January 16, 2017

Instant Pot

Yes, after a year of watching several friends post about theirs and seeing nary a negative comment, on Black Friday we took advantage of the sales and jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon .

What is an Instant Pot, you say?  First off, for clarification, Instant Pot is NOT a generic term; it's a brand name (like Oster or Kitchen Aid or Cuisinart).  This is the particular model we got:


This is the six quart Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Multi-Function Pressure Cooker, scored in a Black Friday deal from Amazon for $69.

Why did we get it?


  1. Andrew has wanted a pressure cooker for years.
  2. Our rice cooker died.
  3. As a multi-function appliance, it is one thing that could replace several (important when you have limited counter/storage space):
    • Pressure cooker
    • Slow cooker
    • Rice Cooker
    • Steamer
    • Yogurt Maker
    • Warmer
    • Saute Pot
If you participate in the Tuesday CraftLit Crafty Chats, you've already heard me wax rhapsodic about this baby.

Imagine going from whole raw chicken to home made stock to chicken soup in, say, three hours total, versus more than that time just for the second or third step.



Imagine making pulled pork that doesn't take hours.

Imagine making perfectly hard-"boiled" eggs that are EASY TO PEEL.


Imagine going from dried beans to a pot of chili in, say, an hour instead of multiple hours for cooking the beans + multiple hours cooking the chili.

If you make your yogurt in your slow cooker, as I've done for years, imagine lopping three hours off the time it takes, not having to do the whole "wrap it up in a bunch of towels" thing, only having to use 1/4 cup of starter, and having the process be slightly more forgiving.

Tamales.

Pozole.

Rice.

Mashed potatoes in a fraction of the time it usually takes to do the first step of boiling them.

...and I'm only mentioning things we've actually made, not the stuff we've yet to try, like curries, pot roast, ribs, cheesecake (yes!), curries, hummus (from dried beans), proofing bread.

Beets.  I love beets.  I had never actually cooked them
myself before.  Two bags of Trader Joe's beets,
whiz, bang, BOOM!

My ONLY regret is that I wish we'd gotten the 8qt model instead of the 6qt.  Yes, it's exactly the right size for using a gallon of milk to make yogurt, but it just doesn't feel like enough space to cook the amount of vegetables I do (I usually cook two pounds at a time in order to have some leftovers), and with something like chili, it doesn't feel like it makes enough to last for a dinner plus a few lunches for Andrew and Abby.  While I initially scoffed at people who have more than one Instant Pot, I understand it now - "Here, while pot #1 is tied up for 10 hours making yogurt, I can still make every course we need for dinner, plus a few other things."

January 11, 2017

January 6, 2017

Puppy Update



Honey's doing great.  We'd be glad if she got better at the whole housetraining thing, but part of that is on us - we need to be more alert to her signs that she needs to go (she's not nearly as good at communicating it as Jenna was).  Even though she barely seemed to notice the Christmas tree, I'm glad we took precautions about it.  Next year, we can put up all the ornaments as usual.  I do wish I'd caught a picture of her napping on the tree skirt because she thought it was a blanket for her.

She got "fixed" on December 23rd and did really well with it.  We didn't even need a cone/collar of shame because she didn't fuss at it at all.  She got chipped at the same time, too, so now she's all official and stuff.  She even got proper food and water bowls for Christmas (thanks, Adri!) and multiple treats from Santa.

Honey loves her walks and has gotten really good at "halt", "sit", and "stay".  She's so-so at "heel".  I'm kind of apprehensive about how she'll do with the other dogs in the obedience classes we're signed up for, but we really need to get her socialized, and she definitely needs better manners.  I'm probably going to have to get a "Gentle Leader" harness/leash for using during class because they require that dogs in the class use either one of of those or a "correction" (prong) collar.  I removed some links to make Jenna's old correction collar smaller and tried it on her, and it was a big, fat FAIL.  The "correction" aspect didn't work, and her pulling only resulted in labored breathing.  Ugh.

