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Some days I catch myself mentally composing blog posts, and then completely forgetting to do more than said mental composition.  And then some days I actually remember to do a post, but don’t necessarily remember what I’d oh so brilliantly composed in my mind. Oh well. At least I’m here, right?

So here’s what’s on my mind.  THE BACK. I have had ongoing back problems for years. Nothing I can’t live with most of the time, but enough that I spend a good portion of most days hurting.  And with first the lap band and now gastric sleeve, I am not allowed to take NSAIDs, which was what most helped with said back pain.  Before my surgery in November, I was taking a prescription as needed (read, every few days when I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore), but have been out for a while. And then I had that stupid accident in December and my back’s been hurting more since then. There’s nothing majorly wrong, which is good to know, but still doesn’t make things hurt less. So I went to see my awesome primary care doctor today. He gave me a short term prescription for muscle relaxers and pain pills, gave me some a printout with some stretches to do, and gave me a referral for some physical therapy. I’m not familiar with this type of physical therapy, but his nurse said that she was very skeptical at first but that it really worked wonders for her knee.  Hey, if it helps, I’m in.   And not that this has anything to do with my back, but it was a positive pleasure getting weighed at the doctor’s office this morning, and getting complimented on my progress by my doctor. I usually end up seeing a PA when I have to go, which isn’t often, so I haven’t seen him in quite some time, or quite a few pounds ago. It was nice.

THE FACE. I’m addicted to make-up and beauty blogs and skin care, along with fashion, and I decided to start getting a little adventurous and trying some of these amazing products I’ve been reading about.  One thing that piqued my interest last week was this review for Garnier cleansing oil.  Since running out of Arbonne, and not having the funds to sign back up and replace it, I’ve been desperately trying to find something that made my face feel as good as the Arbonne did. Lemme tell you, that’s been rough. Arbonne is seriously amazing stuff, no question about it. First I tried some stuff by Boots that I’d read good things about, and I might have liked it better had I not started using it after running out of Arbonne, but there you have it. It wasn’t that impressive. Then I just bought a few random things that were recommended by a few random people, and they were okayish, but not all that.  Then I got a facial in November or December, and ended up getting some Dermalogica product. I liked it all right, even though I cringed at the cost. But my experiences of late have not been too great with lower cost products, and I figured paying big bucks was just what it was going to have to be.  I do try the samples of different things that come with my Sephora and Ulta boxes, when I order them, which is how I found out about the amazing First Aid Beauty line; their facial moisturizer is really fantastic.  Anyway, today while I was waiting for prescriptions to be filled, I was browsing through the beauty section at the drugstore, and found that Garnier cleansing oil. It made its way into my basket and then into my car, and I just washed my face with it, and followed that up with the FAB moisturizer.  I never would have thought it possible, but my face feels even softer than it did after the Arbonne treatment, and much softer than with the Dermalogica, and at less than $10 for the cleansing oil. (The FAB moisturizer was higher, and I had to order it from Sephora, but it was still less than the Dermalogica, and I do recommend it.)  So yay for that!

THE HAIR. I’m frustrated with my hair right now but I don’t really know what to do with it. I want to have long, curly hair, and yet my hair is straight as a board and decidedly unlong. I’ve been trying to grow it out, but realized that all I do when I have it long enough is put it up in ponytails, which isn’t cute on me, and silly to do when I look better with shorter hair.  So my wonderful hair stylist cut off an inch or so, layered it up a lot more, and made it look cute until I had to shampoo it and try to style it myself. I used to use some sea salt spray, which gave me beautiful beachy waves, but I’ve been reading bad things about sea salt spray really drying out one’s hair. And since I do dye my hair (although I use ammonia-free dye now, thanks to aforementioned wonderful hair stylist), I try to avoid things that will dry my hair.  I think I read about something in the last day or two that is supposed to have a similar effect without the negatives, so will have to go do a Google search.  One change I have made was switching to a sulfate-free shampoo.  My hair colour faded a lot last month, which made me not happy, and I wondered if the sulfates in the shampoo might have had something to do with that.  I was using a salon brand shampoo specifically designed for colour treated hair; I do not blow dry nor curl nor flat iron my hair.  Anyway, I tried the sulfate-free shampoo, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my hair was almost as shiny after letting it air dry as it is when I get it styled and blow dried at the salon.  I didn’t get a salon brand of the sulfate-free (finances, as I say, are a bit tighter than I’d like them to be right now), but it still did a great job with my hair.

