Monday, December 22, 2008

The snow comes in...

...on little cat feet.

What I've learned from Arctic Blast 2008

1.  When you don't own a snow shovel, as I imagine most Portlanders don't, the best way to shovel a driveway/deck/walkway/sidewalk (though people in the Suburbs don't shovel sidewalks, see below) is a dustpan.  Yep.  I used a dustpan to shovel the majority of our deck and over half our driveway.  We have a flat tipped shovel, but it was killing my back.  So, I squatted and started scooping.  Worked like a charm.  My legs were killing me and it reminded me of being in the Philippines.  Weird, I know.  When I lived in the Philippines I watched many a maid squatting in the yard cutting the grass with scissors.  I also learned by watching these women the best way to squat in a knee length skirt.  But, these are completely different topics.

2.  Most people in the suburbs do not shovel their own sidewalks.  In Portland, and in most other areas, it is the homeowners responsibility to maintain the sidewalk in front of their house during inclement weather.  Now, Bill and I do not have a sidewalk in front of our house, but I feel very strongly that if we did, we would be shoveling it.  (Probably with a dustpan, but we would shovel it!)  I believe this because we use sidewalks and understand the importance of the need for safety for pedestrians.  It is NOT safe to have sidewalks covered in ice and snow and it is also NOT safe to have pedestrians walking in the middle of the street during snowstorms (see below).  Now I don't know if suburbanites don't shovel walks because they don't own shovels, like us, or if they don't think it is their responsibility (likeliest choice) or if they are just lazy, but our trip to the grocery store on foot today would have been much easier if sidewalks had been maintained.  Not a single one was.

2.  Some people get really rude when it gets snowy.  Bill and I were walking last night and the safest place to walk in our neighborhood was the middle of the street (see above).  This is because there are either no sidewalks or they are covered in 14 inches of snow and ice.  At least the snow on the streets has been packed down some by cars.  Anyway, we were walking and a car was about 50 yards behind us.  I hadn't heard it yet but became very aware when the driver yelled out of his window "GET OUT OF THE ROAD!"  Not very friendly.

3.  It will take a very long time to run out of food if you really couldn't leave your house, but when you feel like you can't leave, you become convinced that there is "nothing" in your cupboards.  Made me feel very fortunate to have what I have and very aware that there are people who actually have empty cupboards year-round.

4.  What looks like a few groceries in a shopping cart becomes incredibly heavy when you stuff if all in a backpack.  Even with both our backpacks we had a pretty heavy load on the way home today.

5.  Snow stresses out pets and makes it difficult for them to relieve themselves.  (See Teddy's lament on this topic.)  We tried very hard to keep the deck cleared so he could go outside and also shoveled a space in the yard for him.  He would get really stressed out, run around the yard (covered in 14 inches of snow), bounding around, until finally he would give in and do his business.  Note:  He never once used the area of the yard we shoveled.  Weirdo.

6.  Even if you only wear sweats for a solid week, you will still have exactly the same amount of laundry at the end of the week.  This is a phenomenon I don't understand.  

7.  Some people are morons when it gets snowy.   A couple of said morons were out on their quads yesterday and today.  One missed my garbage can by about a foot and another was pulling a kid behind him on a sled.  No one, including the kid, was wearing helmets.  I asked Bill how you could be on a quad without a helmet when it is illegal to be on a motorcycle without a helmet.  Bill reminded me that quads are not street legal so the legality of  wearing a helmet or not is really irrelevant.  Good point.  Either way, you would think the numerous deaths as a result of similar sledding accidents would deter you from extremely unsafe behavior.  

8.  Regardless of how many times you check the weather online, watch the weather report on TV (should be easy to find some coverage, see previous post on this topic), read the paper, or try to guess when the snow will stop, you just have to wait for it to stop.  The reason that Bill and I are such good traveling partners (other than the fact that we are just plain awesome partners!) is that we both believe that there are things you can't change, regardless of how annoyed you are or how much you want it to change.  We show up at the airport WAY too early (on purpose) and buy coffee, read a book, shop, whatever.  The waiting is part of traveling, so we don't get annoyed by it.  So, when the weather turns, we accept that our plans may change (we didn't get to go down south to see his family for Christmas), we go with the flow, and we try not to predict when things will be different.  

