Saturday, March 30, 2013

Talking the Talk, part one

I am, for the most part, pretty open about my sexuality. I mean, I don't walk around wearing a t-shirt that says "Hi, I'm gay" at all times, but I talk about Christopher as my partner a lot, and I'm not afraid to speak up about issues when they arise.

And, yes, I admit that - as with any other topics - there are times when I let things slide. Usually, that happens in situations where someone I don't know says something completely stupid. So I don't jump down someone's throat when he/she says "That's so gay" in a derogatory way. And I don't automatically start talking about marriage rights in the middle of an unrelated conversation.

But, even so, twice in the past two days I've had the chance to say something - and I'm happy to say that I've actually done it.

Yesterday, at work, we had a staff lunch, and someone was talking about a reality TV host that she really likes. And a few other people were saying they liked him, too. And when I said I didn't, they asked why. I could have said I didn't like his style of presenting - or that he just rubbed me the wrong way. But I didn't. I actually said "Because he's been quoted as saying - and doing - some incredibly homophobic things." While that made the conversation falter for a few moments, and while I don't know that it made a difference in anyone's opinions, I'm pretty proud of myself for saying it.

Today was a different story. I was out getting my hair cut, and the woman was carrying on a nice conversation. She was probably about 10 years older than me, and after commenting that she would be spending Easter with her mother, her daughter, and her granddaughter, she asked what I would be doing. And I said I'd be spending it with my partner and his family.

I make comments like that a lot in retail situations. And I tend to watch for reactions - not because I'm trying to shock people, but because I'm trying to see what shift happens. It's usually right behind people's eyes as they try to figure out what's going on. When I'm getting a haircut, though, my glasses are off and I'm blind as a bat. So I just had to trust that she wasn't going to drop the scissors and snip off my ear. Instead, though, she asked how long we'd been together and whether we often spend holidays with his family. And I got a good haircut, to boot.

I know it's silly, and that it shouldn't really matter, but that's my own "we're all around - no need to be afraid" crusade. So I'll just keep talking my talk - one conversation at a time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Out of Focus

Ever have one of those days when you just can't seem to focus on anything? I had one of those, today, at work. Actually, now that I think about it, I had one yesterday, too.

Yesterday's lack of focus, though, was caused more by a ton of projects all coming at me at once - and all needing immediate attention. So I was doing what all sorts of jargon-happy people call "multi-tasking," but I fully admit that what it really meant is what it usually means whenever people day it: that no one thing was getting quite as much attention as it really needed.

Today was a different story. Today I had a great, focused energy spurt right when I got to work. I got a good 90 minutes worth of stuff done with only minor distractions. Then I had to shift gears to deal with a client phonecall, during which I spent a bunch of my time explaining how to use Track Changes in MSWord (which I know the guy had already been told how to do twice before by someone else).

After that, I went to lunch with a coworker who just got back from a (non-ironically stated) life-changing trip. She went on a sort of pilgrimage to Israel and now that she's back she's kind of unsure what to do with her life. She's also in her mid-20s, so part of me was spending time listening to her stories and thinking about what I was doing at her age...

Back in the current time and back at my desk, I could not get my head back into my work. I tried. I really did. I stayed off the Internet, even. But I just couldn't make any headway on what I was working on. So I printed out a new quote for my bad quote wall. And I helped a co-worker come up with some "getting to know you" questions for a survey. And then I went back online and printed out the Twins 2013 schedule so that I could see when traffic is going to be a mess.

Somehow, I did get some work done. And, miraculously, it eventually became 5 o'clock. I'm not sure how those things happened, though, since I wasn't... well... focused on them, either.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Wonderful World of Color

There is something incredibly "inner-child-liberating" about dying Easter eggs. Whether it's the idea of using a crayon to write hidden messages which will only show up in the dye, or swirling in the oil to make "marbled" eggs, it's just so silly that you can't help but love it.

Having not colored any eggs last year, this year I decided to go whole chicken and do a full 18 eggs. (It doesn't hurt that the 18-egg packs were on sale for less than the dozens were.)

