Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Five Good Things

I'm on vacation right now, but my brother wasn't able to take much time off work, so my vacation is consisting of lounging around his apartment and catching up on True Blood and other cable shows and going running.  It's pretty sweet.  So let's take a look at some stuff that's really working for me right now.

Pizza is the most perfect food there is, and when my brother and I get together, we basically eat pizza every day.  Last time I was here, I ate pizza every single day for at least one meal, and I regret nothing!  So far, we've only been to Pizza Luce, but we've got lots of time.

It is 101 degrees outside today.  My brother lives near a collection of small running/biking trails in the woods, so it's a little cooler to go running there, but in 101 degree heat, I'm not going outside unless I absolutely have to.  I opted for the treadmill in his apartment complex's fitness center, and it was absolutely perfect.  I knocked out five miles while watching The Price is Right, and since I was the only person there, I angled both fans toward me.

--Cable and Giant TVs
When I'm on vacation, I get to do whatever I want without guilt.  That includes really enjoying my brother's ridiculously large tv + cable.
Seriously, what is up with guys and giant tvs?

Giant tvs and cable are not something I need in my regular life since I usually only watch tv a few times a week, but on vacation, it's a nice luxury.  Plus, binge watching tv for a week gets me all caught up for the rest of the year!

--Fair Food
It is time for The Great Minnesota Get-Together aka The Minnesota State Fair. Despite the fact that this is the 2nd largest state fair in the US, and I grew up in Minnesota, I have never been before.  We went out there briefly on Saturday, and I was completely overwhelmed but still managed to eat part of a corn dog, cheese curds, a giant pickle, lefse and a veggie taco (I am vegetarian, but I usually eat 2-4 hotdogs per year, I only break my vegetarianism for offal).  Up next on the agenda, I need to try some Poutine, maybe some deep fried bread pudding and more cheese curds.  It's a shame that the heat kind of kills my appetite, but I will persevere!

I miss my Watson, but I left him in good hands, so he'll be well taken care of.  I've been spending my week with my bro's cat: The Great Catsby.

Catsby is a little strange looking these days.  His fur was getting matted, so a couple days ago he got a "Lion cut." Normally he's got thick black fur, but right now, he's mostly bald.  He's still cute though!  It's fun to spend time with other cats.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Job, New Budget

Doesn't it feel like I start a new job every year?  Man, I'm getting tired of that, but I promise you (barring something catastrophic) I'm staying put now!    One thing that is definitely going to take some getting used to at the new job is the fact that I only get paid once a month.  I did some looking at the calendar, and I won't get my first full paycheck until October 31.  I'll get a small check at the end of September, but I won't actually know my full take-home pay for another two months. 


Also, for some reason, I have become obsessed with the idea of finally getting a smart phone.  I can't be spending money I haven't earned yet, and I really need to avoid lifestyle inflation!  Got to keep my head straight.

One thing that should make it a little easier to not go crazy with the spending is the fact that I now work in an academic library.  That means that from the time classes start September 2 through about the end of October, work is going to be insane.  Couple that with the fact that I have been trying my hardest to cram so much info into my brain every day that I've just been going home exhausted and I just want to get away from the computer.  I've been watching a lot of Top Model these days--it soothes me.
Keep on Smizing!

So, even though the paycheck situation is a bit fraught, I have savings and my emergency fund to keep me fed and housed, plus I got all my vacation paid out from my last job, so I have a tidy nest egg to sustain me.

My plan is to just not overspend and be a sensible as I can be.  I don't have any big things I need, and if I do decide to treat myself to a smart phone for my birthday, I can still wait until I know exactly what my take-home pay is going to be.  I did get a significant pay bump with this new job, but I'm also having more taken out for retirement (10%), taxes will be higher, etc and I'm joining the campus gym (which I have to pay for--booo).  I honestly do not know what to expect, but it's still very exciting.

I'm looking forward to getting my saving back on track because I have been a serious slacker girl in that department.  I'm also looking forward (take this with a grain of salt) to making some significant progress with my higher interest student loans.  I just want to get them to the place when they aren't accruing so much, and then I can dial back on how much I'm sending in each month.  I know it's a bit silly, but having that situation where I went back into forebearance and then just lost all the progress I made really, really pissed me off.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 23, 2013

You Can Freeze Hummus, And Other Things I Have Learned

Once upon a time, I was in Boston for Boston Book Festival and I saw a truck with the Sabra logo on it:
When you see this truck, it means free food.  

In the past, I had gotten small samples of hummus and pita chips, but on this particular day, I got much more than that.  For some reason, this truck was handing out buckets (literally) of hummus and salsa.  By the time I got there, they were out of salsa, but I got a bucket of hummus, and a nice young man kept loading bags of pita chips into my carrier bag (another good reason to always keep a collapsible bag in your purse) until I finally said STOP!

A bucket of hummus, cat included for perspective
So, what does one do with that much hummus?  I gave a bunch to a friend, and then elected to freeze a small sample to see if it would work.

