Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Anybody following the NFL combine?

I didn't follow the NFL combine that rigorously but I like these little recaps of how expectations were exceeded or fell below. I'm always amazed by the physical capabilities of these athletes only to be further surprised that sometimes these capabilities aren't enough. Needless to say, after that thrilling 3OT win over Georgia in the Outback Bowl, I'm pleased that Michigan State's QB, Kirk Cousins, emerged positively.

Anybody else curious to see how this all plays out in the draft?

Call me Rock God

Last summer, I went to a walk-in clinic with some issues I thought were related to bronchitis. I hardly remember what the diagnosis for that was back then, but I do remember one the other things the doctor said to me. She asked me if I was on any medications. I said no. She paused, looked at me, and said, that's pretty good not to be on any medications at your age. I remember the reflexive words that came out of my mouth (which surprised me) was, but I'm only in my 40s. She said, a lot of people your age regularly take medications and she was a bit more pointed about type 2 diabetes.

I remember being somewhat shocked and then fairly adamant that her conception had to be way off base. Ridiculous. For some reason, I could accept that my friends could take meds for mental health, like depression, in their 20s but I couldn't wrap my head around needing meds for physical health a mere 20 years later. I mean isn't that why older folks like Wilford Brimley are cast when it comes to health commercials and meds? I mean, if you want my age bracket's attention, try getting George Clooney or Sofia Vergara to push oatmeal instead.

A couple months later, I found a primary care physician and had a physical. It was a big surprise to me when the doctor said that I had high cholesterol and will probably have to go on a prescription to keep it down, like Lipitor. Ugh. The doctor at the walk-in clinic jinxed me.

Here is how she explained cholesterol to me: one is generally given a number for "cholesterol" and ideally it should be less than 200 (mine was 237). That number is a sum of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, aka "good" cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL, aka "bad" cholesterol), though this second number is sometimes broken down with a number for very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) as well. Ideally, the HDL number is greater than 50 and the LDL number is less than 100. Mine were 66 and 171, respectively. Though the doctor liked my HDL number, my LDL number at 171 was considered high.

The doctor said she would retest in 4 months and in the meantime I could try a low-cholesterol diet. She advised avoiding fast food, heavy meats, and greasy food. I was a little discouraged given that, as a pescatarian, I don't eat those foods, but I'd do my best to cut out foods that did have cholesterol.

I did some research online to see what I was eating that I should avoid and what foods were supposed to help lower cholesterol. In general, one was supposed to avoid saturated fats (usually found in animal products like meat and dairy) and trans-fats (usually found in packaged foods like cookies). The foods I ate without much rein that had cholesterol were whole eggs, butter, 2% milk, and shrimp. I would estimate that even with the foods I ate, I was still fairly under the recommended daily cap of 200 mg of cholesterol. But I still switched to Egg Beaters, Smart Balance and olive oil, nonfat milk and almond milk, and stopped eating shrimp. Yeesh, it was hard to give up eggs--I ate them every day as a delicious, cheap, and easy source of protein for me. And well Egg Beaters? They're not exactly the same as scrambled eggs--so man, I do miss eggs. In terms of foods that would help lower cholesterol, I turned to oatmeal (I guess Wilford Brimley was talking to me after all), Omega-3 supplements, and walnuts when I remembered.

But I also learned while visiting my mom, that regardless of how I ate, I may just be genetically disposed to it. So I got next to the fact that if my cholesterol wasn't affected by my big adjustment in diet, paying for (and taking) Lipitor was cheaper and better than costs of stroke and heart issues both to the wallet, my body, and my family. But I still wanted to try my best at controlling it with diet. And with few exceptions (pretty sure that lobster roll at Super Bowl and brunch at Maharlika were so worth it), I stuck with it.

So I did a fasting lab test last week and this morning I went to the doctor to find out the results. And luckily, for now, my changes in diet paid off. I had lowered my LDL to 133.

She acknowledged that the number was still over the desired 100 but she said my elevated number of HDL helped balance it out and most importantly she said we could hold off on a prescription, for now. She was somewhat impressed and asked me what changes I made and I told her the adjustments I made. She also recommended two herbal supplements (Red Yeast Rice and Chia Seeds) that had positive results in lower cholesterol. I'll definitely look into them as it's likely to be cheaper than getting a prescription every month. But she closed our conversation with a somewhat sobering stat that the reason over 80% of folks need prescriptions to control cholesterol is hereditary and not diet. And also, whether I should I do something about the varicose veins on my legs. Let's table that till next time, Dr. Debbie Downer!

