Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Rash

Whoa. I went 11-days without blogging. Eleven whole days! That was not the plan. But if there's one thing I've learned about the holidays it's that they rarely go according to plan.

So anyways, Merry Merry to you and yours, and I hope any traveling you needed to do went off without a hitch. Our drive north on the 101 in California was pretty uneventful and traffic eased up after we got through Santa Rosa. We had a little snow over Christmas Eve, but it pretty much stayed up on the hills so it was pretty scenery and easy driving.

This year somehow felt less hectic with the family. It was nice. I don't know if it was the "no shopping" thing, or that we didn't get there until 5:30 pm Christmas Eve, or that Christmas Day was spent at my sis's place with just us, her and her partner, mom and dad, and an uncle. It was probably a combination of all of the above and I'm pretty sure it's a safe wager to say it'll never happen again. But was nice to just relax and enjoy the family time all the same.

We played a domino game last year and had so much fun we played it again this year. I'm betting it'll become a tradition. Anyhow, it's called Mexican Train. Isn't that like the worst name ever? I don't know who made it up, and I don't know why it's called that, but it's fun and I'm good at it.

It's something I need to work on, but dudes, I'm incredibly competitive. Betcha didn't know that. Well, a few of you did. Anyhow, I've known my competitiveness can be a problem and I've pretty much dealt with it. But what I haven't dealt with is that, even though I'm okay with not winning, I'm still incredibly focused on the game.

Anyhow, I get so focused on the game that I really don't pay much attention to anything around me (anyone wanting to search my purse, that'd be a good time). Which means, as Scoob (Sweetie has decided to be Scoob) so gently pointed out, I didn't do a whole lot of visiting because I was so intent on beating everyone else and taking no prisoners. Hmmm, maybe that's why the trip seemed so mellow, I didn't really talk to anyone? Anyhow, now I'm wishing I'd visited more. And played more. Well, it was fun.

We came home on Friday and spent the weekend being bums. Yesterday was my first day back to work, but I worked from home. Funny story about that. So my sis gave me one of those scented oil reed diffusers for Christmas. I love those things and we've had one in the house that just ran out. So perfect, right?

I opened it up on Saturday and got it set up. I liked the smell. It smelled good. Later on Saturday I started getting the migraine aura and immediately popped my pills. But the headache kept getting worse and I ended up in a drug-induced sleep on the sofa. (Scoob was so sweet, covered me up and slept on the floor near the sofa in case I needed him in the night. You can gack if you want to, but when you're feeling like that, it's sweet.)

So Sunday dawns and I still have a headache; Normal considering the migraine the day before. But it kept getting worse. I finally connected the dots and realized the diffuser was triggering the headache. Even though it smelled good, it was kinda strong. So I tried to put away, and in the process, I spilled it. You can put a stopper in the bottle, but once it's out of the bottle, yeah. Apparently I also spilled it on my hands, and even though I washed them (it's scented oil, yo), I spread it onto my neck and face. So it basically looked like I'd broken out in this massive rash. And it itched. And I scratched. Oh, Lord. So anyway, I worked from home on Monday because I still had the rash.

Today (Tuesday) was my first day back to the office and the regular day-to-day routine. Get up. Brew coffee. Eat oatmeal. Curl hair. Apply make up. Snuggle kitties. Get dressed. Hug and kiss Scoob. Out the door. (I snuggle the kitties before I get dressed so I don't get cat hair all over my clothes--not that it helps, and I hug and kiss Scoob after I get dressed so that I can get out the door. Otherwise I might be later than I normally am, :) ) Yeah, TMI. So what?

So part of getting back into the routine was my plan to stop at the grocery store tonight on my way home from work. Now, I didn't communicate this to Scoob. It didn't seem important. But I emailed him from work to let him know that the earring I'd lost last week had turned up. And he emailed back to say that he'd gone for a bike ride and picked up some frozen corn at the grocery store. Corn? That's great. What about the chicken, and onions, and potatoes, and tomatoes, and lettuce, and milk, and Brussels sprouts...? He was being thoughtful. He was being helpful. But I still had to go to the store.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Closing In

So we're closing in on the end of year holidays and not only have a been a bad, bad blogger, I'm also so not ready for Christmas.

