"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over." -Ernest Hemingway

Kentucky Bluegrass bred which means March Madness is my favorite time of year. Co-Editor of Around the Foghorn. Avid San Francisco Giants fan and not-so-closeted Pittsburgh Pirates fan. AT&T Park is my second favorite place on earth, the first being Scottsdale Stadium during Spring Training. Halfway through visiting all the MLB stadiums. Fueled by Coca-Cola, WordPress, and my rainbow of Chucks.

Crawdaddy Doing the Worm

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Brandon Crawford Amazing Play

Amazing play or just doing the worm? #sfgiants

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Things I Love: Best Cat Litter Box

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best litter box

I decided to do a few posts about some of the random things in my house, or that I use, that I just love. This was the first thing that came to mind. I think that’s a pretty sad statement on my life.

*Disclaimer: This is my own opinion. There is an affiliate link below to Amazon, but this is by far the most favorite cat accessory in my house. One of our best purchases this year (top 3), hands down.

If you are a cat owner, unless you own outdoor cats, you have to deal with litter. I’ll be perfectly honest, I hate cat litter. I’ve never been good at keeping the littler box as clean as it should be either. Before my cat Sam died this spring, I had him pretty well trained to do most of his business outside. He was an indoor/outdoor cat, so it worked fairly well. I kept the litter box in a closet with sliding door. When I was going to be gone long periods of time, I’d open the door for him. But as a general rule, it stayed closed and he’d let me know if he wanted to go outside. Before that, I tried the potty training method. He did somewhat okay with the first couple of levels, but since it was the only bathroom in the house, it really wasn’t a good solution for me. I think if I had started him on it as a kitten, he would have figured it out pretty well. I have also tried a cheaper version of some of the automatic cleaning litter boxes, but it never really worked that great.

Once we got new cats after Sam’s passing, I had to start all over with the litter. We had decided that since the cats we got were somewhat young, we wanted them to be indoor only cats. That shot my plan of rarely dealing with the litter box. Soon after we got them, I came across this litter box on Amazon.com. It’s called the Omega Paw Roll’n Clean Litter Box (affiliate link). The concept is fairly simple. You roll the box up over on it’s top. There is a tray inside that traps the clumps and a filter that allows the unclumped litter to flow back into the base.

Before this starts sounding too much like an advertisement (it’s not at all, but I really do love this litter box), I’ll move along to the point. If you own a cat, you will seriously love this litter box. There is no scooping (unless you let it go to long and it gets stuck to the bottom). It’s really just a matter of less than 30 seconds to roll it, tilt it back to even the clean litter out, and pull the drawer out to throw away the clumps. Even my friend Sally, who has 5 cats, and is the super litter box cleaning expert, loved this box. We bought her one after her surgury so she didn’t have to spend so much time scooping litter during recovery. I wasn’t sure she’d like it because she’s skeptical of non-traditional littler boxes, but she was definitely sold on it.

At any rate, if you hate litter, I’d definitely try it out.

Here are some videos below showing how it works.

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100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll)

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Pretty sweet.

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1950s Themed Cookout Party

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oscar mayerAs mentioned in my previous post about spiral cut hot dogs, I recently held  a 1950s themed cookout as my birthday party. First off, yes, I still have birthday parties, despite turning 34 this year (2012). It’s a tradition. I think only once have I forgone having a birthday party of some sort. The reason for this is that it’s in the summer and growing up as a kid, it was a nice mid-way point between getting out of school and going back to school for me to see my friends, and everyone just to get together. As for adulthood, well, everyone likes parties in the summer and I frequently default to some sort of cookout or BBQ. Now that all that is out of the way, let’s get to the specifics of how we pulled this off.

The Idea

It’s seems that retro or throwback stuff is kind of popular right now. I think I’ve always liked old stuff regardless, but all the same, I have this Coca-Cola shirt that is faded to look much older than it is. As I was thinking about what to do this year for a party, I had decided I wanted to do something slightly different than the standard BBQ at my house; something a bit more creative. During all my thinking, I was changing out of my PJs and into street clothes. I grab my Coca-Cola shirt to wear and it just kind of came to me. I was going to do an old-school birthday party cookout.

The Details

Here is a list of things I eventually settled on that I wanted to do for this party:

  • Cookout
  • Glass bottled Coke
  • Photo Strips (like in those Photo Booths)
  • Milkshake Bar
  • Drive-In Movie
  • 1950s Music

The Food

diner style ketchup and mustard bottles

The food was the easy part. Cookout food hasn’t changed too much since the 1950s, so we threw on some hamburgers and hot dogs.

