I win so you do too!

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Yay! I won some soap nuts from Thrifty & Chic Mom's Bloggy Giveaway! And that means you win too! My second bath melts winnner is...

number 55!

I love vanilla and lavender. Mmm. Lilac is wonderful too. Thanks so much for this!

Posted by Andrea | January 28, 2009 5:25 PM

I'll be emailing Andrea now! And who knows, maybe there will be more to come. If I'm lucky, you will be too!

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Bloggy Giveaway winner!

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First, thanks to my 105 entrants! I love seeing so many people visit the blog.

Second, I've decided to increase my giveaway: IF I win any of the giveaways I entered, I plan to pay it forward by choosing a second (or third...) winner for my giveaway. So watch for that. I haven't won anything so far.

Now, the winner!

The random integer generation choose naughty number 9. The ninth comment was:

Lavender and peppermint both sound lovely!

Posted by Joy | January 26, 2009 10:33 PM

I have emailed Joy and hope to hear back from her soon. If I don't, I'll pick another winner.

Thanks for playing!

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2009 Goal Progress Report, Week 4

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This week, I've done well:

#1: Read one book per week.
I gave up on listening to "Wolf at my Table" less than halfway through. It's nothing like Burroughs' other books and I just couldn't handle it. It's miserable. I started another audio book, "Sacred Time," which I'm enjoying. More importantly, though, I finally finished "Crescent" and have moved on to a Bella Abzug biography.

#2: See one movie per week.
I've actually seen 2.5 movies in the past week. I watched "The Other Boleyn Girl" on Wednesday night and "Kinsey" last night, and then the first half of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" tonight. Gotta love Netflix online.

#8: Learn a new craft.
Not exactly new, but I made myself some cool bulletin boards last night. I'll try to remember to take a picture and post about them this weekend.

#11: Practice cooking.
I made meatloaf and baked potatoes on Wednesday. Not great, but serviceable.

]#13: Build my freelance resume.
This is more something I am doing than something I did this week, but next week I am going to Oregon, where I will attend some business meetings with freelance clients. In preparation, I am putting together a professional writing portfolio, which is something I should have done a long time ago.

Good week!

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Remember my gift contest?

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Remember the contest for a couple of my Christmas gifts? I almost forgot myself! But Bloggy giveaway made me remember, so I used random.org to pick my two winners today. And they are:

My husband and I received a camera for christmas too! The best gift from the inlaws by far. I also received a bread maker from them as well. mmmm... My husband surprised me with a handmade dress (not by him) and a beautiful poem he wrote for me. I absolutely love them both!

Posted by Andrea | January 10, 2009 12:20 AM

It was a present-lite kind of year. Cash from the folks (YAY!), great Aveda soaps from CC, and of course the famous chili chocolate.

Posted by Suebob | January 7, 2009 10:43 PM

So, Andrea and Suebob, email me with your mailing information and I'll send you a surprise! avengingophelia@gmail.com

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The popular kids

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Because it had gotten completely out of hand, I spent a bit of time today weeding my blog reader. I got rid of anything that isn't being updated anymore, or anything I just don't read. I also had the brilliant plan to add a "favorites" folder, so I'd have all of the blogs that I absolutely want to read whenever they are updated in one place. Having done that, I thought maybe I'd share it will you all. Shout outs are nice, right? And I think a lot of these blogs are written by people who also read here, so I want to make sure you all know how much I love what you're writing.

