Causes of Hypertension, or Why I Really Need to Unsubscribe from The Nest

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So, about 8 months ago, I got married. (Weird, how has it been 8 months!?) I largely avoided The Knot, mainly because it is crazy-making and tells you that you need to have (insert item that some people have that you definitely don't need because your wedding is exactly that... YOURS) and doesn't understand that not everyone needs to or can spend a bajillion (number approximate) dollars on a single day. However, I did use the site to keep my guest list organized and to find some reviews on vendors that we ended up using. However, a consequence of this was that the DAY I got married, they converted my account into one on one of their sister sites, The Nest. The site bills itself as follows:

"The Nest (www.thenest.com) started out as an online community of girls grappling with the emotional issues--and enormous to-do list--that couples face in the first few years of marriage. Created by the number one wedding website The Knot, The Nest is a 24-7 virtual married-best-friend who’s been there before. The site, the magazine, and the thousands of just-married members dish out advice on everything from how to get your permanent roommate to pick up his dirty socks, to how to inspect a property when you’re buying your first home, to foolproof recipes for entertaining the in-laws. Unlike single friends (who don’t have the experience to give tried-and-true advice) or mom (who has lots of experience but tends to give too much advice), Nesties, as we call ourselves, share experiences free of charge--and free of the worries that come with real-world friendships."

One one of the sidebars, it has links to various calculators, including ones for savings, mortgages, BMI, ovulation, activities, and getting out of debt. There's also a recipe finder and a decor finder. You're probably thinking, "Yeah, so what? All of this seems moderately helpful," and you're probably right, to a certain extent. A few of these things bother me though.

  • The site assumes that women are the only people interested in this kind of stuff. It also seems to assume heterosexual relationships are the only option, which bugs the crap out of me. Just because gay marriage isn't legal in every state doesn't mean that there aren't tons of couples cohabitating that might want to be included in this kind of discussion. Furthermore, what about the people who aren't married but are living together and those who never plan on getting married? Where are they in this equation? Missing.

  • ". . . dish out advice on everything from how to get your permanent roommate to pick up his dirty socks. . . "  Last time I checked, there wasn't any magic to this. Simply... talk to him/her? Maybe communication would work here? Just a guess.

  •  I resent the implication that single friends can't give good advice, or rather, that the ability to give advice is limited by one's status in life. I know plenty of married people whose advice I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, and plenty of single people whose advice I truly value because they are good an interpreting behavior or thinking about things in different ways than I would. And you know what? Their relationship status has NOTHING to do with their ability to do either of those things. Some people are better at analyzing situations and people than others, regardless of whether they're in a relationship.
  • I'm not even sure what is meant by "the worries that come with real-world friendships". If you can't ask your friends for advice or communicate with them openly, then what the hell are you doing?
Anyway, everyone week or so, I get an email digest of the latest stuff on their site. The most recent one:

1. 8 Things You Can't Do Once You Have a Baby
2. The Truth About Your First Married Easter
3. 36 DIY Decor Tricks Worth Doing
4. Transform Your Room with Paint
5. When to Replace Your Makeup
6. 20+ Must-Have Tools for Your Home
7. Worried About Your Taxes?
 
Here were my initial responses to reading these:

1. Is the list actually just "un-have the baby" listed eight times? Because I'm pretty sure that's the only real answer.
2. It will still be Easter! Only you'll be married! Also, what about the non-Christian people on this site?
3. Maybe none of these are worth doing?
4. Duh?
5. When it's gross?
6. This might be sort of useful.
7. Um, if I were, I wouldn't be asking The Nest for advice. That's why I have an accountant.

Disclaimer: I don't have children, but I would like them. I think (more on this later). This is simply my opinion.

I made the mistake of clicking on the list of things you can no longer do when you have a baby (supposedly), and I was kind of nauseated. Apparently, once you have a child, you can't wear white, you'll never be out late, you won't use the bathroom in peace, you won't be able to watch a full TV show, you won't be able to leave the house quickly, read a book with chapters, finish a phone conversation, and you won't be able to stay up late. I'm sure some of this is true, because newsflash, babies change your life. I'm pretty sure that babies, by design, don't lead to people being unable to read books, however. Sure, babies are messy and maybe you shouldn't wear that expensive white top while feeding them spaghetti, but I'm pretty sure if you make it a priority to read a book at night, you'll eventually finish a book! With chapters and everything! Blech.

