Monday, September 17, 2012

cooking rice without it boiling over

my life changed yesterday! ok maybe not. but, i cooked rice without it boiling over and creating a mess for maybe the first time ever!

i have a hard time staying focused in the kitchen because frankly, i just don't like cooking. i get easily distracted and end up boiling over or burning things a lot. i saw something at bed, bath and beyond that gave me hope for the boiling over problem, a "pot watcher."

it's a little ceramic disk that i thought you were just supposed to drop in with the rice (or whatever you're boiling) and it would magically keep it from boiling over. wrong. my mom enlightened me by telling me, "it doesn't stop anything, it merely makes noise which alerts you to the possibility of a boil over." well, that's lame.

so, i was back to boiling over every time (yes, every. time.) i cooked rice. i had noticed something on pinterest ( that sounded like a great idea for boiling things that don't need to be covered. it said to put a wooden spoon across the pot and it won't boil over. sounds great! unfortunately, with the way i cook rice, that's just not possible.

because the way i cook rice is:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • bring to a boil
  • cover
  • lower heat
  • simmer for 20 minutes and don't touch it!

so, last night i thought i'd try something that could work with a lid. string! i cut a length of string to go over the pot before i put the lid on and holy shiznit, it worked! here's a video...

you can see it wanting to boil over so badly, but nope! string to the rescue!

here's an after shot...

normally, once i'm done cooking the rice, the inside of the lid and all down the side of the pot are covered with a starchy, white mess. not this time! i was so happy. (and so was my little pelican salt shaker my mom got me. isn't he cute? thanks, mom!) 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

the best kind of day

it's only noon and it's already been a full day of giving back. it started with my husband and i getting up early to go help pick up trash at the wetlands for coastal clean up day. we got there prepared with our gloves, bucket, trash bags and camel-back full of ice water.

we were assigned to pull weeds, but asked if we could wait for a trash crew instead. (we spent a day pulling invasive ivy at the audubon society in portland last year and frankly, care to never do it again. it's back-breaking labor!) so, we got put on a different crew and started picking up trash. really, there wasn't that much where we were looking (and there was a rattle snake sighting which was a little unnerving) so after an hour, they told us we could get our trash sorted and counted and leave. what? leave? we were planning on working for 3 hours and our bucket was only about 1/4 of the way full.

we started walking back towards the parking lot and realized, with people cleaning off of the trails, that left a lot of cigarette butts and things on the trail itself. we cleaned as we walked until we got back to the parking lot and then spent another hour walking the perimeter of the parking lot picking up trash and cigarette butts. it seemed kind of funny that people were walking out to their designated spots to pick up trash, but were walking over so much trash on their way out there. when we finished with the parking lot, our bucket was darn near full! once we were done, the crew asked us what kinds of items we picked up and what the most unusual item we picked up was. thankfully, ours were pretty standard, mostly straws and straw wrappers, gum wrappers, styrofoam and cigarette butts. we felt lucky that we didn't find any needles or condoms!

on the way home, i called my folks to see how their day was going and to tell them about our morning. when my husband and i lost our condo, we took our washer and dryer and decided to give them to my parents with the condition that their older, but still in great shape, washer and dryer go to a local animal shelter. well, my mom found a place in yucaipa that was thrilled to get the news, so my dad was installing the new washer and dryer while my mom was cleaning up the old ones to donate. having worked at 2 wildlife care centers, i know how huge it is to not have reliable washer and dryers, as there is always a mountain of laundry... always. i remember 1 shift at the audubon our washer and dryer stopped working and a volunteer loaded up her van and spent 4 hours in the laundromat. that must have been one stinky car ride!

i'm not writing this post for recognition or to brag, but to hopefully inspire. if you're never gotten out there, gotten your hands dirty, the back of your neck sunburned and dripped sweat like a boxer in the ring, you should try it! you may be surprised how good you feel at the end of it. or the next time you have an old appliance (in working order) that you're getting rid of, think of the local non-profits that may be able to use them. we're all on this big blue ball together and the more we all help each other out, the happier and healthier we and our future generations will be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

up-cycled face cleanser bottle

another installment of "what the heck can i do with all these plastic containers?"
today's answer is "make a hanging succulent holder"
  • i started with a facial cleanser bottle.
  • i then cut off the end with a knife and scissors. i wasn't too worried about getting it perfect, as i plan to wrap it with fabric.
  • since i knew i wanted to make a succulent holder out of it, i figured i probably better add some drainage holes. to do this, i stuffed the container with paper towels to hold its shape, then i heated up a nail (while holding it with pliers) and slid it through the plastic making sure not to go through the other side of the container.

