Friday, January 24, 2014

A Casual Experiment

This week, I've been experimenting with the Casual Carpool. What's that? You've never heard of such an insane thing before? It's pretty insane. Basically, you line up at a designated spot in the East Bay, strangers pull up, you get in their car, and they drive you to a designated spot in San Francisco. 2-3 passengers per car, suggested-not-mandatory donation of $1, and carpool lane all the way, baby!

Casual Carpool has two websites (one and two) if you're interested in checkin' it out, for no apparent reason except that maybe one is the old one and one is shiny and new, and they didn't use the same URL? Multiple twitter accounts, too. I don't expect much organization though...after all, the whole point of CC is that it's relatively disorganized. know...casual.

Anyway, I've been experimenting with CC in the mornings, since the pickup spot is about halfway between my house and the BART station, and the drop off spot is literally on the same block as my office. Super convenient, and gets me to work earlier in the mornings!

Here are my findings:

Monday: First day, a little unsure of what to expect. Only one person waiting in line, but no cars to be seen. Within about 2-3 minutes though, someone showed up and off we went! I'd forgotten it was MLK day, so the 14 minute stop-to-stop ride was a pleasant surprise. Left the house at 8:40, was at my desk by 9:05. Cost: $1 (I offered to contribute a dollar, since the last time I drove, passengers all chipped in). Drivers dropped off on the left side of the (one-way) street, but it was still the same intersection, so whatevs.

Tuesday: Crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, on my first CC day with normal commute populations, but only had to wait about 3 minutes for my turn to get into a stranger's car. Was going to offer to chip in $1, but I didn't have any change, and nobody else in the car offered. Driver didn't seem to mind. Noticed how lovely it is to see the city (and the water, and the Golden Gate bridge) from above ground on your way in. The driver took a different exit from what I'm used to, so it was interesting to see a new way to get to work. He didn't seem like he was going to stop at the customary intersection, so I asked if I could hop out at a red light. Cost: $0 /Time: about 35 minutes door to door.

Wednesday: Huge line when I got to the stop, around 8:50. Waited about 5 minutes or so (felt like longer, but that's lines for ya) and got in a car. Nobody offered to pay, and the driver didn't ask, and I still didn't have change, so another free ride for me. Got in at about 9:20, so about half an hour door to door. Driver exited the same way as Tuesday's driver, and asked where we wanted to be dropped off (since her end point was several blocks past the customary drop off point). She pulled over and I hopped out, pretty easy.

Thursday: There was a pretty decent line, and the wait was almost 10 minutes. It was almost 9am, so I was worried there would be no more cars and that I'd have to resort to BART...but joy of joys, a car pulled up at 8:59am (same driver as Tuesday). She took a different route to get to the freeway (again with the learning new ways to get to the city!), and I was at my desk by 9:22. I'd left the house at 8:40, so that's still 40 minutes...but it was free (she didn't ask for money, and again I was an idiot with no change) and still took 10 minutes less than it takes me on BART. So far, so solid, CC.

Friday: I woke to my husband's alarm with a start at 8:30, after accidentally sleeping half an hour past my own alarm. I had planned to leave the house at 8:30 and get an earlier start on the CC line. Oops. Amazingly, by 8:37 I was out the door, and despite a line of 12-15 people, I was in a stranger's car by 8:48. This driver listened to the Steve Harvey Show on the radio, which only struck me as odd because the other 3 drivers in my small sample set all listened to NPR (which didn't surprise me at all, given the community-casual-carpool-bay-area-vibe thing). She was actually kind of rude, snapping monosyllabically and interrupting the guy who asked if she was going in a direction past the stop (sometimes people will ask the driver where their end point is in order to get dropped off closer to where they, the rider, are trying to go). After we got out, the guy said this driver is always like that. But whatever, who knows what's going on in her life? I was barely awake anyway, so I certainly didn't mind the silence. We pulled up to the stop in SF at 9:07, which puts my door-to-door at approximately 30 minutes. Oh, and the "I'm not going to talk to you and I seem actually kinda annoyed that I let you get in my car" woman didn't ask for donations, so I didn't offer. But going from dead asleep to at the Starbuck by my office in 40 minutes? Baller.

