27 January 2010

Pronto Paella

One of the Christmas gifts I got from my Grandma was a subscription to Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious. Last night, I tried my first recipe from there, and I'm SO pleased with it, I thought I'd share it. The magazine tells me that this recipe is a frugal $3.63 per serving, but as I already has several of the ingredients on hand, I'm not sure what I spent on the ingredients, so I can't tell you how accurate that was for me.

1 pkg (6.09 oz) rice pilaf
1 1/2 cups ready-to-use grilled chicken breast strips
1 medium sweet onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t. Cajun seasoning
3 T. butter
1 can (11 oz.) Mexicorn, drained
1 pkg (9 oz) frozen baby peas, thawed
1/2 lb. cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Microwave rice pilaf, according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the chicken, onion, garlic, and Cajun seasoning in butter until onion is tender.

Stir in the corn, peas, shrimp, and prepared pilaf; heat through.

Yield: 4 servings.

Substitutions I made: I forgot to get the Mexicorn at the store yesterday, which made me sad. I didn't have Cajun seasoning (which is weird), so I threw in some cayenne pepper, some black pepper, and some red pepper flakes. Finally, I didn't have garlic cloves, so I put in a crapload of ground garlic.

Oh, one other minor substitution - instead of the chicken breast strips, I used canned chicken from Trader Joe's because I had a can leftover from something else I was going to make one time. Actually, I'd probably do this every time I make this since I prefer cubed chicken to chicken strips, anyway.

I'm still sad about the missing corn, though. :(

25 January 2010

Happy 101 meme

Ria over at Short Attention Span Theatre as awarded me the Happy 101 Blog Award. And it seemed easier to comply than to try to come up with a blog post about something other than I've sat in the same spot on the couch and cried for the last three days (oops). Besides, no ones really wants to hear that. So, on to the fun!

This award comes with the following rules (what's with the rules? This was supposed to be FUN!):

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. List who gave the award to you and use a link to her/his blog (or hyperlink).
3. List 10 things that make you happy.
4. Pass the award on to other bloggers and visit their blog to let them know!

10 Things That Make Me Happy
(in no particular order)

1. Oscar
2. Felix
3. My mom
4. Friends
5. Reading
6. Knitting (well, when I'm not experiencing Epic Fail)
7. Music
8. Laughing
9. Sports
10. Food
11. Volunteering
12. Quality television shows

(Yep, more than ten. Sue me. I dare you.)

Tag! You're it:

23 January 2010

Joining the Ranks of the Unemployed

As some of you have already heard, I got laid off yesterday.

My boss gave me several reassurances that this was absolutely not a performance issue, so much so that she and the Director of HR apparently spent the last couple of weeks trying to "reposition" me within the hospital. They thought they had something for me, but it didn't pan out. They gave me a list of the open positions in the entire system (we have several hospitals and organisations) in case I saw something that interested me or thought I might be qualified for that they didn't see. They made sure that I knew how to get ahold of the HR Director and the Director of Employment Services in case I apply to something so I can let them know.

My boss said that she and another higher-up had also fought really hard on my behalf, but clearly it was for naught.

My boss also pulled some strings so that I didn't get the typical "here's a box to pack and we will escort you out in an hour" treatment. She had apparently told them quite firmly that I take public transit to work every day and she was not putting me in the position of lugging a box home on the subway, and that if I needed to come back next week to pick up the rest they would not give me a problem with that.

I spent the rest of the morning with my boss showing her what I do, how to do my job, trying to give her as much of the knowledge that I store in my head as I could, etc. There was a funny moment when I was giving her a rundown of monthly deadlines and who I distribute monthly data to on a regular basis that she wasn't aware of; the look on her face was PRICELESS. At one point, she told me she had no idea who was going to do the monthly graphs from now on, and I wished her luck.

I went online last night and looked at the job descriptions/qualifications of the listings they gave me that were remotely interesting, but they've either been pulled or filled (guess which one I suspect given that I was one of several casualties this week at the hospital). I've been poking around looking at some other sites and jobs that are open, but I'm taking SOME time, considering that I desperately need to finish my PhD applications and I've been toying with the idea of retaking the GRE, which I can now do any day of the week and not have to wait for a Saturday testing day (and have ample time to study).

