Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Smacking Myself in the Forehead

Apparently it is ALSO getting to the point where I post once a week. Whoops.

Moving on! I...well, I...well, hell, I'm just say it: Tickets to Japan for the exact time period that I wanted are now $726. From Northwest Airlines, a very reliable source.

I'll just let that sink in.

This means that I paid $200 more than necessary, had I just waited.

It also means that I should really hold my ground more. I was pretty sure I wanted to wait to buy my plane ticket. Tim Ferriss does it, and according to him he's never missed a day of travel. Also, Metafilter recommended waiting until the tickets were under $800.

OH, well. I learned some things, such as the fact that Fare Compare (that I recommended earlier) really let me down here. I swear when I checked it, it recommended a good ticket price of 1000 bucks. I thought I was doing super well with my ticket price of $925. Now Fare Compare lists a good price at $732.

I also think that the money I paid earlier was probably worth it, if not for my own peace of mind, then for the peace of mind of my traveling companions. I'm traveling with two other people, after all, and it's important in cases like these to take the needs of your travel partners into consideration. While I tend to make hotel reservations as early as I can and then cancel them if need be, my travel partners didn't want to live by the skins of their teeth (Whaaaaaaa?) and wanted to nail down an itinerary. Because I did this, Mrs. Travel Partner did all the hotel research and booked all the reservations herself, saving me LOADS of time, work, research, thinking, you name it. There is a lot to know about Japan.

So, in summary, I'll stop smacking myself in the forehead. There's no point to it. I'm traveling with two other people, of whom I need to be considerate, and I've never traveled to Japan before. Surely not everyone gets it right the first time?

HOWEVER, on the next time that I travel, especially alone, I'll plan out the whole trip, but hold off until a month and a half or so before the trip to buy plane tickets. I will trust Metafilter's opinion. If I feel that I need to make hotel reservations sooner, I will do so, and plan to cancel them later if they don't work. (Probably, though, I won't even make hotel reservations. I'm on-the-fly like that.)

We live and learn, yes?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Confessions From an Apartment Kitchen

It's getting to the sad point where I can taste the difference between onions bought at Trader Joe's and onions bought from the Farmer's Market. Someone please help.

I'm not TOTALLY over the edge yet, though. The spinach dish I had for dinner last night consisted almost entirely of store-bought, "convenience" items, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I made this recipe from America's Test Kitchen, a pretty amazing site, and instead of washing and chopping fresh spinach, like it calls for, I USED FROZEN. And then I used PRE-CRUSHED GARLIC out of a JAR. And if that wasn't enough, I USED LEMON PEPPER IN THE PLACE OF THE LEMON ZEST. All things provided by Trader Joe's, obviously, because I worship at the feet of that store.

And I'm here to say that it doesn't matter. I used a bunch of convenience things and the dish was still pretty awesome, especially with a little fresh-grated parmesan over the top. (I have a small grater from IKEA, of all places, and a hard block of parmesan from Trader Joe's costs about four dollars and lasts forever in the fridge, an affordable luxury). In fact, it was super yummy and an instant addition to my recipe rotation.

Other things that I definitely use that you're not supposed to:

Salted butter.
I can't understand for the life of me why Real Cooks Are Only Supposed to Use Unsalted. A little extra salt in a dish surely can't hurt. However, I don't add any salt to the dish while cooking it, even if the recipe calls for it--I salt it at the end.

I have a big hunk of butter (from TRADER JOE's, obviously) that I cut off in chunks at a time and put in an old clean margarine container, which I leave out on the counter. This way the butter stays good, in the fridge, but I also always have spreadable butter.

I thought I had way more kitchen confessions than I do--they've all run away from my brain. Hope everyone's Thursday is filled with good food!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I've Been Tagged, and Why Not?

After YESTERDAY's monster of a post, surely I can come up with seven things about me, right? After all, I love reading OTHER people's me!me!s. I just don't like completing them, and I have no idea why, because I love talking about myself. Maybe I have a hard time deciding which [arbitrary number of facts] I should list?

