually didn't do too much. I had the summer cold of doom, and it's pretty dusty, but they got the air conditioner fixed, so it was mostly OK. I wrote about it in an earlier entry about the list. Basically, I made an idiot out of myself at one point because apparently, in my head, I thought that "left" meant "right" when I was looking for the lever to dump the grain. Dad's friend was there, or it wouldn't have been so humiliating. They were both pretty nice about it. And I did manage to save the day by realizing that the combine was full before it ran over. All-in-all, it was a good time.

Then Ben and I went to Duluth. It was great fun (and very romantic if I do say so myself). We drove out across the lift bridge and wandered down to the beach to dip our toes in Lake Superior. We went to a couple antique stores (he collects things, and I am looking for a birthstone ring plus several sets of dishes for my mom for birthday/Christmas), which was delightful. (Yes, I've started my Christmas shopping already!) We went to the DeWitt-Seitz Market building to get me pressed pennies, knocking two machines off my list. We went out to eat at two places: Bellisio's (which is uber expensive, but tasty--I ordered an appetizer and it was just the right amount of food, but it was like $12). We went down to Grandma's and got one of their pressed pennies even though we didn't eat there. We went for a walk at sunset in the rose garden (Leif Erickson Park). We held hands and took pictures of roses and bunnies. Then my memory card stopped working because it sucked. We bought a new one, and Ben rescued my pictures from my non-functioning memory card using magic I do not quite understand (my hero!).

We went on a train ride on the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad, which was super cute and fun. It was about an hour and a half, and it was really relaxing and very scenic. It's run by volunteers, which meant they were begging for money the whole time, but they were old and cute, so it was OK. We saw blue herons and turtles and so forth.

We also went to the Great Lakes Aquarium, which was rather lame, if I do say so myself. They don't appear to use their space very well, and it is generally a bunch of lake trout, which may be what an aquarium is supposed to be--examples of fish that live near where the aquarium is--but if so, what a waste! I was expecting more exotic species as well, especially because admission was $12.95 a piece (we got a two-for-one with a Happenings book). The highlight was the the Seahorse Secrets exhibit where we saw seahorses hugging and holding tails, which made Ben fall in love with them. It was extremely cute. I also got pennies from this location. One machine was broken, hence the updated rules for my penny machine quest: I do not have to pay admission twice to lame things if circumstances beyond my control prevent me from getting pennies from locations that have multiple machines. I also got pressed pennies from the Vista Fleet, though we did not take a tour (you can't do everything in one trip). In addition, we went to Fitger's Brewery where I enjoyed an apricot wheat beer and a delightful oatmeal stout.

On the whole, it was an excellent trip! We had a couple of things we couldn't get done, but we are planning to take a drive to Gooseberry Falls for the day once the fall colors are out (where I will get another pressed penny because Ben supports my habit).

Then, last weekend, I went up north again and visited my folks a second time. I helped my mom mostly this time. We froze corn (which is not as hard as it seems), made pickles (which is harder when you have to pick and wash the cucumbers than it seems when you don't), and made choke cherry jelly (which is good but a lot of trouble to make). Basically, to freez corn, you pick it, husk it, and boil enough water for all (or most) of it (in our case, four kettles for the first batch, two more for the second). Scrub out both sides of your sink, and once the water is boiling, throw the corn in. Boil it for four minutes, and then plug the sink and put the corn in the sink using tongs. Run cold water over it and add ice (my mom froze water in cool-whip bowls). If the water feels luke warm, drain the sink, and run more cold water in. Let it sit for, oh, probably between 20 minutes to a half hour. Cut the corn off the cobs, measure as many cups into freezer or sandwhich bags as you want, get all the air out of the bags, seal, and freeze. It's not as hard as I thought.

Pickles are easy except that you have to pick and then wash all those itty bitty cucumbers... boo! Choke cherry jelly is a hell of a lot of work. You have to pick them (which my mom and my sister did before I came home), boil them, juice them (which is difficut considering they're about the size of a pencil eraser and are mostly pit), strain out the pits and fruit bits (with a cheesecloth), boil the juice (adding more sugar than juice, actually), pour the mixture into the jars, wipe the jars tops so the lids will seal, put (boiled) lids on the jars, and then boil the jars so that they'll seal. On the plus side, everything sealed, so that was nice, and now I have choke cherry jelly. While choke cherries may live up to their name, the jelly is fantastic, mostly probably because it is 9 cups of sugar to 7 cups of choke cherry juice. My parents fought the whole time, but this is not news. I left them arguing over a bag of hawthorne apples that my dad thought "someone" (AKA Mom) should make into jelly, too.

