Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lovin' So Cal

Karen called me from the car right after she left this morning, saying "Want to see something pretty? Go outside!" Ooooh! that means the view going down our hill must have been good. It's rained for several days and we sort of forgot there were mountains over there. I scurried out, in my teeshirt and bare feet (because it's about 50 degrees here this morning)......and camera...

I got a quick pic from the backyard too, peeking over our fence towards the same mountains. Love it!!

And its Thursday. Which is almost Friday.......i.e., Weekend Sewing (and Knitting!) might happen. :)

Back to work for me....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I had a surprise from my sister today! She sent homemade goodies from her kitchen: yummy strawberry jam and her own special blend of grape jelly using scuppernong and muscadine grapes grown on her property......and apple ring cucumber pickles! I am thinking I need to learn how to make the apple ring cucumber pickles. They are cinnamon-y and sweet and tart and crunchy.....a really neat surprise for the tastebuds!

And also, she sent me these fantastic bamboo knitting needles! My fingers started twitching the minute I touched them, so smooth and warm and very pretty. The grain of the wood is soooo nice! I had to cast on right away! I had some chunky blue wool, and I tried a simple basket weave pattern.

If it continues going this well, I might make a second square, and construct a purse and line it with some of my quilting fabric! (Sew many ideas, sew little time!!)

Thank you Jackie!! I love them!

French Onion Soup

My family has always liked French Onion Soup. From time to time, I've tried actual recipes, but for the most part, I've used the Joyful in, Joy has joyfully flung onion chunks into a food processer to slice them, dumped the slices into a crock pot, reconstituted beef boullion into beef broth which I poured over the slices, added seasonings, and let it simmer all day. After basically ignoring it from breakfast time until dinner, during the last half hour, I added a bit of wine or cooking sherry for flavor, and some Kitchen Bouquet for color, and then I at least flirted with tradition by serving it in the familiar way. I sliced bread and toasted it, put the toast on top the soup, grated cheese on top of that, and broiled the individual bowls of cheese-topped soup briefly to get that browned, melty cheese thing going.

Michael brought me a recipe for "the best" French Onion Soup that he found in one of his news magazines. (January 18th, 2008 issue)

He was drooling when he handed it to me. I scanned it briefly, estimated there were about 4,592 steps involved and really was not moved to try it. Next thing I knew, Michael had picked up canned beef broth at the store "in case we had time to try it." Because rather than reconstituting beef boullion granules, he wanted "real beef broth" on hand....again.....just in case.

Then some unsalted butter showed up, and he started bargaining.

He'd help. I still wasn't moved.

I countered with a quick synopsis of the steps involved and emphasized the paragraphs in the recipe involving scraping the crust off the pan, and deglazing, etc..... I tried to make it sound like it took a lot of effort and clean up.

He'd clean up. That did it. He was serious. He wanted to try this soup. Well, I was actually getting interested at this point, because, let's face it.....I have a nonstick dutch oven and anything burned onto that pan comes off like a breeze. Even scorched rice pudding. Ask me how I know.

So after he left for work today, I got out the recipe.

I got out the onions. I sliced four pounds of them. By hand. No food processor. Aren't you impressed? And I didn't even cry. I've discovered that if you squint and scrunch your eyes up tightly while slicing onions, you won't even notice the onion fumes. You might notice if you mistakenly cut off a finger......but the fumes are not an issue. No tears!

I put the unsalted butter into the well-oiled dutch oven and added the onion slices and a teaspoon of salt (!) and put the whole thing in a 400 degree oven for an hour, covered.

I stirred them and, per the receipe, set the lid adjar (as you can see below, I was following this recipe to the letter, peoples!) and put them back in the 400 degree oven.

The next stir (one hour later) found them becoming nice and golden brown. Of course, the onion smell permeated the whole house (not entirely a plus) and the concentrated onion odor when I opened the dutch oven to stir them nearly peeled off my eyebrows. But really, this was pretty effortless.

