Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Memory Lane Fever

Since the last entry was so well received, I thought I'd keep it going. You know, in honor of 7 years. And soon -- only 9 to go after this one -- 1500 posts here. Again, this is all content from previous blog incarnations.

A few of you -- specifically young women I've reconnected with on Facebook -- might recognize the following picture. This is me around first or second grade participating in a Girl Scout ritual. If you're not familiar with Girl Scouts, it is a lot like the Masons -- a (not so) secret society of friendship-bracelet-weaving, A-frame-building, cow-pattie-camping aficionados. Once a Brownie, always a Brownie. Peace.

Next, I'm a princess. My mom made the costume. My grandmother is next to me. It's fair to say I'm adorable.

Skipping over the awkward years (again), here is me at my first career job (desktop support, server support, webmaster, publications specialist, snazzy dresser). I am stunning in a green oversized UCSB sweatshirt, large glasses, dyed hair, and that patented scowl. Raawrrr!

And here's a picture taken (via self-timer) of that one or two times Jer and I played racquetball. After one of these sessions, we started hanging out. Our "hang out" experiment has lasted 11 years, as of next month.

It's safe to say I haven't changed all that much over the years. Take New Year's Eve 1999, for example. I wrote:

My very public list of Resolutions (December 22, 1999)
  1. Maintain emotional equilibrium (Breathe more)
  2. Practice random acts of exercise
  3. Finish a play this year
  4. Submit that play somewhere
  5. Take the GRE's
  6. Get my passport
  7. Cook one meal a week (start small)
  8. Try to do things that scare me as often as possible

I did take the GREs. Twice. Then I opted not to attend graduate school, for reasons that were unrelated to my scores. I did get a passport shortly after I wrote that list, and finally took that long awaited trip to Europe last year. The remaining items are still applicable and represent my framework for approaching life. The only missing item is probably finances.

This list was written by a pre-personal-finance-obsessed Christy. Ah, innocence.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Memory Lane: Blog Edition

It's time for another arbitrary anniversary! As of two days ago, this blog has been active for 7 years. Before 2004, I blogged at "Ephemeral Pulp," and before that I blogged at "Step 23: Quest for World Domination" (Geocities/CollegePark) and "Ho Ka Hey: Today's a Good Day to Die." (Tripod)

Technically I have been annoying the good people of the internet for 15 years. A little less than half the years I've been alive.

Huz. Zah.

I have way better followers now than I used to, by the way. You guys rock. (Unless for some reason you followed me back then, which means you win the brass ring) Plus all the really good hate mail dried up when I stopped using the word "domination" in the blog's title. Switching to "mirth" really classed up the joint.

Let's have a treat. Let's look at the Christy's of years past, posted on previous blog incarnations.

First, we have Christy with a perm and a scowl on a boat, around third grade. This was my favorite expression growing up. I thought I was being pensive and zoning out, everyone else told me my face was going to stay that way:

Next we have the artist's high school yearbook picture. I used an entire bottle of hairspray to lock in these righteous curls:

This next picture was taken around the time I was encouraged to start my first web page with a bunch of other ragtag San Raf ruffians. (Actually I started the blog when I lived in Anacapa Hall, but I don't feel like scanning any of those pictures, so I apologize to Colin, Jen, and Karen for my history revision.)

Some college students intern in big industry. I spent a summer tucked away in Point O' Woods grocery store on Fire Island (New York) selling expensive mayonnaise and trying to figure out the difference between rosemary sprigs and fresh thyme. Here I am in the arugula:

Eleven years ago, one month before Jer and I started dating and I was pretty sure I'd die alone because no one would ever love me and I failed at everything, I wrote this:

An Open Letter to Myself 20 years in the Future

Assuming you have all your limbs, faculties, and the ability to breathe without a respirator, I would like to say a little something and I would like you to listen. You are going to fail. You are going to fail repeatedly. And here I am, still young and fairly idealistic, I want to tell you that the sin is not in failing. The sin is not learning from the past. If you are sitting in some squalid little room with the lights dimmed, petting your cats and eating tuna out of a can I'm going to be very angry. If you've shut yourself away from the world, covered the windows with foil, and live in some backwoods cabin rocking back and forth because you've been hurt too many times, there's no reason to live. Put us out of our misery.

