Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Post of Mostly Pictures

Here are some more kitty picures.

JC and Ted playing/fighting:

JC playing with the water in my bathroom sink:

Conner in my bathroom (it's a busy place in the morning):

This weekend Adam and his dad installed the new kitchen faucet:

and Adam put up new vertical blinds in the living room:

Hopefully the cats will leave these ones alone. But if the picture is any indication, that's not very likely.

We also had someone come to clean and inspect the fireplace and chimney. All looks good and we should be ok for the next two years as long as we burn one of those CSL logs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Random Information

When the quote for the wood trim windows came back at almost twice what the vinyl windows cost we decided to wait a little while on that. We could just settle for all vinyl, but with every other window in the house having the wood interior that would only make sense if we planned to replace all the windows. Which we don’t. So for now we’ll bide our time, save up the money, and hope they go on sale again sometime before next winter.

In faucet news, we picked out a nice Moen model, got it home, and only then did Adam notice it wouldn’t work since it didn’t have a line to go to the spray nozzle. Oops. So he returned it (and the hoses that were too short) and picked up a different model (and longer hoses.) It was one I liked anyway and the deciding factor when we picked out the first one had been the price difference. Oh well. Hopefully we won’t be replacing it again for awhile. Adam plans to switch it out with his Dad’s help on Saturday morning.

The rest of the week is pretty dull. Nothing going on that I’m aware of. Work is revving up for another month- and quarter-end cycle. Woo. I’m just hoping the snow has melted enough that I can get to the railcars without tromping through three feet of drifts. Although with the forecast telling us to expect more snow over the weekend I have a feeling I’ll be out of luck on that one.

My weekend plans are equally as unexciting. I plan to try and get down to Sheboygan on Saturday to visit my friend Jess who recently moved back up from Waunakee. I hope to bake some more cookies, or maybe peanut butter fudge bars or chocolate mint bars instead. That’s really all I’ve got. I still am hunting for replacement black dress shoes but so far have not had much luck.

Oh, and a belated "Happy Birthday" to my sister, Catherine.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cat Craziness

Among the strange things that the cats do:

JC has taken to laying in my bathroom sink.

He also enjoys it when I turn the faucet on and he can stick his head under the water and drink it. He especially likes to bat at the water with his paw and get me all wet. Grr.

I assumed it was JC who kept getting kitty litter in their water bowls. Nope. Ted got totally busted.

And Conner. This cat must rub up against everything he walks by. Walls, chairs, the couch, Ted. Everything. It's totally weird.


Our first Easter went well. The bells did ok for the most part. It was a good thing the two pieces we tended to fall apart on were done before the service so hopefully no one was listening anyway. I got home around one and had time to eat lunch, start laundry, and clean up a little before it was time to put the ham in the oven. I was keeping everything simple. I didn’t do anything fancy. I just covered the ham with foil and stuck it in the oven for four hours. I took it out half an hour before it was done and put a honey-mustard glaze over it. That’s it. It turned out just fine.

I also made some “Green Goddess” dip ripped off from the Melting Pot to dip some veggies in.

I used up our remaining boxes of Stove Top from Thanksgiving, baked off some Crusty French rolls,

and called it a day.

Sarah made an awesome cake for dessert

and Katie brought a potato dish (with bacon!) I thought about throwing some beans in the microwave but didn’t end up doing that. It worked out fine. Everyone had enough to eat and we’ve got plenty of leftovers even after sending half the ham home with Sarah. I guess that’s how it’s supposed to work. We ate, cleaned up, had dessert, and spent some time socializing and everyone was out of the house by a little after 7. We are efficient. I’ve still got some dishes in the sink to take care of but that should be a quick task for tonight.

Since there’s no bell practice tonight we’re going to go back up to Menards to possibly complete our window shopping. Measurements were taken last night before dinner so we should be ready to price things out and make a decision. We also hope to get a new faucet for the kitchen. The one we have is not only leaky, but the handles turn the wrong direction. We plan to get a single handle model so I can just use my arm to bump it on rather than having to use my hands. Fun, fun.

