I secretly do like to shop…

But I tell everyone, including myself, that I don’t.  File this one under “lies we tell ourselves to make our lives easier”.

Truth be told, though, I like buying crap.  Spending money is fun.  Before my current husband, I pretty much budgeted just enough to get by and spent the rest.  No savings, barely paid a few bills, you know.  Not fiscally responsible much at all.  Actually, I was more responsible the first time I was married.  Apparently, being married makes me more financially responsible.  I don’t know if it’s because I keep marrying less-than-financially-sound men, or if I want to be better because someone else is depending on me, or if suddenly the future matters, or all of the above.  Probably all of the above.

So, I have a bit of a thrift store problem.  I love them, I crave them, and I frequently attend them.  Ya gotta love a store full of crap, all of which you can almost afford to buy.

We have been shopping up a storm for the holidays, of course.  I have done a ton of bargain-hunting:  Black Friday shopping, coupon shopping, Cyber Monday shopping, circular studying, coupon-app-using, every kind of way to save I could think of (of course, except for NOT shopping).  At Christmas, I do tend to go for broke, I have to say.  And I’m pretty sure that’s where that expression came from…  Christmas shopping.  I did manage to save a lot – maybe more than I spent in some cases – but still… money is flowing like water around here.  Generally speaking, I’m okay with it.  There is one thing that is bothering me, though…  Made In China.

It is really bothering me.

Almost every damn thing is made there (or somewhere like it).  I look at the undersides of everything now, just to see where it’s made.  It makes me uncomfortable that I cannot seem to purchase new, retail items (that are not an indie craft) that are not made in China.  I have better luck at the thrift store, actually, finding non-Chinese goods.

In our shopping, we visited a new store (new to us – maybe new to everyone, but I’m not sure).  Let’s call it the “everything is less than a Lincoln” store.  So, yeah, as long as I’m blowing money, why not blow it on some under 5 buck stocking stuffers?  So we went.  And we bought crap.  Because we are consumers.  But my overall feeling about the store is that it should be called the “mainlined some cheap shit from China” store or the “expect some lawsuits about the toxicity of our stuff” store or the “seriously, this is the worst shit made in the world” store.  I am pretty sure that folks in China are dying, right now, of disease caused by manufacturing America’s cheapest, most chemical-ridden crap ever.  This store represents so much that is bad about consumerism.  I don’t even know how they make that crap and get it all the way from China to Dunwoody, GA for those kind of prices, so I assume it is because someone is being paid 2cents a minute to absorb toxic chemicals making this shit.  We bought a squishy ball thing because I wanted to play catch (true story) and I think I got vaguely high from the fumes coming off it.

If I had a kid, I would keep that ball far far from him or her.  Seriously, I would expect my kid to grow an extra ear or something if they played with it for very long.  Ironically, now that we have actually played with the ball for 15 minutes or so, I’m pretty sure all our reproductive organs have shriveled up and now only release sea monkeys and silly putty.  It’s not ideal, but now that we own that ball o’ flexy industrial waste, our home is no longer suitable for children.

I feel I must watch THIS video about modern consumerism just to cleanse myself a little of the dirty, cheap consumer whore in my soul.

toxoball

Why I can work with a husband who only believes the radio… or, my microwave’s days are numbered

So my husband does not believe anything I say.  Ever.  I can tell him the most interesting FACT, and he argues with it.  Then, months or years later, he will hear the same FACT on the radio and repeat it to me as if it is brand new information that is absolutely true.

Huh.  So when I said it, it was, what?  The ramblings of a crazed and insane lunatic?

Yes.

Also, my husband is a slow adopter.  He does not like change and handles it in a compliant defiant manner (yes, honey, of course we can grow all our own food.. followed by…  um, oh yea, you wanted me to water the tomato plant?)  I admit that I might reach a bit in some of the things I want to do.

