Thursday, August 24, 2017

TBT: 10 Hacks/Projects/Recipes guaranteed to up your kitchen game

I thought I'd share some of my favorite easy projects and recipes that I've posted over the years (and one that's from a few days ago.) These are all really worthwhile and/or crazy yummy.

10 hacks/projects recipes guaranteed to up your kitchen game
Fine Mesh Salt Smoking Basket - this one is an oldie but a goodie. I use it in our smoker now, and it's just great.

Giant ice cubes - Duncan's brilliant idea that deserves another mention. We've actually added three more trays, and I use the ice they make constantly!

Sangria - The summer is almost over, but there's still time for this delicious drink. It's like a wine cooler, only WAY better. A classic. Also a great use of giant ice cubes!

Big Bear Babushka - A drink I created in honor of a infamous "Russian" wrestler. Very drinkable.

Ginger Lime Fizz - For those who can't (or don't want to) drink alcohol. This is a delicious and complex non-alcoholic drink.

Pumpkin spice tea latte - Because who doesn't need more pumpkin spice? This version is made with REAL PUMPKIN and is creamy and delicious.

Breakfast Risotto with Blueberries - We love risotto for dinner, but made with milk, blueberries, and maple syrup it makes a wonderful breakfast.

Best cream of chicken soup - Really, this is the best cream of chicken soup. Everyone who eats it freaks out a little bit. It's that good.

Salt & Pepper Chicken - Based on the Chinese salt & pepper shrimp, only kinda different. One of our favorite and most-made meals.

Rhubarb Chicken Risotto - The kids favorite meal, bar none. It's not the prettiest meal, but it really is crazy yummy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Life hack: giant ice cubes

Well, it's been a really, REALLY long time since I posted. Sorry about that. Sometimes real life takes precedence. But I come with something to make up for lost time: an absolutely brilliant idea that my son came up with. No, I can't take credit for this one at all; it was entirely Duncan.

If your house is anything like ours, you run out of ice cubes a lot, and many times the ice cube trays make tons of little shards. Great if you want water, but not so great for a drink you don't want totally watered down.

One day Duncan was given Hostess cupcakes by his grandpa. When he finished, he looked at the plastic tray, and thought "You know, this would be a perfect ice cube tray!" HE WAS SO RIGHT. He washed it out, filled it with water, popped it in the freezer, and made the best ice cube tray that we have.

It's a great re-use; we've been using it for about two months now and it's still producing ice cubes. The plastic doesn't tear and stands up to the cold nicely, but even arthritic hands like mine don't have a problem popping the cubes out. It's also rigid enough that it stands up without too much fuss in the freezer. We've got two now, as grandpa gifted Duncan with another.

When I told Duncan I was going to write a blog post because I thought his idea was so brilliant, he suggested we give away free ice cubes. Not going to do that, but go get some cupcakes and enjoy a frosty cold beverage!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A vaccine rant from someone who experienced a vaccine reaction

For them
I've been thinking and reading a lot about vaccines lately, mostly because Aenea is a whole three weeks old and can't be immunized for most things yet, and there's an epidemic of Pertussis in Wisconsin where we live. I've read many times that "you'd be against vaccines if your child/you had one of the 'rare' reactions!" Well, I was the child that had a reaction, and I'm incredibly thankful for vaccinations.

When I was a baby, I went into anaphylactic shock when I received my first dose of DTP. This was the older, whole-cell form of the vaccine, and reactions were more common (though not really common.) Fortunately, my parents we watching for reactions and I got treated quickly and had no lasting effects. It was scary, but rather than putting me off vaccination, this made me even more grateful it existed, because I was completely unprotected. My schoolmates growing up were all immunized, and they protected me and probably saved my life.

When I was in my 20's I managed to catch the actual disease - I was living in the Bay Area and there was a local outbreak. I don't know if I'm extra sensitive to the Pertussis toxin (which would explain my extreme reaction to the original vaccination), but I got extremely sick, and remained so for three months. Every 10 minutes I would descend into a coughing fit that would leave me unable to breathe, with the standard "whooping" sound when I attempted to do so. Many times the coughing would be so severe I would vomit as a result, and I ended up breaking a rib because of the force. This is the only time I've broken a bone in my life. Even as an adult, this was a terrifying experience, and I was glad to make it through.

