Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Cheer!

Here's some comicky goofiness for your Boxing Day enjoyment! Click for full size!


(and I meant what I said about blogging before; I have more on my mind to share -- just have to really really for real make the effort to make/find the time to do it.  The time vortex has been messing with my days lately since E's been born, and I need to exert my will to realign things.  Just a nerdy way of saying that I'm trying to be better about baby + time management.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Photo post!

Here are some recent photos just out and about -- places we've been to lately.

First, it's the park behind Starbucks in Uptown Village!  A great place to stop and nurse the baby. :)

 This was on a fabulous sunny day, and getting out for a walk was the BEST THING EVER.  I had been pretty down, and the sun gave me a huge lift.  (I've previously self-diagnosed myself with S.A.D. [since I've moved here, tsk], and I think it's hitting me extra hard this year or something.  I just set up my poor-woman's S.A.D. light, which is 5 daylight-spectrum lightbulbs in a floor lamp on a timer, which turns on at 6:30am as I wake up.  Anyway, back to the photos!)

Next, it's Mount Hood keeping watch over East Vancouver!  I think we were going out to Whole Foods for our special laundry detergent (ooh, more on what we found out there in another post!)


Here's a picture from a walk downtown.  We were making some crazy faces and cracking ourselves up!

These next ones are from our jaunt along the Gorge earlier this week.  Just had to get out!
It was super foggy at first!

We saw a bunch of waterfalls and hiked around with baby in the frame pack.  I forget which fall this was . . . Horsetail?



On our way back from this already major adventure, we walked along the waterfront downtown!  I love that walk.  A few times we have even walked it from our house.
Anyway, just a few photos, for fun!  I may have other photos later, and definitely other posts.  I have a lot on my mind!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: A really good sandwich

I have made this sandwich twice now -- the first time, because I was trying to use up avocado, and the second time (today) because it was so tasty the first time around!  Try it!

Avocado Yum Sandwich

You will need four ingredients: Bread, an avocado, cherry jam, and sharp (or medium) cheddar cheese.  Tools required: a sharp knife, butter knife, toaster oven, and plate. (No glue guns or sewing needles, thank you very much!!)

First, toast your bread lightly. I like to do this on all my toasty sandwiches for that extra crisp factor, and for stability when applying other ingredients.

Then spread it with jam.  I think apricot jam would also be tasty, or perhaps that fig spread they have for cheeses, or even honey.  I had cherry -- a less-sugar-added, double-fruit kind -- the only kind I buy -- usually in Canada.  Anyway.

Cut your avocado in half, slice up half and add it to the sandwich.  The other half is for next time!  Slice off some cheese and put it on.  Be generous for best effect.
Toast it!  This photo is actually from the first sandwich, not today's, because it's the only one I took of the first sandwich, and I forgot to take a "melty shot" today.

Put your halves together, cut it DIAGONALLY (very important for best flavor always), and enjoy!

I think this sandwich would also be excellent with the addition of bacon and/or butter, but it is fantastic as-is.  I even told A. that somehow, with burning the bread a bit, the sharpness of the cheese, plus the sweet jam, it almost tasted like bacon, but he thought I was crazy.  Well, he doesn't like avocado so he didn't try it.  But you should!

(By the way, between sharp and mild cheddar, I think sharp wins.  And make sure your avocado is nice and soft, too.)  If anyone makes this, let me know!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Currently digging . . .

* Making and drinking big pots of tea in the coffeemaker since we've gone off coffee for a few weeks!  I'm sure we'll be back to coffee soon but tea is nice for now.
* Book club antics
* Freshly baked bread -- this last batch came out so good, I could eat the whole second loaf right now.
* A super cute and smiley baby -- she is so funny these days, and pleasant to hang out with for the most part
* New clothes and shoes ordered online, coming to me soon!  Anticipation!
* Listening to bird songs and "dawn choruses" on the internet -- so relaxing!  Baby likes it, too. :)
* Finally doing a little winter yard cleanup here and there, and will drop the piles off tomorrow at the free neighborhood cleanup!!
* Fall weather.  Long sleeves and a chilly breeze are the best.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Great Yogurt Showdown!


As many people know, I am a bit . . . wacky.  So it should come as no surprise that recently I became obsessed with YOGURT!  Specifically, what the heck is up with "Greek yogurt"?  People keep talking about it like it's the greatest thing on Earth, and I was unclear on what it was, and more importantly, how it tastes!  So of course, I went around buying up all kinds of yogurts, Greek and otherwise, for a taste test showdown!  Oh, how I love taste tests.  Obviously, I must share my results with the internet!

