Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is sort of the perfect image to tell you how many conflicted emotions I feel when I am invited to yet another baby shower. Being in your early twenties means you go to a lot of baby showers. Between friends and family getting knocked up and the eternal rotation of impregnated co-workers, it seems like there's another baby shower every couple of months - and if I had more friends, I'm certain it would be more often than that.

Baby showers are a problem for me on a couple of levels. In large part, the fact that I never intend to have children plays a roll. I can see why, if you intend on having one of these events for yourself in the future, you might be willing to wear a diaper pin covered in curling ribbon and plastic rattles for a few hours in exchange for harvesting the population for gifts of your own one day.

because apparently people will do anything for free shit - even if it's just plastic beads

But for me - oh for me - going to a baby shower is several hours of an indescribable pain. First, there's the compulsory gift registry. Like weddings, people register for baby shower gifts. It ensures that you get what you're looking for - that themes are met and it also allows people to fully understand how completely and utterly insane you are. Take, for example, my 19 year old cousin. When he knocked his 18 year old girlfried up on a weekend home from college, they registered for an iPod and iPod docking station for the crib.


I've developed a bit of a "standard" baby shower gift which I will occasioanlly supliment depending on the situation and it works for me - it usually runs about $30 that ends up in the Compulsory and Unreciprocated Gift Giving tally on the yearly budget. By the by, that colum, when you factor in housewarming parties, weddings and baby showers - it's FAT, but it's money I would gladly spend if I just didn't have to actually go to the shower itself.

See, as painful as the gift experience can be for me (I spent a half hour this morning staring at a monkey hat on Etsy wondering which co-worker it would be most appropriate to give it to based on month of infant birth, personality, race, gender and religious affiliation.) the worst part really is going to the actual shower. Bad food, screaming kids, horrible music, and the games - oh the games! No self-respecting woman should be expected to pin curling ribbon encrusted diaper pin to her lapel and listen for someone to do or say something on a list of twenty odd 'taboo' statements or behaviors (leg crossing, the word baby...) in an effort to obtain their pin in exchange for a scented candle from Pottery Barn. No one. Or estimate how many squares of toilet paper it would take to wrap around the Mommy-To-Be's stomach, play musical highchairs, or - and this is the point where I usually throw my hands up and leave no matter how many pounds of pastel colored m&m's they try to weigh me down with - see who can eat chocolate pudding from a diaper the fastest.

So yeah, seriously.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Economic 180's

I'm a serial temp employee. I figure, I'm young enough not to need the health insurance and old enough to be placed in the long-term contract positions, lazy enough to enjoy the way they just hand me a job and I show up and have a strong enough itch to enjoy changing positions every year or so. Plus, when it comes time for team building exercises that involve trust falls and hug-a-thons, I always get to use the tried and true line of my ancestors - "Dude, I"m a temp."

In any case, over my years of temping, you see that temps are treated a lot of different ways depending on the corporate culture. At some offices, it doesn't matter that you've worked there six months and you'll be there for another 10, they still won't give you a name tag for your desk and half the office calls you "the temp with the glasses." At others, co-workers adopt you into the fold immediately and forget that you're a temp - when the company gives away goodies, they're for everyone, not just the actual employee employees. Either way, it never really mattered to me, but lately, an interesting phenomena has taken hold - Jobloss-itis.

because if you're going to fire someone, you should at least do it with flair.

I temp for one of those really big, international conglomerates that owns a few fistfuls of companies in varying degrees of success and failure. Truth be told, I've never worried about being hired on permanently. M, our brand new student, is set to graduate in a few years, and when he does, we'll be moving. Is it worth it to bust my bosses balls and insist that I get hired on for a few months of health benefits and some paid vacation? To me, not really. If they hire me, yay - i'll be happy to soak up the summer sun on my days off and get my teeth cleaned - but if they don't, I'm not one to feel worried or slighted.

That's how I felt until recently.

Now, if they tried to hire me, I think I might say no.

You see, one of the new fringe benefits of being a temp is that, while once we were the expendible workforce - the people to be cast aside when economic times got tough- now, temps are the lifeblood of a corporation trying to cut costs and stay afloat. They find women and men in their early to mid twenties who don't really care about pension plans because we've already started our own IRA's and who aren't all that concerned with vacation days for sick children because we don't have any. To boot, we're computer savvy, willing to work odd hours and, best of all, we're inexpensive because we don't carry that weighty benfits package. Today, it's the employees that are getting let go and being replaced by temps rather than the other way around.

So, today, when my co-workers fret over layoffs in other branches of the corporation or get nervous when they hear that we might be sold off, it takes everything I have to force myself not to smile and say "Dude, I'm a temp."

Because even if I do get let go from this contract - my temp agency will have me working somewhere in a matter of days. Now that's job security.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tricycle

Okay, so that might be the least fair name for this particular post, but it was the best I could do. Apparently, my slang knowing days are over.

Feast your eyes on this.

