“I was lit from within, burning with means and ends”

This week went by too fast. I’ve been very busy with band, work, and fun stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jets to Brazil this week, which GG thinks sounds too sad for my taste, but I still really enjoy that band (and there is enough happy stuff to keep my interest).

We had some work done at the house. It was noisy and expensive, but I think it’ll be a huge improvement. I haven’t seen it in the light yet, but so far in the dark it looks nice :o)

Tonight was our quarterly Girls Night Out dinner. Since it’ll be the last one before the holidays (though we may have a holiday get-together at someone’s house), I thought it would be fun to do some sort of gift exchange. We decided to do a “favorite things” exchange, where each person brings one of their favorite things (under $10) for each other person. So everyone leaves with one favorite thing from everyone else. It went so well! It was fun going around the table as we unwrapped each person’s gift and they explained what it was and why they chose it. One of the funniest things was that Jen gave everybody two different colors of her favorite lip gloss. The colors I got were Peach Moonstone, which I decided sounded like a p0rn star, and Rich Garnet, which sounds like her male co-star (and is also a nice color, I tried it when I got home!).

This weekend we were planning to meet up with friends at my alma mater for Homecoming, but that trip has been canceled, due to the impending snowstorm! The way it’s been messing things up already, we’d better actually get some snow in this storm! I’ve heard everything from half an inch of slush, to 10 inches of snow. So we’ll see what we get. At least I bought new snow boots just in time!

Meal Planning

There’s a message board I read where people often post the dinners they have planned for the week. I sometimes share my own menu plans there. Today someone commented, “I love that you all plan your weekly meals!”

Is that weird to do? If I didn’t plan things out ahead of time, I’d be going to the supermarket every day, picking up things to make that night’s dinner. We don’t have a ton of food storage space, so I can’t just have things on hand all the time. And I like to use fresh ingredients, so I can’t really stock up on everything too far in advance.

I usually go food shopping on Saturday or Sunday. So my general routine is:

  • Sit down with GG and look at our schedules for the week to see what nights we’ll be home. (I only plan meals for nights we’ll both be home for dinner – otherwise, I can feed myself if he is out, or he has things he can cook for himself if I’m not home.)
  • Ask GG if there’s anything he feels like eating that week. (Usually he doesn’t have much of a preference. If he does request something, it’s often something weird that’s not even a meal, like, “Can you just sautee a big pan of different kinds of mushrooms?!”)
  • If I still need dinner ideas, I’ll look at the food I have on hand to see if there’s anything I can use for meals (like I said, I don’t keep a lot in stock, but maybe if something was on sale last time I bought two of them, so I still have one left), or I’ll flip through a cookbook or my recipe binder.
  • I am by no means an Extreme Couponer or even a Moderate Couponer, but I’ll look through my little folder of coupons to see if I have any for things I am already planning to buy. I don’t plan menus around what’s on sale or what coupons I have, so when something matches up it’s a pleasant surprise.
  • Then I go to the store for my weekly trip, which goes pretty quickly because I know the store well and have a well-organized list. If GG comes with me it takes a little longer because he’ll do things like spending 10 minutes deciding what type of ceral to buy :o) With my years of supermarket cashier experience, I’m also very organized about checking out and bagging, so I always bag my own groceries (in my RuMe bags!).

So, is this a weird, old-lady type thing to do? The Extreme Couponers seem to be way worse. And I remember my grandmother would organize her shopping list and coupons in order by supermarket aisle (I don’t know my store that well). Is it weird to even plan out a week’s meals in advance? I like not having to worry about it as I’m leaving work, and in fact having something to look forward to that night…

“A Love That Multiplies”

I took some notes shortly after I finished the book, but that was over a month ago now, so I figured I should get this published before I forgot everything.

A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it Work, is the second book written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. This one has more words and less pictures than The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, but it’s not written any better and still has a lot of the same annoying traits (e.g. switching between narrators without warning, and including random photos and recipes in the middle of often serious stories).

