Thursday, December 31, 2009


In 2010, I resolve to:
  • Go to the gym regularly. Really. I am feeling fat, lazy, and apathetic, and I know the only solution is to actually go to the gym on a regular basis.
  • Knit more projects for myself. This year I made 2 things for myself - the shawl that I wore at my wedding, and a Liesl sweater that either needs some really severe blocking, or to be frogged completely, because it's too small. How many knitted items did I finish in 2009? TWENTY-SIX. That's an average of one every other week. And only two of those were for me. So this year, I will knit myself a Slinky Ribs sweater and a cabled cardigan (maybe Central Park Hoodie, maybe something else).
  • Along the same lines, I will start my Christmas knitting earlier (like, in January) -- I barely got my sister's package to her in time.
  • I will be more thankful for all the blessings in my life. I am truly lucky to have a wonderful husband, two talented and well-behaved children, a steady paycheck, no major health problems, and a comfortable place to live. Plus I can afford little luxuries, like semi-regular pedicures, so I think I'm much better off than most people these days.
  • I will try to be more patient with the kids and less grumpy. I'm really hoping that regular exercise will help with that.
What are your resolutions for the new year & decade?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

Damn cold. Freeeeezing cold. It is so cold, in fact, that my feet do not thaw out, like, ever. I may be wearing fuzzy socks, I may be wearing fur-lined slippers, but my feet, they do not care. No, they stubbornly remain footcicles, all day long.

It is so cold here, that it snowed for the first time in like 30 years. We might get a few little bitty flakes of snow on the odd winter day, but it never sticks. Our snow level came down to about 300 feet a couple of nights ago, and stuck around for hours! Mt Diablo is blanketed in snow like a freaking alpine summit! It is crazy weird, you guys.

In retaliation, I've been making lots of comfort food: mac 'n' cheese with ham, roasted chicken, etc. You know, all that stick-to-your-ribs kind of food. The kind that piles on the pounds so you have a little bit of insulation to get you through until spring.

Oh, and knitting, lots and lots of knitting. I'm trying really hard to get my Christmas projects done in time to send them out to the various recipients.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The sickies

Seems like, for the past month, at least one person in this household has been sick at any given time. We just keep taking turns.

First, Tomboy and I had a cold, and a week later, Rugrat got the cold. Then, last Thursday night, I began having excruciating pain in my jaw whenever I ate anything. I brushed my teeth and almost passed out from the pain. (Really. I had to sit down on the ground because everything went black.) I went to the doctor on Friday afternoon and was diagnosed with an infected lymph gland. Ouch. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories & painkillers for me. Plus, I still couldn't eat anything -- anything other than water that touched the right side of my mouth caused shooting pain. So for a couple of days I looked like an idiot, tilting my head to the left while trying to eat soup. Yesterday I woke up and I could brush my teeth and eat again without pain, thank goodness. Now I'm just dealing with the side effects of the Augmentin, which aren't pretty -- but at least I can eat.

Then a couple of days ago, Mr Wonderful started feeling icky. It began with a cough and body aches. Last night he came home from work a bit early...with a fever of 102. Poor guy. He spent the night tossing and turning, until his fever finally broke in the wee hours of the morning. I hope he's feeling better when he wakes up.

And this morning, in addition to my antibiotic-inflicted bowels, I've developed a cough. A rough, chesty cough, just like Mr Wonderful has. Oh, joy.

I'm just really ready for everyone in this house to be healthy again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I got an invite to Google Wave a couple of days ago, and I've been poking around in it ever since, finding good public waves to follow and trying to figure out how I can best use it. So far it seems to function best as a forum/chat hybrid. It's still really buggy and has scaling problems for sure, but I think it could be very useful as a project management tool.

Are you on Google Wave? If so, how are you using it?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Last night

While doing the dishes, Rugrat decided to regale us all with a joke. And it began, "Once there was this guy with no belly button, but he had one goooooolden nut..."

(After we picked ourselves up off the floor and stopped laughing our asses off, we finally found out that he was referring to a machine nut, as in "nuts & bolts.")

Earlier in the evening, I overheard this exchange while the kids were playing Guitar Hero: "How come you rock so much?" Heh.

Mr Wonderful and I are truly enjoying these fleeting moments before they become full-fledged teenagers in a couple of years. They are just so much fun right now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My nerves are definitely frayed these days. I've got a ton of work to do and I'm sick with a cold. Tomboy has been home with me the past three days because she's got the cold too, and she's coughing every couple of minutes. Cough syrup isn't doing a bit of good.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about things that have snapped -- like a few of the supports on the bay bridge! The bridge is shut down indefinitely until repairs can be completed. Can you imagine? I'm so glad I don't have to commute into the city. The BART trains must be packed.

And what else has snapped recently? Oh yeah, apparently the Guvernator has snapped. In a recent veto letter to congress is a hidden message: if you read the left-hand letters of the message vertically, it spells out "F*CK YOU." A Freudian slip? Or has he just had enough?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Love, love, love

Glee! Awesome show; if you haven't seen it yet you really need to add it to your DVR list. Jane Lynch alone (as Sue Sylvester) is worth the price of admission.

Also in the "love" pile? Flash Forward. It's the new LOST, y'all. And there are weird LOST-centric crossover moments too, and I'm not even talking about the fact that Penny & Charlie are on the show. Things like the kangaroo, and the rumored Oceanic billboard (which I missed completely) in the first episode.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Can someone explain to me why it takes less time for them to build a new goddamn bay bridge than it does for them to expand highway 4 into four lanes each direction all the way to Hillcrest? I mean, WTF???

