Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Anyone else seen this movie? I just saw it on Netflix (it's on instant download) - Food Inc. - and would recommend everyone watch it. It is very "in your face", but I promise it does get over animal farming (with some pretty horrific images) and into crops.
I learnt some (many) things about soy that I never knew - Roundup Ready Soy.........soy beans resistant to Roundup pesticides, so are used extensively (86% of all US soy in 2005 was Roundup Ready beans), alongside the pesticide Roundup, both to the detriment of consumers and farmers (farmers are not able to self seed because the beans are patented, meaning they have to buy seed every year or risk being sued by Monsanto). Looking on the internet after I found there are quite a number of Roundup ready crops out there too - wheat, maize, sugar beet and many others.
Definitely will make me look harder for the non GMO crops.....
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Our little shack on the beach!
Decorating the shack! Inside was a platform which fits two sleep mats and a good space in the middle which we used for playing games, eating (when it rained!) and a few presents we each brought with us.
The weather was a little on off, so we drove down to Pipeline to watch the waves. These are 25-30ft.
The weather cleared up and we went for a swim in the afternoon, followed by a few G&Ts and then a full Christmas dinner cooked on the BBQ! Roast potatoes, parsnips, sweet potato, courgettes, peppers. The only slightly different thing for me was no turkey, we had Tofurkey (Laura is a veggie), but it was pretty good when covered in Bisto gravy!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Another post today? Can you tell i'm at home today with my feet in the air (I still have a sore foot from the marathon so am giving it a little TLC today) and doodling on the internet....:0)
Furoshiki - japanese way of wrapping up objects in cloth squares either to carry them or to gift them. I just discovered this and can't believe I haven't seen it before! What a wonderful reuseable gift wrapping, and you know how much I love cloth giftwrapping!
Here are some instructions from Mommy Cooks on how to make your own Furoshiki cloths
Here are instructions on how to wrap your Furoshiki to fit over many objects
From the BBC - Overpopulation: The elephant in the room - it's an older article, but I thought a good one.
This is a subject that I had to address in my undergrad class, under Anthropogenic Impacts, and similar to evolution I was worried at how it would come across (especially here in Hawaii where large families are pretty much the norm). Surprisingly they were very receptive to it and most actually got this question (one from a previous exam rather than a new one from me) right on their exams.....:0)
"Ultimately the only solution to environmental damage and climate change is"
A - To stop dumping trash into the ocean
B - To stop moving oil by tankers
C - To reduce population increases
D - To increase coral reefs
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
It's Christmas week, and i'm finally feeling more in the festive mood. It's definitely weird seeing all the snowman and icicle decorations up, I much prefer the festive palm trees and Santas in hibiscus shorts, but I am afraid to say I have not decorated my own place. But plans are afoot.
My friend Laura and I are headed to the North Shore for Christmas eve and Christmas day to camp in a "little grass shack" right on the beach. We've planned a "stocking exchange", decorations, roasting a Tofurkey (Laura is a veggie) on the BBQ, hammocks, G&T, maybe a swim or two and some quiet time!
The campsite is pretty cool, it's luxurious camping compared to what i'm used to, but we decided on a shack just in case it rains (as it does in the winter on the North Shore) so we have some space, they have outdoor hot showers and even Wi Fi. Neither of us have been there before, but we've heard good things from friends. Can't wait!
Until then, enjoy a Christmas Honu!
They sent the letter in error apparently. I'm not sure I believe them as yet, but will see. I looked it all up and I have a year to appeal, so as long as they don't send me a bill in the next year, and I rechase this up in a month or so just to be sure, all should be well. Thanks Blue Cross for making my weekend so stress free.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
So just when I was breathing a sigh of relief that all the canada hospital stuff was over and done and dusted, I just received a letter of Denial from my health insurance. I'm totally confused as they've already paid me a check for what I paid out of pocket, and paid off the Canada hospital for the treatments they billed for, so how can they deny me now? Can they now try and charge me what they've already given me a check for? And of course their offices are not open today to talk to someone about this either, which leaves me stressing about it all weekend......
