Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's been a crazy week

Trying to get ready to leave this week had been a monumental task. For one thing, the only time we can ever seem to do a deep cleaning of our apartment is right before we leave it. Last night I spent at least three hours cleaning and organizing the kitchen. I had laundry going all evening as well because I was stupid and didn't plan ahead. It was easy enough on Tuesday night to think, "Oh, I'll just do the laundry tomorrow so that everything will be nice and freshly washed for our trip!" But that didn't leave enough time for air drying, which oddly left me with less time than usual on a laundry day! Even doubling up on the dryer loads (2 washer loads can easily go into the dryer at once, as long as a few strategic things--underwear, things which air dry very quickly like fleece, things we won't need for the trip like our tablecloth--are pulled out and air dried) it took a long time. I had to ask Shane to transfer the last of the laundry. This is the first time I've ever asked him to do it and he's actually done it. Yay! Of course, his plan has been to sleep all day today so that he'll be fresh to drive tonight so the laundry was in the final stages of drying when I woke up. (I think I burned my wrist on the extremely hot button of one of my pants when I pulled them out.) But laundry is done! I still need to fold and pack when I get home.
On top of all that craziness, I've been working 9 hours every day this week to be sure I'll have enough vacation time and I'm flat out exhausted. Not that work is so very difficult, but the time, the darkness, and the frenzy at home has all combined to make this not the easiest of weeks. The dog hasn't helped anything by continuing her rampage of destruction. Last night she kept trying to mess with the towels as they were waiting to get washed (I think she was licking/chewing the dish towels--because apparently that's pure flavor I wanted to wash out) and she ate one of my bamboo spatulas! We hand wash them and it was on the table drying when she grabbed it and chewed it up. !!!! Not that she knew what I was saying, but I told her that if she ate one more thing that wasn't her food we'd be leaving her at home for Christmas.
We did manage to get a new litter box made. The first one we had was pretty much just a box. No lid, nothing. Now, our cat is quite big. He's very long, that is. So he would sometimes miss, and when he didn't miss he'd often fling litter (and sometimes poo with it) out of the box in his efforts to clean up and hide his waste. Helpful, right? Well, we got him a new box with a lid. And he hated it. I think it's too small, so he felt cramped and it's just not comfortable to poop when you're cramped. So he's instead been using our bathtub as his litter box. The suggestion from a friend that we used was to cut a hole in the lid of an empty tote and fill it with litter. We thought it would work because, like so many others, ours is a box cat. He loves boxes.

"Why yes, I am a cat in a box in a box. Thank you for noticing."

I didn't even have a chance to fill it with litter before he was inside it, exploring. When I get home today, I'll check to see if he's used it or not. Hopefully our pet sitter won't have to clean our tub daily the way we've been doing.
It should also be somewhat dog-proof. Hopefully.
We still have so many chores and errands to get done before we go, but vacation time is almost here! I probably won't be posting again until after the new year, so happy holidays to you and yours. I hope 2012 starts beautifully for you all and gets better from there.
And since I didn't say happy solstice yesterday, I'll say it now and leave you with this video of the winter solstice in Fairbanks. It was taken from a building across the street from mine. This is what winter looks like to me. Isn't it beautiful?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Striving for excellence

One thing I tend to struggle with is my constant need to better myself. I'm not really a perfectionist, because I can let little mistakes go. But what bothers me is when I don't get around to everything I wanted to accomplish. Whether it's my goals for an evening (1.Cook dinner 2. Hang out with Shane 3. Knit socks 4. Clean apartment 5. Walk dog 6. Exercise 7. Finish reading that book 8. Play with cat....) or my goals for the year, I get disappointed with myself when I don't cross everything off my list. I create my own stress!
Logically, I know there's never enough time to do everything that I want to do. (Stupid needing to work for money! Grr.) Heck, there's never even enough time to do what needs to be done. (Have you seen my apartment lately? No, of course not, because I'd never invite people over when it's as messy as it currently is!) Or maybe it's just that I don't prioritize "needs" correctly? In any case, it's hard to be so hard on myself. And I know I'm not alone. Are you stressed? I thought so.
This is why I'm enjoying trying to focus on the little things. It's not about how much I can get done in one night or one week, it's about what I get done. I might not have gotten through my whole list, but I did manage to vacuum the carpet and look how much cleaner it is! I might not have done my full workout, but I did take the dog for a short walk and played with the cat. (I consider playing with the cat an ab workout, since I laugh so hard my belly hurts.) Focusing on what I manage to get done is so much nicer than seeing all the things that haven't been done.
Working this way, slowly and kind of lazily, I've checked quite a few things off my list recently. Of course, some of those things circle back around again (how can I need to dust again already?!) but some of them get done and stay done. (I cleared some stuff out of the dining room and it's so much more spacious and clean!) The list gets added to from time to time (thanks to the dog/gingerbread incident, we now have to shampoo our carpets) but that's becoming more and more ok.
So I don't exercise 6 days per week the way I *want* to. (I'm not sure that's the correct word for it, but it works.) At least when I do workout, I push myself to do more and be better than last time. And since I take the time off between, I figure I'm less likely to injure myself. And I actually enjoy my workouts now. I even laugh at the way the dog rings the bell to go outside every single time I start my workout. Two minutes into the warmup she apparently thinks, "Mom's not doing anything important. I'll ask to go out. And then back in again thirty seconds later! And I'll be the biggest pain about it that I can be." Rather than a nuisance, I love that the cat seems to recognize my stretches and comes over to join me. ("Oh dear, that's not how to stretch! Learn from the master. You're supposed to do it like this.") Because I've chosen when to workout, and I'm not cramming it into my evening as just one more thing that needs to get done, it's become a much more pleasant experience and I think it will be more of a long-term thing, rather than my usual "I finished that workout program, now back to sloth" attitude.
I have a yearly goal of reading 52 books. Every year, I tell myself that it's the minimum number of books I'd like to read. One book each week isn't so hard, right? Last year came in at, I think, 53 books. This year, so far I'm only at 46. But it's something I enjoy so I've made it more of a priority on my "list" for the next week or two (not a written list, just a mental tally), which is essentially like planning in mental breaks for myself. I've allowed myself the time to read as much as I want and it's lovely. I put it off nearly all autumn because there were "more important" things to do. And some of them were--"Annie", getting my classwork done, hanging out with friends--but sometimes I think I just dithered and wasted precious time when I could have been doing something important to me, like reading. (Honestly, my younger self would be so disappointed that I can only get in 52 books per year, rather than well over 100 the way I used to do. And to think that when I was younger I always thought I'd have more free time to read as an adult! The follies of youth.)
For 2012, I want to refocus my priorities. I want to figure out what's most important to me and keep going with it. All the rest can be dropped. Becoming more sustainable is still very, very important to me (less wasteful is at the top of the list) and so is saving money and spending locally, but for the rest I'll have to figure out what's really going to be on my list of accomplishments for 2012.

