Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mermaid Tail

I have a friend in California who (finally) updated her's been 6 months since the last time, right after they visited Ohio and I got to see her. She just posted a ton of pictures and I noticed her 5 year-old-twins had a mermaid-themed birthday party, so this blog is for her.

A few months ago, sometime in the summer, BonnieBlue was into The Little Mermaid. So I made her a mermaid tail. I found a video tutorial on youtube by Sasha ( (The young lady is very concerned that others will post tutorials using "her" instructions. As an aside, I'm quite amused about this whole "ownership" issue on the 'net. Being in academia, I'm all about giving credit where credit is due, but some of these folks are kinda' creepy in their intensity about "their stuff." I think it's fine to just link back to the original post and give credit, but if you want to do your own thing and post your own thing after that, WTH, I think that's all you need to do. And I don't mean to be disrespectful when I don't link back to the original; sometimes I just can't remember where I saw it and then can't find it again. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.)

It's been well over 4 months since I've seen Sasha's video, and I'm not doing a video one or step-by-step photo one, so I'm going to go ahead and give a synopsis of how I made the mermaid tail. But if you're going to make one, do go look at Sasha's video; she's very thorough as I remember.

First, lay a big ole' piece of butcher block paper or something similar on the floor. Have your child lay on it, face up. Make sure there is enough room at the bottom (her feet) so that you can draw in the fluke (tail). Trace around the lower half of her body, allowing a generous seam allowance. I did about an inch. Draw in the fluke adding it where her feet were, but going further down...BonnieBlue loved having a longer tail to 'flap about.'

Cut it out. Get swimsuit fabric and a thread that matches. The same kind of fabric is also used for dance and gymnast outfits, if that helps you to find it. Very stretchy stuff. How much will depend on how big your kid is. I think I used a yard and had a bunch left over. 

Fold the fabric in half. Pin the butcher block pattern to the fabric and cut out around the pattern (or if you're more patient than me, trace around the pattern, then cut on the lines you traced) so that you have the 2 sides of the tail.  Leave about 4-6 inches of fabric above the want that extra fabric to turn down later. I had plans to do some nice finishing work on the waist, but I ended up just folding it down; that worked quite well.

Turn right sides in, pin around the edges about just less than the seam allowance you left (I pinned an inch in from the edge all the way around). Sew halfway between the edge and the pin. Backstitch frequently. I'm going to make another one next summer and will double sew (I don't know the technical term) because the stitching ripped after a few uses. (Perhaps my sewing friend, Mama Pea, knows of a there a 'stretchy' thread?)

Don't sew the waist closed. Turn the tail right side out. And this is what you get...

I had the grand intention of putting something in the tail so that it would be stiff, but by the time I got around to it, she didn't want me to. One time, she asked me to put her in the bathtub with her tail on, which I did because it's swimsuit fabric! Cool, huh?! She loves that tail. I bought a yellowish-greenish fabric when I bought this and will make her a new one next summer. I need to buy a bikini top or halter top or something, too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent muffin tin

BonnieBlue is having a hard time understanding that today is not Christmas, and by today I mean everyday. So I made her this:

Once again, I can't remember what site I saw this on, but when I googled it, there were 20 or so sites that were featuring them, so I don't feel too badly about posting mine at all. I had to buy a 2.5 inch punch, which I've wanted for awhile, so it was a double goody.

It took me BonnieBlue's naptime yesterday to complete it. I used a 12 muffin mini-tin and scrapbook stuff to make the disks. A little dab of hot glue to make 'em stick and there ya' go. Oh, and I put one rolo or chocolate kiss in each muffin. This tin already had a hole drilled in it (which, now that I think of it, why?) so I slipped a nice wide ribbon through, and it's hanging on the back of one of dining room chairs.

Next year I'll try to start on Dec. 1, but I'll need to buy a 24 mini-tin.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A sweet Christmas present!

This is a cute gift basket I put together for our departmen support staff and coordinator at work.

The idea came to me when I went to the honey lab sale at the university I work at and saw the cute little beehive-shaped honey pot with honey dipper that has a cute little wooden be on the end. CUTE! I added a container of honey, a honey recipe booklet, a tube of beeswax lip balm, a citrus-honey candle, some honey lemon drops, and a bee-stamped notepad. The card has this quotation:

Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge.
We are perpetually on the way thither, being by

nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind.

----Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's official...

...I'm too busy to breathe.

Don't expect anything new from me til January.

If I don't get tenure this year, I'm not sure I'll be upset. 2 years off with BonnieBlue sounds like heaven right now.

This stress makes me want to start drinking again.

Is it wrong for me to think about scheduling a colonoscopy just to be able to enjoy the best drugs on the planet? Yeah, the prep is awful, but oh that valium drip.

I may have to hire someone to decorate my house for Christmas. But first they'd have to clean it.

Oh. My insomnia is back.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's My Way

Life is overwhelming right now. I guess in particular, work is overwhelming right now. When I am overwhelmed, I tend to practice some serious avoidance. It's my way.

I applied for a grant a few months ago with absolutely no expectation of getting it, and in fact, did not want to get it. Of course, I got it.

Now, the budget needs to be revised, and I was informed today by my budget office that the sponsoring agent needs it on Monday the 29th "at the latest." Who has this expectation during Thanksgiving week? Someone dropped the ball on this one, but I am the one who must scramble to finish, all the while I am out of state.

On another note, I am tired of/annoyed with Google Blogger and the one-picture-upload ideosyncrosy, so I have been avoiding my blog as well.