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luna de miel

Or, in English, HONEYMOON! It's finally time for our honeymoon, and I am so excited.

You may recall that we had originally planned to get married in early October. When we moved the wedding up to May, we couldn't take a honeymoon immediately after for a couple of reasons: 1) we had no money (because I was unemployed) and 2) Mr Wonderful didn't have a week off from work (because we rescheduled at pretty much the last minute). So we took a "mini-moon" and went up to the Gold Country area for an overnight at a B&B. Mr Wonderful had already requested a week off from work to go on our honeymoon at the originally-scheduled time, and we decided to keep that block of time set aside and hope that we'd be able to go on a real honeymoon when the time came around.

My mom & stepdad then offered us a week at a timeshare in the northern Lake Tahoe area and we happily accepted, so by the time I got a job offer, our honeymoon was already planned. Luckily my new employer was fine with me taking off that week (unpaid, of course, but at least I get to go), and now that time is almost here! This weekend, we're heading off to the great blue lake, to watch the leaves change colors and relax. I'm not even going to bring my computer. If we need a map or restaurant recommendations, I'll have the iPhone with me, but I don't even want to be tempted to check my email or play games on Facebook or anything. Just a week alone with my hubby, and maybe a little knitting or a new book to pass the time when we're not (*ahem*) otherwise engaged. ;-)

I can't wait!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fresh start

I always love the beginning of the school year. I love the sense of anticipation, the excitement of what the new school year will bring, even though I'm no longer in school.

Back-to-school also means it's time for a new "look" - you get back to school clothes and a fresh haircut for those all-important school photos. Every year around this time I get the urge to change my hair, and this year I'm really going for it. Last night I dyed my hair a dark brown (it was light brown with crappy DIY highlights) and tomorrow I'm going in for a cut. Not just a trim, but a completely new style. I'm tired of the long, slightly layered in front hairstyle I've had for approximately the past 20 years, and it's time to shake things up. I'm planning on letting my stylist do whatever he wants, with the only caveat being that I will not spend any time styling my hair in the morning. I want a wash & wear style, because I don't use anything on my hair that plugs into the wall more than once a month (at the most). Daily blow drying or curling or straightening is just not gonna happen.

It's a bit of a leap of faith, but I'm ready for something new.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The hood of doooooom

You think maybe the hood on this sweater might be a little too big?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Schuyler Blanket Project

From Ravelry:

The Schuyler Blanket Project began life as The Tammany Blanket Project, as a group of Ravelers came together to provide support for Tammany, a fellow Raveler who lost her baby girl less than an hour after she was born. Members of this group created a blanket for Tammany by making individual squares, providing her with a warm soft hug that she can wrap up in on the bad days.

The original Tammany Blanket is complete, and Tammany herself requested that we carry that mission forward in baby Schuyler’s memory to create blankets for other bereaved families and to provide them with comfort and love. Do you have the time and heart to make a few squares for a blanket that can change a family’s life? Please join us and see how a few hours on your part can bring light and love to a family who is experiencing their darkest hours.

Please visit the Schuyler Blanket Project page on Ravelry, email me directly, or leave a comment on this post if you would like to participate by knitting or crocheting a square for a blanket.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hood issues, part 2

I finally finished Mr Wonderful's bad-ass cabled hoodie. Only one problem: the hood is large enough for about three heads! I thought it was taking an awfully long time to finish the hood, but the rest of the pattern was so well written that I didn't think much of it. When I finished it and Mr Wonderful tried it on, the error became obvious. I think that instead of three center cable repeats, it should only be two.


I'm going to have to frog it back and re-knit the hood, but I can't face it right now. That sweater has been on my needles for months and I am not ready to pick it up again just yet. So in the meantime, I'm doing something fairly mindless - Rugrat's zip-up skull hoodie. It's mainly stockinette, with a bit of colorwork down at the bottom hem. Once I finish the sweater I'll write up a pattern for it so that others can knit it up if they want to. I'm keeping copious notes on my Rav project page.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hood issues

I've been knitting Mr Wonderful's "Bad Ass" hoodie sweater since last December (OK, not exclusively - I did work on some other projects as well). Now I'm finally almost finished, and I'm running into problems on the hood. I think I've found an actual error in the pattern.

The written pattern calls for you to have pick up the front, shoulder, and back stitches, with a total of 90 stitches on the needles. (I'm knitting the large size.) But going by the stitch counts in the chart, you actually need 92. That's not a big deal though; the larger issue is with the increases on the hood. We need to increase several times, and the placement of those increases on the chart means that every other row you'd be moving over your basketweave pattern another stitch, so it totally wouldn't line up. I'm about 5 rows into the hood now and it's really starting to look funky, so I'm planning on ripping it back out and starting the hood over again, with 92 stitches and the increases immediately before the center cable, rather than immediately after the smaller side (shoulder) cables. I think this will solve my problems.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato season

The best month of the year, as far as I'm concerned, is August. No, I don't love the scorching East Bay Area heat. But I do love the tomatoes, the glorious, sun-ripened, warm, sweet, misshapen globes of juicy multi-colored heirloom goodness. I love driving out to the family farm stand on the weekend and picking up a few pounds of tomatoes and then bringing them home and devouring them in a day or two, usually accompanied by some Hawaiian red sea salt & freshly ground pepper, a little extra-virgin olive oil, a bit of fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkling of basil leaves from my backyard herb garden.

