Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend highlights

Sat morning I went to real estate school and Spouse went to the gym. That evening he met up with Steven & Thad and one of The Bobs for dinner while I went with my friend Hadley to a post-holiday party and networking event.

Hadley was the 1 invited to the event, but she decided that she and I would have more fun there than she and her husband, so she invited me to go in his place. Everyone was instructed to bring a wrapped unwanted holiday gift to re-gift at the party, which appealed to my quirky side. The White Elephant re-gift exchange was hilarious! We had cocktails and finger foods and lots of chatting and networking. Many of the guests were self-employed, business owners, and realtors. I met several very nice folks with whom I hope to stay in touch. It was the best networking event I've ever attended!

Sun morning I went back to real estate school and Spouse went to the grocery store. That evening we met up with Steven & Thad and our friend Liz for dinner at Saketumi. Liz used to live here, but moved to NY last year. She stopped in Sun evening on her way to a training class in southeastern VA. It was great to see her again, get caught up on her life, and share a meal with her and our friends.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday fragments

Welcome to Friday fragments, my weekly recap of topics too big to forget, yet too small to be their own post.

My friend Mike sent me this: My 1st thought was about the ugly chair.

As a follow-up to this post, I took my receipt and the lid from the exploded Pyrex bowl to the customer service counter and asked to get another to replace it. The returns lady asked me where the broken glass was. I looked at her for a few seconds, blinked my eyelashes in disbelief, and replied "in the trashcan". She said she couldn't allow the exchange without the broken glass. I said "It exploded into thousands of shards. I swept them up and threw them away." She said she'd have to call a manager, which she did. I explained to the manager that the glass exploded into thousands of shards, and that I wasn't asking for a refund; just a replacement. The manager immediately said "That's fine" and smiled. I was relieved to NOT have to fight with her.

My friend and frequent contributor Jared sent me the following funnies:

Check out this video. I found it fascinating!!

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy hour with Hadley

Last night I met my friend Hadley for happy hour at Saketumi.

It was summer when we'd last seen each other, so I suggested we meet up. When we got together last time she was about to start a new, exciting job so I wanted to find out how it was going. Through Facebook she knew that I had started real estate school and she wanted to hear about that.

About an hour before we were supposed to meet we had a major storm! It poured down rain, the wind was fierce, and we even had some brief thunder and lightning. But we both braved the typhoon-like weather to meet for cocktails and conversation.

I love happy hour at Saketumi because they have special drink and sushi prices if you sit at the bar and order before 6pm. I always love a bargain, and even more so now that I'm unemployed. So we met at 5:30 and ordered shortly thereafter. The food is so good because the ingredients are fresh and high quality. The service is always terrific and the sushi rolls are beautifully presented. I also like Saketumi because the decor is very cool and sophisticated. I feel more elegant and attractive when I'm there! As I sipped my Cosmo (made with Absolut Berri Acai) and Hadley sipped her white wine, we began to catch up.The 'new and exciting' job she took last summer was fun work, but her boss turned out to be insane so she cut back to part-time and is now in the process of getting out altogether. She's going to resurrect her own small business and really give it the time and resources needed for it to succeed.

I explained that real estate school is going well and that most of what we've covered so far has been review for me. We talked about mutual friends in the industry, as well as her husband's connection to it. Our rolls arrived and we nibbled between sentences.

I asked about her husband and son and she asked about Spouse. We really had a great time despite the fact that we really don't know each other that well. Its weird but we're kind of like siblings who've been away from each for many years. Despite not spending a lot of time together, there is this underlying similarity that allows us to easily relate to each other. I don't really understand it, but I like it.

Hadley was a sweetheart and picked up the modest bill and we made plans to go to a networking event together in a few days.

As we walked out of the restaurant it was snowing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The letter

As a follow-up on this post, yesterday I mailed the letter I wrote to the construction company in charge of building the house across the street. I also mailed a copy of the letter to the City. Both should arrive today.

