Category Archives: grumble

this is why you’re broke

There are a couple of forums I scroll through, usually to fill time when I’m completely bored (and, no, this is not about Chowhound).  Today I was reading a thread in which someone complained about their paychecks not being delivered on time, which resulted in their bank account being overdrawn.  Posts continued and then morphed into a Banks Are Evil theme.  Some posts were written by reasonable people who gave radical advice, such as keeping a cushion in your account or keeping accurate checkbook records so you know how much money you have or not spending money until you’ve checked that your deposits are cleared.  Crazy!  What really got me, though, was the poster who claimed that it’s hard to keep extra money in the bank when you’re always living paycheck to paycheck.  Then they added at the end that they usually do try to keep $50 as their cushion to cover their Xbox Live fees.

Dude.  If money is so tight, maybe you should consider giving up whatever is costing you $50 a month in Xbox Live fees.

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stuff I don’t get

Slowly, slowly, I learn more tips and tricks in the technological world. One that is worth passing along involves Microsoft Outlook and the auto-fill with e-mail addresses. You know how you can type in a letter in the To: field and you’ll get a list of e-mail addresses you’ve used before? And sometimes people change their e-mail address but you forget and just go with the one that pops up in the auto-fill list? Well, to delete these outdated and not-useful e-mails, just scroll down to the e-mail address in the auto-fill list and press Delete. It’s gone. Now, when you start typing in someone’s name, their current e-mail address should be the only one there! Ta da!

Now that I’ve led off with a helpful hint, I feel justified in ranting a little bit. Apparently, there is some driving conference taking place soon and people from all over will be speaking on how drivers who text or talk on the phone have killed or maimed someone they know and love. I guess it’s a tactic to try and get stricter legislation created?

Does it bother anyone else that it seems like no one in California even cares that the no-cell-phones-while-driving law was passed? Do you ever see someone getting pulled over for it? I swear, I pass at least 5 people talking on their cell phones (or looking like they’re texting) throughout my day. Me? I either use my headset or wait until I get to where I’m going (if my headset battery is dead). I’ve also recently re-connected my phone to my car’s Bluetooth system, so if you call while I’m in the car and it sounds funny, please let me know. My theory is that all these iPhone software upgrades have made the connection technology work better? I don’t even know if that’s something you can do with software.

Is it normal that I hate it when I play by the rules and it feels like no one else does? But, I just know if I tried to do something like that, I would totally get caught. It feels like people made such a fuss about the cell phone law getting passed, but the driving environment is still the same! People driving slowly in the fast lanes because they’re on their phone; people looking like they’re going to swerve into me because they’re fiddling with their phone and not looking at the road.

While I’m on my soapbox, I going to also complain about my neighbors who run their sprinklers every day even though we’re supposed to be on a drought schedule! I think they sometimes run their sprinklers twice a day! As a side note, our lawn stopped dying and seems to have adjusted to the reduced watering schedule. Although, it did get a little crunchy during that stretch of hot summer weather and the mint plant completely up and died.

End rant. I’m also trying to see if this will post using e-mail. Fingers crossed!

Chicken update: they are in their outside coop; Sadie has been sleeping under the coop all day and night; the chickens love crickets and mealworms; they will still not lay eggs for another 5 months or so; I apparently now suffer from empty-nest syndrome (empty brooder?) and am craving new chicky fluff balls (it’s sad, really).

and my response

It has been brought to my attention that this post gives the impression that I think commodity beef rocks and that there’s no real point to going organic/natural/grass-fed/pastured/etc.  Aside from the fact that I think the term “commodity beef”  is this year’s “fresh and local” catchphrase, I would like to clarify my point.  I think pastured, grass-fed beef is great and organic foods are awesome and if everyone could afford to shop and dine this way the world would be happy (or something).  I have nothing against that philosophy.  I don’t like the idea of chickens living in cramped quarters, working in little egg sweatshops or being fattened prematurely so they can be marketed earlier.  Having said that, sometimes you just can’t afford to buy a $15 chicken.  I do what I can, applaud those who can do it more often, and certainly don’t judge those who need to budget their income around Walmart Supercenter prices. 