With all of this, I'm thrilled that my kids can be vaccinated. I've experienced both a vaccines side effects and the disease a vaccine can prevent, and I'll take the incredibly small chance of a reaction over the horror of the disease.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Having Aenea

So it's been two weeks, and I want to write the story of Aenea's birth while it's still fairly fresh on my mind (and she's still sleeping most of her days away.)

Aenea's birth was entirely unlike her brother Duncan's. One month before my due date my mucus plug came out (one of those things they never really mentioned in health class and they really should if they want to reduce teen pregnancy. Then again, if everything about pregnancy were actually taught it might be disastrous for the overall birth rate...) and I began experiencing contractions. They were sometimes painful, but never settled into a pattern. The doc started checking me at the next appointment, where I was 1cm dilated. She stripped the membranes and we all patiently waited for me to go into labor.

And waited. And waited. At my next week's appointment I was 1 1/2 cm, where I was to end up staying for the rest of the pregnancy. The doc expressed surprise I hadn't gone into full labor (I was pretty surprised too, as I felt pretty much as I had with Duncan.) I had been experiencing itchiness for about the last month and a half of pregnancy, but it was at this point that it went into overdrive. Suddenly I developed stretch marks on my belly, and they ITCHED. As did my arms and legs. I would develop sores on then that wouldn't heal until after I gave birth. Also suddenly my body decided to inflate like a balloon. I had to stop wearing my wedding ring, and I couldn't lace my shoes (after the swelling subsided after birth I put my shoes on and was able to pull in six inches of lace). I had to stop working at this point because I couldn't be comfortable using the computer. It was pretty miserable.

We had an appointment with a fetal maternal specialist at this point (one week before due), and she still thought I could do a traditional delivery as Aenea wasn't measuring gigantic. I still wasn't going into labor, however. When I had my appointment with my OB the week after (with all my problems) she confirmed that all my contractions were for naught; I was still 1 1/2 cm and Aenea hadn't dropped at all. She thought that the safest thing to do was schedule a C-section, and we agreed to it. I wasn't thrilled, but something was stopping me from going into labor, so I wasn't going to argue at all.

On Friday, March 25 we went to Ministry Saint Clare's. We were scheduled for one in the afternoon (boo), so I had to be really careful about what I ate when (considering my giant insulin load. No, really, at the end I was on 28/28/26 of fast acting insulin and 140 of the long acting. THIS IS A LOT.) We were told to arrive at 11 but we got there a little early, but we were let right in and got started. We were led straight to our room and I was able to change into the lovely hospital gown, and Joshua was given scrubs for putting over his clothes when we went into the OR. After a series of question and answer sessions with the nurses and anesthesiologists and doctors it was time to get into the OR. I had elected for a slightly newer version of the procedure, called a "Gentle Cesarean" which has a clear drape so you can see your baby as she/he comes out (and your partner can see more, if they want, so make sure they are of a strong constitution) and the baby isn't taken away from you but is immediately put skin to skin with you and your partner gets to hold them when you aren't in contact with them. It was WONDERFUL and very close to the experience I had with natural childbirth.

Before we could get to the actual operation, however, I had to get a spinal. The nurses and the anesthesiologist were wonderful, first describing for me everything that would happen, and then talking to me and keeping me distracted through the actual spinal. It seemed like it took a long time, but it probably was only about 5 minutes. I hugged a pillow and bent my back, and the local was probably the most painful part of the actual procedure - but still not really painful. As soon as the spinal was in they moved very quickly to get me into the correct position while I could still feel/move my legs. A temporary curtain went up right in front of my face (I thank Beth so much for warning me about this, because she said that it would feel claustrophobic. It did, and I was so glad I knew going in!). My blood pressure started to drop too much, with accompanying queasiness, and the anesthesiologist had to lower my head. This sucked, and was absolutely the worst moment for me, as now Aenea was pressing on my lungs and I felt like I couldn't get a good breath. The nurses helpfully told me that my O2 sat was fine, so I was getting enough air even if it felt like I wasn't, which helped calm my incipient panic attack. Pretty soon I was level, and they replaced the opaque curtain with a clear one (which was awesome, and I tried to watch the surgery in the reflection in the light, which honestly was great for me as I like to know these things) and they let Joshua into the room. I had occasional dips in my blood pressure during the surgery, but they were right on top of it and there weren't any more panic attack moments. Soon they had me opened up, and they saw Aenea. The first thing that my OB said was "She's got TWO nuchal cords, and they're really tight! Josh, look at this! That's why she didn't go into labor!" which I didn't quite understand at that moment, but soon realized meant that Aenea had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice, and the length of cord between the placenta and her neck was really short and tight. This noose was keeping her head from dropping into my pelvis and initiating labor. I still shudder to think what may have happened if we hadn't agreed to the c-section.

