A weekly(ish) series where I talk briefly about somebody who I think is cool for one reason for another.
One of the first music videos I ever remember seeing was "Take On Me". (And some crazy Pink Floyd video my mother turned off because "Pink Floyd sucks"!) It was one of my favorite 80s songs, but I never looked into the band more. Even when my now-ex tried to get me to listen to their other albums, I had no interest. I don't really know why that suddenly changed, but a few years ago I developed a little obsession, as anybody who's read more a few entries here should know.
While most people know of a-ha, or at the least know "Take On Me", fewer know who the individual members are. And while most people who know me would expect this to be a drool-fest over Morten Harket, I actually have positive things to say about the other two band members! Specifically, right now, Magne Furuholmen.
Who he is: Keyboardist for a-ha; singer; song-writer; artist. And hottie, but that's secondary.
What he's done: Written a lot of awesome songs, for one, both for a-ha and his own albums. He's put out two albums of his own, Past Perfect Future Tense and A Dot Of Black In The Blue Of Your Bliss; his voice is really unique and sort of scratchy, and both albums have a lot of beautiful acoustic guitar. He's also done music for soundtracks. He also does some cool, quirky art, some of which can be seen here--one of his projects was to design an official postage stamp for Norway.
Why I love him: All of that! He's written some of my favorite a-ha songs, like "A Fine Blue Line" (which somebody has randomly put to dolphins, there); and I love all his solo songs, especially "Kryptonite" (video below). He also seems genuinely funny and charming, from the two concerts I've been to and from watching him talk to crazy fans (who got to the crowd barrier before me in New York, dammit!).
Got out of the shower about half an hour ago, and I'm currently sitting here with my hair wrapped up in a towel and nothing but shorts on. There are two fans going, so I keep getting nice cool drafts against my bare back, my skin is nice and cool, and I just feel utterly comfortable. Delaying getting dressed for work till the absolute last possible moment, because then I'll just be uncomfortably hot for the next eight hours.
Champagne is my secret ingredient the last couple of weeks, apparently. After my less-than-thrilling pear cakes last week, I still had quite a bit of champagne left to use. So I used another recipe from Couture Cupcakes, this one for strawberry champagne cupcakes. The recipe from the site is as follows:
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup champagne
- 1/4 cup strawberry puree
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 125g / 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 egg whites
- Preheat oven to 180 (35). PG's note: this is supposed to be 356.
- Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add egg and beat for 30 seconds.
- Add flour, salt, baking powder, strawberry puree and champagne and beat until combined, about a minute.
- In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold a third of the stiff egg white into the batter until there are light streaks of egg white in the batter.
- Fold in the remaining egg white into the batter until the egg white is well incorporated into the batter.
- Evenly divide the batter into the cupcake liners and bake in the oven for 20 -24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Now the problem with this is that I randomly decided to bake at two in the morning. But I had to do dishes first, and by the time I actually started it was closer to three. I wasn't at my best. My brain saw that "180 (35)" and assumed the smaller number was the Celsius conversion. So I set the oven to 180 degrees. I thought that was a really low temperature, but I thought maybe they needed to bake extra slowly so the egg white-induced leavening wouldn't collapse.
But after twenty minutes, the batter was just barely starting to solidify. I gave it another ten; still no significant change. Another twenty .... and it suddenly dawned on me that, uh, 35 Celsius is not 180 Fahrenheit! 180 Celsius is, however, 356 Fahrenheit. So I cranked the oven up, and within minutes they were done.
I didn't have any white chocolate, which the original recipe calls for in the frosting, so I modified the cream cheese frosting I used for the mango cake--I just used champagne instead of wine, and added 1/4 strawberry puree.
- 1/2c softened butter
- 4oz softened cream cheese
- 2c powdered sugar
- 2 T champagne
- 1/4 c strawberry puree
- Cream butter until fluffy.
- Add cream cheese and blend well.
- Add in powdered sugar slowly--I did about 1/4c at a time.
- Pour in wine and blend thoroughly.
I used about 1/2 c of strawberry puree this time, as the first batch didn't seem to have much flavor. The batter was a lovely pink when I put it in the oven, and after 25 minutes of baking they were perfect. I'd filled the cups about half-full, and none overflowed. I got 18 regular cupcakes, plus six "square" ones--I'd put six paper liners in a small pan and filled them halfway, allowing them to spread out into roughly spare shapes.
For the frosting this time around, I left out the champagne; I thought maybe that was what had given the frosting its odd texture last time. I think it's the strawberry juice, though; I'd diced up five really big, juicy strawberries to blend in with the frosting.
I took most of the cupcakes in to work for my coworkers, who descended upon them and scarfed them down literally within two minutes. One woman ate one, and then announced, "I'm having another and I don't care who knows!" and dug into a second one. Everybody freaking loved them--I've gotten texts and Facebook messages about it hours later. I'm going to have to make a double batch next time!
There are two women who have recently started coming in to my restaurant, who are on a low-carb diet. One looks like she stuck her finger in an electric socket, from her wide eyes to her crazy red hair. The other is very round, with dyed blonde hair and little round old-lady glasses. The first one is super quiet and hardly talks at all; the second is rather bossy, loud, and comes off sort of bitchy.
I've waited on them two out of the three times I've seen them, and both times it's been the same thing. The ginger orders something nearly zero carb (like a steak and broccoli and a salad without croutons), and the blonde orders something with carbs (say a burger with the bun, but with salad instead of fries) and comments about how she's "bad" compared to the ginger. I just don't acknowledge it--beyond demonstrating that I remember them (hey, I work for tips!) by saying "No croutons, right?" when they order their salads.
The first time, I said something like, "would you like some fresh fruit for dessert?" and the blonde promptly told me how the ginger was doing "so good" and had "lost eight pounds!" The second time, same thing, only now it was 19 pounds. I sort of stumbled over my words, because I didn't know what to say. I ended up just saying, "Okay, no dessert then. I'll take your ticket whenever you're ready!"
I know that the expected, societally acceptable response--especially from a woman, and double especially from a fat woman--is congratulations, encouragement, jealousy, etc. But I just don't want to play that game anymore, with anyone.
