Thursday, October 9, 2008

Design in a Box

What up my homeys.

About 15% of the time when I log in to post something, I have no idea what I--hold on, phone call.

That was a volunteer for the Minnesota DFL (Democratic Farm & Labor Party, a.k.a. Democratic Party). I was hoping she was going to engage me in political conversation, but she was only calling to make sure I'm registered to vote. I was actually glad she called because I have a confirmation card that tells me my polling place, but I wasn't sure if it was for one of the primaries or for the general election. I kept putting off checking on it. Crazy thing to do considering the deadline is really close for registering in advance. Sometimes you can register at your polling place but it's going to be pretty crowded this time, so doing it in advance is definitely a plus.

Anyway, as I was saying, I sometimes have no idea what I'm going to write, and this is one of those times. But I just thought of something.

My interior designer recently moved out of state. She's getting her business going in her new location, and in light of the state of the economy and the likelihood that clientele will not be easy to come by, she decided to try taking her business nationwide by offering a "Design in a Box" service: you send her pictures of a room that you want to change, and magazine clippings that inspire you, and answer a questionnaire, and consult with her by phone, and she sends you a box filled with everything you need to put a new room together: paint color swatches, fabric samples, furniture photos, and 2 space plans using existing or new furniture. It's ideal because I can shop, push a sofa and paint a wall. I just don't know how to get started and I need someone who has designed a lot of rooms and can predict what is likely to look best; otherwise I might waste money and time getting to the right place, and maybe I'll never get there.

I seemed interested so she asked for my opinion on the web page as well as the general idea. I immediately gave it, and long-windedly so. I think it's a great idea and could really take off. I emphasized that I thought the box itself (as opposed to the contents) should be cute (yes, cute) and in line with the colors/theme of the new room. I noted that I thought it was too expensive, because she specifically asked about that, but I also noted that I am not in an income bracket where I ought to be dealing with interior designers. I didn't say it quite that way, but my point was that things like that always seem too expensive to me. When I worked with her last year is was sort of a splurge, but I am sure it was worth it, because I learned a lot and I love my interior, and really it wasn't that much money in the grand scheme of things. But NEVER AGAIN! Except I can't resist the idea of saving up a little fun money so I can figure out what the hell to do with this bedroom:

It's next to our bedroom. We currently store all of our clothes in it and use it as a dressing room. It's very long but also narrow, 8' by 20', has a 7' ceiling. Dale is demonstrating how you have to walk in the middle of the room or else bump your head. Note that he also has to turn on his headlights because the lighting is less than ideal. I've thought a lot for over a year about what to do to make the room more inviting and cozy, so that it at least looks like it's being used for something, and I've googled "decorate awkward space" and similar terms many times, but I'm coming up empty. The ideal thing might be a big comfy sofa, but the cats would claim it as a scratching post. So how do I make it look cozy, or at least inviting, without upholstered furniture? Where do I put the furniture? This is where I think it would be fun to get a Design in a Box. And hopefully, the box and contents would be cute enough to put in the room as a design accessory. That would slightly make up for the high price of the service.

I would like to add that if anyone has any thoughts about what to do with this room, I would be very glad to hear them.

Stanley just got back from the sporting goods store. He bought an orange vest because he's going pheasant hunting with Dick Cheney this Saturday. He also went to the gourmet grocer and picked up dessert, so I gotta go.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live Debate Blogging III: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