THE JOB. The job is Stress Central. For the first time in quite some time, I’m very unhappy at work.  I still do my best, but the team dynamics have changed with some departures and new arrivals that have taken place. I also think that after working 50-60 hours many weeks last year, I’m kind of burned out and ready for a change.  I’ve started applying for some different positions within the company, and hope to be making a change to a new job and team within a few months. 

And that’s about enough blather from me for one night. Hope you’re all well and happy!!

Testing Pins

One of the things I said I wanted to do this year was to actually try some of the many, many pins I have pinned on Pinterest (how many pins can a pinterested pinner pin….). And, well, today was the day.

I can’t believe I’m about to confess this, because it’s not like me, but here goes:

Image

 

I made all the cupcakes in this photo except the one with the pretty bird and flower and stuff.  No, that’s not what I’m a bit embarrassed about. This is.  They’re cake mix cakes.  Not because I don’t know how to make from scratch cakes, and not because I don’t love making scratch cakes, because I do. But I made 120 cupcakes today (plus an extra little mini cake because I had some extra batter due to the pin I tested today), and that’s a metric f*cktonne of cupcakes to make in one day. I couldn’t start them last night because Joe was insistent that we go see Desolation of Smaug again, and who am I to argue with that? 

But they’re not just your average, run-of-the-mill cake mix cakes. Nossirree, Bob.  My awesome bestie Sarah (by the way, you may have noticed that I refer to my bestie Clover and my bestie Sarah and Soleil and Elizabeth, etc.  That’s because bestie isn’t a position, it’s a tier.) told me about this pin about how to make cake mix cakes taste like homemade and then some.  Here’s the link she sent me:  http://thepintertestkitchen.com/how-to-make-a-box-cake-mix-taste-better/

Basically you do the following: substitute melted butter for the oil; substitute milk for the water; and add an extra egg.  Now when I clicked through to the directions, they said to add an extra egg or two; double the oil but use melted butter; and sub the milk.  I added one extra egg to each of the German chocolate and the devil’s food cake mixes; the white cake mixes (which I used to create the delectable lemonade cupcakes–more in a sec) called for three egg whites, and I subbed two whole eggs since I didn’t care that the cake actually be white.  I did not double the oil amount, but if it called, say, for 1/3 cup oil, I used 1/2 cup melted butter, so I did increase it a bit.  And I subbed whole milk (organic because I don’t like the hormones in milk) for the water.  

This pin TOTALLY rocked!!!  

Now if you’re interested in the lemonade cupcakes, here’s how I made them. I rounded the butter up to the next half cup measure (e.g. as I said before, if it called for 1/3 cup oil, I used 1/2 cup melted butter); used two whole eggs instead of three egg whites; subbed whole milk for the water.  I also poured in a splash of thawed pink lemonade concentrate.  For the frosting–yes, I also cheated and used canned frosting–I started with cream cheese frosting. I dumped it into a big bowl, and added a good large blob of sour cream and some more thawed pink lemonade concentrate. I was worried it might turn the cakes pinkish, which I didn’t really want but didn’t think about when I got pink lemonade concentrate instead of just regular lemonade concentrate, but it didn’t.  I made two boxes of the cupcakes (mixed up one box at a time) for 48 cupcakes, and used 3 cans of frosting. I mixed all the frosting stuff together, as I took the cupcakes to the reception site and frosted them there.  When all was said and done, there was still about 1/3 can of the thawed lemonade concentrate left.  Sorry I can’t provide exact amounts.  I wanted the cake to be less tart, and have more of the tartness in the frosting, with the cream cheese and sour cream to provide a nice counterpoint.  I heard a couple of people saying that the best cupcakes were the lemon ones, so I was pleased with that.  Note that by mixing in the lemonade concentrate and the sour cream, it will definitely change the texture of the frosting.  You won’t be able to pipe it because it’s a bit too liquidy.  It worked out okay, though; I just spooned a blob of frosting on each cupcake, then sprinkled on some gold coloured sugar (the wedding colours were creams and golds and browns–very beautiful), and it evened out as they settled.  

