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Friday, January 31, 2014

I Feed the Vampires

I'm actually more of a werewolf gal myself, but I help out where I can. :P

I'm not really a charity type of person. I don't volunteer anywhere, or do special walks or anything like that. I will donate to causes via rounding up my bill at a store, sometimes. When AmazonSmile started, I jumped on that bandwagon immediately, choosing my local animal shelter as my cause. I even thought about volunteering there once, but you have to go through training and work a specific amount of hours per week so I never went through with it.

What I do do, however, is feed the Vampires. Or in non-geeky terms: give blood. It's a simple act; something I can do that doesn't take any money or much of my time. When they're not packed, a blood bank can get you in and out in about 30 minutes.

I know what you're thinking. You hate needles. Well, so do I, and those ones are pretty big. I mean, who really likes needles besides, oh I don't know, junkies? In fact, I can almost faint at the sight of my own blood.

It happened several years ago, as a teenager, when I was opening a can of food. I sliced my thumb open really badly; the cut was super deep. I ran it under the water forever, it never stopped bleeding so I screamed to dad. There was too much blood to just run to the bathroom and grab a band-aid. By the time dad got it wrapped around my finger, I was feeling faint. I actually had to sit with my head between my knees so that I wouldn't pass out.

So you know what I do? I don't look. I don't even think about it. The blood bank even has to pinprick your finger to test your iron level; I look away for that too. In fact, it was Puget Sound Blood Center that "diagnosed" me with iron deficiency anemia. Every time I would try to give blood they would turn me away; my hematocrit being as low as 7. And who wants their finger pricked like a lab rat just for them to say no bueno?! So, I finally made an appointment with my PCP.

"I think I have iron deficiency anemia."
"Why do you think that?"
"Because the blood bank keeps turning me away because my iron is too low."

I got my gallon pin last year. And my blood is one of the rare special types: O-. I'm the universal donor, so they're usually hounding me with emails and phone calls the minute I'm eligible again. (It also comes with a major drawback: if I ever need blood, O- is the only kind I can have!)

Once the needle is in, you won't feel it. Just squeeze your little red ball every few seconds, joke with the staff, and you're done in 17 minutes. And then - free food! Apple juice, chocolate milk, cookies, crackers. Your reward for saving up to 3 lives with one measly pint of blood. And if that doesn't convince you, just remember: A pint is a pound the world around. So if nothing else, that was probably the easiest pound you ever lost! :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Boiling Pasta is for the Birds

So I discovered a new way of cooking. It’s probably not revolutionary, like say, the fire, but you know, it’s handy. Also, someone else probably thought of this years ago, but I’m too lazy to check it out. (Actually, it’s because I feel proud and I don’t want to get depressed that it wasn’t my idea.) This new method I invented* is kind of for single use. Or singles use. However you want to word it. Lonely people. Whatever.

Have you ever cooked ravioli in a fry pan? It’s delicious and you don’t even need a fattening sauce to go with it because you basically fry it in butter (doesn’t that sound healthier?!). I usually will let the butter brown in a pan and then cook the raviolis (fresh, usually) for a couple minutes per side. Simple, easy, done.
Well, I bought some cheese tortellini recently and tried this with it, but epic fail. The pasta was much too dry to begin with so when I fried it in the butter it came out much crisper than I wanted. There’s always the option of boiling them – after all, it is pasta. But it comes out so bland and I don’t want to deal with making a sauce to go with it. I could go all “Rachael Ray” on the Costco batch but man, that’s a lot of food to store. (Also, for some reason, I really dislike the smell of cold pasta sauce sitting in the fridge). With my method, it’s made fresh each day, only takes a few minutes, and you don’t have a huge pot to store in the fridge.

Basically, it’s a hybrid method of butter and water. I still cook them in the same pan.  I add my butter, just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, add my tortellinis’, and cook while covered for a few minutes. The torts suck up all the butter water, keeping them soft yet tasty. Adding a little salt goes a long way too.
Is it the healthiest option? Nah. But butter is back in style, yo. Join the revolution!