The book is basically like reading a written version of “19 Kids and Counting,” their TV show, starting with Josie’s birth at the beginning of season 4. It covers all the hardships of spending time with her in the hospital, moving the family to Little Rock, and caring for Josie once they finally move back home. They also talk a lot about Grandpa Duggar’s illness and death, and how this affected their family. But there is really nothing here that we didn’t see on TV, except maybe a little more about the timing and specifics of what went on – if you believe it. I had a feeling that a lot of what they said was sort of backpedaling and re-framing things to make them seem better.

Much of the rest of the book seems to be a “shut up, Internet!” response to a lot of criticisms people have about the family. For example, it’s common knowledge that the Duggars only ever eat canned and processed foods. “We try to have veggies and fruits for snacking. …Our goal is to encourage eating veggies and fruits, low-fat proteins, and whole grains,” they reply. (Meanwhile, almost every recipe in this book, much like their previous one, includes almost all processed foods and nothing fresh.) Another common impression is that the Duggars don’t care about educating their kids, especially the daughters, who they only want to go on to breed large families of their own. They write, “We are totally supportive of our daughters deciding to become firefighters – or just about anything else they feel the Lord is leading them to do. Our goal is to provide all of our children with a solid scholastic education so they’re prepared to pursue whatever additional training or education they feel led to do.”

In addition to discussing the major family storylines that were already covered on their show, there were also lots of references to mission work and service, but mostly only what’s been shown on TV (mission trips to El Salvador, the telethon, donating blood, etc.), leading me to believe that that’s all they’ve done – otherwise, wouldn’t they have written about something their fans might not have already seen? There was also some story about how Josh bought 125 Big Mouth Billy Bass toys on clearance and made a profit by selling them back to other stores and individuals.

The book includes lots of recipes, again on pages where they are totally unrelated to the story (e.g. premie Josie is in the hospital, fighting for her life, “Apple Dumplings!” or, talking about two grandfathers dying and Josie being born, “Tortilla Soup Grandioso!”), with almost no fresh ingredients. Some of the grossest are the Corn Dip (butter, cream cheese, frozen corn, pureed jalapenos) and Layered Salad (head of lettuce, eggs, bacon, canned peas, small chopped onion, mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar cheese). I don’t think I will be eating Duggar-style anytime soon.

Overall, if you love the Duggars or love to hate the Duggars, you would probably enjoy reading this book.

“This truck can practically find its own way without my help”

On Thursday I randomly decided to work from home the next day, so Friday was nice and relaxing (except for a lot of last-minute work stuff, as seems to be usual for Fridays lately).

GG and I went out to an appointment on Saturday morning. Then I came home and did some things around the house, before grabbing a nap, and then we drove 100 miles away to L & S’s place for S’s birthday party. Even though it was a long trip, it was a lot of fun. GG even behaved himself, for the most part. Or maybe it was that most of the guests were people who really appreciated him.

We’d been invited to spend the night, but we left sometime before 11 PM and got home sometime before 1 AM. I just didn’t want to wake up out there on Sunday morning and then have to drive all the way home, because I knew we wouldn’t feel like doing anything after that, and I had stuff to do on Sunday.

So Sunday morning we were able to wake up at a reasonable time. GG wanted to come out with me for errands – I don’t think he realized this was going to be a mega errand day. We were gone for hours, but it was a very productive trip. Then I spent the afternoon cleaning and organizing at home, and spent the evening catching up with my DVRed shows (it’s only a been a few months, but what did I ever do before DVR?), and watching TV with GG.

My “extreme couponing” moment of the week: Bottles of the vitamins I take were buy 1, get 1 free, plus I had a $1.50 coupon for them. So I got two bottles ($29.98 total value) for $13.49. My overall savings for grocery shopping this week was 22%, which is good, I like to be around 20%.

Linky Thursday – 10/6

Samuel L. Ipsum: I wish I had more occasions to use Lorem Ipsum in my life, because there are some really funny generators out there…

Worst Missoni for Target Web-Order Horror Story: Target screwed up majorly with this designer release. Maybe they shouldn’t have scheduled it so soon after the launch of their (still buggy) new web site…

Men Photographed in Stereotypical Pin-Up Poses: These are pretty hilarious. I like the power tool guy, he looks surprised to be there.

