Friday, June 29, 2012

Here's another sight I saw on my bike ride today.

A painted turtle on the asphalt with his legs tucked in his shell

Google says it's a painted turtle. I actually stopped for this one, unlike all my moving pictures from yesterday's post.

And then when I was done sticking my butt up in the air to the likely amusement of the passing cyclist whose shadow you can see extending across the path in the background, I removed the sight to the other side of the path, since I felt like he was in a hazardous location.

I love turtles. They're my favorite type of animal to rescue, since you know there's almost no chance of them biting you while you're only trying to help.

Not the case with spiders, of which I found a gigantic one in my bathtub when I got home. I got out a jar and hoped it wasn't a jumping spider. It wasn't. I put it outside.

Glad you have stopped by to read this disjointed account of my afternoon. Thanks, and keep your eyes open for the exciting sights life brings!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bike Ride

I rode my bike to work on Bike to Work Day. In fact, I ride my bike to work every day except when it's raining in the morning (and also when it's below 45 degrees out). And it is awesome.

Some downsides are showing up to the office sweating all over yourself, and having to carry extra clothes because you just can't bike in long skirts or heels, but the upsides are so many more! Whether you normally drive or take public transportation, in case you were on the fence about biking to work, here are a few of the top reasons why you should do it!
  • Get your daily exercise and commute at the same time
  • Rush hour doesn't slow you down
  • You can ignore traffic lights whenever they inconvenience you
  • No driver's tans
  • Run on your own schedule, not the bus's
  • Eliminate all the time wasted walking to the bus stop and waiting for the bus
  • No parking costs
  • No car maintenance costs
  • The scenery
The following are a few of the sights I see on my ride back home from work.

I get to pass by beautiful flowing streams, through wooded glades, beside amazing wetland habitats, across quaint bridges, and even over a boardwalk!

To be fair, this is the longer of two routes between work and home. If I want to take the short way, I have to mostly travel suburban streets and a few harrowing intersections. The second, while longer, is just as fast thanks to two fewer street crossings--and it's exquisitely scenic and ends on a downhill slope instead of an uphill like the other one!

Even on the days when I'm completely worn out from the gym and can barely pedal up the hill to Baltimore Ave., I still appreciate the aesthetics of my bike ride home. In case you're curious, here it is!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It would be less painful if I just hired a career counselor.

Sometimes, I think that men only come into my life to give me a push in the right direction--frequently a career direction. Once they have sufficiently advanced my skills, interests, or prospects, they are gone.

My first two boyfriends didn't do much in this respect, except maybe to get me used to having boyfriends, so that when future boyfriends came along, I would be open to their influential effects.

My third boyfriend, though he probably didn't even know it (That was you, Geoff. Thanks), played a significant role in me going into Web design. Although, by the time I met him, I had already dabbled a little bit in HTML, he had dabbled more. I was so impressed by the stuff he had made on the Internet, I knew I had to get better at it! Maybe I wanted to impress him a little in return. But that was to no avail. Before long, he was gone.

My fourth love interest of non-boyfriend status was a software developer. He was technically a Java guy, but since his company's product was delivered over the Web, he necessarily spent a lot of time creating front-end stuff in HTML. He is the one who taught me how to write and test my own JavaScript code, which I loved almost as much as I loved him. Until he was gone.

My fifth guy, of unofficial boyfriend status, came into my life and promptly attempted to be me. I showed him the basics of HTML, and he became obsessed and bought books and books on web development (function, not form). He spent hours ceaselessly working on these bloated sites that had lots of techy features and looked awful. I was offended because he was encroaching on my domain (and had in fact overshadowed my scripting abilities), so I attempted to uphold my status by creating sites that didn't look awful. At that time, I was studying Publications Design. From him, I mainly learned to hold myself to higher design standards and not just create useless things because I could. As you can probably guess, we had a pretty strained relationship. But soon he was gone.

Six and Seven probably would have had some influence on my life choices, except that neither would commit to anything, so I kind of bounced back and forth between them for about a year. They were completely at odds with each other in terms of career-and-lifestyle effect, thus concurrently canceling each other out.

The one who finally did get through to me with job advice was my eighth love interest and fourth (and current) official boyfriend. When I met him, I was run ragged by my two low-paying jobs, whereas he worked a flexible schedule, could work from home once a week and take a day off every two weeks, was paid 60-some thousand dollars a year for 40 hours a week, and got paid vacations and sick time. And he still complained. Compared to my work, his was heaven. If heaven wasn't good enough for him, then I really had it bad. He encouraged me to apply for jobs with the government, and so I did. I ended up with a job in state government, which is not quite the same as his federal job, but still comes with a lot of the benefits I sought.