An easy open top so you can 
clog your arteries that much faster

*I’ll say it until somebody disputes me.

PS - There I go, touting Rachael's book again and I don't even have it. Why am I not getting paid for this?!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

People Can't Carpool

I live in a place out in the boonies. Where the stars shine brightly at night, it freezes here but not 20 miles away, and satellite internet is the only option unless you use the phone line. It takes me a little over 30 minutes to get to work on a good day, and I have a 6-cylinder car that I love dearly but isn't all that fuel efficient.

 Our driveway. Like a park, only not maintained.

When I first moved out here (temporarily) I decided that I needed to find out if my work had a carpool going. It costs me about $10 a day to commute. According to my Automatic app, it's about $2.75 each way in gas, plus $4.25 toll for the bridge. And considering my car almost has 140k miles on it, carpooling seemed the way to go. I work in a hospital that employs a lot of people, but believe it or not, carpools from my area to work are pretty much non-existent.

The view is soured by the cost to achieve it.

(please do click on this link for my posted video. I would have embedded it but Blogger is stupid)

I pass two park 'n rides on my way into work. Commuter #1 constantly can not believe more people aren't willing to carpool with us. That $4.25 daily bridge toll adds up fast. I agree. I haven't carpooled with her now in over a month as she needs to keep going in early for work. Well, there's reason #1.

Commuter #2 is the biggest flake I've ever seen. She can't commit. She complains about never having any money and such, and yet I need to text her only 20 minutes before we would meet at the park 'n ride to find out if she's going to make it or not. It drives me absolutely insane. If you woke up late one morning and can't make it, fine, that's cool. But if you constantly can't get it together enough to make the deadline for meeting me and I can't even know until the last minute? Not cool. Especially when she expects me to drive because it's "my turn". Excuse me. You had your chance when I asked you yesterday if you were carpooling and you flaked out. If you'd have joined me you would have had a free ride but instead I had to drive myself. You had your chance. No, it's your turn now. I wish I had the balls to say that to her.

That, and when we carpool I have to stay an extra 30 minutes for her to get off at 5pm. So it's not like I get a lot out of it. Especially when she's coming out of the building at 5:15 and then I don't even get home until 6pm or later.

There comes a point where carpooling just isn't worth the hassle anymore. I am this close to calling it quits with Commuter #2. If she can't take it seriously and commit to doing this, then I'm just wasting my time. Commuter #3 lasted about 3 weeks. She actually lives right down the street from me and we would save a ton of money if we carpooled together but she dropped off the face of the planet one day. Commuter #4 lasted a bit longer but I guess her hours were wonky so she had to drop out too. That's it. There's 5 people that we could finally get a van but no one is willing enough to commit to it.

Except for me. The only one who cares that's she's paying $10 a day to go to work, I guess.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Buying Vs. Building

Sometimes you know for a fact that doing something yourself can save you money, say for example, a DIY project vs. hiring a contractor. It really depends on your skillset and if your money is worth more than your time. And sometimes, due to technology advances, the lines can get blurred. This is the case for computers.
I am not what you would call an Apple fangirl. I absolutely abhor the whole idea of forcing you to buy whatever it is Apple thinks you want or need. I abhor the idea that you can’t change out components, or in the iPhone’s case, even remove the damn battery! Microsoft might have stolen Apple’s OS GUI [Graphical User Interface] (who technically “stole” it from Xerox), but Microsoft was smart in its idea of licensing out its software to allow for free enterprise so that companies that wanted to build machines to go head to head with Apple could, because now we had our own software to run it.

In today’s world, buying a computer that will run simple tasks is relatively cheap. You can buy it straight off the lot, or for a bit more, can have Dell build your version of perfection.  In this day and age, it’s no longer necessarily cheaper to build your own PC. So, what are the pros and cons?

