30 June 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Pasta Sauce Chicken

This week's Crock Pot recipe:

3 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar of pasta sauce
2 carrots, diced

1.  Place chicken breasts in Crock Pot.

2.  Dump pasta sauce on top of chicken.

3.  Layer carrots on top of pasta sauce.

4.  Set Crock Pot on low for 8 hours.

Notes: I had read about this recipe (sans carrots) on the CP Lovers group on Rav (although I think it actually called for four breasts, but my package had three in it).  I had some carrots in my fridge that I'm trying to use up, so I decided that putting some in on top of the sauce would be great.  I just kept dicing until there was a whole layer on top of the sauce, and that ended up being two carrots.  I figured that being in there for eight hours would properly cook the carrots, and I was right.

The chicken was fork tender when it was done, and I just basically shredded it up and stirred it up with the sauce and carrots.  I served this over long grain rice.  Excellent, easy, and plenty of leftovers!

29 June 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In

This week I lost a whopping 0.2 pounds!  lol  (You know you're jealous.)

Earlier today, Rachel came over and we ran some errands.  I decided I wanted a new shredder.  We went to Staples and a new shredder was acquired.  Then we went to Target and got a few other things.  It was nice, too, because we got to talk about some crap going on in my life with a couple of people, and Rachel is always a great person to process with.  A quick stop at McDonald's for a lunch, and then we were set to come back to my place to accomplish the main point of today: listing a crapload of books on eBay to sell.

Thanks to my friend Diana who had given me some really helpful tips and tricks, Rachel and I pulled all of the books from my "books that need a home" bookshelf and set up a system.  Rachel looked up books on her laptop, slapped information on a sticky note, passed it to me, and I posted the books on eBay.  Since Rachel was much faster than I, when she was done, she started reading the info off to me to type in, which made it go even faster.

When we were done, we ate at an Ethiopian place for supper.  Yum.  The guy who runs the place probably thinks I can't cook because I'm there so often.  But Rachel and I were originally going to eat at a different place, but when we got there, it was closed for maintenance.  Boo.

In the meantime, we had a peach cobbler in my Crock Pot for dessert.  We were so full when we came back, we watched some trash tv for awhile (clearing the TiVo FTW!) and then ate the cobbler.  It was a new recipe that I want to play with before I post it, so you'll have to wait; sorry.

The best news?  Before the night was over, I had already sold two books!  My local friends have already browsed my books, but for out-of-town friends, if you're interested in seeing what's for sale, drop me a line and I'll send you the eBay link.

28 June 2011

The Calm

This week has been eerily calm.  Last week I had an interview on Thursday, and then I kind-of phone interview on Friday.  Friday was a phone screening kind of thing, and the HR woman said they'll be determining within the next two weeks who they'll be bringing in for the in-person interviews.

This past weekend, the people in the building who I've had issues with moved out, so Felix and I are very happy.  The issues were that they constantly let their cats out, and one of them was always coming to the door and aggravating Fe through the apartment door.  Plus, a couple of weeks ago, one of them growled and hissed at me when I tried to enter the building.  Fun times.

I talked to the landlord earlier this week when he was here, and he said my new neighbours will be moving in this weekend.  Now I'm just hoping they aren't worse.  The whole "better the devil you know" thing and all.

So, after the flurry of getting ready to move, then having a little bit of luck with scheduling some interviews, this week is very quiet.  I'm definitely not UNpacking anything since I still only have 14 weeks left to find a job, this time for reals, y'all.  It's just not the big, rushed, hurried, stressed-out ball of mess.

It's interesting, but a little weird.

27 June 2011

Book Review: Dead Man's Switch

Kate Reilly is a driver in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), and she's hoping to find a full-time ride.  Over Fourth of July weekend when the tour is at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut (yes, the author took some liberties with the calendar), she gets her shot.  Unfortunately, she gets it when another driver is found dead.  And even more unfortunately, she's the one who finds the body... under the bumper of her car.  Oops.

All of the action of this book takes place over the span of the race weekend.  Kate races both on and off the track trying not only to secure a place on the team, but to prove her innocence since she quickly becomes the top suspect.

This book was a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.  My full review is here.

26 June 2011

My Weekend

Yesterday was a really great day, despite feeling sad about the second anniversary of Michael's passing.

Rachel came over in the morning, and we went to get my Angel Food pick-up.  I love that they always have some young men (and some older men) there to help the women carry the boxes to their cars.  There's one young man who I found out is saving money to go to school, so I always make sure to tip him.  I don't tip him much, but boy is he ever grateful!  I'm always careful to do the "thank you, here's some money" handshake so as to not make it obvious that I'm giving him money, because I'm not actually sure if him accepted a tip is frowned upon and I don't want to get him in trouble.  (The pick-up site is a church, as most - if not all Angel Food sites are - and I think the helpers are considered part of community spirit, so I really don't want to get him in trouble, especially as the pastor is usually overseeing.)

Then Rachel and I made the Crescent Zucchine Pie, which we decided should be called Zucchini Quiche.  Rachel had brought over last year's Harry Potter movie (HP and the Deathly Hallows, Part I) since I haven't seen it yet (I tried to earlier this year, but that was a whole debacle), but since the quiche goes into the oven for 25 minutes, we decided it would be dumb to start the movie, then stop it to get something out of the oven, plate, etc.  So she relaxed while I processed some of the fresh fruit and veggies from Angel Food.  And by relaxing, I mean that she went through some of the clothes I'm getting rid of.  She scored three items.  She also scored a mango, a watermelon, some lemons, and a bag of frozen carrots from my Angel Food box.  No wonder she likes coming over!

We watched the movie (and made fun of several parts of it - especially when Ron started actually like a little bitch).  We really had a laugh at one part that was miscaptioned.  I didn't know it had been miscaptioned, and I got REALLY confused.  I don't want to spoil the movie, so no details, but I basically thought Hermione had gone spectacularly stupid.  When I repeated what I thought had been said to Rachel and added, "What the hell?  That doesn't even make sense!!!"  She burst out laughing and explained that it was miscaptioned.  Then, for the rest of the movie, that kind of became a running joke.  "Well, you know, had you just [what I thought Hermione had said]."

