Thursday, December 29, 2011

Liz Lovely Cowgirl Cookies

So yummy I couldn't even wait to take a picture before I started eating 'em!
As promised long ago, I am finally reviewing Liz Lovely's chocolate chip cookies, also known as Cowgirl Cookies.

I'll let you know straight off that I'm pretty impressed. Just as advertised, they are soft and chewy and very much like cookie dough, right down to the crunchy little sugar crystals that definitely complete this cookie's appeal. The chocolate is tasty, and pretty soft as well. But what makes these cookies better than cookie dough, is they are completely egg free, cutting my risk of salmonella poisoning right in half!

I bought these at my store on one of the last days I was eligible for an employee discount. They were $3.59 for the two-pack, which equates to $1.80 a cookie, or about 2¢ a gram. And with these cookies, a little goes a long way. Normally, when I buy cookies in a 2-pack, I eat them both at once, but something about these cookies makes them quite filling. When I opened the package, I only finished one cookie and was satisfied, saving the other one for later. "Later" ended up being today, when I followed my lunch with the second cookie. Although my lunch was small, I'm totally full! So if one serving of these cookies is half the price of the package, they're a pretty good deal!

The bottom line:
Taste: 4 stars
Texture: 5 stars
Price: 3 stars

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Living in the present

Once upon a time, before I was mercifully removed from the dating scene, I went on a terrible date that ended with me in tears. Well, about half of my dates ended that way, but I knew in advance this particular dismal finish was coming when my every phone conversation with this potential match left me full of contempt for him and his persecution complex. He was always mad at someone who had slighted him--the last one, of course, being me. I should probably forget this traumatic experience with someone unworthy of my further consideration, but I can't, because he was such a jerk! He was one of those "nice guys" who's so bitter about how the world has treated them that they have forgotten how to actually be nice. So periodically, when I want to get mad, I think of him and his idiotic notions about "the past."

He was angry, about contracts and liability clauses and the legal system  and modern businesses, and basically just the whole world in general, and he wished we would all go back to "the good old days," when men were gentlemen and you could seal a deal with a handshake.

Well, I thought that was daft. People have been cheating each other since the beginning of time, and no determined crook was ever stopped by a handshake. So maybe modern contracts and legal documents are a tremendous hassle, but at least they let you know where you stand.

Since my good sir was not so specific as to state which era he looked back on so fondly, I was forced to conclude he meant the worst of all of them. But seriously, what was "good" about any of the "good old days?"

It surely wasn't the public health system. Who would really want to live in a time before the discovery of bacteria, when people regularly died from minor infections? Nowadays we can get treatment for anything from a debilitating condition to a minor annoyance. Back then, they didn't even have aspirin.

I certainly wouldn't want to go back to any social system in the recent or distant past. What's cool about child labor? Segregation? Treating women like baby-making machines? Buying and selling other humans as slaves?

I feel fortunate–blessed, even–to live in the present. Though some pessimists out there are convinced we're all heading to hell in a handbasket, I'm convinced I'm living in the greatest era to have ever existed!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pleasure before business

Despite my first official day at my new job not being until January 2, my new coworkers were still kind enough to invite me to their holiday party, held today at 1:30.

While I am loath to attend parties, I knew this one was vital to my future social success, so I sucked up my fears and RSVP'ed yes. I bolstered my enthusiasm by allowing myself to wear a pretty swell outfit that will no doubt make an appearance in The Unfashionista blog sooner or later.

Surprisingly, the party was pretty enjoyable. I think I'm going to like my new coworkers! Even during the first part of the party, when eating and conversation dominated the activities, I didn't feel a touch of social anxiety. And once the organized games got into full swing, I felt perfectly at home. Ahh, organized games. They take the edge off of any social occasion. I am happy to be joining the ranks of what seems to be a pretty nerdy group (to whom silly games are an acceptable segment of the annual holiday party). Hooray!

