Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plastic Bag Alternatives

I have often found myself thinking about this subject. When grocery stores around me started selling reusable bags for 99 cents, I purchased 4 from my regular store. I have since added more to my collection- 3 from another grocery store and one from Ace Hardware (it was free with purchase- bonus!). I have come across coupons from various stores giving them away with purchases and offering discounts. In fact, I save 5 cents for each bag I use each time I go grocery shopping. But now I have an additional incentive to start using the reusable bags- not having to pay for plastic bags.

Seattle will start charging 20 cents a bag in January (story at this blog). The City Council recently voted 6-1 to approve charges for grocery, drug store and convenient store paper and plastic bags. That cost can add up quickly.

But I LOVE my reusable bags. I have learned that I can fit what might take up 3-5 plastic bags into one of those reusable bags, meaning less trips to and from my car. In addition, the straps are more comfortable carrying than the straps on plastic bags. And the bags are very durable. I just empty them out and put them back in my trunk so they're handy when I need them.

However, I have found it a little uncomfortable at times to pull out a bag for a store like Albertson's when I'm at a store like Target. So I have started looking for other reusable bags that are more universal (and no one has commented at all about my using bags from their competitors or other stores other than to thank me for bringing in a bag). Some of my favorites I've run across at Amazon (because of their low prices) are these and these. What are your favorites?

Are you already using reusable bags? Do you plan on using them in the future? I'm thinking that this trend will continue, and it's best to be prepared.

Monday, July 28, 2008

House Pics

I realize my blog needs more photos and I've been a slacker about taking photos of the house. It was nice & clean too, right before our housewarming party. But now that the party is over, it's kind of a mess in places again. However I've taken a few pics and promise to take more in the near future.

Here's a picture of the outside of our house with the updated landscaping in the front yard. We pretty much lost most of the plants we had there, but some weren't in great shape and some were planted too close to each other anyway.

Here's a view of the front of the house. I have mixed feelings about the front door and part of the front porch being obscured from view.
Here's one of the plants that survived the makeover. It is late in blooming but is finally starting to show some color.
And here's what each bunch of flowers will look like fully bloomed.

Here's a picture of the piano my wonderful friend Erin and her husband so graceously gave to us when we moved.

Here's the wall in our family room. That's all you get to see for now. My mother-in-law was responsible for helping me figure out where to hang what in our home.

Here's our new range. It puts out 50 amps of power, and the existing cord is tested for 40 amps (as well as our electric panel being set for 40 amps), so we've had it short on us. It's been really frustrating at times, but when it's working, it works nicely. We're going to have to find a more permanent solution, though. I had to go into the electric panel at least 10 times while trying to make cookies for our housewarming party because I kept losing power. So frustrating!

Here's our dining room. We still have our teeny Ikea dining room table, but we would like to upgrade that in the near future so we can have people over for dinner. And the beautiful flower arrangement on the table was a gift from one of my wonderful new neighbors. I was surprised how many neighbors were able to show up to our housewarming party. And one family who couldn't make it stopped by a few days later to drop us off a card and gift card welcoming us to the neighborhood. What a great neighborhood!

Here's a painting my very talented, old co-worker Eric Hurley made for me to satiate my Italy obsession for a while. It's hanging on a wall where I can see it every day and think back to that Italy trip I took. I still want to go back, especially to Cinque Terre, where the photo that provided inspiration for this painting was taken.

Sorry I don't have more pictures to share for now, but there will be more forthcoming.

Why I Love Washington

There's a lot of this and a lot more. I'll have to try to be better at taking scenery pictures when things are in bloom.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Dance

I got my laptop back today. The wireless connection appears to be working again, so they must've fixed whatever was wrong. And I didn't even have to re-configure everything from the beginning, which was nice (but I did remove sensitive information from it before I sent it out). I have missed it so much. That seems kind of silly, but now that I have become used to the convenience of using a computer wherever I want, it it something I don't like doing without. Also, after sitting at my desk all day working, I definitely do not like sitting there after work to check emails and other things. Having the laptop helps me really feel like I am able to separate my work day and the rest of my day. Plus, I will say that it is nice to do things like check email and write blog entries so much more easily between calls and on breaks.

