Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Road Trip like a BOSS

What I learned from my first official road trip ever:
  • Find a partner (in my case, a husband) who is willing to do most of the driving, because you have a weird undiagnosed case of Car Narcolepsy (I get sleepy within an hour of driving). 
  • "Pack" your phone with lots of podcasts - we stuck with "Doug Loves Movies" this trip. 
  • Take a pretty driving route, if possible; as we were going to the Oregon coast, we could have taken the famous 101, but we opted not to due to both of us not being fans of super-curvy roads. Go fig, taking I-5 instead was still fairly curvy - but also pretty freakin' gorgeous, too:

    Well, what I saw while I was awake. Seriously, I can sleep in a car like it's my own bed, and the motion/vibrations or something make me SO SLEEPY. Poor The Hubs, he must have been so bored.
  • Bring snacks that aren't perishable. We went with fruit, and some 100-calorie packs of crackers and cookies. Next time I'm bringing nuts and beef jerky, 'cuz those crackers/cookies don't fill up your belly at all. 
  • Make the biggest drive the one to the farthest-away destination, then work your way back - I think The Hubs would agree that having one big driving day, then two driving days that were half as long as the first day, was much less exhausting. Our main destination (Bandon, OR) was the farthest away point, then we drove halfway back and stayed in Ashland, OR for the night. It split our drive home in half, which was way less stressful.
  • If possible, make the final destination a place with a hot tub. Man, that was nice when we got there - The Hubs was very excited to soak his tired bones in that mofo, I tell you what. 
Yes, I know I'm spoiled having a partner who is willing to drive the long distances. In my slight defense, I offered often to take over, and when we were driving in-town I took over (so he had a whole day where he didn't do any driving). Anyway, that's the reason for no blogging - went on vacay, came back and had to immediately jump into various job responsibilities for the last two days. (NOT COMPLAINING, actually nice to be so busy doing teaching-related stuff again!)

To finish, here's the gorgeous Pacific Ocean as seen from the Oregon coast:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living in the Clean World - Attempting Clean(er) Eating

So as I've mentioned before, my medical issues are 1 for 2 so far in regards to the issues getting better. The one that's getting better is, of course, only really helped by medicine. The other is a mixture of meds (which we're still trying to get right) and a lifestyle change. "Lifestyle change" meaning "STOP SHOVING JUNK FOOD IN YOUR GOB, MORON". Or at least that's how it translates to me.

Of course, the problem is that junk food is delicious. Man oh man, I love junk food. Actually, I love food, but I especially love those refined sugars and carbs. Mmm, mmm, mmm.  It's hard to stop eating them, too... it feels like an addiction. In fact, my nurse practitioner said that it IS like an addiction, and understands how hard it is.

I miss eating carbs. I hate dieting. I hate having to accept the fact that I have to pay attention to what I eat and count calories. It's the WORST, and when I've been "good" for a few days, my addiction kicks in and I'm going nuts wanting what I know isn't good for me - then I give in and feel bad (emotionally and physically).

I realize how immature it is of me to say these things, though, and I'm in the position where I'm working my way to it. I've done lots of research on websites that have explained how I should be eating to best treat my condition, and I think I can do it. It's not as terrible as I thought, and if I make these changes, I will feel better and my body will help to heal itself.

That said, this is easier said than done. The best way I've found to make eating healthy easier is to find shortcuts and substitutes that make me feel like I'm not being deprived. For example, I love burgers - I love them on buns, so if I'm at a restaurant (like the other night) and I want a burger, I'll get the darn burger and forgo the fries for a salad. If I really want the fries, though, either I eat both and feel gross, or I gotta find a solution.

