Received!

For me, DQS9 is now officially over. I received a note today saying the quilt I’d mailed out had been received, and I received mine in the mail on Tuesday. So, lots of pictures ahead!

Let’s start with the one I sent out. I’ve been waiting anxiously for it to arrive at its destination so that I could do a full reveal.

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Front (with a peek at the back)

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Back - this fabric was the first one I picked out, and it's how I determined all the other ones actually went well together, despite the oddity of orange + purple. I think it turned out really well.

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My first wonky star ever. Really not that hard. The only thing is... I totally miscalculated, twice. The first time, I cut only half the number of pieces I'd need to assemble it. So I corrected, or rather overcorrected, by cutting twice as many. So, there's a cheery sun on the back too.

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I love this one! I was able to get the most "artsy" with this one, even though that was really hard for me. Prince Charming had to help me figure out how to do those shading lines on the canoe, because I am really not an artist (in the drawing/painting sense).

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Sneaky little brownie with his bucket of... who knows what. Sand? Water? Wonder where he's going....

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Added in the flower, since he seemed like he needed a bit more. Did you catch that they all have red hair? 🙂

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Fishin'...

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All sorts of excitement going on here! My favorite bit is the umbrella.

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This was the square I kept secret from everyone, because I wanted it to be a surprise. I took the logo for DQS9, traced it onto the background fabric, and then tried out tinting with crayons (which we happened to have in the house). Then some embroidery, and voila! I don't think she'll mind me sharing this even though it has her full name on it - I'm guessing there are quite a few Karen Jones in the United Kingdom (that's right, I sent it to England!).

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I used a decorative stitch on my machine to do the quilting, something I'd seen some other people do. This was leaves - it looked the best out of all my options.

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Goodbye! I sent it off with almost all of my Joel Dewberry "Deer Valley" scraps, since she'd mentioned how she liked them (they were all that I had left over after making pillows for the living room, and now that I've decided to change the color scheme in there, it seemed silly to hoard all that fabric that I'd probably never use).

Here’s the beauty that arrived for me on Tuesday! Unlike the quilt I sent out, which had a long ways to go, this one only had to go a tiny distance – my partner, Rebecca (craftalittle) lives in the metro area (well, kind of). [Editor’s note: I thought it would look nice to photograph these in the sunbeam that streamed into the living room yesterday after work, but it totally didn’t end up like I wanted to. Well, lesson learned.]

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The quilt, and some fun extras! Hexagon templates and a charm pack!

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Do you see this awesomely cute bird? He makes me very happy.

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She quilted it with these beautiful flower motifs!

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What is that there? Oh my goodness, there's a big "K" on the back! Have I mentioned yet that Rebecca had a baby mid-August? And still managed to make this? While managing a toddler and a newborn? I am in awe.

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Here she is, in all her (shady/sunny) glory!

As if that wasn’t enough, we came home to a present from my father-in-law, celebrating our anniversary (which we knew would be “food,” but that’s not much of a hint).

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Cute packaging! Wait, what does that say on the box?

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Cupcakes! Quick, free them from their plastic prison (and sentence them to a tasty death instead)!

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Each one is a different flavor combo!

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This is the one Prince Charming chose to eat first. It was chocolate with... sprinkles on top. Or something like that.

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Cookies and cream maybe? We haven't eaten it yet.

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They're all decorated so cute! See the flower? It's not plastic, like I thought, but actually frosting!

Needless to say, after having a cupcake (mine had fudge frosting, which totally did me in for the rest of the evening) or two, dinner was postponed. went out for a run, and I still wasn’t hungry when he came back. I made up sweet potato fries, and he made up some mac & cheese, of which I ate a few forkfulls. I was very, very full.

We’ve had a great few days, don’t you think? Such happy, happy mail!

Friday5

  1. What is absolutely the best cookie you’ve ever had? I’m a huge fan of Super-Sized Ginger Chewies from Big Fat Cookies by Eleanor Klivans (the cookie book I talk about all the time – it has every recipe you will ever need except for chocolate chip cookies*). I have made them as gifts, given the recipe out to others, and just adore it. Yum!
  2. What is a cookie you really don’t care for? Oatmeal Raisin. Anything with raisins, actually. (Yes, I know earlier I said I was eating raisins. Raisins aren’t bad. Baked raisins are bad. There is a difference.)
  3. What are some other cookies you are rather fond of? Girl Scout Samoas, Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip, snickerdoodles, and shortbread cookies. I love shortbread. It’s all that butter; can’t go wrong with butter.
  4. Grocery-store cookies are, of course, never as good as anything that comes out of someone’s kitchen, but what’s a packaged cookie that’s still pretty good? As mentioned in #3, Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip. Yes, they’re technically not that good, but they stay chewy forever! And chewy is good.
  5. In general, do you think cookies should be chewy and gooey, or should they be crispy and crunchy? Definitely chewy, though perhaps not gooey. Crunchy is also OK (like nuts in the cookie), but I like them to overall be chewy. Crispy I’m not so much a fan of.