On still another note, BonnieBlue has pertussis. In a weird way, I'm finally glad to know that this 7-week cold has been for a reason, but annoyed that the doctor poo-poo'd the idea of pertussis when we took her in 2 weeks ago. "Just a cold." Helluva cold that lasts 7 weeks. Today she coughed so hard she threw up. Poor baby. I would gladly take on an illness if it meant my child would not suffer it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, but especially my one-and-only reader.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving PC: give it a rest

I know people who delight in telling people the myths of Thanksgiving, e.g., those folks weren't Pilgrims, they didn't eat Turkey and cranberries at the first Thanksgiving, etc. etc. These people also lament the celebration of a holiday that (to them) marks the onset of the genocide at worst, displacement at best of an entire native population of people. These people are also pro-illegal immigration, but I haven't gotten the nerve to point out the hypocrisy. Maybe soon.

Anyway, here's my first argument: Not Pilgrims because they weren't called that until more than 150 years later? Ummm, that's splitting hairs, don't ya' think? The Native Americans didn't call themselves Native Americans either then (many still don't). Second argument about turkey and cranberries not at that celebration, but we eat it now. There weren't Easter baskets at the first Easter or a Santa Claus at the birth of Christ, but those are our traditions now. And if you want to get a bit more macabre, we Christians don't crucify a Jew for our Easter celebration either. Give it a rest about the Turkey and cranberries.

Here's the crux of my point though: There is no excuse for what the early and later European immigrants and their descendents, as well as our nation's leaders, did to the Native population. None. I'm not an apologist. But those early immigrants, who I will still call the Pilgrims, didn't come here to kill the natives. They came here to start a new life in a land in which they thought there might be opportunities to thrive as families and communities. Hey, does that sound a little like Mexican immigrants? If you think the Mexicans should be allowed to come on over without restrictions, what's your beef with the early European immigrants having done it?

But more important, the first Thanksgiving seems to me to be a celebration of life, of survival, and even cooperation between two disparate groups of people. Why in tarnation would we not want to continue that tradition of celebration?! For heaven's sake, it's THANKSGIVING! When I sit down with my family and eat Turkey and cranberry sauce, I am not condoning the genocide of the native population; I am following the example of a humble band of immigrants who survived an incredibly harsh winter and wanted to GIVE THANKS to their Father in heaven with a celebration feast. It's really just that simple.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jury duty

The trial is over and I can talk about it now.

Our system is a great one. It works to protect the rights of the accused/arrested. Unfortunately, the system is an overloaded one.

The case I was on was an OVI. There were no toxicology reports, but the guy crashed his car into a tree on a residential road at night. He had 2 baggies of white powder, one cocaine, one crushed Adderall. In addition, there were 30-60 pills spilled all over the front floorboard and seat of his car. In addition, he admitted to taking methodone that morning, 3 beers at midday, and cocaine three days before. The two arresting officers testified that he was impaired. Finally, we saw a dash-cam video that showed him clearly failing the 2 field sobriety tests. To any reasonable person, he was impaired. Defense claimed back injury prevented ability to perform the tests. On the video, you can hear the guy say, when the officer's asked before administering the tests if he had an health issues, "I have sciatica, but it's not bothering me now." He also entered and exited the cruiser in such a manner as to convince everyone familiar with anhyone who has back pain that he was NOT affected by back pain at that time.

One guy on the jury would not convict. I respect his right to vote as his conscience dictated but he indicated over and over that he would not convict the guy because the prosecution did not do their job. He insisted that they screwed up because there was no tox report. I pointed out every time he brought that up that we did not know that there was not a report, that perhaps there was and for some reason it was not admissable or it was surpressed. He couldn't buy it. 8 hours of deliberation. Hung jury.

Afterwards we found out the there were tox reports and that the guy scored 8 times higher than the 'high level' for cocaine. That evidence was surpressed because you can't submit tox reports for evidence without a lab tech to testify and the prosecution couldn't get the lab tech into court that day.

Despite all that, if I were ever charged with anything, I'd want people like those in that jury room deciding my fate. Despite the low stakes, everyone took it seriously, listened to each other, and except for the one guy, to consider each other's views.

By the way, the one guy who wouldn't convict? Corporate lawyer. Seemed to think he knew how to do the prosecutor's job better than the prosecutor.

Hope the coke guy, who by the way didn't have any priors, learned his lesson and doesn't ever again get behind the wheel of a car while jacked. We can only hope.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

After all this time, I still miss my mom

I meant to do this post on Oct. 28. Humor me and pretend.

Roses in October
Rhett and I bought our house in 2006 (Dec). I knew the owners had spent a lot of time with their flower beds even though it was winter and they were dormant. There was a large flower bed in the back, an iris bed on the side of the house (with giant mum and peony bushes flanking them), a row of various exotic flowers (e.g., hibiscus) along the fence line on one side of the backyard, irises, tulips, and daffodils around the perimeter of the concrete slab right out our back door, and two rose bushes in the front of the house. The woman loved irises; they were everywhere! Not so much my favorite flower, the iris.

The first summer, the flowers got out of control because I am NOT a gardener, but they were beautiful! Rhett and I had talked about plowing under the large flower bed in the back to put in a vegetable garden after the “season” was over. About this time, I was planning a football party for our faculty and doc students: a daytime, outdoor “tailgate” theme. A week before the party, Rhett plowed under the flowerbed! This is just one of the many examples of the miscommunication that occurs between us. I didn’t clarify that I wanted the beauty and ambiance of the flowers for my party. He didn’t tell me he was going to do it, giving me a chance to ask him to wait. Part of me believes he purposely didn’t tell me because he knew I’d ask him not to. This is bolstered by the fact that he has not stopped pestering me to plow under every single flower bed and area. Even the roses.

