Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of Christy and Nathan Awkward Christmas Photoshoot, circa 2006?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Being Prepared

Hurricane (Superstorm?) Sandy reminded me that Nature is a pretty serious business.  Living right on a fault line, I decided it would be good for Zach and I to have some emergency provisions available.  This can actually be quite expensive to do, so I scaled back a little bit to start and we can build from there.  While I was at it, I also put together a few extra kits for gifts.

Growing up my Dad had a big barrel in the backyard (when we lived in a different earthquake territory) and also took some precautions regarding safety/emergency procedures...although I don't quite remember the rest of them anymore.

Most of these items were purchased from Emergency Essentials, although the mylar blankets were from Amazon and the socks were from Kohls.  You can find better prices on some items depending on how well you shop, but for me the prices were good and it was convenient to get everything delivered at once.

Here is what went into my "car emergency kits."  I think this would be great to have in the car in case of emergency (at least at home you can scrounge around for things) and in the event that disaster strikes when you are AT home - its likely you can run out to the car and get this.
Contents include: Basic first aid, including gloves, instant ice pack, ace bandage, burn gel, and the usuals.
Socks.  Why not?
Duck Tape, multi-use knife, and waterproof matches. Trifecta of awesomeness! (Note: I didn't put the knife in all kits, i.e. knowing I already have a leatherman in my car, to suit your needs)
LED flashlight. Zach and I argued on whether or not the batteries should be included. I thought, if it is dark - you sure don't want to be fumbling to install the batteries. But, they die faster installed...I opted for installing with a disclaimer that the recipients check the batteries annually. What do you think is best?
Safety Whistle - does a bunch of things - has a mirror for signaling, holds waterproof matches, has a flint, and if you need to make a loud noise to identify your've got it!
Emergency food bars. I hope these taste ok! I guess if you are hungry, it won't matter.
Mylar blanket and hand warmers. I added extra hand warmers to recipients in colder areas.
Water packets.

Close up of the whistle with all its functions.

Lastly, I packaged these in plastic shoeboxes I hope won't be too in the way in a vehicle or under a seat.

We are also working on a larger one for home - although I'm leaning towards putting that in an extra duffle bag so if we have to run for it, we can grab and go.

Are you doing anything at home to be prepared for an emergency?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The time I tricked him twice with the same gift

So...I love to wrap gifts in disguises.  Or not disguises. I love to wrap gifts, especially Christmas ones, in clever ways. I've gone money frozen in ice ("cold hard cash"), multiple items submerged in jello, and countless items boxed in boxes that don't represent what is on the inside. (I may have a few of those under the tree already for this year, also!)

But this is the first year I've duped anyone twice with one gift.  I was planning to get Zach Halo 4 for XBOX for Christmas, since it is a video game we like to play together. On black friday, I got an especially nice deal on Amazon but while showing Zach my checkout-cart to ask about another item, I accidentally showed him that he was getting Halo, before I screamed and covered up that part of the screen.  I was so disappointed for giving away knowledge of what he was going to get.

When the gift came, I wrapped it in my special way and put it under the tree.

On Sunday, I read on my phone that the same gift was on sale again at Amazon, again for a very good price (equivalent of my black friday price.) I mentioned it to Zach that he should buy it...a conversation had in the dark, in our bed, when I was trying to be clever and joking around (thinking that he remembered I bought it for him already) and when he couldn't see the look on my face trying to hide the joke.

Oops.  Monday night he informed me, "I got my game!" "WHAT???!! You did what? Are you serious?" No really - he bought the game.  I reminded him that he already knew I was getting it for him. Oopsies. "I forgot!" - he tells me. I can believe that...we only need one person in the family obsessing over gift giving.

So knowing I've wrapped his gift up already (and he is ready to play his game) I don't really want him to play his newly purchased copy...I want him to open my surprise gift! So I get that gift from the tree. Its not labelled except a Z on the front.  "This big gift is my game?" he asks cautiously.  "Yep!" Big smiles from the wife department....until he opens...sun shades for his car (here)

The game was behind the sun shades. Zach looks at me, unaware. "This is my game?" I put on a confused look. "Well...I thought that one was your game...oopsies...why don't you at least look at the shades to make sure they are the right size?"  Zach catches on...(You can only live with a person so long before expecting to become a victim of their obsessive tendencies in regards to gift wrapping.)  He finds his game. He is happy. "You tricked me TWICE with the same game!!!!" he exclaims.  Lots of laughter ensues.