When I registered for my required classes this fall, I was one credit short of full time. All the history classes I wanted to take I hadn't fulfilled the prerequisites for. I didn't want to take something that would eat up a bunch of time and be pointless, but I wasn't willing to give up full time status either. Then I remembered that I'd once taken a one-credit aerobics class, just because, and it was actually pretty fun.
So I scrolled through the list of exercise classes, and ended up registering for Pilates. I've always thought it sounded cool. But then I realized that the medieval England class I wanted to take was at the same time, and thought I'd try to get an override in to the class. So on Monday I went to that class to talk to the professor; today, because I'm still waiting for one person to drop the class so I can get in, I went to the Pilates class. And I'll be dropping that.
I had a bad feeling as soon as I saw the instructor -- anybody who wears full makeup, including heavy mascara, to teach an exercise class is probably not somebody I'm going to get along with. She gave me a weird look as I approached her; and when I explained I was trying to get into the other class, her response was to sneer "So you don't think you're staying in this class?" as if it's an unusual situation. She was also very dismissive of me in general when I was trying to ask questions.
There are a couple of other procedural things that bug me--like we're not allowed to wear our own shirts, we have to "rent" a green shirt from the department for the semester. Why? I have no idea. But I remember those green shirts; they're too thick for exercising, and they're so high at the neck they choke me.
Once she actually started the class, I couldn't hear half of what she was saying--we were in an echoing room the size of a basketball court, with forty people in it, an industrial fan on, and she turned on music.
But the biggest thing was that she didn't offer any modifications of poses for people who couldn't do them--and I don't think I was the only one. For example, the second exercise we did was basically a slow situp from flat on the floor and our arms above our heads. I can't do that. Nor was I the only one in class who could--but she gave me a dirty look when she saw me modifying it.
So I've spent the last hour or so since I got home trying to find another class to replace it with--almost anything with do. I'm not spending three days a week in that room, struggling to hear what someone who apparently dislikes me says and hurting myself because I'm getting no guidance on proper form. I'd rather take underwater armpit hair weaving.
I have a terrible procrastination problem. I have for as long as I can remember, although it's definitely gotten worse as I've gotten older. I think (hope) I may have found a cure for it though.
For one of my classes, we have to read three historical books. Our first quiz, on Day of the Barbarians, is in a couple of weeks. Normally, I'd put off even starting the book until the day before the quiz--usually anything I'm required to read pisses me off and I spend as little time as possible on it.
I started Day of the Barbarians tonight while eating dinner at work. I actually wanted to read it. I've only had two days of classes, so it's too early to know if I'll fall back in to my usual lackadaisical habits. But the fact that I sat at work for an extra hour reading is encouraging.
My schedule is rather exhausting, between school and work. And the transportation to/from school, too. Yesterday I rode my bike to the bus stop a few blocks away, which was fine; sort of fun, even. My first class is in the building right by the bus terminal, so I locked up my bike there and went to class. After my classes I rode over to the bus terminal again, and hopped a different bus that dropped me off 1.25 miles from my house--the number 8 bus I took to school only leaves campus every 45 minutes, so I wouldn't have gotten home in time to get to work.
On my way home, I quickly realized that the entire way from the bus stop to my house is a slight incline. And the wind had picked up. Pedaling on a long gradual incline into the wind is not fun for someone not used to riding a bike. Aerobically, I was fine; I wasn't gasping for breath or anything. But I did have to stop once and give my legs about a thirty second rest, and a couple minutes later I got off my bike and walked it a couple hundred yards--my thigh muscles were just tired.
I thought about repeating that today; but after four days in a row of work, two closing shifts, and a bike ride I'm not used to, I opted for the lazier option since I had to be to work at four. I drove to campus, and parked a block away on the street I used to live on. Then I walked halfway down the block and caught a bus into the center of campus, and then a second one to the other side of campus for my first class. My second class got out at 10 till, I caught the bus back to my car, and was home my quarter after and was at work a few minutes early.
Still, I'm not planning on doing that often. I don't want to spend the gas, for one thing; I'd rather not leave my car on a public street regularly; and I did buy my bike for a reason. But I was pretty sure that if I tried to do the bike thing today I'd end up walking most of way and be late for work, since I don't have mighty quads and hamstrings anymore. I used to--years of bareback horseback riding will do that--but no longer. Hopefully before long my ride home will be a breeze.
I got a desk Friday, and it's absolutely perfect! Big wide surface, storage compartments, etc. It would be a perfect computer desk, actually, but I don't want to move my computer to the spare room--it's in the living room now, so it's centralized.
Now, I have to go troll the city for a cheap bike of the type I'm after. My dad doesn't understand what I'm looking for--to him a bike is a bike is a bike. I tried to tell him I want a commuter bike, and he doesn't think that's an accurate description (that's what they're called, dammit!). He doesn't understand I don't need a shock-absorbing fork or a 24 speed drive train, and so it's not worth putting up with it not really being the right height for me and the non-replaceable seat being much too small. That's really the primary problem, but I'm trying to avoid saying that--because if I tell him that my ass is simply too big for the five inch seat, he'll probably say "Then why don't you do something about that?"
And then I'll have to get all sarcastic on him, because yeah, let me lose half of my body size before classes start tomorrow.
ETA: Well that was easy! There were three bike/yard sales listed on Craigslist, so I headed out. The first one I stopped at had about fifteen bikes in the front yard, and was run by an older guy who buys and fixes bikes. He had a blue one I immediately wanted, but it was already sold, so I tried a similar one, a green Huffy. It took a little bit of hopping around like an idiot to get on it--I haven't ridden a bike regularly for 14 years--but once I did, I knew it was my bike. It's just a simple, average bike--front brake, no gears, wide pedal stance, and a big seat. Light enough I'll be able to lift it on to the bike rack on the front of the city bus. New tires, new chain, new seat. It was the perfect fit for my leg reach, and my arm reach--and it didn't hurt my knees!
