Friday, November 28, 2008

Can we just skip the holiday's this year?

OK, I am not usually the Bah Humbug type, but this year I think I am falling into that role. I usually turn giddy at the first Christmas lights that show up on my drive home from work and excitedly pull out the Christmas music CD's and play them over and over, singing out loud to myself. This would be the weekend that I would put out my own lights, and begin the decorating process. Placing the plush, poinsettia embroidered, burgundy and cream bath towels in the baths; Santa and snowman kitchen decor; candles of red, green, gold, silver, and candy-cane striped placed all over the house.... you get the idea. This year, I just don't feel it. Maybe because some people actually put up their holiday lights the day after Halloween, or maybe because the retail stores have had Christmas isles since Columbus Day. There used to be an unspoken creed that there should be nothing Christmas related out until Thanksgiving week (or later). It made a special kind of excitement, signaled the start of the "Holiday Season". Not any more. It may as well be Flag Day or Hug a Pirate Day.
This year, I am just not in the holly-jolly mood. I am going home tonight, throw in some laundry, then try and put out some holiday decor. Maybe I am in this mood because I no longer have the kids excitement to help fuel my fire? There is no one to decorate for, and I am almost never home to appreciate the decor anyway. Krystle and her boyfriend, and sometimes some of her other friends... and Joe, that is all that will see any efforts I put out until Dec 20th when my brother and his family come for a visit from Denver. I will play the part... I will decorate (maybe not as much as usual) and I will bake and make some homemade gift baskets. Maybe my mood will change as I do all of this, or maybe not. I hope so. I usually love this season.....
I'll keep ya posted.

The sales weren't THAT good!

I knew there was a reason I didn't want to get up at 4am to try and get in on those "Super-Duper Once A Year Prices!!!". I got the local newspaper and looked through the ads for anything I thought I couldn't pass up, and guess what? There was nothing, Nada, zilch. Absolutely no deals that were so awesome that I HAD to be at some store or another at 4am, 5am, or even the less shocking 6am. There were a few great deals, but nothing earth shattering so I decided to keep to my normal routine and got up just in time to be at work by 10am.
The ex-husband was the first to call me this morning to tell me that in New York state a man who worked at the local Wal-Mart there was trampled to death and a mother-to-be was trampled enough to be sent to the hospital (she and baby are ok, news reports are saying). The mob of 200 shoppers tore the doors right off of the hinges, and didn't even stop entering the store so the paramedics could help the injured. Later, I hear a 60 year old man punched a 14 year old girl in the face at one of our local stores over an MP3 player. Now I just read an incident near LA in which shots were fired and two people died in a Toys-R-Us store. What the Hell??!! Come on people... is someones life less important than saving ten dollars on some electronic gadget, or even a few hundred on a new computer system?
I think I was more shocked at the local punching than the other two events. Here in Montana, we are generally pretty laid back. Sure, many of my neighbors left their warm homes to stand in line at the shop of their choice, but if the item they were after happened to be snatched up before they were able to get to it, that's the way it goes. They would shrug and go on to the next item on their lists. I know for many local folks, if they run into a long lost friend they would choose to go have coffee and catch up, opting to go shopping on another day.
So, here I sit... shaking my head at all the nonsense this "Black Friday" has created. I think next year the media should dub the day after Thanksgiving "Black and Blue Friday". Chances are, I will not be out shopping next year, either.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes, I've been a slacker!