Another 40 minutes passed. I took them out of the oven and put the dutch oven on a burner, and cooked them over medium heat about 20 minutes, til they were really getting dry and the bottom of the pan developed that "crust" the recipe mentioned which I dutifully scraped up and stirred into the onions.

Then I added some water and repeated the 'cooking til dry and scraping' routine three times. Again, I followed the recipe to the letter, although I don't really understand the need for that part. Deglazing once seemed sufficient - nothing really changed with the subsequent repeating of that step (except I added some sherry instead of water and cooked it down, the last time).

Then I added some beef and chicken broths, a bit more water, thyme and one bay leaf, and let the whole thing cook another 30 minutes.

By now, the onion smell was noticeable three houses down. Very, very rich onion smell. Mr. B returned home from the Land of Lost Packages just in time to sample the almost finished product.

He tasted it at least four times.....just to be sure, you see.....and pronounced it delicious. So, we finished up with the traditional serving. Topped with toast and cheese, it was broiled until bubbly and browned.

And the portion of the Peanut Gallery which was present, approved!

Oddly enough, I think I will make it again. It was really good.

My "Joyful" method was made an onion-flavored soup that was hearty and filling.... But I really think this recipe was more like what Mr. B and Karen order in restaurants and they enjoyed it enough that I consider the recipe to be a keeper! And the onion smell? Eradicated easily with my Yankee candle (Santa's Cookies scent)!! Yum!

In other Christmas tree is finally dusted off down and packed away. It's January 30th. I do have some decorating standards, after all! But not many!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday Night's Alright!

This was a perfect, low key Saturday night for me! It's how I roll, folks!

Dinner out with a coupon: Affordable, quick and no dishes! Yay!

Back home and into the "quilting studio"! Karen was set up with laptop for instant messaging with her friends all over the globe (seriously!) and her latest project.

I was at the next table...looking much the same!

We were joined by the studio "cat", Tiger! She chewed on her bone the entire evening!

I continued working on the reconfigured Checkers quilt that I am making out of reproduction fabrics.

(Complete pattern in Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting Sept/Oct 2007 issue.)

I wanted to showcase the fabrics (making the checkers larger/easier to see) AND make the quilt large enough for a king sized bed, so I sort of blew up the whole thing. Each checkerboard block on mine is 12 inches, with 3 inch "checker squares".

I got the checkerboard part completely done! Tomorrow at quilt class, I will be enlisting the help of Janet Salcido (Teacher Extraordinaire) with the calculations and design of the keyboard border/corner blocks.

I'm thinking I may go back and make it again, more along the lines of the jewel tones they used for this quilt in the magazine.....for a daybed upstairs.

Anyway, it was a fun and relaxing Saturday night!

Friday, January 25, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Remember worksheets like that as a child in school? Well, I went to do the dishes before stripping a few more cabinets.....

Fumbled around in the bottom of the sink when I was almost done, searching for stray flatwear. Tossed 'em all in the other side to scrub/rinse. And there's the screwdriver I couldn't find late last night! I know, not exactly blogworthy, but I got a grin out of it! It's been that way more often lately. Found my coffee in the pantry on a shelf a few days ago! Oh, let me get the phone......

"Hello? Old-Farts-R-Us!"

Update for real!

I completed the first cabinet of drawers and the first hanging cabinet. (Because of the fiasco mentioned earlier, this required stripping already refinished areas and using the new safe, water-based stain/poly that I can drink with abandon!)

The verdict is in. "Wow Mom, it worked!" (Karen) and "You did a spectacular job!" (Mr. B.)

So now, one and a half weeks later, we know how to do it. And get darned good results! I will probably strip the rest of the kitchen, three-four cabinets at a time. Actually Mr. B. has offered to help with that's a messy, icky, sticky job....but I went to Home Depot again and got TWO 24-pack terry-towels (sale price $4.98!), odorless mineral spirits (yay!) and more Citrustrip. We're set!

(Also, here's a chip of the Silestone countertop I'm close to picking. Colors on the blog aren't true, but its got tans, brownish-greys, and a touch of blue in it.)

