Monday, January 28, 2008

How cute are these?

I discovered this mushroom jar in a thrift shop and I had to have it. I don't know why I had to have it but there you go. A mystery of the psyche. Perhaps my mother decorated my 1970's baby nursery with mushrooms. I think I need more buttons.

And the same goes for the these vintage Christmas balls (mixed in with some new ones that were conveniently sitting in my scraproom.) It was the single light pink one that did it. Because what scraproom is complete without some old Christmas ornaments?

My new computer crashed this morning. Eventually I got it to turn on and then the system recovery took over. I had to re-load some stuff but it seems to be intact. It keeps asking me to turn it off so it can complete the update but after doing that about 15 times, I've decided to ignore it and pretend that everything is fine.

So how do those photos look? I spent a good portion of the day yesterday learning about Photoshop actions and then buying some and playing with them. I went with the Elements and Sweet Pea collections at Apple of My Eye Designs which you can check out here: Photo editing can become addictive. Justin and I also spent some time playing with my camera and I think I've got the aperture stuff figured out. Did I ever mention that I had to drop the photography class I took for fun in college because the evil art snob of a professor was going to fail me? Yes, well. I'm still working on learning everything I didn't learn in that class.

Charlie seems to have the flu. So while the flu shot apparently didn't keep him from getting it, hopefully it will keep it from being bad and he won't get pneumonia this year. As long as he gets to play his Nintendo DS and lay on the couch, he doesn't seem to care about being sick. It's a good gig if you can get it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An update on cooking through Nigella

When I picked this cookbook, I have to confess that I didn't spend a heck of a lot of time looking through it. Truth be told, I opened it to a recipe that had both gorgonzola and pears as an ingredient and decided it was perfect. I had never heard of Nigella. I wanted to expand my culinary horizons because I'm a meat and potatoes girl at heart and I want to be able to play along with Justin in his food adventures.

One thing I didn't realize about this particular book is that the word "Express" in the title means just that - recipes you can put together relatively quickly without a lot of effort. Or as I'm coming to realize, without a lot of actual cooking. And while this has been very convenient to being able to keep up with the challenge, it's not exactly what I had in mind.

On the other hand, after making only a few of the recipes, we have been introduced to many new ingredients and I'm discovering new and curious things in our grocery store. I've not been able to find all of the ingredients but surprisingly more than I anticipate every time I head out with grocery list in hand. I've had to improvise a few times but nothing that alters the recipe beyond recognition. I have modified the ingredients when I can to make them more healthy by using fat free, skim, low-salt versions when available.

So all of that being said, here are the reviews of the recipes we tried this week.

Quick chili. I was very skeptical about this recipe. Very. My regular chili recipe rocks. The ingredients for this one were strange, including a jar of prepared tomato sauce, chunky style. To our surprise, this turned out pretty good. It was very meaty, not too spicy (a requirement if the kids are going to eat it) and it had a nice mix of flavors. However, this is not a recipe that is going to make it into our regular meal rotation simply because it's not as good as my own recipe.

Roly Poly Pudding. This one called for an ingredient called "Golden Syrup" which I had never heard of and was sure I wouldn't be able to find. But there it was in the baking aisle, tucked between the corn syrup and the baker's chocolate. It couldn't be simpler - prepared pie crust, golden syrup, milk and topped with vanilla ice cream. I'm not a sweets person but this was very good. My son loved it and said it was the best desert he ever had. He's still talking about it days later. We don't usually make deserts (I guess I won't be saying that when this year is over!) but if we did, this is one we would make again.

Nutella pancakes. Startling confession: I had never tried nutella before. I knew what it was, I just wasn't that interested. This recipe is awesome. It tastes very much like a chocolate eclair and was very simple to make. Luckily, we have enough nutella and hazlenuts to make it again. Unluckily, this is not a recipe that can be made weight watcher friendly so I can't make it everyday.