We did put the spiral cut on the hot dogs, which may or may not be a new thing, I have no idea. It was just cool and everyone seemed to

like eating them. I did find some diner style ketchup and mustard bottles that looked like the ones here (minus the mayo).

mexican cokeI found glass bottle Coke at Costco. It’s actually Mexican Coke (make with real sugar versus canned Coke now with corn syrup), however I have seen US Coke for sell in smaller glass bottles. I like Mexican Coke better, so we went that route. I’m not sure if you can get it everywhere, but in California, it’s pretty popular. If you’ve not had the real sugar stuff recently (all Coke used to be made this way), I’d run out and find some if you enjoy Coke as much as I do.

For the rest of the food, we just did traditional sides: Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Baked Beans, Chips, etc….

Patriotic-Berries

We also had plenty of desserts in the form of banana pudding, strawberry cake, and red, white and blue strawberries. Here is a recipe to make those. Those weren’t exactly 1950s, but my birthday is near the 4th of July, so it seemed fitting enough.

Milkshake Bar

This was relatively easy to set up as well. We bought a few containers of vanilla ice cream and jugs of milk, as well as chocolate syrup, malt mix, caramel syrup, strawberry syrup, bananas and strawberries. I wanted to find some old fashioned milkshake glasses but ran out of time and had to settle on plastic cups. We used our blender and two others and set it up on the bar in our kitchen, with the toppings nearby. We obviously left the milk and ice cream in the fridge and freezer.

Music

pocketbooth photostrip

We hooked in the speakers to my computer and streamed Pandora’s 1950s Rock-n-Roll station. The music seemed to be a hit.

Photo Strips

This went over really well too. There is an app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices called PocketBooth. It has 4 pictures of someone a few seconds apart like in a photobooth. They then give you 4 different filters you can apply to it. We used the black and white one. The app worked great. It think it was $0.99 for iPhone/iPad and $1.99 for Android. I bought it for my phone as well as our iPad.  The photo to the right is my husband, but that was a test photo and we weren’t using the black and white filter there, however, I highly recommend the app. You can also have it actually mail the photo strips to you or someone else for an added in-app cost.

Drive-In Movie*

beach blanket bingoOkay, it really wasn’t a “drive-in” movie. It was more like a “sit-in” movie, but it was outdoors. This is something that may be a bit harder to pull off for everyone. I am fortunate that I live where I work. That means I had access to our spare projector. I was also able to hang the projector screen on a wall outside by our patio. If you have a big enough TV, I imagine you could set it up outside and pull off something similar without having to have a projector or screen. For our movie, we choose Beach Blanket Bingoa Frankie and Annette movie. I made my projector screen last summer with white black out cloth fabric. I put some grommets in it (metal holes for hanging) to hang it on the wall and secured it down with string attached to the bottom grommets and stakes in the ground. We hooked up my computer to the projector and the computer sound into the speakers we used for the music during the evening. Everyone pulled their chairs around, covered up with blankets (it’s rather cold in Monterey during the summer), and sat back for the movie. If we hadn’t had so much food already, popcorn would have been a nice treat for that. We had to wait until dark at about 8:30pm or so, but all in all, it worked out well.

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Spiral Cut Hot Dogs

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spiral cut hot dog

This past weekend we had a birthday party at our apartment for yours truly. It was an epic event, featuring a lot of goodies from the 1950s that I’ll write more about later this week. However, the star of the evening had to be the spiral cut hot dogs we served. If you’ve been on the internet at all during the past couple of weeks, the chances of you having seen these already are pretty high. I don’t think they are a 1950s thing, but we decided they were cool enough to do anyway.

The night before, we tried them out to see if we could even master the spiral cut. With just a little practice, it was surprisingly easy to do, although ours didn’t turn out quite like the professional looking ones in the photo above. They did taste wonderful though. Before you start in with the “it’s just a hot dog” stuff, let me stop you. First, we just bought plain hot dogs; nothing fancy at all. I believe we purchased them at Costco, but I’m pretty sure the brand and where we got them were not a factor in this. These hot dogs were amazing. The spiral cut really does cook them better, and gives them a bit more crunch on the edges. The added bonus is that the condiments don’t fall off. Every single person that had a hot dog commented on how good they were. It’s easy enough that it’s definitely worth trying if you even half way like hot dogs.

So here’s what you do (I’ll also link a video tutorial).

  1. Put a wooden skewer down the middle of the hot dog, all the way through, long ways.
  2. Get a pretty sharp knife and cut at an angle, all the way to the end. You shouldn’t have to lift the blade for this, just roll the hot dog away from you.
  3. Pull out the skewer, stretch out, and grill.

That easy. Try it and let me know what you thought. Here’s a picture of how ours turned out and a video tutorial embedded below.

spiral cut hotdogs

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7 Tips for Scoring SF Giants Tickets

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Over at Around the Foghorn, I wrote a little piece on tips to getting good ticket deals to SF Giants games. Here’s a snippet and a link to the rest.

Rule #2: If you can swing it, go to a mid-week game, day game if possible. It will save you time and money. It’s also not nearly as crowded and makes for a pleasant day.
Rule #3: Sold out never really means sold out (almost never). Stubhub always has tickets. Most of the time, they are sold by season ticket holders and unless its a premium game, are usually reasonably priced. Could you have saved money by planning a bit in advance? Probably, but usually not enough for it to make much difference.

7 Tips for Getting SF Giants Tickets

 

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Girl Says Any Word Backwards

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Pretty incredible actually.

Girl can instantly say any word backwards

Silly but remarkable…

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Salinas gangs hit New York Times

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Salinas gangs hit New York Times.

"People in California generally know two things about this agricultural city nestled among lettuce fields east of Monterey’s beaches and hotels: John Steinbeck was born here, and it has a big problem with gangs."

In Salinas, Fighting Gang Violence on a Shoestring

Aggressive measures helped reduce gang violence in Salinas, Calif., a city that is notorious for it. Then the budget cuts came.

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Native.php WordPress Hack

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Came across a file in my WordPress files tonight that I didn’t recognize. I was looking through because I noticed I was getting search results for pharmaceutical drugs. This file was located at /wp-content/themes/theme name/native.php.

So, if you come across this, delete it…it’s bad and make sure your all up to date and your site is locked down.

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Facebook as an Office Tool?

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I like Facebook. I admit it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love them by any means. They do a lot of things I think are downright stupid and evil, but unfortunately, it’s become the best way to communicate with people in a lot of ways. I like that Facebook allows me to communicate daily with people I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to do. Sure, you always get the people you don’t want to communicate with, but that’s your fault for allowing them into your world. (Facebook User Tip: Use the privacy controls. They actually work.) I’ve noticed more recently though that I’m using it for more things. For instance, this week I’m on vacation. I have a part-time seasonal employee working for me. She doesn’t have an office space or anything, but she’s young and therefore pretty techy. Instead of giving her a list, emailing her or passing information along other ways, we’ve been communicating via Facebook. I’ll send her what I need done. She communicates back about status or other things going on. It takes me all of 10 seconds to respond and I don’t have to be in the office or check my work email to do it. I also have another example from this week. I’m a youth pastor to a group of teens. We haven’t met in a couple weeks because of the business with Christmas and I always worry about what they are off doing. Kids minds can change in an instant and sometimes, if there isn’t constant reminders of Hey, we’re here for you, come hang out. Behave, they can move on to the next thing and before you know it, you haven’t seen them in 3 months. During this break time I’ve been casually communicating with them via Facebook. Trust me, I know nearly every thing they’ve done during Christmas break–at least if it showed up on Facebook, and the way they and their friends post things, it’s more likely than not. I generally leave them in the background and make mental notes about things we need to have a lesson on like dating, using bad language, alcohol, bullying, depression, etc…. This week though, rather than wait to see what they were doing, I tagged them all in a post and told them to watch these videos about Ben Breedlove. They all got notified and within a few hours, some of them started commenting on it. Not just that’s cool kind of stuff, but they really watched and took it in and made some good observations about it. In that moment, Facebook really was a great ministry tool and will have them prepped for what we’ll start on when we meet again.

Granted, using it to communicate with kids and young people is different than a workplace. But consider this, what if Facebook had a business side of it. Kind of like Facebook groups or whatever, but just a little more official and business. It could work. I know some businesses have a “cloud” or bulletin board or whatever where they share information, but most small businesses or non-profits are able to have those kind of things because of the cost and technical aspect of having it set up. Anyone can set up a Facebook group or workspace if you will. It surely allows more communication than email in the workplace does.

I’m not saying I think Facebook should do that or even that it would be a “good” idea. I’m just throwing it out there from the aspect of now that I’ve started using it for work communications, the possibilities are pretty great for other uses.

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