What I was trying to say is that I think it’s lame to call a restaurant lame just because it’s using commodity beef.  Are you saying all restaurants HAVE to use the premium ingredients and if they can’t afford to then they shouldn’t even open at all?  Should Vons close down because they offer non-organic produce?  That’s what I think it lame – the attitude that’s it all or nothing.  Life isn’t all or nothing.  People who don’t want to pay the premium for premium ingredients shouldn’t be denied a good meal out because you think it’s lame.

The End.

ps to the local paper – the term is “prix fixe” and it doesn’t really translate to “pre-fixed”.  Yes, it kind of make sense in that the menu price is fixed ahead of time, but still…

overheard

they use commodity beef, which is lame

*sigh* If I had a nickel for every pretentious, unnecessary remark I come across on Chowhound, I would be able to stop working and spend all day reading cookbooks.

Does every new restaurant that opens within San Diego County have to have all organic, all natural, free-range, grass-fed something or other?  Really?  Because I don’t think they do.  I think higher prices and smaller portions can be excused (but maybe not always justified) for the higher quality ingredients, but if they make a tasty dish and can keep it at a nice price point, then who am I to complain?  If that’s what it takes for them to open up and make some sort of profit, then leave them alone.  I can’t imagine how hard it is to stay afloat in the restaurant business these days.  Any days.  And, if they manage to celebrate an anniversary, maybe then you can start thinking about nudging them towards fancy ingredients.

Geez.  Lighten up, Chowhound.

because I can

I have to admit that there is often valuable information on Chowhound. Reviews of new places that haven’t triggered a visit, reviews of new places that put them towards the bottom of our must-visit list, recommendations for cities we’ll see on vacation, and sometimes ideas for new recipes (in Home Cooking). If you read enough posts, you get an idea of whose posts are worth ignoring and which posters actually offer constructive advice and criticism. There are posters who rave on and on about a food spot, to a point where you wonder if they have financial ties to these places or if they just can’t bring themselves to give negative feedback. On the other hand, you have posters who have nothing but spite for San Diego dining, nothing is ever good enough, and they are never satisfied, to the point where you wonder if they’re only dining out so they have something to complain about.

The argument has been had, quite often on Chowhound, that while San Diego is not a San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles, we certainly have our fair share of good restaurants.

It should be noted that it is impossible to call someone out on Chowhound, because you will just end up in some never-ending argument, everyone starts to take sides, and then moderators will delete the whole thing due to being off-topic.

Which is why people have blogs.

So, to “h*nkman”, I say that you must be some grumpy old man who has so much money that you enjoy spending it on food that is clearly not worthy of your praise. I also think your taste buds are completely backwards because you are one of the few that had nothing but the highest praise for The Better Half, a restaurant I visited and found quite lacking, in quantity, quality, and just general taste. Even after other people confirmed my experience, you just all out defended the place. I’m not about to get into an online argument with you over your criticism of Luc’s Bistro, but if you were so unhappy with your meal (bland? Their food may be many things, but it is never bland) I’d rather you didn’t go back for a revisit. I’d rather you just drive around San Diego with our terrible service and undeserving food and be happy with your odd tastes that enjoy bland mushy fish with a side of overcooked noodles coated in bottled chili sauce.

I will be honest and say that I may have a slight bias towards Luc’s. They are new, the owners are friendly and we’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, and I want them to succeed. They have good food and decent prices and they are unique to Poway. We’ve gone there often enough, and from the start, that they recognize us when we walk in (and sometimes tell us when our friends have recently visited, too) and I really like that. But, if I didn’t enjoy the food, if the service was always terrible, or if anything else caused us to have a poor dining experience, you can bet that we wouldn’t be there. I’ve been to The Better Half once and only once and never had a desire to return. When La Fontana was still around, we went once and only once. I dined at The Brig, only to please T’s curiosity, and we have not returned since.

We also have fairly simply tastes. While I like fancy restaurants and pretty presentation, I’m also just as happy with a grilled sausage at home. We’ll splurge on a meal on vacation, at the famous restaurant in the city, and sometimes it feels worth it. Sometimes it just feels like we spent a lot of money on regular food. One day, we’ll pile our money together at dine at El Bizcocho, but I’m not in such a hurry to do so. Not when we can fill our bellies with good food and be happy for much less money.