More thoughts on "peak oil"

In the book "$20 Per Gallon", the author points out that one of the most basic distinguishing features between the middle class and the poor are that the middle class owns cars. Now, I don't know that this is necessarily true in the U.S., since I've known plenty of poor people (myself included, back when I could truly describe myself as "poor") who've owned cars. But for most of the world, owning a car is a giant barrier to the middle class lifestyle. With a car, you have more mobility and more options. Thus, most of the world aspires to owning a car.
However, we're getting so backwards in the U.S. that not owning a car (or being "a one-car family") is becoming a sign of how well-off you are. It means that you can afford to live in an area with lots of choices in shopping and transit. And food. Most poor urban areas are considered food deserts, meaning that they don't have easily accessible grocery stores and farmer's markets. This leaves poorer people more dependent on their cars to get the basic necessities of life, as well as to get to and from work. It's a horrible cycle because most poor people can't afford nice cars, so the very thing they're dependent upon is also keeping them in a state of desperation by constantly breaking down and being very expensive to own and operate. I wonder how many people we could bring into the true middle class (as I think of it, noted more by a lack of debt than by car ownership) if we focused on making our cities and towns less dependent on cars? How many accidents each year would we prevent, and how many deaths and injuries? How much "car debt" would be erased in just a few short years?
I think that one of the changes we'll see as our nation changes, as oil gets more and more expensive, is that there will be a greater demand for walkability and mass transit. When gas hit $4/gallon, how many more people chose mass transit than cars? Since mass transit is still dependent on fossil fuels, how much more emphasis will there be on walking and biking in the future? Fewer and fewer people want to be dependent upon their cars. I know I don't, and I'm so glad I'm not. If we had to get rid of it tomorrow, it would limit some of the things we could do in the winter (like seeing friends across town) but wouldn't be a disaster. I'd like to keep it that way, thank you.
I do know that this past summer there was an uproar in downtown Fairbanks over an initiative that was started to make downtown more walking and biking friendly. I tend to avoid the downtown area, because it's across town so it's harder for me to get to and it's a warren of confusing streets. Not fun. But the houses there are affordable, so it's a place I've considered for living. (The transit station is there, so I would be able to bus to and from work.) The biggest factor against that is that it's not a friendly place for walking and biking. There aren't really any grocery stores, and all of the amenities I've gotten used to having nearby would more than likely have to be driven to.
The initiative that was up for a vote was backed by almost all of the downtown businesses, but was killed by the city council. (I don't know what the reasoning behind it was.) They've placed more of an emphasis on building big box stores at the fringes of town than on rejuvenating the downtown businesses and for that I'm upset since it can only hurt my community. And in the long run, I see the steps they turned down as being necessary for my community.
I'm rethinking already considering who not to vote for the next time city council members are up for reelection.
As far as the book, "$20 Per Gallon", it was ok. Not great. I think that as an overview for some of the changes we'll have to make in the future it's decent, but the author takes an overly simplistic view of things. He derides some of the clean technology that's been come up with (wind, solar) and praises nuclear as the best option for the future. Granted, this was before the Japanese earthquake and the disaster at Fukushima. But I still don't think that nuclear is the direction we're headed in. It's expensive, and unlike that author I don't gloss over the small amount of very, very harmful byproduct it creates. I think we'll just have to do better than that in the future. Honestly, I'm excited for the new technologies that we'll come up with to work our way out of this problem. I don't think that we'll ever go back to living the way pioneers did because people are resourceful. We're not going to essentially go back in time.
The author also claimed that electric cars are the wave of the future. And yes, I see a lot of people moving that way right now (or at least to hybrids--I now know at least two people who own Priuses) but no matter what people say, electric cars are not zero emissions. You have to plug them in, and roughly 50% of the country's electricity is powered by coal. So they don't have oil fumes spewing out of them, true, but unless you're purely powered by wind and/or solar, they're producing harmful fumes somewhere. They're not zero emissions, just better than anything else we have.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday total

My house is already having an odd day today. For one thing, I woke up before dawn. On a weekend. (I woke up at about 9:00.) I woke up partly because the dog was trying to physically merge with me again and I was crushed against the wall, but also partly because I had a strange dream about decorating for Christmas. My family and Shane's family were together, and everyone was baking cookies, making bizarre and elaborate gingerbread houses, and carving pumpkins. Not into jack-o'-lanterns, but into representations of candles, flowers, and with abstract and beautiful swirling patterns. I never knew my mother had such an artistic flair for pumpkin carving before.
Shane was already up (he fell asleep around 9:30 last night while we watched a movie) and he said, "Don't be mad at her now, because it won't do any good, but the gingerbread you left on the counter...she got it." It was really my fault. What was left of the gingerbread was really stale and I wanted to throw it out, but the garbage was full so I left it on the edge of the counter thinking I'd get rid of it today. Now my dog keeps groaning and her tummy (which was looking nice and lean) is all bloated. Then she had the nerve to get upset when I fed the cat and not her! She's getting a huge walk today so burn off some of those calories.
Thanks to my dream, I really wanted to do something with pumpkin. I pulled out some of the frozen stuff and defrosted it. I pulled out a recipe I've been wanting to try for a while, pumpkin waffles. The original recipe can be found here. I, of course, made a few tweaks. For one thing, I doubled the recipe because I don't seem to have frozen pumpkin in a quantity smaller than 2 cups. Here's my version:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup corn starch (or a little bit less)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 big tsp ground ginger
Several dashes of the cloves (it comes out slowly, so it was maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon)
A few dashes of nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
2ish cups of pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar

I didn't make the maple-walnut syrup, mostly because we don't have walnuts. But also because I've moved on to reading a David Sedaris novel ("When You are Engulfed in Flames") and I wanted to read that while the waffles were cooking. Finally, I didn't crisp them in the oven because that just seemed like an unnecessary step to me, but feel free to if you prefer crispy waffles.
When I went back to the bedroom to tell Shane that the waffles were ready he said, "It smells sooo good back here!" After one bite he said, "Umm, I think this is how you should use up all the pumpkin we have left." Good to know. I always like it when I have a hit on my hands. Although, I do have a few more pumpkin recipes up my sleeve that I want to try, such as a pumpkin and pasta dish. But that will have to wait until the new year. (We leave in five days!)
Our total for this week hurts. I keep having to remind myself that we'll be gone for two weeks and therefore won't have to buy groceries, but that doesn't really help since we've spent at least the equivalent of our groceries on Christmas presents instead. (Not that I begrudge the Christmas presents--I came up with several for each of my brothers and Shane had to say no. I had to do the same thing when he got overly enthusiastic about gifts for some friends. "Umm, how much were we going to spend on them again?" "Oh...yeah. I guess I'll have to wait for birthdays.") So the total for this week was $120. And that was with coupons totaling about $15 in savings! (Don't be so impressed--one was for $10 off the total.)
Thankfully, our bill for this week should be much, much lower. Neither of us wants to leave a bunch of food in the fridge to go bad so all we're going to get is some cat food, some frozen fruit, and possibly some milk. (Yes, I decided to include pet food in our totals.) I wanted to not grocery shop at all, but Shane convinced me. The cat food is also necessary, since I don't want our petsitter to run out of it while we're away.
I'm sure we'll be relying on baked root veggie "fries" this week for our vegetables, but they're so good I don't care. I came home on Friday and cut into long slices some potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. I mixed them in some olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, and baked them at 400 for about 30 minutes. I ate a little bit much, but since it was veggies I don't feel so bad. They were good.
Almost 11:30 and the sun is finally starting to rise. Lovely!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Peak oil" might be right

I just started reading a book called "$20 Per Gallon" by Christopher Steiner. I can tell already that it needs to be read with a grain of salt, because it was written back in 2009. Statements like, "We could see $7/gallon gas by 2010" seem horribly dated by the eve of 2012, not to mention unbearably pessimistic. But that's not really what the book is about, anyway. It's an interesting thought project where he tries to imagine how the world would (will?) change at different price points for oil. He makes the excellent point that oil is in everything--only 40% of our total oil consumption is in the form of gasoline for cars. It's also in nearly ever commercial beauty product, every plastic, and in many synthetic chemicals. Think that ball is rubber? It's a synthetic petroleum substitute for rubber. (Real rubber comes from plants.) Your toothbrush is made of petroleum, and even most (if not all) of your food has either been shipped using petroleum, or packaged in some form of it.
So what makes me believe that peak oil might be real? Well, there's the price. It keeps going up and up and up. When I first started driving (in WA state) for a time the gasoline was $.97 per gallon. Halcyon days! For the last couple of years, gas has been hovering between $3.50-$4.00, depending on your area. That's with a huge decline in the amount of driving people have done during that same time period. The author points out that in the year 2008, people drove about 180 billion fewer miles than they had the year before. And the price still went up. Oh, not all at once. We might see big leaps every few years (as with the leap from $2/gallon gas to $4/gallon, which happened rather quickly) but for the most part I think prices will hold steady for the most part and rise rather slowly, without ever dropping significantly. $4/gallon has become our new normal hasn't it, after roughly 3 years of it? (At least, it's still about $4/gallon here, I don't know about your areas.) I have a hard time believing that speculation is the sole cause of the jump in price. Supply and demand are still the biggest indicators of price, and demand is still going up.
The more convincing argument to me, though, is simply to read the news and hear where oil companies want to get their oil from now. Places like the Arctic Ocean. I think of that as a place of last resort, because it's so damn difficult to get to and work with. There's no reason why any sane person would think, "I'll drill there! Fantastic!" unless they had no other choice. It's expensive, it's difficult, and it's dangerous. There's no way around those three facts.
Then there's the huge debate about the tar sands in Alberta. From what I've read, it actually takes more energy to get the oil out of the tar sands than it will create. (The difference is that the energy to extract is natural gas, rather than oil.) Even if it's not true, it's still a very energy intensive place to get oil from, so the profit margin is much slimmer. From any logical perspective, this makes no sense. Except that most things run on oil, not natural gas, so with that in mind (and factoring in the idea of profitability above any other considerations) it does make a weird sort of sense to go for it. But as with drilling in the Arctic, it's not easy and it's not cheap for the companies. In future prices, if they're allowed to move ahead with these projects, a certain amount of risk will need to be factored into the price of oil. Which means that prices will go up again. A lot. And since oil is so prevalent in our daily lives, everything else that's attached to or made from oil will also go up in price.
The last convincing argument for me is the fact that several oil industry insiders (most notably T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil magnate) have said that peak oil is real. Pickens, last I heard, has started a wind energy project. I can see how one might suspect him of fanning the flames of peak oil to get a leap on making his new venture profitable. What I find less easy to believe is that he'd jump ship on a very profitable venture to start a riskier and often less financially rewarding one. As with most things, it's easiest to follow the money. If oil barons think that oil won't be as profitable in the future, they'll move onto other profitable things.
We might wonder why more isn't being done to create a more sustainable, renewable system of energy. As with a lot of things, the answer is money. As long as oil is profitable, they'll keep pushing it. As long as people keep buying it, they'll keep producing it and charging as much as they can for it. It's simple economics.
I don't think that oil is going to "run out", as the common wisdom goes, and I'm not a "doomer". I don't think society will totally collapse because I think that changes will occur over a period of time rather than all at once. Oil won't disappear overnight, it's simply going to get too difficult to extract, and too expensive to use. I'm torn in my hopes for the future prices. On the one hand, people would make many different choices if gas got up to $20/gallon, or even $8/gallon. They'd drive less, be more economical with their energy consumption, probably utilize more naturally sourced things (since plastic would go up in price, too) and generally be forced into living greener lives because not doing so would be too expensive. However, this would also disproportionately hurt the poor. So many people are struggling as it is. What would happen to them? For that matter, what would happen to us? Heating oil is already horribly costly (I haven't priced it out lately, but I know it's at least a dollar or two more per gallon than regular gasoline) and we use it for so much of the year. What would happen to our rent if the price went up another dollar or two?
Speaking of which, when I spoke to my brother in California the other day he was shocked by the fact that our landlord can raise the rent by 10%. I guess in Cali there's a cap of 3-4% per year. I did say, though, that this is the first time in three years that the rent has been raised, so it's basically only about a 3% average increase. I never thought of it in percentage terms before, though. $100 doesn't seem that bad, but 10% seems like a lot.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's coming!