I still went to check out the other two sales, because $80 was a little more than I wanted to pay. The next one only had a few bikes, interspersed with a bunch of greasy tools and weird camping equipment. The only bike that would've worked for me was a little sportier. The seat was a little higher than I like, and it was an eight-speed, but it was still fairly comfortable stance-wise. It was only $40; but it hurt my knees. Also, the guy was sort of a creeper--after riding it down the block I was coasting into his driveway and he says "You look five years younger!" I wasn't impressed.
I went to find the third sale, but it wasn't where it said it was, dammit. So I went back to the first place, took another spin, and plunked down $80. I'm now the happy owner of a Huffy Northwest. It's even my school's colors!
A quote from one of my class syllabus:
If at any point in the semester you find yourself bewildered, it is fully incumbent upon you to seek clarification as we are unable to address your perplexity if we are unaware that you are, in fact, perplexed.
This is a 100 level history class; think she's trying to intimidate the freshmen?
I slept late today, and then went out on a big looping run of errands.
First I dropped off a month's worth of glass/plastic recycling, then I took a giant box of stuff to Goodwill that has been accumulating in my living room since I moved. I also looked there for a desk; they had one for $15, but it was like a midget desk. It looked like a regular desk, but the opening to sit at was very low and very small. But I did get two nice wooden collapsible TV trays for $2 each.
Next I went to the library to mail a textbook I sold on half.com, then I went to my doctor's appointment for a prescription refill and to get a referral for physical therapy. I dropped off my prescription and while it was being filled I went to ask the allergy/immunization office to call my allergist and see if I can start my shots again (I haven't been since May for a lot of reasons). Then I picked up my prescription and went downstairs to make a PT appointment because I hyperpronate like a mofo when I walk, and after 27 years I'm sorta sick of it!
My next stop was the student center to get a bus pass (turns out all I need is my ID now, used to have to get a little card), and to check that the textbook I have listed on Craig's List is indeed the same text being sold for this semester for that class.
I tried two more places for a desk; then I got my hair cut for the first time since January, which feels great. Next I went to Wal-Mart to return the bike seat and lock I bought--the seat on this stupid bike can't be changed, and my dad gave me a lock with it. I bought a gel seat cover for this bike, but I'm thinking of seeing if I can trade it in--it's really just not a good fit for me.
I also stopped at Best Buy to exchange the House season 4 DVDs I got for Christmas. Yeah, Christmas. I didn't really realize how long it had been sitting around until I wrote that! Anyway, I traded it for season 2, so now I have all the House seasons that have been released. I then went by one more place looking for a desk before giving up.
I then came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch watching "Seabiscuit". So now it's three in the morning again, and I'm still awake, and I have another doctor's appointment in seven hours. Of a type that I'm really really dreading. Sigh.
Hmm. I should probably do some laundry, seeing as I have no clothes for the work week that starts tomorrow.
So if you've been to my blog before, no doubt you'll notice it's different. I'd been fiddling with the title of my old blog for a while, but ultimately I decided to move it over to a new URL, as "amireallyfat" really has nothing to do with the content anymore!
Also, if my layout is screwed up in your browser, can you please leave me a comment? I ask because I looked at it in IE before moving blogs and it appeared fine; post-move it's sorta messed up. But it looks fine in Firefox and Opera mini, and I don't know why it'd be screwed up anyway since I didn't change any of the coding.
Via Fatfu I read this article tonight, detailing someone's struggle with medical bills and health insurance after she was diagnosed with leukemia .... and had insurance. This is why there's a need for healthcare reform.
I have a ziploc full of butter wrappers in my freezer for greasing baking pans, just like my mom used to always keep.
But if I ever start hoarding over-ripe frozen bananas because I'm going to make banana bread "someday", somebody slap me.
Because of my school transportation situation, I asked my dad if he could get me a bike the next time he went to the auction. His buddy runs it, so he always gets to preview the items if he wants.
I was thinking just an average bike; just something to peddle around. I didn't think he'd come home with an $800 20 speed freaking mountain bike! Now of course he didn't pay that much for it; he probably got it for $20 or something. But still--damn! WTF do I need a bike like that for? Especially since the seat can't be replaced, and it's about five inches wide.
I should've been more specific in my requests; I guess it just didn't occur to me that "must have seat big enough for ass" needed to be stated.
Oh well. Maybe I can sell it for a bunch of money when I'm done with it.
I have no idea where I first picked up the idea of champagne pear cupcakes, but I looked up a recipe and have had it bookmarked for a while. Wednesday, when my life exploded (temporarily), I decided I was going to make them to distract myself. And then I was supposed to go to my dad's, so I figured I'd just make them there--he has a dishwasher, plus it's about twenty degrees cooler at his house. So I packed up all my stuff, other than I'd forgotten to get vanilla. He said he had some, but I didn't want to run through the entire ingredient list because they'd just annoy him, so I packed up my sack of flour, sugar, even eggs.
The recipe I was using from from 52 weeks of baking:
2 3/4 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 firm-ish but ripe pears, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup champagne
The only flour I had was self-rising flour, but according to a number of different websites that's okay to substitute, so I went with it (cutting out the baking soda and salt). Other than that, I followed the directions perfectly ....
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a small bowl sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In mixer (or large bowl), cream butter and sugar until well mixed and airy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is full incorporated before adding next.
- Slowly add in flour mixture - I do it 1/3 at a time - making sure it is fully incorporated.
- Stir in vanilla and champagne.
- Stir in pears.
- Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- Scoop an even amount of dough into each cup - I filled them to the top. You should have enough for about 24 cupcakes.
- Bake for about 16 minutes. I started checking around 12 just to be safe. You want them to be golden in color.
It looked a little lighter than commercial vanilla, so I added an extra splash and hoped for the best.
Then entire time I was mixing this up, my dad was bugging me--for instance, when I was creaming the butter and sugar, he asked why I was "putzing around" with that instead of just dumping it all in the bowl and mixing it. Then it was "shouldn't you let that sit for a while". I told him I was following the recipe.