(Not that I didn't let my inner child out to play at other times of the year, though. And, as you may remember, two years ago I relived the joy of The Bunny Cake.)

This year, though, I just had the urge to dye eggs. So I did. All 18 of them. And some paper towels. And some newspaper. And my fingers.

I suspect I'll be taking festive hard-cooked eggs to work with me for lunches for the foreseeable future.

I might also go out and buy some marked-down egg coloring kits after Easter is done, just so that I can have fun colored eggs in my fridge from time to time throughout the year.

Because, really, aside from the chance to color your fingers purple and orange and green, what better reason is there to dye the eggs than to be able to smile every time you open the fridge?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dining... With Reservations

I was going to start this by saying "Maybe I'm just getting old..." but, frankly, I think I felt the same way in my 20s. Basically, I've never been a "stand in line for an hour because you might like the meal" kind of person.

There are, certainly, things I'll stand in line for an hour for. Many rides in Disney parks fall into this category (although I *do* love a Fastpass).

I'll stand in line for an hour - or multiple hours, actually - to do things like get autographs from John and Carole Barrowman.

And, yes, the amount of time I'm willing to stand in line is directly connected to whom I will be standing with. And where. If I'm with great friends and I know that we can talk about nothing and everything for at least twice the time that we're in line? No problem. If we're in an intricately designed, climate-controlled holding area before, say, Muppets 3-D? No problem.

But if we're going to be shoved into the back of a restaurant where there isn't even an actual bar to belly up to, and we won't be able to hear each speak? Not good. If there's actually nowhere indoors to stand, so we'll be either outside in frigid temps or outside in scorching temps? Not happy.

All of which is my way of saying that I really like going to restaurants where I can make reservations and be treated like a "guest" when I show up. When I walk up to the "host" stand, I kinda like to feel like I'm being hosted, not hoisted.

Twice in the past month, Christopher and I have changed our dining plans because we showed up at restaurants which didn't take reservations, only to be told that it would be at least a 45-minute wait. The first time was at about 5:50 on a Wednesday night. The second was at 5:30 this evening - at a restaurant which actually says on their website that they feel it's more "fun" without reservations.

I dunno. I'm thinking that, unless places like those start adding fireworks or character dining, I'm going to have to say that their idea of fun and my idea of fun are very different.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guilt-free Pleasures

I don't think I've mentioned, recently, that "Glee" is one of my main guilty pleasures on the TV schedule. Tonight, though, having thoroughly enjoyed their "Guilty Pleasures" episode, I feel almost compelled to talk about it.

It was cool to watch the episode, tonight, and wonder what direction they were going to go in. It was even cooler that I pretty much knew all of the songs they did. Who would have guessed that a bunch of "teenagers" would have listed songs from the 80s as their guilty pleasures? (Sorry... I forgot for a moment there that this is TV, not real life...)

It's strange, though, the way that guilty pleasures change over time. Or maybe it's just strange the way we rank different things as "guilt-able" over time. Frankly, as I think about it, there aren't many pleasures that I have that I feel guilty about.

Okay. I feel a little guilty admitting that - yes - I like to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter dipped directly into the Nestle Quik container. But the storyline on "Glee" also focused on the secret aspects of the characters' guilty pleasures. And since Christopher knows that I like my peanut butter and Quik fixes... well... it's not exactly secret.

These days, instead, my guilty pleasures are things that are pretty much out in the open. Things like the pleasure of getting to and from work without another new noise coming from my car. Or coming to the end of a pay period with actual money still in my checking account (this frequently follows the "no new car noise" idea). Or - this spring - walking the dog in the morning without coming back inside with frostbite.

But I guess they're all really just "pleasures" without so much of the guilt.

Sitting here and pondering it, I almost feel like I should crack open a pint of Ben & Jerry's, snuggle up on the couch, and re-watch the episode - just to make sure I didn't miss anything.

No guilt involved.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Temptation

If you live in many areas of the United States at the moment, you know that winter just won't go away.

And I know it's not just Minnesota. I've been seeing all sorts of pictures of snow and nasty weather from the Eastern Seaboard.

