17 ways to live happily…Cook

Learn to cook.

When you rarely cook and don’t know how, it seems like cooking is much more expensive than going out. You have to buy all those ingredients you never use again and there is a pretty good likelihood that what you cook won’t taste as good as what you could have ordered. But if you start to cook regularly (and don’t cook from one of those cookbooks with 42 rare ingredients and 21 separate steps) you will most likely find that cooking is much cheaper than what you can order and plus you can have it your way. Plus, cooking can fulfill your sense of adventure. Start small, but start cooking.

Not THAT kind of Labor.

This happens ever year. Some deejay on the radio or newscaster on television will say something like “Labor Day is coming up. Get out and do some labor in the yard.” This causes me at home to engage in the ritual of yelling at the radio/television. Labor day is not a day set aside to labor, or work on things, it is a day that recognizes the importance of Labor Unions. You know, those things that people fought and died for the right to organize to improve working conditions. The things that only seven percent of Americans belong to anymore. The people who brought you the weekend. So next time you hear someone misunderstand the purpose of Labor Day, please take a moment to enlighten them. Labor Day: They mean the Union kind. Not just general work in the yard.

If you enjoyed this post, you can look forward to my educational Memorial Day post in May.

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Three sentence movie reviews–The 40-year-old virgin

I don’t buy the premise of this movie, that all his problems stem from being a virgin. Plenty of people are this awkward and lonely and have had sex. Putting that aside, and letting go of the fact that his friends aren’t very friendly, and this is a very raunchy movie, this is funny stuff.

Note the first: as you already know from the title if you do like/will like this movie or not, all those above qualifiers probably aren’t necessary.

Note the second: this is when I first noticed Seth Rogen. He’s not my movie boyfriend a la Edward Norton, but I do keep track of what he is up to.

Note the third: I quoted a line from this movie to Matt years ago and he has used that quote ever since, despite not having seen the movie. Now that he has seen it and he can legitimately quote the movie he probably never will again.

17 ways to live happily…Have an emergency fund

Have an emergency fund of at least something.

How many years have I been saving up a three or six month contingency fund? Roughly ten. Have I ever come close to having even three month’s salary saved? Once. Then I moved across the country and was unemployed for awhile and that cushion disappeared. But the reason I haven’t been able to maintain my savings goal is because I kept running into emergencies. Did the fact that I didn’t have all three months salary matter at that point? Nope. It still helped me that there was money there. I’m hoping that, at this point in my life things have settled down enough that I can get that three to six months cushion in the bank over the next few years.

Books read in August

I’m writing this in November, so memories of August are a bit hazy. I’ve pieced together the following from my notes. I remember not reading much in August, which is strange because I had two weeks off. I think I had a backlog of magazines to catch up with. So three books isn’t fabulous, but any book read is a happy thing.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Michael Chabon
I love how Chabon creates entire alternate universes. His settings really come alive. What struck me as I was reading this book, is how much the story line mirrored all of the Patrick Kenzie/Angine Gennaro novels by Dennis LeHane. And I’m not just saying that because I was obsessed with them this summer. Summary: Rouge central figure disregards establishment practices and sets out on his own to get to the bottom of things and find The Truth. Central figure is also hopelessly in love with female character and is a better man with her then without her. The difference between this book and the LeHane series (aside from plot line details) is the setting–Boston vs. Alternative Universe Jewish Alaska–and the fact that knowing a bit of Yiddish probably helps with the Chabon book.

Song Yet Sung. James McBride
Follows the lives of residents of the Maryland shore during the time of slavery. Will our main characters make it to freedom? I’ll let you find out for yourself. My favorite part was McBrides’ description of “the code”, the network of messages slaves passed along through laundry, the blacksmith and others. It was fascinating.
(This review is very Reading Rainbow-eqsue)

Prayers for Rain. Dennis LeHane
And I finish the series for the second time this summer.

