Thursday, September 3, 2020

Existing vs Living

The past year, I've been living in a high stress situation. And the past 6 months only increased the levels of stress. And yes, I know I'm not the only one.

I've basically stopped doing things I used to enjoy. I can't remember the last time I picked up a camera. I don't remember when I last baked bread. I stopped my 5k walks. Blogging and vlogging are a thing of the past.

Yeah, once a month I get a manicure. But it's a passive activity that doesn't require my creativity (beyond picking a new manicure) or much of my attention.

I've been existing, but not living.

And I want that to stop. I NEED that to stop.

I've begun to notice the world around me again. The small things, like flowering weeds or the pomegranates that are coming into season.

I think it's time to pick up my camera again.

I've started watching my diet and cutting down carbs and cutting out sugar.

I think it's time for me to find a suitable bread recipe and start baking again.

Losing weight won't happen with just a change of diet, I NEED to exercise. Until I can afford a treadmill, I need to do something.

I think it's time to start walking again.

I've been told that I'm pretty decent at putting a sentence together. Putting the stuff that causes my stress hamster running at 1 AM down on paper - digital as it may be - is a good way for me to move things out of my head, which in turn will let me get a decent night's sleep. Vlogging will help me track my getting healthy journey.

I think it's time to get writing and recording again.

So the camera battery is now being charged, and my workout gear is getting dusted off.

Photo taken at the urban lot farm in February, 2020 BC... Before Corona.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Cheese Blintz Casserole

I don't like to make fussy foods, even if I enjoy eating them. I enjoy blintzes, but don't have the patience to make individual crepes, then stuff and roll them. And then there's the toppings - some might want plain cheese, I enjoy a blueberry blintz, my kids most likely would prefer with Nutella. Okay, that sounds delicious.

I have a recipe where you create a crepe batter and a cheese filling, but instead of making individual crepes and then individual blintzes, you simply pour half the crepe batter into an oiled baking pan, then the cheese filling, then the rest of the crepe batter, bake, slice, and serve. And folks can top it with whatever they like.

2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour

Blend all ingredients together.

1 and 1/4 pound (500 grams) cottage cheese (higher fat is better)
4 ounces cream cheese (I use 125 grams of gvinah levanah)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix together.

Pour half the batter into a well greased 9x13 pan. Layer on all the filling and top with the rest of the batter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or so (or until golden brown) in a 350F degree oven.

(I actually double the batter recipe to give it more solidity).

When you serve it, feel free to have a topping bar - fresh fruit, pie filling, jam, chocolate syrup or spread.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast Casserole

Looks fancy, but is really easy to make.

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Compote

1 loaf of bread, cubed
10 strawberries, sliced
350 grams cream cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk
brown sugar (to taste)
cinnamon (to taste)

White sugar

Since you'll want to make sure the sugar is dissolved, make the 'custard' ahead of time by whisking the eggs, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon together.

Place a layer of cubed bread into a tube pan or casserole dish, then a layer of the sliced strawberries, then cream cheese, then cubed bread.

Carefully pour the custard over the bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or up to 12 hours).

Bake at 180° C for 30 minutes COVERED, then for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

To make the compote, cut strawberries into a pot, add some sugar, and cook on a medium flame. As the strawberries begin to release liquid, lower the flame to a simmer, and cook for another 10 minutes or so. The mixture should thicken as it cools, but pour over the French toast casserole while it's still warm.

Serve warm. Whipped cream or ice cream would probably be amazing with this.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Getting Carried Away

Finally took out the fabric, tape measure, and checked the pattern sites for making the new mei tai.

No, it's not some tropical cocktail, that's a MAI tai. A mei tai is a soft structure baby carrier.

When my oldest daughter was born, I had a fairly basic Snugli carrier. It was convenient, but in hindsight, probably not the most ergonomic for her.

Many years later, when my oldest son was born, I made a baby wrap. 6 meters of a t-shirt material with a non-stretch meter long pocket sewn on, more to mark the midpoint of this long wrap, than for function as a pocket. The construction of the thing was much easier than trying to wrap yourself and baby into it, although after a few tries, I was a pro at it. With a shift to the side, I could easily (and modestly) nurse in public.

After 6 months or so, my son became too heavy for the wrap. It was so stretchy, I found myself constantly having to adjust, tighten, and retie. So I looked into making something that required a bit more than finding the middle and sewing three straight lines.

And that's when I found the mei tai. The basic construction is a rectangle with four straps coming out of the corners. The bottom two, the waist straps, are sewn in straight, as they are simply going around your waist. The two upper straps, the shoulder straps, are sewn in at an angle, because they're supposed to go over your shoulders, cross at the back, then come around to your front, where you either tie it, or cross it again and tie it at the back if the straps are long enough and/or your skinny enough.

So I found a pattern, bought white cotton duck (heavy cotton canvas material), and nicer material with a pattern. I also bought some polar fleece to use for padding the shoulder straps.

I really went overboard in making it strong and safe. I double, and possibly triple stitched where I sewed the straps to the body of the carrier. I'm fairly certain I used a double layer of cotton duck (where the straps were sewn to), and then lined the inside with the nicer pattern material, and definitely the outside.
My oldest daughter "wearing" my oldest son. I believe he was about a year old.

