Wednesday, April 28, 2010


There are many foods that my British husband misses living over here in the US that either can't be had or can only be found at a very dear price.  The only food I truly missed when we were living in the UK was marshmallows.  I once bought what passed for marshmallows over there and tried to toast them over a campfire. It was awful - saccharine tasting stuff that just melted without toasting - and one of my favorite treats, hands down, is toasted marshmallows.  We have installed a wood-burning stove at the little house on the prairie, so I can pretty much toast marshmallows whenever I want throughout the winter.  You'd think the novelty would wear off, but no, each and every time I have a toasted marshmallow, I think it is the Best. Thing. Ever.

The way I like to eat them, I toast them ever-so-golden brownish - best done carefully over really hot coals - then gently pull the toasted outer layer off as a whole and pop it in my mouth.  The slightly crispy, caramelized sugar shell is absolutely sublime.  This leaves a ball of slightly melted marshmallow at the end of the stick, ready to repeat the process.  I think I once managed a record six "pulls" on one marshmallow.  I recently discovered that if I toast and pull a marshmallow shell off once or twice then simply eat the marshmallow ball left behind, I get delightful melted marshmallow covering a bouncy unmelted center.  Yu-um-my!

My dear husband is often kind enough to point out when the fire reaches perfect marshmallow toasting conditions, and on a recent evening when he did so, I confessed that I only had two marshmallows left in the bag and had decided not to buy more because I found it difficult to resist the siren call of my favorite treat.  And that reminded me of this video, over which we shared a giggle.

I love the little blond girl who nibbles away about 2/3 of her marshmallow then examines it and puts it back on the plate, like, "nah - they'll never notice."


Monday, April 26, 2010

Keenie the Beanie and the Blustery Day

So, as I mentioned, I started a new job on Wednesday.  Well, I actually "started" for the second time, and for real this time, on Wednesday.  In the first week of April, when I still couldn't leave my old company due to an impending bonus payment that I had earned, dammit, and I was going to hang out to collect no matter how long they put off paying it (ahem)... I had taken a day of vacation from my old job and joined my future coworkers for an 8 hour long presentation about "who we are and what we do" to a group of, um, external constituents shall we say.  Confidentiality rules forbid disclosure with more clarity.

And, can I just say, that was the best first day of work I could've had.  Because as an accountant, I could pretty much work for any company in the world (assuming they would have me, which I'm not).  Every company needs someone to count the money - even if they're losing it.  As a result, I come to positions with a good idea of what I can do for them, but only a general idea of what it is they can do for their customers.  I mean, if you are a doctor, librarian, book editor, whatever - you probably know what it is your company does, but the person counting the money... not so much.  Particularly if you've just joined a company (as I once did) that makes "semi-conductor link processing systems."  Whaaa?  I still don't know what that means and I worked there for 4 years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Road Rants

Day two of the commute, and it's going well (not).  Inspired by Pippi, I bring you notes from the road.

My dear husband, without even realizing what a tough day on the road it had been, offered me his Crystal Healing CD (the soundtrack to my Japanese Garden slideshow) for the car.  Isn't that sweet? It's hard to be stressed when these dulcet tones are playing... at least that's the theory anyway.  Ohhmmm....

Post-its courtesy

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moving on

Big news in beanieland... Her Beanieness is upping stakes and moving on out.

A few months ago, when the takeover merger of my company was completed, I was all whaaah, "stupid merger," mourning the end of an era and worried about my future employment status.  As it happens, I didn't end up unemployed and the new owners made a real effort to assure me that I was a valued member of the ongoing team, albeit doing work I didn't enjoy as much.  That was a big relief, but at the same time, I was experiencing a natural resistance to the changes as well as being less than impressed at the new owners' lack of leadership.  We were running around like the proverbial headless chickens because one person would tell us to do one thing and another, something else.  They also exhibit a severe lack of respect for their employees' time and opinions... unfortunately in this their reputation preceded them, and they have done nothing to disprove it.  Case in point, one day last week one of my coworkers was scheduled on conference calls starting at both 5:30 am and 6:00 pm.  It doesn't matter what you do in the middle... that basically mandates a nearly 14 hour workday, and they don't think there is anything wrong with that.

But today was my last day working there - and it was a hard one.  Mainly because of my foolish sentimental nature.  I wanted to sneak quietly out the door, dodging goodbyes from coworkers.  But it was not to be, everyone wished me well, a small group took me to lunch which was nice, and my best friend cried so I did too.  Boy am I glad that's over. 