I’ve waivered on plowing under every flower and bed—and caved—except the roses. We’re keeping the roses. Below is a picture taken just this month.

The reason I am adamant about keeping the roses is because my mother loved roses. Her favorite flower was the yellow rose. Neither of mine are yellow. One is salmony-coral and the other is magenta. Nevertheless, every time I look at my blooming rosebushes, I think of my mom. I find it fascinating that today, October 28, there are buds and blooms, and they are particularly beautiful. Because 30 years ago today, my mother died of cancer.

It was exactly one week before my 16th birthday. 3 days before Halloween. She was 52 years old, a mother of 10, four of us still at home. The youngest was 14.

In 6 six years, I will be her age. That gives me great pause.

My mother was a neat woman (really, whose mom isn’t/wasn’t?). Things I remember—which, by the way, may be either wrong or just different from my older siblings as children in families as large as ours probably actually have different family experiences given the age difference—include the following:

• We got to pick what dinner we wanted on our birthdays. I remember one brother picked chop suey. I think it was a new thing then because now I think it is gross.

• She made awesome birthday cakes. The 2 I remember are doll cakes and train cakes.

• She was a bit of a prankster. When my oldest brother got married and went on his honeymoon, she short-sheeted their bed, balanced buckets of rice on doors tops, and saran-wrapped the toilet (I could be mis-remembering this entire bullet).

• She loved sweets. I eventually ended up with her tin recipe box (Thanks to sister-in-law #1). 7/8 of the recipes are for desserts.

• She loved her sisters. And liked them, too.

• She struggled with her weight, too. My youngest sister remembers going to a Weight Watcher’s meeting with her and stopping for ice cream on the way home.

• By her own admission (I have the letters she wrote to my dad when he was in the army stationed in Germany post-WWII), she didn’t really enjoy nursing school, which she attended after graduating high school. It sounded like she wasn’t a good student, but she was president of her high school class, and class presidents aren’t usually dummies.

• She finished nursing school about 25 years or so after she started. Her youngest was in Kindergarten, I think.

Okay, sibs, if you read this, I want to know if I got anything right, particularly thebirthday dinners. If that memory is accurate, what did you pick? And does anyone remember what I picked?

One of my childhood favorites... now one of BonnieBlue's.

When I was a kid, we used to anticipate this movie with bated breath and watched with glee. I found it for $8 or so at Kroger one day a few months ago. I picked it out of the rack and put it back about 5 times before I finally decided it was really for me that I was buying it: I wanted to see it again!

BonnieBlue's favorite part is when Henry transforms into the fish. It's probably the cheesiest part of the movie, and that's saying something.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh dear

It appears an intervention is in order (should have done something on Oct. 29).

Or, I could just go with Mama Pea's (apparently my only blogger friend) appraisal that this doesn't seem like a lot of diet coke.

I wish there was a $1.00 'sin' tax on each bottle of it. That would get me to stop drinking it. I could try putting a $1.50 in a jar every day I go without, and then monthly spend the $ on whatever I want. Or save it up to buy something big. Like the West Wing DVD collection I want. That would be 200 days without diet coke. Hmmm...

New topic.

I made 2 delicious soups last week. We've been getting acorn squash in our CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes, and I didn't know what to do with them. I've heard that butternut squash soup is good, so I googled 'acorn squash soup' and found Emeril Lagasse's recipe here. By the way, it's copyrighted by Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Inc. What does that mean, anyway? I'm a plagiarism-cop when it comes to my students' work, but how does this 'due credit' thing work on the Internet? I'm not passing this off as my own recipe. I'm giving the website and the copyright. Does the copyright prevent me from copying and pasting the recipe (which I wouldn't do anyway)? I hope I'm not doing anything wrong by sharing how I made his soup. I know not to use the picture. Unfortunately, I didn't take any of my soup, but you can be sure I'll make it again and tweak the recipe some more and post a picture.

If you want the recipe, go to the site and then come back here for the 'what they don't tell you' stuff. You'll notice I change amounts and omit items.

I washed each acorn squash (3) and cut in half. Cutting them was hard! I scooped out (with a spoon) the seeds and as much of the strings as I could

I sprayed a cake pan with Pam and placed the sqush cut side down. I added about a 1/2 cup water to the pan.

I roasted them in at preheated oven at 390 degrees for about 35 min. I let them cool about 30 min. The skin will kind of peel away from the flesh so when you go to scoop out the flesh, be careful not to take the skin with it. Scoop and set aside.

Pour some olive oil in a large saute/frying pan (I rarely measure olive oil...I would guess about an 1/8 of a cup or 2-3 tablespoons) and sautee a small to medium onion, chopped. The recipe calls for carrots, but I didn't have any. It also calls for a Granny Smith. I used a Melrose. I peeled, cored, and chopped it and added it to the onion after about 5 min. Sautee for about 8 min. NOTE: Did you know that olive oil has a lower break-down (or smoking point) temperature than other oils, like canola? Really high quality (the expensive stuff) olive oil usually has a higher break-down temperature, just so you know. I don't buy the expensive stuff. The issue here is that at high temperatures, the oil breaks down and that results in a nasty taste. So, saute with olive oil carefully. Generally, I don't go above medium on my electric stove top, just to be safe.

Add ginger and allspice, 1/4 tspn each. Stir til just mixed. Add the squash. Mix. Add a small box + 1 can 98%  fat free chicken broth. Stir. Simmer 15 min. (You could totally make this vegan with vegetable broth!)

I don't have a handheld immersion blender, so I blended in a blender in batches. I chose the highest setting and blended (liquefied?) for about a minute. After blending, I poured in a sauce pan/small stock pot and brought to a boil then immediately turned on low. Leave on low for at least 10 min, but I left it on for 30 or so. Serve with a crusty whole grain baguette fresh from the oven. Yummers.

