LOST Revelations! aka, Daniel Faraday Blows Our Collective Mind...

Wow. Can we just say... wow. No summarizing here, straight to the good stuff:

Questions answered:
Daniel was indeed off the island but still working for the Dharma-ites. And unexpectedly, he doesn't seem to be on the same "side" as his mother is in the past, telling Jack that she was mistaken to send them back.

Daniel's mother is still on the island in the 70s... amazing! I still don't understand how that works out time-wise, because it seems like Daniel is the same age as Miles or even a little older... but apparently not.

Widmore was responsible for the fake plane crash at the bottom of the sea after all, not Ben as people had started to hypothesize. I think it's clear that Ben has been somewhat delegated to a lesser role from here on out...

Daniel now believes that it is possible to change the past. Interestingly, at least what we saw of his speech to young Charlotte isn't the same thing she repeated to him 30 years later in the midst of the flashes ("You told me never to come back... that I would die if I came back") making me think that perhaps the future is indeed altering by degrees already. (!!)

YES! Daniel is Widmore's son! CRAZY! It makes perfect sense in so many ways, but at the same time I wasn't expecting it. Maybe I was just slow on that one, because I think people had definitely theorized that that might be the case and I just didn't believe them.

New Questions:
HOLY CRAP, is Daniel dead?? My vote: NO. Wishful thinking, yes, but also I think there will be less drive to the next couple of episodes if he is. So, no dead Daniel please. And in fact, this is a great chance for the Others to put the temple to good use, and give us some more information there... However, if that happens, will Daniel undergo the strange and apparently repulsive spiritual/emotional "change" that Ben did? Or is Daniel's "innocence" already gone, from what he has experienced and what he accidentally inflicted upon his research assistant girlfriend?

I don't believe Eloise-in-the-presnt knew she shot Daniel. She tells Widmore that, having sent Jack, Kate, et al, back in time, she doesn't know what will happen now. Dan hops a sub back to the island from Ann Arbor *because* she sent them back in time and he saw the photo, and the whole hydrogen bomb we-can-change-the-past thing goes from there. I don't think that the Eloise in the present knows that she shot him in the past. So, is the present shifting for Eloise even as we watch? As she drives away in the taxi, and simultaneously in Daniel's present he's being shot, is she suddenly aware of it as a memory? I'm thinking of Desmond encountering Daniel in the past, and waking up suddenly remembering it... Same thing, or no?

How on earth are our Dharma Losties going to get out of the custody of Crazy Paranoid Dude With a Gun?? Man oh man, somebody please take that thing away from him. If Juliet ends up dead, I'm seriously going to picket the ABC headquarters in protest.

Other "AHA!" Moments, and this and that:
Elaine Hawking is apparently hugely manipulative, and orchestrating much more than we had ever realized.

I still am surprised every time Jin opens his mouth and perfect English comes out. Poor guy -- all this and still inexplicably separated from Sun.

Daniel was certifiably damaged by his research before coming to the island, and it healed him. Whoaaa...

Juliet is willing to fight for her man, haha! It was pretty funny to see her reaction when Sawyer asked "Freckles" to stay with them. Less funny was their later exchange about whether she still has his back and vise versa. His pause after she asked him the question seemed a little ominous... or was it just that their conversation got cut off by the alarm, and their following apprehension by the Dharma-ites? I couldn't tell.

I loved the gun fight in Dharma-ville... way to shake things up, huh??

Favorite quotes:
Hugo: "After all we did to get back here, now we're just going to run off again? Seems kind of wishy-washy."

Daniel, when handed a gun: "Um, do you have something for a beginner?"

Final observations:
The overarching theme of this episode was free will versus determinism -- pitting destiny against individual choice. And, interestingly, Daniel asserts that free will is the "variable" in even the most concrete equations; it even opens the possibility of changing the past. This isn't what the show was asserting before, but I think it's a necessary twist. First off, the Dharma Losties weren't there in the 70s the first time around, so things are already different from that. It is also their present now, so of course they aren't bound by the rules of "oh this already happened," because it hasn't. To use a garden metaphor, they've been transplanted there, and can grow in any direction they please. It was also a necessary twist because of how static it was making the show -- if the characters were just living out pre-determined paths, there is no space for suspense or real development.

And thank GOD this would seem to make that whole "huge loop" theory moot. If their goal is to change the future, then there's no way we're going to end up back where we started from. Umm... right?

Anything I missed, or things I'm misinterpreting? There was sooo much going on in this episode that I'm absolutely sure there is... fill me in and set me straight please! ;P

Fabulous Freebies: Monday MP3 Madness! Indigo Girls, Flight of the Conchords, Death Cab for Cutie, Cloud Cult, and many more!

Monday Free MP3 Madness!! (Oh yes, I love alliteration. I'm pretty sure its actually some kind of requirement for bloggers...) If the soundtrack of your life needs a little freshening up, you've come to the right place! Check out these great options for finding a new sound... free and legally!

First off, a download that requires very little explaining - join their mailing list to get this new MP3 from the Indigo Girls. (Thanks Muruch!)

For a great selection of under-the-radar and up-and-coming artists all on one page, be sure to browse through the current Fingertips Top 10. Another can't-miss favorite of mine from this site is the track, "When Water Comes to Life," by Cloud Cult. Seriously, if you're going to give any of these a listen, make this one it! The group may be somewhat obscure, but this symphonic version of indie pop is pretty much "amazing" to the nth degree. Forget piano rock... let's use the whole orchestra! If you're familiar with Polyphonic Spree, you know the type of sound I'm talking about here - gorgeous and lush, and lively at the same time.

The indie chick in me is also really pleased about this huge variety of free music currently available on Amazon... Flight of the Conchords, Okkervil River, Neko Case, Jolie Holland, Death Cab for Cutie, oh my! "Bonanza" is a pretty good word for what's going on here!

Then for something a little more ethereal, with a touch of the ballad, look here for another Amazon download -- this one the song Lille by Lisa Hannigan. Beautiful!

Lastly, keep in mind that eMusic has an amazing selection of music for really affordable prices -- usually much better than amazon or iTunes. Currently, you can get 45 extra free downloads if you become a subscriber, and 25 free tracks just for signing up for the trial with no strings attached. They consistently offer a ton of free sample MP3s as well. I've been an emusic member for a couple of years now, and the only problem I've ever had is that I blow through my monthly quota of downloads too quickly. ;P Check it out, and download that new summertime barbecue or energetic jogging playlist you've been needing...

For more detailed ideas about free-and-legal sources of music, check out my other post Top 5: Free-and-Legal Music by the Mile (...bushel? ...gallon? ipod??)


Friday Frivolity! Music Gossip Edition: Susan Boyle, Kelly Clarkson, and so on...

We all know that by the time we get to Friday, we're limping through the day and aching for the weekend... so I've been thinking that each Friday I'm going to start posting a jumbling of things that are a little random, a little crazy, and a lot fun. Just to... you know... boost us to the weekend.

To start things off with a bang, I'm going to point you to the Daily Mishmash for an impressive collection of ways people have gotten sweet revenge on cheating significant others... a situation that hopefully none of us will ever have to deal with, but will still provide an evil chuckle and a "you go girl!"* from the sidelines. Think Carrie Underwood here...

Speaking of Carrie Underwood, for a while I had her confused as the vocalist in Kelly Clarkson's new song, "My Life Would Suck Without You." As the lyrics themselves acknowledge, that song is about one of the most dysfunctional relationships ever, and I couldn't figure out how on earth Carrie Underwood went from being all angry, strong, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar in "Before He Cheats" to the awful, "so glad you're back, go ahead and treat me like trash" attitude in the other. The contrast between "I wouldn't take you back even if you apologized" and "please come back, you don't even have to apologize!" rankled me a lot, and I wondered just what *had* Carrie Underwood been going through lately that robbed her of self-respect to the degree that she was willing to sing that song? But then I realized my mistake, and was relieved to know that I didn't have to despise poor Carrie after all. It's still a step down for Kelly, but since she's already admitted to being kind of an emotional wreck in "Behind These Hazel Eyes" I guess I'll have to excuse her. And suggest a good therapist. Seriously, Kelly, girlfriend, I think seeing one just might do you wonders...