  • then i painted it with spray primer meant for plastic...
  • and stuck it on a rake handle to dry.
  • now to make it pretty... i used some spray paint i had left over from my bike project (bike love) and i found some corresponding fabric in my craft drawer. kismet!

  • i folded the fabric under to create a nice edge for the bottom part, sprayed adhesive on the back of the fabric and carefully wrapped it around the container making sure to leave enough to also wrap around the top edge and into the container to hide my less than perfect trim job.

  • next, i wanted to add a little flair to it, so i cut a keurig k-cup into a flower and spray painted that with the primer and then some chrome spray paint also left over from my bike project. 

  • i added a cute little purple button i found in my craft drawer for a pop of color and hot glued a pop tab to the back of the container as a way to hang it.

  • voila! now i have a cute little planter to hang a succulent in :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

she's crafty

after watching craft wars and storage wars texas (there are 2 girls on there that refurbish old furniture and things) yesterday and looking at reuse connection's facebook page this morning, i just had to do something crafty, but what?

i started by getting out my bag o' recycables that were slated to go to my in-laws' house since we have no recycling at our apartment complex.

i chose 2 items: an old bath and body works (hereafter called bbw) soap dispenser and some olive cans. i started with the bbw soap dispenser. 
  • first, i had to get the labels off. no easy task. apparently bbw doesn't want people making things out of their old bottles. not without some serious elbow grease anyway. however, yesterday, while trying to get some old stickers off a computer monitor, i learned that olive oil works. i peeled the stickers off and olive oiled the back of the bottle. by this point i had decided i was going to make a bud vase, so the sticky on the front didn't matter as i was just going to cover it up anyway.
  • next i found a flower on some scrapbook paper that i knew i wanted to incorporate so i cut it out. i thought i would put a complimentary color of paper behind it but wasn't sure how to get the size right. i then realized i had peeled the front label off in one piece and could use that as a template. hurrah! i lightly taped it to the paper i wanted to use and cut it out.
  • now it was a simple task of using some spray adhesive to adhere the paper to the bottle.

**a tip for using spray adhesive**
i like to keep an old magazine handy (martha stewart works great, cause it's a bit larger than others) so that i can open up a page, lay down my paper, spray it with the adhesive and then close the page. then, next time i want to use it, those pages will be glued together, so i open up to the next page and so on...

  • i spray-glued it all together, ran some twine around the top with dabs of hot glue and finished it all off with a cute little brad. voila. bud vase:

next up were the olive cans. (trader joe's pitted green olives are the bomb! btw) the labels came off of these much easier. it also left a bit of sticky just at the seam, which actually turned out to be a nice way to temporarily hold the paper on to see if i liked how it all looked together.

  • i chose some different papers, cut them to size and spray-adhered it all together.
  • once i had the paper stuck on the can, i put ponytail holders around it to keep it all in place until the adhesive dried.

  • i decided i wanted these to be able to hang, so i took the pull tab off the lid and attached it to the back of the can with hot glue and finished it all off with a bit of twine around the top. 
here i have them displayed on my bathroom wall with air plants in them. how cute! i love turning trash into treasure, it gives me happies. hopefully reading my blog gives you happies, too. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

bike love

when my husband and i were both unemployed, we had a bit of a tradition; we would go to happy hour at don jose's, get a couple of margaritas and then go to the goodwill next door. one night i happened upon this:

a bike with fur on it! i debated whether i should buy her or not and eventually decided i wasn't ready to shell out the 30 bucks.

