Dear, I’m sorry…

January 3, 2016

Hello. How are you? I'm just writing to tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done and for breaking your heart.

It's been a long time. Too long. How can it be 2 years since I paid any attention to you? I guess I'm busy, LilSis is busy, we're all busy.

I haven't had a chance to tell you that I bought a house that needed work inside and out, and adopted a couple more furry kids. You would love them, if I took the time to introduce them to you. And then there's that job thing I do all week.

And fitting in family, laundry, house projects, workouts, fundraising, cooking, poop scooping, work travel, socializing, church…it's a lot. I'm just busy. All that is no excuse for abandoning you though, and I know it. You didn't deserve that.

We had some good times. Some great times! I learned a lot from you, and I want to keep growing. I think I have more to give, so I'm not quitting you. Isn't that what life is about, sharing what we've learned along the way? I don't want to lose that.

I still love you. I think about you all the time; things I want to tell you and photos I want to share. I can't imagine letting you go for good. If you'll forgive me, I want to come back. I miss you. I want to give it another try, and this time, I mean it. I promise.

Give me a chance, and I'll prove to you that I can be trusted. Can we meet once or twice a week to go over everything? I do love you, my dear blog, and I want you back in my life.  xoxoxoxo


How to Survive without Google Reader!

July 8, 2013

google reader

Adios, Google Reader! By now, you might have heard that Reader retired on July 1st. Yep, it's Gonesville. Forever. Google says that usage of the product declined since its debut in 2005, so they decided to discontinue it for good.

LilSis and I both used Reader to manage our blog subscriptions, so we were bummed to hear of its demise. There is hope though for life after Google Reader!

The first thing you need to know is that even though you can't use Reader to view posts any more, you do still have a few more days to salvage all of your subscription info. I definitely didn't want to lose track of all the blogs I've subscribed to over the years, and I don't want you to either.

Here are the steps you need to take asap to avoid losing your subscription info:

  1. On July 15th, all of your subscription data will be permanently and completely deleted, so take this first step before then. Go to Google Takeout to download your information, and click on “Choose Services”. You probably only care about Reader, so select that. You'll be taken to a screen that shows the size of the download Takeout will generate and the number of files involved. Click on “Create Archive”.
  2. You'll be taken to a page called “Control Your Data”. When your archive is finished, you'll see “Complete” and the file name at the right side of the status bar. When it's complete, click on “Download”. During this process, you may be asked to provide your Reader login user name and/or password.
  3. When the file has finished downloading, you'll see that it is a WinShrink file that contains several files, including one called subscriptions.xml.  To make these files available for use, click on “Extract” and pay attention to where you tell WinShrink to save the files. If these steps have gone as planned, you have now retrieved the information you need from Google Reader, so that you can import it into another program and use it.
  4. The next step is to decide which program you want to use to manage your blog subscriptions from now on. I can't say that I'm an expert on this topic. Your options include Feedly, NewsBlur, the Old Reader, Reeder and several others. This alternative summary will give you a little info on each. I already had Feedly downloaded a while back (for some reason), so that's what I'm using. It seems to be a popular option. When you've made a decision, you can click on the product you like, and download it right from this page.
  5. The only thing left to do is now import your subscriptions.xml file into your program of choice. With Feedly, I just had to click on “Import OPML” and then tell Feedly where I had saved the extracted WinShrink files; specifically subscriptions.xml. Once I did that, all of my subscriptions loaded in the categories I had specified in Reader, so now I'm up and running without missing a beat. Voila!

This process is actually easier than the five steps make it appear, so I hope you won't be intimated to do it. The most important thing you can do is make sure you grab your archive from Google Reader before it is deleted on July 15th! If you do that successfully, you could wait and follow steps 4 and 5 later. The risk in waiting until after July 15th for those last 2 steps however is that if you had any glitch in downloading the info, you won't have a second chance to try to retrieve it again.

I think I'm going to like Feedly, and don't see a big learning curve. I hope this little tutorial helps you make a smooth transition to life after Google Reader! Good luck!


Knee deep in…

October 7, 2012


Double Chocolate Oat Vegan Cookies


  • Shopping for cookie scoops for the bake sale. I bought this 2-ounce stainless steel disher from Ace Mart Restaurant Supply.
  • Cleaning up the DVR, and loving ABC's new drama “Last Resort”. I'm hooked with the first episode!
  • Satisfying a craving by snacking on extra crispy tater tots, and wondering why they aren't more appropriately labeled as extra tiny tots instead. They're so teeny!

