Sunday, November 30, 2008


All right, non-hockey fans. I am officially moving all (well, most) of my hockey posts off this blog and on to a new blog, Double A Hockey. Double A Hockey is a collaboration between myself and Amanda that will focus exclusively on hockey. So, if you don't particularly enjoy hockey posts you no longer have to read them, and if you only enjoy hockey posts you don't have to read about food, cats, dinner parties, and the other random stuff I touch upon in this blog.

Check it out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things I used to like a LOT that I don't really like anymore: Sweaters

(This is kind of the opposite of my older post "Five Things I Like That I Used to Dislike." This post and several future posts will instead be dedicated to things that I used to be really in to but now don't really care for anymore.)


Between the ages of 16 and 22, I apparently decided to invest the majority of my limited income in sweaters. I believe one of my justifications for buying so many sweaters was that a good sweater would last a long time and could be worn for years to come. They do and they can - my favorite red Gap sweater from senior year of high school looks no worse for wear (until I put it on and then it looks a lot worse because I am much fatter than I was then). At one point I was purchasing more less exclusively turtleneck sweaters. My sweater collection grew by leaps and bounds when I had that holiday season job at American Eagle when I was in college and seem to have bought every sweater that appeared in the store over those three months.

Because I bought and wore so many sweaters, people started giving me sweaters. Sometimes these sweaters looked like something I would have purchased, and sometimes the only thing about them that remotely resembled anything I would wear was the fact that they were made out of yarn. And though I had stopped buying myself sweaters sometime around 2003, that did not stop people from continuing to give me sweaters.

Where are all these sweaters now, you ask? Well, they happen to be taking up the entire top shelf of mine and Noe's bedroom closet as well as several gigantic Tupperware tubs in our basement.

See, I have this problem giving away stuff that was given to me to begin with, no matter how apparent it becomes that I am not going to wear it. The ones that I bought either have good memories attached to them or I remember how much I spent on them and hesitate to get rid of them. Most of them are still in really good shape and I would say 75% of technically still fit, so I guess I keep them in hopes that someday I will want to wear them again.

Honestly, though, the odds of that are looking pretty slim. For one thing, most of these sweaters are big and bulky and I get hot too easily. For another thing, they are just not my style anymore, and if I haven't really returned to that look since 2003 it doesn't seem very likely that I will return at all. Lastly, I have lost the affinity for horizontal stripes that dominated my clothing taste between 1999 and 2002 - even the patterns and colors don't work for me anymore.

My goal is to actually get rid of some of the sweaters. I should have done this when we moved to Connecticut, but I didn't (seriously, I really do feel guilty giving away stuff that people gave to me). This year, with the economy being as bad as it is, I am sure that there are plenty of people who good benefit from buying these sweaters at Goodwill or receiving them from a charity. (The fact that they are actually nice and for the most part name-brand probably won't hurt, either.)

Obviously I will keep some of them. I don't HATE sweaters - I just don't want to wear them every single day between October and March like I used to. And I like solid colors and finer-gauge knits now.

And if you were planning on getting me a sweater for Christmas, can you get me just a regular shirt instead?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If you ain't got no money...join the club.

Money. Who has it? These days it seems like no one has a lot of spare cash on hand. Although I have a fairly steady job at the moment, I still don't have a lot of spending money due to some unexpected car repairs and the every day expenses of being a homeowner in Connecticut.

Noe and I have been discussing ways to save money recently. To some, I'm sure it's pretty obvious how I could build up a cash reserve: Stop buying wine and going to that damn restaurant every week. But I'm not willing to do that. For one thing, I have become much more responsible in my wine buying. I generally only buy things that I taste on Friday nights, ensuring that I do in fact like what I am purchasing and am not gambling on chance. Also, I have quit buying $6.99 Australian Chardonnay just for the sake of having wine in the house. I am buying more expensive wine than I used to buy, BUT I am buying overall less wine and only wine that I really enjoy drinking, so the cost equals out.

As for restaurants, well, that's my luxury spending. Once again, I am spending less, but I have evaluated the situation and realize I can't give it up all together.

Noe and I also face another problem in the fact that we have expensive hobbies. Tennis, skiing, indoor soccer, and kickboxing add up, even after the initial equipment expense.

So what are we doing to cut costs?

For starters, we evaluated our driving/parking habits. I work 2.5 miles from our house - not a huge expense, fuel-wise. However, I have to pay for parking. Parking in the garage attached to my building costs $55 a month. To be fair, some of this is subsidized by my employer. But what about the part that isn't? And what if that benefit gets taken away eventually?