There are many places around San Diego that we enjoy. The truth is that we just don’t get out to all of them as often as we’d like. For starters, we live in Poway and it takes effort to drive all the way down to North Park or Starlite or sometimes even Convoy. It’s easier if we leave from our offices, but that takes advanced planning and most of our dining out occurs on weekends. After work, we kind of just want to head home and stay there. If Luc’s was anywhere but Poway, as good as it is, the truth is we probably wouldn’t go as often. So, part of its charm is that it’s so close to home and it’s so convenient for us. Which is probably another reason I’d really like to see them stay. I’ve eaten at the restaurants that preceded them and they are, by far, the best to occupy that space.

So, pooh on you, grumpy Chowhound posters.  You may think you know what you’re talking about, but I don’t think you’re rightly justified in walking around my town with your nose up in the air being all condescending and harsh.

same ol’, same ol’

I went to the orthodontist this week for the first time in, oh, a long time. I had braces as a kid, then had a removable retainer for my top teeth and a permanent one for my bottom teeth. I think by the time I got to college I had started not wearing the removable one very much. The permanent one was, well, permanently in there. I probably hadn’t been to the orthodontist for two reasons. One, I wasn’t having any problems so I didn’t feel an urgent need to add yet another appointment to my life and two, my dental insurance didn’t really cover orthodontic procedures. Or even visits, I’m guessing. So, since my teeth seemed to be fine and not becoming crooked and since the permanent retainer remained permanent and didn’t get loose or anything, I just kind of let it all go. None of my dentists ever strongly urged me to get a check up (although, sometimes they would ask if I had been seeing an orthodontist and I probably lied and said I was) until recently when my new dentist (at the dental practice that makes me wait an hour every single time I have an appointment) gave me some sort of guilt trip about still having a permanent retainer. Like she was appalled at the medieval dental device in my mouth and that caused her to chastise me and tell me that there was new technology that could be used. Never mind the fact that she talked to me like I was 12. Then, this lady comes in and tells me I can visit their orthodontic practice for a consult and just see what they recommend, at no charge. Since I’m tired of all this fuss anyway, I agree but am already thinking that it’s going to cost way more money than I’m willing to spend on something that is working just fine.

To make a long story short, getting a retainer removed and being fit for a lower removable one is not nearly as expensive as I thought. Plus, just the fact that I have dental insurance at all brings the cost down, even if insurance doesn’t cover any of it. They removed the permanent brackets and wire (and the assistant commented that it was really well-done and fitted perfectly and there was no decay on my teeth) and now my teeth feel eerily non-bracketed while I’m waiting for the retainer to be made. One more visit for a fitting (and a fitting check of the upper one) and I’m done with that entire office. Which is kind of a shame, because the orthodontist is really nice, but even there I was left waiting for 40 minutes.

So, I’m looking for a new dentist. One that doesn’t make me wait 30 minutes after my appointment time and one that doesn’t talk to me like I should have a parent or guardian present. I really miss my old dentist who sold his practice.

Our friends have moved into their new-old house. I’m a little jealous that they get to decorate with a blank slate (and before fully unpacking) because once your home is furnished and lived in it gets a little harder to paint the walls and such. But it makes me want to freshen up my house, so I’m trying to convince T to completely redo the master bathroom. Nothing like knocking down walls or anything, just ripping out the built in cabinets, the sink, the flooring, and the toilet and putting new stuff in. Maybe rewiring a couple of switches. I think if we can pull that off ourselves, he might be more willing to tackle the kitchen. I already have it all laid out and priced according to the Ikea cabinet catalog. I think it’ll take about $1,000 for the bathroom, which sounds like a lot (when you consider how small the bathroom is), but I think it’ll be worth it. The kitchen will be quite a bit more, so it may make sense to wait on that, anyway.

I also made cabbage rolls this week, mainly because I had three heads of cabbage sitting the fridge. They came out pretty good, considering I just threw things together and then mixed it up. One pound ground turkey, an egg, some cooked brown rice, a handful of pinenuts, another handful of dried cranberries, and then it all got rolled up in parboiled cabbage leaves. Into the crockpot, topped with a couple of boxes of Trader Joe’s starter sauce, and dinner was ready by the time I got home! That’s how I’ve been cooking lately – no recipes and hoping for the best.