Loves:

  • Snuggles
  • Walks
  • Every human she's ever met
  • Snuggles
  • Attention
  • Snuggles
Fears:
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • The Swiffer
  • The ukelele
  • Being left alone
Surprisingly, we found on New Year's Eve that she's not freaked out by fireworks like Jenna was.  Thank goodness!  Since that went well, I suspect she'll be OK with thunder, too.


January 2, 2017

(We) Had Happy Holidays!

Despite having no ornaments on the tree and no gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve (a safety precaution because we've never had a puppy in the house at Christmas time), our house and days were festive.


Kind of a "Stranger Things" vibe, no?

Enjoying the morning quiet is always a little better
by the Christmas tree.

Christmas cards were received and sent.


#yarnwishes were made and granted.

Gifts were purchased or made.

MUCH cooking happened in the Instant Pot.




Christmas Eve festivities with the Higueras
were just as much fun as usual.

No "present face" here; that excitement is real!


I wasn't allowed to take pictures Christmas morning, but
(almost) all our traditions were in effect.
YES, there were waffles, LOL.

Christmas was busy, with breakfast, presents, relaxing, church at 1:00, and my side of the family (including my cousing Akhila and her partner, Seth) over at 4:00.  Having an adult kid came in very handy, as she made a cheeseball appetizer and fancy Gruyere scalloped potatoes for the dinner.  I was too busy playing hostess to take pictures, but my sister got a few.  (I promise, Andrew WAS there, even though he somehow doesn't appear in the pictures, LOL.)






"Hernandez Christmas" on the 28th was a great time of relaxing an hanging out.  I think Grandma Ruthie or Grandpa Gil might have taken a few pictures, but I was off my game and didn't that night, either.

New Year's Eve at the Higueras' was the usual
delicious crab feast.


Knowing that Miss Honey doesn't do well for long
periods of time in the crate, and not
knowing how she would do with 12:00
fireworks, etc., we came home early
and were well ensconced in bed
by the time the new year hit.




So, here's to a terrific new year in 2017.  May yours be full of friends, family, fun, and bits of wackiness like the new flamingoes that now brighten the corner of my back yard.

December 14, 2016

Making Memories v. Accumulating Stuff

Heather and I were talking the other day about creative Christmas gifts for our kids that would be more focused on having experiences and making memories than on getting more stuff to clutter up their rooms.  We came up with a fairly decent list and talked about it on this week's livestream, but I thought I'd share it here, too.  (If you were watching and remember something I didn't, by all means, let me know!)

Some of these ideas cost time and heart instead of money.  Others cost varying amounts of money, but that money goes toward making memories, not toward acquiring material objects.  Since there's such a short time left before Christmas, I've left off ideas that require a lot of advance planning (like a family trip to Disneyland for a few days instead of buying each other gifts).

Hope you enjoy these!  Please comment with any ideas you have to add to the list.
  • Create them an account with an organization like Kiva, which does microloans.  Kid gets to decide which endeavor(s) to invest in and watch its progress.  When the money is repaid, kid can loan to someone else.
  • Tickets to a movie they want to see (If you go to a theater a little farther away than normal, you'll get extra time together!)
  • Passes for a family zoo day or day at the local aquarium
  • Museum tickets
  • Coupon for each kid to have a day/afternoon of one-on-one time with a parent who works a lot.  Do something the kid likes to do, even if it's not something you enjoy.
  • Family snow day
  • Coupon for a family movie marathon day.  Kids pick the movies and the day's menu.  Everyone stays in pajamas/sweats all day.  All phone ringers off for the day!
  • Set each kid loose in a dollar store with $5 or $10 to put together a gift for a sibling.
  • Spend a couple of hours together assembling a gift basket/bag for a neighbor
  • Give an empty recipe binder and spend an afternoon together finding and printing recipes to fill it.  Commit to a couple of times to make things from the binder for the family.
  • Device-free Puzzle Day
  • Device-free Game Day
  • Coupon for breakfast/brunch as a family at a local place (anything from Starbucks to IHOP to a schmancy place), and everyone goes in their pajamas
  • Plan a scavenger hunt
  • For a social kid, coupon to host a movie marathon day with their friends, including snacks, blanket forts, whatever hilarity is appropriate for those particular kids
  • Coupon for an afternoon with parent(s) spent doing something the kid has been wanting to do but that the parent has always resisted
  • If the kid's a crafter, a coupon for an afternoon working together on their chosen craft OR registration for a class/workshop to improve their skills in said craft (bonus points if you take the class with them!)
  • If they've been trying to organize an outing with friends, a coupon to drop all your plans for a day to be Parent Taxi for said outing
  • If your kid is older, pay a bill for them, surprise them by paying for something you normally make them pay for themself (movie ticket, etc.), or excuse a debt they owe you.
  • Coupon for a family day trip somewhere they've been wanting to go
  • If you can afford it, coupon for an overnight get-away one-on-one with a parent
BONUS IDEA:  Years ago, when I was one of the content editors for our church website and was researching an article on holiday budgeting, a suggestion that popped up numerous time for not overbuying for your kids suggested limiting each kid's gifts to:
  • something to read
  • something to wear
  • something to play with (for older kids, could be music or a game for gaming console, etc.)