Tomorrow I start a new job, taking up the role I enjoyed before the merger, but for a smaller tech company staffed by seriously smart people that are excited about what they do.  I'm trading a 15 minute commute through the countryside for a traffic-clogged 45 minute slog into the central core of Portland.  (This is why driving was on my mind recently - I hope to carry a certain zen calm into my new commute so as not to relapse into questionable driving habits.)  But that is essentially the only drawback to the new position and frankly I've been spoiled in the commute department - it's not like millions of people don't deal with worse journeys to work each day. 

Well, there is one other drawback... I'm giving up my office, a nice space with a window and a door that closes and everything.  When I first moved into an office after working in cubeland, I kind of missed the social hum of a communal workspace, but I quickly grew to appreciate the luxury of my own private place.

(the old workspace - documented for posterity and of no interest to anyone but me)

On the plus side, the new company's space is configured so that nobody has an office - even the top execs only get a room with four walls but no door.  But even better, the cubes are on the outside of the building so the cube dwellers (including yours truly) are afforded the luxury of a view.  And my particular view is over the river, across the city and out to Mount Hood, from 15 stories up.  Not bad at all.

Also, I've negotiated a four day work week in the office, with Fridays working at home, which I'm totally stoked about.

There is a buzz and energy at the new company, and it will be a refreshing change from the merger blues still pervading my old company, and I'm totally excited to move on to the next chapter in my professional life.

Wish me luck at my "first day of school!"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Luscious color

Tulips are my absolute favorite flower.  I'm not sure why I adore them above other flowers.  They seem almost shy, with their petal cups shielding pollen stems from prying eyes.  Their season is short; in bouquets, they lack the longevity and flamboyance of the ubiquitous rose.  But I think the blooms are sublime.

Yesterday I went to the Wooden Shoe Farm Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon.  There, for four weeks each spring, you find acres and acres and endless acres of gorgeous, luscious, exquisite color as the tulip bulbs stage a show that is far from shy.  And oh, the color: white, pink, coral, red, purple, even midnight blue.  And the shapes: traditional cups, showy ruffles and multi blooms, ladylike lily-flares.

I just wanted to capture the view, wrap it around me like a blanket, drink it in and live in such glorious technicolor all year round.  I did the best I could to take it in with my camera, and you can't help but take beautiful pictures with such an expansive and striking subject, but my efforts don't begin to do it justice.

To see a slide show of about 20 of the better images, click here.  I hope they put a smile in your day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Driving Miss Beanie

In the past I have had a reputation, probably well deserved, for being an aggressive driver.  I used to drive everywhere at fifteen to twenty miles above the speed limit.  I would slice through freeway traffic like a ginsu, with little patience for anyone who wouldn't keep up with traffic.  Stop signs were more of a suggestion than an imperative.  Saying "stop" in your head as you execute a rolling stop to check for cross traffic is just as good as actual cessation of vehicular motion, right?

I once spent an hour crossing an empty stretch of desert in Southern California tailing a fellow speed freak, never dropping below 100 mph.  It was exhilarating.  One would think that this penchant for speed would have endangered my driving license or insurance rates, but I led a charmed life.  My ratio of traffic stops to traffic tickets is at least 3-to-1.  I must look innocent or something.

There was the time I was stopped for driving over 90 in a 65 - by a plain-clothes detective.  I was on the wide eight lane bridge that crosses from Washington into Oregon, then part of my daily journey into work.  This was years ago and at the time that bridge was generally empty, even on the morning commute, and I just stepped on the gas and let her rip.  I must have blasted past the unmarked cruiser at some point, because I looked in my mirror and saw a red sedan flashing lights embedded behind its grill and pulled over sheepishly.  The detective walked up, dressed in a suit with a badge on his belt.

"Do you mind telling me what you were doing going that fast?" he barked, "I had to go over 100 just to catch up with you!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Upgrade Your Life Chapter #1: Control Your Email

As I recently mentioned... I have a clutter problem and have started to address it by doing a digital decluttering and working through the Upgrade Your Life book by Gina Trapani.  Chapter #1 is entitled "Control Your Email."

I am ashamed to admit that until yesterday, my beloved yahoo mailbox inbox had nearly 1,300 unread messages.  Apparently, it's not only my physical environment that's cluttered!

Don't get me wrong... I stay on top of my personal and professional admin tasks.  My Outlook e-mail at the office is actually impressively organized.  Coworkers often come to me saying "do you still have that e-mail that..." and it's a rare request that I can't quickly help them recover.  My messages are responded to, my calendar is detailed, organized and complied with, my deadlines are met, my bills are paid, my financial records are maintained in impeccable detail.

But in my personal email box, I simply did not organize or dispose of much after I read it... or decided I might read it, or need it someday.  But I am proud to say that today my e-mail box looks like this:

Yes, that figure in the trash folder is no mistake.  I really did delete nearly 6,500 messages.  This gives you an idea of the scope of the problem I had to attack.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How much fun is this?

