Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knitting: Oh come on already...

The Knit Picks Classic Lines Cardigan has killed my will to knit.  Before it was just a suspicion, now it's confirmed.  In my spring cleaning frenzy, I was going through my yarn stash, trying to bring some kind of order to it by sorting into space bags by yarn weight or putting the kits in a separate location, and I caught myself wistfully sighing over  a handbag kit.  Clearly, I wanted to knit.  I did NOT want to knit further on that cardigan, though.  I don't know why... it's a cute sweater.  I'm doing it in my favorite colors.  Maybe it's a combination of counting rounds for the stripes (six rounds apart) and counting rounds between increases and decreases (seven rounds apart).  It's annoying.  Sure, I can do it in my head without fancy gadgets, or count from my last one, but it's so *irritating* that for my particular size, the counts for the two are one round off.  It seems to me a decent designer could create a pattern that doesn't KILL the joy of knitting.

During my stash-tossing (rotating the stash around, NOT throwing anything away, lol) I found and set aside my Mr. Foster and his outfits kit, and the Carmen Banana kit.  I am determined to find the joy in knitting again, and what better way than cute, dressable knit toys?  Size 1 and 3 needles though... sigh.

Maybe I need to find a bulky project.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gaming: Moodlets

Well I got sucked back into the distraction that is "The Sims 3".  Delete a family and start a new one and it's amazing how much more interesting it gets when you only have $40 a day coming in.

"World Adventures" was really a clever, well-executed expansion pack.  For someone like me, who cut her teeth on logic puzzles, the tombs in the distant lands provide a decent diversion.  I only wish there were more of them, and that they reset for subsequent generations.  Although I suppose once Indiana Jonesette has fully explored a tomb and sprung the trap, there's nobody left to push that big boulder allllllll the way back to the top.

And now that I've re-learned the whole "romance-a-sim" thing, getting married is easy.  The trick is to get it done in 90 sim days if your lifespans are set to the normal speed.  I mean, heck, a girl can barely top out her career in that time, much less make time for a boyfriend.

In other gaming news, Steam recently had a sale on "Star Trek: Online" so I bought my husband the digital deluxe version as a gift.  They've released their first batch of new content, titled "Season 1".  It includes perks for lifetime subscribers, like a title and access to a lifetime only area on starbases.  I'm not exactly sure why I should be thrilled by this.  It's not like I go into the game to *chat*.  However, I did join the "Totally Rad Fleet", a group of guys who are fans of the "Totally Rad Show", a weekly podcast that's pretty much a movie/gamer geekfest that I totally love.  The fans seem to comprise a decent fleet, but so far I haven't needed their aid for anything.  The game is pretty solo-able.

Next week I hope to be talking to you about Bioshock 2.  Although I think I'm buying a coffee table (finally!!!) out of my allowance so it might be tight.  We'll see.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Food: Recipes for survival #2

Last week I showed you how to make the least expensive recipe I know, a kind of inside-out "cabbage roll" recipe in a skillet.  Today, I have two recipes for you... one for the carnivores and one for the vegetarians, because there is no possible way I know of to make a vegetarian version of roast chicken.

And every kid (who eats meat) should leave home knowing how to roast a chicken.  It's a simple way to impress the new in-laws when they get them, because it easily translates to the skills for roasting a turkey.  Did you know that the Butterball company sets up an 800 number every Thanksgiving as a sort of "hotline" to help people with roasting their turkeys?  And they get over 100,000 calls every year?

The other recipe is a recent favorite of mine, a simple three-bean salad that will not only be a good main dish for the vegetarian crowd, but will go great as a side dish for the chicken.

If you're working with a raw chicken, be sure to stress to your kids that it is VERY IMPORTANT that they wash their hands any time they've touched the chicken BEFORE they touch anything else.  And they should wipe down the faucet handle, too.

