Friday, December 25, 2009

My First Attempt At Home Canning: FAIL

Last week I attempted to make persimmon jam. This is a project that I mentioned briefly last month, and once there were finally enough fruits on the tree that were ripe enough, I set to it.

Now, there are two varieties of persimmons. The variety that most people are familiar with are called Fuyu - they're crisp, similar to apples or pears. During the late fall and early winter it wouldn't be too uncommon to see these at local farmers markets.

This is not the variety of tree that I have.

The variety that I have are called Hachiya. It would be unlikely to be familiar with this variety of persimmon unless you, or a neighbor, have a tree in your yard. The reason why they're not well none is simple: they do NOT transport well.
When a Hachiya persimmon is ripe it is very very very soft - holding a ripe Hachiya persimmon feels a lot like you're holding a water balloon, and they squish incredibly easy. When squished, the fruit inside oozes everywhere - the pulp of a ripe persimmon has a bright orange jelly like consistency, and that bright orange pulp is a bear to get out of clothing!
An unripe Hachiya persimmon tastes disgusting. There is an astringent flavor to it that removes all moisture from your mouth. Hands down, biting into one has been one of the grossest tasting food experiences of my life. Seriously, I would rather eat blood pudding if I had to choose.
HOWEVER, when the Hachiya persimmon is ripe it is fantastic. It is sweet and smooth and has an apricot like flavor that is heavenly.
Since I have a tree FULL of fruit I decided to try making persimmon jam, figuring that since it already has a jelly like consistency it would be an easy first step into home canning. Last Saturday I picked some fruit and set out to make some jelly for Christmas gifts. I'd bought the jars and lids, sugar, everything I needed and had selected a recipe that looked very easy. All it called for was 2 quarts of persimmon pulp, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup orange juice and the zest from one orange.
I pulped the persimmons and took an initial taste test to ensure that I had not included any under ripe fruits - everything tasted fine so I mixed together all of the ingredients and started cooking the jam per the recipes instructions.
Once everything was looking like it was ready, I prepped the jars for filling and took one final taste test of the finished product. I am so glad that I took that final test before actually canning the jam.
The astringent taste was back with full force. It was disgusting. I spent several minutes spitting into the kitchen sink "I CAN'T GET THE TASTE OUT OF MY MOUTH!!!!!"

Why it was initially sweet and apricot like, then after cooking disgustingly astringent I did not know.

Since then I have done some research and found that Hachiya persimmons have high levels of tannins, which cause the initial astringency. Once they've been through at least one frost the tannins evaporate, leaving the sweet pulp. HOWEVER baking reintroduces the tannins, causing the astringent flavor to return.
A couple articles that I read said that when baking with Hachiyas, the use of baking soda will offset the reintroduction of the tannins and effectively prevent the astringent taste from returning. But, I'm wondering if baking soda could be used when making a jam or chutney (yes, I found a chutney recipe using persimmons that sounded amazing and that I planned on making after the jam).

So, I'm left with all of the canning supplies but no canned product. I'm considering another attempt at canning and have found a couple of recipes that sounds great:
1 - pomegranate jelly
2 - strawberry balsamic jam
3 - cranberry tangerine chutney

I will admit that I am incredibly frustrated by this initial canning failure. I am fairly adept in the kitchen and I am very crafty. I frequently experiment with different recipes and crafts with various levels of success - some are fantastic and some are just okay. I am not accustomed to a complete and total failure. Part of my wants to throw in the towel, but the stubborn as hell part of me wants to keep trying until I get it right.

I think the fact that I've already lined up some additional recipes tells me that I'm going to continue with my attempts at home canning.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Window Shopping - IKEA

I have finally come to the realization that I am in dire need of a new mattress. I have to admit that I am 33 years old and have never shopped for a mattress. My current mattress was a birthday gift. For my 18th birthday. Its 15 years old and I must also admit that I have not properly turned/flipped/rotated it as it should have been. As a result I don't sleep as well as I should and constantly find myself with back, neck, and shoulder aches.
I have heard that the temperpedic mattresses are amazing but I know that I can't afford one. So I went where all people on a budget go when shopping for home furnishings.... I went to IKEA's website to look at the prices and options. I also did a little window shopping for bedroom furniture, naturally. Currently my bedroom is a mishmash of various pieces that I've picked up here and there. NOTHING matches, nothing is the same style, era, or even color. It basically looks like a small version of the furniture section at your local Goodwill. Not that theres anything wrong with Goodwill furniture - my nightstand came from the Salvation Army.
So, I assembled the bedroom of my budget conscious dreams.
First, the bed. Naturally.

HEMNES. I like that its simple, and I like the black-brown stain. This could be adapted to a number of decorating styles by simply changing the colors and linens.

Next is what I think was one of the most ingenious finds on IKEAS website:
the SULTAN ALSARP FOUNDATION WITH STORAGE

A hollow foundation mattress which would be perfect for storing the heavier winter blankets or even my winter sweaters. Would it be a hassle to get to those winter blankets and put them away? Certainly - but it would also force me to flip/rotate/turn my top mattress on a regular basis. GENIUS!

Then theres the HEMNES STORAGE BENCH



which would look lovely at the foot of the bed, n'est ce pas? Storage for linens and such.

Of course there has to be a HEMNES NIGHTSTAND



for my reading lamp and current book.

In one corner would be the ALVE WORKSTATION



for the computer I don't currently have.

Underneath the window I would place the MARKOR BOOKCASE



and next to it the ALVE BOOKCASE WITH DRAWER



Yes, I do have that many books. Plus the drawer would be a great place to stash any current knitting or crochet projects.

Next to the bookshelves I would I have a cozy armchair, such as this EKTORP



with EKTORP FOOTSTOOL




I could sit in the chair while watching TV, work on my knitting projects, or read a book. Of course I'm certain that Cooper would think that at least the footstool, if not the chair, was his.

And last, but not least, we have yet ANOTHER book/DVD shelf. Yes, once again, I DO have THAT MANY DAMN BOOKS.
This one is the MARKOR



Of course there would also need to be a new wall mount flat screen... preferably 32" or more.
And no, I never did select a mattress. I'm figuring thats probably where my tax refund will go next spring, so I've got a couple months to comparison shop.

All of this furniture totals just $2,301.99, without taxes, not too bad for TEN pieces of furniture.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

First Sewing Project

I've selected my first sewing project, and its something for ME.

I'm making one of these aprons - apron D, actually. It's the one on the far right.

But, if you know me, you know that I can't make it in some cutesy homey fabric. I've got to go with something a little more funky... something a little rock n roll. I'm doing it with this fabric



I know, you can't wait to see the finished product. Neither can I!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Well, That's Settled

Sooo, you know how I mentioned that I'd been thinking of learning how to sew? But that I didn't know if it was the best idea because I really don't NEED another hobby?

This past week Grandma had be dig into the depths of her closet to find something for her and in the process, I found her sewing machines. Which she hasn't used in about ten years and realistically won't use ever again.

Yeah, it's now my machine.

What should I sew first?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Linky Love

I've been at home sick this week and when not napping, have been surfing the internet and watching Wifeswap reruns on Lifetime (don't judge!).
A few cooking, craft, and DIY projects that have intrigued me this week

Ladder pot rack from Woman's Day. I wish my kitchen could accomodate one of these.

