Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome to Ewing

For the most part, I grew up in the idyllic suburbs of Trenton, NJ.  The township was Ewing, but at some point after I graduated and moved to NYC, Ewing seceded and became its own entity and now, technically, I'm from Ewing.

Near our neighborhood, is Jones Dairy Farm, a minimum security prison farm run by the NJ Department of Corrections.

They actually produce dairy products bought and sold in the state of New Jersey.  One of my clear memories of my adolescent years was my friend's mom firmly declaring that we should stop riding our bikes past it in the summer time in our shorts.

When I was senior here, we had one Advanced Placement class, Calculus.  By the time my sister graduated here, they were up to three.  I wonder how many they have now.

One summer I worked as a waitress for Stewart's Root Beer, but now it's a Greek restaurant:

I remember my boss saw me fill a soft serve cone and he said I put too much in it.  He said it was unnecessary to fill the cone and just start it on the lip of the cone.  From then on, he made me weigh each cone I served making sure it only weighed 3 ounces.

There used to be a lot of industry in town, including a Fisher Body plant for GM, but it's gone now.

But now there is a Kung Fu/Tai Chi school (they let me work out there a couple times this week):

And now there is a sushi place here:

I had their salmon teriyaki bento box for lunch:

And had a fortune cookie for dessert:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Starbucks = Sweet internet

Treated myself to a Peppermint Mocha and helped myself to the internet after a rainy day here--sweet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Monday Adventures

I love a good sandwich and hoagies (or heroes or subs) are my hands-down fave. So when in Jersey, I feel I should be allowed to treat myself to a good one, so I went to Primo Hoagie:

I got the Cheese Deluxe:

Man, it hit the spot. In hindsight, this is definitely heading in the opposite of one of my resolutions (finishing a bag of Milanos last night didn't help), but so good. I think the crusty bread really makes it. That and just the right amount of oil and vinegar to brighten the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. I would love to eat another one right now.

Also headed to the local library:

Internet at last! I centered some of the pix from the previous posts (it was driving me crazy) and I'm actually getting sucked into a book (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) here (which at least sending me in the positive direction for a different resolution). Since I can't check it out, I hope it's still here tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday night

Mom doesn't have Internet (I've been posting with my iPhone), but I did watch another one of my many football picks go horribly wrong on one of her 12 channels:

Yes, I finished those Milanos and yes, those are portraits of me and my sister from a vacation to Cape Cod decades ago. I remember it being a great family vacation. My dad was excited to have an artist draw our portraits on the spot. I think I was 11 and my sister about 2. I remember we went to an all-you-can-eat clambake on the side of the road. See? I told you it was a great vacation.

I also found the gumption to replace this dinosaur of a microwave:

With this one:

So worth it. The old one took forever to heat up food. And gotta love those "Express" buttons. What an improvement 30 years makes.

Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace, Dad

For what it's worth, this is the only way our kids will know Dad.

He passed away less than a month before Velina, his first granddaughter, was born and he also didn't get to meet his first grandson, Augie.

Or properly PocketBooth with him:

(Don't worry, Dad would have been cool with this.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some PocketBooth fun

A little PocketBooth fun with Augie, though I couldn't quite get him hip to the concept of making different faces for each snap:

Though I certainly had fun trying!

Friday, November 25, 2011

On the plus side

I get to see this adorable guy:

Who lifts spirits other than just mine:

Going to NJ

Mom finally got seen by a doctor after a number of years and she has a laundry list of afflictions that just made me want to run for 5 miles and eat nothing but carrots and celery. So she's not feeling super. But everything can be manageable. Going to meet up with Mom and Sis and help her feel better.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

BTW, these Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Parmesan are keepers:

Courtesy of Real Simple:

1. Heat oven to 375. Oil a shallow 3-quart baking dish
2. In a large bowl, toss:
- 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rounds
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
Pour into baking dish, cover tightly with foil and until tender, about 45 min.
3. Then remove foil and sprinkle with mixture of:
- 3/4 cup of chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
and bake uncovered until pecans are toasted, about 10 min.