Creamiest soup you will ever eat. And healthy! No sugar, just a bit of fat and it's the healthy kind (olive oil).

Rhett bought a rotisserie chicken to go with our soup and bread. After dinner, I cleaned off the carcass and boiled it to make my own chicken stock. Yeah, I know. Sometimes, I just don't like a good chicken carcass to go to waste. Next post, I'll share the soup I made with that!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jury duty

'Nuff said.

Except for this: I am getting so much done! I wish I could bring my sewing machine in and work on the Christmas mystery quilt at ErikHomemade.

This is what I have done so far. I'm 2 weeks behind, but they're pretty easy, short steps so it won't take much to catch up.

I'd post my diet coke graph, but Blogger is still only letting me upload one image at a time. Maybe later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now I remember why...

...I drink so much diet coke.

I frequently suffer from insomnia. It is now 4:18 a.m. and I have not slept yet because I cannot sleep. I think it's hormones, but I can't be sure. Could be stress.

Tomorrow's dc consumption very well may be off the chart, let alone above the aimline.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A chocolate dessert to DIE for!

I made this yesterday, and we ate it warm with whipped topping on top. I just had the leftovers, cold from the 'fridge. Either way, this is THE MOST AMAZING chocolate cake-like dessert EVER! AND I MADE IT IN THE CROCKPOT!

The recipe is from the little cookbook/owner's manual that came with the trio crockpot that Rhett got me for an early birthday present.
I also found the recipe at www. under desserts. I have altered it a little, so I'm going to tell you how I made it. I thought about taking pictures as I made it, but with Blogger being so uppity of late, I didn't think it would ever get posted. Now I regret it. Rest assured, I will make it again and show pictures. But do not wait until I do. Make. This. Soon.

Triple Chocolate Surprise
1 package chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge)
6 oz sour cream (recipe called for 8 oz; I had an 8 oz package from which a tablespoon or so was gone)
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix (I used Kroger brand, the small size)
Between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup oil (recipe calls for 3/4 c; I like to reduce oil whenever possible so mine was closer to 1/2 c)
1 large egg, 1 large egg white, 2/3 cup egg beater-type egg (recipe calls for 4 eggs; I like to reduce the egg yolks because my cholesterol is borderline, and Rhett drinks the egg-beater stuff for we always have that on hand - I use that stuff as a substitute for eggs in baking)
1 cup water
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Mix everything together in a bowl. I folded in the chocolate chips after mixing everything else together.
2. Spray stoneware/crock with Pam or similar spray.
3. Pour mix in crock.
4. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on low setting. (The recipe says you can cook on high for 3-4 hours. I cooked mine for the first hour and a half on high, and it burnt a crust on the outside. Not good. It was done in that short amount of time, though, so I figure 3-4 hours on low ought to do it.)


It appears that an intervention may be in order. I'll see how the next couple of days go but I'm already thinking about instituting a contingent reinforcer for keeping below the aimline. Perhaps I won't be able to craft or quilt unless I stay below the aimline. The problem with that one is that I don't craft or quilt everyday anyway. Hmmmm...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Today's diet coke update

I had to punish myself for my bad day yesterday. I didn't have any today, even though it looks like I had one ounce. I entered 1 ounce in the graph just so a bar would show up and it wouldn't look like I forgot to enter something.
Blogger is only letting me upload one picture per blog entry so some days I'll do more than one entry to get all the pictures in.


Here's the finished wreath. See yesterday's post for details and the link to the blog from which I got the idea.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I got my craft on yesterday...

...and did this, because I'm bound and determined that BonnieBlue will remember that during her childhood, her mom made a big deal of the holidays. My mom did, and I remember that fondly.

The blogger I got this idea from used a wooden wreath form but I couldn't find a craft store that had 'em and Dollar General wouldn't take my MasterCard as a credit card, only debit. I don't debit. I used a grapevine wreath.

Blogger has gone buggy again and won't let me upload any more images. ARGH! I'll do some more troubleshooting and hopefully will post the finished product tomorrow. In the meantime, HERE is where I got the idea.

Bad aspertame day

But, I did figure out the Blogger problem so I can now upload images again. Several photos to come.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hating blogger

When I try to upload an image, Blogger is being finicky. First, it doesn't respond, but I hear my hard drive accepting about a thousand cookies. After that, it's a crap shoot as to whether it'll upload. Let's see if I'm lucky Lucy today.

Nope. No luck.

But my DCCR is going great. I was a few ounces over the aimline today, but it's because I was drinking my 20 ounce bottle in the car listening to Harry Potter and I simply forgot to not drink it all. Sorry about no graph.

On to another topic: I'm all caught up on my Christmas Mystery Quilt Project. Perhaps someday you'll see pictures. In the meantime, I have to explore my options for other blog providers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blogger in a fogger

Something is wrong with Google Blogger. It's having a cookie issue, as far as I can tell, and it won't let me upload images to my blog.

So, let me just update you via text that I'm still below the aimline on my DCCR program. Today was 20 ounces. It gets tricky from here on out because I have to practice some serious will power by dumping a bit of my 20 ounce bottle of diet coke at some point during the drinking of it.

Family home evening (FHE) was a lesson on prayer and then pumpkin carving. In my 30 second lesson on prayer, I mentioned that the only thing prayer and pumpkins have in common is that they both begin with 'P.' Perfectly appropriate lesson for a preschooler, I think.

I have pictures, but as you can tell, I've come full circle. I can't upload them due to my Blogger problem.

