Friday, January 08, 2016

Coupon Nerd-Out

That familiar bullseye logo!

I LOVED the reality TV Show Extreme Couponing. I binge-watched a set on demand, and marveled at the --well, how else do I put it?-- extreme lengths these amazing participants of the show went to, to get the most product for the least amount of money possible. It just floored me!

My favorite episodes were the ones where the people got this ridiculous -- no, seriously, it was really a RIDICULOUS -- amount of food and toiletries for very little money, but then they turned around and did the practical thing: they donated a huge amount to the local food bank to help others in need! It was really touching to see them do that. (I mean, really, we do have to be practical. There's only so much you and your family can actually use up before the expiration date on the product, you know?)

I super-enjoy the idea of couponing, and still buy the Sunday paper every once in a while to see if I luck out, but realistically I don't get to use many, as much as I try. Food sensitivities mean I have to avoid what most people enjoy (preservatives and nitrates for instance, cause me physical pain). Overall it seems the most popular stuff is what really get the bulk of the coupons. But back in November (when the schedule got super-slammy there for a while) I enjoyed a great (modest, but great!) coupon nerd-out moment.

I went to Target to buy toilet paper, because they usually have large packages where the resulting price-per-individual-roll turns out to be reasonable. I expected the "good" price to be $18 or less for 24 rolls. But when I got there it turns out they had a sale ...

Target was selling a package of 15 rolls for $10 -- and the package itself had a $1 off coupon that read "Use It Right Now!" -- which meant if I bought two packages, I could use both coupons and pay $18 for 30 rolls instead, and so it was a good deal. But then it gets better!

Target would give the customer a $5 gift card for buying TWO packages of the TP! So, okay, it's $18 for 30 rolls (already double the amount I was expecting to be able to buy!!) + I am ALSO $5 ahead!

So because of the great sale (and the $5 gift card I was going to get) I went back to the car, and got my $3 manufacturers coupon for a double-bottle package of contact lens solution. The solution wasn't on crazy sale (which would have been say, $11.99 or less for the package of two bottles) but at $13.99 it was still cheaper than it typically is (high is like $15.99.)

So to the cashier I went and $13.99 - $8.00 (because I used both the $3 coupon and the $5 gift card) meant I only paid $7 and change (after tax) out of pocket for the contact lens solution, and I essentially got 6 rolls of toilet paper for free when all was said and done. A very modest coupon victory, sure, (when compared to those amazing people who get so much on the TV shows) but it's a happy one, anyway!

WAHOO! I felt pretty good.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes Time Blurs By ...

So ... very ... busy ...

My brain is writing blog posts I cannot yet post because I cannot get enough time to compose them on a keyboard.

Oy vey!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

AGH. The Nightmare of Updating Blogger Templates

Yeah. There goes my sidebar.

9 years (with one re-build somewhere in there already) of adding and sculpting a sidebar with like 100+ links to Things I Really Like (and kept tabs in this way because I was just too lazy to put them in my browser booksmarks) all gone in an instant because of a silly notion of updating the template. sob!

There should be emojis in this new template. :/

I thought updating would be nice, cause I'd get all those neat social media widgets on the posts, right?

Argh. Now I have to replace all those categories!!  :O   

Okay. I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Let's just say it's very Zen and it's just time to update everything and do something fresh! (I still really prefer my centered title block, though. wah!)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Laughing and crying at the same time is such a strange sensation. The emotions that have to come into play to make that happen are SO intense and layered. It's very surreal.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant made me laugh so hard I actually cried -- several times. This bittersweet memoir about her aging parents by cartoonist Roz Chast, was just really funny and sad and hilarious and beautifully told. I love her scratchy art and hand-written text telling stories about her mom and dad ... because it packs the cartooning/story-telling down into a whole deeper way personal-feeling level.

I love it for its frankness, for its sharing of the hard stuff that aging somehow has become for many folks. It's hard to watch ones' parents age; and in America we've been taught it's preferable to spread the family out; and with the need for two incomes to pay the bills, it's not convenient or easy having parents/grandparents return to live in the same house when they are aged and infirm because of the 24-hour care needed. It's a bittersweet memoir, and so worth reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Bad Onion Will Just Kill A Dish

4-something p.m. Tuesday

I was wondering what I was going to blog about this week, since I haven't gotten near any (now 3) of my book piles ... there'd be plenty to write about there if I had the time to read ... but working on deadlines is priority. Then I realized this afternoon, even as I wanted to cry over the epic failure of a dish, I thought at least being able to blog about the utter failure (IMO) might make me feel better.

Last week I blogged about my "fix it" obsession. And I guess to a degree my "fix it" obsession can be said to spread out to food. Maybe it's middle age, maybe it's the need to have something handy and ready to eat that's homemade (read: leftovers), or maybe it's just the sheer joy of cooking -- but I've really grown fascinated with (okay, easier forms of) cooking. I've been aiming to learn how to cook some of the Puerto Rican dishes my mom would make for us when I was growing up ... with the hopes that next time I visit I can impress her.

Today I'm making chicken stew. Or rather, I was trying to. We'll see whether it is in about an hour. Because like the title of the post headline reads -- a bad onion will just reduce a dish to uselessness.

I like yellow onions. They have personality. They're the ones you need when you're cooking Puerto Rican dishes. When they sauté in the cooking oil to become the base of just about every PR meal that is not a dessert, they are just heaven to breathe in. They smell like a meal unto themselves! Unless they DON'T, in which case you're in trouble. Real trouble.