It's been snowing off and on for the better part of four days now. What little daylight we get at this time of year has been completely obscured by the clouds, and it's never actually been light. Just less dark.
It would be so depressing if I hadn't been keeping busy with lots of fun things! Monday night the boy came over to help me make cookies. We made three batches of cookies and one of gingerbread while watching "Home Alone". That kid gets funnier all the time! (And by "kid", I do mean my 23-year-old brother.)
I've almost finished reading "Little Women", which is just as good now as the first time I read it. Don't you love books like that?
And of course, Christmas is coming up! Drew told us last night at Pub Trivia that for our Christmas present, he's giving us a date to Pad Thai. He knows me so well! It's been months and months since we've been there, and I've been craving Thai food. But it's expensive, so I figured the next time we'd work it into our budget wouldn't be until February. Now we don't have to budget it out. :) And I didn't even have to tell him "I don't want Stuff as a gift."
I finally started working on those socks I've been wanting to knit while we were at Trivia last night. A couple of friends we haven't seen for a while came by and they laughed at me for it, but when that didn't dampen my excitement for the project ("Yeah, socks! I've been wanting to try this for so long!") they acquiesced. And then we (surprisingly) took third place, because we kicked butt at the "name this holiday song and the artist who sings it" category. I'm still kicking myself for forgetting that a particular duet was sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. (I got Crosby right, so half the points. I have it stuck in my head.) We got most of the rest correct, though. I do know my Christmas music.
On the ListenAlaska website I looked up tons of books to check out and read on my new Nook. So excited! I probably won't get around to them until we leave for the break, however, because I have a couple of loaner books from friends which I want to finish first.
Shane and I agreed to try not going grocery shopping again until after the new year starts. It should be fairly easy, since we've stocked up and we'll be leaving for Soldotna next Friday (or maybe Thursday night). Shane was worried that we wouldn't have enough fruits and veggies, but I pointed out all of what we'd bought (we now have potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, oranges, apples, a pear, lettuce, spinach, and cabbage--that's just the fresh stuff) and that reassured him. At the very worst, we have plenty of fruits and veggies in the freezer to see us through. And this will once again force us to stop relying on the grocery store so much. We have more food than we need in our house.
It's chillier today than it's been the past few days. Unfortunately, I didn't put on my longjohns today because I was too warm yesterday. And then my legs were cold on my walk to work. When will I learn my lesson not to judge the weather by what it did yesterday? It's so changeable around here!

Monday, December 12, 2011

What can a dollar buy?

Today, not much. If you're feeling like your dollar doesn't stretch as far as it used to, it doesn't. There are obvious problems, such as not getting a raise. (Most workers who are lucky enough to have a job haven't gotten a raise since around 2008. Have you? I recently wrote our governor to beg for the proposed 3.5% raise for university staff.) There's the fact that food and gas prices and just about everything else has gone up. And then, there are the sneaky ways that you don't realize you're paying more for less. I found this great article on Yahoo earlier today, about how packages (or sometimes, just what's in the package) are getting smaller but the price is staying the same, or even going up a little bit. They make the great point that deception in food packaging is a long standing tradition. It's one of the reasons I hate buying chips. You spend so much money on a giant bag that's really only half full. For the rest, you're paying for air. (And extra packaging! How much waste could be eliminated if they'd stop doing that?!) But now, it's gotten really bad. It's not just some brands, it's most of them. They do highlight a few that are still putting as much in their product as before, but in most cases you're paying a lot more for that. So not only can you not afford to buy as much, but when you do buy food there's not actually as much of it in a package as there used to be. Is it any wonder most of the media talk about the middle class being "squeezed"? That sure is a fitting description for what it feels like.
When you're getting just as much food, and paying a little more for the privilege, you're generally getting a lower quality product too. Have you looked at steaks in your area? After browsing the meat section at Fred Meyer the other day (just to see) I realized that all of the meats looked so much fattier. They're the kinds of things that I would never want to bring home and serve my family. I wonder what else is getting stretched that way?
The biggest drivers behind food prices are global warming related events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, and droughts--like the ones all over the U.S. this year) and the fact that nearly all of our crops can be traced back to four large companies. And yes, I am accusing them of price-fixing. They might not set the standard for what each grocery store charges, but they're certainly responsible for the costs of seeds (more and more of which are genetically modified and, therefore, patented) and for the costs of running a farm. (Monsanto, for instance, has both seeds that they sell and the pesticides that are used on them. And since the seeds are patented, the farmer has to buy from them every year. Also, the pesticides lose effectiveness over time and so the farmer has to buy more and more to keep their crops "safe".) It's a lovely situation we've gotten ourselves into, where most of us are paying an arm and a leg just to eat. With deceptive marketing practices, it's hard to know exactly what you're getting unless you read the fine print. I guess the only way to fight back is to read labels exceptionally well, and to keep growing more and more of your own food. Hunt it, fish it, grow it, cook it, bake it yourself.
It all makes me so mad.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday total