This all said, I recognize that when I go for my formal physical again next fall, my cholesterol numbers go up again despite my dietary efforts. And I should be okay with that. But I'll still keep trying, and until then, inyaface, Cholesterol!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars happened

and I was so unprepared for it. This is hands down one of my worst Oscar-nominated movie viewing seasons ever. I saw only 4 of the 9 nominated films and I have to say for two of them I felt they were overrated ("The Artist") or WTH?! ("Tree of Life"). Not my best Oscar season. I will say that after watching the show, I really want to see "Hugo" and "Albert Nobbs".

I also have to say that after spending nearly a decade on the West Coast--it came back to me how much the East Coast is screwed when it comes to live events. I passed out somewhere around Best Director and woke up to Natalie Portman, awkwardly revering this year's Best Actor nominations. Maybe it would help if the Oscars were a bit more entertaining and could wrangle up decent commercials like the Super Bowl.

Anybody else watch or have a good movie recommendations?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

For those about to rock

I lucked out and got to spend some time with my friend up in Charlotte to catch an 80s cover band (Blue Monday) last night. AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, and Journey songs? Yes, please. Add a dance floor and some friendly people down with gettin' down and I am so there.

I also got to meet my friend's friend who was so nice, smart, and is also originally from the Northeast:

Capped off with my first visit to the Waffle House afterward and hitting Costco AND Trader Joe's on the way back it was a very awesome time in NC!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Paul

For Paul's birthday, it was fairly low-key and simple. He got a couple of things from his Amazon wishlist as well as a sweet surprise of See's chocolates from his mom. I baked some donuts and the girl made a great graphic card:

Later Professor X hosted a small cookout at his house complete with campfire--I provided the gingered bourbon cocktails:

It ended up raining but the fire hung in there and so did we.  It was a great time.  Wouldn't mind sipping cocktails in front of a fire again sometime!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Are there no women working at PETA?

PETA, an organization that claims to be for the "ethical treatment of animals", has shown a much higher interest in objectifying women lately.  Whether you agree with their claimed mission or not, it's hard to avoid that their ads have been losing their focus on animal treatment and more towards entertaining straight men.

Sure, they have their "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" print campaigns.  These are fairly innocuous ads featuring lovely young models or actresses in coy or arty nude poses.  These started in the 90s and have been pretty decent publicity for both PETA and the young models/actresses featured.  Whether these ads actually change minds of those who would wear fur in the first place is arguable.  More recently in the 21st century they added males, like dreamboat Steve-O from Jackass, and an "Ink not Mink" campaign featuring tattooed males like Tommy Lee.  Straight women said, uh...thanks?  I guess it's still cool I don't wear fur?  Here, I started to suspect that female employees had been vacating the PETA building for a while.

Than last year, PETA claimed to have made Super Bowl ads that were "too hot" and censored for airing.  These were basically videos of young women in bikinis and high heels seemingly pleasuring themselves with vegetables.  Is PETA run by the same guys who make those "Girls Gone Wild" videos?  Because these "ads" certainly captured the same back-room, exploitative feel of them.  But here's my real gripe--these ads are purportedly convincing one to go vegan.  You think a guy is giving up meat because of these videos?  The best result PETA got with these was getting some men to eat burgers and pizza with one hand.

And then this year, timed for Valentine's Day apparently, PETA released an ad/video that is also putatively promoting veganism.  It features a young woman miserably running a grocery errand with this voiceover:

"This is Jessica and she suffers from BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan And Knocked The Bottom Out Of Me. A painful condition when Boyfriends go Vegan and suddenly can bring it like a tantric pornstar. For Jessica it’s too late."

Did I mention the she is running this errand in her bra and underwear and boyfriend jacket?  Well no, because if you watch the video, there are plenty of shots of it, including one where she is climbing stairs and the sun shines between her pants-less legs. Did I have to remind you that this ad is for veganism? Oh, right...

Again it's ridiculous that this is going to convince anyone to become or go vegan.  It'd almost get recommended as a comedic sketch, but the woman looks so miserable from her "painful condition" and she's in a flippin' neck brace!  So frankly, it's kind of UNfunny.

Seriously, to me, PETA has become PETW--Pr!cks for the Exploitative Treatment of Women (under the guise of a higher-minded mission).  This non-fur-wearing woman is annoyed, irritated, and definitely not interested.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hope it was a Sweet Valentine's Day

This sweet monkey came from a nice girl in Velina's class.

Kind of want to hit the post-Valentine's Day sales now...