*Yes, there are in fact several chocolate chip cookie recipes in this book. I have tried two of them and they massively failed. Like, unuseable, uneatable, never have I had a cookie be so awful failed. So I don’t recommend those. But all the other recipes in it that I’ve tried have been perfect and delicious!

Do you know how long I could talk about cookies? Especially baking cookies? It’s a good thing there were five (and only five) guiding questions. Otherwise, we might still be here tomorrow. 🙂

I almost couldn’t fall asleep last night

That’s how excited I was about what I’m about to tell you next. (That probably gives you an insight into how “exciting” life is these days.)

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I made bread last night.

And it was fantastic!

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It even looks fancy.
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And tastes… superb!

The recipe is Scali Bread from King Arthur Flour [link removed]. I find nothing to fault with it, though I do have some amusing thoughts for you.

When I cook/bake, I usually give a cursory glance at the recipe. I’m looking for things like “overnight” or “4 hours later…” or “12 cups of flour.” You know, clues that time or scale are not good. However, during this pre-reading, I fail to draw conclusions that would prevent lots of awkwardness. Just give a few thoughts to these instructions from the recipe:

  • Working on a lightly greased surface, roll each log into a rope about 24″ long.
  • Brush each rope with the egg white/water, and sprinkle heavily with the sesame seeds, rolling the ropes gently in the seeds to pick up as many as possible.
  • Place the loaf on a large, parchment-lined (or lightly greased) baking sheet.
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Braided dough just before going into the oven.

Just… think for a minute. First of all, bread dough does not easily roll into a log. I was doing it on a floured surface, not a greased one (though both would provide the same amount of traction – none), and it just wasn’t happening. Traction seems to be necessary in rolling dough, at least a little bit of traction. So, the ropes were more… shaped and pulled than rolled.

Now take a 24″ rope of bread dough and… do anything with it. Ha! That’s an amusing thought. Make it slippery/sticky on the outside, and it gets worse.

And then, after you’ve braided the 3 ropes together… you’re supposed to move it to another baking sheet? I was glad that I’d actually done the moving between the second and third bullet points there, which was awkward enough. My braid stayed exactly where it was until it was done baking.

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Perfection!

And it turned out wonderfully. Like I said, I have no complaints about the recipe. Really. King Arthur recipes are really more for people who have made bread more than a handful of times. And bread-making really is an art and a science, and not to be taken lightly. I know plenty of people who probably wouldn’t have experienced the same awkwardness I did, because they’ve been making bread for decades. Alas, I am not one of those people.

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Sesame seeds anyone?

Despite all that, and the internet’s [disappointing] advice that I had to wait until the loaf had cooled completely before slicing (we mostly followed that advice – it was after 10 when the loaf came out of the oven though, and bedtime was imminent), it was a thrilling experience overall. It was successful! I have been trying to learn how to make yeast bread (without a bread machine, which I gave away before getting married because I almost never used it and the loaf shapes were weird) for over two years on and off. I think I might be able to give a standard loaf a shot now.

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It looks like bread, it smells like bread, it tastes like bread… it must be bread!

So today for lunch, I’m having Scali bread with peanut butter. My mid-morning snack will be Scali bread with Nutella. And my afternoon snack? The Matcha Tea Marbled Tea Cake [link removed] (bread) I made up on Sunday. You know what? I have been eating light yogurt and [fill in the blank – an apple, a piece of string cheese, etc] for what seems like forever, and have not lost a single pound. Might as well embrace carbs. 🙂

Yum!

I [perhaps foolishly] spent most of yesterday afternoon baking. I made four batches of muffins, a batch of icebox cookie dough, and a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. (OK, I only baked up part of the chocolate chip cookies, and then spoon-dropped the rest onto a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer, so that can have fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, two at a time, all Spring long, since I will not have time to bake them.) The muffins (all 4 dozen plus 3) went directly into the freezer. I made up Bran & Molasses (with dates, not raisins), Chocolate Nut Bran (substituting Dutch Process cocoa in for regular and almonds for the walnuts), and Pecan Tea muffins (using some toasted, sugared pecans I had laying around) from the All-Bran website, and Green Tea Muffins from a random blog that I don’t have on hand at the moment. The cookies were also from the All-Bran website (Ice Box Cookies).