I also once made the mistake of clicking on "9 Signs You Shouldn't Have Kids - At Least Not Right Now". I wanted the answer to be, "Because you don't want them," which is the best reason to not have kids, in my opinion. Some of the answers actually did make sense (if you're broke, don't have a baby... I hear they're expensive). A lot of them just paint a horribly dismal picture of parenthood, and again, while I don't have kids, I'm pretty sure that there are no absolutes about anything about having kids except that they will change your life.

All that to say is that every time I read something on this site, it makes my blood pressure climb and I have to go read some sane advice over at A Practical Wedding or look at pictures of kittens to resume normal function. I know, I know, I should just unsubscribe, but it's like a train wreck! I can't stop looking at how horrible it is! Also, it provides fodder for blog posts, and it makes me think about how I feel about parenting, marriage, relationships, and life in general. It also reminds me that the world is full of opinions and most of them are probably not mine, but everyone gets to have their own anyway. I can just choose to tune out the insane ones. :)

Are there any websites that you look at or articles you read that you know are going to set you off? What do you think of sites like The Nest? Leave me a note and we'll chat!

- A 






Pretzel-palooza!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whee! We made it to Friday!  ::parade!::

I have no idea why, but this week felt endless. Even though I only worked half a day on Monday and spent the rest of the day frolicking with Constance, the rest of the week dragged on and on. Classes were fine, but by Wednesday, I was beyond wiped out. Around the same time, I started feeling like someone was stabbing me in my left eye socket with an ice pick. I haven't had a really terrible headache in awhile, and this certainly felt like a migraine even though it didn't have the usual nausea and light sensitivity that I get with migraines. By today, I had started feeling more normal, but there's still some residual pain behind my left eye. Lame. BUT, I really can't complain all that much because the rest of my health issues seem to have stabilized for the most part. I still get intermittent joint pain and some skin rashes on my face and elbows, but I no longer feel like I'm going to die on a regular basis. ANYWAY, all that to say, this week felt endless, and my headache didn't make it go any more quickly.

But here we are, we have found Friday. It's currently torrentially downpouring outside, as we are apparently under the influence of Hurricane Andrea. Getting to and from work today was miserable, with the trip home being decidedly more disgusting. I was supposed to drop off our SIGNED lease paperwork and checks for the condo that we were approved for (yay!) but between the traffic and the weather, the realtor and I decided that we would just meet tomorrow. I nearly had a heart attack as I was driving home because there was a lot of standing water on Route 70 and my car (which is a low-sitting coupe) was definitely not happy. I once stalled a car out in some standing water that was much deeper than I thought it was, and it was terrifying, so this wasn't exactly a fun experience. Fortunately, it wasn't a ton of water, it wasn't moving quickly, and I was able to slowly proceed through it to the drier portion of the road.

I hit the grocery store on my way home to pick up some stuff for dinner and to pick up ingredients for a recipe that I wanted to try this weekend. Ken is in Long Island visiting a couple of his friends and his dad, so I am on my own. I wanted to try a recipe for a Cinnabon Cheesecake, but I don't have a springform pan (yet) and I wasn't interested in picking one up tonight. I switched to a recipe for homemade soft pretzels with cheese sauce. I love any excuse to use my KitchenAid that we got as a shower gift from my mom and her friend, so pretzels seemed like a great plan. One of my favorite things to make is bread, probably because it's way harder to screw up than cookies (in my experience, haha). I took some pictures along the way... enjoy!


Original post by Paper & Cake Printable Partyware
Baking Soundtrack: Grinning Streak, Barenaked Ladies' new album!


Ingredients

Yield: 6-8 pretzels
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour (will need extra for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon flavored seasoning of your choice
 

Smoked Gouda and Cheddar Beer Sauce Ingredients
Yield: about one cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

1/2 cup of beer
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper to taste


Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place parchment paper or Silpat liner on a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add yeast to warm water. Stir until dissolved. Stir in salt and sugar. Once mixed, add flour one cup at a time. Mix thoroughly until dough is thick and no longer sticky.

3. Create a floured surface for kneading. Knead dough for approximately 5 minutes. Separate dough into even sections, about six.

4. Roll dough into ropes, making width even throughout. Make pretzel shapes by creating a circle with the dough. Twist ends and press down to finish shape.