8:00 I'm nervous again. Why do I get nervous for these things?? Tonight we've got a total of five people watching.
8:02 Jorge* is wearing his bracelet. Too.
8:03 Tom Brokaw is nervous?
8:04 Excellent question.
8:05 Kind of sucks but I have to pause to take some cinnamon rolls out of the oven.
8:09 Didn't they put a 35-year-old in charge of the bailout fund? Silly. Rolls not warm yet.
8:12 He was totally going to say "fundamental" and he stopped himself. Don't drink.
8:13 It's an infinite meanwhile regress.
8:14 Obama's actually explaining how the economic crisis can lead to personal crisis. Excellent.
8:15 Rolls should be hot; gotta check.
8:19 I just can't comprehend a trillion. Sorry.
8:20 I have to be honest; I'm distracted and not really listening. It might be boring. Annoying because they are talking about something really important.
8:26 The rolls were FANTASTIC. Also, kudos to Obama for actually ranking the issues as requested.
8:28 I can't believe Brokaw has had to repeat the rules so much. I can't believe I haven't listened to one whole answer yet. Just too much going on in Hazel's House right now.
8:31 Right after 9/11, when Bush told me to shop, I was totally on board. Whatever my President tells me to do, I'll do it, if it helps America. I feel different now.
8:34 I believe the phrase is "pretty high OFF the hog", not "ON the hog". Joe Six-Pack he ain't.
8:35 I'm not too sure about what I wrote at 8:34.
8:36 Everyone in the room thinks McCain's lying about Obama's taxes on businesses.
8:37 Nice of Obama to yield to the moderator.
8:39 Oh I guess he didn't yield after all.
8:44 Pretty much can't hear anything from the TEEvee because of the animated political discourse here in the living room.
8:45 I like how he pointed out that even though the climate (or was it the economy?) is a crisis, it's also an opportunity. Which reminds me that I've been wishing that Obama would get on a stump and fill us with hope and inspire us a little bit, like he used to. Be positive. Make us feel proud and resolved.
8:47 Should we do nuclear energy our garages? Oh yes indeedy.
8:49 Yes, I believe health care should be treated as a commodity. Next question.
8:51 Let's do everything to change health care except give people more access to health care.
8:54 Earlier a blogger I read wrote "8:30 PM ... This debate's so boring I don't even know what to tell the staff to upload to youtube."
8:58 Come on. Say something insightful, inciting, inviting, invoking.
9:01 I'm glad he brought up the whole "Obama doesn't understand" thing and turned it on its head.
9:03 Take the Congo. Or take Rwanda. Please.
9:04 OOH! Check out the blond guy in the dark suit in the back with the porn mustache and the lime green tie.
9:06 McCain says we need someone with a cool hand. He doesn't strike me as such a person.
9:16 Yes mjb I can see how the town hall format would appeal to a politician. Sound bites. Jab jab jab. Repeat repeat repeat.
9:21 This debate is like an intermission in the middle of a horror film.
9:27 The horror film in this metaphor represents the state of the economy this week.
9:28 I do believe the audience is doing the wave.
9:29 YAY last question!! Go Peggy. Go Peggy.
9:32 "What I don't know is what the unexpected will be." Didn't Confucius say that?
9:33 Basically, he's saying "I don't know the future." That's a safe answer. I think I'll use that in a job interview for the weakness question. "My greatest weakness is that I don't know the future."
9:34 WOW that was awkward. Brokaw barking at McCain, "You're in the way of my script!" and McCain trotting out of the way. Actually kind of running a little. Brokaw just made an old man run.
9:36 I don't think I even want to watch that moment again on youtube.
9:38 Changed title to more accurately reflect the debate. I had heard it would be a "Character Assassination" but it was more like a nap.
9:39 TTFN

*Names changed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chickens and Chick Flicks

In a comment on yesterday's post, The Chicken Lady* suggested that one way I can avoid throwing out egg cartons is by getting chickens. When we went to Stanley's cousins wedding in Denver this past August, I met his other cousin Travis*, who had several chickens. I think he had driven them some long distance; not too sure. They were cute and made adorable noises and didn't mind being held. I felt drawn to them. Must be in our genes, Chicken Lady! But are chickens allowed in my back yard? I looked up the local ordinances and while I didn't find an official document describing the rules for keeping chickens, I did find a description on a non-government site. It said that for my city, a bloke "can have one chicken without a permit, but more than one you have to get permission from 75% of neighbors 150 ft. around, or proof you have no neighbors for 150 feet. No roosters, and no selling eggs without a permit." Fair enough. I will give the eggs away. Or trade them for gold and treasury bonds.

In my search for the local laws, I came across a (~10-minute) youtube video that documents the difficulties one guy had when he tried to find out whether he could have chickens in Chicago.

I also came across this awesome video.

If I have to watch one more rabbit fight in my back yard, I'll go nuts! I gotta get me some chickens.

I'm not sure what to do with the chickens when it gets too cold. Eat them? I hear they taste like rare and questionable delicacies.

