Friday, March 30, 2012

Bloggiesta Things To Do - Spring 2012


Now we're rolling!!! I took a short break from the computer while the babe was up, but after she went down for her nap, it was back to work.

1. Edited existing social media buttons for Pinterest and Email (wasn't obvious what they were) and then added the Gmail button. I added the RSS and P to the envelope and heart by layering in

2. HEADER!!!  I mentioned my header on Twitter and the fabulous Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts offered to whip something up for me. What do you think?
3. I changed font and made a few changes to the colors of the blog and the main background.
4. Signed up for BlogHer Book Club

Everything else on my list is TERRIBLE. :) Fixing the old signature is something I can probably do while watching TV tonight with the hub. I'll probably never get my old links from Trish's Reading Nook fixed. Wahhhh.

But...I'm happy with the progress!

How's your Bloggiesta going?



The babe is napping ever so soundly in her bed, I've got my coffee, and I'm rocking and rolling. Well, no sooner than I typed that sentence did I hear Elle talking to herself. Ha!! Good thing I've gotten a few things crossed off my list.

1. Updated Review Directory with 18 months of reviews! (only 35, if you must know)
2. Signed up at Creative Commons and added to sidebar
3. Added Picture to About Me
4. Created Recipe Index and added to Tabs
5. Drafted first go at Ready Player One post


I played around with blog width and made it a tiny bit wider. Don't want to go too wide and risk cutting off on some computers. Also played around with the font a bit. I really like Calibri (it's what we use at work), but it looked so small. Will continue to play around as I'm tired of Georgia.

I'm getting tied up with the Copyright issue for blog footers. Do I add to my RSS feed or the actual post? Do I include the date? Ahhhh!!

Ok, better run and get that babe. :)


Hola!! Not to be confused with Holla!

What is Bloggiesta? Basically a big group of bloggers have signed up and committed to blog updating this weekend. I think most of the participants are probably book bloggers but anyone can sign up. There are lots of mini-challenges and tips from experienced bloggers. 200 people are signed up so far and it's sure to be fun. Join us!!

I always missed this event when Natasha was hosting. Honestly it was tough for me to justify taking a day to update my blog. But I've already warned Scott that I plan to spend lots of time on the computer this weekend and clean up some of the things that have been nagging at me for a while. My list is too long to complete everything, but hopefully I can get a few things cleared out.

Isn't my list pretty? Yes--writing in as many colors of pen as I can throughout the day makes me extra happy.

Throughout the weekend I'll be updating THIS post (no link...this this post) with my status. Though Bloggiesta technically starts today (Friday), I probably won't get into things until Saturday morning.


1. Fix Big Black Signature (from when I accidentally deleted uploaded photo)
2. Create "Favorite Posts" on Sidebar
3. Footer Copyright
4. Update Review Lists
5. Create a Recipe Index?
6. Add picture to About Me page
7. Create Page for Operation Use My Kitchen Gadgets
8. Fix old travel posts where pictures got deleted
9. Trish's Reading Nook broken links
10. Sign up at Creative Commons for copyright
11. Clean up/Delete old drafts
12. Header Update (anyone know any good designers?)
13. Create labels for sidebar
14. Widen width of blog body
15. Read links that I've emailed myself this week via twitter
16. Draft up some posts
17. Labels - blehhhhhh
18. Figure out BlogHer Ads and if I want to continue

I'm thinking about deleting Trish's Reading Nook. Does anyone know if something bad will happen to those posts that I imported from TRN if I delete that blog? Scary!!

Alright...that's more than enough to keep me busy! Forever.   :)

I asked for some blog critiques on twitter but didn't have any takers. Ha! I would love to know any tips you have for blog improvement or readability. Like seriously.


Oh, and in case you're wondering, I think I'm going to skip #WeekendCooking this weekend. And I think I'm going to extend Operation Use My Food Processor another month. I didn't do very well and know I can do better!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Affinity - Sarah Waters

Title: Affinity
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: 1999; Pages: 352
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Affinity In Short: Margaret Prior, a troubled young woman who is heavily grieving her father, begins visiting woman prisoners at the jail and becomes particularly interested in Selina Dawes who is known for her work with spirit mediums. The story is told through Margaret's narration in the future and Selina's narration in the past.

Why I Read it: I read and really liked Fingersmith a few years ago and have had this one on my shelf for a while. A readalong happened, which I missed, but your responses really piqued my interest.

What You Wanted to Know:

Was this your first Waters? If not, how did it compare to others that you have read by her? If so, what did you think of her writing? (Kailana)

I'm mostly drawn to Sarah Waters because of her writing style, atmospheric settings, and strong character developments. The two books I've read have been set during Victorian times (maybe all of them are?), and I find that era to be very fascinating. I hate to say that I did not like this one quite as much as Fingersmith, but I think that's because I was constantly in a state of anticipation of what was coming next.

Did you find all the different elements packed into the story believable? (A medium, a woman's jail, etc.) (Kailana)

I'm not sure how much I believe that a young woman could just hang out at the jail and visit with the inmates, but I also don't know much about Victorian prisons. The medium parts were really fascinating to me, but I admit that I had a tough time wrapping my head around some of the spiritual parts, especially involving Peter Quick.

Did you enjoy Affinity? It had such a totally unexpected ending for me that it left me feeling very melancholy. (Picky Girl)

I did enjoy the book as a whole. My biggest downfall when reading this one is that it took me about two months (maybe more) to read so I never felt like I was completely drawn into the story like I was with Fingersmith. There's something to be said about reading too quickly and too slowly! I can understand the melancholy feeling, but mostly I felt a little let down by the ending because it wasn't what I expected or wanted.

So, Affinity--is it a good one to start with if I haven't read any Sarah Waters yet? (Debi)

As Lisa mentions below--do you want to build up to the best or read the best first? More importantly than where to start is that you DO! Waters' writing is really wonderful. She has the ability to draw you right into the story and see everything that is happening and surrounding and all that the characters are feeling (I know this kind of contradicts what I said above but...)

I've got Little Stranger; have you read that one? I'm curious as to how it compares to Affinity. I have heard some people say that it's the best one, in which case I'd like to build up to it and maybe start with Affinity. (Lisa)

I haven't read Little Stranger but will definitely be reading more of Waters. Not sure where I should go from here. Tipping the Velvet? Or something newer?

Sam wants to know what I thought of the ending, and other than the hint above in my comment to Jenn, my lips are sealed. Ha!!

Bottom Line: Overall I found Affinity to be a fulfilling read, even if the end did leave me a tad bit unsatisfied. Perhaps because I saw the story going one way and was kind of surprised when it didn't. Funny how that works out, huh? Margaret wasn't the most likeable character; she was a little on the weak side--which suits the book exactly. But my fascination with Selina and the spirit medium story definitely kept me intrigued. If you haven't read any Waters, I definitely recommend her!

Which is your favorite Waters?

Trying something new...

On the Blog:
One Year Ago - The Countdown Begins: One Month to Go
Two Years Ago - Blog Changes: Massive Overhaul of the Bookish Kind
Three Years Ago - Sunday Salon 1: Introducing Trish
Four Years Ago - The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

Monday, March 26, 2012

Eleven Month Update - 3.25.2012

One month left. One month. I'm in utter and complete denial that in 30 days my baby girl will be a year old.

Full monthly update with pictures can be found on Chickpea Banana. Please please let me know if you'd like access (need your email address)--I'm not trying to exclude regular readers of this blog. Just trying to control some of the search engine hits.

In short, more or less the same this past month. More spunk and laughter, I can tell you that much. Elle is becoming quite the character and it's so fun to be silly with her. She's also going through a "Mommy Phase" and cries when I leave the room, cries when someone else takes her from me, and if it's just me and her she wants to be held. I love the extra cuddles but it is exhausting.

But mostly laughs (ok, sometimes only from me....)

Almost a year. Then what will I do?!  I can't stand it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock - Slow Cooker Method

A few weeks ago when I completed my Operation Use My Crockpot, I mentioned that I had made Chicken Stock in the crockpot.  A few of you asked me if I'd share the recipe, but really it doesn't even involve much of a recipe (basic instructions were shared by coworker). Just a chicken carcass or bones, water, a bit of apple cider vinegar, some veggies, and about a day. And look how gorgeous...

Seriously easy and you know exactly what you'll be putting into your soup or whatever recipe calls for chicken broth or stock.  (As far as I understand, the difference between stock and broth comes from the bones--stock is used by simmering bones whereas broth does not. But I use stock and broth interchangeably).

Homemade Chicken Stock (Crock Pot)

Chicken Bones (I used whole carcass--skin and all from when I roasted chicken in the oven)
Roughly Chopped Vegetables (celery, carrots, onion, whatever you have on hand)
About 12 Cups of Water (at least enough to cover the bones and veggies)
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Bay Leaf and other seasonings you like (parsley, thyme, Italian, etc)

1. Place chicken bones, veggies, and seasoning in crockpot
2. Cover with water (I used about 12 cups)
3. Add seasoning and apple cider vinegar
4. Allow mixture to sit for an hour and then simmer on low for 18-24 hours.

Basically I started this one evening and then the next evening it finished cooking.

After the Simmering
1. Strain into a big bowl and place bowl in an ice bath in the sink to cool (if you have time to let it cool normally that's fine, too).
2. Allow broth to cool in fridge so that you can skim the layer of fat from the top of the stock
3. Store in containers and freeze for a few months. I use these Ball Freezer Jars and love them (and yes, I realize just what the picture below looks like...but...).

Now some disclaimers. When I first tasted the broth I was struck by how bland it was. But then it dawned on me--because it doesn't have all the salt that normal broth does! In fact it doesn't have any salt at all (which you can add to taste).  Don't be disappointed if this doesn't taste quite like your canned Swanson's.  Also Debbie and I were talking on twitter about the "greasiness" of homemade broth. I'm not sure if it's necessarily a greasiness rather than a richness. It should be a little thicker than you'd expect. But when I used it in my homemade chicken pot pie it was delicious!


Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."  Hope you'll join the fun!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Eat it Real Challenge - Update #2

It’s not really Friday is it? Seriously—how is that possible? Feels like this week just flew on by.

Well, it is Friday. And since I didn’t update y’all on the Eat It Real Challenge last week, I guess I better fill you in (see first update here). After all, you’re all sitting on the edge of your seats dying to know how we’re coming along, huh? My family has been getting a kick out of our endeavors and some of them experienced the experiment first hand as we treated them to a meal from scratch. All the way down to the cream puffs for dessert.

I’ll start by being honest. This current week has been the weakest week of all. Last week we continued to carry on strong by making homemade tortillas (which were amazing) and homemade pizza. Even the pizza sauce was from scratch and ZOMG was it good. Seriously good. I couldn't even think to take a picture until we were packaging up the leftovers!

The struggles: The struggles are still lunch and snacks. Especially now that I’ve discovered Easter candy is out and about. I cannot resist those Chicks, Ducks, and Bunnies (Sweetarts) for the life of me. Thank goodness the malt ball eggs are already gone so I don’t have to worry about eating any more of them. BUT, this little project wasn’t about dieting, so I’m trying not to be so hard on myself. And I’m not sure what my struggle is with lunch! I guess it all boils down to not having made bread for sandwiches, though lunch meat is processed, and not really knowing what else to bring to work with me besides leftovers. I’ve been down to the cafeteria more this week than I have in a long time.

Breakfast has been better though—I’m still eating the Crockpot Steel-cut Oats and have grown to like them quite a bit! I didn’t have any last Friday for breakfast so I resorted to a pack of my normal oatmeal (Maple and Brown Sugar Instant) and couldn’t believe how much it was like eating glue. YICK! During the weekends Scott and I have continued our breakfast traditions and discovered a pretty dang yummy pancake recipe (will have to ask Scott for link). We did attempt waffles but need to experiment more as I preferred our normal Krustez box kind.

But did I mention the tortillas?

Now…some frequently asked questions.

Do I feel better physically? Honestly no (not that I feel bad...). But I think that the Easter candy doesn’t help in that department.

Have I lost any weight? Well, I did and then I didn’t. Again, I’m going to blame the blasted Easter candy. And I don’t think that the initial weight loss (of like two pounds) could really be attributed to the eating. Trust me—I was eating my weight in bread, and spaghetti, and pizza, and… as it all tasted so much better than the other stuff.

Have I seen an increase or decrease in grocery bills? Not really. Well, maybe a bit of a decrease but I'm not really sure. I have noticed that I spend more time on the periphery of the grocery store, which is what you're supposed to do. I have less in my cart, and if it weren't for the giant mirror I bought at Target and the dang baby formula, I'm guessing the bill would be lower.

My next and final update will be on April 7th. I'm still hoping to make some snacks--like ice cream and granola before then. And also try my hand at sandwich bread again. Dinners we have down pat--but the rest is still a work in progress.

What about you?!  Is the Easter Candy getting to you as well? ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Do You Want to Know About These Books?

So, I thought about writing a mini-review post for today. I even wrote the "bottom line" for three books. But then I was stuck. It's been so long since I've read some of these that my brain is foggy. Am I the only one that happens to? I can barely keep up with the characters of my current book (Cloud Atlas). To be fair...there are quite a few.

And I have been reading! I'm currently slogging through the most difficult chapter in Cloud Atlas (about halfway), so I read 10 pages in bed before turning on Downton Abbey. I just started Season 2 and I'm quite enjoying it. Though does the timeline bug anyone else? Am I really to believe that five years have passed since the first episode and yet hardly anything on the homefront has changed? They're even talking about the same gossip!

The babe hasn't been reading much. Eating, yes. I'm pretty sure that's Three Plums in One. Or at least one of the Plum books...  She really does look like she's been caught in the act, huh?

Oh yes. This post does have a point! In the past I've sought out questions from y'all about books that I've finished and had pretty good success.  So I thought we could try again!

Please...Ask Me Anything About These Books!

Affinity - Sarah Waters (paper)
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (audio)
What is the What - Dave Eggers (audio)
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley (both formats)
In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson (audio)
Sex Lives of Cannibals - J Maarten Troost (audio)

(and while it seems to be a lot...some of these I read/listened to months ago!)


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Static Electricity

[sorry for double post--was amending and deleted on accident.]

(I feel I must note that Scott is holding a balloon above her head--no babes were harmed in the taking of these pictures--sad when you have to disclaim that, huh?)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Been Listening to Lately

Hi!!! I missed you!!!

Over the past couple of months I've discovered both XM radio and Pandora radio. How did I go so long without listening to these two media? I'm particularly fond of The Spectrum on XM (channel 28) and Pandora changes based on my mood. I started listening to Phoenix Radio per my sister's suggestion which has led me to Vampire Weekend. I seriously heart them.

So, first on my list is Vampire Weekend. I had the toughest time picking a song to include--Love Oxford Comma (Kristi--finally heard what you were talking about), Taxi Cab, Ottoman, Campus. But I'm going with a live version of M79:

Which leads me to Phoenix. I can't help but dancing around when listening to them. I really want to share this Lisztomania video but embedding is disabled. So...If I Ever Feel Better:

On Phoenix Radio I discovered Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. LOOOOOOOOVE Home. Love. (official video on YouTube)

And from Iceland comes Of Monsters and Men. Little Talks. Don't you want to dance around a bit? Plus a really cool video! Definitely my favorite of the bunch.

Have you heard The Head and the Heart - Lost in My Mind? If you're a fan of The Avett Brothers or even Mumford and Sons I think you'll like this one:

And Alexander - A Million Years. Admittedly this video is a bit strange but. Your Love? It's a holy shit? Yes, sometimes I feel like that, too. In a million years full of tears, but I found my girl. Sigh.

And finally, Somebody that I Used to Know by Gotye (featuring Kimbra). LOVE this song, though the video...I really am not sure what to say about it...

Ok no...I want to leave you with Kate Nash's Merry Happy. Because it's so very very happy.  (but I think you need to head to YouTube to hear the song). So sad. :)

What songs have you been loving on lately? Do you have a favorite station on Pandora? Or do you have another music medium to recommend to me?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Responding to Comments - A For Now Policy

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete my Comment Response Follow-Up Survey the other day.  I wrote the survey a bit hastily and wish that I had added some additional choices to some of the questions and I even started reading too much into the "I don't really care" choice for emailing responses. Does this mean that you don't really care if I respond at all or you don't care if I email you. Haha! You know I'm totally neurotic, right? About 25% of you said you don't really care. Anyway. Not going to read into my vague choices any further...

About 50% of you say you check back for follow-ups (do you really?!), a handful never do (I already knew this about some of you), and about 15% say you always subscribe to follow-ups. The rest of you are in-between, probably depending on the comment. But about 85% of you check back or subscribe at least part of the time. Taking that with my desire to respond to the comments and foster community within my blog has helped me with my solution.

Going forward I am going to continue responding to comments here on the blog. If you really prefer that I email you/tweet you, let me know (this is what I should have said in the survey rather than "I don't really care"). If you answered the survey and said you don't need a response, then I absolutely understand--no need to let me know again.

Caveat 1: During the work week, I usually only get online during lunch and sometimes sometimes in the evenings. So, if you are going with the check-back route, you need to give me some time! I will try to respond more diligently to comments, especially to the latecomers as those are the ones who always seem to get left without response. But please understand it might take me a day or two (lets hope for a day) to get back to you.  Hours later isn't feasible.

Caveat 2: There are some comments that do not need a response from me. These include the "great picture/cute baby" type of comments. Which I love, but I'm guessing you're probably not expecting/checking back for a response anyway. If I respond to some on these types of posts but not others, please do not get your feelings hurt--I am not trying to intentionally exclude anyone.

Comments on this post are Closed. :)

Marking All Read in Google Reader today, I have 14 emails in my inbox, and I plan on making a come-back this week. Wahooooooo!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Responding to Comments - Your Input

Hi guys!!

So, I've been failing at my "organizational break" I've been taking this week. My email inbox is OUT OF CONTROL.  Part of that is because I leave comments in my inbox until I can follow-up with responses here on the blog. Some of these comments are months old. Comments that I don't even know if you've subscribed to follow-up comments or even care to get follow-up comments.

Before I go any further, let me say that I LOVE responding to your comments here on the blog. I honestly believe that it has helped foster the community here on the blog and helped me get to know you better. By responding to comments I also feel like I digest your comments better. Not only that but I like to acknowledge your comments and appreciate when other bloggers do the same.

But responding to comments takes a lot of time and unfortunately my Internet time is very limited--so much so that I can't always respond to your comments in a timely manner...and sometimes I fail completely.  I HATE the thought of having to stop responding, but something has got to give. I'm thinking about maybe only responding to questions or lengthier comments that lend themselves to responses. I'm also thinking about emailing responses to those who don't mind. A few bloggers do this and I love getting responses from them. I also love when people respond to me in the comment forms of their blogs (after I've left them a comment).


Anyway, if you are a commenter here, please please please fill out the following form.  Please consider these questions as specific to my blog, not generally speaking.

And, if you have any words of wisdom, please feel free to let me know!

See you soon...

Monday, March 12, 2012


Taking a bit of a break--life finally caught up and I need to get organized!

If you need a chickpea smile, there's a little baby post.

Otherwise I'll see you in a few days. Or maybe tomorrow when I change my mind. Ha--just kidding.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eat it Real Challenge - Update #1

How many of you didn't think that this post would happen today? That the "Eat it Real" ship would have been abandoned and Scott and I would be in a comatose state of over-processed indulgence?  Maybe not any of you, but definitely those who I know in person. "You're going to do what?!"  It didn't help that the first two nights of the project were spent eating pizza and Mexican food with my family. Oops!

The biggest thing we learned this week was how under-prepared we were to go natural. Dinners proved easiest but the meals we eat away from home--breakfast and lunch--were difficult. I did fairly well by scrounging around for food, but lunch is still a mystery unless I take leftovers--which I did most days. Snacks? I asked Scott if he wanted to include any input for today's post and he noted that we need to get rid of all the processed food in the house first--especially snacks.

Bread is Hard: The next thing we learned this week was to read directions while making bread. I made some wheat bread on Sunday and while it tasted delicious, it didn't rise and was really dense. On Monday Scott made some crusty Italian bread to eat with our spaghetti. While it was really tasty, the outside was too crunchy and again it just didn't rise.  Yesterday I decided to try the Five Minute Artisan Bread recipe included in Kitchen Counter Cooking School.  When I didn't have enough yeast to make the bread, both Scott and I realized that NEITHER of us used enough yeast in our various recipes. *headdesk*

Successes:  The big hit over the past few days was the Crockpot Meaty Italian Spaghetti Sauce.  Yes, I used canned tomatoes, but it is seriously delicious and I have another three containers of it in the freezer (wahoo!). The other favorite was the Chicken Pot Pie, which included homemade pie crust (made in the food processor--wahoo!).  We also had a delicious meal of stuffed pork chops and for breakfast I had Steel-Cut Oats made in the Crockpot. It turned out much better this second time than the first time around.

Going Forward: I think it's pretty clear that we need to work on some major planning this weekend. Scott was in bed all last weekend with the flu, so it gave us a late start. Another lesson learned is I cannot do this alone--While I don't think it will always be a lot of work, getting started is. We need to make some snacks to prevent us from dipping into the junk in the pantry and also prepare some lunches for during the week.

Marching On!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Virtual Quilting Bee - A Year of Completed Blocks

Last April my cousin Elise asked me if I'd like to join a Virtual Quilting Bee with her. I somehow forgot that I was 38 weeks pregnant and told her YES!! I was especially excited because my sister decided to participate as well.

What is a Virtual Quilting Bee?  I think that they probably all run a little differently, but for our group, the NewBees (because we were all new to bees...ha!), each person was assigned a month and during our month we were responsible for picking fabric for a quilt, mailing out fabric to the other members with block instructions, and patiently wait for blocks to be mailed back. During the other months we were responsible for creating at least one block per instructions and fabric provided.

Thoughts about the Bee: I won't go into too much detail since this post will be lengthy enough with all of the pictures, but in short I loved this experience. I was able to create all different kinds of blocks without having to commit to an entire quilt. Plus I have a starter quilt that eleven people contributed to (one member dropped out). The downside was the varying skills of the members--I received one block back that I'll either have to completely scrap or have to unpick and start over because it was so poorly sewn. But overall--the virtual quilting bee was a lot of fun and I'd consider doing it again (one day).

The blocks...

April - Dutchman's Puzzle
Tutorial Provided: Quilter's Cache
Tutorial Used: Trading Pieces (we were given permission to deviate)

May - Wonky Stars
Tutorial Used: The Silly Boodilly


June - Disappearing Nine Patch
Tutorial Provided: Sew Fantastic
Designed from scratch (we were given permission to deviate)

July – Any Design!
Not having a specific design was actually tough!
Tutorial Used: Double Z Block from Quilter's Cache

August – Wonky Log Cabin
Tutorial Used: Quilt Dad

September – Black/White/Pink
Any Design as long as had squares/rectangles
Designed from scratch

October – Ticker Tape
Tutorial Used: Stitched in Color
This one was tough!! I cut material for two blocks but didn't finish the second

November – Square within a Square (my month)
Tutorial Provided: Patchwork of Mini Grey

December – String Quilt
Tutorial Used: Film in the Fridge
LOVED making these blocks!

January –Garden Fence
Tutorial Used: Hyacinth Quilt Designs

February -X String
Tutorials Used: Nittany Block Party and Quiltville
This was one of the most time consuming blocks! Think the quilt will look great (for Clemson grad), but man was it tough!

Whew...I'm exhausted!  If you're interested in seeing the other participants' blocks, head over to the NewBees Flickr Group.

Now...if I could just get to working on Scott's quilt. Maybe by his birthday in three months?! Ha!

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