And if for some reason you come across the ability to time travel, make sure you come back to March 16, 2000, and slap me upside the head. Trust me. You may not remember why, but I deserve it.

See ya in 15!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My goal is to lose a pound this week. If I can lose one pound, then I will have lost a total of 25 pounds.

If I lose 25 pounds, then I will be halfway to my goal of losing 50 pounds on Weight Watchers.

So, that's going on. I haven't wanted to focus on it too much though, because it's so easy not to do it. That doesn't make sense, right? I'm doing something but I'll stop the moment I acknowledge it.

I know it's not logical. Especially when I write it out like that. Still, I have this broken wire inside. Every time I get close to reaching a personal goal, I suddenly become an expert at self-sabotage.

Go me!

Monday, March 28, 2011


When I lived in California, spring hardly fazed me. The overall contrast between seasons was so slight. Trees may have had a few more blossoms. I might have opened the windows more often for fresh air. Mornings were still overcast, with the cloud layer frequently burning off in the afternoon. Regardless of the calendar day, the same stretch of Pacific Ocean continued to peek out between houses if I drove west about a mile.

Here in Seattle, particularly this year, I've been monitoring spring's shy approach with greater than usual interest. First I saw a Steller's Jay on the fence a couple of weeks ago -- a dark blue bird sporting a black crest. Then I spotted tiny purple flowers blooming, unassisted, in the ground cover near our front door. A squirrel darted across the lawn yesterday and disappeared into the bushes. And suddenly the lawn needs mowing and some days I don't need a jacket at all (just a light sweater). Progress!

Also unique to this year is how much time I've spent in silence. Blissfully unstressed silence. My time in unemployment has gone by fast -- 3 months already!

So with the winter dissolving as spring reasserts itself, sounds like it's time to throw my hat back in the ring and apply for work.

Here we go again.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes

I baked my first potatoes last night. Sorry, not a euphemism.

It turned out pretty well, so I slightly modified a couple of recipes I found online and turned them into this:

Twice Baked Potatoes

Yields 4 servings at 3 Points Plus per serving.

2 Russet Potatoes
About 1/2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup reduced fat Crumbled Blue Cheese
salt/pepper/Cajun seasoning if you have it

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Scrub potatoes with a thick brush and cold water.
  3. Pierce potatoes with a fork, put them in a bowl, and lightly coat with olive oil. Sprinkle some Kosher salt on top.
  4. Set potatoes directly on oven rack with a pan underneath to catch drippings.
  5. Bake about an hour, until tender. Remove from oven, let cool about 10 minutes.
  6. Cut lengthwise and scoop out potato pulp with a spoon.
  7. In the bowl coated with olive oil, add the pulp, sour cream, and blue cheese. Mash with a potato masher. Season to taste.
  8. Add mixture back to the 4 potato shells and bake for another 15 minutes.
Very tasty and I didn't miss the butter or Ranch dressing or whatever I usually use with potatoes. Maybe next time I'll add some chives or garlic. I'm tempted to roast a bulb of garlic at the same time and then squeeze some of the roasted garlic into the mixture.

For reference, the two recipes I combined were Alton Brown's Baked Potato Recipe -- he used Canola oil and I used olive oil. And this WW recipe for "Cheesey Twice-Baked Potatoes." That last site has an abundance of great WW recipes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Won!!!

I just won a giveaway put on by the awesome Gypsie Meanderings in honor of her 300th post and received my prize in today's mail. I was the lucky recipient of "The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs."

From the Amazon review, "the book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient..." With all my talk of flavors and gadgets and healthiness lately I know this will be the perfect companion.

If you get a chance, check out her site and say hi. And thanks again, AZGypsie! Congratulations on 300!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gadget not gidget

My only problem with slow cooker cooking is it fills the house with delicious smells hours and hours before you can eat. In the grand scheme, this hardly cracks the torture scale, but it does make me hungry all day long.

