Monday, August 31, 2009

Project: wall clock

I get a great sense of accomplishment when I come up with an idea, execute it, and have success. Hence why I like projects. One of the things that I like to do is take normal things and use them for something else. Does that sound too much like Martha Stewart? Please say no. This has stemmed mainly from being astounded at how much inanimate objects costs.

We moved into an apartment a few months ago and, like most modern apartments, everything is slightly white. Not 100% white. I'm not even sure that exists anymore. Maybe it's morning mist or silver cloud or angel's kiss. But between the walls, ceiling, tile and carpet, it's very bland. So we need some something.

One large space in particular is in our dining area. It looks like this. I started one project to put on this wall but it ended up looking like crap so I pulled it down and started brainstorming again. One idea was a clock. I love large clocks but they tend to be expensive. So, as with most things that I think are too expensive, I try to find a way to do it myself. I did some internet researching and found a clock kit for a clock that mounts directly onto the wall. I've been looking for one of these for a very long time and finally found one big enough!

The process was as follows:

We pulled out the kit and made sure we had everything we needed. The numbers that came with it are black and boring. I decided to either paint on numbers myself or make my own. I ended up using the existing black numbers and traced them onto that scrapbook paper, cut them out and glued them onto the numbers.

After I got the numbers cut out and glued, Jericho did all the measuring to make sure it would be symmetrical and look like a clock. He is the engineering mind and I am the creative mind. It would have taken me all day to measure all those lines.

We put the numbers up first before the hands. Spacing these numbers was much harder than I thought it would be. We used the lines that we drew as general guides but ended up having to put Jericho across the room to eye-ball it.

And so, our boring, blank wall now looks like this! Yay! Now when we're eating and we need to know what time it is, we don't have to stretch to look at the clock on the stove! The best part is that it works. The clock kit was only about $20 so the mechanism isn't exactly top quality. We continue to rejoice throughout the day when we check the giant clock and the time is still correct.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Littlest Rebel

I am a flip flop person through and through. I own numerous pairs and my two most frequently worn "work shoes" are in fact, fancified flip flops. My standard black, casual flip flops have finally reached the trashing point so last week I purchased new black flip flops. And, after much deliberation, I purchased black Rainbow sandals. That doesn't seem like a very big deal, but trust me, it was.

I have been having an internal battle with whether or not to purchase Rainbows for some time. At least 3 years. The history of my affection for Rainbows started roughly 15 years ago when I saw numerous hunky hunky surfers at the beach wearing them. But, at the young age of 12, I did not have the money to purchase $40 flip flops. As time went on, I left for Idaho for college and came back to NC four years later to realize the actual current trends, since we all know ID is not exactly at the cusp of fashion, and saw that EVERYONE, including children that could barely walk, were wearing the coveted Rainbows.

At this point, I began to hate Rainbows. They had changed from beachy cool surfer dude shoes to "mommy I have to have them because everyone else does, including you" shoes. To me, they represented everything I hated about conformity, or more appropriately, expensive conformity. This distaste for label-driven, overpriced fashion was probably rooted in me around middle school when I became acutely aware of everything I wore and possessed down to what brand of backpack I used and therefore felt I was being ruthlessly judged as such. And since we really are all seventh graders deep inside, the current Rainbows fad has become the Abercrombie and Fitch from high school or the Converse shoes from middle school. As I matured, I realized one of the reasons I hated these trends so much was because secretly, I liked them, but was too proud to admit that I was just like everyone else so I rebelled.

Up until last week, this rebellion toward the Rainbows continued. I realized that openly refusing to buy them solely on the basis that they were a fad was just as bad as buying them because they were a fad. Does that make any sense? I couldn't win, so therefore I figured I do need new black flip flops, I would like a pair that will last a while, I am a collector of flip flops, the Rainbow company is by no means taking a personal offense to my rebellion, and I can still maintain some of my rebellion by getting black instead of the standard brown.

So there you have it. I rescinded my rebellion. As I'm sure my mother already assumes, I still maintain other little rebellions. The one that I hold to firmly and probably will for some time is the iPhone. And maybe Macs in general. I haven't totally decided on that one yet. I like the product just fine but there are definitely "Mac people". I think they make you join a secret club and have secret handshakes once you buy a Mac. But alas, I digress and should save the Mac people judgments for another time.*

My question to my readers, is what rebellions do you have? They can be big or small, trivial, purposeful, or, like mine, affect no one but yourself. I think the overall objective of a rebellion, whatever it may be, is it gives us a sense of individual passions. Even if no one else in the world knows of said passion, we know that there are pieces of us that make us different and that in itself is empowering. I may have sacrificed a piece of my individuality by buying Rainbows but I think that 15 years is long enough to deprive myself of really cool flip flops.

*Mother, I formed these opinions before you purchased a Mac. These comments are not directed at you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life is SO hard!