This week, I picked up a bunch of rainbow-colored tomatoes and last night I made a lovely golden-hued shrimp gazpacho. It was very simple, and required only a few minutes of cooking (for the shrimp). The resulting soup was a delight, pureed to a nearly-smooth texture, and studded with luscious, curling pink shrimp.

Shrimp Gazpacho
1/4 c plus 1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
4-5 medium heirloom tomatoes, diced (approximately baseball- or softball-sized tomatoes, any variety you like; I'm guessing it was about 2 lb tomatoes)
1/2 English cucumber, seeded & diced
1/2 c diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small jar roasted bell peppers, chopped
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 c chicken stock
salt & pepper
fresh basil for garnish (optional)

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the shrimp. Season well with salt & pepper, and saute the shrimp just until they are opaque and curled up. Set shrimp aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the soup.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, bell peppers, vinegar and chicken stock to a food processor, and puree until nearly smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve soup topped with the shrimp, and fresh basil, if desired.

Note: You could also add some Tabasco or other hot sauce for a little heat, if you prefer that, but if your tomatoes are fresh and ripe, you'll want to let their flavor take center stage. Also, most gazpacho recipes call for tomato juice, but I didn't have any on hand and my tomatoes were wonderfully juicy on their own, so I just added the chicken stock to provide a bit more liquid. You could substitute tomato juice and omit the shrimp for a lovely vegetarian soup.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Attention local knitters!

Local knitters/crocheters/other fiber-y crafters may be interested to know that Alpaca Direct is doubling the size of their Brentwood store. The grand opening is set for September 1. Alpaca Direct will also offer classes in knitting, crocheting, spinning, and felting. Awesome!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Easy Peasy Paella

The other night I whipped up this very simple one-dish "paella" with pre-seasoned rice, some pantry-staple ingredients, and some shrimp & sausage. I didn't make it too spicy, and the kids actually liked it! You know, rather than just suffering through it, like they usually do if it's not pizza or chicken nuggets. ;-)

Easy Peasy Paella
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 cups diced sausage (I used 2 chicken/apple sausages to keep the heat factor low for the kids, but it would be great with chorizo or andouille)
1 diced red onion
1 diced red bell pepper
2 minced cloves garlic
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 pkg saffron rice
1 box (4 cups) chicken stock
1/2 lb peeled & deveined raw shrimp
1/2 c frozen peas
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Brown the sausage, then add the onion & bell pepper. Season with salt & pepper and saute until the veggies soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, smoked paprika and the stock, and bring to a boil. Pour in the seasoned rice, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low (just simmering) and cook for 20-25 minutes. When the rice is nearly done, add in the shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the peas are heated through. Stir in the parsley, double-check your seasonings, and serve.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: The Carvery (Harry's Hofbrau)

The Rugrat and I were running errands on Tuesday and saw that there was a big "Now Open!" sign on The Carvery, a new restaurant across from the Target shopping center. Mr Wonderful and I have been anxiously awaiting the grand opening, so on Wednesday evening, the three of us headed over there for dinner.

I'm not a big fan of buffet restaurants, but this one is a little different. It's more cafeteria-style: you get your tray and then slide on down past the different stations, and the helpful friendly folks behind the counter dish up whatever you want. This is a meat & potatoes kind of place, very guy-friendly. They have turkey, roast beef, tri tip, chicken, pork -- all different kinds of meat. I opted for a standard Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing & gravy. I even got a little cranberry sauce on the side! Then you get a choice of a few different salads, and a white or wheat roll to go along with it. Mr Wonderful got the tri-tip, and Rugrat had the child's frankfurter plate (an oversize hotdog, sliced up, without the bun). All of us enjoyed the food - the meats were tender and juicy, the mashed potatoes were tasty, and the salads were fresh. My only complaint would be that the turkey gravy needed more pepper, but I was easily able to add it at the table.

Prices are reasonable for what you get: it's around $10-11 for a dinner meal (including meat, side dish, mashed potatoes and roll). Lunches, kid's meals and senior meals are slightly less expensive. They also have a wide variety of daily specials if you're not interested in a bunch of sliced meat. Check out the link to the restaurant website for details on what's available each day.

One strange thing to note: when you place your order, the only drinks available at the cash register are sodas, but they DO have a bar area in another section of the restaurant (facing Lone Tree), so if you want a beer or two to wash down your food, you can definitely get that.

Finally, if you go there, be sure to bring a little cash so that you can leave a tip on the table. There isn't a full-service wait staff, but the place is crawling with helpful people who carry your tray to an empty table, refill your drinks, and bring out the kid's dessert (if you've ordered a child's meal). You pay prior to actually sitting down & eating, and there's no place on the credit card slip to add a tip, so leaving cash on the table seems to be the only option.

We were all quite happy with our meal here (even the picky Rugrat!), and we'll definitely be back.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas gift!  Shhh!OK, not really. But it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas knitting projects, as I have completed two scarves and a hat already, and started on scarf #3 last night. So far, I have:

1 Woodland shawl (except really, it's a scarf - see photo)
1 Woodland hat (my adaptation; there's no real pattern for this, I just wanted to use up the leftover wool on a matching hat)
1 River Rocks scarf (modified to make it less bead-heavy)
The beginnings of 1 Braided Cable Scarf

The Braided Cable Scarf was a little difficult to get started with, because I totally could not understand what the designer was trying to do with the cables and it's written kind of ambiguously. Once I figured out that "purl the middle stitch from the cable needle" really meant "purl that first stitch on the cable needle since you already knitted 2 of the 5 stitches in this cable group" it made a lot more sense. At first I was stupidly trying to purl the middle stitch on the cable needle, which would have meant: slip 3 to CN, k2, slip first stitch on CN to left needle, slip second stitch on CN to left needle, p1, k1 on left needle, k last stitch on CN. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and twists the poor yarn up like crazy.

