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.
As 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.
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.
Here is a list of things I eventually settled on that I wanted to do for this party:
- Glass bottled Coke
- Photo Strips (like in those Photo Booths)
- Milkshake Bar
- Drive-In Movie
- 1950s Music
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).
I 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….
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.
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.
We hooked in the speakers to my computer and streamed Pandora’s 1950s Rock-n-Roll station. The music seemed to be a hit.
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.
Okay, 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 Bingo, a 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.
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).
- Put a wooden skewer down the middle of the hot dog, all the way through, long ways.
- 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.
- 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.
I’ve been reading the book Quitter by Jon Acuff (affiliate link). It’s a book about how to connect your day job and your dream job and Jon’s story of going through eight jobs in eight years, which he doesn’t recommend. It’s really less about “quitting” your job and more about taking advantage of the opportunities you have, while you still have a day job, and building those opportunities into your dream job. Essentially giving you a steady ground to land on if you do ever make that leap.
I’ve not been reading this because I plan to make such jump. I actually enjoy getting paychecks from people other than myself. I’m mostly just fascinated by his story and all the challenges along the way. In case you don’t know who he is, Jon is the guy that started the Stuff Christians Like blog, which kind of took off pretty well and has allowed him to write a few books and get tot he point to where he has his dream job and is working for Dave Ramsey.
At any rate, the point is not to review the book right now. As I’ve been reading it though, it’s helped me to re-focus on things that I love doing and seeing opportunities that I may have missed before. The book talks about reclaiming our dreams. The things that we loved as kids growing up. One of the things for me has always been writing. When I was a kid, and especially a teenager, I wrote all the time. It didn’t matter what it was. Stories, poems, songs, all of it. I remember writing a “book” when I was in 3rd grade. I remember it was called Mystery at Shadow Mountain (yeah, I’ve always loved mystery stories too). We had to fold our paper and half and write in it so that it actually looked like a book. Give it a cover picture and title. Staple the crease. I’m not sure what happened to that book, but I’m pretty sure I’d give one of my toes or a pinky finger to get it back. Stephen King probably has it in his den figuring out how he can turn it’s 10 or so pages into a 800 page book.
So, for the past month, I’ve been getting up a little earlier and made sure that I’ve written something. Since February I’ve been writing for Frisco Fastball, a San Francisco Giants blog, and my job is to write recaps. I can write other things, but I’m the person who is telling all about whether the Giants won or lost that particular night. Writing recaps is not really that fun or exciting. But after realizing that I was not enjoying it, and starting to slack off, I decided to actually give it the time it deserved. For me, that meant getting up by 7:00am so I had a good hour before I had to get ready for work, rather than waking up, rushing to get ready and then pounding out the game recap in 5 minutes. It’s still not the most fun thing, unless the Giants get a good win, but it’s getting easier because I’m taking the time to do it.
I’ve also picked up a site I had mostly abandoned, Monterey Insiders. I originally set it up for other people to do reviews of places to eat and things to do in Monterey. Those people never did anything and I did very little with it. So in the past month, I’ve picked it up. I’ve written about places I routinely go to, so that makes it easier and I have set a goal for myself to have one review every day during the week at 9:00 am. Writing reviews is also not the most fun thing, but as the couple of weeks have progressed, it’s gotten easier and more fun.
So, I’m now finding myself at a place of where I am writing regularly. It’s not the most exciting writing, but it’s getting me in practice. That practice has allowed me to find other opportunities and set aside more time to start writing stuff that I enjoy writing. A couple weeks ago I had a chance to interview Karl Ravech, host of ESPN Baseball Tonight. Tomorrow, since Baseball Tonight is coming back to San Francisco for this weekends game, I get to interview another host, Wendi Nix. They’re pretty standard, routine kind of interviews. They are promoting the fact that Baseball Tonight is going to be in town and need bloggers to get the word out so fans will show up to be on TV. But, they’re still bigger interviews than I’ve done with anyone and these people (hopefully) get to see what I wrote about our interview. Not a huge deal, but fun all the same to say that ESPN contacted our blog to interview one of their hosts.
Suffice to say, I’m writing. I’m not writing much here, but I hope that changes soon as I restructure some of my blogging outlets. Writing makes me happy, especially when it’s not a 10 page paper for a graduate class. Tomorrow I’m hoping to write about some of the tools I’m using to help me write and remember things to write. We’ll see how that plan goes.
A little over a month ago I decided I was going to start composting. I had been considering the idea for a while actually, but finally decided I was going to try it. After about a week of research, I figured the best bet for me would be worm composting. I looked at the tumblers (non-worm type) and figured if I had to remember to go and tumble this thing around, I may not do it and then I’d have a bin just full of food scraps that wasn’t composting at all. I even looked at the automatic composters you can keep under your sink, but they were rather expensive, so I passed on those as well and settled on worm composting.
To get started, I used tips from Red Worm Composting and from Garden Girl TV. Those links provide some videos with step-by-step instructions on getting started, and if you’re really into learning more about the worms, etc… the Red Worm Composting is a great site.