Beforehand, I measured out how much All-Bran we had (I’d been saving half a box for just such a moment, because who cares if All-Bran is stale? could you even tell?), and it was just over 4 cups. Since each recipe took approximately one cup, it was all good. I emptied the flour jar (refilled with flour that was in the pantry – sorry, inside joke for ), used up all of the almonds (two kinds!) and pecans we had in the house, used all the eggs (10 or 11 set to expire soon), all of the stick butter, stick margarine, and most of the Crisco. I also watched 3 or 4 episodes of Stargate SG-1 on Hulu while baking. I dirtied every single mixing bowl we own, which is a lot, and I even used one several times for the dry ingredients. Oh, and I used the new spatulas that gave me for Christmas, and they’re fabulous!

This morning, I grabbed a muffin from the freezer and threw it in my lunch bag, and let it thaw until lunch. It was a Chocolate Nut one, and it was fabulous! Just a bit dry, as bran muffins tend to be, and not overly chocolatey (they are muffins, not cupcakes or brownies). Made my lunch seem slightly less depressing (yogurt, carrots, water, string cheese – no dip or peanut butter or Nutella or anything like that).

Of course, after dinner when I sat down with the syllabus from Friday’s class, I discovered that I had several chapters and random bits of homework I should have done. I was not happy about this. I was even less happy when I started reading the textbook, which, if I describe it as “asinine,” I will be doing it a favor. I decided, for the first time in this time around in college, that I would only be skimming this book, and there would be absolutely no marking of the text so I could sell it back (did I mention I have two of this book because I’m stupid, and it’s a really expensive book?). Before I switched to skimming, I learned that some acronym-organization (there are so many acronyms in education, and I really don’t care enough to keep them all straight right now) thinks its important that teachers be able to use computers (and peripherals!) and be able to complete a web search. There was also a rather lengthy description of the internet. And that’s when my head imploded.

For my afternoon snack, I have some chocolate chip cookies sitting here. But, the muffin might tide me over until it’s time to go home. We’ll see.

In the continuing experiment of a trying to get to class on time, I’ll remind you that last Monday I left at 5:30 and was 15 minutes late. Tuesday I left at 5:05, grabbing dinner on the way, and I was 15 minutes late. I actually sat on the ramp, less than a mile from class, for 25 solid minutes. So, tonight I’ll be taking local roads instead of the highway, and I’ll be leaving at 5:05 (grabbing dinner on the way), and hopefully I will arrive early. Or at least on time.

Your guess is as good as mine

(What this blog post has to do with the pictures I’ve included.)

I’m not sure if this is a universal reaction or not (because I respond strangely to cold medication), but you know that feeling you get after taking a dose of OTC cold/cough/flu medicine, that strong compulsion to go to sleep? I’m totally experiencing that right now (thankfully without the fuzzy/lightheadedness that usually accompanies it). The thing is, I haven’t taken anything today. And I didn’t really stay up that late last night, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I am thankful that it’s my last day of work this week. We’re supposed to drive down to Chicago tomorrow. There is a snowstorm that is threatening those plans, so who knows what will end up happening.

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Here's what we're giving Dad and Candy this year. They are dog people, and even though their dogs aren't white, I thought they'd think these were cute. I avoided getting the matching place mats and napkins and substituted the snowmen, you know, for variety. Table setting for 6 (desert pates and mugs, place mats and napkins), an ornament, and some kitchen stuff.

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The weekend before last, we went to Sam's Club and bought a whole bunch of stuff that we can actually store now that we have a freezer. For example, this 10 pound tube of hamburger. Prince Charming divided it up into 1/4 pound segments and pressed them into patties, which we then froze in 4-patty sets. Very convenient. (There was also an 8-pound hunk of rib eye that I cut up into a roast and four very large steaks.)

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Also at Sam's, this container of mixed greens, my favorite kind of blend. Do you see how big that container is? Our plates/bowls are huge, so I kept the light switch in for perspective. We're never going to finish this before it goes bad, even though I've been eating a lot of salad. I think we're going to bring it with us to Chicago, because we're only halfway through and we'll be gone for four days. Still, even if we don't eat all of it, it was a fabulous deal on what is normally pretty expensive.

Pausing to Ponder

[Yes, I finally uploaded some pictures to Flickr, but no, I don’t have time to blog about them just yet. Sorry.]

