"Anyone that doesn't agree with leggings as pants can physically fight me.
And I'm going to win because I have a full range of motion due to the fact that I am wearing leggings as pants."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from 1981!


My mom, my aunt Linda and my aunt Alice.


Today, as always, I'm most grateful for my big, goofy family.


Related Posts-
Granny's Cornbread Stuffing
Happy Mother's Day, Grandma Sandy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cooking Resources- Around the Web

We're having Thanksgiving at our house this year, so I've got lots to do this week. Before I disappear completely I wanted to put up the following cooking sites. (Cook's Illustrated has a particularly awesome Thanksgiving Survival Guide that we make use of. You can sign up for a free 2 week trial to get immediate access to it all.)

(photo from Cook's Illustrated)

TasteSpotting- I just found this site and it's fantastic. Basically they're a collection of gorgeous food pics with links to the blogs that posted them. This is a bad site to scroll through if you're hungry. Trust me.

Cook's Illustrated- You might recognize these guys from the PBS show America's Test Kitchen. This is essentially an online subscription that gives access to tons of information. Their website has recipes, videos, taste tests, equipment comparison, tips and menus. They even have an area to keep track of your favorites as well as the option to print out shopping lists (which are divided by section of the grocery store!). It does have a membership fee, but we've been members for many years and haven't once regretted it. Their recipes are very precise, which ensures that everything comes out beautifully. I can honestly say that everything we've ever made from these guys has been wonderful. (Sour Cherry Cobbler, Banana Coconut Cream Tinies)

Bread & Honey: A Food Blog- These ladies are fantastic. I originally found them via their post about cooking cake batter in oranges over the fire, which is frankly one of the most genius things I've ever seen. There is some really great stuff there.

Angry Chicken's List of Kitchen Tools- A comprehensive list if you really wanna do some cooking. I don't own every single thing that Amy's listed, but I'd be willing to bet that our kitchens are fairly similar.

Whisk: a food blog- When I found this one, I immediately added it to my reader. Everything she makes is just gorgeous. I'm thinking about making her Pumpkin Chai Tart this week because, wow, how could I not? She suggests cooking the tarts in the two piece mason jar lids, which I think is absolutely brilliant.

I realize this list is a bit short. Where do you guys go for recipes and other cooking goodness?


Related Posts
Cooking Resources- Favorite Tools
Cooking Resources- Cookbooks

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Inspiration from Around the Web

I just wanted to write a quick note to draw your attention to a new section of my blog. You can see it over there on the left, just underneath the search box.

It's a list of 3 random goodies that I've found on the internets and I'll be changing them out once or twice a week (or more often if you guys want).

Also, you may have noticed that I've been writing quotes up at the top of the page. I've always loved collecting interesting thoughts and figured I'd put them to good use.

Please let me know if either of these things are of interest to you, especially the list of links. (So I know if it's worth doing.)

Peace out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Retro Comforter from Thrifted Sheets

As I believe I mentioned, the original inspiration for Randa’s room redecoration was a thrifted sheet. I really loved it and wanted to do something with it for myself (maybe in my craft room). But at the same time, I realized that it would look great turned into a comforter for Randa. I guess part of me was hoping that it would be too much for her, but when she saw it, she said, “Oh, I love it,” so it was settled.


Slightly Off-Topic Thoughts- In case any of you are grossed out by using thrifted (and well washed) sheets, just think of how many people have slept (and done Lord-knows-what) on hotel sheets. As far as I know, no one has ever contracted any communicable diseases from sleeping at a motel. Well, I’m sure plenty have, but I seriously doubt it was from the sheets.


I'd also found another plain white, jersey knit sheet that was super soft. I thought it would be perfect for the underside of the cover. But, unless you’re experienced with working with jersey fabric (and if you are, I have a hard time believing you’d need my advice on how to sew anything), I wouldn’t suggest using it. That stuff is too fiddley. And stretchy. Which made the sides go a bit wonky. But, in the end, it didn’t matter too much because the down comforter inside is fairly poufey and hides a lot of mistakes.


