Thursday, February 25, 2010

Random, Thursday?

So I'm a little late on the Random Wednesday posting, the label still applies!
  • Still plugging away at the Ravelympics project. I do have one sleeve done, one to go, plus the yoke... I'm hurrying, I know! I've only got 4 days left! And yes, I take full responsibility for the 4 days that I didn't work on it due to, um, not having the 10.5 DPN's. Whoops... 
  • I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I'm a total American Idol junkie. I've watched it since the first season, and am still addicted. I made sure that our DVR stayed plugged in when we left the country, just in case they didn't air it in Indonesia. Surprisingly, they did! Anyway, after the preliminaries, I was pretty excited about a few of the contestants, but after the last 2 nights, man, almost all of them were terrible! I kept saying to Jeff, I think they gave both groups the off-key microphones, cause nobody could hit the right notes. It was BAD! 

  • Dogs on Thursday:

    • This is Murphy and Izzie, my MIL's 6 month old Labradoodle.  She's adorable, but rotten as can be! We think she's Dexter reincarnated.  She's so smart, but so darn stubborn, just like he was!  She's coming to stay with us Friday night through the following weekend as Jeff's mom and step-dad are going to Puerto Rico.  So, we'll be trying to keep her from eating the house for a week.  Man, I'm not ready for another puppy, I feel like we just got Murphy out of that stage!
      • Oh, another dog related thing.  Please go vote for Murphy in the Humane Society Spay Day 2010 Online Photo Contest.  It raises money for a local Dublin, Ohio non-profit, Rascal Charities, for reduced cost spaying and neutering.  Spaying and neutering is one of the most impactful steps in reducing the number of homeless pets in shelters.  An estimated 10 million homeless animals are euthanized each year in the U.S.  I'll get off my soapbox now, but animal welfare is an issue that is important to me, so I want to promote it a little.  I've also added a button on the side linking to the Animal Rescue Site.  Just clicking a button helps provide food and services to rescued animals.  There are also links to gifts and other sites assisting homeless animals.  You can click every day, so click away!
      • I think that's all!  Happy Thursday!

      Saturday, February 20, 2010

      When did this turn into a cooking blog?

      So, I am still on my cooking and baking jag, and I don't think my husband has any complaints!  The other night I made this awesome black beans and rice recipe that I hadn't made in forever and it was so good (recipe below).  I could literally enjoy eating it for days on end, but it only lasted for lunch the next day!  Weird how that happens sometimes, huh?  I've made Smitten Kitchen's Blondies twice, with walnuts and chocolate chips, and my husband has requested those again.  I made these Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk cookies to rave reviews, mostly mine, since anything with bananas in them, wins.  And tonight I made Smitten Kitchen's snickerdoodles, wow, are they amazing!  They'd better be though with 2 sticks of butter!  They're so good that I told Jeff that he was lucky I liked him, cause I might eat them for every meal otherwise.  Yes, they are that good.

      Black Beans and Rice (originally from a veggie cookbook from my MIL)
      2 tbsp vegetable oil
      1 med onion, finely chopped
      1 med carrot, finely chopped
      1 med celery stalk, finally chopped
      4 med or 2 lg garlic cloves, minced
      2 tsp minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dry oregano
      Tabasco sauce to taste (start with a few shakes to 1 tsp)
      2 cups/1 can vegetable broth
      2 15 oz cans or 1 cup dried (soaked and cooked) black beans
      1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
      1 chipotle pepper, plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce from can
      1 bay leaf
      salt to taste
      cooked white rice

      Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrot, onion and celery (I also added a finely diced serrano pepper, you could use any kind of hot pepper), and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and Tabasco sauce, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, chipotle pepper and sauce, bay leaf and salt to taste, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened but still brothy, about 15 min. Remove and discard the bay leaf and chipotle pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve over hot rice or refrigerate in airtight container for several days.

       Oh, and in case you're wondering about my Ravelympics project, I discovered that I do not have size 10.5 DPNs and thus have not been able to start the sleeves.  So, tomorrow, I am headed to my MIL's house to borrow her set.  I haven't worked on it since... Thursday I think, so I've got some catching up to do.

