December 31, 2003

 frost, fashion, FM�

that's what my car looked like this morning as i hopped in, late and wanting to get a move on. at least the defrosting delay enabled me to take a pretty picture.

and in case you're wondering, we do still have heat in the house... so no photos of frost on the bedroom windows. yay. it's going to be a couple more weeks before i get the new unit installled... i still have to decide who i want to do the work. i'm not feeling mentally strong enough to make that call yet, so i'm finding other things to do to amuse myself.

pinky and i apparently had some sort of mind meld last night, because i felt a strong shopping urge as i was driving home. oddly, it was sears that was calling me. i've had some luck with sears in the past, but lately i've had way more success with hecht's, lane bryant, and nordstrom.

anyway, i finally gave in to the voices in my head (like it's really that hard to keep me from the mall) and -manoman!- did i score! 4 beautiful blouses and 1 bra (i just couldn't stand that other one any more)... all for $60. rawk! the sale rack had my name all over it. it was a thing to behold. maybe pinky was sending me some of her retail luck and i didn't even know it.

that just goes to show you, though... always listen to the voices in your head. always.

did i mention that i got ray a telescope for christmas? he left me a note this morning saying he saw 4 of jupiter's moons late last night and that it took his breath away. how wonderful is that? i smiled thinking about his delight.

i needed to get my car inspected this morning. (yes, i'm cutting it close...) at the advice of a co-worker i stopped by the nearby 'snappy lube' to get it done. of course, everybody and their uncle was also sneaking in under the wire, so i ended up sitting for about an hour (not very snappy!) in this ultra-cramped waiting room watching the ellen degeneres show with a half-dozen women. (the men all opted to wait outdoors and hover over the mechanics.)

one of the women had a southern accent so thick i couldn't understand what she was saying. and she wanted to say a lot. she tried to engage me in conversation several times and i just half-smiled and turned my head back to the tv. another woman brought in 2 children and proceeded to spoon-feed the smallest right there on the filthy floor. the other woman wanted to talk about good deeds and jesus to anyone who would listen.

i won't be going back there again. children, jesus and southern accents all frighten me terribly. thankfully my car passed inspection (i always worry a little; it's getting creaky) so i won't have to go back.

i did like the 'ellen' show, though.

i volunteered to take 2 shifts at work tomorrow. new year's means very little to me. it's likely that ray & i will just stay in tonight and watch a couple of 'sopranos' episodes with a bottle of wine. i might as well help out my co-workers who have plans (and are planning on hangovers)... so i'll be doing the double-shift from 11:30-4, playing classical music, then from 6-8 i'll be playing jazz vocalists.

don't they say that what you're doing on the first day of the year is a good predictor of how you'll spend the rest of the year?

guess you'll hear me on the radio a lot in 2004.

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December 30, 2003

 the blog gods have spoken 

goodness, the blogs gods are powerful. i just typed up the story about mom and the suspicious email and next thing you know i get this in my inbox:

> Hey there Christa,
> Your Mom is doing great, even though having to drive on the left!
> She tried to e-mail last night after she was out snorkelling and adventuring
> in general, but web-email-host must have been swamped or doing some work
> on servers at the time, as she couldn't seem to do much more than log on. I
> couldn't get on either yesterday.
> Best to you and Happy New Year,
> Tim

he also left a phone number where i could reach her. (it actually sounds like a neighbor's phone, who is willing to run down to the cottage to give her a message... doesn't that sound lovely?)

but, jeez... my mom... snorkeling!!

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 pass the tylenol 

i have a headache.

i've had one since we got back from florida. i guess the stress of real life just kicks right back in, doesn't it? right where i left it. oh, joy.

so in the last 24 hours i've not only gone back to work, but i've also called 2 furnace companies (still trying to nail down what i want and where i want it), the gas company guy has come to schedule the line to be run to the new furnace, i've made an appointment with my orthopaedist to have my left wrist checked out, i've taken mimo to the vet to have his mouth-stitches looked at, i've paid bills and balanced my checkbook (not a pretty sight), bought a 2004 calendar for my daytimer and imported all the pertinent info into it, and gone to the grocery store.

still on the list is getting my car inspected, writing thank you notes, and shipping my mom's 'extra' suitcase to her.

speaking of mom, i think she's contributing to the headache and doesn't know it. she's in the islands right now. anguilla. i need to look that up on a map... i have no real idea of where she is. (besides on a beach, most likely.)

anyway, over christmas, while she was in florida with us, she used my computer a couple of times to send email to friends. once or twice she'd send something that would arrive at its destination totally blank. i saw at least one of her friends write a note back saying, "hey, dork, this was blank. resend it, if it's that important."

so i really shouldn't be freaked out right now by the message i got from my mom last night. all it said was "help" in the subject line. the rest was blank.

now, if i didn't know this quirky thing about her mailer's tendencies to delete text from her messages i'd be freaking out a whole lot more than i am right now. but still... i did send a message to her friend tim (who she's staying with) just to confirm that she really doesn't need help.

so, where's that tylenol?

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December 29, 2003

December 25, 2003

 merry christmas!

there's nothing like having a boyfriend who waits until christmas eve to buy your present.

still, he did a really good job. i guess procrastinators often feel the pressure of a deadline and really come through the the clutch:

he got me a white gold & diamond bracelet.

also a pneumatic nailer. (brad nailer, finish nailer and air compressor.)

good boyfriend.

edited to add:
here's the photo, for those of you wondering what this lovely piece of jewelry looks like:

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December 23, 2003

 monday & tuesday 

the last couple days have been a whirlwind. i don't think i can even try to re-create how i've spent these hours. lots of visiting with old high-school friends of ray's, rob & lulu arriving for a day (and all of us hanging out at an oceanfront condo overnight), the wessel-family christmas present exchange, more visiting with ray's friends, lots of phone calls to our cat-sitters (who are still unfortunately dealing with mimo's diarrhea), some more shopping and wrapping....

and i'm just exhausted right now.

it was so incredibly great to see rob & lulu, though. they drove all the way from tampa (after just getting off a plane from denver) to visit us for a day. you know, it just wouldn't have been christmas if i didn't get to see my brother. i'm truly grateful for those hours.

also, it was a nice gift exchange this year. usually mom goes way over the top with her gift-giving, but because she flew in she was limited in how much she could bring. it made this a really nice, much more low-key christmas.

plus, mom really loved the beach over there at the condo. i think it mellowed her out a little. we spent some time walking on the shore this evening, picking up shells, and i think she was just really mesmerized by it all. (lord knows in new mexico she doesn't see hardly any water!) i saw her sitting in the screened-porch at the condo this afternoon, just staring at the waves.

time for bed. i wish i had the stamina to push myself to write in a little more detail, but my eyes are ultra-droopy.