Tiny Tater Tots


  • Loving this new fall pedicure color. It's called HRH (I think for Her Royal Highness), and it's from Butter London.

Butter London HRH

  • Planning dinner of quinoa with shitake mushrooms and something with kale from Nava Atlas' “Wild About Greens“.
  • Looking for a new iPhone 5 case. Any recommendations for a cool but sturdy one?
  • Enjoying/spoiling my sweet little healed-by-the-hand-of-God boy who used up another life last weekend. Wondering how much I can sell a kidney for to pay for his medical bills and the only thing he'll eat right now.

Ashy Poo 10-12




Inspiring words

April 27, 2012

~ If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. – Rumi

~ There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting. – Buddha

~ Dare to believe that something inside you is greater than your circumstances. – unknown

~ Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

~ The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart. – Helen Keller.

Photo credit:



April 13, 2012

Fear of the number thirteen

Do you have friggatriskaidekaphobia? I don't. 🙂

Have you ever heard of friggatriskaidekaphobia?

I hadn't; until today.

Sounds nasty, doesn't it?

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the actual fear of Friday the 13th. Or, maybe you just have triskaidekaphobia, which is the fear of the number 13. Nope? Me neither, but I do think it's interesting that such a phobia exists.

Fear of number thirteenIt's been reported that many notable figures suffered from triskaidekaphobia. Winston Churchill, J. Paul Getty, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt all experienced the irrational fear of 13.

Supposedly, Napoleon and Christopher Columbus also suffered from the phobia.

This is already the second Friday the 13th that we've had in 2012 and we're going to have one more in just 13 weeks.  I just realized that anytime a month begins on a Sunday, there will be a Friday the 13th in that month. So, July 13th will be the last Friday the 13th for 2012.

Well, that's the trivia for the day. I choose to consider Friday the 13th a lucky day instead of an unlucky one. I don't need to encourage bad luck; I've had my fair share of that lately.

I hope you have a very happy and lucky Friday the 13th! 🙂



Hunger Games Movie Review with No Spoilers

March 25, 2012

Hunger Games Katniss Reaping

I'm not an early adopter so it's not surprising that I didn't jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon until 5 days prior to the movie's release. Thankfully, it's a quick read so I was finished with the book in under 6 hours and ready to see it come to life on the screen on Friday.

To be sure, people who read a book before the movie comes out are a huge critic of the film. But people who read the book, can't put it down and LOVE it are the biggest critics of all. That would be me. And bunches of other people.

First, let's talk about all of the things done right in the Hunger Games movie. There are a lot.

  • The movie is extremely faithful to the book; some of the dialogue is verbatim and with very few exceptions, the plot follows the book precisely.
  • I found it much easier to sympathize with and understand Haymitch in the film. You get a pretty clear sense that he became an alcoholic and sarcastically nasty because he's lost every pair of Tributes he's ever worked with. He's built up a wall of liquor and surliness to protect himself from getting too attached to these kids. I liked that we got to see his behind the scenes efforts to get sponsors and help for Katniss and Peeta.
  • The creativity behind the presentation of the Gamemakers' control room was incredible. It was a futuristic, sci-fi-NASA hotbed of brilliantly twisted manipulators. It was a little hard to imagine how the Gamemakers worked their evil madness in the book, but it really came to life on the screen.
Hunger Games Katniss Interview
  • The movie kept my attention, and the 2-1/2 hours flew by. The pace was fast, the action was relentless, and the tension was high for much of the film, as it should have been.
  • The performances and casting choices were all on target: Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Effie, President Snow, Seneca and Caesar were all perfect. Rue couldn't have been more precious and precocious. But I would have liked even more Cinna!

Hunger Games Rue

  • The makeup and special effects were well done, the cinematography was beautiful, and the depiction of the Capitol was fascinating. We saw how horrendous life was in the Districts, and how ridiculously extravagant life was in the Capitol.
  • The costumes were perfection. The District attire was muted depressed grays and blues, while Capitol garb was over the top in the craziest way imaginable. Effie's matching makeup, nails and clothing were very creepy Alice-In-Wonderland-ish. And the flaming costumes Peeta and Katniss wore into the Games were stunning.
Hunger Games Katniss Effie

I do have some criticisms though, and once again, as a book-lover I'm uber-sensitive to things that a non-book-reader would probably not even notice.