The first batch of cupcakes totally freaking overflowed, the entire top of the muffin pan was covered and there was cooking dough all over the oven racks and bottom of the oven. Sonofa .... I whipped the muffin tin out and wiped all the dough off the oven before it could set up. My dad then started looking at my recipe and laughing at me about telling him I was following the directions, since I used different flour and different vanilla. He started telling me how he bakes things every once in a while and he could've told me that wouldn't work and I shouldn't have filled the cups to the top and he could've told me that!
I did think it was a little odd, but what do I know? I'm an amateur! I thought maybe something in the champagne would make them not rise so much. I dumped out/scraped out the cakes; I'm sure the fox that hangs around my dad's house had never had champagne before. So there went half my batter.
I did a trial one with just two cakes, filling one half full and one three quarters; they still fell in dramatically in the middle. My dad suggested upping the temperature to 410 degrees; that and a half-full cup made almost perfect cupcakes. I was excited.
Then I started on the frosting:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp champagne (depending on texture)
No catastrophes here, other than accidentally spraying the counters with frosting at one point. The frosting was a bit runny by the time I got it all mixed, so I put it in the fridge to thicken up. Then I loaded up my frosting bag and tried to make them look pretty.
Yeah ... that didn't work. The only decorating tips I have are tiny, and there was another problem I didn't foresee: the frosting bag I got is just plastic, so it didn't really twist closed very well. Every time I tried to squeeze frosting out, it would ooze out the top of the bag as well. It really was a big mess.
In the end, I got about ten cupcakes with slopped on frosting. They didn't taste terrible; but they didn't have a very strong flavor of either pear or champagne. The pieces of pear had lost all their juices and were just texture, no flavor. And the frosting was way too sweet for me. I dropped them off at work on my way home and my coworkers seemed to like them, but I wasn't terribly impressed. I don't know if it was the flour substitution, the "vanilla", the pears not being ripe enough, or what.
I'll probably try them again at some point, but I'll use super ripe, squishy pears and make a puree out of them and see if that works better. All in all, it just wasn't a raging success. I didn't even take pictures! Partially because I couldn't think of a convincing excuse for my father as to why I was photographing my clumsy little cupcakes.
Last night I lost my temper a bit with one of the cooks. He's one of those borderline alcoholic, wannabe hood, thoroughly average guys who thinks he's The Shit. I was walking through the kitchen to get something, and one of my coworkers was standing by the food line. This girl drives me up a damn wall; I think she's a complete idiot, that she sleeps around out of a lack of self-esteem, and that she's way too willing to let men walk all over her. As far as I know, she and this AFC (asshat fry cook) aren't really friends; he just thinks it's fun to pick on her because she gets riled up and, sadly, probably lets his comments get under her skin.
Anyway, she grabbed a French fry out of the fry bin, and as she was eating it, AFC says to her, "Stop eating! You're like a fucking cow!"
A mish-mash of things I've read about the connection between dieting, misogyny, and control rushed through my mind. The girl was already "defending" herself--not by telling him to fuck off, of course, but by saying she hadn't eaten that day. I glared at AFC as I stalked by and told him "It's none of your damn business what she eats, don't be so fucking rude."
Of course, AFC and his fellow asshat broil cook immediately started mocking me, mimicking me saying "that's soooo rude!" and other things. I don't care--they left my coworker alone, and I've got a hell of a lot more self-confidence than she does, so the little bastards can try to cow me if they want. Good luck with that, boys.
I know it's a very little thing; it certainly isn't earth-shaking. But I'm glad that reacting to those sorts of things has become normal for me. I used to be so afraid of rocking the boat I wouldn't speak up; I used to be afraid of being mocked for going against the societal norms that say I should shut up and not get involved. I used to think I had no right to speak up, because I'm a fatass, so naturally my opinions aren't valid. FUCK THAT NOISE.
It may not change things; AFC may not think twice next time he wants to say something like that, and my female coworker may continue accepting it. But maybe it at least planted an idea that that shit isn't okay.
Of course, I'm still working on that in my own life, too. I had to shoot my own father down for something like this tonight; he asked where I was, and I told him I had a coupon for a free burrito so I was at Qdoba. His response was, "Well that sounds fattening. Shouldn't you be eating something with less carbs?"
I paused for a second before answering, because I almost responded similar to how my coworker did--with justifications. But you know what? Even though he's my father, it's still not really his business.
So I paraphrased a line from an Anita Blake book. "You didn't know I was eating when you called, so I'm pretty sure you didn't call to lecture me about my dinner." We got to the actual point of his phone call then.
I really loved the look of the last one, but there were just too many issues I wasn't HTML-savvy enough to figure out. And because I'm bugged by little things and have a sort of compulsive steak in me, I had to change it.
I like this one too though.
So part of this history degree is a language component, and I just can't decide between French and German. I did both in high school, but I did one more year of French. But I also grew up hearing bits and pieces of German (my grandfather was stationed in Germany, so my mom's whole family still knows some of the language).
I think German is easier to speak; but I also like French. Neither is practical, which is why everyone I've asked has responded with "Spanish"--so not an option. I just don't like it. I have a mental block when it comes to it, actually; my brain just doesn't want to absorb it. A couple of people have snidely suggested it's because I'm angry at my mother for marrying a Mexican man; but I've always found it to be an ugly sounding language. "No me gusta" just doesn't sound as pretty as "je n'aime pas". German's just in a whole other category.
What to do, what to do.
None of those things are connected. It's one of those posts.
My poor little dog had surgery today; my mom took her to my aunt, who's a vet. She removed a half pound fatty tumor from my poor pumpkin's chest. She also cleaned her teeth ... or tried. Apparently some of them were basically wedged in by tartar, so my poor baby is coming home with half her teeth in a bag.
I noticed at work today that one of my coworkers gained weight while she was gone for the summer. I don't mean this in a catty way. The only reason I noticed this is because she's in denial and won't buy new pants. Instead, she's got them really low on her hips, cinched in with a belt, which creates a muffin top that extends a good three inches out from her belt. It makes me sad; I'm sure she hates the fact that she's changed, and thinks as long as she "fits" into those size X pants, it's not that "bad". I wish there was a way I could suggest she get new pants without humiliating her utterly, because it really is the pants and not her body, but I know from past things she's said that she's insecure about her body as it is.