I hate Splenda

There.  I’ve said it.  I hate Splenda.  Yes, I know everyone thinks Splenda is practically the same as sugar and tastes the same as sugar, but it’s not and it doesn’t.  Splenda (the brand name) is sucralose, which is a chlorinated sucrose product.  It is not natural and it most definitely has a funny taste to it.  Now, stevia is natural and is a completely different story, but I still don’t like it.

I’m not sure how it happened, but Splenda appeared and all of a sudden the little yellow packets were a godsend.  People started dumping it into iced tea and baking with it and then Splenda came out with a baking blend of Splenda and brown sugar and the food world went insane.  I think Splenda seemed more natural because the tagline used to be “Tastes like sugar because it’s made from sugar” AND the proportions were more equal to sugar.  Where a pinch of NutraSweet was the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar (or something), a teaspoon of Splenda was the same as a teaspoon of sugar.  Want to know why?  Because the Splenda people added water-soluble fillers to their product.  Ta da!

Now, I’ll admit, I jumped on the bandwagon for a while.  I think it was when I had the brilliant idea to go on the South Beach diet.  So, I put Splenda in my coffee.  And I drank it, because Splenda was allowed where sugar wasn’t.  And when I gave up on the South Beach diet (because it’s a little bit crazy, although the concept in general makes sense, and because I’m lousy at diets in general), I went back to sugar and decided Splenda tastes funny.  It tastes like chemicals.  Because it’s a chemically altered product. 

There are dozens of sugar-free, diet-friendly, blah blah blah recipes out there that call for Splenda.  These recipes also tell you that people won’t know the difference because Splenda tastes like sugar.  It’s all a lie, unless you’re one of those people who exclusively uses artificial sweeteners.  In that case, you definitely won’t be able to tell any difference with Splenda-sweetened products.  You’re just used to it.

A friend of ours found out she has gestational diabetes, and one of her friends (totally not me) said she would gladly bake her desserts made with Splenda so she could satisfy her sweet tooth.  My first thought after hearing that was, really?  Feeding your body desserts made with artificial sweetener is better than fruits or honey-sweetened treats?  I mean, I know nothing about being pregnant, but I would rather forgo soda altogether than ingest the diet versions.  No one would dream of baking with Equal or NutraSweet because those have the stigma of being made of chemicals and are artificial.  I’m betting that most people don’t realize Splenda isn’t all that different.  Different chemicals, yes, but it’s not any more natural.

So, then I started wondering if there is such a thing as a healthy sugar.  I know there’s honey and maple syrup, but are they better than sugar?  Less refined?  I also remember an old co-worker praising agave syrup in her raw food desserts.  Like chocolate “pudding” made with avocados, agave syrup, and cocoa powder. 

I found agave syrup at Trader Joe’s one day.  I picked it up, not knowing much about it other than the fact that it’s used in a lot of raw food recipes (being processed at a temperature below 118F), which makes it sound healthy, and it’s derived from a plant (I guess kind of like stevia?)  It tastes like a sweet syrup, but without the underlying flavors in honey or maple syrup, which makes it nice and neutral.  It’s supposed to be good for diabetics due to its low glycemic index.  I’ve been using it in my coffee instead of sugar and I can’t really taste the difference.  I’ve also used it in place of sugar for poached pears and a fruit tart.  Aside from the fruit tart getting more liquidy than usual, it all tasted fine.  Sweet and fine and not chemically altered.

Now, I am by no means an expert on artificial sweeteners.  The things I know are from the internet, and we all know how reliable the internet can be.  But I’ve always been suspicious of Splenda, because my tongue was telling me that it didn’t taste like sugar, so reading what I’ve found makes sense.  I also suspect people have embraced Splenda because it has no calories, unlike honey and agave syrup.  If you’re dieting, “0 calories” probably means more to you than “natural sweeter”.  By all means, go for it!  Embrace the artificial sweetener in the neutral yellow packets.  Just stop trying to tell me it’s natural and tastes just like sugar. 

In the end, I just really wanted to rant a little.  To vent.  I’m not judging you for enjoying your Splenda.  Unless you’re looking at it as a health food instead of a diet aid.  In that case, I probably am judging you a tiny bit.  But only in my head.