  • I think they would notice the camera gimmicks though. I found the shaky camera work to be very distracting and it actually made my eyes hurt. I can see that the gimmicks make sense in some scenes, showing the frenzy of the moment, as in the Tracker Jacker attack. But for me they were generally annoying, and detracted from my theater experience overall.
Hunger Games Fire Costumes
  • My biggest complaint is that the edge was taken off the story; I suppose to maintain the PG-13 rating and to allow kids to see the film since it started out as a teen book. In my opinion, anyone younger than 13 or 14 shouldn't read the book anyway, much less see the movie because of the violent subject matter. An R rating would have been easy to achieve, but I think the raw quality of the story could have been maintained without heading into R territory.

We didn't get a sense of how truly brutal the Games were, how beaten up the Tributes were, how intense the final cornucopia arena scene was, how tender the cave scenes were, or how heartbreaking the final train scene was. I think the key themes of the book were a little glossed over, and that the director was afraid to “go there”. We didn't see the main characters starving, freezing cold, burning hot, panic-stricken and near death.

Hunger Games Katniss Bow

For example, when Katniss suffered a serious knife wound to the head, it barely bled. In the real world, a head cut will bleed profusely, and hers didn't even dribble into her eyebrow. I once had a cut over my eyebrow, and even my shoes were ruined from the amount of blood that I lost. I think this kind of missed detail just detracted from the realism of the story.

And call me gruesome, but I really wanted to see the haunted human eyes of the Muttations, and a little more detail in the Tracker Jackers.

  • The characters weren't developed deeply enough for me, other than Haymitch. I don't think we saw just how good Peeta was or how tough and distrustful Katniss was, or how much disdain she had for the angle of the star-crossed lovers. I know we don't have the benefit of knowing Katniss' thoughts as we did in first-person print, but I think we could have been shown more of who they were without that and without adding a lot of scenes to the already lengthy running time.
Hunger Games Katniss Tube
  • One personal little nitpick: I imagined that music would be featured as a beautiful, magical and stark contrast to a ruthlessly brutal environment. In the book, music was a continuing theme: with Katniss' father, with Prim and Katniss, and in Rue's love of music and how the Mockingjays played into that. I think that highlighting that theme more prominently would have been stunning. Perhaps it will be in one of the future movies?
  • And one last minor note, Gale seemed way too clean and fancy among the dirty downtrodden swarm of District folks. Where'd he get that nice haircut?

Overall, I would give the film a score of a “B+”. If the camera hadn't been so irritating, and if the highs were a bit higher and the lows a touch lower, I would definitely give it an “A”.

In spite of my criticisms, I actually did love the movie, and would see it again. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books and seeing the other movies when they come out. To anyone older than 12, I highly recommend reading these books!

 * All photos are the property of LionsGate Films.


I’ve been Twitterized!

March 18, 2012

Have you heard about According to their web site, I'm a geeky, grinning, skateboard-riding foodie!


I'll accept that! At least, all of it except for the skateboard-riding. We all know that I'd break a hip, at my advanced age.

I also have a slight question about bacon and bullfighting. Where in the world did those topics come from?  I haven't tasted bacon in 18+ years and never talk about it.  And bullfighting? Let's not even go there!

Oh, and while I'm wondering about's ways, I have to ponder the mention of “adam”. Could the “adam” actually be the Adam Richman, who ripped me on Twitter and asked me to stop watching his show? Thanks for reminding me of that debacle,! I had almost forgotten it. Almost.

What does with this little graphic is look at your twitter account (your info isn't made public or anything weird like that), and make a funny assessment of who you are. It's based on your tweets, your followers and who you follow. And from my experience, they toss in a bit of their own randomness, just to keep it lively!

To twitterize yourself, just go to and have fun!


September 11: what will we do?

September 11, 2011

September 11 Twin Towers

It is inconceivable that ten years have passed since September 11, 2001.  9/11 is one of those landmark days etched into our souls; we remember where we were and how it felt when we heard the news that our country was under attack.

We can't forget the days and weeks and months after that as the rescue efforts turned into long-term recovery of remains.  We heard eyewitness accounts, saw video, and learned the names and faces of people who perished that day.  We grieved for their families, for New Yorkers and for the death of our naive notion that no one would dare to attack us on our home soil.