Because M's teeth have been bothering him, I made some chew-free foods for dinner early in the week - a few soups and a batch of ham and scalloped potatoes (which is possibly his all time favorite food) - which meant that for a few days this week, I got to make a dinner entirely for myself.

I picked two dishes - both from Simply Recipes and the both turned out awesome. The first was the Baked Shrimp in Tomato Feta Sauce.

As we've established, my dedication to recipe following is...not high, so I tend to take the list of ingredients and the general cooking method and just wing it, which is what I did here. Since I was cooking for one, I halved the recipe - a little garlic and roughly chopped onion in the pan, followed by a can of diced tomatoes (damn you off season!) and cooked it for somewhat less time than the recipe called for then buzzed it with the immersion blender because the texture of canned diced tomatoes is weird -then I threw in the shrimp, parsley, feta and dill, gave it a stir and tossed it in the oven as called for. It was awesome. Really, I mean awesome. I didn't take the shells off of the shrimp at all - in fact, I threw them in completely frozen and I liked the really seafoody flavor of the broth because of it.

Somewhat less awesome was the burning sensation as I tried to peel the hot shrimp. Of course, you can ask me if I think it was worth it, but you should know I did the exact same thing the next night, so there you go.

I ate it with some great bread and gobbled it up - of course all day Thursday all I could think about was how oh-my-god-transcendentally-awesome-my-super-fast-easy-to-make-no-fuss dinner had been the previous evening, so when M's teeth still hurt and I discovered that our kitchen was shamefully devoid of any white wine, I opted to postpone the making of recipe number two and go for the repeat. Thus, the tricycle...except it's a bicycle since I only ate it once, but that seemed less entertaining.

Thursday night, I followed the same basic procedure but this time tried to cook it all on the stovetop. I possibly made this choice because I may or may not have forgotten to preheat the oven... In any case, I way reccomend sticking with the "baked" part of this recipe. It's totally low maintence.

Also, one other thing, if you're making it for company, you might want to consider leaving feta on the side or in a piled on top manner. While Elises's version turned out pretty, mine came out more orange than red (possibly because I buzzed the sauce instead of leaving the tomatoes whole) and it wasn't all together the most appealing look. It was delicious, but I think for presentations sake, I might add the feta at the last minute and let people stir it in themselves....and also possibly make it with fresh tomatoes instead of diced when they're in season...and also possibly skip the whole "shells on" experience, but throw in some concentrated seafood stock or even a bit of anchovy paste for more seafoody flavor......

Yeah, I am so going to have to find someone else to feed this too :P

Living Smaller Part 1 - The Closet

The closet and I have done battle and one of us as emerged victorious. Or something.

When I decided I wanted to this the last time, I made sure all the wash was clean and then set out to do battle with this the most evil of closets. That was great, in so far as I got to dig through every garment I own and decide if i should keep it, donate it, store it or toss it. Except for the part where I had to go through all of the clothes that I own. See, i'm not one of those people who wears that sweater way beyond it's usefulness - I'm one of those people who keeps but never wears that sweater way beyond it's usefulness, so my closet was full of clothes I never wore and everything that was dirty was stuff that should have stayed. It took twice as long as it had to and I didn't want to go through that again, so last night when I decided that there was no time like the present to conquor one's demons, I didn't rush down the hall to start doing laundry first - as such, the closet was relatively empty.

For the number of clothes M and I posess, the closet is really too small. While M wears a regular rotation of 10 t-shirts and 2 pairs of jeans as a newly minted college student, he owns an entire wardrobe of dress pants, suit jackets, ties and dress shirts and they're all hanging limply in the closet. On the shelf above, we store sheets, towels, pj's, M's t-shirts, M's casual pants and my jeans. This seemed like a good idea when we moved it -it bought us more space for things that needed to be hung and it meant that we didn't need a linen closet we don't have. Yay! Except for the part where - uhm, he started doing the laundry and he's not the best folder the world has ever known, so what were neatly organized stacks have become unweildly piles. To boot, instead of taking the whole pile down to get the one item we want, we both tend to pretend we're far more coordinated than we are and just pull. Naturally, this results in the entire stack falling on top of us.

Sometimes, we pick it back up. Other times, we get annoyed and leave it on the closet floor. Problem? Yeah.

I started with the hanging sweater bins and sorted through that, boxing up a lot of things that aren't in the regular rotation. Once those were nearly empty, I moved on to the hanging clothes. Admittedly, I left his alone. There's nothing wrong with what he has hanging, it all fits him fine and none of it is stained or visually questionable, so it stays as is - but my clothes got a significant pruning. I stashed a lot of long sleeved shirts that I won't have much occasion to wear (and, lets be honest, never really did since I'm all about the light layers) as well as a few items that are stylistically questionable at this juncture and some stuff I just no longer find a need for in my wardrobe. They're things that all have their place and time, but right now isn't it. I also hid a lot of things that don't fit anymore, because staring at clothes you love that you can't wear because you look like a stuffed sausage in them does wonders for your self-esteem, let me tell you.

