Thursday, December 29, 2011

NYE: Goals for 2012

SO... it's a new year.

As is the tradition with new years, there is a rush to figure out what's wrong with yourself and resolve to fix it. New year, new start, etc.

Which I get.

But there's also the running joke of how those new resolutions NEVER work out. Which makes one wonder if there's even a point...

A few years ago, an online friend (I forget which one, but obviously the person is pretty awesome) pointed out that they were going to try setting "goals" rather than "resolutions", as "goals" carried less emotional heft with it for them. It's a good point, and I've been doing it since 2009. Granted, my goals are fairly general, so they don't necessarily meet an endpoint, but at the same time I usually see progress on them so I feel like I done good.

But now I'm at a point where I actually kind of don't know what I want to work on. To be honest, there always feels like there's so MUCH I need to work on. But is that my own self-sabotage at work, or do I really need to improve?

Regardless, here's what I'm planning to work on for the next year:

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Holiday Trinity: Big ol' Wrap-up post

IT'S OVER.

I feel like I should be sadder about the holidays being over, but TBH it was a lot of anticipation for a rather lackluster affair. It's not that my holiday was BAD, just... a little dull. Nicely dull! But still, a little dull. Plus having to drive around to see all our family for several days straight is pretty exhausting, which doesn't help. Most of my family gifts were of the gift card variety, but friends got me cute ornaments, pink stuff (!!!), and The Hubs got me this BEAUTIFUL opal pendant necklace - even better because it's similar to one he gave me for our first Xmas together that was later stolen when our apt. was robbed. I can't wear it yet, though, because we need a new chain for it - I have a big neck.

Even with the dusting of dullness, I still had a good holiday season. I've been either too busy or too depressed to celebrate with much enthusiasm in recent years, so having the holiday spirit was REALLY fun for me and made my holiday season great. (Plus I always have a tendency to blow things up to be bigger in my mind than reality could EVER live up to, so there's that.) Of course, now I have to figure out how I'm going to store all this holiday crap away, since our decorations (and ornaments) have doubled this year. Heh. Oops. I also have to restrain myself from running to Michael's with my Xmas present gift cards to stock up on discounted Xmas decorations. DON'T... NEED... MORE...

So now I've got New Year's Eve to look forward to, esp. because this is the second year in a row where we have PLANS! NYE used to always suck for me, no one ever seemed to want to do anything, or had plans with different friends we didn't know, and it was frustrating. This year is our friends' 15th wedding anniversary (they were practically fetuses when they got married), and they are celebrating it a little early by making it a joint NYE party. Bonus: They love having themed murder mystery dinners, so it's a costume party, too! The costumes? 80'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, BABY! So awesome! The Hubs and I are a married couple named Joe and Natalie Nebraska - "Joe Nebraska" was the star quarterback and his now-wife "Natalie"was head cheerleader! Awesome. I have my outfit ready, I just need to get some accessories and we need to figure out The Hubs' costume, too. SO COOL! There WILL be pictures, I assure you. Because we will look awesome.

As I tend to do at the end of the year, I've been reflecting on how this year has gone and what I want from the next year (but then again, who doesn't do that at this time of year). Warning: There might be some navel-gazing posts up in here in the next few days. I'll try to keep it shortish and sweet, but I tend to have a lot of feelings and a desperate need to share them. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

Hope you got some rest from the craziness!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THT Xmas: Easy "Extra Family" Gathering Hostess Tips!

So how many of you have divorced parents? *raises hand* I can legitimately claim going through 3 divorces before I was ever even married myself. (And one of them resulted in their getting back together 2 years later!) It's already frustrating to arrange to see your family when you're significantly other'd, add in multiple groupings of family and OH MAH GOD it is a pain in the hindquarters! One unfortunate side effect that has happened is that I rarely get to actually spend the holiday with my siblings, as we share a dad, but we grew up with our mothers. Our two mothers get along fine, but they have their own families they spend the holidays with, so getting us together on the actual holiday was a rare occurrence indeed. Same frustration for extended family from random sides of the family. Or hell, sometimes your families just suck all the fun out of the holidays and you'd RATHER spend the time with your friends, but your family would never let you get away with it. (This isn't the case for my family sitch, but sometimes I almost wish my friends didn't go to their families that stress them out and could just come hang out with us, y'know?)

Solution? Have a little pre-Xmas Xmas gathering! (Or pre-Holiday-You-Recognize, sorry! I celebrate Xmas, but I know people celebrate the other ones.) If you have agreeable people, you could even make it a "traditional" Festivus party! ;D


How we did it:
  • 2 weeks before, I texted the people who we wouldn't for-sure see on the actual holidays we celebrate to see if they'd be free either day of the weekend we wanted to try and arrange for gathering. Found out who was in, and who was out. Asked everyone to bring something to share, but we'd also provide basic beverages and foodstuffs as well, and agreed that this would be when we exchanged prezzies. 
  • Day before, wrapped all the gifts of people who were coming and pre-made any food that could be pre-made so it wouldn't drive me nuts the next day. Seriously, when I'm hosting, it's all about what can be made with as little attention paid to it the day of - crockpot, pre-made, or takes-5-minutes-to-make is how I do. As for decorating, well, the apartment's already decorated for the holidays so all I did was add a little decor for the table (pictured above). That was just carefully layering ornaments in my cylinder vases - man, for only paying a $1, I freakin' LOVE those things, man. So many uses!
  • Day of: Give the house a good once-over (we've been keeping it tidy regularly, so all we really needed to do was wipe down surfaces, dishes and garbage, and vacuum), and dolled myself up in the easiest way possible. Seriously, I have my own primping rules for being a presentable hostess while not stressing myself out (noticing a theme here? I totally overthink so much crap, I have to force compromises on myself so I enjoy the hosting instead of over-stressing it): slightly glammed-up basic face by adding a darker brown eyeshadow in the corner of the crease and slightly heavier mascara, the nicest hairstyle I can do that takes 10 minutes TOPS to style, and one of my go-to "hostess outfits" - nice elastic-waist black pants and one of several nice jersey tops, or a sweater dress over leggings. I always end up looking nice and feeling good without freaking out.
    We also dressed Daisy, but she wasn't into it. At least we left out the beard this year!
  • The Menu (that we provided, doesn't include what was brought):
    The Spread
    • Appetizers: Ham pinwheels (flour tortillas spread with flavored cream cheese, add lunchmeat ham and lettuce, roll up and wrap with plastic wrap, chill for at least 2 hours, then slice up); cream cheese with hot pepper jelly on top, served with wheat thins
      • My ex-stepmom D. made crockpot meatballs and they were DELISH - pre-made meatballs with Trader Joe's BBQ sauce and half a jar of orange marmalade. SO GOOD, they smelled fantastic, too. 
    • Main Meal: Slow-cooker Carnitas, refried beans and fixins' 
    • Dessert: Oreo Mint cookies (Hey, they taste good, amiright?)
    • Beverages: Water, Hot Cocoa Bar (Hot Cocoa and Liqueurs to mix in), Wine
  • Entertainment: Our favorite holiday cartoons ("Charlie Brown Christmas" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas") and movies, holiday music, and our own company! Seriously, my siblings and I have to watch those two cartoons together or it doesn't quite feel like Christmas, at least for me. (If we can't watch it together, I'll at least watch them on my own - they're my favorites!) We also exchanged gifts, which was awesome. Everyone liked their gifts from me, thank goodness!
 Of course, there's always the alternative of hosting an actual dinner party, but we don't have the space for that. My friends do, though, so we're having a potluck the day before Christmas Eve! I'm excited - we get to enjoy our friends for the holiday before we spend the holidays running around to our various family gatherings. =D Hope you find a way to celebrate with EVERYONE you love this holiday season!

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Giveaway WINNER!

    via SweatshopOfLove
    Or, you know, ONE. So congratulations to Laura! Email me at hotmesshw at gmail so I can email you the download code. And if you're Laura from my LJ days (your profile on Blogger is very non-descriptive), tell me what's been up with you, girl! =D

    I will simply assume that the problem was the prize and not the blog itself. =D I'll try to think of something more awesome to give away next time, I assure you.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    THT: Xmas Cards (and a My Memories Software GIVEAWAY!)

    So you know that review I did on My Memories, the software program? How at the bottom of it I showed off the prototype of the Xmas "card" I was going to send out this year?

    Well, I was waiting on the photos from the photo shoot my parents arranged (and let The Hubs and I have our own little mini-shoot so we could have good professional photos of just us), because I was hoping the photos would turn out good and look nice for the card.

    They did - and the card looks great, too!