And finally, my grandmother said something today that absolutely left me speechless. Out of the blue, she brought up a couple of college women who were raped in their dorm rooms recently .... and said they deserved it. Why? Because they left their windows open. She said that of course the men shouldn't have done it, but the women were asking for it by having their windows open. I literally could not find a thing to say, I was so shocked.
I really love this new layout, but I'm having two problems with it.
1) Certain images get all stretched out and bizarre, like the disclosure badges on sponsored posts.
2) My post labels aren't showing up, even though I keep selecting that option in my settings, and even though there's a section of labels info in the code!
Anyone know how to fix these things?
(I've decided that "Friday admiration" sound too stilted and stuck-up. Let's face it, I'm a sarcastic little person, so this new title really fits better. Besides, I don't truly admire a whole lot of people--but people who just don't suck is a much bigger spectrum.)
A weekly(ish) series where I talk briefly about somebody who I think is cool for one reason for another.
At around the age of twelve, I was digging through my grandmother's CD collection (back when CDs were a novelty!) and came across a CD called Timepieces: The Best of Eric Clapton. At the time, my snotty little adolescent mind classified it at fogey music and paid no more attention. I was too busy listening to Mariah Carey and Tevin Campbell (I know, I'm embarrassed now!). I don't really remember what my moment of realization was; I think it was hearing "Layla" on a classic rock station and hearing them actually say who it was. After that, Clapton became my first long-lasting musical obsession.
Who he is: Seriously? If you need me to answer that, you can get off my blog. Unless you're under the age of 15, and then maybe you have an excuse. But not much of one.
What he's done: Uh, been awesome for decades. Written and performed some of the coolest songs ever, beaten heroin addiction, beaten alcoholism (twice), survived the death of his son without reverting to drugs or alcohol, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, and continued to make amazing music.
Why I love him: There are so many of his songs that just totally bowl me over, no matter how many times I listen to them. I don't even mean just the obvious ones like "Tears In Heaven" and the ubiquitous "Wonderful Tonight" (which makes me laugh now, since he was pissed off at his wife when he wrote it). Even songs that he didn't write, he generally does them so well that I don't even hate the fact that they're covers (he did a cover of Bob Dylan's "Born In Time" that I just adore).
And no matter how many times I see him live (four so far, last time was a couple of months ago), I'm always riveted by how ridiculously fast his fingers move to coax sound out of a box with strings on it! I've been looking all over Youtube trying to find a perfect example, this one's pretty good (both the intro and the solo at about three minutes in).
So when I first found out on Wednesday that my financial aid appeal had been denied, I called them right away to find out how many semesters I had to pay out of pocket before I could go through the process again. The girl I talked to said two, which is why I started panicking, calculating a budget, etc. My original plan if I were denied was to continue with this semester anyway, and re-appeal in the spring (because then my excess loan money would cover part of fall too), so I was thrown into a bit of a tailspin.
After spending the last three days panicking, crying, freaking out, making plans, feeling sick to my stomach, and sleeping an unhealthy amount because of depression ... I got a call today from a supervisor from the financial aid office. Turns out, the girl I talked to was full of crap. My original plan can now be re-instated! It's not ideal; it could be a little tricky trying to pay enough of fall tuition to be able to register for spring. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it--right now, I'm just so thrilled that I can take the classes I've been looking forward to for months.
So I just whipped up a spreadsheet, and determined that with all monthly bills, and to save up a year's worth of tuition in a year, I need to make $2100 a month. With a projected serving income of $1000 per month, I'd need to work 30 hours a week at $10.85 an hour or 40 hours a week at $8.14 an hour to pay my basic bills and expenses and save up tuition within a year. Alternatively, I'd need to make $1400 a month at a full-time job (which is what I made at my old retail management job) plus work about four shifts a week serving.
Of course, that doesn't take in to account possibly going to London, or taking any time off ever, or any emergencies, or anything positive like a (hopefully) fat tax return. Or anything more practical like me not being able to maintain a 60-70 hour work week. It also doesn't take in to account paying off my damn medical bills that are sucking my credit down the toilet. Realistically, I'm looking at more like 1.5-2 years before I'll have the cash saved up.
I like the colors, and the sorta scrap-booky look of it. But there are some screwy things with it. I can't seem to put a StumbleUpon button in the code; it either doesn't show up, or is a huge blurry graphic that can't be clicked anyway. If my title is too long, it appears over the author and comment lines. Even though I keep selecting for the labels to appear at the end of the post, they don't do so. I tried to make my archives a drop-down menu, and it doesn't work.
But ... but ... but I likes the pretty colors dammit! And if I change it, my blogroll will vanish again. Grr, ahrg. I've got another layout I'm working on. Let's see how that goes.
I've learned, generally speaking, not to answer my phone when my dad calls after nine at night. If he's not drunk, he'll leave a message and I'll call him back. If he is, he'll leave a message and I'll call him the next day. It's just too frustrating to try to talk to him when he's been in the whiskey--I never know what to expect. It could be drunken angry ranting about my mother; it could be sad, bitter remorse about her. It could be rambling about how much he loves me; it could be rambling about how he's so worried about me because I'm fat/broke/single/unprepared for the fact that he'll "be dead soon". It could be technology questions it would be difficult to navigate him through sober; it could be anything.
But tonight, I accidentally answered it. And he was drunk, and I got a little bit of all the above except the technology thing. It started out with him apologizing for letting me leave his house last night without telling me he loves me. Then it was he's proud of me, and wants me to just relax and not worry about this school thing. Then it was tell my mother to do something obscene to herself, he's getting me a new car and it'll be better than anything she could do for me--in a sad tone of voice--and he'll have my Mustang ready for me. Then he lectured me about being fat and "unhealthy". Etc.
