Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perfect Start to Fall Foods

Last Monday, I had to be in the city to do an inspection. One of the perks of having to be in the city all day is the ability to take a lunch on the client. Although some would head to some place with dollar signs in their eyes, I prefer to eat low on the monetary chart to be cost effective for the client.

On my way down, I thought about the places I'd be able to eat at and what I wanted. A salad. That's what I wanted. Something with greens and flavor. When lunch time came, I headed over to Michigan Avenue and started walking. I didn't have to walk very far, thankfully, before I reached Cosi and a grand advertisement for an autumn salad.

Doesn't this look lovely? It's called Autumn Apple Chicken Salad and it was so good. Mixed greens and grilled chicken are combined with roasted apples, which sounds weird but which gave the apples a unique flavor, dried cranberries, feta cheese and candied pistachios. The dressing is a carmel apple vinaigrette. Usually, I find something in salads that I don't particularly care for but not in this one. It was delightful and exactly what I had a craving for.

I'm not sure what was best, the salad or being able to eat lunch outside on Michigan Avenue on the first working day of fall.

Beverage:  Cranberry Raspberry Juice


I'm Lost

You loyal readers know I play an online game called World of Warcraft. It is the gold standard for online multi-player games. On Tuesday, they released another version of the game. It's called an "expansion" because it gives players another continent to experience.

It's called "Mists of Pandaria". When it was announced, two years ago, we long-time player thought it was something of a grand joke. Blizzard, the developers of WOW, are known for pulling practical jokes on April 1st. Several years ago, one of the jokes was to turn everyone into pandas for a day. It was pretty funny. Some players seized on that and asked for pandas to be a playable race, and asked, and asked. The rest of us, well, pandas, yeah right. But here we are, pandas as a playable race. I have not created a panda yet. I'll let you know how that goes when I get there.

Right now, I'm immersed in the play that is an expansion with a new continent. The last expansion, which was all about the world that we knew being partially destroyed by a dragon, was mildly interesting but did not have lasting staying power. I love this game. I will play it until they physically shut it down, but I have to admit to not finding the dragon expansion that much fun at the end. I'm half-way through leveling my main character and I can see where I have so much to do and see in this new expansion.

One thing that has struck me about this is the graphics, the visuals of the game. Look at this image.

I was worried about a new expansion and my ancient Mac. Would it be as spectacular as if I had a brand new machine. Isn't that stunning? I love the colors of the blossoms on the trees. Below is, right now, my favorite spot in this game. It's a game, but, when I discovered this place, I knew it would be a place I'll return to when the game or people in it get me stressed beyond what they should. 

It's just obvious they put a lot of time into the look and feel of this game. 

One of the things they have tapped into in this expansion is the concept of taking your time to just be. It's kind of ironic that a game you play to lose yourself has panda people telling you to "slow down". Zen concepts feature a lot in this expansion. Yes, we are tasked with killing the bad guys but we are strongly encouraged to take our time and look around. There is so much to see. 

In cleaning my home office last week, I stumbled across these two books. 

The book on the left details the original game. The book on the right details the first expansion of the game. There was a wonder in the game at first and then with the first expansion. Places to go, things to see. You could lose yourself in the content. This past dragon-based expansion lost that wonder. This new expansion retrieves that and expands on it. 

If you need me, I'll be lost in the Mists of Pandaria. 

Beverage:  Cranberry Raspberry Juice


Target Marketing Gone Wrong

Companies with goods and services generally pay a lot of money to target market their products. It's no good to market Iowa Hawkeyes merchandise to a fan of Minnesota and vice versa. So the following received in my mailbox this week struck me as hilariously funny.

This is target marketing gone quite wrong. First of all, I don't live in Virginia, not that I couldn't have a license to be a CPA in Virginia. But, that leads to the big thing. MATH! AAAHHHHH! The idea that I would ever be a CPA anywhere should reduce those who know me to fits of howling laughter.

I was tempted to send this back and say, " might want to get your money back from the company you paid to send these out" but I decided against it. Everyone should have a good strong belly laugh once per day. I got mine and now you have yours.

Beverage:  Cranberry Raspberry Juice


Friday, September 28, 2012

Yet Another Truth of Living With Cats

I found this while cleaning over the weekend. Pilchard does this to me, a lot, particularly at night. They just know.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Fall Hydrangea

The hydrangea off the deck has turned fall colors. For some reason, I noticed it more this year. Maybe it's because I have to take my time climbing the deck stairs so I have time to look at it.

The leaves will start to turn now and fall off so all I'm left with in November are the branches. I really like the rusty red of the flowers. I don't remember them being this color last year, but, again, I might not have noticed.

I know blossom color on a hydrangea is controlled by the ph of the soil. I believe this one was blue when we bought it and for a couple of years after. Its real color is pink and there is one pink blossom still on the plant.

This is a bright smile when I leave the house and come home from work. It took some damage in March when it budded during our unseasonable warmth, but it recovered very nicely and is currently covered in the rusty red blossoms.

My dad's father had hydrangea bushes on his property that were 15-20 feet tall and covered with white blossoms the size of softballs. My cousins and I would yank them off the bush and throw them at each other, a snowball fight in July, if you will. They smelled so intoxicating, too. Some "grown up" would come outside and yell at us for "ruining" the plant but grandpa would follow with, "I don't care. Keep playing." I look at my small, in comparison, hydrangea and wonder if I can get it to produce blooms of that size. There's something joyous about being hit in the face with a softball size knot of flowers.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Didn't I Just Do This?

I took a couple days off in the middle of this week. That was incredible foresight on my part as I was not well on Tuesday and would have had to call off. I was better by early afternoon and so decided to start cleaning up the kitchen again. I have a hankering for chocolate baked goods although I realized, when I made whole wheat pancakes Tuesday morning, that I am woefully low on flour. But in order to messy up the kitchen I have to clean it first. I organized the dishes and prepared to fill the sink with hot, soapy water and found this.

I swear. Did I just toss one of these outside not two weeks ago? Maybe I just drowned it because it had spun a web between the drainer and the sink wall. This was done overnight, just, boom, there it was because I know it wasn't there Monday evening.

Yes, it's fall. The spiders are starting to come inside. I just have to chuckle and shake my head. Just what did she think she'd catch in this? I took it outside and banged it on the deck so she'd fall out and scurry away. I'm going to have to watch it now, however. It seems like it's several weeks early for them to be coming inside.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Still Hanging On

That's kind of how I'm feeling right now. I'm still hanging on. I'll blog on that this weekend. Right now, let's have a real post.

As I was going through the photos of the Civil War trip, I ran across a couple that struck me.

I believe this was at the top of the observation tower at the southeast side of Gettysburg. From here, you can look north, east and west over most of the battlefield. It's a rather tall tower and it's very open. As you know, I'm afraid of heights so I stood at the bottom of this looking up and contemplating whether my Civil War experience would be diminished if I didn't climb the tower. The steps were rather wide and there were many more people here than we would experience at any other battlefield on the trip. I decided that I would always kick myself for not climbing so up I went. I had to stop at least twice, that I remember, force the fear down, and continue on. "Look where you're going, not to the side, up or down," I remember telling myself that. This was my Uncle Moe's advice when paralyzing fear gripped me as we walked to the open 2nd floor of the Iowa capitol building in Des Moines. It doesn't always help but it can get me through some of the height issues. I had her photograph me at the top to prove, mostly to myself, that I did get to the top.

This next one was taken inside our hotel room at Gettysburg. My daughter has often made fun of my penchant for documenting the hotel where we stayed. I'm not exactly sure why I do it other than I take photos for documentary purposes. She's the artistic one. Sometimes, mine come out artistic but most of the time, it's a record of what I saw and where I was.

A couple of things struck me in looking at these photos. First of all, I still have that Charleston tee shirt and it still fits. I'm not the same size as I was in that photo. I'd like to say smaller but no. I also don't die my hair dark brown anymore. I've given that up. But the shirt was big back then and it's just the right size now. It's still in very good condition too, witness to my having probably more tee shirts than I really need. 

The next thing is in the bottom photo. See that lime green container on the bed? That's a lunch bag and I still have it and still use it. I drop an cold pack in the bottom and it does a great job of keeping my lunch cold. I have a bigger one that I use if I want to bring a plate with me. The green one doesn't hold a plate very well. It will be adequate if I tip the plate at an angle but that's often not feasible based on the containers of food I'm bringing. 

I look at other items in the photos. The visor, the shorts and tennis shoes are long gone. I don't know about the socks. Carole's sweat pants and top and the backpack are, I think, gone too, although she could have them and I wouldn't notice. It's just interesting to me what stands the test of time, what we hang on to, and what is gone. I look at further photos in this group and there's a Hawaiian shirt that I still have. Does Carole have that red shirt or is that gone? We are such a consumer society. So much landfill space is taken up with tee shirts and shorts that don't fit or are out of style now. It's one thing if they are falling apart. It's another to just get rid of them because they are last year's style. 

I'll wear the shirt and use the lunch box until they actually fall apart. They have made it at least 11 years on. Here's to another 11 years. 

Beverage:  Water


Saturday, September 22, 2012

150 Years

On Monday, we, as a country, passed a milestone. I'm willing to bet not a lot of you noticed it. It was in the news but buried way down after all the coverage of this soggy mess we call the race for the presidency.

It was a sunny day, 150 years ago last Monday that the Union and Confederate armies met outside a place called Sharpsburg, Maryland. You might know it as Antietam. During this one-day battle, 23,000 men were either killed or wounded, the bloodiest day in U.S. history. Ironically, the 17th of September is also Constitution Day. The Civil War threatened to shake that constitution apart. The men who fought, lived and died here probably didn't know what significance the date was, and perhaps, at the time, very few others did.

In June of 2001, after Carole graduated from Wheaton North high school, the two of us rented a car and took a tour of various Civil War battlefields. Our first stop was Gettysburg. Our second stop was Antietam.

I remember the battlefield as being hard to get to, not like Gettysburg at all. I remember driving around curving roads and past the memorial cemetery, into a part of Sharpsburg which seemed to look, except for a highway, much like it must have looked in 1862.

I don't remember the visitor center. I remember the asphalt road that took you into the battlefields, to the locations, such as Dunker Church, above. The road was one-way, the better to preserve the area. I don't remember going into the church, but I'm sure we must have.

The drive circles through the park, which was, at the time we were there, two separate areas, joined by a thin strip of land.

This view looks back at the park buildings and the New York Monument.

There are many places to get out and look. Probably the biggest "attraction" if you will, is the sunken road or "bloody lane", as it came to be known. The Union attacked the Confederate, charging out of a cornfield and straight at the road. As this was June, the corn, which the park service dutifully plants in the same field every year, was only knee high. On that September day, it was about a month off harvest so it was over a head in height.

The Union attack came from the right. (The lane is not north south. It's on a diagonal from SE to NW.) This was, at the time of the battle, a two wheel rutted track used mainly by farmers. But it was sunken enough that men charging from the right would not be able to see how many were hunkered down in the road just waiting.

There is a brick observation tower at the south end of the road. It wasn't handicap accessible when we were there and it's about 3 stories tall. I remember climbing the inside, the metal stairs. It was warm inside the tower, but, when you got to the top, the view was worth the climb.

It's difficult, for me, to imagine the mindset of the soldier, either lying in wait in the lane or preparing to charge through head-high corn towards this little piece of ground. The Union soldiers burst through the corn. The Confederate men waited until they were within 4 feet, then stood up and fired. Whole squads were obliterated in minutes. In 4 hours of fighting, 5,000 men died here, just here. There were so many casualties in the road that, at the end of the battle, it was said you could walk from the tower to those trees in the distance without ever touching ground.

It's sobering to walk the road now. When we visited, there weren't many people at the battlefield. I would imagine September is the busy month and, over the weekend past, a reenactment of the battle was held over three days. Although it was afternoon when we got here, we had the chance to take our time, to walk about, to just be in the places where people fought and died.

We ended the tour at Burnside Bridge. In reading and listening to the stories about the battle, I could not remember visiting the bridge. We had to; no tour would be complete without stopping there; but as much as I remember looking out over the battlefield from the tower, passing by Dunker church and pausing amongst the trees where Lee's camp was, I don't remember the bridge. In looking through our photos, here it is.

General Ambrose Burnside and his men spent all afternoon trying to go from the point the photo is taken, across the bridge and up the far hillside. The Georgia militia held them off until Burnside was reinforced and sheer numbers overwhelmed them. It is said the creek was red with blood. The bridge was named for Burnside's attack. We walked across it, hearing only the sound of Antietam Creek below us. It's a lovely bridge. 

The battle was, essentially, a stalemate. No ground was gained or lost. Lee retreated and General George McClelland chose not to purse him. That decision resulted in one of Lincoln's best quotes, written in a letter to McClelland. "My dear General McClelland, If you are not using the army, I should like to borrow it for a short while. Yours respectfully, A. Lincoln." But McClelland's inaction here was the final straw which resulted in his being fired by Lincoln. 

Alexander Gardner, one of Matthew Brady's employees, came to the battlefield two days after the fighting. His images are the ones we recall, the bodies in front of Dunker Church and still lying in the sunken road. It took four days to find and bury all the bodies, four days. 

I liked Antietam better than Gettysburg. There are so many monuments to divisions, regiments, battalions and points of battle at Gettysburg that it can be hard to imagine what the men experienced. Antietam has its monuments, such as the one above, but they aren't all over. It's a beautiful place and beautifully preserved.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We started Sunday in repose.

But then mom started taking things outside. That made us curious as to what she was up to. 

Once she got settled, she left the back door open so we could come outside. There are a lot of things to smell. 

We can't agree to be outside together so when one of us is outside, the other is inside. Then we switch places. 

Eventually, one of us sits down in the chair and maybe stays around for awhile.

These days are great for sitting on the deck. We don't even mind getting 'yelled at' by the chickadees.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monorail Cat

I know. I know. As long as I stay on the deck, she'll let me be outside.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest Tea


New Project

I have started a new project. After finishing the cat banner, I couldn't seem to thrust myself into anything else. There's some personal stuff going on and it sort of interferes with the flow of motivation, kind of like, to use a current analogy, the defense stops or impedes the offense going down the football field. Sometimes things break through but there's been a lot of halting and just sitting in the recliner with a cat next to me.

Last weekend was the. last. weekend. of the summer of 2012. I cleaned on Saturday. There's an old joke about sweeping under the bed. "Ashes to ashes, the Bible says. If that's true, someone is either coming or going under my bed." The sounds of summer fading away in the warm afternoon made me determined to be out there on Sunday. What do I take with me?

It's International Book Week so a book wouldn't have been inappropriate, but I finally heard the call of the project I've had in my head since March. This will be a bit of a stretch for me. If I'm going to be cross-stitchingly (I'm an English major. I'm allowed to make up words.) creative, it tends to be in the line of stitching the design on something other than what the pattern shows. Witness the Eiffel Tower project from the spring. The pattern was stitched on a lavendar background. I chose an oatmeal imbued with gold flecks. This meant I had to stitch the entire sky in color instead of leaving sections open. The other change I made was stitching the bottom bushes a dark green. I think, in looking at the finished piece, those changes made the design "mine". But that's really as wild as I'll get. 

The project I'm starting is a combination of things. There is the piece of a pattern you see above. I happened to have all the colors of floss needed for this one. That is a red letter day in my book. No need to abort before blastoff simply because I don't have number 734. I am using the companion fabric to the oatmeal. This is a very light grey with silver flecks. You can't really see that in the above photo. Below is one afternoon's stitching. 

Some of the flecks are sort of visible. It's a very pretty fabric. Working with this and the oatmeal colored one makes me wonder what other projects might look like on something other than white. I realize this doesn't look like much but remember, like all my other projects, it will blossom into something in a few weeks.

And here's where the scarey part is. I have a design I'm working off of. I'm kind of messing a bit with the colors but not much. After that design is done, I have to freehand some words around the design. I'll have to pick the colors, pick the lettering style, pick where the words go on the piece. I've never been real good at figuring that out. What I want doesn't exist, anywhere, so I have to create it. In about 3 weeks, I'll be working without a net and that's a bit daunting.

It was a lovely day to work outside but I lost my scissors. These were my best cross-stitch scissors. They were roughly 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, silver metal, small, sharp, lightweight, perfect to stick into the plastic bag with the project. I had finished off a section of dark green and went to snip the inch of thread after making a quick anchor knot. The scissors squirted from my hands and when sideways between the slats in the deck and down below.

Now, I'm not heartbroken in that I will have to set this aside while I grieve. I have other scissors, but I am really bummed. The other pair of scissors I have is longer and not as sharp. They have a slightly clunky pink hand grip and will never be able to slide effortlessly between the slats in the deck floor. I couldn't have dropped the scissors through the slats if I'd have tried. It was one easy motion and plunk, they were gone. At some point, I want to replace them.

So, here I go into another project. Depending upon how fast this takes me, it might be the last that makes it out the door for Christmas giving.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Monday, September 17, 2012

Heralds of Fall

I always know fall is just around the corner when the quarter-sized spiders start spinning webs next to the house.

There are three separate webs here; one at the upper right, one at the lower right and one at the left middle. I saw the occupant of the lower right for awhile over the last two weeks but he/she has been absent since Thursday. I won't touch these until all the leaves have fallen off the tree at the NW corner of the house. The leaves on the bottom tiers are dropping but it's still green along the canopy top. I guess I can anticipate the spiders moving inside now too. Usually when they make webs next to the house they are preparing for coming inside.

The leaves float or are driven, depending upon the wind, onto the deck and some wind up in the birdbath.

I rather liked the image of the leaves in the water. I changed it however and put fresh water in because the bath gets slimy if leaves are left in it. There are a pair of cardinals using the bath exclusively now. I haven't seen any robins in it but the robins haven't left for the year. There were two in the trees singing yesterday.

Fall is just around the corner. It's been quite the summer.

Beverage:  Water


Friday, September 14, 2012

It Doesn't Smell Like Mold

This has been a year to cull. But, I can't cull and just toss. Oh some stuff I can but when it comes to something like cologne, I can't. I'm not sure why. I have no emotional attachment to the stuff in the drawer, it's just not something I want to give away.

After doing a cologne test, I rounded up all the little packets and used those up. It took from March to June to dispatch the stack. There were a lot of them. Now, I don't wear cologne on the weekend unless I'm going to be going out for something other than errands or to work in the back yard. It's mainly at the office or events or meetings where I wear a splash of something. Once the packets were used up, I decided it was time to work on the small tubes of fragrance. Wednesday, I finally used up the scent to the right.

It was a rather long tube, 2 inches long, fill with fragrance. I started wearing it on July 2nd; I wrote the date down on the card. With my self-imposed usage boundaries, it took 2.5 months to use up 2 inches. It wasn't an unpleasant scent. Truth, which came out in 2000, is classified as "refreshing, oriental and woody". Meh, I don't know about the woody part. Woods don't smell like that where I'm from. As with the Michael Kors sample that I got which started this all, it's not something I would spend $40 on, even for a designer bottle.

Recycle both the card and the cologne container and open the next package. This one is Escada, "Into the Blue". Created in 2006, this supposedly has blue waterlily and star fruit as the base with peony and "wet woods", whatever that is, rounding out the scent. I wore it for the first time today. I'm not sure I smelled the woods part, but the flowers, yeah.

What I really like about this is the bottle. Look at that. It's a spray bottle. The biggest problem with these little demonstrator bottles is that they have this small top, the size of a pencil eraser crammed into this glass bottle. Make no mistake. Those little bottles are glass. I've broken enough of them to know that. The plastic stopper has to be tight to prevent evaporation since a cologne's ingredients are suspended in alcohol. Getting that little stopper out without spilling the entire contents or even part of the contents on you is always an exercise in probability. "Am I feeling lucky?" Spill. "I guess not."

With this tiny spray bottle, I won't ever spill it all over my hands or the top of the dresser as I go to apply it. Actually, I don't really care what the cologne, which is a light blue, smells like. I just like using the spray bottle.

Beverage:  Earl Gray tea


That Time of Year, Again

A couple years ago, my youngest brother got my name in the family name draw at Christmas. It's not that hard to figure out what to get me; tea, chocolate and Iowa Hawkeye stuff make me happy. He sent a bunch of small items. One of them was a bumper sticker.

I had it on top of the fridge for a good year. I like to rotate my bumper stickers. How does one do that, you ask? Well, for a long time, we got a catalog from a company named Northern Sun. This is a warning. If you are conservative, you will probably be offended by some of their products. Their items are not tailored to you.

One of the items they do have that I have never seen anywhere else is the bumper sticker magnet. (That link is okay for anyone to view. Just don't go poking around in the web site if you have a conservative point-of-view. Trust me on this.) It's a magnet the size of a bumper sticker. You peel off your sticker, apply it to one side of the magnet and, viola, you can change your bumper sticker with your mood.  Maybe someone else has this item. I haven't found it anywhere else.

I must have a dozen stickers, all on magnets, stuck to the side of the fridge. I had to order a few more magnets when I got the Hawkeye bumper sticker because I had been out for awhile and had loose stickers on top of the fridge. I change my stickers as seasons or moods dictate. The one I removed for the Hawkeye sticker reads, "Please poke holes in the top of my jar." Weird, yes, but that would, of course, be me.

It's football season which flows directly into basketball season. The Scottish bumper sticker, although on a magnet, goes nowhere. I do remove them when I wash the car but I reapply it when the bumper and the sticker are dry. I've had this sticker on a magnet for some time. Today I finally remembered to put it on the Jeep.

I am now ready for football and basketball season. By the end of March, it will be time for something else, maybe, "If I explain it to you, your head will explode." 

Beverage:  Earl Gray tea


Foodie or Not Foodie. Just Hand Me the Chocolate

Last Sunday, I finished Hero Food by Seamus Mullen. It's time for my opinion of said book. This is going to be a very mixed review.

The book starts off good, with an explanation of how he discovered he had RA. He gives his background and why he cooks the way he does. It's interesting but he doesn't really, in any of the chapters of the book, explain why he came to select carrots as a hero food. Why was he drawn to carrots and not say, broccoli? I would have liked more insight in why he chose the foods he did. I think he had guidance to get started in that respect and it's not credited.

You need to be a cook to utilize most of these recipes in this book. If you don't know what blanching means or how to deglaze, this is not a book for you. He also recommends kitchen equipment, such as a mandolin for thin slicing, that the average cook isn't likely to have. This rather annoyed me because I don't want to be buying things, like a pressure cooker, just to try his recipes. Yet, if you buy Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you know you're going to be asked to purchase items you probably don't have. Perhaps I should have a stock pot, but I don't and, so far, I've not seen a need for one.

He recommends foods that will be well-nigh impossible to get fresh in someplace like Monona, Iowa. I have a luxury in that I know where I can get reasonably fresh octopus, should I choose to make his seared octopus salad. But it struck me that if I lived in Iowa, for instance, perhaps even in a large metropolitan area like Cedar Rapids, fresh octopus would be hard or even impossible to obtain. He devotes a whole chapter to the wonders of anchovies. Even I, living outside Chicago, would have a hard time finding fresh of some items.

Many of the things he recommends you eat fresh are two to three times the cost. He strongly recommends farmer's markets and getting to know the local farmers who could supply you with fresh vegetables, meats and fruit. That's all well and good, but even if I chose to strike up a rapport with a local farmer, I can't pay what he would charge for fresh. I wrestle with this, a lot. I think it's one of the reasons we have a problem with obesity. Fresh costs twice to three times more than processed. Organic prices have come down, but some things are just too costly for the average person to afford. I don't begrudge a farmer charging what he charges because it costs more to raise free-range chickens. They are, hands down, better for you, but the cost is not something my budget can easily absorb. Hence, I would have to buy frozen corn or berries, not fresh.

The biggest complaint I have about the book is that, as you read through it, it's less a book about how food helped him recover from RA and more a book about Spanish cooking. 75% of the recipes in the book I will never make. They require an ingredient I've never heard of, a cooking technique requiring a gadget I don't own or are made with foods I don't care for. I am not interested in poaching quail eggs. Why are those different from antibiotic free, free-range chicken eggs? (You do know brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs, right? Brown shells are a result of what the chicken is fed. My dad said you can get chickens to lay all sorts of colored eggs just by adding things to their food.)

I'm glad he found relief in food, but I would have preferred more tips on how to incorporate those foods he felt helped him into a diet. Obviously, he does that, but how? There would have been plenty of room for his Spanish recipes and I wouldn't have felt I wasted $35. He prefers savory items so there was only one chapter for any kind of sweets and there was nothing on chocolate. In doing some research, he's part of Rachel Ray's food empire and I can follow him on Facebook. Hmmmm. Looking at the book from that jaundiced eye, it becomes less a book about eating healthy and more a book about Spanish cooking.

So, this will go up on the shelf. I photocopied the list of foods he recommended. It's on the back of the book. I'll try to incorporate more of those into my meals. If you love world food and would like to cook something from Spain, this, most definitely, is a cookbook for you. If you are looking for a guide as to what foods to eat to ease RA, this isn't. Carrots, I love. Mushrooms, I don't.

Beverage:  Earl Gray Tea


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yard Waste

I hauled the garbage, recycling and yard waste out to the curb last night. This is what I did on Sunday, filled these three containers with sticks and pruned back one of the buckthorns, just enough that I can do more clearing this weekend.

You know what, as proud of doing this as I am, this hurts. These aren't that heavy. They are just awkward. It's difficult to haul them to the curb. Even with sturdy handles, the containers can bend my wrists in awkward and painful ways. It's times like this that I walk back to the house and think, "Why am I still here?"

That's quite the question to ponder. The black and white answer is that I can't afford to move. The financial problems begun in 2009, are still not, 3 years later, resolved or nearing resolve. Add medical bills to the mess and it will be years before I feel something other than loose sand beneath my feet.

But dealing with RA has thrown the idea that I would be better served to live in a condo, where someone else does maintenance, someone else shovels the walk, someone else prunes the bushes. I've done more this year than I have in the past two. I never knew I was as bad off as I was until someone said, "Let's have you take this stuff and see if that doesn't make you feel better." I do think about doing things that I just shrugged and filed in the "long, long range plans" file.

I like my home, love the town I live in and like my neighborhood, even though the kids across the street seem to get into trouble pretty much once a month. One of these days, an officer is going to come to the front door at 9:45 at night, ask if I know anything about someone keying a car across the street and I'll say, "Can you wait right here? I have to run back and help the guild kill Cho'gal," and he's going to look at me and ask, "10 or 25-man?" I can see, however, my time in this house is growing limited. That is inevitable. I can see me moving, not immediately, but down the road. I can see a condo with a deck with flowers and I can see myself being happy there. Hauling 3 containers of yard waste to the curb makes me think it's not bad that it could be sooner rather than later.

Beverage:  Water


In Bloom

These are all around the house now.

I used to think this perennial was camomile, but in looking at pictures of that herb, that doesn't appear to be what this is. So, I'm at a loss. The flowers are a very pale blue and the plants themselves are slightly woody. It takes some muscle to remove them from the ground.

Whatever they are, they add a nice splash of color to the green yard.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Favorite With a Twist

Ah chicken parmesana, how I love thee. About 40 minutes from start to finish, it's wholly satisfying.

I get recipes from Pillsbury. Some of them, as I've posted before, are interesting enough to try. The Nutty Chicken Breasts that involved the use of the crock pot were okay. They came up with this half-hour, start to finish Chicken Parmesana recipe. The unique, for me, ingredient was Panko. I know of it, but I'd never used it in cooking.

Now, I have friends who swear by Panko. This is Japanese breadcrumbs, for those not in the know. Panko is made from crustless bread, coarsely ground into bigger, airier flakes. It's designed to have a crispier crust on fried foods. Once the province of Oriental markets, I bought Progresso brand Italian flavored Panko so it's probably in either the Asian section or the place where bread crumbs or croutons are in your favorite market.

Essentially, you mixed Italian flavor Panko with parmesan, dredged the breasts in the mixture and browned them on both sides. (They recommended sticking the Panko and cheese in a plastic bag, adding the breasts and shaking them. Yet one more way to get rid of those horrible plastic bags I bought.) Then you added an 18 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce to the pan, spreading around the chicken, sprinkled the left over Panko over the chicken, topped it with mozzarella, covered the pan and cooked for 10 more minutes. While the chicken cooked, you make spaghetti. I had to have a vegetable so I microwaved the rest of a bag of peas.

To serve, put a serving of spaghetti on a plate, top with a chicken breast and spoon some of the spaghetti sauce over and around the chicken breast. I used two cans of tomato sauce that I'd seasoned with garlic and Italian seasonings.

The verdict? Well, I'll have to try the Panko in other dishes. When I make chicken parmesana with bread crumb coating, I think it's crispier. The Panko crust seemed soggy. I also don't feel the chicken really needs a coating. The best chicken parmesana I ever had was chicken breast sauted in olive oil, onion, garlic and Italian seasonings. Then the pan was deglazed with a half cup of white wine.

When all the bits were up off the bottom of the pan, a half cup of chicken broth was added to the pan, the chicken breasts returned and seasoned tomato sauce was poured over the breasts. It had chunks of tomato in the sauce which, usually, I don't like. The whole mixture was cooked, covered, for 15 minutes. Then mozzarella and parmesan cheese was placed on the breasts and the whole thing was covered and cooked for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melted. The chicken breast was served with pasta and a tossed salad. The tomato sauce was spooned over the pasta and the tomato chunks had been reduced to mush, almost sauce themselves. Oh heavenly day. But doing it that way took about twice as long as just rolling the breast in a breading and frying it.

This has made decent leftovers although the coating is really mushy when microwaved. I think I'll try Panko next on something that is simply baked and not covered, like fish. I'm all for expanding my culinary horizons and this might be a good fit.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We'll Be the Judge of This

Yup, that's what it's called. Says so, right on the bag. "World's Best Cat Litter".

You can imagine that I go through quite a bit of this. It's certainly nowhere nearly as much as it was when there were 5 felines living with me, but it's enough. All the books on cat care recommend having one box per cat and one extra. Hence, we have 3. I've noticed that they pee in two of them and poop in the other. I've never been quite sure why but the shorter walled litter boxes are easier for me to clean and that's where most of the cleaning occurs.

I've been fairly brand loyal to Fresh Step. All the cats I've had liked that litter. Perhaps you remember the scented fiasco of earlier this year. I've been very careful to look at the packaging now so scented never comes across the threshold. Fresh Step has a program whereby you plug a code printed on the inside of every box and you get points, redeemable for items. It's a silly reason to be brand loyal but, once I got started, the cats liked the stuff and it was reasonably priced.

Lately, however, the codes printed on the inside of boxes have been impossible to read. I have no idea how many points I have. I haven't redeemed any as I was working toward a cat tower. I've seen, in the rare loyal programs to which a belong, a change in what you can get with your points. They are pushing magazines. I don't need more magazines. I have the the pile on the ottoman cut by 3/4ths now. Although I hear books calling to me, I am determined to get the magazines down to nothing by the end of the year. Plus, Fresh Step has gone up in price while Arm & Hammer kitty litter has gone down. Well, loyalty program or no loyalty program, the pocketbook reigns here.

I started reading Cat Wisdom 101 and one of the sponsors is the above kitty litter. I can get, one time only, a free bag of litter. Well, free tends to be up my alley. I would buy the litter and send in the UPC with the receipt and be reimbursed. So, needing litter, I checked for this at the store. It's not real cost effective. I got an 18 pound bag for $8.19, on sale. Twenty-five pounds of Arm & Hammer is $8.99. This is going to have to be really incredible stuff for me to switch. Even a math phobe like me can see which is the better buy.

It's made from ground up corn stalks; for real. In fact, as I was scooping it out of the bag, bits and pieces of dried corn kernels were seen in the mix. It feels just like any other scooping litter. It does not have the dust of Arm & Hammer or Fresh Step, something I very much appreciate. It also does not have a chemical smell. Even the "unscented" cat litter has a deodorizer smell to it. This smells like chopped up dried corn. Having grown up on a farm, I know precisely what that smell is. The question is, how well will it do the job and how will the girls like it?

There have been some instances lately of peeing outside of the box. That's usually a sign of urinary distress or anger at something in the house. I've never caught who is doing it but I'd walk in the door after coming home and wow. Um...yeah. Since going to this, no one is peeing outside the box. I won't say they love it, but they tolerated the mixing of the Arm & Hammer with this in one box only, quite well.

I'm not completely sold simply because of the disparity of cost. If this was a couple dollars cheaper, I would go with it in a heartbeat. "World's Best"? Well, I think it has a lot of merit and, if money is not an issue, yes. Where money is an issue, Arm & Hammer on sale can't be beat.

Beverage:  Water


This, I Like

Grocery shopping is a chore. It just is. We'll nevermind that it's a harder chore for me now because of my RA. We'll just go with it's a chore.

Shopping carts don't make it easier. They are big, often with bent wheels which make steering a job in and of its own. Or you get a wheel that locks occasionally so instead of rolling, you're shoving it through the store. They are deep and the under cart area isn't the friendliest place to shove kitty litter or a case of water or an 8-pack of toilet paper. Even without RA, lifting, twisting, turning, squatting just makes the whole process of purchasing comestibles almost more trouble than it is worth.

But, within the last 3 years, the Dominicks near the office, where I do 90% of my shopping, has added these little carts. They are good for about 3 bags on top and a bag or two on the bottom. I really like them.

First of all, they don't hold as much as a large cart. I am forced to shop only off my list because excess doesn't fit. This is good for the pocketbook, not so good for the manufacturer counting on my impulse purchase.

Next, what you can't see is a basket below the handle. It's the perfect size for my purse or a couple of 2 liters. There is a hook where I can hang my purse if I need the basket for something else. These carts are light-weight and easy to push. The only drawback is there aren't enough of them.

I suppose it's a balancing act. When I am stocking up, I want the large cart in spite of the depth and the difficulty I have in shoving things underneath. For those small trips that are bigger than a hand basket, this is wonderful. I will frequent a couple of other Dominicks in the area and I have never seen these there. I made a point, this last trip, to swing by the Customer Service desk and thank them for this size of basket. The guy behind the desk looked a bit nonplussed. I guess people don't compliment a store on their carts.

Beverage:  Water



As you know, the girls and I "celebrated" three years together over Labor Day weekend. They got a can of Fancy Feast, lots of ear and chin scratching and treats about every 3-4 hours. I had a bit of extra cash in August, thanks to all the traveling I did, so I decided it was time for new scratching pads and a new toy. The pads I had for them were, I think, a couple years old. They use them initially and then the novelty wears off and they go back to the ottoman or the rug or the back of the recliner which gets a "No! Stop!" from me.

They like the new pads but old habits are hard to break. If I sprinkle catnip on the pads, they use them for a couple days before, "Meh". Mija uses one very frequently. Pilchard, only when catnip is sprinkled on them. She will, however, lie down on one, just lie there.

I saw this and thought it might provide some amusement particularly when I'm gone during the day. It's a weight with a catnip infused mouse held on a wire. They were quite curious when I set it on the floor. Pilchard actually took some swipes at it. It rolls back and forth and is supposed to make the cat move in an attempt to catch it.

"Supposed", that's the operative word here. I picked it up off the floor last night after I accidentally kicked it into a corner. They played with it for awhile, but grew tired of it and there it sat on the floor until I kicked.

It's hard to figure out what these girls would like to play with. We have several different kinds of mice, catnip infused or catnip stuffed small animals, glitter balls and poles to which strings are attached. They play for about 20 minutes and then seem to be bored and wander away. They aren't deprived in any sense of the word. I just thought it would be nice to get them something to stimulate the sense of play. I put this in the toy box and will bring it out in another month when it might seem new. Perhaps I shouldn't look "outside the box", if you will. Maybe a couple of boxes taped together would be enough.

Beverage:  Water


Friday, September 7, 2012

Why I Like Subway

Fast food sandwich joints are a dime a dozen around the office. Just over the hill is Jimmy Johns. In the strip mall with my bank is Jersey Mike's. Across the road is Quiznos. Go 4 blocks west and there's Meatheads and Potbelly and Subway. The grocery stores of Dominicks and Jewel have premade sandwiches and will make one for you off a limited menu. Going farther west, there's Panera, Arby's, Burger King, McDonalds and Wendy's with a sit-down place, Alfies, next to McDonalds. There is no shortage of places within easy distance to get a sandwich and this doesn't take into account the other places with other kinds of food that are within close proximity. Every single sandwich shop within a mile of the office has, at some point, wandered through here with free coupons to entice us into the store.

With all this choice, why do I continue to go back to Subway? There are any number of reasons not to eat at Subway. Two years ago, a couple of Subways, one of which I frequented because it was on the way back to the office from Chicago and I tended to make that drive at lunch time, had outbreaks of salmonella. That can be a death sentence for a restaurant. I don't remember what they determined was the source of the salmonella but I haven't been back to that Subway since it was completely closed and disinfected. That may have more to do with not traveling as much anymore as it does with being leery about sanitation.

Subway has come under fire for using breads that have high fructose corn syrup in them. Since I've been going there, the menu has changed to reflect the desire for healthier eating. Water, juice and tea are served. I remember when they weren't. I don't think the bread recipe has changed and yes, I can tell the whole wheat tastes a bit sweeter than the bread I buy for myself at home. I would wish they devise a bread that does not have high fructose corn syrup in it.

So why go there?
  1. The first reason is cost. That's a foot long sandwich, 12 inches, and I got it for $5.32. Value. That's pure value.  Everyone else around here, with the exception of Burger King, Arby's and McDonald's costs more. When you are pinching pennies, how much you get versus how much you have to pay makes a difference.
  2. Next, selection in breads. I go to Jersey Mike's because I have a free sandwich coupon. They have wheat and white rolls and that's it. Jimmy Johns has their roll and they will make a sandwich for you on white or wheat bread, that's it. Quiznos has white or wheat rolls. I haven't been to this Meatheads that just opened so I don't know what my bread choices are. At Panera, I can have a sandwich on any bread they have. Choice is more there. At Subway, there are 6 different breads and that makes each sandwich different. Plus, I can have it toasted or not toasted. Choice. Choice, in this case, is good.
  3. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to sandwiches. Subway introduces new sandwiches all the time, but I have turkey and provolone cheese with lettuce, green pepper, spinach and a line of yellow mustard. The only thing I really change is the bread. Sometimes, I'll have ham or turkey and ham, but 95% of the time, it's turkey. The appeal of Jersey Mike's is that they fresh cut the meat when you order. The appeal of Quiznos and Potbelly is the toasted sandwich. The deli at the supermarket will cut your meat to order. Other places have pre-sliced their meat and cheese and accompaniments. I fail to see where one way is better than the other really. 
What does it come down to? Well, for me, it's cost and taste. Other than the brand new Meatheads, I've eaten everywhere else that can possibly make me a sandwich. I just don't see that anyone else's offerings are any better than Subway's. If I'm traveling, I look for a Subway before anything else. It just seems fresher. I don't have to get a drink or chips but I usually do. If I lop those off the purchase, I have a large sandwich for under $6. You cannot beat that.

I've been going to this Subway for so long, they know me by sight now, ask how I'm doing and how business is. I have, on my wall, a fax sheet for if we all wanted to chip in for sandwiches. I usually go when I have to shop at the Hallmark store adjacent to it or it's the beginning of the month and I've been paid. It's nice to walk into a shop and hear, "Hello my friend! What kind of bread will your sandwich be on today?"I've not been real thrilled with the reaction of some of the area sandwich shops when I tell them what I want. "That's it?" they ask, rather incredulously. Hey, it's not your sandwich. You can put onions and jalapenos and 6 tablespoons of mayonnaise on YOUR sandwich, not mine.

I also think, in looking around at my other options, this is very healthy for what I get. If I didn't get the chips and drink, it would be much healthier, but sometimes, going to Subway is the only soda I allow myself to have in a month and, if finances are tight, I don't go.