    Yes, I revamped it drastically from the prototype I originally posted... and I LOOOOVE it. All the embellishments are from a FREE DOWNLOAD My Memories offered on their website. They actually have a lot of free downloads, which is awesome, 'cuz I am a cheap-@$$ b-word, yo. They have several Xmas-themed ones, and I chose "Christmas Lace" because it looks really elegant to me. =D

    Now my only problem is figuring out how to print the stupid thing out so it looks as gorgeous printed as it does as-is, but can also be mailed with little-to-no mussing (or additional postage costs, haha). Any tips are more than welcome - "Hot Mess Housewife" is not merely a clever blog name, after all, it's an accurate descriptor of yours truly.

    I'm not SUCH a hot mess that I can't give away an early ChrismaHannaKwanzakkuh gift (a descriptor coined by The Hubs - we need to make merchandise, seriously), though! Intrigued by this My Memories software I keep hawking? Like the look of scrapbooking but don't feel like spending all the time, money, paper, and glue making one yourself? Love free stuff like me? GOOD! I have 1 My Memories software package to give away!

    This is my first giveaway, which is VERY exciting! As such, I'll be gentle on myself and make this easy. Here's how you enter:
    • Comment on this blog post. (Make sure to leave a valid email address in the appropriate box!) That's it! I prefer it's a friendly comment, naturally. 
    • BONUS ENTRIES: Share this post via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ using the buttons at the bottom of the post (each Social Media share counts as a bonus entry):
    If your Twitter/FB/Google+ usernames are different from the name you  comment on this post with, please post a separate comment linking to your share or explaining the name difference. Four entries max per person! All entries will be assigned a number in the order they were received (as best as I can approximate), and I'll use the random number generator to pick a winner!

    This giveaway is open from Monday, Dec. 12th to Friday, Dec. 16th! Winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 19th! OMG YOU GUYS ENTER, I WANNA GIVE YOU FREE STUFF!

    The software I used, the Suite, is $39.97. For my readers (do I even have any?), My Memories has offered a $10-off coupon code as well. If you just want to buy it now rather than risk the giveaway, here's how:

    1. Go to http://www.mymemories.com/digital_scrapbooking_software 
    2. Click on Add to Cart.
    3. Enter the Promotional Code STMMMS56332 in the Promotional Code field on the shopping cart page
    4. Finish the checkout. To download the software, go to http://www.mymemories.com/my_accounts/downloads and click on the link to download the software. Your product key will also be displayed on that page (you'll need it for installation). Install, and have fun!

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    What Works for Me: Good Food FAST at home

    As crazy as I am for the holidays, I figured this blog could use a "palate cleanser" post; even I get tired of talking about decorations. (Not THAT tired, but tired enough to discuss something else for one post.)

    This'll be a short post, too ('cuz lord knows, I can TALK/WRITE for days). The inspiration last night was realizing that I have a small arsenal of recipes that I cook when I'm too tired to cook but also want something that's homemade-tasting and cheaper than take-out.

    I wanted to post them, as well as other resources/ideas for emergency meals, because a purpose for this blog is to share what helpful tips I've learned for others who might not be as good at the art of housewifery, like myself for the most part. I'm all about education, people, even on my blog.

    So here is a list of my quick-n-tasty meals that take literally 15 minutes to cook. Seriously!
    • Pesto Ravioli and Italian Sausage -  Frozen cheese ravioli, pre-made pesto, and turkey Italian sausage (we prefer the spicy version). The sausage takes 8 minutes on the Foreman grill, and I boil the water for the ravioli while the grill warms up. I'll also throw in some frozen veggies from Trader Joe's, like their cauliflower/romanesco combo that comes with a garlic butter sauce; I nuke my servings in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes, covered with some cling-wrap (but not touching the food). 
    • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese - I use Trader Joe's carton of tomato soup, 'cuz we like it and it doesn't taste as ketchup-y as the condensed stuff. Sometimes we eat it as is, but I'll vary it up by adding in some drained canned cannelini beans, a single Italian sausage (meat taken out of the casing and browned), and fresh baby spinach at the end and some parmesan cheese. As the soup warms up over medium heat (when it starts to bubble, I switch to low), I do my grilled cheese mise en place (thanks, "Top Chef", for helping me make grilled cheese sound pretentious!). I butter the bread (I sprinkle garlic powder over the buttered bread and spread it a little with my butter knife) and pre-set the cheeses I'm using. If you like American cheese (which I do sometimes, for the melty factor), I suggest prepping the cheese leaving one side of the cheese wrapper attached, then alternating the unwrapped slices so they're easy to grab. I pre-prep the sandwiches because once the first sandwich is done, the other sandwiches grill SUPER-FAST.

      A sandwich variation I like for feeling fancy is to make a butter compound with parmesan cheese and garlic powder for the outside, then fill the middle with proscuitto and mozzarella. Mmmm. 
    • COUSCOUS! Couscous is the wonder side dish. You literally have to just boil water! For flavor, I boil the couscous in chicken or vegetable broth, and mix in butter and a garlic seasoning mix from McCormick. I'll either mix in chopped pre-cooked chicken if I have it, or turkey Italian Sausage or chicken apple sausage (which The Hubs loves). 
      • The reason I use sausage so much, aside from it's freakin' delicious, is that it works well for me as an emergency protein. The Hubs is a devout meat-eater, and he likes sausage, plus if I forget to take meat out from the freezer the night before for dinner, it only takes about a half-hour to defrost in a cold water bath, which makes it SO convenient.
    • "Wonton" Soup - I put "wontons" in quotation marks because it's not authentic wontons; I use frozen potstickers (the chicken ones from Trader Joe's - why yes, I AM obsessed with that store!). It's SO GOOD, though, seriously. Bring 32 oz. of chicken broth to a boil, then turn it down to medium-low; add the potstickers and Asian-style veggies to your liking (I use frozen shelled edamame, chopped baby bok choy, water chestnuts, and carrots shreds), and some frozen shrimp. Watch the shrimp - you don't want them overcooking, and they'll defrost & cook FAST in the hot broth. I also add soy sauce, minced garlic, ground ginger (go easy if you're not a ginger fan - I only add about 1/4 tsp.) and a little hot pepper flakes and sesame oil to the broth, sorry, forgot to mention that! (Go slow with the soy sauce - you can always add more later, you don't want it TOO salty!)
    Some other helpful links:  YourNutritionista has 3 easy microwave meals (and other recipes, if you check out her "Easy Dinners" section); The Noodle Soup Oracle (which has some damned randomly fabulous-sounding ideas, mmmm); My Fridge Food lets you enter what you have on hand, then provides recipes!

    Hopefully these are some helpful, easy recipes! I like them because they use pre-made stuff which saves times, but they come together to create what feels like a full meal. Plus it lets me be lazy, and if I'm being honest, I'm ALWAYS going to choose the lazy route, but it saves us money and The Hubs still thinks I'm cooking. ;p

    If you have any similar "quick and easy" meals like these, let me know! I love getting new recipes!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    The Holiday Trinity: Xmas Decorations, Including an Easy Xmas Wreath Tutorial!

    So, I love Christmas. Like, love love LOOOOOVE it. I wanna make out with it. I wanna gay-marry it in NYC, that's how much I love it. Not for religious reasons, though I do love that it's all about showering loved ones with gifts and celebrating the end of the year with your family and loved ones. Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men, baby.

    What adds to this year's excitement is also the fact that this is the first year in a while where I've really wanted to decorate. Previous years have been either because I was too busy working as a teacher to give a crap (and by the time you're on vacation and CAN ACTUALLY CARE, it's the week before Xmas so what's the point if it's only going to be up for a week), or I was too depressed because I was unemployed to give a crap. Weird cycle, I know.

    Well, this year I'm unemployed but REFUSING to be depressed about it (and I'm mostly successful in this refusal, I'm proud to say), so I had the time and energy to devote to it. This is probably the most decked-out I've had ye olde apartment, and since I'm doing it on a restricted budget, I'm ok with that.

    We actually talked about getting a REAL tree this year, which would be either of our first time's having one on our own (i.e., without our parents doing all the work), and while you can get them for a reasonable price at the supermarket, I saw a fake 6" at Big Lots with pre-installed lights for the same price as the supermarket trees - and figured since we'd still need all the crap for the real one, let's just get the fake one that doesn't require a tree stand and constant watering. We bought some cheap ornaments while there, and got out all of our other Xmas stuff (which has now accumulated to a point where I needed a bigger container for all the decorations [with some of my Fall stuff thrown in] and a separate one just for gift wrapping stuff) and Xmas-bombed the apartment.

    I only forced The Hubs to humor me for the actual tree piecing-together/decoration; we put on Christmas music and got to work. The best moment is when we plugged in the tree to make sure we'd put it together correctly, and the lights came on; my face broke out in the hugest grin because as a kid, we always used the multi-colored lights and it was so amazing to see them for some reason, that little bit of magic came back for just that millisecond. I happened to glance at The Hubs right after, and he had this sweet smile he gets on his face when he sees I'm delighted. It was a special moment for me.


