Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lots of Lost Time

OK, so the sugar experiment lasted about a month.  I lost 5 lbs.  Woo.  I went back to adding sugar to things, but far less than before.  I cut out some of my bigger sugary habits, and I have been able to maintain the 5 lb. loss.  So, overall, not too bad.

Emma celebrated her 17th birthday, low key, as is her style.  She had a couple friends over and she had cake.

Later, we went out for sushi dinner as a family.

Sorry, no pictures of me.  I had the camera.

I volunteered to take on keeping the uniform locker tidy and repairing the uniforms for the school.  If it takes more than sewing hems or replacing buttons, it goes to Goodwill.  Skirts and sweaters with holes or beyond repair sometimes get delivered to crafters that turn them into doll clothes.

Kelly spent several weeks building a gorgeous deck!  After taking the deck boards off the old deck, he discovered that it was rotten all the way to the was a complete tear-out.  We decided to build it bigger (why not?) and have a finished deck that is twice the size of the original.

It is structurally sound...

Hosted a desperately unsuccessful Ithra event with a grand total of 13 students.  Several students were also instructors, and many classes had only one student.  Lesson learned:  pull the plug sooner and make clear parameters that if the coordinators send more than two of their members into the hospital, it's better to cancel the event than to spend that kind of time, energy and money on a failure.  Ugh!

I did, however, learn how to do Brocade Card Weaving.  This was an interesting technique to learn, but I chose a rather complex pattern.  I also had to double-up the brocade yarns, and you have to take extra care to prevent the threads twisting, so it slows the process down.

Camille's birthday was a low-key affair.  We celebrated with Chinese food...however, I didn't get any photos.  I also spent the weekend away, so she didn't have a party.  In fact, plans fell apart for several weekends following, so she's going to have to have a do-over at some point.

That weekend, I went to the quilt retreat!  I packed up a bunch of fabrics and spent two days cutting and sewing...

A week later, I was making beads!



Cammie and I went and "clowned" around in Fremont.  This is a statue of JP Patches, just outside the Geocaching Headquarters.  Of course, we were having a Munzee date, capping some of the hundreds of virtuals in the area.  Of course, we had to go visit the troll, too.

Cammie's Girl Scout troop is making pies to sell as a fundraiser.  They used pre-made crust, but they spent time cutting and seasoning all the fruit, filling the pies, and freezing them for delivery.

A couple weeks into October, we discovered that the wood around the garage was warped and cracking.  It turned out that it was all rotten.  So was the wood behind it and all down the right side.  After careful inspection, the handyman determined that it was poorly/improperly installed flashing around the garage, so the water was leaking behind the vinyl siding and the weather wrap.  He tore into it and said he'd be back to fix it.

On the 11th of November, the handyman finally came back to work on it.  He tore into it a bunch more and said he'd be back the next day...noooooope.  We'll see when he'll *actually* come back.

October 24th:  a hard day for the people in the Northwest when a student brought a gun to school and shot several friends and a couple cousins at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.  A sad and scary day.  We are several miles south of this area, so we weren't directly affected; they did not have a school lock down, but they did notify the parents of the incident.  The grade school wisely opted not to mention it to the students, but let parents talk to their kids about it in their own way.  Most of the high schoolers had gotten word via their cell phones, so they knew what had happened.  Emma was very calm about the whole situation, recognizing the assailant as a disturbed young man and said that she wasn't worried or fearful.  We had longer discussions about the situation and I deeply admire her maturity and wisdom.

That same day, we went to our school's Halloween carnival.  We had spent hours making costumes (and this is, of course, the Royal "we"), so we loaded up and went into town again and let the kids loose in the school, playing games and earning prizes.

Kids dressed as Zelda, Link, and L (from right to left)

The food table was pizza, burgers and home made sweets.  Some of the cupcakes were really clever!