At any rate, I haven’t told him that when we re-do our kitchen, the plan is to get rid of the microwave.  A) I believe, for no other reason than that is is unnatural to cook food with waves of micro, B) Stylistically, it does not vibe with the vintage, homey, but pristine look that I want to go for, and C) He would never go for it if it was my idea.

Thankfully, it is HIS idea to get rid of it!  Because he heard it on the radio!!

I’ll take it.

So, Mr. Mike Roe Wave, your days are numbered.  And here is a nice, nostalgic picture of you so that you may be remembered fondly.  I will miss your timer function badly (right up until I buy a cute old-fashioned one at a thrift store, anyway).

Image

xo

There will be pictures! Or, I made Kumquat Marmalade (sort of) for the office!

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One of the owners of the company that holds my license grows crap in containers outside (and inside) the office.  He grows a lot of herbs and vegetables and recently added two cute kumquat trees.  He doesn’t do a damn thing with the stuff he grows.  He just plants it because it’s cute and waters it, but the fruits are left to die on the vine, as it were.  The rest of us in the office pick at the plants occasionally.

I decided that since not one of us knows what the hell you do with a kumquat, I’d make a marmalade out of a few and take it to the office for our little office gathering on Tuesday.

I’ve mentioned that I can’t cook, right?

So this morning I pithed and seeded and pulsed about 15 kumquats and added sugar.  I followed the instructions (found on the interwebs) to a T, but, of course, since I’m a shitty cook, I cooked my teeny-tiny-not-even-a-quarter-of-a-batch too long and cooked all the damn liquid out.

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The good news is that I have had a marmalade container (from a thrift store) for like, a billion years that has never been used, so my crunchy, dry, sticks like gorilla glue, marmalade looks really cute.  And, bonus, the fake lemons in my lucite container are the actual size that my kumquats were!

kumquat contained

Delish. (ahem)

xo

Resolutions, so soon?

I know, I know, it’s only, like, December something, but I am going to make some resolutions this year and I am going to keep them!  I have always considered New Year’s resolutions more of a ridiculous resolve to fail, but my head practically spins all the time with ideas and urges and wishes, so this year I plan to plan AND execute.

I have no idea what my resolutions will be, but here are some of my ideas (and I’m not saying they will all be hard):

1.  Keep all potentially useful store bought containers.  I am a bit of a container junkie, but in the spirit of true confessions – I buy them.  I hate clutter and junk and pointless storing of large volumes of CRAP, but so much of what we all buy comes in containers.  Glass jars, glass bottles, plastic containers, cardboard containers – you name it, stuff comes in it.  All of a sudden, a frugal gene has popped open in my head and now I cannot stop myself from trying to save money, resources, effort, whatever.  The way I see it, when I bought that jar of not-very-healthy spaghetti sauce, I also bought a jar.  And I will be damned if I’m going to just toss it out.

It’s funny, too, because when I was younger, I had this idea that the best way to force people to recycle or consume less would be to force them to keep their garbage.  Everyone would have to dedicate a certain amount of space in their lives to maintain their trash.  If you generated it – you should have to keep it or recycle it.  It would be a helluva way to deal with over-consumption!  There are some pretty serious flaws with this plan, but a piece of it can be extracted and kept!  If it’s useful, it should not be tossed out.  Maybe it ends up being donated to a thrift store or given to a friend who can use it or sold in bulk at a yard sale, but it should be kept.  They keep making mason jars, but aren’t there about 40 gazillion of them sitting on shelves in pantries right now with labels on them that say “applesauce” or “Gusto Pasta” or whatever?

2.  Eat locally grown food every week!  This may be harder to achieve since I cannot always be certain that I can find locally grown food, but I will do my best.  Since I think we need to eat more vegetables (in my household, but also as a species) and since I think it’s best for everyone  – the farmer, me, the environment – that it be locally grown, I think it is important!  The good news is that a whole lot of crap can be frozen so if I can’t find it this week, I hope to have some from last week on hand.

