Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past--1983

I don't know what possessed me to spend the other night looking at 1980s toys, but I guess that that's what happens when you sit around all day. Talk about flashbacks. It brought me back to 1983 when my number one desire was a Moppets Secret Doll House--a doll that had a house under her skirt.

I prayed to the Virgin Mary (not even kidding) every night that I would get one from Santa, and I did. It was awesome. A bean bag, a pizza, and other plastic doo dads. This one's missing the little tube that the doll fit into.

I am pretty sure this is also the year I got the skating Kimberly doll. I thought about this doll several times since childhood, so I am guessing I really liked her, but couldn't remember her name until I found it online.

I'm sure the reason I liked her so much was the rollerskates. I LOVED rollerskating...and still do. Though my ankle will preclude me from any type of skating in the near future, I celebrated my birthday at the rink a few years ago. LOADS of old skool fun!

My little foray into 80s toys really took me back...and I found this fun website too, which is a walk through childhood! Here's hoping Santa brings you everything you're praying for! Even if it's something more complex than a doll with a house under her skirt!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Flashback! 2011! Vol. 1

Because I have been an errant poster (which is CHANGING, my friends), I know that you are wondering: "Well, what has she been up to?" No? Okay, well, humor me. As it turns out, the answer is "not much," but as it turns out, in blogland, not much actually has to happen in order to write something. So, here goes.

My last post pre-injury was, gulp, in July. About Tamale Pie. I'm so sorry. And before that, in February about...cottage cheese oatmeal pancakes. So, you can consider this a brief year in review, if you will.

Sushi-making party at Natacia's, This was a first...I'd never made sushi before (and I'm not all that good at it). Wilfer (to my right) was one of my ESL students as a beginner and now is an English whiz. He taught us how to make sushi. All the best sushi makers are Hispanic.

In March, J and Rob tied the knot. My cousins and loyal blog them! The highlight (in my humble opinion...but I think they'd both concur) was the cookie tableS. The cookie table is a Western PA tradition, and they took it to a new extreme--it was a cookie ROOM! Made by friends, relatives, and full of love!

My friend Gina from high school got married in May. This marked my first time (and probably last) as a bridesmaid. It's also known as the day in 2011 that my hair was straight due to the efforts of one very committed stylist.

I went on a bit of a kitchenware binge this year. I got a Le Creuset French oven (Rue La La impulse buy), a Crock Pot, and a Sodastream. The French oven admittedly got used twice, maybe three times, but now that I installed shelves in my coat closet, I have better access to it.

The Crock Pot, however, got used fairly extensively. I love it! It's like my own personal chef. Now I get why people like them so much. One of my favorite creations was Thai Peanut Chicken.

The other thing I got was a major coups. At least in my mind. I found floor model All Clad pots on the As Is shelves at Bed Bath and Beyond. It was a wee bit scratched, but otherwise just perfect. I spent a little under $200--but the value was probably close to $400 at least. Score! I made a nice simple pot rack for them. I'll have to share that at another time!

Around Town
Cherry blossom time is my favorite time in the city, and this year was no exception. What WAS exceptional was that I went to high tea at the Willard Hotel. Lovely!

I can always count on my friend Leslie to introduce me to "new" (to me) music. This year, I went with her to see Frederico Aubele at the Rock and Roll Hotel, which I'd never been to despite being within a 10-minute walk.

My friend Liz and I went on a nice post-brunch walk once, and I "discovered" the Anacostia Riverfront Park. Just fantastic. I unfortunately do not have photos of the park to share, just this one of the two of us!

I did a few interesting artsy fartsy things--aside from my normal Shakespeare Theatre and Washington Opera subscriptions. One was "Swampoodle" at the legendary Washington Coliseum. I can't even tell you what this was about, except that it was ridiculous and I wanted out the minute I was in. The second was "Submerge," which was a mobile walking-around-town kind of art event. It was weird, but something to do. What I remember best from that night was the stomach pains I had. Brutal.

I'll continue this. No one wants one long post, including me. It's late, but you know, I'm too impatient to wait to post later. You may never see it!

Bite-sized Baked Brie

These bite sized baked brie bites from Joy the Baker are the cutest things ever, and if someone made them for a party, I KNOW I'd be repeatedly hitting the appetizer platter! (I mean, seriously, they probably should have caution tape around them!) I'm keeping these in mind for future festivities. Plus, just think of the possibilities for other types of similar appetizers. I'm thinking spanikopita on a stick? Goat cheese and roasted red peppers? Oh man...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Very Polish Christmas

Since being on my butt all day in recovery, I have been the internet shopping master. I have always loved shopping online, but this year, I did ALL my shopping online. In addition to the typical sources ( must love me...), I also shopped at some lesser known places. One of those was the Polish Art Center. Located in Hamtramck, Michigan, they sell a variety of authentic Polish crafts, Polish heritage materials and books, and music. I got a cute straw St. Nicholas ornament for my tree (now on my parents' tree).