I feel like I have a rather grim total for this week: $108.45. Ouch. The worst part is, it's all from one receipt (Safeway) and at the bottom it says, "Items = 23". How is it possible to spend that much money on 23 food items?! It doesn't seem like much, but several of them were quite expensive: cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan) for the lasagna. Apples. Organic apple juice. I also bought lots of butter (and more today for the upcoming week's groceries; I count Sunday-Saturday, rather than Monday-Sunday) because of the cookie give-away at work. At $4/lb., it's quite pricey. If I spring for the organic stuff (which I sometimes do) it's over $5/lb. Oh food, why do you have to be so expensive?
Shane and I ran quite a few errands today, most of them for Christmas shopping. We got each other's gifts, and since we're terrible at keeping secrets from each other we gave them early. I got Shane some stuff from the Comic Shop (don't ask, I'm ashamed :) and he and a few friends pitched in together to get me a Nook! I'm very much looking forward to filling it with books, because I know there are a lot of free ones out there. Pretty much any book which is old enough to have had the copyright lapse, for instance, can be found for free. So many, many classics will be downloaded and read by me. I can also use ListenAlaska on it, which is the Alaska state library program for ebooks. I'm so excited! I know there are some good ones out there. When asked for our input about what books to request and order for it, I suggested books about gardening in Alaska. They had a couple of books about gardening, but none for Alaska specifically and as I've already found out, gardening advice that's geared toward the lower 48 doesn't really work here.
I should also be able to find plenty of novels, which will be fantastic. Some books I want to own just because I know I'll read them over and over (I'm re-reading "Little Women" for at least the 4th time right now) or loan to friends, but some I know I'll just read once and be done with them. Those would be best to borrow and read on my Nook.
Reading "Little Women" is making me want to knit socks. In nearly every chapter there's a reference to the girls knitting socks, either for themselves or for the war effort. And I could use some new socks.... That's a task for over the Christmas break, however. I'm too darn busy until then, and I'm very behind on my reading.
As for gardening, I spoke with L the other day about pitching in together to order seeds. She tried to grow peas this year but it turned out the variety she got was merely ornamental. So the moose had a lovely snack, but the people got nothing. Since I've already identified two varieties of heritage peas I wanted to try out ("Alaska" and "Early Frosty"), and I know they come in packs of at least 100 seeds, I asked if she'd want to split it with me. We'll see if we can get some more people to pitch in. For home use, we don't need nearly that many seeds!
Since it's nearly the turning of the year, I'm once again starting to get excited for gardening. I'm planning where I want to put things in the yard and I have my whole huge list of seeds to order. This year will hopefully be a big year for gardening for me. If I get all of the varieties of seeds I've identified, it would be over $100! (At $1.25-$2.00 per packet of seeds.) So you can see why I'm anxious to get others to pitch in. I've got everything from lettuces and spinach to peas, beans, and squashes. I'll have potatoes, of course. Now the only thing left to do is to figure out where everything will go, although I have a few ideas. This year I'm going to start prepping the garden space while the snow is still melting, when it's rather softer because of all the wet. Hopefully that will save me a bunch of backbreaking weeding later in the summer!
Anyway, the other gift we handed out today was to J&L. We got them a couple of gift certificates, one to SilverGulch for dinner and the other to the movie theater along with an offer to babysit so that they can spend some quality time together. So much better than more Stuff, don't you think? L was very excited. They were supposed to go on a date this past week, but J got caught up in a project and it never happened. Now she has leverage to drag him out of the house, which will be just as good for him as it is for her. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gingerbread house party and caroling

This has nothing to do with sustainability, it was just fun.
We went caroling around campus last night, for the third year. So much fun! It's funny every year, weather-wise. Last year it was -30 so we were all bundled up and toward the end our lips were going numb from the cold so it was hard to sing. This year it was fairly warm (I didn't even bring my winter coat, just wore a thermal shirt and my fleece) but it was snowing like crazy. I brought the dog along (bundled up in her coat and booties) and she barked at people when they opened their doors to us. It was funny, like she was trying to sing along. And since this was her first walk in several weeks, she had a blast.
We went through the family housing first, where we knocked on a few doors with wreathes and Christmas lights, then over to the student apartments. Most of us know people who live there so we knocked on quite a few doors. There was always a flurry of, "What song are we singing? Oh. Wait, what page is that on?!" at every door. But we made a lot of people laugh and smile. People in surrounding apartments would frequently stick their heads out of doors and windows to see what was going on. We made our way down to my brother-in-law's apartment where we did a very silly version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". We alternately sang it very fast or very slow (EG, the music teacher, directed us for the slow parts) and for the very last verse we got down to "two turtle doves" and when we paused Big D said, "Let's just go." So we left it hanging. When I saw Spencer later, he and M had thought that we planned it but we didn't.
The final caroling of the evening was actually to some foreign exchange students. They seemed so utterly charmed by the fact that there were real, actual carolers. One girl was even Skyping with her parents in Russia so she brought the laptop outside so that they could see and hear us. How fun is that? They gave us some candy as thanks for "the show".
After running home to change (I was so wet from the snow!), Spencer and M came to pick us up and we all went to AG and EG's place for the gingerbread party. They'd made a bunch of yummy chicken chili for everyone to eat and warm up with, so we stood around eating and talking and laughing for a while and people wrote down themes for the hat. The ones I put in were "Little Women" (because it's a Christmas story and I'm reading it right now) and "shark attack".
For the rest, well, I think the pictures will speak for themselves. Just as a warning, most of the themes were not at all classy or PC.
"Dr. Seuss's Vacation Home"
"The Cantwell Chevron Station". It burned down recently. That team took third place
"Victoria's Secret show for the impoverished". They took the award for "ugliest".
"Hippie Church". They got second place.
"Hipster house" with a greenhouse roof, solar panels on the other side, and a recycled materials chimney.
"Gingerbread Meth House".
This was ours. We won first place for our rendering of "The Farmer's Loop Transfer Station". We even put in John the Baptist, the homeless man who hangs out down there with shopping carts full of cardboard.

Cleanup day

For a few weeks I've been thinking that it would be a good great idea to clean up my papers. We've had papers all over the house for a while now, and most of them I didn't even know what they were. On top of that, I had two drawers in my desk full of papers that I hadn't looked at in a long time. Some of them I knew were important (like our lease) but I figured that most of them could be either recycled or shredded and then recycled.
How right I was.
I started with the papers I could see lurking around the house. Mail, quite a bit of it junk. I've signed up for something that's supposed to stop us from getting catalogs, so hopefully that will kick in soon. But we also get an astounding number of credit card offers. It's very petty, but they all come with a prepaid envelope so I tear up the offer and send it back to them. Of course, I also circle our names and tell them to take us off their list. Sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly cranky, I'll tell them to stop wasting paper and plastic. (It's not enough to send us the offer anymore, they have to send a stupid fake version of what the credit card would look like if we signed up for it!) I've mostly stopped getting offers, but Shane's still getting roughly three per week. Once I had them all stacked up and ready to be sent out, it was rather an impressive pile.
That's less than a month's worth. I got a few other things ready to be sent out while I was at it, which will clear away even more paper clutter. And I found this, which made me laugh out loud:
The ridiculousness of sending a paper thanking me for signing up for paperless billing and then telling me how green that is just kills me.
I tackled my desk next. The top has been covered in papers for so long. I cleared it off before the wedding, knowing that family would be coming to our apartment, but it filled right back up with wedding stuff, bills from my nose, etc. It's felt like a losing battle so what harm can I do to add one or two more pieces of paper? I even had all of the response cards from our wedding stacked up. I was going to do something with them so that we could always remember who came to our wedding. Then I realized, I'll never look at it and as an heirloom, it would kind of suck. What do future generations care? They won't know all of those people. That's what we have digital pictures for, anyway. So those got recycled, along with all of the bills from my broken nose and surgery. I've paid them, and don't really need to keep them around. (I have the receipts, though.)
The desk drawers were the places where I got rid of the most paper. Whew! The piles for both "shred" and "recycle" were larger than I thought they would be. In the end, I kept less than a quarter of what was in there: a letter from one of my little cousins, the leases for our current apartment and our cabin, tax forms, and a few other things. They don't even fill up one drawer! How wonderful to get rid of all that unnecessary stuff. And I found some Christmas wrapping paper while I was in there, totally unused. I can dress up some Christmas gifts with it now. Earlier this week, I found some wrapping paper from a few wedding gifts which is still in good condition. Since it's all white and gold with stars, I figure it's appropriately Christmas-y and we'll reuse it to wrap a few family gifts. The other item for re-use is a Christmas bag that's been passed around several times. I think when I reuse it this year it will be its fourth re-use. After all, bags don't get ripped like paper and they look lovely even after many uses.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to cleaning out and organizing our house. But I feel so much better knowing that I made a start today. If you need a little more motivation to start your organizational binge, you should watch this short video. What he says in the beginning, about carting that box around, is so true for so many of us. Why do we do it?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cookie dough