To make this, I basically used 2 sheets, sewn up on 3 edges (the top and both sides). To close up the bottom, you could use snaps, velcro, buttons or ties. I haven't figured out which is my favorite way, so I'll let you decide for yourself.

If any of you out there are interested in more detailed instructions, just let me know. I've got plans for two more of these (though the perfect sheets have yet to be found) so I can do up a tutorial if you'd like.

Also, the bottom seam was uneven due to the jersey fabric. But Randa hasn’t noticed, so nobody had better tell her.


Related Posts-
Embroidered Shade
Baseboard Trim
Custom Made Chalkboard Paint

Monday, November 17, 2008

Worm Composting (4)- Troubleshooting

So have you all been trying worm composting? For those of you who have, I thought I'd include some quick fixes for when things go wrong.

-If you have any pets (especially cats), it's important to make sure that your bin has a well ventilated lid that can't be moved by little paws. Before we started using these, our new little kitty really enjoyed using our bins as giant litter boxes. The big problem (besides the yuck factor) is the fact that cat waste can harbor some pretty nasty diseases that would be really bad to put anywhere near food crops.


-If your bin smells bad, double check that all food scraps are buried at least two inches below the surface of the bedding. If you're OK on that front, dig down into the bedding to see if it is too wet. You can do one of two things… Dig in handfuls of dry but loose coconut fiber (or shredded paper). Or just leave the lid (or plastic) off for a couple of days.

-If you don’t see very many worms at all, or if the food scraps don’t seem to be disappearing quickly enough, double check that the bedding isn’t too dry. You’ll want to dig down to the bottom when determining the dryness. It may be drier on top, but really wet at the bottom. If it does seem too dry, sprinkle extra water over the top, a little at a time, until the bedding seems to be wet enough. You probably won’t have this problem if using a plastic bin because there is very little evaporation in this set up.

-I recently read a note on a website that says to be wary about adding banana peels because they tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides (which will kill everything in the bin). I haven’t had this problem myself, but then again, we don’t eat an enormous amount of bananas and most of the ones we do are organically grown. This caution also applies to grass clippings that have been sprayed with pesticides as well as most horse manure (because most horses have been treated with a dewormer, which will kill your worms).

-The book Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System by Mary Appelhof is a great reference. There is also a lot of information out there on the internet.

Finally, if you have any problems that I haven’t addressed here, or you’re just not sure if your bed looks like it ought to, email me with questions. I really am happy to help. Once you get used to it, worm composting is so easy and worthwhile that we can all be doing it.


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Worm Composting (1)- Setting Up the Bed
Worm Composting (2)- Some Other Thoughts
Worm Composting (3)- Harvesting The Castings
Using Eggshells
Why You Need Worm Poo

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Custom Made Chalkboard Paint

One of the main things that Randa wanted to incorporate into her new bedroom was a chalkboard painted on the wall. We used Martha’s recipe which allows you to mix it using any paint color you'd like. It is really so simple to do and I love that I was able to match it to the color of the room.


1 cup FLAT paint
2 tablespoons unsanded tile grout.

You mix them together and paint your surface. It came out well, with one modification. I used a paint roller to apply it. I found this to be necessary because I had a hard time getting the grout mixed in completely. It just wanted to stay all clumped up. As I stirred and stirred, it started getting thicker, but the chunks of grout remained. I was worried that the whole thing would harden up before I ever got it on the wall. So I just decided to finish mixing it directly on the wall. I rolled it on and then rolled over and over and over pressing firmly until all the clumps just got smooshed out. Does that make sense? It’s basically the way you’re not supposed to paint walls, if that helps clarify things.

I suppose if you had one of those paint mixer dealies that you can use with a drill that would probably solve the problem too.

Update #1-
I've since learned that if you mix the grout with just a smidge of water, enough to make a thin paste before you add the paint a bit at a time, that you won't end up with so many lumps.