TMBG’s “Join Us” TLA Show (or, When I Knew I was Old)

I have to start by saying what I said to GG on Friday night, which is that we used to meet really cool people at TMBG shows, and it was the one kind of concert I could go to and feel like I fit in. However, if that wasn’t the last time we go see a They Might Be Giants concert, it was maybe at least the last time we try to stand up front near the stage. We are now officially old, there is a new generation of TMBG fans, and they are insane.

The evening started with us getting stuck in more traffic than expected getting into the city, leaving us with less time for dinner than we’d planned on, so we went to Jim’s Steaks for cheesesteaks. Then we moseyed over to the TLA, where there was weirdly no line in front of the venue! Usually there’s a line of people going down the block, and it was pretty close to showtime. GG went to the window to ask if the doors were already open, and they directed him to this alley at the end of the block, where we found the actual line. I guess the other businesses there didn’t want people lining up and blocking them (I don’t blame them). The line was already pretty long, but it got much longer after we got there. (There was also a second, shorter line, for people who paid extra for a “VIP fast pass” or something. But guess what – we all ended up in the same place when we got inside, they just got there like ten minutes sooner.) Then it started drizzling a little. And some guy walked along the line, looking for “donations” for his “church” and offering to pray with people. The two guys in front of us had no clue how to deal with him, or in fact, how to act in public. The people behind us were a little more reasonable. GG politely waved the guy away when he got to us, which I was very impressed with.

Finally the line started moving, and we made our way inside. There was no pat-down or bag checking of any kind. I had a pretty big purse and could have brought anything in there with me! People standing around us had all kinds of drinks in bottles and cups. Also, there was lots of flash photography throughout the entire concert (this got me yelled at last time, when my flash went off accidentally before the show even started). I didn’t take flash photos because I think it’s rude to the performers. But it seems that the rules have loosened up a bit. We got a nice spot about 4-5 people back, at the left side of the stage. And then we waited.

During this time, we realized that we were standing behind a group of insane people. GG even referred to them as “escaped mental patients,” which says a lot, coming from him. Even without any music playing, one guy was dancing around, wildly waving his arms around. Another had a long puffy ponytail that bounced up and hit GG in the face as he jumped up and down. GG spoke to them several times, it was awesome. Then there was this crazy girl behind us with multiple face piercings, a hoodie that looked like an alien, and a knit cap that looked like a dinosaur with spikes. How she was not overheating, I’m not sure. I was just in a t-shirt and was so sweaty by the end of the night. One of the crazy guys went over and awkwardly flirted with her for a few minutes before the show started.

The opening act was Jonathan Coulton, who I’ve never seen and I’m not familiar with a lot of his music, but I knew I would enjoy him. And I would have, if his fans were not completely insane (at least, the ones near us were). At one point he said that his song was featured in a video game, and everyone around us started gasping and saying, “Oh, he wrote this song?!” Somehow they knew every word. I have no idea what game they were even talking about. (Not that I would have recognized the music anyway, video games are not allowed in our house.)

After the first act, GG and I switched spots with some guys standing to our left, putting them closer to the center of the stage (and the crazy people), and also giving me a slightly less obstructed view. These guys eventually moved away, putting us next to the crazies again. But also next to us in our new spot were a very nice 21-year old couple, who restored our faith in TMBG fans because they were just as ticked off as we were. Behind us were a group of guys who shouted out the name “Tim Jones!” during any pause in the music, as if they were requesting a song. It took us a little while to realize that Tim Jones was a guy who was with them, and they just wanted TMBG to say his name on stage. GG turned around at one point and bet them a billion dollars that They would not give a shout out to Tim Jones, and guess what, they didn’t. Where’s that money, guys?

