Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Guess what? We have raccoons living in our back yard! They're kind of poofy, and they have really cute faces, and they hop around and stuff, and they look at you all scared when you open the door, and I guess they're alright, but yeah, they've got to go. We're going to trap them and then drive about 20 miles and then let them go. And I am going to hope that they don't find their way back.

Monday, November 28, 2005
It was great to be home-home for a whole week and hang out with my wisecracking New York relatives, but it's also nice to be back here-home (which I guess is home-home these days) and continue to do stuff to fix up our house. We're getting ready to finally have people over for a housewarming party of sorts, and of course, I am on food and drink detail. (Because I like it, not because I'm the girl or because I have to or anything like that.) So in addition to cleaning the house and hiding the stuff we don't know what to do with in the attic and putting on as many finishing touches as we possibly can, I am spending all of my free time this week making little appetizer-y things and dipping other things in chocolate and making visits to all of the non-ghetto grocery stores in town for good cheeses (but not stinky cheeses -- I was told no stinky cheeses because Paul with his Spidey smell sense can smell them a week later, even though I like my cheese on the stinky side). Because I have to work late on Friday and don't have as much time to cook as I would like, I cheated a little and bought a big box of heat-and-serve mini quiches and a tray of petit fours from the restaurant supply grocery store, but I'm really going to try to make everything else as from-scratch as I can. I think part of me really enjoys this kind of work, and maybe one day if this teaching thing doesn't work out, I can cater cocktail parties and stuff.

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Full! So much potatoes and stuffing and grilled vegetables and cran-razz goo and corn pudding stuff and tomatoes and turkey, not to mention all of the pre-dinner snacks (which included what is sure to go down as Amy and Bonnie's great gum chew-off of '05). I like NY this time of year, but the traffic around here could make a Tibetan monk lose his temper. The gridlock on the trip home from Long Island was bad, but not nearly as bad as the year it took us four hours to go fewer than 70 miles, though when you factor in the road rage of people who probably aren't driving well because they've either had too much to drink, too much to eat, or really need to pee, plus all the morons who somehow neglect to see the enormous EZ-PASS signs at toll plazas and hold everyone up while some bitter toll worker haphazardly makes her way across eight lanes of equally frustrated traffic to let the guy through, it makes the trip less than desirable. Anyway. To all of our American friends, a very happy overstuffed Thanksgiving from everyone here at as.c. And to all of our non-American friends, you probably think we're a bunch of gluttons, yes? I'd argue, but given my eating patterns in the past six hours and my current feeling of needing a glass of seltzer and a good long nap, I wouldn't have much of a case.

Monday, November 21, 2005
Mmm...frites. After driving all day yesterday through the blacktop boringness of Ohio and the -tons, -villes, -bergs, and -hams of Pennsylvania, I made it home in just over eleven hours. That's not bad time, especially when you consider those eleven hours include a few bathroom stops, one veggie burrito stop, and a quick run in to Shoprite to pick up some flowers (or "flawas," as they say it here) for my mom.

Today, my mom played hooky from work, and we spent the day in Manhattan. We walked around midtown for a while and looked in on the stores and on the guys selling supposedly 100% cashmere scarves in makeshift booths on the street. Then, because mom said she'd spring for lunch at Bar Americain, all-star chef Bobby Flay's fancy new restaurant, my brother Randy met us. Here he is dipping a well-crafted paper-cone-served French fry into chipotle aioli and enjoying his big bowl -- no, tureen -- of mussels in some sort of buttery parsley broth. (Sidenote: For whatever reason, mussels and fries, or moules et frites, seem to be on just about every menu in New York City, which is kind of weird, I guess, but do you hear me complaining? No. No you do not.) I had the very same thing, and man was it good. After I finished the mussels, I wanted to drink all of the leftover liquid, but it was really buttery, and once I started thinking about the possible short term and long term ramifications of ingesting all of that butter, I ended it after two spoonfuls and several dips of bread. Mom had this smoked chicken pot pie and it was like the best pot pie I've ever had. Everything at the place was really top notch, and I guess maybe I've been in the Midwest too long, because when I saw the prices they were charging for lunch ($19 to $29 for entrees), I was like, no way! But yeah, I guess in New York, a $20 lunch isn't completely unheard of. And it was all really good. And mom was buying! Does it get any better? No way!

