Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stone Mountain

For those of you who don't live in Berkeley, or don't knit/sew, or don't enjoy visiting fabric stores just to ogle the pretty things, you probably don't know about Stone Mountain. Le Sigh...how you are missing out. Stone Mountain is my favorite fabric and craft store in the area. There, I said it. It's my favorite. Why? Well, I'll tell you.

It's actually called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics, and you should check out their website for the official details and such (or better yet, check them out in person if you're in the area!). But just know this: they are wonderfully lovely. They have an excellent supply of fabric, buttons (see slide show below), yarn, patterns, and any supply you might need for a project. They sell fabric scraps, have great discount yarn, and are super helpful. They have classes and events, and web-discounts and a really cool swatch service (can you say patchwork blanket?). Their website has a virtual tour, for those of you who can't make it in person to give you an idea of what they're all about (and to make you jealous). Just. So. Much. Goodness. Plus, they don't mind if you walk around the store taking pictures of everything. Bonus!

I've embedded a slide show of some of my favorite fabrics and such from my visit there today (while I was waiting for the dry cleaners to open, long story). I got to touch my first Noro yarn (Crazy Aunt Purl raves about this stuff), and boy is it yummy - too bad it's around $12 a skein. However, I walked away with some nubbly cotton yarn that was just too delicious to resist (see slide show), a little bundle of scrap fabric (awesome cotton polka dots - of course I have no project in mind yet) and that warm, cozy feeling you get after wandering around reams of fabric and bundles of yarn.

So check it out, and enjoy!

Apartment 3B tour

My good friend Taylor is renting a room in his awesome NYC Apartment (that I helped decorate via webcam!). Check out his video tour, and let him know if you're interested!


Looking around my apartment the other day, I realized that I actually have a good amount of plant life in here. I have three potted houseplants and a vase of soon-to-bloom-daffodils, and they really make me happy. So happy, in fact, that I had to take pictures. And blog. Enjoy!

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Foreground: Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola)
Background: Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

Daffodil buds from Trader Joe's ($1.29!!), day 1

Daffodil buds from Trader Joe's, day 2, starting to bloom!

Daffodil blossoms, day 3, little blooms of sunshine!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wii Breakfast

Post with pictures of the greenery of my apartment coming soon. Until then (and I know you're waiting with baited breath), enjoy this hilarious video.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The No Excuses List Update

On the first day of my Unemployment, I wrote a post about how I planned to use the time. And since I'm hitting the one month mark (my last day at Pixar was one month ago today), I thought I'd check in and update you all on my progress (job-related and otherwise). In the last month, I've applied for 23 jobs and interviewed at 1 company. Yeah, it's tough out there. However, I just had my second round of interviews at said company, and am keeping my fingers crossed. I don't want to jinx it by saying too much, so I'll just say that I'm really excited about the potential in this job, and I hope it works out!

As for the "No Excuses - You're Unemployed" list, here's a little update:

  • give myself a pedicure - Done!
  • READ - I am making great use of the library!
  • watch more Food Network and try new recipes - Made this great chard recipe, some awesome monchong, and omg the cookies.
  • fix my broken shoe rack - You should see the duct tape action.
  • deal with my "office" area - It's organized and cleaned, and I threw away 2 trash bags full of stuff. Still looking for a free/supercheap file cabinet.
  • wash sheets, towels/bathmat, duvet cover - They are fluffy and clean!
  • re-pot plants - They are re-potted and happy.
  • take my laptop to the Apple store - Done! Now I just have to wait for my mom to send me the installation CD so I can reinstall the OS. Fun!
Not So Done...
  • deep-clean the bathroom - Still procrastinating this one...This morning, I decided it really needs to happy soon though.
  • (finally) sort through the box under my keyboard - Erm...this isn't going so well. This is a case of "someone come hang out with me while I do it"
  • bake bread - Haven't had the motivation yet, but maybe this week. I need to pick up some cheap tin bread pans first.
  • go through and get rid of some books - This still needs to happen...why is it so hard to part with books?
  • empty the bag-o-snacks - This is embarrassing.
  • put away bags in living room - Done, mostly.
  • earthquake straps - This is more intimidating than I thought it would be. Anyone want to help me with it?

