Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Have you ever "tasted" yarn?

My close friend MamaK and I went to a "Yarn Tasting" this past Friday, hosted by Woolbearers, a yarn store in southern New Jersey. It was their 2nd Annual event, though the first of its kind for MamaK and I. So "what is a yarn tasting" you may ask? Well, it goes something like this:

At each seat there was a box filled with goodies, lots of little balls of yarn to try out. Oh, did I mention that all the yarns were "green"? Since I've never been exploratory in my yarn usage, this was a great way for me to get my feet wet...well, my fingertips, anyways. Each of the little balls was labeled with the kind of yarn and there was a sheet of paper to take notes.

All the ladies just dug right in and started working with the fun yarns, while the waitress came around with coffee and tea. Lots of talking, lots of knitting, and then there was me...crocheting. I got a lot of flack from the knitters, but all in good fun.

As the ladies got further into the night with their knitting (and crocheting), the waitress came around with a scrumptious dessert platter and took our dessert orders. Mmm, the chocolate-peanut butter dessert :-p The ladies fell in two camps, those that put down their crafting to enjoy dessert, or those that left their dessert for their crafting.

After dessert, more talking, more knitting (and more crocheting) and boy how the time flies! Since crocheting uses up more yarn, I was able to finish my sampler of all the "tasty" yarns while we were there. Check out the Mini Me pic...crochet vs. knit (though I did have a bit of a headstart). I kept all the tags on the yarns so I can refer to it later to decide which yarns I want to try out on an actual project.

My favorite of the "green" yarns were the Baby Boo (so soft), the Royal Bamboo, the Tapes (both the Soy Silk and the Bamboo), and the Wool Bamboo. Can you tell I'm a fan of Bamboo?

Since neither MamaK nor I were quite ready to call it a night, we decided to go to a nearby diner. MamaK did more knitting, we ate grilled cheese (mmm, comfort food!), and more talking of course. We hung out at the diner until MamaK and I both became incoherent due to sheer exhaustion just before 11:00pm...boy, I'm getting OLD!

Thanks to MamaK for sharing in the experience and making the night extra fun. Thanks for taking all the pics, too! I'll keep my eye out next year and hope we can do it again!

Oh, and here is a pic of my completed sampler.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Keeping it Simple

Since I began a new job about 16 months ago, I haven't been cooking dinner as much at home. And when that happens I usually end up eating much less healthy food for dinner...if anything at all. I'm away from home for at least 12 to 14 hours a day (and that's on days when I go straight to and from work and home). By the time I get home I'm tired and quite frankly I'm not in the mood to spend a great deal of time cooking for just me, since I live alone.

That being said, I'm on the hunt for simple, healthy, tasty recipes that I can quickly throw together and that don't leave tons of leftovers. I thought that others out there may be interested on the hunt for the same so I decided to share my progress on my blog...the good, the bad, and the ugly. But mostly...the TASTY!!!

This week I tried a recipe that was absolutely delicious and so simple it's ridiculous! As I nearly always do, I modified the recipe so below is how I made Lemon Parsley Pork Chops:

1 lemon, zested
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I used dried, but added water to soften)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (it might also be good to try lemon pepper)
~2 Tbsp olive oil
4 boneless loin pork chops

  1. Mince lemon zest and combine in a bowl with parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Put olive oil and about half of the lemon-parsley mixture in a large skillet over high heat. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper and put in skillet. Cook in skillet until browned (2-3 minutes per side).
  3. Add 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer gently until pork is cooked through (8-10 minutes).
  4. Transfer pork chops to platter or plate; drizzle with pan juices as desired and sprinkle additional lemon-parsley mixture to garnish.

Want to amp it up and simplify even more? At step 3, I set some zucchini spears in the water and simmered along with the meat. They were perfectly done at the same time as the pork and they tasted delicious! You could probably do this with green beans, instant rice, carrots, etc. Prep time took me about 5 minutes and a little over 10 minutes cooking time.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. Stay tuned next week for another Keeping it Simple recipe.

Oh, I almost forgot the nutritional information, per serving (minus the zucchini): 271 calories; 3g carbs; 1g fiber; <16g>

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Contest

The new growth of Spring...that's what makes me smile. I look forward to the green "glow" that the trees get when Spring arrives. Here are my examples of Spring's new growth:
Thanks to Dirkey for sponsoring this contest!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time to get a new cat!