This is one reason I don't go to movies in theatres much.  There aren't that many movies that are captioned at the theatres, and the assisted listening devices only help SO much.  And unless I'm with a really good friend who understands my CAPD and doesn't mind me going, "Wait - what'd they say?" every once in awhile, it's just not worth it.

 Anyway, after that, my friend Naomi is in town this weekend, and she came over a couple of hours after that.  I was so glad we went to eat at one of my favourite restaurants, Vietnam Café, because I was famished by then.  We both decided to be brave and try something we'd never tried before there, even though we'd been there tons of times before.  After, we went back to my place just to hang out for awhile and continued to chat.  I got to catch Naomi up on all the job-ness that's going on, which was nice because I don't blog about all the nitty-gritty details, and it's really just too much to IM to someone.  For dessert, we intended to grab ice cream at a local place called Milk & Honey, but they close earlier on Saturday than they do during the week, which I didn't realise.  So we wandered back up the street and tried out a new place, Mood Cafe - yes, Mood Cafe, not Mood Café.  Milkshakes... yum.

All in all, a great day full of fun, friends, and food.  What could be better?

25 June 2011

Michael... Still Missing You

I can't believe Michael has been gone for two years now.

Time is so funny.  It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting here in disbelief wondering how in the hell a reputable station like CNN could be reporting something like Michael Jackson's death.  When the hell did THEY start dealing in tabloid gossip?  I got why TMZ was flashing it on their site, but CNN?  Bunch of friggin' sell-outs.  I was so ANGRY.  Why were they attacking him AGAIN?

But then multiple reports started flooding in from other reputable news sources.  And I just didn't understand.  I called Mom because maybe only the Philly stations had been hacked and were hearing this drivel.  But, no... she had heard the news, too.  And, still... it just didn't compute.  Why would these people be doing this?

On the other hand, it seems like forever ago that I left for work early the day after The King of Pop died so I could stop at Dunkin Donuts.  I had a simple bribe for the people at my office - you can have doughnuts, but please don't mention Michael; I just can't take it.  It seems like forever ago that I was putting out calls to my friends all over the country for newspapers reporting the end of Michael's life.  And my shock when one person in New York flatly refused to have nothing to do with it, simply because HE was involved.

To this day, my therapist and I still discuss ways for me to cope with this huge loss.  I know that he wasn't someone I knew personally.  I know that some people have never understood and will never understand my grief.  Slowly but surely, I am trying to move toward celebrating his life and legacy and away from mourning the loss.

But I'm sad for the people who know him as only a punchline, and the people who know him as only a aging star, and the people who know him as only a the guy who got famous again after he died.  I'm sad that there won't be any new music or any new dance moves.  I'm sad that there won't be any new innovative videos from him.

He inspired an entire generation (at least) of rock, R&B, and hip-hop stars (in song, dance, and video); he was a great humanitarian, he was an amazing philanthropist, and, by all accounts, he was a wonderful father.

Michael, I still miss you.

24 June 2011

List #15: Things That Catch My Eye in a Woman

1.  I love great calves.  I can't even really describe what constitutes great calves, except that they're ever so SLIGHTLY chunky, but not fat, not quite muscular, and definitely not thin.

2.  I love great boobs.  Size isn't really that important to me, but the shape is.  Torpedo boobs frighten me.  You know those boobs that stick straight out as if the woman has torpedoes stuck to her chest?  Yeah, those don't do much for me.  I'm also not a big fan of the uni-boob.

3.  A nice ass is always eye-catching.  Here, I'm just not a big fan of the bubble butt.  And, as with men, I just want the person to HAVE an ass.

And while I'm on the topic of boobs and butts...  stop wearing clothes that have things written across them, and then glaring at me when you see me reading them.  It's just not fair.

4.  Just like with the guys, a nice smile and

5. Nice eyes

6.  There's a certain facial structure I find attractive, especially square jaw-lines.

And...  just for kicks, one of my favourite celeb crushes...

Maura Tierney

23 June 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Italian Chicken

This Saturday, it'll be time to pick up my next Angel Food order.  For the first time since I started doing Angel Food, I have yet to make it through last month's food.  So I started looking at what was left.  One of the bigger items was split chicken breasts.  I knew it was going to be warmer this week, so I didn't want to fire up the oven (which is one of the reasons they were still there), so I started thinking about what I could do with them, but my self-imposed challenge was to only use on-hand ingredients.

I realised that I had a bottle of light Italian salad dressing.  I'm actually not a fan of Italian dressing, but I had bought it for a recipe, so I had an idea.  I called Mom and asked what she thought about using that in the Crock Pot with chicken in lieu of a marinade.  She thought it would taste good, but her concern was that it would be too strong cooking directly on the chicken.  So we decided to slightly dilute the dressing.

This morning, I put the three breasts on the bottom of the Crock Pot and poured about 8 ounces of dressing on top.  Then I put roughly 4 ounces of water in there to dilute it.  I set the Crock Pot on low for 8 hours (I LOVE that my new CP has a built-in timer!) and let it do its thing.  About half-way through, I turned the chicken over so both sides would get the benefit of the dressing flavour.  (Btw, did you know that every time you lift the lid, you should increase the cooking time by 20 minutes?)

For supper, I had really delicious chicken.  I told Mom that next time, I would dilute the dressing slightly less.  I do think she's right that it needs to be diluted, but I think the 2:1 formula is just a LITTLE bit too much.  It definitely still had the Italian dressing flavour, but I would have preferred it to be a bit stronger.  (But I like bold flavours.)

I ate this with steamed veggies and sweet dinner rolls.  I briefly considered adding the veggies to the CP, but decided not to because I didn't want my entire supper tasting of the same flavour.

22 June 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In

This week I gained 0.4 pounds, which I am actually quite fine with.  Losing nearly three pounds (2.8) the week before was pretty ridiculous, especially since it was most stress and not healthy weight loss.  So eating healthy, getting back into a semi-normal routine of things, and calming down AND only gaining 0.4 pounds in the process is mighty fine with me.

Now, for the funny story of the week that does not involve my mom trying to fix me up with a guy who lives 1500 miles away from me and doesn't even live in my mom's town.  Oy.

Awhile ago (and we're talking probably about two months ago), I was going through some things, I found twelve $0.41 stamps.  A few weeks  ago, I decided to go buy some make-up stamps since I was almost out of stamps anyway.  I was feeling all proud of myself for not just chucking the old stamps and buying a new book.  Yay for not wasting money!