A happy gift giver. :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Starbucks Verismo: Review (Initial)

A while back, Starbucks hosted a contest to win a new Verismo machine, a single-cup coffee brewer thingymabob.  The contest was pretty complicated to enter, and I noticed a lot of people entering weren't meeting the contest requirements, so I entered.  Who doesn't want a free coffee maker that is supposedly "Starbucks in your own home" and full of awesomeness?

Lo and behold, I won one! And it appeared a week ago.  Observation #1 - Did not come with "Pods" to use in machine. I knew this and had already purchased 1 box ($12.99 for 8 single-shot lattes. Seriously? Okay, 20% off coupon at BB&B. Technically still cheaper than buying said latte at Sbucks, but definitely more expensive than making coffee at home.)

When it arrived, I eagerly set it up and tested it out...with plain water. I wasn't about to waste $1ish bucks on the pod at 10:00 at night when I got around to opening it.

Observation #2 The machine has 3 settings: 1) Espresso shot 2) Coffee cup 3) Milk cup. 

The next morning...I made a latte. Barely. It sucked. I have since learned that it works the best if I run the espresso shot button once (it wastes the least amount of water and its the ONLY button that works when you first turn it on).  but since I didn't know this at the time, I wasted a milk pod on the espresso setting, giving me extremely not-watered-down milk.  I didn't know what to I pressed the espresso button again.  Hoping that espresso is 1/2 the volume of the coffee or milk and that maybe I'd equalize my milk.  Put in the espresso pod and...can't remember what happened there, anyhow, by the time I got my "latte" it wasn't very warm, wasn't sweet, and wasn't impressive.

Oh, did I mention that after all this you run water through at the end to clean the machine, then you throw away your pods, then you find the bottom of the machine has a bunch of drips and you have to clean it all out? Yeah - not as quick to use as one might think. (K-cup brewers are similar, though, I think.)

Sunday I tried again.

Let me explain here that this is our absolutely smallest mug.  1 pod only makes 1 small serving. I'm used to drinking a 16 ounce cup of brew (with a LOT of milk) every morning in my travel cup, and when I pour this in my travel cup (which doesn't fit in the machine) it doesn't look very impressive.

Back to Sunday. I'm able to make a decent latte. But I'm sorely missing my vanilla syrup.  The taste, however, is fine...reminds me a lot of getting a latte in Europe.  However, I almost always order a double latte.  So now to get the double latte experience, I'd have to use two espresso pods and mess up the equality of the pod box (comes with 8 espresso, 8 can also buy them separately but BB&B was out). 
Now Sunday was a long time ago, but I'm pretty sure I remember microwaving my latte after making it because it wasn't warm enough (or was that Saturday?) People: I do NOT drink my beverages very hot AT ALL. When I order from Starbucks, I wait and wait and wait and wait before I take that first tiny sip and burn my tongue. I am not the person guzzling half their drink at the condiment bar so they can add more milk for free and whatnot.  So for me to have to microwave this, I'm in serious trouble.

Yesterday, I decided I'd just use the machine for hot water instead and make coffee my old way. (Yes, I drink instant. Yes, that disgusts a lot of people. Sorry. I'm not that into coffee.) So with just hot water, for whatever reason I ran into the not-nearly-hot-enough problem again. However, my next HUGE problem was that this machine is freaking loud.  My hot water kettle is not this loud (and I can turn it off before it whistles). But there is no "sleep in, Honey, I'll just have my coffee" with this thing. (update: only moderately noisy.)

Today I had an early meeting and had decided I would treat myself to a latte for another evaluation. Latte was made, at proper temperature, and met all latte requirements with some sweetener.  I continued to be disappointed about how much it actually makes, and felt tired later (caffeine addict, anyone?) but overall I think the experience has been acceptable.

Today Starbucks is having a sale on their pods and for Christmas they have MY FAVORITE BLEND, the Christmas Blend pods on sale. So I actually do plan to purchase a box of those (12ct, sale for I think $8) just for the coffee experience.

Beyond all of that, I'm not sure I can justify the use at our house. I almost never go to Starbucks so I'm not really saving much money. However in the summer, espresso drinks over ice are a big favorite, so I might keep it around for that.  (I usually buy the Starbucks Doubleshots when they are on sale, so sale price of about $1, $1.25 for the can as a treat - cheaper than the drink at sbucks) but even the doubleshot drinks would be cheaper than using 2 verismo espresso pods.