we got home and she was all i could talk about. i was kicking myself that i hadn't bought her. i could see so much potential! my husband contacted a friend of ours who frequents goodwill (to find good buys and resell) and asked him to please a. try and talk the manager down to 20 bucks and b. please purchase it for us first thing in the morning if it was still there and we'd be by to get it. well, he got there the next morning and she was still there! he even talked them down to 20 bucks! we met him at goodwill and he had to roll this pink furry bike out to the parking lot for us getting made fun of by other patrons in the store. thanks, brian! i owe you one.

we got her home and she was covered in rust, had 2 flat tires and her fur was faded badly, but i loved her already. we found another beach cruiser for my husband on craigslist and over the next few weeks we spent hours wire-brushing, sanding, painting and working on our bikes. i painted her body a beautiful teal and sprayed all her other parts with chrome spray paint.

now i just had the issue of the faded fur. i wanted to use rit dye, but realized rit only works on cotton, not polyester, hhmm. i did some research and found a cos-play girl that suggested using sharpies. i bought 8 sharpies and got to work "coloring" the fur. it was working ok, but the color was too purple, i wanted it to stay bright cotton candy pink. i tried washing some of the color out and re-coloring it with a different color sharpie and it worked, but it took forever and i wasn't sure i'd be able to match all of it to each other. so, nix that idea. i decided to just replace the fur altogether. i checked every fabric store in town and no one sold pink fur, what gives? i swear i remember seeing it in stores before. oh well, that's what ebay's for, right? i found a place and ordered some. i then ripped of all the old fur and went to town cutting and spray-gluing the new fur on. it was worth it, it looked wonderful! now all i needed was a "have you combed your bike today" bumper sticker, hehe.

she now has a new paint job, pink fur, pink chain, pink lock, pink bell and pink and white checkered side mirror. i get compliments on her every time i ride her. she's been a good bike. i'm glad i went back for her. <3 <3 <3

update on bike love... she's been stolen. my heart is sad to think that after all the love i put into her, she's probably going to be stripped down and sold for drug money. she was more than a bike, she was a distraction from our crummy life at the time and a ray of hope for our future. i'll miss you, beautiful!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

tiny little nightmares, aka: cakes pops

they're tiny and round, how hard could they be? turns out, a lot harder than they look. my mother-in-law got me a cake pop book for my birthday, so this weekend for her birthday, i thought i'd whip some up. in the instructions it said to set aside some time to make them, like an hour. hahahahahaha!! an hour, that's cute.

making the cake part is well, cake walk, hehe. you bake a cake, let it cool, crumble it up, (or as my husband says, bake a cake and then destroy it!) add some frosting as a glue and then roll it up into balls. the next part is the nightmare. you melt the little chocolate (or whatever flavor you're using) disks that you see in line at michaels and it's supposed to be easy-peasy to just dip the pops in and voila. not so. the chocolate was always either too runny or too hard. if it's too runny they coat nicely when you dip them in, but then the drip all down the stick, like so:

if it's too hard, it's difficult to spoon it on evenly and then it dries before you can stick in your accessories, ie: chocolate chip eyes and ears for the monkeys i was making. see, they're kinda lumpy bumpy:

for the ones that did dry too fast, i just glued things on them with chocolate later. still cute, but not a monkey:

all in all it took me about 3 hours (not including the cake baking and cooling time) and i only made 18 of them. the recipe was for 48! in the end, about 3 of them came out really nicely.

when i was all through i told my husband i needed to watch a youtube video next time so i can see the process more clearly. he said, "with the words that were coming out of that kitchen, i didn't think you were ever going to make those again!" what can i say? i'm not a quitter.


