Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas ain't over yet!

My long holiday weekend was excellent. I strayed down a sugary, delicious path and ate copious amounts of homemade cookies. They were all wonderful. I got some cool loot, but I truly do enjoy giving gifts even more. I didn't get to finish making my boyfriend's gift(s), but he wasn't ready with mine either, so our holiday season is extended for some undetermined amount of time. Exciting! I gave some of my Utility Sauce to my family members and a slightly customized Sgt. Pepper jacket (it's neon yellow/green) to my brother. He looks awesome in it.

I felt like this was a really grown-up Christmas for me. I know, we were living in the apartment last year too, but this year, I spent more time at home with my boyfriend (and our fat cat). It felt really fulfilling to feel like I had somewhere to go back to. I guess I felt a bit in limbo before, not completely feeling like the apartment was a home yet. Recently, I looked around and thought, "Damn, where am I going to put [some thing]?" Realizing that I had to find space for something really solidified the concept of the apartment as my home. It's something about it being my mess that I'm responsible for, both in the creation and cleaning of. If someone were to come in and tell me to clean it up, they'd be wrong, because it's not their space. I don't know why it took me so long to feel this way, but it's wonderful!

I was convinced I would come back here after Christmas with photos to share, but I didn't pick up the camera at all. All I've got are some risque gingerbread cookies (NSFW).

And now, a link for your enjoyment.
  • The friendship contract - I've shared articles from this blogger before, but this one came up the other day and is very relevant to some of my current thinking. I am not always the most reliable friend, and I often feel like I am investing a lot of time and energy into relationships that are one-way. Whether or not that is actually true, I don't know. I don't think it matters. It would be interesting and potentially really nice, if it worked out, to make a contract like this with a friend. Sometimes, even just scheduling regular chats (online) or times to hang-out that must be kept (monthly meetings, or the same date every year, no matter what!), can be really effective to keep people in contact.

Hot damn, I am really looking forward to New Year's Even. Medieval Manor, here we come (again)!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Utility Sauce

Welp, my godfather gave me 1/2 a bushel of apples. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering.
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They were utility apples, which means they weren’t perfect or pretty enough to sell. Some had odd lumps on them, some had gouges, some were bruised, some were ENOURMOUS. They were all delicious, however, and perfect for applesauce.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012–year in review

Goals
  • Save money – I didn’t really, and it drove me kinda nuts at one point, but then I gave up and now I feel better. I have a good sense of how much I can spend in a month without actively keeping track before I get in trouble. The main thing is, I seem to have cured myself of involuntary spending. I splurge a little on groceries here and there (I don’t need coconut milk, but it’s lovely to have), a book now and then, but that’s about it. Good progress, in my book! All in all, we've gotten by just fine.
  • Fashion – I never revamped my wardrobe, but even though I’m wearing practically the same things over and over, I’m happy about it. I get a new piece of clothing from time to time, and I love them to death. That’s fine with me.
  • Fitness – It’s had its ups and downs, but overall, I feel this has seen some positive progress in 2012. I stuck to some fitness routines at various points throughout the year, saw some physical progress, but physical limitations/ailments set me back. I feel confident that I can get back on track once my health is not an issue.
  • (Mental) Health – This year was really challenging, but I feel like I’ve come out ahead. I feel really proud of myself for sticking with therapy to see what I can accomplish. Overall, I feel like I’ve done really well for myself.
In pictures… Facebook just implemented this “year in review” thing and it looks pretty stupid. I’d rather do my own summary with commentary! Here are some highlights from my life in 2012.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree - 2012

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It’s smaller than last year’s, but I think it’s an appropriately apartment-sized tree. Plus, I don’t have any beads or a ton of ornaments, so it’s fitting. It also fits quite nicely in that corner, given the lessened space by the addition of the book case. My parents insisted on getting us a tree and I’m grateful. Unfortunately, despite seeming very lively in the lot, it hasn’t been soaking up any water. DOA!

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Like our make-shift tree topper? I don’t remember where that hat came from. It’s very lightweight and semi-transparent if you look too closely. Works well as an ornament.

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My little Christmas display could use some fake snow or a garland, I think. I love my mini-tree, though (thanks, sis!). My grandmother has had one for a long time so it has sentimental value.

This is the 13th Christmas without my Didushka (passed away on Christmas Day in 1999). My spiritual practices may be questionable, but I like to think I feel his presence this time of year. Somehow, despite having only a mustache and being quite bald, he embodies the Spirit of Christmas for me. His picture is on that desk all year round, but it feels especially appropriate right now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Creepy tree fingers in the fog

I keep telling you, I'm surrounded by empty cubicles!

But the views are worth it.

The fog was intense this morning (I loved it). I think it's likely that we'll continue to have fog in the mornings for the rest of the week, since it's going to be fairly cold at night and reasonably warm (for nearly-Winter in this area) during the day. I think that's how fog works. It's like condensation, right? I missed the weather segment of my college science course and regret that. I'm working on a new playlist for the car and may share it here on the blog when I'm finished. Tonight, I go to my godfather's house to help with his "new" (to him) iMac, which he's having trouble getting online, so I may not have time to work more on the playlist.

I have nothing of real interest to share today. I'm sure I say that a lot. I'll be working on a ginormous applesauce production post soon. I canned my first batch last night from utility apples that my godfather gave me. Utility apples are perfectly delicious and well-meaning apples that are bruised, too big, too small, misshapen or otherwise not normal enough to sell. I ended up not even getting 48 oz from the amount that I peeled and chopped up. It felt like a lot, but the apples cook down quite a bit. I only added cinnamon so there's no added sweetener. I love the flavor and hope that the people it is eventually gifted to will enjoy it too! I am looking forward to the days when I can have yogurt again so I can eat fresh yogurt with warm applesauce on top. It's a surprisingly amazing combination.

Anyway, I took a few pictures while making applesauce last night, but not enough of the step-by-step process. When I read about canning your own applesauce, I was seriously intimidated by all the boiling and steps that have to occur in a relatively short time span. The longest part is probably bringing the water in the canning pot to boil, since there's a lot of it. I think I figured out the timing well enough, though it was kind of awkwardly broken up by me leaving the house a few times (shutting off the burners to be safe) to move laundry two streets over. Oh well, next time, I'll do it on a totally free night. I already know how I messed up in a few ways, so I think the next batch will go more smoothly.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Almost-anniversary

This morning, I put an old cd in the car stereo and was thrown back to three years ago, exactly. When I say exactly, I mean exactly this time of year. The time of year where I don’t really believe it’s still Fall, but I guess it is, and I’m ready for Winter, and frustrated that we don’t get as much snow as we used to anymore. Three years ago, I’d just started seeing my boyfriend, and a cd with a mix of songs very similar to the one playing was always playing in his car. We drove around together a lot. He drove out to Worcester, where I was going to school, to see me, almost every weekend. Or he’d pick me up from the train station. We’d go out to dinner frequently, or to a movie. Our first dinner and a movie date was to Bertucci’s and then to see Ninja Assassin. The dinner was good (I was too excited to eat, I remember the server came over to make sure everything was okay because I didn’t eat much and he had a trainee in tow, I felt very self-conscious), the movie was awful, and we had so much fun. It was that really special time when you’re just getting to know someone and every new realization that you have “so many things in common!” is pure bliss.

Beyond my depression, I am ruled my nostalgia. I laid the groundwork for a lot of my more nostalgic moments during the height of my depression, during my high school years. Even earlier this Fall, or at the tail-end of Summer, I had moments where I felt like I could close my eyes, and open them to find myself in various times past. Sometimes it’s high school, especially walking to and from school with music playing on my Walkman or iPod mini. Sometimes it’s college, and a feeling of security and confidence, walking from the 8-bedroom apartment that I lived in, just down the street to a class or to work.

