Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Lately

1.) We discovered that a local grocery store carries our ultimate favorite, the splendidly delicious Henry Weinhard's Root Beer (and cream soda!).

2.) Dan ran a Halloween 5K, along with 3,749 other people, or thereabouts. He dressed up as a Chilean Miner. He did an awesome job, especially when you consider that he hasn't run since his half marathon.

This picture isn't focused on Dan because I was really taking a picture of the Star Wars dude behind him. As I took the picture, though, I realized Dan was right in front of me.

3.) You know you've lived in Wisconsin when you think that PacMan is really a hoop of cheese with a wedge cut out of it.

4.) This costume was creepy, but strangely eye-catching.

5.) I liked the bouncing udder in this costume. Added some verisimilitude to the costume. Poor cows. (Once, during college, my friends and I went to a diary and helped do the milking. It was quite the experience!)

3.) We're dog sitting this weekend. I'm pretty sure the other dog is going to be sick and tired of Lander's incessant play. I get a little freaked out -- those teeth! those yips! those jumps on top of each other! -- but I'm doing my best to remain calm until Dan gets home. Then I am off duty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sister Sister!

This post is for one of the bravest people I know, my little sister. Although she probably wouldn't characterize herself as brave (after all, she doesn't like rock climbing or heights!), she certainly goes out of her comfort zone. She's been in more countries than I have and regularly tries things that scare her silly -- like zip lines in Costa Rica. Fresh out of college, Joanna decided to use her gift for teaching and her big heart to volunteer with AmeriCorps, in the heart of inner-city Buffalo. She is working at the King's Center and when not at school, she is reaching out to her neighbors. She lives in Buffalo with a group of Houghton alum, and these individuals gather together for shared meals frequently. Yesterday she bought a slew of chicken to make into White Chicken Chili (yum), and I told her that this might be a cheaper way to feed her friends. So this post is for her.

Cheap Chicken

Start with a fryer chicken, which cost 89 cents a pound for me. If you want the chicken and broth to have a little more flavor, you'll also need an onion, some celery and a carrot.

I peel the skin from the onion but otherwise leave it whole. I don't peel the carrot, but I do lope off the top, and the leafy inside stalks of the celery are apparently great for soup.

Next, fill a large pot about 2/3s of the way. Rinse off the chicken (I guess this is an optional step, but sometimes there is gross syrupy stuff that has been injected into the chicken and comes oozing out, so I do it), and make sure you dump out the stuff that they shove inside, like the heart and gizzards and a sheet of fatty yellow fat. (I forgot that once in Belfast!) I'm not sure if one should drop the innards into the pot with the chicken, but yesterday I did (but not the fatty piece). Then throughly wash your hands and bleach the sink.

Then toss in the carrot and celery and onion, and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, set the time for an hour and fifteen minutes, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. As it starts to cook, you'll notice some yucky scum on the top of the pot. I use a spoon to skim it off and I did not take a picture of it. It was yucky, as I mentioned before.

It'll boil happily on your stove, and your apartment will start to smell like chicken noodle soup. Yum.

Once the timer goes off, take two big spoons and wrestle the chicken onto a plate. You'll have to let it cool there for about an hour. Otherwise your hands will be really hurting as you try to shred the chicken. You could always use rubber gloves if you were in a big hurry, but I'd recommend waiting for awhile.

I shredded the meat, discarding the skin and throwing the bones back into the pot of broth. (I continued cooking the broth for several hours with the bones, onion, carrot, celery, and a half tsp of salt to make stock. I probably should have added more water, as I probably made a rather condensed stock, but I forgot. Oh well. Currently it is sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to skim off the fat that has risen to the top, and then it'll be ready to freeze or whatever.) As you can see, I got about 5 1/2 to 6 cups of chicken from a 5 pound chicken, plus at least 2 quarts of chicken stock.

Shredded chicken can be used for a whole variety of quick meals, freezes well, and can be defrosted very quickly. So... do it to it, sister! Love you lots. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Things I'm Considering...

I already revealed my deep desire for my house (or currently, our apartment) to look like it belongs in magazine. It still looks pretty much like it did a few weeks ago and will stay looking like that for the foreseeable future. But, having a lot of time on my hands, I can't help but plan what I might someday buy for our apartment. So here is the current list, with items picked from stores which I would, in reality, probably buy from. Although I absolutely love looking at expensive pieces in magazines, catalogs, and in stores, it won't happen, at least not now.

