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.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Nook - The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking

The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking: 80 low-carb recipes that offer solutions for celiac disease, diabetes, and weight loss by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace:

Earlier tonight, the Bachsters and I picked up subs on our way home from running a few errands.  Since I've been trying to eat low-carb, I didn't get a sub, but had a big plate of broccoli gratin for supper instead (recipe to come soon on Sunday Brunch, if I don't eat it all first, before I can get a picture).  I was doing so well and quite proud of myself, and then I went and ate a bunch of homemade chocolate ice cream after the Bachsters went to bed.  I am trying, but eating low-carb is so hard for me because so many of the foods I love (breads, pastas, anything sweet) are full of carbs.

Enter The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking.  This book is coming to my rescue!  I love pancakes - yep, there's a recipe in here for low-carb pancakes (a couple of different ones, actually).  Pizza....yes, low-carbers can now enjoy pizza.  Cake.....bread.....cookies.....there are low-carb versions of just about every baked good!  And these recipes are good for you in two ways.  First, they cut out the sugar, then they cut out the flour (and use nut and seed flours instead).  This is what really sets this book apart, because most other "healthy baking" cookbooks are either one or the other.

Of course, I could not recommend a cookbook without trying the recipes first!  My favorite recipe from the book is double-cheese focaccia with tomato sauce.  It has a wonderful flavor, and the sauce and cheese make it seem almost like eating pizza - but somehow, even better.  The focaccia was moist, which I didn't think I'd like, but the flavor was so amazing that I wasn't bothered by it.  The outer edges got a bit drier, so next time, I might spread out the dough a little more.  I'm definitely making this again:

Since I loved the focaccia so much, I really wanted to try one of the pizza recipes.  I tried the cheesy herbed pizza crust, which I liked, but not quite as much as the focaccia.  I used garbanzo bean flour, and it gave the pizza a very distinct flavor.  Our 8-year-old tried a little and exclaimed it too spicy; I think it was the garbanzo bean flour she was tasting.  I did love that it looks and feels just like regular pizza (some low-carb pizzas require a fork).  This is also a very good recipe, and great to make if you know you'll be in close proximity to traditional pizza.  It's just about impossible to turn down pizza once you smell it!

I make pancakes for the Bachsters often, and I usually don't allow myself any.  So, I was very happy to see a few pancake recipes.  I tried the blueberry pancakes, and they cooked and fluffed up like regular pancakes.  These were easy to make, and great with sugar-free syrup.  Our 8-year-old tried one and she ate it and said she liked it - so, it passed the test!

The downside to these recipes is that you have to get uncommon (and expensive) flours, and the sweetener I want to use is hard to find and pricy.  You also have to be careful to treat these recipes as treats.  While they are much healthier for you, there is not much nutrition, just like their carb-counterparts.  The recipes do not include nutritional information, which is a glaring omission - just about everyone watching their carb intake wants to see the carb count for the foods they're eating.  Hopefully, they'll include this information on future editions.

The other downside is that not all the recipes are keepers.  I also tried the pumpkin pie with the almond-coconut piecrust, and we didn't even eat it (but part of that could have been my doing, not knowing how much of my sweetener to add - I wasn't using one of their recommended brands on this recipe).  So, it's definitely worth trying it again and following the recipe to a "T."

Overall, there are lots of great recipes (and many tempting photos) using healthier ingredients.  With this book, it's possible to have your low-carb cake and eat it too!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {cream cheese pound cake}

Looking at my photo of cream cheese pound cake, it looks like any old loaf of bread.  But looks can be deceiving, as this is no ordinary loaf.  In fact, it's very un-bread-like.  I think calling it a big sugar cookie (in the form of a loaf cake) is a better description.

And that's exactly what it reminded me of: a sugar cookie, but just a bit softer.  It was sweet and buttery, just like a sugar cookie.  And gone from my counter in no time flat, just like a sugar cookie.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cakes - thank you, Martha!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ohio Historical Museum

A few weeks ago, DH and I took the Bachsters to the Ohio Historical Society Museum here in Columbus.  DH and I had been to the museum a long time ago, way before we had kids, so it was fun for us to go back and enjoy it again (with 3 additional little people).

