Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crossed off the List!

I have a couple of items to cross off my 101/1001 list!

5. Open a new bank account (Sun Trust sucks!) *Complete 1/14/10*

36. Open a savings account, even if there is hardly anything in it *COMPLETE! 1/14/2010, and it has ten whole dollars in it!*

I've been meaning to transfer from Sun Trust for over a year now, and I finally did! I opened a new checking account with Regions, and they were having a promotion- if you set up a savings account with direct deposit, and have $250 in it by the end of the year, and haven't touched it, they will match your $250! I am a fan of free money, so I signed up! I plan to set it up to take three or four dollars per week from my paycheck, so that I hopefully won't miss it.

I recently added my 101/1001 list to my sidebar, but I can't decide if I like it there or not. It just feels like too much maintenance, as well as a lot of clutter. Any suggestions for what else to do with it? I keep a copy in Google Docs that I update as I finish something, so I don't forget, but it would be nice to have an easily accessable version on the site, too. Or I can stick with just posting periodic updates. Suggestions?

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'd rather fly with him, thanks...

I was recently sent the book Fly With Me, by Tera Leilani Walker by Dorrance Publishing Co. in exchange for reviewing it. I was pretty excited, because I devour all books travel-related, and this one, billed as "a humorous guide to a better flying experience" written by a flight attendant sounded fun.

I was excited to find the package in my mailbox, but really surprised when I pulled the book out- it is TINY! Only 43 pages long, which immediately made me think I would have been a little disappointed if I had paid the cover price of $8 for it, unless it turned out to be *really* good. I mean, for a paperback, I could get Neil Gaiman's awesome novel Stardust
for an entire dollar less on Amazon- one of my favorite books ever, and a respectable 288 pages of awesomeness. But that's my inner cheapskate talking, and in the book's defense, it does list it as 43 pgs on the publisher's site, I just overlooked that and was therefore surprised!

I really wish I had better things to say about this book, because I went into it really wanting to like it, especially since I recieved it a few days before vacation, so I thought it would be a fun plane read (and certainly wouldn't take up much room in my carry-on!). I only ended up reading a few pages on the plane, though, before dropping it for another more interesting book that would help the time pass more quickly.

The book is divided into fourteen "chapters", which I put in quotes because each one is only about two or three pages long, usually a page or two of narrative followed by a half or full page "poem", which I put in quotes because they are really bad. An example of a few lines from the "poem" from the "chapter" on passengers with stinky feet (I am totally not kidding.):

"Everybody's talking, they're deep in conversations;
word is... the odor's causing hallucinations.

It's like a really bad trip... you know LSD;
this could be Woodstock Flight 103.

It's not so much they're ugly and creepy;
vehemently, it's they're down right stinky."

This is what you just paid $8 for. Do I even need to point out that Creepy and Stinky don't rhyme?

To the author's credit, she does jump right to the topic of the mile-high club right after the intro chapter, but it's all downhill from there. Although the book is advertised as being educational about flying, the only tip I picked up was the best kind of airplane for airplane bathroom sex. (Seriously.)

I could probably overlook the less than stellar writing and come up with something better to say about the book if it weren't for the awful editing. There were so many spelling, typographical, and gramatical errors in this book it hurt. I counted at least eight, which is insane in a 43 page book, 9 of which are only half-filled with text since they are the end of a "chapter". I understand that even the best editor can miss something here or there, but having a chapter title read "The Worse Flight Attendant" (it is correctly printed as "Worst" in the chapter index, at least), should not have gotten past anyone.

My best guess is that the author was a woman who always had great work stories to tell her friends over drinks, and they all encouraged her "You should totally write a book about your job!" a few too many times. I always want to root for the person who actually sits down and writes the book they've always wanted to, so I wish I could find something redeeming to make me recommend this one, but I just can't. And now I think that my review may officially have a higher word count than the book itself.

If you want a fun book about flying from a flight attendant's point of view, can I recommend Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant's Tales of Sex, Rage, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet by Elliott Hester, instead? I read this one several years ago and loooved it. (I should point out that I did NOT recieve this one for free, and am linking to it only out of love, because it is so freaking much better! It doesn't appear to be available directly from Amazon anymore, but there are lots of used copies, or your library might have it.)