Well, between when I had found them and three weeks ago, I forgot the denomination of the stamps.  So when I happened to have a package to mail out anyway, I went to the post office and decided to buy a book of stamps.  "Oh wait," I thought, "I just need some make-up stamps!"  Look at me being all frugal.

So I go up to the counter, post my package, and tell the woman I have twelve forty-two stamps at home, so I need twelve make-up stamps.  She gives me my stamps, my total, I pay her in cash, and I come home, feeling all proud.  I'm saving money.  I'm fiscally responsible.  Go me.

And I put my stamps together and my heart sinks.  Crap.  They're $0.41 stamps.  Not $0.42 stamps.  Sigh.  Well, maybe the postal worker somehow KNEW they never had such a thing as $0.42 stamps (they probably did; I'm making this part up - don't Google it and tell me I'm wrong), psychically knew what I MEANT, and she sold me what I needed ANYWAY.  So I look up the required postage.  Nope.  I'm short by one cent.  Damn.

So, last week, I go to the post office.  For the sole purpose of buying twelve one-cent stamps.  And I'm angry the entire time.  Stupid stupid stupid.

I get home, I call Mom (who knows about the entire saga), I'm putting my stamps in their stamp place (which is by the envelope place), and I suddenly say, "HEY!  WAIT A SECOND!  I have to go back AGAIN!"

Mom tells me to stop yelling in her ear and asks me what's wrong.


"Uh, and you didn't realise this when you paid her for them?  Can you not multiply ten times two?"

So I explain to her that I sent  a package at the same time and only knew the TOTAL, and that I, in fact, am QUITE capable of knowing that ten times two is twenty.

"Oh, good.  You were worrying me there for a second."

So, now I have to go back to the post office.  AGAIN.

For two two-cent stamps.

All because I didn't want to waste $4.92.

(I did point out that at least I'm not driving to the post office and paying for gas each trip.)

21 June 2011

My Monday Adventure

Some of my past jobs have included desktop support, which I actually quite enjoy.  I don't enjoy it nearly as much when my mom calls me from Missouri and wants me to do remote desktop support from 1,500 miles away, especially since I switched to Macs.  It was easier when we were both on PCs and I could at least get on my machine and see what she should seeing.  Now I have to do it all from memory - eesh.
Yesterday, I get this call from her.  To make a long story short - she had a virus on her machine.  Oops.  She has some kind of virus protection software, but she never runs it (helpful).  And she doesn't know what it's called.  And it's not an icon on her desktop.  So I gave her a few options for looking for it.

Then she calls me a few hours later.  "I went to Office Depot, and it'll cost me $170 for them to take the virus off.  But they also have some laptops on sale for $249.  I may just do that.  What do you think?"  We discuss the computer and she said they actually had a few, she tells me about them, and we discuss it.  She says she's not making a decision today, anyway, but at least she has some information.  Okay, great.

Then I get a call several hours later.  "I'm at Best Buy.  They have a computer for $349.  It's got XYZ and blah blah blah.  What do you think about that?"  I tell her that it definitely sounds a lot better for her than the Office Depot deal, but I have some questions about it.  She asks the salesguy my questions, then relays the answer to me.  I ask a few more questions, and the literal game of "Telephone" continues.  Finally, she asks the salesguy if he would mind talking directly to me, especially since I was starting to get a little heated (he was trying to sell her a machine that they didn't have on display because they "don't usually sell it, to which my reply was something along the lines of, "Oh, really?  So the child wants to sell my mother something he usually doesn't stock and won't let you even see before you drop several hundred dollars on it?").

Well, it turned out that he was actually a pretty nice guy.  We straightened out the issue.  He had another laptop there that was essentially the same (same weight, size, screen contrast, etc.) except the processor was a bit faster (he gave me the specs, and it really wasn't a huge difference).  So I finally approved the sale on her behalf.  Then we discussed what else my mom would need.  I asked him to sell my mom the MS Office Suite, and we worked out a deal so that mom will go back in two weeks and he'll install it on her machine for her (after she's sure she's keeping it, which she will, but she's always scared she won't - don't ask).  I also asked him to show her external hard drives that he had on sale and discuss with her the importance of them and how easy they are to work.  I told him he was absolutely NOT to sell my mom any anti-virus stuff because I was going to walk her through the free AVG, and he said that's what he uses.

Then Mom got the phone back and proceeds to tell me that he's cute, he's a computer science major, he works to pay for school at Maryville (part of the University of Missouri system), and he's drinking Monster Energy drink (is that supposed to be a selling point?).  I told Mom to make sure to get his name because if he did her wrong, I WOULD find him next time I was back in Kansas City.  He actually gave my mom his full name (which I won't divulge here).  Although I will say that he said his middle name is Noland, named after Noland Road in Independence, which is the main drag, akin to Broad Street in Philadelphia.  He was named that because that's where his parents met.  I laughed and said, "Is he sure that isn't where he was conceived?"

My mom died laughing and said, "I am NOT repeating that to him."  Of course, he overhears this and wants to know what I said.  So my mom ends up telling him.  He said something, which my mom didn't repeat... until she called me from her house later.  His reply was, "No, actually, I was born in Blue Springs [the next suburb over]."

Mom said she tried REALLY hard not to laugh when he said that.  But she reiterated that he IS really cute.

20 June 2011

Book Review: Ex-Girlfriends United

This was a really fun, fast read that I blew through several weeks ago.  It's about Dan Davis, the ultimate womaniser.  I would say that he dumps every woman he meets as soon as he cans so he can move on to the next one, but sometimes he just moves on to the next one without giving the prior one notice.

I won't go into the whole thing since the complete review is here, but the abridged version is that Dan discovers his exes have rated him on a website, which explains his sudden inability to land a date after giving out his number.

Although the book is funny, Dan is one of those characters who, after awhile, you find yourself asking, "How is this person still alive?" and not because someone would have killed him by now but because he's so dumb.  Granted, it provided humour, but there was only so much before one wondered how he functioned if he was truly that stupid.

But the book was pretty funny and I recommend it for anyone looking for a quick, light read.

19 June 2011

New Yarn!

For my birthday, my friends Anju and Naomi gave me a gift certificate to Loop, my favourite LYS.  I'd been there once on a scouting trip, but I finally went there last week determined to buy something.  The thought that I might leave town before having a chance to spend it was too much to bear!  (Fellow crafters will understand this feeling, I'm sure.)