Oh well. Here goes.

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

And the facts about me:

1. I wash my hair once or twice a week, on average. It's a big deal if I wash it three times in a week. While vegan, I did all kinds of crazy stuff: I washed it in baking soda and with apple cider vinegar as conditioner, I discovered that baby powder, arrowroot flour, or cornstarch can be dry shampoos, and I let go of my "Oh My God my hair is so oily I must wash it" routine. Now, although my hair grows very quickly, my color barely fades at all. I have to let it grow out to get new highlights.

2. I produce GIGANTIC amounts of heat when I sleep. Anyone sleeping next to me at a slumber party, on an airplane, in a classroom (joke!) will instantly begin to sweat. It's especially a problem on airplanes, when a seat mate once remarked that he could actually feel the heat waves radiating from my skin.

3. I'm a terrible driver. I'm often distracted, even if I'm not on the phone or fussing with my GPS system--I'm thinking about my novel, or the State of the Union, or dinner, or whatever. Compounding this, I'm terrible with directions and often realize I'm in the wrong lane for something, and so execute completely illegal U-Turns, Swerves, etc. Naturally, I expect the world to accommodate me.

4. I LOVE public transportation. I love it in theory and practice. I have an obsession with route maps and timetables for every kind of public transportation there is, including trains, buses, and ferries. I like to pick up four copies of each kind of schedule in case I lose one. Even taking the ferry to see the LT for a year and a half didn't deter me from this obsession. T-Town is probably moving to Portland, and I'm super excited that she is because it will give me the chance to TAKE THE TRAIN DOWN THERE!

5. I'm long-winded.

6. I am impossible to reach on the phone. I usually have my phone on vibrate for work, and I forget to take it off. Entire Friday and Saturday nights have gone by where I've felt lonely and unloved because no one was calling me, only to discover at 1:00 am that my phone's been off the whole time and six people have left messages wondering if I wanted to hang out. This has happened WAY more than once.

7. I refuse to get anything hemmed, telling myself that I'll just wear heels all the time. Because of this, I have ruined the cuffs of three pairs of pants.

HA! DONE, SUCKAHS! And you thought I couldn't do it!

For tagging, I'm going to GO WACKY: I want my READERS to respond to this tag. Just reply in the comments, and don't worry about length--I've seen veritable essays written in comments before. I'm going to pick seven people, because I have no idea who reads this blog although people TELL me they read it all the time, and if your name is there, please join the fun! I'd love to know seven things about you! And if your name is NOT there, totally respond anyway. I would love to know seven things about just about everyone on Planet Earth.

1. T-Town, who may update her blog again if she has a purpose.
2. LT. I would love to know seven things about my boyfriend!
3. A Parental Unit. (Mom and Dad, you can respond together, or assign the duty to just one of you.)
4. Anna S-B! I'd love to know seven random things!
5. Amy, Amy, Amy. Yes, you, from Pittsburgh.
6. Skydiamonde, who has a blog and can actually post on that if she desires, although please let me know, and
7. Quaotes, which I can never spell correctly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

On Dating Your Father

Okay, all you Neo-Freud-sters, step up to the plate and bat. I'm talking about that moment in every girl's life, at least the life of every girl born past 1920 or so. We've heard, at length, about this tendency that women have to date men like their fathers and we have all SWORN, on our VERY LIVES, that we will not do this. Because, EWWWWWW.

And yet, in spite of our best efforts, this is exactly what we do.

Unfortunately for me, my father is a veritable SAINT, a man who expresses every single good characteristic of the conservative Christian lifestyle--solid, dependable, holds a steady job, puts family first--without displaying any negative traits, like hatred of everyone else, bigotry, hypocrisy, misogyny, homophobia, etc. So in order to date a man not like my father I'd pretty much have to date an prison inmate, or else chase after a series of gay guys who haven't yet come out to themselves. Neither of which I have ever wanted to do, as my father ALSO raised me with a sense of self-respect (and Mom also contributed big time, but this particular post is not about her) and therefore I'm stuck trying to find a nice guy who is not like my father, almost impossible. Or so it would seem.