In addition to all the Easter stuff and all the normal weekend shopping stuff we also made a trip to Simon’s for the first time in quite a while. Our regular grocery list was pretty short so we figured we’d have some money leftover for some cheese. We also watched a few movies. I think I forgot to mention the one we rented during the week – Sydney White. This was totally my idea as I think Amanda Bynes is wonderful. It had plenty of funny moments while updating the classic fairy tale and is pretty much in line with the movies she’s been doing lately. It’s a classic revenge of the nerds plot. As a nerd, I can appreciate that.

The second movie was another from the Oscar list – Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Not having seen the first Elizabeth didn’t seem to affect the viewing of this film. It covers the time of conflict between Spain and England leading to and including the Spanish Armada debacle. There are a few subplots: Mary Stewart’s plotting and eventual death, Sir Raleigh’s adventures Elizabeth’s attraction to him, Bess’ betrayal, etc. Since this is historically based the ending wasn’t really suspenseful. It’s not like Spain would all of the sudden end up winning. Generally interesting to watch, I was distracting by two main things. First, what is up with the hair? Seriously, it was bad. There were a few wigs that looked like they’d wrapped a Frisbee in hair and strapped it to her head. Secondly, the director/cinematographer seemed to have some obsession with shooting through blurry windows or small cracks that got really annoying. I suppose this has some artistic value but it just bugged me.

The third movie was yet another Oscar list film! I’m on a roll - nine down so far. This one was American Gangster. As seems to be a trend with this years’ movies, this is also based on actual events. It’s the story of Frank Lucas, a black druglord in New York City in the late 60’s. He uses his large family and connections to smuggle in heroin from Bangkok through military vehicles coming from the Vietnam War. Richie Roberts is a detective who is assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency to try and catch the big drug suppliers at the beginning of the “War on Drugs.” As expected the paths of the two men cross. Considering the title of the movie has the word “gangster” in it, there was a lot less violence and blood and guts than I’d expected. This movie is long and almost 2 ½ hours, but I guess it wasn’t torture to watch it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On Politics

Will all the strange stuff going on in the political arena, I figured a post about politics might be relevant. I’ve never really kept my political viewpoints a secret. It should be pretty obvious I stand to the left of the line on most issues. I’ve not been very active in the political arena though. I voted in all the presidential elections (all two of them!) since I came of age in 2000. I also voted in the primaries and one incidental election last year that had the gay marriage issue on the ballot. Other than that I don’t care about local/state election for the most part. I did work the polls during “Kids Vote '92.” I was in 5th grade and we held a mock election in my elementary school for the race between Bill Clinton and George Bush (the older.)

Ignore the Pippy Longstocking getup. It was Halloween… Bush won. Ha. I also voted in about half of the OSA (Oshkosh Student Association – the student branch of government) elections when I was in college. I also sat in the assembly for the French Club before it imploded. (Although it looks like it’s back up and running. Good job guys!) That’s pretty much the extent of my political involvement.

On Ballet...

We went to the ballet last night. Saw some swans and a prince. As planned, we stopped at Sal’s for pizza beforehand. It was pretty busy and Adam got in line as I snagged the only open table. I had forgotten how good the pizza is there. And how enormous it is. The slices are huge! I’d say they’re the equivalent of a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza all in one slice. It’s a thin crust, but not saltine cracker thin. The bottom is crunchy but the top is still gooey. Delicious. They changed from breadsticks to a garlic roll but it’s still a great deal. Huge pizza, rolls, and drinks for under $5 per person. Yum. After dinner we walked across the street to the PAC. We were still a bit early and they hadn’t opened the doors to the theater yet. We hung out in the loveseat like we usually do. We are totally creatures of habit. We got seated in our third floor box seats and read the program to pass the time.