Anyhoo, it's looking very nice now, although the yarn (KnitPicks Andean Treasure in "midnight" colorway) is superdark navy blue, so it's a little difficult to see the pattern emerging. I've completed two pattern repeats (16 rows) so far. I'm not sure if I like this yarn or not - it's alpaca, so it's hairy as all get-out, but it is also super, super soft.

Once I'm done with this scarf I need to get back to Mr Wonderful's Bad-Ass Cabled Hoodie. That poor thing has been languishing for months - since shortly after Christmas, actually. I need to finish it up so that he can have it in time for our belated honeymoon in October. :) We're going to North Lake Tahoe & staying at a lovely timeshare, courtesy of my mom & stepdad. It should be fairly chilly - at least at night - so I want to be sure he's got his cozy cabled sweater.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gainfully employed

Three weeks ago I started my new job, working for a fairly large retail company, doing what I do best: building a content management system and a dynamic website. The website already exists, but is in pretty sad shape, code-wise. Like so many other web projects, it was built a little bit at a time, with things being tacked on as needed and no real framework in place to keep things orderly and easily maintained. This is really a great opportunity for me to build a content management system from scratch (sort of - I'm repurposing some older code I've written in the past) with newer technology: components, flash update grids, ajax...all kinds of cool stuff, actually. And I also get the chance to streamline a lot of their code and make it faster, more functional, and much easier to maintain. All in all, it's a good gig, and of course I'm happy to be employed again full time and not have to worry so much about how we'll pay the bills each month. We were managing fine with the consulting business, but I wasn't putting anything away for taxes, just hoping that what I'd already paid out (I got gouged on the taxes for my severance checks) and my not-inconsiderable writeoffs (hello, new computer!) would cover the IRS bill at the end of the year.

This is the first time I've worked for a company this large, though, and there's a bit of culture shock for me. I had a phone conference a couple of weeks ago on a new project that I'm building and not a damn thing got decided. It's now been over two weeks since that meeting and I have yet to get some actual specs on the project. I have just been shooting blindly in the dark, hoping that what I'm building will work, because of course I'm supposed to be working on the project in the meantime. I mean, what? How do I build something that I don't have specs for? Apparently the plan is for me to just put on my "mind-reading" cap and hope for the best.

Anyway, I figured it was probably time for an update, considering I've been drawing a regular paycheck for almost a month now. ;-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tuna Stuff

The "Tuna Stuff" is my latest obsession. I go through phases where I'll eat lots and lots of something for a few months, and then I'll get sick of it and not eat it for a long time. Tuna Stuff is what I've been making for the past few months now, and it hasn't lost its appeal yet, so it must be good, huh?

The greatest thing about the Tuna Stuff is that you can throw all kinds of things in it. It's very forgiving. Any sort of canned beans & veggies will work, I think. Just don't go overboard with the onion like somebody did...*ahem* - I'm looking at you, Mr Wonderful. ;-)

Tuna Stuff
1 can tuna packed in olive oil (you can use water-packed but it's not quite as good, in my opinion)
1 can small white beans, rinsed & drained
1 stalk celery, diced
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 - 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 c chopped parsley
2-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
0-2 Tbsp EVOO
salt & pepper

I usually throw all the veggies in a bowl first, along with the salt & pepper (be generous; salt makes it tastes good!) and a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Then I rinse & drain the beans and throw those and the tuna into the mix. Finally I add the parsley and stir it up. If you drained your tuna well, or if you used water-packed tuna, add a little bit of olive oil. Stir it up & then give it a taste. If it's a little bland, throw in some more red wine vinegar and maybe a touch more salt.

That's all there is to it! Healthy, fast, and especially tasty when you scoop it up with tortilla chips. Yumm....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It's been a month since our wedding, and not much has changed in our day-to-day lives, except that I'm starting to use my new last name. I finally got the marriage certificate from the county last week and was able to go to Social Security & DMV and get my name changed, and although I don't have the new documents yet, I was able to change my bank accounts and am getting started on the long process of changing the name on all the bills.

I ordered a photo album from snapfish, and am eagerly awaiting that arrival, but the video arrived today! I've uploaded some highlights from the ceremony to youtube:

Sand Ceremony


Ring Exchange

Monday, May 18, 2009


Is there any more disappointing moment in a young woman's life than when she discovers that in reality, people never, ever break into a synchronized dance routine?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wedding photos!

Just wanted to drop in real quick to give y'all a link to the wedding photos. I keep getting more in, so there may be more added to the Flickr set , but I wanted to get something up fast for those who couldn't make it to the party.

Also, you might want to watch our first dance. :)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Two weeks

We're two weeks out now. Most of the stuff on my to-do list is done, but I'm a bit worried about my wedding shawl. The border is taking a LOT longer than I thought it was going to. I've jut got to keep plugging along with it and hope I get it finished in time. I'm planning to spend most of the day tomorrow knitting; I hope I'll be able to get the first end finished (I'm about halfway done with the first end now, and truly, it takes forever to knit this part).