It didn't hurt that I actually won one of the organized games! I was initially disheartened to learn that most of the games seemed to require a certain threshold of coordination (aim, dexterity, etc.) which I utterly failed to reach. But I have stubbornness to spare, and in the game where the object was to hold two candy canes on your fingertips with your arm out parallel to the table until it collapsed from exhaustion, I won! Yeah! Five points for Valerie!

I also learned two delightful things about the University that were hitherto unknown to me. (1) All employees of the University receive their own iPad, to use as long as they remain employed by the University. My iPad was presented at the end of the night in the form of a very rigged grand prize drawing. Woohoo! I've been thinking maybe it's time to get myself a tablet, and now I don't have to think about that any longer. (2) Staff of the University get a Christmas vacation! It may only be a week, but I was expecting a maximum of one day. So if I last a full year here, I get a free vacation in the bargain!

It should also be mentioned that at the gift exchange (wherein the gifts were selected by the prize committee, making it something other than an "exchange"), I received a tin of chicory coffee and French donut mix, plus three strands of Mardi Gras beads. I traded the coffee for a roll of "cosmic" duct tape. (It looks like orange tie dye). I love the new multicolor duct tapes, but would never buy them because they are more expensive per foot than the regular duct tape, so I am quite excited to have received a roll for free!

I topped off my afternoon by shelling out 400 dollars at the auto mechanic (cringe. Moving along before I think about that too much) and then swinging by the house of my favorite former coworker, where we traded stories about the last 4 days, and I picked up my bag of ravioli that I had left the last time I was there. It was a good way to spend my afternoon.

My mood at this moment can only be described as "expansive." I think I'll top off this delightful day with an episode of Doctor Who!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In case you were wondering

The most recent episode in the Bedbug War has proved inconclusive.

I finally scheduled an appointment with the bug sniffing dog late in November, but the first available appointment was December 8. So I spent two agonizing weeks waiting for my answers. December 8 came and went without the arrival of the bedbug dog, and I was finally informed at 5:00, after waiting 4 hours, that my inspector was sick and my appointment would have to be rescheduled for December 14. Another week. I believe my subsequent Facebook post sums up my feelings pretty well:

I have been waiting for 2 weeks for thing #3--an appointment that was supposed to be today between 1 and 3. Then when I call at 3:15 to find out why no one has come, I am told the technician is running late and it'll have to be between 4 and 5. Then I get a call at 5 to tell me that the technician is sick and can't come until next Wednesday. So he suddenly got sick between 3 and 5? Bet he just didn't feel like working late and decided to screw me over. If one more person flakes out on an appointment or takes over a week to do what should be done in a day, they will experience my wrath. And by wrath I mean hysterical crying.
Thing #1 was my car, which I dropped off for some recall service last Monday and have yet to receive back. Thing #2 was my doctor appointment, which has been rescheduled for tomorrow.

Today was the big day, and my inspector appeared very promptly shortly after nine, along with his rather excitable yellow dog. Not a bloodhound, for those of you who were wondering. More like a retriever of some sort.

This dog charged around the rooms of the house, sniffing and jumping and generally enjoying himself immensely. Unfortunately, what he did not do is pinpoint the location of any bedbugs. The inspector noticed he seemed to have extra interest in my bed, so he took some time to peel off some of the tape and inspect the cracks.

On one of the strips of tape, he found a dead second-stage nymph. I had a look at it. It was very small and had no identifiable legs or insect-like features of any sort. I was rather appalled, because those things could have been all over my room and I never would have noticed. It looked like a fleck of dust, really.

In the rest of the house, the dog turned up nothing. But the handler seemed to have a little trouble encouraging the dog to do a thorough inspection, as the dog seemed to prefer to charge around and enjoy himself.