The second thing that everyone in the room commented on was how BIG she was. They were guessing between 9 1/2 and 10 lbs. Turns out she was only 9lbs 5oz when we finally got her weighed a few hours later, but she was a remarkable 21 inches long, which is CRAZY for a newborn girl. They pulled her out - I got to see her and she was very purple - and she immediately cried and then almost as quickly sucked her thumb. Daddy got to hold her right away and pretty soon she was laying on me (I decided to wait until after the surgery to nurse her). After this it's sort of a blur as I just was lost in the newness of our baby girl. They finished and closed me up and I was wheeled back to our room to recover (yay no separate recovery room). Aenea fed right away, latching like a pro (all that finger sucking we saw on the ultrasounds paid off!) and promptly slept for more than 4 hours.

Eventually feeling started coming back, but the worst part wasn't the pain. That they kept giving me good stuff for. The worst was the ITCHING, which somehow had gotten worse. I had gotten even worse hives on my torso, arms, and legs. The Nubain they gave me for 24 hours after the surgery kept it at bay, but after that I was in an itchy hell that I had no way out of. I never cried from pain during my stay - honestly, my pain never got above 6, no where near back labor - but I cried because of the itching. It was horrible, horrible, horrible. They never did decide if it was PUPPP or an allergic reaction to insulin; I went on predisone the last day I was in the hospital and all the itchiness cleared up in a few more days.

Aenea continued her sleep 4 hours, wake up, eat, poop, sleep again pattern, so I was able to get some good rest (she still mostly continues it - during the day it's more like 2 hours now, but still she's a very easy baby). Walking the day after the surgery was hard, but I was warned again, and it wasn't as hard as I had feared (again, the whole thing wasn't nearly as painful as back labor. Not really in the realm of it. No "Puking because this hurts so much." Phew.) The remaining time in the hospital went quickly and I was released on Monday. The time at home has been a blur, mostly just me taking care of Aenea, and convalescing. My body has been healing quickly and well, but I'm still taking the advice of my doc whom I saw yesterday who basically forbid me doing anything but walking and taking care of Aenea for six more weeks.

Overall, I wouldn't say either birth was really better or worse, but this one was definitely less painful. Both ended up with a healthy baby, so that's really what counts.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The garden

This year has been an experimental one for our new garden. It's the first year I've done a garden here. I got a couple of Frame-it-all raised beds (I had another on order, but they went into bankrupcy!!! BAH) From seed I planted Sheboygan paste tomatoes, swiss chard, spinach (FAIL), Edamame, pie pumpkins, butternut squash, dragons tongue beans, haricot tarbais beans, black aztec (sweet) corn, silver king (field) corn, poblano peppers (fail), paprika (fail), and tomatillos (fail). I got some strawberry plants, a cherry tomato, and some larger poblanos as plants. I've learned some important things for later years:

  1. Spinach sucks to grow around here. Don't do it. 
  2. Starting peppers is hard. Darn peppers.
  3. Make sure not to lose the markers for whats pie pumpkins and what's butternut squash, because they look exactly the same.
  4. Start the tomatoes in March. Figure out something to make sure they get light.
  5. Starting black aztec corn inside works very well, but it works outside too.
  6. Always start haricot tarbais beans inside. They germinate and grow much better.
  7. Always start dragon's tongue beans outside. They germinate and grow much better.
  8. Peppers get horrible aphids inside. At least, mine did.
  9. Plant more edamame. It grows like crazy and is delicious.
  10. Swiss chard grows as well as spinach doesn't. 
  11. Bunnies like pepper plant leaves. WHAT. (Yeah, the peppers have been an uphill struggle)
  12. Bunnies like containers much more than raised beds.
  13. Lemons are awesome. 
  14. Soaker hose is the best. Hope by next year i'll have automated watering too, which would be the BEST BEST. 
I'll update again nearer the end of the year with how well things did. I can report that the swiss chard is wonderful already, and the edamame and dragon's tongue beans have started to produce like crazy. Yay!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

TBT: Our DIY wedding

When we got ready to get married, we didn't have a whole lot of spare cash. We also have always been big on DIY in lots of ways, so we decided to do a DIY wedding. We did nearly everything ourselves - my dress was bought at the local fair, and I altered it; the decor was pieced together from the dollar store, the sale aisle at Michaels, and the local thrift store. Other tips: my bouquet was the seasonal flowers available at the grocery store; Cordi wore my hand-me-down flowergirl dress; I made the ring pillow with silk scraps I had lying around; I catered with long cooked beef brisket, polenta, and curried roasted squash soup (most of which either cooked quickly or were cooked beforehand and were able to be quickly heated); and of course we married each other (and I said vows to the kids) rather than having an officiant, which is legal in WI, PA, CO, and DC. Here are some of our other favorite wedding projects.

