top 10 reasons why i suck at gardening.

8 08 2011

when i first started my garden about a month ago, i was on top of the world. things were growing! i was making life! i would eat salad like a boss all summer long!

almost like sex fantasies, i would imagine myself harvesting shining and plump red tomatoes and pornographically large cucumbers (ron jeremy grade produce). it would be glorious, and things were going so well!

and then, shit started to go wrong:

1. neighborhood cats started digging in my seed areas, killing whole squares of crops (i lost 3 squares of lettuce and one square of carrots).

2. my tomatoes won’t pollinate. the flowers just turn brown and die, and the bees never come. i only have the 4 tomatoes that were already pollinated when i got the plant.

3. my peppers are dying. the little pepper buds are just shriveling and falling off.

4. my cucumber is taking over everything. i find it’s spindly tendrils wrapped around every other plant in the bed- strangling them all slowly. although to its credit, it’s the only thing that’s actually producing any sort of vegetation.

5. my green beans have nothing to climb up, and they are OUT OF CONTROL.

6. my pumpkin just doesn’t look right. it has leaves rotting off and flowers dropping like crazy.

7. my butter lettuce keeps getting ass pounded by the rain and is looking very very sad.

8. i tried last weekend to install some barrier plants to try to keep the cats out (brussels sprouts, cauliflower, & iceberg lettuce), but i don’t think the brussels sprouts are supposed to be yellow.

9. maybe planting 5 heads of iceberg lettuce in one square was a mistake?

10. the basil seems fine, but i don’t eat that much basil.

basically my gardening euphoria has quickly descended into gardening shame and disappointment. maybe i should read a book or something, but i don’t even know where to start. i just feel very overwhelmed and very at sea. i could ask the lovely soul who helped me plant it in the first place, but i don’t want her to be disappointed in me! basically, i am castrated by my lack of knowledge and fear of failure.

i thought that gardening was supposed to be relaxing!  somebody please, FIX IT.

*no, that dead garden picture isn’t mine, but you can check out the “progress” of my garden on my flickr page. i haven’t taken any pictures of the really tragic stuff, but you can picture them in your mind’s eye (don’t forget to make ’em extra shriveled).





i try it- vegetable growing bonanza!

14 07 2011

i’m not exactly the earth mother.  i like plastic, and pop culture, and mini skirts. i watch A LOT of tv. it’s not that i hate the outdoors, or that i shun the environment… hey, i have reusable bags somewhere in my apartment. but you’re probably not going to catch me dabbing patchouli all over my braless ass while i listen to jam bands. you’re certainly not going to hear me talk about feeling “close to the earth”.

again, it’s not that i’m anti gardening… it’s just that i’ve killed a good 80% of the plants i’ve ever owned (let’s face it, i’m on my 3rd set of ikea cactuses).  but for some reason (with full knowledge of my spotty history with plants), when the deadbeat dude who is in foreclosure in my condo association abandoned his raised bed in the backyard… I WAS ALL OVER IT. at least that’s what i told the condo association president.

while i was waiting for planting season, i had lengthy and involved fantasies about what gardening would be like. i started asking agriculturally inclined friends for tips about what to do.

“you’re gonna need some compost. like a lot of compost.”

“you should hit the deering oaks farmer’s market for seedlings.”

“don’t bother with carrots, they never work out.”

“10-10-10!”

i took all of this sage knowledge into my brain, and waited for it to germinate.

nothing.

may arrived, and it was time to weed the box (which hadn’t been touched in 2 years)! except that if you remember may at all, it RAINED CONSTANTLY… the seeds of gardening excitement that i had planted in my brain were slowly being drowned by inopportune weather and the slow creep of laziness and apathy.

come the end of june, i still hadn’t done jack, and the excitement i once felt for the project had dissipated considerably. and by considerably, i mean entirely. it seemed too late. maybe i would do it next year… sorry condo association president. Read the rest of this entry »





i try it!- danger in the kitchen laboratory.