They also have a wide variety of cute things--like pierogi scrapbook paper! Who knew!

I love finding places like this!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Yesterday was very exciting because my dear brother brought home the family Christmas tree (his, at his new house, has been up awhile). This one is real, and there's no beating that smell. I guess that is one advantage to my dad's and my recovery at home--we get to experience that all day. My mom decorated it, and I kept saying "no, it needs more ornaments." Finally, I let it be because I know she's tired from taking care of two invalids every day.

I think my nephew dog Sammy the Lab Mix also enjoys it, except that we yell at him when he tries to crawl under it to go behind my dad's chair.

Sammy has been my constant companion lately, and I think he's a litttle irritated with me. You know, I take up HIS sofa during the day and tell him not to bark and can't take him outside or for walks. My dad said he thinks he's also thinking I'm trying to take his place because for some reason if I sniff quickly, he runs and hides. "That's my job, Aunt Christine!" I found this out one day when I was trying to figure out where a smell was coming from (I think it was him. Thankfully, he's gotten a bath.). So he either thinks I'm trying to take his place, offended. Either or.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Learned the Hard Way

I finally decided that there is absolutely no excuse for me to not be blogging, given that I am going to be away from work for many, many, many days and have lots of time to kill. You see, I had an unfortunate fall when I was on a work trip in California which has put me out of action for awhile. I wish I had a great story about what happened, like I was running after a purse snatcher and fell, or I was hiking up this steep cliff and fell, but I was walking over a patch of grass between a sidewalk and a parking lot and fell. Focusing on the particulars of my experience is boring, but this has been an educational experience. So, I hope to pass along some of the knowledge to you!

You Can’t Predict (or Control) Everything
When I left my apartment, I was calming my pre-work trip jitters by saying “Christine, it’s only 4 days! Don’t worry about it!” As it turns out, it’s more like 2 months that I’ll be away. I am usually very anxious before traveling and like to have everything clean and orderly, laundry done, dishes washed, and trash removed. Not sure if I did that or not. Not that any of this actually matters in the midst of an emergency, but it just goes to show that you never know what will happen moment to moment in life. All of my plans changed in an instant, with no advance warning. In fact, I recall being angry at myself as I sat on the wet ground waiting for the ambulance, thinking “How could you do this!? And on the last day of the trip!? What about the presentation!?” The truth is—you can’t control everything. Sometimes you need to just surrender to the circumstances. Not “give up,” but realize that sometimes the things life throws at you are there for a reason, and you have to go with the flow.

But Advance Preparation Doesn’t Hurt
When I was hurt on the job, I admit I had no idea what the terms of my health and welfare benefits are at work. I know the day to day healthcare plan costs, but when it comes to disability, leave, worker’s comp, and the like, I was clueless. I thought I was actually pretty well informed, though, more so than I was. I knew I had short term disability, but not what that actually meant. I knew my insurance covered hospitalization, but not what that meant either. It’s a learning curve, but one that is easier to navigate when well. When you are in the midst of the chaos of an accident and subsequent treatment, you aren’t thinking rationally, and the concerns you have are first with getting well, not with paperwork.

I also learned that this is the kind of thing those financial gurus tell you to have a rainy day fund for. It made me feel immeasurably better knowing I could go without a paycheck for awhile and still be OK. That’s not to say I don’t want to get paid sooner rather than later, but when you have a stressful event that takes you away from work, you don’t need to also worry about whether you can pay your bills. Not everyone can sock away money, but for people who can, they should. I should save more.

No Man Is an Island
I remember distinctly as I was sprawled out on the ER bed the moment when the doctor came in and said “Well, you broke your ankle pretty badly,” followed by “You’re likely to have to be out of work for 2 to 3 weeks and can’t live alone.” I was in disbelief. This CAN’T be! I have things to do! Well, an event like this teaches you who and what matters in your life. There are few people in the world who are so indispensible in their jobs and other activities that those things can’t be put on hold. And, no one is truly independent. I consider myself a pretty independent woman, but there are times in life that you need a little help from your friends (or family). I had a lot of help, which was humbling and educational. My brother flew out to bring me to my parents’ house. My parents leapt to action, too, and my mom’s workplace lent her things for me to use, like a walker. I was helped by some good Samaritans, and a slew of wonderful nurses and other medical professionals who treated me gently, helped me with hygiene, and kept me comfortable. Friends helped me with things that needed to be taken care of at home. People at work took over my projects. You get a rare glimpse of who are the rocks of your community and who for all intents and purposes disappear when the going gets tough.

