Thursday, January 20, 2011

Resolution: Jan 18-20

For the first time, I am starting to wonder if I will be able to keep this up all year...

January 18: Spent most of my day with the kids I nanny for. It is harder to think of new things to do when stuck in one place...I put the youngest one down for his nap before his brother came home from preschool. Jason and I watched a special on PBS from their series "Pioneers of Television." This one was all about sci-fi, and they focused mainly on Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and Lost in Space. Really interesting, especially because I think Twilight Zone is one of the best television shows ever created. I find it amazing how relevant most of the episodes still are, even after 50 years. Both Serling and Gene Roddenberry (creator of Trek) decided to start writing sci-fi as a way to discuss issues that otherwise were considered taboo. There was a lot more substance in those shows than in most of the crap that passes for television these days.

January 19: As I wrote about yesterday, I bought myself a Lego set online! I have a feeling this could be the start of a new hobby. Now I have the urge to go through all of our Legos and organize them. We still have a giant bucket full of them. The question now is whether they should be organized by size or color. Size would probably be more useful, but it would also require more containers. No way I would organize by size AND color. My collection is not large enough to warrant that.

January 20: Nannying again. Took the little guy to the library so his mom could get some sleep (she works at a hospital, and got stuck on the night shift). Ran into a group of college students there on a tour...and realized that they were from MY alma mater. Remembered the professors from when I took the same class. I fit right in with them, because I was wearing my college hoodie. Completely unexpected.
Then I had the kind of afternoon that reminded me why I love working with kids. While the little guy was napping, his brother showed off the cardboard-box castle he made at school. He decided it was just the right size for Lego people, so the Lego firemen ruled the kingdom with their pet dinosaur. Then I built a spaceship for the Lego aliens, and the kingdom was invaded by UFOs. It was great.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lego mania

I love Legos; who doesn't? I read a Lego webcomic and visit Lego fan sites. I am certainly not alone in this regard. There is even a name for adult fans of Lego: AFOL. I think what draws me to Lego is that I love miniatures. I always have. I love seeing how someone can take something and shrink it down, preserving the detail.

When I was a kid I would spend hours working on creations and playing with them. Of course, about half of that time was spent digging through our giant box of Legos looking for just the right piece. I especially loved the minifigs. For a while I had all of the "people pieces" set aside. Mixed in with the "real" Lego pieces were some knockoff sets. Most of the time I preferred to use the genuine item, but one of the knockoffs came with these large, flat interlocking pieces. I built a cube from them and stored all of the minifigs inside. One time my friend and I invented Lego babies, which were basically a Lego head stuck on top of a brick. Completely out of proportion, but we didn't care.

Recently I have been thinking about Legos more and more. The family I nanny for has two older boys who received several Lego sets for Christmas (and a two-year-old who needs to be kept away from them!). I was helping the boys with their creations when I realized I should start collecting Lego sets myself. So this morning I bought one online. This is the one I bought:

It reminds me of the kind of thing I would try to build as a kid, but of course this one comes with special pieces to make it look more realistic. I love the little details: the basketball hoop, the lawn mower, the satellite on top...

I would love to buy more. This set caught my eye a couple years ago, when I read about it on a fan site:

The snowman! The jack-in-the-box! The Christmas tree! The price tag... $60. The sets I want all run around $50-$60. I think I will have to limit myself to one a month at the most. This one is even more expensive; it caught my eye when we were at the Lego store. There I was able to get a closer look at all of the details inside, including a revolving door and escalators!

WANT. NOW. But this one will have to wait; they want $150 for it. Yes, Legos are an expensive hobby. Then again, I would be hard-pressed to think of one that is not. Once you really get into something, there are people waiting to sell you stuff to improve your experience, whether it is a 2,000-piece Lego set, mahogany knitting needles, or a custom-drilled bowling ball.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Resolution: Jan 13-17

Current music: Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Good song.

January 13: Jason bought me a lightsaber for my birthday! He has quite a few in his collection, but this is my first one (and yes, my birthday was Sunday, but the box was delayed by the dark side of the Force). Not only does it light up, it has LEDs in the blade. This makes it look like the light actually starts at the base and goes up to the top (rather than, say, a flourescent light that turns on all at once). AND it has sound effects when you turn it on or wave it around. Jason's favorite feature is that it has a removable blade, so I can take it out and wear the base on a belt clip. Very cool.