Speaking of singing... everybody has heard about Susan Boyle, yes? And listened to her sing, and probably teared up a little? And then heard about the people insisting that it's a set-up rigged by Simon Cowell to garner ratings?? I don't like the scandal-mongering on this one; she has an amazing voice, and has had it for years lol. Why would anyone be surprised that she's tried to get noticed before, and even was included on a small-scale CD? Everyone who's ever been on American Idol, or Britain's Got Talent, has exactly the same goals: fame, and fortune, and dreams-come-true. There's no secret there. And I think that the people who are insisting that she couldn't have the insight to choose such an emotionally evocative song on her own are horribly patronizing. Why shouldn't she be aware of how to use pathos to her advantage? Lastly, I wish that they would stop crying foul at every hint that she might do a typical Hollywood makeover. Again, give the woman some credit, she will be the same person whether she decides to start wearing lipstick or not.

My verdicts: Carrie, don't lose your spunk. Kelly, please get a therapist... And Susan, more power to you!! ;P

*or guy, as the situation might be.

Pass it ON... Want to play??

Could your mailbox use a little fun, courtesy of moi? Several weeks ago Michelle over at Psalm 102:42 very sweetly included me in a "Pass It On" and sent me a bundle of surprise goodies. Now it's my turn to do the same for some of y'all!

In the next week or so I will be mailing my own little stockpile of fun surprises, so let me know if you would like to be one of the three fortunate recipients. :) I'm broadening up the game just a little, so when it's your turn to "pass it on" in return, you can choose pretty much any deliberate act of kindness for three other people. You can certainly choose to mail packets of surprises like we're doing, but you could also choose to bake cookies for neighbors, make dinner for a harried new mom, send a card to a friend you've lost touch with, mail a note to a member of your church letting them know you've been praying for them -- anything really, as long as it is chosen deliberately as a way to brighten up someone's day. Ideally, it would be somebody who wouldn't normally expect it at all, or especially could use a little lift.

I'll be aiming to mail my packages next Monday, so email me or comment to let me know if you want to participate! :)

Free Original Clipart at Designed to a T

"Helping" Naughty Cats Behave with Natural Pet Deterrants... Works for Me!

About five years ago, while I was still living with my parents as I attended college nearby, I received a very pretty pink Gerber Daisy as a gift. At that time I was pretty much naming everything in sight -- a phenomenon that continues to a lesser degree even today -- so I slapped it with the appellation "Ophelia." I liked the sound of the name, and the drama of it, but since I had named my car "Amelia" some months earlier, I also just liked the continuity between the two. Later I went on to name my computer Cordelia, so I'm sure you get the idea.

Unfortunately, what didn't occur to me at the time was that naming any living thing after a heroine who suffered such a tragic and untimely demise could be nothing but a horrible jinx...

And indeed, shortly after that Ophelia died a shredded death at the teeth and paws of my family's cat, Hazel.

I was crushed... my first plant, gone forever! And at due to the unexpected malice of my favorite pet too! It was difficult to bear. Some months later, I received a second daisy as an Easter gift and promptly named it Ophelia the Second -- determined to redeem my previous errors by ensuring that this green and blooming Ophelia would live a long and healthy life. Unlike her predecessor, needless to say. For a while I succeeding in this by locking Hazel out of my room whenever I wasn't around to keep an eye on her, but each cat has a reputation for cunning to live up to and somehow she eventually managed to thwart my efforts. Ophelia the Second was badly mauled, but her will to live was strong. My dad, a true gardener with the hands of a healer, managed to gradually revive her with his careful ministrations. He returned her to my care, and I set about brainstorming as to how to prevent this horrible occurrence from ever repeating itself. Seized by inspiration, I plopped the plant in the bathtub, spritzed her liberally with water, and shook pepper all over her leaves. Later, when Hazel snuck in for a bit of a munch, she received quite a spicy surprise... and in that moment Ophelia's safety was secured.

More recently, I tried this idea again a few weeks ago as a preventative measure after adopting my two young kitties Firefly and River, and again it has worked marvelously as a cat repellent. Only one of my plants shows signs of slight nibbling, and that initial attempt does not seem to have been repeated. I did a little research the other day looking for additional methods to keep the cats away from a certain corner of carpet that was suffering from their attentions, and though I discovered that my youthful "inspiration" wasn't quite as original as I had thought, I can still testify to its efficacy! Pepper on plants definitely works for me to keep nibbling cats away! Here are the details, along with the other best ways I've discovered to keep naughty kitties out of trouble.

1. Peppering plants. Here's the gist -- if your poor plants are being used as a snack alternative by your pets, put a stop to it either with Young Sarah's water-and-pepper method, or with the internet's method of "painting" pepper sauce onto the leaves. I guess it depends on which condiment you're most willing to waste... Another food-related rescue I found was to leave citrus peels scattered at the base of the plant; apparently cats aren't big on oranges and lemons and will skip a planned "salad" all together if their unwelcome fruity presence is discovered...

2. Aluminum foil. This easy homemade cat deterrent was the solution I discovered for the problem of a certain corner of carpet getting damaged... it was reported that cats find the sensation of aluminum foil against their paws particularly odious. I wasn't so confident in this one when I read about it, as it seemed a little random to me, but it actually has helped immensely! You can't just lay the foil down over the surface though, because if the cats can get under it or drag it away they will... apparently that much doesn't bother their paws at all. In fact, the first time I gave this a go the foil ended up dragged into the other room and crunched up in a corner before morning came. But when I took the time to tape down the edges and overlap several rows of foil over the vulnerable space, it worked much better. The cats noticeably avoid walking over it, and we have had no further issues with the threatened damage of the carpet. Naturally, this is only a temporary fix; I can't leave my carpet silver-coated forever. But for halting the immanent destruction of the rug, this tip is invaluable. I'll have to report back on whether it seems to have actually broken the bad habit once the deterrent itself is taken away again and I have a chance to observe the cats' behavior.

3. Burn incense. I might be totally making this one up... but you know how smoke calms bees? The last few days, I'd swear that my cats settle down perceptibly when I burn incense. Or maybe the incense just makes me more relaxed, and then I don't really notice that they're playing tag across my bed at 11:30 at night... but regardless, this is a subtle behavior-moderator that I will be employing regularly until I come to more definite conclusions on the subject. I mean.. sometimes there's nothing wrong with the placebo effect.

4. Squirt guns or spray bottles. Even today my parents use this one to discipline Hazel when she starts being cantankerous and biting people's ankles... particularly my mom's ankles. Hazel can be a dreadful bully. In any case, a little surprise of a watery variety can be incredibly effective on some cats. Obviously, the weak point for this one is that the owner has to be present to make it useful, and must be consistent in the discipline or the cat will just assume that the person is very arbitrary, and/or fond of shooting things. I haven't tried this one on my cats, mostly because River likes water. She was being naughty the other day and my boyfriend flicked some water her way... and she just stood there and looked at him inquisitively. She regularly climbs into the shower as soon as the occupant has vacated it, and no doubt would do the same with the toilet if I wasn't so vigilant in my quest to make sure that doesn't happen... So yeah, not so sure how well this one will work for me, but I'm open to trying it.

5. Commercial deterrents. If these natural deterrents just aren't working for you, there are plenty of other options to try... A few days ago while browsing the pet store I found a whole array of intriguing products, from double-sided sticky plastic to put on the surface you want the cats to avoid (that one confuses me, because the cat's owner must also be willing to avoid the surface, right?), to a fairly wide variety of repellent sprays. From what I've read online, the bitter or citrus-y sprays have the best effect. I'll be trying that next if the carpet continues to be an issue, but since they range in price from $8-12 and need to be reapplied daily for maximum effect, I'll be keeping them as a last resort.