Noe and I decided that starting in December, I will give up my parking pass. The deal is I will find my own way to work - run, bike, or in the event it is truly freezing, go in early when he leaves - and Noe will pick me up at the end of the day (I can't run/bike home because it gets dark at four freakin' thirty out here). This will not cost Noe any extra gas because he goes by downtown on his way home anyway, and should save a little gas money/wear and tear on my car in addition to the parking money.

Second, I have decided to open what my bank calls a "Keep the Change" account. Those who know me personally know that I use very little cash - I have my checks direct-deposited and use my check card for the majority of my purchases. My bank - Bank of America - offers a unique option to people like me who rely heavily on check cards: open a savings account, and every time you make a check card purchase BOA will round up to the next dollar and put that change in the savings account. For example, I buy a cup of coffee that costs $2. 45. Bank of America rounds that to $3.00 and puts $0.65 in my savings account. How does this save money, you ask? Because Bank of America matches contributions 100% for three months and then at a (much) smaller percentage after that. I round up in my check book anyway so I am never dealing with change and always have a little "cushion." I am trading my cushion for free money. Not a lot of free money, but free money nonetheless. This is like lesson number one from Suze Orman - never turn down free money!

As part of the whole "not turning down free money" thing, I started contributing a percentage of my paycheck to my company's 401K program. Why? Because my company offers a match. Giving up that small percentage now will ultimately be worth it because I am making more money in the long run.

We've also taken to looking at Craig's List and Noe's work classifieds for furniture and household bargains. I actually scored a $300 KitchenAid mixer - which I have been wanting forever - for $70! And we went to look at some bedroom furniture (headboard and bed frame) that Noe found that was the same style as a dresser we had already purchased. It ended up being the wrong color, but we are still continuing to scour these sources because you never know when you might find a really good deal.

And as far as personal sacrifice goes, well, I did give up one thing - buying coffee. I only drink work coffee now. No more Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Muddy Waters except for the occasional treat. When it came right down to it, I'd rather have a $12 or $14 bottle of wine than three or four cups of coffee shop coffee every week.

Obviously, the big gamble with the potentially big pay off here is the parking. I'll let you know how it goes and meanwhile, good luck finding creative ways to cut costs in your everyday lives!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On the national stage

The New York Times is surprisingly heavy on coverage of my home state - Michigan - this morning. Unfortunately, it's mostly bad news.

Michigan has been at the forefront of the nation's economic woes for a long time now. In fact, for awhile it was speculated that Michigan was in a single-state recession and that the rest of the nation was just fine, which has obviously proved untrue. Michigan has been plagued by declining American automakers, political scandal in Detroit, and let's not forget the defection of a major pharmaceutical research site not too long ago. Not to mention the fact the Michigan's best and brightest - and many of their subpar - leave the state after college to seek their fortunes elsewhere, deeming Michigan a lost cause.

Perhaps I sound hypocritical pointing this out - after all, I too left Michigan, and while I left to be with Noe one could point out the technicality that I didn't HAVE to leave. Which I didn't. And in addition to wanting to be with Noe, I felt like I could do better job-wise on the east coast. I'm not criticizing anyone who chooses to leave the state - I get it. But that doesn't mean I like myself for it or like watching my home state drown in its misery.

Like her or not - and there are plenty of people in both camps - Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (pictured above right) is working tirelessly to stimulate an economy that was showing signs of decline before she took office. Whether or not you agree with Granholm's policies or political views, I don't think many can argue the fact that she campaigns hard to try and bring jobs to a state that has long depended on the auto industry and probably should have diversified it's economy a long time ago.

Read all about Jennifer Granholm and her efforts in the article Economy is Only Issue for Michigan Governor. Then check out the New York Times editorial (yes, it's bad enough that the NYT is actually giving us an editorial) Saving Detroit From Itself.

Once you're up to speed on our foundering economy, you get a little treat. The NYT must have wanted to boost out morale a little bit, because the Style section boasts a lengthy article on that magical little place off the highway where Christmas lives year-round - Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. Yes, I'm serious. Bronner's got coverage in the NYT Style section. Check it out in the article Excuse Me, Where's Thanksgiving.

I don't think the Ann Arbor News even has this much coverage of Michigan today.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There's Trouble Bruin...