I was a bit surprised to learn that there is another presidential debate tomorrow (Tuesday). Already! I haven't fully digested the last debate! I plan to liveblog it again. Why stop now? 9 p.m. MJB and Biden time. 8 p.m. Hazel and Amacrine time. 7 p.m. McCain time. 6 p.m. Chicken Lady, Jasmine, and Lotus time. 3 p.m. Obama and Palin time.

Stanley is out of town (not sure what town) at a departmental retreat. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've had the house to myself overnight since we moved in over a year ago. I'm trying to take full advantage of it. I've got a horrible chick flick playing right now: Dancing at Lughnasa, starring an underused Meryl Streep. Just really terrible. Painfully touching and cloyingly dramatic. I'm enjoying it. But I miss Stanley a little bit. Earlier this evening I tried to open a jar of pickled beets which I planned to put in a spinach salad. For the first time in my adult life, I needed someone to open a jar for me because I wasn't strong enough. I pride myself in not needing a man to open a jar for me, but I put all my strength into this one and used several tools but it just wouldn't budge. I was kind of getting angry and sad. But then I opened it. Independent reputation intact.

Just now on the phone I made tentative plans to entertain our friends Mike* and Carolyn* tomorrow night. Mike helped Stanley brew the latest beer, a Toasted Oat Cream Ale, and he's also going to help with bottling. Carolyn is the friend that I do the frozen meal prep with, and we're going to cook one of them up.

Yay the movie is over.

*Names changed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hazel Talks Herself Out of Dairy Products

I've been thinking a lot lately about state of the economy and the planet. Since we might have to get used to getting by with less, I'm taking stock in my consumptive habits to see where they might improve.


Here's a Time article about a guy who kept all his trash in his basement for a year so he could watch it accumulate and see what kind of impact he has on the landfills. He said that most of the trash is from the first couple of months while he was learning to consume less and about various composting methods. I have no idea what our basement would look like if we stopped taking out the trash, but I have noticed that since we have cut back on spending for the last few weeks, our trash production has gone down by about half.

Amacrine, a friend, reader and fellow blogger, remarked in a recent entry that she was trying to cut back on recycling, for example, by buying shampoo (and I think conditioner as well?) that is not in packaging that needs to be thrown out or recycled. She says it's called solid shampoo. I'm intrigued and look forward to hearing more about it.


My habit with lunches lately has been to put sandwiches and snacks in ziploc bags, and gloppy foods in re-usable plastic containers. I grab a plastic fork and spoon as needed, and sometimes a paper towel to use as a napkin, because I'm kind of a slob when I eat. I put all the items in a quart-size ziploc, or if I'm worried about keeping it cold, in an insulated lunch box. I used to use grocery bags but started to shun them a while back for several reasons, including: 1) we are trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to only shop with re-usable bags, 2) I use them for used cat litter so I started to associate them with used cat litter and 3) they are ugly. So, despite re-using some items, I often end up with a bunch of paper and plastic to throw out. I always felt that since it was such a small pile of trash, and it was all neatly contained in one of the ziplocs, and actually kind of a cute little package, it was not a big deal. Now I want to save money and reduce garbage by switching to re-usable containers wherever possible.

1. Sandwiches and snacks now go in plastic re-usable containers, just like the gloppy food. No more ziplocs.

2. No more plastic cutlery or paper napkins. I'm going to buy a set of used metal cutlery at a yard sale for cheap. I own cloth napkins that I don't use, and there is no reason I can't use them in my lunches, except that the 20-year-0ld lab assistants will ridicule me, but I've got to be strong and set a good example even if I must suffer insodoing.

3. I'm going to re-use the same lunch bags every day, either my insulated bag or something else. I bought some curtains that were packaged in a zippered plastic bag and the bag is the perfect size and shape for my lunch. It's shaped like a book and it fits well in my bag next to my laptop. Here's a typical lunch using my new method:

The carrots would have been in a ziploc bag before. I currently would throw out the apple core but eventually we would like to do some composting. The gloppy stuff is mashed potato casserole left over from Stanley's birthday dinner. The yogurt container is the only real garbage; our recycling program doesn't accept plastic food containers unless they have necks - ??? We could buy the yogurt in larger containers, but that still produces garbage, and often it's more expensive by volume, which makes no sense but that's how it goes. I could make my own yogurt, or stop eating yogurt. Or figure out a great way to use the empty containers. I will google that right now....