Because I've learned that women don't date men EXACTLY like their fathers. We carefully avoid men who display characteristics that are OBVIOUSLY like our fathers', not even realizing that the men we eventually choose displays several SUBCONSCIOUS traits that match our fathers' exactly. This post is not about the ex boyfriend of mine who bore my father's actual name, for example, nor is it about when T-Town dated a man (for four years) that bore HER father's actual name, nor is it about the fact that I broke up with a man who watched TV even for one hour daily, because I swore I would never date a man who watched TV when I wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood. It's about the LT, of course. And my father.

My father, despite all his other very charming characteristics--besides all of the above, he does not stay out late, calls my mother every night when he's away, cooks, CLEANS, and wouldn't raise his hand in anger to a housefly--he does have a fault or two. And one I swore I would stay away from in particular: my father, despite tithing regularly and giving to a multitude of other worthwhile causes, is not a particularly generous man.

He gives well to strangers and causes, yes, and that is very important. But my father is not the kind of man who, if out with a group, would offer to pay for the whole bar tab on his card if his friends paid him back in cash "when you can". He does not give the benefit of the doubt in monetary exchanges, he does not offer to "spot" people. At a time in my life when I desperately needed to stay somewhere warm and forgiving, he wanted to charge me $600 a month to rent out my old bedroom. I wish, three years later, that we had both been calmer when we talked about this, because I would have happily paid rent had he charged me a more reasonable price, and he might have happily charged less had he known what the market would bear and understood that I was WILLING to pay a price. This is water under the bridge, but still: this is the kind of man he is. A man who has been on his own since he was 17, a man who put himself through college, a man young for his year and who had to assume the head of household role relatively early; he does not accept slackness or lackadasickal behavior in others, particularly his own progeny.

Meet the LT. A man who has been on his own, ALSO since 17; a man who is young for his year, a man who put himself through college by giving his youth to the Navy and for them traveled 2000 miles outside his tiny hometown to a Super Fancy Engineering School, and fought in a war, and yelled at men twenty years older than he is, and become the kind of man that causes lesser beings to tremble at his approach.

And since he has fended for himself for all of his adult life, neither does the LT accept slackness in others, particularly not his own girlfriend. Saving random people from occasional mishaps, fine. Continually fending off questions about when his girlfriend is going to arrive somewhere and then PAYING for his girlfriend when she arrives because she has no cash, not so fine. Not when it drags on for a year and a half.

I was three weeks late for my own birth and will be late, I think, my entire life. Sometimes I'm better, other times I'm worse. Overall I hope I'm getting better, but introduce new wrinkles, like bus schedules, into my routine and it's a lot worse. On average it might take me five times, FIVE TIMES, taking the exact same route, to arrive somewhere even less than five minutes late, a big accomplishment for me. The first time I have to be at a new place, all bets are off. I might be an hour late, or I might never arrive at all. Lots of my faults I've improved, over time: I'm better with money, I'm no longer in debt, I try to let other conversational partners have the floor once in awhile--so I hope that I'll get better on this, overall. Or it's possible that I might not. My mother, at Over-45, is just now forcing herself to pad her schedule by half an hour for every appointment she makes, and I STILL arrive at our lunch dates ahead of her. (And she is the ONLY person, in the world, that I've ever beaten to a date.) And in spite of my improving relationship with money, I will never, hardly ever, have cash on me.

So when I show up to a St. Patrick's Day celebration half an hour late with no cash, and then ask the LT to pay for me with what little cash HE has, you can imagine how that conversation went. Worse, still, that I asked him in front of our friends. They didn't say a word, but the LT--who hardly ever feels guilt--felt the weight of their unasked questions bearing down on him: Why aren't you buying her at least one drink? Is something wrong?