      Stuff Going On:

      I really don't have any good reason for not blogging lately, I just haven't!  I have been working on the appearance of my blog, you may notice the header change and a slight color change.  Also made it 3 columns instead of the default 2.  I struggled with that last night, I just don't know enough about HTML yet!  I'm starting to understand reading it, but just can't write it, just like Spanish!  Anyway, as the title says, I have stuff going on...

      Ravelympics:  Made some progress in my Duchess Raglan Sweater, bound off stitches last night and will start the sleeves tonight.  I might just finish this thing!  Hmmm, probably shouldn't say that, now I've jinxed it!

      Diving: Jeff and I went ice diving this past Saturday at Whitestar Quarry.  Had a lot of fun, saw friends and fellow divers that I hadn't seen in a while, but got super cold!  I know, shocking, on an ice dive, but last year I didn't get nearly as cold.  I made a rookie cold water diver mistake, letting myself get cold before I get in the water.  I learned that you should have all of your exposure gear on before putting on your fins and maybe wear one layer less on my feet, I think they got constricted and that's why they got so cold.  I have a big issue with asking for help, in all aspects, but in diving, especially being a woman and an instructor.  I feel like I have to be completely self sufficient and be able to do everything myself.  I hate asking for anyone to help me get gear on or hand me something if I drop it.  I feel so helpless when people have to help me do something I feel like I should be able to do myself.  I need to realize that ice diving is different, it's a lot harder to do anything.  You've got more weight on, full exposure gear, meaning less flexibility, usually an additional tank slung, throwing off your buoyancy.  Plus, you've got a rope around you, it's below freezing outside and you're trying to do everything with lobster claw gloves on.  Yeah, it's not terribly easy, and I still feel incompetent if I can't do it all myself.  Oh well, guess it's something I need to work on.  Anyway, it was a great time and here are a couple of pictures from the day, think warm thoughts when you're looking at them!

      Wednesday, February 10, 2010

      Snow, snow and Indonesia

      As the title suggests, there is a lot of snow here! We're fighting with about 14 or so inches, which is nothing compared to other places I know, but it's a lot for us Central Ohioans! So, I'm taking a mental vacation from the snow and posting some Indonesia pictures and talking about the trip. After all, this is a diving blog too! So let's get started.

      We flew into Singapore before going on to Manado, so we took the opportunity to spend a day there. It is a lovely city, and I strongly suggest staying a day or 2 if you ever have a layover there. Very cosmopolitan, clean, a lot of shopping, and so many other things to do as well. We got up and took a taxi to the Bukit Timah Nature Preserve and hiked to the summit (it was only about 550 feet!), the highest point on Singapore. On the way up, we saw lots of monkeys, I believe they were black tailed Macaques, and a couple of large monitor lizards.

      The Macaques were so much fun to watch, there were babies jumping on each other and from tree to tree, so adorable! Then after dark we rode the Singapore Flyer, the tallest observation wheel in the world. I was nervous, since I'm not a huge fan of heights, but, you couldn't even tell it was moving, and the views were amazing. The top picture was taken on the Flyer.

      We then flew on to Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The hour long taxi ride from the airport to the resort was a bit harrowing, but we made it. The traffic laws there are a little, well, not so much laws, as mild suggestions.

      Tasik Ria Resort is beautiful, lovely rooms, huge pool, a swim up bar. And the diving was amazing as expected! Spectacular wall dives every day at the Bunaken Marine Park and a really nice house reef.

      Saw my first cuttlefish! They are absolutely amazing! There were actually 2 of them, on the Tasik house reef, in about 10 feet of water! We just followed them around taking pictures for like 15 minutes. They weren't afraid of us, they actually just seemed a little annoyed by us, lol. I could follow them around watching for hours, they are just so interesting! They change color and texture instantaneously. Thankfully we saw several more in Lembeh later in the trip, and they never failed to completely fascinate me. I just love sea turtles, they're so serene and beautiful. This one was just hanging out on the reef napping.