Music is a trigger for me. The band Everclear is a major one, but it’s morphed into a feeling more than a memory now. I feel comfortable in my bones. Listening to the mix cd this morning, I was wrapped up in the feeling of that new relationship, budding three years ago. It doesn’t take much for me to mentally go back to that time, these days, since I’ve been hyper-emotional. For these things, I’m not complaining, I just wish it wouldn’t happen with sad stuff too.

Me (age 7 or 8) and Dolly, grandparents' dogMaine is a trigger for me. Just being at my grandmother’s house makes me think of being a kid, visiting there. I remember begrudgingly eating mac & cheese (my sister was more of a fan than me, funny now because she doesn’t eat cheese and I don’t eat wheat) at the tiny table in the kitchen, my grandfather sharing snacks with us or giving us treats. The pictures on the cork board in the kitchen have not changed in many years. There’s a sequence of photos that features each of the kids in my family (meaning my sister, my brother, and me), as babies, being washed in the bathroom sink at my grandma’s, and sitting on our dad’s shoulders. It wouldn’t feel right if any of those photos were removed. I think the thing that makes that place the most special is that nothing changes much. Going to Maine gives me a sense of safety that nothing else can.

It’s a little early to rejoice on my boyfriend and my 3-year anniversary of dating. We’re about 3 weeks out from it right now, but right now is me feeling thankful and blessed for what we have. I don’t think it’s going to end just yet :). Our annual Winter Date has kind of become an anniversary tradition, even though the first technically occurred before we were a couple. This year, it’s my duty to come up with something. We’re going casual: indoor rock climbing! I just need to find somewhere awesome for us to eat lunch or dinner.

Here’s a nice photo of us from my aunt's wedding in May (maybe I should go back to purple hair):

I totally gave him that shirt

And just to inundate you all with even more text: I am really looking forward to Christmas and New Years. I should really get on making my gifts (applesauce for everyone!).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Links and blatherings

If anyone has interest in an EPIC Paleo Holiday giveaway, please click this link! It's the usual "like" on Facebook for entries deal, but there are also links to share with other people. Anyone who clicks the link gets extra entries (so yes, clicking that link will get me more entries). Gift card to US Wellness Meats, Le Creuset set, a smoker, an assortment from PaleoTreats... It looks amazing. Don’t worry, parents, I will give you the smoker. That would be an awesome addition to the annual Easter party (though I still seriously think we should roast an animal on a spit in the yard some year).

Am I the only one disappointed by the lack of snow so far today? There was a whisper of flurries this morning, but that’s all so far. My hopes for a White Christmas have mostly died at this point. Global warming is winning. Maybe I should move to Canada. But wait! As I write this, more snow is starting to fall. If only I had some hot chocolate to sip, then I could feel all cozy at work.

For funzies, here’s my Mustang:

It’s a mess and I’m falling in love with it.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a link post. I don’t have much to share today.

  • deciding to trust other woman again – For a long time, I have said that most of my friends are guys. In college, this was definitely true. It’s only now that I’ve graduated that I’ve started to be more friendly with the woman in our group of friends. I have this persisting feeling that I don’t know how to be friends with women. There were definitely girls growing up that treated me badly and I let myself get hurt by them, but I also had a really good girl friend in high school. I have no idea how I ended up like this. I emailed the author of the blog post about the blue fuzzy coat mentioned at the end… I think I could use a friendly, fuzzy hug, and I know enough online folks that I think I could find someone to pass it on to :) Fingers crossed!
  • Autism: Traffic pollution linked, study suggests – To be fair, there are so many things that people come up with as possible reasons for various disorders. (I do not think vaccines have anything to do with it.) I just don’t understand why people seem so resistant to the idea that toxic chemicals could make you sick. I try to keep an open mind about all theories behind illness and review the evidence I can find to come to my own opinion. There’s plenty of information out there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Resolve.

2012 has been a challenging year for me, but I’m really proud to be able to say that I’ve made a lot of progress in all my goals. My body may not be cooperating in the way that I would’ve liked it to be at this point in the year, but I know what will help. It’s just a slow path. In the long run, it’s the best path for me. I am hopeful that I will see improvements before the end of the year.

Today, I’m not writing about giving thanks. I’m writing about resolve. This year was all about health for me. I struggled in all aspects of it. Sometimes, it was the way I ate. Other times, it was the way I thought. I hit some really low points, repeatedly, but I also had some really high moments. This year is the first time in ages that I felt like I was able to think clearly and experience long periods of time free of anxiety or depression. When I compare this feeling and behavior to past years, I actually cannot remember ever feeling like this before.

Some of the progress I’ve made over the past year is through changing words in my thought process. Is it that I “shouldn’t” eat this French fry, which was born in a vat of rancid and hydrogenated oils, and will make my knee hurt and stomach bloat? Or is it that I “can’t”, because my health is worth more to me than a brief, but satisfying, crunch? My diet is not like most of the ones that people eat around me. To many, it seems restrictive. To me, it is essential. I do not feel saddened by not eating donuts for breakfast, lunch, dinner, which is something that I used to be able to do, seemingly, without consequences. Now, even smaller amounts of refined sugar are problematic for me, both for body and mind. If giving up sugar, wheat, soy (which I’m sensitive to anyway), and legumes leads me to be happier and healthier, that’s excellent! I still have a lot of options for food. Who doesn’t love meat and potatoes, after all? (Crazy people, that’s who…and vegans.) I don’t understand why/how people get so emotionally attached or defensive over things like a bad of chips. Why is that such a difficult thing to give up? The addictive properties of some of the ingredients in processed foods could certainly play a role. I won’t pretend to understand: I was never a big junk food eater. But pastries, man! I could eat bread stuff all day. No longer.

This photo just made me giggle.
On worse days, it can be difficult to go out in the world and maintain my resolve. It’s come to the compromises I’ve made with myself to get away with a overly processed treat or snack here and there are now compromising my health. It adds up. Some people realize it sooner than others (diabetics are a great example! it can be mitigated or improved greatly through a low carb diet), some people never do. That’s okay, it’s their journey to follow. My journey is one to health and I want to get there I soon as I can so I can enjoy it for the rest of my life.

After discussing a friend’s between-holidays plans, I’m contemplating sticking to a whole Whole30 plan after Thanksgiving until Christmas. It’s easy for me to say “except butter” or “except yogurt” or “I’ll have wine just this once”, but the whole point of the plan is to be 100% compliant to it. That way, you can know for sure if you are experiencing improvements. I don’t know if I’ll be able to be 100%, but I am going to try my best. My health depends on it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sweaty carnations

Thursday morning, I woke up and did not go on my computer. I’ve been making a bad habit of wasting time on the computer in the morning lately, instead of focusing on getting ready for work or making a good breakfast for myself. So, finally, I had a morning where the computer stayed off, and I remembered to check for important emails on my smartphone instead. Lo and behold, I had an email with the subject of,

You won a ticket to see Amanda Palmer at Paradise Rock Club on November 15th

What. What? Wait, really? Did I seriously just win something with one of those Rafflecopter widgets? I enter those things all the time and I have yet to win a single damn kitchen utensil, but I apparently had just won a concert ticket. Wow.

I purposely didn’t think about it too much during the day. Getting to the venue is kind of a trek for me on the T. I’m pretty used to 15-30 min trips and generally don’t go further than that, but it takes an hour to get out there in traffic. At least the T is pretty simple; I only had to switch trains once. My biggest fear about the whole thing was going alone. Not for safety concerns or anything like that, but just because I didn’t know what I’d do with myself.

The answer was to have fun, of course.