Friday, July 6, 2012


today i thought i'd just post about being happy. happiness can be so elusive, but once you grasp it, do everything in your power to hold onto it.

for almost 7 years i was stuck in a job that made me feel like i didn't matter. my ideas weren't listened to, my concerns weren't taken seriously and the whole morale of the place was low: backstabbing, gossiping and unneeded, uneven competition fueled by the boss himself. i was in a very bad place. very, very bad. one friday, nine months ago, my husband (he had worked there for about 5 years and wasn't happy either) and i showed up to be told we no longer had jobs there. at the time, it was devastating. in hindsight, i thank the Lord for that day.

since then, we have moved back home to beautiful, sunny california. oregon is beautiful, too, but i've learned i am solar powered. i need sunshine to thrive and grow. i am a delicate flower. (hehe, not really, i'm kind of a tom-boy, honestly.) we are close to our families again and really learning about some of them for the first time. we left california 3 months after we got married, so we didn't really get to know each other's families all that well. we are enjoying spending time with them and we came home to a wonderful new sister-in-law!

in the last nine months, my husband has found a job doing web design and i have had a chance to just breathe and explore myself and what makes me happy. turns out, i like being a housewife, who knew? i like keeping the house in order, geting the laundry done, running errands, planning dinner and making my hubby's lunch every night for him to take the next day. getting these things out of the way during the week gives us that much more quality time together on the weekends, and we're eating so much healthier. i think it's a shame more families can't operate like this. unfortunately, we won't be able to forever. i'm currently on unemployment and looking for a job, but it just hasn't happened yet. it will, i have faith. i think God is just giving me a breather after being so miserable for so long. i've needed it. i've needed the time to see the beauty in the world again. it really is a beautiful place, i had almost forgotten. and sure, you're gonna come across an asshole or two throughout your day, but when you're happy in your core, it doesn't affect you in a big way. as my mom says, "shake it off and step up!"

i've taken up gardening, which it seems i'm pretty good at. i love getting my hands dirty out there, pulling weeds, fertilizing, watering, pruning. and when you get that first piece of fruit or vegetable out of your very own garden, it's like a little miracle. i've often heard people say the food you grow is better than anything you can buy in the store, yep, it's true. it can be a puny little potato, but i swear you can taste the love and hard work in it.

another of my loves is volunteering. when i was in my 20s, i volunteered as a literacy tutor for a girl right out of high school. in the time i tutored her, she got her driver's license and a job! before her tutoring, she couldn't read the applications to fill them out. it was so rewarding. i was so proud of her dedication. she had made it all the way through high school barely able to read and all it took was a little one on one with her. she wasn't lazy or stupid, she just needed someone to believe in her.

in oregon, i was lucky enough to find the audubon society and get involved volunteering in their wildlife care center. talk about rewarding! i love animals. all kinds of animals. and being able to help rehabilitate them or raise them from nestlings or fledglings and send them back out into the wild to thrive and live a full life, there's just nothing better. and i got to work with raptors, big birds of prey: owls, hawks, osprey, we even had a bald eagle in there while i was there! the first thing i did when we moved back to california was to find another wildlife care center to volunteer with. found one! now i get to rehab water birds: pelicans, murres, sea gulls, herons and cute little mammals like possums, squirrels and raccoons. it's amazing. if i won the lottery that's all i would do, volunteer. 5 different places a week. i can't imagine anything better.

today, as you go about your daily routine, try to look at things a little lighter and brighter. it's cliche, but stop and smell the roses, literally. look up in the sky and watch the birds flying by. and if you see a bunch of bird poop on the ground under a tree, that means there's a nest up there. take a minute to listen for the babies and maybe get a peak at one of their cute little beaks poking up waiting for mom to come back with lunch. really try to take into account all the beautiful things around you. trust me, it'll make that guy that cut you off on the freeway seem insignificant.

what makes you happy? leave it in the comments.

i hope you have a wonderful, happy day. you deserve it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

watch-cat on alert

i've heard people talk about not wanting to plant tomatoes because of the worms they attracted, but i hadn't ever seen one until today.

we have a tiny backyard off the back of our apartment that is fenced in and butts up against the back wall of the carport. since it is so well enclosed, we have our cat box outside and a pet door in the slider so our 2 kitties can go in and out of the backyard at will. today, i heard our giant (25 pounds) grey cat, saturn, (who is really just a big scaredy cat) howling at the top of his lungs.