A few days later, on Oct. 27th, I woke up with a backache.  It was over my left hip, but didn't seem too bad.  By 10 a.m., it was getting pretty painful.  By noon, I was in tears.  I went into the walk-in clinic (which has a blessedly short wait), and saw a doctor who suggested that it was probably the sacroiliac joint, though he didn't order any blood work or X-rays.  He prescribed some vicodin and said I need to take my anti-infammatories and alternate ice and heat.  After three days, I was out of vicodin, but I had made an appointment with a doctor--my GP wasn't available, but I could see someone else, and I said OK.  I get in and she tells me that she can write another prescription for vicodin, but I would need to see my regular doc if I needed more after 3 more days.  I said that I wanted to get an appointment with my doctor, and she said that my doc wouldn't be available until November 17th...nearly three weeks later.  Absurd.  I wrote a letter to the clinic telling them that this is unacceptable practice.  I haven't heard anything back, which is frustrating, so I may have to go in and talk to them personally.

I hoped this would be gone in a day or two, but it was the beginning of 9 long days of laying on the couch.  I couldn't drive, I had trouble sleeping, I couldn't even stand long enough to take a shower.  It was agony.  Now, 17 days later, the pain is almost completely gone, and the numbness in my left thigh is greatly reduced.  Will this return?  I hope not, but it's possible.

Laying flat on my back (or on my side) for so long, I had a limit on what I could do, creatively.  I couldn't sit up or stand, so sewing, cutting, or many other things were impossible.  I decided that if I sat up a bit, I could knit, so I pulled out a couple balls of wool that I received as a gift from the Baroness of Aquaterra and with Cammie's assistance, wound them up and cast on a scarf.  I pulled it out three times because I was unsatisfied with the pattern I chose, but it kept my mind occupied in between naps.  I may pull it apart again and do a completely different project.

I'd like to do something like this, but I don't have a pattern.

Ben worked on his engineering badge for scouts by assembling this hydraulics kit that Kelly picked up.  They had a great time working on it together, and then Ben had fun picking objects up with the tool.

On Monday night, I was happy that I was healthy and strong enough to go with Kelly and the rest of Gang Green to the second leg of the Sounders game against Dallas.  40,000 of our friends saw them have a 0-0 tie.  This combined with the 1-1 tie in Dallas gives Seattle the win.  WHY?  Because an away goal is weighted slightly heavier than a home goal.  If we also had a 1-1 tie at home, it would have been completely balanced and we would have had to go into overtime.  SO...we go to the next level of the Western Conference finals, and we have to play LA Galaxy twice.  After that, the winners of the Western and Eastern conferences play for the MLS cup.

image 1This last couple of days have been a flurry of activity, and in my spare minutes, I was looking at photos of looms.  There are a few on Craigslist that are selling very cheap; I saw THIS one for $50, and if I had a pick up truck and a spare room, I would have driven down there to get it, even though I don't have enough weaving experience...I'm not ready for a big floor loom.  Someday.  I want to start weaving on a rigid heddle loom, like a Kromski Harp loom (I have my eye on a 32" loom).  I'm also working towards having a warp-weighted loom to attempt to weave on.  I have the loom pretty much ready to go, but I need to set it up and give it a shot, but not until after Thanksgiving.

The carpet is getting replaced before the holiday...I'm so excited!  The carpet is SO GROSS!  We will be replacing all the carpet eventually, and I'd like to do it myself, but I'd like to start in a small room that won't be my closet.  If I can get that to look OK, then I'll try in larger areas.  But for starters, and in the most public rooms, I'd rather have a professional do it, and the downstairs is going to be done in a couple weeks!

The next six weeks are going to be VERY busy.  I have a large quilt commission, a smaller quilt job, and a large quilt restoration...and all to be done before Christmas.  Now that I can finally stand again, I can get started.  I'm going to be running myself ragged...I only hope that I stay healthy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sugar-Free Experiment

I decided to try to cut back on sugar.  Significantly.