I was given a VIP sticker with the date when I picked up my ticket at the box office window. I don’t know if it would have gotten me anything cool (a chance to meet the band), but I didn’t put it on till after the show was over and I approached the merch table for a t-shirt. It took me some time to really open up when Amanda Palmer came out with the Grand Theft Orchestra for the main set. I sang to songs I knew (most of the ones from the new album, because, fortunately, the lyrics are pretty easy for me to understand without Googling them), danced to ones I really liked, and made a point of standing in the crowd. At one point, I realized I was about 20’ away from a person whose pictures I’ve seen, words I’ve read, and music I’ve admired for years. It’s been way too long since I’ve felt awed like that.

In college, I followed around The World/Inferno Friendship Society a lot. I went to at least 12 of their shows over the course of a couple of years. I’m not sure when I stopped going or why exactly. Their newer music doesn’t really appeal to me, but I stopped going before that came out. When I was going to those shows, I felt like I was part of a community. I posted regularly on the band’s forum and built up a bit of a tough skin against jerks on the internet (there were plenty on that forum). I got to know people a little, at shows and online. Being in the pit for those shows, you expected to get hurt and I always cherished my bruises for the days that they lasted. There was something humbling and unifying about being sweaty, loud, and open among all those other people, doing the same thing. And then you’d go to shows where there weren’t as many fans, and you’d make your own spirit.

At the Paradise last Thursday, I felt like I had a little taste of that again. Amanda Palmer’s fan base is notoriously kind and welcoming, from what I’ve read. I did not have the guts to speak to anyone or try to strike up conversation (how do you do that, anyway, when you can’t really hear anything?), but at some point during the show, I looked around at the crowd. I saw tons of other people, all kinds of people, looking like they were having a blast. Singing along. Dancing well. Dancing badly. Jumping. Laughing. Smiling. So I gave up and I did too. I’ve really missed that feeling. I don’t really know if I can explain this feeling to other people that well, or if all this writing makes much sense to anyone, but I really hope other people can experience it like I have.

Afterwards, I was slightly deafened, hoarse, and the adrenaline suddenly left me. I felt sick. The train ride back was chilly and uneventful. I checked for more tour dates and it looks like Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra will be engaged in Europe for several months after this tour is over. I am hoping I can squeeze other concerts by other bands that I like into my budget. It’s nice to know now that I can survive and even enjoy a night out someplace new on my own, but dragging along the boyfriend to see a band that we both enjoy is always fun, too.

And thank you, Amanda, for making me feel just a little freer for one evening. It was really lovely.

I forgot to include: the carnation shown was tossed out into the crowd when the band came out on stage. I didn’t catch one, but I smelled them randomly during the show, in the midst of booze, sweat, and BO. It was a strange mixture, but it felt fitting somehow. I found one abandoned by the T stop outside afterwards and it’s hanging out in a shot glass on my counter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Becoming I/me/mine

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Yes, I keep tons of old photos. This is my legs, prior to the key-chucking, circa June 2005.
I was thinking about rings this morning (don’t read into that) on my way to work. One of my favorite and most defining rings is in the form of a skeleton key, wrapped around my right index finger. I have always worn it on that finger. It was originally gifted to me by an ex-boyfriend, but I’ve worn it so much since I got it that most people just associate it with me, and not where it came from. Even I don’t think about its origins, most of the time; it’s just a part of me. I’ve been in love with the imagery of skeleton keys for a long time now, ever since I found one at my parents house. I used to wear it around my neck, until I tossed it off a cliff in a local forest park, in a gesture of defiance.

In the never-ending journey to become who I want to be, I’ve found that my identity might be a lot more obvious to other people than it is to me. When I think about graduating college, I think of it as just something that happened to me. If I think about how I used to view other people who have graduated, as so adult and accomplished, I realize that there is no reason why that can’t apply to me as well. I’m an adult! I’m accomplished! Making it through 4 years of college is no small feat. I’m actually quite proud of myself for that. When I envision myself as some stranger wearing many rings on her fingers, I see the kind of person I always wanted to be. I don’t think I can really explain who she is in words, but the image is clear to me and I am astonished that I let myself be so blind to the person I’m becoming.

One little gesture of defiance at a time.

Friday, November 09, 2012

One link at a time

I read this article today and thought it would be fun to break down my thoughts on some of the points made.

18 Things You Should Say Yes To

1. I have to admit, I feel really grungy when I actually do this on weekends, but it also feels really good. Full disclosure: I tend not to shower on those days and feel slightly rebellious getting all stinky and doing nothing. The shower before I go to bed feels oh-so-good.

3. Good point. I’m trying to take it easy on the sugar so I don’t end up with migraines again (that was the “problem of the week” this week), but out with friends, dessert is definitely a good idea.

5. I am completely guilty of fake-checking my phone. Generalized Anxiety Disorder means I have anxiety to some degree about most things. Having a buddy with me makes it a lot easier, and I think that’s true for most people, too. It is also why I will drag my boyfriend to any and every wedding I am invited to, when +1’s are allowed. Not to mention I get to see him dressed up.

7. I am guilty of this and it’s not a good thing. I have a few friends that live far away, or even just not-terribly-close and I am abhorrent at keeping in touch. Phone calls make me nervous. I hate talking over people. I could still improve on this, though. Then again, they could be reaching out too! ;)

9. My hair is pin-straight. It’s boring. Hence, the pink.

10. My favorite part about going up to Maine to see my grandmother. Sometimes sitting and doing nothing, or reading Reader’s Digest is such a good feeling. Funny note: my grandmother bought me a subscription to Reader’s Digest. I only read them at her house because they’re there, not because I like them all that much! The jokes are good, at least.

11. See my recent wedding outfit. That’s exactly what it was.

17. Some of my friends parents are actually really cool people. I’d love to talk to them more and…well, I just don’t know how. I’m pretty nervous about ever inviting someone “grow up” to dinner. I make pretty lazy meals for the most part, so that would mean extra effort to make something “nice” and then what if they don’t like it?! What if it comes out bad?! I need to figure out some way around this, or just start showing up to get fed. I don’t think they’d really mind.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

New England weather

I’m terribly jaded and biased when it comes to weather in New England. I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life, and while I have travelled a bit and experiences other climes, this is home to me. So when everybody said a Nor’Easter was on its way in, I shrugged. My reaction turned out to be appropriate. I know other areas of MA or the North Eastern US got hit harder, but the snow was already getting washed away by the time I got out to the car this morning, before 8AM.

View outside the window at work. I've enjoyed watching the seasons change from here.

I no longer wake up when the plows go by at night. I always used to, in school, even through college. Falling back asleep with a smile on my face, knowing there’d be snow on the street in the morning, was a beloved ritual. Even if I was pretty groggy this morning and I know it won’t last through the day from the rain, I was still happy to see the slushy snow and clear it off the car. Maybe it’s unsafe for me to be unafraid of driving in it. Oh well. Between watching the road and glancing at the mirrors, I smile at the mid-Fall scenery on my way to work. I take things a little slower, not just to avoid skidding tires, but to soak in the masked daylight.

Other view from work. Yes, I'm surrounded by empty cubicles. I love it.

I’d really miss weather like this if I ever move away from New England, Seasonal Affective Disorder be damned.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Links for a Wednesday

  • How to NOT Gain Weight During the Holidays – Here’s the thing: what’s so bad about this? Okay, yes, maybe you are actively trying to lose weight, or for whatever reason, you cannot allow any excess bodyfat aside from what you have to be added onto your frame (medical reasons are a good one), but gaining weight in the winter time is not such a bad thing. It’s a personal decision, I suppose. You can chose to eat well, in the manner of your choosing, in a way that will not make you gain excess body fat, or, you can choose to indulge a little more, or eat more starches, and put on a little fat to keep you cozy this winter. I’m not saying eat all the pie (but maybe you should, pie is delicious), but don’t deny yourself things if you really want them! And no, I don’t condone “everything in moderation”, I’m just saying that you should be happy with your choices, and not resentful. I’m probably not going to eat many grain-based foods and that is partially choice, partially necessity, but I’m happy with my options.