I have severance and they're paying out my vacation days. They said they won't contest my unemployment (big of them), and gave me all of the information I need to apply. They explained my COBRA benefits, which actually aren't TOO painful, given that I HAVE to have health insurance. My provided insurance will last until the end of February and then I'll start COBRA-ing in March.

I am in such shock and disbelief. And I am so VERY thankful for the outpouring of support I've had since 11:08 a.m. yesterday morning when the first IM went out. And REALLY grateful for the Ben & Jerry's Brownie Batter Ice Cream and several hours of company last night, Kirsten! That cardigan's going to be great!

19 January 2010

Knitting Update

So I'm back in the knitting groove.

On Sunday, I took the Alternative Knitting Styles class with Margaret at Loop. Craig, the owner, taught the class, and as things turned out there was only one more student. It worked out nicely since he had us stand behind him for parts of the class so it was easier to actually watch what he did. I got to learn how to both Continental and Portuguese styles, and he also gave us a Combination Knitting demo, though we didn't actually have time to practice that one (although it was pretty easy to grasp... well, in theory, anyway).

At some point last year, I also joined the Free Pattern Testers group on Ravelry. The theory of the group is pretty genius. Designers can get their patterns tested free by several knitters/crocheters, and knitters/crocheters can score free patterns by agreeing to test knit and provide valuable feedback (sometimes including WIP and or FO pics) to the designers. A few weeks ago, I became one of the admins/moderators of the groups and, thus, have become much more active in the group.

And despite JUST getting over all of my Christmas deadline knitting, I found myself signing up for two test knits earlier this month. One of them I just finished literally about half an hour ago (whew! the deadline was tomorrow!), and it is a lovely pattern! I can't post pics of it since it may be published but I'm very pleased with how mine turned out, even with my infamous "Golden Globe" error in it. Yeah - so, I got a little excited whilst watching the Golden Globe awards and got too cocky with "Oh yeah, I got this all memorised." Oops.

The other pattern - well, if you saw my Twitters today about gauge, you know how that's going. I tried a gauge swatch yesterday and it didn't go well. I was supposed to get 30 stitches to 10 cms and I managed to get 34 stitches to 8.75 cms. So that's awesome. I only need to go up, like, a floppity jillion needle sizes. I mean, I know I'm a tight knitter, but DAMN! lol But at least some of the other knitters in the same test thread have commented that they moved up from fingering to DK yarn, etc., so I don't feel left out. This test knit is due next week, so I'm not TOO stressed about it... yet.

This Saturday, Veronik Avery will be at Loop, so I'm going to try to fit that into my schedule. And the following Sunday (not the day after, but the weekend next) is the local SnB. So, see? I really AM back into my knitting groove!

17 January 2010

World-Wide Need

It is times like these that kind of drive me crazy: an earthquake in Haiti, a tsunami in Thailand, an earthquake in China, etc. The pictures are horrifying, the loss is unimaginable, and the news coverage is non-stop. And then it starts: celebrities suddenly crawl out of the woodwork to tell you how to help. They let you know what they are doing, how much they are donating, and to whom.

Even Ravelry, a site I normally love and adore, has gotten into the act. Designers can tag their designs with special tags, and if one purchases such a tagged pattern a designated portion of the proceeds goes to a Haitian relief effort of the designer's choice. A person searching for a pattern can even filter for the special tag!

Before you keep reading, let me be as clear as I can be. I have nothing but the utmost empathy for what people most be going through in those situations. Obviously, I have not gone through a natural disaster of that magnitude. The closest I have experienced is the Missouri Floods of 1993, which was plenty for me, thankyouverymuch. And before you ask, yes, I participated a great deal in the clean-up efforts. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who have lost their entire families, for people who can't find their families, for people who have lost everything they have ever owned, and for people who now literally have nothing but the clothes on their back. Truly, it's unimaginable.

However, what disturbs me about the outpouring of "Help Haiti/China/Thailand/etc." campaigns is that there is a ridiculous amount of suffering and death on a daily basis that goes largely unnoticed by these same celebrities, media outlets, and dare I say it, Ravelry Powers That Be. For instance:
  • Approximately 8,500 people die every day of AIDS-related complications
  • Approximately 4,500 people die every day because they don't have clean drinking water
  • Approximately 2,700 people die every day of malaria
  • Approximately 33% of North Koreans are malnourished
These things happen EVERY DAY. These are problems that doctors, politicians (you know, the good ones - they DO exist; I promise!), public heath practitioners, and human rights advocates fight against EVERY DAY.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't give aid to Haitians right now. I'm not saying that they aren't deserving of prayer and compassion. Of course they are.