This museum has a little of everything, which makes it a really kid-friendly experience.  We saw fossils, Civil War flags, taxidermy, Native American artifacts, dolls from the 1800s and a camper from the 1950s, to name just a few of the many things on display.  Here are some shots of our day:

I can't believe that mastodons use to live in the Ohio area.  This one greets visitors as you enter the museum:

We all loved exploring the Lustron home, straight from the 1950s.  DH and I laughed when we saw the phone book (a real phone book!), and the Bachsters especially loved the rotary dial phone and record player (things they have probably never seen before):

Early Columbus transportation:

Early firefighter transportation:

I loved the handmade quilts.  How proud these quilt makers would be if they knew one of their creations was in a museum (!):

There was a little hearth area that was set up not far from the quilt display that the Bachsters just loved.  There was a butter churner and a spinning wheel, and these kept them busy for a long time:

And to top it all off, you exit through a gift shop that sells Ohio-made products, like maple syrup and wine.  I bought an Ohio-shaped cookie cutter (to make sweet reminders of our fun Ohio-y day)!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Nook - reading Harry Potter

My favorite time of the day...........


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {cauliflower gratin}

I just love gratins and casseroles.  They are such comfort foods in the colder months.  There's nothing like a casserole cooking away in the oven, warming up the whole house.  Recently, I've been trying to eat healthier, so I did some searching for a casserole that was vegetable based (vs. potatoes or grains).  I happened to have a bunch of cauliflower in the fridge & no idea what I was going to do with it when I found this recipe.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart (as usual....many thanks, Martha!).  I've made it a couple of times, and both times it was so delicious.  The first time making it, I combined Parmesan cheese with crushed up corn flakes (instead of the called-for bread crumbs) for the topping, since that was all I had on hand.  The second time making it, I wanted to eliminate some carbs, so I only topped it with the cheese.  It's so good, you don't even need a topping, really!

To make the gratin, you start by making a roux with flour and milk, then cook the cauliflower in the pan for a few minutes before mixing in the cheese (and sprinkling on the topping) and then baking it in the oven.  Easy peasy - and good for the body and soul on a cold day.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Nook - The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2

The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs:

Argh!  For some reason, my usual amazon link is still not working.  If I can't figure it out, I'll just go back to pictures of the books.  In the meantime, here's a different amazon link to the book.

Anyway, on to the book.  Authors Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs have created an online recipe site, where new recipes are shared by the community and commented on.  I'm sort of an online recipe comment junkie - I always seek them out.  In fact, nowadays when I come across a new recipe, first thing I'll do is see if I can find it online and see if there are any comments.  Other cooks are so helpful and generous with their tips!

Well, I'll admit I haven't visited the Food52 site, but I thoroughly enjoyed the cookbook.  There are tons of color photos of the dishes and their preparation.  Recipes are organized by season (that just makes so much sense, don't you think?).  Having come by the cookbook in the Fall/Winter, naturally I gravitated toward those chapters.  But there are lots of great recipes here, throughout the book.  I definitely want to try the vegetarian mushroom thyme gravy.  I've already bought all the ingredients for the crispy spice-brined pecans (I just need to figure out a day when I can donate the oven to their slow cooking - 10-12 hours!).  When the weather gets warmer, I'm definitely making the baked ricotta and goat cheese with candied tomatoes.

And, I've already made a couple of recipes.  First, the heavenly oatmeal molasses rolls.  These are so great, especially when eating them warm with butter, just as the authors recommend.  I don't make a lot of homemade bread, but I'm definitely making these again.  Sweet enough to enjoy on their own, but not too sweet - the perfect dinner roll.  I should know, I ate most of them myself (should I admit that?).

The other recipe I tried was the burnt caramel pudding.  Oh, this recipe is a keeper!  I love pudding (and custard) recipes that use minimal ingredients, and forgo cornstarch as a thickener.  This recipe only has 5 ingredients, and is very easy to make.  Just make sure you watch your caramel closely as it cooks (I've learned the hard way to give caramel my full attention).  Everyone in the Bach house loved it, except our oldest DD, who predicted she wouldn't like it, so found another treat instead (while I ate hers, ahem).