Cabbage centerpieces from Real Simple. LOVE these - so cute.

Messenger bag made from plastic grocery bags courtesy of Ready Made. I may try to whip up one of these.

Army Blanket Bag
at Ready Made. Decent gift idea for a man in your life.

Not exactly a DIY since its a kit, but I'm likin' this Cloudlight Headboard - too bad it wouldn't work with the style of my bedroom.

Love this watchface bracelet over at Ready Made.

These Pumpkin Bites at Bakerella are almost too cute to eat. Almost.

The Pumpkin-Apple-Pecan Pie is a genius idea over at Cakespy.

I've been admiring these Sun Jars over at Not Martha for a couple years.

Another project of Not Marthas that I've been admiring for a couple of years? Her marble magnets.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Because I Really Need Another Hobby

I have too many hobbies. Knitting, crochet, beading, photography, cooking, baking, painting... I could go on and on.
I don't know why I have so many hobbies, I just decide to try something and then I jump in headfirst. Generally, I'll keep with it for a while and then put it down for anywhere from a month to a year while I move on to a new hobby, or revisit an old one.
For a couple years now I've been wanting to learn how to sew. The only reason I haven't is because I really do not need yet another hobby. Also, I do not need to accumulate the materials that go along with another hobby. I already have more yarn and beads than I know what to do with -- I don't have the shelf or drawer space that would be needed to accommodate the fabric, thread and notions that I know I would accumulate.
However, the desire to learn how to sew returned when I recently saw the following childrens clothing on Etsy.

So Not A Princess Dress



Evening Beauty Dress




Easter Delight Dress



They'd all be SO CUTE on my little niece!

Of course, I also found some pieces I found that I wouldn't mind making for myself.


Audrey Hepburn style circle skirt




Awesome Yoga Pants
-- I LOVE yoga pants



The Desi Dress



Another "Audrey" style circle skirt


Russian Doll Cashmere Coat



Geek Girl Hoodie
- I know, completely different from the above dresses and skirts


So, I'm contemplating learning to sew. I know that I could make any of these items for much less than what they are selling for - BUT, do I really need to take on another hobby?
I haven't done much in the way of knitting, crochet, or beading in a while so I'm wondering if the interest in taking on a new hobby is because I haven't been doing any of my current ones in so long.

Rethinking Old Traditions

When I was younger I remember going shopping each fall for that years winter coat. It signaled the change of season, that Thanksgiving and Christmas weren't too far away, and neither were the breaks from school.
Grandma would take me to the store and I would try on various jackets and coats, picking out the perfect piece of outerwear for the season and I would generally be able to talk Grandma into getting me a couple of sweaters as well. After our shopping expedition, Grandma and I would go out to lunch before heading home. It was a ritual that most frequently just Grandma and I - something I looked forward to each year.
Now that I'm an adult and responsible for purchasing my own wardrobe, its a ritual that I've kept up for myself. Each year, right around Halloween, I usually start shopping around for a new winter coat or jacket. Some years I get something a little funky, some years I get something more basic and sensible. Some years I've gotten coats that were completely different than the previous years. Some years I've gotten a coat that was almost identical to the prior years purchase.
A couple weeks ago, my sister called me asking if I had any old clothing that I would be willing to donate to a new resident at her rehab house. A few nights before a new woman had joined their home and had come in with only the clothing on her back and she didn't have any family in the area to bring her clothing - it would be about 3 weeks before they would be able to come to Northern California and bring her anything.
It was perfect timing, really. I had just been thinking that I needed to go through my closets and dressers and clean out the clothing that either no longer fit, or that I just didn't wear anymore. I was debating between washing everything and putting it aside for a yard sale next spring, or just dropping it all off at the Goodwill. Between the options available, I decided that I would much rather give the clothing to women who are making genuine efforts to improving themselves, and who could use the items more.
In the midst of going through all of my clothing I realized exactly how many coats and jackets I have - its an insane amount. Even after taking FOUR coats up there, I still have at least SIX coats and jackets in my closets. Absolutely insane. I realized then that I have ZERO need to purchase a winter coat this year. I may never need to purchase a winter coat ever again. How much money have I spent on winter outerwear in the past few years? And how frequently do I wear each of those pieces? Not often enough to justify them all. Certainly not enough to justify buying another one this year.
However, I did still online browse this years options. This time, I did not purchase any and since I knew I would not be making any purchases I paid no attention to price. These were some of my favorites....








Thursday, November 05, 2009

'Cause jam Don't Shake Like That...

For the past few days I've been thinking about what crafts I should make this holiday season. Boy-oh-boy, do I have some ideas. Nope, not going to share just yet... can't spoil ALL of the surprises.

However, I do need a little help.

I've decided that one of the projects I am likely to undertake is making some jams and/or jellies. I've chosen one flavor solely based upon free access to a specific fruit tree, so that particular flavor I'm not divulging (one of the surprises!).
One of my many issues with all of my crafty endeavors is that I am not satisfied taking on just ONE project. Nope. If I'm going to make sugar scrub, there needs to be multiple scent options. The same standard applies with jellies --- I NEED to make more than just one flavor of jam/jelly. This is where you come in! I've selected thirteen different options and obviously I can't possibly make all thirteen PLUS the top secret flavor. I'm thinking I should only make three flavors... four, tops.
Please, take a moment to review the following flavors and select up to three of the options in the poll to the right.
Thank you, and have a good day!
Amaretto Peach Pecan Preserves*
Blushing Peach Jam (blushing = raspberry)
Caramel Apple Jam
Clementine Marmalade
Chocolate Raspberry Jam
Mango Butter
Mango Raspberry Jam
Pear Vanilla Jam
Pomegranate Jelly
Pumpkin Butter
Rosemary Orange Marmalade
Sangria Jelly*
Tangerine Marmalade

* All alcohol content will be cooked out during the preparation of the noted recipes.

PS - Holy cow am I going to be buying a boatload of sugar.

PPS - Am I out of my mind for deciding to try making my own jams and jellies when I've never canned anything on my own before? I tried making a marionberry jam with my grandma up in Oregon years ago but it never fully jelled. It was more like marionberry syrup. Now, that may have been due to the fact that my grandma wasn't the most fantastic cook in the world (she was decent, but not spectacular) or due to the fact that I was only twelve years old. Theres also the possibility that that particular project was the first sign that I suck at canning and just haven't tried to do it again since so I'm completely unaware that I do, in fact, suck at canning. AND are holiday gifts really the proper venue to discover that this is not something that I'm good at?

