Never gonna make you cry

its been awhile. again.

i took an accidental 5-month sabbatical from the blog, when my contract got cut at my old job and i had to get a new one.  then i was all kinds of busy and forgot about it, but now it’s become routine again and so i decided to pick up where i left off.

plus, i heard a rumor that some folks enjoy reading about nerds, so i’m obliged to continue.

over the last six months, not much has changed, but some things definitely have:

a)  i have a new job – this means i make more $$ and am much closer to paying off my debt.  i just received my tax return and applied it towards this goal, and now my total debt is down to about $9k from my original starting point of $25k.

b)  i have embraced living in the basement.  J and I bought an entertainment system and now after A falls asleep we can watch LOST.  also, i like to pretend that we are living in the hatch, like Desmond did, and that has kept me sane sometimes.  it’s pretty cool to pretend to be in LOST.  especially when your nightlights become “torches”.

c)  we bought a real bed.  i think we paid about $700 altogether for a new mattress and box spring, and it has made a huge difference.  i am sleeping so great, and love the bed, and would have paid 500x as much money for it.  a great bed makes all the difference.

d)  i only owe $9k now.  i used to owe $25k.  that’s huge.  i have about 9 months until i will be able to completely pay it off, and then i’ll have an awesome debt to income ratio, and then we’ll be able to buy a house. after a year in the basement, i am counting down the days.  officially i only need to pay off another $4k to qualify for the loan we want, but by the time we find one, sign the papers and move in, i’ll have $0 owed.

e)  my baby is officially a little boy.  he’s talking.  he makes demands.  he states preferences.  he loves thomas the train, elmo, toy story and mickey mouse.  he can watch toy story as many times in a row as you will let him (yes, i have tested this theory).  yesterday he was able to entertain himself with his toys and Sprout for an entire 3 hours while J and I slept in.  he’s practicing potty training at daycare, and pretty soon will be ready to start at home.  he knows all of his abc’s, his numbers 1-14, most shapes, and a lot of nursery songs.  he also knows all of the characters in his favorite movies, how to give a hug and make someone feel better, what it sounds like when a baby cries (his toddler room is next to the infant room at daycare).  he’ll be moving into the preschool room after his 3rd birthday.  he is so smart.  i can’t believe he’s so big already.

as far as big changes go, those are it.  i’m working on reducing our grocery bill by as much $ as possible also – to save J some money that he can add to general savings or the down payment fund.  we figure we’ll need to replace both cars in the next 5 years (his in the beginning, mine towards the end of that period), so we need to save for it.  we also need some emergency savings and whatnot so i’m considering that also.  i basically want to maximize the $ we have, and cut spending down to where we can spend $300 on groceries and household a month and not feel like i’m missing anything.

so far, i have discovered there are so many things i can make in the crock pot!  and some that i can’t.  i made thai peanut beef (amazing), beef stew, mexican taco filling (beans, corn, carrots, ground turkey, and whatever other veggies i have), and those were all winners.  the epic failure came when i tried to make a crock pot with too many beans.

i started using dry beans (the kind you have to soak overnight), because they were cheaper.  but i didnt know they would absorb so much dang liquid!  so when i put them in the crock pot i put too many for the amount of liquid i had, and came home to a dry, burned mess.  at least now i know how to make them properly, and next time i’m going to boil the hell out of them before putting them in a crock pot.

we also got the popcorn that is just the seeds, and you put oil in a pan and pop it that way.  omfg it is so good.  that is a HUGE money saver for us because we both LOVE popcorn (A doesn’t, but he’s two and doesn’t like weird textures).  we used to go through a box of microwave popcorn in two weeks, but the seeds we bought cost like 1.50 and will last for a couple of months.  i think its going to save 20 bucks a month, and every 20 bucks you save adds up!  can you tell i have gotten even more nerdy about money?

it has become an obsession really, trying to find ways to do things ourselves to save money.  or to find what we want cheaper than retail price.  i read about couponing, and yes i know you can buy $200 of groceries for $0.04 if you get the right coupons and go to all the right stores and whatever, but that just sounds like a waste of time.  i’m not going to 4 grocery stores, and people who do are insane or have nothing better to do.  i stand by that.  you waste the $ you save in gas, people!

i have a sewing machine though, and i want to break it out and start using it.  it’s still in the package from Christmas, because it has a ton of small parts that i don’t want A getting into, but it could save me a ton of money if i could learn how to make something cool and sell it on etsy.  if i had the time to run a business on the side, that is.  i also knit and am wanting to do it more, but the problem is it takes FOREVER to finish something that way.  a scarf big enough for J to wear takes me about 3 months to finish…an Ugli doll fake that i sewed by hand for AJ took me 6 months to finish.  it’s not because i don’t want to finish it, it’s because i run out of time or other things have to take precedence, or a lot of days, i am too damn exhausted from being a full time mom AND full time employee.

the way i’ve done the crock pots started out imitating the crock pot lady.  i made three huge crock pots a week, we ate what i made for dinner and froze the leftovers into individual portions.  then i packed our lunches with whatever we had in the freezer.  it ended up ROCKING and saving J about $1k last month combined with all my other efforts (Walmart shopping, DIY, trying to stick to needs vs. wants at the store, not throwing random things in the cart, etc).  apparently i am a car thrower-inner.

ya, J thinks i just throw stuff in the cart when we’re at the store.  but really, i see stuff we need that goes on sale and go, “we need this” and throw it in.  granted a lot of those things are “oh we should really improve xyz aspect of our lives with this product”, but i still see it as a need.  i’m a mom, i’ve learned to anticipate the future, and i like to make one huge grocery trip a month instead of several small ones a month.  so i anticipate our needs.  is that such a bad thing?

what else is different….oh ya, i decided that just because we have some $, doesn’t mean we should spend it.  so thats helpful with the whole “trying to not live in a basement” thing.

i am going to write a lot more on the trials and errors that go along with living in a basement, but for now just know that living in a basement with your two year old is sometimes a form of hell on earth.  and sometimes, it’s awesome.

until next time.

a sweet gesture from my nerdy boyfriend <3

Over IM…

BF:  Got that .dat file you wanted :P

Me:  ?

BF:  <sends true.dat file>  <Alt+Click to Accept>

BF:  open with note pad

And when I open it:

i love you  <insertnamehere>!

What a cutie!  Love you too babe <3

Discordia – The Dark Tower’s Online Game

Well, kids, my life is complete.  You see, I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series for as long as I can remember (and Stephen King in general, now that I think about it).  I began reading the Dark Tower series in 2007, and my son was born right in the middle of Book 7, so you can imagine a) how afraid I was that he would turn into a giant spider and eat me and b) that I never got to finish the series.

I’ve been discussing it with J, and both of us agree that it’s necessary to own.  He’s never read it, poor guy!  I keep meaning to check out the prices on Amazon.com.  Ok, here’s the price check:  there is no boxed set.  Because Mr. King may write more.  The books are like $7.99 a pop paperback from Border’s, just go get some already.  NO, absolutely NO playing this game until you’ve read the books, because there are spoilers below:

Discordia

The Castle Discordia

You’ve been forewarned.  It’s an online game, recommended to run in Firefox, and using the most up to date technology (of course).  I am not allowing myself to play it, as I have yet to finish book 7, but holy crap do I want to.

Mugs for your Desk

I know that at your office, you probably use the free work-provided cups for your coffee/juice/tea/etc.  However….

I’d like to present you with some especially nerdy mugs, made by SleepTalkin’Man.  The first:

Put it in an email. Then I can ignore it at my pleasure.

 

So very appropriate for those busy, busy days.  Another:

Awesomeness now has a name. Let me introduce myself.

 

Perfect for bringing with you to that 9am meeting, after you’ve just successfully conquered the universe (at least within Call of Duty…I digress).  I’d keep both and use them as “mood meters” – one of my favorite coworkers has a “mood meter” right outside her cube, and it’s fabulous.

I attempted to start a mug competition a couple of months ago, but it failed.  I didn’t have any participants.  I think I actually avoided bringing a ceramic mug to the office on the basis that, if I brought the cup, competition had begun.  I later realized I had a perfectly good set of 4 lovey blue and white mugs that I absolutely love at home, and why couldn’t I bring one in?  I did, and although I don’t use it every day, I like having it there.  I’d love to have more just to mix it up a bit though.

Let’s discuss, what do you bring to work as far as beverages/cups/etc?  Any traditions in this area?  I know there are those who keep 24-packs of Coke under their desks, fess up!  There are also the coffee drinkers (that would be me), and those who drink nothing at all (J, I’m reminding you to hydrate yourself right now). 

Is this different or the same as when you’re at your desk at home?  For example, say you logged into FB at home to check updates, and then you planned on playing Call of Duty online until you fell asleep at the machine.  Would you drink the same thing you had at work?  Is daytime computing different than nighttime computing in this sense?  How do you ever get enough sleep to be functional during the workday if you play Call of Duty all night?

I’m just curious, really.  I think this is becoming more of a “nerd lifestyle” column, more than anything.  I’m ok with that.  To update you on me and mine, lately we’ve been avoiding computing in all its forms when we’re not actually at work (excepting J’s Droid, which accompanies us everywhere.  Very useful, that one).  Ok, I can’t lie.  Yes, we go out and do adventures like Taylor’s Falls last weekend, but we also each check our FB multiple times a day along with email and whatever else.  I do all of my banking online, so I check that on the weekend (weekly paychecks…don’t get me started). 

I don’t text, though.  I really don’t.  Not unless I need to explain why I can’t pick up the phone, or need to send a notification, or am answering an incoming one.  I know people (mostly younger than me I think), who spend much of their lives texting, but I just can’t do it.  For one, I’d miss a lot of what my little boy is up to (including saying ABC’s as of last night! ).  For two, I like to be unplugged when I’m not “on” like I have to be at work.  Unless I choose to plug in.  But I like there to be a very clear separation between the two.  None of this texting-while-climbing-a-mountain crap (although I did take a ton of pics with my cell at Taylor’s Falls)…

The Grocery List Road Test = Ziplist for the win!

*Disclaimer:  this article may seem a bit girly.  That’s because, guys, I am giving you useful information to impress your wife/girlfriend with.  Believe it.   Use it.  You’re welcome.

Sooo….while thinking about meal planning, I’ve been thinking about adding the necessary ingredients to some sort of electronic shopping list that I could continue to modify and edit until it came time to go to the store.  Now whether I would need to print the list or I could take it electronically, I didn’t care.  I just wanted it to be contained in something that would either a) alphabetize it or b) categorize it, and would love it if I could switch between the two.

I searched the Android market for an app for boyfriend’s phone to test, and found several suggested shopping list apps.  I particularly enjoyed the “BuyMeSh*t” app that one of the posters recommended for his girlfriend.  Later, I reflected on this and decided he would think it was rather girly, having a “shopping list” app on his phone.  I decided to move on and handle the list myself.

Then I did a switch  (see where my techie mind is at today?) search for “grocery list” on Google and discovered a myriad of hilarious grocery lists.  I even discovered a site called GroceryLists.org, which is a collection of found grocery lists from all over.  I surfed this site for awhile until I found pre-made grocery lists!

Apparently several users have taken the time to assemble pre-formatted grocery lists that you can download, print and take with you to the grocery store, like these:

The Ultimatest - from GroceryLists.org, is a printable .pdf-style checklist that I find hilarious.

My Grocery Checklist - from MyGroceryChecklist.com, is a simple interactive web app that allows you to create your list right there on the site, format it, and print it out.  No techie knowledge required.

GroceryWiz.com -  looks like a really sweet web app (notice I said “looks like”) which features listmaking organized by categories, with room for user input.  As you make your list, it autopopulates in the righthand “Shopping List” textbox so that you can see an updated version of everything you’ve selected.  The site enables you to create an account, and save/edit/modify shopping lists you’ve previously created.  It will email you coupons if you want it to (it actually has a “coupons” page), and has sister sites for Packing List and Camping List creation.  The interface is low-tech-user-friendly, with easy-to-navigate pages and large checkboxes, so even the oldest grandma  (or nontechnical user) can operate it.  I tested it today by creating my own shopping list on the site, and here’s what it came up with:

http://www.GroceryWiz.com
Item Type QTY Notes (Coupons)
VEGTABLES
Hatch chili pepper   1 7 oz can chopped
Pepper Chili 1 7 ounce can shopped Hatch
Pepper Red 1  
Pepper Other 4 Poblano
Poblano pepper   4  
FRUITS
Apples Delicious 1  
Banana Regular Bananas 1  
Kiwi   2  
Lemon   1  
DAIRY
Butter Stick 1  
Extra Sharp Cheddar   1 12 ounces
Milk Whole 2  
Monterey Jack   1 10 ounces
Skim Milk   1 half gallon
MEATS
Chicken Chicken 1  
Chicken Other 1 Breasts
BEVERAGES
Coffee Caffeinated 1 Caribou
Coffee Filters   1 flat bottom
BAKING
Spices Oregano 1  
Spices Cajun Seasoning 1  
BABY
Diapers   1 size 5 1/2 box
Finger Food Veggie Puffs 1  
Finger Food Teethers 1  
BREADS
Cornbread   1  
FROZEN
Pancakes   1 big bag, tiny cakes
Vegetables Artichokes 1  
Vegetables Mixed Vegetables 1  
BEAUTY
Contact Solution   1  
Hydrogen Peroxide   1  
Saline Solution   1  
PASTA
Noodles Elbow 1 1 lb
BREAKFAST
Cereal Cheerios 1  

 

Which is pretty decent if you have the desire for a Midwestern, bland and/or redneck kitchen.  Where it fails:

- All spices fall under the “Baking Supplies” category.  This inaccurate categorization will begin to irritate you after entering a few list items.  Would you make a Cajun muffin?

- The auto-populating Shopping List on the righthand side fails to autorefresh when necessary.  Notice the duplicates above.

- You’re not allowed to select duplicate items.  For example, I need to buy Whole Milk for the baby, and Skim for me.  I was able to check the box for Milk and pull up Whole from the dropdown menu, but what about Skim?  I had to input it as it’s own separate list item in order to add it to the Shopping List.

- The “International” category contains vegetables like “avocado”.  For those who do not know, avocados are grown in places like California, so this is more of the inaccuracy described above.

- They misspelled “melon”.  On the site, it reads, “mellon”.  Is spellcheck not built in?  Looks like the site admin needs to update either their skillset or their web building app.

- Birth control is completely omitted from the “Beauty/Health” category.

- There are separate categories for cheese puffs and caramel corn under the “Snack Foods” category.  In the Bakery category, they count ding-dongs and ho-hos as “pastry items”.  Sorry guys, but these really count as “junk food” from a lady perspective.  “Pastry items” should be things like scones, coffee cake, etc.

I’m canceling my test account with this one, and moving on to the next.

HEB.com’s  printable .pdf is a little more in tune with our global community, with everything from tortillas to chile peppers listed right alongside your basic beans and rice.  I like it, but I want something a little more extensive.  It is temping due to it’s inclusion of Gruyere under the Dairy category…

Grocery List Generator 2.0.3 is a free downloadable add-on for Firefox that integrates recipes and a grocery list.  I like it because it pulls the information ingredients directly from the recipes you input, and tells you how many recipes use each item in the grocery list (in case you were ever so careless when deleting).  It looks pretty interesting, but as I can’t use Firefox right now, I’ll let you test it and report back to me on how it works.