    For this year's tree, I stuck to red, silver, gold, and green sphere ornaments, with some gold-edged (fake) crystal ones put near lights for extra sparkle; I also put up special-meaning ornaments I have, like the ones my ex-stepmom makes for gifts most years (she takes clear ones and decorates them with glitter and ribbon each year, and usually that fake-glitter snow inside - they're really gorgeous!) and my "baby ornaments" that my mom gave to me when she decided she didn't want to put up trees anymore.

    The blue china ornament is from our honeymoon; the green w/ white decoration is my baby ornament, the gold angel is also from when I was little, and I bought the pearl M at Michael's a while ago ('cuz our last name starts with M)
    Other decorations include a little pastiche of ornaments near the front door (my mom painted the 3-piecers!) that didn't fit in the tree's "theme" this year; some cute tealight lamps and another ornament that's too heavy to be on the tree on the bookshelf; and a welcome mat and wreath for the door.
    The "pastiche" - the Snowman ornament actually has a music box that plays "Frosty the Snowman"!

    The tealight lamps and the too heavy ornament with a secret...

    ... it's also a music box! I love the little skating scene inside. It plays "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
    The front door wreath!
    That wreath, btw? I "made" that. "Made" meaning bought a wreath and added ornaments to it as I saw fit. (STILL COUNTS.) The best part is that I did it in such a way that I'll be able to keep using the base wreath but change up the colors/ornaments every year! It was easy, took me an hour, and I took pictures so you can do it, too! Click the "Read More" link to find out how...


    The Holiday Trinity: Xmas! My Gift-giving Philosophy

    IT'S DECEMBER! I'M OFFICIALLY ALLOWED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS!!!!


    Out of personal preference to not get TOO consumer-obsessed with it, I wait until Dec. 1st to indulge in anything Xmas-related, at least "officially". I mean, I'll casually think about it, but it's not ON until the 1st. SO IT'S TOTALLY ON RIGHT NOW, YO.

    I don't know why I love Xmas so much, but I do. It's by far my favorite holiday, other than my birthday. (YES, a birthday counts as a holiday, dammit!) I think it's the spirit of GIVING - I don't even think about what I want for Xmas (anymore, at least - as a kid, naturally, I had a mile-long list of goodies), I just love coming up with gift ideas. My goal with each gift is that it's something they can enjoy as well as actually use - but I'll err on the side of enjoy more than use most of the time. I tend to mentally file friends or family with 2-3 things that I know they really enjoy (a trait I picked up from my mom) - for example, my friend D is an old-school gamer, and equally music/bacon-obsessed. (Seriously, he had tray passes of bacon slices at his wedding as part of the appetizers - which is why we're friends. ;D)
     
    Unfortunately, due to the unemployment issue, I can't afford the types of gifts I'd REALLY like to buy my friends sometimes. If I had no financial limit, I could probably easily spend $50-$100 per person (if not more!). LUCKILY for The Hub's sanity, there IS a financial limit so I have to be reigned in. Oddly enough, I like that challenge, though! What can I find for my loved ones that is unique, interesting/fun, and reasonably priced? I do a lot of brain-storming and internet-searching (GOD BLESS the internet for this reason), and then I make a list in Word of who I need to buy for, what I want to spend in parentheses, and what I plan to buy for those people - and I strike the items out as I buy them, esp. if it's a gift that's made up of multiple parts... which it often is.

    It depends on my mood that year, but usually I'm fine buying one quality gift versus a quantity of gifts, but if I can't find the quality, then I'll spend the equivalent amount in quantity and getting those little fun things instead. It depends on the person, also - some people just want one good thing, others just like getting stuff. (And honestly, who doesn't like getting stuff? Well, 'cept for my friend J.)

    Anyway, to make this post a little less Christmas-themed navel-gazing, here's some (IMHO) great theme gifts I've done in the past that you are free to crib for your own gift-giving needs:
    • Movie Night Out/In: Buy a g.c. for either the equivalent of a full-price movie ticket(s) or a month's subscription to Netflix/Blockbuster (whichever you prefer), and buy a cheap basket, movie-size candy boxes, and microwave popcorn (if it's "night in" themed) - and maybe a mini-bottle of wine if the recipients are into that. 
    • Keeping Cozy Kit: Buy a cute mug, fill it with individual servings of tea/coffee/hot cocoa (the giftee's preferred poison) (and some candy if so inclined, 'cuz who doesn't like candy?), a bookmark (I usually make mine), and a g.c. to a bookstore! I've also added slipper socks or homemade things like crocheted fingerless gloves or reheatable pocket-warmers for my loved ones who live in colder states than I do.
      • "Proper English Tea" variation: Fill the mug with individual "English Breakfast" tea servings, and mini-sizes of "tea time" foods from Cost Plus - and the other stuff mentioned above.
    • Girly Fun Time: Buy all those little cute girly things in those bins at Target and/or Wal-Mart (whichever store you prefer) that only cost, like $1-3 a pop. Lip gloss, nail polish, eye shadow, glitter gel pens in their favorite colors, etc. Throw in some samples of beauty products for hair or face (My local beauty supply store gives literally 5 samples for every 1 product you buy, it's AWESOME - I have a HUGE stash of the things, hahaha). Pony up for one nice item that you know your friend will love, like decent jewelry, a digital photo keychain, or a nice scarf, and a nice bath product, like a bath bomb from Lush or shower gel from Bath & Body Works. If your girlfriends drink, a cute mini-bottle of pre-made cocktails (like Cocktails by Jenn) is a nice little finishing touch! (This is basically how I did my bridesmaids gifts, btw - which were a BIG hit with my girls!)
    Anyway, if I think of more "theme gift kits", I'll add them. I know I've done more before in the past, but I can't think of them right now, annoyingly. These are some ideas to get you going, though!

    Next gift-related post will be easy stuff you can make (and links to them), but the next Xmas post will be my Xmas decorations, including my tree! WHEEEEE, I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    The Holiday Trinity: Turkey Day Wrap-Up!

    I have so much to say, and yet it feels like any more discussion of a holiday that was over half a week ago is unnecessary for everyone else while still relevant for ME, since MY version of the holiday just happened last night.

    So rather than do a long recap (which is only interesting to ME, let's face it), let's just do a list. Who doesn't like a list!

    Successes:
    • Despite falling a half-hour behind my self-made schedule, the food was on the table and (mostly) warm at the "scheduled" time. 
    • Turkey skin was brown AND the meat stayed juicy! 
    • The Hubs was on FI-YAH; Once all the cooking was done, I poured myself a "ghetto pour" glass of wine and relaxed; he was on the dishes like white on rice, we have barely anything to clean up! Such a great guy. 
    • Everyone said the food was great (or were at least nice enough to lie).
    • My centerpiece was gorgeous and we had a lovely table setting. Of course, I'm so caught up in hosting that I never end up taking a proper picture, but I took a pic of the centerpiece during the "aftermath":
    Et Voila.

    Failures:
    • My first time making gravy was a big fat fail. Well, there was a brownish liquid that looked kind of like gravy and tasted kind of like gravy, but it was bland and watery. Going to have to find an easier recipe for next time. 
    • My mashed potatoes tasted delicious, but my biggest pot could only hold half of the potatoes at a time, so the first batch of boiled potatoes kind of refused to truly "mash", so they were REALLY lumpy. Cooked through, but the starch just wouldn't let me break them down completely. (They still tasted great, but they just taste BETTER when they're smooth.)
    • The corn-casserole-in-the-crockpot burned all around the edges. Luckily, the middle was delicious and the exact texture I wanted, but it kind of halved the final output. Still, I put it in a separate dish and no one knew, so it only bugged me. 
    • I made way too much food, as usual. But that's ok, 'cuz there's LEFTOVERS!
    Using that last "fail" as a brilliant segue, here's what I'm doing with my LEFTOVERS!
    ~ Making THE ULTIMATE LEFTOVER SAMMICH.It turned out REALLY good, and it's REALLY rich. I loved it on the biscuits - and you'd think the cranberry sauce would be weird, but it's actually a perfect touch of sweet (if you spread it on thin). BTW, that's MY article I'm linking to.
    ~ leftover cranberry sauce was mixed with chili sauce (found near the cocktail sauce) and a good-sized spoonful of garlic-chili paste and poured over frozen meatballs for one of The Hubs' fave dinner/snacks for dinner tonight.

    Plus I just eat the leftovers as is. I've come to realize that I actually CAN keep eating the same meal if I find it to be really tasty and I have a "palate cleanser" meal in-between; e.g., if I had Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, I'll be happy to eat some for lunch or dinner again as long as I had something different in between the last time I had leftovers. I know, I'm weird.

    I know this is WAY late, but I just got out of a depression episode (nothing major, just couldn't fight off the "Mean Reds" for a week), and now I'm in the thick of Christmas prep, which will be posted VERY soon! YAY THE HOLIDAYS!