My goal was to pit nonfat Greek, full-fat Greek, and full-fat normal yogurts against each other.  These Greek yogurts claim to be all super-creamy and as good as full-fat, so I was going to see if that is true (spoiler alert: it's totally not!). I was also looking forward to just enjoying some full-fat yogurt, which I never buy, but have fond childhood memories of.  Actually, it appears that full-fat yogurt is an endangered species in the world of yogurt, a world which seems to be fully in that depressing grocery category of "let's be as low-fat and low-calorie as possible for the dieting population".  Ah well, down to business.




 (OK, so I bought a couple extra Brown Cow flavors because they looked so good -- and they were!)

First, it should be noted that even though this was a blind test test (thank you, hubby!) and I cleansed my palate in between spoonfuls by drinking water and smelling coffee beans, this test did not have the greatest scientific accuracy.  Mostly because I didn't want to have 30 open yogurts at once (another extinct species in the world of yogurt: the lid!  Oh, and 8 oz. containers, but I digress), nor eat all that much yogurt at once.  So I had to split the tests over several days.

I decided to compare yogurts in the most common flavor -- vanilla -- but I also found some honey, strawberry, and blueberry worth comparing, too.  I bought whatever I found at Winco and Fred Meyer.

In my ratings,
1 = worst.  Gross, inedible, otherwise yucky.
2 = pretty bad, but I guess I could eat it if I was hungry.
3 = A decent, good yogurt. Neither here nor there.
4 = yum! Great taste!
5 = best. Super good.  More, please!


Here we go!

ROUND ONE: GREEK, NO FAT, VANILLA

 (I threw a full-fat vanilla in, too, for comparison's sake. The YoBaby stuff conveniently came in a 4-pack of small ones, easy for my tests!)
Dannon Greek Vanilla No Fat: a little chalky, sweet, tacky/sticky. 2/5.
At the end of the round, I determined that this one was better than both Oikos and Fred Meyer.

Chobani Greek Vanilla No Fat: No vanilla flavor, like sour cream, too sour, OK creamy but icky taste of mildew. 1/5.
This stuff was beyond gross.
Stonyfield Oikos Greek Vanilla No Fat: Pleasant, bland, not very sweet, weird taste, some other weird taste, not vanilla. 2/5

Fred Meyer Greek Vanilla No Fat: Sweet, good creamy, strangely fruity.  3/5.
This brand was sweetened with Stevia, which is why, I think, it tasted a little weird.
Stonyfield YoBaby Vanilla Whole Milk: watery, good vanilla taste, 4/5.





ROUND TWO: WEIRD ASSORTMENT




Fred Meyer Blended Sweetened Plain: Tasty, very sweet, creamy, good, no vanilla taste. 4/5.
I had never seen a "sweetened plain" flavor before! (Guess that means it's no longer "plain".) This was lowfat.  I'd buy it again!
Yoplait Greek No Fat Honey Vanilla: sour, fake sweet, tiny bit gummy, gluey, no flavor, vague taste of "basement". 1/5.
Voskos Greek No Fat Honey Vanilla: chalky, vanilla taste, too sweet, cloying. 2/5.
Stonyfield YoBaby Whole Milk Vanilla: creamy, tasty, like normal yogurt. 4/5.




ROUND THREE: GREEK, HONEY




Fred Meyer Greek Nonfat Honey: fake sweet, tacky. 2.5/5.
Again, sweetened with Stevia.
Fage Total [Full Fat] with Honey: Whoa!! Creamy, honey flavor, like dessert at a restaurant, not too sweet. 5/5.
This was out of control creamy fatty goodness! It seemed like it should be a topping for something else, not to be eaten in such a quantity. Indulgent!!
Greek Gods Traditional [Full Fat] Greek Honey: nice and smooth, preferred texture for yogurt, somehow tastes like it was made with tap water from a city I'm not used to. 4/5.
Fage 2% Lowfat Honey: intense honey flavor, nice consistency, not sour, not so creamy. 3/5
Zoi Greek Honey [Full Fat]: tangy, creamy, thicker and better than #3 [Greek Gods].  Good balance between sweet and tangy. 5/5.
This was super good without being as overpoweringly creamy-fatty as Fage Total.