Noodle soup. The first flat-out failure. Everything about this recipe was light and delicious except for the cilantro which overwhelmed everything. The recipe has the right bones for a great udon-noodle soup (and had lots of fun, new ingredients for us) but neither Justin nor I could get beyond the cilantro. But if you like the stuff, maybe you would like this.

My analysis after the first three weeks is that the recipes are solid but not very exciting and involve very little actual cooking. I'm going to stick with it because my Type A personality would go into convulsions if I tried to abandon it but next year, I will investigate the cookbook a little more thoroughly. I've made up for it so far by picking some different recipes from various places on the web and throwing them into the mix during the week thereby at least pretending I know how to cook. Stay tuned for next week's installment.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Am I supposed to update this thing?

Hey, I have a blog. Who knew? I've got lots of excuses but they aren't very interesting. The dog ate my homework.

So let's talk about the incredible human eating machine that is my daughter. She's a tiny thing that one. At least she always has been until we discovered last week that she's grown over six inches in the last six months. And this morning she ate her weight in pancakes and scrambled eggs. After she went through the line, I'll bet the Lions were sad that they offer "All you care to eat" at the annual pancake breakfast. And then she asked me for a snack in the car on the way home. Apparently we'll be using our tax rebate to feed Grace.

And we're spending the rest of the day at the mall for Charlie's District Pinewood Derby races. The only thing that is better than spending the day at the mall is the realization that we'll probably have to eat dinner at the Chuck E Cheese that is inside of the mall. Come on, admit it. You know you're jealous.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This is an update.

I've been scolded by several people that I need to update both blogs. But I have a good excuse! I am still struggling with this new computer and the layout I posted above is an example of just one of the problems I'm having. I am posting it in the hopes that someone, somewhere can help me figure it out because after a week spent trying to get help from the customer service divisions of numerous technology companies, I am ready to pull out my hair.

I've used the photomerge/panorama program with my HP scanner for several years. It works beautifully. What it does not do is work with Microsoft Vista and as "Raymond" from HP so kindly informed me, I am SOL with that program. That leaves photoshop as the only option for stitching layouts and while I understand the basics (open the files, hit the photomerge button) I am completely lost after that. Why is there that weird shadow effect in the middle that looks like it is folded in half?

Another issue is that the new screen distorts everything and makes it look wide and squished. It makes it very hard to evaluate photos/layouts/pretty much anything and have any idea how it really looks. The best option would be to switch screens between the 2 computers but the new screen doesn't seem to work on the old computer.

Other minor (ha!) issues are that Microsoft "Easy Transfer" created to transfer files and programs between computers doesn't work on this system at all and Microsoft, Dell and the USB cable people all say it's someone else's fault. And for some reason, Vista isn't recognizing some of my jpeg files and they changed Windows Explorer so much that I can't even begin to figure out why it can't read the files that are on my photo cd's.

So, as you can imagine, I have been having fits this week (and yes, there has been some crying and some cursing) as I try to figure out ways to get around all of these issues and get a system that works nominally as well as the old system. Here is another PSA: Stay far, far away from Microsoft Vista.

Is that enough whining for the day? It feels like it! I'll be back with a normal update soon!

Monday, January 14, 2008

This is not going very well

Right now I hate pretty much everything about this new computer. The screen is strange so it squishes all my pictures and scans and makes everything look horrible. There are no software updates for the software I use for scanning and stitching. The "Easy Transfer Software" doesn't work at all. I'm not sure what to do about any of these problems but hopefully it won't seem so bad in the morning. Otherwise, I'm sending this thing back.

Today is the day!

I am sitting here waiting impatiently for DHL to bring the new computer. Seriously. That is my plan for the day. Fretting about making the switch, will the router software work, will all the Vista patches work, will we figure out how to transfer stuff from one computer to the other. It's all going to go smoothly, right?

Grace is watching Ratatouille and it's making me hungry. Weight Watchers is fantastic as long as I don't think about how much of a food snob I am and how much I love to eat really good food. But I'm going to have shed a bag of sugar at the end of this first week and that's better than gorgonzola. Sure it is.