So, I've done pretty well so far, but not well enough! Checking in with myself, and through the public publishing of el blog is reminding me that I need to hold myself accountable. So come on, Kim! Kick it into gear! Fight the Unemployment Sloth and Get Things Done!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Advertising

I've been thinking a lot lately about advertising on my blog, and felt the urge to write about it. This post is a little long, but I haven't been blogging super-regularly lately, so why don't we just average it all out and call it a day, eh?

I received an email a few weeks ago from a "fellow money blogger and saver" who wanted to make me "a little offer." Basically, the company this fellow works for would pay me $18 per month in exchange for placing a text link to their website on my website. Fine. Except when I responded to further investigate this offer, he revealed that the link did not need to be in a prominent place, it just had to be on the site somewhere. I didn't have to write anything about it, or even claim to know anything about the company. This raised a red flag for me - obviously, they are using link-placement to boost their pagerank on Google search results. After asking a few people about this, I learned that this is fairly common, and why wouldn't it be? Bloggers often need money, and this is an easy way for companies to boost their placement in results. However, as a former Googler, I just can't do it. To me, this is fraudulent inflation, taking advantage of the algorithm if you will.

I'm not saying this is anything new. I know it's not groundbreaking or scandalously revealing. But this is the first time I've been directly confronted with the choice to make easy money ($18 a month, wow) to do something I don't really feel comfortable with. Maybe it's the "do good things and help people" mentality I was raised with, or maybe it's just the fact that I still feel a sense of commitment to supporting Google's mission and ideals. Either way, I just don't feel right receiving money to help a company take advantage of the system.

So, that's out. I wrote to the salesman (because, let's be honest, that's what he is), thanked him for his interest in advertising on my blog, and told him that I just did not feel comfortable with this type of advertising. He hasn't responded, and I don't expect that he will. I'm sure he's moved on to someone else, and I know there are a lot of people out there who do put text-link ads on their blogs, and that's their deal. No judgement here, it's just not for me. But what now? Is there still a chance for me to monetize this blog? Do I care?

As you may or may not have noticed, I use AdSense Advertisements on this blog. I've made about $4 in ads over the last two years or so, which leads me to believe that this is not the best form of moneymaking. Go figure. BUT the purpose of this blog is not to make money. I write this blog because I like to write, and I have things to say, and regardless of whether or not people find it interesting, I enjoy putting it out there. In writing. And sometimes pictures.

But I digress.

I tried AdSense because it seemed like a good idea. I mean, I don't have to do anything and money will appear in my account? Sweet! I suppose it works better if people actually, oh I don't know, click on the ads, but I didn't think about that. I just slapped them in areas I thought wouldn't be too intrusive, and hoped for the best. And to tell you the truth, I mostly ignore them myself. I log into my AdSense account fairly infrequently, and have thought of it mostly as a mostly-passive experiment in using the AdSense program. I did work for the AdWords team at Google, after all. I might as well use a related product. A few weeks ago, I decided to try placing ads in more visible places on my blog, to see if more people would click on them. Not so much a success. Maybe this is because many of you subscribe via RSS feeds rather than visiting directly (I know I view 99% of the blogs I read on my Google Reader). Maybe, like me, you don't tend to click on the ads anyway, whether you see them or not. Either way, they don't seem to be making much of a difference.

So...do I leave them up or take them down? I think I'll leave them up for now, and I'll review the literature online about improving your AdSense revenue to see if there are easy ways to up my CTR. Google just out an email about updating Privacy Policies - I didn't even have any posted on my blog in the first place. If you click on an ad, the advertiser may "drop a cookie" - that's the gist of the privacy policy. My understanding is that just about everything online these days "drops cookies" though, so it's not really as intrusive as it sounds. Do what you want. Click or don't click. It's your choice. How's that?

The moral of the story is that this blog was not started in the interest of making money, but if it ends up doing so, that's fine by me. I will continue to write what I want to write, and you can continue to read if you want to read, and whatever happens with that will happen. Honestly, simply, and on my own terms.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bracket Update

Well, my unconventional method of picking my 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket hasn't *quite* paid off. Yet. I'm told there is still a chance for me, though my online bracket is showing more red (and strikethroughs) than green at the moment. I've correctly picked only 26 out of the first 48 games, and I am still in last place. I'll let you all know how my bracket turns out (because I know you're dying to know) - so far, North Carolina is my only correct pick for the Final Four, but Obama picked them too, so maybe I'm not all wrong.