So, like most people at this time of year, I am feeling like there are way too many things that I’d like to do, and not nearly enough time in which to do them. For example, I would love to spend an entire Saturday baking a dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies. However, I don’t think I have a free Saturday between now and Christmas. There are several Christmas gifts that I’d like to make, as well as several Christmasy things for the house I’d like to make, and I’m sure most of them won’t get done. I also want to finish up the semester well (one class session left, with a presentation to give and about two hours of work to do to get it right), purchase Christmas gifts, celebrate and ‘s birthdays, and hang lights on the house (our tree isn’t up yet, but the boxes of ornaments are piled up where I want to put the tree). I’d like to go to Advent services at a church near us (which I may or may not have picked out), though I cannot go to church on a Sunday morning right after getting up for class on a Saturday morning, or the whole week is just worthless. I’m sure there are half a dozen more things that I can’t think of right now, too, that I want to do.

So… exactly how does one go about deciding which of the wonderful things one should actually do? I mean, some of them are obvious. Christmas presents have to be purchased (though I am lucky that many of my official Christmas celebrations don’t occur until well after Christmas, and there are several people on our list who have requested no gifts). The tree has to go up (yes, this is non-negotiable).

How do you decide what doesn’t get done? Or do you not decide consciously, but just let what happens happen? Or do you have a magic machine that adds extra hours of the day without making me tired? I’m sayin’, it’s an option. 🙂

Also, I’m looking for a food item to give up for the first few months of 2010, one that might help me lose a pound or two. I already drink diet pop. I gave up caffeine. I am not giving up “sugar” or “chocolate” (mostly because I would fail miserably at that). Any suggestions?

Boo tendinitis

I’m guessing I won’t garner as much sympathy if I say that I probably brought it on myself. Did you know that almost every hobby I have (with the exception of sleeping) aggravates my elbow? True story. Knitting, sewing, embroidery, playing the piano, even playing video games. And let me tell you, I don’t really enjoy sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing.

At any rate, I have some photos to share with you, for your amusement.

First off, decided to make pretzels last night. He used Alton Brown’s recipe [link removed].

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Deliciously tasty

Secondly, lest you think that everything in the kitchen turns out splendidly at our house, I’ll share this recent (last night) disaster with you.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread fail (every bit as tasty as regular cinnamon bread, just… messier)

I guess when the recipe said to “generously butter” the pan, it really meant it. Apparently I was stingy. Never fear, I’m sure it will all be eaten, because it is that tasty. (It uses the Sweet Dough recipe that I’ve posted here before, so you could fake this if you wanted to. Links to the recipes aren’t working right now, but if you use the search function, it should come up right away.)

Have a lovely weekend!

Teeccino Review

The last time I had coffee (and a significant quantity of caffeine) was September 4th, 2008. Why did I give it up? It wasn’t even a fully conscious decision at the time. I thought maybe I’d try cutting back a little. Didn’t want to set myself up for failure. The internet had me scared that I’d have debilitating headaches for weeks. I thought I consumed a lot of caffeine, but I didn’t, really. I mean, at some point in the summer I’d unintentionally switched to 2 Starbucks visits a day, on weekdays that is. But I couldn’t consume caffeine after 5 pm any days, and most weekend days I didn’t have much caffeine. So, just two Starbucks drinks. Oh, and Excedrin when I get headaches (so now I have to take Advil, and it seems to work fine for that, though I haven’t gotten a really bad one yet, so we’ll have to see).

My saving graces in this “experiment” were 1) Teeccino, and 2) the Tea Garden‘s decaf Vanilla Chai Latte. So you can see that I haven’t entirely cut caffeine out of my diet, because the decaf Chai probably has 5-10 mg of caffeine, and I still consume chocolate, so there’s a little more. I have also purchased caffeine-free (not decaffeinated, since that process doesn’t actually remove all caffeine) tea for when I want a change. So other than the chocolate, I’m at less than 25 mg of caffeine per month.

So on to my review of Teeccino [link removed]!

Let me start my review by saying I’m not a lover of black coffee. My favorite drinks at Starbucks in the recent past have been the White Chocolate Mocha, the Mocha Frappuccino, the Honey Latte, and the Sugar-Free Vanilla Latte. Occasionally someone will give me a bag of coffee as a gift, and if it’s whole bean, of high quality, and I use my coffee grinder and then my French press and do it just right, I might be able to enjoy a cup of black coffee. But I’d rather have it with cream and sugar, at least. My initial thought is that if you love black coffee, Teecchino is not the way to go for you, unless you’re really committed to giving up caffeine. It just doesn’t taste close enough to coffee to bridge that gap.

However, it is still a good product. 4/5 stars.