Monday, February 13, 2012

The girl and her valentines

Yeesh, still in catch-up mode.  I'm eager to get back in the crafting groove.  The girl used the same Pepto Girl valentines from last year to give to her friends.  Though I tend to be against the commercialism of Valentine's Day, I wish I had more energy to at least encourage her to make some fun sweets.  Argh, next year.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A couple of months ago, while I was visiting my sister and her husband in NY, he mentioned that there was an Asian-American player on the NY Knicks roster who had some promise. As someone who doesn't regularly watch non-championship NBA games, I didn't think much of it at the time until I came back from four weeks with my mom's non-cabled, i.e., non-ESPN-enabled, television. The player he had mentioned, Jeremy Lin, has been bringing sexy back to the New York Knicks. He apparently was a 3rd string player finally called to play due to multiple injured players on the team and since then, he has been leading the Knicks in points (and some say rallying the team overall) for 3 winning games straight, after a considerable losing slump. The word "LINsanity" had taken over the city as he has brought excitement, i.e., much-needed winning, back to the Knicks.

I heard a pundit on ESPN warily say that this LINsanity was just hype.  He explained that the teams beaten were not exactly top-notch teams (Nets, Jazz, and the Wizards), that it was more of a testament to the sad state of the Knicks. With a game against the well-regarded Lakers, I had to watch the game tonight and see him play myself.

I confess I don't know the game of basketball well at all. I've heard that Lin's position is "point guard" (my initial reaction was, there are positions in basketball?) but I think the point guard is the guy that dribbles the ball back after the other team has scored and figures who on his team gets the ball next. Anyhoo, bottom line, I was LINpressed. He was the top scorer of the game with 38 points and 7 assists (looking at the other scores, I ascertained that this is, indeed, LINpressive). He brought the crowd to their feet at times and he was appreciably humble and supportive of his teammates off the court as well.

Like Dat Nguyen, it's exciting for me to see an Asian-American athlete successfully blowing away stereotypes and perceptions.  As one of about four Asian/Asian American kids in my school, I remember racist taunts as a child, but what stayed with me more were the expectations and limits of what a Chinese girl (no, I'm not Chinese but when there are so few Asians, I was generally identified as Chinese) should or could do.  Because not only was it from my school-age peers but also a vibe I got from respected adults.  The realization there is that as adults, it's really easy to settle into a set way of seeing things, unyielding to other possibilities, not growing.  And it can get pessimistic that things won't progress.

So there is something to be said in the broader sense of overlooking talent and strength beyond Lin's example of winning the high school state championship and being named Northern California's Player of the Year for his school's division and not getting any interest from California schools like UCLA or Stanford.  The inability to see the potential of Lin's skills at the next level is somewhat analogous to the limitation of the glass ceiling.  But there is something to be said about how the naysayers and limitations on initial opportunities did not shake Lin's determination, preparation, and faith in himself when an opportunity did arise.  After all, if all the mantras of "there has never been.." were to be believed, there wouldn't be "...a successful Asian-American NBA athlete" like Jeremy Lin.  Or "...an African-American President."  Or "...a good white rapper."  Or "...a female CEO."  Sometimes it takes a little determination and patience for both sides to be open to such possibilities too.  And when it's accepted, hopefully, race and gender won't matter.

New York is excited about the Knicks again.  After a what was heading into a losing season, you think they're on their feet because an Asian American is finally off the bench?  Pfft.  Bottom line, they're excited that the Knicks are finally winning, no matter who is rallying them back.

In that regard, I hope New York is open to the possibility that this might be a very exciting season for Jeremy Lin and the Knicks.  I certainly am.

Friday, February 10, 2012

French toast for mom

The last meal I cooked for my mom before I left yesterday was Mom-friendly French toast. It was geared towards being low cholesterol, low carb, low sugar, and low sodium. Interested?

I mixed about 1/4 cup of "Better 'n Eggs" egg substitute, with a dash of vanilla, dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of Splenda. I find a little sweetener brings out the vanilla and cinnamon. One can also add a tablespoon or two of milk but for some reason, I feel like one can forgo it with the egg substitute:

I soaked two pieces of Wonder "SmartWheat" bread (this bread is lower-calorie, lower in sodium, and higher in fiber than other sliced breads) in this mix and then grabbed a few almonds and walnuts:

I chopped up the nuts coarsely and toasted them in a dry frypan until toasty and fragrant:

I removed the nuts and then sprayed the same pan with nonstick spray (no biggie if nut dust still in pan) and cooked the soaked bread on each side until golden brown.  Top with a bit of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter", sugar-free pancake syrup, and toasted nuts and ta-da!