The scouting trip was a little disappointing because I really wanted to use my gift certificate on something I wouldn't ordinarily buy - something new, something different, something I haven't bought before.  But the two workers who were there on my scouting trip (who I love dearly, btw) both have the same taste in yarn that I do.  Not helpful for my mission.

When I went this week, however, I got a different worker (one I also love but rarely see because she's not there on days I'm usually there) and I was able to see with new eyes, so to speak.  I got a yarn that has fibres I still love, but it's a yarn that I've never had before, I've not worked with these fibres in this combination, and I'm excited to get started!

I bought a yarn called Road to China Light (they also have a worsted, but I bought the sport weight).  It's 65% alpaca, 15% silk, 10% cashmere, and 10% camel.  What's not to love about that combination?  It's soft, soft, soft, and then soft some more.  I just could NOT stop touching it.

So then the next question was figuring out which colour I wanted.  Which begged the question: What did it want to be when it grew up.  Not too long ago, one of the designers on the Free Pattern Testers board I moderate on Ravelry had posted a pattern for this Half Patent Checkerboard Scarf (or Silk Scarf Narrative, whichever one you want to call it; it's a free Ravelry download) that I really loved.  The pattern isn't difficult, and I love that motif.  But I didn't have the right yarn for it.  Technically, it calls for DK, and Road to China Light is a sport, but it's a scarf, so who cares.

I figured out who I wanted to give the scarf to, and then I chose the colour.  It's a really rich blue.  Yum.

I believe she'll be happy.

Thanks, Anju and Naomi!

Bonus - I still have a wee bit left on the gift certificate - sweet!

18 June 2011

One more update (for awhile... I think)

I think most of you have heard by now (by way of me shouting from the rooftops), but for those of you who haven't, the bill I mentioned the other day was signed into law Friday evening.  The only thing I have to hope now is that it applies to me.  I believe that it does.  Everything I've read states that the extension applies to people who have received unemployment compensation for 72 weeks, and (by my count), I'll have 73 weeks by the time I run out. 

So, I'm hoping two things (1) that I've counted correctly and (2) that the law actually mean "at least 72 weeks."  If they actually stick to "no, we meant 72 and only 72," I told Mom that I will go to Harriburg and give them back one week's worth in cash, if necessary.  Pennies, nickels, dimes, however they want it, they can have it.

I'm going to continue to clean/prepare to pack for a while, though, just in case.  There is still a chance that I may not land a job before this extension runs out, and if I don't, then I'll DEFINITELY have to move to Missouri.  And I'll be prepared.  That was always the plan, anyway, and that's roughly the expected original timeline.

The frenzy this past month was that they suddenly cut off the benefits with no notice to anyone.  I mean, had they sent out a notice in April when this happened, I could have been planning all this since then!  That's what frustrates me the most.

But some other things have been happening, and I just generally feel like maybe the tides are starting to turn.  Just maybe that lil' ol' fortune cookie knew what it was talking about.

17 June 2011

List #14: Things That Catch My Eye in a Guy

That's right - catch my eye.  So, yes, this is a superficial list - deal with it.  For those who are curious, we're getting to the women next week. 

1.  He has to have good hands.  I don't like guys with delicate or small hands.  He needs to have good, strong hands.

2.  He needs a strong chin.  Guys with weak chins have issues.

3.  A lack of facial hair is a good thing.  Facial hair is a major turn-off to me.  A soul patch is a total non-starter.  Just... no.  Don't even try.

4.  He needs to have great eyes.  I don't really care what colour they are.  But they need to have some depth to them.  You know how sometimes you can look at someone's eyes and wonder if there's anything going on there?  Yeah, that doesn't really work for me.  I dated that guy already.

5.  He doesn't have to have a great ass (don't get me wrong - a great ass would be, well... great), but he needs to have AN ass.  You know those guys who seem to have no ass whatsoever, and you wonder how their pants are staying up?  Yeah, those guys drive me nuts.  I need a guy with an ass.

6.  A guy with a great smile will always catch my eye, though.  This is defined by several things, some of which are things like "not too cheesy," "not too smarmy," etc.  But also things like... I knew this guy in undergrad who had a great smile... until he opened his opened his mouth and one saw how big his gums were.  Or a guy I knew several years ago who had a great smile... until he opened his mouth and one saw his mouldy teeth.  Seriously, people - a great smile goes a long way.

16 June 2011

Recipe: Hash Brown Casserole

Last week, I mentioned my hash brown casserole.  And since I've mostly been eating salads this past week, I have no new recipes to post.  So I thought I'd post my recipe for hash brown casserole.

The original recipe calls for fish sticks, but I tried it that way and hated it.  So I experimented and came up with this:

32-oz package frozen hash browns, thawed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
frozen fish fillets
salt, pepper to taste

1.  Mix hash browns, soup, and cheddar cheese.  Add seasoning to taste.  Pour into greased 13x9 casserole dish.

2.  Top with fish fillets.

3.  Bake in oven for however and at whatever temperature the fish fillet package says.

Notes:  The original recipe also called for eggs to be mixed in with the hash browns, but one time I went to make this I didn't have eggs, and I discovered I liked it better without.  As for how many fish fillets to get - one box will not quite cover the casserole, but two boxes will be too many.  So it's up to you as to how you want to do that.

This is also one of those recipes where you can just toss in random things with the hash browns (onions - unless you're Cristi or Ria), sweet peppers, hot peppers, etc.  Have fun!

15 June 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In

This week, I am down 2.8 pounds.  Apparently, the combination of stress (read: crying more often than not), eating a LOT of salad, and sorting through one's life equals a lot of weight loss!  (By the way, it's not really a weight loss plan I recommend.)

In other news, I'm feeling optimistic today.  Two things happened today that make me feel optimistic.  The Pennsylvania legislators reached a deal to reinstate the extended benefits.  This won't affect the federal emergency benefits that I was on, but when those end, I will now be able to receive the extended benefits.  While the deal was cut, the bill still needs to be pushed through both chambers, get to Gov. Corbett, and signed into law.  The legislators seem optimistic, so I will, too.