Note: I have no idea of a little fat would actually keep you cozy. I was pretty uncomfortable with myself 15 lbs ago (two years ago), so I can’t speak from personal experience. I just thought it sounded cute. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind being a little curvier, but then I get anxious about it and am pretty happy with how things are now.

  • 5 Excuses that Keep You Unhealthy (and how to Destroy Them) – I’ve fought with all of these points at various times. I feel like I’ve mostly gotten a handle on 1-3, but 4 and 5 are still pretty tricky. I hate running because it’s physically difficult for me. Not (just) because I’m out of shape, but because my hips are perpetually crooked and it makes it difficult for me to place my feet the same way. I don’t like people to see me, so I don’t run. The solution to my problems is “just do it”. Budget allowing, I plan on signing up for some kind of fitness class offered by my town’s community group this Spring.
  • I don’t want to have a baby – I wonder, sometimes, how many other women are out there in the world, in situations similar to mine (financial, age, relationship status…any or all of the above), who feel conflicted about this. I grew up seeing most parents around the same age as my own. They had kids in their late-20s or early-30s. As I reached legal adulthood, I started noticing more people close to my age having kids, even right out of high school. I know a married 25-year-old mother of 3, who I believe wants more kids. I feel terribly confused about it. I have no idea what the right choice is for me. I am afraid to write about it because I’m afraid of being judged. I want a baby (someday), but sometimes I want one now. I wish it was as simple as blaming it on hormonal fluctuations, but it never is. The good thing is, when you have a trusting and loving partner, if they aren’t ready, that kind of keeps things at a standstill. That is probably for the best.

That last link goes to my new favorite blog. It’s really brilliant. Reading her articles makes me feel enlightened and brave. It makes me want to write more, about anything.

Voting experience: take 2

My alarm went off at 6AM this morning. The apartment was warming up already, possibly trying to make up for 3 weeks of no heat because I drained something that needed re-filling, but I was tired. I crawled back into bed, sweating, but got up at 6:13. There was no way I could sleep in this morning. I had to vote. I’d purposely set my alarm early this morning in order to vote, and there was no way I was going to be able to wait all day to do it.

I barely ate. I made a pumpkin mug cake and took my  morning supplements. I fed the cat, got dressed, and headed off to the local elementary school. On the way there, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I was excited, I was hopeful, and I was also terrified. I imagined watching the poll results come in on the TV tonight (something I remember doing in high school, but realistically, I’ll probably use the internet) and crying, no matter the outcome. I guess I’ve been a bit sensitive lately. My boyfriend’s schedule has changed, so if it’s determined tonight, at least he will be there with me.

The line curved around the block. Apparently, there were separate lines for different precincts. I’d had no idea I was supposed to know which was mine. Another  person in line pulled out their smartphone to figure out theirs, so I took a peek: precinct 4. (Un)fortunately, I was in the right line, which was also the longest. I didn’t have my smartphone on me so I just people-watched as I waited and shuffled. It was cold, but I wrapped my scarf around my head and kept my hands in my fleece-lined pockets. I thought about maybe picking up a new winter coat at TJ Maxx, something that will cut the wind on the scooter. A little boy approached the school with his mother and sister, and loudly exclaimed, “You’re voting!” A chuckle rose from the line and I stayed smiling for a little while.

Once inside, I wished I’d brought cash with me. I rarely carry it, but there was a bake sale in the entrance and a cup of coffee would’ve been nice. I don’t drink it often, and I don’t rely on caffeine, but I wanted to support the school. The warmth would have been welcome. As I got up to the registration table, I smiled, gave them my address and name, and thanked the volunteers. I found an empty station, filled in the bubbles on my ballot with the provided felt-tip pen, and walked to the back of the auditorium, where I’d spotted another table and a ballot machine. They confirmed my address and name again, I handed over the ballot, and watched it go in. If I ever volunteer on election day, I’ll suggest that someone stand in the lobby to tell people what to do in terms of receiving then turning in their ballots, because it wasn’t clear to me at all. Not everybody is a veteran voter!

This is a large country, but today, I really felt a part of it. I think it’s okay for identities to change and fluctuate on a day to day basis. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m an American today. I went through a brief period in college when I was convinced that I was some kind of anarchist, and not patriotic in the least. Time passed, I met more people, and I grew up a little. I’m proud of my heritage and I believe in the country that my grandparents moved to. This is a land of promise and opportunity. I feel extremely blessed that I have been able to experience it in the ways that I have. I was hospitalized, and my parents were able to pay the bills. I went to college, my parents paid for a large portion of my tuition, and now I’m employed and steadily paying off my loans. I know not everyone my age is in the same situation as I am, even people older than me who are struggling with loans. I really hope that, if not from this election, my vote will count towards changes to help other people have experiences more like mine.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Elections, and my fear of them.

Elections are another one of those terrible things that make me feel ill-equipped to be an adult. After recently discussing how adolescent I still feel most of the time, a surprising number of people chimed in to tell me that they too still feel very young in some respects. Some of those people are middle-aged.

It’s all perspective.

So here I am, fumbling my way  through my second presidential election. I feel ill-equipped because

  • I don’t know how to/can’t find reliable information on what the candidates stand for. Even their own websites are impossible to navigate, and the content there is mostly fluff. Honestly, I’ve been using wikipedia just to look up their personal histories and history of votes. I’m pretty comfortable with this method, but I wish there was a standard for this kind of information, or some kind of questionnaire that has to be filled out that doesn’t allow for us much wishy-washiness.
  • I didn’t even know that I have to vote for my state senator on election day this year (I guess it’s not every year? I’m rusty on that whole procedure). Two choices doesn’t feel like enough (though I feel the same way about the presidential candidates).
  • I didn’t know until last Friday night, when approached by a man at 8PM on a residential street while walking to the movie theater, that we also need to vote for House Representatives. Now I need to go brush up on what on Earth those are, and who is running. Why are there 3 candidates here?
  • I have no idea what will be the best way to watch the results come in, and roughly what time the outcome will be determined by.

Pretty much all of this stuff is not taught in schools, or at least not in mine. I think these are the kinds of things that society expects parents to teach their kids. I remember going with my parents to the town hall when I was very little to watch them punch holes in cardstock. I think I got to pull off the tags that stayed behind, and years later, thought about the stuck tags in Florida messing up the process. It’s mostly retirees down there, right? I guess they didn’t have their grandkids with them to clean up their ballot paper. It was fun to be part of the process, even if I didn’t understand the national (global, really) impact of those slips of wood pulp and ink. Now I am participating in elections and having a say and it feels so huge. Nobody told me how important this would feel! Because it is!

I was really saddened, recently, to read about a number of people who are completely eligible, and yet do not vote. They say their vote really doesn’t matter, they don’t want to support a corrupt system, that the lesser of two evils is still evil etc. I just cannot wrap my head around why you would not take any opportunity to have your say. Sure, I agree, we could use some changes. I don’t like the bipartisan system. I don’t like that the popular vote does not ultimately determine the presidency, but I am willing to work with what we have until I can come up with a better way to effect change.

Please vote tomorrow, if you can. Utilize your rights as a citizen.

I have never felt more scared for my future. I have actually found myself seriously wondering about the logistics of moving to Canada.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween 2012: What I wore.

