Tuesday, January 29, 2008

All the news that’s fit to print

Today, class, I will cover the following topics:

Seed catalogs
Job application

Seed catalogs: I received all of my favorite seed catalogs by early January and have already gone through them all to decide what I’m getting. My real find this year was the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, which a fed tipped me off to.

SSE is a network of people all over the world that grow hard to find things, save the seeds, then offer them up in a HUGE catalog every year to other people in the group. With the rate the food industry is going, everything offered in the grocery store is a hybrid now, or a clone, or something. SSE keeps the old seed varieties viable and available, which is a really big deal.

I’m going to be joining the group and will be purchasing from them this year: ‘Triamble’ squash , ‘Guatemala Blue Banana’ squash , ‘Prescott Fond Blanc’ melon , ‘Boothby’s Blonde’ cucumber , ‘Galeux d’Eysines’ squash , and Tom Thumb pea . I’ll also get ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ tomato , unless I can find seedlings somewhere else.

From Burpee I’m getting ‘Walla Walla’ onions and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans .

From John Scheeper’s Kitchen Catalog I’m getting ‘Roc d’Or’ yellow bush beans , ‘Adelaide Baby’ and 'Royal Chanetay’ carrots , ‘Runaway’ arugala , ‘French Gray’ shallots , ‘Panache’ parsnips , and ‘Milano Black’ zucchini .

I already have lettuce, broccoli, kale, sugar snap peas and spinach seed. A few things I’ll have to start indoors, which I’ve had so-so luck with in the past.

Job application: a fed job recently came open on campus, and I’m planning on applying for it. It coincides with another round of BS happening here at my workplace, and it is just time to try again.

The position is a Program Support Assistant with the distance learning section of the Emergency Management Institute. It is not a secretary, but office work is the main thing. The pay range is what I get now up to $10,000 more, but being a fed job the benefits package is stellar.

The application materials are due 2/6, a week from Thursday, and I have a 4-day weekend during which I’m going to try to get my KSAs
done and get a rough draft of my federal resume (many pages) done, and/or possibly the online application.

Matt and I talked about this job at length, because I’m just not sure a fed job is right for me. There are trainings, certain things that as a fed you cannot do, and being FEMA, this job would be on the emergency deployment list. This means that if my name is up when a disaster strikes I could be deployed to said disaster to help out. This could be very interesting in some aspects, but very…messy in others. And I don’t mean messy as in flooding. I mean messy as in 9/11 or Katrina.

When I was a kid, my mother talked at length about the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career.’ Many women, she said, just have ‘jobs’ so they can have kids, putting any hopes of a ‘career’ on the back burner, then find it is too late when they go back to it. The magic of ‘career’ was pushed at me.

I consider my current job a ‘job.’ I don’t want to work in libraries the rest of my life, I dislike librarians quite a bit, and I’m in a dead end job (unless I went back for my MLS *and* one of the current librarians left *and* assuming they’d hire me for that position). It pays the bills, that’s all.

This other job got me to thinking, though. Do I want to make a career out of being a fed? Is emergency management the field for me? Resounding ‘no.’ But is it a good job? Yes. It will pay the bills, and give me a lot more stability than I have now in my contractor’s job. And if I stick with a fed job for a certain number of years, I will have a pension, healthcare, life insurance and long-term care insurance for the rest of my life. That would be starting as early as age 57. Not bad at all. Much better than what I’d have now, which is whatever I can stuff into my 401(k) between now and when I get to retire, which would NOT be age 57.

So, what do I want for a career? I thought about the benefits of both ‘job’ and ‘career’ and decided something: I’d much rather have a life. I want something to pay the bills, and I want to have a life. I want to garden, travel, make jewelry. I want to play with the dog. I want to work on the house. I want to read, watch movies, eat good food out and cook good food in. I don’t want to worry about a career.

Mortgage: when the Fed cut the interest rate last week, I did a quick calculator search for mortgage rates and discovered that, despite the fact that the rate cut in question had nothing to do with 30yr fixed mortgages, we could refinance the mortgage, plus get out a chunk of money from our equity to do some building an still only be paying $20 more than what we’re paying now.

Great deal, so I called our current mortgage company, Countrywide. Yes, the one that has been going through hell with this subprime mortgage fiasco and was recently bought out by Bank of America. Hey, they’ve been doing well by us, we like them, might as well keep our money there. Besides, we don’t have to produce our bank statements, paystubs, etc etc because we already are connected with them.

So, we’ve got the ball rolling, we’ve got a great rate locked in (5.5%), and as long as our house appraises at a specific number we’re good to go. Now we’re just hoping and praying that our house appraises at that magic number, or else we’re going to have to renegotiate the whole damn thing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Core Rhythms and German Food

Thursday and Friday I had off, so Thursday I crocheted a wire and pearl cuff bracelet. It looks really cool, I'll have to get some pictures of it up sometime soon (yeah right). I did some dishes, watched some reality shows online (Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, Project Runway, etc).