The World Isn’t Made for the Differently-Abled
Until you have lost use of a limb or faculty, it’s not possible to completely understand the challenges faced in a “normal” environment without it. There are obstacles. Aisles are too tight for wheelchairs. Ramps are uneven. And, in general, people are pretty ignorant. Not everyone, obviously, but you’d be amazed. I’ve only been out in a wheelchair once, and people act like you’re in the way. Oh, I’m sorry, am I making you walk a few extra steps with your perfectly good legs? Oh, and the restroom! Once I was actually able to get out of my bed (I’ll spare you the whole “go to the bathroom in the bed” story), I appreciated the handles and seats and design of my hospital room bathroom. I appreciated it even more once I left that secure environment. The airport was fun. Not. I had not yet mastered crutches (still haven’t really), and just getting to the handicapped stall was difficult enough. On my first venture to a restroom, I had my brother wheel me into the “family” bathroom so there was less walking required. Not so lucky on the second. The wheelchair attendant at the Pittsburgh airport wheeled me to the regular restroom while my brother retrieved my bag. I teetered the whole way to the stall, which felt like it was about 10,000 feet away. And when I got home, it was another set of challenges. How do I shower? How do I get into the bathroom? I figured all this out, but it takes a lot of changing up of routines and physical space. It has opened my eyes to the struggles experienced every day by those with physical challenges.

Daytime TV, Fun Every Once in a While, is Actually Quite Bad
That’s self explanatory. J And while we’re at it, most TV is bad.

Pilates is Fantastic
Those attending to me in the hospital were astounded by how readily, even with my foot hanging on by a thread and in pain, I could transfer myself from ground to stretcher to bed to gurney to bed, etc. Pilates! My pilates classes really strengthened my core, allowing me to elevate my legs and upper body and isolate movements. I am trying to continue doing what I can while in bed. After all, Joseph Pilates started his “contrology” exercises to rehabilitate patients in World War II.

I am Lucky
I am fortunate first and foremost to not have done something worse to myself. I’m lucky to have been born with fully functioning limbs. We all focus so much on what we don’t like with our bodies. How about it gets us around every day? I’m also lucky to have a supportive family and wonderful, giving friends. I’m lucky to have healthcare insurance and a job. I’m lucky to have been brought to the hospital where I was treated by a great orthopedic surgeon and great nurses and aides and therapists. I am thankful that there are people like the Marines on the base I was at in California when this all happened who are facing war in my place; while I writhed in pain from the broken ankle, I knew there were comrades of the guys near me who were suffering worse. I’m lucky.

I am sure I’ll come up with other insights to share…as well as hopefully other fun posts. I’m not doing a heck of a lot, but I still hope to have some experiences to share on the blog!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blogger's Lament

If anyone has come here at all in the past several months, I owe you an apology. I have no excuse! Please come back...I promise to be better. It's just that sometimes it's unfulfilling. And, did I ever mention I'm crazy? I go through phases. I'll blame hormones, but that isn't it. I just kind of decide to dedicate myself to one thing one day and another the next. Well, you know, I like writing and don't do enough of it (unless you count work which doesn't count as far as I'm concerned). So, I'm sorry. I will try to have special adventures and write about them just for you. Love, Christine

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot Tamale

The more things change, the more they stay the same. My paper journals are full of entries that start "I know I said I'd write here more often..." Well, enter technology to give me more things that I don't address.  Do you ever find that you ignore the things you actually care about for loads of things you have to do?

Well, I didn't intend to wax philosophically; I intended to talk about food. I recently discovered this dish, which is kind of one of those things you'd expect to see on the back of a Pillsbury box, but it's comforting and filling and fun. It's Tamale Pie.


The first time I made Tamale Pie was in the oven, from a recipe I found in the wonderful cookbook, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever. But, then I bought a Crock Pot, and was possessed with finding a way to make everything in it. As it turns out, this recipe showed me how (results in the photo above--yummy looking, yes?).