I have a few more book reviews coming up, so I'm hoping you guys like them. Luckily this book was the worst of the bunch so far; of my four upcoming reviews, one is lukewarm and the other three are positive, possibly even glowing. Yay for GOOD books!

Now for the tough part where I have to send a review to Fly With Me's publisher. Ouch. I hate, hate, hate sending a negative review, but honesty is the best policy, right? Have you ever had to review a book that you couldn't find anything nice to say about?

Who we become

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much we change in just a few years. I guess it comes with the end of a decade, and thinking back to 2000, or even 2005 or 2008. I've probably evolved the most since 2007, when I moved to Florida, and started a totally different life. However, I think we can look back at any good three or five year chunk of our lives, and see a lot of change, hopefully for the good.

More about all that soon, perhaps, but I couldn't resist sharing this video I found at of Lady Gaga back before she was, well, Lady Gaga. This first video is from 2005, and I am totally in love with the first song:

And for comparison, current day Gaga:


Monday, January 25, 2010

I did nothing

This is pretty much a "What I did on my Summer Vacation" post, just replace "summer" with "January"- you have been warned!

I flew home on Friday the 15th, and immediately froze to death! Did you guys know Missouri is cold in the winter? I probably should since I lived there for about 26 years, but yeesh! I will stick with Florida this time of year, thanks!

Before I left, I told everyone who asked that I was going to spend my vacation sitting on the couch with my cat, watching TV, and eating, and that is pretty much what I did! My mom met me at the airport, and we stopped at Quick Trip on the way home for coffee, because we don't have QT here, and they have good coffee! They actually have vanilla cupcake cappuccinos! NOM!

Once I made it home, the first thing I did was snuggle with my cat Tallulah for about fifty hours. I have missed her more than words can say! I took a break from kitty-cuddling to look through some of the boxes that were still in my apartment downstairs.

A little info, if you are new around here- I used to live in a "mother in law apartment" (which we called a "poor daughter apartment") downstairs from my mom's house. I moved out to FL with just one car load of stuff, and my mom has mailed out a couple of boxes since then, but a LOT of my stuff is still back in MO, including a lot of clothes, books, dvds, and all my furniture. It felt like Christmas digging through boxes of books and clothes that I had forgotten I owned! I spent most of the week trying clothes on and deciding what I wanted to smoosh in my suitcase to bring back to FL with me, and what I could still live without.

Other than a lot of stuff looking through, I pretty much did exactly what I said I would: I watched TV, snuggled my cats, hung out with my mom, and ate, a LOT. And it was good! When you live at Disney World, you get used to being kind of over-stimulated, so just doing NOTHING for about a week is a welcome change! And when you can never afford food, having a house full of food is AWESOME. Throw in satelite TV when you haven't had a TV in two years, and that is my vacation. By the time I was leaving the next Saturday, I thought of all of the things I had wanted to do while home and never did, but I was ok with my lazyness. Sometimes, you just need to sit around and rest!

I got back to FL at 7pm on Saturday, and by 9pm, Ashlee and I were on our way to the Haven to see Lost in Chaos and Ambertone play. Both bands were amazing- Ambertone has a new guitarist from Venezuela, and he was really good, a little bit of a harder sound. Lost in Chaos was on fire, my friend Simon is their new guitarist, and they played a couple of songs he wrote that sounded fantastic. After Lost in Chaos, we jumped back in the car and sped to Sloppy Taco to try to catch the end of Johnny Plastic and the Rubber Band's set, but the guys were already loading equipment into Nic's truck by the time we got there. Epic fail! Somewhere on the way home from STP, we started laughing, and it evolved into a total giggle-fest that resulted in us barely making it up the apartment stairs and collapsing on my living room floor laughing for about half an hour. Excellent night!

Here's a video I took the last time we saw Ambertone at the Haven. It's my favorite part of my 2nd favorite Ambertone song-- sound on the video sucks, but it still makes me happy!

Dave took this awesome photo of Ashlee and I in between sets.

This one turned out much better!

Ash and I were trying to take this silly bar bathroom mirror pic, when some random chick walked in. I think we scared her, a lot!

Amazingly fun night! We get to see both Ambertone and Lost in Chaos again in a few weeks, and can't wait!

I was back to work today, teaching the orientation for my resort. I had 21 in my class today, so I had no voice by the end of the day! It was a good group, though, and a pretty easy day. I had to drive the 15-passenger van again, and didn't hit the curb once this time! (Last class kept a running count of how many I hit! Ok, it was only 2...)

I work in concierge tomorrow night, and then thankfully have Weds/Thurs off! Teach again on Fri, regular work on Sat, and then weirdly have Sunday off because they switched my days around next week so I can teach an extra day. Whew! I think I need some sleep!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cat and mom, in that order.


Hold on, I am not sure if you just got the magnitude of that statement. Let's try again.


Oh yes, I went there with the dancing bananas.

I haven't been home since August 08, so it has been like a year and a half! Here is what I am looking forward to:

1) Seeing my cat
2) Seeing my mom and possibly other family
3) Eating
4) Watching TV
5) Doing abso-freakin-loutely nothing for a WHOLE WEEK and getting paid for it.

Yes, I have two cats in Florida, but Tallulah, who is MY cat, and the love of my life, is still home in Missouri, and I can NOT wait to see her and snuggle! Seeing my mom is also good, since she has done such awesome things as give birth to me. And given that I NEVER have money for food, and am slowly approaching supermodel size, I am going to STUFF MY FREAKING FACE for the whole week. I am also going to park my butt in front of the TV, because I do not have one, so the glowing magic box fascinates me. And thanks to paid vacation days from work, I get PAID for all this!

It WILL be freaking cold. But given that I am going to be on the couch with a cat and a blanket and a pizza, that is totally okay.

FOUR days to go! Squee!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Cooking with Crystal, Volume 1

Today, gentle readers, I would like to share with you some advice that comes straight from my kitchen this fine morning.

Say that you are, perhaps, a friend of all things carbohydrate. And let's also say that you opened a roll of croissant dough about a week ago. Just for giggles, let's also say that you have been sick for eight hundred and fifty-seven (or two) months, and as a result, have the appetite of a very small and fragile bird, and therefore know there is NO FREAKING WAY you will eat all 8 croissants before they get funky and inedible.


If you should only make 4 of the croissants from the little triangles of dough that day, is it a good idea to freeze/refrigerate the rest of the dough for a week, in hopes that you can have the rest of the yummy baked goods another day?

Learn from my pain, friends. It is not ok. You will get all excited about bready goodness, only to have your every hope and dream crushed.

This is exactly why one should always have a box of pop tarts on hand, for nutritional emergencies.

Here Endeth the Lesson

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jasper and Kevin

1224090007a.jpg, originally uploaded by crystalw07.

Jasper got a new toy for Christmas. These feathery toys are the total meaning of his existance, but because of his undying love, they don't last all that long. Because they are brightly colored and feathery, we have taken to calling them Kevin, after the bird in Up.

I am totally not kidding you about Jasper's undying love for his Kevins.

This is an hour after he got the new one.

This is three hours later.

And later that night...

And this is his old one next to his new one, which I think explains pretty well why they need replaced.

I can't even begin to imagine what he would do if he ever saw an actual bird. Well, actually, knowing my Fraidy-Cat, he would hide.

I mentioned in my last post how COLD Florida has been lately, and now I offer photographic proof! Jasper, my "no hugs, not EVER" cat, has taken to curling up in bed with me in my lap, under the blankets, while I am sitting in bed online. Observe:

I think that is a look that says "I am not particularly okay with this whole touchy-feely thing, but you are warm, so I find it acceptable for now."

What do you mean this post is poorly-written, random, and full of tangents that make no sense? I think it's just fine, apple naked noodle pool frogs!

I went on yesterday morning to find out exactly how many layers of clothes I would need to pile on before heading out to Epcot. (Answer: 73) When I pulled up the site, I noticed this:

Are they stalking me? See how subtle they are, all "e.g. Disney World", like "Oh no, we aren't stalking you or anything, we just happened to suggest the place here you live and work and are going to lunch today." STALKERS.

The reason for my weather related inquiry was that I had lunch plans with a big group from work, and needed to know if I was going to freeze to death on the 10 minute walk from where I park to the restaurant.

You should probably know that pretty much ALL of my cold weather clothes are still in Missouri. Actually, pretty much all of my stuff in general is! Furniture, books, dvds, tv, cat, you name it, it is sitting in boxes back home. (Minus the cat. She is too big to put in a box.) I moved out here with exactly two suitcases plus one car load of stuff, and mom has mailed out a couple of small boxes in the two years since, but in general, that's still pretty much all I have. As a result, I was pretty selective in which clothes I brought; Sweaters? Who needs em in Florida? Well, this week, me! I do!!

I have exactly three sweatshirts and one sweater in this state, and all of the above are dirty. And I am out of laundry detergent. And will not be able to afford more for at least a couple of weeks. (Try not to be too jealous of how awesome my lifestyle is. Also, if you happen to be the maker of a fragrance-free laundry detergent, now would be an AWESOME time to send me your product to review!!) I have to admit that I am still kind of getting over the disappointment that, given that I live at Disney World, small forrest animals do not swoop into my house on a weekly basis and do my laundry for me in a refreshing song and dance number with bubbles. At least the little bluebirds to still show up to help me do my hair on a pretty regular basis.

But back to my lack of clothes. Oh, crap, now you are picturing me naked, aren't you? Stop that! Unless you are Ewan McGreggor, in which case go right on ahead. And then call me.

Wait, did this blog have a point?

Oh, yes! It was cold. And Florida people do not know how to do cold. We look at our flip-flops and try to decide which would be the warmest. Which one of my t-shirts has the thickest fabric?

So I started to do the "maximize warmth at all costs!" thing, with lots and lots of layers, but then the Bellydancer Gene kicked in. There seems to be this genetic thing among bellydancers that attracts us to shiny things. We should be kept away from bedazzlers and bead sales. Does it glitter? Let's stick it on my bra and dance around! Whee! Even though I haven't technically preformed or done classes in years, the bellydancer gene still lies dormant, drawing me to big dangly coin earrings, and tribal-looking jewelry.

Basically, if I had my choice, I would go to work every day looking like this:

Well, maybe not work, but still. How awesome is the giant kuchi pendant in her hair?

Basic point: we like to decorate ourselves, all shiny shiny. And lunch yesterday was a Moroccan restaurant, with a bellydancer, so I had to return to my natural state! The closest I could come up with was a glittery paisley-print tank top, with my khaki colored jacket on top, with my giant leather coat over all that. Plus big earrings, and my boots that are literally falling apart, but were my only closed-toe option that were not either a) high heels, or b) toe socks with flip-flops.

How did this turn into a post about what turned out to be a boring outfit? I need an editor. Anyway! We had lunch at Restaurant Marrakesh, in Morocco, at Epcot.

(This is totally not my photo. Found it on flickr, here.)

The manager came out and talked to us for quite a while, and told us that they would be bringing us a sampler of some of the menu's offerings, which I was kind of thankful for because I hadn't been able to decide what I wanted to order. We had two or three waiters working our table (gotta love being VIP's!), one of which was from Casablanca, so I think I deserve major credit for not making any Rick's Cafe jokes to him. Another one, who I think was from Tangier, unless it was Fez, had FIVE language tags on his nametag. If you are new around here, I should explain that I am a language nerd. I eventually want to be fluent in at least a dozen languages, so I love talking to people who speak some of the same ones I do. A coworker and I recently totally bonded over both speaking French and Swahili (and I think the fact that I was the only person to ever ask him if he was from Republic of Congo or Democratic Republic of Congo, since his nametag just says Congo. I think he was more pleased that I actually knew things about DRC, too.) Anyway (This post might win an award for most unneccessary tangents ever!), I made a comment to Six Language Dude (the five on his nametag plus English), but he just kind of said "yeah", and handed us bread. Sadness!

We had giant chunks of bread, which we all gobbled up pretty quickly, and then were served plates with couscous, vegetables, and both beef and chicken shish-ka-bobs. I'm not as big meat eater (that's what she said!), but I was a fan of the couscous. I still have pretty much no appetite from having just spent 6 weeks home sick, so most of my entree ended up in a handy to-go box. They also brought us out trays of baklava, both almond and pistachio. I love pistachios, and gobbled up the sweet square of nutty goodness with joy. Too bad I couldn't get an extra box of THAT to go!

I found an updated Marrakesh menu here if you are interested.

So, here is the weird thing about the people I work with: We actually LIKE each other. This is a very good thing, since we see WAY more of each other than we see of our friends or family. Like any group, there are people you get along with better than others, but it's nice to be able to go out with coworkers, and have it feel pretty much exactly like being out with your other friends.