15 06 2011

if this blog post had a subheading, it would read: why leaving it to the professionals is sometimes the right thing to do.

so, during the SWAPmaine event a few weeks ago, the lovely keriann of mainely mara, turned me on to the starbucks black iced tea lemonade. HOLY CRAP. new heights of refreshing-ness! since that time, i think of drinking nothing else.

i’m not a coffee drinker, so the amount of time i spend at starbucks (which is inconveniently located multiple blocks from both my home & work) has always been fairly minimal. however, since SWAP day, i have been making any possible excuse to scoot my ass down to exchange street, all for the privilege of paying like $4 for something that tends to take me roughly 10 minutes to consume.

YET I CAN’T STOP.

the crack like pleasure that it affords me, appears to make the $4 surcharge fully worthwhile.

but $4 is expensive, and the $15 giftcard i had left over from xmas lasted almost about as long as it takes me to drink one of these fuckers. so in the spirit of practicality (starbucks is far) and frugality (starbucks is expensive), i decided that i would just gather the ingredients to make this mystical beverage, and assemble it myself in the kitchen lab. just think of all the dollars i would save!

HOW HARD COULD IT BE?

as it turns out, REAL HARD. Read the rest of this entry »





i try it- coupon buying adventure!

25 01 2011

so last week when i was writing about coupon contingency plans when you miss a newspaper, i mentioned the possibility of buying coupons from an online clipping service. i’d considered it before, but always got big case of the lazy (with a side of cheap), and decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of buying a bunch of coupons that i might not ever have the occasion to use. but recently, the coupon stars have aligned in such a way that it finally seemed worth the minimal effort to take the risk (and by risk, i mean approximately $6 and a week worth of waiting).

there is a deal at CVS that has been quietly bubbling away over the last few weeks- seemingly unnoticed or unnoted by the usual local coupon clipping suspects (although, maine  just doesn’t have the shelf cleaner problem that’s rampant in other states). apparently, every year in january, they clearance down all of their cosmetics that are being discontinued. well the time has come, and there are tons and tons of little orange (75% off) and yellow (50% off) stickers (it’s breathtaking really) littering the beauty aisles. in general, i’m not really a makeup person, and i am FIERCELY LOYAL to the things that i do wear. for example, i presently have a fridge full of discontinued max factor foundation (11 tubes purchased on ebay) that i’ve been wearing since the late 90s. but since i started the makeup project and also began my burlesque career, i’ve found a greater need for such products in my life (i finally figured out how to apply false eyelashes!). biggest issue- COSMETICS ARE FUCKING EXPENSIVE! on the final day of the makeup project when i was trying to fill in the last few holes, the cheapest blush i could find was $4.99! so this year, i’m stocking up my burlesque sparkle stash and beginning the makeup project good and early (2011 will be bigger and better than ever!), so i never have to be saddled with the tragedy and shame of paying for full price blush ever again.

this is where the clipping service comes in. Read the rest of this entry »





panel of experts.

18 06 2010

consumer panel you might have noticed that i’ve been a little more MIA this week than usual. i’m actually kind of surprised that i didn’t get any emails saying “hey, your lame father’s day post has been up for 3 days- what gives!”. well, i’ll tell you what gives.  for the last 3 days, i’ve been languishing in the excessively tight clutches of an online consumer panel.

when the company (sorry, it’s a secret!) contacted me via email 8 months ago, i thought that a consumer panel would make an interesting topic for a blog post and was excited at the possibility of getting some sweet free product samples…. TIME PASSES…. then about 6 months ago, they called me mere seconds before i was about to go into the nickelodeon for a movie and proceeded to take way too long to ask me a series of repetitive questions, at which time i became severely agitated and was very impatient/not nice to the interview lady (my bad!)….MORE TIME PASSES…. and as winter fades into spring, i’m assuming that my chronic CSR rudeness condition (CCRC) has driven away the opportunity forever….YET EVEN MORE TIME PASSES…. it is now exactly 2 weeks until official summer, and i have completely forgotten about the panel and am going about my merry business when *WHAM* an email from the company hits, telling me that my online panel discussion group will begin in 2 days. oh, and they’re going to give me $50 for my troubles. amazing!

according to instructions, i am to log onto a dedicated BBS (that’s bulletin board service for those of you who didn’t have web access in the early 90s) and answer a series of questions posted by the moderator, and then log on again once more during the day to answer follow up questions.  seemed simple enough until i logged  onto the site and was reminded exactly why the BBS has gone the way of the dinosaur. what in the clunky archaic hell were they thinking when they hired someone to design this focus group site? they also asked me to get all myspace and fill out a profile with all my favorite movies, books, and tv shows. you could also look through the other profiles for the rest of the focus group (there appeared to be 18 of us),  under the “friends” tab, and as it turned out only me and one other chump actually bothered to do it. this would be one of many indicators that i was putting in way more effort than this survey deserved.