Thursday, December 17, 2009
For the record I think the price of these pictures is a complete scam. However you can see I got sucked in. I didn't pre-order thinking i'd wait and see if they sucked, but enough of them came out well I went for it. Still a scam though. I need to become an "action photographer" to supplement my science....
The start. 5am at Ala Moana. I'm somewhere in the bottom left hand corner (I started near the back having no illusions of grandeur). There were 23,000+ people out there with me. Quite a spectacular site.
Mile 6. Still running. I actually pretty much ran for the first ten miles, walking only for around a minute at each of the water stops (3 of them). After that I fell back to my run between water tables and then walk for 5 minutes routine. Did me well, I didn't feel like death at all. I need to find a better running short combo (the compression shorts stop chaffing, so i'm not running without them!), I wish they made longer running shorts for women, not all of us have legs we particularly wish to show off.
Mile 16. I'm actually amazed I look better than mile 6. Not sure why. Delirium maybe?
The final stretch. I swear the park got longer, this 0.5 mile stretch seemed to take FOREVER.
Crossing the finish line within my 6hr goal!
My hero shot. Definitely looking pooped now. Just beyond this they had these large showers you could stand under to cool down. Which I did. For about 5 minutes.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
1 - Legs feel way less sore, foot aches, but better
2 - FINALLY have all my insurance and everything out of the way for my Canada hospital visit. Only took 5 months....
3 - Final exam done! The TAs are working away downstairs marking as I type. Better go down and check on them. Had so many nice comments from the students as they were leaving too, still waiting for my evaluations from the students, but I feel better that they don't hate me....
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Last January I set myself some goals for 2009, and I thought now was a good time to revisit them and see how they went, in a run up to writing a new set of 2010 goals in a few weeks. I called them baby steps as I knew some would be harder than others and I think everything in life should be done in baby steps - that way you're more likely to stick to it in the long run. So here is my 2009 update, 2010 list to come in January.
This i've been relatively successful with, some weeks more than others. When i've had the time (and the right kind of food) making 5 days worth of lunches on a sunday works the best for me. It's still a challenge for me, and mainly a time challenge and having the right food in the house or at work to begin with.
Terrapass my car
I'm going to admit to not doing this yet! Guess it's going to go on my 2010 wish list. My car is now nearly 2 years old, and only has 9000 miles on it. So in the grand scheme of things i'm not a huge driver (flying though......I hate to think of that carbon footprint!), but I still do need to do this.
No more buying soap/shampoo
Success! I have not bought any soap or shampoo this year and have made all my own! And i'm super happy about it, and so is my skin (it's never been so soft). The only skin issues i've had this year have been when i've used other ("fancy", expensive) store bought products and soaps I had left over - all my abscesses seem to have come about when i've been using deodorant, and in Canada I took some store soaps with me rather than my homemade (and had such dry skin for it). This just solidifies this goal for me to be a lifetime goal.
I do admittedly still have a large stock that i'm also sort of going through, but the challenge in this was really to stop using products with all the chemicals in them and even those "fancy" soaps and products in the stores do tend to have nasty preservatives in them. Unless it's homemade and preservative free, I don't want it near my increasingly sensitive skin. The question is what to do with those other soaps I seem to have? I am slowly regifting and giving them away, but do feel the guilt in giving away something i'm not prepared to put on my own skin. What would you do?
Only using natural cleaners
This i've been doing for a while now, but it's good to keep this one up. I have used bleach more here in Hawaii than in other places which I don't feel great about........and by more I mean maybe a teaspoon every 2 months to get rid of mold!
Spend less on gifts/make more gifts
This has been going pretty well. I still find it hard to resist when I see something perfect for someone. But i'm trying. Being on 75% salary is making me a little better at this.....