In case you haven't heard or read a report on this topic, apparently it was raw "ready to bake" cookie dough which caused so much illness recently--enough to send 36 people to the hospital. Now, I've been against pre-made cookie dough for a long time for a variety of reasons. One, the chemicals. Everything is preserved, processed, and stuffed with chemicals to make it seem "homemade" even after it's been in transit or on a store shelf for months at a time. Eww. But besides the "ick" factor, there's the ridiculousness of needing a convenience cookie. I mean, really? How many of us don't have time to make cookie dough? It's easy! No more than five minutes to mix up the dough, and you can do it while you're watching T.V. You're not really saving yourself any time because you still have to bake the darn things, without the fun part. Even better, when you make the dough yourself you can get your kids involved and spend time with them. How many people will let their small children handle the oven? Not many, because it's dangerous. But you'll let them pour a cup of sugar into the bowl, right? Crack a few eggs? How many of us remember doing that with our own parents and grandparents? Why on earth would you take that joy away from your kids? The whole concept is just absurd. It's convenience food without the convenience or the part of making cookies that's fun. The fact that people actually buy into the idea that they need pre-made dough makes me want to gnash my teeth.
My little brother came over last night for dinner and to watch "The Grinch". So I made cookies. They're whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, although I can't remember where I got the recipe. They're fine, but not great. I think I prefer my half white/half wheat plus oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They're still somewhat healthy, but they don't taste like it. :)
The boy will come over again on either Sunday or Monday because I'm going to be making tons of cookies for the library's annual finals cookie give-away. We set out cookies, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and such for students to nibble on while they study. It's fun for us to do and every year we get many, many thanks from grateful students. Most of them say that having that little pick me up made what would have been an awful final seem just a little bit better. This year, I think I'm going to bring in some bread and butter, too, so that there's a non-sugary thing to eat.
Also this year, the boy and I won't make the same mistake as last year. I guess I doubled the recipe when I wrote it down. So not remembering that, we doubled the written recipe last year and panicked a little bit when we filled up my largest bowl and still needed to add seven cups of flour. We had to transfer about half of it to another bowl and still filled both of them. It was hard to stir. Between that, the two other (double) batches of cookies we made, and the gingerbread I made we were baking for about 6 hours. It was ridiculous, but at least it gave us something to laugh about! And we always put on Christmas movies in the background and speaking along with our favorite parts. "Merry Christmas--in jail!" With everything going on, we end up laughing the afternoon away. And after all, spending time with family is the best part of the holidays.
Tonight, Christmas caroling around campus and a gingerbread house contest! My friends and I do this every year. Shane doesn't join us for the caroling because he's a terrible singer so it's not fun for him. But the rest of us wander around to the dorms, family housing, and apartments on campus to sing Christmas songs and bring a little cheer to the darkest time of year. Afterward, we go to our friends' house for a gingerbread house making contest where everyone teams up and pulls two themes out of a hat. You have to use one, or both. Last year Shane and I took second place with our "Starship Enterprise escaping from a black hole". The gingerbread and frosting are made by our chef friend, and everyone brings a candy to share. I'll try to get some pictures.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What a difference humidity makes

I said a few weeks ago that Shane and I had considered getting a humidifier, but decided not to because we'd have to buy one and it would increase our electric bills. However, when we went to Soldotna for Thanksgiving, Shane's parents had one that they wanted to get rid of so they asked us. It's huge, and old, and I'm certain our electric bill will go up, but we took it. And boy does it make a huge difference! Just in the week or so since we've had it working we've both noticed major changes. My hands don't get as dry, which means they're not cracking and I'm not slathering them with lotion all the time. We're not drinking the gallons of water we usually need to take in during the winter months. The cat isn't a bundle of electrically charged hair, so he enjoys being petted. The dog usually gets horribly dry, flaky, itchy skin in the winter but not this year. Finally, my bread rises better! I had always noticed that during the winter bread doesn't rise as well and speculated that it could be due to the humidity levels. Now I know, I was right. I made an oatmeal sandwich bread (half wheat flour, and instead of being chunky the oatmeal seems to dissolve into the bread leaving its flavor) the other day, and normally over the winter I wouldn't expect it to rise all that well. This time, both loaves turned out perfectly. Shane and I have enjoyed several sandwiches over the last few days (which is, oddly enough, a treat for me since I love sandwiches but we don't eat enough to justify keeping the ingredients on hand at all times) and it's such a pleasure to know that I made these perfect slices of bread. Yum! (Am I making you hungry? Because it's working on me.)
Speaking of bread, I decided that I also wanted to get rid of our bread maker. I tried it a couple of times and the loaves never quite turned out right. Plus, I just enjoy making bread. It's not a chore, so why would I want to have something else do it for me? So when our friend came over to get the glass jars and water pot, I gave her the bread maker too. Hopefully she'll enjoy it. If not, since she's a like-minded person, I'm sure she'll pass it along rather than throwing it away. :)
Since I'm focusing on reducing waste, I figured I should mention TerraCycle. This is a company that specializes in taking in waste that's either difficult or impossible to recycle at the municipal level. They then turn these items into other things, generally by upcycling. Pretty neat, huh? I'm trying to figure out which "brigades" I want to join. I'm thinking that at the very least the personal care and beauty products one would be nice. We don't go through that many bottles anymore because we've been focusing on using less (a little less shampoo, a little less handsoap, etc.--do we really need a full pump of soap or a giant glob of shampoo?), but I could collect the bottles and send them in about once a year. Even better, I could get a bunch of people to join me and we could send in our stuff together. The only thing I don't like about this company is the blatant advertising. If they're trying to get rid of waste, why are they advertising for blatantly un-green companies like Frito-Lay and Garnier? Those companies now don't have any incentive to reduce their wasteful packaging. I'll send TerraCycle my stuff, but I still feel it's a little ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fake vs. Real Christmas trees?