I got another RSVP today, and this brings our total guest count to EIGHTY-FREAKIN'-FIVE. Oh my god you guys, I cannot believe it. I can't believe that my tiny 30-people-max wedding has morphed into this enormous party. I am so excited, though! A whole bunch of people are coming that I truly never expected to come; people I haven't seen in years are showing up! And about a third of our guest list is kids, which I think is awesome. What could be more fun than a bunch of families playing in a park for the day?

We are totally planning a bunch of fun activities, too. We've got hula hoops, frisbees, bubbles for the little ones (including a battery-operated bubble machine), coloring books & crayons, and a "guest book" that is a big blank sketch book where people can write advice, draw little pictures, whatever. We're bringing some other games for the adults & older kids, too - cribbage, liars' dice, etc.

I just can't wait for the day to get here!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Anyone out there used Mirena before? I just got it, uh, "installed" on Tuesday. I had discussed it via email with my gyn a couple of months ago, when I was still employed & still planning to get married in October. I was hoping that the lower dose of hormones, delivered locally rather than systemically, would eliminate some of the things that I hate about birth control pills (the moodiness, the monthly bloat, etc.). I figured I'd get Mirena when I went in for my annual exam, which falls in April. Even though we've moved up the wedding I still thought it would be a good idea to get it now.

I'm rethinking that decision.

I've had it for three days now, and although the spotting has basically stopped, I am still getting intermittent cramps. Some of them are really bad, much worse than I get with my period - and they're mostly in the lower-right quadrant of my abdomen, not generalized in my abs/lower back like period cramps usually are. It's definitely worse when I am driving or have been driving recently. Something about sitting up in that position, instead of the semi-reclined position I'm usually in on the couch, is really aggravating things.

So I'm wondering: if you've had Mirena before (or have it now), how long did the cramps last? Should I be concerned?

And another thing - we've been waiting to resume, ummm...relations. The doctor said to wait three days. It's been three days. But quite frankly I'm a bit scared because I'm worried that any jostling or, you know, rhythmic abdominal contractions (*cough, cough*) could result in serious abdominal pains. It would be ironic to get 99+% effective birth control only to find out that it acts as a deterrant to the one thing that could result in pregnancy.

So...Mirena. Discuss in the comments, please! Or email me, if you prefer.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cupcake extravaganza!

I've been MIA for a while now, I know. But in my defense I 1) got engaged, 2) lost my camera for a while, and 3) got laid off. So my wedding, which was initially planned for October, is now taking place the first weekend in May. I'm a bit overwhelmed. :)

Today I did a trial run for my wedding cupcakes. I'm not much of a baker, but I figured i could manage mini cupcakes for the shoestring-budget potluck BBQ wedding we're planning. So I bought three boxes of cake mix and got them all gussied up:

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Mini Cupcakes
1 box milk chocolate flavor cake mix
water, eggs, oil as per directions on box
1 1/2 tsp good cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 Tbsp excellent cocoa mix (I used Sharffenberger cocoa mix)

Mix it all up and bake in mini-cupcake tins lined with paper liners for 13 minutes at 350. Frost with ganache:

1 c heavy cream
1 pkg good semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp orange liqueur

Put the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and toss with the cinnamon. Heat the cream in a small saucepot over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cream just reaches a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and walk away for 2 minutes. Then slowly whisk the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is completely melted. If you still have bits of unmelted chocolate, put the bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure boiling water does not touch bottom of bowl) and whisk slowly but constantly until the chocolate JUST melts. Whisk in the liqueur. Chocolate should be smooth and glossy. To frost cupcakes, turn them upside down and dip the top in the chocolate, swirling a little bit to coat completely.

Pina Colada Mini Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small can pineapple chunks in juice, pureed in small blender
1/4 c white rum
3/4 c shredded coconut, plus 1 cup for toasting

Put cake mix in bowl of stand mixer and add in 3/4 c coconut, and mix together. Prepare the cake mix as directed, substituting 1/2 c pineapple puree for 1/2 c water and 1/4 c white rum for 1/4 c water (you should end up adding a bit more than 1/2 c water to the mix). Save the rest of the pineapple puree for the frosting. Bake in mini-cupcake tins lined with paper liners for 13 minutes at 350. Frost with pineapple cream cheese frosting:

1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 box powdered sugar
reserved pineapple puree from cupcakes (about 1/4 cup)
reserved 1 c shredded coconut

Beat together cream cheese and butter in stand mixer until fluffy. Add in powdered sugar and pineapple puree, beating until completely mixed and fluffy. Toast shredded coconut in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning, then sprinkle on the frosted mini cupcakes.

Lemon Mini Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 lemons

Zest the lemons and add to the cake mix in bowl of stand mixer; mix together. Juice the lemons. Prepare the cake mix as directed, substituting 1/2 c lemon juice for 1/2 c water. Bake in mini-cupcake tins lined with paper liners for 13 minutes at 350. Frost with passionfruit buttercream frosting:

1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp meringue powder
pinch salt
1 box powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp passionfruit puree
1-2 Tbsp milk

Beat butter in stand mixer until fluffy. Add in salt and meringue powder. Gradually add powdered sugar and passionfruit puree. Add in a tablespoon or two of milk at the end to get frosting to proper consistency.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bearing fruit

You may recall, a few years ago I spent a full autumn day planting over 250 spring bulbs, in the hopes that I'd wind up with a garden full of my favorite flowers to cheer me up during the high hay fever season. Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time that gophers LOVE tulip bulbs, and not only that, but they can easily get into my planter boxes. I ended up with a few hyacinths and daffodils, but only ONE lone tulip escaped the gopher feast.