A cart for our television and DVD player. Our set-up is such that to be watchable, the t.v. has to be pulled out from the wall, in the living room space. However, it looks ugly when you walk in, and blocks the flow of the room. I'd like to buy some sort of rolling cart that we could easily wheel in or out, depending if the t.v. was in use or not. There are plenty of expensive carts, but this one is pretty economical.
Product Image Seville Classics Chrome Mobile 3 Shelf Storage Unit
Fabric Cubes for Storage: Dan made an inexpensive solution to our kitchen storage issues by screwing together several pine boards into shelves, which we then painted white. My crockpot, rice cooker, food processor, kitchen aid, and cookbooks are all stored there, as well as other kitchen essentials, such as ziplock bags, light bulbs, and paper towels. I need some baskets in order to hide some of the essentials that don't look quite as nice as the appliances. I'm thinking these (but perhaps not in bright green):

Product Image Full Size Fabric Bin-ITSO
Shoe Rack: I have a cute, hot pink, back of the door shoe storage thing to corral my shoes. Dan does not. He (we) need something to control the shoe chaos, both in our closet and by our door. This would do the trick.
Sheer Curtains: Some privacy, please! Our apartment is on ground level, so it is really easy to see directly into our apartment. It's only the dog people that are out back, so it's not like we're on a major highway, but I'd still like to have a little more privacy without always having to keep the blinds down. Curtains can be super expensive, but I think these are pretty (and in my price range!). I'd need to hem them, and perhaps would still pair them with a heavier curtain, but it'd be a start.

Carpet: Let me just say, for a brief moment, that I have seen this area rug a couple of times in different magazines, and I just love it (in blue multi). Just do. A rug would help define our living room space better, but I'm pretty sure an $800 rug is out of the question. So, what about carpet squares? I could reconfigure them when we no longer live here, and in any case, I like Martha's take on them.

I also like the look of this for under our table, which is located on carpet, again defining the area for eating.

Any opinions on these choices? My only concern is that our apartment has a very neutral wall color and all of our pieces are in pretty neutral colors -- is it going to start looking boring? Or did I pick enough color in the carpet to help spice it up? Just a query.

And now, I need to stop dreaming, and perhaps start looking for a job. Otherwise, our apartment is going to stay exactly as is. And if does, that's fine: learning the lesson of contentment is ultimately much more valuable than furnishings.

An (unsuccessful) Interview

Even if you have earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching and (as my Grandma B points out) you have some experience, which is wonderful, moving as the school year begins isn't fortuitous for finding a teaching job. As of yet, I'm still unemployed and half-heartedly searching. It's a half-hearted effort because my Praxis score won't be available until 10/19, so I can't get certified to teach quite yet, so I'm not actually very employable. In light of that, I took my mom's advice to look up the closest Ann Taylor store. I happen to love Ann Taylor's clothes -- well made, versatile, and a perfect staple for a teacher wardrobe. Lo and behold, I found one about 20 minutes away, and they were actually hiring!

I drove over about 2 weeks ago and discovered that it is located in one of those new-fangled shopping areas, designed like a small town and with limited (parallel) parking spots which are all metered. Not only can you shop there, you can live there (gasp!) so you can shop whenever you want.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but a job is a job. And the associate's discount is 50%. So I was pretty psyched.

I filled out an application and completed an online survey to determine my "hirability" (their words), and soon after got a call from a manager to come in for an interview. Sweet, I thought. I'll wear some nice (AT) dress pants and the job will be mine.

On the day of the interview, I arrived about 10 minutes early and then flubbed parallel parking. I think I need to go practice with my Dad again. Then I only had one quarter, which only bought me 15 minutes, but I figured it'd be a pretty quick interview. After all, it's a job in retail. It is not rocket science. The customer is always right. That's the main rule, correct?

The first part of the interview was filled with typical interview questions. Tell me a little bit about yourself, tell me about a time when (insert scenario). All of the questions were relatively easy to answer. Although I wasn't thrilled about committing to work the day after Thanksgiving or the week of Christmas, I was cognizant of my need for a paycheck and the perk of filling out my wardrobe.