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    The Holiday Trinity: Turkey Day Menu!

    The cool thing about Thanksgiving, IMHO, is that it's a basic menu that most people follow, but there's room for individual twists and spins. I loooove reading housewifery magazines to see what variations they offer for recipes, but I'll admit that my own menu is fairly traditional because, well, I like the traditional stuff, and The Hubs is finicky so I don't even have that much room or point for variety. Seriously, of my menu, The Hubs will most likely stick to turkey, a little stuffing, and lots of mashed potatoes with gravy. That's IT. Sheesh. (Though in his defense, he loves my step-grandma's food, which is where we will eat on actual Thanksgiving - he chows down on her cornbread dressing and greens, and hell, I don't even like greens.)

    So since I enjoy seeing what the possibilities are from other people, I figured it was only fair to share my menu and my version of the recipes. Hopefully this is helpful, and makes you hungry for Thursday!


    Wondering where the rest of the meal is? I'm asking my in-laws to bring a dessert and my cousins to bring an appetizer, so all I have to worry about is the main meal and the drinks (which we already have leftover unopened bottles of wine, beer, so all we need is soda). I'm picking up a can of mixed nuts, too, so there's something to nosh on if people arrive hungry.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    The Holiday Trinity: Turkey Day Timeline!

    So I'm UNEMPLOYED unemployed right now. It's a weird position; I'd been working rather steadily for most of Sept. and Oct., and then the work ran out. They might need me again, but so far no. In the meantime, I've interviewed and lined up some part-time work, but they're not going to start yet. I'll be taking some college courses soon, but that doesn't start until January. So in the meantime there's... nothing. Lots and lots of NADA. It's a weird place to be, at least for me, and it kind of sucks me into this vortex of lame, where I don't want to do anything. It used to be a lot worse (and last a lot longer), but now I'm feeling better and I think I'm crawling out of it.

    One thing motivating the crawl out: The holidays. Big Holiday #2 is right around the corner, and this week is my big prep week.

    Now, TBH, I will TOTALLY own it that I'm probably making a bigger deal out of it than I need to, but... well, what else do I have to do? Plus I LOVE hosting. The only thing I've ever hated about it is the guest list, and that's only if it's a strictly friends list or I'm inviting people over for the first time. If it's family, feh, it's family! I love my family (for the most part), and they already know my shortcomings. ;p

    Either way, I seriously made an outline for the week. Curious? Of course you are. Keep in mind that my hosting of Thanksgiving is the Sunday AFTER, because it's for my in-laws and my MIL works the actual Turkey Day. So here's the plan:

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Product Review: My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software

    So I received an invite to review the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software for free. Which is awesome, because A. I love computer stuff, B. I love crafting, and C. I LOVE FREE STUFF! So I said a whole-hearted yes.

    There's no such thing as a free lunch software download, though. I have to review the darn thing! Which meant I had to mess around with it.

    Please keep in mind that I received the software for free for the purposes of evaluating it and promoting it on this blog. I will schill, but only honestly. ;D So my review is how well it worked for ME. Specifically, they offered me the big momma - My Memories Suite Version 2.0.

    Downloading/Installing: Piece of cake! A breeze to download and install, and while I say this as someone who is computer-savvyish, I think even a relative novice will have no issue downloading it. The instructions on the download site were smooth and easy to follow.

    Use: For the most part, I found the software REALLY easy to use. My suspicion is that this is designed for people who aren't computer-savvy or scrapbookers by nature. There were a few minor quibbles, though, so let's just break it down into pros and cons:

    Pros -
    • It's mostly intuitive; I simply picked an album and started clicking away, no tutorial needed! But, again, I'm comfortable with computers. BUT they have a helpful-tips window that explains everything the first time you open the program, and it'll stick around until you tell it to go away:
    • They have a ton of pre-made layouts to choose from! They range from basic photo layouts, so you can choose what "papers" you want, to pre-made albums where all you do is add the photos! The example photos are using one of the pre-made albums:

    • You can even use the software to make COMPUTER-only photo albums - you can add music, narratives, videos, links to websites... it's pretty advanced options, but it's easy to add - you just click the menu you want to add stuff from, and then click the necessary buttons. I didn't mess with it too much, other than testing out adding music - took a second and was very easy!
    • These pre-made albums are completely customizable, too, see?
      Please note that I'm fully legal age and I'm allowed to drink - in fact, I was turning 30 that day and had plenty of reason to drink, let's be honest. ;p
      All I did was click on each individual item to change the paper or background, whatever you want to change. I did have to individually delete the dots and replace them with hearts, but that was easy, too.
     Cons - 
    • It runs kind of slow. I'm incredibly impatient, so having to wait for the program to catch-up with my key movements were REALLY annoying. This was mainly with keyboard manipulations (like using the keyboard arrows to move an embellishment), but you can move most items with your mouse, too - but there's still a delay. Again, though, this delay is all of 1 second, but I'm INCREDIBLY impatient. ;p
    • There are some random errors that weren't really... errors! I'd get these "Error" messages, but ultimately they weren't ERRORS, whatever I was trying to do would work fine once I hit the "ok" button. (To the program's credit, they have a tech support email listed at the end of each error description - I just didn't because, again, impatient and ALSO lazy - that "hot mess" isn't part of my screen name just 'cuz it's cute, y'know.)
    Overall, I liked My Memories! It was easy to use, and the basic program has a lot of options. They offer more "kits", too, if you need more options than what comes with the basic package, at a variety of prices. Their website also offers non-download options to make your own photo albums and calendars, with a decent amount of variety.

    I'm using the program to make our Xmas "card" this year! Instead of having to spend hours making each card, or buying a bunch of meh ones, I can create my own "card" with my own pictures and the program's easy layouts! Check it out:

    This is just a prototype; my parents had us take family portraits with them and our own little family as well, and I plan to use those in place of the ones I currently have once we get them (although the current ones aren't so bad either). I like that it's part letter, part card, and part picture! Plus I can get them printed out on nice paper if I really want it to be all fancy-pants.

    Interested? The software I used, the Suite, is $39.97. As part of my review, My Memories has offered a $10-off coupon code AND a free giveaway! I'll do the giveaway later this week in its own separate post, but if you just want to buy it now, here's how:
    1. Go to http://www.mymemories.com/digital_scrapbooking_software 
    2. Click on Add to Cart.
    3. Enter the Promotional Code STMMMS56332 in the PRomotional Code field on the shopping cart page
    4. Finish the checkout. To download the software, go to http://www.mymemories.com/my_accounts/downloads and click on the link to download the software. Your product key will also be displayed on that page (you'll need it for installation).
    Let me know what you think, and show me what you create! I'm excited to see what you come up with as well. 

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    The Holiday Trinity: Holiday 2, Turkey Day Prep!

    So Halloween has come and gone. I'll admit, it's the least important of the Holiday Trinity for me. I like it, and as I've gotten older I've circled around to being MORE into it than I used to be, but it still pales in comparison for me to Turkey Day and Xmas!

    Turkey Day is the middle child, unfortunately, when it comes to my excitement. Like Halloween, my excitement for it is growing as I'm getting older, but that's because I'm more involved in it now. Growing up, it was just a day where I feasted on Southern-style Thanksgiving foods made by my step-grandma, and we hung out watching basketball and movies. THAT'S IT. Boring, but delicious.

    A few years ago, as my mother-in-law's work schedule started requiring her to work holidays, I offered to take over Thanksgiving, and we have it on the Saturday after. This benefits me nicely, in that I get to actually enjoy Thanksgiving the way I did growing up (yes, it can be boring, but it's also DELICIOUS), and yet I still get to host and cook the meal on my own! I've blathered about this before, so I won't repeat myself, other than to say that I'm aiming to extend the guest list this year. 3rd time's the charm, and the last 2 have been successful enough that I'm comfortable offering for my parents, siblings and their mom, and my cousins who live in town to join us this year. =)

    I'm also going to work on more decorations this year. I bought the makings of a Autumnal wreath for the door at the Dollar Tree, and busted out my glue gun! For $6 and a podcast of "This American Life", I made this:

    I considered making a tutorial, but honestly, there's not much TO this. I wrapped the ribbon around the wreath, then tied a knot and glued the knot to the wood. The pumpkin pieces were pre-"bunched" floral picks from Dollar Tree - all I did was bend the wire stems to wedge them in, and once I liked where I placed them, I used a glue gun to secure them. Then I picked some leaves from a bigger bunch of autumn leaves and filled in gaps where I saw fit.