5. On a plate, mix sea salt and seasoning together for sprinkling. Beat egg in a small bowl and brush on pretzel tops. Place pretzels on baking sheet, and sprinkle salt mixture on top.

6. Bake for 10 minutes. After the first 5 minutes, switch to broil. Keep an eye on them to avoid over-browning. Remove from oven and serve warm with beer cheese dip.

 

I'm in love!



This is my mixer! Our kitchen colors were themed around this color, so everything is apple green, navy, and white. I need to get the head of the mixer looked at though, because it's making noise like a screw it loose. No bueno. Regardless, it did a wonderful job bringing my dough together!


Hello? Yeasties?


I always like to proof my yeast before I use it, even if the recipe says that I don't have to or the yeast says that it can be added directly into the mix. You have to use warm water, sugar, and salt, but the water can't be too warm, or you'll kill the yeasties. I stood around and watched this bowl for awhile, waiting for the bubbles to appear. When they were taking their sweet time, I started a second batch with yeast that I bought this evening, hoping that fresher yeast would proof better.



It's aliiiiiive!

After politely requesting that the yeasties start respiring, I was pleasantly surprised by bubbles! Of course, the mix in the bowl had also bubbled at that point, but not nearly as nicely, so I dumped the original batch and used the second one. As per usual, I made a gigantic mess with the flour. Does anyone out there have a recommendation for measuring flour that doesn't involve throwing it all over the kitchen counters? I know Alton Brown says that I should measure my dry ingredients by weight, but all I had were volumetric measurements, so I went with those. I don't think measuring the flour by weight would have kept it from getting everywhere... but who knows? I always debate using the splash guard for the mixer when I'm adding dry ingredients because sometimes, I feel like it makes more of a mess. This time, I decided not to use it and took my chances... it wasn't like the kitchen wasn't already a disaster!



Dough ball!

I don't have any great pictures of the mixing process, mainly because I am not the best at using my DSLR (read: I have no idea how to do anything with it). Bread dough is magical to me. You go from a wet, sticky, disaster, and bit by bit, the dough comes together and before you know it, it's cleaning the sides of the bowl and it looks like something you'd find in a bakery! I think one of my favorite things about baking is how much science is involved. It's chemistry that you can eat! The next step was to knead the dough for 5 minutes, but I let my mixer do the hard work and it turned out just fine.


They look like mini-challah!

The recipe called for making the dough into "pretzel shapes", but I preferred the pull-apart-ability of twists. Because of this, I got 5 twists that were 8-10 inches long each from this recipe. There's a sad lack of photos of the rest of the braids and the cheese sauce process, because our smoke detector is a giant pain in the ass. I am not sure why, but it was placed in the ceiling about 2 feet from the kitchen, and it goes off randomly when we're cooking. It was at the precise moment that the first batch of pretzels had to be removed from the oven and the cheese had to be added to the beer/flour mixture on the stove that the smoke alarm chose to sing me the song of its people. LOUDLY. I then spent the next ten minutes alternately trying to mix cheese sauce without letting it burn, holding a fan up the smoke detector to get it to calm down, pulling the pretzels out of the oven and nearly throwing them on the floor because the pot holder wasn't thick enough to protect my hand (note to self: get new pot holders), and yelling obscenities at the smoke detector to shut up. I finally plugged in a fan, opened all the windows and the sliding glass door, and turned the ceiling fan on high, the combination of which seemed to placate the damn detector. Surprisingly, nothing was thrown on the floor, nothing was burned, and no one came running to the apartment to see if it was on fire.


Holy crap, I have a lot to clean up.

Yikes. I usually clean up as I go along, but seeing as I was a little busy trying to do 27 things at once and wishing I was an octopus, I ended up just throwing dishes into the sink. Also, our kitchen is TINY. We have about 3 feet of usable counterspace, and most of it was covered in ingredients and bowls, so that's part of why the kitchen was such a disaster.
First batch of pretzels

Golden brown and delicious pretzels! I was pretty proud of myself, and I'm sure they would have been better if I had gotten to eat them when they were warm, but even cooled, they were AMAZING. The dough was just chewy enough, and the 5 minutes of broiling really browned the pretzels nicely. The cheese sauce was a little heavy on the smokey side, but when I thought about it, I remembered that I had used a whole cup of smoked Gouda and only half a cup of cheddar. I think that if I had done what the recipe actually called for, the sauce would have been better. The texture was good, though, although I had to had an extra teaspoon of flour (again, probably b/c of the extra cheese that I threw in there.)