Remember I said that my family was not exchanging gifts this year? Well, Dad called a few days ago asking what Sweetie and I wanted for Christmas??!! So now I'm freaking out because I followed instructions and didn't do any shopping! And that's a big deal. I always try to put a lot of thought into what I get people. It's not like I can just hop over to Sears, or wherever, and load up on gifts for everyone and feel good about what I'm giving. So we'll be running around this weekend (I'll be dragging Sweetie along). Ack!

And then there's wrapping and baking. And do you think I sent out a single holiday card? Heck no! I'm a bad, bad Christmas elf.

But, I have been working on raising money and food for the Alameda County Food Bank, so I'm not a complete hopeless case. We've been having a food drive at the office. We've got the collection barrels out, and we had a bake sale to raise some money, and in January my department will go to the warehouse to help sort food. It seemed like a better idea to hold off until January because most groups donate their time around the holidays and then organizations are strapped for help the rest of the year.

It's pretty awesome really. Work has agreed to give us a half day off with pay to volunteer and give back to the community. I've suggested they give us the half day once a quarter, but that's doubtful considering they've recently sent out a memo saying that all salaries are frozen, they're freezing all hiring, and they will no longer make employer contributions to our 401(k)s. I'm cool with the first two, but my 401(k)? Dude, it's not enough to mess with my life here and now, but do you have to mess with my life 30 years from now too?

Oh, and remember I speculated that Sweetie's employer might cut my health care benefits as a domestic partner? Yeah, well, we got that official notice in the mail yesterday. So I spent the better part of my morning trying to get a mid-term enrollment (our policies run October – October) in my company's health insurance policy (I haven't heard back from them yet) and looking into Domestic Partner laws in California.

Come to find out that in California we meet all the required definitions of a domestic partnership, save one. For opposite sex couples, in order to qualify for domestic partner status, one member, or both, of the couple must be over the age of 62. Sweetie is quite a bit older than me, but he's not that much older. Oh, and bonus information, this age requirement doesn't apply to same-sex couples.

Anyhow, I'm sure everything will be fine once it's all sorted out and all the appropriate paperwork is filled out in quadruplicate: "The pink copies go to Accounting, the fuchsia ones go to Purchasing, and the goldenrod ones go to Roz. Leave the puce." Anyhow, it just chafes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Driving with the Stars

Well, it's officially holiday season here in the Bay Area. And, "What makes it official?" you ask. Well I'll tell you. Traffic patterns.

I have a daily 60-mile round-trip commute. I'm fortunate that my boss allows me to work a 10-to-6 day rather than a regular 9-to-5 so that I can skip the peak freeway commute hours. It's still a 45 minute one-way trip, but during peak hours that stretches to 90 minutes—on a good day.

Aside from actual holidays, there are really only two times a year that traffic patterns change drastically around here; back-to-school time and holiday shopping time. At back-to-school time there's about a two-week block of time where parents readjust their schedules for getting the kids to school, which usually means they're running late and driving like maniacs trying to get to work. So for those couple weeks in September I'll see much more traffic during my morning commute, more back-ups and gridlock, and way more accidents.

The other time traffic changes around here is during the holiday shopping season. This usually lasts throughout December and impacts the evening commute and weekend driving. The first full December we lived in this area I quickly learned where all of the malls around us are; not because I love to shop, but because traffic will come to a complete stand still in the two right freeway lanes for up to two miles before the exit to a mall. The better the shopping options—the longer the back-up and the more likely you'll encounter some road rage. It gets worse the closer we get to Christmas. Throw in a basketball game at the Oakland Coliseum and I'll be lucky to make it home by 8 o'clock.

I ran across this article a few days ago that reveals some statistics regarding driving traits. Apparently, the way you drive could be determined by the stars. For the record, I fall in the Sagittarius group of drivers.

As long as we're talking about the stars, did you happen to notice the moon last night? The moon was at perigee (closest to the Earth) in it's orbit last night and it was a full moon. It was huge!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Octopi, Platypi, and Hippopotami, Oh My!

I'm a web content editor by day, but at night I turn into one wild and crazy gal. Well, if you count random thoughts about grammar rules while in the shower as "wild and crazy."