Basically it was par for the drunken course. Luckily, I've finally gotten the knack of not letting it get to me. More or less. It's frustrating to try to tell him, again, that I'm not unhealthy. It's frustrating trying to steer him away from the subject of my mother. And it's frustrating when I don't know what promises to believe. Is he really going to come up with a car for me? And if so, will it be in my name or will it stay in his and be something he can hold over me because he's afraid I'll desert him like my mother did? Isn't it a little suspect he's suddenly promising this once my mother has a car for me, because he's trying to show her up? And with my vehicle history, will it be another throw-away junker, or rather perilously close?
And if he does procure this car ... what the hell do I do then? Which parent do I turn down--my mother, who's so proud to be able to help me, or my father, whose motives are probably suspect but who says he'll have a newer, better vehicle for me? My mother, who's trying to help me establish things of my own, or my father, who'll cover the registration and insurance? My mother, who's trying to apologize for the last several years she's been a drag on me, or my father, who's trying to apologize for my less-than-stable childhood?
Twenty-seven years old, five years since they split up, and I'm still getting caught in the middle between them.
Head over to the The F-Word. Apparently half of Americans think a woman should be legally required to change her last name when she gets married. Because clearly the government needs to put a stop to us uppity bitches who might want to retain a sense of individuality despite getting a ring.
And yet it seems an overwhelming proportion of marriage jokes are about how limiting and miserable and prison-like marriage is for the man. WTF.
I'm so depressed today I feel like it's a major effort to even breathe. I don't really have a choice but to put off school for at least another year while I get another "real" job and save up $6K in tuition money for the two semesters I'll have to pay out of pocket. So now, instead of diving in to the degree I'm so excited about, instead I get to watch all my coworkers go back to school while I work two jobs and continue accomplishing nothing in life.
It's my own fault. I absolutely know that. I hate myself for this, which of course only makes the depression aspect of it worse.
While discussing my school situation, and specifically the fact that he thinks it's my mother's fault (hello, I was 23, it was and is my own damn fault) ....
"If you were a male child I would have taken you out back and whipped your ass for being a fuck-up."
The thing is, he says things like that and doesn't understand why they hurt. To him, that's an entirely hypothetical statement. Since I wasn't born male, none of the rest of it applies. In his mind, he's not saying I am a fuck-up; he's saying that if I had been a boy, then he'd consider me a fuck-up. Since I'm not, I'm his little girl and the only woman he truly loves and will always take care of, and he's proud of me for the things that I have accomplished.
Still, it gets exhausting decoding his meanings, and it still hurts.
My financial aid appeal was denied. I now have two choices: go to school this semester anyway and take spring off to try to pay it back, or un-register for this semester and try to find another job and earn the money in advance.
If I do the first, I don't know how I'll pay my bills I'm already struggling with. If I do the second, I'll have student loan payments I won't be able to make, so that'll be more collection calls.
Plus, before I can even apply for aid again, I'll have to pay for two semesters out of pocket. I really just don't know what the best way to proceed is.
Basically, I'm stressing out and completely freaking. And I know I have nobody to blame but myself, which only makes it worse. I knew this was a possibility, and I thought I was prepared for this outcome; but I guess I still had too much hope.
I've never really liked this current layout. I like the colors of the banner; but I don't like my entry column being so narrow. I'd also like to come up with something I designed myself, although I'd basically just be modifying somebody else's layout.
Anyway, I'm going to do some fiddling; so things might look a bit odd as I do so over the next few days.
After making kiwi cupcakes last week, I decided to swap the kiwi for mango and make it a cake. I wasn't sure how well it would work; I'm certainly no baking expert. But I reasoned that by taste at least, kiwi and mango have approximately the same sugar and acid content, so it should be simple enough.
My recipe was essentially the same as the kiwi cupcake recipe, but my first order of business was to figure out how, exactly, you slice a mango. The last time I tried, I approached it like you'd slice an avocado. Er, no.
Once I'd sliced up the mango, I turned the oven on to 350 degrees and started on the cake.
- 1/2c softened butter
- 3/4c superfine sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4c self-rising flour
- 1/2c sour cream
- 1 finely chopped average-sized mango.
- Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time. I'm starting to get the hang of cracking an egg one-handed.
- Beat in the flour 1/4c at a time.
- Add in all sour cream at once and blend until well mixed.
- Add lemon juice and blend well. (I was planning on leaving out the lemon juice caused for the original recipe, but the batter seemed a tad thick so I ended up squeezing in approximately 1T of lemon juice and blending it in.)
- Fold in diced mango.
- I gave the batter about a one minute mix on medium at this point. I wanted to have large chunks of fruit, but also wanted the flavor to be spread out a little more in the cake.
Meanwhile, I went to make my strawberry frosting and discovered that my strawberries were moldy. Damn! I had a kiwi, but I thought it might be too tart. I had raspberries, but they have too many seeds, I didn't want to deal with it. And then my eyes alighted on the half bottle of Arbor Mist Exotic Fruits White Zin on the door of my fridge and thought ... well, that might be interesting.
Sweet Zinfandel Frosting
- 1/2c softened butter
- 4oz softened cream cheese
- 2c powdered sugar
- approx. 1/4c sweet wine--I'd measured out 1/2c and found the consistency I wanted came at about half that amount, but YMMV.
- Cream butter until fluffy.
- Add cream cheese and blend well.
- Add in powdered sugar slowly--I did about 1/4c at a time.
- Pour in wine and blend thoroughly.
I was talking with my mom the other day, and she mentioned that she always wakes up at 2, and then again at 3:30, and doesn't sleep well until after that. The 3:30 thing is from long, long ago, when she was a kid; my grandfather was in the army, and 3:30 was when my grandparents would get up and my grandma would make breakfast.
Waking up at 2 is from when I was a kid ... because 2-2:30 is when my dad would roll in from the bar. So maybe that explains my weirdness a bit too. If my mom still wakes up at 3:30 from a routine from 40 years ago, it's entirely possible I'm still affected by my dad's routine that I was still exposed to ten years ago.
Not that it explains everything, of course; some of it is me being stubborn, and working weird hours. But the fact that I rarely get sleepy until at least two may have something to do with my dad's old bar-going habits.
I did this one after work tonight, while waiting for the girl I was giving a ride home. Took me about an hour, and I did fumble that second word, but I did it 100% on my own. No help from coworkers, no looking stuff up online.