    Some tips for first-timers (in lieu of a step-by-step tutorial):
    • Fake flowers/plants are usually detachable and interchangeable - the second picture (which you'll notice is slightly different from the first one) shows me taking the "wheat" off the bunch on the left and adding it to a bunch on the right. I had an extra "wheat" and replaced another bunch that had a weird sprig-thingie on it. 
    • Use a variety of leaf shapes and colors - it's more visually interesting. Just place them around until you like how it all looks!
    • Start small and take frequent breaks to stand back and assess. This way you don't "gild the lily". I had to refrain from adding gold pinecones several times, but I'm glad I didn't use them (and I have other plans for them now, muahahahahaha).
    • Glue the pieces to the WOOD - plastic doesn't adhere well to plastic when the glue is hot, all it does is melt it. 
    • Use the individual leaves to cover areas where you can see the floral pick stems or where you could see the ribbon knot through the wreath (if you have that problem like I did). 
    Other than that, it's all about individual tastes. Take it slow and enjoy the process - that's the whole fun of crafting!

    I'll post my official Thanksgiving menu and plans for execution closer to the actual day, as well as my centerpiece/table decoration once I decide on it and how I plan to make it. (I'm fairly sure I know what I want!) Yay for the Winter holidays! Weather-wise, Spring is my favorite season, but the Fall/Winter holidays are my favorite time of year!

    UndertheTableandDreaming

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Halloween - doin' it my own damn way!

    So I bemoaned the lack of Halloween goodness in my life last week. After I wrote it, though, I decided that rather than sit here and pout, I could figure out SOME WAY to have fun for Halloween.

    Of course, I decided this on the WEDNESDAY before Halloween, so it's not like I had a ton of time. I chose to just have some friends over, cook them some fall-themed food (ever so kindly linked in the menu plan - the food was a big hit, btw!), and watch a scary movie. We invited our local "couples" friends, who were kind enough to bring some scary movies for us from which to choose.

    Go figure, though, when we all voted, we ended up voting for "Clue" - which is a great movie, but not exactly scary. Hahaha, guess we're wusses! It was merely an excuse to hang out with good friends and call it "celebrating Halloween".

    I didn't decorate the house, but I DID decorate myself!
    My nails! I painted them myself! (Except for the heart & crossbones, that's a sticker. I'm not THAT good.)


    Whipped up a quick ribbon brooch in Halloween colors!

    I also wore my orange-and-black Swarovski crystal earrings that I made for when we go to SF Giants games (who have the same colors as Halloween, luckily), and a brown top. So I felt Halloween-y, even if I wasn't wearing a costume. So it wasn't a GREAT Halloween, but now at least I feel like I HAD a Halloween!

    However, I'm saying it now: I'm having a party next year, come hell or high-water. I want to dress up! I had, like, a MILLION great costume ideas this year and no reason to buy/make/wear them! =(

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    What Works For Me: "Two-fer" freezer meals

    A Home-making post? On a blog that claims to be about housewifery? That even calls itself "Hot Mess HOUSEWIFE"?!? Blasphemy!

    I'm just as shocked as you are.

    I will never claim to be a master chef, 'cuz I'm NOT. I can cook, though. The Hubs even admits that one of the things that "sealed the deal" for him was that I can cook as well as, if not occasionally better than, his mom. And she has some tasty dishes in her arsenal. (My MIL even claims that I roasted the best turkey she's ever tasted! THAT was a huge compliment.) I'm not quite at the point where I can make my own recipes, but I alter a lot of them to my own needs, and generally improve them. I think I'm getting to the point where I should just stop being a big weenie and give it a shot.

    But that's not the point of this post. The point of this is to "pass it on", in the sense that I love reading "housewifery" blogs because they are full of great tips and recipes. I hoard recipes - if they did an "internet Hoarders" special, I'd probably get an intervention and take up most of the hour. But yeah, so I figure I should share what strategies work for me - like I do with recipes, I've mixed and molded ideas to figure out what works for me. I've gotten my rhythm in some areas, but I'm still playing around in others.

    One area I've found my rhythm is the feeding of our tiny family, for the most part. Yes, there was a 2-week gap between meal plans recently, if you noticed my meal plan side-bar not changing... it's been crazy around here, schedule-wise. I'm working as a temp, and my current position requires a nearly 2-hour commute each way. I'm compensated quite nicely for it, but it's EXHAUSTING. The job is off and on - over the summer, it averaged about one week "on" every 3 weeks, but it's picked up lately to where I'm working every week, and almost every other week is a commuting week (the rest of the time is local). So as it started happening more frequently, I started seeking out and cooking more recipes that could freeze well. The Hubs and I would eat one serving, and any leftovers were wrapped up tight and thrown in the freezer.

    Now, as long as I remember to take the food out of the freezer the night before, I can come home, microwave the food for 10 minutes, and have a hot home-cooked meal that is instantly comforting. Plus The Hubs is happily fed and we aren't wasting money on fast food.

    Some of my favorite meals to cook now and freeze for later:
    Enchilada Casserole
    Slow-Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken
    Chili (I don't have a link for the recipe, it's my friend's recipe)
    Taco Soup (I prefer it without the tomatoes, and I add black beans)

    Also, I like to freeze the components that mix to make great meals, like my Burrito Bowls (shown below). They are DELICIOUS, and cheaper to make than to buy at Chipotle!

    Carnitas Burrito Bowl (like "Chipotle"!)
    To cook:
    Cilantro-lime rice (recipe)
    Black beans (canned or cooked from dried - I'm lazy, I use canned), warmed in their "juice" in a sauce pan.
    Carnitas (recipe below)

    Layer the rice, beans, and carnitas into a bowl. Add toppings like cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. Nom the S*** out of it, it's freakin' delicious.


    My carnitas recipe (modified from various other recipes) - if you're cooking for a small family, this recipe halves easily and works just as well!
    - 4-5 lbs. Pork shoulder or Pork roast (I prefer pork shoulder, but pork roast is less fatty)
    - 2 tsps. cumin

    - 2 tsps. garlic powder
    - 2 tsps.salt
    - 3 cups beef broth

    Cut your pork into huge chunks (about 2"x2" at the biggest). Mix up all the spices and rub the pork chunks with the spice mixture.

    Pour the beef broth into a 4-quart (or bigger!) slow-cooker. Lower the chunks into the broth, cover, and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours. (I've done high with no problems, but my slow-cooker cooks a little fast.)

    Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F towards the end of your cooking time. Once the pork chunks are done, take them out of the broth and shred them however you prefer. (I use two forks, old-school.) As meat's shredded, put it back in the broth so it stays juicy. With all your meat shredded, put it in a baking pan, spread out, and spoon some more broth on the meat. The meat should be wet, but it SHOULDN'T be swimming in broth. Place the pan in the oven and let it cook for 15-25 minutes; this crisps the meat up a little and enriches the flavor of the meat. (You can skip this step if you want, but the carnitas taste AMAZING after you bake 'em for a little!)

    To Freeze:

    - Rice - Let the rice cool to at least lukewarm. I put it in plastic zipper sandwich bags, about 2 cups per bag.
    - Beans - again, let cool to lukewarm, and put it in plastic zipper sandwich bags, about 1 cup per bag (or one big bag if you're not doing individual servings), with some of the "bean juice" from the can.

    - Carnitas - 3rd verse, same as the first! Let them cool to "warm" temperature, baggie it up - only change is to ADD SOME MORE BROTH. It'll help the carnitas stay juicy when you warm them up later.



    To Reheat:
    - The night before, put beans and carnitas in fridge. LEAVE THE RICE FROZEN UNTIL ABOUT TO EAT.
    - Warm up the rice in the bag for about 30 seconds, just to make it more pliable, then transfer to a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (making sure it's not touching the food). Nuke 2 more minutes, stirring once. Add defrosted beans, warm covered 1 more minute.
    - Warm up carnitas w/ liquid in another bowl for 1-1:30 minutes, covered in plastic wrap. Top rice and beans with carnitas, and add desired toppings like the first time.


    TA-DA! Delicious dinner that lasts for two meals!

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Missing Halloween

    Halloween was never a major holiday for me growing up, or at least it was never consciously a big holiday. I mean, sure, it was FUN - you get to dress up, you say magic words and are rewarded for your efforts with "Oh how cute!" and free sugar. Who WOULDN'T like that? Plus I was fortunate in that my Halloween was never ruined by having the crap scared out of me. I don't like being scared... had that happened, I would probably hate Halloween now.

    I kept up the shenanigans for a little while into junior high... by mid-High school, though, I had stopped bothering, but I was bummed we didn't get more trick-or-treaters. As a costumes person, I enjoyed seeing the great ideas people came up with more than anything.

    In college, the town in which I attended school had a rather notorious reputation when it came to Halloween (if you live in Nor Cal, you can probably guess which school I'm referring to). I indulged for a year or two, but the shenanigans were crazy in good ways and in personal-safety-being-threatened ways, so going out lost its sparkle once the cops were on every street corner to maintain order. Not fun for the people who weren't causing any of the trouble. (My favorite costume I wore in college: Frat Boy from Ay Phelta Thi. Totally pulled it off, too!)