I have never considered myself a lazy person. I have also never considered myself an exceptionally ambitious and productive person. I am probably like most people and fall somewhere in the middle of the resourceful scale. Assuming that I am in no way being a hypocrite by making these statements, I would like to take a moment to ream on the American people, or rather the American patrons of Target and other such grocery-cart-wielding establishments.

Jericho and I were at Target last night doing some food shopping. We saw some open parking spots from afar as we pulled into the lot. As we approached we realized why they were open - people had left their carts in the middle of an empty spot. We were forced to park in the next spot over which was not a big deal. But not only were the carts filling one spot, but there were at least another half a dozen carts on the little grassy section between rows. Ladies and gentlemen, would you like to take a guess at how far away we were from the front door or any cart returns? Less than 10 spaces from the door and one row over on either side from a cart return. As we pulled up, we even saw one lady walk her cart over to the masses, like it was some make-shift cart return for the lazy, walk back to her car and there was a cart return ON HER ROW! In her defense, it was only one sided and it was facing the other direction from her car. You can see how this would throw her senses out of whack.

Is this how lazy we are? Or are we so consumed with our own self-importance and "I'm so much busier than you could possibly imagine" attitudes that we can't walk 20 feet to 1 of 3 possible ways to return a cart to its proper place? You have 3 options all within a very reasonable distance from where you're standing. What else do you need, princess? A cart valet? Directional arrows?

This is not the first time I have seen this, as I'm sure most of you have also encountered similar experiences. Once at Wal-Mart someone left their cart in the FIRST spot therefore preventing anyone else from parking there, which at Wal-Mart is only second to shoplifting. The FIRST sticking spot! (Not a handicap spot though. I'm not that unforgiving.) They could probably have given the cart a good solid push and it could have rolled right back in the store. I try to be an open-minded citizen and give people the benefit of the doubt but I do wonder what could be going on in someone's life at that moment that is so important that it prevents them from having enough consideration for other shoppers as well as the employees to put their frikkin cart back.

I think Aldi is on the right track with their cart method. You have to deposit a quarter in a little slot to release the cart and then when you click it back in when you're done, you get your quarter back. Now a quarter really isn't that big of a deal, but I'm sure the uber-lazy have walked their groceries out to the car and subsequently had a serious internal debate on whether or not walking 20 feet was worth getting your 25 cent piece back. Really, life is not that hard. 20 feet will not kill you or mess up your shoes or make you late to your mani-pedi. We're all in this little world together. And Karma is real.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sacrifices for the greater good

On Sunday, August 2, I sold my Scion tC after owning it for only 15 months. It was my first real adult car purchase. I loved my car. So why would I sell it? Between Jericho and I, we have 5 vehicles (1 is his work truck so that technically doesn't count). Of those vehicles, only one was not paid for - mine. With our new marriage and new goals and new budgeting, it only made logical sense to eliminate the vehicle that had a payment. So a couple of months before we got married, we listed my car on Craigslist.

After almost 6 months of it being listed and numerous denials to sellers that expected way too much of their negotiation skills and way too little of my ability to hold firm to my asking price, I was so excited to finally sell the car.

Monday morning, I left my dentist appointment headed to Bank of America to pay off the loan. I had checks in hand and was anticipating the relief of paying off the loan. I walked up to the first teller at Bank of America, told her what I wanted, handed over my checks, my confidence and excitement flying high. "I'm sorry. We can't accept these checks." Excuse me? Come again? She gets another teller. This one comes back and tells me, "Ma'am, clearly you are 10 and have no business handling money. We can't do anything with these checks and you should have known what to do so I don't have to stand here and correct everything you've ever come to know about checks and the banking system." Okay, maybe that's not what she said, but it sure sounded like it. Maybe it was more like, "These checks aren't endorsed properly. Plus we don't take third party checks anyway. Try your personal bank."

With that, I board my huff train and leave for what will be two days of bank trips. In summary, on Monday and Wednesday, I traveled to or spoke to the following banks in respective order:

Bank of America - Chapel Hill. They hate me. See above.

Wachovia - Chapel Hill, west side of Willow Road. Find out the checks aren't endorsed properly. Tells me they need to say "pay to the order of..." and signed by the designee. Oh and also, the designee needs to be present in order to verify that they are in fact signing over the check to me. Grumble grumble grumble all the way back to the office. Vent to Jericho that everyone hates me that day to include my teeth who, I discovered earlier that morning, are silently rebelling against me by inflicting me with 3 new cavities.

Bank of America - Durham. She hated me too and told me I was wrong for thinking I was told from another Bank of America representative that it would take 3 business days to get the title once the money was paid. How dare I believe her coworker over her and her 2-3 week estimation for title turn around.

Wachovia - Durham. "Yes ma'am, you have been told correctly. In order to endorse a check over to you, the person endorsing it must be present for us to deposit the check." "If they are with me, why don't I just have them write me a new check? What's the purpose of endorsing a third party check if it doesn't even work?" "That's just our policy ma'am. We're not very good at what we do." "No wonder Wells Fargo had to buy you out."