Well, whatever I did, I did it right - except using polar fleece for padding. That did NOT work well. Both my boys used the mei tai, and two out of three grandsons have used it. With my middle grandson being 4 1/2, I think he still is carried in it every now and again.

So it's an 11 year old well made mei tai. And at my daughter's request, I'll be making a new one. Same patter as above, and I'll be making it overboard in strength and safety. And this time, I have padded shoulder straps from a backpack to use for padding the shoulder straps of the mei tai. (I went to a Goodwill-type store near me and found a backpack that had just the type of straps I wanted for just the right price (cheap).

So I've taken some measurements, cut the straps off the backpack (and labeled left and right (yes, it matters)), and I'll be all ready to get measuring, cutting, and sewing tomorrow evening.

Monday, May 6, 2019

60 Seconds

Before I go into what our Saturday night was like, I'd like to give some perspective. Folks who live in "Tornado Alley" will have the better idea of this analogy.

Imagine sitting at home, or driving home from work, when the tornado sirens go off. You have X number of minutes to get to safety, get your family to safety, wrestle the dog or cat to safety (or leave Fluffy to her fate). As you huddle in your shelter, you hear the storm on its destructive path. Hopefully, you're a lucky one, and you'll escape with little or no damage, injury, or worse.

The all-clear comes and it's back to whatever you're doing. Maybe you decide to start dinner. Or take a shower. Or go back to bed. Or, go outside to inspect any damage.

Ten minutes later, however, the tornado siren goes off again. And it's run to safety, regardless of your state of dress or undress.

Imagine doing this over, and over, and over, and over again. Day after day, week after week, year after year.

Saturday night, Zach and I were watching TV. The air conditioner was on, so the windows were closed. At about 11:13 p.m., my phone gave a weird chirp, and when I got up to look at my phone, I heard the faint wails of the siren.

I paused the TV and opened the window to make sure what I was hearing was real, immediately turned, told Zach to help roust the boys from sleep, and we had to get the apartment building stairwell IMMEDIATELY.

We have 60 seconds from the time the siren goes off to get to safety.

You try rousting kids from a deep sleep and getting out of the apartment in less than 60 seconds.

We heard faint booms as rockets from Gaza were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome. We heard a fighter jet or two flying over head.

I'll admit, we didn't wait the required 10 minutes to go back to the apartment. The boys were tired. And cold. They were wearing shorts, and nothing else.

So we went back into the apartment, the boys went back to bed, and we went back to watching TV, but this time, the air conditioner was off, and the window was open.

And 10 minutes later, the siren went off again.

I don't know how we (Israel) got to calling these sirens "red alert", but it's become part of our every day vocabulary. To be honest, I think it glosses over the seriousness of just what it represents. Let's call it what it is. An air raid siren.

The boys were cranky about having to get up again (can you blame them?), but I was much happier about that than having to face a panic attack from one or both (could you blame them?). They were still in shorts, and I foolishly didn't think to tell them to put on a shirt and sweatpants as we all went back to the apartment.

TV show was over, it was now 11:30 p.m., Zach and I went to bed. We had the air conditioner on in our room, but I also left the window open a little so I could hear the air raid siren. And just as I was finally falling asleep, at about 11:55.... another siren.

Lather rinse repeat. Only this time, about 2 minutes after the first siren, came a second. At least this time we were still in the stairwell. As the times before, lots of booms as rockets from Gaza were intercepted. The building DID rattle a few times from the concussive force, and we did hear a larger explosion which meant a rocket landed somewhere in the city and hit a building of some kind (high school cafeteria was hit about a 20 minute drive from our place).

THIS time as we were heading back into the apartment, I told the boys to change into a t-shirt and sweatpants. Thankfully, the rest of the night was quiet.

This photo is of Zach and the boys, during siren 2 or 3-4. I didn't feel comfortable posting it with them half dressed, so I censored it a bit. There's nothing censored about their expressions, though.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Super easy pineapple chicken

Not really giving amounts because it's according to taste (and how many people you're serving)

1 whole chicken or 2 kilo of chicken breast, diced
green and/or red peppers, diced
onions, diced
minced garlic
1 large can of pineapple chunks in syrup
brown sugar
black pepper
garlic powder
1 1/2 cups ketchup

Sautee the peppers, onions, and garlic until the onions become translucent.
Add the chicken and mix.
Pour the syrup into a large bowl and add the pineapple chunks to the pot.
Add the brown sugar, s&p, garlic powder, and ketchup to the syrup, mix until well-blended and add to the pot.
Mix thoroughly and add just enough water until the chicken is mostly covered (I leave about an inch exposed)
Cover and let it simmer on the stove top on a medium flame for about 2 hours.
Serve hot on rice or couscous.

(BTW, it tastes better the second day)

Monday, February 25, 2019


Nothing like the prospect of a deadline to get one motivated to get one's butt in gear. Nothing has been moving with regards to getting garb made for myself or my sons. However, we were just asked if we'd like to participate in a roleplayers' convention the end of April, so, yeah... lit a fire under my ass.

For myself, it will be a long-sleeved, off-white or white linen tunic gown, with a short-sleeved, pale green linen overgown. And trim at the neckline and cuffs on the overgown.

For the boys, I will make basic tunics in linen - the older one will be in pale green, the younger on in pale blue. If I have time, I'll make them brown linen pants. If I don't have the time, sweatpants or something similar for the time being it is.

Now, to stay properly motivated...