i went out to see what was up and found this:

i'm not normally afraid of bugs, or much for that matter, but this guy creeped me out a little. probably because i had never seen one before. and that horn is pretty daunting on its own. i didn't know what to do with it and i sure as hell wasn't about to kill it. 1. i almost never kill things. i say "almost never" because i will go buck-nutty wild killing ants if i see them (they give me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about them) and i will kill the occasional spider, if i can't transplant him outside. 2. i was imagining the mess/sound/emotional scar it would leave. it was huge as far as worms go. a good 4 inches long and thick. squishing it was definitely not an option. 3. he reminded me too much of heimlich from "a bug's life." so, i scooped him up in some tupperware and relocated him to the planter out in front of the apartment.

the weird thing was, when i found the hornworm, he wasn't near the tomato plant. that, and there was a spot in the planter box that had been disturbed. we have fenced off half of our yard for a garden so our cats can't get in and like i said, it's pretty secure back there and we're in the middle of a row of apartments and there are backyards on either side of ours, so i'm almost positive another cat would not have been able to get in. 

what i think may have happened was a crow landed, grabbed the worm and then dropped him as he was taking off, maybe because he saw saturn. that's just my theory, i have no idea what the hell happened out there today, but that makes me feel the most comfortable about the situation. anyway, i'm glad we have saturn, he's quite the watch-cat.

Friday, June 29, 2012

reduce, reuse, recycle

this seems to be a theme with me...

a couple of things from today that made me happy: 1. i went to the bank to get quarters for laundry and they actually came in the old paper sleeves! i was so happy not to have the extra plastic to throw away. i think next time i go in, i'll specifically request paper instead of plastic if they have it. 2. i took our cans and bottles to the local CRV (california redemption value) recycling center and found out that they will recycle things even without a CRV code on them. they have to be drink containers, have a recycle symbol and you won't get money back, but they'll take them. i was thrilled! milk jugs and wine bottles were saved from the landfill (actually from my in-laws recycle bin) but happy day none-the-less.

now, here are a couple of ideas for the rest of the stuff i'm unable to recycle at our apartment complex.

1. you know those plastic nets that potatoes and things come in? my mother-in-law gave me the great idea of cutting them up and using them to scrub dishes! brilliant! they work so well and they don't get stinky like some dish scrubbers can.

the yellow one on the left has been cut and i've used the top part. if it gets grungy, toss it out and cut off another piece. these two bags are going to last me forever! 

2. my husband and i love sandwiches. we eat them almost every day for lunch. we've found these lunch meats that we enjoy by oscar meyer called carving board. they are chunks of meat, not puny little slices. they make delicious sandwiches and nice chunks for salads. cool thing is, they come in plastic containers that work perfectly for storing, what else? sandwiches! i've found that i can make my husband a sandwich, wrap it in a select-a-size paper towel, plop it right in there, snap the lid on and put it in his lunch. that way, i don't have to use a ziplock, the sandwich maintains it's shape and there's no danger of it getting moist from the ice packs he uses. really, you could use these to hold lots of different things: chips, cookies, left-overs to send home with someone and not worry about getting your tupperware back, crayons, markers, crafty bits, etc.

3. i'm always trying to come up with uses for the keurig machine k-cups. i'll admit, i still don't have the perfect solution. but, what i do have is fertilizer for my garden and a bunch of cute little rinsed out cups waiting to be turned into something fabulous.

have you ever opened one of these up? here are the guts:

 you have your coffee

 and under that a filter
(this one has been partially ripped out)

i have been taking the foil tops off and emptying the coffee grounds into a coffee creamer container that i cut the top off of. once i get a good amount of grounds, i will use them in my garden. (google "coffee grounds as fertilizer" for more detailed instructions.)

i then take out the paper filter, rince my cups out and stack them nicely in a counter wipe container that i've saved. i'm thinking since the cups already have a hole punched in them, i'd like to try making a string of patio lights. maybe cut them into daisies? i'm not sure yet. i need to find some little christmas type strand of lights and give it a try. whatever i end up doing with them, i'll post it... granted it turns out worth a damn.

anywho, those are my tips for the day. hope i've inspired you to get creative to keep a few more items out of our landfills. let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions or have any items you'd like help thinking of an alternative use for.