Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Turning Green

I love it when spring gets into full swing! I scored the produce mother lode at the produce stand last week! I don't rely on the produce stand as much in the winter, but spring, summer, and fall they're awesome!

Anyhow, I managed to spend $20 there and score enough food that I could put off the regular grocery shopping for a week. If they sold bread and dairy I could probably put off going to the grocery store altogether.

Anyhow, I picked up more cauliflower and Brussels sprouts because soon it will be too warm to roast them. And the carrots were amazing! I also got some mushrooms and watercress for a tofu recipe (already had tofu in the fridge), lemons, onions, tomatoes, and orange bell peppers (I prefer red, but they were $1 more per pound).

But the big score was the spinach. I usually but a pound of spinach at the grocery store each week. It's $5.99, sometimes $4.99 when it's on special, for a plastic container of pre-washed spinach. I got a 2½ pound bad of pre-washed spinach for $5!

I was so excited to get a good deal on the spinach I only briefly considered how in the heck the 2 of us would manage to eat all of it before it goes bad. So far we've been adding some to soups and then there's the obvious salad. If I had cheese and enough eggs I could make the quiche/frittata I love. But so far, the best use for the spinach has been to wilt it.

I don't remember what made me think I'd like wilted spinach. I usually can't eat slippery stuff like that, but I'm glad I tried it because it's yummy! And healthy!

I started with this Rachel Ray recipe for wilted spinach with garlic and oil, cut the recipe in half since it's just the 2 of us, added a ¼ onion, chopped with the garlic, and topped the finished dish with toasted pecans and flax seeds. (I would have used almonds, but I was out, and I happen to have some flax seeds.)

I've made this a few times now and as long as I eat it while it's hot, I don't have any issues with the slippery factor. And the nuts help give it some texture. But if it gets cold, I cannot eat it.

Scoob likes it too, which is good because it's so easy to make. I think I need to stop at the produce stand for another bag.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Well folks,the house just keeps moving right along. The builder had intended to blog the build process on our house for their website. But it didn't happen. They did however have someone taking pictures of the house for the blog and they sent me a link to the album last week.

Our regular spies haven't been sending pictures lately, so I'm emailing the photographer to get her permission to repost some of her photos here. I would repost the link, but I don't know if there's information about us or the build site on her website (like names or street address) or embedded in her images (like gps coordinates). Anyhow, it was exciting to see that recessed cans for some of the lighting have been installed and the fireplaces are in. They should have done the insulation either this past week or next.

I'm heading back to North Carolina June 5–June 11. Just me this time, though. We really can't afford for both of us to go, but there's still so much left to do, especially since several of our appointments on our last trip were canceled due to the tornadoes. The builders have offered their basement as a place for me to stay, which is generous.

The friends we've been staying with have been so generous as well, but I know it's stressful to have guests in your home and we've stayed with them several times already for a week at a time each trip and I really don't want to impose on them further. (Especially since we'd like to keep them as friends.) I've been trying to come up with an appropriate thank you for them—treating them to a nice dinner just doesn't even begin to scratch the surface or how grateful we are.

I got the email from the builder this morning that we're at the point where we need to make a final decision on our cabinetry and order it. We were debating whether or not we should downgrade the cabinetry in the kitchen to try to save some money. In the end though, we decided not to—the kitchen will be one of the most heavily used spaces in the house so durability won out over frugal instincts.

Here are the most recent drawings we received from the cabinetry vendor for the kitchen and laundry room. I've asked for one last change to the butler-type area to remove the wine storage area in the upper cabinets, we really just don't drink that much wine, and neither one of us really likes the way it looks. The pantry will be plenty big enough if we decide we need to store wine.

Here's a frontal view of the kitchen cabinetry.

Well, this isn't quite a full frontal view. This is how you would see the kitchen if viewing it from the keeping room fireplace area. The sink on the back wall still isn't positioned quite right in these drawings, and the butler area is on the right. Just to the right of the butler area is the stairwell and if you were to continue to the right you'd be in the dining room.