Yesterday I got a new battery for my car. It was long overdue. In fact, the battery was leaking acid, which is never a good sign. Out of 2 battery options, I chose the more expensive one (by $20) and am loving it so far. I noticed that there are particular times when my driving wasn't as smooth as I would've liked it to have been, but that seems to be better now. Maybe it's all in my head.

So while I was waiting for my car, I walked around the mall here. It was much smaller and quieter than malls I'm used to going to. Perhaps that had something to do with the time of day and the fact that it was a weekday in the summer. But I was able to return a dress I'd realized I would never wear and instead buy a nightgown with a matching robe & slippers for cheaper than the dress (I wanted another dress but didn't really see anything that was catching my eye).

And when I got home, the landscaping company was over at the house. They asked questions about what plants I wanted to keep and what plants they should pull. There were a lot of plants well past their expiration date, as well as many more that would be dead soon. They ended up pulling up a lot of the smaller stuff and trimming and keeping the bigger stuff and the plants that would re-grow. Then they put down some bark to help with weed control, and I'm looking forward to that lower maintenance front yard now. It looks a little bare for the time being, but once things start to fill in, it'll start looking better and better.

We also figured out how to work the sprinkler system in our front yard. One portion does not appear to be working, but the majority of our yard is getting water from the sprinklers that do work, which is so much more convenient than the hose attachment sprinkler we were using before.

I talk on the phone using a headset at work, but it is dying on me and definitely won't last me through my shift tomorrow, so I have to drive into Seattle to exchange it for a new headset. Sometimes it seems like nothing can be easy, and sometimes it seems so hard to get a day off or even a break. I was hoping to veg out after work today, but now I'm thinking I might as well hit the gym after going to Seattle and then try to do some stuff around the house when I get home.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Housewarming Party

We had a great time on Saturday and were excited so many people showed up to help us eat the food we bought (way to much of, by the way). Joe's step-dad showed up somewhere around 4:00 to set up the grill and bring us some wonderful housewarming gifts for us. Then, at just about 5:00, 2 of our different neighbor couples showed up, shortly followed by more & more people. We were cutting up hamburger fixings and doing some last-minute preparations but quickly stopped and found that it was difficult to get much of anything done other than socialize once people started showing up. In fact, It took me about 30 minutes or longer to finish my veggie burger because of the conversations I was having with guests.

Unfortunately, due to being so busy playing host, I didn't get the chance to take one single picture. However, I did spot my aunt walking around snapping some photos with her camera, so I'm going to have to hit her up for copies to post. We don't know how many people showed up overall, but I'd estimate somewhere around 50-60 by the time the night was through. And yet we still have over 40 hamburgers left. We've already decided to take them to a church potluck this Saturday so we don't eat them all.

In addition to the hamburgers, we also enjoyed chips, cookies, sodas, peanuts, grapes, carrots, and assorted fruits & salads & dips that others brought. Joe and I have a fridge full of fresh fruits & veggies to eat too, which is great! We had some angel food cake topped with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries (plus a little whipped cream) last night and it was DELICIOUS!

We received some nice housewarming gifts from some of our guests. We got a few picture frames, a couple business-card sized wall hangings, some wine (which someone here drank one bottle of and someone else took the other bottle with them), lots of flowers, a couple gift cards, some greeting cards, and the aforementioned food. We are so blessed to have such wonderful family, friends, and new neighbors (who we already consider friends).

Other than house tours, socializing, and eating, we had some karaoke going on. We had placed a few games in some different rooms, but I don't think anyone touched any of those games because they were too busy eating and socializing themselves. Once the party had died down, two of Joe's cousins and their spouses were here, so the 6 of us played some Scene It and Guitar Hero on XBox. Around 11 pm they left and we cleaned up a bit before crashing, exhausted.