The contents of my favorites folder (in no particular order):
Chookooloonks: I love Karen's writing and her photography, and I read absolutely every post and look at every picture.
Ruffly Speaking: Joanna's is the best dog blog I've seen, and she is also freaking hysterical. And so smart. And occasionally posts pictures of her gorgeous tribe of daughters.
Apron Thrift Girl: My favorite thrifting blog--such a style and thrift scoring inspiration.
Walk Slowly, Live Wildly: Though we are diametrically opposed in many ways, I love reading Sara's accounts of her family's life, as well as looking at her wonderful photographs.
10Notes: Christine's is one of the blog's I relate to most, even though we have very different lives (she has kids and lives in Europe, to start). There is just something about what she writes about and how she writes that makes me feel like I know her.
dooce: A lot of my long-time blogger friends are "over" dooce and don't read it anymore. I'm not over it. I am particularly in love with her style section. Heather's got some great taste.
frogblog: One of my very best online friends ever, I've known frog for a long bunch of years, and I read every single thing she posts.
Peter's Cross Station: Shannon has been one of my favorite bloggers since the days of Waiting for Nat, and that's not going to change anytime soon. She writes with humor and intelligence and I absolutely love being able to watch her and Cole's kids grow up through her blog.
the adventures of leelo and his potty-mouthed mom: This is another old favorite. Squid writes so well that I feel like I know her children, and I absolutely cheer for all of the daily accomplishments made by Iz and Mali and (especially) Leelo.
Bomboniera: Rachel is an old e-friend of mine and I love reading her updates and especially seeing pictures and videos of her life in D.C. and her amazing little man Joe.
Flooded Lizard Kingdom: The Princess is a very good real-life friend of mine and my blogging guru. Her blog, regardless of how often it is updated, will always be a must-read for me.
Fjordward: Blogs are a great way to keep up on the lives of friends who are far away, and that's what Fjordward does for me, giving me a link to some very good friends who are half a world away.
Crunchy Turtle: Crunch Turtle does double duty, as it's both a blog written by a friend, so I read it for that reason, and one that inspires me often. I would read it even if I didn't know Rachel, but read it all the more closely and am all the more interested in it because I do.
My Wardrobe Today: Though new mama Allie is on a bit of a hiatus right now, but she'll be back to posting her daily outfits soon. I've been through a lot of fashion blogs, but Allie's was the first and I think it's one of the best. Certainly one of my two favorites.
What I Wore Today: This is my other favorite! Like Allie, Kasmira posts daily photos of her outfits and descriptions of the pieces. While Allie dresses more conservatively than I do, Kasmira dresses much more exotically, and it's great, as someone who falls in between, to have them look to look at every day.
Posie Gets Cozy: Alicia's was the first craft blog I got interested in and I've been a fan ever since. It doesn't hurt that she occasionally features shots of her gorgeous corgi, and of Portland!
tiny happy: One of the most inspiring craft blogs I've come across, I blame tiny happy for my obsession with learning to embroider. It's also great fun to catch glimpses of the Norwegian world of the blogger and her family.

There you have it, my favorites list! If you have a list of blog favorites, link in the comments--I'd love to see the blogs you can't miss.

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Back to my Duggar-bashing ways

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A long time ago, I wrote this post about my first experience watching a show about the Duggars. Many commenters were aghast at my judgments, others agreed with me. Since then, the Duggars have gotten much more popular and though I've entered discussions about them in other places, I've not posted about them again here.

Until now.

Last night, I watched "A Very Duggar Wedding," in which the eldest Duggar child, Josh, who is, I think, 20, got married. It was one of the most depressing and horrifying things I've seen lately.

Josh married a girl named Anna, who clearly came from folks of the same fundamentalist religious beliefs, or at least similar ones, to those the Duggars hold. Like Josh's sisters, his wife has long hair and longer skirts and is now expected to be under his leadership and control in her life as a baby-making machine.

Think I'm being facetious? I'm not. Josh and Anna not only didn't have sex before marriage, they "preserved their purity" by never kissing until they were on the alter. They were never alone unchaperoned. Josh made a phone call to Anna's father, asking him for her daughter's hand, before he ever mentioned the idea to her. Thus began their "courtship." See, according to their rules, dating is a no-go. You have to have a proposal of marriage before you "get to know each other" (and the getting to know seems pretty surface). Why? Because, as Jim Bob tells us happened to Michelle before she got with him, previous relationships leave you with "baggage."

When Josh and Anna said their vows, things got much, much worse. Love honor and obey wouldn't cut it here, Anna actually vowed to follow Josh as her priest and ruler, then they both vowed to have as many children as God saw fit. In an interview before the ceremony took place, Anna's father mused that he was thrilled that this ceremony was happening, in which Anna would be transferred from his authority to Josh's, as God intended. Could it be an clearer that Anna was property?