A friend of mine is doing a sugar-free dietary change, and she is inspecting lots of labels and making sure that no added sugar goes in her mouth.  She's found a list of ingredients that are often listed that are synonymous with sugar:

Source: About Health website: If the label says “no added sugars”, it should not contain any of the following, although the food could contain naturally-occurring sugars (such as lactose in milk):
Agave Nectar
Barley Malt Syrup

Beet Sugar
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown Sugar
Cane Crystals (or, even better, "cane juice crystals")
Cane Sugar
Coconut Sugar, or Coconut Palm Sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
Dehydrated Cane Juice
Evaporated Cane Juice
Fruit juice concentrate
High-fructose corn syrup
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Palm Sugar
Raw sugar
Rice Syrup
Sorghum or sorghum syrup
Turbinado Sugar

The easiest thing to do is to make meals from whole foods--use fewer pre-packaged and pre-mixed foods and buy all the stuff that can be found around the edges of the store--milk, butter, fruit, veggies, and meat.  However, it's a daunting thought spending hundreds of hours in the kitchen making salsa, fresh bread, tortillas, soaking beans, mayonnaise, ketchup & other condiments, salad dressings, and much more.  Therefore, it's good to have a list of brands that make condiments that have no sugar.

A few brands that are good include:
Amy's Kitchen
Full Circle (Black Beans)
Que Pasa tortilla chips
Pace Picante sauce
Dole packaged fruit (in 100% juice)
Fred Meyer has organic peanut butter with no sugar, but everyone carries Adams.  I prefer the no-stir creamy variety, which I've been buying for years.
Better Oats Steel Cut Oat Revolution (oatmeal packets), or just a cylinder of Quaker quick oats
Saltine crackers
Lucerne cream cheese

I'll be checking labels and adding to this list as I go.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Long Weekend

Labor day has traditionally been a weekend for the big SCA event, this year being held in Canada, right over the border.  Kelly, on the other hand, had other ideas.  He said that we really needed to do something as a family for the last weekend of summer.  We discussed what things we should do, and there were a few things we decided on.

Friday:  Pizza.  Hey, it's our tradition.  No one has to cook and clean up is a snap.  Which meant that we had even more time for GAME NIGHT!  I didn't get any photos, but we played Monty Python FLUXX twice.  This is a great game that has rules that can change from moment to moment, and the object of the game can change as well.  Once you have met the obligation (Holy Relics:  the Holy Hand Grenade and the Holy Grail; or The Cartoon Peril Was No More:  the Beast of Aaaaarggh and the Animator cards), you are the winner and the game ends.  I won with the goal "Squashed From Above" which meant I had the Finger of God and the Foot cards on the table at the same time as the Goal Card.  Aside from the traditional and Monty Python versions, there are several other versions of the game, including Zombie Fluxx, Star (Wars) Fluxx, Oz Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx, and a set I'm going to get...Pirate Fluxx!  After that, we played a game of GLOOM.  This game has an object of killing off your characters in the most miserable way possible.  It was fast and fun!

Saturday:  We decided to skip the Sounders game (selling our tickets) and work on a few things during the day and have a family luau in the evening.

Kelly stayed home and worked on the deck and got all the boards laid out and screwed down.  While we didn't have the railings installed yet, I figured we could put up the 4 x 4s (which will be part of the pergola) and tie ropes around to keep people safely in, if necessary.  I sent out a general invitation, but no one took us up on the offer.

Cammie and I went out to a couple of different grocery stores looking for ingredients for our luau, which consisted mostly of ahi tuna, salmon, rice and pineapple.  I was going to make pineapple chicken skewers, but given that we still don't have the BBQ on the deck, I needed to do all the cooking by oven.  Unless we had a big group of people coming, I wasn't going to cook TOO much food.