Well, luckily, The Counter figured out a solution, and I'm cribbing the idea for myself. For those not fortunate enough to live near one of The Counter's locations (which now includes me, because the local branch recently closed), it's basically a build-your-own-burger joint that offers, like, a crazy amount of options for burger meat, bun, toppings, and sauces. It's awesome (their fries and shakes are awesome, also), and one of the options they offer is to forgo the bun entirely and have a "burger bowl". Basically, the burger is served on a pile of lettuce (either a lettuce blend or mixed greens) instead of the bun options, and you can still build it with all the same toppings and sauces. They had some crazy-fun toppings, like these carrot strings that were these insanely long curlicues that were so crazy my friend took a picture of me attempting to eat them:

They are INSANE. That is ALL carrot!
So when I had a hamburger for lunch the other day (and I'm not keeping bread in the house to avoid temptation), I remembered the crazy-awesome burger bowls and made my own!

The burger: pre-made turkey (on sale for $2 for 4 big ones) that I grilled on the Foreman with some Montreal Steak Seasoning on both sides.
The cheese: Pesto Jack from Spring Hill Jersey Creamery
The Bowl: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and lite ranch dressing. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of toppings in my fridge to add to my bowl o' salad, and the idea sounded so good that I didn't want to rush to the store for one freakin' meal. Plus, my own carrot strings will never live up to the greatness that is the Counter's carrot strings.

That said, it was a tasty lunch! (After taking the photo, I cut up the burger to make eating it easier.) (Also, there ARE cucumbers on that plate, they just disappear into the lettuce apparently.) I didn't even miss the bun! Slap a small amount of sweet potato fries on the side (and some more salad toppings, because I'll plan ahead next time), and I've got a meal that tastes great and I can eat without shame! Whooo!

Also, I am very aware that I suck at food photography. Hello, the name's "Hot Mess Housewife"!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Week's Worth of Good News - in 2 days!

This past Wednesday was a great freakin' day. It started off a little bleh, because I was waiting to get a phone call on whether or not I would get the job I interviewed for the day before. When I didn't hear from the interviewers by noon, I assumed no news was, in this case, bad news. Of course, the phone ringing three times before this conclusion didn't help matters - luckily, one of those calls was my sister, who finally has some time to squeeze me in for hanging out, yay! First good bit of news that day.

Then I received an email that offered me an interesting project to work on that would earn some money, so I wrote back agreeing to meet about it. I also discovered that "Thor" was finally available on Netflix for instant watch - ever since seeing "The Avengers", I've been wanting to catch up on the other movies featuring Avenger superheroes that I hadn't seen, and "Thor" had been elusive. (Turns out I wasn't missing much. ;P) So things were looking up!

The phone rings; it's the HR department from the prospective job. She tells me, voice calm and serious, "The interview panel has made their decision..." My stomach immediately knots itself while I try to tell myself that I already suspected I wasn't getting this one, and at this point I shouldn't be that shocked...

"... and they would like to offer the position to you."

"REALLY?" (I so wish that wasn't my response and that I'd played it cool, but I was legitimately surprised!)

The HR lady laughed and confirmed that yes, it was me they wanted. So did I accept?

I managed to not curse with excitement while accepting the position. :) I start in the fall, and I'm very excited for my new position. Plus it's a relief to know I'll be working for at least 10 months, not to mention I know THIS EARLY in the summer, which is a rare luxury for teachers. I have all summer to plan out the school year - it's so exciting!

The Hubs brought me home what every girl deserves as a congratulation gift - Roses and ice cream. What can I say, the man knows me. ;D My mother was so excited that she posted about it to Facebook before I even got a chance! I also had lots of excitement from my close friends and Facebook peeps, which made my heart swell. And to top it all off, Matt Cain of the SF Giants pitched a perfect game! Ok, that part isn't as exciting to me as it was to The Hubs, but it was still pretty awesome altogether.