I shall try again tomorrow, with pictures of my Christmas mystery quilt project, as well.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween craft

You can find this project at my favorite cooking blog, Our Best Bites. These took about 2 hours from start to finish, so I could have gotten to bed a little after 1 a.m., but I stayed up watching West Wing Season 2 (I'm a Wingnut). They turned out really cute, I think. I would have rather used purple for the vampire, but I didn't have any darker purple tissue paper (I did have a lilac color but I didn't think it would work). In retrospect, I would also put little bolts on the side of Frankenstein.

Frank, Hal, Ed, and Bob
 I have to admit, they look pretty cute in the normal room lighting just sitting out like this. At night, I think they would look fabulous with real tea lights, but this year, there is a 3-and-half-year-old BonnieBlue running around who is fascinated with fire, so I'm going to use battery-operated "tea lights" for our Halloween needs. Also, I have no idea if Mod Podge is flammable, and with my memory lapses of late, I'm sure to forget, leave the candles burning one night, and come home to find a pile of smouldering rubble. Fortunately, they look pretty cute with fake fire.

I'm going to try the glow sticks, too; I think that will look even cuter. I'm going to use a green glow stick for Frank, orange for Hal, etc.

By the way, when BonnieBlue saw these this morning, there was really no reaction. Perhaps next year she'll be impressed with  my craftiness.

The project supplies: glass jars (I'm going to try a plastic container soon to see if that works), Mod Podge, sponge brush, tissue paper, ribbon (or other trim-like material), and glue. One jar has the jar lid on top of tissue paper folded and glued on the lip of the lid, one has ribbon, one has black construction paper, and one has a gold-colored fabric trim ribbon. I used black tissue paper for the ghost's face, but I used black scrapbooking paper for the rest. I podged the jar first, laid 1-2" strips of tissue paper all around, and then when that dried a bit, podged all over again. After they dried, I glued on the faces with craft glue.

The big pumpkin is a jar I got at The Container Store about 4 months ago on a clearance shelf. It was 3 dollars, I think, because it didn't have the lid anymore. Frank is a Mason jar, Bob is a salad dressing jar, and Ed was made from a jar that had peaches in it. Crafty AND recycling!

I almost forgot! Here's my DCCR graph.

I think there is a little optical illusion going on with the bar graph. Today's bar looks a tad higher than yesterday's, but I had 23 ounces each day.

If you're wondering how I can post the graph when the day is only a little more than half over, here's why. I suffer from insomnia, whuch is aggravated when I drink ANY diet coke after 3 o'clock (used to be 7:00ish in my twenties, 5ish in my thirties, and now early afternoon in my forties). So, I almost never drink any diet coke after 3:30, unless I am desperately thirsty, and it's the only beverage available. It's not worth the tossing and turning later that night. Yesterday was the perfect example, as I had my second can of diet coke at 3:00 and wasn't tired enough to go to sleep until 3 a.m. Hence, the craft project.

This beautiful Saturday afternoon, BonnieBlue is with Grandma, and Rhett is with his brother at a gun show so I'm going to pull out the sewing machine and get started on the mystery Christmas quilt project. Booyah!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Down one ounce

That's all I want to say today.

Because tonight I'm going to make these cute mason jar lanterns from the food blog (one of my faves), and I want to go to be in bed before midnight (or 1 a.m.).

I'll post pictures of them when I'm done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Diet Coke, Voting, and Jury Duty

First things first. Going gangbusters on my DCCR program (I'm getting tired of typing out Diet Coke Consumption Reduction).

I want to not be affilliated with any one particular political party.

Unfortunately, in Ohio that means you can't vote for candidates in primaries because in Ohio primaries you have to choose one of the following: a Democratic ballot, a Republican ballot, or an issues only ballot. There is a way for other parties to get candidates on the ballot in a primary, but I can't remember how it works. If they are successful, then there may be a Green Party ballot or a Libertarian ballot, etc. Anyway, during the last primary, I voted an issues-only ballot even though I really wanted Hillary Clinton to be president. I think she would have rocked. One of the benefits of such an action is a decided lack of robo-calls.

Anyway, my (w)holistic global view does not align with any one party. I'm somewhat of a social liberal on many issues, but not all. I'm a fiscal conservative. I'm neither a hawk or a dove. Blah, blah, blah. I have a candidate yard sign for a U.S. Senate candidate who lost in a close race 2 years ago. Rhett has met him several times, talked with him about relevant topics, shared with me those conversations, and I have decided I think he is the best candidate for the job. Someone keeps tearing down the yard sign. This behavior disgusts me.

I want to get a yard sign supporting the attorney general's re-election campaign because, well, I support him; I think he's the best person for the job. These 2 people are in different parties. I think it will confound people driving by yard.

I want to get 1000 yard signs made that say "Vote the person, not the party." That's my political statement. Can you imagine how fun politics would be without political parties? Ordinary people would have a decent shot at winning office. Go Everyman (and Everywoman!)!

My 28 years of voting have finally paid off. I've been called for jury duty. I WANT to get seated. I don't care if it's a tax evasion case. I love it that our country gives the accused the right to a trial and judgment by a jury of his/her peers. The USA rocks. I should be down to 5 ounces of diet coke a day by Jury Duty Day 1.

Ta for now!

First withdrawal symptoms?

I had a full day and couldn't post, so here's yesterday's graph.

I felt a bit off my game yesterday, kind of ucky in the abdomen area, and I wonder if it's withdrawal. After all, 26 ounces is about half my daily dose of late.