I'm not actually going to argue in favor of either one here. I honestly think that the argument has been made very well for both sides ad nauseum. (If you're still not sick of the debate, you can read an overview of the arguments here, although it doesn't do anything to clear up the issue. In the best journalistic style, the author presents a few facts without an opinion.) If you truly want an alternative, you can go to this website and make a donation which will not only plant some trees, but also help people in poor countries. (Here's the article I read which talks about it. Unlike a lot of charities, this one actually works with the locals to build a better, more sustainable community.)
Shane and I do have a little (not quite five feet tall, because it's shorter than me) fake tree. When I bought it, I wasn't thinking about, "Is it good for the environment?" or anything like that. I was just sick of going without a Christmas tree. And since it's just the two of us (three last year, with my little brother), and we visit family for Christmas every year, I didn't see the point of keeping a real tree. There's no way we would have kept up with the watering and it would have just been a fire hazard. Also, there's not enough space in our apartment for a big tree, or even a short round tree. This one has just the right amount of girth to be nice and noticeable, but it doesn't take up a huge amount of space.
The only downside to this tree is that it's rather lightweight. We'll see how it does this year, but last year the cat knocked it over several times (chasing the lights and the ornaments) and broke a few ornaments. We eventually weighted down the tree, but not before we had some casualties. Shane lamented the fact that his motorcycle Santa was missing half of his motorcycle, since we never did find it.
Will I get a real tree when we have a family of our own? Probably. I grew up with real trees, and there's just something about them that's hard to beat. In my opinion, they always look better and there's the wonderful, subtle smell. But Shane grew up with a fake Christmas tree, so we'll see how he feels about it when the time comes to decide. If we opt for a real tree, or even a bigger fake tree, this one will get donated so that someone else's holiday can be that much brighter.
The ornaments we used were all of Shane's ornaments from childhood, which his mom saved, boxed up, and sent home with us last Thanksgiving. The only others we have at this point are ones which are given out at the symphony's holiday concert. A local engineering firm sponsors the concert (which is a big deal with three singing choirs, a handbell choir, and the symphony) and they give out etched glass ornaments. Two years ago Shane and I accidentally each grabbed one so we had two flutes, but I traded one with my friend who was in the symphony the year they gave out the violin ornaments.

This year it was a piano. Last year was the conductor, which Shane and I still laugh about. "What, you don't want Dr. Zilberkant on our tree? Why not?" I mean, in addition to the face he's making (when he conducts, he makes faces like the music is so beautiful he's in pain, and they chose to portray an action scene, I guess) there's the sheer irony of having an ornament of my Jewish conductor on my Christmas tree. That ornament is so full of awesome!
At some point, I'll get my parents to send along my ornaments and then Shane's skiing mouse can share space with my clothespin ballerina. I know that some people like to get rid of all of their ornaments every year so that they can "start fresh" each year and have a new "theme" a la Martha Stewart, but I don't buy into that idea. Our ornaments have meaning to us. It's fun every year to pull them out when we decorate as a family and say, "Oh, look! This is one of my favorites!" Or hand someone an ornament that's special to them. My parents still have a couple of ornaments from their first year as a married couple, and even more sentimental ones which belonged to their parents (who have all passed away). No amount of professional decorating or "perfect" coordination can make any Christmas tree more special than using our old, sometimes shabby, ornaments. Who needs new ones every year when we have boxes of meaningful ones to hang? Even the oldest, with its chipping paint, looks beautiful hanging on the tree. That ballerina I mentioned? My mom bought it for me (after a little bit of wheedling and begging) when we were at the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" with dear friends. I get to remember how much fun that was every time I see that ornament. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas, and the tree is a big part of that.
Speaking of Christmas, I found this heartbreaking article about how little kids are asking for themselves for Christmas. Most of what they're asking for are things like "jobs for mommy and daddy" and food. It makes me want to cry. No child should ever have to wish for enough to eat, or heat, or shelter as their Christmas gift.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In trade

Shane and I have continued our obsession with hot mulled cider. We've been buying lovely organic cider, which comes in 3 quart glass jars. They're a wonderful size and I'm sure they're useful for something, but I couldn't think of what to use them for in our house other than Shane's cold-pressed coffee. (The cold pressing doesn't have as much acid, so it's better for his stomach.) But we don't need as many jars for that as we have, and the collection is growing. What to do with the rest? I hate to waste them.
We also got another wedding present the other day. From my brother and sister-in-law. (I sent theirs really late, too!) They sent a lovely electric kettle, which is stainless steel and about three times larger than our old plastic one. I bought that one for my dorm room, and wanted a small one so that it would pack into my suitcase nicely when it needed to. Nice for the dorms, inconvenient now for two people who go through a surprising amount of hot water. I've already used it quite a few times and it's a lovely addition to our kitchen supplies.
It also left me with the quandary of what to do with the old kettle? The obvious answer was, give it away. If no one of my acquaintance wanted it, I could always stuff it in my give-away bag. So I posted on Facebook about it, and while I was at it I asked if any cabin dwellers wanted some glass jugs to hold water. In less than five minutes, a friend responded that she wanted both! So we made plans for her to come get them. Another friend, seeing our FB back-and-forths, asked friend one if she could also drop off a bowl that friend two had left at her cabin? That way she could just get the bowl from me since we see each other far more often than they do. That is very much a win, in my opinion.
I'm constantly looking at our stuff and trying to figure out what's useful and what's just Stuff. What can I get rid of? A few things which I'd be happy to part with (like our panther coffee table, which is pretty useless as a coffee table, since the top isn't connected to the base and it's constantly in danger of tipping over) I'm not sure Shane would be as happy about getting rid of. Currently, the coffee table acts more as a shield to keep the dog away from the litter box. It just takes up space, gathers dust, and yes, keeps the dog from eating disgusting things. (There's literally no other place in our apartment to put a litter box except the corner. Our bathroom is too small, the cat can't get into the garage, etc.) But I'm sure we could find something else to do that and get rid of that ugly table, which we never use. A friend of ours had an idea for turning a plastic tote into a giant litter box, but I haven't brought the idea up with Shane yet.