I'm making Skinny Slow Cooked Pernil again -- shredded pork that's been marinated in citrus juices and garlic. It's been cooking for a couple of hours, only 6ish to go.

As you might guess from the last few posts, food's been on my mind lately and, as a corollary, kitchen gadgets. For example, if I could only choose X gadgets to use the rest of my life, what would they be?

This is what unemployed people who talk to their cats ask themselves. Especially ones who are a teensy bit hungover.

My number one kitchen gadget is a dishwasher. After I moved out of my parents' house, I didn't have a dishwasher for 10 years. I call those years the dark times.

My rice cooker ranks up there, too. I could live without it, sure, but I'm not sure I want to live in a world without its magnificent brown rice.

I already mentioned the slow cooker. Oh, and a good knife or two. My first good knife was a revelation, but that's not really a gadget though. Not unless you stick a motor on it.

Basically if I can set it and forget it, I never want to let it go.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The day I learned about banchan

Yesterday my dear friend C Ro -- who, years ago, I randomly approached on the street and insisted she let me be the president of her fan club -- took me to lunch at the Korean Tofu House in the University District.

And it was good. Very, very good.

I had the #1, which was a boiling bowl of tofu soup with clam, shrimp, oyster, and beef. As the server set it down in front of me, she asked if I wanted egg as well, and when I nodded, cracked the egg directly into the bowl. The soup's extreme heat cooked it instantly.

The description for #1 didn't wow me -- I was more interested in the kimchi soup -- but when I asked our server what she recommended, it was the tofu dishes hands down.

Makes sense. After all, it's in their name.

So I figured, what the heck, and picked the first tofu dish in the list. It was incredible!

Lunch was also my first experience with banchan. Banchan are an assortment of small side dishes that accompany the meal, like tapas. Yesterday's banchan included kimchi, bean sprouts, green onion fried pancakes, tofu, and sweetened potato. And oh my gosh, the only dish I didn't wolf down was the bean sprouts.

Because I was full.

A sincere thanks to C Ro for letting me in on the secret of the Korean Tofu House, which was probably only a secret to me.

The Korean Tofu House is located at 4142 Brooklyn Ave NE (between 41st St & 42nd St); Seattle, WA 98105; University District. We were there at 1pm on a Tuesday and it wasn't too crowded, but I bet the lunch hour is packed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cooking so my heart won't explode

Last night's theme was recipes. Every time I make one I like -- or find one in a magazine -- I throw the paper version on my desk, then enter it into Mastercook (eventually).

So there I was. Typing up recipes and searching the Internet when I became despondent. Why, you ask? I'll tell you. The best looking recipes were not something I could feasibly eat right now. They were full of whole milk, butter, bacon, chocolate... all the things that make life good.

In Weight Watchers, they make a big deal about not feeling deprived. You can eat whatever you want, they say! Simply reduce your portion size or plan for it! Technically that's true. I could make the peanut butter hot chocolate recipe and drink a 1/4 cup of it and stay on track. I could make the bakery version of the chocolate cream pie and have 3 bites. (And throw away the leftovers for a nasty guilt complex.) The truth is, when I have to put my spoon down and walk away, even though I got to nibble on my treat, I will still feel deprived.

The only way I won't feel deprived is if I fall face first into the chocolate pudding and eat until I pass out.

I don't often feel this way. I'm usually happy with the choices and the very specific definition WW relies on for deprived -- it means to take something away or to withhold it and I guess since you get a small bite then it hasn't been taken away in its entirety. Loophole, much.

But in my recipe searching, I find I am much more impressed by recipes that achieve full flavor in a healthy way. That's why I'm always so excited to share the recipes I've made from I can have realistic portion sizes that fill me up, and not break the points plus bank.

Yeah, yeah. The things I am whining about are wanting to overindulge in the behaviors that got me overweight in the first place. Who am I to nitpick about WW motivational strategies?