The next day also had good news, if you can believe it! Well, ok, it was mixed news - one of my two main health issues is resolving itself nicely, but the other one has actually gotten worse DESPITE treatment. It also turns out that I was misdiagnosed by my previous doctor (which is yet another reason to despise that doctor's practice, UGH), but I've been referred to a specialist to work on fixing the still-existent issue and to double-check the possible misdiagnosis. Working with the specialist now will also benefit me later, because once I get the still-problematic issue under control we can start trying for another (non-furry) member of the family - and since the specialist will need to be a part of my treatment, I'll already be established in their care and they'll be familiar with my medical issues so we can make sure I and the fetus are safe throughout the pregnancy. The best part was that I finally feel like I have started on the path to clear answers and getting my body in shape for a pregnancy, and the doctors I've worked with so far both feel that pregnancy shouldn't be as problematic as I was afraid it would be. It's possible that in a year, we could be ready to start trying, and maybe sooner if treatments go well! This makes me extremely happy, especially combined with the good job news - two areas of my life (career and children) I was really scared wouldn't go my way are now at least making some headway. It's a mixture of excitement and relief to finally feel like I'm moving forward in my life, and now I just have to do my best to not screw it up on my end!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oh Yeah, I'm a Four-Eyes Now

comic by Sarah Becan - Click to check out her comic site!
So as I was catching up on "I Think You're Saucesome", a super-cute food/autobio comic by Sarah Becan, I stumbled upon this comic, which reminded me that, oh yeah, I have glasses now!

Truth be told, I have technically owned a pair of reading glasses for almost 20 years now, but rarely used them. I needed them when they were prescribed, because my far-sightedness was awesome (20/13 when I was a senior in high school!) but my near-sight was blurry. I mainly used them when I was working on super-tiny craft work, but recently I noticed that they didn't really provided near-sight clarity like they used to. Then I tried on a friend's glasses, and everything became SO CLEAR. OH NO MY EYESIGHT IS DETERIORATING. So I panicked (as I am wont to do, thanks to a mild (undiagnosed) case of hypochondria), bought a Groupon for Stanton Optical, and scheduled an appointment for an eye exam.

Turns out, um, my "deteriorating" eyesight is basically my eyesight becoming good ol' 20/20. Which, in my defense, is weird when you're used to having incredible far-sightedness and reason for panic! Actually, the optician said that I am SLIGHTLY near-sighted, but not enough to be a problem for now.

He did, however, notice that my eyes are painfully sensitive to light; he asked if I have trouble seeing at night, and I said yes - it's all blurry and headlights seem SO bright that I can't keep my eyes open. Since I work on a computer a lot (hahaha, "WORK", right) and keep the screen at minimum brightness also, he prescribed the glasses at the lowest prescription possible and suggested I get anti-glare lenses to help with my brightness issues.

I can't even get GLASSES right. I am a dork to the nth degree.

Me in all my 4-eyed glory. I have no idea what is going on with the dude behind me.

To be fair, though, the glasses HAVE come in handy. I wear them when I'm at the movies, driving at night, in a room with fluorescent lighting (which gives me a headache) or if I'm working-working for a long time on a computer and my head starts to hurt. So they're kind of pointless, but not completely. Movies are so much more enjoyable now that my eyes aren't constantly watering and I'm not squinting at the bright movie screen. Plus, to be honest, I love how the glasses look on me, although my head is crooked and my glasses need to be adjusted to not sit crooked on me.

It's funny, I've posted the above picture on Facebook, and all of NO ONE noticed that I was wearing glasses... including people who have known me for years. So either they look natural on me or no one gives a rat's ass what I put on my face. I'm assuming the former for sanity's sake.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Doggy Motherhood

So as I may have mentioned before, you know, just in passing, that I'm a mother. Well, a dog mother. Well, a dog OWNER (The Hubs hates when I refer to Daisy as "our child", although he seems to have made his peace with it xD).

But lookit that PUNIM, how can you not want to claim that cuteness as your own?

Ooof, those big brown eyes, they kill me.

