This Should be Interesting...

My friends and I are doing a reading group, and our subject is the recently released and much buzzed about book, "Marry Him - The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough."

The premise of the book appears to be the advice I was given about ten years ago and dating with mixed, but mostly disappointing results, "Claire, lower your standards!" I argued that I didn't want to find myself rolling over in bed one morning, years from then, and thinking to myself, "Man, I really lowered my standards." But author Lori Gottlieb is said to take the position that,"maybe she and single women everywhere, needed to stop chasing the elusive Prince Charming and instead go for Mr. Good Enough."

This group should be interesting in that two of us are married, for one and two years respectively, one is dating seriously and another is single.

The Amazon package arrives tomorrow. My friend and co-worker asked that I leave her copy on her desk...but put it in an inter-office envelope, since this is not the book you want your co-workers seeing on your desk.

(Gottlieb's article in Atlantic Monthly is here, if you wish to add an opinion for our book group to discuss.)

Best Laugh Today

The person I've probably laughed the most and longest with over my lifetime is my sister. And it had me giggling uncontrollably when I skyped Juliet this morning and saw she'd somehow turned herself into a kitten. "Do you know that you are a kitten?" I asked.She turned into a corgi and then a cartoon character until she figured out the Skype plug-in. It was hilarious.
I'd love to find it for myself too. The kitten even furrowed its brows as Juliet tried to turn it off. So cute.

Week Away

The week's absence was thanks to a business meeting in Orlando. There were days spent in the usual windowless conference rooms, the surprisingly cold weather, and a couple nights out. One night we were at "Downtown Disney" which is an essentially commercial strip with Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, and other stores. I was one of the few who stole away to go up in the Disney balloon. It was about the only thing to do, and of course I'm up for adventure. Turns out a tethered balloon is more jerky and scary than a real hot air balloon because the tether jolts you back to earth when the helium tries to carry you higher. From the balloon we could see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I'm ready for a real hot air balloon sometime soon. There were also other "team building" shennanigans like a photo booth with a supply of props. I love photo booths. (Still a highlight from Juliet's wedding reception.)

But I'm very happy to be home, and I had the very best cab driver on the way home, who even stopped at the end of the ride to write down his favorite Indian restaurant on Devon Avenue and what he recommends ordering.

Kindle Kid

On Valentine's Day, my credit card was turned off for "suspicious activity."

The day before I had run to GameStop to pick up last minute extra gifts for Jason, after he had given me the heads-up that he had wildly overspent the spending limit we'd set for each other. Now, I suppose a girl can't argue with her husband's generosity, but it did put me in a bit of dilemma. Quickly remedied though, since Jason had just days before mulled three possible games but walked away with none.

For me it was indeed a Kindle for a Valentine's gift. To think, when I met Jason I had dial-up internet and no cable tv. Now it's a smart phone, Tivo, and a Kindle.

After accidentally buying a book I already owned, I am getting better at electronic reading. I just ordered my custom holder, in a pretty green fabric. I confess the Kindle did come in handy when I was one of the few lonely office workers heading home on the late Friday night train. It will also save the choice of a book for the plane being often based on what I have in paperback and less than 200 pages.

But I will have to get used to a book that needs charging!

(And I'll still probably read real books.)

And for Dessert...

Sidelined from my usual busy-bee chore list by a cold this past weekend, I was trying low-key home activities, like baking and cooking.

In addition to the filet mignon dinner, I also baked up some two-tone banana bread. Banana bread from scratch, with chocolate ribbons and I added walnuts too. It was delish. So tempting that there was already a little nibble missing from the loaf as it was left to cool on the wire rack. Suspicious. To his credit, Jason 'fessed up but likely because it couldn't be blamed on our "food-motivated" cat, since Teedie has a bizarre but consistent aversion to bananas.

The recipe suggests serving it smothered with Nutella, and I like that lots.
Jason also crafted a nice plate of banana bread, two scoops of vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce for our Sunday night dessert.