I didn't want to be Bruins fan. I still DON'T really want to be a Bruins fan. However, the fact of the matter is that it is really, really hard to be an obsessive Red Wings fan in Connecticut. I do not have the time to devote to searching the television night after night hoping to find a western conference game when the eastern conference is playing out before my eyes.

Don't get me wrong - the Red Wings still are and always will be my number one team. But I am being realistic - I am not going to get to watch every game. I am not going to get to GO to many games. And they only come to my seaboard once or twice a year.

But reading scores and blogs and from afar doesn't totally satisfy my need for almost constant hockey during hockey season. I'll still do it, but I need to fill that hole in my soul that requires game-watching and screaming at the television and making witty signs out of players' names.

So I've weighed my options. There's really only two teams close enough to physically GO to games (since the Hartford Whalers now only exist in the form of the Carolina Hurricanes). My only options were the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins.

At least they're both Original Six, right?

On the surface, the Rangers probably would have been the better choice. Most of the time they are the better team. However, the defection of Shanny and the fact that it is much easier to get to Boston than to New York City led me to the Bruins.

The Bruins have not had a lot going for them in recent years...make that recent decades. But coming from Detroit, I have had a ton of practice rooting for losers (hello, Tigers and LIONS). Plus, the Bruins fans have foam claws - and foam bear heads - which are kind of cool.

In addition, the Bruins have a kind of cool lineup at the moment. Besides Tim Fat-Ass Thomas, they have former Red Wing Aaron Ward playing defense (according to some, Aaron Ward popularized the use of the term 'wham!' in reference to sports) and big, bad Milan Lucic, the "Hit Man."

Last night, I joined Amanda - a major Lucic fan - at her house to watch the Bruins slaughter the Canadiens 6-1. (Can I just say that I am thrilled to find a girl besides Mini Wiseman that likes to yell at hockey players with me?) We have purchased tickets to two games and are planning on purchasing at least one more.

I do feel a little like I am cheating on the Wings, but I am justifying it with the fact that I did not pick another Western Conference team to root for (THAT would just be wrong). And it is very unlikely that the Bruins and Wings will meet in the Stanley Cup finals, although stranger things have happened. And even if that did happen, I would obviously be in the Wings' corner.

But for now, over here on the east coast, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy what I've got. Although if I ever say anything along the lines of "That was a wicked cool goal" - or just use the term "wicked cool" in general - somebody please slap some sense back into me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

RIP Nike

Our cat Nike died this evening. "Our cat" is somewhat of a misnomer - although I have lived with Nike for two years and considered her one of my pets, Nike was Noe's cat through and through. Noe adopted Nike 15 years ago when his sister's cat had kittens. He also adopted Nike's brother Snowball, who died the year before we moved to Connecticut.

Nike missing Noe when he went
to Connecticut a month before we did.

Nike was not always the nicest cat in the world - in fact, she was downright mean sometimes. The first time I ever stayed at Noe's house, she perched on the nightstand and growled at me for several hours. She warmed to me somewhat over two years, but I always felt that it was out of her feeling of inevitability and not necessarily affection.

Nike's "call to prayer."
She liked to sleep like this!

Nonetheless, Nike was a good pet. She was seldom any trouble and she was very social, always coming out to say hello to guests. The fact that that hello was sometimes followed with a hiss or even a bite is beside the point. Nike was a good cat and she will be missed.

Rest in peace, Nike girl.

Buns keeping Nike company
when Nike couldn't move around much.

Buns and Ralph slept with Nike
when she made her "nest" in our room.

That's "Sir Captain Morgan" to you.

Recently I have become addicted to Mental Floss satisfies my need for strange and somewhat useless knowledge. I hope to put it to use while answering "Jeopardy" questions in a room full of people someday, or maybe just to impress friends at dinner parties.

I thought I had hit the Mental Floss jackpot the other day when I saw the article about the weirdest White House pets, but turns out I was wrong. Today I happened across a little article titled "The Men Behind Your Favorite Liquors".

I can not tell you how much it pleases me to discover that not only was Captain Morgan was a real person, but he was eventually knighted.

Enjoy the entire article here:

(And try out the Random Fact Generator while you're there!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Grecian Delight

For a town that I initially thought seemed short on quality restaurants, New London seems to specialize in quality eating events. From Chilifest in the spring to Oktoberfest and Food Stroll in the fall, I've had plenty of opportunities to satisfy my stomach. And now, I think I have discovered my favorite food-oriented event of all: the Grecian Food Festival at St. Sophia Hellenic Orthodox Church.