day one. unfortunately it arrived at midnight, as the testing facility was on pacific time, drastically cutting my window for when i could take care or business. i dutifully logged on during my lunch break and started to sift through the questions. the site was set up so that you couldn’t see anyone else’s answers until you had answered first. i felt compelled to earn my $50, and tried hard to be thoughtful with my replies. too bad nobody else did! two word answers at best. they almost seemed angry- like how dare this survey demand more than checking boxes or rating things one to five! and then of course the moderator had to drag additional information out of everyone for the sake of the study, which involved even more follow up questions that i felt again compelled to answer carefully.

day two. i had passed out on the couch around 2 am before finishing up the questions from day 1, so i again had to sacrifice my lunch break to wrap it all up. i barely made it onto the day two questions at all before i had to get back to work and then had a 3 hour dance class/rehearsal immediately afterward.  my exhausted ass got home around 10, at which time i found a nasty note from the moderator telling me that i needed to answer the day two questions- or else (ok, it didn’t actually say “or else”, but it was heavily implied). i logged in and started banging away, still foolishly attempting to give quality information. again, i fell asleep on the couch at 2 am. i tried getting up up early in the morning to finish, but the program had kicked me out. i assumed that i had been booted for not finishing the day 2 questions before midnight. i wrote a frantic note to the moderator.

day three. my privileges (mercifully?) reinstated, i had PROMISED the moderator that i had time in my schedule to finish both day two and day three of the survey. i lied a little, and it was also taking several hours to get through all the repetitive bullshit. “on a scale of 1-5, does this statement make you feel more or less like gouging out your own eyes? please explain using as many descriptive words as possible.” the follow up questions were in many ways worse, and began to make me wonder if the moderator was not in fact the pleasant looking office girl in the photo, but possibly a robot or someone in an outsource factory in  new delhi  or something. definitely an ESL feel with questions like “tell me more about this myspace is too sparkly?” i again collapsed on the couch around midnight, only to wake up frantically around 3, hoping that i had not again been shut out. i deliriously pounded out my last few answers and dragged my carcass up to bed. sweet release.

i really thought that $50 would be  fair compensation for 3 days of online question answering/interaction. most especially for a brand and a product that i really enjoyed using. unfortunately, my sad tale proves that not to be the case. hassle, tedium, lost sleep, anger, wasted days not posting to my blog… like godzilla attacking the city, somehow this monster ate 3 days of my life and left the city in ruins behind it. i suppose it made for a good story, but that $50 better be wrapped around a gold brick or a fruit basket or something.  it just pains me to confirm how little big companies value their consumers. our opinions are far more valuable than we are ever compensated for (hey, at least i didn’t do it for coupons!). is it time to unionize? time to daft some fair compensation for survey takers legislation? time to mobilize the masses? fuck that. it’s time to take a nap. wake me up when my $50 gets here.





minty fresh.

20 04 2010

it’s freaky sometimes how the posting stars align. this weekend i was going through an old all you, and i ripped out an article about a free budgeting website called mint.com. then of course there was yesterday’s meltdown about how out of control my spending has been lately. then this morning, i read an article on mashable about how mint.com is now offering expanded services. perhaps the universe is trying to tell me that it’s time to go for a minty test drive?

i decided to screw the research portion of the evening, and go straight to the sign up phase. oh, did i mention that it’s free? it actually felt really bad at first, entering in all my account numbers and passwords. i am aware that mint is a highly respected and secure site, but it’s still a little scary to think how much damage someone could do with all that info just hangin out in one place. but again, i decided to give the anxiety phase the finger and try to get to the good stuff. i was able to plug in both my credit cards, my bank account, and one of my two student loans (bummer that the lender for the larger of the two wasn’t available). i still haven’t sorted out importing my mortgage, but that’s more the fault of me using a small local bank (i do think it’s possible in time though).