Friday I finished the bracelet and started another that I don't like nearly as much. When Matt got home we drove up to Chambersburg to do a little shopping, and I ended up buying the Core Rhythms latin dance DVD set. It is a combination of aerobic exercise tape and dance instruction. They have a warm up, 2 exercise routines, a cool-down, AND a couples dance instruction for 2 different dances on each of the 4 DVDs in the set. I'm loving it.

We had dinner at a Fuddruckers, a place neither of us had been before. Not thrilled. It's a burger joint, and it was just OK. I don't think I'd go back.

Saturday Matt went to renew his CDL drivers license. He was there for over 2 hours. It was hell. Then we went home, ate, and I freaked out because my mom left a message on our machine saying to call her back JUST AS SOON AS I CAN. And when I call, no answer. And they were supposed to drop some stuff off at the house while we were out and they didn't, so of course I assume the worst and someone is in the hospital. When she finally calls back in 4 hours I give her hell. Nothing was wrong, of course, she just wanted to let me know that they wouldn't be up. SO LEAVE A MESSAGE THAT YOU WON'T BE UP, DAMMIT!

I had been talking about an authentic German restaurant in Hagerstown for a while, and Matt decided that that's where he'd like to go for a birthday dinner, so we got gussied up and went. Nice place, physically. Schmankerl Stube is in town, across the street from a hookah place, believe it or not. The owner of the restaurant is from the Bayern region of Germany.

The owner seated us, and we ordered drinks. I got a Weinlaternchen, which is Liebfraumilch (a very sweet, very good white wine) with a shot of raspberry schnapps in it. I mean the shot is in the glass, physically, and you need to tip it when you drink so you get a little wine and a little schnapps at the same time. Tricky. Matt originally ordered a brandy, the waiter tried to get him to order the Louis XIII (115 year aged brandy), then he came back and told us the price ($150 a shot) so Matt stuck with the cheaper brandy.

Matt got some cheese soup, which I tasted and it was very good. They bring german rye to the table with butter and a cream cheese/caper/anchovie spread, also very good. I love heavy german breads. I ordered the chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese, a cream sauce with mushrooms and ham, and served with the veggie of the day and spaetzle. Matt had one of the specials, which consisted of a veal sausage, a slice of pork and a slice of beef with two sauces on the side, some potato salad and the veggie of the day. We finished up with coffee and Schwarzwalder Kirsch Torte for him and Apfel Strudel for me.

All in all, we weren't overly impressed. The food was good - not fantastic - although I have no doubt it was authentic. Our waiter said they have staff from both the German embassy and the Austrian embassy in DC visit regularly. I think it was just not what we were expecting in relation to the price (expensive). I decided after that dinner that if I am going to pay that much I want something a little more exotic, such as Passage to India. I think I would go back for lunch, though.

Sunday I tried the first DVD in the Core Rhythms set...and discovered again that I have no coordination, no rhythm, my hips don't move that way, and I can't move my feet as quickly as they do. But other than that it went well! Thank god it's on DVD, I can just skip back again and again to look at what I'm doing wrong. It will take time, and as I write this I can feel my side abdominal muscles awakening from a loooong slumber, painfully. Great.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I’m stealing this from Tim

1. Can you cook? I love took cook, but I prefer to cook very well, and that can happen only when I have time.

2. What was your dream growing up? To be an archaeologist.

3. What talent do you wish you had? I can’t publish that here.

4. If I bought you a drink what would it be? Sidecar.

5. Favorite vegetable? I’m having a love affair with celery right now, I don’t know why.

6. What was the last book you read? I’m currently reading He, She & It by Marge Piercy. Before that I read ‘View from the Cherry Tree’ by Willow Davis Roberts.

7. What zodiac sign are you? Picease. Piseace. Fish.

8. Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? One tat on my right arm.

9. Worst Habit? Picking my nails.

10. If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride? Only if you were wearing chaps.

11. What is your favorite sport? I love to watch curling, believe it or not. I love to play badminton.

12. Negative or Optimistic attitude? Fairly negative, but not as bad as it used to be.

13. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me? I can’t publish that here.

14. Worst thing to ever happen to you? My parents caught me doing things I shouldn’t have been doing online at age 19.

15. Tell me one weird fact about you. I really really can’t stand about 85% of all women.

16. Do you have any pets? One Yorkie, Max.

17. What if i showed up at your house unexpectedly. What if you did? Come in!

18. What was your first impression of me. Funny as hell.

19. Do you think clowns are cute or scary? I really dislike most clowns. I do like Cirque du Soleil.

20. If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be? Smaller boobs.

21. Would you be my crime partner or my conscience? Depends on the crime.

22. What color eyes do you have? Green.

23. Ever been arrested? Nope!

24. Bottle or Draft?. As long as it is a baltic porter I don’t care.

25. If you won $10,000 dollars today, what would you do with it? Pay off some debt.

26. Would you date me? Yup, but I don’t think it would work out for some reason.

27. What 's your favorite place to hang at? Round Top. At night. With a cappuccino.

28. Do you believe in ghosts? Yes. I bring them cappuccino at night.

29. Favorite thing to do in your spare time? Read.

30. Do you swear a lot? Yes.

31. Biggest pet peeve? People who complain endlessly about things they and only they can change/fix/alter in their lives.