    As I got older and settled into married life with The Hubs (also not a big Halloween guy), Halloween has become one of a few non-Holidays that just don't matter as much when you're a childless adult. Now that I'm of an age where we're prepping for children to enter the picture (hopefully) soonish, though, I notice more and more I want Halloween to be a bigger deal. The last time I dressed up was 2009, which was also the last time I had plans. It was a blast! All we did was hang with some friends and hand out candy, but I loved it! Loved the costume-wearing, loved the kids and parents walking by, and looked forward to the next year!

    Unfortunately, next year didn't happen... I'd even started prepping a costume, but no plans formed! Plus we don't really have any kids in our apartment complex, so we don't even get to see little kids in their costumes. =( This year is shaping up to be similar, which bums me out. (I had a GREAT costume figured out for The Hubs that he FINALLY agreed to - and now no plans! LAME.) I planned to still at least decorate a LITTLE for the holiday, making a wreath for the door and carving a small pumpkin, but my temp work picked up in the last few weeks and I haven't had the time. So another Halloween looks like it will pass by without my participation. Again, I'm so bummed!

    I understand that this is a holiday aimed at kids, but it's still fun to participate in the festivities on a more grown-up level. It's trickier for adults when the day falls on a weekday, as the weekend is when we can best celebrate if we don't have children.

    Oh well. There's always next year, right? Right. In the meantime, I've made a GREAT Pinterest board with all sorts of cute ideas (and some ideas I can still use for Turkey Day), and I'll turn my attention to the end-of-the-year holidays, including my FAVORITE one: Christmas!

    Oh, and because my last official costume was the SHIZ, here it is: Roller Derby Girl!
    My number was 666; my Christian parents were less than pleased with that choice, but my mom still thought I looked adorable ;D

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    30 AFTER 30: I can't stop gazing at my navel...

    I didn't hit the 30 before 30, but I got about halfway! Which is something! It got me posting again, if nothing else. =) Either way, I'm ok with myself. 

    You guys. YOU GUYS. Seriously, my navel? Most fascinating thing in the world.


    This is my sarcastic way of saying I'm going to indulge in some navel-gazin' up in this beezy. Apologies in advance if you're not interested.

    What's on my mind lately:
    1. I'm 30! No one died! In fact, things are fairly swell. I'm keeping busy (in ways that get me paid and in ways that don't but I'm having fun), I'm socially active, and for the most part I'm happy. For having been 30 a whole 5 days, it's off to a decent start, considering. If anything, I'm noticing that I'm not working as hard to hate on myself anymore because I'm too flippin' old and it's EXHAUSTING to expend so much energy hating myself; I'd rather be lazy and just accept that I'm awesome in some ways and not-as-awesome in other ways... but that it all averages out to fairly neat-o. =D

    2. I am in LOVE with our apartment. It's finally become a home. I don't know why I waited to so long to finally decorate and "move in", so to speak - we've lived here 5 years! (YES, 5, and I've JUST decorated in the last few months!) Actually, considering how we WERE living in it 5 years ago to how we're living in it now shows a ton of growth on our part and I'm super-proud of ourselves for being such "grown-ups" about it. Truth be told, it's a great motivator to clean 'cuz we love how the place looks clean; I came home from my job interview today and did some tidy-up chores instead of hopping on the computer. I felt like such a grown-up! I'll do a post showing off all my hard decorating work soon. But, yeah, I love it and it makes me happy to come home. =D I even want to have friends over, now that I feel like it's hospitable for hosting!

    3. 'Cuz I can't have EVERYTHING going well... I have something gnawing at me and I need some advice. I have no intention of this blog becoming SUPER-personal, but sometimes I want/need to talk things out in a public place. No details, no names, and I'm hoping to NOT be one-sided towards myself as much as possible if I'm asking for advice. Like I am now.

    Here's the deal: as I may have mentioned in passing, I turned 30 last Friday. In my melancholy towards my birthday and the fact that a fair amount of people I love weren't coming to help me celebrate (they all had valid reasons, but it still hurt my feelings - but I knew it was all in my head and that I'm a big ol' drama queen sometimes), I hid my birthday on Facebook to see how many of my so-called "friends" would remember. To be honest, a decent amount did - I expected maybe 20 people would remember it was my actual birthday, and 15 did (the day of or the day after), so I'll take it. =)

    Two people that I consider good friends, though, didn't say anything. Text, email, phone call, NOTHING. In fact, they still haven't. And I am incredibly hurt by this. I'm not expecting a gift or a card, but a simple acknowledgement on the day would have made me felt loved in return... and the fact that it's been almost a week and I still haven't received an apology stings so much more. Because I still haven't heard anything from either person, it's still eating at me.

    Now, one of these people is someone that I could interact with possibly soon as there have been prior arrangements made. Previously, we had a situation come up where he unintentionally hurt my feelings, and rather than pout and make passive-aggressive/bitchy comments towards him (as is my tendency when I'm feeling hurt), I took the 5 minutes to calmly let him know what exactly had hurt my feelings and that I figured it was unintentional, but I had to get it out so I could NOT make passive-aggressive/bitchy comments towards him. He took it, he apologized, we were fine! I actually was glad I got my feelings out in a mature way and in a way that didn't immediately put my friend on the defensive. (Of course, now he's on my s***-list for the birthday thing...)

    I kind of want to address it with both people in this same way, but I feel like that's rude. I don't want to bitch them out (OK, that's a TOTAL lie, I totally want to bitch them out but I WON'T), but who goes up to someone and says, "Hey, you hurt my feelings because you didn't acknowledge my birthday and I wanted to let you know you hurt me"? At the same time, the passive-aggressive bitch in me wants to ignore any contact from them to punish them, but when has that worked with ANYONE in the HISTORY of time? My suddenly cutting off contact isn't a punishment for them so much as it is for me, and they'll sit there wondering why I'm ignoring them without any explanation - or being given the chance to redeem themselves (if they even want to in the first place).

    I'm fairly certain, knowing both guys (yes, they're both boys), that it's more of an oversight than it is a deliberate snub. Part of me IS afraid that it WAS deliberate and that I'M the one not getting the hint... but I'm somewhat certain that's just my own insecurities talking. Mostly certain. Kind of certain? I don't know. THIS IS SO CONFUSING.
    Found this on Pinterest, don't know source, I didn't make it - but it's SO fitting.

    So if YOU were in the situation (either as the offended or the offending party), what would you do? Would you want to know that you hurt the feelings of a friend if it was unintentional, as long as they told you nicely as opposed to calling you names and shouting? Or would you rather not know and let them make snippy comments at you? HELP ME!

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    30 Before 30: Ch-ch-ch-changes

    All right, time for the "How I've grown in the last 30 years" post. I promise I'll resist the urge to get TOO maudlin. If anything, this post is mainly only of interest to ME, but I still feel it's necessary to recognize how I've changed (for better and for worse) if only to note what needs work and where I'm a-ok.