I was suspicious of the prima ballerina’s bio. It says she graduated from their ballet school in 1982. Even assuming she took the fast track and graduated at 16, that still makes her over 40! She didn’t look that old. I’m thinking it had to be a typo, right? In any case, it was a delightful evening of good music and sparkly costumes. If I remember correctly the Youth Symphony played something from “Swan Lake” at some point, but the music is pretty well known even for those without a background in music. For the most part the male dancers were not too distracting. But the principal who played the Prince. Man. He wore white tights that left pretty much nothing to the imagination. Hella muscular legs. Yes, his legs are what attracted my attention. Ahem.

It’s been a while since I watched (or participated in) a dance performance. Considering I spent a decent portion of my younger years taking dance classes you’d think maybe I’d long to get back on the stage. No way. I got tired just watching them hop around. But I figured perhaps I could take this opportunity to look back at my varied dance career:

I’m pretty sure my mom enrolled me in ballet classes so I’d stop “stomping around the house like an elephant.” I admit I wasn’t the lightest person on my feet. While I wasn’t too excited about the tights and leotard thing, I enjoyed the classes. I definitely preferred tap to ballet, but one had to learn the basics of ballet before one could move on to the noise and chaos of tap.

I had many embarrassing costumes.


And I marched in parades in them.

I had my picture in the paper in them (with my mom!)

I matched my sister in them (and look! I was taller than she was at some point!)


I don’t quite remember at what point I stopped taking classes. I think it may have had to do with becoming too busy or getting a job. I really can’t recall. But I hung up my tap shoes and stowed away the crazy costumes. Most of them anyway. Did I ever tell you about the time I wore a cow costume to school? But that’s a story for another time…

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oscar Update

I’ve watched two of the Oscar movies thus far. The first was In the Valley of Elah. Reading the description I was fearful it might turn into another Cinderella Man or Blood Diamond. Luckily this was not the case. The movie is long, but isn’t slow. It’s kind of like an episode of "Law and Order" actually. A man’s soldier son is killed soon after he returns from overseas deployment. When the military doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to solve the crime, the father takes it upon himself to find out what happened. With the help of a detective he collects evidence and figures out who dunnit. It’s at times violent, there’s some blood and guts, but mostly it’s just sad and disturbing because it’s based on real events.

The second one down was Gone Baby Gone. While Evan sympathized with me for having to watch this movie, it wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever seen. Or tried to see. I found it predictable yet still confusing at times. There was entirely too much profanity just for the sake of using profanity. The story itself was interesting enough – a little girl is kidnapped and some private detectives are hired by her aunt to find her after. Similar to the last one really – the victim’s family thinks the cops in charge aren’t doing their best so they outsource. Hmm. Anywho, add in a child molester, a druglord, and some dirty cops and you’ve got some good plot potential. I did what I could to ignore the fact that Casey Affleck is funny-looking. Ed Harris was good as a badass cop, I will say that. Generally an non-extraordinary cop thriller.

Next up is Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I didn’t see the original Elizabeth. Will this affect my viewing of the sequel or will general knowledge of English history see me through?

Easter... and windows

Dinner last night was enjoyable. I’d never been to Beefeaters so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s owned by the same people who own Good Company and Pullman’s so chances were I’d like it. I ordered the chicken wrap. It was great. The tortilla was nice and thick so there was no leakage. The fries had an unexpected sour cream and onion-like taste, but we’re fine. The menu was interesting to study because it used all kinds of British slang. Fortunately it also included a glossary of terms on the back page.

We discussed Easter and it was decided that we’d invite everyone over to our house for the big ham we bought. Alrighty. So this year I got to do a turkey for Thanksgiving and now I’ll be doing a ham for Easter. Progress… We’ll be doing dinner since the handbells play at the 11:30 service. It should all go well.