When I went to bed last night, the bedroom was, admittedly, in a state of disarray. There were three - count 'em, three - bags of neatly folded clothes that needed to be stored sitting on the floor upstairs with another one downstairs and a empty hangers everywhere, but the big empty space in the middle of the closet where clothes had once been? Priceless.

This morning, I finished things up and I'm glad that I did. As you can see, the stuff on top of the shelves has now been contained into bins. (The bins that used to store my shoes in the living room, in fact. Now, the shoes are in a pile, but mark my words, they're on the list.) Sheets and towels are in the bins on the short wall, with PJ's, M's t-shirts and (soon - the last bin is currently being used to store bunny paraphernalia, but i'm working on it) M's casual pants. The look, while more than a little "check out my college dorm room" is at least more organized and now he can stop pretending he can fold. The extra hangers are stored on the short wall, for now, but I intend to hang my ever-growing collection of skirts there since they're so easy to lose in the midst of everything on the long wall. As you can see, I didn't ever do much with the sweater keeper beyond take out that which I have no need for. Truth be told, the prospect of folding dozens of cardigans doesn't appeal to me, and since this inexpensive hanging shelf doesn't have hard bottoms, it sags and sweaters get lost. One day I will buy bins or baskets to put in it - or maybe even just cut cardboard inserts for the bottom but, in the mean time, my morning routine is quite happy with the ball-and-shove method I've been using.

To me, though, you can't even see the biggest difference - because it happened inside of one of those plastic drawer units that we use to store little things... Mine stores socks and skivvies in one drawer, nylons and tights in another and t-shirts/tank-tops in the top. Oh-My-God do I have a lot of tights :P Once upon a time I had a regular use for pink and black striped nylons...and white and black striped nylons and three kinds of fishnet in three different colors (that's nine pairs for those of you math wizards out there) Now, not so much. So I beat back that collection as well, stashing the stuff that i'll use, just not often enough to justify digging around it every day and what a difference that made to the sheer volume of stuff in that drawer.

It's not actually completely done yet. M has been suffering with some dental woes this week and hasn't been able to sleep much, so I can't enact the final phase until he gets out of bed, but once he does - I need to put a few nails into the wall for hanging belts and ties.

TIME SPENT: 3 hours
- 5 plastic bins
- 4 nails
- 1 hammer
- 4 garbage bags
- a few cubic feet of storage space under the bed.

WORST PART: Knowing that it will be a mess again in a few weeks because that's just the kind of people we are.

BEST PART: Finding almost a half dozen scarves and belts that I forgot I had in a bag behind my metal boots...

As for part two, i'm not really sure. There are a lot of options :P Maybe i'll tackle the bathroom...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Living Smaller

M and I live in a two story, one bedroom apartment. We have a completely open floor plan, three closets, one pantry, and a small cupboard under the bathroom cabinet - and that's it. Due to the two-story layout (the bedroom is upstairs) we don't have any real walls or doors - and we also have great 20 foot ceilings.

I love our apartment. Almost.

The carpet is old and stained and gross - but at least it's grey, not beige. The wood is medium toned and very grainy...yuck, and the walls are the hideous shade heretofore known as taupe and all of these things, they are a problem for me :P To boot, the open floor plan means that anything we have is in plain sight all of the time. I don't have any pictures of the unit - and the reason for that is really just all of our problems with the decor - and thus comes the title of this post..

First, while this apartment got great light in the summer, in the off months, the skylight and the door do a lot less for light than I wish they did - and, as you can see, there are no fixtures for lights on the ceiling fan. The only lights in the unit are the hanging lamp (UGLY!) over the kitchen table, the light fixture in the kitchen, the one above the bed upstairs and the sconce above the stairs. All of these output a very yellow light that seems to combine with the taupe walls to form the most obnoxious yellow orange light that the world has ever known and I hate it.

The second big issue that I have with taking pictures of the apartment right now is the "crap dusting" that we seem to be suffering from. When we moved, we moved with a set amount of objects and they all had a place to be stored - it was grrreat. Except that since we moved, we've gotten more stuff :P M went back to school, which means school books and notebooks everywhere. We also brought a pet into our lives and, with her cage and her stuff -she takes up a large amount of space. I picked up a sewing hobby, which means a machine, notions and a fabric stash, as well as a dress form and - of course, the new clothes in the closet :)

So - until the landlord goes out of town long enough for us to paint, we're working on one simple goal - LIVE SMALLER.

Step One: The Closet
My portion of the closet is possibly a little excessive. There are clothes in there that I don't wear. As long as we have some viable long-term storage space under the bed, I think i'm going to make good use of it, wash, fold and box some of my disused clothing and stash it - while getting rid of that which I no longer need. That will free up some space both in the upstairs walk-in and the downstairs coat closet which is all positive.

In the future, there are a lot more things on the list - I need another place to store the rabbit's belongings, and possibly the rabbit herself...

For this weekend, the closet.