3.  Make more stuff rather than buy it!  I bought a handful of useful ingredients – hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, bleach, Borax, etc – and it’s amazing how many uses I have gotten out of those old-timey basics.  I’m keeping all those damn containers, so I might as well fill them!  Examples of stuff I plan to make:  laundry detergent, body wash, household cleaners, dog shampoo, and so on.

I am not a packrat (anymore) and I get edgy whenever our storage spaces fill up, but I just can’t help myself.  Didn’t Gandhi say that to believe in something and not live it, is dishonest?  I think so.

That’s all I have for now.  There will be more – resolutions about saving money and eating healthy and keeping my house in order – but those require a little more thought.

Wish me luck!

xo

As long as I’m internet stalking my exes….

So I am going to fess up to an unattractive, very questionable, and probably pathetic behavior.  Searching for exes on the internet.  I do it.  I’m not proud.

Example A:  Ex-best friend.  You can tell we were friends a long time ago because I call her an ex “best” friend.  A concept that is immature, at best.  We met in college and bonded fast and furious.  We had some of the best times of my life together.  I would say “our lives”, but I honestly don’t know if those times qualify as bests for her anymore.  We lost touch.

Example B:  Ex-first love.  Okay, this relationship pre-dates the ex-bestfriend even, it’s so historical.

Example C:  Ex-husband.  Yep, I have an ex husband.  I have a current one, too, but this isn’t about him, it’s about them.

I am cursed with a taste for stubborn, atypical people who do irritating things like refuse to adopt concepts like Facebook and blogs and other public venues for stalking, so for years now, if I found myself curious about someone I used to know, I am forced to investigate.  I can’t just tap tap click and find their stubborn asses.  Fortunately, I am skilled in internet research.  I can find shit.  I type fast and I read fast, so please don’t picture me spending hour upon hour, late into the wee hours or anything.  I’m too lazy for that crap.  What I do is a sort of blitz assault for 10 minutes and then bag it because I have actual things to do and can’t spend all my time stalking people.

Fortunately, Facebook has become such a tour de force that my even my lame-ass exes have finally started using it.  Unfortunately, everyone knows how to protect their Facebook security so while I know two of the 3 that I occasionally search, are on there.  I just can’t see much about them.

None of that is the point of this post.  The point is now that I have discovered little tidbits about my exes, I am suddenly reminded that these folks weren’t perfect, like they have been in my head all these years, and I really might not have been the problem, anyway.  These are important, almost momentous ideas for me.  I sort of walk around all the time with this vague ennui  over the loss of these people formerly important to me and a feeling of failure as if it was all my fault.

I mean, I’m a deeply flawed person that no one loves, so of course it was my fault.

But let me say this…  the ex best friend, she was lovely.  I adored that girl.  We had so much fun together and she was just so eff’n cool.  She was super stylish (really should have gone into fashion.  really) and cute and free-spirited, but still a basically good girl.  I have never had a friend that I enjoyed as much.  And that is what I miss, I guess.  But technically speaking, I do not know how good a friend she really was.  She sent me cute cards and such, but she also ditched me every time she got a boyfriend.  She was incapable of talking about problems (personal ones or ones with me) so it left us with baggage that I couldn’t do anything about because I honestly didn’t know it’s origin.  She was a lot more talk than action when it came to loyalty.  Granted, I was a total mess during those years.  I was fun, but I was a mess.  I’m still a mess, but I’ve been cleaning it up for a few years and I’m getting there.  I tried one time to revive the friendship… after a year of silence from her.  And it worked, but really only superficially.  She moved out of state too soon after that for  us to really rebuild, and I honestly don’t know if we could have done so anyway.  Plus, she turned into such a yuppie.  A cool, stylish one, but a BMW speedster-driving, corporate takeover, most popular girl in the junior league, kind of yuppie.