But since I live in Minneapolis, that's my whiny point of reference.

You see, tomorrow - the first day of spring - is supposed to have a high of 18 degrees. That is the coldest first day of spring since 1965. That's a high which is colder than our average LOW temperature for that date. And we're not even supposed to get UP TO freezing until sometime next weekend - if we're lucky. (The average highs are supposed to be nearing 50.)

In the meantime, I keep getting emails and online ads for warm and sunny places. The Disney companies are hitting me from Florida, California, and Hawaii - as well as Paris. The airlines want me to go on Spring Break. There's a new hotel in NYC (not tropical, but warmer than here!) that wants my business.

All while I'm wrapped in an afghan on the couch, trying to remember if my slippers are upstairs or downstairs. I've been contemplating a night in a hotel - just so I can turn up the heat in the room and not worry about the furnace bill. In the meantime, I'm not complaining when the pup decides to snuggle between Christopher and me - since it means more heat.

I've found myself daydreaming about wearing shorts. I'm starting to mentally plan what I'm going to do in the yard and garden this year. And I've also been wondering what the gardens might look like somewhere near the Equator.

I'm incredibly tempted to wipe out my savings and buy a plane ticket - any plane ticket. But if I went somewhere where everything is already warm and green I'd miss the thrill of watching the snow finally go away and the trees and grass turning green and things starting to grow again.

And I really do love spring. I just hope it comes, soon - before the temptation to travel becomes too strong to fight.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Can You Spare 15,000 Dimes?

I'm not really a huge fan of cute food. As much as I like to see gorgeous food show up on the table in front of me, I'd rather have food that tastes good than food that looks good.

On the one hand, if the food is too pretty, then I feel bad digging in.

On the other hand, if the food is that pretty, I kind of wonder what it's going to taste like.

I'd much prefer an average looking plate of food which I don't feel guilty about eating.


This week, I was talking to someone about dark chocolate, and happened to suggest that she look at the website for La Maison du Chocolat. (Don't look yet, it will spoil the surprise.)

I was poking around on the site talking about their truffles and their individual chocolates, pointing out how overly expensive they are (they're French, so if you're buying them in the States, you have to realize you're paying massive import fees).

And then I saw that they have an Easter selection. I was expecting bunnies. And eggs. I was figuring that they would be cute, but I'd be more than happy to bite their little ears off and eat them up.

But what I found was this:

Ohmigod. Can you believe how cute they are? 

Which brings me to my dilemma. You see... The small, individual sheep are about $90 each. The duo in front of the fence? $220. The whole adorable scene at the top? $1,200.

And I'm not really sure I would be able to eat them because they are so freakin' cute.

But I'd be willing to try, if any of you can spare me 15,000 dimes.

(Oh. Wait. You better make that about 17,500 dimes, because we'll need to cover shipping. And we'll need to get both of the individual sheep, because we wouldn't want the other one to feel left out...) (Don't worry, I can get you my shipping address. Just let me know.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Food - Rye

It's been a while since I've actually talked about a specific restaurant in here. But I had a great experience a couple of nights ago and wanted to share.

Christopher and I went out for happy hour (ostensibly) with La Blonde Inconnue, and met up at the Rye Deli. We've driven past in a number of times, and La Blonde walks past it multiple times each week, but Christopher and I had never been in.

Two things had made me want to go: 1) They have Reubens. And, although that would have been enough for me, 2) They have "Quebec style smoked meat" and Poutine.

This being the St. Patrick's Day time of year, I always crave corned beef. And if I'm not boiling my own, I tend to go out and find a good corned beef Reuben to satisfy that craving. So I figured this would be a good deal for me.

I checked it out in advance, and found that they have their own (small) parking lot. Which, considering where they are, is pretty incredible. And I was lucky enough to find an open space. (They have one space held as a handicapped space, and two spaces are 10-minute "carryout" spaces, so I was really lucky.)