Monday, December 5, 2011, Monday Total

Honestly, I just didn't feel like doing a weekly tally yesterday. I tried, but blogger bugged out and since I was in a bad mood (the stupid dog is eating anything that's not nailed down, including my food when I'm silly enough to leave it within her reach for all of one second) I decided that I'd forget about it for the time being. And immerse myself in Christmas-y glory. It was the holiday concert yesterday (fun!) and we put up our little (fake) tree. In addition, during the evening I turned on "The Muppet Christmas Carol" and made gingerbread. Well, what was left of it after I ate roughly a pound of dough. I made two pans of it, and unfortunately one of them is burnt. I was going to send that along with Shane to visit a professor (who I know loves gingerbread) but I'll have to make a new one. I'm sure we'll find some way to use up the gingerbread. It's too tasty to waste, even when it's burned! (Also, expensive! My recipe calls for 1 cup of molasses for each batch. Two batches nearly killed my jar.)
I mentioned to Shane last night that it would be fun to have my brother over for dinner, since we haven't invited him over recently. Shane said, "You just want to watch 'The Grinch' with him, don't you?" MIND READER! When I just sat laughing silently Shane added, "Yeah, that's right. I can read you like a book."
So our total for last week is pretty impressive: about $40. We didn't have to buy any fruit, since my MIL bought us two boxes of mandarin oranges (they're $10/box around here, and only $5.60/box on the peninsula) and we had plenty of meat, some previously purchased and frozen veggies, etc. The only stuff we bought were things like coffee, milk and butter.
This week will not be so good, since we're now almost out of food in the house. At least, food to make a meal out of. I'm not going to eat plain lasagna noodles or frozen and shredded zucchini.
The winter storm that was supposed to ravage the interior actually isn't so bad. At least, for me. It got up to about 40 above yesterday (meaning 80 degrees warmer than it was two weeks ago) due to the Chinook winds so everything started melting and it's made the roads just awful. At the concert yesterday, I heard one family saying that they'd brought overnight bags in case they couldn't make it back out to their house for the night. The district cancelled school for today so that families don't have to brave the iciness, but the university is still open. I'm of two minds about this. I was perfectly able to get to work today (unlike the ice storm last Thanksgiving, when it was dangerous and difficult for me to walk), but most people don't walk, they drive. And there's no denying that the icy roads are dangerous. Even the walking made me thankful that I'm young, since I slipped (and caught myself) a few times--I'm not worried about breaking bones, but I know that's a serious danger for older people. Even walking to and from their vehicles can be dangerous on the ice. So in that regard, I disagree with the chancellor and think the university should be closed. But I also know some students are thankful that it's open because they have campus jobs and need the money. I shouldn't be selfish and hope for campus to close because I want an extra day off. (If campus closes due to the weather, staff and faculty would get paid administrative leave. Student workers wouldn't, I don't think.)
It's cooled down again, now. Not super cold, but the wind is still blowing (and not the lovely Chinook wind, which feels warmer than the rest of the air when it's blowing) and it was a chilly walk this morning. I ended up wrapping my scarf around my head like an old woman to keep my ears warm. I'm pretty sure I looked ridiculous.
Waking up at 6:45 after sleeping in until 11:00 the day before is just miserable. Not because I couldn't get to sleep last night, but because I hate waking up in the dark. At nearly 11:00 right now it's still plenty dark outside, and yesterday I decided that I wanted to have at least one day of the week when I didn't wake up until it was daylight. The cloud cover sort of ruined my dream of waking up to sunshine. Sun, please come back!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Stormy days

I read about the huge wind storm that whipped through the Southwestern U.S. the other day. My brother and sister-in-law live in L.A. so I spent a good amount of time texting them yesterday to be sure everyone was ok. Apparently, their apartment is rather sheltered so they didn't get the brunt of the storm. They did, however, get to see someone else's rain gutter come flying into their yard. Other than that, the cats went crazy but all was well.
So now it's our turn. There's a big storm brewing for Alaska that could dump 1-2 feet of snow. We're not actually used to that in the interior (that's more like Valdez's snowfalls) so it should be interesting. Add the wind to it and "blizzard-like" conditions and I'm not quite sure what's going to happen. But you know that if they're telling everyone to only drive in emergencies, and warning that there might be road closures, this is going to be one heck of a storm.
The only real downside that I see to this is that it's been dark the past couple of days. Even when the sun is up, the cloud cover is so thick that it's not very light. It's really been getting me down. I hate that the light affects me so much, but it really does. And I'm not the only one. I was talking with a friend last night who was saying that he and his roommate have been very snappish with each other. Shane's been cranky and downright unpleasant to be around at times. I've been short-tempered with the dog (who, admittedly has been a brat--she did try to eat that frozen meat outside, despite Shane's claims that she shouldn't be able to smell it!) and tired. I can't wait for the sun to come back. I think I'll throw on some Christmas carols then curl up with a good book and some tea to cheer myself up.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Apparently, Marie Calendar's and I have different definitions...

of "homemade". I was watching some awful Christmas movie on Hulu earlier (don't ask) and there kept coming up a commercial for Marie Calendar's pie. I couldn't find it on Youtube, but I'm sure watching some smarmy movie on Hulu is a quick way to see it. Anyway, they claim that eating their "homemade" (or was it "home baked"?) pie is an amazing "tradition" for the holidays. Ummm, where are they getting their definition of homemade? Since when is a factory "home"? And even if they went for "home baked" rather than homemade, buying something frozen and then putting it in the oven doesn't make it a home product and it's pathetic for advertisers to try making it seem like it is. I don't load my homemade pies with preservatives. Do you? Marie Calendar's should be ashamed, and I'm so glad I never buy stuff from them.
I'm certain that there's never really been such a thing as "truth in advertising", but this Christmas the advertisers seem to be hitting new lows. Also, it reminded me why I hate watching Hulu.