We will never be the same.  And we shouldn't be.

Evil reared its ugly head that day in New York, and at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field.  Over 3000 people lost their lives and many thousands of other people were devastated by the loss of their loved ones.

In spite of the destruction and unbearable grief, evil did not win that day.  Ten years later, stories are still surfacing about people pulling together that day, working together, caring for each other, getting each other through unbelievable circumstances.

Today, the  “New York Says Thank You” Foundation chooses an important charity project every year.  New York firefighters and other volunteers devote themselves to pay back the help they've been given, and to try to heal a little bit.

Groups like Action America have arisen to turn the events of September 11th into positive action.  They ask “what will you do?” What will we do? How can we help our fellow man today?  How can we use our lives for good, and not just for selfish enjoyment? If we all did just one unselfish thing for someone else today, just imagine the impact it would have on our world.

The legacy of September 11th should not just be fear and sorrow, although we are absolutely entitled to those emotions after what has happened to us.  The lasting legacy can be that we care about each other a little bit more than we did before, and that we do something about it.

We can be upset and sad as we reflect on 9/11, but if we're only upset and sad, then Evil has won.  We have to do something.  What will we do?

The pain inflicted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 does not have to be suffered in vain.

May God bless our country, and continue to use for good what our Enemy meant for evil on this day ten years ago.


Photo credit: sizeofguam flickr stream



How to make a Baby Name Wall Hanging with Fabric Letters

July 21, 2011

Guess who came 2 weeks early?  Little Baby Jack, that's who!  He decided not to wait for his due date, and made his appearance on July 8th, so we're all thrilled to have another sweet little boy in the family!

LilSis had a baby shower for Bry and Rach on June 1st, and we talked about all of the fun things we did for it.  I had a complete blast making these fabric-wrapped letters for Jack's room:

Jack Fabric Letters

I'm not gonna lie to you though…these little dudes were tricky in parts!  I would absolutely do them again, especially since I learned a few tricks of my own along the way.  What kind of a friend would I be if I didn't share them with you?  Not a very good one, I'd say, so let's get busy making some cute letters.

Paper Mache Letters

Start by choosing the name. It sounds simple since you can't change the child's name, but there are some things to consider.  I originally planned on making Jack's middle name too, since I love it so much.  Once I really thought about it though, I realized that would add 6 more letters.  Finding 4 fabrics that coordinated the way I wanted them to was challenging enough, and I think that finding 10 fabrics would have been a gargantuan challenge (aka pain in the tookus).

Besides the fabric selection issue, you also need to think about where the letters will be hung.  I was thinking about “Jack” on one line, and his middle name on a line below it.  But I didn't know what his mom and pop had planned for his room, and I didn't want to assume they'd have space for a wall hanging that large.

Decide on your color scheme as it coordinates with the child's room. I think selecting 2 or 3 colors from his/her color palette is a good rule of thumb.  If you have a sample of their existing fabrics and colors to go by, all the better.

Select your fabrics. Go a little crazy! I love mixing different patterns for a really fun combination.  This is for a baby's name, not a stuffy corporate boardroom, right?  As long as each fabric has the unifying color or colors to tie them all together, they'll work fine.  Try patterns, polka dots, stripes, plaids; whatever grabs you.  I chose fabrics that all had blue, yellow and/or green in them, and opted not to use any solids.

You won't need a lot of fabric.  I got half a yard of each and had plenty extra, just in case of a big boo boo.  One cool thing  I discovered is that a quilter's “fat quarter” is a great size for this project and comes at a fabulous price.  The doggie fabric on Jack's “A” was from a fat quarter that I paid $1.99 for.

Assemble the rest of your supplies. Here's what you'll need in addition to your fabrics:

  • Paper mache letters (I got my chunky ones at Hobby Lobby. They also have thinner cardboard ones.)
  • Quilters batting (I like the thicker poofier batting for this project.)
  • Felt (for the back of the letters; in a color that coordinates with the fabrics)
  • Wide ribbon (for the sides of the letters; choose a color that works with all of the fabrics)
  • Thin ribbon or rope (to hang the letters from)
  • Spray adhesive (to attach the batting to the letters)
  • Staple gun (to attach the fabric to the letters)
  • Hot glue gun (to attach the felt to the back)
  • Scotch tape (for any areas the staple gun won't reach)
  • Xyron sticker maker (to turn the ribbon into a sticker)
  • Pen or marker (to trace letters' outlines on fabric and felt)

Here we go!