Here’s how I did it and what I used:
- 2 Bins (I think they were either 10 or 14 Gallon, but you can see the size in the pictures) @ $7.50/each
- Electric screwdriver or drill (if you don’t already have one, you could use a box cutter, knife, or something to puncture the plastic)
- Shredded cardboard to get started
- food scraps
- red worms (I got some from a co-worker)
First. Drill some holes in the bottom of ONE of the bins. I drilled about 9 holes, but at this point, would suggest more holes. These holes will allow water to drain out of the inner bin into the outer bin so that you don’t have a swamp in the bottom of your inner bin.
Second. In the same bin you just drilled your holes, drill some holes in the top sides of the bins, all the way around. This allows your worms to have some air to breath. I drilled about 7 on each long side and about 2 on the short sides. I’d recommend at least that many. The only other suggestion to make is drill the holes high enough on the side so that when you put the inner bin into the outer bin, the holes do not get covered by the outer/bottom bin.
Third. Drill some holes in one of your lids. Again, this allows the worms to breath. I drilled about 13 holes here.
Fourth. Fill the bin you drilled the holes in with your shredded cardboard. This makes the bedding.
Fifth. Grab the outer bin (the one you haven’t drilled any holes in) and put a small box or ice cream containers in the bottom of it. This forces the top bin to sit on the box and not fall all the way down. This is important because if the bottom bin gets too much water in it, if the top bin isn’t far enough from the bottom, the water will come back up in the top bin. Keep in mind, with the water going through, unless you have something more sturdy than my waffle box, you’ll have to change it frequently.
Sixth. Add some food and yard waste (if you have some) on top of the bedding. You’ll see some orange peels in mine. You’ll generally only want to use citrus peelings in moderation (like I have).
That’s basically it! Put the lid on and you’re ready to go.
But, Where Are The Worms?
Good question. The folks over at Red Worm Composting suggest to let the food sit for a week or so (or longer) before adding the worms. This allows the food to begin to break down and makes it easier for the worms to get started on the composting. So unless you’ve had your food already collecting for a week or so, just wait it out. I waited about a week and a half on mine. A co-worker provided some worms from his compost bin.
Here are some other tips I’ve learned on my own or read along the way:
- Chop the food up into small pieces. It makes it easier for the worms (I’m not great at doing this).
- If you already have some compost, or access to some, put some in the bottom. My co-worker did this for mine when we put the worms in. He says it’s good for them to have that in there. I haven’t read that anywhere, but he’s been doing this longer than me and I figured it definitely wouldn’t hurt.
- If you wondered why there is no dirt in there, it’s because red worms aren’t really deep soil dwelling worms. They don’t actually need it, but if you want to throw in a handful of soil (not a lot), it can help speed up the composting process.
- Keep a good balance of greens (food scraps/yard waste) and browns (cardboard, paper towels, paper, etc…). That’s really the science behind making it work.
- For every little bit of food layer I add, I add in some shredded paper to cover it up. This keeps the smell and flies away.
- Keep it wet. Water it down every few days. One tip is to take the inner bin out (let it drain first), pick up the outer bin and pour the water (and any worms that may have fallen through your holes) back into the bin.
- Don’t put any meats, fats or grease in it. It’ll make it smell and attract animals. You don’t want that.
I’m no expert by any means. I’ve probably even done a few things wrong here and there, but I’m learning along the way. It’s only been about a month since started and I’ve only had about 3 weeks with my worms, but I can tell it’s starting to break down. Hopefully in a few months, I’ll have some good compost to use in my tomato and cucumber plants.
You read that right. Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies.
Think that sounds disgusting? Well, perhaps you’d like this site better. At any rate, these were delicious! They’re not overly bacon-y, but just enough to blend with the peanut butter to have a nice mix of sweet and salty. You know what else? They aren’t made with flour, so that makes them gluten free. Yeah, I don’t care about that stuff. I love gluten and wheat and all that yummy goodness, but, if you happen to have that gluten intolerance (or pretend you have it to be trendy), then you can still eat these cookies. No excuses. I even got one of my vegetarian friends to try a bite and she liked it!
How can you make some of these yummy treats? Well unless you have an awesome friend like I did to make them for you, the recipe is below and courtesy of Shutterbean. Keep in mind, without the flour, they may turn out a bit crumbly–ours did anyway.
Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies
(Recipe via JoytheBaker who adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)Makes about 24 cookies
- 1 cup all-natural chunky or smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- about 6 slices of bacon, cooked, cooled and diced
In a skillet over medium high heat, fry up bacon until cooked through and let cool on paper towels until cool enough to dice. Dice up and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment & set aside. In a mixer combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes. Fold in cooked bacon. Roll into large walnut sized balls and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. If you’d like, roll the dough balls in granulated sugar before making the criss-cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to… your mouth.
There you have it. The best stuff I’ve eaten in a long time. In fact, I think I’ll go have one right now.