So here's what I was thinking last night:

If the plural for nucleus is nuclei;
And the plural for syllabus is syllabi;
And the plural for radius is radii;
the plural for octopus is octopi;
And the plural for hippocampus (seahorse) is hippocampi;
And the plural for platypus is platypi;
And the plural for hippopotamus is hippopotami;

Why isn't the plural for walrus walri?

All of these, except hippocampus, also has an -es plural option, but why doesn't walrus have an -i plural? For the record, the second plural option for walrus is—wait for it—walrus. I did not know that until I looked it up.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Save Money While Shopping Online

Sweetie and I usually spend Christmas with my dad and step-mom (whom I also call mom, it can get confusing), my sister, my aunt and her children, and their children. It can be a full house. Thankfully we draw names each year. Each adult draws one other adult's name, and two names from the kids.

Well, this year that's all thrown out the window. Auntie is taking all the little ones to Disney World and the family has agreed that the trip is their Christmas gift. Mom said I could contribute to the bingo prizes (I said it could be a full house) and bake up some goodies for the cake walk, but that I'm not to buy gifts.

Sweetie has also begged me not to get him anything. And I was just gearing up for some serious shopping! I've got all these links saved up, with items book marked and everything. So I'll probably still be sharing some shopping stuff even though I probably won't be buying much this year.

Maybe I'll even get cards out this year since I won't have as much shopping to do. I haven't sent cards in so long I'm sure most of the addresses I have are wrong.

All online shoppers should know about the big coupon/discount code sites. If a website has a current, active discount code offer, these guys usually have it on file, FatWallet, CouponMom, CoolSavings, RetailMeNot, and CouponCabin. There are way more coupon/code sites out there. Just run a search. It's quick and involves minimal effort and can save you money.

Have you ever noticed that not all retailers charge state sales and use tax (usually just called sales tax) on your online purchases? Residents of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon will have no idea what I'm talking about since your states don't collect sales tax in the first place, but the rest of do (hence our decision to make our recent camera purchase in Oregon).

Anyhow, at one point while developing the new website at work we thought we would add a retail element to it, and I had to research our obligation to collect state sales tax. Fun times, yo. The short answer is that unless the retailer (or any of it's subsidiaries) has a physical presence in the state, they have no obligation to collect the sales tax for that state.

For example, is headquartered near Seattle, WA and they are only obligated to collect state sales tax when Washington state residents make purchases through the site. also has an obligation to collect state sales tax from the residents of any state where has a warehouse or shipping hub.

But don't think you're completely off the hook. Tax laws for most states have a clause that requires individual taxpayer residents to self-report out-of-state purchases that would have created sales tax revenue for their home state had the item(s) been purchased there. This applies to online and in-person purchases, even if the location you're purchasing it from is collecting a state sales tax.

If we go on vacation to Las Vegas, we are supposed to report to California and pay tax on any purchases made in Nevada, and we would need to file with Nevada for a reimbursement for the sales tax we paid while there. Nobody wants to go through all of that; not you, and not the states.

Generally the states just call it a wash--plenty of out-of-state residents pay the sales tax in California and don't file for a refund and it balances out the California residents that make purchases while they're out-of-state. So states don't really spend a lot of effort chasing down revenue from individuals on out-of-state purchases. I'm not saying that you should break the law, but some states also define a threshold in this clause, for example, if sales tax revenue on out-of-state purchase exceeds $X, you must report it.

So, maybe you can save some money while shopping online by using coupon codes and not having to pay state sales taxes, but then there are the shipping fees. I've run into this several times where the shipping fees are actually more than I would have paid in sales tax dollars. I've especially noticed this when shopping at Coldwater Creek. They apparently calculate your shipping fees based on the amount of money you spend, not on the actual weight of the package. Bastards. (And if you ever have to return something, be sure you pay the shipping out of pocket and not as a deduction from your refund because you'll get smacked with that inflated shipping fee again. Bastards.)

But, in addition to the above mentioned coupon code sites, there's also They compile all the known current and active free shipping codes for over 850 retail sites. Again, a minimal amount of effort could easily equal money saved.

New Camera

So I did it. I know I said I wouldn't; but I did. Now that I've had a week to recover, I can talk about it. Sweetie and I went shopping on Black Friday.

