Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yet Another Grocery Trip

I went grocery shopping today, and as regular readers of my blog know, I'm not the biggest fan of grocery shopping. I do like the people-watching, particularly when people argue in foreign languages and I get to make up what they're arguing about, but other customers have an almost infinite capacity to annoy me, and apparently I went to Kroger during both Official Bitter Old Person Time and Official Insane Person Time. There were a whole bunch of people talking to themselves, loudly and startlingly, without bluetooth headsets on. And a subset of that bunch felt the need to address others. And demand answers. Coherent ones.

Meanwhile, there was that subset of the elderly who hate the entire universe. These was this one woman who apparently felt that I had no business shopping so she literally kept cart-checking me. I was repeatedly cart-checked by a 75-year-old lady less than five feet tall who was utterly determined to prevent me from buying any dairy and who kept giving me dirty, dirty looks for daring to, you know, want calcium. Because apparently they might run out.

I picked up a Kroger tote bag* today, to go with all my string bags, because there are some things that just fit a lot better in the brown-paper-bag-type bag instead of the string bags, which expand almost infinitely (it's an Undetectable Extension Charm) but are very bad at holding things like boxes.

I appreciate the fact that as reusable bags are becoming both more common and more of a political issue, checkers and baggers no longer look at me like I have three heads when I want to use my own bags. I also appreciate that instead of being considered a freak with weird requests who must be tolerated because I am a customer, I am now recognized as a being of superior moral fiber for having my own bags. (Actually, I sort-of don't; I have an innate desire to jump off the bandwagon -- any bandwagon -- as soon as it gets popular.) On the other hand, while they work out some of the kinks in the bagging system, I'd be just as happy to do my own bagging.

*As a general rule, I object to wearing brand labels unless I get them for free -- I do not pay for other people to advertise on me. If they want to advertise on me, they can pay ME. However, the Kroger totes are 99 cents (compared to about $15 for a plain grocery tote) and are very sturdy, so I'm cool with the logo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Notes to Self

I have a terrible habit of scrawling down semi-comprehensible notes to myself so that when I stumble across them later, I'm not sure if it's a shopping list or a chore list or something I needed to tell someone ...

Cleaning my desk yesterday, I stumbled across the following:


Quite a puzzler.

After about 5 minutes of staring and pondering, it dawned on me those were two lectures for my ethics class I wanted to edit a bit so they'll be shiny for next time, one on marriage and one on porn and censorship.

But boy was that a list with interesting possibilities!

Monday, November 19, 2007

At Least Until I Stop Jumping at Small Sounds

I realize that my blogging's been sporadic lately, and that's because I'm pretty stressed out, and I don't really like to blog about, like, serious personal feelings. I much prefer blogging about my many pratfalls and peeves. Some things aren't funny, and being up to one's eyeballs in stress is one of them.

It's not any one thing in particular; it's just a little too much of any number of things -- work, school, housecleaning (after the basement work, it's way ahead of me), holiday travel, volunteer commitments, grocery shopping, cats playing the underfoot game -- and it's all making me feel really frantic and anxious about keeping all my balls in the air. And of course once you get frantic and anxious, you tend to either work inefficiently or screw things up, which only makes you more frantic and anxious, which leads into a vicious cycle.

I'm into the part of the vicious cycle where even stupid things keep going wrong, like this morning I dumped a cup of vinegar down my shirt being clumsy, and I've lost the pin I wear on my winter coat (on a day I was a ton of places so I have no idea where it was lost), and I broke a wineglass a few days ago, and yesterday I gave myself a nasty little burn on the toaster ... and every single one of these things is a crisis situation, because I'm on my last nerve so I have no ability to just shrug, laugh, and move on.

So that's why I haven't been very entertaining lately, and I expect you won't see much on this blog for the next couple weeks, until I get myself a few new nerves and stop leaping out of my skin when, say, the furnace blower kicks on. (And maybe not until the burn from the toaster heals because that sucker hurts!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Every Now and Then I See the Dude Who Married My Parents on TV

... which I rather suspect was my grandmother's point, because she wanted like a dozen Jesuits to marry them, just to be sure it would stick. If you watch Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS, or if you read basically anything from the wire services about Catholicism, you'll eventually see Tom Reese quoted. (If you want to see Eyebrows's gurus, you'll have to keep an eye out for Richard McBrien and Stanley Hauerwas*, who are both proud of Eyebrows when she gets herself in trouble, but for entirely different reasons.)