Get more exercise (run a half marathon)
This goal seemed to take a life of it's own! This year i've done over 400 miles. 0 in 2008, 400+ in 2009. I've run a half marathon, a 5K, a 10K and now a full marathon. I've lost 15lbs, I've also put back on 10lbs, so it's been a bit of a bounce. But I feel better, fitter. I'm not there yet. Even with this last week I wouldn't consider myself to be a "really fit" person. I would like to feel "really fit" again, and it's been quite a few years since I have. But I took the baby steps to the toddler level, 2010 is time for some teenage to adult size strides.
Buy less stuff
This has been somewhat enforced by my salary reduction, but it's a good thing, and to be fair to myself I was doing really well at it before the salary hit. My main buys still tend to be gifts, and this year plants, which I haven't had much success with. I still find myself needing to purge on a regular basis, and i'm not sure why since I don't buy anything....
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Finish Time - 5 hrs 53 minutes and 26 seconds
Pace - 13.6 minute miles
Place - 11,060 (out of 20,304 finishers, 23,469 entrants)
Place in all Women - 4454 (out of 9921 finishers)
Place in Women 30-34 - 800 (out of 1732 finishers)
Number of Gus eaten - 4
Number of Gatorades drunk - 15
Number of Hammerite Perpetum drunk - 2
Best snack - Chex mix from the crowd
Number of potty breaks - 0 (well 2 pre-race)
Favorite Mile - 10 (downhill!)
Worst Mile - 15 (hot, no shade!)
Favorite Moment - seeing the first three male competitors, and the first wheelchair competitor coming over Diamondhead in the other direction from me. Man they are FAST!
Worst Moment - none really, miles 15-20 were super hot and gatorade started making me slightly nauseous, but really, there were no worst moments, I never lost sight of my goals.
And a) I had fun; b) I ran more than I walked and c) I came in running! How about that, 4 out of 4! I really did have fun, this was a far more relaxed experience than my half marathon, I wasn't nervous, just went for it, and didn't stress about the time. Admittedly I probably could have come in sooner, but at 4 miles to go I knew I was going to make it in under 6hrs walking, so relaxed and slowed. But thats okay, next year maybe i'll try for a time. :0)
I'll blog about this more later, maybe when the pro photos are available, but here are a couple from today. Right now I have 3 ice packs on my leggies and can feel my eyes closing needing a nap.
Yay - I did it!
Leaving my house this morning, all bundled up. I was so glad it didn't rain today! It was 70F down at the start too, so nice and cool.
At the end! And at 86F, the last ten miles were HOT! It felt so good to get those flip flops and calf supports on!
And my awesome support team - Laura (back) who met me at the finish line with my flip flops and food, and Jenny (front) who came and collected me at 3am this morning to take me to the start, and even picked up this afternoon with pizza!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Runner Tracking System
My Number - 8867
On sunday there will be a tracking system at the above link, so you'll be able to follow my progress as i'm crawling through the course. At the start, 10K, 1/2 marathon, 30K and finish line there will be electronic mats that will record me as I go over, pretty cool!
The start is at 5am. I predict i'll be finished somewhere between 10.30 - 11am.
- To have fun!
- To finish!
- To finish in under 6hrs (Considering my on off training i'm not sure this is realistic, but we'll see)
- To run more than walk (see above)
- To cross the finish line running
Some simple goals, if i'm here next year, then i'll ramp up the time!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Finally got all my periferals plugged into my computer today (i've literally not had the time since I moved offices). I both love and hate this photo. Love it because it's one of those nifty powercords that turns everything in my office off when I turn off my computer. Hate it because, well, just look at it! I also keep trapping cords in the wheels of my office chair. It's not a good situation. I wish there was a better way.
Sorry about the lack of good photos recently. I can't figure out how to download my pictures from my camera onto my new laptop (thanks old laptop for deciding to die one week into teaching....). I don't know why the program isn't working, but it's driving me crazy. This photo is from my phone.