I know I'll get at least one comment here telling me that I am being insensitive to other people's religious beliefs. You know what? I am. I am not sensitive to these beliefs, and I have no problem with that. If you believe that women should naturally be under male authority, then no, I have no respect for your beliefs. If you believe that a woman should continue to have baby after baby, regardless of how she feels about it, then I have no respect for your beliefs.

The thing that turned my stomach the most, though, was the clear parallel between one generation and the next. Josh and Anna are clearly setting out to be Jim Bob and Michelle 2.0. I roll my eyes when Mark tells me that the Duggars and families like them are "building an army for Jesus," but honestly, it does seem that way. In one segment, Josh and three or four of his sisters go out to dinner, and they discuss what it will be like and how they'll see each other when they are all grown up and married and have kids. One sister points out that even if the only have 5 kids each (a relatively small number in their world, and one that probably wouldn't come about if they all devote themselves to birth control via God), they'll still have too many people to fit into a room. If we take the math to it's illogical conclusion, we see that the 18 current Duggar children, if they had 18 each, would make 324 more baby fundamentalist. If those had 18 each, that's 5,832 more. We're nearly army proportions in only three generations!

That, folks, is a lot of long dresses and matching polo shirts and bad hair.

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Bloggy Giveaways Carnival!

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For the second time, I'm participating in the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival! It was such fun last time, I've been looking forward to doing it again.

This time, I'm giving away TWO DOZEN of my handmade bath melts. Great for moisturizing your winter-dry skin! The melts are all natural, mostly organic, dye free, and scented with your choice of essential oils/essential oil blends. Both dozens can be the same scent, or they can be different scents, your choice.

To enter, just leave me a comment with the fragrances you'd be interested in. Be sure to leave a way I can contact you if you win! And then head over and enter everyone else's awesome giveaways!

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99 Things

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I have a real post brewing, but in the meantime, I think this 99 Things list, from Joanna, is a different on than I've done before. Rules are the same as always--bold the ones you've done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Are any of those surprising? Do any of them require explanation?

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2009 Goal Progress, Week 3

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Forgot to do this yesterday. This week hasn't been quite as ambitious as previous ones, but there has been a lot going on.

Progress I have made:

#1: Read one book per week.
I may just need to change this to "listen to one book per week." I finished Escape and started Augusten Burroughs' Wolf at the Table (which I hate so far). Both are audio books. And I'm STILL not done with Crescent.

#12: Make my home more livable.
This is where the real progress came this week. I spent a whole bunch of time cleaning out and reorganizing our office, and it's now usable! And then we reorganized our living room a bit and bought a new cabinet for our audiovisual equipment, which is great, because it looks better now and it's behind glass, so it collects less dust. There is still, of course, an endless amount to do, but we're definitely making progress.

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So far, so good

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A few days into his presidency, President Obama has issued executive orders to end torture and close Gitmo within a year, run a more transparent White House, and reverse the Mexico City policy.

That, my friends, is what I call a damn good start.

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Joyful corners

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I really want to blog, but my brain is so allergy-addled I can't even make sentences. So, instead, I wanted to show you a few little corners of my home I particularly love. I really enjoy seeing pictures of other people's houses on their blogs, so hopefully you will feel the same about seeing a few pieces of mine.

Craft table

This is my craft table in the office Mark and I share. Just looking at this nice, clean, creative space makes me really happy.

wine bar

This is the wine bar in our living room. I bought it for Mark for his birthday several years ago. It's the first new piece of furniture I remember buying (and honestly, it came in a box from Target, so it wasn't THAT much of a milestone). It has held up really well and I still love the way it looks.

bookshelves

These are two of our many bookshelves. We have....eight more? I just cleaned off the top shelves and put the pictures of them last weekend. I love bookshelves. These are neat, too--they are actual wood, but they fold up. We got them off Craigslist from some people in the suburbs who were replacing them with something fancier.

dresser top

This is the makeshift "dressing table" on the top of my dresser, where I hold all of my prescriptions, jewelry, hair brush, etc. I don't know why I love this space, but I do. I'll love it even more when I remember to get some high-gloss spray paint for the unpainted wood tray.