In the end, the handler imparted some wisdom. I can no longer remember his exact words (And he told me his memory is bad because he spent some time in Iraq. I thought it would be impolitic to inform him that my memory is always like that, and I've never been near Iraq!) but the gist of it is as follows:

Normally in a situation where you have had bedbugs since August, you would be seeing more signs of them. Even if you've been doing self-treatment as we have, you should see some kind of evidence of the bugs' presence, as self-treatment is not particularly effective. His personal recommendation was to watch and wait, as he wouldn't want us to spend "bookoo amounts of money" (his exact words—I remember that much) on a problem that's not really there. It's probably not worth paying for extermination at this point.

I've been feeling pretty bug-free since putting down the diatomaceous earth around my bed, and I wouldn't mind living like that for the indefinite future, as long as I can put my clothes back in the closet. On the other hand, if a new person wants to move into the house, I will probably have to disclose my potential insect situation, which could make finding renters a bit of a challenge. I'll ask the landlord if he's willing to contribute some cash towards bedbug eradication. He says it's not his problem according to the terms of the lease, but it will be his problem if I move out and he wants someone else to move in. If I'm feeling brave and/or masochistic, I might remove my diatomaceous earth and see if the problem gets worse.

After the inspector left, I looked again at the nymph he had found taped to my bed frame. I looked at it again with my pocket microscope. I am fairly certain that it's just a splinter of wood.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You wanted levity? Maybe next time you'll think twice before complaining about my "teary" blog

In the past, I have occasionally been known for my mastery of sarcastic wit, but never for my quick wit, which is why it takes me, on average, a whole year to come up with two jokes.

Because good things take time, my annual outpouring of hilarity must necessarily be the epitome of greatness—and thus, deserving of much attention and renown.

And so, on this, the momentous occasion of 1 year, a couple of months, and a few days since I last unleashed my brilliant sense of humor on my unsuspecting readers, I hereby present you with two spectacles of comedy the likes of which have never been laughed at before. Probably they won't be laughed at after, either.

Let the drumroll begin.

This first story is about my ganglion cyst, the topic of much blogging here in Val's Galorious Galaxy, and finally the punchline for a joke (is it bad to tell your audience what the punchline is before the joke? Perhaps there is a reason why I'm not on the comedy circuit...other than the fact that two jokes a year do not for a happy audience make).

So if you read this blog, you're probably well aware that I like to complain about my ganglion cyst a lot—and you're only seeing what I bother to put in writing. Basically from the moment it first bulges out of my joint capsule to the moment it finally subsides back into a semblance of flatness, and all the uncomfortable moments in between, I am whining about how painful my cyst is, and how I wish it would leave me alone. Apparently all this griping didn't sit well with one of my readers, who, in the midst of one of my cyst rants in the recent past, killed me dead in a fit of pique (bet you didn't see that coming!). So I was, by this point, quite incapable of dispensing retribution for my untimely demise, but fortunately my lawyer was there, to take care of me in the way that only lawyers can. Said lawyer, sensing the opportunity to avenge my death by means of a protracted lawsuit against my murderer, elected to do no such thing but instead make a tidy profit by publishing a brief memoir about the whole affair. The title of the memoir? Cyst and Decease.

Commence awkward silence.

Well, this is great. You know, I love you guys. If you enjoyed that long-winded joke, you'll probably love The Story of Zookey the Penguin, and Mr. Frank and the Giraffe, both of which can be found on the soon-to-be remodeled Val's Galore website.

For those of you with shorter attention spans, I have one more joke which might hit the spot. Here goes!

How many Hindu deities does it take to plug in a lightbulb?

One, since many hands make light work.

Now that I have unloaded my arsenal for the year, I'll look up these humor nuggets to see if someone beat me to the punch...line. But whether they did or didn't, you should know that these jokes came straight out of my own head. And if that means you want to give my head a wide berth from here on out, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A New Hope

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
Oh, that's a different new hope. Let me try this again.