...I'm back. I found a bunch of uses for yogurt containers in a post on the blog But really I think the best option is just not to buy the yogurt in the first place, but rather make it myself, which Stanley's sister's husband did, and it tasted great, and apparently it's pretty easy. Or I could just stop eating it, but it's a major source of dairy for me, although there is a theory out there that only babies need milk, and it's not the best source of calcium (broccoli has more), and it causes more health problems than it solves. So unless I quit dairy, which is more likely now that I've thought about it, the next best idea is to buy the big containers, which I will probably do. Then I will have fewer containers to figure out how to re-use.


I wasn't sure whether I could leave small scraps of paper like grocery receipts and post-it notes in the curbside recycling, so I have been throwing them out. I've also been throwing out paper that is less than pristine, like with a coffee stain on it, because I wasn't convinced they would want it. But I've been recycling the cardboard tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls. None of these items are specifically addressed on the recycling company's website, so I e-mailed them to ask what I should be doing with them.

Here is the nice person's response. My comments are in italics.


Hello (Hazel),

Thanks for your email and good questions (already I like this person). All the items you listed for small pieces of paper can be recycled! (So, good news for post-its, receipts, and cut up scraps.)

The paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls are a different story (uh-oh. A different story. I hate different stories). Each time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter. Paper towel and toilet rolls are generally made out of fibers that have been recycled before (they may have first been used in office paper, then a cardboard box and then an paper towel roll). By the time paper fibers are made into paper towel roll, they have reached the end of their life and are too short to be made into new products. This is also why egg cartons can not be recycled. (Well that sucks. Another reason not to use paper towels. Or eggs.)

You can still recycle your paper if it is wet or has stains, but the more food; the more the paper starts to break down and cannot be recycled. So if you have paper that is full of food residue it is better to compost it.

Let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for recycling!


What a nice, informative e-mail!

This entry is long enough, so goodbye for now. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to share. I don't consider myself to be the epitome of earth-friendliness. But this has been on my mind lately so I had to go off about it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Is the Sound of One Key Jangling?

I went to a Minnesota Gophers football game today, against the Indiana Hoosiers. It was my first time attending a college game. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most fun I've ever had, it was a 5. Actually, it was more like 5.4, so let's be generous and give it a 6. I went with my friend Loretta*, who had season tickets and hasn't been using them like she should. She was well trained in all the traditional yells and gestures, which was useful. If she hadn't been there, I would have wondered about a lot of things. For example, anytime there is a kickoff you have to take out your keys and jangle them. As luck would have it, I only had one key, because I wanted to travel light, and it wasn't attached to a key chain, so there was no noise when I jangled it. I felt about 20% more foolish than all of the other people waving their keys around.

It was suggested that I wear maroon and/or gold, but if I didn't have those colors, to at least not wear red and white, the Hoosier colors. I wore brown and blue. Pretty safe. We sat next to a couple of Hoosiers, one of whom was wearing a fire-engine red sweatshirt with the word "INDIANA" in emblazoned on the front in 400-pt font. He reminded me of the kid from the movie Superbad:

I was a little worried about these guys, especially the Superbad boy, because I had been told that there are special, rude traditions acted out on people wearing the opposing team's colors. I was also worried about Loretta and myself, since we were talking to them. I didn't have much to worry about; the crowd was well behaved, except for one Lord-of-the-Flies moment. A fan in the row in front of us had had a little too much to drink, and was passed out sitting up in his seat. Poor guy. He reminded me a little bit of this guy:

His "friends" were balancing bottles on his head and taking pictures of him, and the jumbotron camera guy suggested that we (the crowd as a unit) remove the Indiana sweatshirt from this guy:

and put it on this guy:

so that the camera guy would get some good fodder for the jumbotron. Superbad boy obligingly took off his sweatshirt (he kind of had to in this situation) and drunk guy's "friends" put the sweatshirt on him. Everyone was happy. It was like Christmas.

