15 April 2013

The Books Strike Back

It's movin' time.

Or, at least, packin' time.  Movin' time is kind of complicated, and involves more than one car trip south.  What that means for right now is shuffling my stuff around, getting rid of the excess, and packing it all in a well-ordered fashion.  This of course is super fun for me.  I'm not joking, it is legitimately fun - I may misplace things on a daily basis, live in a constant state of disarray, and put off necessary tasks until the last minute, but I LOVE to arrange and organize things.  It's like a puzzle - how can we arrange and store these items with the most efficient use of space, with the accessibility necessary, in the most logical way possible?  (I should mention that my tendency to live in disarray means that, when I do organize things, they don't stay organized, which means later I get to organize them again.)

Sometimes, organizing or packing is like real-life Tetris.  Especially when you're packing books.  Yesterday, I fetched a few book boxes from the garage (they're book boxes because they're small and sturdy) and went Tetris-crazy trying to fill every inch of space with book.  And I did a smash-up job.  Filled a box top to bottom with books, with hardly any nooks or crannies left unused.  Then I tried to move the box, so that I could start in on the next one.

It didn't budge.

So much for the most efficient use of space.  I took out 10-15 books, tried again.  Still wouldn't move.  Took out a few more, a few more, until finally it was light enough for me to pick up with some effort.  By then it was only about half-full.  Resigned, I filled the other two boxes half-full.  I need smaller boxes, and more of them.  Or I need to get rid of some books - but we all know that's not going to happen.

I promise I did not arrange these books to make me look as nerdy as possible.  It just happened that way.

This is maybe one-third or one-fourth of my books.  MAYBE.  

11 April 2013

Suddenly, Summer

I have been complaining for months now about the cold weather.  "I haven't had a summer since 2011, I am so tired of being cold!" was my main complaint; you see, Welsh "summer" is significantly cooler and wetter than even the coolest Georgia/Alabama spring.  Even if I say I prefer cooler weather, the (not cold) hard truth is that I'm Southern deep in my blood, and it's going to take more than 12 months to acclimatize me to a cooler climate.
Therefore, up until last week I was bemoaning the Spring that yet to show its face, still wearing sweaters and scarves.
And then Summer came.  And now I'm melting.
But at least it's pretty.

This is not a cherry blossom.  But it's still pretty.

04 April 2013

Let's Have Dinner

 Sharing a meal is often at the center of socialization.  Eating out is often at the center of socialization.  Why is this a good idea?  Well, you have a lot of choices, you don't have to do any work, and within a couple hours you have an out if you decide you've had enough socialization for one evening.

What about eating in?  I appreciate a good meal out as much as anybody, but as far as spending time with friends goes, I'd rather have a meal in with friends rather than go out.  Here are my top 5 reasons.

1) Communication.  Restaurants are often loud, you're crowded around a table surrounded by strangers, your server keeps popping up, and once you've finished your meal you have a limited time before the server starts eyeing you for taking up a table.  It's no coincidence this is at the top of my list; maybe it's because I'm a big fat introvert, but I'd take a quiet, private venue with the opportunity for sustained, personal conversation over a noisy, public place nine times out of ten.  I like to really get to know people and enjoy their company, and I think that a private atmosphere goes a long way in fostering that.  I mentioned above that eating out is a good way to have a set end to the socialization if you need to bow out early.  That's still true - but hopefully your friends would be sensitive to time.

2) Comfort.  I think it's far more comfortable to chill out in someone's kitchen/living room than in a restaurant.  And you can pop in a movie or play a game.  Relax.

Soup is easy, cheap, and delicious
3) $$$.  Assuming we're talking about restaurants a bit nicer than fast food, if you get everyone to participate in the cost of food, it's going to be significantly cheaper to cook in than eat out.  Now, I'm not suggesting that you prepare a huge meal and invite all your friends over for a dinner party; there's a time for that, but what I'm talking about here is casual, like hanging out + food.  Share the burden - if you're not hosting, bring food, come early to cook.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  Spaghetti is good, and cheap.

4) Fellowship.  This is kind of connected to Communication and Comfort, but goes a bit deeper.  Preparing a meal with people, helping clean up, hanging around while it's all going on - you get to know people.  You're doing life together.  If you're trying to make new friends, inviting them into your home to share a meal can go a lot farther than meeting them somewhere.

5) Food.  It may feel like there's more food options at a restaurant, but as someone with food allergies, I can attest that finding a dish that's free of allergens can be a seriously big hassle.  More than once I've ordered a dish and pushed part of it off to the side - or I've had to send something back because I asked for it without dairy and it came out with dairy.  This has been getting better in the last few years as more and more people are jumping on food-craze bandwagons or discovering they have food allergies, prompting restaurants to offer more allergy-conscious choices.  But then restaurant food often turns out to be a lot worse for you than you'd expect - cooked in creamy, buttery, sweet, delicious sauces.  Sometimes eating healthy means getting a salad without dressing, and honestly that just doesn't always fill me up!  When you cook at home, if you distribute food responsibilities, you can a) know what's in the food, b) be sure that there's an allergen-free option for your friends, and c) easily have healthy options.  Also, some of us (cough, me) love to cook, and feel silly going all-out for one-person meals.  Having friends to cook for makes me really happy.  You can share recipes and ideas.

Half cheese, half no cheese - perfect for sharing!
Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting you never eat out with your friends.  I'm just advocating for swapping some of those meals out for meals in.  You might find it's more fun and more rewarding than you expected, and a little easier on your wallet.
Another perq to having spaghetti is the artistic possibilities