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {sweet & spicy almonds}

I love this little recipe for sweet & spicy almonds.  I've made it a bunch and I always end up eating most of it (and this is the reason I don't actually make it very often).  These almonds are perfect for snacking on at parties or game-night or just whenever you want something a little sweet.  Ours are definitely more "sweet" than "spicy" - in fact, I only put a tiny bit of cayenne pepper into the mixture, but you can make them as spicy as you like.

The recipe is from one of the Everyday Food books, but it's also online here.


Friday, January 31, 2014


These are the words our oldest Bachster had in her first ever spelling bee a couple of days ago.  She did awesome in the spelling bee - she finished in the top four (out of 80 + kids in her grade).  We were all cheering for her from the front row, and were so excited she made it so far!

I am such a proud mama!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Nook - Bachsters

Two of the three Bachsters sat down together a few days ago and read through a bunch of new library books.......I just had to share this cute shot in my first "here's a picture instead of a book" Book Nook!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {fudge in a jar}

I've been trying to eat low-carb lately, and it is tough.  All the yummiest foods are carbs!  Well, I can give up bread products without too much fuss, but sweets.....sweets. I'm a big sweet tooth, so it's a challenge for me to give up sweets. 

So, I've been looking around lately for low-carb recipes, and I came across a blog devoted to healthier desserts.  Of course, I just had to try some of them!

The recipe that really caught my attention is chocolate fudge in a jar from the blog Chocolate Covered Katie (here's the link).  It's a very simple recipe: take a jar of almond butter, mix in coconut oil and cocoa, along with a bit of salt and vanilla and Stevia, then stick it in the fridge.  So simple!  I love that it's low-carb, and uses Stevia as the sweetener (I'm a little scared of artificial sweeteners).  But, this recipe comes with a big caveat: it's best only if you are following a low-carb diet.  If you're eating your normal diet, this fudge won't seem very sweet to you.  But if you've been off sugar for a while, this will be a real treat.

I also like that it all mixes up (and stores in the fridge) in its original jar.  And, there's leftover almond butter, so you could easily make a second batch in another jar if you wanted to.  Two jars of low-carb fudge?  Sounds good to me - and my sweet tooth!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snowy Day

Snowy Day...

Chili Day...

Hot Chocolate Day...

Play Day...

Hope you are having a great Saturday!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Nook - Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green:

First of all, my apologies for the amazon link not working.  I'll check back to see if I can fix it (here is a separate amazon link in the meantime)!

I was really on the fence about posting Paper Towns in Book Nook.  I liked the book, but there were definitely things about it that I didn't like.  The characters were somewhat relatable, but I didn't feel a big concern over what happened to them one way or another.  The writing was good, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in the plot.

So, why is the book here then, you may ask?

One reason and one reason only: I found it fascinating to read a book by a writer gaining his stride.  John Green wrote the very successful The Fault in Our Stars (which I really loved - see the Book Nook post here).  You can see Green starting to gain momentum and working out the kinks with Paper Towns.  It's almost like a rough draft for The Fault in Our Stars.  Both books deal with high school age students on the outside of the crowd.  There is a quest to be had in both books.  A specific novel within each novel plays a key role in both (Paper latches on to Leaves of Grass / Song of Myself while Fault obsesses on a fictional novel).  Green pays a great deal of attention to how teenagers speak, and both novels feel like you are in the midst of a group of teens, sometimes in a fun place (a graduation party), sometimes in a depressing place (Cancer group therapy in a church basement).  Both novels show a respectful and seemingly realistic relationship between the protagonist and his/her parents.  In both novels, Green shows a great deal of respect to his young characters, not patronizing or overly-stereotyping them.

So these are the things I took away from the book.  It was so interesting to see Green's earlier work, and compare it with its more polished, more successful sibling.  It shows a writer's progression, which I found fascinating to discover between the lines.