This past fall, Mr Wonderful cleared out my designated "cutting garden" planter box (we have several huge boxes), laid down plastic netting, and filled it back in with fresh, happy dirt that was left over from our new lawn project. Then I spent a day planting spring bulbs again, hoping that this year, they'd escape devastation.

Obviously, from the picture on the right, you can see that they did, and our labors are bearing fruit at last...dozens and dozens of tulips and daffodils, and scores of grape hyacinths (the little purple flowers in the mid-ground here, also known as muscari) and crocuses. This is the garden I hoped for.

Click the photo to go to my flickr feed, where I have another shot of the planter box, showing off pretty much the entire thing, and a picture of our beautiful lilac bush as well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Testing, testing...1...2...3...

This weekend I did some cupcake trials. I bought a couple of mini cupcake tins, some liners, and a few boxes of cake mix (because I am lazy and don't want to make everything from scratch).

First I made a batch of lemon cupcakes - I added lemon zest to the plain yellow cake mix, threw in some lemon juice in place of some of the water, and then made a simple glaze of lemon juice and powdered sugar. The mini cupcakes turned out great - they cook in 13 minutes at 350, and cool in about 5-10 minutes, so they're ready to frost quickly. Unfortunately the frosting didn't hold up very well; it kind of melted into the cupcakes by the second day, so they looked all patchy and odd. I think I may have to switch to a buttercream frosting (ugh), but if I do that I'm hoping to find some passionfruit puree to use as flavoring. Mr Wonderful & I went to a catering/wedding fair event a while back that had a lemon/passionfruit cake sample we both loved, and I'd like to be able to reproduce it. It would require a bit more work though, as I'd have to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

I also tried making chocolate mini cupcakes. I used a Devil's Food flavor of cake mix and when I made the "plain" chocolate cupcakes, they tasted like nothing much. Even the kids didn't like them. However, I did also spice up some of the batter towards the end of the batch, with cinnamon, orange liqueur, and a bit of chili powder. The cinnamon flavor came through, but the orange and chili powder were completely lost. I think I may need to use cayenne instead of chili powder and only use the orange liqueur in the ganache. The ganache was a whole other story - my first try (with half the chocolate chips) turned out grainy & gross; I used Barefoot Contessa's method of melting the chocolate & cream in a double boiler. The second try turned out perfectly; in this instance, I heated the cream just until it boiled, then poured that over the chocolate chips and let it sit for a couple of minutes before whisking together. The cupcakes were super easy to frost with the ganache, too - you just dip them in and swirl a bit, then pull them out and the frosting is beautiful and glossy and smooth. Even better - they still look beautiful the next day. :)

A couple other updates: I found the perfect shoes on sale at Kohl's, ordered my bouquet & Mr Wonderful's boutonniere from a local florist (yay, white tulips!), and we figured out the music situation. Tomboy has a boombox that is battery-operated, has detachable speakers, and has an auxiliary input that accommodates an iPod. We tested it out last night, with batteries & everything, and it worked beautifully.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wedding & job update

Oooh boy, things are in full swing now!

Still no job, but I've been doing some contract work for individual clients and for my old supervisor, who quit working for The Boss and is now opening up her own consulting business. So there's some money coming in. In fact I'm hopeful that I'll be able to just do consulting, as that would solve my issues with telecommuting quite nicely.

The wedding is set for May 2, at a large regional park. We've reserved a lovely picnic spot with a bunch of picnic tables, BBQs, a small deck for dancing, and a beautiful flagstone patio area that will serve quite well for the ceremony. I built a wedsite & found a free web host, and then sent out email invitations. We're doing a potluck BBQ reception, telling guests not to bring presents, but to bring food instead. I'm actually really excited; this is just the kind of wedding I would have wanted originally - something fun and laid back that we could invite all of our friends & family to. We're getting a great response - most of people we've invited are coming, I think.

My dress is in, and it's gorgeous and needs almost no alterations - just a bustle and maybe to tack down the sleeves to the elastic underneath. I made a beautiful silk flower hair clip for about $10. Mr Wonderful is renting a jacket for his tux, and we're getting some of the more esoteric accessories (sporran, hose, etc) at the Scottish Games in Woodland on the weekend before the wedding. And the kids? Well, Kohl's had an enormous sale and we ended up getting Tomboy a dress and Rugrat a pinstriped suit for less than $100. Awesome.

We got our rings too. Mine is a just simple white gold band, so it doesn't compete with my engagement ring. I already had a tungsten ring purchased for Mr Wonderful, but then he lost about 20 pounds and it ended up being too big. Unfortunately you cannot resize tungsten, so we bought another tungsten ring for him (one full size smaller!) on, for about $50. So now if he gains weight, he can wear the bigger one, but if he stays all skinny like he is now, he can wear the new smaller one. They're very similar; just the celtic knot pattern in the center is different.

There's not much left to do -- find a solution for music (speakers or boombox, battery-operated, that will accommodate an ipod), get a bouquet (Grandma has graciously offered to pay for my flowers!), decide on shoes (whether to buy some new ones, if I can find something good and cheap), find someone to do my hair, and figure out the cupcake situation. My wedding shawl is well on its way, and if I continue knitting a full repeat each day, I'll have it done in plenty of time. I'm working my butt off at the gym, so I should be in better shape than I have been in years when I walk down that aisle. Oh, and we have to get our marriage license.