After dinner we headed over to Menards to look at replacement windows (and like Adam’s mom said, it seems like I live there lately.) When we bought the house we knew we’d need to replace the windows in the two back bedrooms sooner rather than later. The weather-stripping is peeling off and the window in the cat room is especially drafty. So with the weather appearing to turn a corner we decided to start looking at our options and price some stuff out so we can get the benefits of both keeping the heat out during summer and heat in during next winter. I think we’ve decided on the brand and model we want. We just need to get proper measurements and choose a wood type. I honestly don’t really care too much. Adam and his dad plan to do some measuring when he’s over here on Sunday night. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Keeping Busy

This week is shaping up to be an easy one from a menu planning perspective. Monday I had handbells and that always turns into a leftover night. Last night I had IMA so Adam was on his own while I had Chicken Cordon Bleu at the Bridgewood Conference Center. Tonight Adam’s parents are taking us out to dinner at Beefeaters for his birthday. Tomorrow night is our next PAC event, Swan Lake, and we plan to pick up dinner at Sal’s Pizza which is right across the street from the PAC. Friday I’ll be making popcorn shrimp. We’re not sure about Easter plans yet (that’s one of the topics for dinner tonight) but one of the meals this weekend will be taken care of by that. We also got a ham last week so I have that to make for our own Easter meal.

In other aspects, not such an easy week. As you can see, we’ve got a lot going on. Add to that a sinus something or other on my part and some random nausea on both our parts and it’s been lots of fun. I took yesterday off and spent most of my afternoon at the walk-in clinic. I’m not sure why it takes so long to get to the doctor when there’s no one else in the waiting room, but whatever. I got some nose spray stuff that is supposed to break up whatever doom and gloom is occupying my sinuses. We’ll see. I can’t explain the pukey feeling that Adam had last night and I seem to have this afternoon. Bad luck, I suppose. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious because, like I said before, this is a busy week.

The handbells play at the 11:30 mass on Sunday. It will be interesting. The adult choir will be there as well so the balcony will be packed. Well, the whole church will be packed and probably the chapel and community room as well (all those Christmas and Easter Catholics making their appearance.) But we’ll be especially cozy up in the choir loft. During our practices it seems as though there are a few members who are very inconsistent. There are times that everything goes great. Then the next time through the piece it falls apart. I don’t know why this is, but it’s frustrating. Hopefully everyone brings the good versions of themselves on Sunday. After Easter things kind of wind down church-wise. I think we play a few more times since Easter is so early, but things wrap up in mid-May.

There’s nothing else of any significance on the calendar for the next few weeks so hopefully the weather will keep improving and we can start doing outdoor things. The lawn has started peeking through in the front yard but the back yard is still completely covered. The few times I’ve opened the patio door up, JC beelines for it and seems to enjoy the outside noise. Conner creeps toward it but tends to get spooked by something before he actually gets to the door. I haven’t seen Ted over by it, but then again I never see him go into my bathroom but always catch him coming out, so who knows. For such a big cat, he’s surprisingly stealthy.

We’ve still had no luck trying to pet Conner and Ted. They seem to have gotten used to my presence and generally ignore me until I reach out to touch them. They still run away from Adam for some reason. JC has his moods: sometimes very cuddly, sometimes untouchable. He looks very crabby when he’s awakened from his naps. They all still get along for the most part. No one has been noticeably scarred either physically or mentally. I don’t want to give up on the notion of being able to pet the two older cats, but it’s not looking good. We also need to get them to the vet at some point and that might take a miracle. *Sigh*

On the rodent front, everyone is still alive and kicking. We’re somewhat amazed that Howie has lasted this long. And he is as spritely and energetic as ever. He continues to burrow, run in his wheel, gnaw on his log, and be generally psychotic at times. He also still nibbles on fingers. Grr. Gus and Barry just kind of hang out. They both chew on their respective items (Barry’s house is edible and Gus goes through TP rolls like you wouldn’t believe) and run nightly. Gus’ wheel has become pretty squeaky lately so I might have to look into that. Einstein is his same old scaredy-cat guinea pig self. Mo is going through another one of his “you shaved me, I refuse to eat now” phases. But seriously, when he couldn’t even get in and out of his house without flipping it over because his hair was so big, it was time to cut it. He’ll get over it. Guinea pig PMS I tell you…

Well, this has turned out to be longer than I planned. I’ll cut it off here before it gets out of hand.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What's Been Happening Here...

