Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Commuter Diary part II

"I found solace in my makeup bag. Taking control of my looks gives me confidence."
- from the current issue of Marie Claire

During my daily commute to work I have been able to look over many a shoulder and see what my fellow commuters are reading or working on. We have knitters and needleworkers, sleepers, iPod-listeners and of course many readers. Some are reading books that I role my eyes at (those corset-busting romance novels - why even bother?) others are reading books that look WAY beyond my intellectual capacity (I look at those readers with some envy and wished I could appreciate and understand a book like that).

Then we have the newspaper and magazine readers. The most outrageous magazine reader I have seen was a few years ago. He was the guy that pulled a magazine out of a brown wrapper (no, I am NOT kidding)! Thankfully, I was sitting across the aisle from him and not next to him, but I could see the reflection of the magazine cover in the window next to him and it was Hustler. Yup, this guy was reading a Hustler magazine on the commuter train during rush hour. Hmmmm, maybe he really DOES only read it for the articles (but isn't that what they say about Playboy??). Needless to say it creeped me out and I got up and moved to another seat. Just knowing he was sitting a few feet away reading Hustler was just too gross.

Anyway, yesterday evening my seatmate on the train was reading Marie Claire. In my mind that's one of those fluffy, full-of-advertisements and silly articles rags that I wouldn't bother to pick up even in a doctor's waiting room. So, I guess I wasn't too surprised when I glanced over and saw the quote that I listed above. I read it and paused for a second then re-read it and thought WTF??? "I found solace in my make-up bag?" You have got to be kidding me! How pathetic and shallow is that?

I guess this is a sore subject for me. I've never been a primper with all the hair and make-up gadgets. One of the things that my husband loves about me is that I can get out of bed and out the door in less than 30 minutes if I have to (having naturally curly hair helps me there). Sometimes I do look at the perfectly coiffed women, with the lovely manicures and pretty eye-makeup and I'm jealous. I know I can do better. I know I should do better, but I don't. At this point I feel like in the grand scheme of life who cares?

OK, I guess I do. At least a little bit. When I am nicely made up and have an outfit on that I know looks good it DOES boost my confidence and I feel great. I think "why don't I do this all the time?".

I notice one woman on the train that has a different purse EVERYDAY to coordinate with her outfit. When I started to notice that it blew my mind and I would have to search her out everyday to see what purse she had and it was never a duplicate from the day before. She also had the hair, make-up and nails as well as a gym card on her keyring (I notice all the obscure odds and ends - I know, it's weird).

So this woman, who does not get home any earlier than me, somehow has time to work out, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up the kitchen, get organized for work the next day, change her purse to match her outfit, pay some bills, do some laundry, maybe get some relaxation time in and get to bed. It made my head spin and I envied her. How did she do it?? Incidentally she had a baby last year and stopped working in the city. I see her dropping her husband off at the train and she usually has sunglasses on and a pony tail which I'm sure has to do with the fact that the baby is running the show now. It made me feel better. Just a little :-)

So maybe someday I will have the time to find solace in my make-up bag (actually, I don't even carry a make-up bag. You don't need one when all you wear is eyeliner and mascara). Or maybe not. Maybe (hopefully) I will find solace in being a good person and a good mommy and a good wife.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Free Stuff

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I like to think I'm a smart spender. I also admit that I get an abnormal amount of satisfaction from finding an amazingly great deal, which doesn't get much better than FREE!

Walgreens runs a monthly "EasySaver" Rebate Club http://www.walgreens.com/store/rebateclub.jsp
This monthly booklet contains a bunch of coupons, which I usually skip over, but what always intrigues me are the freebies listed at the top of the rebate form. Every month they include at least one item that is completely free.

The picture above are three of the choices for the April rebate - in all there are EIGHT items that are completely free this month. In addition to the toothpaste, toothbrush (which they frequently include as freebies) and snack bar there were "Wal-itin tablets", "Wal-Zyr Allergy Relief", "Tums Quikpak", "Just for Men Touch of Gray Hair Color" and "Jane Be Pure Mineral Blush" or "Kabuki Brush".

Sometimes I see something that is free and although I don't personally use it I'll still pick it up, get the rebate and pass it on to someone else or donate it to a charity. Just about any toiletry item is a welcome donation to many charities.