Things are falling into place, and I am so excited! I'm not nervous at all about marrying Mr Wonderful - there hasn't been any doubt in my mind about him. I just can't wait to make things official, and to celebrate with all of our friends and family. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Mr Wonderful and I are now at the point in the wedding planning where we need to make a decision about a caterer. And the best part about this is that you get to run around meeting various caterers and tasting free food.

On Sunday, we went to a caterer-sponsored "wedding faire" kind of thing, where there's a few vendors hawking their wedding-related shit (like photographers, officiants, etc.) but mostly it was a way for the caterer to get a bunch of people in one room and show how awesome their buffet can be. And I gotta say...not so impressed with the food. The problem with a buffet is that it always feels like you're at Bob's Big Boy smorgasbord, and the food has been sitting around for a couple of hours and picked over by a few hundred people, even when there's only like 50 people in the room and they are constantly bringing out fresh food. It still LOOKS ghetto, no matter how much you pretty it up with fancy table linens and stuff. And it still pretty much tastes like cardboard, because they are serving food for the lowest common denominator. You know, you can't make anything too spicy, because people have varying levels of spice-tolerance. So everything ends up tasting pretty much the same.

We really only liked two things about the event: one was a table setup (flowers, napkins, etc.) that I took a picture of on my phone, and the other was a cake sample that was absolutely delicious: lemon cake with passionfruit buttercream. It sounded like an odd combination, but it was so light and bright and uplifting - really an excellent flavor combination.

Tonight we're heading out to Concord to meet with a caterer & do a tasting, and I'm in discussions with a couple of other caterers as well. It's difficult sometimes to schedule the meetings because Mr Wonderful works swing shift and when he's got the weekend off, we have the kids. So it's a bit of a shuffle, but the catering is the most important part of our wedding, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm willing to spend extra time and actually go out of my comfort zone and talk to people on the phone (gasp!). Truly, I hate talking on the phone. I'd so much rather email - you always have the option to revise your statement before the person actually sees it. I just feel so stupid when I have to talk about something - I can never get my thoughts straight before something dumb pops out of my mouth.

Anyway, so...caterers. Anyone have a caterer they've used for a special event and thought was absolutely fantastic?

Monday, February 23, 2009


I broke down and ordered Swingtown on DVD from Amazon. I just love that show; watching half-naked Grant Show and his glorious porn 'stache was one of the things I loved best about last summer. So now I can watch this horribly underrated show whenever I want, even if I never get to see a new episode again. Stupid CBS for sucking me in to an awesome show and then dropping it like a hot potato.

Speaking of weird show cancellations, WTF with Pushing Daisies, y'all? I cannot believe they've dropped that show. Didn't it win Emmys last year? And this year, ABC just unceremoniously drops it...without even airing the final three episodes! ARGH!

In fact the only show that I absolutely adore that's still on the air is LOST. Yes, I watch a bunch of other shows, but nothing else gets me as excited as Wednesday evening. And I'm trying SO hard to unravel all the mysterious crap that's going on, that I've decided to have a LOST marathon. I watched season one this past weekend, and am a bit more than halfway through season two now. I've got all four seasons on DVD and the fifth season (so far) is stored on the DVR.

So tell me, what shows do you adore? What should I load my DVR up with? Because Grey's Anatomy is boring as hell now, and even Ugly Betty is tiresome this year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Nothing better than free stuff, right? Well, today, I got a FREE tooth whitening kit from my dentist. Not just any crap-ass whitening kit either; he made custom molds of my teeth and gave me the good stuff. This is like a $300 tooth whitening kit that he just gave me.

I totally love my dentist. And that is saying a dentist phobia is near-legendary. In fact, I won't go to the dentist - even for a routine cleaning! - without sedation anymore. I have had countless dentists dismiss my fears for years, and guess what? I would go once, and then never again. It would be literally years before I would get up the guts to visit a new dentist. Once I had a dentist who gave me nitrous for a cleaning and that didn't help at all. But this dentist prescribes me valium before each visit, no questions & no hassles, and I happily lay there in a fog with my ipod blaring while he scrapes & polishes my teeth.

I know, it seems extreme. But this is what makes it possible for me to lay down in that chair once every six months, so that's what I do. I'm just glad I found a dentist who's willing to do what it takes to make sure I get regular checkups. So if anyone in far east CoCo County needs a new dentist, hit me up in the comments. I'd be happy to refer you to the best dentist in the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gin 'n' Juice: redneck version

One of my favorite cover songs, like, EVER. Imagine a country band covering Snoop Dogg. This is worth the price of admission, folks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Darth Vader

Seeing James Earl Jones in a movie other than Star Wars is just so surreal. I keep hearing Darth Vader's voice coming out of this big black man and it's totally freaking me out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Black hole

I lost my camera, y'all! I have no idea where it is...I haven't seen it since before Christmas. We didn't even take pictures on Christmas morning! I think the cleaning ladies may have put it somewhere odd and we just haven't run across it yet. But this means that my food blogging is STILL on hiatus...I can't even put up the yummy lentil soup recipe I made because I don't have the picture that is still on the flash card in my camera. *sigh*

However, I do have one thing to report on: I got samples of the new Quaker True Delights granola bars from Foodbuzz. There are three flavors: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond, Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry, and Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut.

The first one I tried was the Honey Roasted Cashew flavor, and WHOA! That thing is SWEET. I admit, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but it was extreme even for Mr Wonderful, who's got a bit of a thing for candy. Strong honey flavor. I couldn't really taste any berry at all, but the cashews were nice. I love cashews.