So, Copper has been gone for just 2 weeks now...it feels like it's been forever (sniff). I've lived in my apartment for over 7 years and the only vermin problems I've had are bees and stink bugs...until now. I came home Sunday to find mouse droppings on my counter (YUCK!!!)

I bought some old fashioned traps and my boyfriend kindly set one with some yummy PB bait (choosey mice choose Jif...LOL). We went to dinner and when we walked in the house, heard the trap snap and, sure enough we got a little Mickey. So, just in case Mickey had a mate, we set another trap and my boyfriend headed home. This morning I checked and there were more mouse droppings (again, YUCK!) and the trap was licked CLEAN...not a spec of peanut butter left...and no dead mouse. This is what the trap looked like after PB, round 1...
So, I re-baited the trap and still haven't gotten the little thing, even though PB, round 2 is nearly gone! Hmmm, me thinks the little guy is getting way too comfortable. I think I'll try some cheese next.
I'm wondering if perhaps the mice plotted against my cats? I don't think it's a coincidence that less than 2 weeks after my house is cat-less I have a mouse problem. I guess it's time to get another cat...only this time I'm going to foster, since the boyfriend is allergic.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Visit to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

This weekend my close friend "B" and I went up to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

I was there with my boyfriend in the fall, late in the migration season and, unfortunately, didn't see many raptors. However, at the time I knew I would be back for the exceptional hiking and boulder-climbing that the mountain has to offer. Well, I can tell you that I certainly wasn't disappointed this weekend!

"B" and I took a hike totalling approximately 6 miles. I'm not talking a nice easy path to walk along...no siree! This was all out HIKING! Steep hills, crossing large boulder fields, climbing boulders, and a few gentle paths...but not many.

We started out on the "River of Rocks" loop, which was our intent all along. This is 4 miles in total and descends 700 feet going down one side, around the end of the river of rocks you see in the picture, and up the other side (yes, UP 700 feet!) After the "River of Rocks", we went on to the end of the "Escarpment Trail" to the "North Lookout". The "Escarpment Trail" was pretty much boulder climbing at it's finest. While on the "Escarpment Trail" and on "North Lookout", we saw loads of raptors, mostly black vultures, with a few hawks and what we think was one osprey. At one point we saw 12 raptors soaring above!

We finished off with a short jaunt to the "Sunset Overlook" and hiked the relatively easy path on out, some 6 hours after we had set off on our day's journey. All in all, a great day with no real injuries, lots of good times with a great friend, and great exercise. Oh, and I'm still experiencing the sore muscles!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Purple mountains majesty

Okay, so it's not purple, but it sure is majestic! This is a pic of Mt. Hood (in Oregon for those of you who didn't know that already)...the mountain I grew up with, camping and fishing on. I call it "My Mountain".

Thanks Mom, for sending me this beautiful reminder of home (sniff).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm invincible...

...at least until my final day comes, that is. The problem here is, none of us knows how many days we have left. So, my advice?
  1. Take a few moments EVERY DAY to count your blessings.
  2. Spend time or pick up the phone and talk to someone important to you.
  3. Treat others as though it is the last time you'll see them.
  4. Tell your friends and family how much they mean to you...OFTEN!

No, it's not the loss of my cat that has made me reflect on this. It's actually a horrible thing that happened to a co-worker. My co-worker, we'll call her "K", was married a little over a week ago. It was a small destination wedding with a few family and friends, with the reception planned for this weekend. Before I go further, you have to understand that "K" is an upbeat, fun-loving, crazy gal with a heart of gold.

So I was shocked and horrified to learn this morning that "K's" father died suddenly on Saturday. He was found (on Thursday or Friday) unconscious and taken to the hospital to learn that he had bleeding on his brain and prognosis was grim. Remember, her father had just walked her down the aisle one week earlier!!! So now, instead of experiencing the joys of being a newlywed, "K" is dealing with grieving and burying her father. And I can't imagine how she'll ever celebrate an anniversary without thinking of her father's death. He was only 55!

This reminded me just how precious every moment is. I was reminded of the couple times I've nearly lost my mom and how precious it is for me every time I see her. It is difficult living 3000 miles away sometimes because I think I miss out on so much of her life, but I do treasure every moment when I'm "home".