TMBG took the stage and opened with “Philadelphia,” of course. I don’t know why everyone was surprised by this. GG and I were more surprised by Dan W’s incredibly tight red pants. The stage set-up was also a little different. There was a large screen behind them that displayed video of random things (dog bones, scissors, underwater shots, etc.), none of it really related to any song. There were videos during about half the pieces they performed. I guess so as not to block this screen, Marty’s drum set was off to the left, toward the front of the stage. It was cool to actually be able to see a drummer! They played a number of selections from Join Us that I was pleased with: “When Will You Die,” “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” “Celebration,” “Judy is Your Viet Nam.” They played a bunch of really old stuff that I liked: “Don’t Let’s Start,” “XTC vs. Adam Ant,” “Ana Ng,” “Subliminal.” They played newer stuff that was a nice surprise: “We Live in a Dump,” “Take Out the Trash,” “Withered Hope,” “Hollywood,” “Careful What You Pack.” And they played the ones I am so sick of: “Particle Man,” “Istanbul,” “Clap Your Hands,” and a new addition to the list, “Cloisonne” (even though it features Linnell on bass clarinet, and they mention Sleestaks, and it’s probably actually a very dark song about a meth lab).

We got to experience a couple of new things they’ve been doing on this tour. First, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which is actually one of the hidden tracks from Severe Tire Damage. With a big flashlight, an angry Flans drew a line down the center of the audience with “Apes” on one side and “People” on the other. (We were on the People side, though we don’t participate in things like this, so it didn’t matter.) While the Dans and Marty jammed, the People side chanted “People! People! People!” Then while the Johns played, the Apes shouted “Ape! Ape! Ape!” Eh, at least it was better than the conga line thing they were doing when we saw them three years ago. Then we also saw the Avatars of They, which are these weird knitted puppets representing the Johns that they use to perform “Spoiler Alert,” but it was this whole thing where they did a TV show sponsored by Epic Fail Bologna, and it included GG’s favorite exchange of the evening: “Tell me about the ’60s again?” “Whoaaaa…”

As usual, there were two encores (GG foolishly turned around to leave after the first one), and the show ended around midnight. Overall, a great performance, but man, was the crowd horrible! I think from now on we’ll be in the back of the room or on the balcony. GG figured out that the people around us were probably kids when TMBG’s kids albums started coming out (based on the fact that someone shouted out that they were 16). So here’s that new generation of fans They were trying to cultivate.

What I Did on My Random September Vacation

I had a bunch of vacation time to use up (still do, actually), and not much going on for the last week of September, so I took a week off work. Luckily, I didn’t actually go anywhere, since apparently I can just never take actual time off work. During this week I had to check e-mail every day, do a bunch of emergency stuff, and have another phone call with the people we’re training in China! I guess it’s good to be needed, but I need to train some back-ups, too!

Sunday: I’ll say my vacation started on Sunday, when GG and I went out to the PA Ren Faire where we met up with L, S, and E. We also saw J, who works there. It was a great day. I thought for sure it was going to rain, but it actually turned out to be warm and occasionally sunny. We saw a lot of shows, including acrobats, the mud show, the falconer (GG volunteered to be in one of the tricks and got slapped in the face by a Red Tailed Hawk!), a funny singing group, a cool band, and the human chess match. We also ate a lot, and the guys drank a lot, too. It seemed a lot better than the last time I was there, I think in 2002.

Pickles on sticks – my new favorite snack!

GG and the other volunteers with a hawk flying past!

A very cool acrobat couple

Relaxing on a rock with a drink and some snacks, watching the human chess match, was a nice way to wrap up the afternoon

Monday: I slept in a little on Monday, but not for too long, because I had a big day planned. GG and I were planning to go to this huge furniture outlet on Tuesday to look for a new sofa, so I wanted to go to all the local furniture places on Monday to see what styles were out there and get an idea of prices, so we’d know if we were getting a good deal at the outlet. I had four places on my list, but actually only ended up going to three, because one I’d checked out online and knew they were expensive and didn’t really have what we were looking for. The first place I went had a couple nice things, but when I made it clear that I wasn’t buying anything right that moment, the guy gave me this sob story about how he works only for commission, bla bla bla. I hate that pressure. At the second store I went to, they pretty much told me outright they didn’t have what I was looking for. The last place I went seemed to have a lot of nice things, but the saleswoman who grabbed me was utterly clueless (to be fair, the place had only been open about a week), and seemed fixated on this one designer line of furniture. I told her we were going to look at one other place the next day and then would be back. That afternoon, I had to pick GG up from the place where he’d dropped his car to get fixed. It was rush hour and I had a very limited idea of where I was going. By the time I got there and found him, I was hot and had a headache. I felt awful for the rest of the night, as I slept it off. I don’t think I even ate dinner.