      We then went to the other side of North Sulawesi to the port city of Bitung, on the Lembeh Straits. We stayed at the Kungkungan Bay Resort, it was absolutely beautiful. We were in a beachfront bungalow all to ourselves. It was like staying in paradise. And the diving? Oh, the diving... I think the pictures illustrate it pretty well. I fell completely in love with muck diving in Lembeh. It's like a treasure hunt on every dive. I can't wait to go back!Oh, and this is Jeff vs. the clownfish. These little guys can be nasty! They kept bumping the camera, our masks, and one of the little buggers even bit my finger when I ventured too close to their anenome! Needless to say, by the end of the trip, Jeff and I were both pretty irritated with this particular species of "Nemo" fish!

      So, there's a wrap up of our Indonesian vacation, we logged 25 dives over 13 days, and took around 1300 pictures. The above are just a few, and you can see a bunch more on my Flickr page, if you're so inclined, just be warned, there are about 150 of them!

      I have to say, looking at these pictures did make me feel at least a little better about having to go outside in the 30 mph winds, at least temporarily. Stay warm wherever you are!

      Monday, February 8, 2010

      An Actual Knitting Update and the Calm Before the Storm

      Let's have some knitting content shall we? I've finally got some pictures of the Dane Shawl that I've been working on. It's a gray color that is rather difficult to get a good photograph, but I've been practicing:

      I've also decided to participate in the Ravelympics this time around. I've joined Team Twilight
      on Ravelry and my event is Sweaterboard Cross. I will be doing the Duchess Raglan Sweater.

      Here's the link to my Rav project page. I bought the yarn today, just basic Lamb's Pride Bulky in Brown Heather. It should be a lovely everyday sweater, and I've only ever finished 1 adult sweater, so that is my challenge! I'm nervous, but excited!

      And the calm before the storm. We currently have about 10 inches of snow on the ground, with another storm coming in tomorrow. They are calling for up to another 6-8 inches! That will be a lot of snow! It is beautiful though, and Murphy is LOVING it!

      Friday, February 5, 2010

      The White Death is Coming!!

      So, we're supposed to get a pretty good snowstorm over the next day. It's 11am and it's actually already snowing out there, schools are announcing early releases. We're supposed to get between 4-8 inches, maybe up to a foot in the outlying areas. My only complaint is that it's starting in the middle of the work day and I'm going to have to drive home during rush hour in it. At least I have 4 wheel drive on my jeep though.
      I personally like snow, and would rather look at snow than the gray everything that Ohio calls weather the rest of the 6 months of winter. Also, it means we'll have a snow day tomorrow at home! I'll get to do fun stuff like cook and knit and drink tea! And yes, the whole ambitious and motivated streak continues. 3 nights ago, I made a cake, not from scratch, but it still counts! Then 2 nights ago, I made some really good chicken enchiladas and my Dabu-Dabu sauce. The sauce turned out pretty good, very similar to a salsa at first, but then I stuck it in the blender and made it more of a sauce. Good stuff, definitely will make it again, and probably soon, cause I still have all of the ingredients! Here are the recipes:
      Chicken Enchiladas
      1-1 1/2 lbs cooked and shredded chicken (I just boiled it)
      flour tortillas
      can of cream of chicken soup
      1/2 C plain yogurt or sour cream
      can of tomatoes with green chiles, drained
      2 tbsp chilli powder
      1 tbsp cumin
      1 tsp chipotle powder
      dash of cayenne
      very small dash of cinnamon
      shredded cheese

      Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While chicken is cooking, mix soup, yogurt, canned tomatoes, and spices. Drain chicken, cool and shred, mix with filling. Fill tortillas with mixture, top with a little cheese before rolling and placing in large baking dish. If there is any extra filling after you use all of the tortillas, you can just slap it on the top. Then top everything with as much cheese as you want. Bake until melty and bubbly, about a 30-45 minutes. Serve with your choice of taco toppings.

      Dabu-Dabu Sauce (Indonesian hot sauce)
      Several chile peppers-I used 2 serrano chiles (they were the hottest I could find this time of year), seeded and diced very fine
      2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
      4 shallots, chopped fine
      juice of 1 lime (about 3 tbsp)
      1 tsp vegetable oil
      1 tsp sugar
      salt to taste

      Mix all ingredients. We put ours immediately on the enchiladas, but it's better after it sits about a day. The next day I popped it in the blender so it's more of a sauce instead of a salsa. Good stuff if you like it hot! Those chiles are no joke!!