Roast Chicken

1 whole roasting chicken
vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the chicken from its packaging, being sure to remove any giblets from the main cavity.  Some companies pack the giblets in paper or plastic before stuffing them in there, some just put them in.  Either way, they will slow down the cooking time and make the pan drippings look disgusting if you leave them in.  So they have to go.  (I save all the livers in a freezer container on the off chance I might feel like making some kind of chicken-liver pate some day.  I never do, but if you might, chuck it on into a container.  They'll keep in the freezer at a suitable texture for pate for up to six months.)  Rinse the bird inside and out to get rid of any packaging material that might stick to the skin and giblet bits that might stick to the inside.  Why they put a fluffy, absorbent material that falls apart right next to the bird is beyond me, but rinse it off.

Prepare a pan large enough for the bird to have clearance of at least an inch on all four sides.  If it has a rack, set it in the bottom.  If you do not have a roasting rack for that pan, a layer of root vegetables, such as carrots or potatoes will work well.  These would even be edible after, but not very pretty.   Just throw enough 1" chunks in the bottom to keep the bird from swimming in its own juices.  Place the bird in the pan.

Take a small amount of vegetable oil and rub it on the bird's exterior.  Pretend you're working a day spa for chickens.  Salt and pepper to your own family's taste, both inside and out.  Place in the oven.  Roast the chicken for 15 minutes per pound... this usually works out to an hour and fifteen minutes for the average chicken.  (Turkeys being larger need a longer time for cooking... check the Butterball website for a handy calculator.  An unstuffed 14 pound bird will take 3 1/2 hours to roast from a completely thawed state.)

Unless you're using some kind of special sauce, chickens do not need basting.  You'll know it's done when you can grab a leg and it moves freely.  A thermometer inserted at the thick part of the thigh (but NOT touching bone) should read 165 degrees F.

Carving is a whole 'nother post.

Three-bean Salad

1 (16oz) can cut green beans, drained
1 (16oz) can cut yellow wax beans, drained
1 (16oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup thinly sliced onion rounds, cut in half
2 Tbs. Parsley, chopped
2/3 C vinegar
1/2 C Sugar
1/3 C vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix beans, onion, and parsley in a large bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan.  Heat the vinegar mixture just to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Pour over beans and toss.

Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, at least three hours or until chilled.

*End of Recipes*

The three-bean salad has many options.  Make it a four-bean salad by adding garbanzo beans.  Add crispy, crumbled bacon right before serving, if you're not using it as a vegetarian main dish.  Some people use lima beans.  No thank you.  I just don't like their texture.

The dressing for a traditional three-bean salad is quite heavy on the sugar.  I've added it as-is to this recipe, but feel free to experiment if you want a low-sugar option, or try honey.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Miscellaneous: Spring Cleaning

Since I am still on that hateful Shadow Cardigan, no true knitting post today.  Instead I'll talk about what's going on with me... spring cleaning.

I have been tearing the kitchen up all week, figuratively.... no remodeling.  Just a lot of hands and knees type scrubbing, getting a butter-knife under that lip on the fridge that collects goo under it, that kind of thing.  We've lived here almost... what, six years?  Take Hurricane Katrina, add a year, and that's about when we moved into this apartment of Hobbit-esque proportions.  That's a lot of goo.

Next project might be my closets, because they are a nightmare.  And if I clean my closets, I can move the four space-bags full of YARN and roving into a closet instead of stacked behind my couch.  The closets aren't messy, they're just full of boxes of stuff my husband apparently can't seem to part with... old stereo components and things.  There comes a point where if you're not going to sell it, and you're never going to use it, then THROW IT AWAY for Pete's sake.  I don't care if it was a gift!  What's the point of holding on to it?

De-clutter is the word of the week.  I'm doing my best.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gaming: I miss free *stuff on Wendesdays

* means there used to be a different S-word there.

A long time ago, over ten years in fact, there was a very pleasant company called "Maxis".  And working there was one of the Mozarts of our time, a man named Will Wright.  He had this little idea for a game that would be like a miniature dollhouse, an architect's model, and his previous creation, SimCity, all rolled into one.

That, my friends, was The Sims.