ROUND FOUR: MORE VANILLA

(I had to doctor this photo because I threw in two different Tillamooks at the last minute.)
(Note: I could have included a Greek Gods vanilla one, but it also had cinnamon and orange, so I felt that was too different from regular vanilla to include.  Also it didn't sound very good!)


Tillamook Vanilla Bean Lowfat: sweet, weird tap water taste, gelatinous, vanilla, not creamy. 2.5/5.
Zoi Greek [Full Fat] Vanilla: tangy, "yogurty", creamy vanilla, thick without being chalky. 4/5.
Stonyfield YoBaby Whole Milk Vanilla: thinner, not so much vanilla, nice creamy; not gel-y or chalky. 3.5/5.
This got a bit downgraded after tasting Zoi!
Redwood Hill Farm GOAT MILK Vanilla: AUGGH!! Really weird, creamy, sweet earthy flavor, bad Chinese food taste. 1/5.
Well, I guess I don't like goat's milk yogurt, at least not this one!
Brown Cow Cream Top Vanilla: tangy, good consistency, no vanilla, not sweet. 3/5.
Mountain High Original Style [Full Fat] Vanilla: tangy, good texture, thin, not as creamy. 2.75/5.
Tillamook Lowfat French Vanilla Bean: no vanilla, sticky, sweet. 3/5.


ROUND FIVE: STRAWBERRY




Yoplait Greek No Fat Strawberry: sour, tacky, no cream. 1.5/5.
Fit and Fruity Lowfat Strawberry: decent, a little sweet, good strawberry flavor; your standard, run of the mill strawberry yogurt. 3/5.
Note that this is made with sugar, not HFCS. I thought Tillamook was the only lowfat one out there made with sugar, but I was wrong!
Zoi Greek [Full Fat] Strawberry Cream: yum! Like strawberry ice cream! More, please! 5/5.
(not pictured) Dannon Light and Fit Nonfat Strawberry: fake sweet, what milk? gross gel. 1/5.
My mom had left a few of these from her last visit.  She eats this sort of thing (nonfat yogurt) every day, but I think it is NASTY!

ROUND SIX: BLUEBERRY


Zoi Greek [Full Fat] Blueberry Cream: nice real blueberry flavor, good thick texture, creamy. 4.5/5.
Yoplait Greek Nonfat Blueberry: Yeeech, worse blueberry flavor, chalky, sour without being nicely tangy, thick, soap taste. 1/5.
Greek Gods Greek [Full Fat] Honey Blueberry: runnier, creamy, tangy, different blueberry flavor, somehow tastes like a grape popsicle. 3.5/5.
Brown Cow Cream Top Blueberry: nice blueberry flavor, sweet, creamy. 3/5.
Siggi's Icelandic Style Skyr Strained Nonfat Blueberry: stiff, way too thick, like cheese, very sour, no blueberry flavor. 1/5.
This stuff was disgusting. It has vegetable rennet in it, so no wonder it was cheese-like!  What the hell??  I don't know what "skyr" is supposed to be, but I'll tell you what, this was gross.

ROUND SEVEN: EVEN MORE VANILLA!
I went to Whole Foods to get my laundry detergent (which they were out of, ugh, so now I have to go all the way across town some other time, arrgh), and discovered even more brands of crazy yogurt!  Too bad none of them were that good.  Well, they had Zoi, but it's WAY cheaper (under a buck) at my beloved Winco.


Wallaby Lowfat Vanilla: pleasant, sweet, milky, vanilla, average. 3/5.
I added this lowfat one because hubby likes Wallaby, so wanted to see how it stacked up.
Noosa Honey [Full Fat]: weird, very creamy, almost gamey, very thick, sweet, no vanilla. 3.5/5.
This is supposedly some Australian thing . . . bizarre how animal-fatty the milk tasted!
Skyr.is [No Fat] Vanilla: sour, weird gross aftertaste like suspicious meat, chalky, very thick. 1/5
This did not contain rennet, but it was just as nasty as the other "skyr"!
Liberte Mediterranee [Full Fat] French Vanilla: good creamy, good texture, tart, sweet enough, it's decent. 4/5.
Bellweather Farms SHEEP MILK Vanilla: eeeek! Did you just give me a cut lemon? super sour, very runny, no vanilla, weird aftertaste. 1.5/5.
As bad as this was, it was not nearly as bad as the goat's milk stuff!
Strauss Whole Milk Vanilla: so sad, sour gel consistency, no vanilla, yucky aftertaste. 1/5.
This one was "European Style", so Europeans must like their yogurt "unpleasant".
Stonyfield YoBaby Whole Milk Vanilla: sweeter, no creamy fat flavor, good vanilla, nothing special. 3/5.
Eros Greek Lowfat 2% Vanilla: mouth agape in disbelief, like grapes and bad Chinese food, fake freezerburnt ice cream, worst of the lot, almost gagged. 1/5.
For whatever reason, this was TOTALLY GROSS. Avoid!!!