Now that I am stably employed and unlikely to go back to the world of two part-time jobs, it looks like my boyfriend's work here is done. He just recently got a job offer in California. Figures. He's served his purpose as career advisor for Valerie, and if the past is any indication, the next logical step is for him to soon be gone. I wish it were not so, but what you wish and what you get are so rarely the same in the world of love and the lack thereof.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Carol's Cookies: Chocolate Chip

Every cookie company has a chocolate chip cookie, and for this review, I'm reviewing Carol's Cookies. You may recall I reviewed her Toffee Crunch a while back, and while I found it (not surprisingly) crunchy beyond my tastes, I gave it mad props for its price.

The chocolate chip cookie in this line is equally cheap (and I happened to buy it on sale for a deal that makes the original 5 star rating look puny) and just as flavorful.

In fact, the buttery flavor was even stronger in this cookie than in the toffee crunch. It was so buttery that I (who prefer the taste of margarine over butter) kind of wished it were taken down a notch.

Texture-wise, these seemed even crunchier than their toffee-crunch counterparts. Or at least, on my first crumble test, a significant chunk of the cookie did fly across the room. They did, however, have a gritty sugary texture that I associate with raw dough, and thus find quite pleasing.

On the whole, while some aspects of this cookie were better than the toffee crunch variety, others were worse, and I feel that, with chocolate chip cookies abounding as they do, I'm certain I can get a better one elsewhere.

The Bottom Line:
Taste: 4 stars
Texture: 3 stars
Price: 5 stars

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Name That Rabbit

My rabbit's vet appointment was postponed til Thursday, but I'll announce his name today anyway, just as promised.

Fireworks poised? Marching band at the ready? Can I have a drumroll, please?

My rabbit's name is Hansel. After a week of contemplation, a more fitting name I cannot find.

At the time of my last post, the other two candidate names were Apollo and Sparky. Apollo was considered because lately I have an obsession with ancient Greek names. If my rabbit had been a girl, he would have been named Andromeda, but since he is not, Apollo was the next best choice. A choice, however, that didn't last, since my fluffy little bunny with his liquid brown eyes just couldn't live up to the tough, manly connotations of a name like Apollo.

Sparky made it into the runnings, because for the first couple of days, every time I looked at him, that was the name that popped into my head. However, it never quite sat right, and it stopped popping into my head once I lit on Hansel.

It was shortly after I reluctantly admitted that Apollo wasn't going to cut it that I started actively trying to think of alternate names. Real people names that are slightly less common than Joe and Bob. My philosophy has always been, if you can't have ancient Greek, you might as well take German instead! So Hansel came after brief consideration of Friedrich and just plain Hans.

Originally this name was chosen simply because it was less dog-like than Sparky and more innocent than Apollo, being mainly associated with a child in a fairy tale. However, as I thought more about the name, I realized it worked on several more levels.

Hansel, brother to Gretel, is perhaps best known for demolishing a good portion of a gingerbread house (and we're talking life-size gingerbread house, here, not one you put on your mantel at Christmas) with no other weapon than his teeth. Rabbits are also well known for their teeth--specifically, their penchant for embedding them in anything and everything they can reach. One of the early names I considered for my orally fixated pet was "Boca," the Spanish word for "mouth," but I decided that word was too feminine. Hansel, then, does due credit to this trait without emasculating its named.

Rabbit eating broccoli with a backdrop of kale and lettuce
Hmmm, not as good as gingerbread, but I guess I can make do.
Hansel the fairy tale character's second claim to fame is being the originator of the "breadcrumb trail," which actually failed to get him and his sister home (so it is quite ironic that this phrase is used to denote the trail of links at the top of web pages to help you get back to where you came from). However, before Hansel was reduced to marking his path home with such fleeting markers as food, he used pebbles, which worked without a hitch. Thus Hansel is revealed to be a clever, spunky boy, as my rabbit certainly is (You should see the way he evades my efforts to herd him into his cage when he's out).

But the true genius of this name wasn't revealed until I read this Facebook comment from my father:

I think in consideration of the fate from which you have saved the rabbit, that you should name it Stew!

In case you are a little rusty on your Brothers Grimm, Hansel of the story was imprisoned by a witch, and held in a cage to fatten him up in preparation of cooking him in...what could be loosely interpreted as a stew! And just like my rabbit, Hansel was saved from this fate by a beautiful, genius female—me! OK, in the story, it was his sister's quick thinking that was responsible for his escape, not a series of changes of ownership as in the case of my Hansel, but still there are quite enough similarities to justify his name.