Not too long ago, in a Galaxy that was actually, well, this one, I made my sad farewells to two jobs I've known and loved. Despite all my sentimental attachment, though, it was clearly time to move on. Here's why:
  • Driving a scoop through a compacted brick of raisins is not exactly easy on your wrist. Nor is using all your weight to press down the arm of a heat sealer hundreds of times a day. After several months of a ganglion cyst appearing, disappearing, and reappearing on my wrist, I think it's time to give up the joint-stressing work.
  • Spraining my back twice in a year was no picnic either.
  • With my God-given clumsiness always at my side, work was an incessant series of accidents and injuries. You'd think after several months of spilling trail mix everywhere and scratching my arm on the metal shelf grates, I'd be used to it. But every time it happened, it only made me more angry.
  • It took me a year, but my body is finally OK with getting up before sunrise almost every day. Including Sundays. Unfortunately, I have to go to bed at 9 to make it work, and that is putting a serious dent in my social life. Not that I want to be out gallivanting late at night on a Saturday, but if I want to keep my friends, it's something I have to do from time to time.
And at my other job...
  • Only one thing: I spent three years in school studying design. Yet when my employer needed to produce a publication this year, they outsourced it to a design firm—which apparently re-made our logo from scratch rather than asking for a usable image file, and couldn't even be bothered to use Garamond instead of Times New Roman, resulting in a logo that looked like it was designed in Word 95. The organization might have left me out of this process because I'm spending all of my allocated hours doing other tasks, but my allocated hours were only 20 a pay period, and I know I had asked in the past if they could increase my hours, so—well, the short story is I'm offended, and what better reason to quit a job?
OK, there is one:
I'll be making almost twice as much money and working 10 hours less per week!

This seems like the best way to gain the free time I had desired since the beginning of my job search, and this alone is a good reason to change jobs, but other reasons include:
  • Free membership at University Gyms!
  • Pre-tax payroll deductions for public transportation!
  • The chance to dress up for work rather than having to always dress down!
  • My own office!
  • Tuition remission at the University of Maryland (and you know what else that means? Student discounts)!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The End of an Era

I'm starting to have separation anxiety.

For six years – the entire time I have lived in Maryland – I have worked for my store and my nonprofit. I've had my ups and downs with both jobs, and thought about quitting many times, but never have I actually done it.

As the moments until my last day at the store tick down, I'm starting to feel sentimental.

I love my coworkers. I love how we can act all ridiculous around each other and that's OK. I love how all of my bosses heap praise on me for the simplest little accomplishments. I love how I can cry at work and everyone just knows that's normal. I love working for two different organizations with a strong environmental ethic.

I love that when I have an idea, I'm almost always allowed to run with it. I had so many ideas for my nonprofit that I never had time to implement. Working half-time, I always had so much on my plate that I wished there were two of me so I could actually get something finished for once. Now I'll never have a chance to finish any of it. Excuse me while I get a little maudlin.

And a little scared.

Sure, these people hired me. Based on an hour-long chat and a couple of bookmarks. But what if they don't like me once I'm there? Sure, in the past I've garnered myself a reputation for being a stellar employee, but I've become so complacent at my current jobs that I worry I've lost the energy that drove me to be good at them. And of course I'm afraid for my social life. It took me years to get comfortable with my co-workers at the store. How long will I be awkward and reserved with the new ones? And how long will I be getting their names wrong?

I get a little teary-eyed thinking of the comfortable existence I'm about to leave. Here are some of the other things I'll miss:
  • Bringing home free vegetables almost every day
  • Getting exercise and getting paid for it
  • Talking to coworkers without having to ask those awkward get-to-know-you questions
  • Being able to play my bizarre music at top volume and having coworkers who appreciated it (or at least were willing to indulge me)
  • Setting my own schedule part of the time, and having a fairly flexible schedule the other part of it
  • Having ample time to do my shopping on the weekdays when the stores aren't busy
  • Being able to walk to work in under 10 minutes
Let it be said here and now, that while I leave my present jobs, it is not for lack of love—just a lack of enthusiasm for the low pay and draining time commitment. Employer and Employer (which I still hesitate to name lest some intrepid Googler discover something I'd rather they didn't), you will always have a place in my heart!