Oh, and 2 days and counting. I'm eating my fill of pasta and potato chips right now.....
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Teaching that is.......look out for a post of the same name on Sunday or Monday! Phew, teaching over, last lecture done, all I have left is the final exam next week to give and that's it, my first, and not my last, experience with undergrads. I'm still waiting to find out my "grades", will let you know what I get, I hope it's informative.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The weekend flew by so fast I didn't have time to post! Sorry about that, I hope you all had a good one. The end of the week went well, busy with teaching, but the lectures went great. Today was my penultimate lectures, final on Weds - phew! Then it's just oversee the exams next week and i'm done!
Saturday I slept in, oh so nice, it's been a week of insomnia, and even though my idea of a "sleep in" is to wake up at 6am, get a cup of tea and go back to bed on the computer until 9am, it was wonderful! A trip to the postoffice and a short 3 mile run around the valley (at an extremely slow pace!) and then off to a Christmas Party for families on welfare (as part of the family programs group I volunteer for occasionally) really started off the holiday feeling for me. I got to guard the presents, not the most exciting thing to do for 3 hours, but it was fun doling them out after, all be it to awaiting other volunteers rather than the actual families. It was fun, 385 families got a meal, some entertainment, craft tables and presents for all the kids from Santa (and some nice ones too - footballs, body boards, dolls and lots of playdough!). After home to laundry and then a nice dinner with Alison and Jenna.
Sunday was busy but productive - unloaded a cruise that just came in in the AM, wrote my lecture for Monday (oops), did a few more loads of laundry (some for Jenny as their washer went down, and babies are not known to wait for washing machine delivery to get dirty), cleaned my bathroom and kitchen, finished a bunch of craft projects, boxed up all my xmas presents and then went for an 8 mile run - joined by Jenny and little Hannah in her jogging stroller for the first 4 miles. After that I ran back to Jenny & Dougs house while they picked up pizza on the way home and had a nice relaxed dinner with my friends. Nice sunday or what!
So now we're 5 days till the marathon next sunday. Let carbo loading begin!
Monday, November 30, 2009
Interesting website with tables of which manufacturers to avoid
The long and the short, avoid Kleenex, Puffs, Charmin, Cottonelle, Bounty and Viva.
"If every household in the US replaced one toilet roll with a 100% recycled one, we could save 423,900 trees".
That's a whole lot of trees! Things that end up in the drains and eventually oceans are rather close to my heart, so I always buy recycled. My favorite is the 365 Whole Foods Brand (good quality compared to other recycleds i've tried), but I just noticed Safeway has just started (or just started selling it in Hawaii) a 100% recycled toilet paper, so I thought i'd check that out. If anyone has any tips for cheaper 100% recycled i'd love to hear it!
I've been thinking for a while I wanted a different place to put all my recipes for food, soaps and other homemade goodies. So over the weekend I started a new blog - Home Made Haole - where I will put all recipes and instructions and will link to there when I make something.
I was trying to find my recipe for mincemeat that spurred me on to put all these things in one place rather than spread out through my blog. I use this blog as a way to keep up with family and friends and as a journal for me rather than something I overly want the world to look at (though it is obviously an open blog because I can't deal with the privacy settings needed to make it specific). I just have so many pages now that i'm having a hard time finding recipes I want to repeat and I also wanted somewhere to record my good soaps, so I can turn to them again and again. I'm not going to write any personal things on there, and where I would usually write a recipe down here i'm just going to put there instead and link to it in a post from here, so it's really just another page and hopefully will keep me more organized!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I just saw an advert for this on TV. Natural Gas. Advertised as greener and cleaner and better than wind or solar power. Now while I agree natural gas is WAY better than coal and oil, and safer than nuclear, better than solar or wind? Really? An electric cooker powered by wind energy is WAY better than a gas cooker, but an electric cooker powered by coal is WAY worse.