They've got a nicely stocked bar, from which La Blonde and Christopher each had a signature "Honey Rye Old Fashioned." What impressed me about this - aside from the fact that the bartender was a serious muddler - is that they came in the correct size Old Fashioned glasses - not the usually monstrous Double Old Fashioned or "Rocks" glass. (Yes, I know that larger glasses could signify more booze, but most of the time they just mean more ice and lower quality alcohol. These smaller glasses were very perfectly sized - in a cool, retro sort of way.)

We munched from the Happy Hour menu, getting beer batter cheese curds (you could actually taste the beer in the batter!) which came with the house spicy brown mustard; and some house cut fries with sea salt (which were very good). The curds and fries both tasted great - although the curds were just a tad oily - but they were good enough that you can ignore that.

La Blonde splurged on a "Well Built Burger" which she made all the right "nummy" sounds while eating - even though the top bun was really tall. (I honestly thought they had sliced open a monster muffin and put her burger in it.)

Because my stomach can, sometimes, be a bit particular, I ordered a "Knife and Fork Reuben" (made with smoked meat - basically like pastrami) to go. It came in a sealed paper box (to keep the heat in), and we were on our way. At home - probably a good 20 minutes later, at least - the sandwich was still warm. It's served open-faced, and covers one central piece of bread, as well as a second piece of bread cut in half and attached as "wings."

What covers that? A MOUND of meat, sauerkraut, dressing, and a ton of cheese. All with a pickle spear and a cup of slaw (which, I have to admit, was a little too sweet for me) on the side. The sandwich was so good that I didn't even realize that I'd meant to have corned beef until I was about halfway through it.

We didn't have dessert (obviously), but the table next to us did, and everything looked amazing.

So... Do I recommend Rye? Definitely. The place is a good size. The staff is incredibly friendly. The food is traditional - but not traditional for Minnesota. I think that, when I go back, I'll probably make a deal with myself: If I find parking, I'll hang out for a while. If I don't, I'll take a 10-minute space and get carry-out. I'll be happy either way.

Oh. You can find them at:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Point and Click (and Shake and Curse)

I spent pretty much my entire day at work today pointing and clicking. And, no, I wasn't simply surfing the 'net. I was actually doing work.

The problem is that it wasn't really *my* work. You see, I was working on the second round of editing of a manuscript. In other words, I had worked on it a while ago and made tons of edits using "Track Changes" in MSWord.

Then I sent it to the author, who read through it all, made some changes, responded to my comments, tweaked it, fluffed it, and dinked around, and then sent it back.

The one thing he didn't do was clear out all of my Track Changes markings before he started. So when it came back to me, it was full of all of my original comments and changes PLUS all of his new comments and changes. Honestly, I think there were more pages in red and blue than there were in black.

It would be fine if I could have just opened it, done "Accept All" and moved on. But, of course, this author decided to respond to my comments IN my comments. And not just after what I'd written, but sometimes literally writing his comments in the middle of sentences I had written. So I didn't want to accidentally accept things that he had actually said "Leave that in" about.

I contemplated sending the entire manuscript back to him and telling him to do his work before sending it to me. But... yeah... that would have been bad.

Which is why I spent 2 hours yesterday, and 7 hours today pointing and clicking my way through clearing out my old changes but leaving all of his new ones.

When I eventually develop carpal tunnel, I'm going to look back on this day and shake my (carpal tunnel-weakened) wrist and curse his name.

Which will only be different from what I did for most of today in that I'll be shaking my fist, instead of just cursing his name and flipping him off via my computer screen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Past Lives

It has been a strange day of living in my past. Kind of unintentionally.

I mean... I haven't been in a funk and wanting to relive some other time - which I totally admit happens from time to time - it just kind of happened of its own accord, today.

I reached into my closet this morning for a t-shirt. I wanted something with a graphic of some kind (because I can wear that kind of thing to work), and just pulled out the first shirt that I put my hand on. It's a really comfortable t-shirt from the 30th Birthday celebration for a store called Kitchen Bazaar from out in Maryland. I worked there in... umm... 1993, maybe? Maybe 1994? But I still have good friends from there, and good friends I met while working there - but who, themselves, did not work there.