So...long email to say...not too impressed. :(  And that really bums me out.  But I'll give it a bit more of a chance anyhow...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What we've been eating Wednesday #2

Hey, we're on a roll with WWBEW so I thought I'd run with it.

2 recent meals:

Parmesan crusted talapia, brown rice, and green salad with candied walnuts.  Any breaded fish recipe will do!

Zucchini Ribbon Spaghetti.  Use veggie peeler (or mandoline) to get zucchini ribbons. Cook briefly in a large skillet and wa-la, "noodles" for dinner! We topped this with leftover spaghetti sauce and cooked up some sausage on the side.  Served with beer bread.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sewing for Baby

As you know, I recently became enamored with sewing.  Being in the phase of life where all your friends are having babies, I thought it would be cool to figure out how to hand-make some gifts.

I started with burp rags, because who cares about straight seams when barf is involved? Not me. And not these recipients, I hope! 

I bought "snuggle flannel" at the fabric store, plus terry cloth material for heavy-duty backing (my sister was a super-spitter-upper) and also some fuzzy soft chenille,

 At the suggestion of my barf-blanket-sewing buddy, I also sewed some flannel-on-flannel.  The toughest part for me was matching fabrics. I really struggle with that.
 For the most part, I sewed these together first with the wrong sides out, leaving a hole, then flipping them and doing a finishing stitch around the outside.  If I had a more advanced machine, I probably could have done the flannel-flannel ones with a single strong zig zag stitch around the outside.

Also, a cute homemade baby gift could be a set of clips designed to keep a pacifier or other toys attached to the baby or stroller.  They sell the clips (for suspenders) and $3.49 for one or 2 total clips...but...if you walk a little further in the craft store to the supply section - here are 4 "straps" meant for holding your ironing board cover on -- but ultimately, its a clip and some elastic - for just $4! you could make 4 "clippies" with this package! Actually, if you attach the clip to the pacifier with a hair tie or something instead (loopy elastic) then you could actually make 8 gifts with one package.  This is one of my 2013 project goals.

Sooo...anyone having a baby I can sew for???

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Online Shopping - Ebates

Hey, just a reminder - if you shop online this year, sign up for ebates through this link first and get a gift card (after you make a purchase) and get cash back on your purchases.

more details on my orignial post: here

What we've been Eating Wednesday (WWBEW)

Hey, welcome to WWBEW! (Just kidding. If you got that joke as a reference to other blogs with weekly "stuff" awesome. If not, keep reading anyway.)

I wanted to post some recent meals we've had because...they are very tasty, and I want to make them all again!!!  And they are all (almost) simple, so I want to share them with you. (Trade you ideas?)

Anyhow: Here is my 4 panel chart, strategically designed to sneak extra pins on pinterest. (haha.) We have
1. Gnocchi and Broccoli Pesto
2. Pesto Salmon and Christmas Rice
3 Roasted Veggie Medley with Italian Chicken
4. Open Face Quesadillas
(recipes below)

The most complicated of recipes above is definitely the Gnocchi and Broccoli pesto. For this I used homemade gnocchi (not hard, used extra baked potatoes) and then in a skillet I cooked mushrooms, red peppers, and broccoli  I tried to cut some broccoli small and mash it up to be like a sauce.  I was trying to go "light".  I don't remember adding anything else (maybe a little actual basil pesto) but it definitely worked for us. Delish.

2. Pesto Salmon with Christmas Rice.  For this, I bake salmon at 425 for the normal time (20 minutes?). During the last 4 minutes, we slather on some pesto and sometimes turn the broiler on too. For Christmas Rice, I threw spinach ribbons (read: fancily sliced) and small-diced red peppers into the rice pot about halfway through cooking and let that heat do the rest.  Did you notice I just snuck TWO veggies into an otherwise starchy side dish?! WIN!

3.  Roasted Veggie Medley with Italian Chicken.  This one is a little time/labor intensive. An hour before I want to eat, I chop sweet potatoes up into tot-sized pieces and toss them in some olive oil and salt. Roast 3o minutes at 425-450.  At that point, pull them out and turn them over a bit. Throw in a second pan of faster-roasting veggies (I did mushrooms and peppers, sometimes carrots too), also with a spritz of oil and salt.  (I've also burn broccoli this way.)  Set the timer for another 30 minutes.  10-15 minutes before you plan to eat, turn on a skillet and quick cook some chicken bites that have been marinating in italian dressing. (you could probably bake these instead, I just happened to cook them in a skillet that time.