Anyway, it's really difficult having the world's cutest dog, I assure you. ;D In all seriousness, though, I kind of look at our dog ownership as practice for a kid... which means when I feel like Daisy's not happy that I'm failing as a "mother" (which is probably why The Hubs isn't a fan of my calling her our "child", 'cuz she's a DOG).

To be fair to myself, I think she's a happy dog. She's fed, groomed, and cuddled regularly. But there's things that I worry about, where I feel like I'm "failing" her:
  • When my back's hurting (or when I'm cranky and don't feel like it), she only gets about a 15-minute walk at a time. She goes out about 3 times a day, but I try to make at least one of those times a half-mile loop, which is at least 20+ minutes. The last week or so I haven't because I strained my back and I'm still recovering, but I feel like I should tough it out. I was walking her for a near-mile loop at one point, and I want to get her back to that. 
  • She's not as socialized as she should be, and I feel awful about that. She barks at other dogs when we're out if I don't see the other dog in time and stop her. To our credit, if I see the other dog in advance, we've trained her to not bark by holding her close and saying "No bark" in a firm voice, and she usually doesn't, and when we've taken her to off-leash dog parks, she's been fine for the most part (but we stopped taking her to our local dog park because she got attacked by a big dog). She's also kind of a bully to bigger dogs that we know, and the stress of it has made us stop bringing her to our friends' homes because we don't want her picking on the big gentle dogs. (I think she's just trying to play, but the particular big dogs don't like it).
  • On the weekends, I sometimes forget to feed her for dinner. Breakfast is my habit 'cuz I usually take care of her in the morning and The Hubs handles her in the evening, but weekends get kind of blurred and we'll forget. Just once, and not that often, I swear!
  • When I play on the laptop, she just goes and lays down... and apparently I'm on it too much (well, duh), 'cuz when she hears the laptop close, she jumps up and gets all excited, which makes me feel just AWFUL like I'm on it too much and she's feeling ignored. :(
Of course, all these fears about how I "raise" my dog makes me nervous for the next step, which is children. Kids are even MORE time-consuming and demanding, and if I can't even "raise" our dog right, how much am I going to screw up our children?

The Hubs, who is the sane one in the relationship, assures me that Daisy is fine, she's a happy, healthy dog, and that when we have children we will be good parents to them as well. To be fair, I probably AM overreacting (although she does need longer walks - it's good for her AND for me), and a dog is NOT a child (but she IS definitely a member of the family), and doesn't have quite the same demands. I'm glad we didn't have kids earlier in our lives, because I really don't think I would be as concerned back then as I am now, but who knows? Kids change everything, and I look forward to the challenge; as a friend pointed out to me when I mentioned these concerns, the fact that I'm worried about these things before kids are even around means I'll be a good parent. So I'm going to keep that in mind, and work on improving our walking time and weening myself off the laptop. I'm a good dog mom, but I could be a better dog mom, and becoming a better dog mom could help me become a better MOM mom when the time comes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Recipe Try-Out: Veggie Meat Sauce

While eating at my friend Tim's house, he and his wife Vanessa kept us loaded up with lots of tasty appetizers, including these frozen pizza bites with this AMAZING tomato sauce. Like, I could not get over how good this sauce was, so I begged Vanessa for the recipe and she was happy to oblige.

So I tried it out, and it makes a TON, which is awesome 'cuz it's a very hearty sauce. Lots of meat, lots of vegetables - but if you puree the vegetables, you don't even notice them.

The sauce, mid-simmer!
Since I'm trying to cut out carbs, I tried the sauce with pre-made polenta which I baked.

The polenta, baked
Et voila.
 Overall, it was ok, but it will be AMAZING next time. The recipe, and what I'll fix for next time:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Timing is everything - especially in cooking.

Y'know, I've been cooking for myself for at least 10 years now.

I've been cooking for more than one person for at least 6.


Ok, I'm exaggerating, I can - some of the time. Maybe even most of the time. Depends on the month.