PPS - VOTE! NOW!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NaNo-Whatever-I'm-Not-Doing-It-Month

I considered participating in NaBloPoMo.
I also considered participating in NaNoWriMo and NaKniSweMo.
But, lets get real - my posting here has been pretty spotty this year, I don't know how I'd keep up with daily posting for an entire month.
Writing a novel? Sure, I've got some ideas but have no idea how I would manage to write a 50,000 story (an average of 1,666 words per day) in a month.
Knitting a sweater in a month? Definitely more feasible, but I tried that a couple of years ago. Note, I said that I tried. Back in 2006 I started to knit this sweater. I got the back completed and the front started, then put the sweater down when I started having some major car problems and was doing some extensive car shopping which led to the purchase of the car I have now. Anyways, I put the front of the sweater down and now I couldn't tell you where I stopped in the pattern or even what size I was working on. The pieces are sitting in a box with some of the yarn I purchased to make the sweater. Yes, some. Cooper got his little paws on a few of the skeins and since he seems to think he's part cat and loves to play with yarn, he tore all over the house with a couple of skeins, effectively destroying them. So, I don't even have all of the yarn to finish the blasted sweater if I wanted to.
Ultimately I decided against NaKniSweMo this year not because I had failed in completing the challenge in the past, but because I have got SO DAMN MUCH going on in my life right now. Basically its the same of everything that I've been dealing with for the past three months, plus gearing up for the holidays, plus I'm FINALLY taking a vacation this month.
Yes, I have not had a vacation since my trip to London a year and a half ago. So, a couple months ago a few of my girlfriends and I decided that it was time for a vacation and we decided upon New Orleans. Yes, history and culture was part of the reason why we chose New Orleans - we want to see the plantations, the cemeteries, the musicians, the parks. And yes, the lack of an open container law was a slight factor in the decision. At least it was for me.
I went to New Orleans a little over five years ago and did get to see a lot of it. However, I was there to take my 13-year-old cousin to a karate tournament so I did not get to see everything I wanted to. There were 2 or 3 plantations that I wanted to see - after the first one she was all "meh, I've had enough of plantations". Going out to eat was a pain too. I was looking forward to some amazing New Orleans fare - her reaction to most places was "thats too cuisiney. Can't we go to Wendys?"
And forget hitting Bourbon Street at night.
I also didn't get to see any of the cemeteries because I had read all of these travel guides stating how incredibly dangerous the cemeteries are and that there are muggers throughout them and you're putting yourself in grave (pun not intended) danger going through them if you're not with a group. As a result, even with a group, I was not comfortable with the idea of taking my baby cousin into the cemeteries.
Now I am going with a group of three other adult women so I KNOW I will have a fantastic trip.
Yes, I am a little sad that I am staying in the US - I would have LOVED to have collected another stamp in my passport, but finances are a little tight so a trip to Europe would have been a hardship.
Also, its November, I've got to get geared up for Christmas - there are a lot of crafts for me to get started on. Christmas is less than two months away and I haven't even decided what crafts I'm going to make this year. Sure, I've got a few ideas on what I can do, but nothing that I've definitely decided upon yet.
This last point makes me wonder WHY all of this Na-whatever-whatever-Mo projects are in November? Seriously? People are stressed over the holidays rapidly approaching as it is. Why add a project of any of these magnitudes to your plate at this time of year?
NaNoWriMo? In my opinion, thats a project for January. In January people are recuperating from the holidays - mentally, emotionally, and financially. What better time to hole up at home with your laptop and a cup of cocoa to flex your creative muscles? None I tell ya, NONE!
NaBloPoMo? Thats something for the springtime - you're out doing stuff after a winter of staying in where its warm. Much more blog fodder in my opinion.
NaKniSweMo? That should be a September project... maybe October. Think about it - you want to knit a new sweater for the winter? Do it in September or October so that you have it for November when things start to get a little chilly. With the exception of this year. This year IS unseasonably warm for November.
So, this November, I am protesting. I am not participating, and not going to attempt to participate in any of these projects. I am going to go to New Orleans and have beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde on the Mississippi River and drink Hurricanes out of to go cups from bars with walk up windows. I am going to take Cooper to the groomers tomorrow morning. I am going to try to get caught up on housekeeping before I leave for my trip. I am going to figure out what the heck I'm doing for my holiday crafts this year. I am going to work on a recipe that I'm formulating to enter in the Pillsbury Bake Off next spring. I am going to visit with my sister and my niece (I'm taking her to the zoo for the first time this Saturday. CAN'T WAIT). I'm going to find a new cake or pie recipe to make for Thanksgiving. I'm going to do what I would normally do without one of these challenges.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Koolickles & Poppy Seed Chicken

One of my new favorite snacks are Koolickles.
My mom told me about this little treat after watching an episode of Alton Browns on the Food Network. She remembered that it called for "the big jar of dill pickles, two packets of cherry Kool-Aid, and a couple cups of sugar". Intrigued, I looked at the Food Networks website but wasn't able to find the recipe anywhere. So, I decided to wing it.
My first attempt at the Koolickles I just got a normal sized jar of dill pickle spears, dumped in one packet of cherry flavored kool-aid, some sugar (didn't measure), shook the jar until it was all well mixed, and put it in the fridge. They came out okay, Grandma liked them, but I wasn't overly impressed.
However, I did like them enough to give it another try. This time I decided to follow my moms loose recollection of the recipe a little closer and I got the big 80 ounce jar of dill pickle spears and two packets of cherry kool-aid. I removed all of the spears from the jar, leaving the brine, and added the packets of kool-aid. The only dilema was how much sugar to add. I decided to follow the guidelines on the kool-aid packets and added two cups, put the lid back on the jar and shook the heck out of it until it was all well mixed and it appeared as though the kool-aid and sugar were both completely dissolved. I put the spears back in the jar, and put it in the fridge. This was this past Friday night, I had my 9 year old cousin for the weekend and it was a fun project for us to do together.
Tonight, Monday, we sampled the Koolickles. HUGE hit. They were much better than the first batch even though they haven't sit for as long as is recommended. Before writing this post I decided to Google the recipe rather than to just rely upon the loose interpretation provided by my mother and found this recipe.

I know it sounds weird - cherry pickles - but trust, they are tasty. The only other variation I may try is to use Splenda in place of sugar because I'm sure my diabetic sister would like these.


The other cooking project I did with my younger cousin was my famous (okay, so its not really "famous", but my Grandma loves it as does my mom and now my younger cousin... so, its getting there) "Poppy Seed Chicken".
A while back I read a cooking tip that recommended using ranch dressing in place of an egg bath for homemade chicken nuggets. I thought that sounded delicious and was anxious to try it, BUT Grandma doesn't like ranch dressing. The only salad dressing that Grandma likes is Maries Creamy Poppyseed. A light bulb went off.
Take your chicken pieces (breast, thigh, leg, all work equally well - the only piece I haven't tried this with is wings) and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper then place in a marinade of creamy poppyseed dressing - I use about 1/2 a bottle of Kraft brand simply because it's cheaper than the Maries brand. I typically allow this to marinade for about an hour.
Once the chicken pieces are done marinading, dredge the chicken pieces in a mixture of Italian Seasoning flavored bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese - the good stuff in the little tubs, not the crap in the can on the shelf in the pasta section...you should NEVER use that stuff for anything.
Bake the chicken on a cookie sheet. Heres where my grandma thinks I'm weird, when I cook meats of any kind I almost always start off at a low temperature, in this case 200F, for about 45 minutes, THEN I turn the heat up to 400F until the juices run clear when cut. I really need to time this some time - I think I cook it at 400F for another 30 minutes, but I could really be off here. The reason I start off with the lower temperature is that it seems to start the cooking process without drying out the meat. I read this technique somewhere and it stuck with me, I don't know how accurate it is but its worked well for me the majority of the time.
Whenever I make this chicken it gets rave reviews, my grandmother will talk about it for a couple of days afterwards. I think thats a clue that I need to start making it more frequently.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Technology I Want