The ex first love… actually, wasn’t all that dissimilar to the ex bestie.  I mean, I was madly, deeply, horrendously in love with him.  Maybe it was because he was my first love or maybe it was infatuation, but regardless, I was in deep.  I don’t know if he was in it as deeply, really.  Anyway, in the end, he wasn’t that great either.  I broke up with him, as a threat, really, and he accepted way too readily.  Then he pretty much start sleeping with other girls within 5 minutes and then within about 15 minutes was shacked up with one (who my internet stalking determined he actually married).  The bad news is that the one he shacked up with was his best friend’s wife and the reason he and wifey got together was because he moved in with bestie and wife when he and I broke up.  He couldn’t afford our little house without me, and needed somewhere to go.  Tragic.  I loved that best friend of his, too.  He was SUCH a great guy. So ex first love ditched me quick without ever a look back, ran off and stole his best friend’s wife after a couple of lady pit stops in between, and I’ve never heard a peep out of him since.  Shady, right?  He, too, developed into this super-desirable, all the lady artists in art school wanted him, sort of guy while he was with me.  I didn’t stand a chance once I had him convinced he was awesome.

What can I say?  I have good taste.

The ex husband will probably never adopt passe things like Facebook, or the internet in general, but I stayed in touch with him long enough to get some dirt on him, too, over the years.  The main dirt being that after me, he turned into someone who cheated horribly on his significant other, even after they had a baby together.  So I guess that’s pretty bad, huh?

Were these folks like this BEFORE me?  And I just didn’t know it?  I was young, so I suppose that could be correct.  What do you really know about folks before you spend a few years with them?  Not a lot, people.

The bigger question is why do I ponder these folks at all anymore?  And will I keep doing so now that I have reminded myself of their less stellar qualities?  I don’t think these folks have any interest in contact with me and I have no business being in contact with any of them, so it is not about establishing contact.  I am just curious.  I want to know how their lives are turning out.  Are they happy?  Are they enjoying their lives?  Married?  Kids?  (I actually know the answers to some of these questions, but I don’t know it from THEM). And so on.

I think I can let go of the pouting, though.  I really need to concentrate on today.

Comments?

You know, every time I start a blog, I agonize over comments.  One time, with one particular blog, I had comments and followers (not a whole bunch, but enough to be encouraging) and all that jazz.  But you know, as soon as you put a face on the audience, you lose sight of yourself.  At least, I do.

Tonight, coincidentally, I read two things on the www about comments/blogs.  I read this [wonderful] post on The Oatmeal.  He pretty much sums up the double-edged sword that is comments.  And I read another post [which I cannot currently locate – sorry – but I will keep looking and post the link eventually] in which the blogger says there are two kinds of blog styles: art & conversational.  Art blogs are for viewing/reading/perusing, but not for commenting and conversational blogs are for commenting. Because the blogger wants a conversation!

So I don’t know if I want monologue or dialogue, but as you can see comments are enabled on this site.  I am not conceited enough to expect folks will read this blog or comment on it, however the option is there.  I do reserve the option to NOT read comments, though.  Just like I never display any of my arts or crafts for the public.  Okay, well I did twice.  But those are separate posts for other days.  And it wasn’t my fault the first time, because my husband signed me up.  Anyway, most of the time, I paint what I paint or craft what I craft and it stays in my house until I get tired of looking at it and then it gets trashed.  Can’t exactly do that with a blog, but I’ve come close, ie, I have abandoned more blogs than you have even read.  HA!

xo

Update:  the blog discussing conversational vs art blogs is here!

Finally, oatmeal that I like!

Breakfast is always a challenge for me, because I don’t like to eat in the mornings and I’m not a fan of most breakfast food.  I really have to be in the mood for cereal or english muffins or pancakes or what have you.  I am quite fond of bacon and eggs, but I never have time to cook breakfast and bacon certainly is not something I’m putting on the menu often, so that leave me nowhere.  I really just don’t eat in the mornings most of the time.  Since I know that’s terribly unhealthy, I’ve tried repeatedly to find a breakfast food that is healthy and that I can stomach.

I like toast, so it is a real bitch that I am on the outs with wheat as a staple of my diet.