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December 22, 2003


today we went to wild oats... a wellspring-like store where ray's oldest brother works. we took along one of ray's high school friends and had lunch... delicious panini sandwiches. then we went next door to toys'r'us to look for a christmas present for ray's 3 year old nephew. he ended up getting an electronic drumset, which i'm sure little danny's mother will be thrilled about.

we also plodded through the mall for a while, even though we weren't really shopping for anything. i did score in the mega-chain record store, though, with 3 cheap cds: judy garland, peggy lee and jimmy durante.

afterward, the 3 of us went to ray's sister's house, where her family was just getting ready to have a beef-stew dinner. we joined them, and -damn!- was that some of the best stew i've ever had. lots of wine in the gravy, and her husband threw some chorizo in along with the beef. very nice.

afterward we shot some pool on their screened porch and had some fruity vodka drinks. we then took ray's friend back home and then ray & i headed out to the orlando airport to pick mom up... she flew in from las cruces, new mexico.

it's late now... i need to go to bed. this was a really fun, agenda-less day, but i'm pooped. tomorrow rob & lulu fly in to tampa, then drive directly here to visit us overnight. i suppose we'll have the wessel-family christmas then, so i have to finish wrapping some presents before they get here tomorrow.

mom told us that she saw a bumper sticker today that said "vote for someone else." i like it!

she also said that she's dating someone right now that's only 2 years older than my boyfriend.

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December 21, 2003

 happy friggin' holidays!

we're in florida. it took us about 12 hours to drive from durham. we can usually make the trip in less time than that, but ray was having a weird reaction to one of his contact lenses so we stopped 4 or 5 times while he dealt with that, then another couple of stops for food/pee breaks.

the weird thing is... every time we stopped we encountered someone who was rude to us.

well, it actually started before we even had the chance to stop... when we went to pick up the rental car. we pulled in and didn't know where to park. we were trying to figure it out when one of the employees started shouting "you can't park there! move your car!"

sheesh. it's like we just insulted his mother or something, the way he was talking to us.

then we stopped for a sandwich at a subway along I-95, and the teenager who was making ray's seafood & crab sub was pretty grumpy. as he began telling her what toppings he wanted, she looked away and started gabbing with a co-worker. when ray stopped and waited for her to re-focus on her friggin' job she noticed that he was a little miffed and she said, "i'm sorry [though she clearly wasn't]... i'm in a bad mood." and when ray said, "well i wish you wouldn't take it out on me," she spun around and walked off. lovely.

finally, we were excited to spot a steak'n'shake for dinner, but mid-way through our meal (we both got salads! what's up with that??) ray noticed the floor was totally filthy behind the waitress' station. smashed french fries, used napkins, unidenfied gunk.. it was pretty unappetizing. so ray mentioned it to our server (alas, another teenager) and she offered no apology, but rather a lame excuse about how hrt shift was about to end. whatever.

ray got so miffed at her reply that he actually started scanning the restaurant for a broom so he could clean the mess himself. he was thinking "that'll show 'em!" but you know.... she's a teenager. 'nuff said. her job to her is like a paid social hour. so after a few minutes someone did sweep up, and i'm secretly glad that ray wasn't able to find any cleaning implements... because by this point in the day --being totally fed up with random strangers' rudeness-- he could have totally gone nutso with a dustpan.

i can't figure out what was causing the world to be angry with us today. there was a ton of traffic on the roads, so maybe that had people stressed out. or perhaps the holidays are finally wearing down everyone's pleasantries.

or maybe it was because we were driving a big-ass rented SUV.

i rather suspect it's the latter.

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December 19, 2003


ok, i won't be going with bolton.

the dude barely peeked his head under the crawlspace, he didn't ask questions about my current problems with the unit, and he hardly even looked me in the eye.

plus, he said he wouldn't be able to get a quote to me until AFTER CHRISTMAS.

good lord.

so i'm down to accu-air or griles at this point.

Posted by xta at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


the heating saga continues. this is boring for a lot of people (probably you, too), so apologies. i just want to get this down and out of my brain before i forget it.

larry from accu-air was here this morning. good lord, the man likes to talk. but the things he says are smart and considerate. larry showed me brochures for trane & amana package units (and a couple other brands i can't remember). from 10 SEER up to 14 SEER (SEER is an efficiency rating. i probably have a 10 SEER package unit right now) with a variety of warranties. (that seems to be the biggest difference between all of these brands, quite frankly... the length of the warranty, protecting different parts of the unit.)

anyway, larry spent a lot of time under the house, checking out the ductwork, and while the thinks some of it may be salvageable (he's definitely looking out for my pocketbook like none of the other guys were) he's not crazy about any of it. he says the sizing is wrong on some sections, it's not insulated, and there aren't enough dampers to balance the air flow. (this is mostly stuff i've heard before.) he also said that the ducts take some crazy twists and turns that don't make any sense, and with each turn i lose efficiency. my returns are fine, though, but he'd change the ductwork leading to them.

larry had one big brilliant idea that no one else has had: to not install an outdoor package unit at all, but rather put a furnace in the crawlspace and an A/C unit outdoors. he says with the split-units you can get much higher efficiency on the unit itself, and also cut down on the ductwork needed. the warranties are generally higher on 'indoor' furnaces like that, too, as the unit isn't sitting outside in the weather all the time.

so larry took his pad full of measurements back to the office to do some calculations; we'll talk either this weekend or monday about what he thinks the best course of action is. after he adds everything up a crawlspace furnace may be out of the question, but he won't know until he plugs some numbers into the computer. he didn't leave me with any brochures for the furnace (only package units) so i feel a little in the dark about this whole new product.

but i have a good feeling about larry. i think accu-air is a smallish company (he owns it, i believe) and he offers a variety of brands and is pretty passionate about what he does. he mentioned taking continuing ed courses for heating & a/c, as well as for his electrician's license, and while i'm pretty sure most contractors do stuff like that i thought that from larry the statement was really endearing.

anyway, he's going to call me on my cell phone, probaly monday while we're in florida. i might have to make my decision then and trust him to pick the right unit for my house.

the folks from bolton are coming over in a few minutes... i'll write another update after they give me their assessment.

(if i manage to get to work today it will be a minor miracle.)

Posted by xta at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

 please join my club 

i'm going to call it "frosting haters of america".

there are plenty of other people who seem like they would be interested in joining, but i don't know any of them like i know you. i'll waive the club dues for the first year... how about it? come on...

this time of year is very difficult for a frosting-hater. not only are there just way too many frostings to avoid (the company kitchen is constantly overrun with holiday cakes, cookies and sweets of every variety), but there are also just too damn many people around... and they are all eager to irritate you. "what?!? you don't like frosting?!? why don't you try the frosting on this triple chocolate rum-filled berry encrusted holiday cake i just baked??!? i know you'll just looove this frosting! it has 8 pounds of butter and a 14 whole canes of sugar!!"

no, dammit! stop it! give me the cake. the cake i'll eat. but please don't be offended when i leave a pile of frosting on my plate. it's not you. it's me.

it's all just too damn sweet. especially that horrid crystalline sugar frosting that you find on wedding cakes. ugh. i get the shivers just thinking about the granules crunching between my teeth. gads. who thought up that crap? and frosting-flowers? you can have 'em. bleah.

the only frosting i ever liked was an inoffensive cream-cheese frosting that had pineapple floating in it. it was almost unrecognizably frosting.

Posted by xta at 3:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

 here he is, folks, the leader of the plaque!�

mimo had a tooth pulled last night. the vet was hoping to be able to save it, but once she had him sedated and started probing the inflamed area on his gum she said it became quickly apparent that there was hardly anything left of this tooth and it needed to come out.