Overall, I think this is awesome. It allows me to be a bit more flexible with my mornings (I only get a BART train every 15 minutes, so if I miss one, it throws off my schedule), and it saves money (I saved $17.75 this week! Even if I paid $1 every day, I'd still save $13.75/week over taking BART). And it's much more pleasant than the super-crowded morning trains. The only downside is the relative unpredictability. If I have an early meeting that I need to get to, I'll probably BART rather than risk not having a ride and getting pushed back. But on most days? Riding in Cars with Strangers is the way to go.

Casual Carpool, I think I love you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bonus Projects

I just posted my YoCP January Project...a massive list, calendaring all of my home-related projects for the year. Oof. It's gonna be an exciting year!

I kicked things off today with a few teensy tiny projects, just to feel like I'd done a little something visible in the house. I was inspired by Jolie posting her list and the bonus projects she's already done. So yeah - two little things done!

First up, hanging a mirror on the door of the
guest room closet. I've had the mirror for years
(it used to be the only full-length mirror in the
house), but never figured out where to put it.
A couple of velcro Command strips later,
I also hung this cute little clock that my
mother-in-law got me for Christmas.
It's plastic, and made for a kitchen, but I
thought it worked better in the bathroom.
I even already had a nail in the right place
on the wall (it looks higher than it is in this
picture). Super easy, and we didn't have a
clock in the bathroom before!
Also, hanging the clock meant cleaning off
the top of the craft cabinet, since it was in a
pile on top of the cabinet :)
Bonus Goal!

So, those are the two bonus achievements of the weekend. I need to grab myself some colored index cards so I can make my fancy hang-it-on-the-wall calendar...kind of like a cleaning advent calendar for the whole year, really. 

Have a great week, clean friends.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

YOCP January List

So a few weeks ago I mentioned that I'm participating in the Year of the Clean Person. Well, the year has begun, and here we go! I'll be documenting progress here, with the hashtag #YoCP. Follow along, and let me know if you're doing it too.

January: Make Your List

I've been thinking about this since I read it, and I've started keeping a list on my phone. It looks like this.
Yes, I'm using the "notes"
app that comes on the iPhone
The trouble with using the iPhone notetaking thing is that it's not very easy to organize. And it's not easy to share. And it's not easy or satisfying to check things off when you're done. Ok, that's three troubles. But it's easy to use when I think of things as I fall asleep, which is usually when I think of things. I could use some sort of project management tool, sure, but I think I'd rather just make my list and keep track here. More fun for you! I also have a cork board that I use for house projects that I'll update so Will and I can keep track together. Another post on that (before the end of the month!) when it's done.

But first, I'm dividing my list into Evening Projects and Weekend Projects, to better keep track of what can be accomplished when.

Next, I'm assigning projects to months, sticking to Jolie's YoCP Calendar wherever possible.

February: Reclaim Your Bookshelf and Bins by Couch

Yes, please. Definitely on the February agenda! I assume this is a one-weekend project, so I'm going to add organizing/purging the bins by the couch as well, since that's something I can do in the evenings.

March: Let's All Make Our Beds Misc. Bedroom Cleaning

Thanks to #LAMOB last year, I'm pretty good at making my bed every day. Or at least, my half of the bed (Will is usually still asleep when I leave). So instead of LAMOB, I'm subbing in Misc. Bedroom Cleaning. This includes cleaning/organizing the tops of our dressers, fixing the lamp by the side of my bed, and hanging the full-length mirror (which I'd really like to do before March, but hey we'll see).

April: Create Your Dream Bathroom and Clean the BBQ

This will include fixing the tiles on the floor (something I volunteered to do; our landlord reimbursed us for the supplies, and I've still never done it) and cleaning/purging/organizing the medicine cabinet and linen closet/drawers. Maybe even getting new bathmats or something as a reward. I'm also going to add Clean the BBQ to the April list, because it needs to get done in time for Spring and Sumer BBQs (if it hasn't happened already by April, that is).

May: Winter Clothes Purge and The Big Closet

My version of the Winter Clothes Purge is mainly going to include purging old ski gear and coats, which are all in The Big Closet anyway. I'm saving The Big Closet for May, because it's usually a slower month for us as far as social activity goes, in between ski season and camping season. Plus, Spring Cleaning and all that. Depending on how April goes, I might try to get a head start on this one. And since June is just Car Wash month, I'm giving myself the leeway to spill over into June if necessary. The Big Closet is a bit intimidating.

June: Car Wash

Yeah, I could probably stand to give my car a sweet car wash, re-clean the headlights, check on the emergency supplies, clean out the glove box, clean out the door storage things, etc. 