So far my quest to ensure that my plants and pets live in happy harmony has been largely successful... and my apartment has even emerged fairly unscathed as well! But on the days when things aren't quite so smooth I refer back to these top 5 "behavioral aids" for cats... and maybe it can come in handy for other animal lovers out there too. :) Please let me know too any other methods that have worked for you... I love my cats already, but geez they can be a handful.

Each Wednesday be sure to check out the Works For Me linkie at We are THAT Family for a fun smorgasbord of tips and ideas!

Fabulous Freebies: Stock Up the Medicine Cabinet!

We're almost through the worst of cold season, but people in my office keep popping up with Spring sniffles, so make sure your immune system is well-fortified with this sample of Airbourne... They may have lost that group-settlement, but my boyfriend still swears by them.

(If you don't like that one, you can always try Emergen-C instead...)

Each day at noon (eastern time) until May 16th, Gillette will be giving away 500 free Fusion razors. Sweet huh? I should say though, that the couple times I've tried for this one the site has been so swamped that its frozen up entirely from about 11:55-12:20. I wish you luck and send you off with my blessing.

And with a little less hassle, Schick is also currently offering a (competing?) sample of their new Quatro Titanium razor...

Further stock your bathroom cabinet with Dove Ultimate Go Fresh deodorant, and find samples of Aveeno hair products, Nivea bodywash, Prilosec OTC, Always Infinity, and Huggies Pure & Natural Diapers here.

Lastly, a lot of the samples I posted about a few weeks ago are still available (Caress bodywash,
Dove shampoo, etc) so you can still grab any you might have missed then!

Have fun! And don't forget to tell your mailbox that the party is on me. ;P

Blog Carnivals... The Best of the Best!

My current excitement is perhaps out of proportion... (because I'm hugely excited... haha!) but several of my posts have been included in blog carnivals this week!

You can find my post Free Music by the Mile.. (gallon? bushel? ipod?) included in the Festival of Frugality: I May Be Living in Incredibly Pain, but at Least I'm Living Frugal Edition hosted this week at My Life Roi...

You can also find it at The Carnival of Pecuniary Delights 3: Money Box Edition, hosted this week by Miss Thrifty.

And lastly, you can find my post Generating Shock-and-Awe Shopping Savings at the Carnival of Twenty-Something Finances: Baseball by the Numbers Edition hosted over at Stretchy Dollar.

Each of these collect some amazing tips and ideas for frugality and living a simple (but full!) life... You can find posts spanning everything from investing, to organic coupons, to DIY projects. Definitely go check them out if you haven't already!

Rapid Kitchen Evolution & Money-Saving Techniques for the Uncertain Cook

"Cook at home, cook at home!" We constantly hear that one of the key methods of saving money is to whittle down expenditures in the food/restaurants/groceries department. However, that's easier said then done for many people... in fact, the non-cooker or recent college graduate might certainly comprehend that she would save money by eating in more often, but if she's standing in front of a refrigerator that contains only yogurt, beer, french onion dip, a carton of milk, and eggs that under happier circumstances would likely be hens by now, the situation is indeed dire -- with a high likelihood of producing a few cries of "woe is me!" and then a quick run to Wendy's instead of any actual options for a home-cooked meal. Even under a slightly better-case scenario, where the refrigerator might contain an actual onion instead of the onion dip, and a few oranges or a bag of slightly wilted spinach too, the frustration would probably be largely the same. A person can only eat so many spinach-and-onion omelets before breaking down and going out for a three-course meal...

In any case, grocery bills can add-up horrendously, especially during that space of time when a person takes his or her own nutritional welfare firmly in hand for the very first time and decides to make a go of "that cooking thing." In fact, this one pretty much comes down to being one of those ironic situations where you must spend money in order to save money. So! To begin. Students of frugal living, please ready your pencils.

No matter where you are in your kitchen-skills evolution, the first thing you will need to do is to make yourself a meal-guide overview for the upcoming week or two. Start slow in easing away from the more expensive/unhealthy habits you might have, making choices according to your priorities. For example, if every day you're unhappily handing over money at a food court for lunch, resolve to bring it from home the next Monday and Tuesday (starting out strong early in the week, before you can lose your enthusiasm...) and decide what will be easiest to prepare and transport without boring yourself to death with a PBandJ. Or, if you went to great lengths to avoid admitting to your coworkers at the Christmas party that your idea of cooking is EasyMac, then maybe you will choose to focus on finding some healthier options in the frozen meals / pre -prepared food category, while tentatively experimenting with cooking a few simple meals a week. A word of encouragement: "Recipe" is just another word for "directions" -- I promise! You obviously can read, as evidenced by your presence on this blog, so the most difficult part is already mastered...  ;)

Or perhaps you are slightly further along in your kitchen development.. If you already do a bit of cooking and sometimes remember bring your lunch from home, but generally find your kitchen shelves naked and depressing, and yourself aimless and uninspired when dealing with them, then the next step is to go online and click around some recipe sites. Your goal is to make a Master List of Ingredients for four or five recipes in particular... Preferably ones that overlap, at least when it comes to the perishable ingredients that might otherwise spoil forgotten in the back of your refrigerator. Begin by purchasing the ingredients for just one of the recipes, and then proceed with strategic grocery shopping to gradually build up a pantry of things that will actually be helpful to have on hand.

Once you have figured out your priorities for the week and have done any necessary recipe-research, create the meal-plan that will support your efforts. Don't view it as a strict guide, or as a taskmaster, but simply a tool to keep you aware of what food is readily available to you... hopefully helping to avoid both waste and the desperation-fueled purchase of Double-Stack Cheeseburgers at nine o'clock at night. When possible, shop sales to supplement your growing master list of ingredients, and frequently recycle these ingredients into new recipes as well. Keep the recipes that you have tried and liked in a centralized location... and if you are really inspired, develop a repertoire of four or five quick recipes that you could pretty much make in your sleep.

This approach to kitchen-life obviously requires you to sit down and do a few minutes work, and then muster the self-discipline to follow through with the plan you develop, but the nutritional and financial paybacks are well worth it. Keep it up for long enough, and it will become second nature… and French-onion-orange-yogurt omelets will thankfully become a thing of the long-forgotten past.

For anyone who might think this post looks vaguely familiar... I wrote it originally a couple of months ago, but it kept begging me to give it a bit more polish and some air, so here it is again. ;P And hopefully the fact that my writing nags me doesn't make me any more certifiable then usual...

Keepin' it real, Firefly-style

Way back on the Wednesday before last I got tagged by everydayMOM to play a game called "Keeping it Real..."

Here are the rules:
Take a picture of yourself right now.
No primping or preparing.
Just snap a picture.
Load the picture onto your blog.
Tag some people to play.
That's it, easy as PIE

On that day (more than a week ago), I rushed home from work to take a picture of myself, only to have huge problems getting the stupid thing loaded... or at any rate, getting my computer at home to connect to the internet long enough to load it. At long last, here it is:

So yes. That's me, moments after getting home from a particularly long day at work, about a week and a half ago. This was also probably my first official picture with Firefly... indubitably, her presence makes it a great deal more interesting.

I tag:
Dera at Casablanca (once your computer is up and running again anyway... Get on that!! :P)
Lisa at Condo Blues
Kacie at Papua Girl in Dallas
Anne at Green Jello
Amanda at The Martha Initiative
Michelle at Psalm 104:25

I was iffy about tagging people because I wasn't sure if anyone might object to putting their picture up online... I hesitantly and somewhat randomly chose some of my favorite folks, but if you do have qualms in that direction then please, pretend I didn't mention it. ;)

Lost... Flashbacks, Star Wars, & Daddy Issues...