USUALLY it's a big fat timing failure because I just jump in without having read the recipe directions, just the ingredients. It's a bad habit I developed that I've mostly broken myself of, so tonight, I thought I had it ALL FIGURED OUT, that it was going to work out PERFECTLY. I'd read the recipe directions and knew what I needed to do, and figured out the timing so everything finished at the same time... or so I thought.

Tonight's meal (which is already eaten or I'd post a picture) was oven-"fried" boneless pork chops and a new-to-me recipe, spinach and rice "pie".

photo by Cooking with My Kid!

So, the pork chops I had are THICK - like, over an inch thick. I usually cook them fast at a higher temperature, but I figured they could cook slow at the same temp as the spinach/rice bake and would probably need an hour to cook completely. So, brilliant time-manager that I am, I did the pork chops first, threw them in the oven, then started the recipe, figuring it'd be ready in the 30 minutes I'd allotted to give the pork chops a head start before throwing the spinach/rice bake in the oven while the chops finished cooking.

The rice part of the bake is a rice pilaf box mix that you have to cook before you assemble the "pie". Well, I didn't read the damn directions on the box and LO AND BEHOLD, the particular mix I'd bought took 25 minutes to cook, and needed another 3-8 to "set"! ARGH! By the time my pie was ready to bake, my pork chops had been in there 45 minutes and the pie needed at least 25 minutes MORE to bake.

Not wanting dried-out chops, I took them out to see how close they were to being finished... and they were done. Like, perfectly juicy done. So I took them out, and they sat there while the side dish took its 25 minutes to cook. *facepalm*

The result was actually a quite tasty meal, for all the strum und drang . The Hubs and I like oven-"fried" pork chops, it's a staple, and the spinach/rice bake was actually quite good! The Hubs is kind of finicky, and he had seconds! SUCCESS. My only modifications are to add a little garlic powder and parmesan cheese, and mix salt and pepper in before I bake. It's not BLAND, but a little salt and pepper over the top gave it a little something more, if that makes sense. It probably doesn't, I do that a lot.

The main lesson to take from this is to READ THE DIRECTIONS ON THE DAMN RICE PILAF MIX, and to take the chops off the hot baking pan if they finish before the rest... they dried out a LITTLE bit from waiting around for the stupid side dish. It's not the end of the world, obviously, if anything I wrote about it because even when I break my bad habits (not reading recipe instructions before cooking), I still somehow manage to mess it up. The name of this blog isn't merely to appear clever. ;p

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer projects 2012

Ok, first off, holy crap HOW IS IT JUNE ALREADY?

It feels like the year is flying by, and I still can't believe how fast it went. Is that just a thing as one gets older, we lose all sense of time? Or do the days just stretch out so long that we lose sight of them until they've passed and accrued into months and years?

Anyway, I'm not here to wax poetic, I'm here to plan projects. Main reason being right now I have very little coming up, job postings are already drying up *sigh*, and I need SOMETHING to distract me other than daily housework. Seriously, I suck as a housewife - I'm getting better, but man oh man it's a chore to make me do chores. Yet when I re-purpose the idea as a "project", it somehow gets done. *shrug* Don't know how or why, but I'm going to run with it.

Last summer my project was decorating our living room, dining area, and bedroom walls. This wasn't too much fancy stuff, just lots of framing free artwork from the internets, personal pictures, and hanging my own canvas/shadowbox collages to dress up the joint. Whatever, it worked, I was able to do it for relatively cheap, and it really added motivation to keeping our home cleaner for both The Hubs and myself, because we finally LIKED where we lived and wanted to keep it looking pretty.

So aside from finding a job, what else can I do to occupy my time so I feel I have worth and don't go insane? Well, I finally figured out what I wanted to work on, and it's actually two things that should be relatively cheap and fun to do as well!

Project #1: Get the pantry/kitchen in order.