The past two weeks I have been absorbed in playing "The Sims 3".  I just woke up one day and said to myself, "You know, I paid a crap-ton of money for this game, the expansions, and the stuff from the EA store... I should really play it more."  So I did.  And before I knew it, the day was over and I was feeling like my 11 year old daughter, not quite wanting to go to bed just yet.

The Sims, and its sequels, have changed a lot over the past decade.  Most notably was the departure of Will Wright to work on Spore, the move from Maxis to EA (Electronic Arts), and the move from quarterly releases of "Stuff Packs" on disks to a micro-transaction nightmare of content releases on the EA store.

Some simmers are not paying attention, but in these economic times, some people have noticed... we're getting charged a heck of a lot for content we used to get for free, or at the very least, much more cheaply.  For example, in The Sims 2, you would pay $19.95 for a "Stuff Pack" which was usually themed, and would include four rooms stuffed with new furniture, new clothes, and sometimes if you were lucky, a new NPC to visit, like Santa or Baby New Year.  During the days of "The Sims 2" they'd have "Free Stuff Wednesdays" which usually meant a new wallpaper for your PC desktop, but would sometimes be a game item, like a potted plant or wallpaper for your Sim home.

Well those days are long gone.

Now, you buy "Points" for getting items from the Sims 3 store.  What will $19.95 get you?  Well, you're not going to find a great sale on points at Amazon, let me tell you.  And now, it's either $10, $20, or $40 points packages.... you get 100 points for every dollar.  That's not so bad.  What's bad is that now, in order to get the same amount of items you'd get on a PERMANENT CD, you'd have to pay over $50.  If you wanted to get all the sets available on the store?  $350!  Fortunately, I only like about half the items.  However, I'm not getting sucked into their micro-transaction crapola.  I bought the "High End Loft Stuff" pack, because it came on a CD, and I'm satisfied with the amount of content I got with it.  Also, it's gadgety stuff, which I'm  into in real life, so... it's a cool pack for me.

I miss the old days.  I miss the times when they'd give us some cute little thing once a week, for FREE.  Not just because I like getting free crap, but because it was like a little thoughtful gift from a friend, every week.

Now they just seem like greedy, money-hungry bastards.  It's like I used to have this great and thoughtful friend, but now they have a substance-abuse problem and they're constantly wanting to sleep on my couch and borrow money.  I may have to go the tough-love route and kick them out until they sober up.

Which is going to be difficult since they just released the expansion to "Dragon Age".  *sigh*

Monday, March 22, 2010

Food: Simple Recipes for Survival #1

Last week... at some point... I was bemoaning the state of food and cooking education our kids get these days.  Please know, I'm not blaming parents.  Education in all areas is suffering because of Federal funding.  And as the mother of a very opinionated and stubborn child, I know it can be difficult to teach at home.  Sometimes your child needs a neutral third party to teach them, one that hasn't been after them to brush their teeth and get to bed.

Studies show that kids, even truly picky eaters, will be more likely to enjoy and actually eat a food that they've helped prepare.  So get them in the kitchen!  Even if they only grab a spoon and stir a pasta salad, they're learning something.  They're amazing sponges, picking up info from places when you didn't even think they were paying attention.

I know I promised that these recipes would be easy, and something your kids will want to eat.  This particular recipe is kind of "iffy" in that regard, so I'm doing this one first, partly because I know there are also some picky adults who wouldn't eat it (but should) and partly because it is one of the LEAST expensive recipes I know.  In fact, if you cut out the meat you could probably feed four people to the bursting point with it for under a dollar.

And with most of these recipes, I'm going to try to select ones that DON'T need the meat that's in them.  It's there for flavor and additional protein.

There are many variations of this recipe.  My family happens to like it anyway, but over the last couple years I've adjusted this and made it more "my own" so if you want to adjust it to suit your needs feel free.