So Adam’s birthday was this past Tuesday. He’s officially older than me for another 11 months. He took the day off, but since I still had to work he spent it alone. He ended up having to go in to work for two hours for some training anyway. Then he went up to Green Bay to help Dave out with some stuff. I left work a little early and we went to dinner at The Melting Pot. We’re getting to be pros there. We know which kinds of cheese and chocolate fondues we prefer and we can order easily. We are also members of the Supple Restaurant VIP club so we got a bottle of wine half price. Adam had a coupon for free chocolate fondue as well. This helped ease the pricey-ness of the place a little. After dinner we stopped at Fleet Farm where I (finally) bought a new mop. I’d been looking for one for a while now but whenever we ended up at Fleet Farm we never had any money. But this time I bought it while Adam got a different mop for the basement. I hope to try mine out this weekend.

Other than that the week was pretty boring. At handbells we continue to work toward Easter on our drastically shortened (by horrible weather) practice time. It should be ok regardless. Nothing we’re playing is too complicated. Although Nancy did pull out the one piece I dislike and actually (unsuccessfully) tried to get voted off the playlist last year. Gah. Wednesday and Thursday were business as usual. Adam fired up the grill Wednesday night and grilled out some chicken. Yesterday was a beautiful day. It got up to 50 degrees and I wasted no time in turning off the heat and opening the deck door when I got home. I even drove home with the car window down. The snow is melting and last night the puddle at the end of the driveway didn’t even freeze back over. We’ve still got a ways to go before we see the grass again, but it’s a relief to see that perhaps spring is on its way. We’re keeping an eye on the basement though. With so much snow left to melt and the ground already pretty much saturated, everyone will run the risk of some kind of flooding trouble. On the bright side, it looks as though something came through and cleared the storm drain on the corner so the water doesn’t sit in one spot anymore.

This weekend should be pretty boring as well. Adam plans to paint downstairs and my plans are nothing special: shopping, cleaning, maybe some baking experimentation. Adam’s parents should be coming back from their cruise and hopefully we can get the Easter plans worked out. I’ve watched only one of the Oscar films thus far (In the Valley of Elah) but Gone Baby Gone is on its way according to Blockbuster.

Remembering France

I found it a little strange when I checked out the UNO “Glories of France” website and discovered they still use the picture of the group I went with back in 2003 on their main page. See if you can spot me (click on the link to see the full-size picture)!

At times I reminisce about the experience. In truth it wasn’t ALL horrible. It was only about 70% horrible. But this year marks the ten-year anniversary of my first foray overseas (as a high school junior in 1998) and the five-year anniversary of the second (the aforementioned UNO study abroad debacle.) I thought for a while perhaps I’d make it a trend, going to France every five years. I know now that won’t be happening, but it’s fun to think about my next trip overseas.

In case you need some help:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ode to My Car

My intention was to go to the Toyota Financial Services website, log into my account, and post a screen capture of the zero balance on my car loan. This dream was crushed when I discovered that apparently when an account is paid off it gets deleted from the site. I checked yesterday and everything was still there. But today, this is what I get:


In any case, the final payment went through Wednesday and the car is all mine. Ah, the things that happen in three years…

Here we are the day I got the car:

As you can tell, I still lived in my (second) apartment in Oshkosh. Adam and I had just reconnected and he actually helped me pick out the car and negotiate the deal. I went into the dealership with my heart set on an Echo. Unfortunately as cute as they were, the Echo wasn’t selling well and was being discontinued. The selection was slim and the wait for a new one was long. So I had to immediately rethink things. The Corolla is the next step up and they had plenty of those. I could even get a purply-blue color. I took a test drive with Adam and Dana, our salesman. He encouraged me to floor it during the acceleration onto the highway. I was delighted by the 5-disc CD changed and outside temperature gauge on the dash. And power locks and windows. Those rocked too.

