Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's the Opposite of a Green Thumb?

What is the opposite of a green thumb?  Whatever it is, I definitely have it.  I can't grow a diddly-dern thing.

Remember the plants I got a while back?  They were so pretty.

I purposefully bought hardy, drought resistant succulents.  You know... the kind of plants that thrive is difficult climates like the desert.  

Well, this is what they look like now.

Ughhh... I stink at trying to have plans.  I know someone will notice that the Aloe plant is still alive and thriving.  Let me show you why.

It's a self-watering pot.  Yep.  It's two pieces.  You fill the bottom piece up with water, and place the smaller piece, which houses the plant, inside.  The inner pot is made of a special clay material that allows water to be absorbed as needed.  Basically, you can't screw it up unless you never refill the bottom portion with water.  

So there's my confession of the day.  I've officially killed two more innocent plants.  From now on, I may have to limit myself only to self-watering pots.  

Does anyone else have this problem?  If you overcame your lack of a green thumb, I'd be very interested to know how.  Or if you have any suggestions for very hard to kill plants, I'd love to hear them. :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Oh Monday...

I'm more bummed than usual about it being Monday.  After a super great weekend (not because of the Super Bowl since we didn't even watch it), it's no fun getting back into the weekday routine.  My bed was so cozy it was hard to tell it goodbye and put on my running shoes this morning.  Plus a major cleaning of the house-- complete with vacuuming, mopping, dusting, cleaning counters, sinks, tubs, toilets, and the fridge-- just isn't all that appealing.

I'd much rather be lounging at the pool reading my super awesome Kindle.

Or sitting on my front "porch" working on my first attempt at knitting socks while Kent smokes some pork ribs. Yum yum!

But it's okay.  In five short days all those things can happen again.  :)  Happy Monday everyone!  Hope your week is off to a great start!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Highlights of the Week

It's time for a day of appreciating the little things (or big things) that made me smile during the week, and it was a fairly eventful one.

Kent came home!  On Monday I got to pick him up from the airport, and I also found out that he will be around a good bit longer than I previously thought.  Pretty awesome if you ask me. :)

Since he got back early in the day, he decided to treat me to a mini "date night" and take me out for dinner.  We went downtown to enjoy a nice evening.

When we got back home, however, I was terribly afraid my nice evening was going to end in disaster.

I don't remember if I've shared this little tidbit about my four-legged love named Duke, but he's a sneaky little thief when left alone in the house for longer than an hour.

Don't let that innocent face fool you...

Don't get me wrong.  He's a wonderful, very well-behaved, sweet dog.  He just gets a little anxious when we leave him home alone, and he starts searching for things to get into... mainly food.  I've gotten very good about remembering to keep food items well out of his reach after several stolen hamburger patties, a bag of frozen chicken breasts thawing in the sink, and two bags of tortilla chips that were demolished, among others.  I had gone without incident for months.  Kent, however, didn't turn on the "oh yes, I have a big dog that can jump on counters and reach high shelves" part of his brain upon his return.  Without my knowledge, he placed a zip-lock bag of chocolate flavored protein powder from his last trip on a shelf that Duke could reach.  Let's just say that when we returned from out night out, it looked like a chocolate powder explosion had occurred in the carpeted areas of my house.

Powder was on the carpet.  Powder that had been moistened from doggie tongues formed three great big chocolate pudding-like splotches in my light colored carpet.  Chocolate pudding-like gunk was caked on my little red and white Murphy's chest, feet, and face, along with Duke's legs and face.  Chocolate pudding-like gunk was smeared on some of the walls, and tracked by little paws into the kitchen.  I wanted to scream.

Not only did I flip out about the ginormous mess that I was going to have to clean, but I immediately started worrying myself sick that my dogs had ingested enough cocoa to harm them or potentially kill them.  I started cleaning while Kent called the vet who then told him to call Poison Control who then said they wouldn't give advice without charging $39... What?!?!  Add that to my frustration.  We then did our own research online and our own calculations.  According to the small amount of cocoa in the small amount of powder that he had put in the baggie, we finally determined that there was no way they had ingested enough cocoa to truly harm them.  They were only "intoxicated" from the chocolate for a couple of hours.  Just to be on the safe side, we gave them the recommended amount of hydrogen peroxide so they would clear their stomachs.  Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck for half the night cleaning, walking dogs until they cleared their tummies, and watching them for signs of distress.  

As bad as all of that was, I'm incredibly thankful that it all turned out just fine.  I don't know what I would do without my furry "boys." We ended up with a funny story and a good reminder to pay more attention.

When all of the smoke had cleared from that episode, Kent and I had a few errands to run and things to take care of.  While visiting the Satellite City Hall, which happens to be inside a mall, Kent decided to stop by the Verizon store to talk about rates for switching back after the last couple of years with AT&T.  I thought he was only going to talk, but all of a sudden, he decided on impulse to switch over right then and there.  We walked out with brand new iPhones.  It sounds silly, but I'm thankful for such awesome technology that allows me to talk to my friends and family back home, and I'm thankful for a husband that takes care of business and does all he can to keep me connected to everything I miss, all while spending wonderful quality time with me every chance he gets.