*Name changed, new friend, haven't mentioned her before.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stanley's Birthday, Which Was All About Me

Stanley's birthday was Wednesday and I put forth some uncharacteristic effort for him. I woke up at 5:00 to bake the traditional Spupspe family cinnamon rolls so that they would be ready by 8:00, because he had to go to work earlyish. I could have baked them the day before, which is how they have always been baked, as long as any of the Spupspe's can remember. However, the last time I made them, at Mom and Dad Spupspe's house for the Fourth of July, Stanley's mom happened to have rapid-rise yeast. This shaved several hours and a couple of steps off of the prep time. It only took two hours. That's doable for fresh morning rolls. So I went for it. At around 5:30 it looked like disaster was imminent, because the yeast was not bubbling. It was just sitting there, dead in the water, due to some unknown reason. Was it already dead when I bought it? Did I inadvertently expose it to metal, which is clearly forbidden in the recipe? Luckily, I had bought twice the number of yeast packets called for, because I wanted to have it on hand in case I got a wild hair and decided to bake again in the next year. I actually do want to do more baking, and cooking in general. Actually, just baking. I have a kitchen with lots of tools. I know people who would eat baked things. There are several recipes I want to try. And kneading dough and letting it rise is strangely therapeutic. Anyway, I tried again with the yeast, and thank Sarah Palin, it worked.

One other minor mishap with the rolls was that I had less than half the brown sugar that was called for in the filling, so they aren't as sweet as they should be. I don't look at this as a bad thing. Less sugar makes them better for you, plus, now there is nothing stopping me from making cream cheese icing, aside from the high cost of groceries.

That evening, Stanley got home at 6:00 and was really hungry, so I cooked up some fried green tomatoes, which we will be having a lot of in the coming weeks as it gets colder. We've got 20 or 30 tomatoes on the vine and not a lot of sunshine and warmth for them. But you know, fried green tomatoes are pretty good, and easy to make. Dip in egg, dredge in flour, fry in oil.

To backtrack a bit, last Sunday I did some frozen meal prep with my friend Carolyn*, as we did a few months ago. One of the meals was spinach-mushroom stuffed pork chops in a white wine gravy, and mashed potato casserole. I cooked that one up for Stanley's birthday dinner. It was delicious, in my opinion, and according to Stanley.

For dessert, because I love tiramisu and Stanley loves lemon-flavored desserts, I made tiramisu al Limoncello, which was loosely based on a recipe we saw demonstrated by Lidia Bastianich on her PBS cooking show. I adapted her recipe to a tiramisu kit from a box, using lemon juice instead of espresso/coffee and Limoncello lemon liqueur instead of amaretto/rum, and omitting the cocoa, but adding lemon zest to the mascarpone mixture. I couldn't help but taste the approximately 1:1 lemon juice/Limoncello mixture before I soaked the ladyfingers, and it was so good it made me bang my hand repeatedly on the countertop. Really sour but just sweet enough to make you drink it anyway. Now that we have a bottle of Limoncello I'm going to experiment with lots of lemon cocktail and dessert recipes. OH! Lemon crepes! As Jasmine** would say, "That's what I'm talkin' about!"

The dessert turned out pretty well, quite delicious, nice and tart, but I detected a traditional tiramisu coffee/chocolate flavor in the cream. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be flavoring in there. It didn't ruin it, but it was distracting.

Here's the birthday card I gave Stanley.

Have a great day!

*Name changed.

**Jasmine = Squiggly Worm. Both names changed. Obviously.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Live Blog of the Harpooning Debate: Bidin' and Impalin'