Wearing footed pajamas (with skulls wearing pink bows) yesterday evening was one of the best ideas ever. No, really. Ever. I dressed up a bit for work (missed the costume photo because I was on a call), but by the time I got home, I just wanted to veg and relax. My boyfriend’s Christmas present last year as footed pajamas (with ninja monkeys!), so we totally had a couple costume thing going on. No.

Really.

Don’t deny me my laziness.

Not seen: t-strap heels

What can I say? I like my brows arched and hair messy.
We got very few trick-or-treaters, but my favorites were the pre-teen and young teenaged girls, because they complimented me on my ensemble (hair, nostril piercing, and pajamas). Little did they know, two out of 3 of those things are everyday wear for me, and the PJ’s are worn at least 3 nights out of the week. Or mornings. It’s cold in my apartment and I don’t like getting dressed immediately. Don’t judge, you’d do it too.

It’s probably egotistical and a bit odd to say, but I see myself as a kind of beacon of hope for young girls. “You too can grow up and be weird, someday. Just like me.” As a kid, and even into my teens, I was terrified of any older kids or young adults! I have no idea why! I was afraid they would make fun of me, I think. I hope that kids are not afraid of me, and I think that is the case, since they often ask about my hair or piercings. It makes me feel like I can be a bit of a bridge for those kids, so they might feel a bit more hopeful about their potentially weird and amazing futures. I like to think that I can be that adult that kids won’t be afraid of. It really makes me wish I’d gone into teaching (though I’m sure my hair and piercings would not have been acceptable) and is a great motivator to write more stories for young adults. Getting started is the hardest part.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I wore

At some point, someday, I imagine that I might feel like an adult. I’ve been trying for years. When I was a teenager, I was convinced there would be some magical sensation at the point of turning 18 years old, that would make me feel free and invulnerable. If you’ve read this blog, you must know that that feeling never happened. It’s come in clips and phrases over my life, trickling in when it can, but I still don’t feel like an adult, most of the time.

This morning, I realized I was narrating my life in my head again. I often wonder if this is a curse that other writers (not sure I still identify as one, though I’d like to…does this count as “writing”?) suffer/enjoy. I find that my narrative would probably be most accessible to teenaged girls, which only serves to make me feel even less grown up.

But also, this morning, I heated up some bone broth. I sipped some tea. I made an omelette in my cast iron pan. I cleaned and put away some dishes. I did it all in my two bedroom apartment that I share with my boyfriend and overweight cat. I did it all before leaving for my full-time job on the scooter that I paid for. I am definitely still growing, and I don’t think I should ever stop, but if that’s not adult-life, I don’t know what is.

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What I wore (best friend’s wedding): French Connection Ribbon-knit dress (a couple seasons old), pumps from Payless (gift), pashmina scarf (gift), thrifted pendant (owned for a long time), old earrings (gift).

The outfit cost me $60 for the dress (50% off at TJ Maxx), basically. It was definitely worth the splurge (not that it was THAT expensive, just that I should not have spent the money). I felt and looked DAMN sexy. We had a blast and I’m so glad that I got to go.

Before anyone tells me that pink hair is not very “adult”, just go look at this amazing woman (who happens to be a writer).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Changing it up

There are many things in life that benefit from regular changes. Forms and strains of probiotics, exercise and any other kind of training routine, and sometimes, diet. I’ve been having some really terrible digestive issues for the past couple of months. I’ve seen the doctor, but I’m still having a really hard time with the symptoms. Fortunately, I got back Friday. I really like my doctor’s approach, which is rather holistic, and very in-line with how I prefer to operate nutritionally and with dietary supplements. It’s really great to know that a health professional fully supports my use of amino acids for depression and anxiety, especially when I don’t usually trust doctors very much.

So, here’s a snippet of my life right now: I usually eat in a way that is very much in line with a paleolithic diet. I used to eat dairy, but don’t seem to tolerate it anymore (this makes me very sad because my homemade yogurt was the bomb). Basically, I eat fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts. Bam. Pretty simple, right? But not boring at all! Now, nothing seems to sit well with me. There are issues with my gut that seem beyond what just good food can help. I’m looking into following a kind of GAPS protocol, which can be really beneficial for gut problems, as well as some behavioral/mental issues. It could be likened to a “cleanse”, but unlike most, is actually very good for you. The first stage is just eating homemade stock and bone broth! I really need to read the book to comment on it more, but overall, I could definitely go with more bone broth in my life.

Generally speaking, I think I will benefit the most from stress reduction. I’ve got my mood-support supplements worked out right now, so that’s good. I’m working on socializing more and making more time for a life outside of work, so that’s good. But even as much as I love eating what I eat, I feel stressed out by it sometimes, especially when other aspects of my life are stressing me out. Much like I recently decided to free myself from some of the burdens of financial responsibility, I am looking to do that with my diet as well. This is only temporary: my health, as tenuous as it is right now, cannot stand for me to eat donuts all day long or pizza every night. It’s tempting, even after all this time, but I know how terrible I would feel, physically, after eating those things. For this week, my freedom will be making some cookies, eating more white rice, and enjoying some alcohol at a wedding.

Let me be clear: I’m not “on a diet”. If I follow-through with GAPS, yes, I will see that as a temporary dietary framework in order to exact certain results. My everyday way of eating is just how I eat. Before my gut got messed up, I felt overall pretty great. I think I was close to fitting my definition of healthy. It’s hard not to view this as a setback, but I’m still learning a lot and that makes it worth it, somehow.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Learning to prioritize–budget

After writing off and on about my budgeting practices for probably the last year or so (I know that’s how long I’ve been tracking my spending, anyway), I’m ready for a break. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve trained myself to obsessively track every expenditure and I’m incredibly stressed out as a result. It’s not worth it!

This is going to be very hard for me, but I’m going to stop tracking my finances altogether for a while. I’ll login to my bank account to keep an eye on things and make sure I’m not running out of cash, or to see if I need to move some money between accounts, but my “expenses” Excel spreadsheet is getting temporarily retired. I don’t like that I fret over these things every single day, and that I feel like I don’t know how to get by without doing that. Maybe I will finish off this month, just to end things cleanly, but I need to live a little (I can always go back through my statements to see how much we spent on groceries)! Maybe it’s time to just say screw it and get my eyebrow pierced again. Or buy some extra hair dye. Or some new shoes. It feels silly to restrict myself from buying things like this. Hell, I’d love a new fashionable winter coat to replace my 10-year-old pea coat!

I’m not throwing caution to the wind. I’m still going to hunt for the best deals and use coupons when I can (for example: my preferred brands of cat food and cat litter are 15% and 20% off at Unleashed until the 20th, and I also have a $5 off $25 or more coupon), but if I want something, I’m probably going to get it. I’m not sure how to handle prioritization with this new approach, however. I’m still inclined to tell myself “don’t spend more than x on frivolous things per month”, as that would ensure that I don’t get close to running out of money at any point. I can’t say for sure that there’s no way that wouldn’t happen. I don’t like unknowns.

Sweet, now I can pre-order a book I’ve been looking forward to!

Maybe I won’t do this for long. Maybe it’s just to get some things I’ve been thinking/dreaming about, then I’ll go back to my fairly strict spending habits and I’ll feel fine about it. I’m probably still going to use money as a reason to not buy or do things, but I’ll also be buying things for myself. Either way, I feel like I’ve had some stress released by this decision and I can only hope it works out the way that I want it to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Link & project idea

  • The Dainty Squid – Holy adorable blog, Batman! I am not even sure how I found this. I think I saw a picture of her hair on tumblr. She even has a nice write-up on how to properly dye and care for unnaturally shaded hair. Kinda makes me think about trying to fix mine, since it’s multiple shades of pink, and the most vivid spots are on under-layers and totally unseen. Boo. She also reminded me of my love for strange cameras. I wonder if I should just start collecting them, when I encounter them at thrift stores and such. I’ve never had a collection before.