The route of a "clean energy economy" is certainly a long one, but should we be twisting it with a refocus on another non-renewable resource? Or should we just keep on trucking down the straight and narrow until eventually all non-renewable resources are replaced with renewable ones? Which is better?
My thoughts. We need to get rid of coal power as soon as we can, and though I would love to see all of them replaced with wind farms in the next 5-10 years, it isn't realistic, as non-renewable sources, for now, just generate so much less power. So maybe a slight detour is needed, in tandem with clean sources, but certainly not in preference to. I think what got me is that natural gas should ever be advertised as better than solar ("the sun goes in") or wind ("it's not always windy"), as i'm sorry, but that is just the kind of advertising that leads people astray. There are actually people out there who will believe that...
Saturday, November 28, 2009
A weekend of ups and downs. I was invited over to a colleagues house for Thanksgiving dinner and cooked a turkey for the occasion (he has a slightly "weird" version of Thanksgiving dinner, last year, with no turkey, so all were happy at the suggestion I bring turkey). It was fun, a mentor of mine from the UK is over and we had a fabulous time catching up and drinking wine.
Friday I worked most of the day, and the same for today. Friday I even got a short (4 mile) run in. Good intentions today, but no. My running has dropped off and I don't feel good about it. Last week I've been both manically busy and the weather totally sucked (think really wet and really windy).
Today hasn't been a happy day (not an unhappy day, but not overtly happy). The long story, I haven't worn deodorant since Canada, Thanksgiving what did I decide to do? Well, wear deodorant (Toms of Maine Sensitive if anyone is interested). Now, last night I noticed I have another abscess lump in my armpit (my other armpit). Small and I am so far totally on top of it, but man this sucks. I hope this passes quickly. Will I ever be able to wear deodorant again? Tomorrow marks 2 weeks until the marathon, and I really could use getting a few long runs in before then. I spent the day baking to make myself feel better.
Tomorrow promises to be more fun. A BBQ on the beach in celebration of Doug's birthday. My fridge is stuffed to the gills in anticipation.
My packed fridge. It literally NEVER looks like this on it's own...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
BSA sent me this, made me giggle...:0) Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and for me, phew for a holiday. Though somehow I ended up promising to cook a turkey for tomorrows feast at a colleagues house. Don't even ask. All I know is it will be delicious. I just finished massaging rosemary, garlic and olive oil into it. Yum.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I've had all the pieces for this cardigan for Taylor done and finished for a while, but just haven't had the time to piece it all together. So to vent the frustrations I pieced it all together and sewed on the buttons. I hope it fits the chubby cherub! Kim and Carney were so nice to me this summer, I wanted to make the girls something special before I go there again in January. This is for little Tays birthday in December. I hope it fits!
Of course, all made utilizing my fabulous crochet hook holder, made by Nicola!
To a work visa that is. This was supposed to be renewed months ago. But a series of pain-in-the-ass people and a new regulation, and here I am today, still without a visa renew for January. I guess we will be paying rush service after all. But this arrived today. This piece of paper says my PhD is equivalent to a US PhD. It says that I am worthy. I try not to let my feelings get in the way of what this nice company has done for me for the small fee of $300, because of course how could anyone assume that a PhD from the UK would be worthy in this country. Everyone needs an independent moneymaking company for this service, especially now that the US requires this of every work visa.
I could continue. But lets just add "rant about the US immigration system" here.
Tomorrow this will go into my file, and hopefully it'll go off tomorrow. But of course, Thursday is Thanksgiving, so there is no way in hell this is getting there until at least midweek next week. Nothing like cutting it down to the wire. Good thing I hadn't planned to leave the country for the holidays, as chances are, I wouldn't have been allowed back in.....