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      Books and Knitting

      What I'm reading:

      • Read The Book Thief on my Kindle on vacation. Couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it. The description sounds kind of strange, but I loved the way it was narrarated. Had some sad parts, but when a book takes place in WWII Nazi Germany, you have to expect some tears.
      • Currently working on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea(s). It was a free download on the Kindle (as are many classic titles), and I'd never read it before. It seemed fitting for a diving vacation! An interesting read, but not really a page turner. I just struggle with classics sometimes. It's not a difficult read, just kind of difficult to get into, for me. I'm still plugging away though.

      What I'm knitting:

      • Working on the Dane Shawl (Ravelry Link to pattern) by Jane Tanner in Lion Brand Bamboo and Ewe fingering weight in charcoal gray. This is officially my First Lace Shawl! A little scary, I'm not going to lie! It's going pretty well I think, just slow. I'm lucky to get a couple of rows done a day, and I'm only on the first repeat of the main section. If I'm done by June I'll be happy! LOL! It's very pretty, but the yarn is kind of stretchy, so I'm curious as to how it will block.
      • A basic pair of socks from the Bernat basic pattern that I got from my mother-in-law in self striping yarn, I forget the brand, I'll fix in a bit. I've started the heel gusset on the first sock, but I'm wishing that I would have used smaller needles. If I keep going, I'll have to give them away, which isn't a bad thing, I just love the yarn colors! It's not a very soft yarn, but from experience, it softens a bit after washing. I'll probably give them to my mom since she doesn't have any handknit socks. Plus, maybe it will inspire her to try socks, she hasn't graduated from scarfs yet! Pictures soon, I promise!

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      We now return to your regularly scheduled blog posts...

      Sorry for the delay, lets get back on the blogging track. This post will be just a quick catch-up post on what's been going on for the last month I've been MIA!
      So, got back from our fabulous trip to Indonesia last Tuesday, still recovering from the 13 hour time difference and the 30+ hours of travel time, each way. Man! Talk about jet lag! I'm actually surprised that I feel as close to normal as I do. I've heard it takes a day per time zone, it's amazing the effect that flipping your days and nights has on your body. Oh yeah, not to mention the dramatic climate differences! The first couple days we felt like we had the flu, hot, then cold flashes, stomach issues, insomnia mixed with exhaustion. Fun stuff. But it was so worth it. It was an amazing trip! Stunningly beautiful, both topside and underwater. The culture and people were wonderful. Food (for the most part), was FANTASTIC. I'll give more detailed info when I post pictures over the next couple of days.
      So that was 2 and a half weeks of January, from the 10th through the 26th, so what else have I been up to? Well, not much, so don't get too excited! Before the trip, was mostly prep work. Getting packed (roll up spacebags are a Godsend!), filling prescriptions (OMG, the expense of this that you don't account for when you plan a trip), scuba and camera gear checkups, lists, lots of lists, document compiling and finalizing everything. Overall, everything went extremely smoothly! Considering we were going to the other side of the world and all!
      Since we've been back, I've been shockingly ambitious and motivated. I have major motivation issues, as mentioned before. But I've just been wanting to knit and sew and cook! Especially cook! I think I've been inspired by both the Indonesian food and the angry chicken and Smitten Kitchen blogs. I've also been trying to eat more naturally, I'm not doing perfectly, but I'm trying! That's one of my goals, to eat more natural, less processed food. The food in Indonesia was all from scratch with no preservatives or chemicals. Not only did it taste better, but I felt better. All the swimming and exercise probably helped too!
      After work yesterday I hit Whole Foods for some produce and other miscellaneous items. I want to make the local hot sauce that we ate on absolutely everything, from fish to french fries! It's called Dabu Dabu and it is super simple. I also want to learn to make Nasi Goreng and Pisang Gorang. Basically fried rice and fried bananas. Yeah, not low calorie, but better than cheeseburgers and Wendy's Frostys!
      Well, I'll be posting pics soon from our trip and tell you how the Dabu Dabu turned out!