Letters on Batting

First, turn your letters upside down on the batting and trace around them.  Marking on the backside of the batting reduces the chance it will show through any lighter fabrics.  Go ahead and trace around the letters on the felt too while you're at it.  For the felt, trace so that the marker will be hidden when it attaches to the back of the letter.

Batting on Letters

Cut out the batting and felt along your lines.  Follow the directions on your brand of spray adhesive, and apply the batting to the front of the letters. Press it down lightly, and allow to dry for a bit.

Decide which fabric goes with each letter.  Lay them out next to each other in different orders, so you can see which ones look the prettiest/most handsome next to each other.

Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the letter; I like to allow several generous inches all the way around, especially since the letters I used are so chunky.

Now comes the part that needs all your attention and a bit of patience.  With the fabric right side down, place the letter face down on it.  You're going to go around each letter, keeping tension on the fabric as you pull it to the back of the letter and attach it with the staple gun.

#1, make sure your fingers are out of the way!  #2, make sure the tension on the fabric is consistent all the way around the letter.  I like to do the straight sides first.  If you're working with stripes or plaids, check the front of the letter as you go to make sure the pattern is straight.

Wrap Fabric

When you come to a curve, you're going to ease in the fullness, making smooth little pleats as you go.  You'll need to snip the fabric here and there to allow it to fit smoothly.  I use lots of staples on curves and take my time.

On corners, try to fold under the excess fabric as you would make a hospital corner with your bed sheets.  You can fiddle with it until you get it smooth and sharp, then staple it down.

Back Fabric

Now for the tricky part I mentioned!  Some spots on these letters are a bear to do, especially if you're a perfectionist like me!  The inside of the “A” and the inside angles on the top and bottom of the “K” gave me fits.  I found there wasn't enough fabric in those spots to fold to the back of the letter, so that's when I had to resort to bits of scotch tape.

Just remember, you want to keep the sides of the letters as smooth as you can so bumps won't show through your ribbon, but the ribbon is going to be there to hide any remaining gaps the fabric didn't cover.

Fabric Gap

Once all your letters are covered with fabric, admire your work! The hard part is done!

Front Fabric Done

The next step is to cover the sides with the wide ribbon.  My letters were thick and I wanted a ribbon that would cover the whole side, and not leave any gaps.  I needed a 3/4″ ribbon.  Guess what? They don't MAKE a 3/4″ ribbon, at least not that I could find after many many craft store trips!  Who knew?

What I decided to do was buy a 1″ ribbon and wrap the excess to the back of the letter.  It ended up creating a really finished edge, and I think it worked out even better than a 3/4″ ribbon would have.

Back Ribbon Wrap

I experimented with many different adhesives and fabric glues to attach the ribbon, and couldn't find one that would have great sticking ability but would not stain the ribbon or show through. Hot glue would leave that ugly bumpy ridge so that was out.

My solution?  Run the ribbon through a Xyron sticker maker (with the permanent adhesive).  It works like a charm!  It sticks incredibly well with no staining, and the excess ribbon sticks nicely to the back of the letter.

Xyron Ribbon Sticker

Measure the length of ribbon you need, allowing a bit extra so you don't come up 1/4″ short!  Run it through the Xyron, peel off the backing, and start applying to the sides of the letters, beginning in the most hidden part of the letter so your seam will be as invisible as you can make it.

Ribbon Corner

Attach your felt to the back of the letters with hot glue.  I like to trim off any excess fabric before I do this, just to make the back as smooth as possible.  You can add extra tape or staples to any spots that are wild.  Since hot glue dries so fast, I like to lay down a small amount of glue at a time, working my way around the letter. All of your crazy mess is your secret now!

Felt Back Letters

You're almost done!  The last step is to attach the ribbon or rope (or whatever you like) that the letters will hang from.  I chose a thin white rope trim.  To keep it from slipping out of the staple, I made a small tight knot at the end, and just attached it to the top of the back with the staple gun.

Finished Letter

There are lots of different things you could do with these once they're done.  You can hang them from little wooden pegs like I did, or you could hang them on a curtain rod like a valence over a window.  You could skip the rope (ha ha), and just stand the letters up on a dresser or bookshelf.  Use your imagination!

Finished Letters

That's it!  Adorable, custom-made letters for some lucky adorable custom-made baby!