In other news, we got our new range, but are still having issues with it. For some reason, it keeps shutting off, and I had to go to the electric panel about 10 times when I was trying to bake cookies for the party because of it. Joe made a call today to the electrician who installed the panel, and we're just waiting to hear back from him to come take a look at it. Also, to help prepare for the party, Joe's mother came over and helped do a little furniture re-arranging and picture hanging. Our house is looking much better without the clutter everywhere and with some pictures on the walls, but we still have some organizing, sorting, and donating to do in the near future. And we still have to put together a wedding photo album and a scrapbook from our honeymoon.

Now that we have all of the big events of the summer over and done with (except my parents coming to town- but they are not planning on staying with us as far as I know), we are finally feeling like we may actually have some time to relax. And that is a good thing. I have lots of books just begging me to read them, and I have promised some people to post pictures of the house. Just let me finish cleaning up from the party first. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RSS feeds and computer issues

I have come to LOVE RSS Feeds. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these, basically it is a way you can sign up to be updated from your favorite websites through Really Simple Syndication (RSS). The headlines from those websites are posted and you can click on links to take you to the rest of the article. I have signed up for these feeds for my favorite blogs and even news websites. It helps me feel more connected without trying to figure out where to go and when. I find I'm saving a lot of time now that I don't have to click on someone's blog every so often to see if they've posted.

But I am a little frustrated (yet there is hope). I am currently writing this blog entry on my desktop, which is the computer I use for work. My laptop was something I purchased originally to use as a writing computer. I updated the RAM modestly, but never expected to use it nearly as frequently as I had been. With the modest RAM on my laptop making that computer run far smoother than my desktop, it quickly became my favorite computer. But in order to work from home on the desktop, I had to upgrade my RAM on here, so my desktop is now running as smoothly as my laptop (or more smoothly, actually, despite the vastly greater storage on it). Anyway, a while back (probably several months ago), my desktop stopped connecting to the Internet wirelessly. I thought there might be a problem with my wireless card, but since I had a wireless USB adapter that Joe purchased for my desktop, I used that to still be able to connect to the Internet without having to plug my computer into the router.

At one point in time I contacted HP support. I spent quite some time on the phone with them. I tried removing and re-inserting the wireless card. Eventually, after exhausting ideas with them, we decided to send my old wireless card in and have it replaced since my laptop was still under warranty. Unfortunately, that didn't help. The odd thing is that on occasion, the computer WOULD recognize the wireless card, allowing me to take out the USB adapter for the time being. But once the computer turned off, I lost that wireless connection through the wireless card yet again.

Just the other day, I received an email from HP. Apparently this issue was not just one I was having. In fact, they are offering free service repairs for people who are experiencing one of 3 different issues (the issue I'm experiencing is one of those three issues). I guess they're going to replace the motherboard. So, I have to send in my laptop for repair. They're going to do a system recovery. Now, I'll be happy if everything is resolved by this repair. However, I will be losing all the miscellaneous things I have saved on that computer from songs to documents to my RSS Feeds and bookmarked websites. Bummer. That's going to be more work for me to do when I get the computer back. I just have to make sure I've backed up everything on the computer before I send it out and make sure I know what RSS Feeds I'm subscribed to so I can still get those updates. I definitely don't want to be out of the loop.

If anyone has any suggestions on ways to back up this information and clean off my computer before I send it in for repair, I'd love to hear those ideas (that means you, Dad). We do have an external hard drive and some thumb drives, so I can use those in transfer/storage of information.

Also, if you have a blog and do not have RSS Feeds enabled, I'd love for you to consider it, even if you don't have your entire blog syndicated, just so I'm aware when you post. :)

And if you have any other feedback, I'd love to hear it!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Ruts and Misc.