July: Shoe Purge and Frame/hang artwork

Time to purge the shoes, mine and Will's, but mostly mine. I'd really like to get to this before July, but hey, if it happens it happens. If not, July it is. I'm also adding framing/hanging artwork to the list, because we have a lot of artwork we need to hang up. First it needs to be framed. Would be cool to get to this before August, but it's not likely to happen, so I'm scheduling it in. And I don't have 

August: Clean Out Your Desk and Guest Room Boxes

The small desk space we have could use a clean (namely the secretary desk that stores stationary), and I'm going to use this month to also deal with the boxes of wires, papers, and other miscellany that are hanging out in the guest room.

September: Summer Clothes Purge and Entryway/hooks

Yup. Purge those summer clothes, yo. I'm also going to add hang hooks and organize the entryway in time for winter coats to come back into regular use.

October: Kitchen Organization

I'm tentatively leaving this one on here, and including the hutch/dining room area, though right now I don't have a real plan. Hopefully getting rid of things, reorganizing the party supplies, maybe paring down some little-used items.

November: Clean Out Your Fridge & Pantry

This will probably be a good idea by November. Probably a good idea already, but hey, I'll wait until the pre-holiday season.

December: The Holidays Are Busy Enough, Take a Break And Admire The Work You Did This Year!

You got it, Jolie!

Oof. I think that's everything. Here we go. Anyone with me?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Smokin' Turkey Soup

iPhone photo. High class.
About a month ago, we hosted a party to celebrate the (very very) soft-launch of a little side project of mine called Potluckiest. The food was pretty much out of this world (I mean, come on), and everyone's contributions were outstanding. But the pièce de résistance was our smoked turkey.

The turkey was brined and smoked and gone very quickly. There was quite a carcass left though, and it smelled so good that I had to turn it into stock. Mr. Turkey turned into about 6 cups of stock, and 4 cups of shredded turkey (I thought we had picked it's amazing what 6+ hours of boiling over the course of 3 days will do!).

And if you're worried that the shredded turkey had no flavor (how could it possibly, after being boiled for so long?), worry not. It's still very flavorful, and shredded so finely that it didn't get chewy or tough. Instead, I was left with a delectable pile of meat, and several cups of stock, both of which sat in the freezer for about a month.

Until Monday night.

Hungry and looking for carb- and sugar-free options, I remembered the turkey business taking up valuable freezer real estate and decided to improvise. [sorry excuse for a recipe starts now] I browned up some garlic (in a little bit of lard, because...I had some in the fridge), tossed in the frozen hunk of shredded meat, popped the cylinder of stock out of its tupperware, and set it to work in the Le Creuset. I added whatever was in the kitchen (a green bell pepper, some cipollini onions, a little olive oil, a little white wine) and let it defrost as it simmered. Added a can of tomatoes, and a can of black beans, which turned out to be great ideas both, and also tossed in fresh kale and chard from our garden because lah di dah. I don't even remember what spices I threw in there...chili powder, black pepper, lemon pepper, paprika, oregano...unidentified-red-curry-type-spice-whose-label-has-rubbed-off. It was all good.

Topped that baby with some avocado, Greek yogurt, and Tapatío and BOOM. That is some damn good smoked turkey soup.

There are about 4 cups left, hanging out in the fridge in glass jars, waiting to be reconstituted with a little more stock and wine. And there are still 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of shredded chicken hanging out in the freezer.

Healthy, delicious, and filling, this soup-from-scratch makes me feel like bragging about my culinary prowess. But guys, it's too easy. I can't get all high and mighty (besides, that's not the KKS way) and condescend to you about the joys of cooking from scratch and my magnificent stockpile (get it? stock - pile? oh I slay me) just waiting in the freezer.

I have a lot of stock at the moment. It's true. And making it is time-consuming, but it's not hard. (add carcass and/or veggies to a big pot. cover with water. boil until it tastes good. strain out the stuff. freeze the liquid or reduce it down further and then freeze it. boom.) Because it takes a while, and good-quality stock is pretty readily available for purchase, I don't always believe it's worth it...but this soup is worth it.

I guess the lesson here is that if you're going to take the time to smoke your own meat, you should take the time to make your own stock. Lesson learned. It's really, really worth it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


When we moved into this apartment two years ago, we figured it was only a matter of time before the fridge crapped out on is. It looked like it was from the 1980s, what with the beige exterior and brown plastic drawers. But it worked. Until a few months ago, when we started seeing random puddles on the floor in front of the fridge. I'm pretty sure it was just water, but you don't really something leaking from your fridge. I assume.