Luckily, the ahi didn't need cooking--I made a soy sauce mix and let it marinate for a couple hours.  I broiled the salmon in the oven with some butter and garlic.  Simple and delicious!  The sad bit was one of the loaves of the Hawaiian bread I got from the Chinese market was MOLDY!  So sad.  I was going to drive it back and exchange it or get my money back, but figured it would cost as much in gas to get there and back as the loaf of bread, so I just pitched it.  I will not be doing any more shopping there, for sure.

Sunday:  TOURISM!  We decided to play tourist-at-home and went to downtown Seattle to have lunch at Pike Place Market, visit the Seattle Art Museum, ride the ferris wheel at the waterfront, walk through the market a bit, and then head home.  In order to prevent having to fight for parking spaces, along with all the attendees of PAX, Bumbershoot, and the Mariners fans, we took the bus.  There was a lot of people riding along with us, and the ride back was particularly crowded.  It was standing room only all the way home--at least for Kelly.  The kids and I were able to sit for the last few miles.

Some sights along the way:
At the SAM, they had a large display of glass art, and a bunch of art pieces from the 1400-1500.  Most of them were religious in nature and it was such a thrill to get to see them up close and personal.  I was able to get within inches of them to take detailed fact, several of them were unprotected (although they had roving security everywhere...just don't ask them where to find the restrooms--the one I asked was rather vague).

Quilted teapot...

Gorgeous blue and yellow vase from Italian Renaissance

Painted wooden box front...the gold was real shiny gold!

Italian pottery

Ceramic pond--the pieces fit together like a puzzle and were heavily glazed to look wet.  This was a favorite for us!

Madonna and child, 1490.

Detail from a Madonna and child painting--the gauzy sleeve of the baby's tunic and the buttons on her sleeve were just amazing.  This was from 1490.

16th century folding screens from Japan

Monet.  Nuff said.

One of the biggest problems I had was with the lighting on the art.  It was bright enough, but often left bright spots on the paintings like this.  You usually couldn't view it straight on.  This was from the bench provided by the museum for viewing this really large painting.

Or there was some reflection in the glass (no, I wasn't using a flash...that is usually against the rules):

Here's some sweet boots!

Afterwards, we wandered through Pike Place...

Rode the Ferris Wheel...

And then rode the bus home.  We watched a movie together:  Bears.  It was cute and just over an hour long.

Monday:  Bike ride!  Earlier this summer, we finally got Ben to try biking again, and he very quickly got the hang of balance and pedaling.  He then decided that he wanted to really spread his wings and go for a long bike ride somewhere.  We promised that we'd do that before the summer was done, and here we the final week.  So, we drove down to the Centennial Trail that runs from Snohomish to Arlington...or maybe beyond in some city nearish to Mt. Vernon. (I don't know exactly where it ends, but we really had no intention of biking that far anyway--we read somewhere that it is about 30 miles in length).  In the end, I biked about 2 1/2 miles with them and I turned around there.  They continued on to the next trail head at Machias, about 4 1/2 miles from where we started, then turned back.  My muscles are all very sore now...ugh.  Took some Tylenol and cider, and may need to take a bath to fully relax the muscles.  I have a feeling I won't be able to climb stairs for the next couple of days.

When I returned from the bike ride, I took off my helmet only to discover that the rotting strap on the back tore completely away (the chin strap has a nylon strap and was perfectly fine--the broken bit hugs the back of the head to keep the helmet in place).  I had noticed that it was shedding black bits all over the place before we started out, but thought that since this is a designated walking/biking trail, I would have little chance of encountering vehicles and other dangers, and it was probably going to be low risk of having an accident that would require a helmet to protect me to that extent.  It looks like it'll be a pretty easy fix, though.  It appears that the straps have little velcro dots that attach the straps.  I'll pop by the bike shop later this week to see what they can do for me.

Ben also needs repairs on his helmet; one of the neighborhood kids tore all the padding out while he left the helmet sitting outside one day.  We have some new little guys in the neighborhood...lesson for Ben was not to leave his stuff out where others could get to it--always put your stuff away.  I'm not going to worry much about finding out the culprit.