Pro Building

You know what is in your PC and what it can handle
You can change out items as they break without the expense of buying a whole new unit
You can make it as cool as you want (LED lights, etc)
You can make it to your specs. PC gaming vs. web surfing
You force yourself to learn about computer components (this is my favorite part)

Con Building

Without “bundle packages” it can cost more
If you don’t know what you’re doing you can break things and lose your investment
No warranty if things go awry
Your time is valuable

My little monster. I call him Asus Jr.

Honestly, it comes down to knowledge and willingness. My father stopped “building” his PCs years ago and started using Dell. He’s happy with it because he can still buy the upgraded components and pay on time (seriously, who uses this phrase? It just makes me think of paying bills within a time frame), and he doesn’t have to bother with installing them himself, which I’ll admit can be a big pain in the ass.  But here’s the thing with Dell. You may think you’re getting choices, but they’re still Dell’s choices. You get 3-4 Graphics card options, but that’s it. And it’s Dell’s price. If my heart is set on a certain Graphics card, at least I can shop around for the lowest price. Also, as Dad told me recently, they’ve stopped including a recovery disc in their systems. This is deplorable. The recovery disc was bad enough; you buy a PC and don’t even get a full, licensed copy of Windows on a disc (which really does come in handy, trust me). And now, you don’t even have that craphole of a recovery disc if something goes wrong. Also, Dell kind of forcibly chooses your operating system for you. Before Windows 8 it wasn’t a big deal. But now it’s like… Windows 8? Oh hell no. Windows 7 or no deal. I can choose that when I build my own PC. And I can choose to keep it as long as I want, no matter what components I replace. (OEM means your Windows license is set into your computer’s motherboard and processor. If you replace those, your Windows License will then become invalid).

Is the desktop market crashing? Not really. I do understand that many regular folks are very happy with a simple machine that will read your email and get on the internet. I realize that most people are switching to laptops, tablets and phones. But not everybody fits in that neat little package. I’m one of the [few] people that use my computer – still as a hobby – to edit videos and create content. I need the multi-tasking ability of a good CPU and graphics.

Sorry… I’m being very technical aren't I? I've learned a lot through building my own computers. It’s all free education I get when I research a product. That’s me, though. I love to research and learn. I find out what components work best for my situation, check it against my budget, and build at my own pace.

I never want someone to make my choices for me. I like my free will, thank you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What I'm ____________ January Edition

Whew, it's been quite a while since I wrote up one of these. Almost a year, I think. It's about time I make one!

EATING: I'm trying to remind myself to eat more protein. Now that I'm off hCG and done with the "Atkins" part of my diet, I don't want to slip back into that old habit of carbs carbs everywhere. I've been making crust-less quiche (or better known as a frittata, probably) for a breakfast I can take every morning to work. It's really simple just to throw some shit and cheese in some eggs and cook it off. (Not real shit. That might not be so appetizing.) I found a delicious recipe for a chicken, broccoli and bacon casserole that I can also make once and serve it out all week. I'm thinking about buying Rachel Ray's Week in a Day cookbook. I really don't like her but I'm always trying to find recipes that I can cook once and then just bring them into work each day.

DRINKING:  Almond milk! Why have I not previously discovered this gem? I've always been disappointed with cow's milk substitutes. Not that I dislike cow's milk (I drink non-fat), but it's 90 calories for about 8 ounces and the carbs are off the charts. Substitutes aren't much better. They're loaded with sugar, and in the case of rice milk (which I really like) there's more carbs and calories than cow's milk! Soy tastes funny to me and still has a ton of carbs. And most subs are really expensive for what you get. Well, I've noticed in recent years that Costco is branching out into the "sub" category. They used to be only whole milk. Then they added the % of milk. Then they added soy. And now they're selling a 6 pack of unsweetened Almond Milk for a very decent price. To drink it straight I need to add splenda. But in cereal or coffee or tea? Man. And for cocoa? Whoa.