I ordered a sampler product that I found on the same page as the Sampler Pack. It contained the Sampler Pack with all 10 flavors of Teeccino, a 50-packet box of Steevia (a fiber-based sweetener that I’ll also review), and the Swiss Gold One-Cup Brewer (reviewed as well).

Teeccino is billed as being not only caffeine-free but also low in acidity, which apparently is something people have problems with in real coffee (not my complaint).

As far as the flavor breakdown, here’s my thoughts:

  • Original (75% organic), Light Roast – good introduction to the basic flavor of this “coffee.” As I read elsewhere on the internet, you really have to like the taste of chickory to like this product, and though I don’t know how chickory tastes, I’m guessing that’s the strong taste that comes across.
  • Vanilla Nut (75% organic), Medium Roast – very nice vanilla flavor. A favorite.
  • Hazelnut (75% organic), Medium Roast – mild hazelnut flavor.
  • Almond Amaretto (75% organic), Medium Roast – very strong flavor. Didn’t like.
  • Mocha (75% organic), Medium Roast – the worst one in my opinion. In their defense, I’m very picky about my mocha flavor (which is why I don’t order mochas at Caribou, because I don’t like the chocolate they use). Others might like this a lot, but it didn’t do it for me. The only one that I couldn’t finish (there are only 3 cups in a sampler, so that says something).
  • Chocolate Mint (75% organic), Light Roast – strongly minty. Reminds me of Starbucks at Christmastime, and I think it would be quite enjoyable then.
  • Maya Caffe (100% organic), Dark Roast – this is the one I settled on, and have been drinking for the last year.

The above noted, as a general rule I brewed my Teeccino with the one cup brewer into a portable thermos that I brought to work (which holds 1 1/2 mugs worth), flavored with French Vanilla creamer by Coffeemate. In the beginning I was using the Steevia Sweetener and half-n-half (or even whipping cream, which we had lying around the house, intending to make ice cream). I like the flavored creamer the best, since it covers up that which is different about Teeccino and makes the experience most like drining real coffee.

If anyone has tried any of the other products listed on the About.com list, please let me know if they’re good or not!

Teeccino’s website suggests gradually switching over, and I think there would be several good reasons to do this (which is not what I did – I went from coffee to black tea to Teeccino in short order). First of all, gradually switching will help avoid some of the side-effects of quitting caffeine, namely headaches. My method using black tea helped with this too. I had very few headaches that were easily knocked out by Advil. Secondly, by working the Teeccino into your diet gradually with regular coffee, I think you’d get more used to the flavor, instead of the “shock” it was to me. I highly suggest doing it the way they suggest if you can.

I did see Teeccino available (in limited flavors) at my local natural foods co-op, and you can purchase it on Amazon too if you don’t want to order directly from Teeccino (though I had excellent service from them and the packaging included a $1 off coupon). If you’re local, you can buy it at Kowalskis too, but I have not seen it in any of the major grocery chains (not even Super Target).

It’s not bad being caffeine free. I never reached that point where I feel more energetic (that the Teeccino website claims I’ll get to, though I’m doubtful), but I’m no more tired than I was when I was consuming caffeine. Some of the reasons I quit were: caffeine is not helpful when dieting, caffeine has inflammatory properties and I’m trying to keep my tendinitis under control, and theoretically eventually I’d have to give it up temporarily to give birth, and I’d rather not go through that process under duress. Plus, it’s nice to keep some of that money in my wallet and not give it to Starbucks (though I miss the girls who work there terribly, but the friendly staff at the Tea Garden took up the baton and memorized my drink order, even though I only visit once a month now).

It’s a good substitute if you really want to be caffeine-free. It doesn’t fully replace the joyful coffee experience, as it smells different (though the varieties that are strongly flavored, like Amaretto, override this), has different undertones, etc., but that’s a hard one to do. It’s not espresso, and it never will be, but that’s OK. Teeccino is an essential part of my morning routine, and I prefer not go without it (notice that I said “prefer,” and not “can’t” – because it’s not addictive like caffeine).

[Editor’s note: It took me about a year to write this review from start to finish. My apologies if anything seems a little off because of that.]

Whoops. Totally missed that milestone.

In case you were wondering, last Friday was one year of being caffeine-free (with a few exceptions). Who would have thought I could last that long?

After discovering a new blog today, I’ve decided to throw the ice cream attachment (for the KitchenAid mixer) into the freezer tonight. It should be all nice and cold for tomorrow night, when I can make matcha (green tea) ice cream. I’m pretty sure I can multi-task making ice cream and homework. Tonight I hope to finish up (or mostly finish up) the doll quilt for Doll Quilt Swap 7. I just need to pick out a backing fabric, quilt it, and bind it. Assuming I don’t try and get fancy*, that’s easily done in a night. Oh, and throw on that last coat of polyurethane on the cabinet door that I keep forgetting about. It’s a good thing we have a lot more surfaces to test out ideas on.