And then the interview took a turn for the worse.

Interviewer: Imagine a valley-girl, cheerleader*, ditzy voice. "And to work in retail, you have to be a fashionista. So, now I'm going to ask you some questions about your style."

Me: Seriously? Fashionista is a made-up, pop-culture word, you dummy. Okay! Great!

Interviewer: In two words, describe your style for me.

Me: Shoot! I'm not trendy, for sure, and I really only wear comfortable things. Ok, comfortable is a decent word. Comfortable, like, I don't like to wear heels and um..... Oh no, what else can I say? Should I say modern? But that's kind of a lie. What other words describe style? Ugh. Outdoorsy? No no, that's not a good word for AT. How about like organic or natural? Natural! Noticing the woman's strange look, I attempt to explain. Like I like organic fibers and not a lot of synthetics. Sort of. Whatever. That was so the wrong answer.

Interviewer: Slowly says, Alright. Now, where do you find your fashion inspiration?

Me: Inspiration? Oh no. Well the Internet, of course.

Interviewer: Like where on the internet?

Me: You know, websites. And also magazines.

Interviewer: Which ones?

Me: I used to flip through People. Only at Grams and only because it was on the table, but she doesn't need to know that.

Interviewer: Okay. What is your favorite cosmetic product?

Me: Oh gosh, I don't know! I don't really use that much makeup and I just buy whatever happens to catch my eye and use it until it runs out! The only really branded thing I have is... My Clinique moisturizer. It's just so great, lamely attempting to give my answer some merit.

Interviewer: What is one style that you've wanted to try but just haven't had the guts to?

Me: What style? Seriously? I don't know! What IS in style? Anything, Hilary, think of anything that is in style. You haven't tried any of it. Like a flow-y dress with a wide belt around the waist. I think it looks really great on other people but I don't know how it'd look on me. Oh, that answer at least got some recognition. Yes. Maybe I'm redeeming it after all!

Interviewer: What is one product that you never home without putting on?

Me: Oh dear. Back to the slippery slope. I have lip gloss in my purse, or maybe I should say mascara because I do wear that when I do wear make up, but I really leave the house without it a lot of times. Like 90% of the time right now. I don't put anything on to take the dog out, and I sometimes see people out there. I just can't help but say the honest answer.... Chapstick!

Interviewer: Giving me a pitying smile, and no longer even trying to respond to my answers. What are you favorite stores to shop at besides Ann Taylor?

Me: Looking around the room, desperately attempting to recall some stores that are cool and that I own something from. Anything from. The only store I can recall purchasing anything from is Old Navy and Kohls, both of which are kind of like Wal-Mart when compared to AT. Even in my despair, I recognize that these are not stores I should admit to purchasing clothes from in this interview. I remember walking into Gap recently, and in the past I have purchased clothes there, so Gap! it is. And where else, let's see... Hmm, I can't even remember buying new clothes since I've been married**. Oh wait, I did buy something on super sale from Eddie Bauer, and that pops out and then I sink into the floor and disappear and relieve myself from finishing this embarrassing interview.

Oh wait. That didn't happen. Instead the interviewer explained to me that they like to be a "really genuine stylist" for their customers, making sure that they don't only have the top, they have the bottoms and the scarf to make the outfit and so on and so forth. (People actually buy entire outfits in one go? They don't just buy what they need to have a decent wardrobe? Hmmm. Maybe I won't fit in here.) She then ended the interview by saying, "I still have some other people to interview, so I'll be in touch." And then, as I picked up my brown purse, her eyes saw it and my black shoes and I was toast. Just like that.

It's been a week, and I still haven't heard back. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my stellar interview really sealed the deal, and Dan no longer has to worry about me spending my entire paycheck at my place of employment.

*Just stereotyping, sorry if it offends.

**I really have purchased new clothes in the past three years. T.J. Maxx baby! And a couple of times I've visited various outlet malls and found some good deals, but none of this sprang to mind.

Moral of the story: When interviewing in retail, attempt to be current with something. Anything. It might not help you get the job, but it will save you some glowing red cheeks and laughter/tears as you explain your interview to your hubby.