<gross out alert>

the vet showed us the pulled tooth when we came to pick him up. it was totally covered with yellow gunky plaque, and there was absolutely no root left at all; it had all rotted away. the vet said it was just hanging on in his mouth by 'a couple of threads of enamel'. the root socket was filled with pus and blood; she scraped all of that out before stitching his gum back up.

</gross out alert>

the weird thing is, no one has any clue how this happened. he wasn't showing any signs of pain. the rest of his teeth are pearly white. the vet said it was shocking to see an 18-month-old kitty have a tooth that looked like it belonged to an 18-year-old cat. "it could have been caused by food getting up under the gum, or something puncturing a portion of his gumline. or... i hate to even say this word... it's such an off-chance... in fact, i don't even want to say 'cancer'... it's likely this was just a fluke incident."

but she said cancer. and now i can't stop thinking about it.

we have to bring him back in 4 months for a follow-up, just to make sure no other teeth show similar signs of decay.

anyway, he was not a very happy kitty last night, and ray got on a totally uncharacteristic worrying jag. a big part of his concern is about the antibiotics we have to give mimo twice a day... for 14 days. this normally wouldn't be a problem, but since we're leaving town in a few days that leaves the bulk of the work for our cat-sitters, which doesn't seem fair to them... they didn't sign up for drug dispensation. ray actually briefly contemplated cancelling our christmas vacation in favor of staying home to ensure mimo gets his meds.

(i have mentioned before that ray is absolutely insanely in love with our cats, right?)

anyway, the meems is clearly feeling better this morning, trotting around and leaping up on window sills... and he ate a whole bowl of dry food. so let's hope ray is feeling more at ease about our departure.

still, for our cat-sitters... a public apology for heaping more work on you. the good news is that mimo took his first dose of antibiotic (a crushed up pill in a tablespoon of wet food) without any trouble whatsoever, so i really don't think it'll be too much hassle to do the same. *whew*

Posted by xta at 9:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

 joy and happiness

my cousin joy called last night. we don't talk nearly often enough. she's 2 or 3 years younger than me, but you'd never know it... she's a single mother who just bought a house in phoenix, and she has dealt with a life's worth of shit that no one should have to endure. she's a lot stronger than she thinks she is.

we spent some time talking about her mom (my mom's sister), sara, who is a drug & alcohol addict. joy threw sara out of her life many years ago. that had to be incredibly hard. i cannot imagine having to tell my mom to stay the fuck away from me. yet another reason why joy is an amazing person: she knows what she has to do to survive.

however, joy says she's recently had an urge to reconnect with her mom. "i guess people are the way they are... you can't change them." so joy called sara a couple of weeks ago and had what sounds to be a really important conversation, reestablishing a certain level of basic relationship between them. they're never going to be friends, but the fact that joy reached out... well, i'm simply in awe of that gesture.

joy & i also talked about the sexual abuse that sara suffered at the hands of our uncle gene. i never knew the details before, but joy has in her possession a confessional letter written by gene that is pretty graphic, and she read a section of it to me. it's life-changingly strange for me to know that sexual abuse exists (existed) in my family. still, this knowledge goes a long way towards explaining sara's erratic adult behavior.

i have one single vivid memory of sara. it's christmas time. i'm probably about 10 years old, my brother is around 8. we're visiting my mom in fort worth. we saw joy & sara a lot when we'd visit texas; they lived not far away from mom. we loved visiting mom, too; she's fun and nutty and she let us build forts in the living room and roller skate in the house. and the presents! each christmas with mom was an amazingly joyful time for us.

but sara showed up christmas eve, drunk off her ass and belligerent as hell. an argument ensued... about what i do not remember. we were all standing in the small living room near the christmas tree, and i remember sara shouting at my mom at the top of her lungs. i wanted to cry. stop yelling at my mom!! and my mom yelling back at sara --screaming-- "get the fuck out of my house! leave! fuck you! get out!!"

oh my god. i had no idea what was going on. i now have to assume that this exchange had been building for a long time. my mom doesn't just blow up like that. i don't ever recall having heard my mom even raise her voice before then. i remember i just stood there in shock, not believing what just happened. my mom doesn't throw people out of houses. she just doesn't. especially on christmas, when there are presents to open.

i can only imagine what joy's daily life was like at that age, being in a house with a volatile mother like sara. joy told me last night that she eventually became closer to my mom than her own, and for that i'm glad... it also brought her closer to me & my brother.

joy, i know you read this blog. you're an amazing person and i want you to know how much i admire and love you.

merry christmas. we'll miss you this year.

Posted by xta at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

 and you may find yourself... living in a cold-ass house

the epistemology of david byrne is a fine read. in the interview he mentions that his next album will contain 2 opera arias (the one from la traviata is my favorite of all time). i just love that man. what in the heck will he do next?

the fix-it guy from griles was here again this morning, running a new thermostat wire to the package unit. he showed me the old one, and it looked pretty sketchy. this new one will allow us to get off of 'emergency heat' (which actually worked all weekend long! yay!) and onto the regular, more efficient (har har) system.

as he was wrapping up, i asked him: "based on your powers of prediction, how long do you think this unit is going to last?" we'd just been talking about our christmas plans, and he said, "i'd be surprised if it lasted until you get back from your vacation."


so i've called 2 more HVAC companies to come out and give bids on the job. that'll make 4 quotes total; enough to give me a good basis for a reasonable decision. i hope. i'll have all the estimates in hand by friday, and then i guess i'll call and schedule the work while i'm down in florida next week. merry bleepin' christmas.

Posted by xta at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

 exotic grocery purchase of the week: 

i didn't even care how much they cost. i knew i must have them.

i also picked up a bottle of this for my mom. (i'd already gotten her a wine bag for christmas; i just needed some sort of interesting wine to put in it. she's a novice wine-drinker, so i think she'll get as much entertainment from the label as she will from the 12.5% alcohol by volume.)

also, you should know that bags of these are on sale at world market for seventy-four cents! i picked up one of each flavor: cheese filled tricolor tortellini, squash-filled ravioli, sundried tomato filled tortellini, and pecorino and potato filled ravioli.

you know, i never realized until today that i really need to consider adding world market to my destinations for grocery shopping. whoda thunk?