Maybe we can all pretend this isn't a whiny entry about doing stuff I need to do (but don't wanna) and pretend it's a celebration of healthy, good tasting recipes instead. Speaking of which, if you have any of those recipes you'd like to share, please link them in the comments.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Casserole: it's what's for dinner

For dinner I made this Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes and it was fantastic. At only 9 Points Plus for a sizeable piece, it is both tasty and a reasonable Weight Watcher's choice.

I used brown rice instead of white (made in the rice cooker) and used Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce because I know I like it and didn't feel like making my own. Using the rice cooker combined with the store bought sauce also cut the prep time down considerably.

The comments on that entry are good, too. For example, some commenters had suggestions for swapping out the peas if you they're not your thing. Happily, peas are the one vegetable Jer and I both like.

Possibly the only one.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I heart you, beef brisket

Last night Jer and I ate dinner at Rainin' Ribs in Lake Forest Park and it was amazing. I mentioned it almost a year ago here, in the March 28 entry, and it was good but not great then. They'd just opened when we ate there... but last night?

Best beef brisket I've ever had. I ordered the sandwich, and the bun was so good and soft and fresh baked. I want it again now, please.

And yes, I tracked the Weight Watcher points.

After dinner we stopped by Third Place Commons. We've driven by many times and never gone in. From the outside it looks like a strip mall (stores just open to the street) so I didn't expect much. Then you go inside and realize it's also an indoor mall, on the smallish side. Up the escalators is a surprise food court, surprise meeting rooms, and a surprise stage. There's a bookstore, Third Place Books, which is sort of out in the open, without walls, edging up to the food court seats. The place was packed with people and very cool. At the back of the bookstore they were even having an author's reading. So neat.

I love it when surprises are the good kind.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Revisiting Tokyo and a Happy Saint Pat's

Like most everyone, Japan has been on my mind.

I visited Tokyo in 2008 and when I came home I posted a brief description of my trip (with accompanying photos) at my photoblog, called "Impressions of Tokyo."

Rereading the piece 2 1/2 years later, I see the writing is more sentimental than I usually allow myself, but overall it still speaks the same truth I intended at the time. I loved it there. I found it fascinating and overwhelming and efficiently beautiful. It was unlike anything I could have imagined.

Someday I'll go back.

It would have been my Grandmother's birthday today. I reread one of her old astrology books last week -- the only one I saved. Then I dreamed of her two nights ago.

But that's how it is. Coastlines shift. People die. We adapt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maybe I Should've Stuck with Alchemy

This morning we had to measure Jer's sleeve length for a shirt. So he held his arm out straight and we used a heavy duty measuring tape. Low 20's it read.

The options started at 33 inches.

"Huh. Maybe you should Google it?" I said.

After a few minutes Jer says, "Oh, you have to bend your arm like this, then measure from the base of the neck through the wrist."

We did it that way and the measurement made more sense. Now it was in the 30s.

"Can you imagine someone with a real sleeve length of 23 or whatever? It'd be like working with a T-Rex."

This was followed by multiple T-Rex impressions -- the T-Rex showing up at business meetings, presenting the PowerPoint...

Then we had to measure Jer's neck for the shirt. At first we tried the heavy duty measuring tape, but that wasn't too flexible. Luckily, before Jer strangled himself, he thought of using a string to wrap around his neck, and then measuring the string.

I may have leveled up tailoring as a secondary skill in WoW, but that sure hasn't translated to real life. Ba-dum-dum.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kettle Chip Deficiencies

I returned to a Weight Watchers meeting after a three week gap. I am slightly more motivated to continue than I was a few days ago, but still not enough to break out the tracker. I know I'm being a whiny diva, but I just want to eat what I want and not worry about it. If my body craves it, there must be a reason, right? Maybe I crave it because I'm deficient in an important bodily nutrient.

Like the Kettle Chip nutrient? Or the fancy German beer nutrient?

Yeah, so. I hate to think I have to do this for the rest of my life. I don't want to count, I don't want to measure. Unfortunately that's what works, buttercup.