The second bit is that a certain telephone conversation took place today that gave me a little bit of hope.  I apologise, but this really isn't the place to go into a great deal of detail.  I'm sorry to keep being so secretive, but -- you know, professionalism and all that.  Just know that I'm feeling good today.  Not great or anything, but good.

Meanwhile I have cleaned out my hall closet except for the drawers that contain my toiletries, and I've added a lot of books to the "Seriously, people - take home some books with you" bookshelf.  Although I'm feeling optimistic, I'm not going to jinx things to stopping moving prep just yet.

14 June 2011

Job, Life, and an Apple

I got some news yesterday from the full-time job.  It's...  interesting news.  That's about all I'm willing to say on the blog.  First, it's a bit complicated, but it's also LONG.  And it just wouldn't be professional for me to say what I have to say.  But I do appreciate your ongoing support, prayers, lit candles, crossed everything, positive thoughts, etc.

Today was also interesting.  Last night, I put in an online job application.  Today, I got a call from that application.  They wanted to interview me this evening.  Okay, sure.  I'm game.  I got offered the job -- to start tomorrow.  There were a few issues with the job, though.

So I called my mom and we discussed it.  After I went home and read over the paperwork they gave me to look over, I called Mom and brought up another concern.  And we decided that I won't be taking this job.  It feels so weird to turn down a job after looking for one for a year and a half, but this one really wasn't right for several reasons.  Mom was concerned about it from a safety perspective.  And there were some financial issues to consider that I won't get into here.  I feel weird about my decision, but it really does make the most sense.

Also today, I went to the Apple store.  I've been having some problems with my MacBook.  Of course, the issues popped up a few months after my 2-year warranty expired (why wouldn't they?).  I kept meaning to take my baby (as I call it; she doesn't have a name yet) in, but I didn't want to waste tokens on a trip to the city just for that, but it was difficult to time it around doctor's appointments, I didn't want to take it in when it was raining, blah blah blah.

So I took it in today.  I was a little annoyed because everyone else at the Genius Bar seemed to get really friendly, outgoing helpers.  I got a guy who wasn't UNfriendly, but was just very down-to-business, very matter-of-fact, no-muss, no-fuss.  I explained that my machine makes obscene noises when it tilts, it only uploads certain CDs (and I tested it; it's not the CDs -- and I can NOT have a machine that refuses to load Michael Jackson), and it's started to make an odd groaning noise (as of two days ago.

My guy ran some diagnostics, then asked me if he could take it back and take it apart.  Sure.  He said it would take about five minutes.  While he did that, I called Mom for a few minutes.  Then I watched the guy next to me get his machine taken apart in front of me, told his machine had liquid damage, but it would repaired free (a one-time exception to the "we don't fix liquid damage" clause in his warranty).  And I kept waiting... and waiting... and waiting.  So then I figured he must be fixing my machine.  And I hoped it was free because no one had come out to give me an estimate, as I had been promised would be done when I was explained the process when I had come in earlier to talk to someone about my issues (my computer issues, that is).

Sure enough, he came out about fifteen minutes later and said, "So.  I have one question for you.  Do you have a cat?"  "Yes," I said sheepishly.  "The inside of your machine was COVERED in cat hair."  Basically, my fan almost couldn't move.  I was completely embarrassed.  But the guy was nice.  He had completely wiped it down, even cleaning the fan blades with alcohol wipes.  And since I had asked him about cleaning the screen properly (he recommended clean socks), he had even cleaned the screen, my track pad, and the outside of the machine.

I asked him how to keep cat hair out of my machine, and he said that when I have it not on a hard surface, put it on one.  So if I'm using it in bed, for instance, just put a book under it.  Because if it's directly under a blanket, the fan will suck the cat hairs that are on the blanket into the machine.  So he told me now that he had cleaned it out, go home and see if that didn't cure everything.

I am now happy to report that the newest MJ album is now loaded on my baby.  :)

(Although it's still making that odd groaning noise.  So I'll take it back in and see about that some day soon.)  Overall, though, a great Apple experience!

13 June 2011

Book Review: The Social Climber's Handbook

Molly Jong-Fast (yes, Erica Jong's daughter) writes this book about Daisy Greenbaum, a New York socialite scrambling to keep her place on the social ladder.

It bogged in a few places (but only because I'm financially illiterate, and Daisy's husband has some important job dealing with derivatives), but was otherwise fun and quirky.

The full review is here.

12 June 2011

The Update, As Promised

So here's the update that I promised to give.

I've continued to work on getting my bedroom sorted, and it's almost done.  If I have to actually pack, it's pretty much ready.  I've gone through clothes and bagged up ones I'm willing to part with, so the clothes in my closet and dressers and ready to be packed, if necessary.

There's a bookcase in my bedroom, and it's full of books that I don't want.  When friends come over, I try to foist them off on people.  So if I have to move, those can be packed up and donated.  And I've been moving some more of the books from my living room to that book case, so I don't end up moving books I don't want.

The storage boxes under my bed have been gone through.  The full ones can be moved now.  The others are empty and ready to be filled.

Basically, I just need to go through the foot locker on top of my dresser and the things on the shelves of my closet.

Next on my list for tomorrow is my hall closet and my bathroom.  The bathroom only has a vanity, so it won't take very long.

11 June 2011

Knitting: Minotaur Cowl

As some of you know, I moderate a group on Ravelry for designers called "Free Pattern Testers."  The concept of the group is that designers can get their patterns tested by knitters and crocheters without having to pay professional testers.  Crafters can also get free patterns with the understanding that the patterns may have errors and knowing that, in exchange for the free patterns, they must give the designer some feedback on the pattern.

Every once I awhile, a pattern comes along that I'll want to test.  A couple of weeks ago, one of "my" designers, Rachel, posted a test for the Minotaur Cowl.  Well, the name of it immediately caught my attention because of my love for Greek mythology.  Plus, I've seen how this designer has conducted herself in other tests, and I had been impressed with her professionalism (not to mention her other designs!).

My intent was to start it one night and then finish it the next morning since we had some hot weather rolling in those few days and I wasn't in the mood to work with bulky wool yarn in 90º heat index-type weather in my un-air conditioned living room.  (I have an air conditioner, but I don't turn it on for weather like that.)
But this cowl was so quick and easy that once I started, I got on a roll and finished really quickly! The cowl is great for a quick present.  It probably only took me about three hours total.  I used Araucania Nature Wool Chunky yarn, and I probably used about 3/4ths of a skein.  I used US11 needles, but I'm a bit of a tight knitter.