We had a fun weekend. Justin and I went to see Second City courtesy of my friend Jen who works for the theater and got us half-price tickets. And then he picked a pan-Asian fusion restaurant for his birthday dinner. Yesterday he and Charlie cut out and sanded Charlie's pinewood derby car - it looks incredible! For awhile, Charlie thought he'd end up with a triangle car but darned if those boys didn't create a recognizable Firebird.

It's snowing steadily and Justin is going to the hockey game tonight so after the computer arrives, I think our game plan will be to build a fire and play board games on the floor. Grace only has a week and a half of winter vacation left so we need to take advantage of it!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Long day, good day

And I am so very glad it is over. I'm ready to relax and enjoy Grace's last full week of winter break. Preparation (and the accompanying stress) for today's hearing has been ongoing since the beginning of December and it is so nice to have it behind me. As always, the anticipation was much worse than the reality.

Tonight was the first night of the cook through Nigella Express challenge. We have to cook about 4 recipes per week and I made two tonight... Mirin glazed salmon and moonblush tomatoes. I put a picture on the photoblog. Having already confessed that I don't eat seafood, it probably is no surprise that the salmon was not my favorite meal ever. The sauce was delicious. It just would have been more delicious over a chicken breast. And I failed to read the tomato recipe ahead of time that indicated the tomatoes had to sit in the oven overnight. They were okay and I will definitely make that recipe again the proper way as it was fast and has only 2 Weight Watchers points.

So through a combination of factors, I only got about 2 hours of sleep last night. Justin took pity on me and took the kids to a basketball game at the highschool tonight. He suggested I might have a party but it's an early bed-time kind of a night. Just as soon as I finish this very strange glass of chocolate wine that my brother sent me for Christmas. Public Service Announcement: Chocolate wine tastes as weird as it sounds.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some housekeeping

DHL tried to deliver the computer today. They need a signature. I will not be here to sign until Monday. (So Sheila, that means I can't come over until the computer comes!) I really want the new computer yesterday.

Did you know Barack Obama doesn't put his hand over his heart when he sings the National Anthem? Yeah. So apparently, we shouldn't vote for him. Except that having heard and seen the National Anthem about 372,459 times, I don't remember ever seeing anyone around here put their hands over their heart either. Not that I've decided that I will vote for Barack. Just that I don't think anyone should decide NOT to vote for him because of some silly, misleading e-mail that's being forwarded by the right.

Day 4 of Weight Watchers and going strong. My scale wasn't working for the first two days (it regularly gets soaked when the kids take a splashy bath and then has to dry out) so I don't know what I started at. It's probably better that way. When I finally weighed in yesterday, I only weighed 3 pounds more than when I started Weight Watchers in the first place 3 years ago. It could have been a lot worse.

I have to be in court all day tomorrow. I don't really know what else to say about that. The lighting in the courthouse gives me a migraine (every.single.time.) so that's something to look forward to. Resolution. That's also something. I've been mulling over lots of things about my job and the legal system lately. My dad says if I quit, I can't complain about the system not working anymore. I do love to complain. I wonder how many people really have a job they love. Probably not that many. So maybe I should stop whining about my job.

So far, so good on the other resolutions too. I've caught myself a few times with the "not right now" or saying no to a book but I always amend to explain specifically when I will follow through and I've done it. And the no computer in the morning got drastically easier after the second day. It must be like giving up cigarettes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More prognosticating...

I think the exit polls for the Democrats in New Hampshire have been very interesting so far. Democrats overwhelmingly said they voted on the issues. And I don't think Hilary Clinton is going to lose to Barack Obama by double digits tonight. I'm not willing to go out on a limb and say she's going to win but I do think she is going to do much better than the polls and pundits were predicting.

And I maintain that John McCain is going to walk away with the Republican nomination.

By the way. My name is Sarah and I'm a political junkie. I've hidden that side very well ere now, eh?