Next step: Teaching him to answer to it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cottontail Tale

Ever since the resident cat in our house was shuffled off to the sunny South, I've had a vague yearning in my heart for a pet.

My upstairs housemate's dog is, with his begging and farting and habit of tossing my garbage all over my room, actually worse than no pet at all.

Last Thanksgiving, I visited my boyfriend's friend's apartment, which was inhabited by an enormous lop-eared rabbit. When I saw the rabbit wandering freely around the house, just like any cat would do (to my astonishment—I had previously believed that rabbits lived in cages and that was that), a rabbit became the new pet of my dreams.

But still I waited. I didn't want to risk getting another animal that would hate the dog as much as the last cat hated him.

But as the Law of Attraction and my former landlord state (in approximate terms), when you want something, it will come to you.

I visited some former coworkers last Sunday and found a rabbit grazing in their backyard. One of them had acquired it despite a "NO PETS" policy (capital letters and all) on their lease agreement. Without relating the whole boring story of the discussion among housemates I witnessed, regarding this new addition to their household, I am still sure you can guess how the rabbit came to be mine.

I brought him home with very few supplies and even less information. I spent that first evening reading about rabbit care on the Internet. I had no idea where he had come from, how old he was, or whether he had ever been to a vet. I later learned that he had been raised for food (food! He is the friendliest rabbit I ever met! How could anyone want to eat him!?) so I doubt he's been neutered. My first action as a rabbit owner was to buy a bag of hay for him to eat. My second will be to take him to a veterinarian.

When I got him, he was living outside (bad, because rabbits need socialization and a safe haven from predators) in a dog crate (bad as well, since the sides of the tray are not high enough to keep any kind of litter within it) with a vegetable crate inside it for shelter. He came with no food bowl or water bottle, and no food either, since his new owners had just been feeding him vegetable scraps from the store where they work. I've rigged up some supplies from the thrift store and around the house, but he definitely needs a better home, and soon.

For exercise, I'm letting him run around on my screened-in porch in the evenings, but I want to housetrain him.

When the bunny first arrived, I thought the dog was going to die of excitement, but over the past few days, he has calmed down to just mild curiosity. The two met face-to-face today and handled themselves gracefully, but for one overeager bark.

My third action as a rabbit owner is going to be to give him a new name. His name was Red, but he had only been Red for a couple of days, so I figure he won't mind another small change. I've been waiting years to be able to name something after all, and I'm not going to miss out on that opportunity! I have a list of three candidate names, and I promise to have selected one of them by his vet appointment on Tuesday.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wendy's Macaroni and Cheese

A few weeks ago, my father, a regular reader of this blog and well aware of my MacaroniQuest, sent me a link to an article announcing that Wendy's (a hamburger joint I stopped eating at after I became a vegetarian) was going to begin serving macaroni and cheese! Obviously I'm not the only one who thinks macaroni is a newsworthy subject.

I had my opportunity to try it out yesterday, when my boyfriend and I, looking for lunch after a long arduous shopping trip, found ourselves sharing a parking lot with a Wendy's.

The macaroni and cheese wasn't listed on the menu, although there was a huge sign proclaiming its availability as a "signature" side dish. Always the side dish, never the bride, is my macaroni. Since my boyfriend paid, I didn't notice the price, although the article states it is "around" $2.49.

It's been a long time since I've been to Wendy's, and their Frosty offerings have also expanded considerably since then. From nothing more than chocolate soft serve, Frostys now come in chocolate and vanilla, plus several flavors of shakes and parfaits! We couldn't resist ordering a strawberry shortcake parfait, which was about as good as you can expect from a fast food restaurant, but... this is about the macaroni! Sorry for the digression!

The macaroni I received was plenty to satisfy my appetite, and with our total meal coming to a little under 8 dollars (the BF ordered chili cheese fries, one of the other two signature sides), I have to say you can't beat the price.

There was real shredded cheese on top of my macaroni, and gooey cheese sauce under that. The noodles were big. If I have one complaint, it was that the noodles were much too soft—rather along the lines of the mushy noodles that come in minestrone soup, which I never eat. It's probably worth noting that the chili cheese fries were soupy.

I give the meal a happy noodle for finally finding something I like at a hamburger restaurant, another happy noodle for the real cheese topping, and a big ol' sad noodle for the mushy pasta.

1 happy noodle1 happy noodle  1sad noodle