We're all familiar with my technology killing skills, I've covered it ad nauseum. So much so that I'm not going to bother linking back to all of the individual instances... either that or I'm just too lazy to look up all of the past links. Potato, potatoh.
Anywhoosits, the curse has not been broken.
Back in April I reconciled to the fact that I could not afford the new MacBook of my dreams so I took a portion of my tax refund and purchased a cheap ass netbook. Seriously cheap - the thing was less than $300 with tax and everything and it worked like a dream. For two weeks. Seriously, two weeks. Then the thing wouldn't turn on. I took it back to Best Buy where they easily exchanged it for a new one of the same model. That one looked like a dream... for three months. Seriously, what the hell is wrong that everything technological I touch goes up in smoke... that reminds me, I have another computer story to tell you... you are going to shit.
So when the second netbook crapped out on me, I took it back to Best Buy. Unfortunately it was beyond the 30 day warranty through the store so they offered to run diagnostic on it... for $200. Thats right, two thirds of what I paid for the thing. If it was a software issue I would have to pony up whatever additional monies would be needed to fix it, and you know that would be in excess of $100, effectively paying for the thing ALL OVER AGAIN. However, if it was a hardware issue the netbook would be sent back to the manufacturer for them to either repair or replace and then I would have to try to get my $200 for the diagnostic back from the manufacturer. So far I've said screw it and the thing is being a very highly priced paperweight at this time.
Now, get ready to shit.
A while back my office was painted AND the carpets were replaced. Naturally, the office was rather smelly for a while from the paint and the carpet glue. Then a few weeks later I'm sitting at my desk and notice a weird chemically smell. It only lasted about 10 minutes, then went away. Then a few days later the smell comes back for just a few minutes, then goes away again. Since they were brief I thought that maybe they were residual odor from the carpet glue or something. Both times I just brushed it off. THEN one day the odor pops up again and doesn't go away, it keeps getting stronger. I finally turn to a manager who sits near me and ask "Do you smell this"?
He comes over to my desk and says "Holy crap, get away I think your computer is on fire - that smells like an electrical burn".
He runs off to get our facility guys.
I'm standing there trying to process this. My computers on fire? Bullshit. My computer can not possibly be ON FIRE. Seriously.
Our two facility guys show up, one of them pulls out the tower and the other one looks at the back of it and says "Crap!" and immediately just starts yanking out all of the various cords.
Apparently the exhaust fan thingy had died and my computer was doing some sort of slow electrical burn. Not exactly ON FIRE, but not exactly NOT on fire either.
So, my work computer was replaced and the one I have now is archaically slow. Seriously, what is it with me and faulty electronics?

Anygeek, I've compiled a list of the four technological products I want. Any bets on how long it would take for me to kill all of them?

iPod Touch

Ahhhh.... 64GB of music, game, and app goodness.
The benefits of an iPhone - apps, wifi, etc - without having to switch my phone carrier to AT&T.
It's only $399

MacBook Pro

15" anti-glare wide screen display
3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
4GB memory
500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive
Remote
3 year protection plan (Because, seriously, if ANYONE needs a protection plan for their computer, it would be me)
This gems only $3,067 (with the protection plan and upgrades)

Nikon D5000

12.3 MP of Nikon goodness with a nifty flip out swively display for $679

Roku

Streaming my Netflix AND Amazon Video on demand? Aaaaaaawesome! I could watch the current season of Dexter without paying for premium cable! Saweeeeet!
All for just $99!

So, it all adds up to just $4,244. Why the hell can't I win the Lottery?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Long Time, No Blog

Yeah, I've been caught up in the middle of all of the drama with my niece.

I can't exactly say that things have gone badly, but I also can't say that they've gone the way that I wanted them to.

Kylee has been placed with her paternal great-aunt, she came down from Idaho for the time being and my mom and I get weekend visits.

My sister is doing well, she is in a residential rehab facility that is designed for women with children so there are other mothers there and a couple of them have their children in the house with them. My sister could potentially have Kylee in the house with her later down the road. I'll admit, at first I was a little apprehensive at the thought of Kylee going into a rehab house but I have met all of the women in the house and I am a little more comfortable with the thought of it now.
Overall, she is doing really well with her recovery - I am very proud of how far she has come so far and trust that she is on the right path to getting herself together to be reunited with her daughter and make a life for the two of them.
My nieces father is a different story. He was supposed to go into rehab the same day that my sister did but didn't check himself in until over a week later, and that was only after several people talked him into it. He was there less than two weeks until he just walked out one night and he has missed two court dates. He's supposed to have gone back into rehab over a week ago but still has not. I am very conflicted on this.
Overall, I know that as long as he continues the way he is that he will not be a good father to Kylee and that it may be better for him to not be involved in her life.
However, this makes me incredibly sad. I know firsthand what it is like to grow up without a father and I hate hate hate the thought of her going through that. I know what its like to wonder why he wasn't around, to track him down as a teenager, not knowing if he had a whole other family, not knowing if he would accept me or how my sudden appearance would affect this whole other hypothetical family and what their reaction to me would be. I really don't want Kylee to have to go through that. I hope that he gets his act together so that she doesn't have to go through that.

To leave you on a CUTE note, here are some of the ADORABLE photos I've taken of Kylee on a couple of our recent visits.






Monday, August 03, 2009

Loving Kylee

Naturally, we can't go five minutes without some sort of drama in my family.
However, I think the most recent turn of events are the most horrific.

It was just a little over 2 years ago that I introduced all of you to my niece, Kylee Rose.


Isn't she just edible? Don't you just want to nom on those cheeks?
I adore her. She is one of the hugest blessings in my life.

Last Sunday morning, my sister, Kylee was taken in by child protective services and was placed in emergency confidential foster. My sister and her boyfriend had put their own drug addictions before the best interest and safety of their child.
My mother is try to get Kylee home with her, but the system is ridiculously slow. The soonest we can even be considered for long term placement of Kylee is after court next Wednesday. At that point the judge may give the order for CPS to go to my mothers home to assess it for placement and then we can proceed with trying to bring Kylee home. In the meantime, no extended family members - meaning no one aside from my sister or her boyfriend, can have visitation with Kylee.



There are several factors in this situation that are especially aggravating.
1 - How archaically slow the system is moving in general. IF the judge gives the order to have my mothers home assessed next Wednesday, the 12th, and CPS comes out to inspect it on Thursday, and we miraculously were able to bring Kylee home on Friday, that would be nearly three weeks that she had been gone away from her family - the family that she is safe with. I can only imagine how horrible this is for her: to wonder where her entire family is.
2 - A big complication is that Kylees father is Native American and his tribe, who is in Arizona, is being notified of these proceedings so that they can determine if they want to exercise their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act. I hate to think that if they wished to, they could step in and claim first dibs to a child who has never visited their reservation and who isn't yet even a registered tribal member. She has family here who she knows and loves and who know and love her.
3 - The fact that neither my mom nor I can even visit her to offer her some comfort and reassurance. Because she is in a confidential foster home no one can know where she is - all visitation has to be supervised and the case worker has informed us that they only arrange supervised visitation with the biological parents: no extended family.
4 - Kylees fathers family, mainly his mother in Oregon, is trying to talk him into signing over his parental rights to them. In the two years since she has been born, his family has shown very little interest in Kylee. They never bothered to come to her birthdays (and they lived just a little over an hour away). They never came to see her at the holidays - she always had to be taken to them. They never helped to buy diapers or clothing or anything like that when my sister and her boyfriend couldn't afford to do so themselves (that was usually me). However, now that theres the potential to receive funding to foster her while her parents try to clean themselves up, as well as tribal money from Arizona, all of a sudden they've decided that her best interest is with them. Infuriating.

