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???