Thursday, September 27, 2012

Maybe I just like whipped cream

One of my favorite things about fall is the food:  pumpkins, apples, turkey… Yum.

While I like almost all things apple-y, I generally don’t like things pumpkin flavored. I love pumpkin in all forms – pie, bread, butter (you should totally make pumpkin butter) – but find pumpkin-flavored things rarely actually taste like pumpkin.

I suppose the problem is pumpkin is so bland the taste of it is easily overridden. That’s not my problem, though. If you’re advertising pumpkin flavor I expect you to deliver. Also, pumpkin spice is not pumpkin and is usually too strong. I did not ask for an herbal/spicy something. I asked for a pumpkin something.

That said we went to IHOP this past weekend and their pumpkin pancakes were amazing. Not too spicy, perfectly pumpkin-y (although, just like I said with the pumpkin spice lattes, I think the key is the whipped cream on top to mellow the spice). Paul was a huge fan and tried to shove all of MY pancakes in his mouth before I could eat them. The two of us looked like we were in an eating contest.

As for the title of the post, I don’t think so. I prefer my pumpkin pie without whipped cream, so I get the full pumpkin taste. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That's a lot of date nights

I have a friend who recently cooked every recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit.  It was so fun to follow along, I started looking for a list of things I could make a project out of. While looking through my computer files, I saw a PDF I'd downloaded from the lovely Hallie Lord's site of 52 simple stay-at-home date night ideas. I decided to make a project out of doing every one. I plan on grouping them so we do several each week. If you'd like to download the PDF as well, instructions are here on Hallie's site.

We decided to start out slow, with a simple, laid back date night. We Play(ed) a board game (#9) and Thomas Bartend(ed) (#31). I suppose cribbage is technically a card game, not a board game, but it's the spirit that counts, right? (Already bending the rules on the first day. Oops.) If you're looking for something to do on a Friday night, drunk cribbage isn't too bad.

I couldn't think of much to write for this one, but just you wait. Not all of these date night posts are going to be boring - I have PLANS. 

(Thomas is now reconsidering agreeing into this project.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sewing in straight lines (new scarf for cheap!)

It may be a bit too soon to tell you again to go check out Style All Over, but RA’s post last Friday on how to shop for scarves was awesome. I really liked the idea of buying some jersey at the fabric store and wearing it as a scarf. In completely uncharacteristic fashion for me (I almost never follow through on interesting crafts), I went out the next day and actually bought some jersey.
Note to self: Clean bathroom mirror
I found this fabric in the clearance section with a remnant of only 1 yard left (for $7!), so right away RA’s suggestion to buy 2 yards and cut it was out. I’d decided against a no-sew scarf anyway, though, so it wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want the back of my fabric to show, so I planned on sewing it into a tube, figuring I could handle sewing a straight line.

To make the 1 yard work, I just cut it in half lengthwise (realizing later if I actually wanted a scarf of the dimensions she was talking about I should have cut it width-wise) (then realizing I liked the length and being glad I didn’t make it shorter) and sewed the two halves together before closing the tube lengthwise.

The sewing machine…well. Sigh. I hate that I have to re-learn everything each time I pull it out. I last used it when I wrote this, yet I was a sewing machine dunce all over again...and this time I couldn't even find the manual. You should have seen the trouble that bobbin gave me. It was comical. (I’m glad you didn’t see.) Also, Thomas was out of town and Paul kept waking up which just added to the frustration.

I got it done, though, and since the beauty of this project is all the seams are hidden, it looks perfect! I didn’t close the ends, because I figured they'd kind of end up looking like bubble ends (if that makes any sense?). I’m considering cutting some fringe, but don’t know that I’d like the look of that, either. I also might sew the ends together and make an infinity scarf. I’ve been working on making these braided jersey scarves now, though, and the one problem I have is blind sewing the ends together, making me wary of messing up this already good enough scarf. What do you think would look best?
Are the ends too...unfinished?
Bonus picture – a completed braided scarf. (I used same-pattern fabric for the first few to make it easier. I’ve ordered jersey in red and gold - Iowa State colors - to make next.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Should the dress stay?

I bought this dress at Target this summer, wore it once, then saw a picture of me in it and immediately wanted to throw it out. I think I deleted the full-length version of this picture, so here's the cropped one.

I guess it doesn't look that bad. Something about it just turned me off when I first saw the picture, though. For one, I don't think I look good in sleeveless. Also, the stripes make me look wider (which, duh, what was I expecting?), which is more noticeable in the pictures below.