We also made fried green tomatoes, which was something I'd never tried but figured couldn't be that hard. We used the same trick we use for frying zucchini (mix two eggs with salt and pepper, dip in a slice, salt one side, dip the slice in food-processed crackers, and fry). Ben and I made them earlier this week, too. They were pretty good. They weren't as good as Bellisio's, but I am not a gourmet chef, and I did not have any polenta or garlic cream sauce. They are zingy, and I love them.

I also got to celebrate Jill's b-day with Carl and Jill by seeing Stardust, which I thought was a very fun movie. Keep in mind that I have never read the book, and I also went in with an expectation that it would be horrible. These two things may have colored my experience more positive than others'.

So, as you can see, it has been quite a full month, and I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend at home until my parents come with my sister in tow to start up college once again on Sunday (after which, l won't have a moment's peace until Christmas when she goes back again). Then there will be State Fair and further antics, I'm sure. I'll be sure to share! Feel free to tell me what you all did on your summer vacations!

Posted by LoWriter at 08:00 PM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2007

The List Moves Out Da House

My list of 101 things decided to move out and get its own studio. It now has its own site where you can check it out for future updates. I may update from here as well sometimes, too. You can also see what I look like after I've been Simpsonized. I love the crown. Appreciate and love the crown, too.

You can Simpsonize yourself, too.

Coming soon: Duluth trip and various penny machine visits!

Posted by LoWriter at 12:11 AM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2007

So Long, SELF 3

I would just like to take a moment to celebrate an accomplishment: I mailed the check this morning to pay off my SELF 3 loan!

This is the smallest of four SELF loans and a Wells Fargo educational loan that I have out, so it's not like I'm debt free or anything, but I have accomplished a task that was daunting nonetheless. It's been very gratifying to see my monthly payments go down as I send them money as well. In addition, Wells Fargo lowered my interest rate because I have made 36 on-time payments. I did not know that this was an option, but I dig it. I thought my interest rate was lower than it was, anyway, so now I'm about where I thought I was already, but it's still good.

Overall, I feel like a rock star, and all I can say is WHOO HOO!!

Posted by LoWriter at 07:29 AM | Comments (7)

August 06, 2007

List Update

Well, as you know, I started a list of 101 things awhile back. I have decided to do a semi-regular update on my progress. You can also see this by looking back at the list to see what I've crossed off. (My list was posted on July 17th 2007, and you can view it by clicking on the July 2007 Archives and scrolling down).

At creation, I had finished creating my list and buying a digital camera. Since then, I have done many things.

First, I have nearly finished cleaning out my bedroom closet. I took a bunch of clothes to my mom's place for consignment, and I can now hang up my clothes in the closet. The clothes that were everywhere are now in the dresser, which is a good place for them. All I have left is to go through my old school bags.

I am one week into doing dishes every night for two weeks, and I think that's a habit I intend to keep. Even when I feel lazy, if I do them every night, there's only a few dishes, so it's done quickly as opposed to taking a really ridiculously long time.

I plan to pay off the SELF 3 loan this month. I also got my credit report and found that cancelling credit cards does not really help your credit score at all. Someone who works with a bank did tell me that she probably wouldn't give me points for having so many, but she wouldn't take points away, either. There are varying reports on whether it's good or not, but the basic idea is that it doesn't really hurt you to keep them open, and it can hurt you to close them.

I read If I Live to Be 100, which was not all that great, and I read three books in July, meeting my goal of reading two books a month for that month.