But, as I mentioned, I am on the fence about the book.  Perhaps if I were in the targeted age group, I could relate to some of the scenes and characters more (the party scene had me rolling my eyes).  I had trouble believing our main character's wild night of revenge with the mysterious girl next door, Margo Roth Spiegelman.  Probably my biggest criticism is that there were no consequences for any character's actions.  For instance, when our protagonist, Quentin, and his group of friends hit the road to find Margo, "Q" worries about getting a speeding ticket, since they are in a big hurry.  And they have a trunk full of beer, and they're all underage.  That might make for an interesting predicament for our characters if they were to get pulled over...........but no, don't worry, because that sort of thing doesn't happen in this book.  Worst case scenario, they forget something they wanted to buy at the gas station when they stop for fuel.

So, maybe this is why I wasn't very invested in the characters.  There were no consequences, nothing riveting in the story that happens due to their actions.  Sometimes life is that way, and sometimes it isn't, but I felt a little let down by it all in the book.

John Green has a couple of other novels out, and I might just pick one up, just to see how it compares to Fault.  Even though this novel didn't have me in its clutches like his later work, I gained some understanding as a reader by comparing the two.

Have you found yourself in this situation - comparing an author's earlier novel to his/her later work?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {clementine-vanilla bean loaf cake}

I must be hardwired to bake when it's cold outside.  Around Christmas time, it was snowy, it was chilly, the Bachsters were off school, and I had every single ingredient on hand needed for clementine-vanilla bean loaf cake.  I didn't need asking twice!

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cakes, which was a birthday gift I received in the Fall, and I was itching to make something from it.  I ended up choosing this recipe (as mentioned, since I already had all the ingredients), but also because it sounded really good and the timing was perfect to serve it at our family holiday party (to ensure that I wouldn't personally eat all of it myself).

I did end up serving it at the party, garnished with clementine slices (because it sort of looks like a loaf of bread otherwise).  And it was really good, with a hint of citrus flavor.  In fact, the flavor and texture improved as it aged (and I can attest to this, because this was my breakfast for a few days!).

Hmmmm....I think we have a bunch of clementines in the fridge.........butter, yes.......vanilla beans, yes............


Friday, January 17, 2014

Ruffle scarf

2013 was not my year, knitting-wise.  I was very unproductive, working on a little here and there, but never really finishing anything of substance.  I had some great ideas, had some big plans, bought some new yarn, but in the end, didn't have much to show for it.

So, I'm very thrilled to show you that I did have one FO (Finished Object) for 2013: a ruffle scarf requested by DD.  We spotted this yarn (Starbella Flash) at Joann's sometime in the Fall.  DD begged me to get it and teach her how to knit a scarf with it.  So, we did buy it, but I knew it wouldn't be a good yarn for learning how to knit with, so I plotted to make it for her in secret!

Once I figured out how to actually use the yarn, it was a quick & easy project.  It's like knitting with netting, and it takes some getting used to.  There is an online video from Premier Yarns that helped me out a lot - thank you, online knitting tutorials, what would I do without you!?

The pattern calls for casting on 8 stitches, but some reviewers commented that their scarves were a bit too short.  So, I cast on 6 stitches, to make a longer, narrower scarf (which I figured would work better for little 8-year-old shoulders anyway).  It turned out pretty long - 68 inches - and I think it grows a bit every time she wears it because the yarn is heavy enough to pull it down.  So, I think if I were to make another one, I'd try a cast on of 7 stitches as a compromise!

I'm happy to say that DD loves her scarf.  She wears it just about every day with her jaunty hot-pink hat (just visible in one of the shots).  She's my little fashionista, this one.

By the way, I did teach DD to knit over her Christmas break from school.  We used big size 10 needles and a soft merino wool, and she's knit maybe about 10 rows with it.  Then she set it down and moved on to other things.  Like mother, like daughter, if my 2013 knitting progress has anything to say about it!


If you're on Ravelry, here's the link to my projects page, where you can see this project & all 28 others!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Nook - My Life and Hard Times

I've been doing some thinking about Book Nook and what I want to do with it this year (as well as thinking about some of the books I'd like to read this year - hello Wuthering Heights).  And I think I'm going to make a tiny change to Book Nook.  See, when I started posting about books (with this post) my intention was to only write about books that I love.  And I've stayed true to that - every book on Book Nook has been a book that I've enjoyed.  But some books have been last minute what-am-I-going-to-write-about-today kinds of books.  So going forward, I'll only post a Book Nook post if there's a book that I'm really excited to tell you about, one that I've just put down & have to spread the news about.  You know that kind of book!

But I started thinking it's not fair for me to have Book Nook on Mondays & then not post anything that day.  So, if I have no book to share that week, I'll post a lovely picture related in some way to books or reading.  I'm actually really excited about this photography challenge I've given myself!

Anyway, Book Nook will continue to be here on Mondays.  If there's no fabulous book that week, I'll post a fabulous picture instead!  And, as always, if you have a great book you've been reading, please share.  We'd all love to hear about it (and then promptly reserve it at our local library)!

So, on to this week's Book Nook: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber:

This is in no way intended to be a book about architecture or geography.  James Thurber, celebrated humorist, writes about his youth in Columbus, Ohio and some of the crazy situations he and his family found themselves.  However, for me, the book was all about the house.  In October, I had the chance to do some photos at the Thurber House for Country Living Magazine (check out this link for the magazine and to see my shot of the Thurber House on the cover!).  The house has loads of character, and walking through the rooms, knowing that Thurber and his family once lived here, seeing the pictures that adorn the walls of them - well, the book and the house seem to go hand in hand.  Having visited the house before I read the book, I was able to visualize the setting with great detail as I enjoyed the stories.  Reading the book enhances the experience of visiting the house, and vice versa.

By the way, here's another shot of the Thurber House that I really like (you can tell it was Fall when this was taken!):

For me, it was also an enjoyable book about geography & Columbus history.  Thurber writes about areas in Columbus that I know - streets, suburbs, landmarks.  It's fascinating to think about life in Columbus at the time of some of these tales, 100 years ago.  In the chapter entitled The Day the Dam Broke, Thurber's Aunt was in a movie theatre on High Street (in 1913), where there was a piano playing in the pit.

There are funny stories about the old family car, the night a ghost in the house caused havoc and Thurber's days at OSU.  I laughed throughout the stories, which got the Bachsters' attention, and they said they wanted to read the stories, too.

Which is totally fine by me, but we're going to go see the house first!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Brunch - {crème brûlée}

Crème brûlée on New Year's Day.....

So goes my very goofy (and very short) poem about crème brûlée.  I make it every New Year's Day, not for the Bach-tradition of it, not for the wonderful deliciousness of it.  No, I make it simply because it rhymes.  I'm a little quirky that way.

Perhaps a food that inspires poetry should be put in its own category: nourishment and muse.  Certainly, crème brûlée is perfection: caramelized sugar acting as a barrier to the rich & creamy custard below.  We're all divided on using granulated sugar (which is traditional) vs. brown sugar on top, so everyone in the Bach house gets their choice.  I also add a bit of vanilla bean to the recipe I use, which is from The Best Recipe.  It's so easy & turns out great every single New Year's Day (I mean, every single time)!

Maybe we shouldn't only stick to tradition.  There's no reason crème brûlée can't be enjoyed on a day other than New Year's.  Crème brûlée on SaturdayCrème brûlée in the month of May.  Or, how about crème brûlée everyday?

I could easily do that last one!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Visiting Colony Cats

Last month, I had the opportunity to photograph the cats at Colony Cats for their pet-finder feature on their website.  I was so excited to see all the kitties, especially Panther (here's my last post about her).  It ended up being a crazy morning - at the last minute, the Bachsters had to come with me, and we had to drive across town on a very snowy morning.  Colony Cats was short a few cleaning volunteers that day, so things were also hectic for them.  But, it all turned out well, even better than expected.

First, the Bachsters loved spending time with all the cats.  They all sat on the floor and were bombarded by cats lining up to sit in their laps.  When one cat got off a lap, another cat got right on.  And sometimes, a second cat tried to squeeze on a lap!  There were cats everywhere, and they were so happy to be getting snuggles and laps......