The construction of this pattern was easy to understand, and the pattern comes with both a chart and in written form.  The chart is super-easy to memorise, so no problems there!  And, best of all - it's a free Ravelry download!

Sorry it's lumpy.  Felix was "helping" me, and I didn't have time to straighten it out.
And for those who want another knitting blog to follow, you can find Rachel here.

I haven't yet decided who's getting this (green is NOT my colour, being a yellow Asian and all.  Ria - a fellow Asian - and I had a discussion about how green makes Asians look a weird orangey colour).  I may offer it to Rachel (not the designer, the one I went to school with) since she's been helping me out with some stuff lately.

10 June 2011

List #13: Things Felix Does That Crack Me Up

1.  There's a access space in my bedroom that goes to the plumbing of my neighbour's bathroom.  I don't know what Felix thinks is behind there, but he likes to paw at it.  From where I sit on my couch, I often catch him standing on his hind legs on my bed and pawing at it with his front paws.

2.  It never fails to crack me up when he meows and yawns at the same time.  And he does this a LOT.

3.  While Oscar actually jumped in the shower with me, Fe's favourite hang out is on the side of the bathtub between the shower curtain and the curtain liner.  But about once every few weeks, he forgets that he isn't the Ocs.  So he'll peak around the liner while I'm in the shower.  I'll tell him, "You're going to get wet!  This is water; you're not going to like it!"  But he'll ease his head incrementally further into the shower until he gets wet.  Then he'll give me a look a disgust before he shakes the water off and dashes away.

 4.  Felix likes to chase his tail.  He often does this on the couch.  Sometimes until he gets so lost in the game that he loses track of where he is and falls off the edge of the couch.  This never fails to make me laugh.  Mostly because it happens about once or twice a week.

5.  If you've ever been around a cat, you know how they knead their bedding with their paws until it's JUST right before they settle down for their nap.  Fe will over to me, paw at my belly (or my breasts) for several minutes, and then walk away.  He's done this since he was a kitten.  I'm so used to it now that when he starts, I just sit and wait for the sequence to end.  He even does it with my sheets sometimes.  Paw at the sheets/blankets, turn around, get things JUST right, turn around a few times... and walk away.  He is so bizarre.

6.  He likes to lay in weird positions.  If you've been to my place, you know that my couch is in front of my radiator in the living room.  In the summer, I push it back so they meet because it's not as if the radiator needs space.  But in the winter, I push the couch out so the warm air from the radiator can circulate.  Fe likes to put his hind legs on the radiator and rest his front legs on the couch.  His belly is suspended over the air between the two so that his body forms a bridge.  Today, I caught him doing a similar thing with the couch and the side window in the living room (not the one with the window perch).  Silly boy.

09 June 2011

Recipe: Crazy Fries (Sort of)

By now, you've heard me talk about Julie and how awesome she is.  I stole the 52 Lists meme from her.  Unfortunately, the full extent of her awesomeness has to yet to wear off on me, but I'm sure that'll come in time.

The list she posted the other day was her favourite Mexican restaurants.  One of them featured Crazy Fries, which is a concoction of crinkle fries, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and optional hot sauce.  I will pause while you wipe the drool from your chin as you image that.

I actually went to the store the next day and bought ingredients.  As soon as I came home, I sent Julie an SOS email.  "HOW DO I MAKE THESE?????"  I needed to know if layers were involved.  If so, what was the order?  Or did I just make cheese fries and then dip into various vats of yumminess?  I needed to get it JUST. RIGHT.

She informed me that it went fries, guacamole, sour cream, then cheese.  She also sent me a picture!  (She's a full-service information centre!)  I'm glad I asked because that was NOT how I was going to do it.  Being the scientist I am, I decided that an experiment was in order.  I must do it the way she instructed AND the way I had been planning and then report the results.  I decided to do her way first, because I thought my way would be better, and then I would never try her way (which, to be fair, is really the restaurant's way).

I was totally right.  My way was better.  Here's my totally not-for-OCDers recipe for Crazy Fries (Sort of):

Amount of Tater Tots that you think will fit in your bowl
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Avocado salsa verde

1.  Bake tater tots according to package directions.  Place in bowl.

2.  Sprinkle handful of cheese on top of tater tots so cheese melts on tots.

3.  Dollop guacamole on top of cheese.

4.  Dollop sour cream on top of guacamole.

5.  Pour avocado salsa verde on top.

6.  Taste.  Cease to care that you ran out of hot sauce and Trader Joe's doesn't sell any because it turns out that TJ's avocado salsa verde is freaking good.

This then led to one of the best conversations Julie and I have had that did not involve a certain television show that starts with a "d."  Ahem.

I asked her if they have Mega Fries where she is (New Mexico).  They do not (but they do have chile cheese fries - not chili cheese fries, CHILE - be careful when ordering!).  So I told her about them - fries covered with ranch dressing, bacon, cheese whiz, and mozzarella cheese, then baked until melty (of course, I always skip the bacon).  Then she upped the ante by telling me about a dish she and her ex used to make called Wedding Potatoes (shredded potatoes, sour cream, cream of celery soup, cheese, and corn flake crumbles).  Then I told her about my hash brown casserole.

Then..  THEN.

I decided that what the world needs is a restaurant with a concept based entirely on potato dishes.  I was telling Julie about NBC's show "The Next Great Restaurant," since she hadn't heard of it.  The next day, I was talking to my friend Rachel, and SHE got all excited about the idea.  If NBC does a second season, we may be a force to be reckoned with.  I'm just letting you know now.

Be prepared. 

08 June 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In

This week I lost 0.8 pounds, bringing my total since I decided to start tracking to 4.2 pounds lost.  It's not bad since I stopped working out about a month ago when I got the MR arthrogram (aka: the big-ass needle in my hip with the crap injected into my joint) and then started physiotherapy soon thereafter.  Although some would say that physio is like working out, so there you go.

Most of mine has been through eating better, except this past week, which has been stress eating, which is to say "Not eating much at all, except weird food combos."  (Don't ask.)

I was going to lighten things up today and show off something I knitted recently, but since tomorrow is recipe day and Friday is list day, I'll give one more update today, show off my knitting Saturday, and give an update on Sunday.  (That's the plan, anyway, barring some unforeseen event between now and then.)