9.  If you have to be snowed in, it is one million times better if you have:
  • lots of cocoa
  • a laptop with wireless connection
  • a big TV
  • a snuggly puppy who acts like an angel despite 9 days without a proper walk
  • a wonderful partner who you enjoy being around
  • a good book you don't mind rereading (The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger)
  • good wine (our favorite)
  • a dustpan


I took this picture of our house when we moved in.
I think it gives some nice perspective as to the amount of snow
we've gotten in the last 3 days.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Party's Over

After 3 days of wearing sweats, baking, and playing with Teddy in the snow, our snow days have come to a close.  We have a 2 hour late start this morning thanks to working in the only district in Clackamas County that actually waited to see if there would be snow before canceling classes. Most districts called it last night, despite warming temps and rain.  But alas, OC waited, and upon seeing that most of the snow was going or gone, told us to come to work.  While this is the more responsible and community PR-minded decision, I wouldn't have minded just one more day.  Tis the season to be gluttonous about laziness.

But now my mindset has shifted about the weather.  I have things to do!  Winter break starts Friday at 3:15 and I have parties to attend!  Shopping to finish!  Plays to see!  Places to travel!  I really don't want the weather to mess up my plans.  

If I haven't said it enough, enjoy the season!  Drive safe!  Eat fudge!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Complete Contentment


Laundry is clean and folded.  

House is clean and decorated for Christmas.

Dinner is 10 minutes from coming out of the oven.

Glass of wine is poured.

And a snow day tomorrow to boot.

Life is good.

Seasons Greetings!

Wishing you and yours the happiest of Holiday Seasons!

UPDATE: Winter Blast 2008

All the warnings and preparation and updates were not in vain as Winter Blast 2008 has arrived. Right now we see about 2 inches of snow and promises of dropping temperatures.  Some news stations are showing continuous coverage of the storm and while looking for something else to watch, I paused on one of the stations.  Chains are required on all freeways, which is smart for two reasons.  First, Oregon snow is not like other snow.  It turns to ice almost immediately. Second, Oregonians for the most part are not equipped to drive in these conditions and have little experience.  Not a good combo.

But what I wonder is why people decide to go out today?  On a Sunday?  After four days of warnings??

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Apparently they think it may snow in the Portland area.  

If you live anywhere else in the country, I'm sure you're thinking, oh, snow, how nice.  It doesn't snow very often in Portland, does it?  I'm sure snow would look very pretty with all that greenery.    

If you live anywhere in the Portland area and you don't live in a nuclear bunker, you are rolling your eyes and snickering.  We've been hearing for about 4 days about how we are going to get snow this weekend.  TriMet has detailed their preparations (chains on all buses) and ODOT has been careful to assure that they are prepared for the winter weather (I'm not sure how, but the guy on Channel 8 with the Starbucks cup seemed pretty sure that ODOT was in fact, prepared.) We've had full analysis of the weather - all Dopler radar and weather cams geared up to give us detailed info on barometric pressure, precipitation and wind velocity.  This morning, at 6:30am, at least 20 hours before the WINTER BLAST is expected to hit, we watched LIVE reports from the critical areas likely to be affected.  Note that the critical areas are large parking lots, overpasses and any road with the word "Hill" on it's street sign.  You would think we live in Honolulu and are expecting a blizzard.  

How much snow are we expecting, you ask?

1 - 3 inches on the valley floor.

I'm sure Oregon must be the laughing stock of the entire nation.

How does the possibility of 1-3 inches result in full, first story coverage (though one station did give top billing to the bomb that went off at a local bank, killing two police officers.  Maybe they didn't have enough reporters to have someone look outside and see the extreme weather conditions...)

Why do we have live, continuing coverage of WINTER BLAST when it is 40 degrees outside?  I'm sure many stations are paying their meteorologists overtime to gather information and make predictions about the FIRST COLD SHOCK of the season.  Is it imperative that we have live, continuous coverage of potential cold wave?  Uh, yes, of course it is!  We have to have people reporting live so we don't risk the chance to interview the guy walking down the street and his preparation for the event.  "Uh, yeah, I had to find my gloves.  Heh heh.  I only had one glove so I had to ask my wife where my other one was.  Heh heh, I really need both gloves in case one of my hands gets cold.  Heh heh.  I can't stick them in my pockets - it doesn't do the trick.  Heh heh."  