I love the cat-tail-photobomb in this shot:

And, we did see Panther!  I think she recognized us, because she actually jumped on my back as I was bending down to take a shot of another cat.  We all pet her and gave her lots of love, and then she walked off to go take a nap.  Even though we couldn't confirm it was her because it was too hard to see the name on her collar, we knew it was her.  A little lovey, a little aloof.......yep, that's the Panther we know and love.

I can't believe I missed getting a picture of her though! (a very good reason to go back and visit her again, yes?).  However, I did get lots of pics of the many, many cats that reside there.  Here are a few of my favorites:

This cat's name is Smitty, I think.  DD and Little Dude both spent lots of time snuggling with him:

There were a lot of black cats there - I especially like this shot of this Panther-look-alike:

This cat reminds me of my parents' long-gone cat, Luigi:

After about an hour or so, DD's eyes started getting red and watery.  Even though none of us has cat allergies, being in such a small space with so many cats started to have its effect on her.  Before we left, we visited the retail shop next door to take a few pictures of the kittens there.  Can I tell you how difficult it is to take a good picture of a kitten?  They were non-stop!  Thankfully, this little one held still long enough for me to get a shot:

If you are in the Central Ohio area and love cats, do stop by Colony Cats.  It's so visiting the cats, and they really love all the attention.  I'm a little worried that next time we visit, I might be too tempted to adopt Panther!


Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy New Year to you!

I'm afraid I'm off to a bad start with my 2014 post until the 6th, no Sunday Brunch yesterday, no Book Nook for apologies!  Sunday Brunch will be back next Sunday, and hopefully, there will be another post before then.

In the meantime, I've been giving a lot of thought to my New Year's Resolutions.  There are soooo many things I want to work on.  I want to add certain things to my days and take away other things.  It's hard for me to focus on just one resolution (although narrowing it down to one would probably give me better results).  So as the new year kicked in, I sat down and thought about what I'd like to work on.  Perhaps if I share my resolutions here, I'll feel a little more inclined to keep them?

Ever notice how resolutions can be a bit, well, revealing?  Tell everyone that you want to start exercising and you might come off as lazy.  Tell everyone that you want to cut back on your shoe obsession, and you might be seen as Imelda Marcos-ish.  So, it feels a bit like opening up, to admit the things you do (or don't do) that you want to change about yourself.

But that's what blogs are for, right - to get the conversation going!  So, here are my 2014 resolutions:

-Eat low carb - ditch the sugar.  This one's going to be really tough, but it's so important.  It's 6 days in, and so far so good, so that's something, right?!

-Exercise - yoga/walking.  This goes hand in hand with eating right.  I've got to make it happen!

-Do more nature photography.  I really miss nature photography.  It's one of the reasons I started getting into photography.  I'm going to try to get out more, hopefully with the family coming along, to wander the trails and parks in Central Ohio.  I promise to share my pics with you!

-Try to eliminate/reduce all the errands & running around.  When the Bachsters were little, it was a real treat to run errands by myself.  I still have that same mentality now that they're older, because I do all my running around when they're at school.  But this is prime -getting-stuff-done-time that I feel I've been wasting.  So, I'm going to scale back all the little errands - maybe combine them all in one big errand-day, or do more errands with the Bachsters in tow, so that I can get things done during school time.

-No more lottery tickets.  I know, I know.  The lottery!  Who ever wins that?!  While I don't buy a lot of tickets, I do buy some every now & then.  It's time to stop dreaming and start focusing on the attainable.

-Stop puttering on the computer.  This is another big time waster for me.  I can search around and putter from site to site online for hours.  And be perfectly happy.......yet get nothing done.  I realize that I do it as a place/way to relax when I'm feeling tired.  I'm going to head to my comfy chair instead, to knit or read (and get something accomplished while I take it easy).

-Be more frugal.  I have everything I could possible want or need.  I need to keep reminding myself of that, and take myself out of the consumer-circus.

-Show/tell my family how much I love them - all the time.  Don't get me wrong - I do this.  But I could certainly do it more.  Being an introvert, I tend to dwell in my thoughts and maybe never get those thoughts out there.

-Practice better handwriting.  As you can tell from the's atrocious!

What are your 2014 New Year's Resolutions?