My mission is to be more conscious and thankful for all that I have (instead of what I don't), how people have brightened by day (instead of the day's difficulties), and find at least one way that I can brighten someone else's day up or make their day easier. I know that this may seem idealistic but I'm obviously not expecting that I'll do this 100% of the time. I simply think it is important that I live my life in perspective and to keep my eye on and be thankful for all the positive things in my life. I challenge you to do the same.

P.S. Please pray for "K" and her family as they go through this difficult time. I haven't seen or talked to her since her loss, but I can only imagine what she is going through.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hugs from our Father

"But those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their afflictions." Job 35:15

I have a Peace Lily that I've had for over 12 years now. It only blooms once in a great while...about once every 1 to 3 years. On Tuesday (the day after my Copper was put to sleep), I was milling around my kitchen talking to a friend on the phone and I looked up at the window and noticed a very new bloom on my Peace Lily. I can't remember the last time it bloomed and I know the bloom wasn't there the day before. Then I noticed a SECOND bloom! I felt like it was a big hug from God, showing me that there is life in my house, even if it's not in the form of my 2 deceased cats.

I sometimes miss the gentle ways God speaks to me daily, namely because I'm not that observant. Oh, I see the beauty in the world, but I don't always realize when God is speaking directly to me. I'm so grateful that God opened my eyes and my heart so I could see that He is here with me, comforting me and that He really does speak to us in our afflictions.

This experience caused me to reflect on why our Father chooses times of suffering to open our eyes and hearts so we can hear his voice clearly and feel his gentle hand more tangibly. For that I turn to Isaiah 53. The entire chapter speaks of how He is so intimately in tune with our suffering...because his own Son went through worse than what we ever will experience. An excerpt, Isaish 53:3-5, captures it beautifully:

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed."

I don't know that I can adequately express the comfort and peace that came over me when I saw those blooms, but I do know that it has helped carry me through this week. Let us not forget who it is who comforts us in our pain and just how it is that He can understand us so initimately.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sad, sad news

Unfortunately, I had to make the grim decision to put my dear Copper to rest today. Three vets agreed the most likely diagnosis was a large cancerous growth in his abdomen. The vet today advised that the most humane action would be to put him to sleep, as he was experiencing obvious pain and discomfort. I spent quite a bit of time with Copper before and after his death. He was very much NOT the Copper that's he's been for his short 10 years, so that certainly helped to make the decision easier, but it doesn't help ease the pain.

I finally came home a little while ago (11:00pm) because I didn't want to spend the afternoon and evening in an empty house. Huge THANKS to my aunt and uncle (and cousins) for keeping me occupied this evening and getting my mind off of things. It was nice to have a reprieve from feeling such strong emotions. However, when I walked through the door of my house I was hit with a tidal wave of emotion and I just can't stop crying. Yes, I'm crying as I write this.

I see Copper everywhere! The last places he laid, his food and water dishes are still filled, his toys, his spot on the couch, the nibble marks on my Christmas cactus, even all the places that he would rub up against (he was such a happy cat). I hear his purr and I see his little face. It just feels like too much right now...so overwhelming.

True to form, the Princeton Animal Hospital was amazing. All the doctors and staff are so compassionate and understanding. Even the way they carried him out of the room after he had passed, with such care, as though he were just sleeping. Truly wonderful people with enormous hearts. Thank you!

And thanks to all my friends and family who are praying for some peace through this and sending me such nice sentiments. It's times like this when I'm reminded of how truly blessed I am. I may not have a lot of monetary wealth, but I have more riches in my friends and family than some of the wealthiest people on the planet. These are the riches that matter, btw! I thank God every day for each and every one of you.

I appreciate your continued prayers. This was way too soon after George's death and much too sudden and I'm not quite coping as before. I had months to grieve George and he had lived a longer life. And when you add that now I come home to a completely empty house...it makes it so much worse.

