The Taxman Cometh

13 Mar

This time of year I like to set some goals for myself–well, actually, I remind myself of goals I’ve not yet attained. Namely, the goal to make enough money to have an assistant who will keep track of my expenses so putting together my taxes isn’t so painful.

I don’t even do my taxes–I have an accountant since they’re somewhat complicated. However, providing the information to the accountant is an annual reminder that I should be more organized throughout the entire year, not just during the beginning of the year, when I’m motivated to do so. I’m starting to feel like a Cathy cartoon, where she just hands a box of receipts to her accountant, and I don’t really want my life to be like that.

Now I’m cranking on this project so I can get back to being creative. The bonus of this? I’m testing what it’s like to have a standing desk, since I have to use chairs for more counter space. Full report later.

THIS Is Steak Dinner

12 Mar

My sister-in-law was in town this week on business, so the Boy and I met her for dinner. She suggested a steakhouse near her hotel, which triggered the mantra of Yes! Steak Dinner! in my head. Steak Dinner is one of my favorite types of meals, probably because I don’t have it all that often. For starters, the Boy doesn’t eat beef, which is not really a deal breaker because there are always other meat and non-meat options at Steak Dinner. However, Steak Dinner also gets expensive and there’s planning involved, so it turns into more of a special occasion meal (though Steak Dinner in and of itself is a special occasion). And there’s the fact that Steak Dinner can be a highly calorific meal, so it’s best to keep it in moderation. A couple of years ago I had Steak Dinner four weekends in a row, and while it was heavenly, at the end of the run my wallet and waistline said, No more! I’m salivating just thinking about it though.

By now you may have figured out that Steak Dinner is a particular kind of meal, much like Fancy Dinner or Nice Dinner, and thus it cannot be classified as such unless it meets certain specifications:

  1. Steak Dinner takes place at a steakhouse. If, for some unfortunate reason, you’re in an area where a steakhouse isn’t available, the restaurant menu must have multiple steak options. This is important. You’re primarily there to eat an expensive steak, so the restaurant should specialize in it. Service at steakhouses is also top notch, and that element can really make the meal.
  2. Dinner should include a cocktail and/or wine and/or a digestif. You don’t have to drink, but it helps. Savor the alcohol and you shall savor the meal.
  3. There shall be sides. I’ve eaten at enough steakhouses now to know that if your dinner includes its own sides (choice of potato, standard vegetable), it’s not going to be among the best steak dinners you’ve eaten. A la carte sides are expensive, yes, but they are meant to be shared, which gives your dinner a more communal, jovial feel. If you have a large group for Steak Dinner, it’s recommended to have a voting protocol for your side selections, because that makes life much easier when it comes time to order.
  4. Dessert should be a factor. Dessert should always be considered, but it doesn’t have to be ordered if the options don’t meet your personal specifications. For me, Steak Dinner should always end with a slice of cake as big as my head. If the restaurant doesn’t offer that option, I am likely to decline.

For me, the rituals help make Steak Dinner what it is, and beyond the points above, I just flat out fucking love a good steak. I realize that’s kind of sweary, but I will often say that phrase in my head throughout the meal–I don’t mean to; it just happens. Peruse the menu and make my selection? I fucking love steak. Take a bite? I fucking love steak. In fact, the steak can be so delicious that at times I will tune out of portions of the conversation because the steak is so fucking delicious and I love it so fucking much. Even just writing this, I fucking love steak.

So that’s what Steak Dinner is. Let’s dissect this dinner, shall we?

Continue reading

On the Loose–or on Target?

11 Mar

[Part 2 in a collector’s series]

Once yesterday’s doctor’s visit was over, errand time began. After not having been in a Target for a long time, it kind of felt like Boris Yeltsin visiting an American grocery store in 1989: Look at all of this amazing stuff! Such abundance! And I’m allowed to acquire it!