Isn't that the cutest little butt you've ever seen?



So, you can say that I am aggravated, angry, annoyed, pissed off, infuriated. However, more than anything else, I am heartbroken. The thought of Kylee with strangers, wondering where her family is, devastates me. I can only imagine how scared and confused she is. I just want to bring her home where I can hold her and comfort her and have her in an environment that is familiar to her with the family that she knows and loves. I miss her. I miss her curiosity and her precociousness, the way she would tease me by pretending to not be able to say my name but shout it and come running to me if something scared her or if she hadn't seen me in a few days. I want to bring her home where she belongs, and the time it is taking the county to go through everything to be able to make this happen is so incredibly frustrating. Add to that frustration the fact that her case worker will not return a single one of my calls, and you have one upset auntie over here.

So, I don't ask much of you dear readers, but if you can please pray for Kylee to come home soon. Pray, or send warm thoughts, good energy, or whatever your particular faith prescribes.

In the meantime, I am going to leave you with one of Kylees favorite songs. Its a weird one for a toddler. She never was big on lullaby's and then a few months ago I went to visit her and had this song playing in my car when I pulled up. She was standing in the front yard and when she heard it she immediately started dancing and rocking out. I don't know if she was just putting on an act for her favorite auntie, or is she is a little rocker in the making, or if its just the celt heritage in her. Either way, its pretty damn funny to watch a toddler jam to the following tune.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Equal Opportunity Snarker

I've been accused of being a sarcastic smart-ass with my friends and coworkers. Snarky, if you will.
Tuesday I told one of the managers at my work the following story. I told him this as a demonstration that I DON'T save up all of my sarcastic comments for the sales reps that I support.

Tuesday morning I had to wake up at the ass crack of dawn to take my mom to the hospital for surgery on her wrist. She has severe carpal tunnel syndrome, in both arms, and has had numerous surgeries, on both arms, over the years.

We leave for the "ambulatory clinic" where she is scheduled to have the surgery. I'm to drop her off before I go to work, and Granny would be picking her up when the surgery is finished. I have no idea where we're going, all I know is that the clinic is in Folsom. I trust that my mother, the one who scheduled the surgery, knows where she is supposed to be.
As we approach Folsom she tells me the general vicinity of where it is so that I can be headed in the right direction. We get to the general area and I ask her where we're supposed to go next.
Mom "They said to go straight through a couple of lights and turn left."
So I go straight.
Me "Um, are we supposed to be going over the highway?"
Mom "I'm not sure"
Me "Because we are, and theres absolutely nothing out this way."
Mom "Well I told her that I knew where the clinics at that last intersection were and she told me to go through a couple of lights and turn left."
Me "But there are 4 different directions from which you can approach any given intersection."
Mom "I told them I was coming from Roseville."
Me "So, that only narrows it down to two different directions. Whats the address for the place"
Mom "I don't know."
Me "You don't know? Don't you have it with you?"
Mom "No. I left the address with Grandma"
Me "Well, do you at least know the name of the street its on?"
Mom "No. But I think it starts with a P."
Me. "You THINK? How...? What...? OH. MY. GOD."
In frustration, I pull over to the side of the road to call Grandma for the address. Thankfully my new phone (Sprints bastardized version of the iPhone) has navigation so I'm able to plug in the address and get us there, only a few minutes late.
I drop mom off in front of the clinic and pull away. As I'm turning out of the parking lot I look up in my rearview mirror to see my mom standing outside the clinic, staring at me. So, I pull around to see what she needs.
Mom "I dropped the check for my co-pay somewhere"
She starts digging through my car - my car is a disaster. There are empty packs of cigarettes, coffee cups, water bottles, etc. all over the floorboard of the passenger seat.
Me "You dropped it?"
Mom "Yes. I can't grip papers together with how bad the carpal tunnel is. THATS WHY I'M HAVING THE SURGERY"
Me "So, you know that you're unable to grip papers together yet you've got paperwork you have to give them PLUS the check for your co-pay"
Mom "Yes."
Me "Did you think that maybe since you have these papers and a check that you have to have with you that maybe you should've put them IN something?"
Mom "I can't take a purse or anything like that in to surgery, VA-NESS-A" (emphasize the 3 syllables there)
Me "LIKE AN EN-VEL-OPE MOTH-ER, so you don't lose your CHECK"
she looks at me blankly
Me "OR, better yet, why don't you safety pin the check to your shirt? ALONG WITH THE ADDRESS OF WHERE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE?"
Then she found the check, slammed my car door, and stomped off.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where I've Been

Nowhere interesting, really.

Work has been challenging lately. Since January there have been FOUR rounds of layoffs. The third round had a great impact on me - 25% of my department was affected including my counterparts. I am the only person left in my position in Northern California/Western Nevada. I won't lie, its scary. As flattered as I am that I was not laid off (the decision was based upon "dependability, knowledge, and tenure") its still scary - in theory they could eliminate my position entirely any day now.

With the job market being what it is, I couldn't really count on finding another job right away if I were to be laid off so I've been thinking that my best option would be to market my photography more aggressively in the hopes that I can pick up some more jobs.
The photography is something I've been doing half assed for a few years now. I've never really gone out in search of jobs, just gotten them as referrals from previous jobs I've done. Add to this the fact that I do not have a studio, and know absolutely NOTHING about marketing, and I'm basically just stumbling through what my options are.
I'm going to revamp my website, Photography by Vanessa, I haven't been thrilled with it for a while now and now I have some motivation to REALLY get in there and expand it.
I'm working on putting together some packages to appeal to graduating high school seniors and possibly new mothers. I already have some packages on there for weddings and family portraits - any other suggestions?

I've taken some photos of family members recently to use in promotional materials. This is what I've been using as promotional material for close to a year:


I'm going to update it with some more recent photos. These are just a couple of the images I'm considering. Theres still more recent ones on my camera that I need to go through.



Looking at these, i realize that I still need to add some BABIES! I'm going to get some of my niece who is two years old now, but I need BABIES!

I have a couple of jobs lined up - a wedding in a couple of weeks up in Lake Tahoe that I am really looking forward to. The ceremony is going to be on the beach so I should be able to get some beautiful images there, then my plan is too drive the perimeter of the lake on the way home and hopefully get some good photos that I can sell to a stock photography company.

UPDATED TO ADD
Oh my heavens I WANT one of these camera straps. Seriously, there are about 5 or 6 of them that I would have a HARD time selecting from.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Brother

I've recently eluded to some legal problems that my brother is going through without really elaborating on them.
To be quite honest, its occupied a lot of my thoughts and attention lately - between my dental problems (they're still ongoing) and him, I've been rather distracted the past couple of months. I've ran into some friends and bloggers out around town and ignored them because I was in midst discussion about this very issue. That was rude of me, and I apologize.