If it seems like the continuing coverage is getting a little redundant, they pull out old footage of ARCTIC BLAST 2007, where an unfortunate soul got caught on tape as he careened down an icy hill, hitting several parked cars on the way down.  Or they show similar footage from POLAR BLAST 2006 where some other guy did the same thing.  

If we actually see weather like they're predicting, all regular programming will be preempted in order to provide full coverage of the snow that accumulated on the freeway and the traffic nightmare that resulted.  (The 10 people that actually decided to go to work apparently all drive the same route.)  

Okay WINTER BLAST, bring it on.  I'm ready.  Lord knows I've been prepared for you.  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Parents, I salute you!

I have a newfound respect for parents, and photographers who have ever tried to get the "perfect shot" of their little darling.  While we don't have kids yet, we like to send out photo cards around the holidays.  Therefore we needed the "perfect shot" of our sweet little Teddy.  Teddy is very serious when it comes to picture taking.  Well, Teddy is very serious when it comes to treats, and those are required for picture taking sessions.  Teddy took the most adorable shot with Santa when we took him to Santa Paws, but I was having trouble ordering the prints as a card.  So I thought I would take one myself.

Getting a dog to pose has to be more challenging than getting a kid to pose.  Of course, I don't have experience getting kids to pose, it seems like the major challenge for Christmas pictures is the screaming child on Santa's lap scenario.  I mean, you can reason with a kid, right?  (I'm sure all parents are laughing hysterically at me right now.)  Getting the dog to "pose" not only meant asking an animal to look at the camera, but to simply sit in the right spot.  Teddy weighs 65 pounds and does not want to move while waiting for a treat for fear that it will risk the treat.  But if you take a step away from him, he will quickly move around to position himself directly in front of you.  

So, we tried gently shoving him over to the place we wanted after he sat down.

Warning!!  Butt shot coming up!  I can't believe I post this stuff...

Unfortunately this confused him further.

We managed to get a couple of reasonable photos, 
but most had some problems that made them less than perfect.

There is this shot, which is really cute, except I'm not sure 
if a dog with demon eyes is really appropriate for a holiday card.
I also love this shot of Teddy's cute "smile" but the Santa kind of looks like the Travelocity gnome, kind of hanging out on the side.

This one was getting closer, but people will wonder who Teddy is looking at.  
Why couldn't we take one of Teddy looking at the camera, they will think.

So, no perfect shot.  But much fun, and cheese (literally!) while trying.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Woo Hoo!

Finally!  After several weeks of excuses, I made it back to the gym tonight!  No almonds to roast.  I had a clean sports bra.  I didn't get side-tracked reading the newspaper or finishing the Sudoku puzzle.  I actually came home, got dressed, jumped in the car and hauled my booty to the gym.  And what do I feel after this hiatus?  Relief.  I'm so glad I went and actually am looking forward to my day on Thursday.  

I'm sure you're wondering what prompted this newfound enthusiasm.  I told Bill that I am not allowed to watch the Office on Thursday if I don't go to the gym on both my days this week.  Nothing like the threat of deprivation to create a little motivation!  Whatever works, right?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Really big bed, really small room.

You may remember my earlier post about new pillows and how my achy shoulder prompted said purchase.  Well, we went bed shopping today and we're quite surprised when we purchased the very first mattress we tried!  Not only have we upgraded to the ultra-comfy latex bed, we've also moved on to a California king.  Please understand, if you are currently in a queen-sized bed, this kind of jump is pretty dramatic.  Twelve inches on the width and four in length and our bed now takes up our entire room!  We had to do some fancy squishing with the furniture, and it probably looks a little funny, but oh baby am I looking forward to going to sleep tonight!

On a side note, there is a reason why there was a surplus of California kings at the place we bought our bed.  It is nearly impossible to find sheets to fit.  I looked at 2 major department stores and finally went to the going out of business sale at Linens N Things.  (Holy nightmare - good luck finding someone to ask a question.)  I found exactly 2 sets of sheets that would fit, no mattress pad, and several bed-in-a-bag ensembles which have four thousand decorative pillows in them.  Bill loves "useless pillows", as he calls them.  Ask him about it.  

Anyway, I guess we will be shopping online for bedding from now on!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

Today was my day to go to the gym.  I didn't think I was going to get to go because Bill had a conference and that means Master Teddy needed my attention.  So I was surprised when I saw Bill's truck in the driveway as I pulled in.  