IMG_0122

Lastly, the basket of soap in my bathroom. You can't really tell, but most of what is in here is local handmade or swapped handmade soap. I love handmade and fancy bar soap.

Hope you enjoyed this tiny tour! If you're inspired, I'd love to see some of your favorite nooks and crannies on your blogs!

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Update

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I'm sorry! I've been neglecting you!

You see, life has been busy happening over here. In a serious way, both good and bad. It's just been one thing after another.

Last Wednesday, Huey had his surgery, repairing a cruciate ligament and removing several non-cancerous fatty growths, including a very large one on his tail. The surgery went well, with a couple of caveats. The first is that they ended up fixing his right, rather than left, leg. This was because while we were waiting to have the originally injured left leg fixed, he blew the ligament on the other side even worse. So that one was repaired, and once it heals, he'll go back in for a repair of the other one. The other complication was that Mark was out of town, interviewing for post-doc position in California, when Huey went in for surgery. Which meant I had to take care of his post-operative self by myself for several days. This would have been fine if he would have just gotten doped up and laid around like a person does post-op, but being a beagle, he seems not to much notice pain, making it nearly impossible to keep him as still and calm as he needs to be to heal.

Then, also on Wednesday, I received a phone call offering me a job. A really good job. It is doing technical writing for the company that one of my former coworkers/my former boss from my last technical writing gig formed. It's a short-term contract (through approximately the time we'll be moving), for a lot of money. Doing something I want to add to my resume. So I accepted and gave my notice on Thursday. This is all good news, but creates a lot of work stress for me, trying to get things here to a point where I won't feel terribly guilty leaving.

On Thursday, Mark was offered a post-doc at UC Berkeley.

On Saturday, Mark returned from his trip.

On Monday, I was offered a large freelance contract, complete with a paid trip to Oregon to meet the clients. I accepted.

On Tuesday, I went back to work and was offered a retainer to stay on and finish a large project long-distance, through May. I accepted. Obama was sworn in. I rejoiced.

Also on Tuesday, Mark was offered a post-doc at one of the top labs in his field, in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Also on Tuesday, my stepfather was in a serious accident in the woods. He was very, very lucky and escaped with only a serious concussion and major scrapes and bruises.

Which brings us to today. Where I am trying to catch my (very limited) breathe. Mark leaves early next week for yet another trip for an interview (this one in England). After he returns, we'll be making a decision as to where we're going. The week after next, I should be traveling to Oregon. The week after that, I'm starting my new job, while simultaneously keeping a piece of my old job and doing freelance work.

Blogging may suffer.

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2009 Goal Progress, Week 2

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In direct rebuttal to my last post, here's my progress report for this week on my 2009 goals.

#1: Read one book per week.
I finished listening to Unaccustomed Earth yesterday and started another audio book, Escape. I'm still not finished with Crescent, though. It just isn't compelling to me. I'm nearly finished with it, though, so I'll finish it. Eventually.

#2: See one movie per week.
I've seen several movies in the past week: Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (haha!), Rocky (ug), and Tipping the Velvet (good).

#8: Learn a new craft.
I've started gathering stuff and making Jars of Whimsies. I don't know if that counts as a craft, but it's sure fun.

#11: Practice cooking.
I'm continuing to cook. I made that great curry the other day, and I've been trying to look for more recipes to try.

#12: Make my home more livable.
I'm working hard on this. I've made a home management binder, and I'm spending this weekend tackling my horror show office.

#13: Build my freelance resume.
Exciting news on this front this week. I'm going to be changing jobs in a few weeks to go back to technical writing on a contract basis. This is actually freelance work, but will build that resume.

So all in all, another good week!

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I'm not working on it

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Remember the other day when I was going on about how great it is that everyone's blogs are full of resolutions and goals this time of year and we're all bright and shiny-eyed and committed to bettering ourselves in 2009?

Well, I'm kind of over it.

I'm all about betterment of the self. I probably write more about my own efforts at self-betterment here than about anything else. I'm goal-oriented. But I'm 100% sick of my goings on about it right now, and of all of yours as well. Not because I don't think we should all be committed to being better people, but because I'm starting to freak out about our collective need for perfection.