Stupid logic.

Yesterday I started a new top secret writing project I'm super excited about. I'll let you know more when I finish it, or figure out what I'm going to do with it. Either way, I think it's going to be pretty cool.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tips for integrating Facebook with a Wordpress photoblog

My photoblog runs on Wordpress, and I periodically get the urge to fiddle with it. Yesterday I added Facebook integration -- which is a fancy way of saying you can like pictures now, and when you do, the "liked" picture is shared on your FB page.

The hardest part was figuring out how to specify which thumbnail would get posted to the FB page since by default it picks a random image. I found two plugins that were key in making this work:

In addition, Facebook's URL Linter tool for developers was very helpful in showing me what info is passed from my blog to Facebook.

By the way, I maintain a Facebook page for On Focus Photo, where all the newest photos get posted. Here's the info if you want to follow along:

On Focus Photo

Promote Your Page Too

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Part-Time Hermit

I should leave the house more often. Last night (Wednesday) was the first time out since Saturday. It was really weird out there. Like, bright, but rainy. How do you even stand it?

Driving to the transit station meant listening to the radio, and that was weird too. The songs were all really loud. And every one of them was Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." Finally I found a classical station and for the first time in my life settled on that.

Orchestras are cool again! Loneliness has eaten my brain!

Well, not loneliness. I don't feel lonely. Just like I'm in a fog. The bus station didn't help. I had the pleasure of eavesdropping on a guy -- long blonde hair, hoodie, manic-looking -- talking on his cell phone about wishing somebody was dead. But it didn't stop there. He wished every person that dude loved would die, that he would lose a kidney, that someone would skin the dude alive. And there are a lot lowlifes in Seattle who would do that too, man.

I put on my public commuter, angry face and avoided eye contact.

So then I arrived at the downtown bus tunnel and ascended to street level. I realized I was reliving my old commute for my old job of 2 years. Not much has changed along that path. A bar was closed for remodeling, a Pho restaurant had moved into the spot where Marcus' Martini Heaven used to be, whatev. Time marches on and all that.

Thus ends the story of my downtown adventure. I met some friends, had a few beers, and on the way home it rained a lot.

As an aside, I haven't been to Weight Watchers in a few weeks. I'm debating about going back tomorrow. But, you know, then I'd have to go out there again, out where the wind can touch me.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The lazy fox jumped over the crazy box

I am a big fan of money management. (Okay, this isn't news for anyone who has read my blog for like two days.) I inevitably come back to the subject. I suspect my current doubts are coming from the money front.

Back in 2002, I had an extended unemployment experience that shook my confidence. The worst part was finding out my former boss was bad-mouthing me to potential employers, making it just about impossible to secure work. (This was the former boss I had to IM every time I went to the bathroom.)

But this time, I'm unemployed by choice. I have reserves. I have support. My only debt is the mortgage. This is my best opportunity to write or photograph or do whatever I want that's not in an office. And I feel guilty! I feel like I'm sacrificing earning opportunities. I feel like I'm handicapping our retirement.

How messed up is that? Maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to fail. And here's a convenient one: money. Those months in 2002 made me gun-shy. Back then I had to sell my cameras and my books to pay my share of rent. But that's not at all how it is now! Why can't my brain absorb that?

My situation is completely different than it was in 2002, I just want to be clear on that. The problem is in my head. At the risk of sounding like a complete jerk, I have this voice, the same voice that's always whispered "Hold back," when the rest of the room couldn't keep up. Part of this unemployment time is to try and figure out how to get rid of that damn voice. Where's the profit in holding myself back outside of a classroom? All it does in the real world is give me permission to be lazy. At least in the classroom a voice like that prevented the outing of myself as the ideal cheating-off-of candidate.

Okay, so I've identified two problems, or rather obstacles, to my success. One, I'm lazy. Two, I'm crazy.