We wouldn't have gone at all, except that the camera Sweetie bought for me while we were in Eugene on the Tuesday before was $100 less on Black Friday; and it was worth driving back to Eugene for the refund. The logic was that the crazed shoppers would be busy shopping and we would have the returns counter all to ourselves.

And actually it wasn't all that bad. Probably mostly due to the fact that we were in the Eugene/Springfield area as opposed to a major metropolitan area. Getting from the freeway to the shopping area was a bit congested, but finding a parking spot was easy, as was actually being in the store.

And I've got to hand it to the Best Buy in Eugene--you guys are great and have incredible customer service. This is the third time I've been really impressed by the staff at this store. It's probably how all Best Buy locations are supposed to operate, but all their stores here in the Bay Area treat customers like an inconvenience and a potential criminal from the moment you walk in the doors.

Mom still had some flowers blooming so I decided to try out the new camera one afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Roasted-Garlic Greens Beans

So the week-long Thanksgiving fest is done and we're home and safe. It was good to be able to spend a prolonged amount of time at mom's instead of the usual run up for two days and run back.

We did the usual for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone picks one side dish that they must have and then there's turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Sweetie always wants candied yams, I always want green beans, and mom always wants more stuffing, which would be why she cooked an 18 pound bird for just the 3 of us.

Mom tried something new with the green beans and they were super yummy. She gave me the recipe and I made it at home last night. It was good; but of course mom's was better. She got the recipe from someone else, so I don't really know where this originated, otherwise I'd link to it.

Roasted-Garlic Greens Beans

Cooking time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

    12 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise (Yeah, baby. That says 12)
    2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    ¼ tsp sugar
    1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed
    3 Tbsp water
    4 tsp red wine vinegar
    salt and pepper

  1. Microwave garlic, oil, and sugar, uncovered, in a small microwave-safe bowl until garlic is softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Carefully transfer 1 Tbsp of oil from the mixture to a large nonstick skillet. Reserve remaining garlic mixture.
  2. Heat skillet over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Add green beans and water and cook, covered, until bright green, about 3 minutes. Add reserved garlic mixture to the pan; do not stir. Continue to cook, covered, until beans are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are browned in spots and garlic is golden, 2–3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


So here's the deal. I know I've mentioned that my 20-year high school reunion is next year and that my class has been getting back in touch on Facebook.

One of my old friends mentioned that she's still in touch with and old boyfriend of mine. Actually, my first serious boyfriend, and it was not a happy relationship as adolescent relationships go.

My first reaction was knee-jerk and instinctual--I was deeply offended that she was giving me an update on how he was doing and felt such intense revulsion at even the mention of him. But, I can't control who other people are friends with, so I just decided not to comment on it.

So now, he has apparently searched for me on Facebook and sent a message:

Have been trying to find Wayward from High School, and your name was the only one left from the search. Is this really the Wayward that used to work at the local McDonalds?

If it is, please write me back. Would love to catch up with you.

Look forward to hearing from you.

After 20 years, he's basically a stranger. But then again, that same statement would apply to all my old classmates I haven't stayed in contact with. Except that memories shared with them are more likely to be positive and reestablishing contact with them might lead to friendship and doesn't resurrect bad feelings and tonight's dinner.

Here's my dilemma, the revulsion I feel for this person is on the level of what I feel for my grandmother's ex-husband who molested me as a child.

Do I try to let go of the bad feelings and memories and try to make nice? Do I actually have any obligation to make nice?

My gut reaction is that I really want nothing to do with him and I really don't care if he's a whole different person now. That may be immature, but that's how I feel. I don't think making nice would do anything to enhance my life. I certainly don't feel like anything has been missing from my life for not having had contact with him.

So the other part, if I don't want to make nice, am I obligated to respond at all? Part of me wants to respond and let him know I want nothing to do with him (that's that immature part again) and part of me just wants to ignore it.

Now that I've written about it and thought it out it seems like a no-brainer--of course I don't want this person in my life. Why invite those feelings in to be a regular part of my life? But I'm still stuck with how to handle it. And how to handle future messages from him as he friends people I'm already friends with in the Facebook world?

Talk about feeling like I'm back in high school.