Oh, and I can't forget to mention that with Copper's last breath, he stuck out his tongue...he died with his tongue sticking out! While crying, I couldn't help but laugh when he did that. For those who knew him, you might agree...I think it's like he went out of life kind of how he lived it...sticking his tongue out at the world! It's just so fitting.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Achy-breaky heart

Very early this morning I was awakened not once, but twice, by the lovely sound of my cat (Copper) vomiting. After about six or seven episodes in only 4 - 5 hours, I really started to get worried so I called the vet. They told me I could bring him in at 11:00, but I thought that was too long (it was ~9:30am at the time I called), so they told me to bring him in. When we arrived, they whisked him to the back to make sure he was stable and, long story short, it's a good thing I brought him in when I did. He started to crash well before 11:00, so much so that the vet brought me to the back...they were afraid he wasn't going to make it.

So, after many hours at the vet/animal hospital, we don't know much more than this: (1) Copper was dehydrated enough to cause concern; (2) he's lost 20% of his body weight in one month, which may be partially due to dehydration...difficult to know; (3) after blood work, his red blood cells are very low and he is anemic; (4) the vet (fabulous Dr. K) thinks that he's suffering from "anemia due to chronic disease" and he's guessing that the chronic disease is cancer, but he's not really sure. When I left the vet/animal hospital about 5+ hours later, I didn't leave with my little dude. Oh, he's still alive and stable now. They are giving him IV fluids to rehydrate him and want to observe him overnight. If they can get him stable enough within the next day so that I can bring him home and care for him until he passes (including subcutaneous hydration) I will be happy. But, if they are not able to get him in a place where I can take him home, I think I'll have to do what I dread. That's not a decision I want to make, but I just can't financially sustain keeping him in the hospital for a long period of time, especially if he is chronically ill.

Being that I lost my dear friend and companion, George, just 9 months ago to cancer (George was my other cat, btw), this news has hit me like a blow to the gut and my heart is absolutely broken. I don't know how I can handle losing both of my cats in less than one year. Copper is my only "child" now and it's killing me to even imagine that Copper may not make it through this week. I sit here in my house now, almost seeing Copper sit next to me, but I look over and he's not there and I cry. I feel like I can't STOP crying. Needless to say it's been an excruciating day, I'm hopeful that I may get a bit more time with my little Copper.

Through all this, I have to give some serious props to the Princeton Animal Hospital. They were wonderful today. They had one person assigned to Copper the entire time I was there, and she was great with him. They've always been great at respecting the choices of the "parents" no matter what that may be, including when I had to make the difficult decision to put George to his eternal sleep. I'm certainly hoping that I won't have to make that decision with Copper...not yet anyway.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Big THANKS to Dirkey...

...for my Blogger "tutorial" and my new masthead. I can't wait to try out the new tricks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who knew?

My man and I have been dating for nearly 3 years now. Some people may say "that's about average" but, when you're in your mid-30s you just want to get on with the show. So I waited, then we had a few "talks", plus lots of hints and "when are you getting married?" from friends and family. Finally, the week before V-day he says "I think you need to pick out your own ring". Of course I ran right out and began the painstaking process of looking for the perfect ring.

When I finally chose the ring and we went to order it, he thought the center stone was "too small". Well, not a bad problem to have, except that he was engaged before (some 5+ years ago) and got a much larger (over 2c TW!), platinum ring + band for the same amount as the 1c TW ring I had chosen. Not surprisingly, he was worried we weren't getting a good deal so we did a bit more research and looked at rings together. I just knew that we would never find a ring the same size and couldn't figure out how he even got such a deal 5 years ago (not to mention that a 2c ring looks ridiculous on my small hands).

THEN...a co-worker gave him an article around the "conflict" or "blood" diamonds which was published in 2002. Turns out that in 1999, the truth of the diamond industry was brought to the surface (just before Christmas...ha!) and the market was subsequently flooded with diamonds as the diamond moguls started to rid themselves of their "stashes" before people began boycotting diamonds. Well, the demand for diamonds DIDN'T decrease, but diamond prices DID drop significantly for a couple years due to the excess supply. Wouldn't you know it...that's exactly when he bought the ex-fiance's ring! Add that to the tripling of the price of gold over the past 5 or so years and there explains how you can get over a 2c TW, platinum ring for an absurdly low price.

Needless to say, we've both decided that the ring for me is the one that I decided on originally...which is the one I fell in love with in the first place! Go figure.

So, now on to the next challenge...shopping for a venue and a date. Stay tuned.