Glad we got that out of the way. I sure feel better now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Rambling Rosie

I spent most of the morning writing in my notebook about whatever came to mind. I don't do that nearly enough -- just letting myself ramble. I always try to box the words into a form and then -- not surprisingly -- get blocked. Bah. Later I printed tax forms and made a list of all the documents I'll need to file my taxes. (2010 was a paper hungry year!) Thank goodness I moved the printer into my office so I don't have to keep running down the hallway every 5 minutes.

Then I called the credit union to see why my online application was stalled. It's all worked out now, so soon I can close old accounts with the big bank and end the fee gouging. This is good. I hate moving money around unless it's absolutely necessary.

Life isn't all that newsworthy right now. Been spending more time than usual in my head with not a lot to show for it. I'm thinking I should start applying for jobs, but I don't have a clear timeline worked out. Just seems like I probably should, mostly because it would be an easy out. Writing is hard. Getting paid regularly is not so hard. The truth is I don't have any idea what I'm doing.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Musical Chairs, Finance Version

I'd like nothing more than to be loyal to a bank. Why, then, do banks make it so hard for me to be loyal?

I'm in the process of switching from a big bank to a credit union because the big bank is now charging $15 per month. I'll even do the math for you. $180 per year for one account. Separate charges for different accounts -- I have 3 accounts with them, including business and personal. The new fees are more than I pay for the gym annually.

True, it's their prerogative to charge me. And it's mine to say... so long. Which is to say, these changes just went into effect this month so you might want to check your statement -- especially if you're not set up for direct deposit.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Let Me Entertain You, Let Me Make You Smile

Yesterday was a good day. Jer had it off, so we drove to Cinebarre in Mountlake Terrace to watch "The King's Speech." They had a Red Hook beer "Mud Slinger" on rotation, and we each enjoyed a pint with lunch.

Cinebarre has ruined me for all other non-food serving theatres.

I really enjoyed the movie, and tried to stay as unaware of its plot as possible in advance. Of course right before the movie, during a lull between student films, I heard a man say to his friend, "Yes, it's about the son of King George the fifth and..." I plugged my ears and hummed until it stopped.

It's like reading an introduction to a novel, where the introducer gleefully gives away the surprise twist. Or a friend who says, "This won't ruin it, it happens in the first scene..."

Speaking of reading, I'm working my way through a great book called "Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader." Not only does it offer the clearest explanation of derivatives I've ever read, but it's also full of juicy tidbits and warnings about the nature of your investments.

At my last trip to the used bookstore I picked up another book I'd recommend, "Gods, Graves & Scholars, The Story of Archaeology." I chose it on a whim. The version I bought was a wonderful blue hardbound book in a cardboard slipcover. This is far from a dry, academic dissertation. Told from a German perspective, stories and anecdotes of discovering ancient cities and artifacts come alive. When I took a class in archaeology in college, this is the text I needed to read. Instead I had to write a paper about what it might be like to excavate my dorm room after a major quake and try to imagine what a future society would think of my things.

Not much, was my thesis statement.

Another book I'm reading is "The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language." I was lucky to find this in a beautiful hardbound version at the same used bookstore I mentioned above. I'm not very far into this one but it's already drawn me in with its easy style and fascinating connections. From the beginning it makes you think about how amazing the instinct for language is, how incredible that just by saying words you can cause a mental image to pop up in someone else's brain.

Last but not least, I'm reading, "How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World." Slightly drier than the other books so far, it makes up for that in the wealth of its information. Maybe it's because I'm woefully uneducated in European history, but it seems like every other page I think, "Hey, I didn't know that." and "Really? The Scots tried to colonize Panama? I did not know that."

I picked "Fiasco, ""The Language Instinct," and "How the Scots..." because of recommendations at the end of "Poor Charlie's Almanack," which you can order from the publisher for $49 (as of the time of this posting). I highly recommend this book, above all other books listed here. Charles T. Munger is Warren Buffett's silent partner in Berkshire Hathaway. His humor is dry and his knowledge of all topics is extensive.

Regarding my biography solicitations in previous posts, I'll mention those another time. This list is already long.

Advertising note: I receive a commission when you buy through Amazon links on this site. I don't get a commission for recommending the Munger book.