January 14: Went to Wendy's for lunch. I hardly ever do fast food anymore, but I liked their mandarin chicken salad. Discovered they no longer have it, and decided to try a chicken sandwich instead. Also tried their re-vamped, "natural" French fries...which still do not taste like potato. Then I went to the library and got some books on searching for a job. This will be my first time utilizing outside help in my job search. I already have a job--in fact, I work at no less than three places--but all of them are part-time. This means that I could work as many as six days in a week (which has not happened yet) or as little as one and a half (which did happen, last week). I like all of the places I work for, but would also like to have something more consistent.

January 15: My mom printed out a bunch of recipes she found online, and asked everyone to pick one that they would like to try. Saturday was my pick; we all tried French chicken stew. It was delicious.

January 16: Spent the day with Jason, who was off of work. Even though we have been together for more than 7 months, it seems as though we are always doing something new...Jason's pick of the new recipes was ginger chicken soup. Also a hit with everyone who tried it.

January 17: Dinner was my brother Johnny's pick: chicken and leek casserole. I had never tried leeks before. The flavor reminded me of a combination between onion and cabbage. Not a big fan of cabbage; not too sure if I like leeks.

Wow. I just realized how many of my firsts are food-related. I can justify this by admitting that, at the age of twenty-three, I am still a picky eater. It is a bit embarrassing, and it can get me into trouble when we go out to eat or when I am invited to someone else's house for dinner. I guess this is an area where I have a lot of room for growth. Who knows, maybe by the end of the year I will be eating head cheese. Or haggis. But don't count on it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Resolution: Jan 10-12

January 10: I made dinner on Monday first time cooking without a recipe! Nothing too complicated, just chicken and pasta. When I am making something in the kitchen, it is usually baking, which you really need a recipe for. The combination of sugar and flour and leavener needs to be just right, or the texture is all wrong. But pasta is easy to do without a recipe (boil water, add pasta, cook until done, add seasonings and/or sauce) and I knew how to cook chicken from making Chicken Helper. Heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil, season the chicken, cook it for about 6 minutes on each side...I had to cook it a little longer because the chicken breasts were pretty thick. But it was good. Jason and Johnny agreed; we ate all the chicken up.

January 11: Jason and I were both off of work, which has not happened on a weekday in a very long time. We spent the whole day together. Our original plan was to go out somewhere, but it was snowing pretty hard all day, so we went out for brunch and then came home and had a snow fight. I say "snow fight" because it was too powdery for snowballs, so we ended up just throwing handfuls of snow at each other. It was hilarious. I'd never done that before.

In the afternoon, I learned how to jump-start a car. Fortunately, I was in the car providing the jump. My dad's car broke down in the parking lot a few blocks from our house, so Jason and I drove over to help him out. It took a few tries, but we got it working.

Jason and I watched Ninja in the Claw of the CIA. I had never seen a ninja movie before, and after that one I am not sure I would ever want to again. It was incomprehensible, plot-wise, not to mention that it was hard to go longer than a minute without someone attacking someone else. The main ninja (named John Liu, played by...John Liu) had a girlfriend. She was killed by a harpoon to the chest. In the very next scene, he has a completely different girlfriend who was never mentioned before. We kind of gave up on trying to follow the plot after that. Jason says that one was about on par with the other ninja movies he has.

January 12: I have been working on knitting myself a pair of "convertible" mittens--the kind that have a mitten top that you can flip off, with fingerless gloves underneath. Here is a pair in plain grey:

I need to take some pictures of mine. I have wanted for years to make mittens that match my favorite hat (which was handmade from fleece many years ago by a friend) so last week I went to the yarn shop and found yarn in the exact colors in the hat. I have been working on them off and on since I got the yarn, but yesterday I got to the fingers. I know I said I would not count knitting projects as something new, but this is my first pair of gloves. It is also my first time adding color work to a pattern for plain gloves, and I am working the mitten top without a pattern. I have a pattern for gloves, so I just changed the finger measurements so they end at about the first knuckle. I read some other convertible mitten patterns to get an idea for the general principle of how to create the top. I have been trying them on frequently to make sure they fit, so I am confident they will come out the way I want.

I can feel myself becoming a little more adventurous; before I made this resolution I probably would have stuck to something familiar. Time to make dinner? Open up a box of Chicken Helper. Need a mitten pattern? Search for someone else's. Now I am branching out to try things on my own.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Resolution: Jan 7-10

Movin' right search of good times and good news, with good friends you can't lose, this could become a habit...