Here's the top-down schematic view of the kitchen.
I may rearrange the elements on the outer wall, but this is pretty close to final.

Here's the frontal view as you walk into the laundry area from the kitchen.

In the kitchen view, you can just barely make out a doorway to the left of the refrigerator. That doorway goes into this laundry area. The walk-in pantry would be immediately behind you as you're looking at the laundry cabinets. We have the trim guy making a mudroom-type space that will fit into the open area on the right of the laundry cabinets. The washer/dryer are directly opposite that.

I chose to put the microwave just on the other side of the kitchen-laundry doorway to help keep the counter tops uncluttered. I'll most likely keep the coffee maker and toaster oven here as well. The open space under the cabinets is where we plan to keep the litter box for the kitties.

Here's the top-down schematic view.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another Long Week

Things with family up north have stabilized a bit, at least for now. I want to be more candid here about what has been going on, but I'm not sure that I can. It's a very personal battle for a particular member of my family and since several family members and close friends read this blog I don't want to make that person more uncomfortable than they already may be.

On the other hand, this battle has ripples and repercussions for myself and other family members, and it's something I think about every day, often several times a day. It's a difficult decision and I'm still wrestling with it.

Aunt P is preparing for major surgery on Tuesday, so I'm a bit preoccupied with that as well.

I've actually seen early morning light every day this past week. I normally arrive at the office around 10:30 am, but we were demoing a possible new work flow process this week which required me to arrive by 9:00. Cruel. To arrive by 9:00, I have to be out the door by 7:30.

And I was on time (even early!) every day this week. I deserve a freakin' medal I tell ya.

Let's just say it felt good to sleep in this morning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Long Week: Update

Oh why, oh why didn't you shoot me when I asked you to?

When I walked into the office this morning I was bombarded with exceptionally loud banging and drilling. Seems our office is now reconfiguring cubicles, in addition to the California Closet's noise from next door and the ever present Amtrak and Union Pacific trains.

Does anyone know if Calgon actually works?

Long Week

This week is shaping up to be a long one. There's been some family drama up north that's been weighing heavily, and of course that's just when there's a flurry of activity with the house—I really don't care if the kitchen island is 44 inches or 45 inches away from the wall, I'm more concerned about whether or not my family is okay.

Then there are the new neighbors at work. Aside from the overall high cost of living here, the biggest reason we're anxious to move are the loud, rude, and generally inconsiderate neighbors. It used to be that my quietest place was at work.

Not so anymore.

California Closets has moved into the unit next to ours in our building and guess whose cube shares a wall with them?

It wasn't so bad when they were preparing to move in, I understood that there would be construction noise, though I did think the 5-hour sawing/drilling/pounding session on the wall was a bit much. All I ask for is a 24 hour warning when you're going to do something like that. I can make arrangements to work from home when I know in advance it is going to be that bad.

But the thing that made it bearable for me and my co-workers was that we knew there would be an end to the constant noise. Heh.

Shows you what we know.

Last week CC had their big bay doors open and I noticed a massive piece of machinery encased in safety-blue–painted steel. Every time the saw made a noise, this machine had some movement. That was the moment I realized  that the saw was a permanent piece of equipment and that CC is fabricating closet systems. Right. Next. To. My. Cube.

There is constant dust and constant noise. I can hear the CC workers talking to each other through the wall. When I'm on a conference call, everyone of the other end can hear it all too. And Monday, I forgot to take the ear buds for my iPhone, which function more as earplugs any more because if I do turn on the music it just becomes another layer of noise.

Anyhow, I mentioned something to my boss last week when I saw the Big Blue, and he said something to his boss, who then caught me in the hall to let me know he knew about the noise and would investigate. I mean, it's all editors along that wall. It's typically quiet work and requires some level of concentration. Then the boss's boss says this, "I noticed the Big Blue, too. It must get really loud when they're both running."

BOTH?! As in there's more than 1 saw?!