Luckily, we have a great landlord who didn't hesitate to buy us a new fridge as soon as we told him what was up. Now, it's not some super fancy appliance or anything, and it's probably not what I'd choose if I just got to go shopping, but it's new and (I presume) leak-free. And because I'm a lifestyle blogger, it's basically my duty to document and post before and afters, right?

Front of Fridge: before and after
Inside of Fridge: before and after
The new fridge has fewer shelves, and no meat-and-cheese drawer, and only one butter-area-in-the-door-thing, but everything fit, with a little (not much) room to spare -- the two fridges are similar in capacity, just with different layouts. I think I'm going to explore some options for more efficient storage in there, but for now, it all fits. And it was free. And it's done. Phew!

And I treated myself to 3 of these and a small cup of dried fruit and unsalted nuts as a snack. It's a "cheat meal" day (tonight is unlimited wine and deep dish pizza date night), but I barely consider the dark chocolate banana bites a cheat, since it's a tiny amount of dark chocolate...hardly any sugar at all (though if it wasn't a cheat day, I probably wouldn't have eaten them).

We had a lot of beer and wine in the fridge.

Any home improvement type things going on in your house? What recommendations do you have for inside-the-fridge organization?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Few Days In

I'm trying to start this year off on the right foot after my annual goal-setting post, which means jumping right on top of some of the aforementioned time like the present to pretend my preference isn't for procrastination! 2014 is a year of ACTION, baby!

Yesterday, Will and I (finally) got glasses (no really, we've been talking about it for 10+ about procrastination), and walked the ~2 miles to/from the optometry center instead of driving. This is the type of "building more activity into my life" I'm talking about. Choosing places to go that are walkable, rather than places where we need the car. Opting not to drive, because we live in a place where there's lots to walk to. Not only does it feel awesome to take advantage of all that's hyperlocal, it's easy built-in exercise as well.

The eating-less-gluten thing is going well: I'm pretty much thinking of it as "no carbs/sugar except two meals a week". My cause doesn't really need to be gluten-specific, and it's much easier to avoid carbs in general than only glutenous ones. It's going alright so far, though it does make things like chocolate cravings and eating out challenging...but knowing there are cheat days built in makes it more tolerable. 

And I played the piano for about 20 minutes last night, too. I've been having lots of fun with my Sara B songbooks (thanks, sis), though it might be time to get the piano tuned pretty soon...

On the cleaning front, the house feels almost overwhelmingly full right now -- while we've mostly unpacked from our holiday travels, we seem to have an unending supply of...things. Bags of unopened mail, magazines to sort through, and of course, a few tubs of holiday decorations to take down and pack away! I'm motivated, I'm ready, and I'll be participating in Jolie Kerr's Year of the Clean Person (#YoCP), which I find much more realistically approachable than Apartment Therapy's exhaustive but intimidating January Cure.

I'm especially excited about February...our bookcases are a hot mess. I'll be sure to take before and after shots, don't you worry. But for now, it's January. January is "Make Your List" month. So it's time to start making a list. Per Jolie's suggestion, I'm going to go around the house making a list of things I'd like to do, and then post it here. Because making it public puts the pressure on.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's Winter?

This is what I pulled out of our garden last night. On January 4. Yes, those are tomatoes.

Living in California is wonderful.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Annual New Years Post

Looking back on last year's intentions, I didn't make much progress. Yikes.

2013 Recap:
Exercise more, by finding a routine I enjoy -- it was great for the first 4 months. 30 Day Bootcamp was fun, and I kind of felt myself getting stronger, even though I didn't lose weight or flab. But then it turned out that boot camp is not good for my knee, and I spent May through December on and off different physical therapy regimens (mostly because I am terrible at PT upkeep).  I was doing yoga once a week and ballet once a week as well until around July, when my knee just got too bad to really do much of anything except whine. 
Feel healthier and stronger; take care of myself -- well, I totally failed on the "actually do my PT exercises" front, and I didn't lose weight. I did get my eyes checked, though I failed to get new reading glasses (this month! I swear!). 
Eat more hearty salads -- Sure, I ate salads. But as the weather got colder, the amount of fresh, raw, hearty veggies I ate quickly diminished.  
Spend more time in the present -- I tried this on and off, and it's a constant struggle to step away from the gadgets and focus on the present. 
Get organized about our finances -- we're lucky enough to not have had to do this in 2013 because of financial struggles. But it's time to start preparing for the future, like adults. 
Make a plan for finishing areas of the house -- Hell yeah, something I've actually done! The guest room is functional, and we had a siiick veggie garden this year. 