Posted by xta at 8:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 maybe if i joined the mob...

it's 6:37am. i think all of these monetary expenses have gotten to me. i got out of bed to pee and couldn't get back to sleep. i just lay there, calculating monthly payments.

the good news is that when i did get up it was evident that we still had heat this morning. yay!

the repairman from griles heating arrived yesterday around 3:30 and spent a good deal of time trying to un-rig my furnace. it required installing a new thermostat... one that controls the heat pump portion of my package unit. (amazingly enough, the previous thermostat --that carolina heating installed-- didn't allow the heat pump to come on, leaving me with no 'emergency heat'... which i clearly need at this point.) the repairman asked me what kind of thermostat i wanted, and i said "one of those programmable jobbies." of course, i was sorry i said that when he handed me the bill (garh!!) but it will be nice to be able to program the heat to drop down during the day while we're away at work. i made sure to confirm with him that this thermostat will be compatible with the new gas pack i have them install next month, so i won't have to spend money twice.

he's going to have to come back on monday to run some new wiring from the thermostat to the package unit. this would have also had to be done during the installation of the new gas pack, so no double spending there either.

i'm still undecided as to whether to get another estimate on the cost of a replacement gas pack & ductwork. one of my co-workers recommended bolton home services to me, so maybe i'll give them a call to see if they'll come out and give me an estimate. here's what he said in his endorsement: " This is my favorite company. I've been using them for many years and they exceed all my expectations. They're the only contractor that operates on our earth calendar and EST." FWIW, they install only trane.

in less expensive news, i've rediscovered quaker oatmeal. i have a bowl for breakfast several times a week. i've been playing around with adding things to it: cinnamon & sugar, applesauce & cinnamon, brown sugar. i think next i'm going to try adding a little of my old vanilla protein powder to it and see how that tastes.

ray bought season 4 of the sopranos on DVD recently. we've been watching several episodes a week. god, i love that show. i had no idea, though, that when we finish season 4 we'll be all caught up: i read on the hbo website that season 5 premieres in march! i just can't believe season 4 came out so quickly. anyway, i'm totally worried about adriana. poor girl! i can't remember when i last had so much sympathy for a fictional character.

i think i have my christmas shopping pretty well under control. i need to go buy a couple of picture frames for mom's gift and then i'm done. i should do that today, even though i'm slightly terrified to face the crowds.

it would also be nice to find some time to finish working on the sink drain in the new bathroom. we've had running water in there for some time now (i'm such a genius) but you can't let the water run down the drain. i ran into some problems when i last worked on it... by installing a much larger sink than what was previously in there, i now have to find a good way to extend the piping. i was hoping to avoid measuring, cutting & gluing PVC pipe, but at this point i don't see any way around it. alas.

as soon as that's done, all that remains is finishing the baseboards, tiling the tub (and completing the shower faucet), and putting shelves in the closet. those last 2 things will cost a good deal of money, though, so sadly i think it might be march or so before i can finish that renovation.

and at this point i think it's unlikely that i'll have money to go to NYC with lisa for our 35th birthdays. we were thinking of doing a blowout shopping trip in early february. given how long it's going to take to recover from this month's hellish expenses it just doesn't seem sensible to go on a splurge vacation right now. drat. let's hope that some rich relative (ha!) will come through with a load of cash for me at christmas...

Posted by xta at 7:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003


well, for 3 of the last 4 days we've woken up to no heat in the house. such fun!! this morning we discovered a unique new problem... no display at all on the thermostat. that's a new one! (no display, though, means we weren't able to see just how cold it was... which in this case is probably a good thing.)

luckily, one of the contractors i'd phoned to ask for a bid on the project returned my call this morning. we made an appointment for him to come out and spec a whole new heating system, and i was hoping he could fix what was wrong, too.

but first i had to take mimo to the vet for his yearly appointment and shots. that's never a fun thing to do. mimo, being only secretly brave, howls and yelps all the way to the cat hospital. it's a terrible, horrible, heart-wrenching sound. once we got there he stopped howling, though he was still a little freaked out, breathing fast and hissing in an "i'm scared" kind of way.

during the exam the vet found a totally icky inflamed area on his gum, back by one of his molars! we hadn't noticed... primarily because mimo hadn't told us! that sounds silly, but usually when cats are in pain they'll let you know. they won't eat, or they'll behave erratically. we had no signs from the meems that anything was wrong.

so the vet wants us to come back on tuesday so she can probe the area while mimo is under sedation. (oh yes, did i mention that this was already the most expensive month in the history of my life?? this is unbelievable.) there's a chance it's just a weird infection, in which case the vet can drain the abcess and put him on antibiotics. but if there's something actually wrong with the tooth itself, she may have to pull it. she can't tell for sure until she pokes and prods it a little.

well, after all of that i barely made it to the house in time for the heating guy. i think he was just getting ready to leave when i pulled up. (i suspect he wished he had left when i emerged from my car with a howling cat in tow.) we talked about my current situation (he couldn't fix it himself, but he'd call someone in to get it working this afternoon) and about replacing the unit altogether. he agreed that my ducts were total shit, too.

this guy (troy griles of mebane) only sells "bryant" units. the folks at carolina heating only sell "trane". i've heard good things about trane, but nothing at all about bryant. (granted, a lot of what i've heard about trane comes from their own advertising, but consumer reports also mentions that on average trane might require fewer service calls.) consumer reports specifically mentions that they didn't want to rate specific brands, though, because they pretty much all do the same thing: "All companies offer furnaces in a range of capacities and efficiencies, and we think manufacturers generally deliver on those specifications. Each brand offers a generally similar array of key features."

so, troy hands me a brochure and the most encouraging thing i see is that bryant boasts envoironmental friendliness by using "puron" instead of freon for cooling. (i can't find any indication about coolant in the trane brochure.) the bryant has a slightly higher AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) than the trane, and the bryant also has the energy star seal of approval... the trane doesn't appear to.

here are links to the 2 different units, if any of you sick people are interested in learning more:
trane model XL 1200
bryant model 583b

both are gas/electric package units. (i really just wanted to type "package unit" again.)

oh, yeah. troy also quoted me a price of $5,668! (carolina heating quoted $9,280!) that's for the new unit and new ductwork. plus a gas line run to the house.

i've still got calls out to 2 other contractors, but if they don't call me back soon i'm tempted just to go with troy. one of my most persnickety neighbors recommended him to me, which says something. (if troy can please this neighbor, then he must be good.)

it's still cold in here right now. i'm waiting for troy to send over one of his technicians to fix this old, decrepit furnace. if we can get it running for just a few weeks, until we get back from our christmas vacation, then i can go ahead and schedule its replacement. which reminds me: another good thing about troy's company is that they're most familiar with bryant products. my carrier furnace is made by bryant's parent company, so they're pretty familiar with what i have. (i don't think carolina was ever really comfortable working on my carrier.)

so because i'm sitting here waiting it appears as if i'm not going to get to the office today, gosh darnit. this gives me an excellent opportunity to get moving on some of my christmas presents. much assemblage is needed. my fingers are cold and creaky, though... i don't know how much i'll actually be able to accomplish in this arctic house.

the director of the durham symphony just called. the orchestra is scheduled to do 2 concerts out in clinton on sunday. i was starting to doubt how much my services would be needed for this show (the people in clinton are providing the tympani & podium that i usually have to haul, and shoot... someone else could set up the chairs, right?) but now alan says that the 4th horn player is sick with the flu, and could i please play? sure! yay! i got to play the same part in a similar concert with the DSO a couple of weeks ago. it'll be nice to play again. renaissance woman: stage manager and musician!

so that will take up all of my day on sunday, which means that i'm going to have to miss the finale of survivor. don't snicker. i'm addicted. i guess i'll just have to watch the tape as soon as i get home that night.