After we got back to the dealership we talked numbers a little. I had the recent graduate credit going for me as well as a special they had at the time for 0% for three years. I decided to take the weekend to think about it. Adam and I drove down to the Toyota dealership in Oshkosh that Sunday to check out their pricing and selection. Kolosso was definitely the better deal. So I went back and told Dana I’d take the car. He then informed me that although he had placed a hold on the car since I was interested in it, someone else had sold it already. BUT! They looked in their computer system and found another one from Janesville. They went down and got it and that’s the one I got. It had 200-some miles on it when I drove it off the lot on February 28, 2005.

This car was my first major purchase after graduating from college and starting my full-time employment gig at Bemis. It was definitely worth the investment. My previous cars, while generally getting me to where I needed to go (with the exception of that month when I was carless because of a combination of naivete on my part and incompetence on the mechanic/Saturn’s part), were nothing but headaches. I had no hesitation in making a fairly substantial commitment in order to get a brand new car with no sketchy history and an intact warranty. I considered it an investment in my peace of mind. Plus, according to Kelly Blue Book, even in “Fair” condition, the car has a trade-in value of $9,310.

So, here we are today:

I’m now married and own a house in Neenah. Lots has changed, but the car has been completely dependable and a wonderful departure from my usual car troubles. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got people with some knowledge about cars around to look at things if something sounds funny. (Also doesn’t hurt that Adam’s dad works at Kolosso!) And Adam tells me he’ll do my oil changes going forward.

In conclusion,

It’s been nice to have a car that didn’t spontaneously combust on the highway (good times):

Or freak out and require me to keep a foot on the gas pedal at all times or it would die (that’s a ton of fun on a backed-up highway):

Or cause months and months of stress, thousands of dollars, and way too much of my time because of an inherent defective in Saturn’s manufacturing process and the complete incompetence of the mechanic recommended to me (no, I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?):

Monday, March 10, 2008

And now, a PF Post

It’s not that I’ve purposely been slacking off on posting. It’s just not much has been going on here. I don’t want to make boring observations on how the weather is or how I wish people would move on from the whole Brett Favre thing. But with month-end just about past me once again, I find myself with some free time and brain space that I can dedicate to something other than inventory valuations. I also find myself trying to sort out the mess the computer area becomes at the end of the month when I really have neither the time nor the inclination to file things or update the MS Money files.

In strictly financial terms, February was a relatively good month. Not only was it a short month that had 3 pay periods for Adam, we also got both our federal and state refunds along with Adam’s bonus from his previous quarter’s accomplishments. This resulted in income of 175% of our normal (budgeted) salaries. Woo. This allowed for a generous credit card payment and a good chunk was also funneled into our ING account. The rest became some padding our checking account pretty much for my own peace of mind.

I was updating my net worth numbers earlier this afternoon (I can almost wipe out the car loan! Three days!) and out of curiosity (and partially because Bank of American upped our credit limit again) I calculated my utilization rate. Not only was I a little surprised by my total available credit (which includes my personal cards and our joint cards which are really in my name with Adam as an authorized user,) but I was relieved that my overall utilization is just over 30%. This is still kind of crappy, as “They” recommend that you hover in the 10-15% range, but I can deal with it for now. It’s a little uneven in its distribution in that two of my six cards hold 95% of the debt and have utilization percentages of 41% and 74%. I wonder if that makes a difference in my credit score calculations or if they just look at the big picture… Not that it really matters too much right now. I don’t plan any large purchases in the foreseeable future. My next move might be to find a better joint credit card since our Bank of America one, while having an appealing interest rate, sucks in the rewards department. Plus once we pay off the outstanding balances, I don’t plan to carry balances on cards that will accrue interest, so the interest rate doesn’t really matter too much. My Chase Rewards card has decent cash-back rebates but the APR is something ridiculous like 21.99%.

Anywho, for the personal finance junkies among you, some insight into our finances. For everyone else, you’re snoring and you drooled on your keyboard.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008