Skillet "Stuffed" Cabbage

One small head green cabbage, chopped coarsely.
One Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped
One or two cloves garlic, to taste (I personally add more like four)
One pound ground beef (may be substituted with two cups cooked lentils)
One 16oz can petite diced tomatoes, or tomato puree
One teaspoon beef bouillon granules (may be substituted with vegetable bouillon or left out entirely)
Old Bay Seasoning (optional, to taste)
Cooked white or brown rice (half cup uncooked rice per person)

Start your rice first.  Rice takes 20 minutes or more to cook, so have that on its way before starting the skillet because this goes pretty fast.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  I use a non-stick chicken frier, which is a four-inch deep skillet, mostly because I spill when I stir if I don't.  Make sure you have a good lid for this pan.  If you're using the lentils option, stir the cooked lentils in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add onion to the pan.  Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, and stir it all together briefly. 

Add the cabbage.  It's very important that the cabbage not be over-cooked.  The reason cooked cabbage stinks most of the time is because people cook it until it breaks down.  Cabbage has a lot of sulphur in it.  While sulphur is good for many health benefits, it does smell.  What you want here is a crisp-tender consistency, like with a good stir-fry.  If it goes limp, you've gone too far.

Add the tomatoes and bouillon granules.  Add salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning.  Sometimes I will add a bit of red pepper flake at this point to spice it up.  Taste yours and see what you think... remember it's going over rice, which will "dilute" the flavor a bit.  Cover and simmer briefly, just to blend the flavors a bit.

Serve over hot rice.

*End of Recipe*

My husband praises my rice.  He says I always cook it perfect, which (being a picky cook) I have to disagree with.  Sometimes I get it stuck to the bottom of the pan, sometimes I don't think it's sticky enough.

99% of the time, I cook my rice to be like sticky chinese rice, like you get when you order takeout.  A lot of this recipes' success relies on that consistency, because I don't thicken the sauce.  The rice starch does that on the plate.  IF you're using converted rice (the kind that comes out with separate kernels), then you're going to want to thicken your sauce using a starch, either flour or cornstarch, because you DON'T want to cook this until it's naturally thickened.  Remember, mushy cabbage is nobody's friend.

Let me know in the comments whether you want me to share my method for cooking rice.  I'd be happy to do so, and it's really simple.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miscellaneous: What year is it?

There are people freaking out *right now* about how the Mayan calendar was only calculated up to the year 2012.  There was even a major motion picture about how the world was destined to end.

Did anyone stop to think that the royal mathematician just got bored?  Or set the "end of time" very far in the future to placate the King, who was annoying him by constantly asking "When is the world ending?".  It's the Mayan equivalent of "Are we there yet?"

Or maybe he just ran out of stone tablets to carve the glyphs into.

Miscellaneous: Blog has a new look!

Frustrated with the narrowness of the template layouts on Blogger, I went searching for ways to make full use of my screen, or at least have it scale with the size of whatever people are using.  So now I'm using a beta version of their layout editor, and while it's better, it still refuses to make full use of my 1600x1200 desktop real estate.  I did spruce it up a bit though, so if you're not viewing it on blogger, but through an aggregate viewer like Bloglines, come on over and take a look at the blog in its natural habitat.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Food: How the government is trying to kill us...

I don't like talking politics.  There's always a bunch of people who disagree with me, and of those people at least one of them is going to be loud and obnoxious about how wrong they think I am.

However, this week I was treated to two interesting facts, brought to my attention separately by two different people.  One brought to my attention by another Blogger, was a diagram of what foods the government provides subsidies (i.e. cash incentives) for farmers to produce, versus the recommended daily allowance food pyramid.  Read the comments, if you dare... there's a rabid vegan vs. omnivore debate, but in them, you'll still find a kernel (har har) of truth:  That what the government subsidizes is almost the exact opposite of what we need to eat to be healthy. 

The other item, interestingly, was brought to my attention by Roger Ebert via his twitter feed.  He sent a link to a presentation by Food Network's Jamie Oliver on TED.  It's forty minutes long, but it is well worth it.  Our country is shamefully ignorant about food... not just what is healthy, but how to cook it.  Grade school children couldn't tell a potato from a tomato.  This kind of ignorance is not only leading to obesity in America, but downright waste of money.  I was shocked to learn that a lot of people eat fast food and restaurant food MORE than they cook at home.  Are you kidding me?  No wonder we are a nation in debt.