Shoot me now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


So you'd think at 40 I'd be well past the phase of giving my moms homemade cards. Think again.

I certainly didn't make anything like these when I was 10!

Our friend in NC does Stampin' Up! and I sat in with one of her stamping groups while we were visiting and we made these cards. I thought they were perfect for Mother's Day.

Things have been a little crazy here. My new car? It's in the shop. And I'm driving a loaner. There's nothing wrong with it, but we've made several trips to San Jose to have the dealer install a few items (like side mouldings to protect against door dings and a hood protector to help prevent rock chips) and when they called me to pick up the car it turned out they had ordered everything for the green car I originally purchased, not the dark gray one I actually have.

So only half the things were installed. But they'd already ordered the others and I could bring the car back in a few days to have those installed. Then there was one other item that the gray car didn't have that had been on the green car. They would have to order that too, and I could bring the car back again for that. So I finally said if it's all the same to you, just keep Roo until everything is done and I'll hang onto the loaner.

Then Scoob told me Gus the finance guy called to say we had filled out some paperwork incorrectly and needed to go back to the dealer to take care of that, too. But at least this error is in my favor; my monthly payments will end up being a little lower. I don't know exactly how much lower, because Gus's number is on his business card, his card is in Roo's glovebox, and they have Roo!

But we did get to go to the Stanford Powwow this Saturday. We haven't gone in years. Actually we haven't gone to any powwows for a long time, so it felt good to be there. That, and I figured it would be our last chance to go to a big powwow before we move. We got to talk with some of the vendors we knew from working the old De Anza Powwow (Scoob and I were part of the student powwow organization, that's how we met), I managed to catch a few of the dance contests (men's grass is my favorite, though the chicken dance special was a treat), recognized a few dancers from powwows past, and we even ran into one of our fellow De Anza powwow veterans while we were there; he lives in Bend, OR now.

I know there were lots of other De Anza people there, but even though we were looking for them, we didn't see them. We still had a good time, though. It just felt good to be outside in the sun, browsing the vendor stalls, and listening to the drums. It made me wonder what an east coast powwow is like. I'm sure we'll go to one or two when we get out there, but it'll be different if only because I know there won't be smile of recognition in the crowd of faces.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our New Edition

Please join us in welcoming Roo to our family. I thought Roo was a fitting name because one of the extra options the customer who originally ordered it wanted was a set of 3 cargo net pouches for the back area. And naturally, pouches made me think of kangaroos. Well, that and the fact that it's an Outback and kangaroos live in the Outback. So there you have it. Please allow me to introduce Roo.

I did get to take it for a short drive before leaving with it. And it's wicked awesome! I couldn't stop grinning the whole time! Another option the customer put on there was a short-throw shifter, which makes it a very sporty drive. Several of the guys at the dealership hadn't known that shifter was available for the Outback and a few of them took it for a spin before I got there.

I probably would not have put every thing on here that the phantom customer ordered, but I'm so glad she walked away from it and we found it. Other than a grill separating the cargo and seating areas (Scoob and were talking about taking it out this weekend), it's like it was custom made for me. I feel like I should find and thank that customer.

I'm looking forward to a road trip. But I'm not looking forward to the palpitations I'll have the first time I fill the tank. It's an almost 19 gallon tank.

Bidding Adieu

Then, all shiny and new:

And this morning; taking our last trip together:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do Overs

So hey, guess what I did on Monday? I bought a new car. And I got a green one.

I took a half day at work on Monday so we could drive down to San Jose and buy the Outback before their special financing ended that night. I ended up leasing so my monthly payment would be lower and had every intention of buying it at the end of the lease.

We left the dealer with the car around 9:45 p.m. We weren't even halfway home and I knew I'd made a mistake. I had opted for the CVT transmission even though I wanted a manual (they're scarce and finding one with the options I wanted was near impossible; there were only 18 in the entire US) and the CVT makes this annoying non-stop whiny/whirry noise (think of the space-car noise from The Jetsons, but a little more quiet).

