Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A True Fruit Cup Story

Once in awhile, I like to try new products. It's not often, because I know many times I will be suckered by flashy marketing and ultimately end up sad and alone with a stockpile of some protein water that does not, in fact, taste exactly like "lightly sweetened filtered water." No, it tastes like you tried to add protein powder to water and then used some artificial sweeteners.

Still, it was my fault. I bought in to the idea; I wanted it to work.

Anyhow, this story is not about that. This is about some fruit cups I bought. I don't know how new they are, exactly. I hope you all will forgive me for not being on the cusp of new grocery items. I don't follow websites dedicated to grocery product release dates and I've never camped overnight in a WalMart waiting for them to stock a brand new item.

These fruit cups looked delicious in every way that cancels out fruit being good for you. The fruit appeared to be suspended in some sort of sugary substance and the cup came with a packet of cinnamon sugar granola that can be sprinkled on top. I grabbed one and, looking to both sides to make sure no one could see my shame, tossed it into the cart.

Well, I put one of those potentially delicious flavor bombs into my lunchbox yesterday, tossed in a spoon and didn't give it a second thought until lunch.

That's because when I went to open it during my lunch, I found myself unable to make the plastic cap budge from the plastic bottom. I tried from every angle of the circular cup until I had red marks on my fingers from trying. I scooted my chair back and looked at my team lead.

"Can you open this for me?" I asked, offering the plastic cup. My face was a shade of pink from embarrassment but I would quickly learn I had more shades to go through.

My team lead laughed at me and took the cup, setting to work on opening it. I remember feeling a tad bit relieved when she, too, could not open the item in question. She looked at me and shook her head.

"Let's take this to our bureau chief."

"No way! He doesn't have time to deal with this sort of stuff," I protested.

But it was too late. She had already gotten up and was around the corner, walking into his office and announcing that she had an unopenable container.

Well, my face turned several shades darker as I watched the bureau chief, AKA the boss of my boss's boss, attempt to open this fruit cup. As he did so, he marveled over how thick and well fitting the plastic components were.

I muttered something about it being a new product and how I bet within a month or two they'll cut back on plastic production to make a flimsier product.

Eventually, he had to take a file to the edges and pry the top of the fruit cup off. Then he put it back on and took it off again, explaining that things like this were interesting to him.

I thanked him many times and backed out of the office.

As for the fruit cup? It was pretty good. But I don't know if it was 'spend 10 minutes of your lunch trying to open' good. Luckily the box came with two, so I'll try again today to see if it was just a fluke.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The puppies got another bath

Yeah, it's been some time since I've made Sophie deploy crazy eyes level 10 and to be honest, Sherlock kind of smelled like a tuna fish sandwich, which was suspicious due to the fact that I haven't made tuna in over a month. So I gave the dogs baths yesterday.

Sophie did this kind of goldfish memory fail; I held the shower head so that it was stationarily spraying the middle of the tub. Sophie hates the water, so every time she walked through the middle of the tub she would kind of speed up with a little puppy hop of sorts. But then she'd turn around and go back to the other side of the tub. It was literally a case of rinse and repeat. And I liked it because I could hold the shower head at a slight higher height than when I normally try to follow her around with it and my back therefore hurt a lot less. But I'm still not sure why she kept trying to go back and forth.

Anyhow, they smell great now and as is the case with my dreams, last night they reflected my worse nightmare - I dreamed that I woke up this morning and that Sophie's face was crawling with fleas. Thankfully, upon actually waking up, I can confirm that this is not the case.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another extremely short HGTV rant - confusing priorities part 1

Oh HGTV. You never fail to provide me with entertainment.

So I understand that people have different priorities in life than me and that's fine. If everyone thought like me, then no one would ever live downtown, or in a townhouse, and then the prices of single family homes would go through the roof and I'd have to live in the dirt lot across from where I live now and bury my milk in the sand to keep it fresh.

But when someone's priorities seem to conflict within their own parameters - that's when I find amusement. Today's example is show in which a couple was looking for a house with plans of starting a family in the near future, so they examined many properties with an eye towards baby safeness.

When shown a house with a split floor plan (the master bedroom was on the other side of the house from the other bedrooms), the wife began to fret about how that would just not do when they had children.

Then, the couple went outside to the backyard and oohed and ahhed over a large in-ground pool. A pool that had no fence around it and was steps away from the backdoor of the house. And yet not a peep was said about safety. I don't know. I feel like I'm missing something here as is so often the case when HGTV is involved.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's day wrap up

Somehow I missed out on my favorite yearly tradition of going to the grocery store the day after Valentine's day to get clearance chocolate - I don't know about you, but I swear it tastes better when it is marked down 50%. But to be honest, I've noticed the last few years that unless I got to the store first thing on the 15th, all the good chocolate went quickly, so I guess I'm not missing out. After all, half off Russell Stover chocolate is still Russell Stover chocolate and I'll pass on that, thanks.

For the most part, I'm a practical gift giver. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don't have a ton of disposable, discretionary income. I like to think that it reflects my ability to give great gifts that just happen to be useful. So Smiley gets gifts like a vegetable steamer (I should note that prior to owning one, he had claimed how useful it would be, yet almost two months have gone by without it being used even once), or a computer monitor (that one went over much better).

Likewise, Smiley is also a practical gift giver. Again, maybe it is the lack of disposable income, but I like to think that he is just looking out for our best interests in a fun and frugal way. We started dating when I was in college a couple of years ago and I to this day remember the first Valentine's day gift he ever got me.

Mostly because I use it every day.

You might ask what it is.

It is a mouse.

(The computer kind, not a pet).

It's a great mouse. It is black and the shell is semi transparent so that a few blue LED lights can glow through. It has a ton of extra buttons. And except for a random period of time for a few months when it stopped working but then magically started working when the back up mouse I was using stopped working, it's been great.

And it was going to be a great surprise, right until the company called me to ask about my address. The phone conversation started out confused and moved into awkward.

"Ok, so I've got this order for you," says the guy on the phone.

I'm in my dorm room, probably playing WoW and doing homework. "I didn't order anything," I respond slowly. I'm curious.

"It's a mouse. I have this order here and it's for a mouse for you and - oh - uh," the guy trails off and I sit in silence, waiting. "This note here says it is supposed to be a gift delivery for you. Uh. Sorry. I didn't realize."

Personally, I was pretty excited to know about the gift and still considered it a surprise because I hadn't been expecting it. I assured him it was ok and provided the address details he needed so that I could receive my "mystery Valentine's day gift" a few days after Valentine's day. And as mentioned above, except for a few random months when it didn't work, the mouse has been a great addition to my gaming lifestyle. I especially notice how fast it responds during critical card passes in Freecell.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

What am I up to? Well, I'm looking for my heart shaped cookie cutter so I can cut a store bought lasagna into heart shapes to make dinner extra special tonight!

Being more serious for a moment (yes, you've been warned), Valentine's day has always been an odd little holiday to me. I remember elementary school Valentine's day because school policy was (thank goodness!) that if you brought something in, you had to bring it for the whole class. I also remember making valentine's day boxes at home with my mom, covering old shoe boxes with tissue paper and lace hearts, glitter and confetti and ribbon. Those were the good years.

I remember when I started my first serious relationship in high school and I remember the beginning most clearly because I had been asked out by a friend whom I liked very much and I told him that we could date as long as we didn't start dating on Valentine's day. I know, I know. You're thinking that I just wanted an excuse to ask for presents two days in a row but the truth is I simply thought it was too cliche.

That relationship lasted for a few years and ultimately broke off, but Valentine's day continued to enforce itself as a holiday to pay attention to.

I ended up at Northern Illinois University to finish my bachelor's degree (English, in case you want to judge me. I don't mind). I only spent one semester in the dorms there, but I'll never forget the Valentine's day I spent in that room. I was playing WoW and at the time, I was in a guild with several friends who also lived in the area.

One of them wrote in guild chat, "NIU is on the news. There was a shooting."

It is a really weird feeling to see your college - your typical, nondescript state university, known for nothing special - make the first page of news websites. In shock, I learned that someone had hidden guns in his guitar case, gone into a lecture hall, and shot whomever he could. There was this odd disconnect. I had walked past that building many times.

It's been several years but Valentine's day is still a time that I can't help but reflect on what had happened and on the sheer number of lives that were affected by it. When I rented a room in a house that summer, I remember staying up late talking with a roommate whose teacher had been in that room.

Well, if I've succeeded in depressing you a little bit, I apologize. Every day cannot be Christmas! Tomorrow, stay tuned for a heartwarming story of when my then internet boyfriend, now husband gave me a Valentine's day gift that I still cherish and use to this day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An extremely short HGTV rant - double vanities

Once, a woman on one of the house hunting shows proclaimed that without double vanities in the bathroom, a marriage is doomed to fail.

Maybe she was being sarcastic. It didn't seem that way.

It just seems to me that if you can't coordinate getting ready in the morning with your partner, maybe there's an underlying problem that can't be solved with another sink.

I mean, Smiley and I share a tiny bathroom and we've made it work. And not once have I had the thought of divorce as I stepped to the side a little to let him use the sink when we were both getting ready to go someplace. Just saying.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another short HGTV rant - square footage

Here is another trend I find baffling and perhaps you can enlighten me on what I am missing. Often a times, I will watch the HGTV channel because in some ways, I am very much stereotypically a homemaker and love watching hours of people looking at homes, buying them, renovating them and sometimes selling them.

That being said, the massive square footage requirements that many featured buyers have are really hard for me to wrap my head around. Families of four will request upwards of 4k square feet, for example. Grown couples that indicate no desire to have children will look for houses with similar or more square feet. And people looking for their first homes will complain when they are brought to a 1500 square foot house that is within their budget.

(Caveat: This square footage madness does not typically apply to those looking for apartments, and especially those looking for apartments abroad. In those cases, I am awestruck that people can make less than 800 square feet work for them).

According to the internet, the average home size in the US is around 2700 square feet currently. The average family size is 2.6 (both of these stats were taken from 2009, so yes - outdated by a few years. But while I can imagine that the ongoing recession has downsized square footage a bit, I doubt it's led to an increase in family size). This is insane. Do people really need around or over 1000 square foot per person to exist?

Now, I do have some extreme examples. I know that my mom's family of ten lived in a very small house (I'd estimate at about 1200 square feet with an unfinished basement); it had four small bedrooms and one bathroom. I know also that my mom is eternally grateful that our family of seven had three bathrooms but we, too, made do with less bedrooms than people - my parent's house has four bedrooms. The first time in my life that I didn't share a bedroom was, strangely enough, when I moved into a dorm for college.

So I know it's possible to exist in smaller spaces. And I honestly don't know what I'd do with more square feet besides find junk to put on shelves and to store more seasonal decorations; but I don't think my quality of life would go up. So help me out here, guys. Let me know what I need more square footage for. Right now, my husband and I live in a 1500~ square foot house. His sister is living with us and we have two small dogs and no space issues as of now. HGTV dictates that with three people, our house should be twice as large.

Oh, and don't get me started on our lack of double vanities. Again. Another rant for another day.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A short HGTV rant - granite

Well, this is it folks. Now, don't get me wrong. I know that trends in housing decor and such change as the years go by; one only need look to the (in my mind) terrible, terrible practice of black and white kitchen tile from decades now long past for an example.

Stepping back for a moment, in fact, I know it's safe to say that pretty much everything goes through trends everywhere, constantly. It's why the "emo" kids of my high school years are becoming replaced by "hipsters" and in a few years, some other "unlikeable" group will come along next.

But this isn't about that; this is strictly about housing trends that I have noticed from watching copious amount of HGTV.

Once upon a time (about, let's see - 3 years at the most), granite counter tops were IT. They were what sold the kitchen to annoying buyers who would say things like "Oh, all of those appliances will need to be replaced" simply because the appliances were black instead of stainless steel. The buyer would then say, "But since I'll save so much money not having to upgrade the  counter tops to granite,  I think I can manage."

Decorating shows would give hints and tips for how to obtain your granite counter tops for less; use granite tiles with no grout line! Negotiate on scrap granite!

And then as granite has saturated the upper end market and been brought to the mid grade market through tile and scrap, a new call has emerged from those who can afford it all. Now it is simply not enough to have the granite. Now it must be an elite granite.

On HGTV I have seen design shows ding the homeowners for using "builder grade" granite. (I guess that's now considered the McDonald's burger meat of the design world?) Now buyers will come in and lament about how the counter tops they see are all granite. They want something different.  They want the previous owners to guess exactly what color granite they like best and use that.

I guess maybe I'm just slow on the uptake. I never had a chance to obtain coveted granite counters and with my complete lack of internet fame for the next year and a half, I will certainly never have enough money to get granite. Probably by the time I do, it will be some new, ridiculously expensive material. And people will look at my sad, pitiful kitchen and comment about how the appliances don't match and that the counter tops are so 2010. And it will hurt.

I have more HGTV rants and you'll probably hear them... or have heard them... (for example, do stainless steel appliances really cook better? I feel like the majority of people who HAVE to have stainless steel probably don't even cook all that often) but that's all for now.