Heres what has happened.
In late April my brother was arrested on a Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning for attempted robbery. We, as a family, knew that my brother had been stealing for over a year at that point -- but as far as we knew it had only been from us. The year before my brother had stolen a large number of dvds from me. My gut instinct when I discovered all of these dvds missing was that it was him. The easiest way to confirm if it was him was to go to the local store that buys used dvds and ask to see a list of what he had sold to them. I got the list and went through it with my sister and we discovered that he had been stealing from both of us for several months.
I went to my mom and told her that either he needed to own up to what he had done and make amends OR I would ask the store to press charges. She went ballistic. I was NOT going to press charges and send her son to jail. At that point I grudgingly dropped the issue for the sake of family peace but told her how I was concerned that if something didn't happen to stop him, that he would progress to burglary and get himself into BIG trouble or possibly even injured or killed. She did not listen to me. My mother never listens to me.
So, I was right. He did progress to burglary and was caught. His photo was even on the evening news. That just about killed my grandmother - seeing her only grandson on tv as a criminal.
That following Friday I went to his arraignment hearing with my mom where my brother was released on his own recognizances, also known as OR. He got home that night to discover that someone had stolen his cell phone and Rolex watch (he'd bought it with the insurance settlement from a car accident he'd been in a couple of years prior). Hello? Is that you, karma?
So, he'd been arrested for attempted burglary and was stolen from during the few days that he was in county jail.
Being an idiot, he tracked down who stole from his and went to the guy. Not in a diplomatic "hey, thats not cool" fashion, but in a violent manner. He beat the guy, severely. This happened on Friday night and as of Saturday afternoon the guy was waiting for surgery to repair his crushed jaw. Waiting because his concussion was too severe for him to go in for surgery. My brother was immediately arrested for assault Friday night.
He is now convicted of felony assault and will spending at least two years in state prison.
He deserves to be there. He ABSOLUTELY deserves to be there. He has never had to face the consequences of his actions, my mom has always made certain of that, and now he has to - its high time that he did.
However, I hate seeing him about to go off to prison. I've visited him once and seeing him in the orange jumpsuit, talking to him over a phone through the plexiglass window is hard. He was a good kid growing up, I never imagined, prior to a year ago, that he would end up like this.
There is a part of me that, no matter how old he gets or what he does, will always feel like a protective older sister. As much as I know he belongs where he is, I DO NOT like it by any means.
So, in a couple of weeks he goes before the judge for his official sentencing. From there he goes to the general intake facility in Tracy and then he will be assigned to a prison anywhere in the state. I hope its relatively close so that mom can visit him regularly like she has been since this whole thing started, and I think I'd like to visit him occaissionally as well. Grandma, Grandma can't go visit him. I think she'd like to, but that would tear her apart. She would break down. I think he NEEDS to see her reaction to seeing him where he is, but its not worth what it would do to her.
I've been torn about whether or not to share this with everyone. I suppose I feared judgement from people. But, I can't not share it. It's been a big part of my life the past couple of months and will continue to be for the next couple of years. It has become a part of who I am. I love my brother despite his shortcomings and I am affected by this. I just hope that this changes him for the better, like he claims it has, and that he can learn from this experience and grow from it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Diatribe

Allow me to rant for a bit, if you will...

Here in Sacramento, there really is only one daily newspaper - The Sacramento Bee.

As I have mentioned previously, my brother, Ryan, is in jail. I will elaborate on this issue at another time - I'm still sorting through my own emotional response to his situation and am not yet ready to divulge the details openly.

One thing that my brother has requested while he is in jail is that we send him some books or possibly a subscription to The Sacramento Bee. Being the only family member with the financial means, and willingness, to readily purchase a subscription, I went online to sign him up.
The price quoted on the SacBee's website for a 13 week subscription was $26. Reasonable. I enter my brothers delivery information, my billing information, and get an email confirmation stating that delivery will begin within 2-3 days. This was on a Wednesday, so I have my mother tell Ryan that he should probably start receiving delivery the following Monday or Tuesday (just to allow extra time - so he'd be pleasantly surprised should the delivery begin earlier).
The next Monday I receive a phone call from The Bees "VIP Membership Services" stating that they need to clarify the subscription price for me. The representative advises me that delivery to a county jail is mail delivery and therefore the charges will be $44.10 for five weeks, more than four and a half times their standard subscription rates. Since its looking like Ryan is going to be in there a while I tell them to cancel the subscription request. At the rates quoted to me, that would be over $450 per year. Ridiculous.
I asked my mom to tell Ryan that I wasn't going to purchase the subscription after all because of the exorbitant costs. She did, and she said that he completely understood. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed - I have since visited with him and the options of things to do in a county jail are very limited. The library is very limited with a large portion of the books available being donations from other inmates of any books that their family members sent them. There are classes available for the inmates, but since this is a county facility and not a state prison the classes are limited to remedial courses designed for those wishing to pursue their GED. Despite having gotten himself into the situation he is in, Ryan is an intelligent person so these options are not too appealing to him. Thus, the request for the newspaper subscription.
The more I thought about the subscription price quoted to me, the more outraged I became. A couple days later I emailed The Bee's general information address with the following message:
I recently tried to purchase a subscription to the Sac Bee for my brother.
I am ashamed to admit that at present he is in custody at the Placer County Jail in Auburn.
Online the subscription price was listed as $26 for 13 weeks.
Today I received a call from an associate advising that the subscription price would be increased because of different delivery requirements to his location. I was advised that delivery for him would be $44.10 for just 5 weeks.
This difference in cost is outrageous and I have a hard time imagining how a price difference that great is justified aside from The Bee taking advantage of potential customers who have no other option of obtaining the paper. Or, is it that you just don't like to have customers?

Two days later, I received the following response:
Thank you for your email to The Sacramento Bee. The difference in price
is actually $4.25/week, for a total of $21.25 for 5 weeks or $34.00 for
8 weeks.

Unfortunately, the person who called you was quoting our Delivery by
mail subscriptions in error. I apologize for the incorrect information.
Would you be interested in starting the subscription now knowing the
correct rates?