Yum!



Other things that are useful to know about what I did:

- I used Yuengling, because the only choices of beer in our fridge were Yuengling and Guinness, and I figured the lighter beer was the better choice. I'm pretty sure you could use whatever beer your heart desired, so let me know if you use something fun and different and how it turned out!

- I didn't use any flavored seasoning on the pretzels; I just used sea salt. Again, feel free to thrown whatever the heck you want on there with the salt, but I'm a pretzel purist.

- In the future, I'll probably use Alton Brown's pretzel recipe, because they are closer to "real" pretzels that get browned with lye. These were good, but very bread-like.

Up close and personal


So that's it! If I get adventurous tomorrow and try the cheesecake, I'll try to remember to post some pictures of that as well. As for me, I'm off to continue relaxing while the rain pours down outside. Have a good weekend, all! 

- A


It's Like Yelling at Llamas

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hello, and welcome to the first post-Blog-Every-Day-In-May post! We all know how I feel about llamas (and if you don't, head over to my "About Me" page) and this morning, my good friend and fellow blogger, S, linked me to this gem about Scooter the Llama.

Apparently, Scooter the Llama escaped from his enclosure on June 2nd and terrorized the local establishments in Tallahassee. (In an unrelated story, a kangaroo was chased around for 10 hours outside of Tampa.) Anyway, this was made even more amusing because S posted "Drama Llama:" and then the link. For those of you who don't know the Drama Llama, I envy you. A friend of mine who writes at Smug Singleton first introduced me to the concept for the Drama Llama (though not the llama itself, b/c Smug Singleton is one of my friends who brings literally zero negative-drama into my life, which is one of the many reasons why I love and adore her). We were talking about a friend of hers who said,

"The drama llama currently roams the countryside freely, rarely visiting my little happy farm. I fear Facebook would build the drama llama a stable and fenced in pen. I have no desire to raise llamas. They spit."

Since then, I have used the phrase "Drama Llama" frequently, often referring to a herd of Drama Llamas descending on my life, asking someone to please rein in their Drama Llama, or wondering what is so attractive about my lawn that all of the Drama Llamas want to be there. The internet has interesting photos of Drama Llamas:

At least this llama looks normal

This llama needs less amphetamines.

This llama needs anger management classes.

This doesn't even really look like a llama, but I love it anyway.

ANYWAY, while I find it quite sad that Scooter the Llama had to be tasered to be subdued, I found it absolutely hysterical that the article said, "Drzewiecki said they used a taser gun to subdue the animal because llamas don't respond to voice commands." As I read this on the bus to work this morning, I found myself thinking, "Yelling at a llama is futile," which turned into "That's about as useful as yelling at a llama," which I know think is my new way of saying, "Well, that's a complete waste of time."

Also, I'm pretty sure that I can now compare people to llamas, as I know plenty of people who don't respond to voice commands (which I am pretty sure can be extended to "advice" or "counsel" or generally giving a shit about people). So, all of you people out there who continue to make poor life choices despite the wonderful advice that people would like to give you because they love you and care for you? Stop being llamas. Llamas may make very nice yarn, and they make look adorable... but they don't listen to vocal commands and that's annoying. In humans, it's damn near unacceptable. (Yes, I am aware that just because you give someone advice doesn't mean that they have to take it, and that's totally fine, but what I cannot abide is blind rejection of reality despite the fact that multiple people may have tried to point this out to you.)

ANYWAY.

I had a good reason to say to myself, "Self, this is like yelling at llamas," today. Last night, I was informed (thanks to my own checking) that I got a loan for my post-bac classes (yay!) but that it only covered part of my tuition and I am left holding a $1250 bill to pay (boo). I immediately started having a fit because what else would I possibly do at 11 pm on a Monday night? This morning I called and found out that my only option to fund this is either out of pocket (not happening) or through a private or alternative loan (argh). I then started having a meltdown of epic proportions because I felt like a financial failure and very quickly descended into the spiral of doom that had me living in a cardboard box under the freeway because Ken would leave me and my friends would abandon me and no one would love me and I would die alone. 

Then I stopped.

I said, "Alison, this is like yelling at llamas," and while it didn't make my entire meltdown cease at that very moment, it did make me smile because a) I like llamas, and b) It's true. In the end, I decided that I'd take out the private/alternative loan for this summer and if CHOP doesn't come through with their tuition reimbursement (which I applied for today for the fall term, since I'm not eligible until after July 23rd), then I will cease taking classes and continue on my merry way. I'm hoping that I don't even need to continue taking the classes in the spring because I will have already been accepted to medical school (fingers crossed!) but we'll see.

So, next time you're having a meltdown, remember the llamas.





In other news, Ken and I finally have a condo to move into in July, and we should be signing the lease by this weekend, which is very exciting! I shouldn't be nearly as excited as I am, but we get to paint! Our "move in" date is July 1st, but we won't be actually living there until closer to the middle of the month, probably, because our current lease isn't up until 7/22. At least this way, we can paint and then move things in slowly and not have to rush to do it all in a day. I'm really excited because it's much bigger than what we have, it's in a nice area near one of my best friends, and the washer and dryer are in a LAUNDRY ROOM (our current washer/dryer is in our bathroom... not ideal).

Also, yesterday I worked for only half a day because one of my darling friends, Constance, was in town with her husband. She is a neurology resident in FL and her vacation was this week. We spent the afternoon frolicking in the Reading Terminal Market and around Philly in general. Here are some photos!


1. Me and Constance in the market before lunch
2. Chocolate lungs, for $22.95!
3. Constance and Frank the Squirrel
4. Octopus ice molds!
5. Shana the Comic Book Shop Kitty (napping on comics)
6. Me and Constance before I left for class

And speaking of class, I should get to biochem... have a good night, all. And remember the llamas!

- A

In Which We Reach the End

Monday, June 3, 2013

We made it! Of course, it's June 3rd and I'm just posting this now, but hey, what is June for if not for catching up on stuff from May, right? Right. May 31st's theme was "a vivid memory"... so here is one of mine.


Left: Oh, you want me to walk up that before dawn? Cool.
Right: Well, at least there are stairs...?

 
We had barely slept the night before because we were so excited to be sleeping in a desert. It was still dark when we woke up, not exactly well-rested, because as cool as sleeping in a tent in the desert is, the mats we had slept on were not the most comfortable things in the world. Also, it's true, deserts are COLD at night. After brushed our teeth, it was time to get dressed and get on the road. My friend Tovah and I hid behind the giant tour bus to get changed (because the bathrooms were so crowded), and now we can say that we got naked behind a bus in the Negev Desert! We set out for Masada, and even though we were exhausted, we were excited to get there and start the hike.

As we stood at the base of the fortress, I was definitely terrified that I wasn't going to be able to make it up. I'm not the most in-shape person ever, and having fractured my spine in 2008 and having 2 herniated lumbar discs, I wasn't feeling super confident in my ability to hike up a giant mountain, even if there were stairs. We started the ascent, and it wasn't long before I was in a decent amount of pain. Fortunately, one of our tour guides hung back with me (and another girl who was having troubles) and eventually, step by step, we made it to the top!

Good morning, Masada!


Gorgeous.

Sleepy and in pain, but amazed.
After the sun was fully up, we continued touring the national park and exploring the ruins. We learned the heroic and tragic story of the Jews that defended Masada against the Romans, in the end, choosing to kill their own and end their own lives, rather than live as slaves once again. It was an amazing experience to walk through that place and think about the people that had lived there.

By the time we were ready to hike down, it was a million degrees (approximately) and I was still in some pain. The Snake Path down the other side of Masada is even steeper and more challenging than the ascending path up the stairs, so I took the option to not die, and instead, took the cable car down.


Those dots on the right are parts of our tour group, hiking down.


We reached the bottom, tired, starving, and disgustingly sweaty... but we ate lunch and then headed to the Dead Sea!

Weirdest thing EVER.
The entire trip was really one, extremely vivid memory... but this was definitely one of the most memorable days we had!

And that's the end of Blog Every Day in May (and apparently catching up in June). Thanks for sticking with me through this, and look for some new features coming soon! Also, actual life updates, since my blog has mostly been these daily blog prompts. Check out other people's vivid memories over at the link up, and check back soon for new posts!

- A

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