I would love to share the entire 2-page letter with you, but since Blogger won't allow me to paste the text (from any source) into a post, you're not going to get to. I'm too lazy to retype the letter, so I'll just share with you the 3 bolded items I requested of the builder:
  1. Immediately discontinue using private property (mine and my neighbor's) without permission
  2. Immediately discontinue blocking our street with construction vehicles, personal vehicles driven by construction workers, and vehicles driven by subcontractors
  3. Immediately commence using the 'regular' street to access the construction site instead of using our 'irregular' and inappropriate street

I'm not fooling myself into thinking I can 'make' them do what I request, but since the City received a copy of the letter I'm hoping the City will contact the construction company as well.

I'm not trying to be a jerk. I just don't want my property used without my permission or damaged, and I don't want to be blocked from leaving or entering my driveway or receiving mail, deliveries, or emergency services if the need should arise. The construction company has a more appropriate means of accessing the construction site that would eliminate all of my concerns so I trying to get them to take advantage of that.

Some people complain about things without DOING anything to fix them. Not me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Return of RuPaul's Drag Race

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited about the return of RuPaul's Drag Race (season 3) last night.

I have absolutely no interested in doing drag, but I do appreciate it for its humor, glamor, and general over-the-top point of view. Those queens who really work at it have elevated drag to an artform in my humble opinion. I think RuPaul is gorgeous, funny, and a very savvy businessperson.

So it was with some anticipation that I snuggled in at 9pm to watch the hour long casting episode. Dressed as a man, RuPaul introduced us to each of the 12 new contestants using video clips they submitted to the show as auditions.
Mixed between these were some of the entrants that did not make it onto the show, but were noteworthy in some way. And for the 1st time this year, RuPaul held an in-person open casting which we were privy to see. Also included this season were the videos of the guys trying out for the 'Pit Crew' positions, and I was a little surprised that 1 of the guys selected for the position has chest hair!

After the casting episode came the 1st episode of the new season. It began like the previous 2 season openers with the cast members entering the work room 1 by 1 and getting to know each other. Once all 12 had arrived, Ru showed up and explained there was a surprise awaiting them. The Pit Crew guys wheeled out a large box and out popped Shangela, the 1st drag queen eliminated from season 2. She explains later in the episode that she auditioned again, just like all the others, and was happy to have a 2nd chance. Ru also explains that not only do they have a larger number of queens competing this year, but that the size of the cash prize for the winner is also larger this year: $75,000. Additionally, the episodes are 90-minutes long this season.

The girls have a Christmas-themed photoshoot with legendary photographer and uber-hottie Mike Ruiz (right), then Ru takes the queens to a thrift store and explains that they are to create a holiday outfit ("Christmas Couture") using clothing and items from the thrift store and Christmas decorations they'll find back in the work room.

On the 'main stage' RuPaul is joined by Mike, Santino, Michelle Visage (Ru's old friend from her late-90s talk show 'The RuPaul Show'), and Bruce Villanch who seemed to have no purpose in the episode other than to be dressed as Santa. Ru introduces this week's special guest judge Vanessa Williams, who looked a little washed out but still amazingly beautiful.

The Christmas Couture fashion show begins and we are treated to/tormented by a wide variety of outfits, from cute-n-clever to hot mess. The 11 queens who are safe are identified, and Ru tells the final 2 (Venus D'Lite and Shangela) that they'll have to lipsync for their lives. I felt kind of bad for Shangela because she was the 1st girl to be eliminated from season 2, she auditions and makes it into season 3, but is in the bottom 2 and up for elimination after the very 1st challenge.

Venus and Shangela begin dancing and lipsyncing to Vanessa William's "The Right Stuff" (I love that song!) and everything seems normal at 1st. Then about 1/2 way through we see Venus pushing and shoving Shangela. In 1 of those cut-away testimonials Mimi Imfurst explains that "Venus started getting rough and used Shangela's lamp shade skirt as a weapon", which made me laugh out loud! The next thing you know Venus pulls her wig off by its decorated ponytail and swings it in the air, letting it fly to the back of the stage where the safe girls are staring in disbelief. Next Shangela's wig comes off, as well as her shoes. Then we see Shangela's paper lamp shade skirt being placed around her neck by Venus, along with more pushing and shoving. I notice that Shangela is still lipsyncing as if her life literally depended on it, while Venus seems more intent on beating up Shangela than lipsyncing. There was a desperate quality to Venus' behavior that was both sad and entertaining at the same time. It was the hottest of messes!

At the end of the song/brawl RuPaul admits that what she's witnessed here has made her uncomfortable. She says she expects her girls to out-perform each other, not out-gun each other. Apparently due to her bad conduct Venus is told to "Sachet away" and Shangela is safe to compete again next week.
I noticed in this episode that RuPaul used a good bit more street slang which thrilled me to no end! I love it when she gets a little 'ghetto' and ends a sentence with "Oh-kuy?" (rhymes with oh-guy).

Immediately following episode 1 was the 'Untucked' show where we are treated to much of the 'behind-the-seams' drama and dishing that took place, especially in the interior illusions lounge.

All in all it was a fabulous 3-hour extravaganza full of glitz, glamor, and spirit gum!

Monday, January 24, 2011

An award

Normally on Monday's my posts are called 'Weekend highlights' and I share our weekend activities. But this past weekend we just didn't do anything. I went to real estate school on Sat & Sun. Spouse went to the ghetto gym both mornings, went to the grocery store, and just hung out at home. We ate dinner at home both nights and watched TV. That's it. Spouse said it was "too cold" to go anywhere.

So, since our weekend highlights were summed up in a single paragraph, I'll share with you a lovely award I received: "Stylish Blogger Award". Since I've devoted my life to being stylish, you can imagine perfectly giddy I was to receive this! The conditions upon which one accepts the "Stylish Blogger Award" are as follows:
  1. Thank and link back to the blogger that bestowed upon you this high honor
  2. Share 7 things about yourself readers may/may not know
  3. Grant the award to 5 others

I received this award from my personal friend and fellow blogger Ron who's blog is entitled Retired in Delaware. Thank you, Ron!! Now for the 7 things:

  1. When I was a child and teenager my hair was extremely blond. It was kind of strange because my 3 siblings and both my parents all have brown hair. I remember that when I became aware that I was the only 1 in the family with blond hair I asked my mother if I was adopted. She laughed and said 'No', but I think a lot of things would make more sense if I were adopted.
  2. Although I enjoy cocktails a great deal, I rarely drink at home. The only exception is when we have weekend guests and we have cocktails at home. But when its just the 2 of us here, I rarely drink at home. Spouse doesn't drink at all and I find it sort of sad to drink at home by myself. It sure is a lot cheaper to drink at home though!
  3. I feel very confident about my career change. I don't expect to be anything but successful. This is significant to me because there is usually a good bit of uncertainty and nervousness associated with changing careers. But I am so sure that this is the right direction for me I do not feel nervous. I just wish I could finish my courses more quickly and get started.
  4. I do not have an iTunes account or an iPod. I have an mp3 player I loaded with music from our CD collection and I listen to it mostly at the gym.
  5. When I was a kid I was given black olives and nearly gagged from the taste. I decided I hated olives of all sorts and didn't eat them for about 30 years. Then it became popular to see olive assortments at cocktail parties and I decided to try some of them. I discovered that I loved kalamata olives, green olives stuffed with garlic, and green olives stuffed with jalapenos. Now I always have a jar of kalamata olives in the fridge.
  6. I've been told by more than 1 person that I'm a good kisser.
  7. Sometimes I'm surprised at how well things work out when I take my own advice. If I get worried or upset about something I sometimes ask myself what would I tell someone else who was going through this. Then I follow my own advice and things usually work out well.

Now for the 5 truly stylish bloggers to whom I will bestow the "Stylish Blogger Award":

  1. cb at the Mangina Monologues
  2. Kevin at The Lisp
  3. Marc at Deep Dish
  4. David at Another Mile Marker
  5. Lewis at Spirit of Saint Lewis

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday fragments

Welcome to Friday fragments, my weekly recap of topics too big to forget yet too small to be their own post.

My pal Jared sent me this wacky photo.

Wed I picked up Big Ella from the garage, but also had to drop off Spouse's PT Cruiser. When it rains (and you're unemployed), it pours. Big Ella passed the safety inspection this time and I was in and out of the DMV in under 10 minutes with a 2-year renewal. The reason I left Spouse's car at the garage is because it recently developed a wicked wobble in the rear end. Turned out that 1 of the rear tires had a huge bulge (and not the good kind). We wound up having to get 2 new rear tires.

My friend Mike sent me this video. This guy's upper body strength is amazing!

Spouse didn't have the best Weight Watchers week; he gained 1/2 of lb. But he wasn't crushed by it. He knew that he over-indulged a few times and then tried to make up for it by starving himself, which doesn't work. Fortunately he kept this in context and continues to look at the bigger picture.

Here's wishing everyone a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't make me get all ignorant up in here

The people who own the vacant lot diagonally across the street from us are preparing to build a house there. They've owned the lot since before we moved here 4 years ago, but are just now starting to build. Maybe they're getting ready to retire.

Last week the construction company leveled the lot, then this week they dug the footers for the foundation and cut down a beautiful old tree at the property line. But all is not well.

The lot faces a 'regular' street (ie: 2-way traffic, on-street parking, curbs and sidewalks) and backs to our 'irregular' street (ie: single lane, 1-way traffic, no on-street parking, no curbs or sidewalks), so for the life of me I don't understand why all of the construction traffic uses our little irregular street to access the lot.

Several times this week they delivered and picked up pieces of construction equipment on a flatbead trailer. Each time they did so the truck and trailer completely blocked the street of all traffic. This means that if the mail, UPS, FedEx, propane suppliers or god forbid an ambulance were to come, they'd have to wait for the delivery or pick up to conclude for the street to be passable again. This is completely unnecessary since they could use the 'regular' street!

When they cut down the beautiful old tree they brought it down in the street and in our side yard, blocking the street of all traffic again and without our permission to use our yard to cut the tree into smaller pieces to feed into the chipper. Then a subcontractor parked his pick-up truck and trailer into our driveway for an hour or so, again without permission. Again, this is completely unnecessary since there is sufficient on-street parking on the 'regular' street!

So, I've decided to write a letter to the construction company, asking them to stop using our street to access the lot and instead use the more suitable street. I'm also going to cite the uses of our personal property (yard and driveway) without permission and inform them that future unauthorized uses will result in a call to the police.

I'm really NOT trying to be a jerk about this, but as I'm learning in real estate school, unauthorized use of one's property can result in a liability to me, the property owner. If a construction worker continued to use my property and tripped, fell and cracked his head open, he could sue me! And if he parked a vehicle in my driveway that caught on fire he could sue me. Although seemingly far-fetched, these things have happened. And although seemingly unfair, the law allows for such suits.

I am not willing to be made vulnerable in this way, and I do not believe my neighbors and I should be inconvenienced needlessly when a much more suitable means of accessing the building lot exists. So I'm writing the letter to the construction company and sending a copy to the City building officer. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

American Idol

Tonight begins season 10 of American Idol. I've set my DVR since I don't plan to watch it live.

I written many times about my dislike for all the unnecessary talking from the judges. Some constructive feedback would be great, but it seems like there's only about 11 minutes of singing in an hour of this show. Honestly, I don't know how the judges even come up with so much NOTHING to say. Perhaps this season will be a little better since 2 out of the 3 judges are new. But I'm going to DVR the show and fast-forward through all the unnecessary talking. Last season we didn't have a DVR so I just avoided the show altogether.

Technically the real show doesn't start for a few more weeks. Tonight begins the casting episodes which I just can't force myself to watch because I know they are totally bogus. Several years ago a friend of mine tried out for American Idol and learned the truth. Singers are eliminated as they pass through about 5 levels of auditions before they ever see the judges. So, when you watch the casting episodes and you hear contestants who can't carry a tune if it were handed to them in a bushel basket singing in front of the judges, its fake. Its staged. The producers intentionally push these untalented people through to the judges just so they'll have something outrageous for the casting episodes. This really rubs me the wrong way so I boycott the casting episodes and will only start watching the DVR'd episodes once the contestants actually get to Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cats to crack you up

My neighbor sent me these photos that cracked me up! Even if you're not a 'cat person', these should tickle you. Enjoy!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend highlights

Sat morning I went to real estate school. Our instructor let us out early which was nice. That night Spouse & I had dinner at Jason & Kevin's. They said they were making teriyaki stir-fry and asked us to bring an Asian appetizer. We brought Spouse's Thai chicken lettuce wraps. They're really delicious and can be an appetizer or a main course. Jason & Kevin loved them. It was really nice to have dinner and hang out with our buddies.

Sun morning I went back to real estate school, and again our instructor let us out early. Spouse & I were invited to dinner at Steven & Thad's and were asked to bring a salad. Fortunately Spouse got the salad stuff and made the salad while I was at school. Joe P and one of The Bobs were also there, and the 6 of us had a delicious dinner of roasted pork, baked apples, butternut squash, corn, salad, and brussel sprouts. Then we watched the red carpet show leading up to the Golden Globe awards, which I think of as the fake Oscars. The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, as if we know what that means. But for us its just an excuse to get together for a meal and talk about what the celebrities are wearing. It was nice that "Glee" won Best TV Series/Comedy or Musical, Jane Lynch won Best Supporting Actress and Chris Colfer won Best Supporting Actor, both from "Glee". We had a fun time!

Then this morning we met up with our friends Mike & Clark and Maurice & David who were in town for the long weekend. We had a nice breakfast and caught up with the goings on in their lives. Then we picked up our friend Thatcher from the eye doctor. Since his pupils had been dilated he was advised not to drive. He agreed to join us for lunch and we met up with Steven & Thad and Joe P. After lunch we went to the theatre to see "The King's Speech", which everyone liked. Colin Firth did a great job for which he rightfully won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. The rest of the afternoon/evening were rather uneventful. Spouse took a nap, we had dinner and watched TV.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday fragments

Welcome to Friday fragments, my weekly recap of topics too big to forget yet too small to be their own post.

My friend and frequent contributor Jared sent me this, which gave me a chuckle.
Spouse has reached another Weight Watchers milestone: 75 lbs lost. Even after some splurging on our cruise and Thanksgiving in Nov, and multiple parties and Christmas and New Years Even in Dec, he's continuing to work the program and lose weight. He looks terrific and I'm very proud of him!

Its been over a week since I dropped off Big Ella at the garage and I'd not heard anything from them so I called today. I took it in because the brake lights weren't working and I heard an odd whirring sound whenever I press the gas pedal. They said the lights were fixed (loose wiring again) and the whirring sound was the generator which has gone bad again. Fortunately the generator installed a year ago carried a 3-year warranty so I won't have to pay for it. They've ordered a new one and will let me know next week when Big Ella is ready to be picked up.

My friend Jared sent me this as well, entitled Chicken Barbie. I'm not sure I get it, but think its funny anyway.