I made a few minor changes in my interpretation of the recipe. I skipped the garlic powder because I wasn't sure how garlicky the Frontera Green Chile enchilada sauce would be. I didn't miss it. I also threw in some fresh corn, used Mexican shredded cheese instead of plain cheddar, and used black beans instead of kidney beans.  I also shortened the cooking time to 2 hours on high instead of 5.5 on low. Cooking in the Crock Pot doesn't make this recipe particularly easier, since you still have to brown the beef, but it's great in the summertime when you would like to keep the kitchen as cool as possible.

I have also made this with canned diced tomatoes in the meat mixture. I've also made it without enchilada sauce, putting in taco seasonings instead. Or, how about some diced bell peppers? Or diced chiles either in the meat or in the cornbread?  Or turkey instead of beef? Do whatever you want! The point is a savory meat filling with a nice cornbread crust! You dig?

The cornbread mix I used was corn muffins from Jiffy. It was a bit sweet and cakey, understandably, so I would probably find the one I used last time (which, conveniently, I can't actually remember the name of or where I bought it...). Whatever. It was still delicious, and I didn't have to heat up my house and make my a/c work any harder than it had to on this 95 degree day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Brunch Special: Non Carb Zombie Edition


I love weekend breakfast/brunch. If I had to pick one meal to eat for the rest of my life, it would be breakfast. This is, of course, due to my being a carb addict. So many breakfast foods are carby, sugary goodness. The problem with this (yes, I said problem) is that your blood sugar crashes after eating a heavy pancake breakfast and you're a bump on a log for the rest of the day. Unless you have nothing to do, this is a problem.
Oatmeal pancakes to the rescue! I first discovered this recipe when I tried the South Beach Diet (which works great, but for me, is too difficult to sustain--the carb thing). These pancakes use oatmeal which has a low glycemic index and cottage cheese along with egg whites to create a pancake with high protein and no sugar crash later. This fact would also probably make the recipe a better choice for diabetics.
I found this recipe submitted by The South Beach Diet on I've gotten between 4 and 6 pancakes from this. That's 1 serving, or 2 small servings.

1/4 c cottage cheese (or tofu--I've never tried that. I HAVE used ricotta, which also works nicely.)
1/2 c. old fashioned oats
4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(You can also add cinnamon and/or nutmeg or other spices as desired. The recipe calls for 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg. I've put more, I've left out--it's up to you!)
Couldn't be easier. Heat a pan as in making pancakes. Put all the ingredients into a blender (maximum easiness is a stick bender or Magic Bullet...I'm sure a small chopper/food processor would also work). Blend. Make as in making regular pancakes. Serve.
I eat these with regular maple syrup, because I don't trust sugar free stuff. But, the real South Beach thing of course requires that you don't use sugar. I should also note that I've made these with 3 egg whites--this makes them slightly thicker (see below for pictures of that time). I imagine you could also get creative and do some mix-ins: dark chocolate chip pancakes, blueberry, pecan...whatever you like with regular pancakes. The pancakes don't taste like regular pancakes...but in some ways, I like them MORE. They're very substantial. And I'm not catatonic afterwards.




Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do Not Adjust Your Screen

I have done a little redecorating.  I have been wanting a blog design that is a little more expressive, so I updated my design to one of the new templates that allows for a banner image.  I have been debating whether or not to stick with Typepad. I have a blog with the same name at Blogger, too, just in case (it's blank). Let me know what you think!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hey, That's MY Wine!

As I said in another post, this Christmas, I made wine glass id tags for my wine club, AOC. I had the idea because everyone was constantly wandering around pointing at random glasses and saying "Is that one mine? Is THAT mine?" So, it just made sense. But, like many of my ideas, I kind of had something in my head and no real plan. No matter.

I made sets of charms for a few friends awhile back, so I had an idea of what to do for the thingy that goes around the stem. I did not, however, have a concrete plan of how to personalize. I explored letter charms, letter beads, and metal tags and other tags from Etsy. I didn't get any of those and thought I'd be better off seeing things in person, which brought me to Michaels over Thanksgiving weekend.

As it turned out, Michaels had a crappy selection. I dragged my poor mother around that store to every department, and I know she was getting more than a little frustrated with me. (But she's used to it!) The jewelry department was fine for the earring rings that make up the charm holder. The tag part, I had trouble with. I eventually found something approximating what I wanted in...the wedding aisle! They were on clearance which cinched the deal. The problem was they said "thank you." Oh well, I knew I'd find a way to cover them up.

So, I assembled my tools:
I started by choosing a colored or patterned paper for the "covering of the thank you" part. I did consider covering every one with cork and making them like wine corks, so I bought a roll of cork. But, once I tried one or two, I realized they weren't going to come out exactly as I wanted. I did do a few with it as an alternative, but doing every single one that way wasn't something I wanted. So, guess I'll be repurposing that for another project!