I still can’t make up my mind about having pink or purple hair for my friend’s wedding next week! Sneak peak of the dress, and to be clear, it is a dark purple. Thoughts? Purple feels more appropriate for the coming cold months, but I still haven’t achieved the shade of pink I’ve been aiming for.

History in journals

After talking about my varied moods in therapy last Friday, I was feeling really optimistic, despite all the negativity I’ve been afflicted with recently. I have a huge number of handwritten journals, dating back through middle school, and several online journals, dating back to my freshman year in high school. I started re-reading some of the online journals, which I don’t think I’ve ever done. It’s really interesting seeing the correlations between my irrational moods then and now. I’m not sure what I’d get out of it, but I think I’d like to collect all my journals and start going through them chronologically. Part of me wants to find some key to my depression, maybe pinpoint when/how things changed for me in my thought process. I don’t think I’ll find an answer, but it might be enlightening to refresh my faded memories of that time in my life. I don’t remember much from ages 13-18.

If I do go through with this project, I think I’d start a second blog to document the process. I’d probably catalogue my investigations by various date ranges and maybe come up with some evaluation questions to go through every semester/season, or year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pros of shopping online

I am often on the hunt for ways to save money, and while I don’t do that much “extra” shopping right now, for anything beyond essential grocery items, I usually buy everything online. Enter ebates.com (clicking this link and signing up will get me a referral bonus, full disclosure)!

For affiliated sites and qualified purchases, you can earn a small percentage of cash back for anything you buy online! This even works for major sites like Amazon. I personally have only used it for Vitacost (also a referral link), so far, so I’ve only got about $.26 from the site, but hey, maybe it will add up in a year or two. My first purchase within a couple months of signing up means I get a $10 Target gift card, which I am hoping to put towards some decent dress shoes. Too bad Payless wasn’t an option. The process seems very slow, overall, but since it’s free, I figure it’s worth it. So far, I’m just having a hard time remembering to go to Ebates before I visit other sites (this logs the session so Ebates knows you’ve made qualifying purchases).

The other site I’ve been trying to use is Top CashBack (another referral link), and it works the same as Ebates. They even have some overlapping qualified sites, like Kohls, Gap, and Newegg.

I totally had a reason for writing this post, and now I can’t remember for the life of me.

Here, these are some shoes I like. I’m weird.

 

*This is not a paid blog post, I’m just sharing my enthusiasm for ways to make savings online!*

*and shoes I like. Whatever.*

Thursday, October 11, 2012

General mood update

I’m going to write really candidly about my depression and anxiety here. It’s funny that just a couple of days ago, writing this would have made me burst into tears or fear stern judgment or rejection from friends (or even strangers). Today, I think, “What if this knowledge will help someone?” and “screw the consequences!”

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Visiting Witch City

As I often do, I was thinking about what I'd like this blog to be again recently and I realized I don't really talk about my life in general that much anymore. Maybe that is interesting to some people? Maybe it would be good for my brain to write this kind of stuff out more. I don't know. Well, here it is.

I've been massively depressed lately. I like the sound of that: massively. Anyway, it sucks, I'm barely managing most days, and the anxiety is awful. But I'm alive, I'm going to work (...mostly), and I'm getting up every morning, so that's good. My gut has been rebelling against me for a couple of months now, I think. It's hard to keep track anymore. The details are icky so I'll spare you all, but I'm basically at the point of "I've tried everything!!!" and I've even been to the doctor.

Yeah. Me. I know.

Today, I went to Salem with a friend I met online many years ago. It's a lot less sketchy than it sounds, and besides, we've met in person a few times over the years. She's a cool gal and brought me some artwork. It's very colorful and I am envisioning it in the kitchen.

Ah, yes, and her friend came too. He was nice, and wore cool rings. I kind of wish we'd all had more time to sit down and chat, like over dinner or something, but I had a good time poking around in the shops and giggling over strange labels and spell baggies and such. Visiting places like Salem, chock full of "magick" shops, pendulums and pentacles, herbs, candles, incense, and general mysticism really revives some of my deep, dark, and most secret desires. One is punk or gothic fashion (hence the gloves I bought), the other is my interest in the aesthetic qualities of a New Age lifestyle. I am a sucker for colored glass baubles. I'm also a sucker for stores full of books of magic and Witchcraft. Seriously. The 16-year-old in me wants to spend hundreds of dollars on books I will read once and get nothing out of (except maybe a renewed interest in discovering my spirituality), but both she and I know that that money is needed to have a tolerable Winter.

I got some smartphone friendly gloves, a shot glass, and some small candles. I'm out of matches (but good thing I have a gas stove?).

Monday, October 01, 2012

Links worth following

  • For the feminine-fashion inclined, check out Obsequies! I’ve been following this lovely lady’s creations for several years now. I have never yet remembered to peruse her offerings when I have the spare cash, but I still have my eye on that adorable sunflower skirt (or one of her many amazing Hallowe’en items).

  • For the meat-lovers out there, this is an easy giveaway worth entering! Quality meats for free? Even if my chances are low, I’ll take it! Plus, the US Wellness Newsletter always has interesting health and food-related articles.

Delicious

Um. Yeap. That’s all I got.

Welcome to October, 2012.

Time for a general life update and such. Mostly boring. Carry on.

Being a goon at work

It’s officially October and I’m starting my month off wearing a sweater and with freshly pinked hair. I don’t think it’s quite as light as it appears in this photo. I used Ion Color Brilliance in Fuchsia. I think I’d like to try Magenta next time, which is a little darker, but I want to see how this brand fades out. I have another tube of this color that I can use for touching up before the wedding I’m attending later this month. I definitely  need a trim in the back.

Good news: 4 years ago, I got the wrong prescription on a pair of glasses, and today, it’s exactly the right prescription. I only have to pay for new lenses now if I want to! That’s saving me $50-200, depending on whether I would have tried out coastal.com or gotten new lenses in my last frames, from Pearl Vision.

A new page is started on my budgeting spreadsheet. I’m trying not to think too actively just yet about how my money needs to be spent this month. At some point in the next week or two, I’ll schedule to have our oil tank filled (one more thing to tick off my list of “things that make me feel like a real, responsible adult) and that will be one massive weight off my mind. I failed at putting up any of the plastic wrap stuff on the windows this weekend, only because the special double-stick tape we had was too told to peel off the second side. And laziness. But I’m allowed to be lazy on a Sunday.

In other news, I miss yogurt. Damn you, sudden lactose intolerance. We’re going on over a month now of GI issues, I think. I’ve got a game plan from the doctor, but it’s still a lot of waiting for my body to decide it can function properly again. Judging by the amount of Vitamin C I need to take to make things work properly (up to ~3.2g every 4 hours), we are not close to functional yet.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On links and savings

In other news, I’m really struggling with my budget lately. This past month, I ended up buying several slightly pricier things that I could have lived without. Does the dress look amazing on me? Yes, but I already have a purple dress that I haven’t gotten to wear out yet. One date that ended early doesn’t count (and there was no photographic evidence). Now I have two. I think I have been too restrictive on myself, otherwise I might have been able to pass up some of these purchases. I don’t need to play two different video games at the same time, I could’ve waited to buy Borderlands 2!

I’ve been tracking my spending since November of 2011, using my online bank statements to recording incoming and outgoing transactions on my checking account. My tattoo was a costly (but worthy) investment, and other than that, I haven’t spent much money on myself outside of essentials this year so far. It’s starting to wear on me, honestly. There are so many things that I would like to have, would make my life easier to have, and some things that I just think are amazing, but totally not essential, but I am tied down to some really boring and frustrating financial obligations. I am making all my regular student loan payments, but have not been able to pay any extra towards any of them. I had hoped to pay off the smallest loan this year, but unless the end of year bonus is really good and I don’t need it for anything else, that’s looking unlikely. The biggest $ suck has been saving up for oil to heat the apartment this winter. We are starting to move into cooler temperature ranges and I will have to get the tank filled soon. Goodbye, savings. I know continuing to save this winter is going to be a struggle.