If you find the canned yams or the sweet potato casseroles topped with marshmallows too sweet, this side dish is a nice balance of sweet and savory with the help of the Parmesan and fresh thyme. And the crunchy pecans were a great pop too!

They balanced nicely with my "dirty" mashed potatoes:

AKA, too-lazy-to-peel-so-many-potatoes.

I'm always on the lookout for something new and relatively easy. Anybody have new dishes they tried for Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bend the rules sewing

I recently took this book out of the library for some more sewing inspiration, Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol:

Velina had a friend over and I thought the "No Cash Wallet" would be a good project for the girls and they were game. They both have a little sewing experience but it was easier for me to cut the fabric pieces for them since I did it from measurements rather than the pattern. But overall, they did a good job, though one can see it's not so easy to sew straight:

They enjoyed picking out the fabrics for the outside and inside:

Overall, a good job, right?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do you Smash?

The latest craze in scrapbooking are Smash Books. Truth be told, the concept isn't new but I have to give a mad tip of the cap to their marketing. Here is their killer video that just gets you hooked:

Even the girl got hooked! So then I figured I definitely have enough paper and other supplies, including a Bind-It-All , so why not make our own Smash Book? I found a great tutorial for a near replica of a Smash Book on Francine Clouden's blog, but we decided to try her lovely simple spiral-bound journal first.


Here are some of the papers Velina chose--LOVE these polka dots:

I was crazy about this bird paper--glad it's being used!

Velina also chose this lovely flower paper--man, what was I saving it for?

And here is some of her "smashing"--spontaneous penny art:

And some pix of her friends that she cut and wrote around:

Smashing, right?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Regional orch

Last spring, Velina made it into the the County Honors Orchestra. Recently, there were tryouts for the Regional Honors Orchestra. A Regional Honors orchestra encompasses a number of counties and there are four total in the state. Velina was the only one from her school that made the cut (she was 8th chair Viola):

I have to say their performance last night was really enjoyable--I credit the selection as well as the talented kids--I even shelled out $20 for the CD and look forward to listening to it. I really hope she sticks with playing the viola!

Friday, November 18, 2011


I know this is a graphic novel, but I'm counting it as a book (book #5 of 10 for my New Year's Resolution, fyi). Really well done. Despite its "comics" form, the author/artist really conveys the gravitas of the Holocaust as well as the heart-aching aftermath of the lives of some of the survivors. I started reading it and couldn't put it down. I recommend it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vista Lights

Tonight we checked out Vista Lights, where there is a tree-lighting ceremony and shops kick off the holiday season.

We kind of dug the S'more's station set outside Longhorn's:

You just grabbed a marshmallow (already put on a stick) and toasted it over the fire:

And assembled the rest with the graham crackers and chocolate:

The girl dug it too:

And the nice tree lit up with one of the shortest speeches ever (which I totally appreciated as the temperature was dropping fast into the 40s):

Afterwards, we enjoyed dinner at Miyo's:

With a very nice dessert:

And by that I mean--I hope the fortune comes true!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is this a sign?

that I really need to get crackin' on one of my New Year's resolutions?

Yeesh, I was stuck behind this truck for a mile. A long, slow mile.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finished, finally: The Now Habit

I finally finished this book I borrowed nearly half a year ago, The Now Habit (a book to overcome procrastination--oh yes, I totally see the irony):

Besides being more productive in general, or at least productive without the proverbial gun to my head, I'm aiming to be more efficient with my time for not only things I have to get done, but also things I want to get done.

Which of course, made me think of my New Year's Resolutions for this year:

- At 158 (about 2 pounds heavier than last year's New Year Day), I AGAIN aim to break 150

Argh, not even close. I managed to gain weight during the year but only drop back down to the 158 I am today.

