French Manicure

I’m probably only intermittently girly.  Yeah, skirts.  Wear ‘em most of the time if the weather isn’t extremely cold.  My hair is about waist length.  But high heels?  Not my thing.   Jewelry – mostly quite understated.  Makeup?  Same/same.  I wear it, but I go for understated.  My “look” tends to be best described as well-put-together.  However, it is a specifically-chosen look, so that pushes the image back over to “girly” a bit, doesn’t it?

My fingernails are fairly short, but I don’t bite them, so I do have a bit of a nail.  Other than keeping them clean and neat, I don’t often wear nail polish.  Rather, I’ll go through a six week period of doing so, then put away the manicure stuff for awhile.

I think, however, I may have found a look that I’d be content with as a constant thing – the French manicure.    This is the real thing, not the dramatically artificially-colored fingernail tips.  I think the look can be cute as hell, but it doesn’t match the way I dress.  No, I mean the subtle French Manicure with white tips, and a nail bed color that is close to your real nail bed color, maybe only better – rosier, deeper, less yellow, whatever.

I love this look because it’s neat and pulled-together without being too dramatically obvious.   It looks good with a broomstick skirt or a suit, and you don’t have to have really long nails to pull it off.  It also has the advantage of not showing wear at the tips very much[1] – unlike darker nail polish.  So I think this is something that’ll last a great deal longer for me.

Now this pic is of my hand, and yes, I did this myself.  It also took about ten tries to get the process down to the point where it wasn’t sloppy!  So this is something that takes practice and isn’t something I can free-hand[2] even with a pen, or would do at the spur of the moment.

[1] Chipped nail polish and discolored roots are a personal thing.  I never notice in other people, but feel like a slob when I can see it in myself.

[2] Scotch tape makes a fine polish guide, just sayin’.

Bye, Bye, iPod

I got an android phone a couple of months ago.  I was enjoying it and all, but it was after I downloaded the Audible App that I started moving to use it as my mobile media device.

I used my iPod as a sleep aid and productivity tool.  When I can’t sleep, I’ll put an audiobook on for a certain amount of time (usually 15 minutes will do it), and listen to a story until I fall asleep.  It keeps me from ruminating on useless crap and allows me to do the truly productive thing at night – SLEEP!

So, no music/audiobook player was going to make Noël-san happy unless it had a feature where it’d turn off after a few minutes.  Well, whatdoyaknow? The Audible app has exactly that!

However, not all of my audiobooks are from Audible.  I have the Harry Potter books, MP3s I’ve ripped from CDs from the library – you name it.  So, what’s an audio/bibliophile to do?

Well, there is the Sleep Timer, a free app developed by Patrick Boos.  This will integrate with your music player to turn off your music (and other functions on your android-based phone, if you want to)  after a specified length of time.

However, that didn’t solve another problem.  I have an extensive music collection that I’d organized into smart playlists on iTunes.  Now, for all that Apple gets under my fingernails from time to time, I do like the organization features of the iTunes media player.  Was I screwed for using those playlists on my phone?

Nope!  Now, iSyncr is not a free app, but at $2.99, I’m not going to sweat the price for one paid app.  This will load whatever playlists you select onto your phone.  They play just fine through the default music app preloaded in Android.  What it won’t do is play DRM protected music you bought from iTunes.  I know there’s a kludge for that, but I don’t know exactly what it is, and I don’t buy a lot of music through iTunes, anyway.

This means that my iPod is completely replaced, because I also use a music player with a sleep timer for another function.  It’s a serious productivity tool and procrastination avoider for me.  When faced with a large, overwhelming task, I often will put on a music player with a fifteen minute sleep timer, promising myself I can stop when the music stops.  By that time I’m usually into the task enough to finish it, but even if I’m not, do you know how much you can get done in several fifteen minute sessions of hyperfocus?

Speaking of which, got some writin’ that needs attending to…

Audible iSyncr Sleep Timer

Save Money with Bento

Now, I do own some cute bento boxes, but I’m finding some serious limitations to the cute little Japanese ones.

  1. They’re delicate. The ones you generally find don’t stand up to rough treatment and you can’t really put them in the microwave or the dishwasher.  You can buy bento that can go in the microwave and the dishwasher, but they’re…
  2. Expensive. ‘Nuff said.

I could buy a $30 box from Japan (adding in, of course, the price of international shipping.  Or, as my bento collection slowly disappears through breakage, I’m more likely to use plastic ware from the local department store, or even those cheap Gladware babies (which last longer than the bento boxes.  Go figure).

Here’s a step by step bento I did for my husband.  This one is a larger box,  (750 ml) so is more for a larger appetite. (<cough>Teenaged Boy</cough>).

So, we start with fried rice.  I’d had some rice left over, so figured that’d be tasty.  I’ve got this spread all over the bottom of the container so that it will cool.

Then I slide the rice over to save space. The green veggies holding the rice in place is cucumber slices cut in half, then arranged in an alternating pattern to make the structure a little stronger.  Engineering and art!  Who says they’re diametrically opposed?

Remember all that money I was saving cutting up chicken parts?  Drumsticks are great for bento, so that’s exactly what I used here.

One of the things that’s important when you make a bento is to make sure that you stuff the box full enough that the food doesn’t have much room to move.  Veggies are great for this.  Go for color as much as possible, as that means you’re getting a wider range of vitamins and a healthier meal.  Yes, it’s prettier, too.

Speaking of color, just green, brown and red aren’t enough for my own tastes, so I added a bit of yellow.  Since this was suggestive of a flower, I kinda ran with it.