For the German chocolate cupcakes, I was originally going to pipe a border of chocolate frosting around the edges of the cupcakes and then fill it in with the coconut pecan icing, but by the time I’d done all the baking and coped with traffic on the way to the reception, I changed my mind. I just spooned the coconut pecan icing on top, and then placed a pecan half on top of each cupcake. They weren’t the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever seen, but they weren’t too awful.  I used two cans of coconut pecan icing for the 48 German chocolate cupcakes, and it wasn’t enough. I ended up having to use only chocolate icing on 8 or so, so I’d recommend using 3 cans of the icing if you’re making 48.

So while I’m a bit embarrassed that I used cake mixes, I’m pleased that the pin worked out so well, and incredibly pleased with the lemonade cupcakes I invented.

Oh, and one other thing–I’m a fan of those life hacks you might see all over the place on the internet.  I saw one last week about how to crack raw eggs. I was taught by my mother to crack them on the edge of a bowl, but the hack I saw last week said it works better to just rap them smartly on a flat surface. So I gave that a go as well, and it works MUCH better than trying to crack them open on the edge of a bowl. They open easily and with very little mess, and no having to fish out bits of egg shell.  So that, while it wasn’t a pin, also rocked.

I hope to be reporting on more pins throughout the year. What about you–any tips for making cake mixes taste better? Any creative twists on cake mix cakes you feel like sharing? 

Books

A few years ago, I think I managed to read an average of a book a day (really I would go several days, and then have a huge book binge on the weekends).  And I do adore reading.

My book buying habits have changed a lot over the years.  I now have an iPad mini, courtesy of my LASIK surgeon, who gave it as a thank-you gift when I had my eyes done last February. So on my iPad mini, I have hundreds of books on both my Kindle app and my nook app.  I seldom buy print books anymore. My home is cluttered enough as it is.

And one of the things I love about the Kindle app in particular is that I can find hundreds of ebooks for free.  I really enjoy that. When I find an author I like, I will add him or her to my list, and search for new books. So even though they may give me a book for free, I may end up buying everything they write.  Amazon also has some really great Kindle daily deals, where you can get books for extremely low prices. I like to take advantage of that as well.

What I don’t like so much, though, is that I haven’t been keeping track of what I’ve been reading.  I need to change that.  It was cool, at the end of the year, to look back at the list of books I read. So I’m going to try to at least make a quick note of what I read, how well I liked it, etc. I won’t be doing reviews probably, at least not initially, but there you go.

So, the first book I read this year was The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  Holy cow, was that a fantastic read!!!  It was intellectually, emotionally draining, and wholly entertaining. I’d recommend it to anyone wholeheartedly, with the caveat that if you or a loved one is terminally ill or you have lost someone, it will definitely bring up a lot of emotions. So be cautious from that angle, but if you can find the strength, don’t avoid it just because of that. It is a beautiful story.

Then I read Tethered (A BirthRight Novel) by Brandi Leigh Hall.  The protagonist is a Seer in a family of individuals possession various supernatural gifts, and returns home at a time of crisis.  It was good.  I really enjoyed it, and will be eagerly watching for the sequels as they are available.  I believe the next one will be Tempted, and comes out in the spring of 2014.

I’m currently reading Dead Girls Never Shut Up, by Susan Stec. I can’t say that I like it yet (I’m 31% of the way through), but I’m curious to know what happens, so I will probably finish it.