I think playing that damn frustrating sudoku has made me a lot more patient!
I've known I'd need to do another financial aid appeal since the end of last semester; I put it off because the longer I didn't do it, the longer they hadn't said no, and the longer I had hope. I finally started working on the letter a couple of weeks ago; I spent hours on it, tweaking phrases and trying to be as persuasive as possible while acknowledging how terribly I've fucked up. I think the letter's rather good, actually. It's honest and humorous and humble, and hopefully will convince them to give me one last chance.
I went to turn it in on Monday and was informed by a rather snotty woman that I had a second progress violation! The letter I received only said I had a classes completed percentage violation, so that was the part I completed. Apparently, between major changes, retaking classes, and transfer credits, I'm now over the 180 credits one is supposed to have completed a degree within. Oy. So I had to meet with an advisor, and fill out a graduation plan, and adjust my letter. I did that today and turned it in.
I'm trying to think hopeful thoughts; but at the same time I want to be pessimistic because if it doesn't come through the next year is going to absolutely fucking suck, and I'm afraid to hope otherwise.
See, if I get my financial aid back, my tuition, books, and rent will be covered. I make plenty at my job to cover my credit card bills that I'm still working on, but not those and rent, which is why I'm getting collection calls all day. Plus my bills relating to my surgery which are really tiny, piddly amounts, but I just don't how them.
So if I get financial aid, I can get caught up on those credit card bills, and what I'm behind on utilities. I can pay my medical bills. I can start saving up a cushion of savings. If I'm really lucky with my tips, I can go to London for my concert I'm dying to see. And when I get my tax return next year, I can use that as a down payment on a new car. Not just a new-to-me car, but a NEW car. I'll be able to go to school next spring, too.
If I don't get financial aid, none of those happen. I'll have to take spring semester off to pay off fall tuition, which just means another damn delay. I won't be able to keep up on my bills, or pay those medical bills. Instead I'll continue scraping for rent money, freaking out on a daily basis about what rabbit I'll pull out of the hat this month.
I've been dragged around to three different car dealers in two different towns by my mother today, and between all that and my exhaustion, I forgot to go to the bank. There's $60 in overdraft fees down the fucking drain. I am so fucking irate at myself right now. I hate my life.
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Thinking I might even lock the animals out of my room tonight as an experiment. Of course, if they're not disrupting me by walking across my head, they'll probably disrupt me by scratching at the door.
I don't think they're really the root of the problem anyway; though I did have an odd experience this morning. The big dog had curled up on the bed next to me, sort of under my arm; I fell asleep, and woke up when I shifted over a little ... and rolled completely over because there wasn't a dog there anymore. Startled the crap out of me, actually.
And maybe they are the problem. I don't remember being so perpetually exhausted at my first apartment, where pets weren't allowed. Of course, I don't really remember when it started, either, so that could just be selective memory.
I should probably stop putting off going to bed by talking about it!
Also, I know there've been a lot of those "sponsored posts" lately; just gotta take advantage of them while they're available. Not that I blog for money, exactly, but if I can make an extra $30? Why not! Trying to still provide enough regular content in between!
A few months ago, when I took my grandma to get her hair glued on, my ghetto buggy car was making a weird noise. So on the way home I stopped to see my dad, who gave me another car to drive while he looked at it. The second car actually used to be mine--well, after my dad bought it for his girlfriend, then dumped her and took it back, and gave it to me, and then took it back for himself because .... I don't know why, actually. And I liked driving this other car--all the gauges work! I know how fast I'm going, and how far I've gone, and how far I can go. Unlike the GB, which always says the tank is empty, it's going 0 mph, and that it hasn't gone more than 250,000 miles in the last three years. As an added bonus, this other car has a CD player and a good sound system, though that's obviously not so important.
Well, two Fridays ago, when I was leaving work, the damned thing wouldn't start. I got a ride home, and the next day my cousin picked me up and took me to my dad's for a family get-together. After that, he and his wife took my to my dad's shop to get the GB .... which started just fine, but after I stopped to say goodbye, it started acting up. It would start, but it kept stalling out. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. So they took me home, and my dad was going to bring me another vehicle, and then I'd have to take him to his shop, and then come home, and then go to work later.
Luckily for me, my other cousin was bored and came to visit the next day. So after hanging out at my house, she drove me to pick up the third vehicle in as many days, which is what I had for more than week. I appreciate my dad loaning me a vehicle; I'm glad I had a way to get to work. But I didn't enjoy driving this van--it felt like driving a holey box on wheels, while sitting in a rocking chair. Not in an unsafe way, exactly, but in the way of an older, uncomfortable vehicle. It also smells funny (like paint fumes, roadkill, and dust) and gets crappy gas mileage.
Last Friday, I had lunch with my mom and her husband. When we came out of the restaurant and she saw what I was driving, so had a fit--my dad's had that van since before they split up, and she had to drive it a few times. In the middle of the parking lot she started ranting, and then ranting in Spanish to her husband about it, asking him about some car they have that they were going to sell. Originally he said they needed to get their $500 back from it, which didn't seem unreasonable to me--it's not like they're well-to-do.
But when I broached the subject to my dad, wanting to know if he knew if Grand Ams are reliable cars, he got all pissed off. He started in on a bitter rant about how she should just give me the car, and something about her still "getting in his pocket"--even though what I asked was if it was worth it for ME to save up--and something about "Oh, so your daddy can afford to buy you an eight or ninth car!" I just let it go, because he was clearly not in a good mood--but he was exaggerating. My first car, my Mustang, he built himself--which is obviously a huge time commitment and expensive too, but that was his choice to give me as a sixteenth birthday present. It was also his choice to take that away from me and replace it with a two-door little Saturn.
When that got smashed up while parked on a street during a horrible snowstorm, we used the insurance money to buy a second Saturn. When that one got totaled as well (stupid flimsy fiberglass panels), he bought another car with that insurance money. When that car caught on fire going down the highway, he gave me a car he'd originally bought for my mother years before--which started out as a decent car, and is now known as the Ghetto Buggy. And then there was The Girlfriend's Car. So yes, he's kept me in cars since I turned sixteen, but it's not like he's bought an endless stream of cars, for me, out of pocket.