After a few more tests of list generators not even worthy enough to mention here, I think I have found the winner:

Zip List is a grocery list generator with shared access, blog capabilities, an iPhone app, and access enabled via web, email, IM or text message.  By far the most nerd-friendly generator I have found.  It is also a meal planner, enabling you to search more than 30,000 recipes and add them to your list with that little single-click we all know and love.  Here’s my list made on Zip List:

My Ziplist 04-08

I couldn’t find much that I did not love about Ziplist, from a tech perspective.  It’s capabilities are right in line with most Google apps, so what more do you want?  Downfalls on this web app:

- It miscategorizes occasionally.  If you look closely above, you’ll see the mistakes (it seems to default to “frozen foods” a lot).  I have yet to see whether it can “learn” what the correct categories are and autocorrect for them when entered.

- It seems to be very Java-heavy.  Each time you enter an item, your list is highlighted in blue and you are made to wait 3-5 seconds while it “zips” your item into the list (the item entry textbox then displays Zipping bell pepper…..).  The entire list refreshes post-Zip, as it must adjust the categorization to include the new item, and this is another 2 seconds of waiting time.  I noticed it ran much faster once I cleared my Java objects, reset defaults, and then cleared IE temp files and restarted IE. 

Other than that, the site seems uber-functional – you could really use it for any type of shopping list, as you’re not selecting predetermined items.  You type everything in manually, so you need a shopping list for your mom’s birthday?  Done.  You can save as many lists as you need to, discard anything you want to, and editing of the individual lists is left completely up to the user.  I’d pay for the app, and probably be more inclined to use it with IE8 and the most recent Java release along with Windows 7 as I think IE7 and XP aren’t up to snuff with this one.

Another great thing I discovered about the site is…..web recipe integration!  The site pulls from Martha Stewart’s recipe site (among others, I think), so you can go search a recipe, add it to your “Recipe Box” (where it stays until you remove it), and then add it to your Ziplist – it pops up a little window that pulls the ingredients right from the recipe.  You check the boxes for what you need to purchase (the default is that you need everything), hit OK and Bam! (get the Emeril reference here?), it’s on the list!

I’m using it for menu planning for next week, and currently I have the Southwest Mac ‘n Cheese and the Chili with Chicken and Beans added.  Another bonus to the site (that I didn’t discover until after I manually entered the Southwest Mac ‘n Cheese ingredients) is that you can add any web recipe to your Recipe Box.  And zip it into your list.  How sweet is that?  A recipe box that you can mod just the way you like, stored virtually to eliminate all of those pesky kitchen index cards covered in flour and things, and it’s also a multifunctional (any-way-you-want-it-functional!) grocery list!!!

It pulls brand names, people.  It even.  Pulls.  Brand.  Names.

I don’t know how I lived without this thing - J can’t read my handwriting as it is, and we were spending far too much “together” time editing our list.  Now that I’ve added him as a user, he can access it via his Droid web browser or the website, edit the list to his liking (at the same time as I’m logged in editing, if you can believe that!  Yes it’s true, we tested it yesterday and it works.  I didn’t even know he was logged in until I saw ‘Jones Soda – Cream Soda’ appear under the Frozen Foods category), and then when he gives the OK, I make final mods and we go shopping!

We shop together.  Isn’t that cute?

I could also have it text messaged to me (SMS), emailed to me, or J could pull it up via the upcoming app for Android OS!  That’s right, kids – J checked out the site yesterday, and they are working on a Droid app as we speak. 

That’s all for now, I am off to meet my nerdy boyfriend for lunch!

 *Now go on and configure it for your better half, and let me know how she likes it!

The Faux Hawk Gets Nerdy

 

Look what I found while deciding on a haircut to give my son:

After I saw this, the faux hawk was a must.  In the beginning I cut the front too long and it was difficult to spike, and then I cleaned it up a bit over the next couple of days.  Now it’s about perfect, but I’ve lost interest in spiking it.

I don’t think Ajax minds either way…he’s a pretty easygoing little kid.  I was so very tempted to bring this diagram into a salon, present it to the stylist straight-faced and say, “Can you replicate this to my child’s head?”

I never got that far, but wow would that have been a hilarious Nerdy moment…