Posted by xta at 1:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

 why did i buy this bra? 

it sure is pretty, isn't it?

and i like what it does to my boobs. i've been spending so many years buying minimizers, trying to make my rather large chest look smaller... so this is a nice change! embrace the bosom!!

but the bra drives me crazy. utterly, hopelessly bonkers.

this is the first bra i've had that allows --nay, encourages-- my boobs to touch each other. and it feels weird!! i just can't get used to it. i pop into the bathroom countless times a day to readjust myself. i'm sure my co-workers all think i have diarrhea or something.

plus, i find that i now can't look down and see my toes. my boobs are too friggin' big now.

but it sure does make my figure look nice, and that's all that matters.


Posted by xta at 3:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

 home again, home again

what a pure and absolute joy to sleep in my own bed again! after 3 months of feeling homeless (albeit with a roof over my head) it's unspeakably blissful to be getting back to normal. my bed is more comfortable than i ever remembered, and my cozy comforter... aaaaah. yes.

as an added bonus, the kitties clearly liked the new (old) arrangement and enjoyed playing king-of-the-headboard.

the downside: we woke up to no heat again. garh.

but i beckoned cute ol' jim to come help out once more. (i answered the door and he said, "people are going to start talking if i keep showing up here.") he did a super-duper rig this time (essentially turning the thing up to 11) and left, saying "you'd better hurry, you know." yes yes... but i've got to have some time to get used to the idea of spending $9,000 before i actually do it.

charo is helping me figure out ways to most economically handle this upcoming expense. she recently had a new furnace installed very very cheaply, so i should call her contractor just to see what he could do for me. i'd have to arrange financing on my own, though... but charo thinks i could probably get a low-rate credit card just for this. (i likely haven't built up enough equity in the house yet to borrow against that.) it's clear that i still have many decisions before me. (like "what brand?" most everyone i encounter recommends a trane. yes?)

so i talked to mom this morning. she didn't get the part in the vagina monologues, darnit. still, she says she's going to ask if she can work in the ticket booth or something. she just wants to be involved. (even though i'm disappointed for her, a small part of me is breathing a sigh of relief knowing i don't have to make a decision about buying a plane ticket to fly out and see her perform.)

ok, can we talk about my bedroom some more now?? you saw the photo, right? the rug just goes so well in there, and the floor... oh my god, the floor. i just want to lie naked on the floor and roll around on it, it's so smooth. and the dark red color on the walls looks so amazing by lamp light. i cannot wait to get a big comfy reading chair in there. (though i probably will have to wait, as... you know... i've got a big heating repair bill coming up. does ikea offer gift certificates? nudge, nudge...)

Posted by xta at 3:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 Turning Heads With PowerPoint 

a nice article from Wired News called "Turning Heads With PowerPoint"... an interview with david byrne that not only discusses his recent forays into powerpoint art, but also mentions a new album and tour next spring!

woo hoo!

Posted by xta at 8:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


tonight, after almost 3 months, we moved back into the bedroom that was smashed by hurricane isabel.

those water spots on the photo are my tears of joy.

Posted by xta at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 9, 2003


before i was a homeowner a $100 expense seemed gargantuan. if something cost $500... forget it, i went ballistic. but now, a mere 6 months into home ownership, a $9,000 estimate for furnace repair seems reasonable.

how the fuck did that happen? i balk over spending more than $20 on a new blouse, but $9,000 for something intangible like heat is just fine.

well, it's not "fine", as you might imagine. but i've illustrated my point. right?

so someone new from carolina air conditioning just came out to rescue us from our frigidness. note to self: i'm going to specifically ask for jim whenever i call these people again. jim totally rocks. jim just got out of the marines and has been working for this company for all of 2 weeks. in the marines, he did this kind of stuff (plus a lot more, which apparently took him to iraq, but he didn't want to talk about it)... he says he's been doing this kind of heating & cooling work since he was 12, for what that's worth.

anyway, jim had lots of fun trying to figure out why we had no heat. something went wonky in the thermostat (he speculated, 'off the record' that elnora --the woman who came out last week-- tried to make something better by attaching a blue wire somehwere, but in the process ended up breaking something), plus he spotted burned wires and blown fuses (no fault of elnora's) in the package unit outside.

i just love that term. package unit. yeah, baby.

anyway, it took him some time, but he eventually got the heat back up & running. it sounds like he really had to rig something up, though. he took lots of time showing me all the different parts in the package unit (heh heh) and giving me little demonstrations of how everything worked. thanks to jim's illustrative talents, it didn't take me long to realize that i had a crappy package unit. we started talking about my options, and even though i like jim an awful lot i really don't want to have to see him more than absolutely necessary... he intimated the same thing: that i could keep calling him out for temporary fixes, or i could start thinking about a whole new unit.


anyway, after we had heat back in the house again, he did a quick analysis of my air-flow pressure out of each vent and got really concerned. he said there was hardly any air coming out the ducts in the back of the house. he went slithering around the crawlspace with his little meter and emerged 15 mintues later proclaiming total disaster.

i knew this house once had oil heat. but apparently (according to jim) when the upgrade was made to electric heat there was no upgrade made to the duct work. oil heat, it seems, pushes a higher volume of hot air through the ducts than my current electric package unit does. so the air from my electric heat is not even coming close to filling up the ducts. think of putting your mouth on a tailpipe and blowing, jim says. you get lots of "back pressure" because the volume of what you're displacing is bigger than the pipe. but then think of blowing into a dryer vent, for instance... your hot air isn't going to make it very far down the tube, because it's so much bigger in diameter. he is suspecting i'll need new, smaller duct work.

so jim gets on the phone to troy, who apparently is the head honcho over at carolina heating & cooling. troy shows up not 5 minutes later and does the crawlspace slither, takes some measurements, then starts his pitch with a "what the hell were the previous owners thinking" rant that i've heard oh-so-many-times before.

to make this long story short, troy does some magic calculating and hands me a price quote of $9,280. at the risk of boring you all, i'm going to write down all the info from his quote.

  • new gas/electric package unit (*snicker*) BTU cooling 36,000 SEER rating 12 BTU heating 80,000 AFUE 80%
  • new gas line run from the street (!!)
  • new condensate drain (yippee! mine drains into the depths of my lawn somewhere)
  • new 2" wrapped insulated sheet metal trunk with foil vapor barrier flex (r 6.0) branch duct system
  • air balance
  • digital thermostat
  • install new breaker
  • new control wiring
  • removal of all existing equipment
  • pour new concrete pad for new package unit
  • 5 year warranty on all manufacturer's parts
  • 2 year warranty on labor
  • 10 year limited installation warranty
  • 10 year manufacturer warranty on compressor
  • 10 year manufacturer warranty on outdoor coil
  • 20 year manufacturer warranty on heat exchanger


the good thing is that i'd be eligible for financing, at the montly cost of $209.50. and when i put this all into perspective, this new unit will probably save me that much on my heating bill each month. no joke.

plus, i get a gas line run to the house, which is exciting. (in a way that only homeowners find natural gas exciting.)

but this is just one company's estimate, and i've already been on the phone to someone else to come out and take a look and give me their own version of the bad news. i do have to find a company that will offer financing, though, as i'm not a wealthy individual. especially these days.

i think i need to go lie down now.