I have found myself at times frustrated, feeling like the only person I interact with face to face on a regular basis is my husband, now that I'm working from home. I'm trying to do things with other people and am looking into getting a second job or volunteering or something just to have that opportunity. I am in a book club right now, so that provides some interaction (we are supposed to meet once a month, but it's been once every 2 months average so far). I'm also engaged in reading books through a group at church. I went to the first book discussion there, but there were only 2 other people in attendance at that time. Hopefully we have a bigger turnout in the future.

So far I'm enjoying Curves. I like that working out only takes 30 minutes. It's been fairly easy for me in the past to talk myself out of going because of the time it takes to drive to and from a gym and the time it takes to workout, but I don't have those excuses here as readily. I'm aiming for anywhere between 3 and 6 days a week, hoping to get 4 or 5 realistically. I even took an hour lunch break on Saturday and went to the gym during that time because they're only open for 4 hours on Saturday (and it is during my work day that they're open). It did make the work day seem quite long, so I don't know how much longer I'll try that.

My work is starting a "walking club." It really doesn't mean too much, but they are offering free pedometers to people who want to track the number of steps they're taking each day. I got a pedometer for Christmas (yes, I asked for one), but I signed up to get one from work, thinking that maybe Joe and I can both get some use out of them.

I've also had a conversation with him about my short-term weight loss goal and how I plan on reaching that goal. He is willing to eat whatever I eat, which is good, because I don't want to do this by dieting or exercise alone but by changing my lifestyle to be more active and to eat a little healthier, as I think that is something I should be able to maintain long term.

I've had some (hopefully not too serious) health concerns. I think they are at least in part due to stress. I'm hoping that now that I'm feeling a little more settled in the house and the job and married life in general that my health will continue to show improvement. I have days where I feel really horribly, but those days seem to be less frequent the more time passes. I have a doctor's appointment this week and may schedule a follow up for a complete physical in the near future as well. We'll see.

I am meeting more people at church all the time. Sometimes I think I'm mistaken as a guest, but I have started to feel like I'm learning some particular people's personalities and some people are starting to learn my name (and the correct pronunciation and that I don't go by Debbie), which is always a nice thing.

On Saturday, Joe and I were busy. He did some weed pulling and put up a new mailbox and ran a couple errands during the day while I worked. Then, when I got off of work, we walked around the neighborhood and introduced ourselves to some neighbors we hadn't met. Two of those neighbors gave us their phone numbers in case we ever need anything (one neighbor had done that previously), and at each house we stopped at, we dropped off an invitation to our housewarming party this weekend. There is definitely a diverse group of people around here, but it seems like a pretty neat neighborhood. After making our rounds around the neighborhood, we drove to a few different stores to price new ranges. We decided we wanted a flat top electric stove and got one that was a pretty good price from the Sears Outlet in Tacoma. I never realized how much I use the oven and stove until this past week when I had none to use. Making skillet meals in the microwave and eating sandwiches gets old really quickly, especially when you have a freezer full of yummy options you want to make but can't.

Now we're just trying to get our house ready for the housewarming party this weekend (no, that's not our yard, but it doesn't seem like it looks much better). We're hoping everyone who comes has a good time, and we're hoping it's not too stressful for us. We are trying to figure out what different activities/games we want going on and where we want things happening, and we are trying to figure out what we're going to do for seating (especially in our family room where the karaoke will take place, since only a couple people can sit on the LoveSac).

Sometimes I fantasize about calling in sick to work so I can just stay in bed all day and sleep and read and do nothing. Yeah, that's some REAL dreaming right there. Until next time...

Monday, July 7, 2008

My husband is awesome

I was going to write about this in my last post, but I decided it needed a post of its own. Sometimes I think about how horrible things would be for my husband if he didn't have me around to take care of him. I mean, he would NEVER have an ironed shirt. He would have much more to do around the house. He's lucky to have me.

But I also realize I'm lucky to have him. He is quick to apologize when he has done something that is wrong. He is quick to help out around the house (and on occasion even does it without needing to be asked). He makes me laugh so much (often at him, but he doesn't care). And when I saw the Aerosmith Guitar Hero and said I wanted it, he bought me a copy online to have it shipped to me. We probably spent more time playing that and Guitar Hero III this weekend than we should have, but it was nice to spend some time together doing something we were both enjoying and in the mood for.