Monday, November 23, 2009
"Hectic - very busy with activity and confusion"
That's about right. I didn't think any week could top last week, but low and behold this one probably will. Even with a two day holiday at the end of it, I need those days to catch up without meetings! Today - teaching, meetings, writing my lecture for weds, writing a "prospectus" for big wigs for tomorrow, tonight wining and dining a guy from SEA. Tomorrow, taking big wigs on a tour of the SEA boat (we're trying to get funding for an undergrad course - have I mentioned that here before? If not i'll write something on it later), lunch meeting on that course, afternoon meetings about a proposal, probably still writing weds lecture. Weds, lectures, writing next week lectures. Other things on my list - revise a paper to get it in press (i'm running out of time!), three pre-proposals due end of next week, one final report, one other paper to finish to submit (it's so damn close!).........better get off the blog......so apologies if i'm a little absent this week.....
Friday, November 20, 2009
It's easy - go to Be The Match, look over the health guidelines (and unlike giving blood here in the US, being foreign DOESN'T disclude you!), if you qualify, fill out the online forms, order a kit, swab your cheek, send it back and voila, you're on the Bone Marrow donor registry and may be able to help someone fighting blood disease!
Happy Weekend everyone!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
It's 6pm and i'm actually debating going to bed! It's been a hectic week. I always knew today would be busy (teaching for 2hrs then loading the ship for an upcoming cruise that is collecting samples for me) but yesterday it got MUCH busier. On Monday an email came around that said people were getting together for a meeting today on ocean carbon (think Ocean Acidification) and I emailed and said I would be around, but sporadically as I would be teaching and loading etc. Well yesterday an email went around with a program, and low and behold there was my name, giving a talk. A few emails, and yes, they wanted me to do a talk, on how ocean acidification would affect deep water organisms. So yesterday was hectic, as i'm still trying to get lectures together for next week too. Last night was a late one, getting my lecture ready for tomorrows class and making this new talk.
Up early this morning, into work to do a few things and then at this conference at 8am. Headed to class at 10.30, back at 11.30, back to class at 12.30, back to conference at 1.30pm, and then my talk was scheduled for 2pm. Well, when I got back it soon became obvious we were WAY behind, and I was headed to the ship at 2.30pm. So I didn't end up doing my talk. In a way i'm relieved, as I am not a huge fan of talking, in other ways I am pissed, as i'd put effort into it. Ah well. Life is still busy, I still need to spend tomorrow putting the final touches on fridays lecture, and making my two for next week. I am so behind.
Here are some photos from loading the boat. I am really sad at not going on this cruise, it was supposed to go last year, and then October when I could have gone, but now it's going next week, when I can't go, because i'm teaching....
The Pisces IV submersible.
The Pisces IV submersible. This is the main sub that will be used during the cruise. It's smaller than Alvin, and can collect less, but still very cool. I love using subs....:0)
The Pisces V. This sub is kept onboard for safety, and luckily has never had to be used for those reasons. Unlike working in the East Pacific and Atlantic, there is nowhere close that could help if something happens to the sub on the bottom, so this second sub is kept onboard just in case.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This is probably one of the best National Geographic photographer interviews i've ever seen. I wish there was someway to put it up on here, but I can't seem to figure out how to do that. Click the link, it's worth it, an amazing short story about photographing Leopard Seals in the Antarctic, no blood and gore I promise. It's stories like this that make me amazed at the world around us, and it's these National Geographic photographers that made me want to be a biologist, way back when.
Paul Nicklen photographs Leopard Seals
We have a lot of storms this weekend, very wet and windy and there are apparently some flood warnings out there too. Today I have a bunch of things I need to do at work and I need to go over to Coconut Island to collect some equipment, so decided I would run my long run yesterday morning. Originally my long runs were always on Saturday, but with teaching twice on Friday, then a TA meeting, to be honest i've been too knackered on Friday to contemplate getting up early on Saturday. And if yesterday was anything to go by I should probably stick to that.
