Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now this is scary

Here it is, a mere ten days before Thanksgiving and I'm doing a post about Halloween. That means I'll get around to writing about Thanksgiving sometime around Christmas Eve, and then my Christmas post will go up sometime in June, 2010. Luckily you all come here for my excellent stock market tips and not for my punctuality.

As you know, I hate Halloween. I announced it on Facebook, Twittered it and yelled it at passing cars and then it found a way to come back and punish me for my curmudgeonly ways. Not only did I have to spend an eternity (and around five paychecks) getting all the pieces together for Kira's Fran Drescher costume (Kiyomi's was easy, an off-the-shelf McDonald's cup - score!), I somehow found myself hosting a Halloween party for the girls and their friends. It was torture, I tell you, kind of like a vegetarian having to host a steak cook-off or an atheist having to help throw a Christmas party. Oh wait - Rigel does that for me every year! No wonder he's so cranky around the holidays.

As usual, everything was saved for the very last minute. Those pumpkins up there were all carved the afternoon of the 31st and I was buying candy and party food at around 4pm. That meant only the really expensive candy was left - I really hate paying $65 for a bag of mini Prada chocolates. Also, that kind of frenzy leads to impulse buys, which is the reason I came home with goodie bags shaped like skulls, packs of tissue printed with candy corn, small bottles of bubbles with Frankenstein on them and cupcakes decorated with eyeballs. Here, in case you don't believe me:

Take a look at the food spread - I think I did pretty good for someone who hates Halloween. This photo was taken about an hour into the party, after four of the six pizzas we ordered were gone. Shocking, but those teenagers didn't like the strips of red pepper and sliced cucumbers I labored over! Those cupcakes were baked by Kira's friend, Sarah - after she brought hers over I was too embarrassed to put out my store-bought monstrosities with the eyeballs.

Just because I'm such a stick-in-the-mud, though, doesn't mean the rest of the family is. Here's some decorations that Rigel and the girls put up. Also note the 'Spells' table that Kiyomi worked so hard on - those are bottles of 'Invigoration Draught' and 'Love Potion.' In case you're wondering, that skull belonged to a kid from last Halloween who took TWO Laffy Taffies instead of ONE like I told him to.

Okay, I hate to admit - I actually had fun, and if it weren't for the exhausting costume prep I would probably have a much more cheery view of Halloween. So I told the girls that next year they have to come up with something that requires absolutely no buying, or ordering, or alterations, or hovering over wig displays. In other words, they'll be going as the half-Asian, teen and tween daughters of a mom who used to hate Halloween. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Geek Alert: My Five Favorite Gadgets

Disclaimer: Just to be upfront and abide by FTC guidelines for bloggers and all the free merchandise we're hoarding, I want to state that none of the products mentioned below were gifts, but were purchased by either me or Rigel with money originally earmarked for our children's college fund. Well, in the interest of full disclosure I should divulge that I bought the alarm clock with a few dollars I 'borrowed' from Kiyomi's piggy bank, because when you think about it how much cash does an 11-year-old need to keep on hand? Also, none of the companies mentioned have contacted me or exerted any influence over the content of this post, although if Apple wants to send me a new laptop I would gladly give the iPhone a couple more paragraphs, or tattoo their logo on my neck or rename my kids iPod and Mac.

1) iPhone - Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think they'd invent something that could make phone calls, retrieve my email, help me find my way around Disneyland and pick out a restaurant for lunch. Now Rigel is free to do other things, like help me look for my keys.

My favorites apps are Shazam, Tweetie, Flashlight, Recorder and Facebook. Like most iPhone users, I like to bore everyone to tears by showing them all the great features on my phone. Trust me - nothing brings a dinner party to a screeching halt like whipping out your iPhone and telling everyone you're going to use it to guess everyone's weight.

2) Garmin GPS - I never leave home without this. I've been known to get lost backing out of my driveway, so having a little box on my dashboard telling me to, "Exit right, then turn left," in a British accent is a dream come true. Actually, the dream come true would be if I was sitting in the back seat and someone with a British accent was driving me around, but that was an extra $49.95 a month.

But my favorite part about Garmin is how I can punch in 'STARBUCKS' and it leads me straight to my double-tall-nonfat-semi-dry-cappuccino. Before, Rigel and I would pull off the freeway in some unfamiliar town and then spend hours searching everywhere for our caffeine fix. Now when we go on road trips, instead of looking for coffee we can spend our time bickering like most normal couples do.

3) Canon Rebel - This is the first digital SLR I've owned, and not only does it take great pictures it makes me look like I know what I'm doing when I'm clicking that shutter. You may have even mistaken me for a real journalist at events, pushing my way to the front of the crowd yelling things like, "Media!" and "Over here, Octomom!" I really hate it when some know-it-all gets off by pointing out that I still have my lens cap on, though.

But with so many dials and buttons it's definitely trickier to use than my old point n' shoot. Someone suggested to me the other day that I should read the manual, and I was about to give them a piece of my mind but then they told me they were just joking.

4) Keurig Single-Cup Coffee Maker - I have to admit that part of my motivation for buying this was that it was one of the only coffee-making devices I didn't already own. With a drip coffee maker, an espresso machine, a French press and a couple of stove-top espresso pots to my name I guess I unwittingly became one of those crazy collecting people! Next thing you know I'll be wearing a big sweatshirt with 'I ♥ Java' appliqued on it and getting together with other coffee-maker-collectors over at the rec center on Friday nights.

We've stopped buying the individual pods, though, in favor of filling up the optional filter basket with coffee - not only were the pods expensive, but the thought of several landfills being overrun with millions of small, plastic cups with our names on it gave us pause. Now I can sleep at night knowing that my carbon footprint will consist of only several hundred thousand metric tons of used coffee grounds.

5) $6 Target Alarm Clock - I don't have an alarm clock so this unassuming appliance actually sits on Rigel's nightstand, but it's truly the most vital device in our home. Without it, no one would ever get anywhere on time because we all depend on Rigel to wake us all up in the morning, and it's this trusty alarm clock that wakes him up. Sure we could all stop being so lazy, get our own alarm clocks and get ourselves out of bed, but what fun would there be in that?

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