December 9, 2016

Stash Enhancement, Knitting, Cooking, Puppy...Oh, MY!

With birthdays often comes stash enhancement.  This year was no different.  Thanks to not one, but TWO generous Webs gift cards, I was able to add to my project bags, needles, and sock yarn:

Sock Rockets and my first Madelinetosh yarn -
Tosh Sock in Thunderstorm


My first Erin Lane bag and some bent-tip yarn needles

Not really a birthday gift, but a gift all the same - when our friends Phun and Xin came back from Iceland, they brought me some Lettlopi!

The grey has already been earmarked for a specific project.
Thinking of combining the white with some handspun
for some mitts.  Lopi's a great yarn, but not
something you want on your neck or elsewhere sensitive
b/c it is SO SCRATCHY.

I finished the socks I was working on.  It seems that, no matter what else I've got going, I need to keep a pair of simple socks on the needles as my carry-along project.  I love the "fraternal twins" look and the subtle striped-but-not-striped look.

They look really long and skinny here, but they fit
my size 8 feet just fine.

I'll have another finished project - a baby gift for Sarah's friend's sister's baby - to show you soon.  In the meantime, I've wound and cast on the Madelinetosh for another pair of simple toe-up, two-at-a-time socks.




Oh, and lest you think the Instant Pot is the only kind of cooking that's been happening around here, Andrew has been smoking lots of meat, much of it for Christmas gifts.  This brisket was AMAZING.



Honey is doing well with the Christmas decor - has only attacked my big felted Christmas tree pillow - but we're not taking many chances.  The tree is getting very minimal decorations in order to avoid disaster and heartbreak, and we're not putting the gifts under the tree until the last minute so we can help Miss Honey Biscuit avoid temptation.




December 5, 2016

Birthday, Turkey Day, Puppy, etc.

This year, Turkey Day (American Thanksgiving) fell on my birthday, November 24th.  Granted, some would say that my birthday is always Turkey Day, but anyhow....

The day really couldn't have had a better start.  Andrew got up for a few minutes, and, when he returned, Honey came trotting in, bounding up on the bed to lick my face.  It only took one look to notice something different about her collar:



HONEY'S STAYING!  I GOT A PUPPY FOR MY BIRTHDAY!

I almost cried when I saw the bow.  All morning, I kept randomly looking over at Andrew and saying with a big grin, "I got a puppy!"

With much trepidation, we left Honey with our friend Kathy while we went up to Sonoma for 24 hours or so.  Honestly, I was more nervous leaving Honey with a dogsitter the first time than I was leaving Sarah with a babysitter the first time.  (Hey, a baby can't get loose and run off into traffic!)

This year, the girls helped with Thanksgiving dinner by planning and preparing the dessert.  I'm still impressed every time I remember it.  They did such a great job!  Granted, I couldn't eat it, but I heard it was delicious, and it looked professionally made.