Posted by xta at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 8, 2003

 when it rains, it's a friggin' torrential downpour. 

well, if you've been following along you know that this has been an incredibly rough month for me, financially speaking. a huge car repair, tree removal, car rental for vacation, christmas presents, car insurance and inspection, chimney cap installation...

and it looks like you can add furnace repair to the list. we got home tonight and the house was 63 degrees. cold air is coming out the vents.

i'm beginning to wonder what kind of karmic debt i'm repaying right now.

Posted by xta at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2003

 shopping is good for boys, too

after ray & i spent most of the afternoon painting (we're almost done!) he decided he wanted to go shopping for clothes. i never turn down an opportunity to improve his wardrobe, so i suggested we go out to southpoint mall where he would have lots of choices. i had to check online first, though, to make sure that the stores out there would be open late on sunday... it was already close to 6:00. luckily, most of the big department stores have late holiday hours this time of year.

so we went to hecht's first, where he got a nice eggplant-colored pullover sweater. then down to belk where he shopped for pants. i'm going to brag on his weight-loss for a second, so bear with me... while we were shopping he was wearing a pair of size 44 pants that were clearly too big for him. he knew from previous shopping trips that he could fit into a 40 now. but tonight he confirmed that he even fits into a 38! that's 6 inches he's lost! (he says he remembers last fitting into a 38 back in 1998...) so he was having fun trying on clothes, which, of course, is the whole point of shopping.

we were disappointed, though, that nordstrom was closed. the belk salesman was a little snarky about that when we mentioned it. "i guess they don't have to be open holiday hours like the rest of us..." ray had his mind set that he wanted to try on shoes at nordstrom, so he was a little bummed that they weren't open late like the rest of the stores.

however, when we got back to our car we noticed that the outside entrances to nordstrom appeared to be open. the doors from the inside of the mall had been gated shut, but it was clear that there were people coming in & out of nordstrom from the exterior doors. so we pulled up and asked one of the doormen what was going on. he said that there was a special event in progress for nordstrom card holders. invitation only. when ray started to walk away, though, the doorman said, "well, why don't you come in anyway." i think he could smell money on ray and thought it foolish to turn him away.

so we entered and were greeted by a woman who ushered us over to the nicest associate named john. he asked what ray was looking for (shoes, pants, winter coat) and he assisted with everything. i know it's his job to be helpful, but he was also totally cool (and cute ;) and funny. he found ray a pair of pants that fit well, but needed hemming and they did that on the spot. he helped find a cool pair of shoes that mary will totally drool over. and we picked out a swank sporty winter jacket, too... but it's on hold for a few days to let ray's bank account recover a bit.

the best thing about this special sales event at nordstrom was that there was live music, free wine (!!) and hors d'oeuvres. i'm sure it works out well for the store if they get the customers loaded. and tired... we were there until 10:30! (the doorman had said that they'd be open "until the very last customer leaves." i think we were those last customers.)

so we're exhausted now, and while i thought we'd get the final coat of paint on the bedroom walls tonight we're just going to sit back and watch space ghost instead. we'll hopefully finish the painting tomorrow. (how many days in a row have i said that now?? garh!)

Posted by xta at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 there was roller skating last night! 

"hi! my name is lisa, and i'll your hostess this evening!"


charo brought her wigs, and fun was had by all.




XDU program director jeff herrick shakes his booty. he's an exellent skater.


yeah, baby!!


i took this photo while skating alongside charo. if only you could see her tutu better.


after i wiped out and creamed my knee, i took photos of people's feet.


charo (in her flowing blue nightie) sat with me for a while after she got ice for my knee...


...but her sympathy didn't last all that long.


lisa & pat johnson. XDU & XYC unity! ain't that sweet...

Posted by xta at 4:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 5, 2003

 television without pity 

i saw a girl walking on the unc campus today with a television without pity bookbag. it was bright yellow with that crazy logo in black. i wanted to run up to her and ask "which show are you addicted to??" (me, i love their west wing recaps, and their survivor snark.)

alas, it appears as if TWOP no longer offers the bookbag (if they ever did... this girl could have easily made her bag herself)... the closest i can get is these buttons, which are still pretty snappy.

i got an issue of budget living magazine in the mail. there's a stuck-on paper cover that says, "don't let this be your last issue! renew your subscription today!" but the thing is, i've never subscribed. i've only ever seen the magazine before in the rack at my hairdresser's salon. this makes me wonder whether someone is watching what i read and dropping the subscription cards into the nearest mailbox behind my back.

regardless, i read the magazine and it's... nice. it's ok. entertaining enough. i'll probably browse through the next issue while i'm waiting for my next haircut, but i don't think i'll subscribe. it's not in my budget for living. if any of y'all want to take a look, though, just say the word. i can leave it on your porch like some large white onion.

i find i am also not impressed with the david sedaris book i'm reading. i think it's too light. it was nice at the beach, but now that i'm home it's boring me. i keep thinking "i could be doing better things with my time." not a good sign, i'm afraid. it's a good thing the new issue of the sun came today. whew.

after the conference let out today i made a few house-related phone calls. i left voice mail for the tree guy, who is the only person i can think of that would have had the opportunity to smash the hell out of the chain-link fence at the top of my driveway. i didn't notice it until today. i left an uber-sweet message just asking if he knew what happend. if he calls back i'm going to see if i can reduce him to tears and get him to pay for the repair. i then phoned one of my ex-roofers to arrange gutter installation. (did i mention that the $2,000 supplemental check from the insurance company arrived yesterday?)

so then i went shopping. :^) i needed a bra. or two. i absolutely hate every single bra i have right now. it's awful. and as much as i detest bra-shopping, i currently detest my bras even more. if that's possible.

i was surprised to find that the bra i thought would give the least support actually did the nicest job. it's one of those cleavage-inducing push-up jobbies. this is a whole new world for me... it's going to take some getting used to. mostly because it increases my chest size quite a bit and i think i just might start popping out of some of my blouses. (apologies to my brother, who may or may not be reading this. i should have presented fair warning.)

i also picked up a couple of new blouses that should fit the new chest, but i'm not sure i'm going to keep them all. a liberal return policy is a girl's best friend.

ooh, speaking of clothes, tonight's episode of what not to wear was really fun. i about bust a gut when clinton, fed up with how his fashion victim had been carving up his own t-shirts, finally just looked at the camera and said, "stop cutting things up! everyone just stop!!" i heart clinton.

however funny, the episodes where they make over guys aren't as satisfying as a general rule. i guess i always admire the magic of a woman's hair & makeup re-do, and with the guys it usually isn't that dramatic.

damn, i could use some hair help myself about now. when it starts to get cold (brrr!) and dry, my hair behaves in a totally different way than it has during the humid summer months. it's like i have to re-learn what to do with it. add more product? stop washing it? cut it all off? i'm lost right now.

secretly i have fantasies of someone nominating me for "what not to wear", though i don't think i'm quite pitiful enough to make it on to the show. goddamit.

Posted by xta at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


brown 1 package beef (cubed stew meat) in 1 T oil.
chop 1 onion (thank you! :^) & 2 garlic cloves, then lightly sautee in pan after meat is removed.

into the crock-pot goes the meat, onions & garlic, along with:
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
chili powder
cayenne pepper

cook on low for 6 hours.