I'm Just Mad About Saffron

True Value Paint offers the "What Color are You?" quiz...which is far more credible than those Facebook quizzes that are often misspelled and just silly. But yes, ultimately it's as useful as a horoscope, but at least a momentary amusement.

My color?

You are quite the powerful thinker. It’s this talent that allows you to overcome a plethora of great obstacles. Luckily, this doesn’t affect your ego and you give off a pretty easy-going appearance. You enjoy the finer things in life and also have an attraction to art. If you can help it, you try not to rock the boat. But you also can’t stop yourself from searching for new ideas, methods or styles.

Jason is grey: Open-minded is the perfect way to describe you. In fact, people often marvel at your ability to try new things. Gentle, relaxed and self-assured, Gray people have the valuable ability to be everyone’s friend. Touting an eye for the aesthetic, your skill for working well with others often leaves others feeling jealous.

Valentine's Dinner

This Valentine's Day weekend we laid a little low, attributed somewhat to the gift of a cold that Jason gave me recently.

We cooked dinner at home, using one of the many filet mignon recipes I've been tearing out and saving for years. Accompanied by a big bottle of good beer: I selected Cooking Light's Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce. There was a small hurdle when I couldn't find beef consommé in the grocery aisle, but beef broth was a workable substitute. Although I was a little worried when the pan initially looked full of mushrooms in raspberry sauce. With a quick 5-minute side of Green Giant Steamers peas... voila!Plates ready, we settled down for an episode of "Mad Men" on Blu-Ray.

The Rub with Rub-a-Dub-Dub

The matter of guest bathroom soaps has crossed my mind...when I'm not considering things that really matter in the world like relationships, work, money, and taxes.

Giant bars of soap are not ideal because they are intended for multiple uses, and as a houseguest I confess to balking a little at using someone else's bar soap. Especially if I suspect they (or their last house guest) are the type to navigate the bar into all the nooks and crannies to thoroughly scrub up. An admirably detailed approach to hygiene...but you just don't know where that bar's been!

Three solutions are available:

1. Steal soaps from hotels for re-purposing at home. (As an aside, hotel soap humor.) A way to avoid this looking cheap would be to find classic retro soaps like these.But that might leave my guest standing naked, wet, and hesitant in the shower wondering how well soap ages and if it's still safe for use.

2. Mini soaps. How adorable are these goat's milk soaps? (Yes, yes, they are from etsy. Just consider me your personal etsy shopper.) The hazard here is that a groggy houseguest could possibly mistake that you have kindly placed breakfast out for them and eat the soap.You also run into the problem of very polite guests who feel that the soap is "too nice" to use. (I might be that guest...but I wouldn't tell you.)

3. Bottled soap and shower gel: works great for the countertop, but in the shower it will require a washcloth, loofah, or shower puff. That's a whole other post since I was once the guest offered a new, unused shower puff who instead poured the shower gel in my hands because I knew the shower puff would be just thrown away after just one use, and that seemed a waste.

(In case you are wondering, our current approach is mostly stolen hotel shower gels, but I've probably forgotten to offer guests a this is likely not really working so great. But they too have been too polite to point out the shortcoming.)

A Bookworm's Journal

This is a cute way of bringing childhoood favorites into utility today. (And Beverly Cleary was one of my favorite authors! Particularly the Ramona books.)A notebook made with a recycled book, with pages from that old favorite nestled inside, ready to surprise you during your day. On etsy, where else? It's called "upcycling" and it's here and here too!

Snuggle Time

They are far from comfortably fitting in, but Teedie and Piper insist on trying to snuggle into their bed together. (We call it their raft.)

Despite the purchase of a dog bed, which is big enough to allow room for two, they haven't really taken to it.

Cats are so inscrutable. And in our house, spoiled. We've decided not to tell them that someone declared February 20th "Love Your Pet Day."