I’ve already planned out a couple of Christmas gifts. I’m only going to do things for the boyfriend and my little brother (whom I already have a gift for, just needs some embellishment).

I think I need to come up with a way to feel less restricted about my tight budget. Smallish treats that are very separate from things that I need (food stuff, for example, would be too much like an essential purchase, but a fiction book would be good) might be a good way to break things up a little. One book a month seems pretty meager, but it’s somewhere to start. I welcome any suggestions to make this whole endeavor feel less daunting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I’d like to say goodbye to a complicated mind

Blog note: If you look back in older entries, you  might notice that the comments all appear as though they were made by me! This is not the case, but Blogger made it look that way when I removed the Disqus application. I had been using it so I could respond to comments, but now that Blogger has that function, I’ve gotten rid of Disqus. It looks much nicer in the comment area, I think, but sucks that I lost a history of who was commenting on my blog.

The boyfriend and I had a chat the other day about how the rest of the world perceives Americans. Apparently, most everybody else thinks we’re pretty crazy, for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that we work way too much.

I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, or even just other areas in this country, but growing up, I was instilled with the idea that the whole point of going to school is to get a job and work until retirement. Nobody ever really explained how to have a life beyond school and it was something I really struggled with. I think it’s part of the reason why I ended up abandoning a lot of schoolwork in high school, and feeling incredibly left out in college when I couldn’t pick a major. Everybody kept telling me that nobody knew what they wanted to major in, that I’d figure it out, but this is not what I’d been taught. I believed that there would be an “aha!” moment, where I suddenly knew what the right career path would be. Just like falling in love and suddenly knowing in your gut that “this is the one.” It’s all crap. Do other countries believe this, or is it the Disney effect?

I think part of the American work ethic stems from our countries roots: we are and always have been mostly laborers (though that’s shifted to the white-collar middle-class in terms of population count nowadays). Most of the people who came here had nothing, we were mostly a nation of immigrants, so it makes sense that everybody worked their asses to the bone to get by and make a life for their families. That is the American Dream, to have the opportunity to work hard and make something of yourself.

What does that even mean, to make something of yourself? People talk about wanting to leave an impact on the world and it seems like such a ridiculous concept when you stop to think about it. As a singular person, it is very unlikely that many people will know your name unless you’re selling something (that applies to politicians, too). I think people just want to be appreciated, and there are much easier ways to become appreciated. You don’t have to invent the next sliced bread to have an impact. For me, making an impact is all about talking about my interests (hence this ridiculous blog).

Part of my unrest this year has been this unspoken struggle with “working” and “having a life”. I’m still trying to figure it out, but lately I feel like I’ve had some kind of breakthrough. I can’t really identify it, but I’m starting to feel like I can actually enjoy my time off and not just see it as a break until I go back to work in the morning. I hope that eventually, I can shift my identity to a hobbyist that works, instead of a Help Desk Specialist with hobbies.

Monday, September 24, 2012

J'suis là pour ça

Autumn is officially here, and there’s no question about it. Everyday, I see more leaves on the ground. The view from my cubicle at work shows the slow conversion of trees to Fall foliage. I’m hoping the trees around my apartment start to turn soon so I can get a good photo to use as a background for the blog. Mornings and nights have started getting pretty cold. I think it would down to 43F this morning! I am going to have to get warmer gloves so my poor fingers don’t freeze on the scoot to work.

There are several things I hope to accomplish this Fall, and I already feel like I’m running out of time.

My grandfather, helping press apples for apple cider, 1992

  • Go apple picking – Apples came early this year, so I need to go sooner rather than later. Apparently, McIntosh apples (which are GREAT for applesauce) come later in the season, so now would be perfect for me to get some. I’m worried that I won’t be able to go before all the apples are gone!
  • Get up to Maine – I really want to visit my grandmother, as well as raid her canning supplies. She used to make applesauce, sweet pears, and all kinds of “canned” stuff. When I made my own applesauce, it immediately made me think of hers, with no added sugar, just all about the spice and natural flavor of the apples. I have no doubts that she still has jars I could use, and the tongs/pot/wire rack required to properly handle and treat the jars.
  • Dress up for Hallowe’en – This is happening, no matter what, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a creative, yet affordable, costume to make.
  • Go to King Richard’s Faire – If only to experience the delicious turkey legs. It would be fun to play some of the games (toss Ninja stars, throw throwing axes) as well. Too bad I can’t have beer right now (anti-yeast diet), otherwise I’d get a yard of ale again :)

King Richard's Faire, 2010

And everything that gets in the way is: money!

Okay, and a car that can’t make long trips right now. Boo.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life operates in lists

Sometimes I feel that there is too much going on in my head, and it’s easier for me to get about my day if I write down some of the things I’m thinking about, so I can stop thinking about them! Run-on sentence, FTW (for the win).

  • I’ve loved moccasins for a long time. I want to make some! It looks simple enough, and there are so many different styles/methods that you can do. I think I will try making some slippers out of scrap fabric soon and see how it goes. I can use those as a template if I ever get some leather/suede to make real moccasins. They would be awesome to keep at work, so I can have some good quality minimalist shoes.
  • I also really want to buy mukluks someday.
  • I have an idea for Mark’s Daily Apple’s video recipe contest, but it requires constructing my own helmet camera! I am not sure if my brother or mom would be willing to lend me their camera for such an experiment, or if I’d get around to putting the video together. I'd rather edit it in iMovie, which means borrowing my mom’s computer, too, and I am very slow at video editing.
  • I intend to make two batches of yogurt this week (one for splitting between parents and godfather, the other for me), and will use two different types of milk (local organic, and the cream top stuff). I’m curious to see if they taste different, side by side.
  • If I don't bike tonight, I think I will put a streak of Fishbowl blue in my hair somewhere (I think I still have some), just to see what happens to it when put over pink. I am probably wearing purple to my friend’s wedding next month, so purple hair would probably look weird, but I am thinking that the season for pink has just about passed by now. My hair is getting close to my first goal length, which was jaw-length. I should be there by the end of the year, if I don’t get the front trimmed at all. By Spring, it should be chin-length. I’m not sure what I want to do with it after that!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For the future of applesauce

  • Awesome, awesome, awesome body image post – Full of even more links! There may be some links that are rather women-specific, but the message is the same for anyone: learn your value outside of the number on the scale.

I made applesauce last night. I peeled and chopped up on McIntosh and one Gala apple, tossed them in a pot, and added less than 1” of water (ended up being too much, but it cooked off easily since my pot lid doesn’t fit tightly). I cooked it on fairly high heat until it got to bubbling, then lowered to medium heat for about 10 minutes, with the occasional mash/stir with a plastic whisk. I sprinkled on some pumpkin pie spice when the consistency seemed good, burnt my tongue thoroughly, and enjoyed the hell out of it on some homemade yogurt.

Warm applesauce and cool yogurt. So good.

The applesauce is chunky and naturally sweet, just how I like it. It tasted just like how I remember Baba’s tasted when I was little.

Yeah, so I’m nearly out of yogurt again :). Looks like a trip to Whole Foods is in order soon!

I’m hoping to get up to Baba’s house in Maine soon, maybe this weekend, so I can steal her canning supplies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

International Suicide Prevention Day

Please boost this in whatever social media network you prefer.