It's been a good week for me.  How about you guys?  What put a smile on your face?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Betta Think of a Name...

A few days after I returned from my Christmas holidays, I was sad to see that my poor little betta fish Sue passed away.  (Click here to read why he, yes he, was named Sue.)  Sue was the first little pet I had here in Hawaii so I was sad to see him go.  However, he was an old man in the betta fish world at more than two years old.

I waited a bit to replace him, but I finally decided yesterday would be the day.  I went to the pet store down the road and found another vibrant and beautiful betta to live in Sue's old home.  

When I got in the car with him, I started thinking about what I would name him.  Since my "boy named Sue" approach seemed to work before, as Sue lived to a ripe old age, I thought I'd stick this guy with another traditionally girly name.  For some reason I thought of Nancy, but then I kept thinking about how beautiful his blue coloring was, and I thought I might want to use it somehow.  I decided to take him home, get him settled, and think about it.

He's a very curious fellow, and took all afternoon investigating every nook and cranny of his tank.  Then it dawned on me.  I knew what his name would be.

Meet Nancy Blue, my new dishwashing buddy (since his tank is near my sink).  Somehow, in a weird way, his new name suits him.

What do you guys think? :)  Am I the only crazy person who names their fish?  If I'm not, what do you call your fish?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I shared a few things that have made me smile this week.  One of those things was a nice, warm, fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies made from scratch.

Several people asked me if I would share the recipe, so that's what I'll do today.  We'll keep it short and sweet so you can go bake some of your own!

First, I should tell you that although I love to bake, and can make even really difficult cakes, I've had a hard time finding a really good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Often, they would have too much butter, and that butter would melt immediately in the oven turning my cookies into thin, too crispy, flatter than a pancake thingies.  I found this recipe on the back of the package of flour I bought, so I decided to give it a try.  After all, I didn't have anything to lose.  

This time I got lucky, and they turned out pretty great.  Okay... enough babbling.  Here's the recipe from the back of a Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour bag.  (Just to re-emphasize... it's not my original recipe.  You could find it online or on the back of the flour package.)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (I love real Land O'Lakes butter)
1 egg
2 1/4 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I leave these out)
1 bag (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix sugars, butter, and egg.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt (Dough will be stiff).  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
2.  On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft).  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Hope you guys give these a try and get to enjoy the wonderful smell of them cooking in your oven! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Little Things

In an effort to keep my own spirits up and appreciate the good things around me, I've decided to once again start posting the little things for which I'm thankful.  In the future, I'll probably do this post on Fridays, but this week, I thought it should be today.

Since I've been alone for the month of January, I've had lots of time to work on crochet and knitting projects.  Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of about half a dozen time-consuming projects, so I'm making progress but not getting finished products to share just yet.  However, I am enjoying myself.

I've been knitting away...

Currently, I'm working on a scarf that is a combination of knit and crochet.  I started it back in Georgia, but it's super duper slow progress since the yarn is so thin.  I'm excited to see the finished product though.

I've also been spending some time with my favorite furry guys.  Murphy and Duke are such sweet company.  My constant companions put a smile on my face daily...

Know what else can put a smile on your face?

A nice fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies made from scratch.  Yum yum. :)  

Sometimes I just need to remind myself to look around and recognize all the little blessings I have.  All too often, I completely overlook them.  It's the little things that come together to really make you smile.

What little things have helped make your day (or week) lately?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Life Lately

One of the reasons for my blogging absence lately has been the fact that I've felt like I must lead the most boring life in the world.  Yes, I took a trip home to Georgia for the holidays, and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I didn't take as many still photos as I would have liked.  I was preoccupied living in the moment and taking a few videos instead.  When the time came to leave Georgia and come back to Hawaii, I came alone.  Kent had to go to a school for the month, so it was just me and the dogs when I got back.

Me and the dogs.  I love those furry guys, but they don't provide much conversation.

The friends I have here are wonderful, but everyone is usually doing their own thing... work, kids, spending time with their husbands, etc.  It makes it hard to plan things and find times to get together.

With that combination, it's given me a lot of time with my own thoughts.  Sometimes I really enjoy lots of time with my own thoughts, but sometimes it's not so good.  This time has been a little difficult for me.

Usually when the husband is away, I keep myself busy and occupied by getting into a daily routine.  Get up, work out, walk dogs/go to the park, run errands, craft/work, eat, more work/crafts, eat, walk dogs, read, sleep.  In the past, that routine has always worked well, and I usually really enjoy it.  However, this time has been a little different.

Perhaps it is the sadness left over from leaving family, the stress of coming back to the island alone, knowing my Grandfather is going to have a major surgery soon and I can't be there, or worrying about an upcoming and fast approaching deployment, but something has brought back my unwelcome guest.... anxiety, and sometimes his fellow, equally unwelcome companion, panic.