Once I chose the paper (in this case, spaghetti-printed for the cooking-themed one I was making), I used the tags as a template to cut the paper with a craft knife to fit. (Oh yeah, please ignore my weather-beaten dry hands!)
I then applied the paper using Mod Podge, coating both surfaces with a brush.

After applying the paper, I added letters and other embellishments to personalize them. In some, I could fit a whole name; in others, like this one, an initial. As you can see, I stuck a chef's hat sticker and spoon sticker on this for Jason, who is quite the chef and always makes delicious dishes when he hosts along with Lisa.

 This whole thing is then covered with another coating of Mod Podge. Because these would see some abuse, I also covered them with some coatings of varnish.

The tags go on an earring ring. These are sold in huge packs usually at craft stores. I strung a few colored beads on, which serve both decorative and a practical function; they look cute and keep the tag positioned on the ring. The ends of these loops are unfinished when you buy them. To finish, simply curl the non-looped end up so that it will slide into the loop. This can be done with small pliers or your fingers. (Pliers shown here, dry fingers edited out!)
I can't guarantee you won't lose the beads. I'm sure there's a way to prevent this, but my solution is going to be to replace them!  When you're done, you'll have finished products, like this:
PC140738 These would be super cute for wedding shower favors, cocktail party gifts for guests, or as hostess gifts--either alone or as gift tags for a bottle of wine or accompanying wine glasses.

I'd love to hear if you try this or find other fun ways!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Make Your Own Vanilla

I admit. I had no idea 1.) how vanilla extract was made or 2.) that it could be made in one's home.  Then, my wonderful cousin Lauren surprised me and other family members with these:


Aren't they the cutest? And it turns out Lauren was ahead of none other than Ms. Martha! Because I opened Martha Stewart Living this month (Christmas gift!), and this is what I see.


Lauren is so cutting-edge. What really surprised me is how EASY it is. I'm going to shorten this, but basically, you take vanilla beans, scrape out the seeds, and stick the pods in bottles with vodka...and then shake them every day for a month or two. That's it! I'm so going to try this one day once Lauren's runs out. I'm wondering if I can do the same with anise extract!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hangin' Tough

Why do I need to make every title cutesy? I just wanted to share the wine glass tags I made for my wine group, Another Oneophile Club. I realized that during one of our get togethers, people were constantly hunting for their glass, so I made personalized tags for the regulars! I plan on doing a step by step, but here are some of the finished products:

Where possible, I tried to personalize to reflect people's interests and personalities, but for the most part, I just made them pretty. I'm not showing mine because it has my last name (the top of a cork from a wine with my name), and I'm still a wee bit paranoid about the Internet! :)



Monday, January 17, 2011

Cool Yule

I've been told that my fans miss me. Sorry...I just haven't felt like blogging. Hopefully, this will get the juices flowing!

I spent about 10 days back home, and they went really fast. It was a somewhat hazardous holiday. Both my brother and his dog had "paw" injuries--my brother from cutting ham and my brother's dog from having my brother cut his nails. Doesn't he look sad? Notice the bandage.

That's okay, he got LOTS of toys from Santa, including the one he's holding and using as a pillow. I got great stuff from Santa too, including toasty gloves, a great new Scanpan frying pan, and boiled wool slippers. Love them! Check out the velvet "coat" on the Scanpan!

I had my own holiday party the weekend after New Year's--my Twelfth Night Tea. I love entertaining after the holidays. Why? Let me count the ways. 1.) it extends the holiday season; 2.) people aren't as crazed, so they can enjoy the party more; 3.) you get discounts on Christmasy party supplies; 4.) I'm less crazed so I can enjoy the party more!

I don't prepare for weeks before. That would be a sane thing to do, but unfortunately, that would negate the whole purpose of having it after the holidays because I'm too busy in December. No, I prefer to wait until a day or two before and work nonstop.

I had Friday off and so decided to work my magic that day. I had planned my menu a few weeks in advance, tweaking it along the way. I ordered most of the ingredients from Peapod (love it!). All of the stuff was able to be made ahead. Here's the menu:
And the results?
Before guests arrived, I had a quiet moment:
Yup, bar's all set...

Let the guests arrive!


 And Jake wins as the youngest guest in his cute puppy outfit from Christine! :)

When guests left, I gave them a tea bag with a sticker commemmorating the event. Unfortunately, the stickers were illegible. Doh!