Yesterday at work, I got a text from my mom saying she's going to give me this other car. I know nothing about it except it's a Grand Am, it's some shade of green, and .... yeah, that's it. And I don't really feel comfortable accepting it for a lot of reasons. Part of it is because my dad's always been the one I relied on for help with vehicles. Part of it is that even though she's planning to just give it to me, he's still being all cynical and pessimistic about it--"How good could a 16 year old car be?" (Gee, I don't know--at least as good at the 19 year-old ghetto buggy I'd been driving? Or the 19 year-old car I'm driving now? Oh, wait--he's assuming she got it from a Hispanic person who ran it into the ground first, that's the problem.)
Part of the reason is also because I do realize that at my age I should be able to buy myself a car. And I'm working to get to that point. And this will help--my mom is going to put this car in my name, so I'd actually be able to trade it in, unlike the ghetto buggy which was never put in my name. So once I'm able to swing a car payment (hopefully soon), I just have to wait for the right trade in deal.
But most of the reason I feel uncomfortable about it is because of her husband. It's not that I dislike him personally; I don't know him, really. He doesn't speak enough English for me to really talk to him. And I know he's the one who found the car, and he's the one who put a stereo in it because my mom knows I'd want one, and he's the one who's taking it to someone to check that it runs as well as he thinks. I feel uncomfortable asking for help from anyone for anything--so to be given a car by someone who I really don't know? Very awkward.
But I can't turn it down without hurting my mom's feelings, because I know she's really happy she's finally in a position to help me with something. And also because I could never explain all this to her--she's always telling me how her husband cares about me like family, and then she'd give me crap about why don't I learn more Spanish and then I could talk to him.
So .... apparently, I'll have another car soon.
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Still! I didn't get frustrated and toss the thing out, like I normally do. I tend to complicate it too much. For example, if the clue is "of (blank); to some degree" I start searching my vocab for a five letter word that fits the bill. "a sort" doesn't occur to me--isn't that sort of cheating, to make it two words? Anyway, I usually get annoyed and leave it for someone else to finish.
My brain feels pleasantly exercised.
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Another weekly-installment type post; who knows how long it will last, considering my obsessions with cooking/baking tend to come and go. But for now, I think it will be fun! I'm going to try to have every recipe be something I've actually made, rather than just "this looks good".
A few days ago on Twitter, somebody I follow mentioned the cupcake recipe here. I love strawberries and kiwis, and the idea of them combined in a cupcake? Divine! I rushed right out to the store (at 11:30 at night) .... and forgot my shopping list. Damn! Still, the only thing I forgot was the lemon. I remembered the lemon juice, but not the lemon. I'm blonde, be quiet.
I was too tired to make them when I got home anyway, so I got a lemon the next day. And then ... I delayed by re-arranging my entire kitchen. It wasn't very efficiently arranged; I didn't really have any counter space. After spending hours washing every dish in the house, and cleaning the kitchen, I was finally ready to bake.
The first step was to cream sugar into butter, and I nearly screwed it up right there. I hadn't baked in so long that instead of creaming it, I went at it with a fork, as if I were cutting butter into dough. D'oh! Luckily I realized my mistake before I'd wasted more than a minute or two ... and that's when I busted out my trusty, rarely used electric mixer. However, I hit a little snag with the lemon zest ... in the form of not having a zester. I gave it a try with my cheese grater, but it just didn't work ... so I went ahead without it. I now have a lemon I have no use for.
While creaming sugar, and chopping kiwi, and mixing ingredients, I realized I miss doing this! I used to cook and bake a lot more often. Then I moved in with my aunt and cousins to be their nanny, and I cooked dinner for the kids, but it wasn't my kitchen. Then I moved to my own apartment again, but I was working at first four, and then at least two, jobs. I cooked a little more often, but it's been ages since I actually baked anything. It was very satisfying to pop the first batch of cupcakes out of the oven.
And boy, did they turn out delicious! They were good by themselves, because they were really moist and tasty. But the frosting? Aw damn. Cream cheese frosting with little bits of fresh strawberry and kiwi mixed in may just be the best thing I've ever tasted. Also, they really weren't difficult to make at all. It made 14 cupcakes, and I still have more than half of the leftover frosting--you just don't need to use much, because the cakes are so moist and sweet on their own.
This recipe, and the photo, are taken directly from Couture Cupcakes. I had planned to take pictures of my own, but the thing is, I don't have a frosting bag, so I just had to glop the frosting on with a knife and they weren't nearly as pretty. :)
Lemon Kiwi Fruit Cupcakes
125g / 1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 ¼ cup self-rising flour
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
2 kiwi fruit finely diced
1. Preheat oven to 180 (350).
2. Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.
3. Cream butter, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Beat in the flour until just combined, add the sour cream and lemon juice and beat until well incorporated.
6. Fold in the finely diced kiwi fruit.
7. Evenly divide the batter into cupcake liners and bake for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
8. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Strawberry and Kiwi Cream Cheese Frosting
125g / 1/2 cup butter
125g / 4 oz cream cheese
2 cups icing [powdered] sugar
2 strawberries finely diced
1/2 kiwi fruit finely diced
2 - 3 tbs milk
1. Cream butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the strawberries, lemon zest and kiwi fruit. Beat until fruit is combined with the butter.
3. Add cream cheese and beat for 2 minutes.
4. Add one cup of icing sugar to cream cheese mixture. Gradually add rest of icing sugar and milk until you get the consistency you want.
And not that I'm all into the food-shaming thing anymore, but these are a pretty healthy baked good. Because of the fruit there's a decent amount of vitamins; there's enough dairy to contribute 3% of your daily calcium per cupcake; and although there's a good dose of carbs, using full-fat dairy products lessens the effect. I had two cupcakes, with frosting, on an empty stomach and didn't get that crazy blood sugar rise-and-crash cycle going on.
Tomorrow I'm going to try substituting mango for kiwi, and make it a cake instead of cupcake. Mmmmm.