Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Slack-A-Doodle-Do: A post which eventually gets around to money

It's too cold in my office to work today. The temperature is reportedly adjustable, but I have never noticed the slightest change in temperature when I fiddle with the radiators against my wall.

I have a bad feeling one of the women who I supervise has overslept again. Two weeks ago, I had to call her and wake her up at 11:00. It wasn't the first time. Makes me feel like her mother, which is odd, because she's four years older than me, and also jealous, because I would love to be still in bed at this hour. I don't think I've ever slept through the beginning of work, a class, or anything else important. Oversleeping for me means waking up fifteen minutes before I absolutely have to leave the house and rushing out the door without showering. I must have an internal alarm or something.

She just called. Indeed, she took some cold medicine and forgot to set her alarm. She'll be here at 11:30. Well, at least I don't have to call her.

This week I'm continuing to work on using up my weird ingredients. I'm eating bacon burgers, corn chowder made with dry-milk cream soup mix (contrary to my expectations, the only unpleasant part of the chowder is the freezer taste of the frozen corn), and grits with cheese. Oh, and Christmas candy. I just ate a white-chocolate snowman as a morning snack.

I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I hate getting stuff I don't like as presents. Really hate it. Unlike a lot of people, I'm pretty okay with disposing of/regifting the stuff, but I just hate the phenomenon of something I don't like coming into my house without me choosing it. And since I'm not going to just throw away something brand-new, it takes time and/or energy to regift, donate, or use it up.

As a result of this feeling, which has increased sharply in the last couple of years, I'm becoming really careful about what I buy for other people. Family is easy because they give me wish lists, so I can know that the gifts I buy them will be un-annoying. R. and I decided not to buy each other presents this year--we'll do birthdays, but not Christmas.

But two of the women I supervise gave me little gifts this year, and though I really should get them something in return, I'm finding it hard. Special office supplies? Who really needs office supplies? I personally have at least a five-year supply of post its, not to mention a massive stash of paperclips, bulldog clips, pens, etc. Frog-shaped paperclips are cute, but never work as well as plain old paperclips. Lotion? God, takes me forever to use up, and what if they don't like the scent? Candles? Same scent issue, plus is that really a good gift for the one who has kids? I'm pretty sure I'm just going to go the chocolate/cookies route, even though I'm fairly sure one of them isn't big on sweets. As a New Year's gift, since I have clearly already missed the Christmas window.

The office gifts I got this year were pretty non-stuff: a Starbucks card, soap, and a tote bag, which I will probably eventually use. Over Thanksgiving, a friend's kids bought me "Christmas" presents that I threw away as soon as I got home. I felt pretty horrible about that, since they're kids, but what the heck am I going to do with a lip-gloss set made for tweens? My brother and sister-in-law gave me some great homemade gifts--fudge sauce and Christmas ornaments, which were personalized (i.e., cute animals and an ornament that says "I love Chicago").

And then there were my parents. Sigh. I hope they don't read this. I gave them the address once but I don't think they quite understand what a blog is. First and foremost, they gave R. and I one absolutely fantastic gift: a trip to Korea! Wonderful. I'd been angsting over how I was going to carve the money for that out of my poverty-line budget, and R. didn't think he could go at all unless I seriously subsidized him. I would have been over the moon with just that one gift. But there was some other stuff involved. A bracelet that, even if it were my style, would be seriously annoying to wear. Bookends shaped like teddy bears (what?). And a small stone rooster. I guess that was it. So not a total overload of stuff. But it was still irritating to get things I knew I would never use.

Am I the only one who's Scroogy in this way? I love Christmas itself: the music, food, family, pine trees, etc. But minimalistic me really hates the stuff aspect.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

4.5 Miles on Lincoln Avenue

I walked home last night, 7.2 miles. It wasn't too bad. I mean, it did take forever. There was a lot of leaping involved, because there are huge slush puddles at every busy intersection. And
fellow pedestrians kept wanting to commiserate with me, but I wasn't feeling particularly social after, say, mile 3. But I did it. And I wasn't all that miserable or even particularly tired by the end, although I was absolutely exhausted this morning.

The last time I walked to or from work was in Lubbock, Texas. I was signed up with several temp agencies at the time, and one of them called me that morning with a job. Both my parents had already left for work. Mom worked an hour's drive away, and Dad wasn't an option either for some reason...maybe he didn't have a cell phone yet. There was a bus system in Lubbock, but the closest stop was several miles away from the place in question. So I walked.