Update #2-
Since the first update, I've learned that for some reason, mixing it with water actually seems to make the surface somewhat incompatible with chalk markers, which I have come to adore. Instead of mixing the grout with a small amount of water, it works best to mix it with a small amount of paint first. Breaking up all the lumps is much easier if you're working with a couple of tablespoons instead of the entire cup. Once it's smooth, mix in the rest of the paint.

Taping Tips
-To get nice straight lines, I taped up string first and then I ran the lines of tape.
-For the vertical lines I attached the paint can opener (or anything heavy) to the end of the strings to make the line plumb, then taped it in place once it stopped swinging.
-To get the rounded corners, I cut a piece of thick junkmail to the right shape and used it as a guide to cut pieces of tape on a self healing mat.

(Joey was a big help.)

Other Tips
-I did clean the roller outside because I was none too keen to be putting grout down our pipes.
-We did two coats, which worked fine.
-After it dries, it's important to condition the chalkboard before using it, especially if you're using chalk ink markers. You can do this by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over the surface. I've found that using a big piece of white, sidewalk chalk is easiest.

I think this stuff works even better than the pre-made chalkboard paint. It’s certainly prettier. And the chalk wipes off very easily.

Yes, it's functional. Woo hoo!

We originally had plans to do all kinds of different shapes and colors on the wall, but in a moment of self-restraint, we decided to go with a single vine design pulled from the retro inspiration fabric. I drew it on with pencil, but Jenny was the pro that filled it in with paint. (I had some issues getting a completely smooth line.)

I love it.


Related Posts-
Embroidered Shade
Baseboard Trim

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baseboard Trim

This last weekend I set the single goal for myself (and by association for Jeff) to completely finish the carpet removal project in Randa's room. For those of you who remember when I actually started this project, please pretend that it occurred only a week or two ago.

When last seen, the baseboard looked like this.


For me to be able to finally check this off my list involved the following...
-Scraping the baseboard free of chunks of paint with the awesome scraper/nail remover tool.
-Measuring, cutting and nailing in place a bunch of quarter round following this tutorial 1, 2, 3.
-Filling all the nail holes (and, cough cough, the unexpected gap between baseboard and quarter round) with spackle (because I like spackle better than wood putty, but if you weren't planning to paint these, definitely go with the putty).
-Scrubbing the floor using Ecover floor soap. (As Sarah noted in the comments, though, this product says its not for use on sealed wood. It did clean mine really well, probably because there isn't much finish left.)

Ta Dah!

I would like to reiterate the fact that this is a somewhat temporary fix until I'm feeling super ambitious and am ready to pull up the carpet in the entire upstairs. At that point we'll actually sand down and refinish all the floors. For the amount of effort that we've put in (not that much, really) I'm super pleased with the results. And don't tell Jeff, but I kind of like the distressed scuffed up look. I think it feels more homey than a super smooth and shiny finish would.

I'd also like to add that a miter box is a crucial (and fairly inexpensive) tool if you don't already own a miter chop saw. You'll need it to get the angles right so the pieces go together properly.


Another helpful, but totally terrifying, tool that we used was a nail gun. It's not necessary, though. And if I'd had my way, we would not have used it at all. I'm perfectly capable of swinging a hammer. Do any of you remember a few years ago when there was a rash of people (OK, maybe 2 or 3) ending up in the hospital for headaches and it turned out they'd managed to shoot nails into their heads, but didn't realize it? I can only assume that they never actually pointed the gun at their heads or they might have suspected that they had a nail festering in there. Craziness. (Ya, so I had to look this up for you all. I found one of the guys here. I can't even watch it all the way through. It makes me shudder.)

Every time Jeff nailed down a piece I had an overwhelming urge to dial 91 and then hold my finger over the last 1.

So it's because of this ridiculousness of mine that Jeff insisted that I nail down the last piece of quarter round myself. And I didn't even get any nails lodged in my brain. At least I don't think I did.


Related Posts-
Carpet Removal Project- The Not so Bad Beginning
Tack Strips are Evil
Randa's Room- Embroidered Shade

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Little Bit of Strange

Angeleen tagged me for a meme, but gave me a special assignment which I've only recently gotten around to doing.

The strangest things I've ever eaten.

When I started to ponder this one, I really couldn't think of much. Do
1- sushi
2- raw oysters
3- pounds and pounds of boiled crawfish

I don’t really think so. Even if they are three of my most favorite foods. (You'll notice that I've added them to the list anyway, because otherwise it'd be real short.)

Jenny helped with reminding me of number
4- ants. During the 80's our dad took some wilderness survival classes. He came home and taught us that a human could live for quite some time on ants alone. The trick is that you have to pull the heads off first, so they don't bite you on the way down. Somehow he actually convinced me to try one. My siblings would have none of it, though. And since I didn't want to be the only fool who'd eaten bugs, I told them the following information. The red ones tasted like cinnamon and the black ones like licorice. Do they really? Ya, like I'm gonna tell.

5) goldenseal extract. This stuff looks and tastes like liquid earwax. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that it isn't.

and last, but certainly not least
6) Chyawanprash. I've been told that kids in India take this stuff every day, just like a Flintstone Vitamin. It's an ancient Ayurvedic formula that is credited with getting a really old guy a really hot young wife. It's good to take when you feel yourself getting a cold. I, personally, don't think it tastes all that bad, kind of a spicy, sweet, sour flavor. Jeff thinks it looks like meconium. He's right.

So if you'd like to play along with this meme, consider yourself tagged. I'm sure there's way weirder stuff out there. I just haven't eaten it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cooking Resources- Cookbooks

I am very picky about my cookbooks and will often check one out several times from the library before I commit to buying it. Here is a list of my absolute favorites.

Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic (by the editors of Cook's Illustrated)

This is a book from Cook's Illustrated (the same people who do America's Test Kitchen) and it is the first book I check when I need to bake anything. Even if I'm using a recipe from another source, I sometimes look up similar recipes here as well because they have a ton of helpful tips. I love these guys and can't sing their praises enough! (Chocolate Buttercream)

The Best 30-Minute Recipe (by the editors of Cook's Illustrated)

This is another Cook's Illustrated Book that I love. It has lots of quick recipes that are still really tasty. They give detailed tips that helps cut as much time as possible.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (by Peter Reinhart)

Jeff uses this one quite a bit. I can attest to the quality of the recipes as can anyone else who's eaten any of Jeff's bread. But, be warned, this is a book for meticulous bakers. If you can follow the recipes (which are a bit intimidating to me), you'll end up with the best bread you've ever eaten. Promise.

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show (by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift)

I love these ladies' approach to eating as well as their approach to writing a cookbook. It is full of anecdotes and fantastic information. My favorite section is on how to make homemade salad dressing. It's so quick and tasty and free of preservatives. This is an inspiring book.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking (by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

I'm sure many of you have already heard of this book. And, yes, it is as good as everyone says. Mostly, we've made the recipes for pita and naan and pizza crusts. For taste alone, the Bread Baker's Apprentice and Baking Illustrated have better recipes, but this book absolutely cannot be beat for ease of making really good tasting bread. Essentially, the idea is that you create a really loose dough that lives in your fridge (for a week or two). When you wanna make something, you pull off the required amount and toss it in the oven (or on the stove). Genius.

Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today's Produce With over 350 Recipes (by Jack Bishop)

I found this book when a reviewer on Amazon recommended it instead of Chez Panisse Vegetables. I got them both from the library and this one was the clear winner. It covers so many vegetables and so many techniques.

Mexican Everyday (by Rick Bayless)

This is my favorite book for cooking Mexican food. Once or twice, I've made a full 5 course meal from recipes in here, mainly because I couldn't make up my mind between them all. (This was pretty extreme for me, as I'm a big fan of the 1-course, everything in the same pot, meal.) I also like Mexico One Plate at a Time, but Mexican Everyday is my favorite.