I feel like there are two kinds of flashbacks on Lost... the ones thrown in to kill time and reiterate points we've already picked up on (Little Sayid with the chicken), and then the ones that are actually insightful (Kate blowing up her dad's house and then expecting her mom to be grateful). The Miles flashbacks were definitely the latter, especially because he's been a mysterious/minor character up until this point. Opening with the child Miles discovering his unique abilities and struggling to cope was an especially good way of instantly investing the audience more deeply into his character.

ley is really great in this episode, bumbling into the wrong place, asking all the obvious questions everyone else ignores, and coming up with keen psychological perceptions. Plus, his movie references the last couple of episodes (first Back to the Future, now Sixth Sense and Empire Strikes Back) are just priceless... Plus, his attempts to facilitate a father-son bond between Miles and Pierre was first hilarious, and then quite moving. But wow, particularly gruesome death for the poor Dharma ditch-digger! Killed by your own cavity filling... that's one cause-of-death even Bones hasn't thought to use yet. This episode made it look a lot more likely to me that the Swan construction site and the untapped energy there is indeed the source of the "incident" upcoming in the season finale...

But, oh my gosh, who would have thought Kate would be the one who couldn't keep a secret? Miss Strong Resourceful Expert-Liar letting drunk, pathetic Roger see through their plan? I really expect more from her.

I have to say, one thing I love about Lost is the sense of interweaving lives... of people who all have a past and wrestle with inner turmoil through the course of the series. Most shows only credit the most important characters with any real depth of emotion, and it's even more rare for those characters to actually evolve or grow. At least this season, the characters are still themselves even as they seem to shift over the course of time. Well, I'd have to make an exception for Jack; the writers have been guilty of character-manipulation so many times with him that I'm not sure which of the Jacks we've seen is actually the real one, and the current whiny, passive version doesn't seem like natural character progression at all lol.

Question answered this episode:
Miles is indeed Pierre's son. I think we had all seen that one coming, but it was nice to have confirmation that Miles is aware as well. Hilarious story about his mom getting in line behind him in the cafeteria!

Ilana is not (?) working for Widmore. Or at any rate, her urgent question, "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" is heard on the lips of her right hand man... who claims to be working *against* Widmore.

Daniel Faraday is not dead! And not crazy either it looks like (absent "in mind" because he lost it), which some people had theorized and I had started to worry was a possibility... Hurrah for Daniel's return to the show!

New Questions:
Are they seriously introducing a third variable to the Ben/Widmore "war is coming" scenario? How on earth do Ilana and the dudes in the black van fit in?

Where has Faraday been? What does he know about the island, and how does his mother fit in?

How is Sawyer going to keep the news from getting out? Or rather, since knocking the dude out and going for rope more or less answers that question in the immediate sense, where/how is he going to keep the guy out of the way without resorting to killing him?

My favorite quote of the episode (besides every other sentence Hurley spoke):
Miles, upon being given the "package": "Is that a bullet in his head? The ditch had a gun...?"

This episode was great, but after the smoke monster and Egyptian mythology of last week, the return to Dharma-ville did seem a little slow. As far as I can tell trying to catch up online today... it looks like next week is a rerun. Boo!

Generating Shock-and-Awe Shopping Savings...

Just to summarize for anyone who might be joining us more recently... for the last year and a half I've been honing my Thriftie skills and have gotten them pretty decently sharp by now. My level of dedication makes it more or less qualify as a hobby for me, but one that meshes beautifully with necessity and a tight budget. Here are the four "wheels" that make the "Thriftie-shopping-mobile" navigate smoothly lol.

1. Utilizing coupons. This is the place to start. You can either procure coupons from newspaper coupon inserts or by printing them off of various sites... a subject I discussed pretty in depth in my post a while back, "Coupon Craze 101". One thing to note is that a lot of bloggers have a coupon.com sidebar on their sites, and get "commission" for clicks... I always make a point to print my coupons there rather than from the site itself, as an easy way of helping out some of my favorite folks. :)

A lot of people have elaborate systems for organizing their coupons (I personally clip out the ones that I'm especially likely to use and keep them categorized in a dollar store photo album) but you can just as easily save full inserts and then use sites like Taylortown Preview to search the insert listings to find coupons for specific brands/items when you see them on sale. You can also use that site, and many others, to buy specific coupons that you know will be valuable enough to justify it (I haven't had done that as of yet, but I can see how it could be worthwhile for some things). Some people will swear that if you hold on to one week's coupon inserts then the majority of the items therein will be on sale exactly a month later, but personally I haven't found this to be very true so take it with a grain of salt. Lastly on this topic... keep in mind that a coupon is worthless if the brand-name item still ends up being more expensive then the generic.

2. Matching coupons with sales... Your coupons become gold rather than pennies when you match them up with store sales. You can obviously do this yourself by looking through the ads in the paper, but let's be honest, that's just silly when other people are already doing it for you! For the most complete listings of store sales matched to coupons, The Grocery Game is definitely the way to go, mostly because they also track price fluctuation to identify whether an item is "rock bottom" or whether the sale just isn't actually that great and you should hold out. There is a small fee associated with access to the site's store lists, but you can try them all for a month for $1 (if you try it out and use me as your referral source -- misseliza123 at gmail dot com -- I'll get really excited! :P). I find it is especially worth the time I save for those certain stores with less decipherable ads (coughKrogercough). I gave a lot more tips and advice regarding The Grocery Game in my previous post "Thriftie Shortcut #1", so you might want to look at that too if you're still figuring the site out. A free resource for similar coupon/sales match-ups is Southern Savers, but there are plenty of other blogs that do the same thing... I mention that one specifically because they have a clean format and information on a wide range of stores rather than just one or two. If your preference is organic items, be sure to hit up Fiddledeedee! for those Publix match-ups as well.

3. Savvy shopping at CVS. This one is huge for affordable hygiene / personal care products... Each week CVS has new "Extracare buck" offers that basically give you store credit for purchasing certain items. Simple enough, right? The way to make this promotion system extra advantageous is to use ECBs to buy items that give you more ECBs, making a lot of your purchases free or close to it. (For more detail and/or tips, I posted about this previous in, "The Secret Life of the Savvy CVS Shopper.") If you buy ECB items with coupons, sometimes you'll even get back more credit then you actually spent. This system usually works best for items like toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc, and it helps if you don't care whether you're buying Crest or Colgate... there isn't much room for brand loyalty when you're bargain shopping.

4. Perks of online shopping. The most simple way of saving money on online shopping is to always check for coupon codes on sites like retailmenot and MSN shopping. Sometimes you'll get especially lucky, and the two seconds of typing involved will result in 20% off and free shipping! If you have school loans, or are saving for a child's education, sign up for Upromise and install their toolbar, which will automatically alert you if the site you are browsing offers money back for Upromise users. If it does, you will need to log in to your account and access the site via their links, but that's a small amount of effort for anything from 1-6% back on your total purchase. Similar (reputable) sites for money-back include ebates and cashbaq -- I used cashbaq to get a really great deal on an entertainment book for my area, but usually stick with Upromise myself (*ugh* school loans...). I love it when I can make an online purchase through a Upromise link, with a coupon code, and paying with a rewards-program credit card... stacking three nearly effortless methods of saving money.

That's an overview of the four ways to get your footing as a frugal guru... If you're reading this and are already a first-class Thriftie, then I want tips! I'm always looking for ways to refine my own tactics and gain strategic efficiency, so help me out here! ;P

Introducing... Sci Fi Kitties Hit Atlanta! aka, Go Go Cat Adoption!

At long last, after what seems like ages of planning and discussing, I GOT KITTIES!!

If you're not an animal lover, just skip this post. My boyfriend and I are both cat people, and unabashedly so. In case you aren't aware of what that entails precisely, please reference the highly scientific graph (courtesy of xkcd) provided by Andrew below:

And yes, you read "kitties" above correctly. As in, multiple bouncy, freedom-and-affection-starved, "teenage" cats. You may be wondering what possessed me, especially due to the size of my current apartment, and I'll admit to having similar thoughts several times in the two weeks that have past since "adopting" them... but by and large they're great. Insane, but great.