After we ate every last scrap of food on the table, including all of the bread in the bread basket, which included like the best cornbread in the history of cornbread making, Randy went back to his corporate job for more exciting corporate opportunities, and mom and I headed over to the Museum of Modern Art (or the MOMA, as everyone tends to call it in these acronym-happy, lazy-tongued times). We hadn't been there since they re-opened after last year's renovation, and holy crap, it's flippin' huge! I think it's like twice as big as it used to be. From what I remember of how it used to be, they've reorganized their permanent collection so that it somehow seems to make more sense now. Don't ask me how. I don't know how . It just does.

There was also a really cool exhibition called SAFE: Design Takes on Risk, which featured interesting and unusual design all with the purpose of protecting people. My favorite was this very small Italian car-type vehicle -- it kind of looked like those European SmartCars -- called a Nido. I liked it because you could tell that the design inspiration was a womb, because when you looked at a cross-section of the car with people in it, that's exactly what it looks like. And it made sense -- if the womb is supposed to protect us pre-birth, why not take that idea and use it to make cars safer? That seemed to be the thinking for a lot of the items in the exhibit: tents modeled on cocoons, security cameras mounted in a tree-like configuration like lookouts, stuff like that. If you can make it, it's a really cool and unusual exhibit to check out.

I don't think I'll get back into the city this trip. Meeting Cousin Stef tomorrow for big big girls night out in Jersey, and then big big Turkey Day, and then big big shopping. It's so nice being away from work.

Friday, November 18, 2005
So. My computer. Yeah. It's in the shop, and with a very strange ailment, I must say. It started about a year ago: sometimes when I'd go to turn on my computer, everything would be on and humming and in seemingly working order, but my screen wouldn't light up. My super fancy 23 inch HD screen that gave my credit limit a work out and that had better fucking light up when I turn it on, especially after how much I paid in finance charges (fucking Visa). When this would happen, I'd turn everything off, take a few deep breaths, and try again. After a few times, I could usually get it to turn on, so while I certainly thought about calling Apple and asking why the screen I had paid so dearly for refused to work when told to, I never actually did.

The summer came, and the problem went away. Like, completely. Everytime I hit the power button, everything would click right on and start right up without giving me any grief. Which was what it's supposed to do. Problem solved, I thought.

And then it got cold last week, and guess what? The problem was back! And then the other night, as I was turning everything on so I could write a little bit here on my little website, the screen absolutely refused to work. I must have tried it 20 or 30 times before I walked away disgusted.

I called Apple and told them the story and told them my theory about how it's weather related, and they were like, oh, that's just a coincidence. And you know, I'm no science professional, but there seems to be a pretty strong correlation between the drop in temperature and the drop in times my screen switches on properly. But they weren't buying it, even though it seems to make sense to me, given that a lot of the computer's parts are metal and given that metal reacts to changes in temperature. I learned that from Mr. Wizard when I was like six (as well as other exciting science things, like how to cook a hot dog by electrocution!), and if he were here now, I'm sure he wouldn't be so quick to dismiss my reasoning. Regardless of the cause of the problem, though, I just wanted it fixed, so I took it in to get looked at. Now I'm just praying they can recreate the problem in the shop. Like, I hope they don't turn their heat up to 75.