Putting all that information aside, lack of education about food affects everyone... if you don't know what a fresh vegetable is by looking at it, you won't buy it.  If you won't buy it, the store stops carrying it.  If the store stops carrying it, the farmer stops growing it, and turns to growing something he can make money at... like subsidized crops.  And I think we have enough High Fructose Corn Syrup in the world already, thank you very much.

They have stopped teaching Home Economics in High Schools.  I don't know about you, but that was where I first learned to boil pasta.  Sure, I learned a few things from my grandmother, but I still remember Mrs. West and her awesome class.  If every working family in the US is too busy to cook, because they're holding down two jobs and tired all the time, where will our children learn to feed themselves?  A whole generation will go without the smell of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning, or an awesome chicken and dumplings on a Monday night.  I can't live without spinach dip, but you can bet there are kids all over the country whose parents won't make it because they grew up hating the green, slimy version of spinach from a can.

Jamie Oliver says this in his presentation and I agree:  Every child, before they leave home, should know how to make five home-made, inexpensive dishes that do NOT come from a can or a paper bag.  I can think of three just sitting right here, and yes, they are foods they would eat.

For the next few weeks, I will outline some simple, economic meals.  I hope you will teach them to your kids.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Television: Good Again

Finally, stuff to talk about.

LOST episode titled "Dr. Linus" finally gave us the flash-sideways story about Ben Linus and what his life is like without the island.  Not surprisingly, he is much better off, and I think happier and a better person.  They're *still* not answering many of the old questions.  We have, like, nine episodes left... can you really get it all done in time?  "Season of answers" my red fanny.

We finally saw "Zombieland".  It was okay, but it was no "Shaun of the Dead".  Solid movie though. The rules list, and its quirky appearance during the film, had us in stitches, but there were aspects of the story that were annoying or stupid.  I could have done without the Bill Murray bit.  And does Woody Harrelson have to constantly remind us that he's pro-legalization?  I mean really?

It's Spring Break for my little munchkin.  This usually means I'm too busy to blog, but we'll see how it goes.  She has some kind of big science display project so hopefully it will keep the "I'm Bo-o-o-ored" chorus to a minimum.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Knitting: A Little Early

Well I busted down a week early and knit something... I wanted to see if laceweight yarn would accept size 11 seed beads.  It did.  Then I wanted to see how hard it would be to knit a beaded item.  Not bad, but it took me three hours to get three rows done because I used size 0 needles and I kept fussing with the placement of each bead.

We probably don't want to talk about how long it took me to string 15g of beads onto there.  Okay, I'm not exactly sure it was 15g because these were cheap beads I got years ago, but it's two smaller-than-Delica tubes full, and they were stuffed to the top.

Now that the knitting embargo is lifted, I have no excuse but to continue with that awful cardigan.  I'm practically done with the thing, you'd think I'd be over the loathing by now.  Not so.  It's been sitting in the drawer of my nightstand this whole time, mocking me.

I think from now on I will not choose any project that uses needles smaller than my pinky.  Bah, who am I kidding?  Of course I will... just not *cardigans*.  A laceweight cardigan is for masochists and knitting companies who are trying to get rid of 10 million yards of laceweight.

Did I mention these beaded purses I want to knit are knit on size 10 crochet cotton?  Sigh...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gaming: I Got Nothin'

Gaming has been a steady, uneventful stream of NCAA 2010, Star Trek: Online (which is getting better by the week, folks), and casual games.  I did discover two casual gems though, purely by accident through Amazon "Suggestions"... Liong: Dragon Dance and Liong: Lost Amulets.  They kind of take Majongg and turn it on its ear, making the matching a race against time.  I like it.  Regular Majongg can put me to sleep at times, but I can play Liong all day... long.  Almost slipped a pun in there.