I have the dancing equivalent of not being able to carry a tune in a bucket.  What is that old cliche?... oh yeah, two left feet... compounded by a complete inability to move said left feet in any kind of deliberate and coordinated pattern.  Total white girl can't dance syndrome.

Never mind, this flash mob food dance scene from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution looks like wicked great fun.  I love how the girl in the green hoody is so surprised as more and more people that appeared to be random bystanders start pouring into the dance around her.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Just so wrong

Here's a little tip for the Kentucky Fried Chicken product research department.  If people need to ask whether your new sandwich is an April Fools joke, perhaps you should give a second thought to the date of announcement... or better yet a second thought to the product.

Yes, folks, that is a "sandwich" comprised of two fried chicken breasts wrapped around bacon and cheese.  I can't quite put my finger on what is so wrong with this picture.  Cheese? Good.  Bacon?  Everything is better with bacon.  Fried chicken?  I'm not above indulging in a little fried chicken now and then.  But I have absolutely no desire to try this, even if Jason at Food Geekery does dub it the Best. Thing. Ever.

Maybe that's why I'm afraid of it.  What if I liked it?  That will remain a hypothetical question for me.  What do you think?  Are you tempted?  Or simply disturbed?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why Real Simple Newsletters Engender Crushing Guilt

About six years ago, everything I owned fit into the back of a full size van.  We had just returned to the United States from England and moved into a 650 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment.  We bought a futon soda, a mattress, and a television, unpacked our books and CDs, clothing and kitchen gear and commenced a tidy little life.

After about six months, we decided we'd like a little more space and moved into a two bedroom townhouse.  D converted the garage into a woodworking shop and started building us lovely pieces of furniture... a television stand, a stereo rack, CD/DVD storage, a small bookshelf, a bed.  Along with accumulating furnishings, we accumulated the accouterments of a woodshop - tools, supplies, building materials, etc.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kind of like an internet Easter egg hunt

Search & Win

About a year ago, I heard about the Swagbucks search engine. Every time you search the net with Swagbucks you get a random chance to win 10 or more swagbucks. You can use your swagbucks to redeem gifts and prizes, my favorite being the $5 Amazon gift card for 450 swagbucks.  In the past 12 months, I've earned $85 in real money to spend at Amazon... just for searching the net!  How cool is that?!

My strategy has been to set the swagbucks search site as my home page (both at home and at work) and never go directly to any website before first entering the name in the swagbucks search.  Amazon?  Ebay? Yahoo mail? MSN portal? Swagbucks 'em all.  Alternatively, in Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can add Swagbucks to the browser built-in search toolbar as your default search tool by installing a plug-in.

Swagbucks uses and Google to provide the search results, which include sponsored listings, and if I'm honest, the search is nowhere near comprehensive.  For easy searches, it gets the job done, but often I find that after first entering my search terms at Swagbucks to try to win a few, I just go up to the address bar or favorites menu and directly access the site I'm seeking.  For more complex or in-depth topic searches, I often end up swagbucksing Google then heading there to do a "real" search.  I always laugh deviously at the irony when that wins me swagbucks too.

Full disclosure:  If you sign-up for a Swagbucks account using this link or click through from the banner I've posted at the top of this page, you will get 30 swagbucks upon registering and I get a few swagbucks too. 

If you are the type of person that only cares about efficiency in your keyboard strokes, swagbucks isn't for you.  But over the past year, I would estimate that the extra keystrokes I've entered as a result of using swagbucks could only add up to an hour at most.  And earning $85/hour for something I'm doing anyway... that is totally worth it to me.

Happy Easter and happy hunting everyone!

Friday, April 2, 2010

After sunset; before dark

One of the best things about living in our little house on the prairie is that we have a 360 degree view of the sky.  It's like a huge bowl has been turned upside down above us and serves as a brilliant canvas for the amazing sky shows of spring.

Here in Oregon, March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion.  It has recently been cold and stormy, with moments of sunbreak thrown in to boot.  Never is the old adage - if you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes: it'll change - more true than in an Oregon springtime.  The benefit is that the cloudscapes are spectacular.

I'm truly fortunate that I can see such broad expanses of the sky from my front porch.  Sometimes it frustrates me that there is no way for my camera to capture the stunning scope of it all at once.  Yesterday, these huge clouds developed just before the sunset painted them this flaming hue.  I had to take three frames and stitch them together to get it all into one shot.  The stitch effect isn't perfect, but the clouds certainly were.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ninja Cat

I love this video - he looks just like my little turd cat Yoda.  Have a great day everyone!