Before getting rid of the dress, I decided as a last-ditch effort to change the outfit and see if it worked better. I added a belt and cardigan and actually got complements on it. I definitely like this better, but the dress is pretty short and still has the widening problem, making it harder for me to keep. It's super comfortable, though.

Should I keep the dress? Which look do you like better? I think a lot of people bought it this year - do you have it?

P.S. The belt is one of the New York & Company colored patent belts I recommended in this Style All Over post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: High chairs and swearing

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!
1.   I forgot to mention in yesterday's post I had a second major in political science! I tend to forget about it because accounting was my 'career' major and political science was just because I loved the classes. I have thought teaching civics/history/something like that might be fun, though. I also have a masters in accounting and have thought about being an accounting lecturer.

2.       I've been in a real kick-a**-and-take-names mood lately. (Do we prefer the astericks there? I personally find them distracting. I think they bring more attention to the word. But do people have an aversion to seeing it written out?)

3.       I may be overthinking the asterisks because I went out with my mom's group on Monday and apparently they swear a "heck" of a lot less than I'm used to. I was telling a story and said my reaction to something was "Oh, crap!" They seemed a little shocked. It's not the first time, either. I mean, I get it, you're at home with kids all day, I guess you just...ban those words from your vocabulary? Should I? I mean, I don't say it in front of my kids, but this was adults only time. It's not like I said "Oh, f***." (Which I also say, but not in front of church friends. And I'm trying to stop.) 

4.       I should probably just post this now and make "do you swear?" the question of the day. But instead I will soldier on. This will be seven quick takes! Even if they’re all boring!

5.       Paul has been using this high chair for nine months (manly, isn't it?). I've wiped down from time to time, but never removed the cover to wash. I assumed it was like the car seat, where by the time you get everything taken apart the thought of putting it back together makes you want to just go buy a new one. Plus, it's just going to get dirty again, right? Last night, though, I was not in a doing things halfway mood. Checking the vaccuum to see why it was clicking (string caught in the rollers) led to spending a half-hour deep cleaning it. Next thing I knew I was taking the high chair apart. So of course it was ridiculously easy. Like, I can't believe you let that horribly gross thing sit in your living room for months when it takes like TWO MINUTES to take apart (and put together) easy.
This is an "after" picture. I didn't want photographic evidence of the before. 
6.       Also, I would like to know what kind of magical stuff that cover is made out of. I realize it's meant to have all kinds of food smeared all over it, then wash clean, but I let it sit for nine months and figured the washing clean ship had sailed. However, after a quick spin in the washer it looked like I had gone out and bought a new one.

7.       Remember this? When I confessed I've watched Friends a hundred times and still didn't get the Holden McGroin joke? I realized recently I did it again. This time I at least got the gist, but I still wasn't quite right. When Phoebe mixes up the words to Tiny Dancer, I always thought she got two things wrong. It sounded to me like she said "Hold me close, young Tony Danza."

I didn't know why he was young. She's singing a nonsensical phrase, anyway. Why should I be able to explain it? It took seeing someone write the line out on Twitter to actually realize she really is just saying "Hold me closER." Not "close, young." I misheard her mishearing the song. How meta.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Questions for you, part five

Other questions posts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

1. If you went to college, what did you major in? Do you (or did you) work in that field?

2. Is there something else you wish you’d majored in instead?

3. What’s your favorite kind of chocolate? 

My answers:

1. I decided early in high school I wanted to be an accountant - lots of numbers, but not complicated calculations, office job - and never changed my mind. I majored in accounting and that's what I do today. I still think it's what I'm most suited to.

2. I worked in a pharmacy all through high school and college and would have liked to become a pharmacist. I hated science, though. Hated. There was no way I would have made it through pharmacy school. I took a couple science classes my sophomore year, just so I wouldn't have any regrets. I don't. I don't have a sciency brain. Math only.

3. Dark, dark chocolate.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Style all over!

I’m writing for a new style site! -R- started it to be a different sort of fashion blog, one real people who don’t necessarily wear cutting edge fashion could get ideas from, as opposed to a lot of sites out there that feature stuff too expensive, too out there, or too sponsored (who else is sick of constant sponsored posts?). You’re wondering where I come in, aren’t you? I don’t think I’ve ever been described as fashionable, but so far they haven’t kicked me out.

My first three posts are here:

My Favorite Accessory: ModCloth Through the Wire Headbands

Belt it!