So this year, it's more of the same. Organized into categories.

Let's see what it's like to eat less gluten.5 days a week, I am going to cut out processed grains and sugars from my diet. That means 2 days a week, I get to have cookies and bread and pasta and ice cream and beer...but only once/one meal per day. Why? Everyone's on this anti-gluten kick right now, and while I'm not much one for fad diets, and I love bread (and sugar) too much to forgo it altogether, I've heard that the benefits (dropping weight, healthier digestive system) are pretty high. You may say, "Don't worry! Once you stop eating it, eventually you stop craving it! I never even want bread anymore!"And to that I say that a life without a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside sourdough baguette is not a life in which I am interested, sir! 
So 2 days/2 meals a week it is. Until Mardi Gras. If all goes well for the next two months, I'll pick it up for another two. And another. We'll see. 
Get the knee healthy.An unhealthy knee totally puts a damper on fun life plans, like hiking and skating and dancing and you know, going up and down stairs. There's a lot of PT work to do, and I need to do it. I need to do it. I need to do it. Dammit. 
Build more activity into my life.I want to try the Zaaz. I want to do more Kinect. I want to take walks. I want to be more active in general. I really do, despite the (laziness) evidence to the contrary.

Make Big Closet Better.The closet off our dining room is large and wonderful, and is a giant pile of mess. I want it not to be. Part of this is creating a gift wrap station, and a place for luggage/bags, and better-organized camping gear, and less messy hockey gear...much to do. 
Finish purging the guest room.It's still full of boxes, though they are more organized and tidied now. I'd like it to actually be nice-looking, and not just a pile of boxes tucked onto a bookshelf.  
Hang art.In the bedroom, more in the guest room, in the hallway. We have a lot of art that needs to be framed and hung, so why are we waiting. 
Finances.We've been discussing lately how we should start saving for a house. Or for kids. Or for travel. But after nearly two years of marriage, we still haven't sat down to talk about money. We're lucky that we haven't had to, that we've been able to live within our means pretty easily, without much thought. Trust me, I know what a blessing that is. But now that we're starting to think about The Future, we should probably get a better understanding of the various bank accounts we each have open, where our savings is, where it should be, etc. and make some actual decisions about how and where to save.

Make more music.Last week, my dear friend Amelia (one of my first college friends) stayed with us, and last night, we were joined for dinner by our other dear college friend Matti. We sat at the piano and messed around and it was such serious fun that I can't believe I don't do it more often. 
Will and I are both somewhat musically-inclined, and we have a Amelia said, "What an old-fashioned, wonderful way to spend an evening." It's old school entertainment, no devices needed, and it was incredibly fun. I'm going to try to improve my piano chops, get back to that ukulele I was trying to learn this summer, and just make more music. 
Leave work at 5:30pm.This means getting in earlier (oh no! Getting to work by 9:30am! The horror!), but I really want to stop leaving the office between 6:30-7pm, especially when I do get in around 9:15 or 9:30.  
Invest in our relationship by spending time alone together.We are very good at keeping busy, doing things with friends, and even maintaining our separate hobbies and interests. But over Christmas, we spent an afternoon out shopping for gifts, just the two of us, and it was so much fun to just hang out alone together...wandering around downtown Olympia, driving around town looking for gifts, stopping for a snack. Simple things. But we don't do that when we're home, really. In the interest of efficiency, we'll run errands separately. In the interest of being social, we'll fill our calendar with fun plans with friends. But we don't invest much time in just spending time alone together, and I was surprised at how surprised I was to have that moment of "oh yeah, it's fun to do stuff together, just us." That shouldn't be a surprise!

I have a seriously packed 2014 ahead of me, with a trip to New Orleans, friends visiting from abroad, a ton going on at Disqus, a side business to launch, an organization to help run, and a wedding (not mine) to plan. None of my resolutions/goals/intentions relate to any of that stuff. But it's important for me to set personal goals as well, to take care of myself and my home life as much as I take care of others and my work life (lives).

Who knows if I'll actually accomplish all I've set out to do? The important part (for me, anyway) is taking a little time to reflect and set some intentions. And now's as good a time as any to do that.

What are your goals for 2014? Did you do all you set out to do in 2013?