I'd noticed it before during the first test drive a couple weeks ago, but when we test drove again this last weekend we didn't hear it and we were specifically listening for it. Anyhow, I thought this Outback CVT would be fine. (3 different cars.) I really should have test drove it.

By the time I got home I was making plans to call the dealer first thing in the morning and cancel the extended warranty and had resigned myself to having this car until the lease ran out.

But Scoob said I should let the salesman know I wasn't happy. I'm generally of the opinion that you make your bed and you lie in it. But I really, really wasn't happy. Really. So I started to write an email.

Now mind you, I've completely broken down into tears at this point, it's late, I'm tired, I haven't eaten, and I'm too upset to think about eating. I know how I can be sometimes, and I wanted reassurance that I wasn't imagining the noise or overreacting, so I made Scoob get dressed again and took him out for a spin.

Scoob heard it, though he did think it was as bothersome as I did. But he said, what he hears or doesn't hear doesn't matter, it's my car and I hear it and it is going to annoy me every day for the next 3 years.

So I went back to writing my email but was at a loss; I couldn't come up with the written words to convey how upset I was, but that I wasn't upset with the salesperson, the car, or the dealership. That's when Scoob said I should call the salesman, Page, who had said "Call anytime, as long as it's before midnight." It was 11:48 p.m. I checked. I'm pretty certain he didn't expect me to take him literally.

But Scoob convinced me that Page needed to hear how upset I was, so I called. Thank god I got his voice mail because I could hardly speak between wracking snotty/soggy/sobbing fits. I was a mess and I knew it. Even though I knew it was just a car, you'd think somebody had died the way I was going on.

But Page called back within 10 minutes and told me not to worry. I could bring the car back and they'd find a manual transmission and make sure I was happy. I was not expecting that. For him to call right back or for me to be able to take return the car.

My Forester is in seriously bad shape and I need to get it to Modesto one more time to sell to CarMax (the Subaru dealer noticed the engine knocking and only offered $4000 for it, and CarMax offered $7000). So Scoob and I headed to Budget rental cars this morning to pick up a run around car for my commute (since I knew I was returning the Outback, it just didn't seem right to put more miles on it), the drive back to San Jose, and the trip to Modesto to sell the Forester because we'll need a way to get home.

I rented an economy class car for a week for $140! That's a super good price! I was looking up coupon codes for car rentals and ran across Rental Car Momma. The same one-week rental ran close to $300 when we were in Raleigh a few weeks ago. So I wanted to pass along that link. The guy at the Budget counter said the discount was even better than his employee discount. As much as I'd rather not be spending money on a rental at all, at least I found a good deal.

So I worked another half-day today and we took the Outback back to the dealer. They were able to locate the dark grey manual Outback I mentioned earlier and are having it transferred. I should be able to pick it up tomorrow evening.

I know it's a bit more than I wanted to spend and it has options I just really don't care about, but I will be much happier with this car than the one I took home Monday night. And the dealer gave me the same (now expired) financing/leasing specials they'd been offering on Monday when I made the first purchase. All told, the switch between cars only increased my monthly payments by $11.

Obviously I'm a super happy camper at this point. But wait. There's more. The dealer sent Scoob and I home with a loaner so I wouldn't need to pay for a rental. Not only that, but they specifically pulled up a 2011 dark grey Outback as my loaner. It's a CVT, but other than that, it's the car I'll be driving for a long time to come.

You would think that the dealer has gone above and beyond at this point. But they're not done yet. The finance guy let me charge my down payment to my credit card. They'll have to pay a fee for such a large charge, but since my credit is good (I knew it was good, but even I was shocked when he told me my number) and I'll get 2 points per dollar, they agreed to do it. And that's going to go a long way toward helping me accumulate points to get reimbursed for OAK<–>RDU airfares.