    Of course, the most awkward part of these kinds of entries is where, exactly, to begin. I mean, compared to 29 years and 363 days ago, I've changed a LOT. Now I walk, I talk, I usually don't soil myself. ;D So at what point am I measuring from? Let's say 18. I was technically an adult starting then, at least according to the law, so let's figure out how I've changed since then.
    • I'm BETTER about giving too much of myself: I say "better" because it's still a natural tendency to give, give, give - and then be butt-hurt when people take, take, take without returning. However, not only do I not give AS much anymore, I've smartened up and don't associate with "takers" nearly as much as I used to. There's still always one or two irresistible "takers" that I can't quite quit hanging around, but I fully accept my own implicit behavior in those relationships (and the resulting butt-hurtedness). I've also gotten better about not just letting the "takers" continue to take without saying something... still figuring out the best METHOD for getting my point across, though. One method I've stopped using, however, is...
    • Being passive-aggressive: Oh, sweet, sweet passive-aggressive behavior. You're non-confrontational, you make me feel better, and... you are either completely lost on people or completely maddening on people. Yeah. It had to stop. I can thank an old friend L. for putting a stop to THIS behavior, when she called me on my bullshit when I aired my grievances in the form of a letter. She was right, that's lame. If I'm upset, I need to ball up and say it to their face. Ignoring the reality-show cliche' of that phrase, it's hard but it's the best method - as long as I'm doing it when I can be mostly calm and not impassioned with righteous anger or overly-dramatic hurt. I won't lie, though, the urge to post vague, drama-queen-like comments on Twitter or Facebook still lurks, but I hate READING them, so I sure as hell won't give in and POST them. 
    • Drama Queen, thy name is no longer Samantha: Oh my goodness, so many bad decisions were made due to my drama-queen nature. SO SO MANY. It's painful, and too personal, to give examples, but longtime friends know just how bad some of those decisions were. I blame my intrinsic love of DRAMA and the need to punish myself for whatever reason on most of those decisions. I was an emotional flagellant for far too long because I thought it made life exciting... and it did, but it also made life miserable.So many years wasted feeling bad about myself. (I know I still put myself down a lot, but I used to be WORSE, if you can believe it.) Hindsight is 20/20, and I'm proud to say that I can now recognize my own negative contributions to those situations (aside from poor choices in the first place) and share the blame, but oh, the addictive drama of those situations... so good. So painful. So "THIS is what it's like to LIVE" being my overarching attitude towards things, which is fairly typical of young twenty-somethings. I mistook pain for passion, and passion was my main motivator for too many of my actions. Oh man, I shake my head SO HARD sometimes. 
    • I wasted too much time: There are so many things I could have done in the last 10 years, but I wasted too much time waiting for life to start. Again, Hindsight=20/20, but I bemoaned my life's lot rather than working to change what I was dealing with. I have a nasty tendency to give into the gloom too easily, and I'm glad I've finally gotten sick of doing so. I still have my bad days, but at least they're becoming a bad DAY as opposed to a bad WEEK or MONTH, like it used to be. Still, though, I try not to think about how much farther I could be in certain areas if I hadn't been my own worst enemy... I can't change what's already happened, so I can't punish myself for lost opportunities; I can only work on not losing opportunities in the future. 
    • I've actually learned a thing or two:I'd say one of the best things I've learned in my life, that has made most of my relationships SO MUCH EASIER on myself, is that you can't control people. Yes, that probably seems so obvious, and yet most people still obsess on all the things that bug them about their loved ones and that they wish they could change. Once you accept that you can't change people  and that you can't force them to do what you THINK they should do, oh man, it's like Atlas putting the world down for a minute and taking a breather. Making that peace with that constant desire to force the other person into the box you want them in gave me so much free time! I'm still susceptible to it (I'm human, after all), but I'll usually manage to remind myself that I can't change them, but I can choose how I react to them... and doing so usually results in my feeling mostly better. (I can control my own actions towards them, but I can't magically erase any hurt feelings they cause.)
    • The best things remain the same: I don't know how it happened, but I have seen growth in the areas of myself that I like best. I find myself to be funnier, smarter, more talented in my select areas, and more kind and giving (in the good way) than I was when I was younger. I've always been mature and responsible to an extent, but especially lately I've recognized in myself that there has been marked improvement in those areas as well. I credit this to a natural progression, as well as a small boost in overall confidence thanks to many people who love me deciding they were sick of me decrying my own awesomeness and working on getting me to STFU with the badmouthing myself. But seriously, confidence is such a booster; even a little bit makes such a big change in attitude and overall appeal. I still struggle with feeling confident daily, but I know I have more confidence now than I did 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. Hell, maybe even more than ONE year ago! (Plus denying all my good qualities to maintain this facade of low-self-worth is just EXHAUSTING, so the more often I knock that crap off, the more energy I tend to have!). I'm not letting myself get TOO swelled a head, 'cuz I still have a WAYS to go (annoyingly), but I should give myself a small pat on the back that the things I like about myself are still around, for the most part, and the parts I don't like about myself are slowly working their way to either being banished completely or at least controlled thoroughly. 
    I've always had an attitude of wanting to regret very little... and to be fair, I don't have many regrets. There are some, yes, but if I regret all that I COULD regret, I won't get out of bed ever again. I have to learn what I can from the mistake, forgive myself, and move the f*** on.  I find myself chanting the refrain "It is what it is" often, because I need to remind myself that what's done is done and I can't change it.

    For all my quibbling and mock-crying over getting older, I'm actually looking forward to the next decade. My frustration over this impending birthday had more to do with my perfectionist, over-achieving nature; I had a mental list of things to do before I was 30, and to be honest, a good chunk of them are still unchecked, which eats at me. (I'm slowly making my peace with it... slooooooowly. Can't do anything about it now, I'm turning 30 on Friday whether I like it or not.) The number has never been the issue; to be honest, when I look back on my 20's, the memories are more grimace-inducing than smile-bringing. There's a lot of hurt and (self)hate back there. So I'm looking forward to moving into a new decade as a hopefully fitter, better, happier, more productive me, and my attitude towards the mental checklist is that just because I didn't achieve it before my 30th birthday doesn't mean I can't still achieve it in general.

    Besides, I've got 10 years until I'm 40, and EVERYONE knows that's when your life is REALLY over, right? ;D (KIDDING.)

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    30 Before 30: A Tribute to The Hubs

    I don't sing the praises of my husband enough. He puts up with a WHOLE lot of crazy on my end (the title of this blog isn't simply clever), and for that, he must be celebrated. I'm not the best at being flowery, sadly, so I'll just list what I love best about him. Warning: This WILL get mushy.
    • He has the prettiest color eyes, nice full lips, and the cutest dimples. Also: His hair is fine and soft, which I like. 
    • He's funny, which is what attracted me to him in the first place. We make each other laugh a lot. His laugh when he thinks something's REALLY funny is one of the best laughs in the world; I feel like I'm the funniest comedienne when I make him do it. (He doesn't like it, but I think it's ADORABLE.)
    • He hates my negative talk, and immediately rebuts with how beautiful and wonderful he thinks I am. 
    • He's considerate; for example, if he's getting up to get something from the kitchen, he almost always asks if he can get me anything since he's up. I love that, it's so charming. 
    • Nice, lovely "relations". ;)
    • He's willing to hold me as long as needed when I'm crying, even though it REALLY makes him uncomfortable. Not in a cold way, just that "AUGH A GIRL IS CRYING WHAT DO I DOOOOO" panicked way all guys have with crying girls. But he toughs it out, holds me while I sob, and simply whispers that he wishes there was something he could do. He doesn't think that what he's doing is enough, but it's all that I want or need in that moment. 
    • He's willing to be the bad guy when I need him to be. I fully admit that I need a little kick in the hindquarters sometimes, and he'll suck it up and be that for me. He doesn't like it, but he'll DO it. 
    • He's the most supportive person I've ever had in my life. He thinks I could fly to the moon if I wanted to, and won't let me discuss otherwise. He values my best qualities, and takes joy in sharing what he considers my greatest qualities with others. (I don't know how I fooled him so well, but I'm glad I did! j/k) It's a rare thing to have someone who is so completely in your corner and only wants what's best for you. 
    I'm forgetting things. I really am. I wish I had a list of why I love him so much, and I might have to start working on some sort of "Here's why I love you" keepsake to which I can constantly add to give him for our 5-year anniversary next year.

    Another example of how great he is that can't be broken up into specifics: He is really working his butt off to make sure my 30th birthday is as great as he can make it. He's insisted that I throw a party, and won't let me cancel it no matter how much I want to on my bad days, AND he's planning a surprise for me on my actual birthday, but he won't tell me what. I'm trying so hard to figure it out - I THINK I've got it, but I don't want to ask just in case so I can still be surprised. xD Either way, I'm EXCITED about my birthday, which is a miracle in itself... the closer this stupid day has gotten, the more depressed I've been about it. I had a self-appointed list of things to do by 30 and I'm nowhere NEAR checking off most of those things, which is eating me up inside. BUT The Hubs thinks I'm wonderful, that I'm too hard on myself, and that the fact that I've been around for 30 years is a fact worth celebrating.

    I wish for one day I could see myself through his eyes; I don't think I'd ever have a self-esteem problem again. He is a truly wonderful man, and I can't put it well enough into words how much I value him in my life. 

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    30 Before 30: My Old-Woman Rant

    Kids these days! *Waves fist angrily*

    Yeah, I know, 30 doesn't equal old, but I find it fascinating how I'm becoming a cranky curmudgeon at such a young age. Sheesh.

    What makes me so cranky is that it seems like manners have completely gone out the window. My parents are in no way high-falutin' society folk, but I was raised with basic manners. But it feels sometimes like I was the only one raised this way! That's overly persnickety, but I can't believe how self-centered our society has become.

    The things currently driving me nuts:
    • People who don't signal for lane changes/check their blind spot/drive recklessly. I don't know ANYONE who is so important that they can put other people's lives at risk. Reckless drivers make me think they are just selfish, thoughtless people in general, because only selfish, thoughtless people would risk others' lives without a thought.
    • When you call someone's cell phone and you get sent to voicemail after, like, 2 rings. It's called a "Silence" button, dammit. Every phone has one; some require figuring out (like for iPhones, you just hit the power button but nothing explicitly tells you that), but you can ALWAYS silence it so the phone keeps ringing but you aren't bothered by the ring. Why is this so much better than hitting ignore, in my opinion? Even if you actually DO want to ignore the person calling, it's better to let them think they just missed you. Ignorance is bliss. I feel rejected when the phone rings twice and then goes to voicemail - I KNOW you just ignored me. Even if you have a legitimate reason, I still feel like you rejected me and that makes you a jerk. ;p
    • Facebook posts from the stupid games. I will confess, I'm breaking a mild addiction to "Restaurant City", but I never posted to the wall or sent people requests if I knew they didn't play the game. It drives me nuts. Actually, most FB behavior drives me nuts, but I still check it regularly. I just don't post to it much, haha. 
    I really try not to focus on these things that get under my skin, though. If you do, you waste energy on something that isn't wasting its energy on YOU. But I'm human, and sometimes I get bothered by stupid things. So I write them out, and I get it out of my system. 