However, readers of the California Golden Blogs seem to be supportive of my quest (to...erm...fill out a bracket) - my little post had 10 recs and over 200 comments! Crazy! It's been requested that I write a recruiting post--apparently people like the "I'm just a girl who doesn't know about these things but I sure as heck am gonna try" angle. Once The Boy writes his official recruiting piece, perhaps I'll do a little research on the players he mentions and give it my own spin. And the date for the 2009 Women's Huddle has been announced (July 31!), so come August, there will be a delicious nugget of glory from we Women's Huddle Roundablers. You only have to wait 4.5 months! Isn't that exciting?


Anyway, it seems I've been afflicted by this so-called March Madness, and I'm having a grand old time. I think it would be pretty cool to beat someone in this little CGB pool, but even if I end up in last place, it will have been fun. Pass the onion dip, please!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Spring!

It's the first day of Spring, and I welcome this, my favorite season, with open arms! Google is celebrating with a tribute to one of my favorite books, and I celebrated by purchasing 10 daffodils yesterday at Trader Joe's ($1.29!) They come as buds, and overnight they blossomed into the beautiful and cheery flowers shown below. Hooray! Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The CGB Bracket Challenge!

I am participating in my first-ever college basketball March Madness tournament pick 'em bracket challenge thing! Woo! The California Golden Blogs do one of these every year, and I never get involved because I don't know anything about this stuff, but this year, I figured why not throw my uninformed hat in the ring? It doesn't cost any money, and maybe I'll learn something. For example, why is California in the "East" but Connecticut is in the "West"?

Below are my picks, and my reasons for picking. Enjoy!

First Round (taking place March 20):
  • Louisville Cardinals vs. AL. St./Morehead St. - I choose Louisville Cardinals because I don't understand the AL St./Morehead St. thing (do they still not know which team is going to play?), and because my little sister played for a T-ball team called the Cardinals when she was little.
  • Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. Siena Saints - I choose Siena Saints because my little "niece" is named Sienna, and because I don't really care about the Buckeyes.
  • Utah Utes vs. Arizona Wildcats - I choose the Utes because I like saying it. Utes! Go Utes! Uterriffic!
  • Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Cleveland St. Vikings - I choose the Vikings, mostly because the description on Yahoo says "Pillage, plunder, steal - that's what the Vikings do best." And I thought it was funny. Also, my friend's dad is a Deacon (a real one), and I don't think he would appreciate a team that associated Deacons with Demons. Even if the two words do *sort of* rhyme (...with a great deal of artistic license).
  • West Virgina Mountaineers vs. Dayton Flyers - I choose the Mountaineers. The Flyers' description says they are "defensively lopsided" - that doesn't sound good. I'm picturing a bunch of guys hopping up and down the court with one leg shorter than the other...
  • Kansas Jayhawks vs. N Dakota St. Bison - I choose the Kansas Jayhawks because their mascot is awesome. What a funny little bird!
  • Boston Coll. Eagles vs. U$C Trojans - I choose Boston College! Even if U$C is good at basketball, I just can't root for the Trojans. Plus, Becka and Josh went to Boston College, so I root for them whenever I can.
  • Michigan St. Spartans vs. Robert Morris Colonials - I choose the Spartans because the Spartans were my junior high school mascot. Also because "Robert Morris Colonials" is a really awkward name for a team.

Second Round (March 22):
  • Louisville vs. Siena: I choose the Louisville Cardinals because of this line in the description: "To use a horse racing analogy, the Cardinals are brimming with defensive Seabiscuits." Nice!
  • Utes vs. Vikings: I choose the Utes, because like I said, I want to yell "Utes! Utes! Utes!" at some point. Also because their description says that "Australian import and Mountain West Player of the Year, Luke Neville, has feasted on opponents like a Great White Shark does chum." And y'all know that Great White Sharks feast on chum hardcore!
  • Mountaineers vs. Jayhawks: I choose the Jayhawks, because I still like that little bird they have as their mascot.
  • Eagles vs. Spartans: I choose the Eagles, again, because I like rooting for Boston College. They're really the only team besides Cal that I hear about on a consistent basis, and are therefore the only other team I have any information about.