Monday, January 7, 2008

A little known secret from our house

is that New Year's resolutions don't begin until January 7th. Justin's birthday is on the 6th and we've come to the realization it's just easier to start good habits the day after since we know we aren't going to be good on his birthday. It gives us an extra week to procrast.... I mean, it gives us another week to plan how we're going to implement all those lofty goals.

So today was day 1 of no computer in the morning. Pretty painless. Probably going to be the most difficult resolution to keep because I do love to catch up on everything that happened overnight. But instead of computer time, I read a book to the kids, did a load of laundry, took out the garbage and the getting ready for school routine was much smoother than usual. So I know this is an important one to keep.

And then it was time to hit the grocery store. Since we are cooking through Nigella's cookbook AND I am starting Weight Watchers again, this was bound to be an expensive trip. It was painful. Even more painful when we got home because I discovered...

as I suspected when switching loads the first time this morning, our washing machine is not working. It does not seem to spin. Which is just what I want to hear 3 days after buying both a new computer and last minute plane tickets for a last minute girls' getaway. (More on that later.) Hopefully my handy husband will be able to figure it out. Why oh why do appliances not seem to last more than 5 years anymore?

I have lots of scrapbook stuff to upload and I'm impatient for the new computer to get here so I can do that. Until then, we'll have to pretend that the all black and white visual from the text is very appealing to the eye.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sigh of relief.

The new computer is ordered. Now I have to start figuring out how to transfer everything.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Christmas journal

I fully intend to post the rest of it but since my computer flashes dire "out of memory" warnings at me about every 30 seconds, I am afraid to upload anything more than the photo for the photo-a-day blog. Even that makes me break out in a cold sweat. My husband says he consulted with his tech department today (which is a critical part of every technological purchase for him) which means that this just might be the night we order a new Dell. I know you are waiting with baited breath.

So you just might see the Christmas journal next week. Or February. We procrastinate a lot around here.

Are you paying attention to the Iowa caucuses tonight? We are pulling for Edwards. Actually, Justin wants a candidate that pulls together characteristics of Biden, Edwards, Kucinich and Ron Paul. That would be one weird looking man. But mostly, we are pulling for Edwards and I think if he does well tonight, he has a good chance of getting the nod. And for the Republicans, selfishly, I hope Huckabee runs away with it. Because that would make for a really fun fall election - Huckabee and Ed Rollins arguing with each other and insulting people all the way to November. But I think it will be McCain - not tonight, but as the nominee.

Do you think I could have a career as a prognosticator?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Do you make resolutions? We kind of do but never with any real intention of following through. This year is different. I am energized and excited and bursting with ideas. So I'm going to lay them all out here...

- Read to them every time they ask.
- Deduct $1 from the scrapbook budget everytime I say "not right now." (And no Justin, that doesn't apply to you nor do you receive the money!)
- Maintain a 3 day/week running schedule
- Write something every day. Write something every day. Write something every day.
- Re-start Weight Watchers tomorrow. Stick with it.
- No computer in the morning before school. Period.

I also started a new photo blog and you can check it out here: If I don't keep up with it, nag me, okay?

This first day of the new year was a little bit off balance. No one (read dogs, kids) slept in after staying up until midnight. So the kids were very cranky/whiny/cranky/whiny. Which means mommy was a little cranky/whiny. But I finished re-organizing my scrap space and I have to say I'm thrilled with it. Thrilled to finally have everything sorted and a place for everything and well, just to have such a happy, colorful place to call my own.

Justin also got on a roll with the organizing and cleaning and got all of the outdoor Christmas decorations down and put away. Then, because he donated his large shelf to my scrap space, he cleaned his wine-making room while the kids and I went to the New Year's pork and saurkraut dinner.

The kids are already in bed and Justin is going to sit in his car and watch a movie on ipod while smoking a cigar (another thing that makes mommy cranky and whiny) while I scrapbook a little bit and then we are going to snuggle up together and watch Zodiac as we say goodbye to the holiday vacation. All in all, a pretty pleasant, typical day to begin the new year. Tomorrow, it's back to the real world!