Eyebrows, on the other hand, had a Methodist woman give the sermon at her wedding. Eyebrows had a pretty entertaining wedding as a general thing, since Mr. McGee met the presiding priest in traffic school, and the priest a) had a spectacular voice and b) was pretty mellow about letting Eyebrows retranslate all the readings and have a Methodist preach the sermon and have a friend from college sing the Ave Maria and the organist play the Notre Dame Alma Mater. Apparently he told Mr. McGee I was the weirdest bride he'd ever had, but I guess he just hasn't had that many brides who insist on doing their own translations from the Hebrew and get all uppity about the liturgical symbolism of veils (Eyebrows did not wear one).

Eyebrows's priest told them that he'd never had a divorce in any of the couples he married, so Eyebrows feels morally obligated to calculate how much she'd be bringing down his average whenever she feels the urge to smack her husband. He also talked a lot about brightly-colored water and bowls and pouring water and things, but Eyebrows was frankly pretty stressed out and didn't pay that much attention when he was talking. She only listened during pre-Cana; anything that came after pre-Cana got filtered out by the stress.

*Stanley Hauerwas taught Eyebrows's mom freshman ethics when Hauerwas was a baby professor at Notre Dame and Eyebrows's mom was a baby college student. When Hauerwas found out he'd taught Eyebrows's mom ethics and now had Eyebrows in ethics class (as a grad student at Duke), he laughed until he cried and blamed Eyebrows for being 25ish. Eyebrows feels suitably guilty about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Buttons and Bars

This afternoon I went looking for a new Firefox add-on -- I can't even remember now what functionality I was looking to add -- and of course I ended up spending a good 45 minutes sorting through the add-ons before downloading and testing several and spending a happy half-hour reconfiguring my Firefox interface. Enough buttons for convenience, but not too cluttered, mind, or you can't find anything.

I love Firefox extensions. The only thing I haven't found is a decent stock ticker extension, ideally to run in my status bar like ForecastFox does.

I run:
  • Adblock Plus -- of course
  • Clipmarks -- new; saves bits of websites. Hoping to stop cluttering up my bookmarks list for something I just want to look at later.
  • ForecastFox -- Best. Extension. Ever. Mine even tells me how allergic I'm going to be to the world today and how quickly I'm going to get sunburned. Also, I think it's neat the way it puts an icon in my status bar for severe weather alerts, because the odds I'm watching TV or listening to radio are low, but Firefox is almost always on, so that's a much better emergency weather alert system for me!
  • GMail Checker -- meh
  • Google Reader Notifier -- I use Google Reader as my RSS reader
  • Googlebar Lite -- slightly redundant with the standard search bar already there, but I adore the highlight feature
  • ReminderFox -- to-do list & calendar in status bar
  • RetailMeNot -- alerts you to coupons when e-shopping
  • Zotero -- new; supposed to be spectacular for web research
I also futzed around with my search bar and bookmarks bar since I discovered I can add to my search bar (which, I swear, is 50% of my ad hoc searching: "Who the heck is that actress? It's driving me crazy!") and I can make just favicons (no text) appear in the bookmarks toolbar, which means I can pop them on the main toolbar and not take up so much damned screen space. I absolutely loathe having half a dozen toolbars dripping down the top of my screen.

What extensions do you run?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Can Has Dry Basement

The new dewatering system is installed, the new hot water heater is in and heating water and I got a hot shower today, and our long national nightmare is nearly over. Well, sort-of nearly. At least the jackhammering part is done.

We're done with disruptions by contractors for a while, but we now face refinishing the ex-finished half of the basement, reinstalling the bathroom drywall (and then the fixtures, which we're leaving out for now), and sorting out everything that got moved around to clear the basement out. Mr. McGee has elaborate plans for steel studding and repaneling and built-in shelves; my ambitions run as far as using that concrete paint with the flecks so it looks like linoleum to seal the concrete on the finished side. That's it. I figure we have to seal it anyway, and then we can just use (pre-existing) throw rugs until we decide whether we want to carpet it or not. (Ideally several years from now, when I've recovered from this bout of contracting.) Once there's floor on the floor, we can move furniture back in and all we'd have to do in the future to do paneling and stuff is push everything into the center of the room, away from the walls. I am perfectly happy to sit in the unfinished dark basement on my futon until the end of time if it means no more upheaval, as long as there's floor.