Getting Our Due

Not much to say. My second job as a condo board member/real estate salesperson / mortgage broker has eclipsed much of my mental space and free time. But there appears to be a fat check in the mail for our building, the result of over 6 months of pestering a bank and their attorneys. If only there was a commission I could collect! (Sadly, legally Condo Board is a voluntary, uncompensated position. Thankless, too.)

I don't know if the letters I recently wrote to Tim Geitner, Neil Barofsky (Special Inspector General, Troubled Asset Relief Program), Elizabeth Warren (Congressional Oversight Committee for TARP), my two senators and house representative had anything to do with it, but I'm hoping they might work some magic on the other units in our building. If not, the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can expect to hear my important points about the bank bailout and how none of it's made it into our condo association's hands:

Guaranteed Rate Mortgage, which previously approved a loan in our building, now states they can’t approve a mortgage for a couple expecting their first baby next month because Fannie Mae’s rules dictate no more than 15% of the units be delinquent on assessments. The great irony is that my contact on one of our delinquent units, introduced himself as representing Fannie Mae. How can Fannie Mae ask for a low rate of delinquency as approvers, but at the same time be contributing to the delinquency as owners?

It's a Catch 22 situation with the mortgage companies:

1. Units can't sell without an approved mortgage.
2. A mortgage can't be approved with 15% delinquency
3. Our attorneys advise us that banks will not —are not required to— address their delinquent assessments until sale. Return to #1.

I'm going to get this building in order... just in time to move into a house where I own all four walls, pay my mortgage and be done.

And if I can distract Jason from voting on the exterior, it'll look like this:

It/They/He/She is Out There

This is one of my favorite ads, illustrating the amazing power of the internet, specifically ebay.

That you are missing that one special thing, but someone in internetland might have it, waiting for you, waiting for that little spot on your wall/shelf/mantle/neck or foot.

When I was little we were traveling for one of my father's conferences (ironically, I now attend these kinds of things), and while Dad conferred, Mom took us around town. Maybe it was San Francisco? I remember our stopping and having a street artist make me and Juliet both little gold necklaces, scripted of our names. Months later somehow I lost the necklace. I thought it had fallen off while we were in Toys R' Us, so Mom drove us back and asked the manager. Nothing had been found. I ruefully wondered who else would even want a "Claire" necklace? We looked around the ground where we thought we'd parked. I felt I'd lost a very precious, very special adornment forever.

But probably 20+ years later, the internet might replace my little treasure.Custom script gold necklaces, from etsy.

More than the necklace itself, I think I loved my mother not being angry, but instead being attentive to my concern to find my little lost necklace. Even if she thought (knew?) it was a lost cause. I wish I could tell her I've found it again!

Pottery Can Make Me Sigh

Pottery is so wonderful, and it's when I look at websites like Pigeon Toe Ceramics I realize that it can make me sigh to myself.

Simple.Down-to-earth.Smooth.Calming, just like the cream that goes into your coffee with these little creamers.And even clever, like a pot called Marisupial.

A Pinch of Organization

I don't need too many cookbooks, being only a very occasional cook. On the occasion that I have the time, the ingredients or the planning done. Most of my recipes have been torn out of magazines and usually kept in plastic sleeves in an old binder. It was a little non-descript, utilitarian, and disorganized, so this weekend I took an idea from blogger Prudent Baby to pretty it up.

Beginning with the pages of last year's Paper Source catalog, I made tabbed dividers.The labelmaker helped me sort the recipes into Salads & Apps, Soups & Sides, Entrees, Desserts & Drinks, and Breads. I made a couple extra tabs in case my cooking skills and portfolio expand. This tab might have been a good one for a fish section! The designs are so pretty, I'm a little sad I didn't think to get their calendar for 2010. I wonder if the shop may have any leftovers?The octopi (from July) are my favorite. The recipe on the left pre-dates the plastic sleeves, as the chocolate spots make evident. Flipping through my recipes, it seems like I've been tearing out filet mignon recipes for years, but yet have never made one. You may expect a steak dinner post in the future.
Or a post about my decorating the more-often used take-out menu binder!

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