I’m not saying that I went crazy and bought the store, but I did a lot more hunting/gathering than I usually do when I’m in the store. My new hairbrush is divine. The glass storage containers I’ve had my eye on found their way into my cart. I’m going to see if those reusable elastic bowl covers are worthwhile. After dealing with the shoulder pain, I bought a new mop, which will hopefully make cleaning the floor easier. This last thing is kind of a big deal because I feel like there’s a big mop conspiracy being played against the US consumer. I have bought far too many mops in my adult lifetime, all of which promise that the sponge can be replaced–but when you actually go to buy a replacement sponge, no store seems to stock your brand anymore. You want a mop? Buy a new one! It doesn’t even help to buy a few replacement sponges up front because the second you need to get another one from the store, bam! New mop.

Walking around Target gave me a bit of an appetite, so I took it to Swissbakers, which is what it sounds like: A European bakery with good bread and pastries and sandwiches. Or, as I like to think of it, pretzel bread done right. One sandwich and a chocolate Berliner later, I was back on the road and in such a good mood that I powered through the car wash, hit the grocery store and popped into Staples for a graph paper notebook before hitting the gym.

Post a treadmill run and quick weight workout, I had one last errand before picking up the Boy: Getting my Winter Warrior shirt. When I’d signed up for the Winter Warrior Challenge, I opted to buy the finisher’s shirt that would have your name on it. I thought that’d be cool — a tech shirt with my name on it. If I ever did a big run, I could wear it and people could cheer for me. Heh. What I got was a very nice tech shirt with every Winter Warrior’s name on it in the smallest font imaginable. As I told the Boy, “I kind of feel like I’m in high school and I got the class t-shirt.” Live, learn and wear.

So that was my day of errands, and it was glorious. I’m sure that if I had regular access to the car, it wouldn’t be so much fun–the chore aspect would emerge pretty quickly and become a grind. I’m just glad I got to revel in the ordinary for a while and enjoy it.

On the Loose!

10 Mar

[Part 1 in a collector’s series]

My day out yesterday was so incredibly exciting that I can’t quite contain it to just one post. I know it sounds crazy, but doing errands was fun. That’s very telling, since driving around Boston can suck the life out of you the second you pull out of the driveway, but yesterday wasn’t so bad.

The first order of business–and my reason for having the car–was to visit the doctor. My left shoulder’s been hurting me since our massive kitchen cleaning earlier this year. Ibuprofen and keeping it in motion wasn’t helping, so to the doctor I went. Further prove I am not Cinderella: Spending hours scrubbing the kitchen floor does not get me a fairy godmother and a trip to the ball; it gets me a doctor who diagnoses a shoulder sprain and a trip to physical therapy.

The doctor’s office means two things:

1.

wpid-img_20150309_102919193.jpg I get a blood pressure reading. Not to toot my own horn, but I have amazing blood pressure. It’s the one thing I’ve got on the Boy. I know it’s a weird thing to get hung up on, but he’s a foot taller than me and so he’s inherently better than me in many different ways. He’s faster, his stride is longer, he can reach the top shelf, etc. It can be frustrating, particularly if he has to walk quickly to get anywhere because that always means I end up jogging. I know I look like a doofus having to trot just to keep up. Lucky for me, one plus side of being short is that my heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood throughout my long body. This happens to be something the Boy worries about, so when I can get an accurate reading, I make sure to tell him. It’s just reminder that hey, you might claim that you’re helping me with my vertical leap when you’re holding something just a little too high over my head to reach, but I’m cool about it. Cool as a low-blood-pressure cucumber.

At any rate, I clocked in at 90/70, which might be one of my best readings ever. Usually my systolic pressure is around 100. Today that’s got me thinking about unusually low blood pressure, but the nurse told me I was fine.

2.

no1officialExtra reading time. I know the doctor makes every attempt to stay on schedule, but Monday mornings have to be pretty crazy since there are likely patients who need to sneak in due to something that happened to them over the weekend. If I have a book with me (and I do have a stack of them at home), I’m cool. I’m currently reading an interesting book on the psychology of officiating. Even though the copyright date on it is 1990, the information is still useful because the basic concepts don’t change. Officials have always needed good communication, focus and confidence, so while yes, we learn new things about the brain all of the time, the older information is still helpful (not to mention the fact that aren’t all that many books specifically dedicated to sports officiating psychology, so to not have to extrapolate information and apply it to my personal needs is nice).