While I should have been excited to go, I figured that since I already thought I wouldn't get to go, going would be a freebie.  So I got dressed and ready.  Then I noticed that we had some raw almonds that needed toasting. 

Yep.  I skipped the gym to roast almonds.  This is my worst (or best!) excuse ever.  Oddly enough, I'm only mildly ashamed.  The almonds are yummy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lounge, Couch Potato, Lounge

We just finished the movie Run, Fat Boy, Run.  It is a movie about an unmotivated, out of shape man who decides to run a marathon in an effort to impress his ex-fiancé who he left at the altar while she was pregnant.  He decides to do this when the marathon is about three weeks away, having never really exercised more than it takes to walk to the fridge or light a cigarette.  

Not wanting to give away the movie, I won't tell you how it ends, but I will tell you that many times throughout the movie I found myself thinking the same thing: I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to run in, train for, or consider running in or training for a marathon, half-marathon, or any other race.  

I have several friends and acquaintances who have aspirations to or have in fact completed a marathon.  In some cases, they've run more than one marathon.  Very impressive.  I'm proud of them.  Still, not interested in joining at all.  A marathon is a really long race.  I'm sure when asked about lifelong goals and such all those friends responded humbly, "Well, I've always wanted to run a marathon.  It is just something I want to do."  And then they do it!  That is great and all, I just don't have that kind of goal.  

Thinking about running makes me tired and achy.  It is the only activity that will give me an asthma attack in about 5 minutes.  I gasp for air, things jiggle, my feet pound on the pavement much like a clydesdale.  Not pretty.  You can throw me in a pool and I can go for hours.  But running requires grace and agility and that just isn't something that I have while on dry land.  

So my hat's off to you, dear runners!   Or shall I say, my running shoes!  Keep it up!  You look great!  Especially from this comfy spot over here on the couch.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

I'm not Swedish.  I don't know what the criteria is to qualify a meatball recipe as "Swedish Meatballs".  While I suppose that is just a quick 'google' away, I prefer to life in blissful ignorance.  My husband and I went to a large Swedish furniture store, newly opened in Portland as of last winter, and while we absolutely hated the shopping experience (ugh to crowds and rat mazes!) we did have a nice lunch in the large cafeteria.  

I'll be honest.  I don't really understand the allure of cafeteria-style dining.  I hate buffets.   I don't like the idea of food that has been prepared with the idea of serving hundreds.  I guess I'm too snobby.  Anyway, the meatballs at this large furniture store were actually okay.  But I was convinced I could do better.  I really want to be the kind of cook that creates dishes that my husband says, "Wow!  That's the best _______ I've ever had!"  It hasn't happened yet, but I'll keep trying. 

The actual meatball isn't the challenging part.  The whole composition of a meatball sets it up to be tasty:  meat, onion, breadcrumbs, etc.  It is kind of hard to make a bad meatball - if you remember to sear it in the skillet first and finish it in the oven.  The tricky part is the sauce.  The previously mentioned furniture store meatballs have a creamy sauce that while mass-produced, tastes pretty yummy.  I can't stand to put heavy cream or half and half in anything, so I was determined to create something that mimicked that but didn't actually include said ingredients.  My solution is the following recipe.  I think it sounds a little weird, but tastes really good.

Mindy's Swedish Meatballs  (BTW, this is the first recipe I can name after myself!)
*note:  I don't actually measure the ingredients.   Measures are approximate.

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix beef, egg, milk, garlic, onion and breadcrumbs together.  Shape into 1" balls and brown in hot skillet.  Transfer partially-cooked meatballs to cookie sheet and bake in 350 degree oven until thoroughly cooked. (About 20 minutes)

Put 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup cottage cheese in food processor and blend until smooth.  You can skip this step, but it makes the incorporation at the end take a long time and a lot of whisking.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet you used to brown meatballs.  Add 1 tablespoon flour and cook 1 minute.  Add 1 1/2 cups beef broth.  Whisk together until smooth and cook until slightly thickened.  Add black pepper and worcestershire sauce to taste.  Add blended sour cream/cottage cheese mixture and cook over low heat until thickened.  Add cooked meatballs to sauce and heat through.

Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked egg noodles.  (I use whole wheat noodles.  Yummy.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008


After several months of putting it off, I finally called my doctor to schedule an appointment.  I'm not sick.  I'm not injured.  I'm not in any pain (other than the ridiculous neck pain - see previous post.)  I'm not seeing double.  No unusual moles.  Nope.  Perfectly healthy.  My only reason for seeing the doctor is to renew two prescriptions I've been taking for well over 8 years.  Allergy medicine and inhaler.  In fact, I've been on some sort of inhaler for 26 (gulp!) years.  But my prescriptions have expired and now I must follow the rules and visit the doctor for what will be, in my opinion, a completely unnecessary appointment.

Though I understand liability and all that jazz, I don't understand why I have to go through these shenanigans every year.  I will be weighed (ugh), have my blood pressure taking (probably will be high to match my level of irritation) and asked a litany of questions about my allergies and wheezing.  Nothing has changed in years.  All the information will be the same.  In the end, the doctor will write out 2 prescriptions and send me on my merry way.  I'll get my prescriptions and everything will be as normal until the insurance statement arrives in the mail.  This is when I will get grumpy all over again.

Don't get me wrong.  My husband and I are truly blessed to have great medical insurance.  And we're double covered, so my mind, along with my litany of medical "quirks", is at ease.  I had surgery a year ago that required an extended hospital stay, and bills and coverage were never a concern.  That being said, the whole system irks me.  My teeny little visit, which could be handled over the phone, comes with a pretty hefty price tag.  My husband had a similar experience and I was so shocked by the cost of a 5 minute conversation, I called the office to make sure it had been billed correctly.  The conversation went a little like this:

Me:  Can you explain this recent charge?

Billing Person:  It is the standard charge for an office visit.

Me:  But it was only to renew a prescription.  It took just a couple of minutes.

BP:  It is the standard charge for an office visit.

Me:  But he didn't see the doctor.  He saw the NP.

BP:  It is the standard charge for an office visit.  (OK, it didn't go EXACTLY like this...)

Me:  It seems pretty expensive for what took place.

BP:  Did your insurance cover it?

Me:  Yes.  But...

BP:  Did you have to pay a percentage?

Me:  No.  But...

BP:  This is the way it works.  If you didn't have insurance, we would adjust the bill.  This compensates for those without insurance.  (I guess I didn't think they'd actually admit that.)

Me:  (Silence.)  Um, okay.

The billing person was very nice and all, it just seems wrong.  And maybe it is how the system works, but it still ticks me off.  Yeah, it is nice and all that I'm at the end of the spectrum where I have no out of pocket costs and hence, no worries, but it makes me incredibly sad that there is a spectrum.  Because I know people are at the other end, and that worries me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Pillows, Old(er) Body

About a week ago I woke up with a very sore neck.  Couldn't turn my head, ached all day, etc.  I slathered on Icy Hot, popped some Advil, and fully expected that I would wake up the next day fully recovered.  Afterall, every other time I've woken up with a stiff neck it just takes a good night sleep and...Voila! all better.  Alas, this was not the case.  Because I have, in fact, started to age.

It happens to all of us.  We notice it at different times, for different reasons.  Squinting at the newspaper, tiny wrinkles at the corners of our mouths, one tiny cookie turning into tight pants and an unattractive roll at the top of our jeans.  You know what I'm talking about.  It is inevitable.  Just when we think that maybe we have dodged the dreaded age-bullet, another gray hair sprouts up on our heads just to p$ss us off.  Anyway, back to my neck.

The pain lasted in various degrees for about two weeks.  This is when I decided that we need a new bed.  Unfortunately, my husband and our bank account do not agree with my logic.  So, off to the store to buy a new pillow.    First I checked online for advice and found out that if you fold your pillow in half and it doesn't unfold on its own, it needs to be replaced.  Pillows should definitely be replaced every 2-3 years, which struck me as funny.  I think I had my pillow on my bed as a child for, well, my entire childhood.  While gross when you think about it, I had not a single stiff neck.  And now, this pillow, which is only a year and a half old, is the biggest pain in the neck of all.

In the end, I bought a contour pillow.  And while I hope it solves my sore neck woes, it will also serve as a reminder that I am young no more.

¡Bienvenidos! (Translation...Welcome!)

Welcome to my new blog!  

After several months of posting on behalf of my dog Teddy, I decided he isn't the only one who has something to say.  While I can't guarantee that all my posts will be interesting, witty, or noteworthy, I can guarantee that everything I have to say will come straight from my heart.