The next two reads are the ones Clover put into my Christmas bag yesterday, and I would tell you the titles now except that would entail turning on the light and getting them out of the Christmas bag. So I’ll tell you the titles of them the next time I post. One is by the esteemed lady herself, and I’m so excited to be reading it. She has blossomed as a writer over the years that we’ve known each other, and you really should do yourself a favour and check her out.  You can look her up on Amazon–Clover Autrey–and you can find her on the web at cloverautrey.org, and on facebook at Clover Autrey Books.

What about you? What books are on your TBR list? Have you read any recently that need to be added to my TBR list?

(Oh, and a HUGE advantage of my iPad mini is that my TBR list no longer is a stack of books untidily piled on my nightstand. So much easier to deal with!!)

These aren’t resolutions. I gave up on those a while back.  Because seriously–I’m the same person at 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day that I was at 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.  It’s not like I’m going to magically be able to suddenly accomplish all those things that have proved elusive for the first half century of my life.

That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t some things I’d like to do this year. There are, most definitely. And seeing as how I popped wide awake at 3 a.m. this morning–which means that life is going to be hellish after lunch today when I can hardly keep my eyes open–it seems as good a time as any to make a note of them. 

So:

French.  I took the equivalent of 2 years of French at university, and promptly forgot much of what I learned. Last year I purchased the Rosetta Stone French course, with a view to actually attempting to become fluent. Where is that course, you might ask? Why sitting on the bookshelf in my bedroom, unopened. So I’m going to spend a couple of hours a week working on French. I also got a French phrase a day calendar to help me along that front. Joe and I were talking about seeing if we can add a French channel to our cable line-up. That might be nice. Maybe listening to some of my favourite movies in French will happen. Maybe not. I don’t want to make a huge deal about it, but it’s something I want to incorporate into my life. 

Creativity. I’ve felt hampered the last several years, creatively speaking. Getting off all those nasty creativity-suppressing bipolar meds helped, and I think I’m through the roughest part of learning how to deal with life unmedicated. I  found a blog I adore called New Dress A Day, where the blogger turns the most ghastly thrift store finds imaginable into not only wearable, but often supremely cute clothes. Inspired by her blog, I operated on a couple of tee shirts, with less than desirable results. So I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll take a beginners sewing class. I’m not expecting to turn into a fashion designer, but maybe a little more knowledge will help me be able to create some supremely cute works of art myself.  Then I’ve been into Pinterest, and found some great blogs where the bloggers test different pins with wildly varying results.  That got me to thinking maybe I could try a pin a week or something, just for the fun of it.  I probably have a hundred or more items pinned in my “To Try” board. So that could be fun. I think I’d like to just take random little courses here and there at craft shops or the community center, as things move me, just to keep things interesting.

Writing. After a long hiatus, I’m back to writing again. It’s not going as quickly as I could desire, but it is going. I need to make sure I continue making time for that, because it’s hugely important to me. My sister and I are working on a joint project, and then I’ve got some solo projects going on. I’d like to publish another book or two this year, if at all possible. And it is possible. If not, I’d at least like to hit the end of the year having fleshed out two manuscripts. 

Work. Last year I nearly worked myself into the grave. I didn’t realize how much and how hard I was working until I stopped and looked around and saw that I’d done virtually nothing with friends and family because I was either at work, commuting to or from work, or recovering from having put in 50-60+ hours each week, with one memorable week of 73 hours. So I decided, at 4 this morning, that I am going to work less and play more.  Right now it’s just not possible to get my job done in 8 hours a day. But maybe, once I’m caught up, i can do it in 9 hours a day. I don’t mind getting to work an hour early. That’s precious time, there, when the phones aren’t ringing and I can focus on what I need to do. But when 5 p.m. hits, I need to be out the door if at all possible.