In QUILTING NEWS!, (yay - that's what I really like to talk about!)

Karen pretty much completed her very first quilt - a flannel brick road, for her friend TiJae. But at the very end, we fumbled. I suggested quilting it on the frame with an all-over meander (thinking it might help it all stay smooth) and she was more interested in stitching in the ditch - which SHOULD have worked well also.....if dear old Mom (sigh! that would be me!) had remembered to tell her to use a walking foot. The portions of her quilt made with better quality flannel worked fine, even with the regular sewing foot. But there was one section, maybe about an eighth of the quilt, where she had pieced the backing with an apparently lesser quality flannel. She went up one row and down the next, to avoid skewing the quilt......and it worked perfectly except, in this one section. It resulted in a "chevroning" effect on the back. And a bit of unevenness on the front. She got pretty discouraged.....and I could tell she was Not. Happy.

Everyone swore it would all work out in the end, still be the quilt she wanted it to be (a virtual hug for TiJae and Cage to curl up in and snuggle while reading books, or napping, etc), but it was rapidly becoming the Quilt from, um.....Hades.

I happened to think of that pre-made quilt binding I had seen at Joanne's from time to time. Normally, I would make binding from fabric used in the quilt, but this quilt was THICK and there were many seams, just due to the nature of the brick road pattern. I was really thinking it would be harder to bind. And who knew if the flannel would cooperate.... So I suggested to Karen that maybe I slap some black pre-made binding on it, and she give it to TiJae anyway..... Evidence of how p.o.'d she was, was her shrug and the statement "eh, I'm over it, it's okay." She promptly went on to purchase this pattern and start this quilt!! (She's using beautiful batiks!)

Meanwhile, the Quilt from Hades was put in the Time-Out Corner, up in my quilting studio. It languished there for a few weeks. Apparently this helped! Last night I tackled the binding.

(click to enlarge and see stitch, sorta.....gets blurry)

I used a stitch on my Janome called Grandmother's Garden. It went on like a dream and somewhere in the process, the entire quilt came together, just like everyone said it would.

Karen was grinning from ear to ear when she saw it! Her first quilt! From cutting and planning in Wyoming on vacation:

To stitching at the classroom at Leah's quilt shop .....

she worked hard! And you can tell from the "preview" where she showed it to TiJae and son Cage, while batting still hung out all around, that its going to be loved and used!!

She did such a fantastic job on it! Yahoo!

(yes, I know the picture is similar to the one above....I'm proud of her! so hush!)

Mr. B. took a look at it last night and said, "boy, if she didn't already have a home for it, I would LOVE to have one like that!"

(Note to Karen: Good quality flannels, and be sure and put it in the Time Out Corner at some point! Christmas present for Dad??!! Karen? why are you running from the room??!!)

And Jack would just like to register a further complaint about the continued lack of a decent view from his new residence.

Note the flowered handle on the screwdriver. That's a gift from my Dad a few years ago. Yes, I like to play with tools. But there's no reason I can't have pretty ones!!

Happy Friday!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Update (a conversation with Yvette about my stripping job on the cabinets) shortly after trying this stuff for the first time:

Joy: i may be able to stop sanding and just use the stripper
Joy: it seems to be working.....
Yvette : thats great!
Yvette : the stuff I bought you dont sand
Joy: jury is out....have used the strippper, and globbed it on, earlier today....just now, i rubbed it all over with a scrubbie to loosen whatever (I know NOTHING about what i'm doing)
Joy: then wiped it off with terry cloth towel
Joy: then wiped it again with terry dipped in a bit of mineral spirits and wrung out
Joy: now all the websites i've read say to let it dry 24 hours, etc...obviously getting some low-odor mineral spirits is going to be a priority. the citrus smells great. the mineral spirits - not so hot
Yvette : wanna come over my house and experiment?
Joy: heh heh. anyway, stripping some more drawer facings and a cabinet front....will let it sit an hour or so, and then go wipe it all away also....tomorrow will be the real test - when i use the new stain/poly stuff on it.....but that will be a quick test. one coat, one hour to dry, second coat, second hour to dry. Then I will either pour myself a congratulatory drink....(diet coke) or pour myself a consolation drink (also diet coke) and order facing job or new cabinets!
Yvette : you are making me tired
Joy: suddenly 5600 for faced cabinets and new doors, drawer facings, or 10000 for new cabinetry sounds like such a deal. sigh!
Joy: i'll keep you posted....
Yvette : ok :)
Joy: (i actually think its going to work) :)