Wachovia - Cary. Wins points for best customer service and cracking jokes and not talking to me like this is my first day speaking English. Calls buyer's banks to tell them the policy and why the hold up on the checks. Still nothing can be done with the checks I have. I have no car and no money for the car. I leave for Walmart after this and lock my keys in the car. Individual size rain cloud is officially ordered and shipped directly above my head.

Truliant Credit Union - Cary. Jericho's credit union. He spoke with them to confirm that B of A and Wachovia knew what they were talking about and to help talk me down from my utter frustration and out of my gun turet perched at the ready and aimed on the Bank of America building downtown.

State Employees Credit Union - Yanceyville. 10 minutes from the Virginia border. Home of my buyer's account. They reissued me new cashier's checks in my name. I'm home free. Almost.

Wachovia - Chapel Hill. East side of Willow Road. Deposit 2 of the 3 checks. Big $$ check will have to be on hold since it's a large amount. NO!!!! "So I can't write a check out of my account for this amount until....." "At least after the 7th." Boo. Banks suck. "Can I cash it?" "Not here but you can try State Employees." Done!

State Employees Credit Union - Chapel Hill. "I am praying and hoping that you can cash this check for me." "Why of course!" She hesitates when she sees the amount. She's nervous about me walking around Chapel Hill with $11,000 in cash. Makes two of us. She leaves to talk to her manager. She comes back. I ask her if they can write a check directly to B of A. Yes, they can! Do I have an account? No. Leaves again to talk to her manager. SECU makes an exception for poor, little, sad me and writes me a cashiers check to B of A. Terry at SECU in Chapel Hill is my new favorite bank teller. I may send her cookies.

Bank of America - Chapel Hill, again. Luckily, different teller. I hand her my loan number, my checks, my cash, my tears. Furious clicking of the computer. Zipping of the little machines. Bam, I have a receipt for my deposit into my loan, paid in full! My dark cloud is replaced by a rain of balloons and confetti and celebratory music.

Total PTO spent on attempts to deposit/cash/extract the money I was paid for my car: 7 hours.

After this series of events, Jericho felt even worse about me selling my beloved car. He blames himself. I don't. I love him for being so responsible and for also have a completely dependable car on hand for me to drive until we get me something better. I do miss my tC but do not miss my car payment. Even though I had no problems paying it every month, it is a relief to eliminate a source of debt. Yay for financial independence!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Project Ice Cream

Jericho and I received an ice cream maker for a wedding present. We contemplated exchanging it for something more practical but decided it might be fun to hang on to it. In order to make myself feel like we were worthy of the present, I decided to start making ice cream. The first venture was Strawberry Gelato that turned out surprisingly well. The second venture was Key Lime Pie ice cream, which also was a big hit. The ice cream has been so good and fun to make that I'm really jazzed about finding and making different homemade ice creams.

I decided to make a record of the most recent experiment, complete with photos. Last weekend Jericho and I went to the Raleigh Farmer's Market. Love it. Jericho had never been. It makes me feel so of-the-earth. Like I should start churning butter and making my clothes. While at the Farmer's Market, we decided to get peaches. Peaches are in season and there were roughly 10 different stands selling peaches. So we bought some peaches. What should we do with the peaches? Make peach ice cream!!

Yummy fresh peaches. Picked the day before. The recipe actually only calls for one peach but one peach looked so lonely for the photo shoot.

The previous two ice cream recipes I'd made had a milk base (gelato) and a sweetened condensed milk base (key lime pie). There were a few traditional cream/milk based peach ice cream recipes but I also found one that was a mascarpone cheese base. Mascar-what?? Basically, it's a fancy Italian cheese very similar to cream cheese, just more Italian-y (see above). It's the cream base they use for tiramisu. I had Jericho taste it while I was cooking and he said it "tastes like poo." Not true. But it's kinda weird. I was skeptical.

I creamed together the mascarpone with cream, milk and sugar. The recipe calls for 16 oz of mascarpone cheese but it's expensive so we halved the cheese and substituted it with a cream and it worked fine. (That's my pretty red Kitchenaid from my pretty husband.)

I chilled the cream mixture in the fridge while I prepped the peaches. They needed to be caramelized. How does one caramelize a peach?! I'll tell you! You score them like a mango and place on a baking sheet, douse them in honey and broil on 500 for 10 minutes. It basically just makes hot, sticky, sweet pieces of peach. The next step is to mix the peaches in a bowl with (more) honey and cinnamon. Once the peach mixture is cool, then you start the mixing (see above- that's my pretty red ice cream maker. It was the only color they had. But that's fine with me.)

And behold the finished result. It's technically called Mascarpeach ice cream with caramelized peaches and honey. I changed a few things but it still turned out really well. The cinnamon ended up being pretty potent so it mainly tastes like really creamy cinnamon ice cream with chunks of peaches. I also learned that ice cream makers like mine don't like chunks. Always add any chunky ingredients when it's done churning. It was a fun project though. I liked that it was harder than some other recipes and the mascarpone made it very creamy and rich. Let me know if you have any suggestions for my next ice cream experiment!!

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