So now I have my work and stuff swapped over to my trusty old laptop, and I guess my laptop isn't so bad, with the slight exception that it's started giving off a sort of funky odor in the past year. I'm not sure what's causing it, but my laptop kind of smells like nervous sweat or some kind of similarly unpleasant bodily excretion. It's like someone who hasn't showered held my laptop under their arm for a few weeks. I don't smell it that much, but Paul, who has some sort of alpha super Spidey smell sense, can smell it in the next room, and I sometimes think about selling my little iBook and upgrading to something thinner and with more juice, but then I start thinking about the episode of "Seinfeld" where the valet with BO parks his Saab and he can't get the stink out, and then he can't even give the car away.

In any case, through some testing I did this morning, I have concluded that it's not the monitor -- it's something in the tower itself. So hopefully the Mac geek geniuses at the repair shop will get it on the bench early next week and I will have my G5 back soon.

Monday, November 14, 2005
It has been quiet around here, and I for one welcome it! Over the past few days I've been able to sleep in, I made some kickass cookies, I broke my cell phone in two (literally) and had to get a new one, I watched more "Lost" episodes, and did general stuff around the house. And then today, only two people showed up for the community college class that I teach. Two! I normally would be ticked off at this, but it was kind of nice to just go home without having to lecture to a bunch of lethargic com students. One more week and then I get a week off.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
I want to preface what I'm about to say with this: I don't like television dramas. I have never really been into any television drama to the point where I scheduled my life around a 9:00 pm time slot. I don't avoid them completely, but I guess I feel like I can't commit to something like that, where if I miss one episode, I'd feel a little confused the next few weeks. I've never really been into comedies in that way either, though if you looked at all of the tv shows I've enjoyed over the years, I guess most of them have been comedies. But dramas -- no. No "ER," no "CSI," no "OC," no shows with acronyms as titles. No "Judging Amy" or "Providence" or "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" or any bad middle-aged lady shows, no matter how much my mom loves them and tapes them and watches them on Sunday afternoons. No "West Wing," no "LA Law," no "X Files," no soapy soapy Fox programs starring metrosexual twentysomething men wearing shirts that are just a bit tight. None of them.

That said, I have to sheepishly admit that I think I love Lost. I know, I know. You're thinking, but Amy, how could you, a person of what seems to be acceptable intelligence, like a show built on such a worn out and ridiculous premise? And you're right in thinking that. I also thought the same thing: a plane crash? Stranded on a desert island? Hasn't that already been done, like, a hundred times already? With that stupid Tom Hanks movie and that stupid Gilligan show, and hello? Robinson Crusoe, anyone? Yes. Yes yes yes. You are most absolutely right.

But then I kept reading stuff about how good it was. (It probably doesn't help that Paul gets Entertainment Weekly sent to the house...umm...weekly.) About how technically superior it was to other shows. About how the dramatic tension was surprisingly captivating. And all that stuff. And I kept seeing that "Party of Five" guy on those EW covers, and you know, I had seen a couple of episodes of "Party of Five" when it was on, and while I always thought it was kind of sappy and melodramatic, I always kind of thought that guy was kind of cute. So finally I decided I wanted to see it, and I asked Paul to put the DVD with the first few episodes in his online movie rental queue for me. He made a face. Please, I said. I just want to check it out.

So on Saturday night, we weren't going anywhere, and Paul looked like he was going to read for a while. So I said I was going to put in the "Lost" DVD and see what all the fuss was about. He sort of rolled his eyes. I put in the DVD anyway and started the pilot. It was technically very good, and the tension started right away. Some of the initial dialogue was clumsy, but it smoothed out soon enough. And then it quickly got really interesting and really good. Within five minutes, Paul was on the couch next to me. We watched all four episodes back to back. I think I blinked twice.

Now: I am bad with planes. I am a bad flier. You do not want to sit next to me on a plane, unless you are one of those unusually nice people who likes to unsuccessfully try to calm down irrationally hysterical people. Are you? You are probably not. I'm really not good in the air. Once I was seeing someone who liked to fly planes as a hobby, and he took me flying, and needless to say, it was our last date. So yes, the plane crash scenes in "Lost" are hard to watch, even for someone who likes being 30-some-all thousand miles off the grass. But even with all of that, I still think "Lost" is worth seeing.

