28 August 2006

Newsy Chat

The work on the house continues with new draperies in the living room and a huge load of junk... i mean useful stuff foisted off.... i mean 'donated' to Freecyclers in the area here.

Meanwhile, I have had some spare time & found that I really like to comment on blogs that talk about news stories. So I thought, "why wait for someone else to blog the good stories?" Thus, Smukke-Speak was born.

I'll continue to post here about 'adventures' and my personal life. But my thoughts on what's happening out in the crazy world... that's all for Smukke-Speak.

10 August 2006

Makin' dough

Once upon a time, I bought my dad a bread-making machine. I thought he might enjoy having a gadget that did something fun & easy. As I understand it, he used it 2-3 times, then set it in a corner to gather dust. Now, mom & dad have sold their house in preparation of moving into a new one they're building, and they are trying to be good about throwing away stuff they have not used in more than 10 years. Thus, the bread machine has come to be at my house.

Calling a device a "bread machine" makes it sound as foolproof and easy as a "coffee machine" or a "vending machine." You put something in the machine, and you get some other intended thing out of the machine.

Unfortunately, the bread machine is not a coffee machine. If you put the ingredients in it and set the timer so you have hot, homemade bread first thing in the morning, you may well wake up with an overwhelming smell of oh so ymmy bread, only to find that what is in the bread machine is a lump of bread-like stone.

"Yeast," mom tells me, "is the culprit."

Bread is not coffee. It is not chocolate chip cookies, and it is definitely not a frozen chicken pot pie that you can pop in the microwave for 5 minutes & eat up. That's because it contains yeast, a mystical substance that thinks I keep my house too warm and Houston, in general, is too humid. Only under exactly perfect conditions will it deign to rise, and then only if you praise it lavishly for doing so. Thus, forget about letting it stew all night alone.

As with most good stories, this one is a bit of an exaggeration. My first loaf of bread from The Thing was small but tasted pretty darned good. The loaf that's in there now smells like heaven but doesn't appear to have risen worth beans. In another hour, I will know whether I have a rock or a loaf of yummy-bread.

The way I see it, the bread machine is just a technological reminder that we are somehow less capable than our forebears. My great-great-great-etc grandmothers baked bread in ordinary ovens. Or over campfires. Or on rocks. They gave birth without epidurals, and they washed clothes in the river. I have a "bread machine," a grocery store full of fresh live yeast packets, yeast boosters and 'bread mix" boxes. I live in an air-conditioned house with electricity and running water. But I can't make the lazy dang yeast rise up off the couch.

The bread does smell good, tho. Mmmmmmm!

ADDENDUM: The photo is the actual bread. It did rise into a happy little loaflet and it is not hard as a rock. Whaddya know? My ancestresses got nuthin' on me!

06 August 2006

Tax-Free Chaos

This weekend is Tax-Free Weekend in Texas. Apparently this happens every first weekend in August, as the state graciously agrees not to collect sales tax on clothing to encourage parents to boost the economy by buying new school duds for the kiddies. Most stores add to the savings (and the lure to the mall) by putting everything on sale.

The nice thing is that it applies to parents & even singles like me. The catch is, that you have to get up at 0-dark-thirty if you want to avoid the chaos of a million mommies with 2.3 unleashed kids each.

So I was at the mall early enough that there were still parking spots in my 'favorite' parking section. I have a Speed-Shopping technique that basically involves taking one of everything presentable, and trying it on. I'm very happy to say that none of the stories I shopped today had any crazy ideas about "limit x items per fitting room," because there's pretty much no way I could have accommodated that sort of limit in my Speed-Shopping technique.

The technique usually results in purchasing about half of what you try on, because that's about the fraction that actually looks as good on a lumpy human being as it does on a hanger. Having arrived at the store fairly early, I managed to get checked out with no line, no waiting. (Cha-ching! There goes $300.) However, I had such a large bag of goodies that I didn't want to carry it over to the next store in the mall, so I went out to the car in the now-full parking lot where a line of cars followed me as I walked, hoping to snag my parking spot. But I wasn't leaving... just loading the trunk...

At the next store, I managed to find another pile of "needed" clothes; then I found a lovely Brighton belt (ok, that one was a special treat). At one store I tried on a lot but bought nothing because I could not justify buying any $89 items (not on sale!) when I had just filled my bags with complete outfits for less than that. Plus, some of their cutest items were more than $100 -- thus not qualifying for the tax-free deal. Go figure: I'm a cheapskate! Anyway, I'll watch for those items now in the store's outlet.

I have promised myself that the result of this trip will be a closet-cleaning of all the stuff that I have moved 2x from New York and then Phoenix because "I might need it in my next real job." Mom brilliantly points out that in Houston it's unlikely I will need the 30 heavy wool sweaters that I have stubbornly refused to give up "because I love them." And since I have not had to wear a suit for any reason since I started here, I can probably Freecycle most of those, even tho they are "pretty" and "expensive to replace."

Anybody have any other favorite excuses for not getting rid of stuff that you have not worn for 10 years? heh

By the way, my maid, Ruby (the Roomba), has vacuumed 2 rooms of the house while I've been writing this. Seriously, I love this thing.

01 August 2006

Just a small brag

I'm vacuuming my excellent new floor & rugs while I am typing this. Or, rather, my Roomba is vacuuming while I type. This morning, it did one half of the wood floor space while I was in the shower. Now it's doing the rest. This is the coolest toy EVER.

I'm thinking that maybe my Roomba needs a name. Feel free to offer ideas. Meanwhile, I realize I have never offered up a photo of my not-so-new Mini Cooper (purchased in May -- oh it's ancient, right?) and so ... here she is. She does have her personalized license plates now: Sunny 6. (Texas only lets you have six characters, and someone already had just plain "Sunny.' Go figure. One of these days if she can stay clean long enough, I need to take a picture of her with the plates. The problem with keeping her clean is that Mini brake dust is apparently extremely attracted to Mini wheels, and they are always dirty, dirty, dirty!

Here's another view of Sunny with all her Mini pals, at a Houston Mini Motorists' Society meeting at a go-kart track. The place was very cool & let us drive our Minis in for photos before we did some good, competitive karting. Did I not ever write about how much fun we had there? (It would have been fun even if I had not won my races...)