- Manage productivity better: declutter and manage time better

Ok, honestly, I think I've gotten much better with the decluttering. I already got some positive comments from friends and family who have visited me now (and knew me before) and said I have definitely improved on decluttering. To my credit, I have really enjoyed having less stuff and often look for ways not to accumulate more stuff and still see what I can get rid of. One of my new favorite websites this year has been Unclutterer to help keep me in that mindset.

In terms of time management--hopefully this book will help me.

- Get a better workflow for post-processing photos (I have no trouble taking lots of pictures, it's the uploading and clean-up editing that takes so much time and daunts me)

Epic fail. Not even close.

- Get comfortable with flash--yes, including my 580EXII

Finally, a Yes!

- Do 6 photo shoots (including post-processing) in 2011 (including one inspired by the beautiful Tim Walker book my sister gave me)

Not close again. I did one planned shoot and one learning shoot this year so far...but didn't produce finished pix.

- Make stuff (using the stuff I moved out here to SoCar) - focus on upcycling

Okay--not bad here, I'm going to give myself a Yes. I had my porch redo, I upcycled a stained sweater with a patch, made French Macarons, and of course, made zippered pouches for my big project, "Crafting for Alzheimer's", where I used up a nice portion of my fabric stash. And best of all, now I'm really itching to do more...

- get out more--especially with the girl

This I could do better. Except a trip to the beach during her spring break, our excursions have been mostly for errands and taking her to her activities--though I will qualify that conversations, games, and any time I get to have with her has been quality, considering how much more time she likes to spend talking and hanging with her friends.

- read 10 books in 2011

Falling short so far--I have a near dozen books I have started that I haven't finished. In terms of finished books I read: This is Where I Leave You (by Jonathan Tropper), Bossypants (by Tina Fey), Ape House (by Sara Gruen), and The Now Habit (by Neil Fiore). Yikes, let's see if I can finish 6 books in 2 months.

- watch 12 good movies in 2011

I'm going to say Yes on this one. I did catch up on bunch of movies: Young@Heart, Pulp Fiction, Source Code, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Bridesmaids, The Town, Beginners, Crazy Stupid Love, Tree of Life, Cedar Rapids, Due Date, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher. Though I wouldn't necessarily rave about all 15 of them, I'd recommend the first 10.

- write more

Well, this was vague, wasn't it? Write more than what? Hmm, I'll give myself a pass on this one. That's one thing confirmed from the Now Habit--much more specific goals.

Okay, let's see what I finish in these last 2 months of 2011!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The dance

The girl had a fun time at the dance and even acknowledged my presence in pleasant, non-horrified manner. She and her friends had a great time just hanging and jumping to the music. Sigh. Like mother, like daughter.

Despite getting more familiar with my camera and flash together this week, I wasn't able to use them because the printers the PTO was printing photos with didn't accept my CF card. So I ended up using a different camera with a fixed on-board flash that I couldn't swivel, re-direct, or adjust the flash exposure compensation. The pictures were a bit blown out with the flash but the seasoned PTO mother who has run this "photo booth" before assured me that the kids didn't even notice that. I did get informed (and told to re-take pictures) that the kids couldn't make "hand signs" of any kind in the pictures, so going forward I had to keep an eye out and tell the kids to keep the hands down. I was a bit disappointed that the pix weren't as well exposed as I had wanted (and practiced for) but another PTO mother thought the pictures came out great and like how I composed them. And more importantly the kids loved them. So I'll take it as a good learning experience and hope I'll get to do it next year.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On your way, you pretties

For the girl's dance, I opted to make these chocolate dipped pretzel rods. So much quicker and easier than baking cookies--plus they're a nice combo of salty and sweet, rather just sweet. At my age, I can't handle so much pure sweetness. I'm banking on some kids feeling the same way. Otherwise, I wonder if these are the equivalent of apples and pencils being given out to Trick-or-Treaters?