Back to work

It's been a while since I've posted, and I feel like a lot has happened since then. Last week was not a good week for me as far as work goes. I was completely unmotivated to actually work, and they are now allowing us to take time off without pay and request to end our shifts early. So, I took Saturday off (who wants to get up to talk about quitting smoking after a night enjoying fireworks and then driving home anyway?) and left early every day of the week that I did work except Monday. I forced myself to work a full day today, but it actually wasn't as hard as I was thinking it was going to be, thank goodness.

Yesterday Joe and I came home from church and started to prepare our dinner, but our oven died. Perhaps it's just a fuse that blew, but since we wanted to replace it anyway (it was definitely looking like it was on its last legs) and since we don't know much about fixing those things, we are going to have to scrape some money together to do that.

We also found out that Joe will now only get paid once a month. So we're really going to have to make sure we do a good job budgetting. It's weird to think that he's not going to see a cent from July until the end of the month. He's also not going to get paid for any overtime that he does from this point forward, which is a bummer. But I guess the good news there is since he's salaried now, he should see a paycheck that is the same from month to month. And the better news is that it'll be more money than he made before too.

We spent the 4th of July with his parents, watching movies, BBQing, and viewing slightly obstructed fireworks. We had a nice relaxing day and a (mostly) relaxing weekend.

Now we're preparing for the various events of this week and trying to get ourselves and our house ready for our housewarming party next weekend. We received a notice from the homeowners association telling us we have until Friday to take care of the weeds in our front yard and to remove the grass that is growing in the cracks of the sidewalk.

I had called the company that is mowing our lawn (temporarily, until we get a lawnmower) and asked if they could help out, since I was angrily greeted by a sea of spiders when trying to weed in our flowerbed (I have major arachniphobia and could've sworn spiders were crawling on me the rest of the day). Well, when the guy came last week to mow the lawn, I was running around taking care of some errands, preparing for a book club meeting that night and napping, so I didn't get a chance to make sure he did the work. And he didn't. I saw someone walking around in our back yard spraying the bazillion of weeds we have there, but when I was able to get to the front yard to check it out, the weeds were still there and he had left. So now we get to pay someone else to help with that.

Meanwhile, we went to Home Depot on Saturday and purchased some sort of magical weed puller that has helped with some of the weeds. Part of our problem with our flower bed (besides my arachniphobia) is that we're not entirely sure what is a weed and what is not. In fact, I'm pretty sure in my past attempts to spray weeds and pull weeds that I have killed a plant or two or dozen. Another problem is the ratio of weeds divided by the quantity of our motivation plus energy minus other errands and chores. We're hoping that it'll be easier to maintain a weed-free yard than it has been to get it to that point. But I guess we'll see.

In other news, I joined Curves last week. I really just wanted to see what was out there, and I was feeling pretty motivated. And when I learned more about the Curves program and the fact that the building is less than 2 miles from our house and would take less than 1 hour each day, I happily signed up. I joined last Monday and worked out Tuesday and Wednesday. Time got away from me on Thursday somehow, and before I knew it, it was too late to go because Curves was already closed. They were closed on Friday and only open for 4 hours on Saturday (during which time I was sleeping and otherwise NOT thinking about working out). So, I haven't been for a while, but I'm hoping to go 3-5 days a week and am getting ready to head over there after I finish this blog.

My weight-loss goal is to lose weight, feel healthy, have more energy, and feel more comfortable in my own skin. I have a pretty lofty long-term goal, but I'd like to break it down into more realistic and manageable goals to help me stay motivated and actually achieve them. I found it amusing that a lot of the questions they asked me the first day I went to check out the place were the same types of questions we ask people who want to quit smoking. Motivational Interviewing FTW (for the win, in case you don't know that abbreviation)! Anyway, I should get going before I lose my motivation today. :)