Note to self: Do not listen to the Muppets while blogging.

As I was going to say: I'm moving right along with my New Year's resolution!

January 7: Working at Mrs. F's daycare again. For the first time, got to bottle-feed a baby. I love working with young kids--I thought for a long time that I would be a good teacher--but actually have very little experience with infants. Up until now, all of the kids I took care of were toddlers or older. Anyway, the little boy I took care of was very good about drinking his bottle. I had to experiment a little bit with the angle and find a balance between enough milk that he wasn't sucking any air but not so much it started running down his chin because he couldn't drink fast enough. Also got to change some diapers, but I've done that before.

January 8: Working at the spice store again. Went to Breugger's Bagels for lunch. Instead of my usual PB&J bagel, I decided to try one of their salads. It was good: lots of leafy greens, grilled chicken, wonton noodles and sliced almonds. It was also expensive. I have noticed that there seems to be an inverse relationship between how much food costs and how good it is for you; my favorite place to go for lunch is the pizza place with $2.50 giant slices. By contrast, my salad was $7.99.

January 9: My birthday! The first time spending it with Jason. It was an excellent day. It was also the first time that he went to my favorite pizza place with us (which was another reason I went for salad on Saturday; I knew we'd be going for pizza the next day). I could tell he enjoyed it, and none of us had been there for a while, so it was really nice. Dessert was Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake (Oreo ice cream and chocolate cake). Another first; definitely something I would order again. I usually ask for vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, but since everyone else in the house prefers chocolate/chocolate, I decided to try for something everyone would like. It was a resounding success. Even my brother, who is not much of a cake person, loved it. As the final icing on the cake (LOL) I checked my email last night and saw that The Dark Crystal had been re-posted to SwapaDVD, which completely makes up for my missing it the other day.

January 10: First time filling out a "fraud packet." I found out last year that I had been a victim of identity theft. I thought it was all taken care of; long story short, this should solve the problem for real. Today I mailed the fraud packet and had it sent out certified. I have been going to the post office a lot lately, sending out DVDs and books (SwapaDVD has a sister site, Paperback Swap, that works on the same principle but with books). Today my first two DVDs from SwapaDVD arrived! I got Ninja in the Claw of the CIA and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The ninja one was Jason's idea; I have a feeling I will be sending that one out again real soon after we watch it. I also requested two books from Paperback Swap. I was incredibly surprised to find them; both books were pretty obscure, but they were available right away. It was nice to find the exact books I was looking for, especially after my disappointment with the DVD selection.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Resolution: Jan 5-6

January 5: My first time attending a Catholic funeral. Jason's grandfather died last week, and I wanted to be there with his family. I had planned on being more of an observer than a participant, but even if I had wanted to follow along I would have been lost. I was able to stand and sit when everyone else did, but that was about it. Everything else moved pretty fast. There was more up-and-down than I expected. As Jason commented, "The best part about a Lutheran service is you don't have to kneel." I think we'll just leave it at that.

January 6: First day at my new job! I know a woman who runs an in-home daycare, and she needs another assistant. I was pleasantly surprised at how much nicer it was than the daycare center I worked at briefly last summer, where they basically put me in charge of the Caterpillar Room. Alone. Yes, it is legal for one adult to be responsible for ten preschool-age children without any assistance. The child-to-adult ratio really makes all the difference; the in-home daycare has more infants and toddlers, where the ratio is 4 or 5 children per adult. Yesterday we had 8 kids and 2 adults, which suits me just fine. The kids are really sweet, too.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution: Jan 3-4

Well, we are five days into the new year and I have not broken my resolution yet. Excellent! Here is what I have done in the past couple days.

January 3: I filed my "Estimated Taxes." Exciting, I know. Apparently I make enough money from my nannying job that I need to report my earnings to the IRS, but since I never filled out any forms to start my job it counts as self-employment, and I need to pay all of the money that an employer would deduct from my paycheck for taxes. I might get some of it back in April, which would count as the first time I get a tax refund instead of having to pay (although it usually works out fairly even).

This was also the first time I had to speak to a Fraud department (completely unrelated to the taxes). Also not fun, but the woman I talked to on the phone was very helpful and this means that we are one step closer to solving a problem, so I will count that as a good thing.