Stay tuned, loyal readers (all four of you!) I do think I'm on to something with this CitrusStrip stuff....sure easier than sanding, though sanding has its merits. Off to Home Depot for more terry rags and low-odor mineral spirits.....

Grrrrrrr! Ok, Fine. I'm over it. Happy again!

Went to Home Depot last night to get more stain/polyurethane mix for kitchen cabinets......

I kinda hoped to find a semi-gloss version of what we were currently using, as we were beginning to get concerned that an entire kitchen as beautifully shiny as the first cabinet I had completed, might blind us.

Seriously, it's beautiful, and we could certainly continue in this vein, but maybe a semi-gloss would be a bit better. Either way, I needed more, in that exact shade of pecan stain.

I wandered up and down the aisle where I first bought it......began to doubt whether I had bought it at Home Depot.....yeah, I'm sure you see where THIS story is going....

I waltzed over to the gentleman at the counter and held up my label that I had carefully removed from my previously half-used that I could not possibly come home with the wrong color stuff.

To my utter dismay, he made the sign of the cross and backed up a few feet. In a pretty accent (I would love to have him as a dictator!) he stammered, "awe, naw, I be sorry to be telling you, but no, we cannot sell you this anymore, you see, because yes, you buy it here, you are correct, but ma'am, Caleeforneeeya, she is not selling it anymore....."

Apparently the powers-that-be were concerned for my safety and well-being, and since drinking the entire quart might have resulted in birth defects.....they won't sell it to me. Or something like that.

(yes, I know, I'm status post hysterectomy and not stupid.....but they still won't sell it to me.)

I went from stunned, to apoplectic (thinking about having to switch to something else and RESAND an entire cabinet and four drawers so things would match) and devious. Is Home Depot still selling it outside of California?

"Oh yes ma'am, you be able to get it in Areeezonya....."

"or Wyoming?", I prompted.....thinking about having Dad ship me some across state lines! (Which Michael assured me could be done) ....."yes, yes!" he told me....."there too."

"But ma'am", he ventured hesitantly, probably still worried that I might hurt him, "if you would like maybe, just perhaps, to try something else????"

And I listened courteously to his suggestion. Since I know that as my luck would have it, the rest of the world might have decided to outlaw the stuff too.....and I might not be able to get it across state lines in time.....I bought a tiny can of his suggested solution. We matched the color pretty closely, and I went home with one can.....

By the time I got home, I was no longer cursing, to Michael's great relief, and I sat down, deflated, at my desk. I pulled on my granny glasses, and got out my magnifying glass (stop laughing or I'll throw the can at you!) and I read the label closely.

Soap and water cleanup.....hmmmmmm.....okay, that could be a plus. (me hates smelling like mineral spirits.)

Dries and can be recoated in one hour.

That did it. I got up, stomped into the kitchen, took a beautifully finished (and three times coated) drawer and upended it. Got out my new sander and sanded that puppy down to bare wood again. Tack-ragged it and checked it for rough spots. Slapped on the first coat.....typed a few reports and then went back and slapped on the second.

I'm sold on the stuff. The semi-gloss is perfect.....the finish is perfect and the clean up and drying time is simple and fast! I REALLY LIKE IT. And after I get past the re-sanding of that first cabinet and the other three drawers, and recover from having to undo my first efforts.....I'll be fine. But boy, that first part is going to really bite. Sigh!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Physician Dictating Guidelines

This was sent to me by a woman I worked with. So very, very true, and funny too! :)

Adherence to these guidelines will assure the highest quality transcribed reports in the shortest amount of time.