Last night, armed with the gift card my father-in-law gave me for my birthday, we went to McCormick and Schmick’s to celebrate our two year anniversary. Oh, boy, did we indulge. We ordered an appetizer, drinks, and even desert, not to mention, of course, the main course and salads. Everything was delicious. I splurged on Alaskan King crab legs, which were fabulous, and also enjoyed a mixed green salad which had a tangy dressing, bleu cheese crumbles, and candied walnuts (a very confusing mixture of flavors, but I actually ate all of it, and that’s unheard of). I didn’t eat all of the mashed potatoes (which were just so-so, but hardly the focus of the meal), but everything else was devoured. (Also, my wine choices were not spectacular, but that can be forgiven.) had fish and chips, which is about the only seafood he likes (there were also some steak options, and one chicken dish, for those of you who are interested). The creme brule I had for desert was exquisite, and all together, it was all worth the discomfort I felt afterward (for eating so much). We went to Barnes and Noble to walk off the overly-full feeling, and I found a new quilt book and some magazines.

I had made reservations, but we totally didn’t need them (better safe than sorry, though). Since it was kind of a swanky place, and mostly seafood, there were no screaming kids, which was also enjoyable. Towards the end of our meal it started getting pretty loud, so if that sort of thing bothers you, I’d suggest going for an earlier dinner (our reservation was at 6, and we were there until 8). And, if you’d like to try them out but don’t want to spend a lot of cash, consider lunch. They have New England Clam Chowder for $3-4, and salads for $5-6. That wouldn’t be too bad for a weekend lunch at a fancy restaurant (it’s no dollar menu, but the quality is significantly better).

My desk here at work is clean again, including all those dust bunnies that seem to congregate around electronics. I was starting to feel a bit chaotic.

That’s about it for me. I seem to keep running out of time to do all the things I want to. Must mean it’s fall.

*I frequently end up trying to put extra squares on the back or otherwise make it pretty, but I find it difficult to get everything lined up correctly, so more often than not, it ends up a tad wonky. I think this time I’ll stick with a solid piece of vintage fabric. I wonder if I have some bright stripes for the binding….

Things I wish I liked (but don’t) (the mostly food edition)

… pesto.

… tomatoes (because Caprese salads look so yummy, but not liking tomatoes and basil pretty much means you’re eating Mozzarella cheese, which, while delicious, is not a salad).

… the color red.

… zucchini, because they are an excellent addition to stir fry, if you don’t let them get squishy.

… strawberry ice cream.

real Greek yogurt (you know, the unflavored, unsweetened stuff).

… dark chocolate.

… onions (if only for the convenience of it).

… bleu cheese (I like bleu cheese dressing with buffalo wings, but that’s it).

… blueberries.

But, just to balance it out, some things that I do like (very much):

… avocados.

… cheese.

… milk chocolate.

… mocha flavor.

… the color turquoise.

… bread.

… limes.

… naps.

… purring kitties.

… garlic.

… dessert (cookies, ice cream, cake, cupcakes, whipped cream, I could go on…).

I slept the entire ride to work this morning

True story. I did wake up several times and panic about where I was (I kept thinking I’d missed my stop by 15 minutes).

So, Friday night I quilted up the mini quilt (which will be in the mail tomorrow) and then went to buy groceries for the potsticker party. I learned a couple of things. 1) Friday night at 8 pm is when all the moms come and do their shopping. Many of them with small kids, surprisingly. 2) It is nearly impossible to find ground pork. Ground bison? Ground veal? Ground lamb? Ground you-pick-the-animal, just not pig. Ground pork was only found in sausage flavors, which I thought would not be appropriate for potstickers. At Byerly’s, thankfully, they had a very small section of ground pork, and I bought half their stock. A whole 4 pounds.

Saturday was mostly consumed with, you guessed it, the making of potstickers.
and came over (the latter with my adorable baby nephew, who was perfect and giggly most of the time) and we cranked out nearly 200 potstickers. And I have filling leftover in my fridge to make 50-100 more. Amazing, I know. Complicated, detailed, but not actually hard. That’s not to say that any of the potstickers we made were pretty. That, they were not. But they were tasty. We cooked some up just to see. No pictures of the potstickers – as I said, they weren’t pretty. Later I’ll post some links to the recipes we used and the tutorial on folding (that we only kind of used).