regardless of the 2 unimportable  accounts, and the vague uneasiness about dishing out my data, everything was quite simple and smooth. it initially took a little finagling to make sure that all my checking account transactions were appropriately classified so they fell into the right categories.  although there’s a really nice function that lets you apply a classification across a group of transactions, and i found the whole setup to be super-intuitive.

now that mint knew all my secrets, what mysteries would be revealed?  well, as it turns out (as evidenced by the above pie chart), i actually spent more money on eating out this month than i did on my mortgage. those 5 pairs of shoes certainly put an unfortunate dent in there as well. even when i’m balancing my checkbook, even when i’m paying attention, i’m never quite vigilant enough to catch everything that flies through my accounts. i’ve been keeping an excel budget for YEARS that to me seemed fair and reasonable. but when mint made me set up a budget for coffee and movies and restaurants and clothes… it made me realize how insufficient and quasi-delusional my budget really is.  no wonder i was always short at the end of the month (always borrowing from the next paycheck down the line). shame!

because mint looks at all incoming deposits and expenditures and throws them automatically into budget buckets over the course of the month, i no longer need to waste time trying corral my finances into a woefully ineffective excel spreadsheet. instead, i can spend my energy monitoring my spending and trying to keep it under control.  i’m pretty positive that if i keep up with it, mint will keep me honest. it will now be entirely impossible for me to be in denial about where my money is really going. $38 on coffee- check. $235 on shoes- double check. all laid out beautifully in cheerfully colored pie charts and bar graphs.

the only feature i wasn’t particularly impressed with was the “ways to save” tab. really, it’s just a place to get online quotes for loans and credit cards and so on… i’m assuming that’s how they make their money. i know that i can get better rates on pretty much all of their offered services via local banks and credit unions, and i also know that it will be pretty easy for me to avoid that tab all together.

all in all, mint is a lot cooler than i thought it was going to be, and if you’re having a hard time getting your hands around your finances (and don’t mind giving out some personal data), it’s a must try. and no, they didn’t pay me to say that. as always, nobody pays me shit to do shit (except of course my actual employer). although also as always, i would love to whore out my opinion for cash. mint.com of all people should know at this point how much i need it.





seeking redemption.

8 03 2010

this is bound to be a kind of schizophrenic post, as i am writing it while i’m watching the oscars. at a party. slightly drunk. as a matter of fact, it’s taken me no less than 39 minutes to write this much. but that’s okay, i don’t really have a lot to say on the subject of bottle redemption.

after collecting ground change all year, you do start to notice discarded bottles as well. they’re like dirty sticky nickels that won’t fit into your pocket. there have been moments when i’ve considered going after them… but there’s already a lot of competition in town, and there’s something about throwing my hat into that ring that just seems a little unfair. i’ll stick with the boxtops for education. if i even have the balls to do that. digging through other people’s trash is a place that i’m still a little afraid to go.

but back to the bottles. the best thing about having a big party is that everybody brings beer, drinks beer, and leaves bottles behind. score. also, copious road trips, my unquenchable thirst, and general untidiness meant that the car was also packed to the gills with empty water bottles. smaller, secondary score.

we ended up taking our drippy pastic bagged bounty to the RSVP redemption center out on forest ave. this kind of classic redemption center is, as always, smelly, sticky, noisy, and horribly inconvenient.  you have to sort each  bottle by type, which means that you end up with like 10 different slips- not counting the ones for the bottles that the machine won’t take that you have to get from the cashier up front.  then you have to schlep across the way to the liquor store to  cash in your slips, which a checker has to enter in individually into the register before she gives you your $7.25.

they clynk program at hannaford’s all over maine is by far a better solution. you put your returnables into one of their special bags, drop them off at any clynk location, and they keep a running tally in your account until you’re ready to cash out. although i suppose it’s only a better solution if you don’t need cash right now,  or if you don’t mind parting with $.20 for every bag full of bottles you bring in. but it’s definitely easier, cleaner, less smelly, and a great way to keep your bottle fund growing quietly until there’s enough to make it worth withdrawing.

i’m likely to make at least a couple more bottle runs this month as we blaze through the leftover party beer, and i clean out the bottle stash at my office. but i’m going to need more than another $7.25 to make it to my $1,000 goal. unless you’re willing to spend the day scouring the streets and garbage cans for recyclable cast offs… bottle returning is definitely not the path to easy money- unless you just want to use it to buy more beer.