Let me introduce you.
This is Firefly:

And this is River:

No, we weren't going for a pseudo-Native American theme or even a hippie vibe... Their names are derived from one of our favorite Joss Whedon shows, Firefly. The movie Serenity was based off of this series, so originally River's name was Serenity, but then we realized that in fact she is in no way serene, peaceful, or any of the things you'd associate with that word... in fact she's high strung, energetic, and generally crazy. So we went with "River" instead, dubbing her thus after the show's most notoriously unpredictable character. It's a great deal more appropriate.

(Hello, my name is Sarah Eliza, and I am indeed a sci fi geek. Why do you think I love Lost?)

So far, their combined efforts have resulted in breaking a mug, getting stuck in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, attempting to climb into the dryer (the thought of possible cat-in-dryer incidents really freaks me out), succeeding in climbing into the dishwasher (though I ended that little adventure post-haste), chewing up a plant, and pulling the carpet in front of my bedroom door loose from the floor. The last little escapade effectively blocked the door and locked us out (and them in) for about fifteen minutes, while I tried to smooth the carpet down enough under the door to be able to open it again. I guess in their eagerness to "dig" out, they didn't realize how counterproductive their exertions were... All that to say, they're crazy. They're also great though, and incredibly sweet and playful, so by and large I love them devotedly. They also have been helping a lot when I need cheering up... and that counts for a great deal in my universe.

We adopted them from one of the Atlanta shelters affiliated with PetSmart, and their official designations are "calico" and "tabbico." Which as you can tell translates to "adorable" and "more adorable..." They're apparently mother and daughter, but it's hard to tell which is which because the medical records are ambiguous and they are quite close in age... definitely a teen mom scenario on this one. They were rescued from a hoarder, and when there are thirty or so cats all in one place the result would appear to be some confusing familial relationships... Our best guess is that Firefly is the daughter (she's also the loud and vocal one, which would fit with youth, yes?) and River, though smaller, is in fact the mother... size difference perhaps due to early malnourishment. And as you can clearly see, both have a future in modeling.

I'm sure I'll be mentioning them frequently from now on. :)

March Shock-and-Awe Savings Review... And the Best Sources for Organic Coupons!

Last month I spent $131.56 on groceries. This is about $33 a week... so very slightly over my usual weekly budget. Without the research I did on coupons and sales (probably on average a 30-45 minute weekly time-investment), I would have spent $274.07... a savings of about 52%. I'm more proud of this when I take into consideration that I bring my lunch to work nearly every day, do a lot of shopping for my boyfriend too, and also buy recycled paper products and "green" dishwasher detergent.

As my total savings came to $142.51, and I probably spent 3 hrs on research/organization over the course of the month, I was "paying" myself in savings about a $42.50 an hour. Nice!

The one area that I definitely need to focus on (my boyfriend is agreeing loudly in the background as I type this) is the actual number of times I go to the store each week. Between Publix, Kroger, the Farmer's Market, and any pharmacy expeditions, I spend rather more time "at the store" then he should like. Basically, now is the time for me to ensure that my "hobby" doesn't become my boss... My plan is to brainstorm a weekly meal plan/guide with my boyfriend on Sunday, have a Publix run on Monday (specifically then so as to take advantage of the weekly penny item) and then wait until Saturday to go by Kroger for any good sales there. CVS I can hit up more or less whenever, since there's one right by where I work, and the Farmer's Market will have to fit in wherever there's time and a need for fresh produce... which depending on the success of our garden should hopefully be somewhat less often. I'll be trying this new "savings schedule" for the coming month (Saturday Kroger, Sunday meal-plan, Monday Publix, DONE)... I'll let my boyfriend report back at that point on how successful it is. :P

If you're still establishing coupon habits for yourself and have a penchant for organic products, the two resources that will be your new best friends are Mambo Sprouts and Eating Well. On both sites you can find coupons for lots of great organic and natural products, sometimes even including more mainstream ones like Kashi and Luna. In addition to the printable coupons on their site, several times a year Mambo Sprouts will also send a booklet of coupons straight to your door... and last time, they even included a sample packet of Jasmine Green Tea along with it! Very fun, don't miss out...

Choreographing Real Life...

Need a smile to get you the rest of the way through Friday?? Check out this video of a sneak-attack dance performance in Antwerp... it had me grinning at my desk like an idiot! The fact that they are performing to much-beloved music from The Sound of Music just makes it better. (I also really enjoyed this other video that showed just how much work went into putting all that together...)

For a similar, less musical but even more hilarious exploit, check out this video... an old favorite of mine that I like to call Icing on the Cake of Sheer Brilliance. These "gatherings" are orchestrated yearly by a group in New York called Improv Everywhere... Someone needs to form an Atlanta chapter, STAT. In case you can't tell from the video... all these people are listening to coordinated instructions on MP3 players. And it goes from there.

The Mp3 Experiment 2.0 from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

Enjoy!! (and if anybody knows how to shrink down that first video a size more let me know lol... I have it as small as YouTube will let it go at the moment...)

Thank you to
A Papua Girl.... in Dallas for finding the first video! I entirely credit you with the smile that helped me get through my day. ;P

Lost analysis!! Smokey + Egyptian Mythology Equals...

Oh Lost. How we do love thee, and how desperately shalt we miss thee when thy season ends...

At long last, some answers about the smoke monster! Though "answers" is a little strong of a word... what I really mean is that we got a more tangible encounter, and some sideways explanations... The face-off between Ben and the monster was great! Do you think Eko saw a similar series of flashbacks when he stared down the monster way back when? I also was glad to have Ben slightly humanized throughout the episode... At least he draws the line at killing children! Is that why Ethan survived the Dharma massacre? Ben made provisions to save the children?

Also, I have an in on the Egyptian hieroglyphics!! My boyfriend had begrudgingly joined me on the couch to watch the last few minutes of the show (he isn't one of the Devout, sadly) and instantly recognized a few of the hieroglyphic symbols above the smoke monster's lair. In the three seconds that I was like, "oh, Egyptian writing, weird" he was recognizing and deciphering most of the symbols. The three foremost figures in the center of the carving were the Egyptian god Anubis, gazing at a creature very like the smoke monster, and overshadowed by the symbol of an eye. And as Andrew kindly elaborated to me, Anubis is the god of the afterlife, deciding the fate of the souls of the dead and shuttling them off to the beyond, so to speak. In Egyptian mythology the eye was often a kind of sign or seal of Ra and other high-ranking gods, so the arrangement of the symbols suggested that the smoke monster is a servant of Anubis, operating with authority and/or great power. Which would totally explain why the bodies of dead people keep getting commandeered for purposes beyond them... Alex being one of the most wiggy so far in my opinion. I don't think I agree that all the dead characters will make a reappearance at some point though, which is the theory held by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer, mostly because I think the bodies/images of the dead are being manipulated for the purposes of the island/smoke monster. As in, I don't think most of them aren't actually alive again, or cognizant as the people they were; they're being manipulated as a conduit of the island. I think that Alex was the manifestation the smoke monster took on in that moment because it would be the most disturbing to Ben, and Eko saw his brother for the same reason. Of course though, that doesn't explain why Christian seems to be the island's manifestation of choice, or why Claire was pulled away from the other Losties for seemingly no reason... Or why Locke is apparently actually alive, as opposed to not-dead like the others we've seen. But I doubt we'll have any real reason to see Shannon or Eko again, for example, unless the writers just stick on a reappearance of everybody for the shock value / to humor us.

EDIT: I happened to mention in passing to my boyfriend just now that I'm assuming the statue Ilana referenced to the pilot is the huge-ass one we saw briefly in one of the flashes... and I said that now I'm assuming it's of Anubis (though feasibly it could be any of a number of Egyption gods, given the Ankh it was holding) and he kind of flipped out on me... Apparently that would be kind of a big deal, traditionally speaking. Here's his explanation as he told it to me: In basic temple design some things are always followed: multiple levels, secret hiding places, lotsa hieroglyphs, and always a primary god/goddess but most of the time a secondary one too. Typically huge statues on one level were the support pillars for lower levels -- think of it as functional and aesthetic. Suffice to say, anything at the bottom of those statues was essentially bound to them for some reason; a great honor, an amazing warrior/king, or as a means of suppression. Kinda like telling Anubis to "keep an eye on this one," as he is in the afterlife now. Summary: anything buried at the based of Anubis is really important. Also, most of the time the hieroglyphs told stories about the things in the temple: who it's dedicated to or is buried there. So somewhere in the temple would be answers about why it is there, the functions of the person or god it was built for, maybe even who built it. Things like that. I thought all this was hugely interesting so I wanted to pass it on... it also casts a lot of doubt on my earlier supposition that Ilena's question was just meant to verify the pilot's identity. I guess we'll wait and see!