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    30 Before 30: "30 for 30" Wardrobe remix

    So, as a birthday present to myself (and 'cuz I've been putting it off until I could start on a 1st day of the month), I'm doing a 30 for 30 wardrobe challenge.

    The basic concept, as instructed by Kendi Everyday, is to pick 30 pieces and remix them to make new outfits every day for the next 30 days. Underclothes, pajamas (or workout clothes, if you're so inclined), and accessories are "free pieces", everything else is NOT. She added in the provision of no shopping; I'm allowing myself 1 piece, because I'm considering buying this super-cute sweater dress from Old Navy. So as of right now, I have 29 pieces technically until I chose to buy or not (if I don't, I'll pick a new piece or leave that space free for another purchase - it IS my birthday month, after all!).

    I've added two exceptions of my own: I count tank-tops as underwear, because I usually wear them for extra coverage, and some of the pieces I chose are lower-cut than I would wear without a tank-top. Also, I'm STILL job interviewing; while I could create work-worthy outfits from most of my pieces, I step it up a little bit for an actual interview, so I'm allowing myself interviews as an exception to the 30 for 30 pieces.

    The goal with doing this is mainly to have fun and give me a challenge. I'm actually pretty excited; I purposely picked a few "wild cards", as well as challenged myself by only allowing myself 1 denim piece and 1 pair of shorts. I ended up choosing denim shorts! Haha. That's right, no jeans for a MONTH. In fact, here's a list of my pieces:
    • 6 dresses (I KNOW RIGHT)
    • 8 tops
    • 4 jackets
    • 1 vest
    • 3 pairs of pants
    • 2 pairs of leggings (one black, one "jeggings", which I don't count as denim)
    • 5 pairs of shoes
    • 5 skirts


    Don't worry, I won't be blogging every look here. Instead, I'll be going back to Flickr; I miss that website, and need an excuse to use it. (Yes, I'm a social media whore, don't judge me.)

    I will, however, leave this picture to lead the way to the Flickr album. Follow me, guys!
    This is what happens when your husband is the photographer

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    30 before 30: Alien speak

    Maybe it's girlish naivete, but I really thought that after 8+ years together as romantic partners, The Hubs and I understood each other.

    Lately, though, it feels as if we're citizens of Babel, for all the sense we make to each other.

    Ok, that sounds way more dramatic than I mean it to sound. 95% of the time, we understand each other just fine. Our arguments are rare, and often we need only make a well-timed sound or even a particular face for the other to burst into gales of laughter.

    But I'm noticing more frequently that there are these incidents where we talk to each other, and we just don't seem to comprehend what the other is saying. Luckily, these occur more with seemingly simple tasks than deep, life-changing discussions, but that almost seems to make us MORE frustrated in the end.

    For example, we were re-arranging our furniture and the electronics that reside on some of this furniture. To make the cords less obvious/in the way, I told The Hubs to move the electronic "under the table" it was on, so that the cord would follow it. He moved it in front of the table. SERIOUSLY. I tried to explain it again, and he did it "wrong" (at least in my opinion) again. This carried on for some time, endlessly frustrating us because he kept insisting I was telling him wrong, yet wouldn't let me get up and show him what I meant ('cuz he's a Taurus and STUBBORN AS S***). finally I got up, stomped over, and did it the way I intended.

    "Well, why didn't you SAY that?"

    It's a miracle we're still married, swear to Dog.

    Now, it didn't end in a big fight or anything, but it DID result in a "I don't know why you don't understand what I'm saying" from both of us. To each of us, it's just SO CLEAR, but the other is left staring blankly. It's frustrating! Esp. considering we really thought we knew each other, and now we've stumbled on this out of NOWHERE issue. Not a major issue, though, just... WEIRD. It's been 8+ years! You'd think he'd speak the language by now - AND VICE VERSA! I'm just as guilty here.

    I didn't really think about it until tonight we had another "alien talk" situation, and it was more serious this time. Not going to go into details (just 'cuz everyone shares everything on the internet doesn't mean I have to), and it's resolved now, but I did ask him, "I thought you'd know how to talk to me by now!" The Hubs replied that he did, BUT he isn't always sure what kind of reaction he'd get with me when I'm unemployed - it becomes a bit... dangerous, in his opinion. Actually, I think the direct quote was "emotional minefield", and he's not wrong. =/ So I acknowledged the truth of his statement, but then pointed out to him that he also knows my moods and how I react to stuff, so I suggested a way I thought might work to nicely get his point across if when there's a next time.

    So what do I learn from this? That The Hubs is an idiot, of course! (KIDDING.) I guess we're both changing again, or something, as people are wont to do over 8 years, and we have to re-learn how to talk to the adult version of ourselves when we're used to talking to the 20-something versions of ourselves. (Ok, The Hubs is still a 20-something for another year and a half, but I mean like YOUNG 20-something versions of ourselves - we've been together since I was 21 and he was just shy of 20.) You'd think being together so long would make things easier over time, not harder! SHEESH.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    30 Before 30: I'm a guy-lie girl

    I know I'm not the only girl in the world with guy friends, but I suspect I'm a little on the rare side in that the majority of my friends are (straight) dudes. (I'll sing the praises of the gays another day.)

    I'm not anything close to being a tomboy. Bugs freak me out, I don't like getting dirty, and beer is gross. The only reasons I think my social circle has worked out this way is because:
    1. I was mostly raised by my dad. I mean, my mom was around and took over full-time parenting duties when I was a teenager, but for the day-to-day from about 7-12 years old it was my dad. As such, I am VERY much like my dad in terms of personality, for better or worse - and my dad had a smart mouth and dirty sense of humor (as do I).
    2. I don't do well with girl drama. I get along FINE with girls, but it's rare to find girls who aren't, well, the stereotypical GIRL when it comes to interacting with other girls. I'm not claiming in any way, shape, or form that I don't have that tendency myself, but I hate that tendency in myself, so I try to avoid those who share it as much as possible. I've been VERY fortunate in that I've found girls who don't have that "drama" tendency, and I cherish their company. Guys also avoid that drama like the plague, though, and there are more of them than there are girls who avoid drama, so consequently... 
    There are advantages to having mostly guy friends, though! For one thing, guys are SO FUNNY. At least the dudes I hang with. Not that my girlfriends aren't funny, but some of the guys I hang with, I really have to up my game when I'm around them, or I just sit back and enjoy their show. For another, while they suck at appropriately comforting a girl they aren't sleeping with (I'm thinking it's something in their genetic structure that prevents it), it's still kind of adorable to see just how much they CARE. I can see the anguish on their faces (along with the general state of fear and confusion when confronted with tears) when they see I'm upset - and I appreciate their various offers to go beat whatever physical object they can use as the scapegoat of my hurt, even if it's ultimately pointless. Something about it is just damned endearing to me.

    On the flip side, I think there's an advantage for boys when they have girls that are just friends. For one thing, us ladies are open to talking about those icky topics like "emotions" that usually make their bros cringe. I'm fairly sure I've been privy to some conversations that my guy friends would NEVER admit to their other guy friends. An off-shoot advantage to girls being willing to talk feelings is that we're also willing to speculate and offer advice on their ladies; even the best husband/boyfriend can still be a little confused on what, exactly, their woman wants or needs sometimes, and who better to ask than another woman that they trust? Right? Also, honestly, I think guys just like having cute girls around. I mean, I'm not the hottest woman in the lives of my guy friends, but I'm not a hosebeast, either... and who doesn't like having something nice to look at who also makes you smile? (I know that's my motivating factor for, like, 99.5% of my friendships, male OR female... ;D)

    Look, I'm not saying that guy friends = best thing ever. I'm just saying that I've noticed my natural proclivity for having male friends, and I'm trying to suss out the cause as well as sing the praises of such relationships. If I may be gushy for a moment ('cuz I'm 99.5% sure they won't read this anyway ;p), I count myself very lucky to have the males I have in my social circle. I have managed to cultivate a personal, trusting relationship with some truly unique individuals that never fail to make me smile when I think of them. While I haven't always had the best choices in friends (male or female), as of late I've truly surrounded myself with upstanding young men who know how to make me laugh, appreciate the same things I appreciate, and make me feel that, if The Hubs were to ever smarten up and leave my annoying ass for good, I would still feel like someone out there loved me (just not that way)... and that's a nice feeling to have. We'll probably never say it to each other, but if you're my straight male friend and you're reading this, I love you like the older brother I never wanted in the first place BUT which I'm now glad I have.

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