Take 5 to Save Lives

World Suicide Prevention Day (Facebook Event)

World Suicide Prevention Day (main page, has been down for me all day though)

To Write Lover On Her Arms – National Suicide Prevention Week

Hallowe’en prep

I guess I’ll keep our costume plans under wraps, but I’ll still mention what we need:

  • Boyfriend needs a tan trench coat and a blue suit. I’m hoping that I can find time to go thrifting and find some that fit decently or can be altered without too much difficulty. There is some easy embellishment I can do to the costume to make it more clear who his character is.
  • If this is going to be a couple costume, there are some simple pieces I need to get, that can also be thrifted (and probably found more easily). The problem is the hair: it’s supposed to be long and dark red. I don’t want to dye it, and I’m not really keen on spending a lot of money on a long red wig either.

They’re not really scary costumes, not unless you know more about what they’re from, but they should be easy enough.

Two Hallowe’ens ago, we were Doctor Horrible and Captain Hammer:

Punching evil in the face

Last year, we didn’t really plan costumes together, but I looked pretty cool as a Superman-villain-whose-name-I-can-never-remember:

Originated from Superman - The Animated Series

In other news, the party supply store just down the street from my work probably has more Hallowe’en stuff out now and I am definitely going to poke around during my lunch break today.

I am also highly anticipating the arrival of some very cool mugs.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Measuring health

After reading Paleo On a Budget’s post about using a scale to help track and measure health goals, I got to thinking about my goals, and how I measure “health.”

This has not been a terribly healthy year for me. I think I’ve been healthier, mentally and physically, than in past years, but I’ve spent a lot of time going back and forth from the doctors,  trying different tests, trying to define what is “wrong” with me. More recently, I’ve had some serious digestive issues that are embarrassing, uncomfortable, and disruptive. I haven’t been sleeping well, possibly because of that. Maybe it’s “just” the stress. It got me thinking about what it would mean to me to be healthy. What would it take for me to feel that that is an accurate descriptor of myself?

Health to me means

  • Happiness
  • Fitness
  • Function

Happiness

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time, feeling happy is my #1 concern. I have had GREAT improvements in this area of my life over the past year! I’ve found that it’s so much easier to laugh at things that amuse me. Before, I still found things funny, but it rarely made me laugh. My favorite TV shows will actually have me cracking up now. It’s a really great feeling. My anxiety is also greatly reduced to the ponit that I am able to recognize anxiety-provoking situations and choose to barrel through them (usually finding that it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared) or avoid them, without feeling lost or unclear in my mind.

Fitness

Sticking to a fitness regimen has always been a struggle for me. I’m still struggling, but I am actually seeing changes in my body now, which is greatly motivating. I am also FEELING the changes, and not just from feeling sore after a workout (usually, the day after). The bag I use to cart my lunch & laptop to and from work while I ride my scooter is pretty heavy, then you add my laptop and charger cable… well, it doesn’t sound like much, and maybe it’s not, but it felt like it for a while. lately, I barely notice it on my back when I’m walking up and down the stairs before and after work, or when I’m riding the scooter. I don’t think I can express how relieving it is to really feel that I am getting stronger, after being a weakling for so long!

Function

This ties in with fitness, but the fact that I could walk a little ways with my boyfriend on my back without shaking legs means so much to me. Sure, it’s unlikely that I’d need to cart him around like that, but knowing I am functional enough to carry someone on my back, in case of emergency, for example, is really encouraging to me. If I need to be able to do something physical, I want to be able to do it without hesitation, within reason. I’m not going to be heaving a 80 lb server around anytime soon, mostly because it’s a terribly awkward shape, but being able to help someone install one on a rack without feeling wiped out, or maneuver it in without too much difficulty would be very handy.

Scales mean very little to me. At this point, I want to gain weight in muscle. I’m not worried about gaining body fat, since I’m on the lower end of a healthy range. As a woman, it would not be unhealthy for me to have a bit more body fat, to ensure my body is well prepared for bearing children someday. We’re not talking 50lbs of excess weight, just 10-20. As long as I can function, I don’t care if I end up curvy. I am glad that after not allowing myself to weigh in for a few months last year, I no longer feel any dependency on the # that the scale puts out. In the end, even my muscular weight is arbitrary, because 10 lbs of muscle may not mean being able to lift a 50 lb box, and that’s what I want to be able to do!

So I’m not healthy because I haven’t met my fitness goals? No, I’m not healthy because I’m still working some things out in my head, and I’m not as functional as I feel that I should be. My digestive system certainly isn’t at the moment! If it was, I would say I’m “pretty” healthy, but not all the way there. Maybe next year :)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Yogurt for the masses

A little over a week ago, I conducted my first yogurty experience and called it a success. After this weekend’s adventure, I call that one a complete flop, and this one… perfection. This method requires much more baby-sitting than the last, but I think I could make it work on a weekday evening, making the whole process about 24 hrs long.

Make sure you hover over the photos for alt-text!

Just a bit of raw, local honey

My method

Tools needed:

  • 2.5 tablespoons of plain yogurt (read the label! make sure it has LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES in the ingredients and no extra flavoring/ingredients)
  • 1/2 gallon of pasteurized (not ULTRA-pasturized) whole milk
  • Stock pot or a pot that can easily hold 1/2 gallon of liquid
  • Crock pot with removable insert
  • Candy thermometer (or a thermometer that can measure at least 100F to over 180F, since 180-185 is our max)
  • Bath towels
  • Water, refrigerator, sink with cool water, oven with working light

1. Fill crock pot with water and put it on the low or warm setting, if you have it. This is just to keep the liner warm.

2. Fill stock pot with 1/2 gallon of whole pasteurized milk, and put it over medium-low heat. If you keep the heat low, it doesn’t need stirring (to avoid burning the bottom).

Local milk, but not grass-fed like my last batch

3. Slowly warm the milk to 180F, watching your candy thermometer. I set my timer to 10 min increments and it took at least/about 50 minutes.

4. Once you reach max heat, remove the pot from heat and put it in the sink. I put it right over the drain and ran cold water behind the pot, to fill the sink (or, if you’re fancy, you could use a drain plug). It did not take long, maybe 15 minutes at most, to cool to 110F.

4.a. When the milk is cooling, put your oven on Warm.

SONY DSC

5. As soon as it gets to 110F, start dashing around the kitchen like a mad-person. Shut off the sink water, remove the thermometer, dump the water out of your crock pot liner, skim the milk skin off (ew, get as much as possible, otherwise it’ll end up in the yogurt and it’s all rubbery and weird) and pour theMilk skin = ew milk into the warm liner. Take a cup or two of the heated-then-cooled milk out and whisk in your starter yogurt (the 2 1/2 tablespoons set aside from the last batch or any plain yogurt from the grocery store – I used Chobani), then whisk all that back into the milk.

6. Turn the oven off, but turn the light on, put your crock pot liner in the oven with towels wrapped around it. I used two towels: one for around the sides and one for over the top. I left the oven (heated to around 150F on the Warm setting) open for a few minutes so it wouldn’t heat the milk back up and kill the starter cultures, then left it alone for 13 hours (the longer you wait, the tangier the result, you could leave it in there for up to 24 hrs as far as I know).Do not touch!

7. In the morning/after your decided time has passed, pull your baby out and give it a look!

SONY DSC

8. If it seems set and you like the taste/consistency, let it cool for at least a few hours in the fridge and then sort into containers.

Fresh out of the ovenTook a taste, see how it retains the shape?

The next morning, cooled for 8 hrs, the hole had filled with whey

9. If you’re going to make more after this (but of COURSE you are!), make sure to set aside 2-3 tablespoons of your yogurt to use as starter for the next batch.

10. Enjoy!

Holding shape quite nicely

Some for my parents, the rest for me!