New Questions:
Is Ben lying when he says he wasn't aware the Losties were part of the Dharma initiative? My gut says yes... but if he isn't then that stirs up all kinds of time-travel questions that I had sort of thought were satisfied during the Hurley/Miles conversation during the last episode...

Did Lost just take a huge jump of incorporating ancient mysticism into the plot-line? Or will the hieroglyphic implications just be another fake-out that falls by the wayside later?

Why did the island leave Ben alive? Up until now he's been more or less a rudder for the plot direction... what role will he serve now that Locke seems to be the Big Man in Charge?

Answers to previously existing questions:
As we suspected, Ilana *totally* has an agenda. I feel like there is a good chance that she is indeed working for Widmore too. The "What lies in the shadow of the statue" thing sounded to me like a call-and-response recognition code... and when the pilot didn't know the right answer, she knew he wasn't one of them.

So... Ben is the one who "banished" Charles? That whole thing seemed a little anticlimactic -- I really thought Widmore must have turned the wheel also, to be as irrevocably separated from the island as he seems to be...

Penny isn't dead! Hallelujah! You can ask the boyfriend, I was verbally lamenting her early demise for about the first twenty minutes (poor Penny, I can't believe she's dead, I can't believe he killed her, poor Desmond, I hope she isn't dead... and so on and so on) and so I was incredibly relieved to find her still breathing (actually probably hyperventilating after the run-in with Ben, but hey that's fine) at the end of the show.

My favorite quote:
Ben, referring to the smoke monster: "It isn't a train John, it doesn't run on a schedule..."

Until next week!! :)

Cooking at the Lowest Common Denominator: Easy Mexican Pizza

For clarity sake... Sarah Eliza will write in black and Andrew will write in blue.

My boyfriend Andrew is blessed with a very close-knit group of friends from high school... four very different guys who have stuck together through thick and thin for the last 10 years and counting. His friend Justin, who recently moved to Cincinnati, is notorious for eating poorly... one horror story I heard had him subsisting for days on end on pasta and Parmesan. So I suggested that Andrew and I post cooking lessons for him to make his kitchen adventures more profitable, and perhaps even trick him into eating vegetables occasionally... though knowing Justin, that last part just might prove a challenge.

As my lovely girlfriend has made her exciting entry to the blogging world, I have immensely enjoyed reading her insights, loves, thoughts, and passions. So, when she suggested the occasional cowritten post, I jumped at the chance.

As Sarah says, my friend Justin does not cook, he merely heats things. He will eat whatever is available to him with the greatest immediacy and efficacy. With this in mind, we decided to make this first segment very easy to follow and to use small words, as he is a lowly Auburn engineering school grad and we don't want to overwhelm him.

So... the criteria. Food that is simple, good, and healthy without seeming healthy. I've mentioned before my penchant for this basic pizza recipe... it's pretty much as close as you can get to ready-made while still putting it together with your own hands. So it was an easy choice. In fact, this photo can more or less sum up the whole recipe, oven temperature and all...

Step 1: Turn on the oven and set it to 425 degrees. Pop open the pizza crust tube and unroll the pizza crust. There's a nice clear line down the center of the dough so it comes apart really easily... spray Pam or an olive oil spray on a cookie sheet (or some other long flat pan) and slap the dough on there.

Step 2: Bake the dough for about ten minutes -- you want the crust starting to brown before you add any toppings, so that the middle of your pizza doesn't end up soggy. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the top with a little cheese.

Step 3: While you're letting the dough bake a bit, drain the tomatoes, beans, and corn really well. Again, you don't want a soggy pizza, so be thorough on this part. Then mix about half the can of corn and 3/4ths the can of beans in with the Rotel.* Quick microwave them for about a minute, just to get the seasonings from the Rotel infused into the beans and corn as well.

(*Stick the leftover corn and black bean mixture in a tupperware container; the mixture will go nicely with the rest of the cheese to make quesadillas later. Or for another option, combine it with salsa and add it to homemade nachos for a tex-mex twist!)

After steps 2 & 3, your counter top should look like this:

Step 4: Glop the tomato/bean mixture onto the crust, but use a fork to avoid transferring any extra moisture then formed when it was heated. Then spread the whole dealio with cheese. Ideally you don't want to use more than a cup or a cup and a half, but of course it depends on individual taste so have at it.

Step 5: Bake it for another 8 minutes, or a few more if you like it on the crispy/toasty side. Take it out of the oven when the crust is brown and cheese is melted...

Step 6: Dig in with gusto! (the gusto is requisite, so make sure to get that part right...)

Stats: From opening the refrigerator to sitting down with a plate of food, this dinner will take you about twenty-two minutes, and the most complicated part is draining the canned vegetables. :P If you pay full price for all the ingredients, it will cost about $7, and will end up being at least two servings even if you're ravenous from back-to-back hockey games. For the average, moderately hungry adult, it will be more like four servings.

Lastly, the other great thing about this pizza is that it gives plenty of space for modifications. Substitute shredded zucchini for the corn, Italian seasoned tomatoes for the Rotel, and toss on some grilled chicken and sauteed onions for a top-end Italian pizza. If you don't have Rotel, then just use normal diced tomatoes and add red pepper flakes or pickled jalapenos. Pizza is about as flexible, forgiving a concoction as you can possibly find, so play with it as you are led.

As you read this you may notice an air of playful patronization or even the slightest bit of condescension. Please understand this is written with the greatest amount of love and caring possible to have, when one is writing a step-by-step guide to cooking for someone who is usually too lazy to do more than microwave a Bertolli's. Suffice to say, I look forward to many more cooking guides ranging in skill and difficulty in the coming days. Perhaps a cooking lesson for another one of my friends, or maybe a collaborative analysis of something else all together. Granted this has been terrifically fun...maybe I'll be inspired to start a blog of my own.

If you're ready to take cooking to an even higher level but are still finding your foothold, check out Betty Crocker's free online cooking course "The Mixer". With weekly cooking videos with tips and instruction on different "themes" (chicken, pasta, greens, etc) it looks like a fun way to solidify your kitchen-skills-set. Otherwise, stay tuned here for further cooking fun and excursions into the realm of the edible! And Justin, let us know how the pizza making goes! :)

A Walgreens Apocalypse of Disgusting Proportions

Recently I spent rather a large chunk of time loitering around two or three aisles in particular at Walgreens, waiting for a very helpful clerk to determine whether or not a couple of old printer cartridges were salvageable (they weren't, alack!).

Twenty or twenty-five minutes of idle browsing later, I had come to a sobering realization... The end is near!! The Apocalypse awaits!! The countdown begins!!

Green Jello recently came to the same conclusion based on general cultural phenomenon (including Tattoo Barbie and Octomom) but my prophecy stems from several deceptively innocuous products available on the shelves of your local pharmacy. Namely:

Do you see that?? Not content with a sizable stake in the fast-food industry, Burger King has introduced a "Ketchup & Fries" line of potato chips. Let me say it again for those in the back. Burger King Ketchup & Fries poh-tay-toe ch-ips.