Posted by xta at 8:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 my mom can beat up your mom 

so my mom called me this afternoon. i last talked to her on thanksgiving, and that conversation was merely perfunctory. we used to talk all the time --practically every day-- about boys and stuff, and all of the relationship difficulty she was going through. but the frequency of our calls has died down now that she's dating a reasonable guy (conveniently named 'ray') who apparently makes her quite happy.

anyway, she said to me, "i'm auditioning for a play tomorrow.... well, it's not really a play, it's more of a... um... it's.... the vagina monologues."

holy crap!

she told me she wanted to specifically audition for a small, 2-minute part in the "angry vagina" section that speaks to female genital mutilation. apparently my mom's uncle did some research about this years ago and it's an important topic to her. (this revelation is exactly why i miss having those in-depth conversations with my mom!)

so her audition is at 10am tomorrow (new mexico time). she even cancelled an out-of-town ballooning trip so she could audition. "i won't get the part if i'm not here to try out for it!" she said. the performances are in february; if she gets the part i'm really thinking about flying out there to see it.

i am often very, very proud of my mom.

Posted by xta at 3:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 4, 2003


the day's not even half over yet, and it's already been eventful.

my neighbor chose this morning to come over and start doing brick repair on my house. for the record, he said he'd do this work weeks ago, and when he hadn't shown up weeks ago i just assumed he was backing out of the job. so i was more than a little surprised to hear construction noises this morning at 7:30am.

bang bang bang! saw saw saw!

and lots of talking in spanish. my neighbor doesn't speak english.

well, he speaks a little english... enough that i could arrange the job to be done (with some help from a translator), but i could say little else to him. "hi", he understands. "can i get an invoice for my insurance company"... forget it.

when i went out to check on their work this morning, though, it looked good. they're repairing more than just the hurricane damage... they're also fixing the bricks on the side of the house that cracked when the house settled (that problem having been fixed by foundation work done with the seller's money at closing, in july).

with that unexpected work underway, i knew to actually expect someone from carolina heating & cooling at 9am to do a 'tune up' on my furnace. i had them come out during the summer and i signed up for their deal where you get a winter tune up at a reduced price if you pay for both up front. so today's visit was 'free' in that sense; i'd already paid.

the woman came out today was the same woman who was here this summer, which was nice. she was already familiar with my heating/cooling system. in the summer she did a lot of extra work because the unit had been neglected for so long. she unplugged the drain, cleaned the coils, deodorized the system, and a whole lot more. today she didn't do as much... just a check-up and cleaning of the coils.

however, she did deliver some bad news to me. when i bought the house and had a contractor fix the inoperable A/C system (again, at the seller's expense) apparently the thermostat the contractor picked was one that doesn't allow my 'heat pump' to operate. i'm pretty damn ignorant about this stuff, but elnora (i think that's her name, from carolina heating & cooling) took a lot of time explaining it to me this morning. (of course, i now remember very little of it, but i'm writing down what i recall so i don't forget it all). see?

not only is the heat pump not working (i think that just exists to give me extra, 'emergency' heat, but i'm not sure) because it's simply not hooked up to the thermostat, but also my brand of furnace ("carrier") isn't all that great. and it's probably under-sized for the house. my carrier furnace only has 2 'heat strips' (i think that's what they're called) and higher-end brands have 4, 6, 8 or more. the more heat strips, the more heat, apparently.

to add more bad news, the insulation inside the unit (it looks like a reflective blanket) has been sorta sucked into the unit and is hampering ideal performance. she also tracked down, using the serial number, the year this unit was installed (or at least manufactured): 1995. this carrier model apparently has a 10 year life-span. elnora said if it makes it to 10 years, she'd be surprised.

oh joy. just what i wanted to hear!!

she was very nice, though, in saying that there's no problem with just letting it go until something breaks (either the compressor, the fan, or the contactor is probably first to go) and then considering my options. she even said she'd try to get her boss to come out and look at the unit to see if there's any way they could figure out some sort of life-prolonging rig.

she's very helpful, this elnora.

so when she was done, i packed up the car, said goodbye to the mexican brick-fixers, and headed to work. on thursdays i travel with my giant bag of CDs, as i go straight to divaville when i get off work, so i popped in a christmas CD and damn if it didn't make me feel better. bing crosby singing "i'll be home for christmas" about made me cry, but then next thing i know danny kaye was singing "all i want for christmas is my two front teeth", and everything was bright & shiny.

until i realized i'd forgotten to put on makeup before i left the house! i was practically panicked at the thought... and then i got mad at myself for being panicked. this is exactly why i didn't want to wear makeup in the first place... i hate the idea of becoming reliant on it. geah! i reluctantly admit that i briefly entertained the idea of turning the car around and going back home to at least slap on a little foundation. but that was merely a fleeting fantasy. i kept driving, and tried to put it out of my mind.

peggy lee's version of "jingle bells" is rather swanky.

i'm singing along and i turn a corner near work and see a bunch of landscapers laying very, very green sod at the entry of a newly-built subdivision. they were all wearing red shirts and jackets. it was very seasonal! it made me smile. and it made me wish i could take a picture while driving.

i got to work and pulled into the parking lot... and saw that there were zillions of cars there. which means that there's a fundraising mailing going out and that the zillions of cars belong to the zillions of volunteers inside, who are all stuffing envelopes. and this is exactly why i started wearing makeup... because in a weird way i'm a public personality and i feel like i sort of owe it to these people to look nice. (analyze that!) today i'm dressed nicely, but no makeup. d'oh.

a quick (very quick) "hi" to everybody and i duck into my office, where i see that someone has left me a tangerine on my desk chair:

the house work, the makeup... none of it really matters.

i have a friend here at work who somehow knew i needed something sweet and good... and a new foundation for my day.

Posted by xta at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 the beef will keep

goodness, you guys are such helpful chefs!

when i say we go grocery shopping once a month, that of course is only half-true. we do the big shopping trip once a month, but we still have to run out to get fresh produce or milk every once in a while. the big trip is big, though. usually a couple hundred dollars. stocking up on cleaning products, canned goods, paper products, cereal, shampoo... stuff like that.

anyway, the beef-in-question will keep for a few more days. the chicken's time was up, though.

so i thought we'd make stir-fry with it tonight. but i decided last-minute [gasp!] to embrace the rut-busting mentality and try something new!

chicken with mushroom & wine sauce.

it actually sounds fancier than it is:

chicken breasts browned in a bit of olive oil.
throw in 2 cloves of smashed garlic.
add a can of cream of mushroom soup.
salt & pepper. (i like lots of fresh-ground pepper.)
toss in a cup or so of cut-up portabello mushrooms.
simmer for a few minutes. then add about 1/4 cup of red wine.

yum. the whole thing didn't take more than 15 minutes, which was a bonus.

so on to the beef:
thanks to sarah, i'm now thinking about using the beef for chili. but i have this weird hang-up about chili: i feel it should consist primarily of ground beef, not cubed stew beef. but i'm willing to overcome my fear, i suppose, for the sake of continued rut-busting.

i might be able to make a chili with ingredients i've already got in the house, too. but i still don't have any onion. hm.. black beans, beef, tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne. i wonder if i could go onion-less?

so i'm planning on throwing this chili into the crock-pot on friday morning before i go to this think-tank dealie hosted by namac, the center for the public domain and ibiblio. (personally i'm slightly terrified of anything called a "think-tank". so having hot chili waiting at home for me afterwards is going to be a damn fine reward for making it through the day.)