Now also: it is almost 9 on Wednesday, which means that "Lost" will be on tv soon. But I will not be watching. Why? Because I've only seen the first four episodes of season one, and they're like five episodes into season two. That means I have a couple dozen episodes to catch up on. This would have bothered me a few years ago before every tv show ever made was released on DVD. But now? Who needs prime time? I'll watch them at my leisure, commercial free and with full pause and rewind capability. This is a definite improvement to the tv drama-watching experience! Not that I'll be getting into any of those shows I mentioned earlier (just not interested), but I like "Lost." If you've been skeptical about it thus far, I feel your pain. But check out those first few episodes. You might be pleasantly surprised. Amazed even. But definitely not disappointed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Dammit! (After looking forward all day to a new episode of The Office, I fell asleep on the couch just before it turned on.)

Sunday, November 6, 2005
When we moved into our house, one of the things I wanted to do right away was paint the extra bedroom. The previous owners had used it as their baby's room, and even though they didn't live here very long after their daughter was born (like less than a year), they had painted the extra bedroom pale pink. And to make matters worse, they painted her initials on the wall in darker pink, and painted her name over closet, and just in general made the room unusable by anyone who knows how to properly use the bathroom. It had been bugging me since we moved in back in August, but we just didn't get around to it because we figured we'd need a solid weekend to do it all, and we just haven't had one. (When did we get so busy?) But finally this past week it all got to be in a very deep and personal and profound way, and I was like, the pink has got to go! So we got some paint in a lovely blue shade ("Ocean Tropic," I believe it was) and some brushes and all of the other stuff you need when you're going to paint, and this weekend I painted! And you know what? Painting a room takes a really long time! You know how on home improvement shows on tv when you see someone paint a room and you see it all sped up so it looks like the whole room's done in like six seconds? It's nothing like that! It takes hours just to prep everything, what with the spackling and the washing and the taping off with blue tape. And then that first coat takes hours, and you think, maybe I don't need a second coat, but then the next day you see all of these tiny little spots that don't have the new paint on it, and so you really do have to put a second coat on, which doesn't take as long as the first coat, but it still doesn't fly by in a time-lapse like it does on tv.

But still, even though it took the better part of the weekend, the room looks really good. I think I like this whole colored wall business. When I grew up, our walls were white. If they needed a new paint job, the new paint was white. But non-white walls are just don't know. Warm. Or is it cool? I'm not sure. But I think I like them better than white ones. There's still some touch-up work to do, but we can finally set up the room, which we had been holding off on doing because we didn't see the point in setting up everything in a pink-walled room if we were just going to get rid of the pink soon. But now the pink and all of the baby personalization are thankfully gone, and we can actually set up in there. Except now I'm wising that I had videotaped myself painting the room, just so I could speed it up and make myself look like one of those HGTV shows. I'll have to remember that for next time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005
I told myself that after Halloween, I would cut back my sugar intake, because I've probably been eating too much candy lately. But then I stopped in Walgreen's earlier today to buy a card, and all of their candy was half off, and I told myself that I wasn't going to buy any, but then I saw that they had bags of Vanilla Tootsie Rolls! And they were like a buck and a quarter! And the bags were marked "Limited Edition"! So if I didn't get them right then and there, they'd be gone forever and I'd never get to have them ever again! So I bought two bags, and oh god, does my jaw hurt from all of the intense chewing I've been doing these past few hours. Have you had Vanilla Tootsie Rolls? They're just like regular Tootsie Rolls, but they're vanilla instead of chocolate, and they're so sweet and delicious and taste like chewy yellow cake batter, which is one of my favorite flavors of all time. (Yellow cake batter, that is. For an alcoholic version of this flavor, try my official drink: vanilla vodka and coke.) I'll tell you, I am going to have a hard time cutting back on sugar until these two bags are gone. Which really, at the rate Paul and I consume candy, shouldn't be too long. But I am starting to think up excuses to tell my dentist when I have my appointment in a few weeks. Oh man, those Vanilla Tootsie Rolls are goo-ooo-ood. I think next to Cadbury Flake Noir and Violet Crumble, this might be my new favorite candy.