You guys, our pantry is a disaster. Like, there are designated shelves for stuff, but it's still packed with crap because when I think of "cleaning", the one area I rarely consider is the pantry. So there's near-empty boxes of stale crackers and spices I used once that we need to get rid of, like, YESTERDAY. Then I would like to find an organization system to get the pantry in order... I'm still debating if the pantry will stay a pantry for goods, or change it over to housing pots/pans/plates, or a mixture of the two. We have a TINY kitchen, where counter space is at a premium, and I have an awful lot of stuff that needs to be stored SOMEWHERE that our tiny cabinets can't quite house. Switching out the pantry and cabinet functions (even if it's just a couple) might be just the way to go... I dunno, still deciding. So here's the plan for dealing with the pantry:
  1. Purge. Throw out the expired/stale/carbs-I-can't-eat-anyway crap out!
  2.  Decide on organization and designate. Ultimately, I want each shelf to have a specific purpose, and the best way to go would be to use the open-the-door-THERE-IT-IS visibility of our big pantry (Which, seriously, was one of the major things that made me go OMG THIS APARTMENT IS PERFECT, it's RARE to have such a large closet/pantry in one bedrooms where I'm from). Once I get it purged, I think it'll be clear to me what I should do with it, and I'm thinking that most likely it'll be turned into more of a storage space for pots/tupperware than for spices/food. Might serve my tiny kitchen space better. I'll update as I work on it!
Project #2: Decorate some more!

Yes, there is still more decorating I want to do. Not a ton, but it's something to do that will make me happy.

The funny thing is that the reason we didn't decorate for so long is that for most of my life, I've moved around. I'm not an army brat, but I am a child of 3 divorces. The longest I've lived somewhere since I was 10 was 3 years... until The Hubs and I moved in together. We've been in our apartment almost 6 years now... but it took almost 5 for me to realize that we should FINALLY decorate! We're hoping to move in the next year or two, but since we'll most likely be here for a little while longer, might as well finish the decorating job.

There's not a lot I want/need to do. Only two projects, really.
  1. The big blank wall in the living room - in my decorating spree last summer, the only thing I could not figure out was what the hell to do with the shared wall between the apartments. It's just this big blank space, and it stymied me. I think I have an idea that would work:
    Click the link to go to the site!
    Obviously my version will not be for a nursery, nor am I decorating with an adorable baby girl. (At least not yet ;D.) But this would be a cute way to fill up a lot of the empty space without overwhelming the living room, I think! Not to mention it's certainly reasonable, cost-wise. I'll use fabrics in browns, soft pinks, and pale yellows with soft gold-painted letters.
  2. The Dining table - I've had this project in my head forever and I've got all the pieces to complete it, but I just haven't gotten around to it. My table is this fabulous 50's-diner style piece that I loooove, but I've been wanting to make it nice so we're not tempted to use it as a storage piece as we tend to do. (Us eat at the table? Whaaaa?). So I want to slap a tablecloth on it (a nice white cotton one, simple) that I might need to make myself 'cuz the dimensions of the table are weird. Then I want to finish my cute table runner that I'm making out of dollar-store dishtowels (seriously, it'll be SUPER-cute and so easy), and a centerpiece out of this awesome thrift store bowl I bought that looks like a lemon cut in half with white paper flowers and fake lemons I found. Since my kitchen/dining room decor is lemon/lime with turquoise and silver accents, it'll look SO CUTE. Plus maybe it'll make us eat at the table more often! :D
I also want to finish overhauling this cute straw-like handbag I have that was given to me by a friend who didn't want it - I meant to finish it last summer, and I got as far as fixing some torn seams. I'd like to add some bright yellow and orange fabric flowers to it to dress it up.

Figuring out my summer projects actually makes me happy and really excited for the summer, which is a nice change from the dread I usually experience. ;) It'll be a good distraction that benefits more than myself. Plus it'll give me something to blog about! Yays all around!


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