I put some blueberries inside the flower, more because there wasn’t any fruit in the bento and Dear Hoosband likes a bit of sweetness with a meal.

I did cook the fried rice (had half of it for dinner, NOM) and the drumstick, but I could have just as easily used leftovers in the fridge (and often do).

The rice and cooking the drumstick was what made the bento more time-consuming.  Assembling it, even taking the time to take pictures in the process, only took me about five minutes.  All in all, it was still less than half an hour, and I started the drumsticks cooking while I set up a curry for a crock pot dinner tomorrow.  So, it was very little “extra” time that I took to make this.

But notice, this is a cute bento, and it was made with ingredients and materials you’re likely to  have around the house.  I mention this because making your food look nice is often a way to make something inexpensive special.  In these economic times, it’s nice for the brown-bag lunch to seem like a treat rather than a letdown.

Saving money by buying whole chickens

I’m on rather an economy drive lately, but I like to eat well.

I’ve discovered a way to save a whole bunch of money on meat.  In my area, a boneless, skinless chicken breast runs over three bucks a pound when not on sale.  Even on sale you’ll never see it for less than about $1.99/lb.

I can pretty much count on one of the area grocery stores having a sale on whole chickens for between $0.89 and $0.99/lb most weeks.  Now, you might say that you get sick of a whole roast chicken all the time, and fair enough.  Sure, I do the thing where I roast a chicken, save some of the leftover meat for chicken salad, then make Garbage Soup out of what’s left every now and then, but it’s not all you can do with a whole chicken.

One thing I’d never done was cut up a whole chicken into its various parts.  If I was going to use the parts, I bought the chicken cut up.  Noticing how much cheaper the whole chicken often is, I decided I needed to learn to cut up my own.

I tried it yesterday, just because, well, I like learning new things.[1] I watched a video on Youtube about it, then on my very first try it took me something fewer than five minutes.  It might not be as cool or as pretty as a professional can do it, but it’s a large enough money savings, I’m all good doing this.  Yeah, it’s a little yucky, but I feel like if I’m willing to eat meat at all, I need to suck it up on the yucky anyway and get real that I’m eating an animal.

Now, not everything I make uses chicken with bones in.  In fact, a lot of it doesn’t.  Next time I find a good sale on chickens, I’m going to learn to debone the chicken.  I’ve been given to understand it’s fairly quick and easy.  I think Elliot Yan claims to be able to do it in 18 seconds, so I’m sure I can do it in a couple of minutes.  The next time I buy a chicken, I’ll debone it and possibly even portion it out already cut up for stir fries.[2]

I’ve seen people talk about the waste involved.  We don’t eat the bones! Who eats the wings?

No we don’t eat the bones, but I cook with chicken stock a whole bunch, and not just soups.   Rice made with chicken stock is delicious.  Beans and rice, jambalaya and many other dishes that use water have a richer flaver, and are more nutritious[3] with the stock anyway.  Bones and chicken backs make fine, tasty stock.  So, no, it’s not wasted.  I just save them in a bag in the freezer for the next time I’m going to make stock.

As far as the wings?  Don’t you ever have parties?  Buffalo wings, and variations thereof are pretty popular ‘round here.  I’m saving mine for the next party I throw.

It does take some time to cut up and repackage a whole chicken, but it doesn’t take that much and it’s not even hard.  If you’re looking for a way to save money on meat, I have to encourage you to give this a try.

[1] And next week, it might be a new programming language.  C’mon guys, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was my job to learn stuff then talk about it.


[2] Which will make my son happy for the nights he cooks.  He detests cutting up chicken.

[3] If you’re worried about calcium intake and are not big on dairy, this is another great way to get your calcium. When you make homemade stock, it leeches from the bones.

For the last time, introversion is not shyness!

I read a piece on introversion lately that was mostly kind of cool, but one line made me want to explode.  It dealt with karaoke and why an introvert doesn’t want to get up and perform karaoke.  Something to do with being terrified of getting up in front of the public and performing, if I recall correctly.

Friends, this is no more a hallmark of introversion than is blue eyes.

Being an introvert is not about being scared of being in the public eye.  In fact, being afraid of public speaking is an incredibly common fear that runs across the introvert/extrovert lines and has more to do with being a human being than it does with one’s mental orientation.

What’s actually a pretty common pattern is for an introvert to be a pretty accomplished public speaker, but find that she detests noisy parties.  Being an introvert isn’t about being scared.  It’s about being drained by too much interpersonal contact.

The introversion=shyness thing tends to get to rub me the wrong way.  I think partially because there is an underlying implication that the introversion needs to be cured, but also because if someone doesn’t know me well, they’ll deny I’m an introvert and interpret my behavior from an extroverted frame of reference.

Ferinstance, if someone sees that because I am not shy that I am an extrovert, but only want to socialize with them on a limited or irregular basis, they’ll interpret that as me not liking them very much, but don’t want to say so.  If they were to see me as the introvert that I am, they recognize that I just need to be alone a whole bunch and it has nothing at all to do with my fondness or not for them as people.

I remember once teaching a class and mentioning being an introvert.  I forget why it was brought up, but since I was teaching, I was probably looking for an illustrative example of something.  One of the class members immediately said, “But you’re not shy![1][2]

No, I’m not.  I even enjoy public speaking.

For the last time, fear of being in the spotlight is not an introversion/extroversion thing.  It’s a not-too-unusual people thing.  ‘Kay?

[1] Nancybuttons sells a button I really should buy.  “I’m not shy.  I’m studying my prey.”

[2] I am a very animated public speaker.