Yeah, I know! It has been awhile since I posted last, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. Quite the contrary, actually.
We haven't been travelling any, so no really cool photos, but the weekends at home have been put to good use cooking and cleaning.
Two weekends ago, I tried to tackle some major cleaning projects but really only succeeded in defrosting my deep freeze. Joe and I did squeeze in a little time to catch up on finding some Helena Geocaches that had been hidden over the past few months.
Last weekend I did a "Once A Month" cooking marathon session. "What's that?" you ask? It is where I cook a large set of meals all at once, then place them in the freezer to be used as needed. Yeah, it is tons of work, especially for someone who has Rheumatoid Arthritis like me, but it helps out in the long run. I find one or two days of recovery is worth the ability to just open the freezer everyday and have healthy meals ready to heat and serve.
I always start out the morning by putting together a pot of spaghetti sauce, then letting it simmer on the back burner all day. Then I make a double or triple batch of meatloaf. I separate this into single serving loaves, wrap and freeze. If I am by myself, I cook only one. If any kids happen to be home for supper... and usually a friend has tagged along... I cook as many as I need for that meal. I then prepare a large batch of taco seasoned ground beef, cooked, and stored in 1 cup measures in zip-lock bags. Krystle loves this one... she is my nacho queen. I usually end up with 6-10 cups of taco meat in the freezer, and use it as a base for many other dishes. Of course, I use it for tacos, nachos, or a quick add-in to a can of chili.
After those basic tasks are finished, I make anywhere from 5 to 15 other "dishes", but always split them up into "two serving" sizes. That way I have left overs, or I can share if someone else is at the house.
Before starting anything (except for the spaghetti sauce), I get all the ingredients together on the counter... spices, canned goods, things like that.... so I don't have to search for anything. This also helps in making double sure I have everything I will need throughout the day. Many times, I do this the night before, and take out the measuring cups, spoons, bowls, freezer containers, and zip-locks. I also make a rough count of how much chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, chopped chives, etc for all the items I am making. I do ALL the chopping, slicing, and cutting at one time. This saves TONS of time. I do use a food processor for most of it, so I can have it all finished in less than an hour. Yep, all the prep work for one months of meals done in 60 minutes or less! After that, I pick a meat group (chicken, ground beef, steak, etc) and make all the meals in my plan with that group, clean up, go to the next group, clean...etc, until I am finished. I usually finish with anything that requires spaghetti sauce (lasagna, manicotti, etc. ) Everything is labeled with cooking instructions and put into the freezer. Pretty much every dish I make will be a dinner for at least two, and up to 4 different nights since I freeze them in two-serving size amounts. This way, if I make 5 different dishes, plus the meatloaves, taco meat, and sauce, I can have a variety of seven different meals for at least two, but usually 3 weeks. I normally make 8-10 different dishes, so that gives me nearly ready-made meals for about 2 months!
I'll post tomorrow on what I made this time. It is time to leave work now... we are heading out to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking Back

It is two days after Election Day. The world is still spinning, all the major players are still alive, and the aliens haven't descended from far stars to take over our brains... So much for conspiracy theory's!
Life is settling back into the normalcy that marks the days between our major elections. As an added plus, the radio is no longer choked with political ads.... Just in time for the Christmas ads to begin. Having worked in the back rooms of a very popular Helena radio station network, I can say this time of year was the most challenging and stressful time of the year. Not just every four years, but every political "season". I was listening to my past employer last week and I can say that my replacement DID NOT do her homework on who was running for what office. On many occasions I heard two ads back to back of opponents running for the same position. I wanted to call and let the station manager know, but then I thought"Hey, this isn't my problem anymore!" I took much pride in my job during the years I was there, but received very little thanks or recognition. Now, I am not someone who needs to be told they are doing a good job, nor do I need a constant pat on the back, but once or twice a year a heartfelt thank you, or a "good job" would have been nice. Hell, I rarely even got a "Hello". I really miss the job, many of my fellow co-workers, but not the work environment. I lasted longer than anyone else that had previously held my position, but after years of being treated like crap, I knew it was time to move on. That was two years ago this week. At the time, walking out of the managers office after telling him off then cleaning out my desk was the scariest, yet most empowering thing I had ever done in my life. Hours later, I began to re-think this decision... what had I done? How would I pay my bills? What Now?!!
Flash forward to present day--- Here I sit at my current job. Leaving the radio station really wasn't as life shattering as I thought it would be. I now know I can survive for a few weeks without a paycheck, can find employment if I need to, and, most of all, can walk out of something I feel is not working well for me. There is no reason to be chained to a job where you feel unappreciated or unwelcome at. Yeah, I know, basic stuff, but at 38 the concept of leaving the security of my employment was very scary! I am much more relaxed now, not as stressed out, and really enjoy my present job... even if it doesn't have the options of health insurance and 401k's.