*earth shakes*

Personally, I take pride in my status as an enthusiastic french fries connoisseur (aka, TOTAL ADDICT). As proof, I offer this selection of "dipping sauces" provided by a local restaurant, Leon's Full Service. I have tried no less than seven of the twelve, and since I won't eat mayonnaise due to childhood neurosis, that more or less translates to having tried them all (I recommend the madras curry, as well as the goat cheese, if you ever happen to be in the Atl and attacked by the munchies). In any case, my status as a classy, contemplative consumer (/inhaler) of french fries is quite secure. I think in a large part my problem with this one stems from the mental image I have of a potato chip, dipped in ketchup, left out in the sun for a few days, and then passed off as somehow akin to a french fry. Like I said... *earth shakes*

And so on behalf of French Fry Connoisseurs, Burger King Lovers, and Potato Chip Munchers everywhere... I stand now to declare forthwith that combining the three is nothing less than insidious evil.

*rolling thunder*

The second Sign-of-the-End-Times I encountered was this:

With beef??? Taco Bell Chili con Queso with Beef?? Just sitting there, on the shelf, for God knows how long?

*clouds thicken and lightening strikes*

I certainly understand that something was done to the meat, chemically or hermetically or whatever, that rendered it perfectly safe for consumption even following month after month of air-temperature, cheesy-goo-soaked existence. I also understand that this process, unless performed in the name of humanitarian missions to 3rd world countries, or in preparation for a six-month backpacking trek through the dessert, is utter blasphemy to all that is good, fresh, and natural in this world.

And so my friends, I have witnessed sure signs of the coming Apocalypse... and all I can say is that I wish they were rather more profound. The End is upon us, and it's name is Disgusting.

Disclaimer: I haven't tried any of these products, and I can't say that curiosity wouldn't motivate me to try the first if I ever had the opportunity... but the second I would eat only on pain of death. If you have tried either, I want to know your impressions! I was endlessly fascinated by both. :P

Towards a Darker Shade of Green: March Edition

March was neither lion nor lamb for me this year.... just rainy and FAST. April is already here, and the moment for my monthly environmental inventory has arrived! You might remember that last month I procrastinated to the point that I had a very late start on my March goals, but I think perhaps the time-crunch was motivating...

My goals and progress for last month were as follow:

1. Add potatoes to my list of organic switch-overs, joining spinach and apples. Eee, to be perfectly honest, I didn't buy any potatoes after all during those last two weeks... So yeah, it's technically been added to my mental "buy organic" list, but I haven't put that fact into concrete practice. No check mark deserved here yet unfortunately...

2. Buy potato bins; till garden This item and the following one were originally just one resolution, but I'm splitting it into two parts to report on its progress... This half gets a check mark, hurrah! The potato bins unfortunately haven't arrived yet though, due to being back ordered. Having a very vague understanding of the growing seasons etc for all the different vegetables I'm hoping to grow, I'm nervous about the delay on planting but what can I do? More research obviously, to get a clearer idea of what I'm actually doing, but other than that not a lot. The garden is indeed "tilled," in a ground-broken-up-unevenly-by-shovels kind of way, which we'll probably fine-tune a bit when plants actually enter the picture. Initially I got carried away with the digging and went too far in one particular direction... temporarily the "garden plot" looked very much like a plot-plot. As in, the graveyard variety, if you take my meaning. Later we went back and dug another square coming off of the side of the thing, mostly so that the neighbors wouldn't get the wrong idea and send the police over to investigate.

2.5 Buy vegetable seedlings and plant if appropriate for type/weather. This one is hopefully going to happen tonight or tomorrow. Lately a prolonged deluge in the style of the Biblical Noah has made any kind of outdoor activity pretty difficult, so didn't get as much accomplished as I had initially planned. =/

3. Purchase petri dishes (I still think this would be a fun experiment). Use only homemade cleaners, and environmentally-friendly dishwasher detergent (my weak point... the green dishwasher soap is so expensive. =/) Err, no petri dishes as of yet, but otherwise mission accomplished! As promised, I took the plunge and finally bought 7th Generation dishwasher detergent. I haven't noticed any change from the Electrasol capsules we had been previously using, which is nice; some people complain of a whitish residue left on their dishes after using more environmentally friendly brands, so I was glad to not have any issues with it.

4. Use alternative transportation at least three times a week. (Preferably four) Done! Between riding to work some days with my roommate, and getting better about catching the shuttle other days, I used alternative transportation three times a week for the rest of the month. Ironically, the last time I actually did drive I got a parking ticket... further motivation to take the bus. =/ According to the tracking website, my alternative commute totals for the year are: 31 clean-commute days, 165 miles of vehicle travel eliminated, .08 tons of pollution kept out of the air, and $82 in gas/maintenance savings. The part that impresses me the most is realizing how quickly those miles add up... especially seeing as how I only live about three miles from my job...

5. Use canvas bags while shopping at least every other trip (for reals this time yo) Also accomplished! Having canvas bags sans store logos, and keeping them in my car, really did the trick for me. Also, there may or may not have been a time or two when I walked into the store only to remember and return to my car for the bags... there's something to be said for the motivation of knowing that when you fail you're going to have to admit it to people. I totally need to start posting my goals for other areas of my life too... :P

6. If adding any lamps in my new place, use only CFL light bulbs; switch over existing light bulbs in kitchen fixture as well.
OH man, have I got a story to go with this one... When I moved in to my new apartment I rather stupidly didn't pick up on the fact that the kitchen light fixture had one of those little dimmer slide on the switch, so recently during two weeks that my roommate was out of town I got more and more frustrated by an progressively, and seemingly inexplicably, dimmer kitchen. By the time I set goal #6 the lack of light had become obnoxious, so I figured I might as well take the opportunity to switch the bulbs over to CFL. This I attempted a few nights later, while doing some cleaning. Probably twenty minutes after substituting my nice, bright, energy-efficient bulbs for the old clunky ones, I noticed a faint odd smell. Puzzled, but not particularly alarmed, I continued to wipe down my counters. Then one of the light bulbs began hissing at me. I kid you not, it was a distinctive, malicious hiss. I, being the easily-startled anxiety-prone individual I am, threw the light switch off in absolute terror and with a leap that probably would have impressed Superman, bounded into the living room to observe from a distance. My poor lightbulb made a soft popping noise, and gave a tiny smoky gasp.... then nothing. It was more than enough though, as I was convinced that either I had ruined my apartment electrical system (yes, indubitably in its entirety), had sparked a fire in the wall that was about to burn the whole place down (oh tragic blaze!), and/or was going to die of some kind of gaseous poisoning from the smell that was now quite prevalent. A call to my boyfriend reassured me on the first two points, but I slept shivering under blankets that night with all the windows open to be certain of preventing the third. Dearest boyfriend, you may not realize how close I was to insisting you come over... but I was brave and did not, and you better appreciate it! :P The moral of the story; obviously, my light fixture called for a very specific shape and type of bulb, and I was foolish to disregard it. I've been avoiding changing light bulbs since the incident though, so I'm afraid I haven't managed to complete this item after all.

7. Find and execute an idea regarding a new use for something that would otherwise be thrown away. Done! I was kind of proud of it too, so I made it a post for Thrifty Green Thursday. Look here for the scoop on this one. :P

My new "green" goals for April are as follow:

1. Add potatoes to my list of organic switch-overs, joining spinach and apples. (again)

2. Buy and plant vegetable seedlings (and then keep them alive!)

3. Continue to cut down on the amount of paper goods used; purchase only recycled paper goods; do research on a frugal way of procuring cloth napkins.

4. Use alternative transportation at least *four* times a week.

5. Always use canvas bags while shopping, except at the International Farmers Market (customers bringing in bags apparently makes them nervous)

6. If adding any lamps in my new place, use only CFL light bulbs

7. Find a new use for something that would otherwise be thrown away. Anybody got green 'repurposing' ideas I should try for this one?

Let's hope for a great month with lots of progress! As always, I appreciate anonymous cyber accountability, but would love to hear about your own Green exploits, or any encouragement or ideas you might have for me... Together we can save the world one day at a time! :)

A Wastebasket Revolution, the Thrifty Green Way!