We posed for a picture by the fountain near the restaurant, which we flagged down some poor unsuspecting but awesome tourist to take, with three different cameras:

Observe: people who do not own warm clothing, trying to look warm. Note my awesome coat over jacket ensemble. That plus jeans that are two sizes too big for me only add about fifty million pounds to this photo.

I thought our outing was over at this point, as we all meandered back to the van, but I found out they had also arranged for us to get to go ride Soarin' with no wait! SCORE!

If you are not a Disney person, Soarin is a ride at Epcot that opened a few years ago, but is so astoundingly popular that the waits are always pretty crazy, and the fastpasses run out fast. I hardly ever ride it because I am way too impatient for lines, so getting to ride with everyone was great! I love Soarin, I love the music, and the smell of oranges as you fly over the orange groves, and trying to kick the people in the boats near the beginning of the movie, since my feet are already aimed at them. And this time I got to obnoxiously talk through the whole thing with my "little brother" Mike, who I should probably never be allowed in a theme park with again, because we would probably get kicked out, fast.

Here, have some Soarin'. It's not the same without being able to feel the movement and breeze, and smell the sea and oranges, but at least you get the music!

And so ended our afternoon at Epcot. I guess I could have made this post a lot shorter. Maybe I should go back and just say "It was cold. I don't have warm clothes. Yay, bellydance! We ate lunch in Morocco and rode Soarin." Maybe someday, I will learn to write, but don't count on it anytime soon.

Friday, January 01, 2010

In which I confess that I have the technical skills of a wombat

I am pondering changing the image in my blog header, that thing up there with the title and the two me's with the two cats. Why? It has been there for a few years, and I have a short attention span. And to be honest, I am not really sure why there are TWO of me. Well, yes, I am. So that there was one with each cat. Because I couldn't be standing with Tallulah on one side, and have Lily all alone on the other! Plus, the thing I used to make it wouldn't let me put both a camera and a coffee on the same person, and both of those things are essential, so I just cloned myself. If only real life were that easy!

And so once I started thinking about my image, I realized how confusing it probably is for people who are new to my site, because... a) why are there two of me? Is this a blog by two people? (No, I am just indecicive with graphics. Camera or coffee? BOTH!) b) Those are not even the cats I live with anymore! Lula and Lily live in Missouri with my Mom. (WOW that was some alliteration! I would like retroactive high school English credit for that sentence.)

I could make an all NEW banner with Cricket and Jasper (the cats who actually share an apartment, and a time zone, with me), but then I would feel terrible for not having Tallulah on it. And here I bet you thought that being a crazy cat lady was easy! HAH!

However, making a new banner featuring me and four cats is just a tiny step too close to becoming an ACTUAL crazy cat lady than I would like to go.

I suppose the best option is to come up with a new graphic that features something ELSE. Suggestions? Ideas? Random perfectly-designed banners that you just happened to stay up all night making for me?

Blogs are sort of like houses where once you start maintenance, you seel all this OTHER stuff that you should probably fix, too. For instance, my font. When I type on Blogger, it looks like this:

(Like how this image bleeds over into my sidebar? Me, too!)

Since that is what I see when I hit publish, my brain thinks that is what the font looks like on my blog. Of course, when I do look at my actual blog, it looks more like this:


Just in case you did not notice, THOSE ARE VERY DIFFERENT. I really prefer the larger size and actual font on blogger, but try as I might to fight with my CSS, I can not get it to look the way I want. This is pretty embarassing, because I have been blogging for something like TEN YEARS at this point, and holy crap, shouldn't I be able to change my FONT at this point?

Part of my problem is that I don't use a blogger template, mine is all custom, and I don't publish to blogger, I use it to publish to my own site via FTP, which makes a lot of the customization stuff not work. And it makes the Google Friend Connect follower widget thing not work, which sucks.

Speaking of which, does anyone know of a follower widget that DOES work if you do not publish to blogger?

I just realized that this post is one giant cry for help. And upon looking at this blog published, that seeing an image of your blog IN your blog is really freaky.

And now that I just looked at it again, I am wondering why exactly I felt the need to add an image of what my blog font looks like.. ON the blog that you are reading. Wow.