Fitness. I’m going to continue my journey to health. I lost 62 pounds last year. My weight yesterday at Weight Watchers was 209.4 (it was 209 even at home, nekkid, but I could hardly strip that far down at work). My dream weight, for many years, has been 135. However, after seeing how comparatively small I am at my current weight, I think that goal may be too low.  So for now, I’m tentatively setting it at 150 pounds.  That means I have about 60 more pounds to lose. I asked for fitness related stuff for Christmas, and Santa (aka me) got me Zumba for my Wii, the dogs (aka me) got me a hip hop dance exercise dvd, Joe got me a bicycle helmet, and Liz and Elizabeth got me some nifty socks to wear when I go running.  On MLK day I’m planning to go get my running shoes, and will start the couch to 5K program afterward. Excited and a little nervous. Definitely looking forward to it.

Travel. Imma take a cruise this year. I’ve been pondering it for a few years, ever since Liz started going on them, and decided this is my year. So in the autumn Liz, Elizabeth, Ro and I are hitting the ocean together. It’s going to be a blast. I’m also going to go to Utah in the spring. My mother can’t travel anymore, so if I want to see her, I have to go to Utah. Liz and I are going together, and we’re really looking forward to seeing all the family and friends. That’ll be fantastic. And if I can find a way to fit in one more vacation, I’d really like to go to New York City. Or the UK. Or, well, anywhere that’s not here. And there will be one beach trip to Galveston with Liz, because it just must be done, and it will be done before September 19th, as our fun yet excessively rainy weekend in 2013 showed us that it’s a bit late in the year to expect warmth and sunny beaches.

Finances. It’s rough right now; Joe got laid off last year, did some contract work, but is not working right now. I’m fully confident that he’ll be working again very soon, and we’ll be all right.  I have an allowance out of my salary, and last year I frittered it away on clothes and shoes and handbags and makeup and books and movies and whatever else I felt like frittering it on. So I’m doing a few things differently this year. First of all, I’m doing that savings thing where you put one dollar away the first week, two dollars the second week, etc., until at the end of the year you have something like $1300.  That’s going to be my Christmas fund. I bought the piggy bank yesterday and put the first week’s savings in it. Another thing is that I’m going to do my shopping with cash. I’ve read recently, and have experienced for myself, that it’s easier to not spend the money when it’s in cash. Somehow that idea that it’s plastic (even when it’s debit plastic) makes it easier to buy whatever piques my fancy. So for example when I go shopping on MLK day–because I need work clothes as well as running shoes–I’m going to set my budget ahead of time and take it out in cash. Then whatever I don’t spend in cash that day will go into my Dalek bank. My Dalek bank is where I put any left over cash at the end of the week, and the only thing that keeps the Dalek from exterminating my household is my feeding him with money.  I’m such a geek. 🙂

So those are my thoughts about my not resolutions this year. I’ll be reporting back on my progress.

Changes

At my heaviest, I was straining to stay in a size 24/3X.  I will confess to having bought a couple of size 26 items just because they felt a little less constricting, but the 24’s fit fairly acceptably.

Today I wore a pair of size 14 jeans from Old Navy and a size XL shirt from Target. I probably didn’t look as cute as I felt, but I felt dang cute!

A Whinge

This may actually be more of a temper tantrum than a whinge, and I apologise. You really don’t need to read this, not nearly as much as I need to write it and then drop it. So feel free to completely ignore this post and come back another day when I don’t need to whinge or complain or bitch or piss and moan, or whatever you want to call it.

My job is very high pressure, and I normally work a lot of overtime.  I’ve been off for the last almost 3 weeks because of the surgery. I was scheduled to go back yesterday, but ended up delaying it until today due to the ice storm. That, by the way, was a smart decision–there was still enough ice that my commute was very unpleasant both this morning and this evening.