Seeded wedding invitation card

We were creating a blended family, and we wanted to make sure the kids felt involved and welcome. The kids all made drawings in crayon that we scanned in, combined,  and printed on seeded paper -- we got seeded envelopes and 8 1/2" by 11" from OfTheEarth. For those that don't know, seeded paper can be planted after you use it and it'll make a tree or a bunch or wildflowers. We hand tore the pieces apart (so there was a nice slightly ragged edge) attached the seeded paper to inexpensive construction paper (which was biodegradable). These made for really nice invitations that were personal and also managed to serve a purpose after the announcement (and the "Yer Ivited" and "Before and After" on the cover are priceless.)

Football guestbook

This one was simple - we live in Wisconsin. Therefore, we are big Packer fans. What better way to keep a record of our big day than tie it into something we love (and can put on display, instead of shoving away in a closet?) So we got a nice Wilson NFL ball and some silver paint markers and made everyone sign it. It now sits on our mantle.

Cake platters

This was fun. My mom made the wonderful cupcakes you see on the right, from my grandma's recipes, which was a wonderful replacement for a tradition cake (especially with kids!). For the platters, we got four fall plates from our local thrift store, and attached glass candlesticks of different sizes to the bottoms with ceramic glue. Total cost was less than 5 bucks for a really gorgeous display. The leaves on the table were from the dollar tree and the tablecloth was from the thrift store.


We knew for our favor we wanted something that could be kept, but that would really reflect "us." We decided to create a simple dice rolling game, where you'd roll the dice and use that to go to a certain page, and then do what it said on that page (and if you were up for a crazier challenge, you could roll a second dice and be told something very specific you had to do). We made every challenge based on something we did or do; things from playing a game or reading a book to traveling or helping your community.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

A 3d pen I really, really want


No, but seriously, I just discovered the CreoPop 3d pen and it's AMAZING and I want one. I've seen 3d printing pens before but the fact that this one isn't melting plastic and more than that the spectacular variety of inks this thing has makes this a must have... when I have the cash (stupid, stupid teeth). The illustrations they have on their site are only ok, but they look more like what most people are capable of instead of going straight to a pro artist (some of 'em are pretty good).

But seriously, the inks! Glow in the dark! Flexible! Glittery! Temperature sensitive! Elastic! Magnetic! CONDUCTIVE?!? The projects I could make! Beyond the obvious 3d sketching - being able to sketch a nude in 3d would just be so beautiful - I'm thinking of mod projects and custom bracelets and glowing ceiling decor and faerie crowns and *sobwhycantijusthaveoneshowupinmymailboxrightnow* *lifeisnotfair*

This has me entirely too excited. I mean, it's so cool. Yes, I'm being entirely overdramatic. But it is a nifty piece of tech that makes me stoked about the possibilities.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Updated the site again've updated with recent and not so recent projects, including the labels I created for Zander's Christmas present, the new postcards, my Zepplin lamp, and a few other things. I have a few more  presents I made that I need to take photos of; hoping I'll get to that sometime in the next week.

Feedback, as always, is welcome and appreciated - and if you have any ideas for projects I should tackle, let me know!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Another retro-futuristic Merrill postcard: Chips!

I've added another postcard to my retro-future Merrill collection: Chips.

I'm pretty stoked about this one. The Chips building by itself is retro, so it really lends itself to this style. Let me know what you think. You can pick up the card on Zazzle, and you can see my previous entries here and here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Turbografx-16: Legendary Axe Edition

This christmas we decided that the family was going to try to make all the gifts. We managed to get the immediate family covered (next year, grandparents!), but I managed to fall ill pretty much constantly since Halloween and barely made it through (and I still have to apologize to Duncan because I'm still working on his backpack). But I did manage to get my hubby's present done: a Legendary Axe Turbografx 16 with led mod. You can see his reaction:

For more on the system, including video, you can check out his post: The HuPack: Turbografx-16: Legendary Axe Edition. I'm just glad he liked it :)