Today, as planned, I worked on my bedroom.  I focused on the storage boxes under my bed.  I condensed four storages boxes down to two, which may not be as impressive as it sounds since the two that are empty are the smaller ones (about 2/3rds the size of the larger ones).  I filled a bag for recycling, I filled a bag for shredding, and I have a smallish-sized box of things that can be donated or are ready for a potential yard sale.

The bookshelf in my bedroom has three shelves of books that are ALL books I've been trying to get rid of.  So if I have this yard sale, they will all be on the lawn.  So that's done.  Next up is the closest and weeding through clothes.  I don't know if I have energy for that today, since today was kind of emotional.  The stuff under the bed was mostly pictures and newspapers and magazines of EVENTS.

At point I just burst out laughing (Ria and Diana will probably be the only ones who get this).  I'm picking out newspapers and magazines one by one to see if there are any I can part with.  John Ritter's death.  Christopher Reeve's death.  George Brett's retirement.  Wayne Gretzky's retirement.  Obama's win.  Johnny Cash's death.  John-John Kennedy's death.  Papers from September 12 and 13th.  Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle win at Kansas Speedway - wait, WHAT?  Yeah, recycle.

I also discovered a lot of pictures.  You remember back when we took our film to CVS or Eckerd and got it developed?  Yeah, pictures.  Felix when he was a little kitten, looking terrified of everything.  Oscar drinking out of a cup on the coffee table.  New Dog sleeping with his hedgehog on my bed in Missouri.  Mom's wedding and reception.  A friend's wedding I went to in Boston.  The boy I nannied for in Missouri, who passed away from Huntington's Disease when he was 10 years old.

I'm glad I had duplicates, because I set aside some pictures to mail to some folks.  I think they will be pleased to get them.  As much as I like digital cameras (and, yes, I know I can print off the pics), it was fun to flip through all these and laugh and cry.

07 June 2011

Today's developments

So, today, I got ahold of the last person I really wanted to tell in-person about my news.  I had kind of wanted to do it face-to-face, but she's leaving the area tomorrow in preparation to leave the country Thursday for about ten days.  It was important to me to do it before she left the country, because by the time she gets back, my fate may be sealed, and I may be already in "gotta get packed, all of my stuff is half in boxes, my life is organised chaos" mode.  And I REALLY didn't want her to come back to THAT and find out that way.

We had a really good talk.  She is one of the few people who has heard about everything as it developed, so I only had to tell her the latest.  And I was able to tell her some of the details I left out here for reasons of privacy (this being a public blog and potential employers liking to surf the 'net these days - don't worry; some of you have heard the rest by now).

After that, Mom and I had a talk.  I think we have a plan for next week.  Anju came over tonight for a short visit, she heard the plan, and she seemed to agree with it.  I have a few days to think it over, and then I'll decide.

In the meantime, I have been applying to some other jobs.  There's a mini heat wave moving in this week - tomorrow through Friday.  So I'll camp out in my bedroom and just fire up that one window unit (rather than both window units to cool down the entire place).  That should also give me time to go through my bedroom.  As I said earlier, if I end up not having to move, at least my stuff will be sorted and tidy!

And I found one friend who said she would help me with a yard sale if I decided to go through with it.  So, that's nice to know.

06 June 2011

Book Review: Secrets of a Massage Therapist

In this book I reviewed for Fresh Fiction, Angie, a massage therapist, gives us an inside look at her life.  The style of this book reminded me a lot of Studs Terkel's "Working," as it was a lot like just following her around and eavesdropping on her work day (except Studs talked to his subjects and this was a novel, obviously).

This also a bit of mystery sneaked into it, but it definitely took a backseat to the good stuff.

The full review is here.

On another note, so far this year, I have read 45 books and a total of 14,367 pages.  My goal is 26,000 pages, so I'm well ahead of schedule.  Last year, my goal was 35,000 pages, which I revised to 30,000 pages at the halfway point.  I think I got these backwards!

05 June 2011


This week, I'm going to start the process of purging.  I'm going to go through my stuff and try to weed out what can be thrown away, recycled, or possibly set aside for donations.  If I have to move next month, then I won't be doing this at the last minute at a frantic pace and possibly making mistakes.  And if things end up working out, well...  I'll feel accomplished.

In the meantime, my mom has decided to start cleaning out the closet in what will be my bedroom in her basement.  It's a room we call "the café," because it's set up to be a little café.  It has a lunch counter, barstools, and a working jukebox (or at least the last time I tried it about 20 years ago, it worked).  She's basically using the same reasoning - the closet could use a good cleaning out and if I don't end up needing it, well... at least it's done.

In the meantime, I'm contemplating maybe holding a yard sale.  I know I won't gain a ton of money from it, but I could get rid of some stuff and get at least a little money from it.  But I really don't want to hold one by myself.  The idea of sitting outside by myself all day just kind of kills my soul.  So I'm going to ask some of my local friends and see if anyone would be interested in joining with me in this venture (local friends - pipe up!).  Also, local friends, quick straw poll - please comment on whether you'd be interested in dropping by to browse.

I also want to thank everyone for the support, wishes of good luck, and pleas of "NOOO, DON'T GO!" (even the ones that were from cats to Felix).

04 June 2011

My Life Right Now

As I alluded to earlier this week, my life rather sucks right now.  I've been debating how to tell this story because it's one hell of a long story if I tell it all at once.  But if I tell in two parts, you'd read the first part and think "why the hell has she spent the last two days crying?"  So I'll just start, and we'll see what happens.

For reasons I think you'll all understand, I'm using a bunch of abbreviations for names and not divulging any company names (they'll be C1, C2, etc.)

About two months ago, I found a job online at C1, which happened to be at a place a former professor I've kept in touch with (albeit sporadically) since I had her class several years ago.  To make that portion of a long story short, she was very instrumental in championing me for the job, but it didn't work out, for reasons that had nothing to do with me.  She then pointed me to a job that had opened up in her department, told me about it, and asked if I was interested.  I definitely was!  I applied and got an interview that I think it went about as well as can be expected.

Now, around that time, I had asked someone I had worked for previously, M, if I could still use him as a reference.  He said of course I could.  And he told me that if things with C1 didn't work out, I should let him know as he might have some work (he was working on the proposal) he could use a consultant on.