Have you heard about the new sign they're trying to add to the zodiac? Apparently all the existing dates are being shortened and a new sign Ophiuchus is being added. Since my birthday is Dec 7 I am in the new sign. I thought this article offered a comical explanation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Today I made a thick, delicious pot of chili.

I like to make chili in the crock pot instead of a pot on the stove. If you make it in a pot on the stove you have to be home while it simmers over a low heat for several hours. Making it in the crock pot allows you to forget about it and go about your business. We have this exact crock pot, which automatically switches over to a 'keep warm' setting after the prescribed amount of cooking ends.

I'm sure there are thousands of recipes for chili on the internet, but I'm going to share my recipe along with the 'surprise' ingredients and tell you why I use and do what I use and do.

I start by browning and crumbling 2 lbs of ground beef. Yes, you can use ground turkey if you want but I think it changes the flavor. I really prefer ground beef in chili so too keep it from being too greasy or fatty, I use either 85% lean or 93% lean ground beef. Once the ground beef is browned, crumbled and drained of the fat rendered, I put the cooked ground beef into the crock pot.

Next I use 2 envelopes of chili seasoning, 1 'regular' and 1 'hot'. You could go to the trouble of measuring out the individual spices contained in the envelopes, but why would you? The envelopes have done the measuring for you. If you're afraid of 'hot' seasoning you can use 2 envelopes of 'regular', but I think the combination is perfect.

Next pour in a 32 oz can of diced tomatos with the liquid. You can use tomato sauce if you don't like the chunks of tomato, but I think the chunks give the chili great texture once its cooked down. Add a 16 oz can of tomato sauce and a 4 oz can of tomato paste. The paste gives the chili a concentrated tomato flavor.

Next come the beans. I use a 16 oz can of kidney beans (light or dark red, your choice, drained) and a 16 oz can of black beans, drained. (Surprise ingredient #1: black beans.) The black beans give a nice variation in the bean size, since they are smaller than kidneys, and the color gives the chili and interesting appearance.

Next I add about 1 cup (give or take) of frozen corn. (Surprise ingredient #2: corn.) This is a way of adding yet another variation to the size of of the beans, and adding another color to the chili. Food should look just as good as it tastes.

Then I add a 4 oz can of chopped, peeled green chilis with the liquid. (Surprise ingredient #3: green chilis.) These are NOT jalepeno peppers, they are a much milder green chili. You probably won't be able to taste that there are green chilis in the final product, but they add a depth of flavor and authenticity so add them anyway.

Now, stir all ingredients in the crock pot. The mixture should be extremely thick, so stir in about 5 oz of water. If its still too thick to stir thoroughly, stir in a few more oz of water until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Finally, add 2 dashes of nutmeg (Surprise ingredient #4) and 2 dashes of cinnamon (Surprise ingredient #5) and stir. I know, I know, nutmeg and cinnamon are typically used in baking but trust me - you won't be able to taste them specifically in the final product but they will add a balance and depth of flavor you don't want to miss. Just ask Bob. On Facebook he asked for help with his chili, followed my suggestion of adding these 2 spices, and loved the result.

Place the lid on your crock pot, put it on the 'low' setting, and let it simmer for 6 hours or more. Don't keep opening the lid to stir. It isn't
necessary, and keeping the lid closed keeps the heat in and allows the condensation to fall into the chili.

Since this takes so little time to make, its great to do this in the morning before work, let it cook all day while you're gone, and when you get home from work you have a nice, hot dinner waiting for you with hardly any pots/pans/dishes to wash. I've made this chili recipe on a Fri morning, gone to work, then come home and made a boxed cornbread mix and a simple green salad and served it to our company for dinner that same evening.

This recipe will make enough for about 8-10 servings and you can freeze the leftovers in individual containers which can be microwaved for dinner some other day. Who doesn't love a hot, delicious, no-cook dinner? Just microwave and top (if you like) with a grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced onions, diced jalepenos, tostada chips, or guacamole.

If you make my chili recipe please let me know how you liked it!