At work, today, I was introduced to a new member of staff, and the topic came up that - having started at the company 4 years ago - I'm currently the 6th most senior member of the staff.

In the course of the day, I got a notice that a good friend of mine will be leaving his job at CenterStage Theater in Baltimore in the near future. This is a good friend of mine whom I hired to work under me in the Box Office many years ago - I worked there from 1996 until 2002. (He has, since, gone on to be a Box Office manager and then work in the Development office and do all sorts of cool things.) He's kind of my last solid connection to that theater. It's a weird feeling knowing that he's moving on and that I won't need to stop by the theater to see people on future visits to Baltimore.

Got home from work and had a SDSU alumni magazine (class of 1989!) in the mail. No biggie. I get those often enough - although it did seem a bit coincidental.

But then I opened an envelope from my parents to find that the note was written on a card which had the show artwork from a CenterStage production of the August Wilson play "Two Trains Running" on the front of it (which I recognized and was able to name even before looking at the back of the card, even though the show ran a couple of seasons before I started work there).

What else was in the envelope? A clipping from my hometown newspaper's "Way Back When" column where, from 24 years ago, there was a notice that I had just been awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to France (apparently one of 12 recipients from SDSU from 1968 until 1989, in case you were wondering).

I'm not sure what it all means, really.

Perhaps it's just all funky coincidence based in the fact that today was the birthday of Douglas Adams - the guy who wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series of books.

Perhaps it's the universe's not-so-subtle way of reminding me where I've come from.

Perhaps it's a hint that I need to clear out my closet more frequently.

We may never know.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Forward

Yep. It's that time, again. Time to move the clocks forward, to have a lot more sunlight in the evenings, and to have to re-adjust to darkness when the alarm goes off in the morning. 

With a rainy day in our area, today, the "spring" part of that finally feels like it's coming closer. Definitely a difference from the eight or ten inches of snow we got last weekend. Granted, when the temperatures drop this could all turn to ice - which snow doesn't do - but at least during the dog walks, today, I didn't have to bundle up so far that I couldn't see. 

It's strange, though. Since the time changes got moved a few years ago, I'm still not used to this happening so soon. It seems, in some odd way, that there should be more dark evenings in the spring before we launch forward. 

Perhaps, though, that's because I live in Minnesota, where even the earliest of flowers won't actually come up for at least another 4 to 6 weeks, so getting too much sun just makes us all that much more antsy. Spring fever gets pretty bad around here when there's extra daylight but you can't go out and enjoy it.

For now, I guess I'll just keep buying bundles of tulips at the store and imagining a time - sometime soon - when I'll be able to see them outdoors, too. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Updated Expectations

So I gave the Mapley Brown Sugar Oatmeal Delights PopTarts another chance, today.

This time, I made sure to think about them as "Mapley" instead of "Cinnamony."

They smelled just as good as they did the other day. And, once again, my officemates commented on how much it smelled like I was making oatmeal in the office.

And this time when I bit into them, I reminded myself that they were not going to taste like Brown Sugar Cinnamon PopTarts.

And, you know, they were okay. They tasted like instant maple brown sugar oatmeal. Which is pretty amazing, considering they are PopTarts.

Unfortunately, I like real maple syrup. And I *have* real maple syrup (and brown sugar) at my disposal in the house. And... well... there's a difference between the taste of manufactured maple syrup and the real stuff.

Plus - although when I tried them on Tuesday I was amused by the "streusel-like" topping on them, today I found myself kind of annoyed by how much oatmeal streusel I kept getting on my desk.

So although I'm now convinced that the PopTarts do taste like what most people will think is quite good maple brown sugar oatmeal, I don't think I'll be running out to buy any more of those. I'll probably just stick to Brown Sugar Cinnamon - now if only I could find a storehouse of those in the unfrosted variety, I'd be set.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Expectations Versus Reality

We may have discussed, in the past, the fact that I eat PopTarts for breakfast pretty much every day at work. I have a toaster on a small table behind my desk specifically for this reason. It doesn't have a PopTarts setting, but I use it, anyway. (Yes, they do make toasters with PopTarts settings.)

