Monday, March 17, 2014

Finished Object(s)

A while ago, I started making a t-shirt yarn rug.  I posted about it here - all the way back in Fall of 2012 (!).  So I guess I've been working on this project for a little longer than I thought!

I keep asking myself why it took so long to finish this project (called a "Finished Object" in knitter's speak).  I think it was mostly because I was using size 15 needles, and it was really tough to knit.  Which ended up working out great, because it made the rug very nice and firm.  But knitting it was not fun.

I love easy garter stitch projects that you can just pick up and resume whenever you feel like it.  The problem with the rug was that I left it sitting more than I was knitting!  When it finally got really big and was a bit of an eyesore on my ottoman, I finally worked up the energy to finish it once and for all - 16 months after I first wrote about it!

I'm actually really please with how it turned out.  I'm not sure how many t-shirts I ended up using, but the project made a big dent in our t-shirt stash.  And I love seeing the little bits of the writing on the shirts - it gives the rug character.  It's now residing on our bathroom floor (where it continues to just sit - it's really good at that, as it's had so much practice!).

Here are a few pics:

This post happens to my 500th post.  When I saw that I was approaching that big number, the first thought that went through my mind was that would be a good place to stop my blog.  This idea must have been hiding in my thoughts somewhere, but it didn't come to surface until I saw the 500th post was getting closer.

I've really enjoyed sharing our days with you on this little hodgepodge blog.  Looking back on it, it's a nice record of things that I normally wouldn't have thought to make note of - the books we enjoyed, everyday family moments, the meals we shared.  But it feels like it's time to move on to other adventures, and the timing just feels right.

I would also like to thank you.......thank you for visiting my blog, for your thoughts and comments.  I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have!  If you'd like to stay in touch, for those on ravelry, you can find me here.  If you are interested in seeing my work with Country Living Magazine, here is the link.

Take care, dear friends!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Nook - It Starts with Food

It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and change your life in unexpected ways by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig:

(Here's the link)

What an amazing book with an amazingly simple idea: ditch all the junk in your diet and just eat meat, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats.  That's it.

Now, stop right there, you might think.  Don't you need dairy to survive?  And how about grains?  Chocolate?!  Our authors, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, do a great job of telling us all the "science-y" information about why sugar, alcohol, seed oils, grains, legumes and dairy all wreak unseen havoc on our bodies. The authors set out four Good Food standards, explaining that "the food we eat should promote a healthy psychological response; promote a healthy hormonal response; support a healthy gut; support immune function and minimize inflammation."  And they break down each of these bad-guy foods and tell us how they damage the body.  Then, in chapters on meat (and seafood & eggs), veggies & fruit and healthy fats, the authors show us the opposite: how these foods contribute to our health.  It all comes down to this: "the food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy.  Those are your options."

The final part of the book explains what the Whole30 is and all the rules - what you can and cannot eat.  The authors give lots of tough love while making their point - any excuse you might have is shot down here.  The program is simple: eat whole foods (meat, veggies, fruit & healthy fats) for 30 days and see how you feel.  You'll probably lose some weight, maybe your skin looks better, maybe some of your health ailments are gone.  All thanks to eliminating bad stuff from your diet for a short time.

After your 30 days, you can slowly reintroduce some of these off-the-list foods back in, and observe your body's reaction to them.  Then it's up to you to decide your dietary future.  The authors have faith that you'll want to continue to eat healthy, and also understand that sometimes, one little bite of something might morph into old habits.  That's really what the Whole30 is out to accomplish - changing your old, unhealthy habits.  So, instead of grabbing a smoothie and a muffin for breakfast, you'll make a veggie omelet instead.  And, also getting in the habit of eating 3 meals a day, and making sure to sit down and enjoy those meals.  It's not only about limiting your diet to the healthiest foods available, but also changing the way you think about food. 