The ex-finished side of my basement looks really tiny now. We had to remove ceiling light fixtures, so it's dark, and the white paneling and white drop ceiling came out, so the walls are dark cinderblock and the ceiling is dark floor joists. It's downright claustrophobic. I hadn't realized how much bigger all the white did make it look.

Now that the new sump pump is in, we can go ahead with some gardening plans to dig a small stream that will carry gutter water and sump water away from the house to a little sunken rain garden. (After this experience, I've become ultra-paranoid about moving water away from my foundation by any means possible, even though we've had zero problems since we had the driveway, which was the problem, fixed.) Maybe we can even get that dug before hard frost, so we can just plant it out come spring!

Ah, homeownership.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Shock of the Week

So it turns out to be REALLY ANNOYING when someone runs a jackhammer IN YOUR HOUSE.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Chicken Cordon Bleu: Recipe

As requested, here's the recipe. I don't know if it's the awesomest recipe ever for chicken cordon bleu, but it's what I made.

-6 medium whole chicken breasts, skinned and boned
-6 Swiss cheese slices
-6 slices ham
-3 T. flour
-1 tsp. paprika
-6 T. butter
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-1 chicken bouillon cube OR 1 tsp. chicken stock base OR 1/2 cup chicken stock**
-1 T. cornstarch
-1 cup heavy cream

Prepare chicken breasts and fold ham and cheese inside chicken breast. There are dozens of ways to prepare the breasts -- butterflying the breasts, pounding them thin, cutting a hole and poking the ham and cheese inside, simply rolling them around the ham and cheese as is. I butterflied and pounded, then rolled them around the ham and cheese. Secure with toothpicks.

Mix flour and paprika; coat chicken pieces.

In 12" skillet over medium heat, in butter, cook chicken until browned on all sides. Add wine and chicken bouillon/base/stock. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove toothpicks. (And remove chicken from skillet; leave liquid.)

In cup, blend cornstarch and cream until smooth; gradually stir into skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve over chicken.

**If you use chicken STOCK, the cream sauce will not be as thick as if you use base or a bouillon cube.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Von Trapp Family Trick-or-Treaters, Toddlers, and Grey Cat

Things are busy at the McGee household as we prepare for the Great Basement Upheaval of 2007, which involves the Three Days of No Hot Water, so I don't have a ton of time to blog.

We had a very nice Hallowe'en, with some friends over while we all sat on the porch, drank wine, and handed out candy. (This is why I love my neighborhood -- most of the hander-outers were having a drink, and most of the parents-walking-kids were carrying a beer. Swear.) The BEST trick-or-treaters we got were the Von Trapp Family Trick-or-Treaters. Who were dressed as the Von Trapps. And sang. At every house. In four-part harmony. They were GOOD! (And the dad did look a little bit like Christopher Plummer, who is hot in that movie.)

Grey Cat loves Hallowe'en. This year, since we were sitting on the porch, we eventually had to put him in his crate on the front porch because he was wailing in emotional agony and plastering himself on the front door to try to get our attention. He spent two very happy hours, completely hyperactive, watching the kids come and go.

Our toddler neighbor trick-or-treated this year. (He was a ninja.) He came over to our house first, and we sort-of hid behind the door so he could knock, since this is really his first time. Instead, he opened our door, shouted, "OPEN NA DOOR!" and let himself in. We gave him candy and he looked at us like we had three heads. He came back at the end after going up and down the block, and THIS time he shouted "TRICK TREAT!" and then started grabbing candy from the bowl. Apparently he learned.

Grey Cat and our toddler-neighbor are in cahoots. Last week we were all sitting out on the patio chatting, watching toddler-neighbor run up and down the driveway, and we suddenly saw Grey Cat rolling around the pavement. I put him back inside, figuring the screen door hadn't latched properly, and a few minutes later he's outside AGAIN!

The culprit turned out to be toddler-neighbor, who, when faced with Grey Cat crying at the door wanting to come be with the people, was quite happy to oblige him in door-related matters requiring opposable thumbs.

Luckily toddler-neighbor chased Grey Cat with his ninja sword last night. I'm hoping this breach of faith breaks up their little organized crime ring.