4. Open Face Quesadillas. This was Zach's invention.  We only had 2 tortillas, cheese, and some random stuff around for this was it.  Cooked in the skillet, we added tomatoes and avocado and ended up slicing it like a pizza. Delicious.

Your turn...what have you been making that I can copy?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Baby Gift: 12 months of Onesies

Recently I embarked on one of my largest projects yet. (The other one is a Christmas present I can't post since the recipient is a reader...and it is not even close to being done!)

For baby shower decor, I wanted to make 12 months of baby onesies.  Actually, this little gal's mom is a big scrapbooker, and I thought having a special outfit for each month would add to the scrapbook cuteness.  

I should warn you, this project is not for the faint of heart.  It was easy at the end, but I went through a lot of indecision getting to that point.  Mostly because I can't match fabrics and I wasn't sure how fast this little baby would grow (9 month onesie at 11 months? 12 month?).

Finally, I just used bibs (pre-made) to bridge the onesie size gaps. I got mine inexpensively at Ikea although initially I had hoped to make them myself. (2013 project.)

So first I picked out some fabrics relevant to the baby's nursery theme: lady bugs.  Actually - I had already purchased the onesies.  The white onesie's were from Target multi packs. (I later learned you can buy these packages at Jo-Ann's using a coupon! For future reference.) The 0 and 1 month are from a newborn package - I am HOPING this baby still fits a newborn size at one month!!!!  The 12 month is also a more elaborate onesie to celebrate big first birthday. 
 Because the newborn onesies were not from a Gerber white pack, I had to be a little more creative with the numbers (to cover up the designs already printed o the front.)  I agonized over the fabrics matching or not and ultimately decided "cuteness" was the most important thing and really, in the pictures, everyone is going to look at the babe's face! Although I do like the concept of this 1 month look - circle background with the number in the middle.
 The 12 month is my favorite!!!
 Some more months
 All together now:
 Oops, forgot to tell you - these are all ironed on with Wonder-Under.  If this were for long-term wear, I might have added some stitching to reinforce them a bit, but I think they'll be OK for their purpose.

Next time I do this project (if ever) I'm going to streamline my fabrics and do something similar to what I did for month #1. Just to make it easier.  I'm not saying I don't love these - I really love them and I think they turned out really well.  (Ok...that 2 month bib might dwarf the baby, hope she is a drooler and needs it...but you can also strategically use it on her 2nd bday).  Cant' wait to meet this little recipient!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Zach and CSUN

I don't typically write much about Zach on here, so here's some fun information. Zach's a student at CSUN (pronounced locally as see-sun) in the film program.  He recently was accepted into their impacted upper division Film Production major, meaning now he is 1 of 50 students on a specific 2 year track to graduation! His classes are set, he will get critical internship experience, and we've heard great things from everyone we talk to about the program.

Zach is in a photography class this semester, one of his pre-requisites. We went to the swanky Porter Ranch area to overlook "The Valley" (San Fernando Valley) so Zach could get some pictures.

 Backup career in photography? Maybe so! (PS: The color shots are from my phone. B&W are Zach's)
 The park had a playground and a baseball diamond. Perfect spot for tee-ball and soccer.
Then, we saw a helicopter land!!!

Ok...maybe not...maybe this was one of Zach's assignments to develop 2 photos on top of each other...doesn't it look cool though???? Seriously. Tell me if its cool. I need the comments.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Updates to our Abode

We've lived in our house almost 3 months now.  Thats long enough to have unpacked the things we really need and to realize that a box of framed pictures that need to be hung to "decorate" isn't really critical to daily life.  Eventually...on a Saturday when I wouldn't rather be cooking or crafting, maybe that kind of thing will happen.

In the meantime, there were a few other things that needed to be done to spruce up the place.

It started with a marathon shopping day and a car full of stuff looking like this:

I assembled some shelves for our laundry room. One shelf is at a bit of a slant...oh well, what can you really expect from $40 at Ikea?  It does the job that is needed.   

Bonus: A full laundry basket of "Hey Zach you should put those away" clothes fits on  the middle shelf!

I also got a microwave cart for the kitchen, opening up coveted counter space for my mixer. (I may or may not have kneaded/made bread using my mixer on the floor prior to this day. I'll never confess.)

And on the left, you can see our new bar-height kitchen table. We have space for a formal dining table in the living area (if we hadn't broken it.) This is doing a great job as homework-spot and table while we avoid dealing with the dining table situation.