I also mowed the lawn. Not really as exciting.

Sunday, after walking over to the library to pick up some books I’d requested, we went to Ikea, where I promptly purchased 4 wrong items. I’ve never done that before. I bought 6, 2 each of 3 things (drawer fronts, drawers, and shelves). Well, the drawers I bought were the 19″ deep ones instead of the 15″ ones, so they don’t fit in the shelving unit. The shelves were actually a different type of drawer. The only correct thing was the drawer fronts, which are completely useless without drawers to attach them to. So I’ll be going back to fix that mistake (they also only charged us for some of those items, not all of them – that’ll be a fun visit with customer service, don’tcha think?). I also picked up some of their privacy glass film – for a whopping $4.99, I’ll give it a shot. We found a small bookshelf for for our bedroom too.

The rest of the afternoon was spent putting together (and then taking apart) wrong Ikea things. And then we walked up to 66th and tried a new (to us) restaurant, East Buffet. gave it 6/10, and I’m prone to agree. Good enough to eat at again, but not to rave about. I definitely found some of the really bad things on the menu, though. Cheese-covered mussels? Cheesy seafood bake? Both quite disgusting. The stuffed mushrooms were edible, but blah. I do highly recommend the mushroom chicken though, and liked their General Tsao’s.

Sunday night I got the binding sewn onto the mini quilt, so it’s all done (except for a label, and pictures). Yay! Off to the post office tomorrow with it (to be sent all the way to Germany!).

I’m thinking tonight needs to involve some outside time, if the weather is as nice as I think it is (I’ve been locked in my cube since 7:30 this morning – I really have no idea what it’s like outside). Perhaps some quality time spent weeding.

On Taste

Tuesday night I pulled out my new yogurt maker and decided to give it a spin (there’s no actual spinning – just a warm water bath). I definitely need to find a better, easier, faster way to prep the milk, because my way was much too long, awkward, and messy. Regardless, eventually the 2 pints of milk eventually got up to 180*, then went into a cool water bath to get down to 114*, and then went in the Yogourmet. And then I waited. For four hours. Which wasn’t supposed to be a long time, considering that I started at 5 pm. However, the time it took me to prep the milk meant that the yogurt wasn’t going to be ready until 11. See? I told you I need a better way. (The wheels in my head are already turning.)

Presto-chango, at 11 (not at 9, when things looked very unpromising) there was yogurt where there was once milk. The container was quickly moved to the refrigerator (I was tired and wanted to go to bed), where it was supposed to chill for at least 8 hours. Unfortunately, 8 hours ended at 7 am the next morning, and I left for work at 6:30. [Does it seem wrong to anyone else that the time between when I go to bed and when I leave for work is less than 8 hours? Add in half an hour for reading and/or falling asleep, because it takes me quite a while to fall asleep, and you’ve got a very sad amount of sleep.]

So, finally, last night after dinner, I pulled out a small spoon and grabbed the homemade yogurt. I was… hesitant, probably because I had no idea what it was going to taste like (ingredients: milk, powdered milk to replace lost milk fats in the 1% milk, and yogurt starter). Hrm. It did not taste like what I wanted it to. Think… sour cream, without the sour. Definitely tart. Very creamy, but not what I wanted to eat. I made try some. We decided that it indeed tastes like what it’s supposed to, but that we do not like plain, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt.

Not a problem. I’ve already found at least one interesting way to flavor the yogurt during the process (vanilla beans in the milk as it heats! brilliant!). There are lots of suggestions on the internet of how to sweeten homemade yogurt, though there are also a lot of people who apparently like to eat it plain. Who are these people? Do they not like sugar? One very valuable thing I’ve learned is that the plain yogurt can be used as a substitute in many baking / cooking ventures, which would be nice if I ever again have kitchen adventures. Tomorrow I will try it as suggested, with honey and granola (I almost always eat my yogurt with granola, so that’s no change), and see if that works. Many of the other suggestions involved fruit preserves or other forms of fruit, which, if you know me, you know that’s not happening.

Tonight, however, I’m going to work on thickening the yogurt, Greek-style, by removing the whey, using the very cute bag that was included with my yogurt maker. Its called the yogurt cheese bag. Hehe.

Maybe some of the people coming over on Saturday to make potstickers will want to taste my homemade yogurt (? I know you’re adventurous when it comes to food). I think my next batch will be 1 pint instead of 2. Why did I choose to experiment with the large batch? I’m not sure. Sometimes I just jump into these things feet first.