I did wake up at 5am, but I did also roll back over. I re-woke at 6.30am and decided I should probably get something to drink and eat in me and try and get out the door. Anything over a 5 mile and I should eat something (I get hungry on AM runs), and yesterday was 14 miles. I pulled out a pack of raisins and some Hammer drink and went back to bed (bad move) and sat on my computer for a while. By 7am I decided I really did have to do it. So I dragged my butt out of bed and headed down to Diamondhead to run. I won't bore you with the details, but it was sluggish and I was lazy, but I did do the 14. At mile 8 (the turn around point to run back) it also decided to tropical storm on me. No cover, no nothing, so I just slogged through. This has made me certain I do not like running in the rain. My soggy shoes alone i'm sure weighed an extra pound each, and I had a guy laugh at me as I crossed back over Diamondhead because one shoe was squelching badly.
I did debate trying to redo the 14 this evening (last week I knocked 15 minutes off my 1/2 marathon time, yesterday I gained 3 minutes), but I've woken up with a cricked neck (with the bad weather I haven't been sleeping so well - my walls are paper thin, so when the storms roll in it's really noisy) so know that isn't going to happen. Maybe if it dries out i'll go for a walk or a swim later.
That said I have a butt load of work to do today, so should probably get out of bed......
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Just thirty days until the Honolulu marathon - yikes! Training over the last week has actually gone pretty well (post bad shoes and colds). I'm actually getting quite excited about it. It's going to be hard, MUCH harder than the 1/2, but i'm confident I can finish it, it might just be slow, and that's okay.
Here's my schedule Sunday-Sunday
Sunday - 18 (but I accidentally did 22, messed up on the route!) - 4hrs 10
Monday - Rest (oh boy I needed it!)
Tuesday - 5 m (so I missed this one, but did walk ~2m to stretch)
Wednesday - 10 m (1hr 50 - around Diamondhead)
Thursday - 5m
Friday - rest
Saturday - 14m
Sunday - rest
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
So these came out cute! Inspiration from here - Julie Adore - thanks Nicola! The reason they turned out as aliens? Well, that was just the colours in my crochet basket. As always, the second (pink) always comes out tidier than the first, but I think both are cute and plan to make more. I love projects like this. These both took just half an hour to do, so a nice, pre-bed project to take my mind off the day.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I bought a small slow cooker a while back while on sale at Costco. Primarily I use it for cooking steel cut oatmeal overnight for a tasty morning breakfast, but I'm trying to branch out. Today I made a version of this recipe - Julia's Easy Slow Cooker Chicken - and I have to say, it was delicious! And so easy to prepare in the AM before heading out the door (an essential!).
- Two chicken breasts - I used frozen that had been semi-defrosted overnight in the fridge - cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
- One potato, washed and cut into inch cubes (skin on - I love potato skin!)
- 1/2 cup of carrots (I used fresh baby carrots)
- 1 can of cream of celery soup (i'm sure any cream soup will do!)
- 2 "cans" of water - pour water into the empty soup can twice to wash out the dregs
Put all together in the slow cooker, slap on low and come back after work to tasty chicken casserole!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Check out recipes and the equipment list below.
Gather your ingredients and equipment. I choose to use all organic ingredients, that's my choice, but it's not necessary and you can make cheaper bars without. You can make very cheap and nice bars just using lard and lye. I am making the "Castille Plus" recipe below and splitting the recipe into two - a peppermint-tea tree soap and a lavender soap.
First step - mix your cool/cold water and the lye. I do this in a tall plastic (BPA free) pot to prevent spills and if you do this in metal the lye will corrode. Lye is Sodium Hydroxide and has lots of precautions in using it - use in a ventilated area, use gloves, and I like to do all of that part in the sink. I would suggest doing this after the kids have gone to bed and keep the lye locked up somewhere.
Measure out your cool water and slowly add the lye crystals or pellets. The mixture will heat up. I then sit the tub in a sink of cool water, it helps it to cool down faster.