I also stumbled across a little time-management hootenanny called "Tourist Trap".  It's a basic wait-for-resources build-fest with a twist.  While the game is fun, and its kitschy humor is amusing, the *waiting* is horrible.  Even with random fires and the occasional damaged building thrown in, it's the kind of game you need to keep a good book on hand while you wait for the dollars to roll in.

Meanwhile, I have decided what I'm going to do next week when I can finally fall off the non-knitting wagon... beaded knitting.  That is, after I finish that cursed cardigan.  More on that tomorrow.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Food: I am ashamed

Because the quarterly bonus and the paycheck came within one week of each other, we've been feeling less... well, broke, to be blunt... so I haven't been practicing my economical tricks over the last two weeks.  Not to mention my freezer is full to the point of literally bursting open if I don't do a little Tetris with the contents before closing.  I'm sure the next time I have to go to the dentist, we'll be broke enough to eat it down to a manageable level.

We *have* been eating the heck out of the multitude of hamburger buns Barronius brought home a while back.  We've hardly made a dent.  But they make an excellent base for BBQ chicken sandwiches, creamed whatever on toast (make sure you have bagel-width slots on your toaster), and fish fillet sandwiches.

Later this week though, I think I'm going to have to break down and make a double batch of homemade stuffing mix.  Is the blender free to make bread crumbs?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Miscellaneous: Big Four-Two Update

After reading several of the one-star and two-star reviews on Amazon for the Kindle and Kindle DX, we did a little research into Sony and Nook e-readers, because quite frankly, the negative reviews had enough horror stories in them to make us think twice about a Kindle.  $600 is a lot of dough.

We dismissed the Sony offerings after looking at a few of them.  Just not the right features, and not a great selection of titles.

It was hard to find negative reviews about the Nook, partly because they don't have direct consumer feedback about it available on their site, but blogs and articles are out there if you feel like googling for them.  We've decided we're going to go with a Nook instead of the Kindle for a couple of reasons.

1)  Color Touch screen in addition to the e-ink reading screen is a big plus in our book.  No pun intended.
2)  While smaller in size than the DX, the Nook is comparable in size to the regular Kindle, but has the feature in point 1 above.
3)  The price point on the Nook means we can get one for each of us for what we'd pay for the single Kindle DX plus an extended warranty.  It also means if I'm somehow clumsy with it, I'm out a lot less money, and hubby will have his for me to fall back on.  :D
4)  The consumer-reported fragility of the e-ink screen, which will cost $300 to replace, on the Kindle DX scares the bejeezus out of me, especially since it sounds like customer warranty support is hit-or-miss, depending on what person answers the phone.  I don't want to feel like I have to carry a second insurance policy on the darn thing JUST to cover damages that Amazon won't.

Plus I like the idea of personalized goofy things like screensavers.

We still have a month and a half before this goes down, but I've already started my e-book wishlist over on  Right now it's a surfeit of Paranormal Romance titles, but I intend on rounding it out with some classics and contemporary thrillers.  In the meantime, B&N has their own PC reader software, and a nice assortment of free titles.  I've been checking them out with the laptop, but that got me started thinking about an iPad instead... uhoh.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Television: Who's the golden, naked bald guy?

The 82nd annual Academy Awards airs this Sunday on ABC, so if you're into that kind of thing, be sure to set your DVR and add some extra padding at the back end so it doesn't cut off the big award in mid-speech.  Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are hosting this year, so prepare for the yuks.

Some Top Nominees are:

Best Picture: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Renner

Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe, Meryl Streep

Directing: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Up in the Air, Precious

I think we all know that Avatar is going to sweep the Best Picture and Directing categories, and any other categories it's up for.  Not that I'm complaining.  If you saw it in 3D, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say it was magical, breathtaking, and exciting, despite its plot being almost directly lifted from "Pocahontas".

Actress in a Leading Role is going to be interesting.  With two freshmen in the category (Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe) I really feel it's between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, but Helen Mirren has a good shot, despite her win last year.