Two weeks after I interviewed with C1, someone else I used to work for, J, emailed me and said that she knew someone, E, who might be hiring.  Her current data analyst is entering the clinical portion of her doctoral programme, and she was thinking about staying on part-time.  So she might have a part-time position available.  Possibly even a part-time position that could transition to full-time (but who knows when).  We set up an informational interview, but only after I laid out that I had interviewed with someone else.  I did this because J said to use her name, and I didn't want to get something started, then if C1 called, risk making J look bad since I'd used her name and burn any bridges with J since I do have a good relationship with her.

The informational interview went really well.  I left there with a promise to E to call the unemployment people to see how much I can make without jeopardising my unemployment, when exactly my unemployment ends, etc.  In the meantime, she was going to see what she could firm up on her end.

Earlier this week, I emailed C1 to ask for a status.  Then I called the unemployment people.  This, friends, is where the story turns ugly.  I found out that as of 02 April, the unemployment rate dropped.  Ordinarily, I would be happy that people were getting jobs.  However, this means that they cut off the emergency unemployment funding.  I am currently on Tier 3, and I will not be getting Tier 4.  My funding runs out in five weeks.  And they never gave notice.  Boy, am I glad I called!

By then, C1 had answered my email.  The guy said they probably wouldn't be making a decision for several weeks.  The next day, I called M to see about the consultant job he had mentioned.  He said he would know within a couple of weeks whether they got the contract, but even if they did, the work might not begin for several months or a year.

So.  To wrap up: I have five weeks to find a job.  If I don't, I have to move to Missouri.  And I'll be there for awhile, because I have no savings left.  Why not?  Because I've been paying my student loans out of my savings.  So I wouldn't be moving there temporarily while I look for jobs elsewhere.  I'd be stuck in KC for awhile.  I couldn't afford to pitch in for food or bills or ANYTHING since I'd be completely out of unemployment, have no source of income, and out of money.  Oh, and I have no health insurance, and I'd have to find all hew doctors (for those of you who keep track, that's one PCP and six specialists).  Bonus!

Also, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to get a job in KC since I don't have a car, and people don't bike there, unless just around the neighbourhood or in parks for fun/exercise.  And I'm going to look pretty silly scheduling interviews around my mom's social calendar (she's booked every day except Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).  Oh, and have I mentioned that she's allergic to my cat?

So.  There's the whole story of why my life sucks right now.

03 June 2011

List #12: Sites of Philadelphia I've Yet to See (But Want To)

1.  Mütter Musuem
Located in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, this is the museum of medical history and oddities.  I walk by it ALL the time, and I've been in CPP for things when I was getting my MPH, but never made it downstairs to the Mütter.

2.  Academy of Natural Sciences
For several years, I lived within walking distance of this one and still never made it.  They always have really interesting exhibits, but when I have the time (I'm a student or I'm unemployed), I don't have the money.  And when I have the money, I don't seem to have the time or energy.

3.  Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
It's not that big of a stretch to say that I'm within walking distance of this one now.  I actually used to know a woman who used to work there.  Hell, she may still work there for all I know (I actually took a weekend series course with her; it's not like we were close friends).  This is how I even found out about the existence of this place about six years ago.

4.  The Betsy Ross House
It's kind of funny.  The first couple of trips here, my mom REALLY wanted to go there.  We went by it.  We drove by it.  We walked by it.  We pointed to it.  But the timing never worked out to actually take the tour.  I think her third trip here, she was able to go when I was at work.  Alas, I've still never been.

5.  Fireman's Hall Museum
Located in Olde City, this just always sounded really interesting to me.  But again, it's one of those things that when people come in from out-of-town, they always want to see The Important Stuff (which I understand), and while they agree this does sound interesting, it gets pushed further and further down the list until we run out of time.  And when I'm sitting around at home going "Crap, I'm bored," it just never occurs to me to go.

6.  Rodin Museum
This one is rather ridiculous.  I used to live about five blocks from here, IF that.  This museum houses the largest collection of Rodin's work other than Paris.  I'm not even particularly an art aficionado, a francophile, or a Rodin fan, but it seems dumb that this amazing collection is right here and I've not laid eyes on it.

02 June 2011

Recipe: Sausage, Cabbage, and Potatoes One-Pot Dinner

8-10 c. shredded fresh cabbage
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
dash of salt
dash of pepper
14.5-oz can chicken broth
2 lbs. kielbasa or sausage or your choice, cut into serving-size pieces

1.  Combine cabbage, potatoes, onion, salt, and pepper in slow cooker.

2.  Add chicken broth.

3.  Place sausage pieces on top.

4.  Cover and cook on low for 7 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Notes: I used water instead of chicken broth because I forgot to buy chicken broth.  And no one was going to make me go back out just for chicken broth.  I used Trader Joe's Jalapeño Chicken Sausage, which is one of the few chicken sausages they have that doesn't have a pork casing.  Chicken sausage with pork casing really pisses me off.  What's the point????  I also added some other seasonings, because this recipe book seems to have something against seasonings that aren't "salt" or "pepper."  But since my kitchen was about 95º, I mostly just grabbed things, threw them in and prayed for the best.  It still turned out REALLY good.

01 June 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In

For those of you keeping track (because I know my weight is SO scintillating), I didn't officially weigh-in last week.  I dutifully weighed in this morning and I gained 0.2 pounds.  Considering that it's officially over the span of two weeks, I'll take it.

I was thinking about this, and I think it's pretty funny that at Weight Watchers meetings, if you "gained" that much, the leader would be all "Aww, that's probably water.  Don't worry!" or "You know, that's just the difference in clothing" or some such.  But if you LOST that much, everyone would celebrate "Hey, take what you can get!" and "Every ounce should be celebrated!"

I've actually got a LOT going on in my life, but none of it is good.  Some of you know a little bit of what is going on, but I think only one person knows ALL of it (well, besides my mom by necessity).  It's just all a long story and kind of complicated.  It would make for one hell of a long blog post, and since I mostly IM with y'all, it's kind of weird to tell the story that way (which is why the person who knows, knows - she and I do a lot of emailing).

Maybe this weekend I'll tell the story in parts or something.  We'll see.

Until then, if you guys can keep me in your thoughts, prayers, wishes, etc., it would be appreciated.  Thanks.