CONCLUSIONS:


First, the big winners.
5 out of 5: Fage Total with Honey, Zoi Honey, Zoi Strawberry Cream.
4.5: Zoi Blueberry.
4: Stonyfield YoBaby Vanilla, Fred Meyer Blended Sweetened Plain, Greek Gods Honey, Zoi Vanilla, Liberte Mediterranee French Vanilla.


If I had to choose a nonfat Greek yogurt to eat, I'd choose the Dannon Vanilla.  But you know what? None of them were actually TASTY, so I really wouldn't choose to eat this type of yogurt!  Their claims of being "rich and creamy" are only true in the sense that they are tackier/stickier than those chalky gel-like nonfat regular yogurts.  I hate nonfat yogurt, and now I know this covers Greek yogurt as well.  I was amazed at just how gross a lot of these yogurts were.  Perhaps eating one on its own wouldn't be so bad, but in a big taste test, a bunch of these just FAIL!

As for claims of being high-protein, this may be true for some of the Greek yogurts, but a lot of the whole milk ones were similar in protein content.  No-Fat Greek Yogurt = total hype.


The whole milk regular yogurts were a mixed bag.  The full fat Greek yogurts are great!  Their fat content varies wildly, though.  Some regular whole milk yogurts were super tasty and creamy, while others had the disappointing taste and consistency of lowfat yogurt.  I have nothing against lowfat yogurt for the most part, but it's not worth it to me to eat the major fat grams in a full-fat if the taste is going to be . . . just like lowfat.  You know?



I also noted that the Tillamook lowfat yogurts that I have been buying occasionally are really sweet compared to some of the other full-fat brands.  I guess when companies take out fat, they add sugar to compensate.  Anyway, the grams of sugar in Tillamook were about twice what they were in many of the other vanillas.  I think I will stick to my Nancy's Lowfat Plain 32-oz tub (thank you, Winco!), and put honey and fruits in it myself.  No more sweet mini-tubs of lowfat yogurt!  If I want a treat, I will just eat some Zoi and be happy. :)  Or Brown Cow Cream Top Maple.  YUM!  Fat is where it's at.


PS--
Wallaby Chocolate Down Under = tastes like I threw some cocoa powder into vanilla yogurt. A dud.
Brown Cow Chocolate Cream Top = a step up, but still mostly unexciting.
Better to just have some chocolate pudding on both fronts. Just so you know!


PPS-- I still want to see what brands they have at Safeway! hee hee!
PPPS-- What will happen when I freeze some of my favorite full fat ones? :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cloth diaper nerdery

I just wanted to note that:

a) We're using cloth diapers for E. and I heart them because they're easy and cute and saving the environment and her bum and whatnot;
(Here are ALL my pockets when they were miraculously clean at the same time! OK, I planned for her to use some fitteds/covers so I could take this photo . . .)

b) I have a heck of a lot of them -- I got a wide variety of brands both starting out and over time, because I wanted to try out different things to see what works the best (answer: they all have their merits and flaws! So glad I did this instead of only getting one type);

(My stash above the changer -- now we can actually go a day before *needing* to do diaper laundry! E. goes through MANY a day because I won't have her sitting around wet.  We use cloth exclusively, and so far we can double up large inserts at night and not have any leaking problems, woot!)

c) I recently used my scant sewing skills to modify a cover into a pocket diaper, and it was easy!  I'm not brave enough to sew a pocket diaper from scratch (like my lovely friend Emily, who made 2 of mine, thanks, Em!), but check it out: all it takes is a piece of Malden Mills 200 fleece to sew a relatively cheaper Thirsties cover into a sleeve pocket -- no unstuffing; inserts agitate right out!  Basically I made my own Thirsties Duo Diaper, but with snaps!