I'm not sure why I didn't take a cab--I can only assume I didn't have any money. I don't remember anything about the walk, but I do know I got to work by the time I said I would and I got the job, which lasted for several more months and earned me enough money to get out of Lubbock. I started to walk home that evening, too, but before I'd gone more than a quarter mile a coworker drove past me and forced me to accept a ride. After that day, I worked out a system with my parents where I could either borrow the car or get a ride from Mom.

If last night's walk went well, I was going to consider doing it regularly. It didn't go well enough for that. In spring I might try biking. I'm terrified of being in city traffic on a bike but I'm sure I can get over that after a couple of tries. We'll be in a new place by then, anyway--although it's more likely to be farther away from work than closer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Weird Foods List

Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme has started a 30-day makeover series. I absolutely love it. Ramit at I Will Teach You to be Rich is just finishing up something similar, but I lost interest in that one pretty early. It wasn't, well, extreme enough for me.

One of Jacob's first posts is about grocery shopping. He recommends a "staples-based" diet--eating the same few meals over and over again. I'm interested in trying this out, but according to Jacob, first I have some housecleaning to do: "Before switching to a staples based dinner plan, I recommend getting rid of all the weird things in your cupboard. The best way is to not buy anything until your last strange ingredient is gone."

One of my weak spots is a tendency to go crazy at the supermarket buying things that I've never heard of and have no use for, but that look intriguing. Since one of our usual shopping places is an ethnic grocery store with lots of weird foods, this happens pretty often. Combine that with the low-carb diet I was on for a year, and I have an impressive (scary) number of weird things in my cupboard and freezer. I don't think I can actually not buy anything until they're all gone, since a number of them are things that can't be eaten on their own, but I can at least give it the old college try.

For my own recordkeeping and your horror/amusement, I herewith provide a full list of the strange foods I need to use up (along with a few possible uses). By including these foods on my list, I do not intend to cast aspersions upon the foods involved. They are simply weird because they do not make up a regular part of my diet (i.e., I have not opened the package for a month or more).

Weird Foods/Ingredients
soy nuts, sizeable bag
unpleasant protein powder (for protein shakes)
fiber/Metamucil, orange flavor
bruschetta (found a good pasta recipe that will use the whole jar)
pork rinds
sugar-free jello (three boxes)
corn syrup (apparently I can make this into fake Crunchies, which I wish I'd known a year ago when I purchased the corn syrup, as I have in the interim purchased several overpriced and disappointing imported Crunchie bars)
malted milk powder
sunflower seeds (could shell and mix in with my oatmeal)
kasha (there seems to be only one actual recipe that you can make with kasha, and I didn't like it. Adding raisins might make it palatable.)
grits (just made most of these into an ok grits casserole)
onion soup
cous cous
generic Slim Jims (ew)
cream soup mix (homemade, but I never use it)
soy flour (the pancakes I made with this were hideous and I haven't touched it since)
flaxseed meal, way too much (flaxseed muffins were a pretty good breakfast when I was on Atkins, but they're not good enough when you're eating real carbs)
rye crackers
mint extract (failed attempt to make generic vanilla ice cream taste like mint ice cream)
honey wheat germ
TVP (God, I think I've moved twice with this stuff)
lentils, small amount
whole frozen strawberries
roasting chicken
freezer-burned hot wings
buffalo chicken skewers
French fried cheddar onions (don't ask)
dry milk (I used to use this for cooking all the time, but now we almost always have fresh milk in the house)
2 sour cream containers full of pepperoni
hamburgers wrapped in bacon (nice idea, but the bacon never seems to cook)
3 round steaks, possibly too freezer burned to eat
frozen corn
whole cauliflower, frozen in a moment of desperation just before I left on a trip
whipping cream, ditto. Less likely to defrost successfully than the cauliflower
two kinds of sugar-free jam
malt vinegar
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
white vinegar (WHY? Why FOUR kinds of vinegar?)
peanut sauce
tandoori chicken marinade
mild curry paste
sauerkraut, large container
dijon mustard
Frank's hot sauce
horseradish sauce
Gum (Juicy Fruit and Doublemint, can't fathom where we got this; I never bought it)
granulated Splenda, lifetime supply

chili powder (three kinds, huge amounts of all!)
Splenda packets, 50 or so
onion powder (I thought it was the same as dehydrated onions)
5-spice powder (from when I lived in Chinatown)
coriander seeds
pod-like spice (cardamom?)
tons of colored peppercorns
bay leaves (what IS the point?)
hamburger seasoning (R. might use this)
feta cheese
mulling spices (which one would use for making cider, which I have never made)
pizza spice grinder
spice mix
Mrs. Dash (original), purchased in a wild phase when I thought I might cut down on my salt intake
Mrs. Dash (spicy), ditto