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution (by Alice Waters)

I have great admiration for Alice Waters and everything she's done to help us appreciate good, healthy food. But, when I read her Chez Panisse books, I was pretty disappointed. The recipes weren't all that accessible to me, ingredient wise. This most recent book of hers is fantastic, though! Each chapter details a new technique for cooking, with several pages explaining the hows and why and then a few recipes to hone your skills. Because of this book I've actually made homemade pasta, both linguine and lasagna sheets. They were excellent and totally worth the effort. If I were to recommend one cookbook that provides the most helpful information across the board this would be the one. It doesn't just give recipes, but actually teaches you how to cook.

Now I'd love to hear from all of you. What are your most trusted recipe sources?


Related Posts
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some Perspective

In recent days, I’ve began to feel somewhat panicked. What if the polls are completely wrong and Obama loses? What if not only McCain wins, but, God forbid, he dies sometime during his presidency? Palin scares me worse than Dub-Ya did. I see her with a scary combination of Bush's intelligence and Cheney's drive. I fear living in a country where she is commander in chief, but I fear living outside of it even more.

It seems that so much depends on the outcome of this one election. I’ve cast my vote and knocked on doors, but those actions seemed so small compared to the magnitude of what we’re facing. And I have been working to put it in perspective. Jenny and I talked about how, win or lose, Obama has inspired so many people. And I do know that even if he wins, all of our problems will not magically disappear. And I also know that much worse things than John McCain becoming president have occurred in our nation’s history.

Although I knew these things rationally, I couldn’t really believe them in my heart. And this morning, I knew I needed to do something to get rid of the worry I was feeling.

And then I realized what part of the problem was. When I think of the change that I’m hoping for, it’s always in the future. Never something that could be achieved here and now. This isn’t a new idea to me, it’s something I’ve worked on in the past.


Part of what I hope for in my life, in the world, isn’t just about what we’ll do, but who we’ll be and how we’ll feel. It has to do with how one human looks at another. Do we do so with love and compassion or with fear and distrust? This is a crucial question. Maybe *the* crucial question.

And so I pulled my energy back toward myself, back to my thoughts, my feelings and my actions.

And then I felt that change in my heart that I was looking for. That our future does not hinge on one thing, no matter how wildly important it seems at the time. It’s the daily moments, hundreds, thousands… trillions of them, that create our world. Yes, much will change with the outcome of this election, but it isn’t everything. And it isn’t so much that we can’t continue to put things right day by day and breath by breath. Knowing this helped me to finally let go.


So today we will spend the day knitting and making tea and being the best people we know how to be. We will hold a vision of the world we want, the world we all deserve. We will drive people to the polls who need the ride and we will bring snacks to those standing in line to vote, whether they support my candidate or not. I will remember that I’ve been shown how to be a good person by one of the best. And that we are all in this together, however the chips may fall.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Winners and Another Carved Pumpkin

So, Deb was the first to guess the theme for the jack o lanterns... Stephen King movies. And Brenda was the first to correctly identify all the faces... the clown from IT, Stephen King himself, Sissy Spacek from Carrie and Jack Nicholson from The Shining. If you ladies could email me your addresses and your color choice (you can see all the available colors here), I'll get a necklace out to each of you.

Here's the final pumpkin that I carved up on Friday afternoon. I think this is my favorite, even though it's actually the one that looks the worst from up close.


It's Johnny Depp from The Secret Window, a movie that, frankly, scared the bejeesus out of me. Mostly because I like to take naps. At least I *remember* liking naps, back when there were enough hours in the day.

I think the angle of the Pennywise pumpkin might have made it difficult to identify. Here's a different one.


Oh and since I've had a couple of people ask, we didn't buy these patterns. We printed up super high contrast black and white pictures and carved from those.

I'm already thinking about what I want to do next year. Though I'll be restricting all internet searching to daylight hours.


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