The birthday greetings and gifts were, as always, heart-warming.  Truly, I cherish the sentiments long after the day is past.  As you can see from just two of my gifts, my family and friends really get me:



On the way home from Sonoma, we made a couple of friends:



Top the birthday off with a terrific Indian dinner at my favorite restaurant with my friend Jovita, and it was a great celebration.  

52 is a weird age.  I've officially hit that stage of life where, even when I'm I'm healthy, I'm on six different prescriptions (newest = anti-inflammatories for ARTHRITIS).  My slogan for this year, like years past ("nifty fifty" and "fifty onederful") is "Fifty TwoRrific" OR, as my kids and their friends would say, "Fifty TWO Woke for YOU", LOL.

We scored during the Black Friday sale at Amazon, so my Christmas present came just a few days after Thanksgiving:



We've used it nearly every day since it arrived and have so far made:
  • beans
  • chili
  • rice (twice)
  • pork loin
  • pumpkin soup
  • steamed green beans
  • macaroni and cheese with far too much (really!) cheese
I haven't used it to make yogurt, though; doing it in the Instant Pot requires extra equipment, so I'm still making it in the Crock Pot.

Meanwhile, Andrew has been prepping for Christmas by smoking ALL THE MEAT, including this amazing brisket:

Yes, it is JUST as good as it looks!

We finally put the Christmas decorations up last night; photos to come.  Most of the lights on the tree are dead, but this isn't a good year to replace it, so we're borrowing some lights to throw on it tomorrow.  Things will be a little different this year because of Honey.  We've had a dog at Christmas time before, but never a puppy, so we're going to have to take some new-to-us precautions:
  • only non-breakable, replaceable ornaments on the tree
  • gifts not going under the tree until the last minute
  • probably some others I haven't thought of yet


Oh, and I believe, thanks to this birthday gift from Teresa, I have come up with my theme for 2017:


VULNERABILITY

Lastly, THIS makes me so happy!  DUDES, I'M ON THE KNITPICKS WEB SITE.  The way the page is set up, you can buy the necessary yarn right from the pattern page.  A 50" lace Pi shawl for $32.66 (plus shipping) - how cool is THAT?

November 22, 2016

Magical Realism

Abby got assigned another big English project today, this time on magical realism.  Would you just LOOK at the list of the books they could choose?



Unfortunately, they had to decide in class which book to read, so Abby didn't get a chance to ask me if I owned/had ever read any of these books.  As you can see from her markings, I have four of them and have read one other.  She's stuck with the 900 page book she chose in class, though.  Ah well.

I wanna take English 2 Honors!

November - Various and Sundry

In no particular order....

Puppy is growing and learning.  After three tries, we've finally settled on a "no-pull" harness that fits her and works well.  Woot!  If you're in the market for a step-in, "no-pull" dog harness, this is the one we got.  It is wonderful not to have to fight her the whole time we go for a walk!  Also, she has figured out how to play "fetch", though she tends to cheat and take the fetched item into her crate instead of back to the thrower.  Her current favorite toy is an old, knotted t-shirt of Andrew's.

This morning, she murdered Madden.



She has reminded me not to leave yarn where she can get it.

Her weirdest habit is routinely following me into the bathroom
(and sometimes trying to get up on my lap).
Don't worry; this picture was posed.



She doesn't just like to snuggle.
She likes to snuggle up CLOSE.

Abby did her Banned Book project on
A Clockwork Orange.

My old roommate Kimberley and her husband were in town,
so we had a mini reunion of the old early-90's
"downtown" (SoMa) gang (and spouses).
Only a few people could make it, but we had a great time.


I've nearly finished another pair of socks in
Patons Kroy FX sock yarn.


On Saturday, we fittingly celebrated our 21st
wedding anniversary at 21st Amendment Brewery.

This year, American Thanksgiving falls on my birthday.  Woot, a whole country celebrating with me!  I'm looking forward to a bit of relaxation; Abby is having a bunch of friends over tomorrow, so I'll be doing more then than for Thursday.  Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, take some time this week to be grateful for all you have.