It totally did, and since that time, I have set out to find other foodstuffs to stock up on and freeze.  Here's a short list:
  1. Hummus.  Trader Joes is a bit of a hike from my house, so I only go there every six weeks or so.  I stock up on their humus because it's significantly cheaper, and then just chuck most of it in the freezer.
  2. Pizza dough and sauce.  Ditto for the pizza dough and sauce from Trader Joes, but you could also do this with homemade dough.  It takes a while to thaw, but if I pull a dough out of the freezer before going to work, it's ready to go when I get home.  The sauce is acidic enough that it's fine to sit out at room temperature for a few hours.
  3. Cheese.  Cheese goes on sale pretty infrequently at my grocery store, so when it does, I stock up.  I usually buy about ten bricks and just have one in the fridge while the rest wait in the freezer to be needed.  You can freeze brick cheese and shredded cheese and it doesn't change the texture at all--at least for cheap cheese.  This probably doesn't work as well for soft cheese like Brie, but I've also never tried.  Anyone know?
  4. Mashed Potatoes.  Mashed Potatoes are one of my favorite foods, but they're kind of a pain to make.  Usually I get a ten pound bag, make a ton of them and then freeze half (yes, I can eat five pounds of mashed potatoes before they go bad).  When you thaw they back out, they get kind of weird and watery, but once microwaved, they're back to their fluffy, delightful texture.  Man, I love mashed potatoes.
  5. Soup.  In the winter, I make a batch of soup in the crock pot at least every other week.  I have no problem eating the same thing every day, so that becomes my lunch for the week.  Even though I have a smallish crock pot, I often wind up with more soup than I can eat in a week, so I just always freeze half.  That way, it's handier than crock-potting a new batch.
  6. Basil.  Even though I don't have a garden, I still frequently wind up with a TON of basil in the summer.  Everyone i know wants to give me some, and that is totally fine because it freezes just fine. The only strange thing about freezing basil is that yo have to chop it up and add some olive oil, but that's it!  Here's how to do it:
What have you discovered that you can freeze and buy/make in bulk?

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013: The Worst Year Ever

Do you ever have one of those years where it seems like everything just falls apart?  Like even to the point where things you didn't think could fall apart just all of a sudden did.  This year has been rough, and while I'm sensible enough to know that my year is in no way harder than a lot of people's regular lives are, it has still taken a hell of a toll.  I've been sitting, waiting to write this blog entry for about six weeks now, but I'm glad I held off.  If I had written this last month, it would have just been a list of things that have been shitty over the course of the year--and no one wants to read that.  Now, things are looking up and I caught sight of that elusive little friend--perspective.

So instead of 'woe is me'ing all over, I'm going to examine what I've learned so far in 2013:  The Worst Year Ever.

1. Bad things happen to good people
At the end of February, my boss at my job was fired.  We knew that he and the top brass had been clashing for a while, but usually in libraryland (for better of for worse), it's really hard to get rid of people.  I showed up for work one Friday, and an hour later our stunned children's librarian told me that he had been called in and dismissed for 'insubordination.'  Not only was this emotionally devastating as I considered him a mentor and friend, but he was also beloved by the community because he's a really good guy.  People organized protests outside the library, signed petitions and I felt pulled between my convictions that what was done to him was unfair and my need to lay low and appease the people who sign my paycheck.

2. You can plan and plan and plan all you want, but life throws you curveballs
My mother is a banker and has always been frugal and absentemious.  She saves and she exercises and she eats right.  She is the very definition of sensible.  She doesn't drink or smoke and my most frequent criticism of her is that she needs to just lighten up every now and them.  So I was obviously shocked when I got a phone call from her this past April to tell me that she had had a seizure, which let to an MRI, which revealed a malignant golf ball sized tumor on the front of her brain.  Doctors told her that it could have been there for easily ten years, but since she showed no symptoms until the seizure, no one could ever have suspected.

She was admitted to the Mayo Clinic where they performed surgery to remove 98% of the tumor.  After that, she did pill chemotherapy and radiation, which just finished.  Last time I spoke to her on the phone, she told me that she was doing great. "I'm lifting weights and going for walks.  This is the first time in my life where my only job is to take care of myself."

3. You never know what work experiences will come in handy in the future.
For five years, while I was in college, grad school and just out of grad school prepping for... more grad school, I worked in local news production.  Initially, I got the job because I needed a night job to faster pay off my credit card debt.  The lousy pay was only exceeded by the lousy hours, but the high stress environment was also an incredible rush and I worked with some seriously awesome people over the years.  Though I liked that job, I never intended to make it my career, and when I was offered a promotion, I elected to go to grad school for Library Science instead.

After my boss was fired, I became responsible for everything he had been doing in addition to what I had already been doing, which was my job and half of another person's.  It was officially too much work for one person, and I started to unravel--big time.  A friend told me about an opening at her library, and sent me the job description, which was incredibly intimidating.  After re-reading it a few more times, I figured I might as well apply.  I was pretty miserable at work, my friend was on the hiring committee, I just might have a shot.

Even though my friend went into early labor and wasn't actually there for the interview-- I got the job.  A big part of the job is creating video content for the library's website, which means  I spent a chunk of my day today learning Final Cut Pro, which is pretty similar to the non-linear video editing software we used at the tv station.  The old adrenaline rush is coming back a little.

4. You're stronger than you think and you can't predict the future
I went into libraries with the goal of working in an academic library balancing teaching, outreach and hopefully finding a way to be creative--that is exactly what my new job is.  Not only that, but it's a brand new position that is more or less a choose your own adventure.  So even though this was my 'plan' there is no way I could have ever predicted that meeting one person in library school; landing one job working horrible hours that gave me library instruction experience; one grad assistantship in distance learning and five years in local news would all congeal to make me qualified for my dream job.

If my previous job hadn't gone to hell, I probably never would have applied for this new one--I needed the push.  Even though my former boss is still looking for work, he's collecting unemployment, and last time I saw him, he seemed much lighter in spirit--I know he'll land on his feet.  My mom is doing well and is incredibly lucky to have access to the best medical care in the world.  She's a little skinnier and a little balder, but I'm going to give her a kick ass scarf when I see her for her birthday in two weeks.