Posted by xta at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 3, 2003

 here's what $650 looks like: 

so i got home last night and the tree was gone. threatening, evil tree! die, die! bwahahaha!

really, it did pain me (just a little bit) to have it cut down. but it was tilting and i didn't want to have to watch it crush our house during the next wind/ice/rain storm. i would totally pop a gasket if i had to go through all of this house repair again. so "bye bye" tree! hope you told your friends what i'm capable of, and how they'd better all keep standing straight and tall!

in other exciting news, ray & i did our big monthly grocery shopping last night. it takes friggin' forever, and i was tired and grumpy by the end, and my feet hurt. but it sure is nice to be able to look in the pantry the next day and know what you're taking to work for lunch.

to make the shopping trip a little more fun i always try to grab some new food product. branch out of my culinary rut, even if it's in a totally simple way. i remember the day i adventurously grabbed a whole pineapple; man oh man, was that good. (but now i always grab a pineapple and it's part of my rut! d'oh!!)

so last night i grabbed "scallion hummus" and wheat pita bread. we'll see how that goes. i also got some meat for beef stew, but i forgot to get carrots and onions and stuff, so it looks like i'll either have to make all-meat shish-kebob or head back to the store for stew-friendly veggies.

that'll teach me to make impulsive purchases.

anyway, that trip to the grocery totally wore me out and when we got home (around 10:30pm) i was ready for bed. the shopping must have energized ray, though, because when i woke up in the morning i discovered that he had stayed up late, touching up more of the holes in the paint job. our walls now look like they have chicken pox:

all that pink stuff is primer-pox. the splotchy thing on the window sill is mimo. hopefully i'll have a little energy tonight to start putting the red color over the pink. maybe by this weekend i can move back into that room. here's hoping.

our cats definitely don't want that to happen, though. they are currently thrilled by "mount mattress", and will be heartbroken when it goes away. "mount mattress" exists in our den; it's my mattress and box spring, propped up against the wall. they love climing up there. it's their new favorite place. here they are to prove it:

they even have battles sometimes over who is king (or queen) of mount mattress. only royalty gets to sleep atop the apex, apparently. i think they just like being people-height. we can look at them eye-to-eye when they're up there.

so, ray and i have been sporadically attempting to take a family-worthy picture of ourselves, as you might recall. here's our most recent attmpt:

what do you think? is this one better than this one?

we have to come up with something soon, so we can print off copies for the family and get them framed and stuff.

it just occurs to me that i have family reading this. please forget that i've just told you what you're getting for christmas and act surprised when you open your present, ok?

thank you.

Posted by xta at 2:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 2, 2003

 show me the money

last week i faxed all of my invoices & receipts to state farm. my point was to illustrate that while i was thankful for the $11,000 they'd given me for hurricane repair, i was still going to need a little more. just a little.

first off, i have to say that i was terrified of doing this. i didn't want to seem like a greedy customer, and more importantly i didn't want them to cancel my policy next time it comes up for renewal. i thought maybe i should just suck up the difference and be quiet... it would be safer that way.

but the difference is over $2,000 and i really need some help... especially after yesterday's monetary surprises. so i called the state farm people this morning and they sounded more than happy to send along more money. in fact, it should arrive in just a couple of days. (of course, it will be co-written to my mortgage company --just like the $11k check was-- so it'll take a few more days to get them to endorsed it, but at this point i ain't complainin'.)

so when it's all done and the $ has been deposited in my account, i can go ahead and get the last of the work finished: gutters and fencing and bricks. whee.

and if there's anything left over i should probably put it towards the car repair. or my sears card, which is currently carrying $1300 of debt from the purchase of my washer/dryer and refrigerator. or a new computer, which i'm realizing i desperately need. or maybe a trip to NYC with lisa this winter.

if i haven't mentioned it already, all i want for christmas this year is CASH. jeez.

or a blog that allows people to post comments. that would be nice, too.

Posted by xta at 1:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 1, 2003

 the fun never ends

well, i was hoping that the entry i wrote today would be all about how we'd finished the painting and had moved back in to the bedroom.

sorry to disappoint.

the painting is just not going well. ray spent all day yesterday sanding down drips and runs that had solidified into irregular bumps all over the walls. some of the spots he sanded turned into huge, gaping holes in the paint... all the way down to the original base coat. there is a lot of touch-up work to be done. plus another coat of paint. (the 4th.)

i'm not sure how we're going to get everything touched up. i asked a painter friend of mine how we should proceed, and he suggested that we either just start over with primer on those spots, or we try to spackle them if that didn't work. he also suggested i could hire him for about $100, but i'm going to use that as a last resort, because...

...i just found out my car needs $530 worth of work.

oh, and did i mention that we're having a tree cut down in the back yard, at a cost of $650?

this is not going to be a fun month. (because let's not forget that ray & i will be renting a car to drive to florida to visit his family for christmas. cha-ching! another $200 or so.)

anyway, my CRX just started making these horrendous scraping, rubbing noises in the steering column as we were pulling out of the driveway to head to the beach. in my optimistic naivete i assumed it because the car was loaded down with 3 days' worth of vacation crap... but the noise didn't stop after we unloaded, so i decided that i'd take it in to honda specialists when we got back.

so i did, and now they're telling me that i "need a new steering wheel". i know it's gotta be much more than just a steering wheel though, 'cause a steering wheel don't cost no $530!

so i've submitted my question of confusion to the CRX Si bulletin board; we'll see if anyone can clarify my problem for me. (usually the folks at honda specialists are very straightforward about repairs, but this one left me scratching my head. i need more info.)

the one good thing in this tale of woe is that i currently have 2 paychecks in my pocket, one from 'cheapy' and one from the durham symphony. yay! the DSO check barely covers the tree removal, though, so while it helps (definitely) it won't be hanging around in the wachovia vaults very long.

and speaking of durham symphony, i not only stage managed the concert last night (hence the paycheck) but i also performed. one of the horn players was unable to make the concert, so i played the dress rehearsal & concert. it had been about 9 months or so since i'd last picked up my horn so i was pretty rusty, but luckily the parts weren't that difficult to sight-read. mostly easy christmas arrangements and stuff. it was good to play, though. it made me realize how much i miss it.

oddly, after the concert one of the percussionists asked if i wanted to play a church gig with him in a few weeks! ha! i think i did actually laugh in his face, i'm sorry to say. "andrew," i said, "no one should be paying me to play... i totally suck right now." and he said, "well, you don't have to take the money!"

he's so funny, that andrew.

so i complained that if i agreed to the gig i'd have to practice, which i hate. and he said, "but it's good for you!" yeah, so are lima beans.

i politely declined, but i'm still giggling that someone out there is deperate enough for a horn player that they'd pay me to toot mine.

Posted by xta at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack