Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daily Art - Big yellow umbrellas!

Some time last summer, I picked up a grab bag of note cards at a thrift store for a couple of bucks.  There were some more generic things in the bag - thank you cards, birthday cards etc.  There was also a ton of hand mounted photo note cards by a local photographer.  A lot of the photos featured pictures of big yellow umbrellas set up in the desert and, last week, one of my fellow crafty folk told me the history behind the umbrellas.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a couple best known for their "environmental" works of art.  Back in 1991, they commenced the umbrella project.  A total of 1,760 yellow umbrellas were constructed in Tejon Ranch, the largest expanse of privately owned land in California, sitting about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.  Simultaneously, 1,340 blue umbrellas were constructed in Ibaraki, Japan.  Each umbrella stood 6 meters high, and over 8 meters in diameter, the entire cost of this art project ended up at about $26 million.  Unfortunately there were 2 deaths in relation with this exhibit - a woman died here in the US after being hit by an umbrella that came loose in the wind, and a Japanese worker was electrocuted while taking down the umbrellas.

Just searching for "Christo's Umbrellas" in Google brings up some of the most amazing images of the umbrellas in both the US and Japan.  When I first looked at these notecards, I really had no idea that they had any particular significance.  Now I know the story behind them, I'm in love with the bizarre but beautiful concept.  It's really something I would have loved to have seen, even though the exhibit was only there for 18 days.

Jean Claude June 13, 1935-November 18, 2009

Monday, May 24, 2010

Daily Review - Ped Egg

Over the course of the weekend, I thought of about 6 things that I wanted to blog about, but wasn't able to get to any of them.  I also have to either take pictures at home, or get pictures already taken off my camera at home.  For now, I'll write about the one thing that you probably don't need to see pictures of!

If any of you are like me, and I suspect you are, you wonder about those "as seen on TV" products and which of them actually work.  The one that has me the most curious is the Ped Egg, on account of the fact that my heels get ridiculously dry.  Pumice stones have never quite done enough and quite frankly, nobody wants to velcro themselves to the bed sheets with their rough heels!  In my attempt to find a suitable solution as we head into summer, I decided to read some online reviews as to whether the Ped Egg works.  I was truly quite surprised to find an overwhelming positive response, so off I went to CVS to buy one.  Saturday afternoon, I settled down to give my heels a much needed overhaul.  While my feet certainly aren't perfect, I can officially say that the Ped Egg does work and with a few more treatments, my heels should be sandal ready!

In review:
  • Ease of use - This is a simple and comfortable design to use.  The egg is comfortable to hold and very lightweight.  I know some online reviewers had mentioned that the little cup doesn't catch everything as easily as the commercial says, so I tried to make sure that I didn't flip the Ped Egg sideways or upside down.  I think the hardest part may have been trying to keep my foot in a position where the Ped Egg stayed with the cup directly underneath to catch all the shavings, which it actually did.  It's quite fascinating to pop off the blade from the cup that catches the filings and see the little pile of shavings.  Husband happened to walk into the room as I was doing this and gave me the "ewwww, that's nasty" look, but I found it strangely entertaining.
  • Effectiveness - I was able to remove most of the hard and calloused parts of my heel very quickly (perhaps 3 or 4 minutes on each foot).  The instructions warn to stop and check your progress constantly so that you don't get too over-zealous and end up causing foot pain, so I would stop and run my hand over my foot to check how things were looking.  I was happy with how effective the blade is and I found that I didn't need to use too much pressure for it to do the job.  I think the way the blade is designed means that the end result is smoother than other methods I have tried.
  • Price - After using my CVS bucks, I paid $6 for mine.  I know I've seen them at Walgreens, Bed Bath & Beyond (where you could use a 20% off coupon), and various online merchants.  It seems that people warn not to buy directly from the infomercial on account of some shady business with random credit card charges.  The fact it's so easily available elsewhere means that I won't worry much about that.  A refill pack of 3 blades seems to range in price from $5-$10.  I don't consider this to be very expensive and it's certainly cheaper than having to go out for a pedicure.  
Overall, I'm happy with the results that I got from the Ped Egg.  After the single use, I've already got a lot more "feeling" back where the hardened/dead skin has been removed.  I anticipate that the initial uses will take care of getting my feet into a really nice state.  From there, it's more a question of making sure I moisturize, combined with using the Ped Egg for maintenance.

Have you used this product?  I'd love to know if it's worked for you!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Daily Deal - Giveaway update...I'm a winner!