The other great thing about the Easy Saver program is that Walgreens lets you submit all the rebates on one form in one envelope - how easy is that? You can also use manufacturer coupons, so in some cases they have actually "paid" me to buy the items! The three items above cost $9.08 + .30 tax for a total of $9.38. Walgreens will refund me the $9.08, plus I had two coupons for an offset of -$1.75 plus Walgreens gives you an extra 10% back (.91 cents) if you take your rebate in the form of a Walgreens gift card (which I always do).

So even after paying .41 cents for a stamp to mail the rebate and absorbing the .30 cents for sales tax I get these items for free and have am still ahead by $1.04. As you can tell, this is somewhat of a game for me and I love it (I know, that's weird).

If you are like my husband you tend to not shop for something until the minute you need it which is, of course, not a smart way to shop. When you do this you tend to miss out on sales and end up paying top dollar. He also been telling me "no more toothpaste and tooth brushes!!" for about a year but I say "I don't care if we have 6 of them already, they don't go bad and we will eventually use them, won't we?". If we get too many stock piled I pull some out and put them in a charity collection. My motto is, if it's free, why not? If you can't use it someone else can - just pass it on!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

My 3-year-old daughter participated in a Trike-a-thon on Friday to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. This is her 2nd year riding in this event and she had a great time (just look at her careening around this corner!). She topped last year's fund raising by about $10 and collected $152 for St. Jude's!

Uh oh, someone (or two!) is catching up!

This is a particularly meaningful fundraiser for us because 2 1/2 years ago we were parents with a baby that needed highly specialized medical care. When my daughter was 9 months old we discovered she had a mysteriously detached retina and at 11 months old she underwent surgery to re-attach it. Thank goodness for our local children's hospital, Children's Memorial, and her fantastic retina surgeon from Northwestern (there are only two or three doctors in the entire Midwest that even do such surgery on infants).

We are eternally grateful for these specialized children's facilities and the doctors and nurses that helped us through such a scary time. So if we can pass on the word (and help out) another wonderful children's hospital, like St. Jude's, we like to do it.

If you don't know much about St. Jude's here's a little history. It was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas and opened in 1962. It is a non-sectarian, interracial facility that covers the costs of care beyond that covered by insurance.

Located in Memphis, Tennessee, it is one of the world's premier centers for research and treatment of catastrophic diseases in children, primarily pediatric cancers. The mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is to find cures for children with catastrophic illnesses through research and treatment.

More than 4,000 patients are seen at St. Jude yearly, most of whom are treated on a continuing outpatient basis as part of ongoing research programs. The hospital also maintains 56 beds for patients requiring hospitalization during treatment. To date, St. Jude has treated more than 17,000 children from across the United States and 60 foreign countries - from Argentina to China.

All Day Apple Butter - Yum!

If this apple butter inspires you to rub it in your hair and all over your face then it must be good!

Ahhhhhh, all washed down with a cold glass of milk!

If you don't know what apple butter is it's a sweet spread for toast or bread, or my baby likes it mixed in with his oatmeal too. Apple butter doesn't have any butter in it; it's just called "butter" because its a spread (like peanut "butter"). It kind of tastes like thicker, sweeter, cinnamon-ier applesauce.

This is probably a better recipe for the fall, when you think about apples in abundance, but we made it last weekend. I had a 3 lb bag of apples that were going soft and this was a perfect way to use them up. It was also super easy (and good for a certain 3 yr old daughter to help with) because after peeling and chopping them you just throw them all in a crock pot, stir in the sugar and spices and let it go for 12 hours. I did it in the evening so the next morning the house smelled great and we had fresh warm apple butter for our toast.

Here is a link to the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Apple-Butter-I/Detail.aspx?prop31=7
The only changes I made was to halve the sugar (used 2 cups for 3 lbs of apples) and it was still plenty sweet. Next time I might cut back on the cinnamon a little bit - maybe 3 tsp instead of the full 4 tsp. It keeps in the fridge for a while, plus you can also freeze it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Knitting with Babies

Hmmmmmmmm, just who is this little guy and what is he doing?

Find out at http://www.knitdamage.blogspot.com/

Snopes.com and Internet Myths

I, like most other people, hate getting spam. More than that I hate getting junk email from FRIENDS!! The chain emails (now that's downright insulting) and all the other odds and ends, pet photos, off color jokes that while well intentioned I just don't have time for. Plus I'm always worried about opening something with a virus so often times I just delete these emails.

Many well meaning people (my dear Dad!!) will forward the "warning" type emails - like about the guy that will approach you in a parking lot telling you he found the $10 bill you dropped and then attack you. Or some that SOUND legit like "don't pump gas on May 15 and it will help lower gas prices".

I forwarded one of these (it was the one about Swiffer making babies and pets sick - I remember it because I was so embarassed that I was duped too!) to a fellow dog owner who forwarded it back to me with the http://www.snopes.com/ report on it and that it was false! I quickly realized how these rumors can be perpetuated so fast and here I was helping (incorrectly) to drag Swiffer's name through the mud. One person tells 5 friends who tell 5 friends, etc and before you know it it's whizzed all over the world via internet.

So now when I get a well meaning email like this (about cell phones, gas boycotts, or rapists lurking out there) I will check http://www.snopes.com/ to see if it's real or not. Most times it is not and I will diplomatically forward the Snopes report to the sender just so they know and will (hopefully) check Snopes first before forwarding those types of emails in the future.

Recently I did find one that actually WAS real. It was about the state of Michigan and the $10K/per day fine they threatened local beavers (yes, beavers, the furry brown creatures) with if they did not remove their dams! If you don't believe me check it out at


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Movie Reviews

I was recently sick and took full advantage of my time on the couch to catch up on a few movies. We haven't seen a movie in ages so my hubby joined me.

Here are a few of our opinions. I'm the first to admit that as much as I wish I were, I am not a cerebral, analytical movie watcher. So keep that in mind and here we go!

Atonement - 1930s, sad, frustrating, intriguing, with a bit of WW II history. We give it 3 stars.

Choice reviewer quotes:

N - "what a little S&^$! I can't believe she did that and ruined their lives!!".

K - "come on, she was in love!" He also instantly recognized the battle of Dunkirk (my husband is so much smarter than me when it come to history).

Babel ("babble") - Entwined familial crises in Morocco/Japan/Mexico. Couple in marital crisis go to Morocco and leave their children in the care of their illegal immigrant nanny in San Diego. Gut wrenching to see how people react under tremendous stress and who ultimately pays the price. It was good! We give it 3 stars.

N - "what a little S&^$! I can't believe he did that and ruined their lives!!" and "Why ever would you go to Morocco if you were a germaphobe like Cate Blanchett's character?"

K - "well, he is a boy"

Love in the Time of Cholera - 1900s, unrequited love. Somewhat intriguing but watch the movie to ogle Javier Bardem otherwise read the book (which I have not but I'm guessing it's much better). We give it 2 stars.

N - "OMG, I think I'm in love with Javier Bardem"

K - "wow, Javier Bardem IS one good looking guy"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Commuter Diary - part I

Every day I commute via train into Chicago for work. I actually like my commute even if the round trip is a little more than 2 hours out of each working day.

I walk from my house to the train station, hop on the train where I can read my newspaper (or if I'm lucky, knit!) then get off in Chicago and walk a mile to my office. I have actually convinced myself this is my FREE exercise because I know if I didn't HAVE to do this walk to get to and from work I wouldn't be doing it. This brain-washing has worked so well that I don't even have the faintest idea where any of the bus stops are so rain or shine, freezing or sweltering, I'm doing my walking.

The suburban leg of the commute isn't terribly interesting, just walking through a residential neighborhood. However, the walk once I get into Chicago is always interesting. I thought occasionally I would share some of the things that I see while I'm on that part of my commute. For example, today as I was walking to the train I passed various panhandlers, many of whom are "regulars" on the route I walk but then I was surprised with something new. Something I don't think I have ever seen in my 10 years of working in the Loop: I saw a large metal grocery store cart parked against some metal fencing.

Now this may not seem odd to most people, but if you spend any time in downtown Chicago you understand that you just DON'T see errant grocery carts in the middle of the Loop! But it gets better. As I continued my brisk pace I turned my head to look at the cart (it was that weird to see it) and I noticed that it hadn't been abandoned at all - in fact, someone had used a bicycle lock to chain it to the metal fencing it was propped against!

Now that struck me as funny - the person who stole the cart from the grocery store took the time to lock up his (or her) stolen property so that someone else wouldn't steal it from them. I love it!! The irony of the whole thing made me smile the rest of the way to the train. I wonder if it will still be there tomorrow.