At that time I responded that I may be interested in starting a subscription at the newly quoted rates but to hold off for the time being because Ryan may be moving to a state facility.
A few days later we found out the he will be at the county facility for at least another 5 weeks so I decided to start the subscription and emailed the contact I had been corresponding with regarding the updated subscription price.
Understandably, when I initially asked them to cancel my request they purged my delivery and billing information so they asked me to call in and give the information to any agent.
I called this morning and gave all of the delivery and billing info to a representative, then asked them to confirm the costs. Boy, am I glad I asked them to confirm the costs because I was once again quoted the $44.10. At that time I told her about the above exchanges and she advised me that whomever had quoted me the charge of $21.25 must have been unaware that mail delivery would be required. I read her, verbatim, the entire email including the senders full name. She paused for a moment and said "thats my boss", then placed me on hold. After a minute she came back and while she did say that they would "honor" the quote of $21.25 she continued to insinuate that what my subscription required was mail delivery and that is a higher cost. After she confirmed my billing and delivery information I asked when the delivery should actually be expected to begin. At that point she said that the carrier for that area should receive the order tomorrow and that the actual delivery should begin the day after that.
Wait. What? Carrier? If this requires mail delivery why is it going to a carrier?
This whole entire interaction leaves me with a couple of impressions... either the department who handles the subscriptions has no clue what kind of delivery is required for where OR The Bee is taking advantage of a demographic who has no other option for obtaining a daily newspaper. Seriously, its not as though the inmates can run down to the local 7-11 and pick up a copy. I also have to question how many families of inmates have been financially taken advantage of because they took the subscription rate quoted for what it was and didn't bother to voice complaint.
Now, I'm not one to say that prisoners should have cushy lives with premium cable and posh accommodations; they are where they are because they have done something wrong and have to pay for their wrongs against society. However, a newspaper isn't something too outrageous and if their families are willing to purchase their subscriptions, the families shouldn't be taken advantage of financially. Yes, a higher subscription rate than standard does seem reasonable and logical -- but not to the extent that I was originally quoted.

This is not the only issue I have with The Sacramento Bee - its just the most recent, and to me, the most outrageous.
In the past this blog has been quoted in The Bee without any sort of request or notification. I only found out that I had been quoted when friends emailed me saying "Hey, congratulations on being quoted in The Bee!"
More frequently, this has happened to a friend of mine. To the extent that she took her blog private for a few months because she was tired of being quoted without the courtesy of any sort of request.
Yes, journalistic ethics may not require a request or notification when one is quoting an already published blog, but common courtesy does. Especially when it is coming from a local area blogger who may have relationships with writers or editors of the publication.

In general, The Bee has gone downhill at a rapidly alarming pace in the past couple of years. The quality of journalists is not what it used to be which led me to cancel my daily subscription over a year ago.
The one writer I take the most issue with is the new restaurant critic. I, personally, find his reviews to be condescending and pompous. When a restaurant critic takes over 200 words (yes, I did a word count) to tell the reader what the difference is between good and great, the message it sends is that the writer finds their audience to be intellectually inferior.
Furthermore, I take issue with his journalistic ethics. He has openly admitted that when reviewing one restaurant in particular he has gone into the kitchen and introduced who he was just so that he could watch the chef prepare the meals. Critics and reviewers of any nature are not to reveal who they are so that they can ensure they receive the same level of service and quality of product that any other customer or consumer would receive.

One of two things needs to happen. Either The Bee needs a complete overhaul, or Sacramento needs another option for a daily printed newspaper.

Follow Up

Friday night I had some lofty goals of things I wanted to get done over the weekend.
Shockingly, I did NOT accomplish all of them.

1. GARDENING
A few days ago I purchased some tomato, squash, and zucchini plants with the intentions of putting together a container garden. Over the weekend I did get out the half barrel planters we've had for numerous years now.
The unfortunate part is that these barrels went unused for the past two years and sat empty. This caused the wood to shrink to the extent that they are pretty much ruined. So, gardening did not get done, I am now faced with the dilema of either buying new planters or preparing a section of the yard for planting.

2. PATIO
Didn't do a single thing with it.

3. GOAT CHEESE
I tried. Heaven knows I tried.
I followed the recipe exactly, and I have no clue why, but the milk would NOT curdle. No matter how much lemon juice or vinegar or how long I let it sit. I eventually ended up pouring a half gallon of goats milk, the juice from 4 or 5 lemons, and approximately half a cup of apple cider vinegar down the drain.

4. PHOTOSHOP
I DID get all of my photoshop work done. Both the wedding AND the senior portraits. Yay me!

5. THIN OUT MY BOOKSHELVES
Nope.

6. FLIRT WITH THE BUTCHER
Unfortunately I got SO wrapped up in the photoshop work Sunday that I lost track of time and didn't get to the butchers before they closed yesterday.

A couple of things I did get done this weekend that WEREN'T on my To Do List?

1. Visit my baby brother in jail - thats an entire entry of its own for another time.

2. Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE my coffee. Drink it daily, all throughout the day. A few years ago my uncle introduced me to Vietnamese coffee - a strongly brewed coffee, similar to espresso, blended with sweetened condensed milk. I would LOVE to get a set of Vietnamese coffee filters, but I fear how much sweetened condensed milk I would consume if I did.
A couple weeks ago I saw this recipe for Vietnamese coffee popsicles and knew that I HAD to make them. This weekend, I did. They were AMAZING. Even Grandma liked them.

3. DETERGENT
A couple weeks ago I told you about what I will call "The Great Detergent Debacle of 2009", also known as "Vanessa Doesn't Like To Follow Directions".
I had attempted to make a concentrated version of my own liquid laundry detergent only to have it turn into a semi-solid consistency. As a result, by the time I had thinned it out to a gel detergent consistency, I had FIFTEEN gallons of the stuff. Since then, its been sitting in buckets.
This weekend I had finally gathered enough empty laundry detergent bottles, 2 liter soda bottles, milk jugs, etc to bottle the stuff. I've given some away to my mom and to neighbors... I STILL have TEN bottles that I don't know what to do with.
The drawback is that even though I thinned it out to a gel detergent consistency, it tends to separate? I've used the stuff and it works just fine as long as you shake it before using it. I just don't have a scientific enough mind to understand why its separating. I guess that it has something to do with all of the various ingredients mixing and bonding together during the initial preparation and the additional water being added after the fact?
I'm thinking I'm going to take some down to the pub and see if I can unload any there. For some reason, some people are hesitant to accept homemade detergent? I made it for sensitive skin since Grandma requires it.

4. LAUNDRY
Got mine done, as well as the towels. Now, I just need to work on Grandmas.

5. DRANK COFFEE
Really, I'm just adding this to make myself feel better for not doing more that was on my actual To Do list.

6. CUDDLED WITH SAM & COOPER
See #5.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ambitious

I have some ambitious plans for this weekend and am hoping that by putting them here, it will give me some accountability to complete at least HALF of whats on my to do list.

1. Gardening
I know I'm getting a rather late start on this, but yesterday I purchased two tomato plants, one crookneck squash and one zucchini plant.
I'm going to put together a little container garden. Yes, I know the zucchini needs a lot of room, so I may actually put that one in the ground... I'll have to double check exactly big my largest container is (a half wine barrel) and see if that will be large enough.
I'm not sure what suddenly motivated me to try gardening. I've never been successful with plants in the past but I want to grow my own vegetables. Its often hard for me to get to the farmers market downtown on the weekend, and the grocery stores can be so pricey for fresh produce that is often tasteless and bland. And, theres not much that I love more than a homegrown tomato.
IF this experiment goes well, I'm probably going to put together a larger garden for next year. Building a few raised beds wouldn't be too challenging and then I could have a wider variety of produce. I definitely have the room for it, our property is close to half an acre, so if I was REALLY feeling ambitious I could, theoretically, have a more traditional garden in the back portion of the property. However, that would require things like getting a rototiller and a lot of manual labor.

2. PATIO
I SERIOUSLY need to clean up the back patio - primarily the bbq grill. I plan on having a bbq-tastic summer this year.