I started my Whole30 on March 1st (but then realized a few days into it that the vegetable broth I had used in a chicken dish contained sugar.  Sugar!  In vegetable broth!  I never thought to look.  So, technically, my start date is the 4th).  Anyway, I feel great, and it's only been a few days.  I can tell I've lost a little weight, I am not hungry at all between meals, my cravings are slowly going away, and some things that I never realized were food-related are improving (for example, I'm not inclined to be lazy in front of the computer anymore.  Now, I'm always on my feet, moving and doing!).  And, my sleep schedule is back on track (I would have never made the connection of sleep patterns and healthy diet) - just like our authors promised, I wake up every morning before the alarm goes off.

I've read a lot of books on healthy eating, and I've got to say, this one really resonated with me the most.  Just 30 days to start a healthy new life....count me in!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {sugarleaf cheesecake}

I've just started a rather strict diet (or dietary boot camp, as I'm referring to it).  It's going really well, by the way, and I've been eating tons of whole foods and feeling very healthy!  But, before I embarked on the "boot camp," I wanted to make myself a little treat to say goodbye to my sugar addiction.  Since I was already trying to eat healthier anyway, I decided to try the cheesecake recipe on the back of my bag of SugarLeaf sweetener.  If you're going to have cheesecake, why not a healthier version, yes?

This cheesecake turned out great.  It was a little denser than the excellent traditional recipe I usually use (from The Best Recipe).  But it had 2/3 less calories and carbs and you couldn't even tell.  I substituted the graham cracker crumb crust for a nut-based crust from Wheat Belly, which was also really good.

I love cheesecakes that have that extra sour-cream topping, as this one has.  DH and the Bachsters all really loved it too (except for our oldest DD, she says she doesn't like cheesecake.  Where in the world did she get those non-cheesecake genes?).

The hardest part about this cheesecake was actually photographing it - it was a couple of days after my "boot camp" started, so I couldn't have a bite.  It was torture!


Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Nook - weekend of reading

There is nothing like curling up and losing yourself in a good story.  DH rarely does this, however - he's more of a magazine/internet/news reader than novels.  But over the weekend, he picked up one of DD's books, sat on the couch, and pretty much stayed there for a couple of days, reading.  The Bachsters were so excited - they all took turns sitting beside him, reading their own books.  I really wanted to take a picture of this, but decided against interrupting this quiet time.  So, here's a shot of the book itself:

Have you dropped everything to read a good book lately?  If so, what was the book?


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {oatmeal chocolate chip cookies}

Can I tell you how great these cookies are?  Can I share with you the best cookie recipe ever?  No seriously......I just started a pretty strict "diet" (which I'll tell you all about soon), so if I can't eat cookies, at least I can wax poetic about them, right?

Whenever I make cookies, this is the recipe I make.  I'm not even sure why, really.  Probably because they take fewer amounts of ingredients than other chocolate chip recipes.  Only 1 stick of butter, only 1 egg, only 6 ounces of chocolate chips.  So, I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make them.  And I think they're perfect because they're also a tiny bit salty, so you get a salty/sweet thing happening that is hard to resist (especially when on a strict "diet.").

Just out of curiosity, I asked our oldest DD what she thought of the cookies - her response: "they're really good."  Then, I asked her little brother, sitting right by her: "the same thing," he said.  Something tells me that if I had I big pile of these cookies sitting on a platter and asked them the same question, the response would definitely be a bit more excited.  Possibly, they're thinking back to the last time we made them - we substituted marshmallows for the oatmeal.  Bad idea, there.

The recipe (sans marshmallows) is from Mad Hungry.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Nook - Empty Mansions

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.:

Well, my Amazon link still isn't working (dang and blast! as Roald Dahl characters would exclaim), so I took a quick picture of the book so you can see it.  (Here's a different amazon link to the book.) That big mansion in the heart of wealthy New York City that graces the cover?  It was torn down because it was so expensive, no one could afford to maintain it after its owner died.  So, right from the cover, we can see the kind of wealth this family had.