Semifinals (March 27):
  • Louisville vs. Utah: I choose Louisville because 99% of users picked Louisville and those are intimidating stats. Sorry, Utes.
  • Boston College vs. Kansas: I choose Boston College for loyalty's sake, even though only 6% of users pick it. Sorry, Jayhawk, you're cute, but you're no Eagle.

Finals (March 29):
  • Boston College vs. Louisville: Why not? I'm going to choose Boston College. Their description says that "the wildly erratic Eagles have taken their fans on a metaphorical bungie jump," and I'm going to hope that they bungie jump to victory! Yeah, only 1% of users pick them, yeah, they may not make it to the end, but what the heck? I'm picking them! On the pure basis that they are the only school in the tournament that I know anything about! Go BC! Go Eagles! Go me!

So there you have it. I clearly know what I'm doing, and obviously have high hopes for my tournament picks. Think I'll win the Bracket Challenge?

I've decided only to write about my picks for the MidWest bracket/level/category, because it took me a while to write this up, and I just realized that there are still 4 more categories (West, East, South, Semis & Finals) to go. If you have any questions about my picks in those categories, just ask. I'll gladly explain myself. Just know that the answer you get will probably sound something like the justifications you just read. Think you can guess why I picked certain schools over others? Leave your guesses in the comments...

my full bracket. click to enlarge.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Neighborhood Portrait

I took a really lovely walk today. In fact, I've taken really lovely walks for the last 3 days straight. Each one has been around 2-2.5 miles round trip, and has been the result of me deciding to walk instead of drive when running errands. It feels really good to remember that I can take care of most errands without my car. It doesn't hurt that the weather has been gorgeous and for the last three days there hasn't been a cloud in the sky!

My dear friend Sonja said the other night that when she walks around her neighborhood, it really feels like her town. I agree - walking around, I really feel like it's MY town. I really feel like I live here, walking around. I've been living here for almost 3 years, but I've never felt this kind of comfortable in my own town! It's really, really great. And I just love walking around - and now I will always feel silly (or lazy!) driving the 1 mile to Walgreens when I could walk it in around 15 minutes (depending on how many times I stop to take pictures)!

I took a bunch of pictures this week while walking, and I'm embedding a slideshow in case you want to see 'em. Enjoy! :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Note to Friends And Family: Shoes!

Ok, I really don't *need* more shoes. But if anyone is looking for ideas of what to get me for my birthday (which I realized last night is two months from today), look no further!

These shoes are so wonderful. They are. And they're only $24.95! I cannot justify buying them for myself (especially with the whole unemployed thing), but they would make a great gift...hint hint not so subtle hint! Please?

Oh, and I wear a size 8. ;-)

Good Day! And Updates...

It is a gorgeous day today, and I took a nice long walk down to Kinkos to print 25 copies of my resume for free! On really cool post-consumer content recycled paper! If you, too, are job-hunting, head on down to your local Kinkos! You can select any paper you like, and they'll print up to 25 copies for you. For free!

Anyway, I walked the 1.1 miles to Kinkos, stopping at the dry cleaners to drop off a shirt to be re-hemmed. Round trip, that's 2.2 miles. Oh yeah, exercise. It's not much, but it's something! And it was really nice to be outside. I'll be going out to TJ's later for some groceries. Wish I could walk, but it's just a bit too far. Especially since I'll be getting things like yogurt and meat, which I really don't think would enjoy being walked about in the sunshine for 30 minutes.

Now I am eating leftover Chicken Pomodoro, watching Law and Order: SVU, and doing some job hunting online. Phone call with Twitter tomorrow!

Happy Tuesday, all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pizza and Cookies!

Caitlin and I made pizza and cookies at her parents' house last night. They were awesome. She sent me home with two bottles of her parents' homemade wine, a huge head of garlic (grown in their yard), and a jar of homemade apricot jam. Too much, really. But awesome.