The constant feeling of worry-- even over things that I know to be ridiculous-- has really worn me down.  For two weeks, I've walked around feeling exactly the same way I would feel if I were about to give a speech in front of 500 people.  Nervous. Shaky. Scared. A little dizzy.  Needing to take deep calming breaths.  I can't begin to tell you how annoying it has become.

Feeling these things has made me lose interest in some of the things I usually enjoy, and I find myself wanting to read more for a temporary "escape."  With that being said, it's easy to see how I haven't had a whole heck of a lot to say in blog posts lately.  I can't very well tell you how I read all day, worked on a crochet blanket, and didn't cook anything... haha.  It's a little too boring.

I feel a twinge of embarrassment as I write this because anxiety is something that's usually not a topic of conversation.  It's generally kept "hush hush," as people who don't understand it see it as a weakness.  I felt the need to share, though, because it's not a weakness.  It's not something anyone can control, and it's certainly not something anyone chooses.  I wanted to share this in hopes that it might make someone else dealing with the same thing feel less alone.

For me, I'm currently feeling like the worst of this particular "spell" has passed.  I'm feeling much better than I was, I've got more drive to work out and do the things I love, I'm excited to start new projects, and the husband should be back in less than a week... at least for a little while. :)  Hopefully this wasn't a "depressing" post... just one to help explain my absence.

Hope you all are doing well and taking care!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Granny Square Creation

I feel like I should apologize for being such a bad blogger lately.  I took a full month-long hiatus.  During that time, I spend more time with family, visited home in Georgia, and came back to Hawaii attempting to get back into the swing of things.  It was nice to not feel like I had to be on the computer at least once every day spending hours in a virtual world.  Face to face relationships were the priority, and blogs, tweets, editing photos, and the sort all faded into the background.  It was a nice little break, but I found myself missing my outlet to express my creativity and thoughts.  So.... here I am.  I hope you guys didn't completely forget about me.  :)

I thought I would kickstart my return to the blogosphere with a new project that I'm a wee bit excited about.  Last week, I finally decided on something I wanted to get with my Christmas money.  I had been debating back and forth on whether or not I wanted an iPad that bad.  I couldn't stop thinking about it though, and since it had been forever since I'd splurged on something I didn't really need, I decided to go for it.  I brought it home and LOVED it, so I decided it needed a cute, one-of-a-kind, home for safekeeping while it sat around the house.  And since my ongoing obsession with crochet has yet to dwindle, I thought I'd put it to use.

This is what I came up with.

Right now, I'm really loving old fashioned granny squares, but I had never made anything with them, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I Googled and looked at my handy-dandy crochet and knitting buddy Ravelry.com for patterns, but I had no luck.  I just had to make one up.

First, I decided my case, sleeve, or whatever you want to call it, should have a thick soft liner.  Since I had some extra tan fleece material laying around, I decided to use it.  I doubled the fleece over, and then folded it smoothly again, then I placed my iPad on top and cut about an inch around the three cut sides. (I left the folded side because it would be less work for sewing later.)

I didn't take photos of every step, so this is more or less a general guide.  If you've never sewn anything like my fleece sleeve, you could research making a pillowcase or pillow, and it would be the same concept. 

To me, the double thickness of the fleece felt perfect.  It will offer a bit more protection from slight bumps.

My next step was the artsy part of it.  I wanted to add a granny square cover to the fleece lining.  I had one failed attempt the first time, as it turned out too big, but I eventually figured it out.  Plus, you'll notice I changed my mind about the colors.) My first granny square photos are from that attempt. :)

I made twelve old American granny squares, six for each side.
For this particular yarn and my gauge, I found that four rounds would make it too large, but three was perfect.

I used the single crochet method to join them.

When I had the face of each side joined, I joined the two sides on one of the shorter ends (two squares).  It created a piece that was two squares by six squares.  When I folded it in half, it wasn't quite wide enough for my fleece sleeve. I added two extra rows on each long side following along with the three double crochet chain one pattern, followed by one row of half-double crochet.  Then I folded the long rectangle right sides together, and joined the edges with single crochet.

This created the "pocket," or sleeve.  I wanted to add a little extra length, so I added one row of single crochet and two rows of half-double crochet around the open edge.  It was then the perfect fit for my fleece sleeve, so I used embroidery thread to sew them together.  (Thanks to the double thickness of the fleece, I couldn't make it work with a yarn needle and yarn.  You could possible do it with a lot of patience and a thimble, though.)  

When the fleece liner and the crochet outside were assembled, I decided I wanted to add a mechanism to keep the iPad from sliding out, so I sewed a button to one side (through the fleece, not just the crochet), and added a crochet loop to the other side.  When it's buttoned, the iPad isn't going anywhere.

Now I'm happy knowing that I have a one-of-a-kind case for my new favorite toy. :)

What do you guys think?

If you would like a similar case, or if you would like one to give as a gift, shoot me an e-mail at TailstoTell [at] Live [dot] com.  I'd love to talk about it with you and make it happen. :)