That's why I go to Subway. Jared, and his highly touted weight loss means nothing to me. They are having an anniversary this month. I don't care about that either. They had a tie-in with Brave and with the movie Battleship. How nice. Can I order my food now? I don't pick food based on promotional tie-ins. Good food priced well means much, much more.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


I Swore I Wouldn't But...

I'm a bibliophile. I cannot imagine a life where books are nowhere to be found. I realize some people live like that, but I cannot. If I could afford it, I would give books to everyone on my Christmas list, from children's books to horror, from fantasy to romance, from gardening to cookbooks.

I was in The Bookstore to pick up a couple of books I am giving as gifts. The owner of the store, Jane, and I go way, way back. I worked for her nearly 13 years ago. It was a delightful time in my life but it also cemented the observation that retail work is not for me. Working in a bookstore sometimes doesn't feel like retail but it sure is. Just because you're surrounded by the things you love, doesn't mean it's not a hassle to deal with the public every single day.

So, after paying for my books, we sat down to chat. I got caught up on her life and she got caught up on mine. We haven't seen each other, as I don't have the disposable income to be buying books regularly anymore, in over a year. She didn't know about the RA diagnosis.

We were chatting and suddenly, the other gal in the store, Jenny, stopped, looked at me and said to Jane, "That cookbook! Remember? That cookbook. What was it called?" It seems a chef was diagnosed with RA and, after some trial and error, discovered how much his diet factored into how he felt. He wrote a cookbook about it to help other sufferers with their diet. Jenny couldn't remember the name of the book, but she had given it to a friend within the last couple of months.

Now this is a "full-service" bookstore. Jenny called Kathy who got the book and gave Jenny the title. Well, neither Jane nor Jenny wanted me to buy a $35 cookbook based solely on their recommendation. They wanted me to see it. I wanted to see it. I have been looking for an RA cookbook since May when my doctor said one of her patients had recommended one. This isn't something  you find on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, however. I would have to order something and then, what if I don't like it. Jenny called a store across the street where she thought some copies were. As she was talking to the proprietor, she stopped, pointed at the shelves and said, "Never mind, Jill. We have one. I see it. It's right there." I did a quick page through and decided to bring it home with me. That's service.

I have to say, there are foods in here I won't touch, I don't care how nicely presented they are. Octopus and anchovies have their own chapter. Um...yeah. He's big on stone fruits; peaches and plums. Peaches are okay but I do love plums. He also touts oatmeal (huzzah!), berries (double huzzah!), broccoli, kale, eggs, and, would you believe it, dandelion greens. I can eat my yard in the spring!

This weekend, after I finish another book I started, I'm going to sit down and read this, just like I would read a novel. Let's see exactly what he found that helps him. How much of what he touts is palatable to me? Of course I'm going to start with the plums and the berries but what else can I add?

I swore to myself I would not buy another book for me. I will put books on my wish list but I wasn't going to buy a book just for me. I have so many. But, if this books does what its premise is, it will be well worth the price, even with the anchovies and the octopus.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea



It doesn't look like much, some greenery in the shade with a splattering of white flowering plants amongst them. The white flowers belong to Chives and I have an incredible abundance this year for some reason.

The church to which I used to belong had a garden where they grew fresh vegetables for a local food pantry. Every year, they encouraged people to "plant an extra row" in their home gardens and bring that overflow to the church for the food pantry. As I have noticed, it is extremely hard to eat fresh on a budget. Fresh vegetables and fruits are extremely expensive when compared to frozen or canned. It's a conundrum that needs to be addressed in order to get people eating better.

Food pantries face this every day. It's much easier to provide cans of diced pears than to provide the real thing. But, around here, in the summer, they take donations of fresh vegetables and provide those to their clients. So, for a few years, we would take an extra plant or two and return with the produce in late August or September.

One year, they had excess herbs. I had something of an herb garden on the side of the house. I thought it might be neat to grow something different. We grabbed a pot of chives, found a place for it and rather left it. Sometimes, I would see it and remember it was there, but most of the time, it was just some green thing happily growing.

This year, it's everywhere behind the house. It's spread from the deck south along the area where I store the garbage cans. The photo above is only a third of the range in the back. I'm really not fond of chives but I like the flowers. At this time of year, there's not a lot blooming so these flowers are an exciting addition to the back. That being said, when I get around to clearing some of this brush, some of the chives will go too. It's just sort of inevitable.

Still, this was a pleasant surprise.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Hi Mom! You're Home!

It's been three years now. Three years since these two came into my life. I know I talk a lot about how they have made me feel whole, but it's true.

Over the summer, Mija has started doing something I've found quite endearing. One of the things I missed, very, very much, after Rascal passed away, was her waiting in the living room window for me to come home. From roughly 3:45 to 4:30 p.m., she would sit in the window sill and watch. She knew the Jeep and when I would pull into the drive, she'd jump down and sit in the kitchen waiting for me to come in the back door. It was such a delight and, after she died, I often broke into tears in the drive way when that little face wasn't in the window.

Every cat has a personality. Pilchard is my diva. She walks into the room and meows at me to let me know she's here. She just has the air of "I'm the big cheese" about her. I have to laugh at that because she's really not the big cheese, she just thinks she is. She's usually in the living room when I get home, sitting in a box, waiting, with an air of "It's about friggin' time you wandered in."

And then, there's Mija. She's standing on the organ that is in the living room. Behind me is the kitchen. I come home and if she's not there waiting, she comes running and jumps up onto the organ and all the way to the top. I just giggle every time. There is an exuberance here. She "talks" to me, almost like she's says, "Hi! You're home! I'm here, too! Are you going to get us treats soon?" (They get treats in the morning before I leave and in the evening when I get home.) She is right there, reminding me, as if I needed a reminder, that she's happy I'm home and it's time for treats. I suppose this is kind of "dog-like", but it makes my day.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest Tea


Monday, September 3, 2012

Bah Humbug Finished

Labor Day. Last day of vacation. Time to make a memory.

Throw open the back door with the loppers in hand and, blarg. That's heat and humidity, already, at 9:30 a.m. Close door. Pour a glass of oj, sit in the recliner and start thinking the whole day is ruined because it happens to be 80 with 80% humidity at 9:30 in the morning.

To paraphrase Lady Macbeth, "Out! Out! Damned thoughts!"

Shower now because you were going to do it after you worked up a substantial sweat in the yard. Then, sort, toss, dust, sweep. Read those newspaper items mom sent back with you and put them in an envelope to send to your sister. Finish writing that letter to a friend and, by the time you're really sure you have nothing left to say, realize you've written 5 pages, front and back. A) She will be flabbergasted and B) This will give her something to read with morning coffee on the patio or in an airplane as she jets off to somewhere. (I have cool friends, in fact, all my friends are way cooler than me.)

Now what do I do?

A little voice whispers, "Finish me?" Oh yeah.

Two of the blogs I read, Michele Made Me and Sew Many Ways... recently featured craft space make-overs. Wow. They have a spot just for their crafting supplies! Wait. Wait. If I start comparing, I'll get down and the banner won't be made. I have ample space to do what I want to do so let's get started finishing the banner.

Instead of getting the finished cross-stitch framed, I'm going to turn it into a banner, of sorts, something that can be hung most anywhere. In order to do that, it's going to need some weight so it hangs properly. Because the finished piece of cross-stitch is 8 x 10 inches, I'm going to put a layer of quilt batting between the cross-stitch and the fabric backing. Quilt batting will give it just enough weight that it hangs evenly even if it's near the heater and a breeze. Plus, it will be lightweight to mail, as I won't see the recipient to hand it to them. AND, the whole thing is washable in the unlikely event Great Uncle Joe is doing his flamingo dance in the living room with the egg nog.

When I decided that was what I wanted to do, I felt a trip to the fabric store was going to be in order. I didn't think I had quilt batting. I probably had the right fabric for backing but quilt batting? I couldn't remember when I'd done any sort of quilting short of the quilt I made for my sister when she married and I remembered using that up. But the sewing gods were smiling on me as I reorganized the fabric boxes. Viola. There's the perfect fabric for the back, in more than ample quantity AND a bunch of quilt batting.

So, step one for this craft was not removing the cat from the table. Both of them were sound asleep throughout the process. Step one became measuring, measuring and measuring again. You need to know the absolute width and height of the project. Once you have marked your margins, and measure yet again to make sure you like it, pin the cross-stitch to the batting and cut out around the current edges. Yes, the current edges. You can always trim excess. You cannot add width back without major sewing.

Now, pin around the design. Keep your margin marking pins in place, but pin through the design and the batting. You don't want that batting going anywhere so anchor it down.

Next, I'm going to add trim around the edges. You can skip this step, if you like but I think you'll like how the finish project looks with trim. This edging has a cord encased in cotton trim with a "lip" which is sewn in place. There is a line of stitching on the trim. Put that line, as best you can, on the margins of your piece and pin it down. When you're done, it will look like this. I always have a bit of difficulty turning the corners.

Now you're ready to sew the trim down. Follow the stitching on the trim and, as long as you've pinned it where you want your margins to be, you won't go wrong.

Once you've done that, realize that you forgot to put your initials and the year on the piece. This does, however, give you an opportunity to put away all the excess floss and organize the ottoman to a degree. You have to "sign" the work now because there isn't a time after this that stitching isn't going to show.

The next step is to cut the fabric. I have a lot of this poinsettia fabric. I think I was going to make Carole something from it, maybe a dress? Maybe it was for me? There's nearly 3 yards of it here. It's probably good for yet another camp shirt although I might have to get another color for the sleeves. I don't remember exactly how much fabric the camp shirts take. An 8 x 10 inch piece isn't going to cause problems down the road.

Once you've cut your fabric, put the right sides together. You'll be stitching three sides and turning this right side out. Pin the whole thing in those margins outside the trim. Pin all the way around although I'm not sewing the bottom because that's where I want to turn it.

If you are going to use something to hang this from, now it the time to cut your ribbon, cording, piping, seam binding, whatever, and pin it square in the middle of the top with the loop falling into the center. You're going to stitch over the ends of the hanger.

Once you have the whole thing pinned, flip it over. If you used a color other than white or say, light yellow or light gray, you'll see your original trim sewing line. Follow it. Follow it like mice following the Pied Piper. If you follow it exactly, when you turn the project inside out, there will be no stray stitches to remove. I knew this, of course, as I have sewed for decades. But, when you're zipping along sewing something, it's easy to forget some of these kinds of details. I figured this out and etched it in my brain last year when I made all those ornaments. Sometimes, those stray stitches are hidden. Most of the time they are not and then, you have a devil of a time pulling them out so the piece looks good.

A lot of sewing or crafting blogs show you the lovely part, the finished part. I sometimes wonder how many "Ooops" did it take to get to this finished item. I'm going to show you my oops and show you how to fix it.

To the left there is the top of the banner. On the left is one end of the ribbon hanger and to the far right is the other end. I thought, when I pinned, that I caught both of the hanger ends. I did not. The movement of the presser foot over the fabric shoved the right end almost to the corner. Obviously, this is not what I want.

So, I took the seam ripper, and you're not a heavy-duty sewer if you don't have 3 of these in your sewing box because who knows where you left the last one, and flip your project onto the fabric side, not the batting side. You don't want to rip out the seam on the batting side. Trying to remove stitches while working from the batting side will cause you to rip the batting. I've never been able to remove stitches and keep the batting intact along the seam line. There's no need to fret about trying to get just the thread when flipping the project over and working from the fabric side makes your repair job easy.

Locate the edge of the hanger that is out of place and start ripping out the seam from there. No sense in going all the way to the corner. You only want where the oops was. Remove the stitches from the point of the oops to right next to the properly positioned hanger edge. If they are both out of position, rip out the stitches to just beyond the middle. As I said, there's no sense in ripping out the top seam. You just need to put the hanger back in the right place. Pin that sucker down, flip it over and restitch the seam, just the part and a little on both sides, that you ripped out. Remember, follow our original seam and you'll be in the right place.

Now comes the fun part. Diagonally trim the two top corners and trim the sides to about 1/4 inch. You can grade the seams, if you like. "Grading", for those who aren't long time sewers, means cut the fabric, batting and Aida cloth at different widths. I find grading to be a chore and rarely do it unless I feel it's going to be too hard to turn a project otherwise. It's done to reduce the amount of fabric in a seam that's going inside out but it also provides strength and stability. Don't trim the bottom just yet. We'll get to that.

When it's right sides out, it looks like this.

Here's the time you'll trim the bottom. Cut off the excess Aida cloth and batting to the edge of the trim. Don't cut the fabric. When this is done, turn the trim edge, Aida cloth and batting to the inside. Fold over the backing cloth and cover the edge of the trim. Pin this. You see I folded my backing cloth so its edge is right against the edge of the trim. This hides the trim's sewn edge. Now hand stitch the whole bottom edge together.

When you've finished hand stitching, you're done. Here's the back of the project.

And here is the front.

It strikes me that this might be the size of a Kindle or a Nook. If you didn't have a carrying case or wanted something unique, you could use this method but leaving one edge open, to make a personalize carry case.

So, this project is done. While I am drawn to making another red corduroy coat, I'd need to go to the fabric store, look through patterns, be depressed that I can't find what I think I want, settle for something else, buy lining fabric and then cut out and sew the coat. I don't have the excess funds, right now, for a trip to the fabric store. I have another cross-stitch project I can work on, something of my own design. Maybe I'll start that.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper