StepOut - Donate

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Project

I have decided to whip up some scarves for the Special Olympics. I actually found out about their Scarf Project last year, but never got around to doing anything with it. I found the site again this year via an ad on Facebook that appeared on my sidebar (how do they know me so well?). So, this is it. Fate, right?

I will be contributing to the Northern California program. The events are floor hockey, cross-country skiing and Alpine skiing. Totally scarf-worthy! The scarves are actually gifted to the athletes, coaches, families, volunteers and supporters as a symbol of unity. The deadline for shipping scarves to the Northern CA program is 2/25, so I'd better get a move on!

There are 2 official colors - blue and turquoise. Wait, that's not quite right. The official yarns are Red Heart #886 Blue and #512 Turqua. Believe it or not, I cannot find the blue color to save my life! I've been to 4 different stores, and none of them have it. I'm going to have to buy it online, which means I'll buy other things too, simply to justify spending the $ on shipping. (I know myself.)

Anyway, the Special Olympics would like to receive 1,150 scarves, but has only received 45 so far. So, please join me in my crafty little efforts to help them reach their goals! For more information, check out their Official Site. You can also make scarves for events in other locations, if you would prefer. They all have different deadlines and are requesting a different number of scarves. All scarves must incorporate both official colors, though.

As soon as I get my hands on that 2nd color, I'll see how many scarves I can produce...

What's Cooking

In conjunction with my new resolve to stick to my diet (which I was on for 2 successful weeks before Christmas, and then conveniently forgot existed until after the new year), I've been on a cooking kick. Laura is partly to blame for this, too, since she posted the recipe for this split pea soup on her blog. She found it on Epicurious. Instead of the linguica or andouille sausage that the recipe calls for, I used Italian sausage (I tend to like it better than other types). It also calls for kale, which I'm 99.99% positive that I have never purchased nor cooked with before. It also always reminds me of that episode of Cheers where Woody does the commercial for Veggie Boy (they start talking about the kale 1 minute and 7 seconds into the clip).

Despite the color in the photo, I'm pretty sure this isn't radioactive.

The soup was surprisingly delicious! I was worried that it might be bland because there are so few ingredients. It's not. I think cooking the peas with the sausages infuses the broth with a lot of their flavor. I think I'm going to have to make this soup one of my staples, since it gives me an excuse to pull out my immersion mixer and the pureed peas did not trigger my IBS like the canned split pea soups that I enjoy(ed). It also cooks up really quickly.

Later in the week I decided that it was high time I put my crockpot to use again. I found this recipe for French Chicken Stew that I thought I needed to try. So I did. I prepped all of the ingredients the night before, threw them in the pot, then stuck it all in the fridge. Before leaving for work, I placed the crock into the base and turned that sucker on. I almost forgot to plug it in, but averted disaster by realizing that the cord in the outlet behind it belonged to a different appliance. Remember that I was doing this before I had any coffee...

After a long day at work, during which I kept noticing that my hands STILL smelled like the onions I had chopped the night before, I finally made it home and was greeted at the door by the succulent aroma wafting from my kitchen. And my cat. (Clarification - she greeted me, not her odor, which is anything but succulent).

This greeted me when I came home. Hi chicken!

After a long day at work, during which I kept noticing that my hands STILL smelled like the onions I had chopped the night before, I finally made it home and was greeted at the door by the succulent aroma wafting from my kitchen. And my cat. (Clarification - she greeted me, not her odor). All I had to do with stir in the jar of pasta sauce and enjoy. This was really good, and different from the stews that I usually throw together in my crock pot.

I'll make this again, but I will use a different pasta sauce to stir in at the end. I think that the one I used overpowered the herbs that are used during the slow cooking process. I also couldn't used bone-in thighs and simply removed the skins at home. The bone-in thighs also keep the chicken together (mostly) when portioning this out into servings (important for me when I'm actually tracking my Weight Wacthers points - this came out to a Points Plus value of 5, based on 6 servings, since my 2lbs of chicken was only 6 thighs). The meat falls right off of the bone though, so it's easy to remove it before eating.

It photographs well, too, doesn't it? This is after adding the tomato sauce.

Speaking of removing the bones, I did so and tossed them into the trash can. The next day, I come home from work to see my trash can laying on it's side on the kitchen floor, spilling trash onto the tiles. Just past the rim of the can was a chicken bone missing one end, with the marrow exposed. I didn't bite the end of that bone off, kitty, or knock that trash can over, so you've got some explaining to do! Luckily, I had emptied the trash just before I started making the stew, so there wasn't much in it, and not much to clean up. Regardless, I didn't expect my cat to forage through my garbage.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Nerd? Nope. Colossal Dork? Absolutely!

Okay, so I guess the first lesson I learned last night was that one (i.e. me) should not attempt to configure technological devices after 10pm. Thank God for techie-friends! I need to put in a special thank you to Kyle and Kailyn, both of whom stepped up to the plate in record time last night to assist me with my woeful inadequacies!

The second thing I learned was that I'm a dork, as evidenced by the incredibly simple solution that I failed to see, even though it was staring me right in the face. Seriously. As I was attempting to decipher Kyle's advice (he's more technologically advanced than I am), I was so focused on the fact that my existing modem didn't have a second ethernet port that I missed the obvious fact that the new router had 4 extra ports. The detailed instructions that came with the router (completely wordless, only drawings with arrows) did not include an artistic rendering of this situation.

Uh...duh! Hook the ethernet cable from the modem directly into the router, using one of the additional ports, and hook the main cable from the router directly into the computer! How did I miss that? I'm so glad that Kyle and Kailyn responded so fast, or I would have ended up explaining my situation to the tech guys at Staples and I just know they would have made me feel like the biggest fool on the planet. And rightly so...

At least it's figured out now, fully installed and working, too! This is my first blog post written entirely from the cushy comfort of my couch. I've even connected my Literati to the network. Next up, what to do with the connection now that I have it on the Literati. I guess this means I'll have to crack open the user's manual! At least I know it will be written, and not pictorial.

Oh, and before I go, I thought I'd mention the third lesson learned. My cat makes a great armrest between bouts of typing. (That is, when she's not attacking my hands or trying to sit on my neck or keyboard. Yes, she tries to sit across my shoulders and neck when I'm on the couch.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I'm Not That Nerdy After All

Seriously. I'm as surprised as you are. But it's been proven.

But first, a little background...this Christmas was a veritable technological windfall for me. Just like that Target commercial hinted, I was visited by Electronic Santa Claus. My mother gave me an e-reader, my brother Joe gave me a Garmin Nuvi 255 WT (GPS), my brother Tony gave me a Canon PowerShot S95 digital camera and my father gave me a Toshiba laptop computer. I was not expecting any of these items for Christmas, especially not from either of my brothers.

Needless to say, since I now have the laptop computer and the e-reader, it's about time I got wireless internet access at home. So, with that in mind, I looked up some wireless routers on-line and settled on one that looked like it should work. I even looked up the actual model of my current modem (Siemens Speedstream 4100) to try to figure out what might be compatible with it. I figured I might have an issue when the most recent information I could find was from 2005 (especially considering that I didn't even receive the modem from SBC until 2006). Any information I could find was in techno-geek-speak and made no sense at all to me. So, I checked out the self-help section of my internet provider, AT&T/SBC/Yahoo/Whatever they are calling themselves this week. The modem type I have is not even listed in their options given for upgrading to wireless, yet I got it from them, mind you.

I checked out some more things on line and then went to Staples to pick up a basic, simple and easy to install wireless router. I asked the tech on duty to clarify one of the items listed on the box under system requirements, and he said he didn't know what it meant either and had never seen it or heard of it, and had never run into any installation problems. (The requirement was Broadband Ethernet Internet connection with RJ45 - I still don't know what this means...but I have more of an idea...I know I have broadband ethernet, but what the heck is RJ45? Is that like R2D2 or C3PO?) I verified with tech-boy that I could bring the product back even if opened (he said within 14 days as long as I have the receipt) and then took the plunge.

Fast forward to home. I take the router out of the box and it looks simple enough. Plug into wall socket, plug into ethernet port on modem, insert CD start-up disk and go. I found a spot to place the router, shuffled cords around in order to fit in the elongated wall plug, and then took the ethernet cable to the modem. Wait... there should be another ethernet port here... Oh crap! Is that what the RJ45 is? (I still don't know, really!) That's right, my modem is so old and archaic that it only has two ports total. One for the the phone line, one for the ethernet cable to the main computer.

Looks like I'm headed back to Staples tomorrow. And it had better be easy.