7:50 Considering changing the title of this entry to a less obscure, less painful, less punny one.
7:53 I think I'm more nervous for this debate than for the last one, probably because of the huge uncertainty factor. Will Biden offend feminists? Will Palin get caught in an infinite loop of blather?
7:54 Getting on Facebook for the 214th time today.
7:59 On way to Facebook, saw on Yahoo! News that psychics say stars are not aligned for Palin. Even the psychics are in on the "lower their expectations" strategy. Must remember to look up how much money psychics have donated to her campaign. Also, what legislation has she passed that has benefited psychics.
7:59 Changed spelling of "benefitted" to "benefited".
8:01 Annoying, tell-them-what-to-think pre-game show from Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw.
8:03 Kind of weird open-mike moment. "Hey, can I call you Joe?" How adorable.
8:06 She keeps repeating the word "fear". It makes me feel afraid. Suddenly I feel like voting Republican.
8:08 Biden is pointing out relevant facts. Palin is appealing to emotions like patriotism and fear.
8:12 Biden is repeating John McCain's name and going after him, almost like Palin isn't there. I read several articles that suggested that would be a good strategy. Palin is focusing on McCain, too.
8:12 They told her to say "darn right" as often as she could. It's so cute and spunky.
8:14 Her strategy might be to say "well I don't want to talk about that, I want to talk to the American people about (whatever they crammed her with in the last few days)"
8:21 So far, no train wreck.
8:22 It's SO weird how good Tina Fey's impression is.
8:24 Biden is amused and confused. And mildly entertained.
8:26 "Rear that head of abuse"? Yikes.
8:27 I predict "Main-Streeters" will be one of the "words of the year".
8:29 Palin looks really nervous and intense.
8:30 Oh boy climate change (munches popcorn).
8:31 We have to drill for more oil, and we have to clean up the planet. Hmmm....
8:32 OOH. Biden was coached not to use her first name. Perhaps because that seems too familiar and disrespectful? But yet she can call him Joe.
8:34 She used the words "hungry" and "raping" when describing clean energy. Lots of emotive words.
8:37 She thinks homosexuality is a choice.
8:39 I guess it's still too risky to support gay marriage.
8:40 Let me just point out that nobody votes to stop funding the troops. When funding for the war decreases, they don't stop feeding the troops. They might stop passing out candy to the occupied kids, though.
8:42 "Governor?" "Um....."
8:45 I wish my hair could do that.
8:47 Just now saw that mjb tried Facebook chat a half hour ago; put FB visible so I'll see it if it happens again.
8:48 If they can't pronounce "nuclear", they have no business with the nuclear codes.
8:50 I think I just accidentally deleted something on Facebook before I read it! GAAAH! Okay back on track. GAAAH WHAT WAS IT? Okay, let it go, que sera sera. GAAAH!
8:55 Just replied to mjb the instant after he went offline.
9:01 Starting to feel fatigued with the rapid fire.
9:02 Angsting about what I might have deleted on Facebook.
9:03 "Oh, man, it's so obvious that I'm a Washington outsider and I just don't understand why you guys do stuff blah blah blah." I hate the airhead shtick. She's undermining my future.
9:06 I'm getting dizzy with her going back and forth between hockey mom and governor.
9:07 Nice question: "What if Obama was dead? What would you do then?" I guess it's a critical question but just kind of awkward. Good thing Obama isn't in the room.
9:09 Oh my God she winked as she described what she would do if McCain were dead.
9:10 WOW so many colloquialisms from Palin in 20 seconds I vomited.
9:14 Oh my God she's hitting her stride. She's really channeling "Tina Fey as Sarah Palin" right now.
9:18 I can't wait to hear what Biden says about his own lack of discipline.
9:22 Missed Biden's statement due to cat emergency.
9:25 When she gets "serious" she puts all the emphases ON the prepositions IN an effort to sound intelligent.
9:29 Such an honor FOR me.
9:32 Turn off the MIKES!
9:35 And..................spin.

Another Shot at Live Debate Blogging Tonight

I doubt anyone was watching my blog while I typed out my thoughts during last week's debate, but I'm going to do the live blogging again anyway because it was fun. Amacrine, sorry you missed it; I had sent you an e-mail earlier in the day to give you a heads-up, just in case you were interested, but if you didn't get the e-mail then we're going to have to figure out what happened. MJB, set an alarm for 9 p.m. Eastern time (8 Central, 6 Pacific. Hmmm. I don't think I have any readers in Mountain time. If I do, I apologize for not including your time zone in this announcement. It's just that I am in a hurry to get to work.)

To whet your appetite for the impending train wreck tonight, here's a five-minute clip of Sarah Palin's greatest hits. It starts off kind of weird, but don't worry, it's the right video.