It's been one of those crazy work-weeks where I've had very little opportunity to even come up with anything vaguely interesting to say in blogland.  That is unless spreadsheets and a bunch of legal jargon are of any particular interest to you.

I was very pleasantly surprised to check on my blog today to see a comment noting that I won a bag through Sew Mama Sew's giveaway day on Monday!  Check out this super cute, and very summery, bag that I won on Handmade Therapy's blog.
This is the "Summertime Buttercup Bag", and you can purchase your own if you wish through Handmade Therapy's Etsy store.  I love that it has such a range of colors as it means I can wear this bag all through the summer and it'll go with so many of my outfits (as I tend to wear a lot of red tones and green tones anyway!) 

It's the perfect reward to end a tough week.  Thanks to Hilda @ Handmade Therapy for her excellent sewing talents.  I can't wait to receive it.  :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daily Chuckles - Ridiculous, but I kind of want it!

Sometimes I find things online that are completely ridiculous and make me wonder who the hell even has enough time on their hands to come up with these things.  At the same time, they amuse me greatly and the end result is that I kind of want them and if I had expendable income, I'd probably have to buy it for shits and giggles (so to speak).

I came across this little gem a couple of days ago and have to share.

Birchstone Studios Snot-A-Mug Egg Separator
Now, I don't generally have to separate my egg whites, but if I did this on a regular basis, I can think of no better way to do it than inducing snot through a ceramic nostril.  This guy seems like a dinner guest that would also wipe his nose on his sleeve, or pick his teeth before reaching for the bread.  Truly quite genius in design, and totally hilarious, but perhaps users should be aware that it might put you off your pudding (or whatever it is that you're cooking).

For $14.95 (through Amazon), it just might be perfect for next year's white elephant gift exchange at work.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Deal - Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day!

If you like blogs, and you like free stuff, here's the thing for you! Sew Mama Sew is hosting a Giveaway Day today. Go check out the many blogs that are offering giveaways for your chance to enter and win cool handcrafted stuff. Find some fun new blogs to read while you're at it.

The lists are organized to include information on whether the blog is offering international shipping for the winner.  Don't forget to check that out!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daily Deuce - Tutorial: How to use a scratch post

Over the last few months, husband and I have taken lots of video of our little kitty Deuce and his antics.  Lots and lots of antics!  He's not camera shy, actually preferring to sniff the camera lens and try to chew the strap when possible.  Anyway, I'm finally getting around to putting them up online.

From the first couple of days we had him, we made sure he was familiar with his scratch post and he has since become quite the scratch post master.  The post here has been retired as he outgrew it - watch and you'll see why!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daily Shape - Measuring up!

Almost exactly one year ago, I was inspired to embark upon a journey to get my ass in shape.  I'd paid no attention to my doctor's warning that 28 is the magic age upon which many women suddenly realize their body is changing, adopting a slower metabolism and generally holding onto the bits (read fat) that is totally unwanted.  I've always had curves (mostly boobs, very little butt); however, I ended up being the heaviest I've ever been.  So, on my 30 birthday last year, I signed up at a new gym, signed up for personal training, and started actually going to the gym 4 times a week.  Impressive right?!

Well, one year on, I'm 20 lbs lighter, a pant size smaller, and I've shed about 6% body fat.  I'm back to the weight and size I was about 5-7 years ago.  This is half way to my final goal.  Don't get me wrong, I'm really proud of what I've accomplished so far but husband (who is the master of making one acknowledge unwanted truths) spent a good portion of last night getting me to admit to myself that it's just not been happening fast enough.  I'm trying not to resent him completely for the fact that he can lose 20 lbs in a third of the time that I can while sitting on the couch - stupid male metabolisms.  I've never been one to lose weight quickly and would probably be classified as an endomorph body type.  Yes, that's the one that likes to hang on to fat (yay me!)  I've reset my goals and my new plan is to lose the other 20 lbs that I would like to get rid of over the next 4 months.

How do I plan on doing this?  I'm still formulating my master plan but here's what I've come up with so far.

- Start logging my daily calorie intake.  I was doing this for a couple of months when I first started on this journey last year.  I burn approximately 2,300 calories daily just being alive, so eating no more than 2,000 calories a day will keep me on track.  If you're interested in doing this, I suggest a free membership over at  It's a super easy way to keep a food journal, track your weight goals, calorie intake and general activity levels.  Plus there are cool looking pie charts.  The example here is what I've eaten so far today. 