The other great thing about an older copyright date is that you tend to get illustrations like this one. Hey, photos can be expensive, and you need to spice up a non-fiction book somehow. I look at this and think, “I do feel good about staying in shape!” Granted, you probably wouldn’t see me running down the street wearing a “#1 Official” tank top, but this official and I are pretty simpatico.


And thus ends the first hour or so of my day out–there’s more excitement to come, as I wonder while I wander through Target, have an amazing sandwich and have a high school moment! Tune in tomorrow for more!

I Get the Car!

9 Mar

The Boy and I have one car. Until we started getting pounded with snow, he’d take the train to work (or I’d drive him if we overslept) and I’d walk to meet him at the train station in the evening. Once the blizzards hit and the train simply stopped functioning, he had to take a car to work. That meant either I drove him, or he took the car.

When you think about working from home, you tend to think about rolling out of bed and being right there. When my phone tells me I’m four minutes away from work, I think, Man, my house must be pretty messy. Driving the Boy to and from work makes my daily commute two hours, and that was not something I was willing to do, as it would severely cut into my work time–or more like my time for playing stupid computer games that I use to “warm up for writing.”

Usually, the Boy is very concerned about me not having a car. “I don’t like you not having a car,” he says.

“But I don’t usually go anywhere during the day,” I respond. Which is true. Unless it’s a designated errand day, you’ll find me sitting at my computer, willing words to appear on the screen. Or checking Facebook. Or surfing through various roller derby forums.

So when I said I didn’t want to spend all of my time driving him, that’s all he needed to hear. He’s had the car for work every day, and I haven’t heard a peep out of him about being worried that I don’t have access to a car, not even when we kept getting snow.

This routine has been going on a little over a month now, and I’ve got to say that not having a car in suburbia is starting to get old. Sure, I can walk, though you wouldn’t believe how little people shovel and de-ice sidewalks. I’ve had to completely abandon one way to go to the grocery because I’d have to spend too much time walking on the side of a busy street (that is much narrower than it used to be, thanks to piles of snow everywhere, making the Massholes even more dangerous). I can also take the bus or train–though I tend not to. They don’t always go where I need them to go, when I need them to go. I live in the land of fairly scheduled buses, not ones that come along every five minutes. I also live in the land of express buses that are pretty expensive (something like six bucks one way), and if I’m not heading all the way downtown, it’s not worth it. The commuter rail–if it’s running–is also in the six-dollar range, depending on where I want to go (and yes, I get that MBTA is completely strapped for cash, but if you take the commuter rail from Chicago to Northwest Indiana, the trip is twice as long and costs much less. I have little sympathy when I’m being gouged).

At any rate, I have a doctor’s appointment, which means that I’ll drive the Boy to work and pick him up, but I also will have the car all day. And I’m going to do all of the things. Going to the store to buy more things than I can carry with two hands!  Going to the gym during the day! Dropping off various recycling! I am so excited about this…hell, I may even go crazy and go out for lunch. It’s like Oprah’s in my head saying, “You get a car!”

And then on Tuesday it’ll sink in that I have to pay the car tax, and we’ll go back to the new normal.

I’ll still fill you in on all the scintillating details though.

Duped Every Time

6 Mar

I love a good piece of pretzel bread. With good butter. There’s not much that’s tastier than this combo.

But this?

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I know this is not going to be what I consider a soft pretzel to be. This is a completely soft roll made in pretzel style and dipped in food grade lye to get that dark brown pretzel color. I can tell just by picking it up that it’s lacking that slight crust around the outside that seals in all the goodness and gives it a little bit of a snap.

I bought it anyway. Brought it home. Ate the entire thing.

I was right.

At least I had good butter.

New Story Published!

5 Mar

Today I’ve got a fun announcement: Today Flash Fiction Magazine has published my story “Reflections on my Journey.” I’m really thrilled to be included on FFM–each day they post a great, quick read. It’s a great place to get a quick hit of literature. I’d go on, but really, a long piece about flash fiction doesn’t seem quite appropriate. Please check out the site though–you won’t regret it.

The Absolute Best Part of Baking Bread

4 Mar

A tiny detail can make a task enjoyable–and I look for those tiny details in a lot of aspects of life. I prefer folding towels as opposed to folding socks. When I play music, I can always find  one chord or phrase or musical resolution that I love experiencing. In roller derby officiating there are a million magical moments, depending on the position at hand.