Started but didn’t finish
Firefly Lane. Kristin Hannah
This books suffers from what I call the “Mork and Mindy Syndrome.” This syndrome, named by me, came about in fifth grade when I was reading a novel and the main characters discussed watching Mork and Mindy the night before. The 1985 me was confused as to how they could be watching that show at night as it was not currently on the prime-time schedule. The 1985 me eventually figured out that when the book was written, Mork and Mindy was at the height of its fame and it would make sense for the characters to discuss it. The end result was by mentioning one detail that would become dated with time, the author pulled me out of the universal setting where I related best to the characters and instead set the book, for no good reason, in the late 1970s when I was very young. I see this happen a lot in novels set in the present day. In my view, the good ones manage to describe the activities of the characters so the book could be happening over a large period of time. The bad ones mention a fleeting pop-culture reference (i.e. The Aniston Haircut) that ties the story unnecessarily to a particular year.

With that explained, I can say that I lost several hours of my life on this book and I regret that I can’t go back and choose not to read it. The very long story, about two friends, one who becomes a famous TV journalist and the other who becomes a housewife, spans several decades and the author seems to think the best way to show the passage of time is to mention both sweeping events and hair and makeup styles. Also, when I quit 3/4 of the way through I could tell exactly where the plot was going. Usually I will read to the end to see if I am right, but the Mork and Mindy effect was so large in the book I couldn’t stand it any longer.

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Michael Ableman
I read most of this book which was a great illustration of suburbia encroaching on rural land. It has lovely pictures.

Attack of the Theater People. Mark Acito
This book picks up with the same characters we met in How I Paid for College. Alas, it had been too long and the writing was so full of life–Acito practically vibrates with energy when you see him in person–it was a bit much for my slothful vacation self. I put it aside for now.

Didn’t even start.
There wasn’t a thing I brought home this month that I didn’t at least begin.

Letters written in August

It is the dog days of the resolution. During my two weeks off I finished writing notes and sending pictures to all the people who went on the trip to Hungary, then I put my pen down. What letters that were written were to the pen pals I’ve made through LEX and to Sara. I returned from my trip with about eight Sara letters to respond to and during the trip she wrote me a very long one. It is a fabulous letter, filled with multiple fonts and clip art. Future Historians will love that one.

1 August–YRUU
2 August–YRUU
3 August–YRUU
4 August–YRUU
5 August–YRUU
6 August–YRUU
7 August–YRUU
8 August–YRUU
9 August–YRUU
10 August–YRUU
11 August–No one
12 August–No one
13 August–No one
14 August–No one
15 August–No one
16 August–No one
17 August–Jan
18 August–LEX Diane (movies)
19 August–LEX Diane (food)
20 August–Sara
**Letter Back–Jenna, YRUU parent
21 August–BroMAunts
22 August–No one
23 August–No one
24 August–No one
25 August–Postcard Sara
**Letter Back LEX Dorothy (2)
26 August–Deborah
27 August–LEX Gerry
28 August–LEX Don
29 August–Sara
30 August–Sara
31 August–No one

17 ways to live happily…Ride a bike.

Ride a bike.

Why do people in the US love their cars? Because they give them freedom. Not having a car means getting the freedom of keeping your money, but giving up the freedom of just jumping in the car and going somewhere. The bike gives some of that freedom back. Bikes are cheap, they get you some exercise while moving you from place to place and you can maintain them for less than $100.00 a year. Plus, they are fun to ride. Reclaim that kid feeling and get on a bike.

17 ways to live happily…Drive a junker

If you must own a car, drive a reliable junker.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho and if I still lived there I probably would own a car. Due to its bare-bones public transportation system I don’t think I could live a full life based on the bus schedule. If I did live in Boise, and did own a car, my hope is that I would be driving a reliable junker. The importance of a reliable junker (or even nice used car) cannot be overstated. They run well, they don’t cost very much, and because you aim to drive them until they die, you don’t have to get wrapped up in the pristine paint job. They don’t automatically lose value when you drive them off the lot as new cars do and once you already own an older car there is no pressure on you to keep up with the Jones’ by replacing your current new car with an even newer car.

The radio station I listen to has an ad that actually says, “Don’t listen to your parents about buying a car and driving it until it dies. Today, you need a new car every couple of years.” If you believe this statement, STOP. It is not true Actually, you never need a new car. With a reliable junker, you never have to worry about fender benders, exorbitant car payments, or your car getting stolen.