There was nothing wrong, apart from the fact that his girlfriend had showed up late without money again. He was simply tired of enabling me. And then forced to buy me a beer. My own father, had I happened to be out drinking with him on St. Patrick's Day, would probably have laughed in my face and thanked me for volunteering to drive him home, since I couldn't afford any beer of my own. (This is really an impossible analogy, as my father doesn't drink, but the point is there.) Did the LT eventually buy me a beer? Of course he did, although I took him at his word when he said he didn't have enough cash and found my own beer. Would my father take pity on me eventually in my life? Of course he would, and did; I stayed with them for three weeks (rent free!) at the very start of this blog, and when I was considering buying a condo, he called my phone and left a special message on my voicemail, saying he'd be happy to have me stay with them for free while I looked. It's not that the two most important human men in my life won't take pity on me eventually, it's that they'll probably feel used while doing it. My father is still speaking to me after 27 years; I can only hope that the LT will be doing the same.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What I Get Up To When The LT Is Out Of Town

LT left on Sunday for a conference in Disneyland (some people have all the luck) and after a normal weekend of us running around like chickens with their heads cut off and going skiing and all that, I was looking forward to SLEEPING. The LT seems to have some secret source of one-hundred-percent renewable energy that many governments would probably kill to get their hands on, so no one tell any governments, okay? I swear the man is unstoppable. After working twelve-hour days, he fills every evening with maintenance work on FIVE (5) vehicles, pushes all of his lazier and less disciplined friends (including me) to attend Happy Hour on a regular basis, would be rolling me out of bed at 5:30 to be on the mountain every Saturday at 8 am if he didn't think I'd break up with him for it, and may for all I know be planning his world domination tour.

In California, he spent Sunday night out with his fraternity brothers and Monday night driving to Santa Monica, getting about four hours of sleep each night. I can't compete with that. Who could?

In contrast, I have done nothing that requires leaving my apartment except going to work. Well, and going grocery shopping. And tutoring. And I went running twice. And working out and doing yoga, except that doesn't require leaving the apartment. And I swept out my apartment, scrubbed my tub, returned a package to FedEx, cleaned my bathroom, and baked bread. And I added a few pages to my novel.

But aside from THAT, I did nothing.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Salsa + Wine = Hungover

Okay, Mom, just close the "I'm worried about you" email you're about to start. This is not about judgment. Thank you.

But yes, salsa! I went, even without a date (LT had a work event, and surprisingly, all my friends that I pinged at the last minute actually had lives that they couldn't drop to go with me) and I enjoyed myself IMMENSELY. I went to the lesson first, which was well-taught and easy to follow, and then the dancing started. I was worried I was going to be sitting on the sidelines, with no partner, but I spent very few dances sitting down, even though I'm a rank amateur. Everyone was very friendly, and there were some really amazing dancers. I probably didn't need a glass of wine. I should have just stuck to water, especially on an empty stomach. Because after working out, not eating, and drinking wine, I woke up this morning DEHYDRATED.

But it does not matter! Salsa is awesome!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ridiculous Advice

While running errands by bus on Friday, wearing my spiffy new J. Crew silk cargo jacket (Ebay!) and my aviators, and feeling almost well-dressed enough to go into Nordstrom downtown--until I tried on a pair of $144 shoes, without which my life was no longer complete--I was trying to juggle about four bags, my phone, and the requisite cup of coffee as I was talking to my mother.

"Hi, Mom. I have to go skiing tonight, go skiing tomorrow, and then go to a big party tonight. Titan will be have company for about two hours out of 36. I'd like to take him to Grandma's. When do I do it?"

"I can help," she said, my enabler as always. "Should I come pick him up at midnight tonight after you're done skiing? Tomorrow morning at 6:30 before you leave for skiing? Should you meet me in Auburn?"

"Let me call LT," I said, and called him.

After I laid out all the options, at great length, I said, "So, baby? Do you think we can fit Titan in the car with all the ski stuff AND Sydney (the girl, not the city) tomorrow morning? What do you think?"

"I think you should take something off your schedule," he said.

WHAT? Who DOES that?