32. In one word, how would you describe yourself? Squishy.

33. Do you believe/appreciate romance? Yes.

34. If you could spend 12 hours with me and ask/do anything you like, what would it be? Go to a gay bar in Rehoboth Beach.

35. Do you believe in God? In a way.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Catching up is hard to do…

In a nutshell: I’ve had off the past two weeks. After Christmas, I cooked, cleaned, cooked, cleaned. New Years Eve happened, then the next day I went to Clarion for a quick visit. I also invited my mother to go with me on a 3-night cruise to nowhere in August on the newest Holland America ship that debuts in July. This caused much consternation in their and our household. I came back to work. For more detail on all this, read on.

The long bits: My break was nice. It seemed long at the time, but short looking back on it. I’m not sure how that happens. I tried out some new recipes, including a chipotle-lime crockpot chicken. My new favorite ingredient is now canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Holy cow are they good. I also did a small rack of lamb on new years day, which Matt said was better than the rack of lamb we had on our cruise, and that is a high compliment. It was very good, served with a rosemary/roasted garlic compound butter. Mmmmmm.

On January 2, I drove up to Clarion. Took me a little over 4 hours, not bad. Weather was great, but it had snowed and the campus was a sheet of ice. Wasn’t it always? Ah, the memories. They are building, and I mean big time building on campus: 2 new dorms, a new science center, and a new cafeteria. Yes, all at the same time. I knew about it all, but I didn’t realize they were doing it all at once.

I stopped in to visit with my old boss at University Relation, Tom. He told me that Ralston and Campbell dorms haven’t been used in 2 years. Both because they don’t have sprinkler systems, but Campbell also had asbestos, apparently. These are the things they don’t tell you in the Alumni Newsletter. The state has been pushing all the state universities to have their dorms retrofitted with sprinklers (this is going on around the country, too), but the universities are finding it cheaper just to build new dorms and tear the old ones down. Ralston is currently being used as office space, but Campbell is sitting empty.

I met Doc E at Michelle’s coffee house in town, we spent a couple hours talking. He’s doing well since he retired, he needs surgery on his shoulder due to an injury. He’s hoping to move to Vancouver towards the end of the year. And he’s really glad he retired. We talked politics, religion, and environment.

Backtracked to DuBois to visit with Tim. He treated me to dinner at Dead Lobster, then we went to his friend Trixie’s house. Nice people, fun kids. She was stressing due to a wireless network that didn’t want to be set up. We made it to his place late, the roads were fun and snow packed. The next day Tim treated me to breakfast and we went shopping. Bought some wine, bought some glasses, bought some dip mixes and a soap and some tea and some kitchies and some candles.

The trip home felt longer than the trip up, I stopped off in Huntington to give the car a break and eat something. I got to Greencastle at dusk, which was what I was hoping for.
Over Christmas, I discovered that Holland America’s newest ship, the Eurodam (*HATE the name) was going to do a 3-day Introduction cruise out of NYC over Labor Day weekend. It is the first cruise for this ship out of a North American port (It will be doing European cruises through July and August) and it should be quite a thing to behold: VIPs, media, critics, and all the stops will be pulled out for this short trip.

Mom has been wanting to do a cruise, but she’s concerned she won’t like it, or will have seasickness problems, etc, and I thought Hey! This looks like a perfect opportunity! Also, her birthday is in August and she’s retiring this year, so it all fits. So I suggested it to her. She was thrilled.

And then I told dad about it.

Have I mentioned how controlling he is? No?? Well let me mention how controlling he is. He is a control freak. He hasn’t had a paying job since the mid 80s. Mom has been working full time since then. The money that comes in, he controls. She’s ‘not allowed’ to spend money without telling him, which at one point led her to order her favorite perfume via money order and have it sent to my house (she didn’t tell me about it until after it was ordered. In hindsight, I should have sent it back.)

So, back to the cruise thing. For 10 minutes, all dad could do is make excuses as to why she probably wouldn’t be able to go: she may not be able to take vacation during that time; that money would be their fall vacation money, and if she goes they wouldn’t be able to take a vacation together; she will be retiring around that time, and blah blah blah. It went on for 10 minutes.

Keep in mind he recently spent $1000 on a new 46” flat screen HDTV that they didn’t need.

The anger I have been feeling towards my dad rivals the anger I had for him when I was in college and didn’t speak to him for 2+ years. I can’t even describe it. I have been wavering between telling them to forget it and paying for her myself, but decided that their dysfunction is not my responsibility. Let them work it out.

Dad finally caved, and in the email he seemed most worried about us being safe in NYC. Gimme a break, it’s not like we’re going to be walking the streets. NYC is safer now than it has been in decades, in terms of crime rate.

I’m still very angry at him, at her for letting it get to this point, etc. I can’t imagine what her life will be like after she retires, all her time will be managed by him. I know it is a bit of a generational thing, but….I cant’ even put into words what I’m thinking. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about it.