I went to the A Day in Pompeii exhibit at the Science Museum, which was really good and very moving. I would say that I thought it would give more details about the erruption. I thought that the movie would give details about that, but the IMAX movie was really about Greece and a different volcano. On the whole, though, it was very amazing to see all the artifacts and truly heartbreaking to see the casts. My favorite part was this wall fresco with a space for a fountain that had a disembodied, screaming angry head painted on the wall. The audio tour provided no enlightenment as to what would prompt someone to paint a head hanging from a string above their fountain, but it did give a delightful talk about the birds that also adorned the fresco, which only made the head funnier, actually. We decided it was the guy's mother-in-law or perhaps his previous wife. We had a lot of drama trying to get free tickets using the Museum passes from the library because apparently we're the only people in the history of the world who've ever used them (not). The free passes are impossible to get, and you still have to pay to see Pompeii and the IMAX. We had people stationed strategically at three metro libraries, but I got to my library earlier than any other person who wasn't working at the library (which wound up opening a minute before the other two), and thus, got what I wanted. It probably helped that I stood in the entrance, wore my spiked choker, and announced loudly to the girl behind me that I was there first and I was getting what I came for this time. (I helped her get what she wanted to.) I also stared down a man who was trying to budge in front of me at the doors.

I looked up Roden Crater and found out that it may never be finished (and now that I realize it's basically one guy digging in the side of the mountain with a spoon, I don't really want to go anymore), but I will be writing to the foundation to learn more about it.

You can look forward to me accomplishing the following goals in the near future: I will be going to Duluth (and possibly Gooseberry Falls) this month, and thus, I will be beginning my smooshed penny quest. I will also be viewing the Planet Earth documentary soon. I am going to interview my grandma when I go home next. She's in the nursing home and not doing so well right now, so that one's kind of a priority.

I didn't accomplish any goals this weekend because I went up north to see my folks, and I combined again this year. Dad took pictures, and it was funny (I took them with a funsaver because I didn't want my new camera in the field, so it will be awhile before I get them). I didn't do much. I have been sick with a summer cold for over a week now. I also made dill pickles, which is not as complicated as it seems except for the sealing the jars part. I also started my Christmas shopping, and I bought my self these canisters.

Well, that's all I know. Has anyone else created a list? How are your lists going? Have you posted them somewhere?

Posted by LoWriter at 11:28 AM | Comments (4)

August 01, 2007

July Books

Well, as part of my 101 goals, I have committed to reading at least two books each month. This month, I read three. I read Harry Potter 7 this month, and I will list the book last for those of you who have not finished it yet. I HAVE NOT INCLUDED ANY SPOILERS. If you do not wish to know my opinion of the book, then you will wish to avoid reading the third listing in this entry. AGAIN, NO SPOILERS HERE.

If I Live to Be 100 by Neenah Ellis: 2.5 Stars. This book was on my list of goals because several classes at my workplace use it. Also, I thought it would be interesting to see what people who have lived for so long have to say about living. I had a secondary agenda of seeing how someone else presented interviews with aging subjects because I have recorded two of my three grandparents and am interested in writing at least some sort of family history. I felt that this particular author was far too present in the stories she was sharing. I felt she looked at the aging with a bit too much fear or something. It's difficult to put my finger on why I didn't like it. I think I was expecting Tuesdays with Morrie but got something very different. I think that on the whole, she spent a lot of time making excuses for her radio program (which I didn't really feel probably needed to have excuses made for it) and for her interviewing techniques rather than telling me about the characters and making me care about them. This was an Ok read, but it gets a solid "Eh" as far as living up to its hype.

Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold: 3 Stars. This was a good read. It was nothing particularly special, but I enjoyed it. If you're looking for something fluffy to read this summer, I recommend it. The story is set in a futuristic society, which isn't incredibly important. The main character, Sarah, can only speak in quotations, which is the most fascinating piece. She has lived in a home for the insane, but she is thrown out due to budget cuts. Then, she moves in with the "Free People," which are basically a band of street people who have found themselves a place to live and banded together around the Law of the Jungle (which appears to have been taken from the Jungle Book). Then the people from the Home decide they want Sarah back. Their intent is veiled, and everybody finds that trying to save Sarah may just jeopardize everything they care about. Overall, pretty good. It's a little vulgar, but on the whole, it's a good summer read.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: 5 Stars. Wow. This was everything I'd hoped it would be and oh, so much more. If you would like to discuss this further, feel free to email me, but please don't spoil it for others in the comments.

Well, that's it for the July reads, folks. Feel free to share your own reads in the comments.

Posted by LoWriter at 09:36 AM | Comments (3)