To use you want it to be ~110F
While you're waiting for your lye to cool, weigh out your other ingredients and put in a metal pan. Heat up your oils until they too reach ~110F. If you have solid fats you'll have to take the mixture beyond 110F and again wait for that to cool. The secret is getting both the lye and the oils to be the SAME temperature when you mix them together.
While you're waiting for your fats to melt, measure out your fragrances. Now unlike everything else, these measurements are in volume not weight. You don't have to, but I tend to add my colour to the fragrance so it's just one less thing to add. For colours I have some gel colours I bought, and i've experimented with natural colours like Paprika before too that I love using.
Okay - now both the lye and the oils are the same temperature. Add the lye to the oils (always in that order) and blend gently with the stick blender. The mixture will go cloudy and will start to firm up. You want to stop as soon as it reaches light pudding consistency. Which oils you use determines how long this will take. The important thing is you don't want it to firm up too quickly - this is called Seizing and makes it hard to pour.
Now add your fragrance and colour (both optional) and mix in. You can use the stick blender for a more even colour, but again, you don't want it to get too firm at this point.
To make a large batch to split you need to work fast at this point, and I wouldn't recommend this until you've tried it a few times - but certainly with the "Castille Plus" recipe this is totally possible to do, as you have a while (~15 mins) before it really firms up. Decant off the required amount into a separate container and then fragrance/colour the two (or more) batches.
You can also add herbs and additives at this point. I love adding poppy seeds for exfoliation or rosemary crushed up - which I meant to in this batch and forgot!
Now pour into molds. You can use many things for molds - pyrex dishes (line with wax paper though or you'll never get it out!), cardboard tubes, silicone bakeware (works excellent!) and wooden boxes with drop sides. I have these molds bought from a soap store here in Hawaii and really like them (the soaps come out really nicely, and they were ~$5 a mold). I would love to get a wooden box with drop sides at somepoint, as they insulate better (see below).
If you want to make swirls and patterns (don't try this on your first go!) you'll want a tray that will make several bars. Separate your mix and add colour to just one batch. Pour in the un-coloured and then pour in the coloured in lines on top. Take a chopstick and draw lines (make sure it touches the bottom of the mold). I haven't "perfected" this yet either!
When you're poured cover with plastic wrap (this prevents soda ash forming on top), and now you want to insulate your soap - as it still has to cook some more. I layer up my soap trays using towels and cutting boards (which you'll use later). If you have a wooden box you don't need much in the way of insulation (just on top).
After the soap is all nice and wrapped up I put mine in the oven - mostly because my kitchen is so small there is nowhere else to put it, but it's out of the way in there. You want to keep it wrapped for ~12hrs, and in the molds for ~24-72hrs depending on how hard your mix of oils go. Don't try and unmold them until they are hard enough not to squish. I usually make soap in the evening and unwrap the next evening, then leave to dry.
Once ready to be unmolded pop it out gently onto a cutting board. Cut the soap to the required size and trim to make nice edges at this point (it's easier to do this while the soap is soft). You also want to check at this point for any "ash" on top (white powder), as you'll want to cut that off too. Also look for pockets of oil or lye - if you have these you'll have to throw away the soap, as it'll be unuseable. The Castille Plus looks oily on top when you pop it - this is normal, but be aware this means that this soap has a shorter shelf life (~1yr - they will smell rancid when the oil goes off so you can tell) than ones that are "drier", this is just because it is so moisturizing and because there are no preservatives.
Once cut you want them to dry. Again I only have a small space, so I domino them on a cutting board (making sure they don't touch) and then stack cutting boards with all the soap on - if you are doing a couple of different "smells" you want to make sure they don't touch either as they'll cross over. Ones in molds take longer to get hard enough to pop out, but the sooner you can the quicker they will dry.
Now this is the hardest bit (at least I think so) - you have to leave these to dry for 4-6 weeks before use! You can use them earlier, but they'll be soft and won't last as long. The longer they dry the more gentle (the pH drops) they become too.