One of my monthly goals is always to find a new use for something that would otherwise be thrown away or just sit gathering dust... This last month I was able to "repurpose" an old shopping bag to excellent and highly thrifty effect. (The shopping bags I mean aren't of the plastic grocery store variety, but rather the heavy, almost decorative, paper ones that you get from department stores, Bath & Body Works, etc... as you read this post, make sure that those are the ones you're picturing or it might get confusing. :P)

Having recently moved, my roommate and I have spent the last month getting settled into our new apartment. The apartment overall is slightly bigger than our old place, but the bathroom is even tinier. We're talking minute here. The shower space runs along the full length of the bathroom, and if you're in the seated position on the toilet (lid down we'll say, for decency sake, since we are online at the moment) then one foot is pressed up against the wall and your toes are touching the shower door. I may or may not be exaggerating very slightly, but you get the idea.

In any case, since our previous bathroom wastebasket would have taken up about half the available floor space, it obviously was not going to work here. Being a die-hard Thiftie, I was loathe to run out to purchase a new one, but at the same time we were in definite need of a trash receptacle... fortunately, inspiration struck! With a snip-snip to remove the shopping bag handles and the insertion of a second (plastic) shopping bag inside the first, I turned a very nice blue Bath & Body Works bag into a highly space-efficient wastebasket! I since have done the same with one of those pink-striped Victoria Secret bags too, and it has made a very sporty, handy "junk-mail and incense-ash containment unit" next to my desk. These disposable wastebaskets are especially good for me because I tend to get grossed-out by trashcans in general... rather than having to hassle with disinfecting and cleaning them, now I can just swap them out for a new one each time I make a mall purchase!

Another day of saving money, reducing consumer consumption, finding new uses for items I normally would have tossed away, and generally darkening my shade of green. Hurrah! For more tips and ideas on thrifty green living, check out this week's round-up here. :)

Quiet... blessed quiet.

To my embarrassment, I have now posted twice in a row regarding Lost... I swear, I do write about/think about/enjoy more than just Lost!! :P However, lately for some reason I've been on a bit of an overload... due probably in part to a hectic couple of weeks at work and then to several other areas of life that temporarily had deadlines or expiration dates attached to them. I think (fingers crossed!) that all the urgent ones are dealt with, so hopefully nothing is lurking forgotten behind a corner waiting to jump out at me any time soon. In any case, throughout that busy, scrambling week, I found that I just didn't have very many extra words available -- to the point that I tweeted maybe once a day, and both my facebook and gmail statuses were BLANK. If you know me... that's just downright weird! However, the quiet was nice. And it was nice to just let myself be quiet too.

I've done a good bit of thinking lately about trying to simplify my life, and about narrowing down my priorities to the point where I can focus on some of them and maybe even feel like I'm progressing in a forwardly fashion. I will hopefully do some posting about my thoughts in the days to come... And it will not involve Lost. Um, unless it does, in which case, what's a girl to do?? ;)

Lost: In which I wax lyrical & philosophical, regarding what is meta and redemptive. :P

Having felt pretty let-down by the last episode of Lost, I began watching this week's installment (entitled "Whatever Happened, Happened") with slightly less than my usual enthusiasm. I watched the events of the first few moments quite dispassionately, and was even unstirred by hearing Ben moan when Jin picked him up. I mean, I had figured the kid wouldn't die...

Then, unexpectedly, the episode became amazing. I typed this paragraph as I watched (well, commercial break anyway... verizon ad was on mute): I have no idea how the rest of the show is going to go as of yet, but I can tell you now that I am 100% a fan of this episode. I'm still laughing to myself over the Oceanic Six's discussion about time travel... Lost just went so meta, and I love it. I've seen bloggers mention Back to the Future several times in the last couple weeks, trying to puzzle out the time-travel mysteries, and to hear Hurley wonder if he's about to disappear and then reference the movie himself was awesome. To seal the deal, Miles then tries to explain how all the time-travel might end up fitting together, to which Hurley responds: "That was really confusing." Somewhat petulantly, Miles (/the writers) responds, "Get used to it." Fair enough, lol!

Even more awesome though, was a few minutes later, when Miles himself (/the writers) runs out of ideas and ends with a weak, "Huh. Hadn't thought of that." HAHA! I've got to wonder whether the writers are blog-hopping after each episode, looking for holes they need to try to patch and issues they haven't yet covered... Because I'm pretty sure that whole exchange was inspired by multiple disjointed message board posts and blog questionings.

And the show only got better from there... Moments later, just as I was thinking Thank God they're finally going to tell us what happened to Aaron... Kate proceeded to turn around in the grocery store and find that he had vanished. I promptly freaked out hard-core and started at the yelling at the TV, something that went a bit like this: "HOLY @*#%, she did NOT just LOSE him. Are you freaking KIDDING me??" and continued in that vein, and at quite a high decibel, the whole of the time she darted around the store frantically asking people if they had seen him. I'll admit, I kind of liked the feeling of justified outrage, directed at Kate's apparently sub-par mothering skills, so I was mildly disappointed that it was all for nothing. I had been having a hard time dealing with her lately and couldn't decide why, so I was hoping that discovering Aaron's fate would aid a reconciliation between the two of us...

Five minutes later my feelings towards her were even more jumbled. First she comes across as hugely dysfunctional and self-absorbed while discussing her motives for adopting Aaron with Cassidy, and then she's shown in a whole different light by revealing that she chose to go back to the island primarily to look for Claire. I guess if nothing else we can claim that Lost is accurate in portraying the many layers of human complexity and motivation... after all, in a broken reality most of our decisions are at least partially self-motivated, so I should hardly be surprised that poor screwed-up Kate's is the same.

As for the love-triangle (/octagon), I'm still doing a happy dance at the way the last fifteen minutes of the show answered my Sawyer + Juliet hopes... It was probably a good thing that I'm didn't watch this episode tomorrow online at work, because I would have been bouncing up and down in my chair so hard that my head would have popped up above the edge of my cubical. I'm so proud of Sawyer, and pretty impressed that even in the midst of all those conundrums and secondary characters bouncing around, the writers managed to incorporate some actual character development there. Had a literary character remained absolutely static through five years of happenings and changes, readers would cry foul... why not in a TV show? I think that the fact that the Losties aren't playing out the same old roles and interactions yet again this season is highly laudable (Heroes, please take notes).

I'm so pleased at the way this episode addressed so many of my long-standing itching curiosities (Aaron's whereabouts, an appearance by Richard Alpert, the status of Sawyer and Juliet, the reason for Kate's sudden decision to return to the island after all, indications that Claire will indeed reappear at some point) that my few laments will be voiced very, very faintly. But I have to say that though I absolutely loved Miles' attempt to get us up to speed with the whole time-travel thing, at the same time I also felt like he was acting as a stand-in for Faraday, and that made me a little sad. I still miss Daniel...

And then my big theory.... are Rose and Bernard with the Others at this point? If they were on the island being batted about by the flashes just like Sawyer, Juliet, et al, then they also ended up in the same point in time, right? It would stand to reason then that they must have ended up with the Others... wouldn't it? I was dying to know who would be inside the cave Richard carried Ben into at the last moment -- do you think we'll see whatever happens there, or just be jumped forward through the narrative into a time when Ben is well again? Is Claire with them at any rate, since she was with Christian/Jacob at the end of the 4th season, and we assume that Jacob is connected with the Others all along?

And so, as it turns out, Sayid is indeed the reason why Ben turns into the jaded, manipulative creature we have always seen him as. Wouldn't it be clever if the writers turn the show's title into an oblique reference to "innocence lost," and the show itself as an ongoing attempt to regain that innocence? Can we credit even our more-and-more adept writers with that kind of subtlety and deftness? I still can't tell if they have an underlying subtext for all this, or if they are making up the plot as they go along, perhaps with the help of a six-year-old on crack... but I have more faith in the Lost writers lately then ever before, so I will remain hopeful.

Note: Has any other show in history prompted so much discussion of the writers' intentions? That's not rhetorical, I'm seriously curious, because if so I sure can't think of one...
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