So Page (salesman), Rusty (sales manager), and Gus (finance guy), thank you, thank you, thank you. No really. THANK YOU! I already sing praises for Subaru cars and service, so you didn't have to win me over. And I was contractually obligated to keep and pay for the car I came home with. You guys are outstanding.

If you're ever shopping for a new car in the Bay Area, be sure to visit Page and the sales team at Capitol Subaru in San Jose. He will take good care of you, and you'll feel like you've made a friend by the time you leave. That either makes Page one really good actor/salesman, or one genuinely nice guy. I'm going with the latter.

This picture makes me think of wedding photos from the early 1900s. You know the ones where neither the bride nor groom can seem to muster a smile. It's a partnership that you can tell from the get-go is just going to be awkward.

It's not you. It's me. We can still be friends. Promise.

Love it when a relationship is this easy to get out of and ends amicably.

I made Scoob take another picture when we were about to leave for the dealership. I was tearing up off and on all day whenever I would think about the situation, but it's all smiles now. I hope Mr. Green Jeans finds a good and appreciative partner. He's a good catch. Just not for me.

My poor silver Forester is parked on the other side. We packed up its contents this afternoon.

I'm taking the day off tomorrow, and after his morning meeting Scoob and I will drop of the rental so we'll only need to pay for 1 day, then we'll take the loaner and the Forester out to Modesto and get this wrapped up. The CarMax offer is only good for 7 days, so it is a priority to get it done since it makes up the bulk of my down payment (that has already been charged to my credit card, yikes!). I'm afraid if it goes past 7 days and they have to do another inspection they'll notice the knocking and the offer will be a lot lower. If we make it in before the deadline, they'll honor the original offer with no additional inspections as long as it wasn't in an accident.

So I'll get one last drive in the Forester going over the hill to Modesto. My favorite car ever. I'll probably cry some more tomorrow when we say good-bye.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vroom. Vroom.

Okay, so we finished our test drives. I was a little less enchanted with the Rogue after driving it a second time. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good car. And I was still on the fence.

The driver seat wasn't uncomfortable, but it wasn't terrible comfortable either. I hadn't noticed the rear window much when I test drove it the first time, but when I got out of the vehicle I noted that it was on the small side. So this time I paid particular attention it. If definitely has some substantial blind spots, which the salesman told me was somewhat intentional as Nissan had put more emphasis on styling and felt that the driver could easily compensate with the side mirrors. And that was really the biggest drawback with the Rogue.

Then we headed to Subaru and they had the 6-speed manual transmission pulled forward on the lot and all ready to go. I was a little surprised when the salesman started giving me directions and realized he wouldn't be accompanying us on the test drive. Kinda nice if you ask me. Although, if it had been my first time test driving the Outback I probably would have had a lot questions and no one to answer them.

But since this was our second go round with the Outback, I was glad to be left to my own devices and felt much more at liberty to aggressively put the car through the paces. Wheeee! The 6-speed manual was fun!

Now when I test drove the Rogue, I thought its acceleration was pretty wimpy and even though I could coax the Rogue's CVT to give me a little more oomph when I wanted it, like for passing, it was nothing compared to dropping a gear in a manual. Anyhow, I actually remembered being impressed with Outback's CVT when I test drove it last week, so when we returned to the lot with the manual, I took out a CVT. Again, they gave me the keys and said bring it back in one piece. (Talk about low-pressure sales.) It was still fun!

I didn't have to coax the Outback like I did the Rogue. The Outback's CVT actually has a "manual" mode that lets me drop and shift through gears for more oomph when needed. It's heavier and has a wider stance than the Rogue and I could really feel that in the handling. I flat-out accelerated through some turns and it handled awesome. I noticed with the Rogue that I was timid on a left-hand turn. I couldn't pinpoint any particular reason, but nevertheless, I seemed to swing wide when turning left every time.

Anyhow, when we left Nissan I was on the fence. But now that I've driven the Outback again I've kinda forgotten all about the Rogue. Now my biggest decision in manual or CVT.