I keep coming back to oatmeal.  The problem is that I hate oatmeal.  It is pretty much disgusting.  I’ve tried it soupy, I’ve tried it chunky, I’ve tried instant, I’ve tried stove top, and I’ve tried slow cooker.  I’ve tried plain versions, cinnamon apple versions, cherry pie versions, maple and brown sugar versions… I have even tried a “cookie dough” version.  I just do not like it.

I have thought for some time that slow cooker steel cut oats are the closest thing to stomach-able that oatmeal will get for me so lately, that’s where I have experimented the most.  My husband likes it and I can sneak in healthy additives like flax seed or chia seed, so that’s a bonus.  Unfortunately, the recipes that sound the best do tend to call for apples.  I’m not crazy about apples in most applications.  I’m really not crazy about hot, cooked, apple skins, so I’ve peeled dozens of apples and tried several versions of slow cooked apple oatmeal.  The last venture was the most successful, but I still hated it.  I choked down one bowl and then pressured my husband every day to eat the rest.  He’s a fan, but come on, man can only eat so many bowls of apple oatmeal before it goes bad.

Desperate to keep trying and (FINALLY) out of apples (THANK YOU JESUS), and not ready to give up entirely, I decided to make a peach version of the tortuous apple crap and (HALLELUJAH), it was good.  At last.

Don’t get me wrong – I will not be able to eat it every day or anything – but it’s good.  It’s really good!  It makes a solid 4 to 6 breakfasts, give or take relative hunger and it tastes sweet and fresh and a lot like peach cobbler.  Let’s face it, fruit cobbler is good.  If I can make a breakfast that tastes a little like cobbler, but is actually healthy, then I call that a “win”.

My recipe was as follows:

6 qt slow cooker (sprayed with non stick spray)

1 cup steel cut oats

2 cups water

2 cups milk (or milk alternative – I have made it with almond milk and rice milk both of which work great)

1 Tbs flax seed (or chia seed, but flax is better)

3 Tbs brown sugar (or to taste, but why put it in now when you can just add more when you serve it?)

1/2 tsp salt (your favorite, but ours is course sea salt)

1 tsp cinnamon

Some frozen peaches (it’s fall, there are no fresh ones around here right now)

Cook on low overnight.  (Times vary, but it’s going to be 6 to 10 hours, depending on various factors that are discussed later)

I don’t add butter or anything, because it’s totally not necessary and if I can cut an ingredient that isn’t healthy, I will.

The peaches do get mushy so you always have the option of throwing them in later in the cooking.  I’m lazy and also, I want to sleep straight through the night, so mushy peaches it is.

One word of caution – every slow cooker is different and everyone’s tastes are different.  I cannot tell you how to get the perfect consistency for you with your equipment, so I will say the following:  if you like very moist oatmeal consistency, do not skimp on the liquids and maybe err on the side of too much (at least 1 part oats to 4 parts liquid), especially if you are going to sleep for 8 to 10 hours, which we try to do.  We always get a more solid consistency along the bottom edges of the crockpot.  This is not a tragedy because it’s still edible and there are ways to soften them up.

If you want to soften up the edges (I don’t, hubby does), just throw it in your bowl with a little milk (or whathaveyou) and stir.  Done.

You can refrigerate the leftovers.  Just microwave to your preferred temperature.  If it dries out a little or clumps up too much for you after refrigeration, microwave and then add milk and stir.  You seriously can’t hurt this stuff.

You can add toppings (I’m too lazy), but nuts would be delish, as would fresh fruit, but if you’re going the fresh fruit route – why cook it in the oatmeal and cook out some of it’s nutrition?  Just reserve and add in the morning.

Here’s the thing with steel cut oatmeal – you really may have to make it a few times to figure out what works for you.  Length of cook time and amount of liquid are going to vary, based on your lifestyle and your taste preferences.  Go with what is recommended the first time and adjust from there.

And don’t forget the salt.  I did the first time and bleck.

xo