This morning was a nightmare trip to the dentist. Horror of all horrors, we discovered that nitrous no longer works for me, which is terribly unfortunate, because I have a mouth resistant to numbing, which means I get what seems like double the dose. And actually, I do get double the needles in my gums. Today was the day I decided, "no more." If I have any more serious dental work to be done (today was a crown), I'm going under.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Diet Coke Consumption Reduction

For my birthday present to myself, I thought I would give up one of my addictions.

I do not use this term loosely. I admit it (again): I am addicted to Diet Coke.

Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame. Recent medical studies correlate the consumption of aspartame with vision loss. Some experts think the body doesn't know the difference and confuse it with sugar, so weight loss/metabolism is compromised by high aspartame consumption (i.e., it's harder to lose weight). Some studies show that consumption of soft drinks in general is correlated with less water consumption. In general, I'm trying to eat healthier, which includes less processed foods. And beverages.

And then there's the caffeine.

Long story, short, I'm giving diet coke up. Starting today.

But I just read today that it is dangerous to give it up cold turkey. I remember a study about caffeine consumption in which the subject self-recorded ounces of coffee drank, reducing consumption daily. I'm going to try that, and you're going to help me.

I'm going to blog about this daily and share my data. I think my target will be 3 oz. by Nov. 3, zero ounces on Nov. 4 (happy birthday to me!).

I am intending try to stay at the trend line everyday, but I might go lower and stay at that lower amount for a few days.

I've tried this before, without success. This month, however, is the 14th anniversary of the month I gave up alcohol. I like the symmetry.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A healthier muffin

It being apple season, I thought maybe you would appreciate another apple recipe, as well as some hints about how to make muffins healthier.

Hint 1: Add flax meal (to any recipe that has flour); I'm currently experimenting with amounts, but in general, 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of flour seems to add no discernible taste or cooking difference.

Hint 2: Cut the sugar in half (unless it's my recipe). The original recipe that I generally use for zucchini bread calls for 2 cups. Ugh. I think that is crazy too-much! I added applesauce, which should help make up for the sweetness lost to that cup of sugar. In addition, I used mushy 'bananas (which I think get sweeter the mushier they get), and the apples were sweet. I will warn you, once you start cutting sugar in your baked goods, you will notice how sweet others' are.

Hint 3: Use half wheat flour or a high fiber flour. I'm partial to the Eagle's Mill brand in the picture below; I get it at Costco, so they're big bags, but I go through cooking spurts, so my flour doesn't "go bad."

Hint 4: Use only one egg and egg whites for the rest. This cuts the cholesterol.

Hint 5: Add whatever fruit you have on hand, and some veggies, e.g., zucchini and carrots. Admittedly, these are the only 2 veggies I've ever tried in a muffin.

Hint 6: Add walnuts or pecans and raisins, but not much. Unfortunately, I usually do not have nuts on hand, and I'm not a big fan of raisins in my muffins, but the raisins will add sweetness, allowing you to cut the sugar.

Hint 7: If the recipe calls for cinnamon, double it (except in my recipes). I love cinnamon and it's supposed to have some good, healthy properties that escape me at the moment.

Hint 8: Reduce the oil by half and replace with applesauce. The applesauce is one reason you can reduce the sugar.

My muffin choice today was determined by this: I had 5-6 smallish apples from a friend's tree and couldn't bear to throw them away. I had 2 and a half mushy bananas. I had half of a large zucchini reaching the edge of 'bad.' I hadn't blogged for awhile.

Fruity Zucchini Bread

this is what the wet mix looks like before adding in the dry stuff

Full disclosure: I forgot to add the flax meal to this batch.
• 2 egg whites, 1 egg lightly beaten
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ¼ cup apple sauce
• 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2-3 mushy bananas
• About 1 ¼ cup white sugar
• About 1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
• 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use Eagle Mills All-Purpose Unbleached Flour from Costco, which is a mix of whole grain flour: 2 gram fiber per ¼ cup vs 1 gram of white)
• 1 heaping tablespoon flax meal
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 2-3 cups chopped apple (I like big chunks; dicing them small will disguise them)

1. Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans or 3 regular size loaf pans. Or use muffin tins.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, apple sauce, vanilla, banana and sugar. Fold in the zucchini and apples
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, flax, and cinnamon and mix with a fork or whisk. Add flour mix to wet mix and fold in, just until combined.
4. Transfer to the prepared pans.
5. Bake 50 minutes (Muffins, 18-20 min) in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

On another note, my birthday is next month. Rhett got me an early gift: Looky, looky! 
Yes siree! That's a 3-hole crockpot. 3 quarts and 3 setting for each pot. There's a notch in each pot rim so that the spoon can sit inside the pot while the lid is on and snug! This will make Thanksgiving so much easier! God bless my Rhett.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Christmas Mystery Quilt Project begins next week!

At a blog I'm sure I must have found via Mama Pea's blogsite, comes this project:

It's going to be a 3-dimensional wall-hanging. We've lived in our house since Dec. of 2006 and at this moment we have exactly 11 items hnging on our walls. And none are in the living room. Only one is in the the dining area, a picture of Christ. These 11 items are hanging only because there were existing nail holes in the walls. Ask any of my siblings; we have an aversion to pounding nails into walls, passed down from our father, I believe. I think this was likely enhanced when we each lived in rented/leased dwellings. Interestingly for me, Rhett 'suffers' this same aversion, hence, a serious lack of wall decor in our little Tara. I intend to pound my first new nail hole when this project is finished.

Erik calls for scraps of red, green, and beige or white fabric. Here's my assembly so far.