Also, about a week ago I joined a website called SwapaDVD, where you list DVDs you want to trade. I finally earned a free credit for posting 10 DVDs, so for the first time I got to request a movie instead of sending one out. The only caveat is that you are limited to what other people want to trade, so it gets kind of tricky predicting what is available. Jason and I finally decided on a ninja movie, based on the name alone: Ninja in the Claw of the CIA. I wish I hadn't been so eager to use my credit, because less than 12 hours after I requested that movie, The Dark Crystal became available and I lost my spot in line because I had no credit to pay for it. It must have gone to someone else, because the next day I started receiving credits for movies I sent out and Dark Crystal was no longer available.

January 4: I went to Caribou Coffee for breakfast and tried their oatmeal. It was all right, but a little bit more watery than I usually like it. I tried the Maple Brown Sugar; I think next time I will try something different, because that one was too sweet after a while. I also tried their dark chocolate hot cocoa, which was excellent. I don't go to Caribou that often because I don't drink coffee. I'm hyper enough without caffeine.

I also went somewhere new for lunch. Potbelly Sandwiches just opened up down the street from my other job (as a spice girl; no, seriously, I sell spices). I decided to get their pizza sandwich: marinara sauce, mushrooms, pepperoni, and provolone cheese. It was very good. At the recommendation of my co-worker Daniel, I also decided to order a milkshake. It was delicious, but I don't think I will order another until it warms up a bit.

Finally, I got a call yesterday that will hopefully mean I have a new job soon! I know a woman who runs an in-home daycare center. We ran into each other a few weeks ago, and she mentioned that she was looking for someone to help out. I am going over there this evening to fill out an application, and then she wants me to start on Friday! Things are looking up all around. Time to move beyond the past and look forward.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolution: Jan. 1-2

January 1: Let's see. I had my first "kiss at midnight"...very nice. Ahem. Jason and I were together all day, and we rang in the new year by watching all of the original Star Wars trilogy. I had seen the movies before, but this was my first time watching them back-to-back, and the first time with a rabid Star Wars fan. I feel like I understand the story a lot better now. Also, I knew Jason did an excellent Palpatine voice, but until I re-watched Return of the Jedi I never realized how uncanny it is. Jason's Palpatine costume for the 501st is coming along, and I can't wait to see it when it's all finished. Especially because his friend Pat is in the 501st as Darth Vader. Also does an uncannily good voice. The two of them are hilarious together.

January 2: We went to the Museum of Science and Industry, and for the first time I saw their U-boat exhibit. Very interesting; before you actually get to the submarine they have a whole exhibit of WWII history, showing the importance of the U-boats to the war, and how everything depended on the Allies being able to capture one. My favorite part of that was all of the posters: encouraging men to join the Navy, encouraging women to join the Waves (my grandma did!), reminding everyone that "Loose lips sink ships!" Then you get to the submarine itself. You can get tickets to tour the actual submarine (which we decided not to; we already had tickets for the Jim Henson exhibit) and there were more displays around the outside of the ship. My brother Johnny's favorite part was an interactive display of an Enigma, a German code computer that encrypted messages. Johnny sent himself an encrypted message, with the decryption code "NARF." The message? "HOWAREYOUGENTLEMEN" (the Enigma did not have a space bar). Yes, we're dorks. No, we don't care.

The Jim Henson exhibit was probably my favorite part of the trip. I love the Muppets, from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to Fraggle Rock...I am disappointed that Sesame Street has been hijacked by Elmo in recent years, but that is another rant for another time. Henson was a creative genius. They had a video playing with some of his early work, including some excellent commercials with pre-Muppet puppets that he created. My favorite was for a laundry finish called Linit which stars a spray-can puppet named "Sir Linit". I love how he speaketh like he cometh from a Shakespearean play.

The La Choy dragon is pretty good, too.

There were some really interactive exhibits, like a puppet show stage and a wall with, essentially, paper doll Muppets (except they were made from fabric and cardboard instead of paper). Those were, not surprisingly, flooded with little kids. They had some of Henson's original sketches for the puppets, along with a few of the Muppets themselves. Including Ernie and Bert (with Rubber Ducky, naturally) and Rowlf. The Muppets are awesome. Jason's favorite part was right at the end of the exhibit, where they displayed some of the costumes and props from The Dark Crystal. I must see that movie again sometime.

This year is getting off to a good start. More new things coming soon!