The family is the Clark family.  The story starts with W.A. Clark, who was born in a four room log cabin in 1839 in Pennsylvania.  W.A.'s family moved out west to Iowa, where he strove "to better my condition."  He taught school, went to university, became a gold miner, then became a merchant to the miners, then a mail courier through Indian territory, then a grocer and banker, then a copper industrialist, railroad baron and U.S. Senator.

As I was finishing the first several chapters of the book, all about W.A., I was describing them to DH and telling him a bit about W.A.'s daughter, Huguette.  DH's response was: it sounds like his story is going to be much more interesting than hers.   I've given this comment a lot of thought, and come to the conclusion that yes, W.A. and Huguette both took different paths, but they are both intriguing tales in their own right.  W.A. was a force of nature, out in the world, seizing every possible opportunity, always making his life and his experiences bigger and better.

His daughter, Huguette, on the other hand, was rather timid.  She had a small circle of people she knew (some friends, some employees.  She was devoted to her family, but her family was very small in number and she outlived them all by several decades).  She would often stay out of sight at social occasions that her mother held, and if she was participating, she usually kept to herself and sat with a doll on her lap.  Her interests were painting (her weekly lessons with Tade Styka were one of the only things to lure her out of her Fifth Avenue apartment); she loved Japanese building replicas and spent time coordinating their construction; and she loved dolls.  She was an avid art collector, investing in Monet and Renoir and Degas.

But the real story of the book is the massive wealth.  When W.A. passed away, his vast fortune was split between his children from his first marriage and Huguette, his only living child from his second marriage.  When she died (in 2011, at the age of 104), her estate was worth $308 million.  What would a quiet, reclusive person do with all that money?

In addition to her artistic hobbies, she also paid for the upkeep of 3 estates, all of which remained empty for at least 20 years.  The tax bill on her Connecticut estate alone reached $161,000 per year.  She purchased the estate in 1951, and never lived in it.  Her mother's beloved Bellosguardo estate in Santa Barbara, was kept up as well, with gardeners and house servants and a chauffeur and estate manager.  Huguette had not set foot in the mansion since the 1950s.

The last 20 years of her life, Huguette lived in a hospital, and she spent a great deal of her money on her closest caregivers: her day nurse, who was given $30 million, and her assistant, who made close to $200,00 a year organizing Huguette's dolls and running errands for her (not to mention she paid for his children's private education and gave him lavish monetary gifts, such as $60,000 for Christmas).  Her doctors, realizing they had an elderly patient with vast wealth, would often ask Huguette for donations to the hospital.  In fact, they asked her for $125 million to save the hospital from being purchased by a developer.  Huguette declined, and when the hospital closed, she moved to a different hospital.

It's interesting to think that perhaps these people close to her took advantage of her, but our authors make it clear that Huguette was of sound mind up to her death.  It's hard to believe, but she preferred to live at the hospital in her last years instead of her $54 million Fifth Avenue apartments.  She preferred to give money to those few trusted people close to her as opposed to other charities.  She preferred to keep private, only allowing a few people to get close to her.  It's hard to imagine a life of such wealth, and what choices you might make if you had that wealth.  Huguette made the choices that were right for her, and she lived a contented life.  It will be interesting to see how the remainder of her wealth will now be divided up (there is a legal battle between W.A.'s descendants and the recipients in Huguette's will).  It all certainly makes for an interesting story.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {breakfast pizza}

DH and I got married in 1998, and this Pfaltzgraff pattern has been a daily part of our lives ever since.  The funny thing is, I never think to use it in my food photos.  So seeing it in the picture below makes me laugh, because those plates are such a well-worn, commonplace thing around here. 

Sometimes, the food photographer has no choice but to grab the nearest plate and start shooting.  Because, this breakfast pizza (from was going fast.  I've made breakfast pizza before, but it's been a long time, so I didn't anticipate the reaction from everyone: we love this, give us more

In fact, we really didn't even need plates: eating it straight off the pan would have suited everyone just fine!  But I think all our friends and family who gifted us with our dishes would like to know their gift is going to good use, so plates it was, albeit briefly.