(Ooh, now this is interesting: I googled "vanilla tootsie roll" and found out that in addition to my new favorite candy, it is also a slang term for a small Caucasian penis. Who knew?)

Monday, November 1, 2005
Last night was our first Halloween in our new neighborhood. I spent about $13 on candy, since our neighbor told us to expect about 50 trick-or-treaters.

(Actual conversation from two weeks ago:
Me: How many kids do you get on Halloween?
Neighborlady: Oh, not too many. About 50.
Me (interior monologue): 50 is a fuckload!)

We did indeed get about that many, and we had enough candy for most of them, even though we seemed to eat an awful lot of it ourselves. As usual, some of the kids had creative costumes, and some had get-ups that were completely lame. One kid had on a shiny suit and a fedora, and I thought he was a mafia guy, but he insisted he was a pimp. Since when is that a good costume for a nine-year-old? Another girl just put on her friend's marching band costume. But the costumes I saw the most of were for little kids, and they were like stuffed animals you could wear. They were kind of cute, and we saw pretty much every animal: tigers, cats (or "kittycats," never just "cats"), an alligator, a dinosaur, and even my friend's twin daughters in plush and poofy ladybug and duck costumes. These costumes are very fancy and very cute, and they look kind of expensive to wear one day a year and then grow right out of, but I guess that's what parenting is all about these days. I guess.

We didn't have those fuzzy cute Halloween costumes when I was a kid. I'd like to say we were creative and made our own costumes, and I guess every once in a while we did, but I very distinctly remember going to some fluorescent-lighted low-rent 1970s department store like Caldor and picking out a costume in a box. I'm sure I had several, but the only two I remember having were a Tweety costume and some kind of fairy princess or Snow White costume (I think, because that doesn't really sound like a costume I would have, because I absolutely was not the fairy princess type of little kid, although I did kind of get a kick out of Snow White). When you bought a costume in a box, you got two pieces: a plastic coverall thing with the colors and general outfit lines of whatever character you were supposed to be, and a plastic mask of the character's face with a rubber band type thing fastened by the ears that would go around your head to hold it in place. I remember hating these costumes and yet wanting a new one every year anyway. I hated the way the plastic coverall thing smelled (probably because it was very likely made of some toxic, cancer-accelerating resin), and they always ripped easily when branches snagged on them. I especially hated those masks. I hated how the rubber band thing hurt my hair, and how the mask made my face all clammy, and how my eyelids got all scratched up because those little eyeholes were never even close to big enough for my abnormally large anime googly eyes. There were little mouth and nostril holes, but I could still never breathe with the mask on. I remember wearing the mask on top of my head most of the time. All in all, those costumes made us look like we were wearing garbage bags. We didn't look like we needed candy. We looked like we needed a shower and a hot meal.

Which isn't to say that these new stuffed animal-type costumes are any better. They're probably really hot, for one thing. And if it rains, like it started to last night, the water probably soaks right in, rather than slicking off like it used to slick right off those costumes made of the cancer plastic. And while these fuzzy costumes are kind of cute, they kind of make the little kids look tubby; I'm sure they'll all blame their parents for making them wear fat animal suits and parading them around the neighborhood to ask for more candy, because they sure don't look like they need any more candy. They look like they need a high-fiber diet and two-a-days. It seems like this is pretty much what Halloween is all about when you're a kid: dress up in a crappy mass-produced costume that makes you look as unflattering as possible, and then, when you're a candy-deprived and cynical adult, blame your parents for making you do so.

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