That said, I have 8 different potsticker recipes to evaluate before making a shopping list. Clearly we’re not jumping into that one. (I am, after all, taking several others with me. It’d be irresponsible to make up a couple hundred potstickers for other people to take home without doing at least a little bit of research. Wait until you see the “how to fold a potsticker” tutorial I found. It’s amazing! Hope it works!)

Accomplishing a Goal

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Last night, I was hard at work on one of my summer goals: spend more time in the hammock. Grueling, I know.
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I was also hard at work on some embroidery, which I can only briefly mention because it may or may not be for someone who may or may not read this blog, and I want it to remain a secret (if that’s possible).

The next two pictures represent part of my field of vision last night while laying in the hammock.

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Embroidery floss on hammock
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Matea at the door

She can sit there for… what seems like hours, trying to make me feel guilty for being outside without her. I think it’s quite cute (and not at all guilt-inducing – if you’ve ever tried to take outside, you’d understand).

I did take a break to photograph some of the progress on our gardens, just for you. (I tried to get some pictures of birds while laying in my hammock, still and quiet, but it was just a little too late in the evening and though they were quite noisy, they wouldn’t come hang out in my tree. Next time, I guess.)

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Recently planted tomato plants

And here’s the shade garden in the front yard that used to be a mess.

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Front yard garden

Lots of progress! Not totally in love with it, but it will do for this year, and I’m sure our neighbors are much happier now.

I also got this great shot (well, great for me), which may replace the wallpaper on my desktop.

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Daylily

All the while, my new yogurt maker (a birthday present) was inside, hard at work growing bacteria. It was way harder to get the milk prepped than the little book led me to believe (instead of 1-2 minutes, it was almost 2 hours, which includes the cooling down time during which we ate dinner), but hopefully worth it. I checked it at 9 (halfway point) and it still looked just like milk in consistency, so I was a bit worried. Thankfully, bacteria multiplies exponentially (or something like that), and at 11, there was yogurt! It is now sitting in the fridge, and I haven’t tried it yet since it hadn’t been in there for a full 8 hours when I left for work this morning. Tonight, I’m going to turn the yogurt into “yogurt cheese” aka Greek-style yogurt. And then I will have lots of [hopefully] yummy yogurt. Really, lots! Half a gallon’s worth. It lasts for 3 weeks, though, so it should be alright. (One of the reasons I picked this particular yogurt maker [link removed] was that it made up a large quantity of yogurt, instead of six individual servings in glass containers, since I knew I wanted to make it Greek-style.) If it turns out good, I’ll have to hop on Amazon and buy more yogurt starter. Maybe I’ll try to find the probiotic one that the little booklet recommends.

May Madness (aka Randomness)

Some very odd thoughts / updates for the end of May.

We visited the old hometown last night to transfer our gym membership. Turns out, we totally didn’t need to do that. But, as a bonus, we learned that we can use our membership at any of the Snap Fitness locations throughout the world, any time. Who knew?

Then we stopped over at Von Hanson’s and ordered up some meat. A whole huge hunk of it (the Cattleman’s Choice), which we will pick up on Saturday. They’ll have it all set aside for us and frozen, so now all I have to do is wipe down the deep freeze and get it ready. And then we’ll have quality meat again! Yay!

Afterwards, we walked down the parking lot to Cellars, perhaps our favorite Eagan liquor store. On several occasions we’ve bought as much of my favorite wine as they have in stock, and we get the case discount on it, even if it’s not a full case (the most we’ve gotten before is 7, I think). Well, last night, they had 13 on the shelf! So, we went home with a whole case of Hogue Late Harvest Riesling, and now I have two whole shelves in my wine cellar of it. We also got some other stuff.

Back at home, it was too windy to really do anything outdoors (and much too cold!), so instead we unpacked all of our books. Completely and totally not important unpacking, but it always feels good to get some of those boxes out of the way. Plus, now if we had an emergency guest, the bedroom in the basement is… less full of crap.

Add in some Dr. Mario, and that was my whole night.

Today, however, the weather is absolutely beautiful, so I’m thinking that the night demands yard work. Plus, our new yard waste receptacle is being delivered today, so I can at least get rid of the piles of branches and leaves and dead stuff that are spewn across our backyard.

Lastly, after having just eaten some really bad potstickers from LeeAnn Chin (they’re not usually this bad), I’ve decided that learning how to make them must happen soon. From what I’ve gleaned off the internet, it seems that potstickers are best made in large batches, so I’m thinking that it would be best to have a little party at my house where everybody helps out, and then everybody gets to take some home. They freeze well, ya know. I’ll have to think further about this, but it sounds like fun, right? Much better than having 200 potstickers in my freezer.