All I did was:
* cut the fleece to size by eye (hey, I'm trained as a designer, but let's be honest, I'm pretty sloppy),
* made sure it was as wide as the stretched elastic and a little wider in the middle to give room for inserts (and a touch longer so it could cover any sticking-out inserts),
* clipped it in place with paper clips (to minimize holes in the PUL),
* used a ballpoint needle (read about that online!) and straight stitch, sewing along the existing edges (inside the inner gussets), stretching it as I went along.  Left the snaps out, of course.
* I left both ends open, because sleeves WIN!
* And because it's fleece, you don't even have to finish the edges -- but I did sew it over (hem it?) at the openings, to be fancy.
* Washed/dried it on hot to seal the PUL (again, read it online!), and it's been working great.

Obviously it didn't have its own inserts, but I always mix and match my inserts and use GMD prefolds, etc. so I always find something to put in there.

I'm so proud of myself!  And now that the medium GMD fitteds I bought no longer fit E., I'm thinking of doing this to my other large covers as well.  Heck, they can still be used as covers, too!  But we've found that pockets are our hands-down favorite way to do cloth diapers.

Anyway, just sharing!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Before May is out . . .

I thought I would put up my Mother's Day comic, finally!  As always, click to enlarge!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Timpano: Part Five, the Conclusion!

OK, here come the photos showing how we finished making the timpano last night!

A. cooked the pasta.

 I oiled the pan well!
 Rolled out the dough to almost the size of our table!
 Placed it in the bowl.
 Lovely drape.
 Mixed olive oil and some sauce with the pasta.
 Dump it in! (first layer)
 Add layer of chopped salami and provolone.
 Yum, hard boiled eggs!
 Wheee!  In they go!  Note: I messed up and didn't put the full half in this layer, but that just meant the second layer had a lot more.
 Add some meatballs and wait for romano cheese flurries!
 Progress.
 My other photographer and the wee one!

 Add sauce!
 More pasta, salami, provolone!
 Eggs!
 Meatballs and sauce and romano!
Final layer of pasta and sauce!  Did I mention that the fillings are supposed to only barely fill the pan?  Hey, just following instructions; I don't know how we got overflow!

NOTE: I really messed up here because I forgot to add the 4 beaten eggs at this point, and that certainly contributed to our issues with solidity once it was done!
 Folding over the dough!
 Almost done!
 Trim the excess!  I didn't worry about having too much extra dough; I like dough!
 Ready for the oven!
 In it goes!
I don't have photos, but after it's a bit browned, you cover it with foil and cook it to 120 degrees -- so here it is partway through, when I added the foil and thermometer!
 Finished baking!!
 Mmmmm, dough!
 Our only big platter was barely big enough for this thing!  But it worked!  A. does the flip and . . .
 THERE IT IS!!
 WHOA!!
 TIMPANO!!
 I cut the 3" circle in the middle (something to do with it being a support for the pieces as we cut them),
 then, the first piece!
 Onto the plate!
 Yummy mess of bread and meat and goodies!
 Wow!
Again, wow!!

So, how was it?  Well, it was quite tasty . . . but A. and I are both rather critical people, and we thought up a bunch of changes we would make!  (Did you really think I could leave it at "it was quite tasty"?)

I was happy with it, but it needed WAY more sauce and WAY more cheese.  When we reheat pieces for leftovers, I am totally going to top them with jarred sauce and thick mozzarella slices. Yeah!

I wish it was more solid, but that is partially my fault for forgetting the egg near the end.  I thought it would be more like some sort of giant pie/dumpling with meatloaf consistency and some noodles thrown in, but it was very noodley.  More like a pasta dish with a bit of crispy crust.  The meatballs were not helped in the final melding, unfortunately.  However, the hard boiled eggs were an extra nice touch!

 A. was particularly disappointed; he could tell along the way that the proportions weren't what he imagined, and he could just not forgive those meatballs!  He agreed about it needing MORE sauce and cheese!

If/when we make this again, we have decided to experiment and make it however we want with all kinds of crazy combos!  But see, I made the official recipe, so now I'm allowed to play. :)  I also think a dessert version of this would rule -- cake bits, brownies, custard, pudding, ice cream, chocolate chips, cookie dough, brioche, etc. etc. etc. all in a giant pie crust bowl of awesome -- that's what I'm talking about!!

Anyway,  I hope you enjoyed our crazy project!  Who knows what we'll make next . . . . :)