My favorite PopTarts are unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon, but those are really hard to find. So I usually have frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon at work. And either frosted or unfrosted Strawberry. And then something with chocolate - Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough are two of my fallbacks.

This week, though, I decided to try the new Oatmeal Delights "Mapley Brown Sugar" PopTarts. They sounded really interesting. Kind of like warm oatmeal with brown sugar and maple syrup. So I bought some and took them to work and tried them, today.

They smelled amazing when they were in the toaster. Basically, they smelled like... well... brown sugar maple oatmeal. And they tasted like - no surprises, here - brown sugar maple oatmeal.

So I should be happy, right?

The problem is that somehow, in my brain, I had come to expect cinnamon. There was no mention of cinnamon anywhere on the packaging, but I had gotten it in my head that there would be cinnamon - I think because the other brown sugar PopTarts I've had have always had cinnamon. But these have maple, instead.

Reality did not meet Expectation, today.

Of course, with PopTarts, there's more than one breakfast in each box. We'll have to see how the next tasting goes. Perhaps my Expectations will be more Realistic, and my outcome will be more interesting.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


After a mostly sunny weekend, we're being warned that the next 48 hours could get "messy" due to snow. (No, really. That's what the weatherman said on one of the local stations - it was above "mild" but below "major" on his "snow threat level" chart.)

It's funny, though. As much as everyone I know is getting tired of snow and looking forward to spring (which, granted, is not the opinion of everyone in Minnesota - just most of the people I know), we've also gotten kind of blase about it.

Right now, I think they're predicting anywhere from 5 to 12 inches of snow could fall in the Twin Cities metropolitan area between tonight and Tuesday. And although we're seeing the big Winter Storm Watch stuff on TV, mostly they're just saying "the commutes on Monday and Tuesday could be slower than usual."

Maybe it's because, at the very least, this means that the next few days won't be foggy.

Maybe it's because we're supposed to be above freezing during most of the storm and into the latter part of the week - which is a move in the right direction even with snow in the forecast.

Maybe it's just because we're tired of weatherpeople crying "wolf" and us coming up with 3 inches when they've predicted 2 feet.

All I know for sure is that I'll be getting up tomorrow and trying to leave at least a little early to deal with traffic. Not snow traffic, but just Monday commute traffic.

And when I come home tomorrow night I'll put out the recycling, walk the dog, and prepare for Tuesday's still-snowy commute - during which I suspect I'll be dreaming of spring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Friday Wall

I know that a lot of people dread Mondays (or whatever days their workweeks start on). They don't like the idea of starting out a new workweek. They're upset about the weekend ending. They hate getting back to the grind.

I am *totally* with those people. (Which is why, occasionally, I play the lottery.) But I don't think Monday is the worst part of the workweek.

For me, Friday afternoon - beginning about an hour after lunch - is the worst part of the week.

Sure, there is the anticipation of being *this close* to the weekend. And there's the feeling of impending freedom. And - for a lot of people - the excitement of a frosty cold beverage in hand as soon as the clock strikes 5.

But while I love to think about the coming weekend, freedom, and frosty beverages, I frequently find it incredibly hard to deal with the afternoon that comes before all of those things.

Friday afternoon is when you get to that point where you're pretty sure that every last brain cell has already been used. It's when you're either rushing to finish a project (and are probably putting errors into it because you're rushing - let's be honest), or you've just finished a project and really don't have enough time left in the week to get a decent start on something new.

And it's when those of us who usually feel beyond the age of "I'm going out to party after work!" begin to feel just a little guilty about not wanting to go out to party after work.

I would suspect that Friday afternoons generate the highest number of nuisance calls to IT departments, the largest spikes in non-work-related Internet usage, and the greatest number of trips to the bathroom/hallway/smoking area/vending machines of any time of week.

They might even inspire the most blog posts written while their authors were "on a break - no, really." (Although I'm not sure I have any facts to back that up... Nope... No facts about that around here...)

So here's to the weekend - which I think is only another 742 hours away (give or take).