Last year Noe and I heard whispers of the Greek festival from the people who were starting to form our core group of friends, but we never got down there. We weren't entirely sure where the church was, we didn't really know people to go with, and we were both still kind of in a funk about moving.

This year, my mouth started watering the minute I saw the banner. There was no way I was missing out again. I marked the days on my calendar to make sure I wouldn't forget.

St. Sophia Hellenic Orthodox Church in New London, CT

St. Sophia does this festival as a fundraiser for the church. All the food products are donated by local stores and restaurants and the food is all homemade on the premises by parishioners. This was the 56th year of the festival, so obviously it works.

Noe and I attempted to go on Tuesday, the first night of the festival. According to the signage, food would be served until 9:00 PM. We went when I got done kickboxing at 7:30.

They had already run out of food.

Rather than be discouraged, this only made me want it more.

On Wednesday, I headed down with my coworker for lunch. We walked into a state of organized chaos. The place was packed.

Allow me to explain the set-up: we are talking about a fairly large church hall with a small kitchen at one end. Near the entrance to the hall are two long buffet lines set up with chafers of food. In between the two lines of tables are two lines of Greek women who attend the church, dishing out the food in the chafers. Diners grab a tray and silverware, get in line, and make their way past the chafers pointing to the food they want. At the end of each line sits a no-nonsense woman at a cash register to take your money. Once you've paid, you can either head to the bar in the little nook to your left to get a soda or some wine, or you can head directly to one of the large round tables crowded onto the hall floor. And no one can get out without walking right by the dessert table lining the wall near the exit.

I had every intention of getting a gyro for lunch, but I was temporarily swayed by the idea of oregano chicken (1/2 a chicken in an oregano and lemon marinade); Athenian shrimp (sauteed with butter, tomatoes and feta and served over rice); and of course, the thick and delectable-looking moussaka with its layers of eggplant, ground beef and Bechamel sauce.

In the end, I just got a gyro.

An example of a gyro;
though not nearly as glorious-looking as the ones I got.

These gyros are not like the gyros you get at food stands at the fair or in late-night diners (unless you have a really good Greek-owned late-night diner). The thin slices of seasoned lamb, fresh lettuce and tomato, slightly sour tzatziki sauce all wrapped up in a fresh, hot pita make for a combination I just can't ignore. Hot and fresh and bursting with flavor (and meat - it's a good sized sandwich) this gyro is worth every penny of the $6.00 I paid for it.

The other food is as glorious as the gyros: Noe's chicken oregano was moist and flavorful and the lemon in the marinade provided a fresh rather than overpowering flavor. The accompanying roasted potatoes with lemon, olive oil and various seasonings are good enough to eat on their own. The Greek salad with stuffed grape leaves and feta cheese topping a combination of vegetables is savory and filling enough to be a whole meal (and the special Greek dressing is amazing). Not to mention St. Sophia's serves some of the best rice pudding I have ever had - exactly the right creamy consistency with the perfect amount of cinnamon.

Of course we couldn't leave without some pastries; problem was, we were too full to eat anything. Luckily, St. Sophia's provided the perfect solution in the boxed pastry assortment: for $7.00 we got a container with several of the Greek butter cookies, bakalava, walnut cake, and more.

Box of dessert: too full to east it there? Take it home!

I am so sad this food festival is over. I can not believe I have to wait another year to eat this food again. But when I bite into that first gyro next year, I know I'll think it was worth the wait - it's that good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Long Goodbye:
An Unwelcome Guest, Part Two

When I left for work yesterday morning, our slithery little visitor from the day before was still enjoying his toasty-warm spot on my kitchen counter. When I came home from work, lo and behold, he was still there, this time seemingly trying to poke his head through the air holes.

I have to admit, he was starting to grow on me just a little. He was sort of cute when he was enclosed in Tupperware.

Alas, while I was at my Thai kickboxing class last night, my snake-hunting kitten (OK, he is technically a two year old cat) discovered where we put his new toy. He started poking around the container. It was only a matter of time, Noe figured, before the container ended up on the ground, potentially with its lid dislodged.

Ralph and Buns study their pet in his makeshift cage.

"Hello in there! Want to come out and play?"

And, Noe speculated, we didn't really know how to feed this tiny, tiny snake. Even a cricket seemed like it would be a sizable meal for him (and where were we going to get crickets in November, anyway?)