- Come up with a workout master plan!  I'm a member with LA Fitness and see a personal trainer at that gym once a week.  I went online and looked at the classes (free to members) available at each of the 3 locations close to me.  I now have a little class calendar printed with all of the classes that would fit my schedule on it.  Tonight I think I'll be checking out the latin dance class.  I'll also be continuing to swim once or twice a week - which has been great for exercise and muscle tone, but not necessarily great for weight loss.  I will definitely be attending the Aqua Aerobics classes more frequently too.  It's not just for elderly people you know!

- Food is going to be a fun one.  For those of you that have been reading for a little bit, I love food.  I don't have an unhealthy relationship with it, but it's tasty and I enjoy that.  Husband and I very rarely eat pre-processed foods, which means we've got a lot more control over what goes in it, and we cut down on a lot of unnecessary sodium and high-fructose corn syrup.  Based on my body type though, I need to eat a lower-carb diet and tweak my evening meals to accommodate that.  So, today I looked up some healthy recipes that we'll be trying to hopefully jump start (shake up, freak out) my metabolism.

As I walked the mile and a half round trip to the bank on my lunch break today, in the blazing sun without my sunglasses (because I'm an idiot), I could already feel a sense of accomplishment.  I could also feel an increased concern for returning to the office with sweat stains, but that's a discussion for another time.  Either way, I'm in it for the long haul now, and I'm bringing you along for the ride!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daily Art - Curiosity (Lomography)

I lived in the little village of Oxshott, Surrey (in the UK) for 12 years and worked right across the street from this staircase.  I've never known where the staircase leads to and have always wondered but never went up the stairs to see for myself.  Last time I was at home visiting my parents, I decided to snap this picture for posterity.  I may never know where the staircase leads, but I think it's probably better that way.  After all, why spoil the mystery?

Lomography is a style of photography trademarked by the Austrian company, Lomographische AG.  The pictures produced by lomography cameras are easily identified by the vibrant colors, increased contrast and vignette around the edges.  I don't have a lomo camera but enjoy the look of shots in that style, so have played with creating the same effect using Photoshop.  It has to be said, this picture now looks very different from the rather vanilla snapshot that I took.  I think the retro feel really highlights the simplicity of the photo.

I think that the simplest pictures bring the best results when playing with this technique.  Here's a before and after example of another photo I took and treated in the same manner so you can see a side by side comparison.  While I generally shy away from digital modification of my pictures, sometimes it's fun to play and create something completely new.  Lomography cameras are actually pretty inexpensive and at some point I may buy one to play with, but until then, a little Photoshop magic will work for me!

Check out the Lomo Flickr group for more awesome examples.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Happy Mother's Day

I haven't been able to spend a Mother's Day with my mom in years as we live on either side of that big old pond, otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.  I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish her a Happy Mother's Day!  We may not be together physically, but she's always with me wherever I go.

With my mom on my wedding day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Daily Dish - Cinco De Mayo Enchiladas

It seems that Cinco De Mayo is one of those adopted holidays that we celebrate on account of needing an excuse to drink, as if an excuse were needed.  This is the reason that my husband has fittingly dubbed it "cinco de drinko".  It's up there with St. Patty's day and I wonder how many people even know the significance of either holiday.  Either way, my festive side was inspired to cook up a tasty Mexican treat for dinner last night.  I've been working late a lot recently so needed a quick and simple, but of course tasty, dinner.  I opted for my version of enchiladas and here's the recipe - I think the whole thing takes 30 minutes, 15 of which the food is in the oven which gives you more time to sip on that margarita while waiting.

1 large chicken breast
Fajita or taco seasoning (husband makes ours so you can make your own, or get it at the store)
1 cup (or so) shredded Cheddar cheese
8 Flour tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce
Chopped onion (I used green onion last night, but a regular onion would work too)
Olives for garnish (optional)
Sour cream (also optional)

Disclaimer - I don't usually measure stuff and these are all estimates!

Step 1 - Season the chicken with fajita or taco seasoning.  If you don't have any handy, I suggest a mixture of chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, garlic powder, and paprika.  Once the chicken is suitably sprinkled with the good stuff, pop it on the grill.  I cheated and used the George Foreman seeing as it cooks anything in about 6 minutes.  Of course, you're more than welcome to use a pan. 

Step 2 - While the chicken is cooking, take this opportunity to prep all your other necessary bits and pieces.  This means chop up the onion, shred the cheese and, if you aren't using diced olives, cut those up too.  I noted that you need a cup of shredded cheese in the ingredients list - that's a total estimate.  You'll need enough to sprinkle a little bit inside each enchilada as well as a nice layer on top.  In our house, we're uber cheesy so probably use more than we should.  Our fat intake thanks us.