Actor in a leading Role is probably going to be Morgan Freeman for "Invinctus" because of the highbrow factor, but I'd really like to see Colin Firth take it for "A Single Man".  However, if things go the way they usually do when I make predictions, it will be George Clooney with "Up in the Air".  We'll see.

The men had their Superbowl Sunday not too long ago, now it's us non-sports fans' turn.  Anyone having an Oscars night celebration?  What are your predictions?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Store Stuff: Shopping as an art form

Right now I am struggling to balance my spending between practical and *want*.  There are a lot of things I want, but they're just not practical to buy, like first-season sets of all my TV shows.  I mean, yeah, I play DVDs while I'm working, but I don't think the IRS would let that count.

But Amazon is having a sale.  A huge one... stuff I've had on my wish list for a year is 68% off!

But... I had an idea.  Branching out this year to make accessories for Prom-goers.  That means a lot of pearls, beads, and materials.  Fabric.  *Inventory*  And I can't trade in DVDs for that.  Plus I had that beading software I had my eye on.  Everything on my purchase plans is a fixed amount, everything except the things I *want* that are on sale.  Either I delay my plans, or buy the DVDs after the sale is over.

Arg.  Being a grown-up sucks.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Miscellaneous: Knitting, Beading, and the upcoming big Four-Two

In April I will be turning 42. One wonders if I'll get the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Or maybe end up part of the Valenzeti equation on LOST.  I think the number 42 is referenced somewhere on Dr. Who as well, but now I'm reaching.

So my husband announces, very dramatically, that he thinks he'll get me a Kindle for my birthday.  This wouldn't have anything to do with his recent upsurge of interest in e-books, not at all.  If I'd had my choice, as I have every other year, I would have asked for a Mirrix loom and some beader's design software.  Or maybe a gift certificate to Knit Picks.  But no.  I won't try to change his mind though... apparently I can put all my PDF knitting patterns on it, so it'll be useful.  Hah.

Amazon does have a free Kindle-format reader for the PC.  They also have an app for the iPhone, but I have no idea if that is free or not.  Me?  An iPhone?  Please.  If they dropped the mandatory contract with the bloodsuckers over at AT&T, maybe.

Wow, maybe I need to stop writing this blog first thing in the morning.  I'm kinda cranky.

Anyway, on my birthday every year I try and pick a new skill to develop over the coming year.  Past year favorites (and disasters) included the guitar, weaving, learning French (to complement my crappy Spanish), and computer programming.  This year, I'm not sure what to pick.  What I should do is find a local metalsmithing class so I'm less afraid of my soldering torch.  I've fired a rocket launcher and thrown grenades, you'd think a tiny little jumped-up butane lighter wouldn't freak me out, but it does.  I suppose because I haven't had a drill instructor shouting safety tips in my ear while I'm using it.

What do you guys think?  What's a skill you wish you had?  Salsa dancing?  Foil Fencing? (I always thought that looked like fun, but try and find an instructor)  A better chess game?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gaming: Bejewelled Collector's Edition?

There's this new thing in the world of casual gaming sites that I really wish hadn't caught on... "Collector's Edition" casual games.  While the normal prices of these games are $2.99 to $6.99, a "collector's edition" will cost a whopping $19.99.  What do you get with this extra content?  About the same level of extras as you would get with a collector's edition of a DVD... crap, and more of it.  A strategy guide (which I'd never use, cause what's the point?), comics, fluff, etc.

Now, if these weren't casual games, or if the price were something more reasonable, like say $12, then maybe it would be acceptable.  But $13 to $17 extra for that crap?  Forget it.  This ranks right up there with the independant game developer that made it impossible to complete their game unless you had the update patch, but they ONLY patched it for people who bought it directly through their site.  Nice.  Way to show the love.

Speaking of bonehead game publisher moves, have you heard about the new digital rights management scheme Ubisoft is pulling?  Fellow blogger Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality did a two-part article about it yesterday... give it a read.  Basically, new Ubisoft games have to be connected to the internet at ALL TIMES, otherwise you are booted out of the game.

This may not sound too bad to some of you, if you are permanently connected to the internet anyway through Broadband Cable.  It was not so long ago, however, that I lived in upstate Minnesota where the only connection to the internet was long-distance DIALUP.  Period.  The population simply isn't dense enough up there to support having a local number, and the distances too far for cable.  I've been away from my home town for ten years, but when I visited last summer, I know DSL was an expensive alternative.  And still no cable.

I'm sure this is an isolated set of circumstances, but I don't like the idea of a game publisher telling me when and how often I need to use my internet service.

When the economy is bad, and you're not making enough money, it's easy to blame an outside force for your woes... games piracy is not why you're losing money, Ubisoft.  Things suck all over.  But for you it particularly sucks because you keep treating your paying customers like thieves, and we're not happy about it. 

You know, Joss Whedon gave away all three parts of his indie effort, Doctor Horrible, for FREE over the internet, and he STILL made enough money to pay everything off and then some?  You know why?  People love him.  They love him, they love his work, and they loved that show in particular.  They felt that his efforts deserved compensation, and more than that, they felt this kind of work needed to be supported and encouraged.  What does that have to do with you, Ubisoft?  Hmm.  You tell me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food: The shop is on

With the unexpected arrival of a bonus check last Friday, we did a little celebration.  First, the eye doctor for me, and since this was our first visit there, a trip to the McD's we noticed right behind it afterward.  Woohoo, we know how to live it up, huh?

Then, groceries.  Once those eye drops wore off, it was shopping time for all those great flyer bargains I wanted to cherry pick but didn't think  we'd have the money for.  You know, pesky things like RENT keep getting in the way.  Proper steaks, this time chosen by moi.  I went easy on the meats, but they did have a sale on chicken breasts, so two packages of those for homemade nuggets for the freezer.  I still had a box and a half of plain corn flakes that makes a great crumb coating for chicken.  So that's planned this week.

The rest was mostly sides and incidentals that I needed, like canned vegetables, canned tomatoes, and those pasta sides that are cheap and fast to make.  Hubster also splurged behind my back and bought ice cream pints for each of us.  My kid was "discovering" marshmallows in her Rocky Road before I could blink.

Oh, yes... and remember last year when I sent him to the store for a SINGLE pack of hot dog buns and he came back with the limit of TEN packages, and I had nowhere to store them?  On a second trip to the store, he did the same thing again, this time with hamburger buns.  Yuh-huh.  This time I was prepared though.  One of my huge plastic flour canisters (that holds 25lbs of flour) was empty so I stacked the packages in there and sealed them up.  And now I knew what to do with those last two pounds of hamburger that I needed to use up... sloppy Joes.  Between the three of us and having seconds for dinner on Sunday night, we used up an entire pack.  I may make some of the chicken breasts into patties instead of nuggets, as Barronius likes chicken sandwiches with the crunchy patties from the store.  Throw some sauce and mozzarella on it and it's divine.

Oh, and they had a sale on Texas white mushrooms, so I'm going to be sauteeing up two pounds of those and freezing them in single portions for the freezer.  They're great for adding to sandwiches too.

I MAY be gearing up for a jewelry booth at a local celebration in April... I don't know yet.  It depends on whether I think I can crank out enough product before then to supply a booth for an entire day.  I would also have to buy a 10x10 tent and display materials, not to mention signage.  Before Friday I would have said there was no way, but the bonus put us back in the black with room to spare.  What does that mean for my interweb customers?  Not a lot, except for the bitching and moaning I might be doing... and whatever doesn't sell will go up on the shop in May.  That's IF I decide to do this thing.  I may wait until next fall, because we're planning to move.  If the show is successful, it will help a lot... but if it's a bust, it could set us back a bit, and I REALLY want to get out of this apartment.  We've been here almost since Katrina, and it's starting to really grate on us how small it is. 

Also, our neighbors are annoying... not that you can't get that anywhere.  I'm just saying.