Reds (can you tell I'm partial to the darkish reds?)

greens (hmmm, only 3, but I've got a few yards of that dark one in the back)

beiges and whites (the one on the far left is my favorite)

As you might notice, I am lacking the greens. This is a scrap project, which already poses a challenge for me. I don't quilt much and haven't been for long, so I don't have a lot of scraps. In addition, my last (well, current really) quilt is a scrap quilt of greens and yellows, so all my green scrap went to that. They were summer-spring greens though, so admittedly I didn't have much Christmas green in the first place. Anybody want to donate green scraps for this project?

Here's a thought I had today about fabric . Until this morning, I have never been able to buy fabric without a project in mind. I mean, I can walk by a fabric and think, "Wow, that's cute/pretty/neat (insert other appropriate adjective here)." But I have always thought it extravagant to just buy fabric for no reason other than that I liked the fabric. Today, though, I was pulling out the fabric for these photos and the thought struck me that many (if not most) of my non-LDS friends and family think I'm more than a little "off" for having a basement full of food (in short, our church encourages a year's supply of food storage in case of emergency or in case of financial lean times, which by the way, we have experienced recently when Rhett was a SAHD). I have many pounds of wheat in my basement "for no reason."

The wheat is in the shiny foil pouches. Man, our food storage area is a mess.

Of course, someday I'll use it. That's the thought that hit me today. I have all that food for no particular reason except for that someday I will definitely use it. Ta - da! My rationale for buying fabric! It's not exactly a necessity for storage (unless the end times come) but there's the logic anyway...someday I'll use it! I think my little hobby is about to get more expensive. But how can Rhett, a devoted fan of food storage, argue with the logic?

(Food storage disclaimer: We do not have a year's worth. As you can see, I do store food that I actually use frequently, like lite mayo, pasta, pumpkin, various canned soups, etc. It's not all wheat and beans down there. In fact, you will note in the center and a little up in the photo that I buy essentials like Giaradelli Brownie mix in bulk at Costco.)

Back to the mystery quilt project. Erik has mentioned it's 3-dimensional, so I'm hoping it's something like an advent calendar. But more likely, it's probably just embellished with Christmas and winter-ish doo-dads (love that word 'doo-dad'!). It's the 3-dimensional part of this that has me interested enough to participate. One more week to go before the next set of directions!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The beach is back

We spent several days at a beachfront condo on Emerald Isle. Beachfront, imho, is the only way to go for a beach vacation. There is nothing like being able to just run inside to go to the bathroom, grab some water or something to eat, or just get out of the sun, knowing we can come back to the beach without any big to-do. Here are some pictures of the view from deck of the condo we stayed in:

That's Rhett and BonnieBlue in the center of the frame.

We drove over to Beaufort one is the 3rd oldest city in North Carolina (Bath is the oldest, but I don't remember the other) and is famous for being a bit of a homebase for the pirate Blackbeard.

There are several boat tours that operate out of Beaufort. We took one to see "horses and nature." There's an island right across from Beaufort called Carrot Island on which live wild ponies that descended from those shipwrecked from Spanish Galleons. Being that BonnieBlue is a bit of a horse nut, we took the tour. She loved the boat ride and seeing the ponies.

Ponies on Carrot Island as seen from the boat.

While we were watching, the stallion (not pictured here) got a bit frisky with one of his harem. A little bit of live x-rated nature for my 3-year-old daughter to see! 

Ponies also live on Shackelford Island, which the boat drove by. These are all small islands I'm talking about. Shackelford is cool. You can have a boat drop you off and you can spend an hour or a day there. On the way to Shackelford, we also saw dolphins off the bow of the boat, but I couldn't get a good shot. They jumped within 20 feet at one point, but all I got was a fin shot.

We also spent a day at Fort Macon, one of the most amazing civil war sites. Seriously, if you are at all interested in history, Fort Macon is a destination in and of itself.

Rhett and BonnieBlue at Fort Macon

In short, I highly recommend the outerbanks as a vacation destination. After Labor Day, lodging prices drop significantly. We use Emerald Isle Realty, which I highly recommend. We've now stayed at Camp Cottage and Pier Pointe Condos. Sometimes, when I'm having a really stressful day, I go to the site and browse possible beachfront houses/condos at which to stay next time.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New quilting project

Ok, I decided to give up on the Snowbound quilt (snowman block-a-month) that I found via my friend Mother Pea, who follows an unholy number of quilting blogs. Every once in awhile, when I have some extra time, I stalk a blog or 2 from her site. I must remember not to do this because everytime I do, I find a project I want to start.

Snowbound can be found at Bunny Tales. It has applique for each of the 12 blocks, and I don't know how to do applique yet. I'm learning, bit by bit, but I'm an odd bird when it comes to quilting (I think). I think I'm a smart cookie, at least as far as book-learning, yet I find I cannot learn anything about quilting from a book (or blog, etc). It's an okay starting point, but generally I find that the author/blogger assumes the reader knows more than I do, so I'm always trying to figure something out.

Back when I started quilting, I was doing it "by the book" and found it frustrating as all get out. About a month or 2 in, I went to the Gee's Bend Quilt show at the Cleveland Museum of Art. After that experience, I decided I would never be a perfectionist quilter and likely would never attempt any quilt that required my points to match up. I even resolved to forgo patterns, but I've since come down off that ledge.

Anyway, until I figure out applique, meaning I have time to sit down a few hours a day a few days in a row to work through the process, I need something easier. I'm following a free motion quilting tutorial at A Few Scraps, but I do so enjoy piecing, so I want to start another project while I'm working on free motion quilting the one quilt I have right now. By the way, I intended that quilt (see earlier posts for pictures) to be for BonnieBlue but it turns out she loves the color blue (hence her pseudonym...thank goodness is goes with my Scarlett theme), so I think I'll make her another in shades of blue (the current quilt is green and yellow).

Back to topic, I want to start another project and ran into this at ErikHomemade. It's a mystery Christmas quilt project - cool!

Changing topics, tonight is our last night at the beach. We sort of last minute rented a beachfront condo on Emerald Isle, which is now a 2-year tradition for our little family. Every time I sit down to hop on the computer, I don't have the camera or the card reader handy, and my will to update with a new post goes out the french doors with the ocean breeze. Perhaps when I return  home, I will post pictures AND my fabric choices for the mystery quilt. I am practically giddy with anticipation!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

When I'm stressed...

I bake.

Unfortunately, sewing doesn't do it for me like baking does, probably because there is nothing to eat after sewing.

As I've mentioned before, I'm writing a grant application.
It's due this week.
I've never written one before.
I'm doing almost all of it by myself.
I am not handling the stress very well.
So, tonight I made an apple crostata.

I stalk a few cooking blogs and really enjoy those pictures. I admire those cooking bloggers, so I wanted to give my blog the look of a cooking blog, just this once. Maybe again in the future sometime, who knows?

I can't remember where I stole/got the original recipe, which I feel bad about. I visit these cooking blogs frequently, but I couldn't find it on them:  Our Best Bites,  My Kitchen Cafe, Picky Palate. But I changed it enough (e.g., reduced the sugar and butter, upped the cinnamon) that I don't feel that bad. I also simplified it. You could use only one bowl. I don't make any recipe that has too many  procedures, uses too many atypical ingredients, or too many dishes...hate the clean-up!

Without further ado..(the recipe follows the pictures)

Here's what you need. I had already peeled 2 apples when I realized I could blog the crostata creating!
You can just peel and slice, but I like my little apple much easier when the apple is peeled!

I don't have any fancy bowls or mixing utensils.

Several of the crostata recipes I perused said to roll out the pie crust to 11" (this one is 9" Kroger brand), but I like my crust thick. Also, I made a peach crostata a couple of week ago and the rolled out crust split and leaked all over. Not a problem to worry about with apple crostata because you won't get the juice that you do with a peach, but it's something to keep in mind.

Mound it all on there in the center of the crust.

One of my favorite things about this recipe; you can make the topping in the same bowl that you just made the apple filling in.

Spoon on the topping and pleat up the crust. If you prefer a crustless version, use a buttered ramekin and a little less than a cup of the filling. Don't forget the topping: it really makes the dessert yummy. At this point, you can brush some egg white on. It makes it look so pretty. I forgot.

The original recipe called for 3 apples, but I used 4 (no such thing as less is more when I'm baking!) so I had just enough left over for a ramekin. This is the picture post-baked.

Don't bake it at 450 degrees, which I did because that's what the recipe I had called for. Thankfully I checked it at 20 minutes and barely saved it from burning.

The only thing missing is the vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crostata

Place a pie crust on a parchment-lined or baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375˚.

The Filling (in a bowl combine):
1/4 cup flour
<1/2 cup granulated sugar (I've taken to reducing the sugar in any recipe; use less then 1/2 cup but more than 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
about 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced)

Stir dry ingredients with a fork. Add the apples and stir with a sturdy spoon until all apples slices are well-coated.

Mound the apples on the center of the pie crust.

The Topping (place in the same bowl):
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats (any kind)
<1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced

Using a fork, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and using the back of the sturdy spoon, flatten and stir over and over until the butter and dry ingredients are crumbly. Spoon evenly over the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle. If desired, brush egg white on the dough.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 30 minutes (check at 20!), until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

After I finished this, I realized how tasty it would be with blueberries or raisins or walnuts. I also forgot to add the 1 tbsn of flaxseed meal I've been trying to remember to add to all baked goods. Next time!

The original recipe called for more sugar, more butter, less cinnamon and allspice, no oats in the topping, and kosher salt, which I don't have. Regular salt seemed to work fine.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Procrastination Routine

1. Check all 3 email accounts (yes, I have 3)
2. Check my church's Yahoo group posts
3. Check the Freecycle Yahoo group posts
4. Check blogs, specifically Peas in a Pod, The Ramblings of a Political Psychology Major (he doesn't post very often so I'm about to cut him from my routine), Straight from the Farm (I stalk this idea who it is but it's usually amusing), and some friends' sites who live far away just to catch up.
5. Check Facebook
6. And if I'm really putting off the work, I'll post on my own blog. With a picture if it's a really dreaded task I'm putting off.
7. Get a tall glass of water
8. Check to see if there is anything to eat.
9. Set up a to-do list with specified rewards (some would say this is essential and not procrastination at all). If you check out my list in the picture, you might think I'm a little wacky if I think 'dishes' are a reward. But the reward is really getting up away from the task at hand for a break. Being productive on my break makes me feel good. Besides, I can watch tv while folding clothes...bonus!
10. Put a load of laundry in.
11. Repeat 1-5.

Now is one of those times I'm really putting off the work. I'm writing a grant. It's due in  6 days, but I have to send off drafts to stakeholders on Tuesday. Argh!

I put this to-do list on a big sticky 'note' and put it on the sliding glass door next to the table I'm working at. It serves as an easy 'look-to' reference of what possible rewards I'm working for and will also block out the late afternoon sun.

Now, lest you think I am posting nothing about quilting, note the box in the middle of my list and what it points to. Sometimes I get a bit creative with the reinforcer procedure. After BonnieBlue is in bed (which is a feat in and of itself) and after I iron clothes, I can cut, sew together, and attach the sashing to my quilt top. Woot!
According to my reinforcer list, in 5 min I can wash the smudge off the front window and vacuum away the cobwebs or I can work 50 more minutes and go outside and weed. I really want to go outside (beautiful day!) so I'll probably keep working.