Somewhere around this point I believe I preheated the oven to 375.

Step 3 - Once the chicken is cooked, you'll want to shred it.  I've seen recipes before suggest you pull it apart with your hands.  Now, keeping in mind the chicken just came off the grill and it's hot, I came up with my own ingenious solution to this that doesn't involve second degree burns.  So, grab 2 forks and use one to anchor the chicken while you pull off bits of chicken with the other.

Step 4 - Grab your pyrex dish (which should be wide enough to fit a tortilla) and open up the can of enchilada sauce.  Pour a little of the sauce on the bottom of the pyrex, which will prevent the tortillas sticking.  Now all your stuff is ready, pop the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them and make them easier to roll up.  Inside each tortilla, put some chicken, a sprinkling of cheese (don't forget to save some for the top) and onion.  Then roll the tortilla into a tube and place it in the pyrex with the flap facing down (so that it doesn't unravel). 

Step 5
- Once all the tortillas are rolled and snug in the pyrex, pour on the enchilada sauce.  Make sure you get the sauce down the sides and in between the tortillas too.  We usually use a half can because for some reason enchilada sauce comes in the 28oz cans and there's just far too much!  If you like your food super saucy though, go for it.  Once it's been sauced, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, then add the olives if you've elected to use them. 

At this point, you just pop the dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has all melted.  I took those 15 minutes to make a little rice and heat up some refried beans for side dishes.  Once the enchiladas are on the plate, you can also add a dollop of sour cream (which I did right after taking this photo).  The best part, this fed both of us and we had leftovers for lunch!  
Do any of you have a good, quick and tasty Mexican recipe to share?  If so, would love to hear it!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Weekend shenanigans

The last 5 days have been a whirlwind.  I'm going to post this now and add photos later (once I have a chance to go home and actually get them off my camera!)  Here's the cliff notes of my weekend.

Edit on May 6 to add photos y'all!

THURSDAY- We had the farewell party for my boss, who is taking off to a fancy-schmanzy law firm and abandoning me.  Sniff.  Ok, I'm actually very happy for him but I will miss him.  If you'd asked me 9 years ago when I first met him if I ever thought I might actually miss him, I would have told you no.  In fact, I think I said that to him the other day.  :)

FRIDAY - Firstly, my girl Holly had her baby boy Friday morning.  Their little family is doing great and the baby's first outfit involved a Star Wars t-shirt.  Obviously, they're on top of their game!

Hopped in the car and drove off to Vegas for a bachelorette celebration (and my birthday weekend!)  Might I suggest trying the buffet at Mandalay Bay.  Us girls were supposed to be meeting the bachelor party there for dinner and, after the bride had a "bra emergency" requiring a trip to Victoria's Secret in the Caesar's Forum Shops, we arrived an hour late.  By this time, it was only a half hour before the buffet closed.  I definitely recommend giving yourself a little more time to spare because there's far too much good stuff to eat in that short period of time, you'll eat too fast, and you will give yourself a stomach ache.  Ask me how I know.  We then took off to "Vanity" (which is the club at the Hard Rock).  If terrible top-40s music circa 2003 and a bunch of people living up to the name of the club are your thing, then you should go here for sure! 

SATURDAY - It was my birthday!!  Happy 31 to me.  As a wise man once told me "too young to die, never too young to rock".

Spent time with the family and got to see my adorable nephew Ethan.  He's about 20 months now and about as cute as can be.  We don't see him all that frequently so it's always a surprise to see how much he's grown, how much more he's talking and watch him turn into a gorgeous little boy.

Played a little pre-Thunder skee-ball.  Epic skee-ball fail i think.

That evening, we headed out to the Thunder From Down Under show at the Excalibur casino.  It was entertaining enough, and the guys definitely have  Personally, I think if the music selection hadn't been as good as it was, I would have been very disappointed though.  I used the opportunity to drink quite a bit of vodka tonic and by the time we left, I certainly had a slightly fuzzy feeling.  After quite randomly spending a little time hanging out with Floyd Mayweather's cousin and his friends at a bar (who were in Vegas for the fight this weekend), we wound up at our final destination - the beautiful and brand spankin' new hotel Aria.
Speaking of epic fails, what the hell is up with this door? 
(Thanks husband for finding this one - it's a winner!)

So, it's now Tuesday and it has to be said I think I might still be recovering a little bit - I'm tired!  I'm not much for staying out all night drinking anymore and you're more likely to find me on the couch in my PJs.  That being said, I did have a blast and it certainly wasn't a bad weekend for celebrations.