Day 242: Every cent counts

Does loose change find its way to every surface of your home? To the linings of pockets, the bottoms of purses? 

Especially the pennies. Those are just useless. They can’t be used in laundromats, parking meters, gumball machines… 

Therefore, my partner and I have decided to start a penny harvest in our home. It was something my middle school did. I don’t recall actually participating, though I imagine I would have. We’ve set up a jar where we’ll deposit our pennies, and twice a year, we’ll make a donation to a charity or organization of our choosing. 

The hardest part is deciding where to make the first donation. There are so many good causes we both care about. We also want to make sure the majority of what we give goes toward the actual cause. 

If you have any suggestions, please share them, along with an explanation of why. Once we decide, I’ll post it here. 

 

And because I promised I would, an update on my C25K progress: I’ve just completed week 2, with success (success being not falling down or throwing up). I can feel myself having an easier time of it with each repetition. Of course, once I feel like I’m improving, the program gets harder. Next week, I have to run for three minutes. I know that sounds like nothing to most of you, but I am ridiculously out of shape, and even when I was in the best shape of my life, I always got winded at the drop of a hat. So if I can do it… achievement. 

 

 

Day 241: A networking lesson

Who else has gone to conferences, happy hours or networking events and felt awkward and out-of-place? Anyone else hate chit chat and glad handing? 

Me too. I’m not above pretending to answer a Very Important Text (read: check Twitter) to avoid awkward small talk. 

Tonight, however, my dinner guest taught me a great lesson on how to survive and thrive in those situations. Ready? 

Find the ugliest, loneliest person in the room, and talk to him (or her). 

Brilliant, right? Not the nicest thing in the world, but maybe leave the philosophy out of your discussion and it really makes sense. 

Of course, next time someone approaches me at such an event, I’m going to wonder if I’m the recipient of the same theory, but what can you do? 

Day 240: Paris in the ’20s

Another step on the literary journey: Ernest Hemigway’s “A Moveable Feast.” 

This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and oddly, it took me a while to find a copy. Maybe this is a book that needed to be earned….

Day 239: Making new friends

I’m not the most outgoing person, but these days if I want to meet people, I usually have to make some effort. I work from home, I’m spoken for so I’m not going out on online dates or to bars, and I don’t love crowds or networking events. 

So… you know… not the easiest thing to make friends. And let’s pause on that for a minute. This seems to be a pretty common affliction of young (okay, young-ish) adults. There’s an article in New York Magazine this week called “How Do I Make Friends in My Late Twenties?” A couple years ago, the New York Times ran an article titled “Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?”

It’s pretty easy to understand. People couple off. I’ve lost more men friends to other women than I can count. You’d think I’d gain women friends when my straight guy friends pair off. More often than not, that isn’t the case. People move. They have families. They have priorities. We grow up. We grow apart.

Actually, that’s more why it’s hard to keep friends. Making them, well… maybe part of it is that we all have our ways. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s nice to get to know people, even if you aren’t going to be bosom buddies. And that’s where the something new comes in. 

I’m part of a Facebook group of DC-based female writers. I also live near Rock Creek Park, which has some lovely hiking trails. However, I don’t relish the idea of traversing them alone. I was raised in the city. I’m a big believer in safety in numbers. So I initiated the idea of a hiking meetup among members of the group. And on Wednesday morning*, I met one of the other members for a lovely morning hike. 

Honestly, I was kind of nervous putting the idea forward. I wondered if people would find it foolish, or irrelevant, or overly forward. But it was well-received, and was an opportunity to meet a new person and enjoy the trails. My hope is to continue and to meet others as well.

Though, if we’re being honest, the social potential there is probably more geared toward new acquaintances. 

Which still begs the question: How does one make real friends after 30? Or maybe, were we not as close as we thought we were when we were younger? 

Sorry, that’s a bummer note to end on. Um… cotton candy! Rainbows! Dirty jokes!

 

Day 238: This might not have been smart

In the spirit of trying new things, I agreed to take part in a fantasy football league.

I have no idea what that even means. 

What the hell was I thinking? 

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Day 237: Hey, someone discovered time travel

I’m catching up. I’ve been busy lately. Have I mentioned how utterly foolish it is to commit to blogging on a daily basis? 

“Then why do you keep doing it?” You ask.

That’s an excellent question. And I could give you some fake-profound answer about pushing oneself beyond boundaries and the importance of achieving goals. But the real answer is, I’m stubborn. 

Anyway, I started using Timehop. I like that I can see these little snippets of what I was doing X-number of years ago, and it can take me back to that time. It’s a fun way to see how much (or how little) things have changed. 

I’ve kept quote books since I was a teenager, and I’ve always enjoyed opening to a random page and remembering what a certain quotation means, and where I was at the time. This is the social media version of that. It’s a nice little moment in my day. 

Days need more nice little moments, don’t you think? 

Day 236: In a jam

I had a plan. A jam plan. And then I got in a jam with my jam plan. 

Damn.

I’ve been wanting to learn to make jam. My boyfriend’s mother makes jam, pickles, etc., and they’re excellent. I could eat her marmalade by the spoonful (and have). 

And considering I have a loaf of homemade bread, and there’s a sale on jars, it seemed like a good time to learn. 

It all started out fine. I found a sale on peaches, and proceeded to prepare them for jamming:

Peaches boiling in water to loosen the skins

Peaches boiling in water to loosen the skins

It started out well. I sterilized the jars, chopped up the peaches, measured out my sugar, pectin and citric acid,  and set them to cooking…

Peaches boiling in sugar, pectin and citric acid... this is where it all begins to go awry...

Peaches boiling in sugar, pectin and citric acid… this is where it all begins to go awry…

 

 

Now, if you’re an experienced jammer, this is the point at which you’re going, “What?! No! What are you thinking, you whackjob?!” Because, as you know if you know what you’re doing, the sugar doesn’t go in the pot until AFTER the fruit, etc. has boiled down. I started to realize something might be going wrong when it wasn’t looking jammy and then when the whole kit and caboodle boiled over. Like this: 

Right before the big "oh shit" moment of the jam plan

Right before the big “oh shit” moment of the jam plan

I consider peachy sugar pectin syrup pouring into my stove to be a punishment for not having read the directions carefully enough. The part where I sliced open my nail bed while cleaning the stove (after cooking, no need to worry about blood in the jam) was overkill.

I tend to be a big improviser in the kitchen. If something goes wrong, I try to find a way to salvage it rather than just toss out the baby with the bathwater. 

So I drained off most of the liquid, and figured as long as we were going rogue, might as well go all the way. A splash of vanilla, a few shakes of cinnamon, a pinch of cardamom and a grating of fresh nutmeg… and stir on…

Grating nutmeg with my Microplane

Grating nutmeg with my Microplane

Now, the original jam plan was intended to make six jars of peach jam.  But, the best laid plans, as they say. My mistake cost me four-and-a-half jars. Again, reading directions is important. 

Yep… for my nine peaches I peeled, pitted and cut, my three cups of sugar (and that’s a reduced sugar recipe), my pectin and citric acid, I ended up with enough jam to fill only one full jar:

photo 2 (3)

The lonely little jar, boiling away...

The lonely little jar, boiling away…

Little Peachie.

Little Peachie.

The remaining jam went into a Tupperware to be used in the next few days. 

So, you know, the jam plan didn’t go as planned (again, that reading thing is important). But it was a valiant effort, and it did result in a rather tasty jam, even if I only got one jar. The final result was sweet, but not cloying, and plenty peachy with hints of spice. 

Now, let’s just hope I sealed the jar properly…

The only thing not homemade is the butter. And, you know, the plate.

The only thing not homemade is the butter. And, you know, the plate.

 

Day 235: Since sliced bread…

I made bread!

I’m not sure why I think that deserves an exclamation point, considering a machine did 90 percent of the work.

Yes, I am now the owner of a bread machine, to add to my ever-growing collection of small kitchen appliances. 

In the midst of the Finger Lakes road trip, we happened by a yard sale, as one does. A nice young woman was preparing to move to Seattle, and was selling everything she couldn’t fit in her car (been there, done that, minus the Seattle part). Which is how I came to own a bread machine and a George Foreman grill. If they didn’t work, I paid $12 for the pair. I wasn’t going to be heartbroken. 

I know. It says $10. The Foreman grill was $5. I negotiated.

I know. It says $10. The Foreman grill was $5. I negotiated.

I started basic —  a simple whole wheat bread. You just follow the instructions — put in the ingredients in the order you’re told, push a few buttons, and in four hours, you’ve gone from this…

photo 1 (1)

 

 to this….

photo 3 (1)

 

I felt a strange sense of guilt buying something called “vital wheat gluten.” Even those of us who are not medically averse to gluten are being somehow socialized into thinking of it as an evil thing. Though, having experimented with a gluten-free diet myself for a time, I can say that while I eating it doesn’t make me feel sick, I felt better without it. I tend to feel perfectly healthy eating whole grains in moderation, however. It’s too much white flour that gets me. I’ve been trying to avoid it. This bread was made with 100 percent whole wheat flour. That said, I would be be most appreciative if anyone has any good gluten-free bread recipes, especially very grain-y ones.

Any kind of bread, though… I can just hear certain people… “you eat bread?” in that judge-y tone we have about other people’s food choices. I hate that tone. Yes. I eat bread. Not every day. Not in large amounts. But I’m not afraid of it. I had a very unhealthy, fearful relationship with food for many years in my youth (I probably had an undiagnosed eating disorder), and it took me a long time to get past that fear and build the loving relationship I have with food today. So I’m not going to screw that up by deciding that bread is evil.  

Well, that got a little more personal than I’d intended, but it’s where things went and sometimes you just have to follow the brain road where it leads.

Homemade whole wheat toast with lucky blackberry jam. I call it "lucky" because I made it by smashing seven blackberries with a little honey.

Homemade whole wheat toast with lucky blackberry jam. I call it “lucky” because I made it by smashing seven blackberries with a little honey.

Day 234: My ’80s TV

Ladies and gentlemen,

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find that the biggest problem with the Internet is that there is simply not enough opportunity to waste time. 

Good news though! There is a site called My80sTV, and it not only has ’80s shows on it, it also has commercials, specials, and news. You can actually pretend it’s 1985 again. The screen actually looks like the analogue television you remember from childhood. 

It’s fantastic. 

 

 

Day 233: I speak CMS

But only a little. I’m working on it. 

Thanks to a new acquaintance, I’ve started to learn how to use the sites MailChimp and Squarespace

If you ask me, this whole notion of having 719 social networks, 149 content management systems, 4,043 blogging platforms, etc. is overkill. It’s like being expected to learn 19 different languages, except everyone you communicate with knows English (or French, Swahili, Farsi, what have you — this is not about me being an Asshole American). 

The point is, I’m not certain why we need all of these different platforms, and I do think life would be a lot more efficient if there was more streamlining. We need more brand dominance, I think, not more options. Like cola. We all agree that Coke and Pepsi are the dominants, right? No offense, RC Cola. 

Look, clearly no one actually is asking me, and I don’t get a say, so I’ll keep on trying to learn more. I just – my two cents – think there are more productive ways to spend time that’s actually intended to be productive. 

 

 

 

 

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