I dunno if it was just an old one or if it was a sweet onion disguised as a yellow onion and I picked it up by mistake. ACK. All's to say, I didn't notice its lack of scent while I was cutting it up because I was too busy CRYING from the fumes!

But boy did I notice there was NO SCENT WHATSOEVER when I started to sauté them ... and did I start to freak out!

There's going to be no flavor in this stew! How do I save this dish?! I've had this happen before and because I was sharing that one with friends, the sofrito was simply thrown in the garbage for its amazing lack of flavor and I plum started over. But today I've got like 5 pounds of chicken that has to go in here! The kicker being I have NO MORE ONIONS IN THE HOUSE TO REPLACE THIS LAME ONE WITH! (I sure can't leave the pot to get in the car to get an onion. I'm on a deadline!!)

In my panic I grabbed small jars of minced onion and onion powder -- hoping that somehow one of these options might add that amazing--what do I call it? kick? piquant? tang? zip?-- add that flavor that makes the dish come to life.

I kept tasting and adding and tasting and adding and there was just no relief; it was all really just getting more grainy. PANIC. I had to stop while I was ahead and just throw in the bowl of chicken I had cut up. Sigh.

45 minutes later:
the graininess has subsided. The flavor is mild so it's not inedible but the sauce has no real personality. It does not bring that note of nostalgic contentment to my tummy with its taste. Sigh.

How to salvage this. I might experiment with hot sauce (now I like hot sauce but it shouldn't be necessary in this dish.) How sad. :(

P.S. Friday afternoon.
The leftovers the following day were slightly better. The flavor just didn't pop. But oy, lesson learned. Always have back up onions in plenty supply. LOL

Monday, August 10, 2015

TV Junkie: "Fix It" reality shows and Bar Rescue

I'm a fan of "Fix-It" shows.

Fix the house, fix the business. I just loooooooove these shows.

It's truly something of a mild obsession ... I tend to binge watch. When I'm aiming to be good ('cause it's a workday) I'll only watch one episode during lunchtime. Then when my husband is working late after dinner then I'll watch 2 or 3 in a row.

The ones I enjoy related to fixing up houses are Rehab Addict, Love It Or List It, Flip or Flop (here, why don't I just link you over to HGTV so you can see them yourself!? LOL) but my favorite shows of this type is anything hosted by The Property Brothers (they're twins!! Jonathan is a contractor and Drew is a real estate agent, so their teaming up is natural!) and my most favorite of all: Holmes Inspection. This is where the exceptional contractor Mike Holmes inspects houses in trouble and discovers where the original home inspection failed during the sale process. (Seriously, if I could afford to fly this man over here to inspect when I buy a house I would. He's amazing, scary-professional (in the best way) and his work crew  -- which includes his kids!! -- is just fantastic.) Mr. Holmes and his crew take apart whatever is wrong with the house then reconstruct it to Make It Right™!!

Holmes Inspection is a great show. And I love how in this instance a total newbie to buying/owning houses and caring for their maintenance could watch, take notes, learn and actually prepare for owning a home! (Seriously, I'm taking notes -- because why not?) It's amazing! This is an entire education being supplied here -- we should be grateful! I know I am. Home buying doesn't have to be scary or a trap ... You can go in better prepared, and that's so helpful!

There's also a terrific short-lived fix-it show that straddled home and business called Construction Intervention where contractor Charlie Frattini repairs failed construction projects abandoned by incompetent contractors. I enjoyed this one, too.

On the business side for the fix-it type shows, I've enjoyed Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Sometimes outrageous and full of yelling, heck, I can understand why the man feels the need to scream when restaurants are supposed to be about enjoyment of food, clean (!!) food-handling and safe food storage!

Bar and Restaurant expert John Taffer
So my husband (knowing how I LOVE these types of shows) found and put on our queue my latest binge watch: "Bar Rescue" hosted by John Taffer. What a great show!

Anyone with any HOPES of opening a bar/restaurant should watch, take notes, then fly. This man knows what he's doing.

Where Gordon Ramsey aims to rescue failing restaurants, John Taffer aims to salvage bars on the verge of massive failure. I binge-watched two seasons in about 2 weeks (I know. That's a lot of episodes. Chris had a lot of working late this past week.)

I really enjoy this series because 1) Mr. Taffer doesn't play. He's there to save these owners their livelihoods  2) holy moley, Mr. Taffer can revamp a place.

I mean, yes, I'm looking at it dispassionately; I'm not the bar/restaurant owner who's getting their bar/restaurant business made over and probably re-named in the process. But golly, (without giving away spoilers) the man knows what he's doing and has the tools to make it work. It's impressive.

I like watching this series on a sheer running-a-business level. Although not obvious (since I sure don't plan to open a restaurant or bar!) the knowledge can be applied across-wise, because after all, a business owner is a business owner, and an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur ... there are going to be certain ground rules that are going to hold true across the board for anyone managing a business, like accounting, managing staff and being present in the business in a helpful (and not abusive or micro-managey) way.

If you like these kinds of fix-it reality shows, I totally recommend you try Bar Rescue!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Fallen World: Small Comfort

In Small Comfort, Jonah has a really bad dream ...

The third in a series of three mini-comics my husband and I created together (he wrote, I drew), I'm thrilled to finally post Fallen World: Small Comfort on my new comics website.

We'd printed the set up as mini-comics years ago, and have shared them with friends and folks at conventions and on Free Comic Book Day. It's great to share them online so there'd be a better chance of more readers finding them.