Now granted that my team has been understaffed for a very long time, hence the overtime. And granted that everyone on my team has more than enough to do, even though there are a couple of people who prefer to piddle the day away in chitchat and pm’ing their friends instead of actually, oh, I don’t know, working. So when I went out for the surgery, I did so knowing that it was not likely that a lot of my accounts would be handled in my absence. That doesn’t mean that I was thrilled when I returned this morning to find a really messy queue. That was bad enough. What really chapped my hide was having to stop trying to get caught up on my own queue to do some work for a couple of people who were NOT out on leave for surgery. One of them I quite like, and I think she’ll do an okay job once we’re fully staffed. The other is one of the ones who prefers to do anything but work, and I just wanted to bitch slap her.  

I am not kidding when I tell you that I was this close to getting up and walking out the door today. My love for my job evaporated a while ago, and I’ve just been hanging on because one must work, and until I can find someone to pay me to sit around in my jammies and write and read all day, this is as good a job as any and better than many. But today was just a wretchedly bad day. 

I have a new team lead, and haven’t gotten to spend enough time with her to get a feel for her yet.  I think she’s a nice enough person, but so far I’m not too impressed. I was infuriated today to be pulled off my work after having been out for nearly 3 weeks to do some work to help out the people who have been there, and who didn’t do much of anything to help me while I was out of the office. Not only that, the work in my queue is still sitting there, still with my name on it, and I’m still responsible for it. I can’t work overtime right now, per doctor’s orders, so I’ve got to figure out how to stay on top of it.  I wanted to talk to my team lead about it today, but I was not in control of myself and felt it wiser to say nothing at the time. 

If this makes me sound like someone who doesn’t like helping other people, then I’m not giving you an accurate impression. I am normally happy to help out when help is needed. When co-workers have been out on vacation or sick, I do what I can. There was one week this past summer where I put in 73 hours in order to clean up a former co-worker’s queue while he was out on vacation. I consider myself a team player, and try to treat my co-workers with the same consideration I would appreciate receiving. My frustration was not in being asked to help out someone who needed a hand. It was that I felt that I was barely treading water, and being asked to stop treading water so that I could help out someone who was at least standing on the dock. Does that even make sense?

I was also frustrated and a bit hurt because no one on my team acknowledged my birthday. They knew before I left that my birthday was the day before I was due to return from leave. I didn’t expect a cake or anything, in view of the situation with the surgery and all, but at least a greeting would have been pleasant. I like to bake cakes or bring in treats for people’s birthdays, and I decorate their desk, and bring a card. So to have my birthday completely ignored hurt my feelings.

I’m really ready to move on to a different position, but honestly and truly, I just want out. I have got to find a way to make a living doing something that lifts me up instead of bringing me down, something that is energizing and joyful instead of enervating and depressing.

Any ideas?

The Pithy Grapefruit

I like puns. I like fart jokes. I like potty humour. Not very classy of me, or maybe it is (in a “The Lady Is a Tramp” sort of way?), but there you have it. 

So there was a joke I read somewhere when I was a kid that just struck me as the funniest thing in the world, at least until I got a little older and read “The Miller’s Tale,” and I wanted to share it with my family.  I’d get 2/3’s or 3/4’ths of the way through the joke, and exploded into giggles and snorts and red-faced attempts to blurt my way past the punch line. Never did make it. 

I hate to think of people growing older without ever hearing the story of the pithy grapefruit, so here it is. Enjoy. (The story, not the pithy grapefruit, because ugh.)

This couple had been married for a long dang time, and all the husband did was nitpick about everything. Finally the wife had had enough. She decided she was going to prepare him the absolute perfect breakfast. Fresh eggs, crisp bacon slices, sliced tomatoes, ruby grapefruit halves that she even took the time to section so they wouldn’t squirt him in his wretched eyes, coffee cake, doughnuts, muffins, waffles–everything that she could think of. He sat down to that magnificent feast, and started off with the cold grapefruit. He took one bite, made a face, shoved the plate away and said, “This grapefruit is pithy.” His wife said, “Well, dear, I hated to pith in it, but you know how you hate dry grapefruit.”

And yes, I giggled and snickered whilst typing it out.