Dinner was a simple affair--burgers and fries (home made).  The big kid starts school tomorrow; the little guys start next week.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August Days

There are some things that are posted on the internet that annoy the crap out of me.  Especially Facebook.  The most annoying are political in nature.  I think of myself as a middle-of-the-road kind of person.  Traditional, but not close-minded, values; socially open-minded, if you will.  I also believe that we need smaller government and lower taxes, but also feel that there are people who are falling through the cracks in terms of care of the mentally ill and need assistance to keep themselves and society safe.  I also believe in relying on the generosity of others for some things, but the government can sometimes help by providing people a hand up, not a hand out--like skills training to get something better than a minimum wage job.

I have carefully stopped following the Facebook feeds of people when I just can't stomach their political vomit anymore.  A lot of those memes that are passed around are filled with inaccurate or misleading information; it's all about interpretation and filtering of data.  And that pisses me off.

Sometimes, it's not politics, but something very different in nature.  I got a strange one.  One of the people who I have not yet omitted from my feed is a lady who LOVES her cats.  She has a silly name for the herd of cats--the Furry Rebellion--and has unusual names for all of them.  I don't know how many she has, exactly, but it must be a lot.  I've seen names like the Agent of Chaos, the Assassin, Lord Wiggle, Lady Daring, and the Heinous Overlord (presumably the alpha cat).  OK, it's cute, but I usually just skip over those posts because, quite honestly, I don't care about the interactions between her furry creatures.  Maybe it's because I don't know her well enough to care (unlike very close friends whose critters I actually know), but she posted a message that said something like, "Of all my furry critters, which one is your favorite?"  Really? comment.

Cammie has spent the last few days with her cousin at her aunt & uncle's house.  They've been besties since they were very little and we try to get them together at least once a summer to spend time together.  Aunt N & Uncle K have been very gracious about hosting her every year.  I think it helps them out as well since the cousin is an only child, so it gives them a bit of a break.  She's been away for three days and she hasn't called to check in.  She must be having a blast!

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to make another go at making sourdough bread.  I bought a bag of unbleached Bob Mills flour, and it sat on the counter.  Kelly knew that I was in the process of gearing up for this project, and as a fun gift, he bought me a pair of cool jars with blue glass lids, perfect for keeping the sour mix in to keep the bugs out.  Fruit flies love this stuff.  Unfortunately, when I unwrapped one of the jars, it slipped from my hand, dropped a mere 12" onto the carpet and broke.  Gah!!  The second one is still whole, at least.

He also got a packet of sourdough starter and taped it onto the bag of flour, which I found after returning from a weekend camping trip with Cammie in July.  So a few days ago, I started the mix with the starter, a bit of water and flour.  It looked so pitiful at the bottom of the jar.


After a couple more feedings, it started to look nice and frothy.

After about a week of daily feedings, I decided to make some bread.  The difference between making bread with yeast and making it with sponge is that it takes two to four times as long for everything to happen.

You have to mix flour into a cup of the starter...although I doubled this recipe, so it was 2 cups of starter and six cups of flour.

When it's mixed in really well, you cover it with cling film and let it sit to rise and bubble a bunch.

After a few hours (up to 24), you then add more flour, sugar, baking soda and salt, and keep adding flour until you can knead it.  You grease the bowl lightly, turn it over to grease it completely, and let it rise a bunch more.

Then punch it down....

Divide into loaves and let them rise...

After it has risen for a while longer, you slice the tops, and I sprinkled mine with rosemary and salt and lightly brushed with olive oil.

I baked it in the oven, according to the directions, which turns out to be too long or too hot an oven.  I'll have to experiment a bit more.  I also think I'll make smaller loaves.

The second loaf I baked for about 5 minutes less and it came out *perfect*.  And it was *delicious*!

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day--doc appointment with my foot doc, going to pick up Cammie from her visit, and go to a Munzee event.  It'll be fun!