WATCHING: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I am on a Marvel kick, and luckily, so is Hollywood! I've always loved Marvel (and I pretty much despise DC comics) even though I'm not a comic book reader. It started with X-Men and Spider-man way back in the day. (I make it sound like I'm talking about the 70's or something. Silly me! o_o) and yet it took me a very long time to finally watch The Amazing Spider-man (because they re-did my love, and I didn't like that) and even longer to watch The Avengers because I didn't know, or care, about these weirdos they added to the plot (GIVE ME IRON MAN!) Black Widow? The arrow dude? Thor? Dafuq was Thor?

THIS... this... yeah.

Okay I'll admit it, I'm a bandwagon fan, but still. Agents of SHIELD rocks. I absolutely adore agent Coulson. He is my most favortist person. And as I'm going backwards, having watched Avengers (and not remembering Coulson was in it) and then re-watching Iron Man with the same problem, then watching SHIELD and now watching Thor for the first time - damn, he's everywhere lol. I love the collectiveness of these movies. I think Hollywood finally did something stellar by making separate character-driven pieces and yet have them all connect in some way, and then bringing that all together again for Avengers. It's Hollywood gold and I'm all over it.

LISTENING TO: Well, I discovered this new song that I'm not completely in love with yet (always seem to like the chorus first most of the time) but I'm getting there. Unfortunately, it's just a little dubstepy, which I'm desperately trying to avoid. Mostly techno-y though. Krewella - Live for the Night. Also starting to really like Avicii - Wake Me Up. Could those two songs seriously be any more different?!

READING: I just finished reading The Last Unicorn. I'm not usually a "read the book after the old movie" type of person, but I got it for cheap in a Humble Bundle set (which included a Wil Wheaton memoir. Pretty awesome read). I feared that it would be written with too much Old English... I have trouble understanding crap like that, but the movie was almost exactly like the book just about word for word. I bought The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind the moment it hit Amazon (Literally. Midnight, yo.) Amazing read, too. And now I'm slowly making my way though Kelley Armstrong's novella books just waiting for something good to come out.

WRITING:  I'm back to writing again - yay! I take such long bouts where I'm completely dry of inspiration. And then I can never seem to finish one thought before another completely different one comes and I abandon the first. I'm doing good so far though, staying on track with this one idea. Blue Moon, I call it, a werewolf love story. (obviously!)



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year

I was never one to party like it was 1999. I've been a grown-up long before I turned 21, I think. I've had really good New Years celebrations, and some pretty shitty ones too, usually by being around completely smashed people while I was probably the most sober one there.

Don't get me wrong; I can drink. I don't drink often, so my tolerance is fairly low, but I just happen to know my limits. Also, I don't slam shots or well drinks.

This was my drink of choice last night:

It's my own concoction called the Almond Joy. There are several recipes out there for something like this, but I prefer my alcohol undetectable by the human palate. That could also be a recipe for disaster, as the 'drunk' may come on slower, and I hear sugar intensifies a hangover. Although, after having 3 of these and 2 bottles of water, I was fine in the morning. Here is my recipe:

1-1/2 shots Malibu Coconut Rum
1 shot Cocoa Rose Tequila (or probably Godiva if you prefer but I didn't have the funds for that!)
A splash of Amaretto
2 shots (sweetened) almond milk (I just bought unsweetened and filled it with Splenda)
1 shot half n half

As you can see, I fancied it up by adding chocolate syrup to the bottom, and chocolate shavings on the top. I also made my own whipped cream (a pint - way too much for the party I went to) and added 3 shots of Amaretto to it. I honestly think the whipped cream and chocolate shavings made that drink. I probably went over the top with the syrup, but who cares? It's New Years!

This time I had a really good time. Every year that I've spent celebrating with family has been a blast. We would sometimes do Rock 'n Bowl, but that was getting pretty darn expensive, so my uncle rented out The Wine Studio, where some of my family have become pals with the owner. It was BYOB, but still a fun place to hang out, chat and play games. Even though I was (and am) sick with a cold, I still managed to stay up until midnight and drink enough to buzz me.

Hopefully I didn't make anyone else sick!! >_<

Happy New Year everyone!