At the beginning of each dictation, take as deep a breath as you possibly can. Now, try to dictate the entire report before you have to inhale again.

When dictating a particularly difficult word or phrase, please turn your head and speak directly into your armpit.

We charge per character, including periods. An effective way to cut your cost is to dictate your entire report as one sentence.

It is not necessary to repeat the same sentence multiple times in the same dictation.

If you have to sneeze or cough suddenly, please remove your head from your armpit and sneeze or cough directly into the microphone.

If you must eat while you dictate, please stay away from foods such as marshmallows, bananas, and pudding. Apples, pretzels, and celery are much better choices.

Please don't stop dictating when you yawn. It throws off our rhythm.

If the patient's name is Alan Ratzlaffenhasenphepherzinsky, please have the courtesy to spell "Alan"--there are several possible spellings, you know. For the last name, simply state "the usual spelling."

It is not necessary to repeat the same sentence multiple times in the same dictation.

Please note--the phrase "well-developed, well-nourished white female" is only three syllables.

Cardiologists, it is not necessary to dictate at the rate of your patient's atrial fibrillation.

Do not stop dictating in the event of minor background noise such as an office party, the janitor's vacuum cleaner, a screaming infant, etc. Again, it throws off our rhythm.

Be sure to place the emPHAsis on teh CORrect syLLABLE, especially if enGLISH is your SECond lanGUAGE.

It is not necessary to repeat the same sentence multiple times in the same dictation.

Talk as fast as you can. Fair is fair; after all, we type as fast as we possibly can.

Please speak quietly as you can....we want to be able to hear what is going on around you.

If you need to pause for 5 or 10 minutes between words or phrases, pounding the receiver on the desk or repeatedly saying, "still dictating....still dictating....still dictating....still dictating" reminds us indeed, you are still dictating.

Just because you need to use the restroom is no reason to stop dictating. Time is money!

Don't dictate so loudly that you disrupt your fellow physicians' football game in the doctors' lounge. In fact, you really should whisper all of your dictation, since the information is confidential.Similarly, if you are going to watch TV while dictating at home, please watch a war movie with lots of bombing, and be sure to have the volume high enough so everybody in your living room can hear above your talking.

If you need to correct yourself--sorry, correct and error, please do not rewind the tape--sorry, do not back up and record over the error--sorry, wait, the mistake--just continue with the sentence--wait--go back--with the paragraph and fix the error--er, the mistake.

Please go back and delete that last guideline.

When dictating on your cell phone from your car, be sure to go through as many tunnels as possible. This will ensure confidentiality of the information.

You (y-o-u) do not need (n-e-e-d) to spell (s-p-e-l-l) obvious words (w-o-r-d-s) for us (u-s). It is our job (j-o-b) to know (k-n-o-w) how to (t-o) spell words that (t-h-a-t) we learned in third (t-h-i-r-d) grade (g-r-a-d-e).

One last thing, it is not necessary to repeat the same sentence multiple times in the same dictation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Even more random things

I have lots to say about nothing.....nothing earthshattering, anyway! In the past few days, there has been soup-making going on..... I took formerly frozen leftover carcasses of rotisseried chickens and simmered them into a rich broth which after straining, and chilling to remove the fat (ick), eventually became my chicken tortilla soup (yum!).

See what I mean about nothing earthshattering to say? (Although my family was fairly enthusiastic about the soup.)

And there was the acquisition of a certain fish named Jack! I had missed having a goldfish, and Michael made it a point to get me to a store that had fish! We picked out one that I liked and when the clerk packaged her up, she told me that I could have her for free, as she would be an adoption case, because she was "defective". Apparently she has only got one good eye. We decided:

1. She fits in just fine in this house of found puppies, pound puppies, abused and mistreated puppies, etc.

2. Immediate transgendering took place, as I decided the one-eye thing sort of lent itself to a pirate theme, and named her Jack Sparrow.