And then there’s baking bread. I don’t bake bread often enough because I’m still working on time management–bread can be a long process, and if you don’t plan well, it just doesn’t work. However, I’d like to improve on that so that I can more often experience this moment–the best part of the bake:

VID_20150226_173208595

Best Thing Ever (Right Now): Hannaford Is Bringing It

3 Mar

I stopped at Hannaford on Sunday night–well, actually, I stopped at Market Basket first because that was closer to where I was driving from (and it’s cheap), but Market Basket closes at 7PM on Sundays, and I was too late. On to Hannaford.

I do like Hannaford. Sure, it’s not 90,000 sq. ft. of groceries, but they do have decent produce, they sell bison and they have decent prices. But now they also do this:

wpid-img_20150301_201841415_hdr.jpg

Blue bags and brown bags? What’s the difference? When I see a blue bag in a grocery store, it throws me back to Chicago’s old blue bag recycling program, where some grocery stores would pack your groceries in blue plastic bags, just to give you a way to recycle without having to buy the actual (pretty expensive) blue bags.

The Hannaford bagger explained that the blue bags only contained items that needed to go into the refrigerator.

Mind. Blown!

This is genius! I’ve always hated it when I’ve brought groceries home, set them on the floor, put away the refrigerated items and left the rest to unpack later, only to discover hours later that I’d missed something. Now I know. Get the blue bags unpacked pronto.

I found out from the customer service person that they implemented this a few weeks ago (this is a nice way of saying that I blubbered to the customer service person, she stared at me like I was nuts, tried to explain the meaning of the bags, and I had to stop her, saying, “No, I know what they do, but when did this start? THISISSOCOOL!!!!”), which I hadn’t noticed because (a) they don’t have it in the express lanes I usually frequent, and (b) if you bring your own bag, you wouldn’t notice.

As I try to bring my own bags when I can, I may have to start designating some of them “fridge only,” just to keep that concept going. It’s pretty genius.

It’s also a cool way to thwart the Market Basket competition I bet they’re feeling. We’re seeing a lot of interesting things from other local groceries, probably to try to keep customers from completely defecting to Market Basket. This blue bag program has me a bit more jazzed about Hannaford now though. That’s for sure.

The Last .05 Mile

2 Mar

February 2015 turned out to be a pretty rough month for fitness. Boston’s had a crazy amount of snow so far–over 100″. We’re very close to the all-time record, and having gotten a couple more inches last night, I wouldn’t be surprised if we topped it. The snow, paired with some bitterly cold weather, have made being outside pretty miserable most days. The MBTA is barely functioning, so the Boy’s commandeered our car in order to get to work.

I have managed, however, to get outside every day for at least a little while. I haven’t done the “at least three miles a day” that I did in January, but the goal of doing 100 miles outdoors was something I did want to do. On Saturday, I tiptoed and slid across ice, climbed over mounds of snow, and walked through the trenches (literally)–all of which is old hat by now–in order to get my last bit of mileage. Walking a mile can take a half-hour sometimes, since not everyone’s very good about shoveling or melting the ice on their sidewalks. When it melts a little bit during the day and freezes at night, it’s even harder to move around. I constantly fear slipping and falling and getting a concussion (this has happened to a friend), and there are some routes that I just can’t walk because the way is so treacherous.

So on Saturday, it was clear and beautiful–and frigid. I was only wearing one layer of pants, two layers of socks, two layers underneath my winter coat, two pairs of gloves and a hat, and I was still so cold. I walked to the train station, met friends in Cambridge for lunch, wandered around there waiting for the train home, then walked from the train station back home. Then I totaled up my mileage for the month–and discovered that I’d done 99.95 miles.

Seriously.

This meant another round of bundling up, another round of walking, just to get that last bit of mileage–and yes, I realize I could’ve done laps in the driveway, but that’s not the point. I had to go somewhere, I felt I had to have some bigger purpose to the walk than just .05 miles. The Boy and I ended up walking to dinner, which at least was a nice way to wrap it up.

Two months down–and February’s probably the worst because it’s the shortest. Time to move onward.

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