What I AM doing is imploring you to give aid to other, equally worthy causes every other day. They aren't as sexy, they won't make the news every day for two weeks straight, they won't have star-power backing them up; I can almost guarantee you that. That's kind of what makes the fight so special and meaningful. It's what will make you have so much passion for the cause later.

So, now that I've implored you to help, here's how you can:

My favourite HIV/AIDS sites/charities:
How to help with clean drinking water:
How to help eliminate malaria:
Information on North Korea's plight:

14 January 2010

Today, I am 35

And I got an unexpected gift: Orin actually called me. And I'm really all kinds of conflicted about it. On one hand, I'm really happy about, but on the other hand, I feel like I shouldn't be all "OMG!!! My father happened to remember to call me on my birthday this year!!!! Unlike the past three years!!!! Woweee!" It makes me sad that this is what our relationship has come to.

Neither of us mentioned that we didn't speak to each other on Christmas. Or the argument we had two days before Christmas that led to us not speaking to each other on Christmas. Frankly, I'm shocked as all get out that he called today. And I hate that it makes me wonder what he's up to.

BUT. On to other things. Someone asked me today how I'm celebrating my birthday. So here we go.

Tonight was very chill. Cleaning house in preparation for tomorrow (more on that tomorrow). I got to talk to my sister Laura for a couple of hours. She gave me some much needed dating advice, and we got to make fun of some morons (a favourite past-time of ours). I got to talk to my friend Rachel for almost an hour (while I staked out various corners of Trader Joe's and she saved me from having a breakdown in the middle of said store).

Tomorrow, some of my friends and I will have supper together, followed by hanging out at my place for dessert. This may include knitting, chatting, game playing, etc... who knows. This is also dependent on my ability to continue cleaning and clearing out spaces for people to sit. Oops.

On Sunday, I am taking a knitting class at my favourite LYS, Loop, Alternative Knitting Styles, with my friend Margaret. I will learn how to knit Continental and Portuguese! Margaret already knows how to knit Continental, so she help me fumble through that, but we will both be learning Portuguese knitting together. Then we will be lunching in the city together.

And, that, my friends, is how I am celebrating my birthday. With my friends, with my yarn, and with my LYS.

10 January 2010

General Life Update

As some of you know, I've been dealing with some health issues as of late, which should be no big surprise since it is, after all, me. ;)

I've been dealing with some lower GI issues since 28 December. I finally decided to see a doctor last Wednesday. I wasn't able to get in with an MD, but I saw a nurse practitioner, who was very nice. She narrowed it down to five possibilities and did a bunch of tests, not all of which need to be discussed here and now. I'm not a TMI person, but you may be. :) Happily that particular issue seems to be clearing up, which means that some of the more serious possibilities she mentioned last week are probably off the table.

Since about two weeks before Thanksgiving, I've been dealing with sacro-iliac pain (that joint in the bowl of the pelvis). I've been seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist, and things got better for the first few weeks, but then they plateaued after that. The chiro ordered x-rays, and I got the report last week. VERY preliminarily, it looks like I may be dealing with early onset osteoarthritis of the pelvic joints. So that's exciting.

The good news is that my chiro was a physical therapist before he decided to go to chiropractic school, so he's doing some stretching exercises with me, and one of the doctors who I work with has referred me to a PM&R (physical medicine and rehabilitation) doctor at work who is supposed to be very good. In fact, he used to be the team doctor for two of the pro sports teams here in Philly. So I feel like I'll be in good hands even if the final verdict isn't arthritis.

I'll keep you posted on both things, I'm sure.

In knitting news, I took a break for the past week or so because my hands needed it. After doing some SERIOUS deadline knitting as Christmas approached (that Ruffled Scarf for Grandma on those US2s really killed me) and then deciding to crank out a scarf for Mom during the week I was in Missouri... well, I just needed a break. But today I signed up for a test knit. So I'm back in the saddle again. I can't believe I signed up for something with another deadline, but oh well. Wish me luck!