So Jack has settled into his/her place of honor on the island in the kitchen, and by day three, decided we were okay folks, perked up, started eating regularly and seems well adjusted.

Given that my work load is reduced for several hours daily, I put the time to good use quilting daily! took the plunge and started refinishing some kitchen cabinetry. The stairway/banister project continues also, but we wanted to try one cabinet in the kitchen to see if this was a good idea.

If it works, and I can save us the huge cost of replacing the cabinets, or even refacing them, for that matter, it more than makes up for my having a reduced work load for a very long while!

Of course, this required actually looking at the cabinets closely.....and as Michael jokingly said, "we have been living in squalor!" It's just one of those things ..... you wade through the dinner dishes and collapse after a day of work.....and just don't look any further than the food preparation surface. If that's clean - there are days when that's just good enough, thank you!

(go ahead, click and see just how icky they are!!)

First I sanded the tarnation out of drawer facings and the cabinet body itself (which was not fine wood to begin with - portions were just plywood, I think!) and then I began applying the same tinted polyurethane that I was using on the banister of the staircase.

Not much is going to help this end's just not a good piece of wood. But if we can get it better, and the rest of the kitchen is okay....I can live with it. It's very sun damaged and dried, but maybe it will blend in with the rest of the kitchen when its all refinished.

The drawers are found in odd places over the last few days, drying in the bathroom on the counter, or on the hearth....whatever works. (Ignore the Christmas balls and greenery left in the fireplace on the candle holder!)

Today I put one drawer (three coats improved) back into the cabinet (two coats and one more to go) and Yahoo! I think we have a possibility here.

(Yes, the drawer is crooked - which will be corrected as soon as I locate a thingie to hold up the drawer on the right side as it slides.....I know what I'm talking about, but can't convey it very well.)

Next step will be the cabinet above. For that, I have the citrus stripper that Home Depot swears is the cure for difficult grooves, etc.....Tomorrow is another day.

But's your picture of the day of a portion of the Animal Kingdom.....(snicker!)

And oh my, what's this????

(possible quilt for a fellow courier's wife Michael knows at FedEx.....undergoing chemo.)

FABRIC! Karene and I snuck away today to M&L Fabric in Anaheim. Oh my. Sensory overload. Fabric packed from floor to over my head, far and wide. It's a huge, HUGE store. In the front by the door, is fabric on bolts, as we might normally find it. (with prices we might normally find at say, Joanne's or on sale at our LQS.)

But in the back, my friends, is the end of the rainbow! Imagine taking the cardboard forms out of the bolts of fabric, and then just flattening them. And stack them, from floor, to over my head. And only show the narrow ends! Aisle after aisle after (grocery store length) aisle of fabric. Flannel fabric, garment fabric, seersucker, linen, muslin, minkie, fake furs, and .....

(possible fabric for a quilt in my den.....or to have on hand for a future chemo quilt for a woman, since the colors and hearts are a little "feminine".)

QUILTING FABRIC!! 100% cotton fabric from name brands I recognize from, cough, ahem, our local quilt shops. Only......all for $1.69-$1.98 a yard. I'm proud to say, I made it out 24 yards later, having gotten a dollar back from my $50.00 I had saved for this very adventure. Yay!

(possible chemo quilt for my neighbor's son who was just diagnosed with brain tumor and underwent surgery a few days ago......these chemo quilts and also some Project Linus quilts and Quilt of Valor quilts are likely to be the focus of my Red Hat Society Chapter, the Red Hot Sew 'n Sews....I was trying for a little more masculine here, so picked a print that could use more manly coordinating colors, such as tans, browns, greens.....I can't recall now, which tan Karene and I picked to go with this just threw them all in the picture....maybe something simple like a Rail Fence would work well?)

I got enough for three definite quilts, and extras to boot. I came home and showed them to daughter Karen and we agreed....."it would be really swell if we didn't have to work at all, sew we could sew all day!"

There now. I'm all done blathering!

Oh, and Jack says the view from his new swimming hole (during the reconstruction) "ain't great!