So today, I'm going to tell you a few of things that are wrong with me that I'm not trying to fix. This is the stuff I'm not working on, the stuff that you are just going to have to accept about me as is if you want to be friends. If you want to do the same, either in the comments or on your own blog, I encourage it. I think we could all use a little time out to embrace our flaws.

1. I have zero hand-eye coordination. Seriously. It's pathological. I had to take a special class in elementary school for what was then referred to as "physical retardation" or something like that. Basically, it was three half-hours a week of trying to get me to learn to throw and catch. I hated it. My coordination hasn't improved much since then, either. I can drive adequately, but that's about the end of what I've learned. I am bad at all sports. I bump and bruise myself daily. I can't even play Tetris.

2. I don't floss. Ever. And I'm not going to start.

3. I can't sew. I've tried, I've failed, I'm done.

4. I only finish what I start about a quarter of the time. My follow through is severely lacking. I am a much better plan-maker than plan-doer.

5. I am not above picking fights to entertain myself when I'm bored.

6. If I don't like you, I probably won't bother to hide it or even be civil to you if I don't have a pressing reason to be.

7. I have a strong tendency to think things are not worth doing simply because I'm not able to do them.

8. If you grew up wealthy, I'm likely to take an unfair automatic dislike to you.

9. I bite my nails, and my cuticles.

10. I'm incredibly lazy and will sleep 12 hour stretches if allowed.

11. I drink, often to excess, and I'm a lousy drunk.

12. I quite regularly don't answer my cell phone just because I don't feel like it.

OK. I feel better now! You?

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Shrimp mango sweet potato curry recipe

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By request, here's the recipe for that curry. It's adapted from Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast.

1. First, get your rice started. I used basmati and it was really good. The recipe on my bag is to soak 1:2 ratio of rice to water with a little sesame oil and salt for 15 minutes, then bring it to a boil, then turn it down and simmer it covered for 15 more minutes. Seems to work pretty well.

2. Cut up the following:
--two green onions/scallions (small rounds)
--two sweet potatoes (you want about 2.5 cups of smallish cubes)
--a mango (you want about a cup of smallish cubes)

3. Heat up some sesame oil in a nonstick and fry the green onions for about a minute. Then add about 1.5 tablespoons of curry paste (if you don't want it to be super hot, use less or use a mild paste), 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, about 2/3 can of coconut milk, and about a cup of chicken stock. Bring it to a boil.

4. Once it's boiling, add the sweet potatoes and turn it down to simmer. Simmer it until the sweet potatoes are softish--about 15 minutes.

5. Add a bag of cleaned and deveined frozen shrimp (about 16 oz). Return to a boil and cook for a few minutes until the shrimp are cooked through, then add the mango and a big squeeze of lime (a couple of teaspoons) and heat a minute more.

6. Serve the curry over the rice. Nigella says to put fresh chopped cilantro on top, but I skipped that because I didn't have any.

Yum!

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Check out Chef Grace!

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Grace cooks! 011009I cooked again tonight--my most successful venture yet. I used this recipe for red curry with shrimp, sweet potato, and mango from Nigella Lawson's express cookbook, and it was really really tasty. It ended up way too hot, due, I guess, to the type of curry paste I bought, but it was still good, and I'll definitely make it again, with half as much curry paste.

I also spent all afternoon cleaning our house to make it more presentable and pleasant. Look at me working on my resolutions!

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2009 Goal Progress, Week 1

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Once again, I'm following Rachel's lead, and instituting a weekly post detailing any progress I've made towards my goals for 2009. What would I do without her to copy-cat?

#1 Read one book per week.
I finished Mary Roach's Bonk this morning. I'm still working on Crescent, though.

#2 See one movie per week.
I saw both Doubt and Frost/Nixon last weekend, and fully plan to spend some quality time with my Netflix this weekend.

#4 Improve my eating habits.
I'm instituting a practice of drinking a glass of water for every cup of coffee I drink at work. Baby steps.

#6 Pay of my credit cards.
I paid $700 towards my credit cards this month. Unfortunately, that didn't do much more than undo the damage I did last month, but at least I'm back on track now.

#7 Save at least $100/month.
Done!

#9 Journal and blog regularly.
I actually haven't been blogging much this week, but I have been journaling. I feel kind of stuck with the blog, like I don't have much to say. I'll work more on that next week.

#11 Practice cooking.
I did really well with this one this week. I made dinner three times! Chicken with rice, pizza, and pasta. Go me!

Not a bad starting week, all things considered...

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Christmas present round up and giveaway!

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So, I've been dying to ask--what did you all get for Christmas?

My most awesome gift was the camera Mark surprised me with. I have really been wanting a new camera and the one he choose is even more than I'd hoped for. I was stunned and thrilled. He also gave me a Liverpool t-shirt, which of course is rad.

For the most part, I was also thrilled with how respectful both Mark's and my family were as to my desire for used/homemade/non-commercial presents. I got several books, which are always great gifts, several pounds of coffee and several bottles of wine from Oregon, which were on the very tip top of my wish list, and a couple of really lovely handmade gifts, including a multimedia piece from here and a set of beaded bracelets.

However, I also got a couple of things that are awesome, but not things I can use. That's where you come in. Contest time! Leave me a comment telling me what you got for Christmas, and two winners will be chosen to receive my awesome but unusable gifts. All I'll need is your snail mail address.

U.S. only, please.

I'll probably close in a few days, so comment now!

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Goodwill bathroom stall

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I so rarely see good graf anymore. But this I had to share (pardon the crappy picture I took with my crappy phone).

Graffiti at the Goodwill

Any idea what that could possibly mean?

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Goal #11

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I have cooked twice in three days!

On Saturday, I made a dish recommended by an e-friend. It was some roasted chicken breasts over a sort of sweet-and-sour blend of pineapple, garlic, colored bell peppers, honey, etc., with rice. It was pretty good. Not great, but edible.

Tonight, I used some of the leftover chicken, along with some homemade pizza crust dough I made yesterday, and made a pizza with some pesto, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and cheese. It was really, really tasty.

Looks good too, huh?

Grace's pizza!

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Goals for 2009

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All over the Internet, bloggers are listing their New Year's Resolutions. I love it. My favorite lists so far are Karen at Chookooloonks' "9 for 9", The Princess at Flood Lizard Kingdom's "So, 2009, what shall we get up to?", and Crunchy Turtle Rachel's series of goals/resolutions posts. And so, now, I add my list.

Things I Want to Accomplish in 2009


  1. Read one book per week. I've already been over this one. Reading is really important to me, and I need to make time for it.

  2. See one movie per week. Pretty much the same deal as the books, though much easier to accomplish.

  3. Take at least one overseas trip. I have no idea if this is going to be doable this year or not, but Mark and I have talked about celebrating his graduation with a trip. We'll see.

  4. Improve my eating habits. This is something I focused on for a while last year, then stopped. I need to re-commit. I don't have to be perfect, but I do need to be better.

  5. Exercise regularly. See above re: eating better. I know I feel better when I exercise. I have to make myself do it.

  6. Pay of my credit cards. I am about 2/3 of the way there. I should be able to do it by about halfway through 2009. At my current rate, I have 6 more months to go, and I should be able to speed that up some with freelance income and/or tax rebate.

  7. Save at least $100/month. I know $100/month isn't enough, and I fully plan to increase this substantially as soon as the CCs are paid off. Until then, though, I want to keep up the saving habit with $100 monthly contributions to my savings account.

  8. Learn a new craft. I'm not sure what it will be, but I want to learn a new craft this year. I felt like I got a long way with bath stuff last year, and I want to do something new this year. Crocheting, or embroidery, or felting...not sure.

  9. Journal and blog regularly. I'm really glad to have gotten back into journaling and hope to be able to keep it up in 2009. Blogging I am pretty much in the habit of, and I don't think continuing to blog regularly (if not daily) should be too much of a problem.

  10. Sell our house and move. Obviously this is a big goal, and it's something we're going to have to do this year. It's going to take quite a bit of work. I hope to take these challenges on with the best possible attitude.

  11. Practice cooking. The phobia I have developed of cooking is ridiculous. I need to get over it. I'm shooting for cooking 1 dinner/week to start.

  12. Make my home more livable. Mark and I had a long conversation this weekend about how gross our house has gotten and what we need to do to make it more livable. Mostly, this has to do with the battle against dog hair, but it also has to do with both of us (me especially) given a little more time to chores. So I am trying to figure out a routine to deal a bit better with my household responsibilities, and we're going to make some furniture purchases (cabinets with doors to protect stuff from the hair, for example) to make it easier.

  13. Build my freelance resume. I currently have some opportunities to do freelance side work on grants and similar stuff for private companies. This is exactly the type of work I need to build a resume in the hopes of doing this stuff for myself at some not too far-off point. I have to focus on that.

Like Rachel, I plan to post period updates on how I am progressing towards these goals. I feel pretty positive about my chances of checking a bunch of them off!

That is probably plenty for now...

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2008 Book Round-Up

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Inspired, as always, by my book-loving friend Jenny, here are my 2008 reading stats:

I read a total of 52 books this year. Since my goal was one per week, I more or less made it. Except that the 52 counts the 9 books I didn't finish or the two that have progressed into 2009. More depressingly, this is down from 75 last year! I read only 69% of the books this year that I did last year! 28 (54%) of the books were non-fiction, 24 (46%) were fiction. This is also a change from last year, in which I read only 31% fiction and 69% non fiction. 14 of this year's books (27%) were audio books, down from 39% last year.

Sad state of affairs. I definitely need to make reading a priority again in 2009.

My biggest surprise of the year was Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. It was so hyped that I expected it to be terrible, especially given the pre-conception I picked up somewhere about Didion as shallow and vapid. It's actually probably the best account of grief I've ever read.

The year's biggest letdown was Ariel Gore's How To Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead. I like Ariel Gore's non-fiction quite a lot, in general, but I got nothing from that book.

My favorites of the year were Alison Bechadel's amazing graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Sharon O'Brien's, The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance.

The most overrated book I read this year was Zadie's Smith's god-awful White Teeth. I didn't even finish it. Terrible. Worse, even, than the horrible book I read by her last year. I'm so done with Zadie Smith.

There were quite a few books I couldn't or just didn't finish this year, but the most memorable one is The Worst Hard Time, which I didn't finish last year either and finally gave up on for good this year.

The books I most recommend this year are definitely Fun Home and The Year of Magical Thinking.

Books that carried over from 2008 to 2009 are Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent, which I am liking OK, but going through fairly slowly, and Mary Roach's Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, which I am listening to on audio book and enjoying quite a bit. I expect I'll finish both of those.

This year, I maintain by one book/week goal, with the caveat that I want to actually *finish* one book/week. And if I could read more fiction, that would be good, too.

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Look back at 2008

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OK, the first idea I want to copy from Rachel is in this post. Month by month, she looks back over her 2008 posts and summarizes what she's done and learned and how that plays into her goals for 2009. Seems like a pretty useful task.

January
I returned from my fantastic trip to Norway. Mark and I watched the kittens grow and were amused and amazed. I started taking pictures of my outfits every day and realizing just how poorly I dress. My mom's dog, Bella, died, which was really sad.

February
I continued to blog about my clothes, then, thank God, stopped. A beagle won Westminster. Mark's mom came to visit. I revisited my feminist canon. The kittens were all adopted out. I started the Oscar movie project (check my progress here!).

March
I made lists, as per March's NaBloPoMo challenge. I went on a massive Goodwill trip with The Princess. Crushworthy had its first sale. I got the flu and re-read the Little House books. I wrote a bunch about Buffy. Hopefully I was less boring in my actual life than on the blog.

April
I wrote a whole bunch more about Buffy, and enjoyed a brief moment of fame on Whedonverse when someone linked me there. Our clothes dryer died (while Mark's parents were visiting), which sounds like a minor thing but became a major thing when we failed to fix or replace it for over 6 months.

May
I didn't blog much at all. I think maybe I was a little bit depressed?

June
Mark and I visited our crew in Boston. I came back sick as hell with a sinus/ear/bronchial infection. Mark and I got really into the 2008 Euros. I sounded off on why I don't favor marriage. I had a weight-related freak out. We started fostering Belle.

July
We had a nice little 4th of July party. I once again addressed my weight, and started to actually work towards losing some. I did a ton of thrifting and blogged about that a lot. I wished I was at BlogHer but was not.

August
Mark and I went on a fancy date night. I did a bunch more thrifting, and continued to work on getting my weight down and paying down my debt. I turned 29. I got a misspelled tattoo.

September
Grandma Lou had a heart attack and had to have surgery, and I was terrified. Mark turned 31. We started fostering Huey.

October
My awesome cousins came to visit. I kept thrifting a ton and wrote about why I do it. I got to my lowest weight. I kept paying on the debt.

November
NaBloPoMo! For the first time, I used daily themes for my blog, and wrote a lot about thrifting, debt reduction, etc. I did several tutorials, which were fun to do and hopefully helpful for somebody out there. Crushworthy started really selling!

December
I continued to focus a lot on money. I did a whole lot of pre-holiday work for Crushworthy and a lot of gift thrifting. I got a little bit obsessed with Christmas carols.

Overall? The word that comes to mind for me to define this year is discipline. I learned some. Not a lot, obviously, but some. I made progress. I grew. Overall, I feel overwhelmingly positive about it.

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Happy New Year!

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Didja miss me?

I missed you. I definitely missed blogging. Having a week or so off was really good for me though--I had a very relaxing and refreshing holiday, and was able to get in some really good paper journaling, which I've been trying to get back to and being distracted by blogging. So all in all, a very good thing.

There's lots I want to tell you, though. I've been thinking a lot about progress and goals, as one is apt to do at this time of year. I've also been really really inspired by the blogging my friend Rachel is doing at Crunchy Turtle these past days--she's captured a lot of what I want to do. So Rachel, be forewarned--I'm going to be copying you in my next few posts, which are all going to revolve around those subjects.

In the meantime, though, how about some pictures from our holiday in Minnesota?

(You can check out the whole bunch here.) Mark gave me a new camera for Christmas, and I am in the gooey early stages of love with it, so I've been snapping a bit excessively.

Before we left for Minnesota, we opened the presents my folks sent us here. Here I am peeking over that pile. It contained books, wine, and coffee!

Grace peeks over presents
(Please note that my hair is wet, not greasy, here.)

Since we flew in on Christmas Eve, one of the first things we had to do when we got to Mark's parents' house was to wrap the gifts we'd brought with us. Not Mark's favorite chore, clearly:
Mark wrapping packages 2

Christmas Day itself started with a lovely breakfast, complete with mimosa action and cappaccinos (they have a machine, and now I really really want one). Then, presents! Here I am showing off a favorite present of mine, a Liverpool FC t-shirt:
Me with Liverpool t-shirt

Both the food and the decor at Mark's parents' house is amazing. Wanna see some antipasta?
Antipasta

And how about this tree?
Harnett tree

Not to mention, the wine! Both of these bottles were older than I am!
Decanting wines

The weather was a trip as well. Winter Wonderland! It was well below 0 when we got there and when we left, but got up above freezing a bit in between. Always too cold to spend much time outside. Lovely from the window, though. See?
Back of the Harnett's house

And I know you want to see that snowman closer (and check out the power of my new zoom!).
The snowman, Day 6

Does it look like we had a fantastic time? We certainly did. It was a perfect holiday, with no stress, no responsibility, and no worrying. It's actually a little bit of a bummer to be home and face the animals, and the house, and the plans that need to be made and goals that need to be committed to. But I think that is, in part, how you know a good holiday--you miss it when you get home.

Now, for some less happy news--for those who don't follow me elsewhere and don't yet know, my grandmother is dying. She has been declining for a few weeks and is now almost certainly in her final days. She is 98 (would be 99 in March) and has had a long and full life, and she is ready to leave this world, but it is still heart-breaking and I am having a much harder time dealing with it than I would have expected (in part, I'm sure, because it's hard to be so far from home when something like this happens). I likely won't say a whole lot about that here, because it's not something I am really ready to talk about publicly, but I thought you should know.

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