Check out the blog! There are a bunch of lovely ladies over there and I’m sure you’ll find something to interest you. Even if it isn’t me. (Be honest, though, it totally is, right? Right?)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gone Girl, Lucky Man

I don't normally do book reviews here. I've always intended to start, but never seem to get around to it. I love my Goodreads page and wonder how I'd handle both - do I post the same review both places? Direct Goodreads friends to the blog post? Post shorter summaries (in a "all the books I've read this year/month" format) here? I'm still not sure, but I've read two incredible stories recently and feel like telling everyone I know to read these books! Immediately!
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
You've probably already heard allll about Gone Girl. I can't really say much, because this is one you just need to experience. It's a mystery/thriller that manages to be unpredictable and I don't think I know anyone who has read it who didn't immediately get sucked in and have a hard time putting it down until they finished. I spent most of the book thinking "wow, that detail/phrase/plot decision was brilliant." I requested the author's other two books at the library right away.
Lucky Man: A Memoir, by Michael J. Fox
The next book I read was quite different. I wasn't sure whether to give it five stars, but I can't stop thinking about it. It's not a lights-and-fireworks, vowing to stay up until 3am if that's what it takes to finish kind of book. It's quietly compelling. Most celebrity memoirs read as if they're written by the actor's famous persona, being careful to edit out things that don't match the image or are too personal (with the exception of a few explosive! revelations!). I don't blame people for not wanting to lay bare everything about them, but comparison to other memoirs makes Michael J. Fox's unflinching honesty all the more incredible. The writing doesn't always flow smoothly, but that was part of what made it so compelling. These are his words (no ghostwriter).

I went from bemusedly reading about his childhood hijinks at the beginning of the book to scouring the Michael J. Fox foundation website looking for updates in their search for a cure for Parkinson's since the book was published in 2002*. 
I went right to the Kindle store and bought Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, his more recent memoir (my Gillian Flynn books haven't come in yet!).

*I will warn you, there's a section about stem cell research at the end of the book. If you want to avoid the politics, though, there's a very natural ending just before. It actually feels like the stem cell section was added afterwards, more like a postlogue.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quick Takes Friday

1.      I had a problem with a flexible spending claim a while ago, tried to get it fixed, and got shot down. I then stewed and muttered under my breath for months (since April!). I finally got up the courage to call them again yesterday and be firm. It took about 10 minutes of explaining the situation several ways, then they said "Oh! We're so sorry! We'll deposit $429 in your account by the end of the day!" I WIN.

I feel like the definition of the parenting axiom if you give in to your child, even just once, they'll never stop trying to get you to give in again. Give me all your customer service problems! I am emboldened to keep insisting until they solve everything!

2.     There was a big flurry of Blathering registrations a couple weeks ago. I finally added all attendees to my Twitter account and am now having a hard time using Twitter. There’s too much! Too many people I don’t know yet, too many tweets to wade through, too many conversations to try and wedge myself into.

3.     You know what else there’s too much of? Political retweets. Are you kidding me with this? By all means, tweet your own political views, if you like, but don’t flood my feed with incredibly partisan retweets. I don’t even like seeing the ones I agree with. (By the way, is there an option to not have someone’s retweets show up in my twitter stream?)

4.     My taste in pumpkin spice lattes seems to vary year-to-year. Some years I can’t taste anything but the spice and feel like I’m drinking some weird herbal thing. This year I’m finding them quite tasty (I think the key is the whipped cream. Mellows it.)

5.      Last week I saw a license plate that said LUV2PIN. Do you think it’s talking about Pinterest? Would someone really put that on their license plate? That seems drastic.

6.   I think I’m ready to buy a nice (read: expensive) pair of jeans. It's time to give up the hope I’ll be losing a ton of weight in the near future and stop putting purchases off. What is your favorite brand? Bonus points if I can find it at Kohl’s, which I have 20% off coupons for.

7.  Me: "It's not my job to always know where your crayons are."
      Meg: "It is your job. I want them now."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I know it’s been established people of all ages are allowed to like the songs Call Me, Maybe and What Makes You Beautiful, but that doesn’t change the fact I feel rather immature sitting at work bopping along to them. Especially One Direction. Are mature adults allowed to like them?

(Cut it out. I am too mature.)

If I need to buckle down, I turn the music way up and can really get stuff done. While simultaneously trying not to suddenly burst out with “and this is craaa-zy” out loud.

Doesn’t really matter, anyway, because my current favorite work music is the Titanic soundtrack and feeling immature while listening to Call Me, Maybe has nothing on feeling immature while listening to My Heart Will Go On.