There aren't many to choose from if I go with the manual. They were able to locate a dark grey one with black interior with the options I want (and a ton I don't). It was a special order that a customer backed out on. But because of the options on it, it's definitely more than I'm wanting to spend. Since they don't move many manuals, I was hoping that dealer might be willing to negotiate in order to move it out of his inventory. But as the salesperson told me, if there's someone like me looking for a manual and there are only a few out there, it'll be found and will move out of inventory fairly quickly.

On the other hand, I'll have a huge inventory to choose from with the CVT. And Scoob thinks I had more fun driving it anyhow. It was fun, but there's something that just doesn't feel right about it. And I've realized that it's me.

Somewhere along the way I equated automatic transmissions with luxury, fussiness, and dependence and manual transmissions with practicality, down-to-earth-iness, self-reliance, and independence. And that's how I see myself (or want to see myself); I'm a manual.

I've always known that people often choose cars they think reflect their personalities; I certainly did when I chose my Forester. But I guess I thought that it was limited to body and interior styling. It was a very self-aware moment when I realized that I also identify with the transmission. Yeah, I'm goofy like that.

So anyhow, I think it's time for me to let go of the "I'm a manual" label. I'll be no less practical, down-to-earth, self-reliant, or independent if I drive a CVT.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We limped my Forester over to CarMax in Modesto yesterday and got it appraised. Remember how I said I'd feel lucky if they offered my $3,000 for it? They offered me $7,000 for it! (!!!) That's exactly what I paid in a down payment on it! If I'd had another way to get home (and if I'd actually taken my title with me), I'd be minus one Forester right now. Still their offer is good for 7 days.

And remember the conversation that lead me to start looking at new cars as opposed to used? Well, while we waited for the appraisal at CarMax, we walked their lot looking at what they had available. We didn't see anything particularly interesting, although Scoob is now coveting a Honda Ridgeline. But it'll have to wait until we move and get things settled down.

Anyhow, walking the lot gave us some ideas for vehicles to look at as comps for the Subaru Outback. And since CarMax is located on Modesto's auto row, we did some test driving before we came home.

We stopped in at Nissan to test drive the Xterra, which we did. It drives like a truck, which isn't a bad thing. If you want a truck. But the salesman listened to what I was looking for and liked and steered us toward a Nissan Rogue. I barely even knew this car existed before that. It looks/feels slightly more well-appointed than the Outback, at a comparable price. And it was comfortable to drive. Slightly less cargo space, but with a few standard features that will be extras on the Outback.

So, my decision isn't as clear cut as I thought. Early in the day I'd been set on the Outback. Oh, and that particular Nisan dealership offers a lifetime (LIFE. TIME.) powertrain warranty at no additional cost! So, if I do decide on the Rogue, I'll be picking it up in Modesto.

We also stopped at Honda to test drive the CR-V, but I got distracted by a 2007 Subaru Forester on the lot. Even though mine is a 2005, it's still the same car. Man, if Subaru was still making the Forester like the '05, that's exactly what I'd be buying. I love my Forester.

Then I did drive the CR-V, which may not have been a fair shake since I obviously think that Forester year/style is the best car in the world! But anyhow, the CR-V driver seat was uncomfortable (not as uncomfortable as some others, but still not something I would want to take a long drive in), it's get-up-and-go was sluggish, and the interior felt very dollar store–ish.

Knowing the Outback and the Rogue are available at the same price made it a no-brainer, and as the salespeople started to get pushy, I tried to make as graceful an exit from the Honda dealership as I could.

So, I've found a manual transmission Outback that I'll go test drive to day, and I'll test drive another Rogue, but this time on some hills and S-curves—the roads in Modesto were flat and straight so I don't feel like I've got a good sense of how the car handles.

Unless the manual Outback dazzles me (the Rogue only comes with a CVT transmission), I think I'll be happy with either vehicle. All things considered, it may come down to which dealer will negotiate with me more and vehicle stock they have to choose from.

Anyhow, I best go get ready. It's going to be a busy day. Vroom. Vroom.