06 January 2010

Christmas Day

Because of the blizzard, Christmas Day was put off until the day after Christmas. My grandma was not impressed with this ("in 88 years, I've never had to put off Christmas," to which my mom replied something like "well, then, you're getting a new experience this year, aren't you?"). But my mom and I vetoed grandma, explaining that an 88-year-old woman had no business being out in unsalted, mostly unplowed streets, in single-digit weather. The food we'd prepped the day before would keep one more day.

On actual Christmas Day, Mom and I shovelled the drive anyway, figuring we'd save us some work the next day when Grandma and her partner John actually came over (Mom always moves her car out of the driveway so Grandma and John can park in the drive). Then on Saturday, we had to shovel again (although not nearly as much, which was the point), but since they'd plowed we also decided to shovel part of the street so Grandma and John would be able to turn the corner and zip right into our drive (we're full-service shovellers!).

Once inside, this is what the living room was like. The Christmas tree was decorated, despite Mom's threat to leave it in the attic this year. I think she believed me when I told her "no tree, no presents." One of the dog's, Sasha, made herself at home on one of Dale's (Mom's husband) presents.

I got a lot of NASCAR haul: a Robby Gordon shirt that I had picked out at Kansas Speedway, Grandma made me a set of Kyle Busch pillowcases (they say Kyle's name and have "18"s dancing across the end in various sizes and M&M's colours), Mom made me a pair or sweatpants with Scott Speed's, Kyle Busch's, and Carl Edward's names embroidered on them, and I got a few Kyle Busch t-shirts Mom picked up (two at Cargo Largo and one at M&M World in Las Vegas).

And, of course, I got a lot of Michael Jackson haul, too. Grandma had saved pretty much every KC Star (the local newspaper) that had MJ on the front page. I got the soundtrack to "This Is It," the 12-month wall calendar, the 25th anniversary "Thriller" CD, and the DVD to HIStory, Part I (I have it on VHS, but not DVD, which Mom noticed when she was here earlier this month).

And I was really happy with what I was able to give, too. The big knitted gifts I gave this year were to the women of the family: Mom got the Shalom cardigan I blogged about earlier, my grandma got a ruffled scarf, my sister Laura got a beaded hat, and my niece got a bag that I did as a test knit (I will be blogging about each of those projects later). But trust me, the men did pretty well, too. I hadn't really planned on knitting for only the women, it just kind of shook out that way!

There were many other gifts (both given and received), but the best of all was the good ol' fashioned sitting around gabbing, both as we opened gifts and while we stuffed our faces. Sharing stories as we caught up on family gossip throughout the year (wait - Harold got married again? when did he get divorced???). The funniest part was when Grandma found out that Mom hadn't told me about Karen.

Mom: She has no idea who Karen is.
Me: I do, too!
Mom: You do not.
John: Do you know where she lives?
Me: Illinois.
John: Does she have any kids?
Me: Yes. Three.
Grandma: See? She knows more than you think she does.
John: And where does she work?
Me: Um... uh....
Mom: SEE? She DOESN'T know who she is!
Laura: Well, I don't know where Min works, but I know who she is!

Welcome to my family, folks.

05 January 2010

Blizzard in Missouri!

So I escaped a major snowfall in Philadelphia, only to fly into a blizzard in Missouri, the first since the early 1980s. I knew that the KCMO area was expecting snow, but I had no idea it was a major snow storm!

The airlines were still trying to catch up from cancelled flights from our snow storm, so they were offering $500 flight vouchers for anyone willing to "be flexible with their travel arrangements." I called Mom to ask her if I was such a person because we're planning a trip in May which will require me to fly again. She said that ordinarily she would jump at the chance, but since KC was expecting a HUGE snow storm the next day and they had JUST shut down Chicago, I was to get my butt on that plane immediately. As luck would have it, I was among the last of the flights to arrive at MCI before the blizzard hit.

This is what our front yard/driveway looked like, and this is what Mom looks like when she's preparing to go shovel snow. Mind, the snow pics are a bit deceiving because we live at an intersection at the top of a hill. Since it was so windy, most of the snow drifted down the hill, away from us. But, trust me when I tell you that Mom and I still spent a LOT of time shovelling... two days in a row.