(Really. It’s a great work CD. It’s virtually all instrumental, but interesting instrumental with Irish flutes and a range of tempos and moods.) (Seriously, shut up.)

I probably shouldn’t even tell you I also own Back to Titanic, right? But it’s great, too, with the violin quartet version of Nearer My God to Thee, Irish jigs (I recommend Jack Dawson’s Luck) (listen, I didn’t NAME the songs), and the piano version of My Heart Will Go On – way better than the melodramatic vocal version, which I almost always skip.

(I’ll stop now.)

What embarrassing music do YOU listen to?

*Links to songs are Amazon affiliate links, because I could find no other site to link to. How do you people link music? I tried YouTube, I tried iTunes, nothing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crappy Day Presents

I’ve participated in three crappy day present (CDP) exchanges this year and keep meaning to tell you about them because they are so fun. Rachel organizes the exchange and assigns everyone a person to mail gifts (you can request a specific person and/or tell her whether you want someone you do or don’t know). She has a full explanation of the exchange here with links to examples of boxes she’s received. Registration is currently open for the September round of the crappy day present exchange. She's also doing one in October if you're not ready to jump in yet.

I was really nervous the first time. How many presents should I send? What if my person doesn’t like the gifts? What if she sends way more to her person than I send to her? Will she feel ripped off?

Once you receive a box of gifts, though, you know that’s not possible. Even if there was only one thing in there, it’s really really fun to receive a surprise present. The four or five people typically send makes you feel really spoiled. I’m sure you’ve noticed me on Twitter going on and on about my presentsJ

To give you more of an idea of what is typically exchanged, here’s a few of the boxes I’ve sent or received.

What I’ve sent: These are from the first two rounds I participated in. I forgot to take a picture of the third round.

Round #1
Round #2. The fuzzy socks got cut off in the picture
and I also included k-cups not pictured.
And a few of the things I’ve received each round:

This wasn’t even one of the presents (the mug was – and I love it so much it’s the only one I use anymore), but I was really excited when Maureen included chickens to play the chicken game. I keep meaning to buy more to include in my packages. They remind me of one of my favorite books, Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same (affiliate link). Unfortunately, in our house it's usually the cat who finds and hides Mr. Pickles.

The toes were not part of the gift.
FYI, this polish is amazing. It lasts forever.

My stash of CDPs waiting to be opened! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Learn from my mistakes - the hospital bag

This is another one from the drafts folder. This was originally a comment I wrote when Kate asked for recommendations on packing a hospital bag before giving birth. I saved it intending to expand on it for a hospital bag post, but I think it’s funnier as a this-is-what-I-did-wrong post.


The first time I didn't bring makeup and WHOO BOY do I look like shit in all those pictures. I was all "I should look like I just gave birth, not like I'm entering a beauty pageant!" Ha! What I looked like was like I got beat up and also had the worst breakout of my life (which I did) (the break out, not the beat up).

So the second time I brought makeup and thought "who needs those fancy hospital gowns people are buying these days, I did just fine without it the first time!" Yeah...I have visible side boob in at least half of the pictures from that hospital stay because of the breastfeeding openings in the maternity ward gowns. Thanks a lot, husband behind the camera for not WARNING ME. Also, my brother-in-law was there, so *cringe*. My face looks great, though!

In summary, I recommend makeup and clothes from home, whether you buy a specialty gown or not. Nursing tank, maybe? The makeup and my cell phone (for Twitter) were all I used, though, so no need to go overboard on the packing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Questions for you! Part four, apparently.

Hey, remember way back when that meme was going around that had something to do with elevens? And everybody was sick of it, so I decided to write eleven questions, but split them up and post a few periodically? It's ok. I don't really remember, either. But I still have more questions! So here are three of them:

1. What are you reading right now? Do you like it? 

2. What’s your favorite non-current TV show (as in, they don’t make new episodes anymore)?

3. What’s your favorite show available on Netflix? If it’s the same show as in question #3, then tell us about your second favorite.

My answers:

1. I'm kind of in a reading funk, so I downloaded Little Women (free!) for my Kindle. I haven't read it since I was in middle school, so I'm hoping re-reading as an adult doesn't ruin it. 

2. This one's pretty obvious: Friends. 

3. I wrote this question so I could find some shows to watch in Netflix, because I've never found that much for TV shows in there. The shows I watch are usually on Hulu instead. Do you have suggestions for me?