Pictured Pizza: whole wheat pizza dough, tomato sauce, goat cheese, fresh italian sausage, carmelized onions
Pictured Pizza: whole wheat pizza dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh italian sausage, red bell peppers

Cookies!!! We used this recipe (thanks, Emily!) but used chopped up See's milk chocolate & toffee bars instead of chocolate chips. They turned out really well. Yum yum yum. The cookies were substantial enough to counteract the milk chocolate, though they are SUPER sweet. But they're cookies, so they're supposed to be sweet, right? So good. Oh, and the recipe said to use a 1/4 cup-sized scoop, so that's what I did...and they are HUGE. Like, they look like you could buy them at Mrs. Fields or something.

So anyway, good food!

Sunny Disposition

The sun finally came out this afternoon, and with it came my positive attitude! I've been trying to stay positive, and telling myself to think positive, but this afternoon, I am actually feeling positive! Why? I will tell you, in list form (sorry the first point is so long).
  1. Dolores at the Sears outlet in Hayward. She is wonderful. Daniel, the other manager, is not wonderful. He told me I could return any unused washer/dryer installation items (sometimes the delivery guys bring stuff) to any Sears store. I specifically asked if I would need to drive to Hayward to return, and he said no. He even said I could return it to the Sears in Oakland. He. Was. Wrong. I went to the Sears in Oakland today, and they said they couldn't take it, that they don't even sell those parts, and that the outlet in Hayward is actually completely separate from the store in Oakland. Sigh. I do not want to drive to Hayward (about 40 minutes away). The super nice manager in Oakland called Hayward (to scold them, presumably), and I said I'd be calling as well. So I called. And Dolores, the most wonderful manager of all time, said (after telling me how she couldn't refund my money, credit my account, etc. without me either bringing or shipping the stuff to the store in Hayward) that she was actually going to be in Berkeley on Saturday, and THEN gave me her cell phone number and said to call her on Saturday. She is going to meet me in Berkeley and pick up the stuff I'm returning. Then she is going to proces the return on Monday and send me a check. That is really nice. I mean, above and beyond nice. Now I'm trying to think of a way to repay her. Maybe I'll make her cookeis or give her a little gift basket or something. And I'm going to find out who her manager is, because she deserves recognition.
  2. Per The Boy and Erin's suggestions, I signed up with OfficeTeam. Today, I went to their offices for office skills testing and an interview, which all went very well. In fact, I got a phone call this afternoon, only 2 hours after leaving their offices, telling me they may have something for me!!! It would be a temp job, of course, lasting 3-4 weeks, and I have to go through a phone interview and background check first with the company, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because hey - it's a job! Think good thoughts for me!
  3. I re-potted my plants. Well, 2 out of 3. I'm not sure if I'm re-potting the 3rd one. But I did it! Cross another thing off the list! Yeah!!! And I discovered the lemon tree in our backyard is practically dripping with lemons! I plucked two of them and will use them tonight (on the fish that The Boy bought us yesterday)!
  4. I picked up some volunteer-data-entry papers from an Obama person today - I figure since I have the time, I might as well enter some information to help Team Obama (I'm entering the contact information for volunteers).
  5. Caitlin and I made uh-mazing cookies last night. There will be a full post about that soon...
  6. The sun is shining, and the sky is blue. Such a welcome change from the rain that has been pouring down for days. I know we need the water out here in CA, but I love the sun!
I hope your Wednesdays are going well!

bye bye clouds!

even my little backyard succulent is preening in the sunlight! this is the first time it's ever been green - it's always been brownish/burgundy in color...how exciting!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Excuses?

So, I have been getting off to a decent start...I would have liked to have accomplished more things from my "No Excuses - You're Unemployed" list by this point, but so far, it's been ok.

I washed the sheets, towels and duvet cover, and I've been reading more. I read A Blistered Kind of Love, about a couple who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail together - Mexico to Canada in around 5 months! The Boy is thinking of doing a 6-week portion of it this summer, and this was one of the books I picked up at the library for him. It sounds crazy to me. Hiking ~20 miles a day every day for even 6 weeks sounds terrifyingly difficult!!! I am now reading The Boleyn Inheritance, the latest in Tudor-related historical fiction from Philippa Gregory. I've read all of her books (except, I just realized, The Other Queen, which I shall read next), and I can't get enough! Love it. Always have.

On the job front, I've applied for 10 jobs (and found out that 3 are either frozen or filled) and registered at 6 job-search-type websites. I'm going into a temp agency tomorrow to get all tested and registered, and hopefully I'll start working soon...

And that's all for now!