Secondly, I tried the Toasted Coconut Banana one. I was a bit wary, because I usually find banana-flavored things either disgusting (faux-banana flavored candy, for example) or just okay. This was pretty nice though; it tasted mostly like banana bread with macadamia nuts thrown in. I couldn't really taste the coconut at all, which is a shame because I'm a big coconut fan.

The last one I tried (and of course the first one Mr Wonderful snagged) was the Dark Chocolate Raspberry one. So sue me, I'm not much of a chocoholic. ;-) There was less chocolate than I expected, and not a whole lot of raspberry or almond either. It was pretty hit or miss - some bites were strongly chocolate or strongly raspberry, if you got a big chunk of one of those in that bite, but I didn't taste the almond at all. I think the almond is so close to the natural oat flavor, and the almond pieces are so small (maybe slivers of almond? I didn't see any big chunks) that they don't really come through.

All in all, they were nice if you're looking for a substitute for a candy bar, but I wouldn't call these health food by any stretch of the imagination. They were far too sweet for me (except maybe the chocolate raspberry, oddly enough), and I thought the balance of flavors was a little off in each one. If you're going to advertise "Mixed Berry" in the name of the product, you should have that flavor at least be detectable.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Mr Wonderful's kilt is here! It just came in the mail today, and I cannot wait to see it. (He said I can't see it before him, so I have to wait until he comes home for "lunch" before we open the package.) This is no cheap mass-produced kilt, either. It's a custom kilt, with his clan tartan, all the way from Scotland!

In other squee-worthy news, we've decided on our rental cabin for our Vermont honeymoon. We'll be staying in Bristol, right on the river, very near Lake Champlain and surrounded by trees. I cannot wait! Also, Mr Wonderful talked to our preferred officiant this morning, and he is available for our wedding date & said he'd be honored to perform the marriage ceremony for us. :)

Everything is coming together and I am so happy. Now, if I can just find a wedding band to go with my lovely engagement ring...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wedding update

I had a little meltdown last week. Mr Wonderful and I had decided to go with Scott's Seafood Restaurant for our ceremony & reception, because they had a lovely partially covered patio with a large rock waterfall, and the food was quite good. I'd emailed the event coordinator and gotten the OK from her on the date & location, along with a preliminary estimate on the cost. So I emailed her back with my specifics and asking to meet to sign contracts & give them a deposit. And then she called me to tell me that, oops, she'd forgotten one word in her email to me: "Not." As in, we can NOT do the wedding on their waterfall patio. Oh, but they would be happy to let us have the ceremony in front of their tacky painted lattice arch and have the reception in one of their private rooms.

That was NOT ok with me.

So I kind of freaked out, because we are under the gun here. We really need to nail down the date ASAP, because Mr Wonderful really needs to submit his vacation request by the end of the month. If he doesn't, then he would probably still get the dates off that we want, but if someone else had requested the same dates off before him, we'd be screwed. The end of the month is the cutoff date for vacation requests (from May 2009 - April 2010) to be evaluated based on seniority.

I didn't have a good backup for Scott's. We'd looked at some other places, but the only one that we seriously considered was a winery that we looked at a few months ago and decided was going to cost us too much. Well, after talking to Mr Wonderful, we decided to just go with the winery after all. It's probably not going to cost us much more than Scott's, and it was our first choice anyway, so it will be a lovely spot. He called & spoke to the events manager (who he actually knows personally), and our date is free! He's heading out there tomorrow to sign contracts and give them a deposit.

I really am not good at dealing with this kind of stress. I was totally ready to just say "Fuck it!" and drag him off to Vegas. But he has made it very clear that that's not an option. Thankfully he's more than willing to pick up the slack when I start going nuts. He has lots of ideas of his own, and he's happy to plan & make phone calls and stuff. (It's a good thing, too, because I hate talking on the phone.) Thank goodness I've got a partner who can take up the reins when I can't handle it anymore.


I feel so happy and hopeful. This is the dawning of a new age for our country, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Planning frenzy

My mom is up here visiting for a few days, so I took the day off of work yesterday and we did some wedding stuff: we visited the bridal salon and ordered my dress (see previous entry for a photo of the dress) and we met with a wedding planner. Now, generally speaking I'm pretty comfortable with planning the wedding details on my own, but when it comes to the actual wedding day, I want someone there to run the show. I want a control-freak proxy to make sure that people are where they're supposed to be & things get delivered on time, and I need someone to help my mom wrestle me into that crazy lace-up corset dress. So we met up with a lovely young woman who's been doing event planning for several years, and officially started her wedding planning business three years ago. I think she'll be a great asset and having her take care of the minutia on the big day will allow me to relax and enjoy things.

We're deeply into the wedding planning stuff now. Mr Wonderful & I are hoping to nail down a location within the next couple of weeks, because we can't really move forward with anything else until that's done - invitations, photographer (even if it's a friend, we need to make sure he is available on our date!), catering if necessary, music, cake, flowers...everything depends on the date. So that's our #1 to-do this month.

I broke down and ordered a wedding planning binder from Amazon today. I think it will help me stay organized with all the things I need to keep track of, and plus it's fun. Mr Wonderful was laughing at me earlier, saying how I'm really "getting into this" now when my initial reaction was "let's just elope!" I'd still prefer to elope, but if he wants a wedding, then dammit, I want a wedding that doesn't suck. One that's pretty and has great food. So that means I need to plan stuff, and that means I can't just go with the first option that comes along. Therefore I need organizational assistance, and a pretty wedding organizer binder sounds like just the ticket. ;-)