Its beginning to feel like home! I won't show you how I've trashed the guest room with craft projects. Its too embarrassing.  But if you come visit, I promise to completely clean it up 100% so you have a place to stay! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Its time for Fall! {YUM}

We had a smidge of brisk weather the other day and I quickly forgot the 105 degree temperatures of summer and immediately started to complain about the cold.  What can I say? I am weak.  Anyhow, I am excited that soups are now back in style for supper, now that it is cooling off.  Recently we had our favorite tomato soup (recipe here) and knock-off Red Lobster cheddar bisctuits (from here). YUM.

What are you cooking now that it is cooling off????

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The time of year where I post a whole bunch (before I disappear again)

I haven't had much to write lately. I thought my life wasn't interesting enough to write about. What was interesting, I instagram'd. (Follow me there! I'm kind of obsessed!)  But, I went through some pictures and decided, I really might have a few interesting things to post for the 3 readers left who still have me in their blog reader, plus my Grandparents, who read occasionally.

So here I go again!  Today's post is just about a really simple gift bag re-do.  This is actually a Banana Republic bag (and it was printed on the bottom of the bag.) But I have a bit of an obsession with saving handle bags and not so much an obsession with re-using them, so I'm trying to get in the habit of actually USING the things I "collect" so I don't become a hoarder.

So I had some cute black and white fabric that already had some iron-on stuff on the back. (Extras from another project to be posted soon.)  I peeled off the back of the Wonder-Under (I got mine at the fabric store for a couple bucks a yard) and then just easily ironed onto the bag, applying pressure for about 5 seconds (shorter than for ironing onto fabric.)  I had to quickly re-open the bag and make sure I didn't burn the rest of the paper bag, but it seems pretty secure.

 After that, I took a couple of painted wooden decals (From Jo-Ann's, abotu $.50 each) and glued them on either side of the bag, just to make it look a little more festive.
I'm having a bit of trouble with this second picture, but its the back of the bag (same bottom fabric, and a ladby bug embellishment instead). 

The whole project took 5 minutes and I spent $1 to make a cute gift bag.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More giant life updates

My last post was about July...I was also in an awesome wedding (no pictures, for some reason I never take pictures when I'm in the bridal party) and I also got to meet up with my friend Emily and her family and finally meet her 2 girls! I DO have pictures from that, but I just uploaded a bunch of house things and apparently missed those ones and I'm not going to go through it again so you'll have to check here: click   Summary: Amazing visit, and Emily's youngest daughter (who ended up being a close pal by the end of the day!) nearly choked on her cookie and got the heimlich mid-meal, which terrified me...but she swallowed cherry pits with ease.  Visits with Emily are always amazing. I'm so thankful she is in my life, even if the last time I saw her was 2 kids ago!

Since July, we've been a tad busy -- moving and all!  We said farewell to our Sunnyvale friends with a Matador-themed farewell party (The Matador's are Zach's school's mascot).  Then we vacated our house, putting all of our belongings into a POD, headed down to So Cal, shopped for a rental for a while, got keys last week, and finished moving in our stuff (with help) today. And now onto far more interesting pictures.

A few party hosts - my "cooking club" complete with the Matador costumes

Our POD, loaded to the gills (we put a few more things in after this)

Mongolian BBQ Birthday Dinner - last hurrah in SJ

First glimpse our new house! (See the "Z" in front? It was a sign  that this is our house!)

Had to rudely vacate a few squatters near the garage.  We have an orange tree (yessss!!!) but apparently they lure these buggers, so...we have 2 cans of yellow jacket spray now.

Living Room: Day 1. Fridge acquired from garage sale.

Pharmacy/Soda Shoppe Sundae nearby our house.

Today's update: Living room has been transformed!

Fast friends taking a lunch break

The working crew! (That one with the pacifier didn't really help though, he just looked cute!)

Dining area...ex-desk used as current table. Why? See next picture:

Our only moving casualty: Our dining table. Very sad about this, but handmen Z and T have grand plans  (having removed the 2 broken pillar/legs) to replace with 4x4 legs. Someday we will have this table again!

How the deliver the POD - they drive the truck on the driveway, lift it up a couple inches, use a portable dolly to hold the pod, move the truck, then lower the pod, then re-attach the dolly back to the truck. Very cool. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

July, in a nutshell

Kiddos love Uncle Zach

Major wrestling session

Pretty girl1

So THAT is where all the blueberries are going...

Blueberry picking

Ripening blueberries. So cool!

Mike's Pastry in Boston with some CA friends

Central Park with Poppi's hotel in the ground (he worked there)


Battery Park - Statue of Liberty