Tuesday: This was the big day – GG had also taken the day off work, and we planned to drive out to the Morgantown Outlet Mall, basically a huge mall selling nothing but furniture, mostly sofas. That’s where we got our last sofa set, as well as our dining room table and chairs. You can spend all day just trying out sofas, and when you pick the one you like they will ship it to you. We got there, and huge banners announced that the whole mall was closing! To be replaced with an auto auction, we learned! All the remaining stock had been consolidated into just a couple stores. So even though there were some good deals to be had, we didn’t really see anything we liked. However, GG found a cabinet that was perfect for his scotch collection. He’d been looking for something for a while that would hold the tall bottles, his little glasses, and match our dining room furniture. So the trip wasn’t a total waste. Also, we went to the Sonic out there for an early lunch. But, they mixed up our drinks and I drank half of his low-cal cherry limeade before we realized that he had my strawberry limeade! (I thought the drink was just really bad…) On our way home, we stopped at the furniture store with the clueless lady again. This time, she came around with us while GG and I examined Every. Sofa. In the. Entire. Store. And guess what – we found exactly what we wanted! We were torn between the Summer Day line and the Coral & Sage line, but in the end went with Coral & Sage because the pieces were slightly larger, we liked the sofa cushions more, and the fabric choices were better. We’re getting the sofa, armchair, and ottoman in a tan microfiber. So excited! They should be here by Thanksgiving :o/ Then we went to pick up GG’s car (this time less stressful, since I knew where I was going), and went out to dinner, and then GG went to practice with his new (old) band while I stayed home for my second and final teleconference with China.

Wednesday: I went out to brunch with my old friend M. The last time I’d seen her was last summer, when she was pregnant. This time we were joined by baby J! (He is a good baby, and very cute.) We caught up over some nice french toast at this diner she’d always wanted to try. On my way home, I went to the outlets, where I picked up a bunch of clothes – so if I start complaining that I have nothing to wear, someone remind me of this! Then I came home and caught up on a little work before band practice. It was sort of weird going to band, since it was like the one thing I did all week that was part of my normal routine.

Thursday: I’d had nightmares since ordering that sofa on Tuesday that we chose the wrong color. I wanted something kind of similar to the color of what we have now. So when the furniture store opened in the morning, I went over with one of the pillows from our current sofa, to compare it to the fabric swatch. Yes, the tan color we’d picked (“Honey”) was kind of bright and yellow-y. The next shade lighter was way too light. But the next shade darker (“Coffee”) was almost the exact color of the pillow I brought. It took going through three different people, and calling back later in the evening to confirm, but I was able to change our order – phew! I am much happier with this color choice! After that trip, I picked up some food and went to my grandmother’s to have lunch with her. (I’d wanted to take her out, but she couldn’t leave since she was having some work done at the house.) We had a nice visit. Then I did a couple other errands before heading home.

Friday: After doing some work, I headed back out to the outlets to return something I’d bought on Wednesday. I justified the trip back there by also getting cheap gas at the new Costco next door. I picked up some lunch on my way home, then spent the rest of the afternoon on the sofa… working. That evening, GG and I headed out to see TMBG! That concert needs its own post, suffice to say Their weird fans have wrecked yet another show for us. A nice couple standing next to us helped restore my faith in Their younger followers, but maybe from now on we will stand somewhere other than directly in front of the stage, as that seems to be prime real estate for all the insane people…

Saturday: Heading out soon for Octoberfest with MB and A..!