3. GOAT CHEESE
I'm going to be making my own goat cheese this weekend.
This idea started while brainstorming ways to deal with keeping the weeds and grass in check on our property. My brother had been coming around and mowing our back yard but totally slacked on it the past few months and the next thing we knew, Cooper was getting lost in the jungle that is our back yard. I COULD do it myself, but I can be rather prone to laziness and social obligations on the weekends. We COULD hire a lawn service, but with how large the property is, thats a couple hundred dollars a month. I'm trying to save some money here. My sisters boyfriend COULD come and do it but he's a jackass and you can't rely on him for crap (note, since this brainstorming session he has come over and cleared the jungle). Then I remembered reading how you can rent goats to come and clear overgrown weeds and brush. I looked into it, and with what it would cost to rent two goats for a day you could buy two pygmy goats of your own. I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she pointed out that if I got one that was a milker, I could also make my own goat cheese with the milk she produced. I thought this was a FANTASTIC idea. I LOVE goat cheese.
So, I did a little research and found this. Making goat cheese is SO incredibly easy! Or at least it sounds that way.
So, I was all gung ho on the idea of getting two pygmy goats. Pygmy because they don't get too terribly big (they can use a large dog house as their shelter as opposed to a barn) and that breed is very social and playful. I figured this would be good because Cooper is very social and playful and I know that if I brought a couple goats onto the property, Cooper would at least try to play with them.
Then I REALLY started thinking it over. I would have to get up at the ass crack of dawn every day to milk them, and I HATE mornings. They would have to be milked daily and I know that I couldn't count on anyone to come and milk them if I go away for a weekend, let alone a week in Europe or somewhere.
If I do end up with a larger garden next year, I would have to build a fence to keep them away from it otherwise they would eat all of my gardening efforts. If that happened I would have to invite all of my friends over for a fire roasted goat one night. So, ixnay on the oatgay.
However, the idea of making my own goat cheese stuck with me. Last night I stopped at Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods, and picked up some goat cheese. If this first attempt goes well, I found a rancher up in El Dorado Hills where I could purchase raw goats milk for future batches of goat cheese. Yes, raw goats milk would be unpasteurized, but that just means that its full of probiotics.

4. PHOTOSHOP
Four weeks ago a couple of my friends got married and I photographed their wedding. At first, I just started working on the photos slowly because, they're going to be in Ireland on their honeymoon for three weeks? Pshaw! I've got plenty of time! No reason to rush!
Then I started having all sorts of dental complications and was on either valium and/or vicodin and/or white wine each night. Now, I'm confident enough to work my photoshop magic with a glass or two of white wine, but I am not going to work on a friends wedding photos while hopped up on vicodin and/or valium. Next thing I knew, they were home. Now I've got to haul ass to get the photos done.
ALSO, last weekend I belatedly took some photos of one of my younger cousins for her Senior Portraits. The kid graduated high school early a few months ago but wouldn't coordinate with me for when we could get them done. Every time she wanted to get together it was a weekday when I was working and she only wanted to spend the weekends with her boyfriend. We finally got together last Sunday and now I need to go through those photos.

5. THIN OUT MY BOOKSHELVES
I seriously have too many books. Its a sickness, really. I keep every single book that I buy, with the exception of the ones I loan out and don't get back. THEN whenever anyones getting rid of books I always take a healthy portion of them. As a result, I've got books everywhere. I figure that I'll take some to a used book store and try to sell them and the ones that they don't take I'll donate to the library or goodwill or someplace.

6. FLIRT WITH THE BUTCHER
Last weekend I decided to stop into my local butcher and support the local businesses. Can I just say that the guy working the front counter was super cute?
Now, I'm BAD a picking up on when a guy is flirting with me. My natural thought and reaction is that he's just friendly.
When I went to the butchers, I had my cousin with me (we had just finished her portraits) and when we walked out I said "WOW. He was cute." Cousin said "He totally was! AND he was totally smiling and flirting with you!"
So, I think I need to go back this weekend.


Hopefully I'll be able to get at least half of this done.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Need To Learn How To Follow Directions

I've never been big on directions... especially recipes.
I've always thought that recipes were a loose guideline, really just a set of suggestions, and I have always ventured off on my own. I've come up with some great meals this way.
However, I recently had an experience that made me think that following a recipe can be a very good thing. That sometimes, sometimes, recipes are the way they are for a reason and that diverting from them can result in an outcome that is not desired.

A couple of months ago I made my own powdered laundry detergent, read the details here.
I have been extremely satisfied with the detergent - it works FANTASTICALLY and I have used it on everything... including some VERY dirty loads of laundry (dog beds, towels used to clean up mud, all kinds of nastiness). The only thing that was a bit of a pain was that since it was a powdered detergent it had to be used in hot water so that it would dissolve. It wasn't too big of a pain, if I needed to do a load in a cold wash I just turned on the hot for about 20 seconds at first, then switched it to cold, then loaded in the items I was washing.
This dilema had me wanting to make my own liquid detergent (recipe here). The recipe for the liquid detergent essentially calls for the same ingredients that I used in the powdered version, just melt them together, pour into a 5 gallon bucket, add water and let sit overnight to gel, then use 1 cup per full load of laundry.
Thats what the recipe said. However, that is not what my insane mind said.
My thoughts went like this:
"What if I used double the ingredients so that you would only have to use 1/2 cup per full load?"
"Heck, if I'm going to make a concentrated version, then I could quadruple the ingredients so that you only use 1/4 cup per load. Thats even MORE environmentally friendly! Its conserving water, and since Northern California is practically always in a drought conserving water=GOOD!"
So, this past week I set about making my super concentrated laundry detergent. I did not end up with laundry detergent. What I ended up with was something closer to a super soft playdough. Now, I have to go buy a couple 5 gallon buckets so I can mix some of this stuff with hot water and try to thin it out to an actual detergent like consistency.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reason #83 Why I Should Not Be A Mother

This morning I went to the Susan G Komen Race For the Cure. I walked it. I do not run.
After the run, I mean walk, my friend and I went to lunch with her 4 year old son. As we're leaving the cafe, I'm hugging him goodbye in the parking lot when his hand accidentally gets caught in the neckline of my blouse and he copped a little bit of a feel. He put his hand back, patting my chest, saying "ooooohhhhhh. Whats this?".
I was all "Uhhhhhhhhhhhh?" and looking toward his mother for help because, really? I have no clue how to handle that situation.
So, lil' guys mom was all "Those are Vanessas doobs" apparently thats what he calls them, and yes he fully knows what they are and was just trying to play dumb/cute so he could cop a feel, "and they're not for you to touch. You don't get to play with doobs for a very long time."
And I'm all "Yeah kiddo, you've got about another 14, maybe 13, years before you can play with doobs"
And his mom is all "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Twenty! Thirty! Fourty! Years before he can play with doobs!"
And I'm all "Yeah, you can't play with doobs until you're your grandpas age"
and in my head I'm thinking "damn, I just said 13 or 14 because that would make him 17 or 18 years old and I thought that was a conservative estimate of his approximate age before he'd cop a feel on a girl and actually my gut reaction, which I quickly shot down, because I do have a LITTLE sense about me, was to say 10 years because I'm thinking 14 is probably the young side of average for a teenage boys first grope. Damn. I'm glad I didn't say that."