So - after allowing Ralph and Buns a moment to say goodbye - Noe set our little house guest free in our front flower bed, where he slithered off under the Japanese maple and has not been seen since.

I am sure this is for the best. Even though I was starting to think he was cute, I would have found an empty container and a snake on the loose in my house a lot less cute, indeed.

Last moments in Tupperware

Happy trails to you...
Hopefully we will NOT meet again in my house.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An unwelcome guest

I was in my kitchen, taking the foil off a hot pan of lasagna (yum) and waiting for the other two thirds of the trifecta to arrive so we could watch our DVR-ed episode of TrueBlood, when I heard Noe talking to Ralph.

"What are you looking at, Ralphus?" he said.

I paid no mind. Ralph often finds weird little odds and ends to play with and spends an inordinate amount of time staring out windows at squirrels, dogs, and other cats.

Then I heard Noe go "Oh, my god! Come here! Look what Ralph's got!"

Slightly annoyed - I was trying to get dinner out of the oven and ready to serve before the girls arrived with wine and side dishes - I put down my oven mitts and walked into the living room, where I found Noe giggling and Ralph batting around a snake.

Yes, that's right. A snake. In my house.

I was not even remotely inclined to giggle.

Our unwelcome visitor.
In all honesty, this picture is pretty true-to-size. He was not large.

This may seem weird - after all, I have touched several large snakes, skinks, and lizards at the aquarium, and I handle raw fish on a weekly basis. But something about the idea of that four-inch garter snake in my house was very unsettling.

"Get it out!" I responded.

Instead of getting out, Noe poked it. Ralph batted it. I stood there yelling at the two of them and they - both of them, man and cat - just played with the damn thing.

The snake, to his (her?) credit, didn't really do any slithering or any other snake-like things. His back end was bent at a weird angle - I think perhaps Ralph bit him or tried to pick him up - and he was probably in shock.

Kind of like me...shocked at finding a snake in my house, where it definitely does not belong.

"Noe, take it away from him!" I snapped. I was getting exasperated. So Noe took it away from Ralph, who made several attempts to bat it out of his hand in the process.

Only Noe did not take the snake outside, as I had intended him to do. He put it in a Tupperware contained and poked holes in it so the snake could breathe, with Ralph meowing at his feet during the entire process.

"Noe, get rid of that thing." I had had it by now.

"I want to show the girls!" was his reply.

I want to show the girls. Because most girls want to see a snake in someone's house. Honestly, this was like a little kid who picks up worms on the playground.

The girls arrived not five minutes later, and Noe showed them the snake. (Luckily the girls had seen garter snakes in houses before and were not totally disgusted, although I was mortified.) After they congratulated Ralph on his hunt, I politely asked Noe to take the snake outside while I opened the wine. Instead, Noe put the Tupperware container in a warm spot under a light on the counter so the snake could warm up.

That damn snake is still sitting in a Tupperware container on my kitchen counter. It had better be gone by the time I finish this post.

Perhaps I will just put it outside myself.

Exhausted Ralph after the hunt.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You know that I'm no good.

I love Halloween. I am sure this surprises pretty much no one, seeing as how half the clothes Amanda, Katie and I traipse through New London in would probably be called "costumes" by most people. Last year Noe and I had just moved to Connecticut when Halloween rolled around, so we didn't go to any parties or dress up at all. This year was an entirely different story. (Of course, it also helps when Halloween falls on a weekend.)

This year, I wore what may be my favorite Halloween costume ever: I dressed up as Amy Winehouse. The scary thing about my costume is that everything I wore - aside from a ratty black wig pinned into a beehive and the scores of fake tattoos - is stuff I actually wear in real life. After seeing these photos, I assure you that I will never wear these articles of clothing together in a non-costume situation.

Amanda was a great Marylin Monroe, and Katie completed the trifecta as a witch - ironic, since she's probably the nicest of the three of us. We hit Rob's party first, then headed to our favorite bar in New London, Hanafin's. By the time we got to Hanafin's, the party was in full swing. The addition of the new digital jukebox allowed us to play our favorite songs and effectively turn Hanafin's into a dance party (never mind the lack of dance floor).

It was a GREAT night. Here are some pics of our costumes:

Halloween Trifecta: Marylin, Glinda, and Amy Winehouse

Civil war soldier, Winehouse, and Glinda at Hanafin's

Dancing to "Don't Stop Believing" -
We are pointing to "South Detroit" on our hands

They tried to make me go to rehab,
but...well, you know what I said.