Mom-approved French toast.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leaving NJ for now

I have been in NJ for 4 weeks and heading back home today.  Besides consuming this entire jar of instant decaf while I've been here, it's been  a busy 4 weeks with my mom in the house I grew up (for the most part) where I averaged an appointment each weekday (including today before my flight).  There were definitely some challenges, but I think between my sister and me, we came up with ideas, possibilities, and solutions.  I hope my time here was productive.

There were mellow moments too: 

Like having toast with unsalted almond butter with sugar-free jelly and coffee with my mom. One of favorite things to eat now.

Come Walk in my Shoes and See the Way I'm Living if You Really Want to

On another visit to Target, I was drawn to this plaid Duck Tape:

There were other colors and styles like animal prints ( and even themes like Hello Kitty) which kind of got me thinking about the craftier side of duct tape.  I remember a while back seeing posts about kids who went to their proms in duct taped outfits and currently, Duck Tape even has contests for it.  So when I got these boots from Goodwill, I realized I had a project.  They were the perfect candidate as some of the original pleather was scratched off in places:

And they ended up like this.


I googled around and came across great posts about such a project here, here, and this great tutorial by Crafting in the Rain here.  Anyhoo, I ran into one major issue: matching the plaid exactly was not possible due to the way the pattern is printed on the tape.  So I focused on syncing the broad purple lines as much as possible:

As I was using a pair of somewhat dull scissors of my mom's that got stickier as I cut more tape, I found it advantageous to work as much length as possible to prevent tearing the tape (due to cutting with dull scissors) and pattern consistency: 

Be sure to press the tape into all the wrinkles of the boot by pressing outward with a hand inside the boot and pressing the tape into the wrinkles with the other hand on the outside of the boot.  When I was able to lay the pieces evenly next to each other, it didn't look too bad:

The hard part was hitting the curves, where the tape can't just be laid side by side in rows:

So I would fill the blank spaces with shorter pieces of duct tape trying to sync the purple lines as best I could.  I also made a boundary near the bottom edge with little pieces of duct tape so that when I cut the bottom edges of the long strips roughly with the scissors, the boundary would keep the bottom edge looking clean:

Unfortunately it was really challenging to match even just the purple lines around the bottom curve, so the bottom part of the boot definitely has a more collagy look.

Well they may not be perfect, but they lend a fun accent to simple jeans, don't you think?

This project took less about two hours so I give a thumbs up on the fun plaid Duck Tape for this upcycled boot project.  Anybody else have ideas of what I else should duct tape?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Goodwill finds

I was dropping off some donations to Goodwill and, even though I didn't need anything, I checked it out as well. And I scored. Now I don't usually swing by the men's section but since I had some downtime, I cruised the racks and found this:

Anybody follow Big 12 football in the late 90s? Dat Nguyen was one of the most decorated linebackers in the Big 12 at the time and obviously at Texas A&M. His story is not only a success story of a son of Vietnamese immigrants but also one of breaking perceptions and stereotypes. He was perceived too small to be a linebacker but ended up excelling at Texas A&M (where some of his records still stand) and was a great player to watch. As an Asian-American, it was exciting to watch a standout Asian American athlete in a sport where, frankly, there were (and are) very few that even play. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys where he was also a successful linebacker until he retired with a neck injury. I have no idea what this jersey is doing here in Trenton, but at $4, I snatched this piece of awesome history.

I also decided to get these cute boots. They were in great condition and only $2. I figured between me and the girl, they would get some use:

Kind of makes me wonder if anyone gets excited about buying my donations...

Another step towards equality

Yesterday a federal appeals court determined that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. But you know, I could have told them that.

Of course, there will be another round of appeals...to the Supreme Court. That is a big deal--it will pretty much decide the constitutionality of this discriminatory measure nationwide. Bracing myself...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Favorite Productivity apps: DropBox and Genius Scan

Being here in NJ helping my mom with her medical issues and appointments has definitely been a team act with my sister and I have really come to rely on a couple of great productivity apps: Dropbox and Genius Scan, both of which are currently free and are not limited to the iPhone.

Dropbox is a mobile server where I can load up files (documents, photos, mp3s, pdfs, etc.) from my iPhone or PC that I can access from either of them or share links to those files.  It's great to load up say, the French Macaron primer pdf and be able to access it at home on the laptop or at a friends house on the iPhone.  This example shows I obviously have not fully utilized all the efficiencies that this app has to offer but the possibilities are fairly clear.

I came to really put Dropbox to use in conjuction with Genius Scan on this trip. Genius Scan allows me to "scan" documents with my iPhone camera and save them as pdfs in my Dropbox.  As my sister and I were sharing some of the appointment and follow-up duties, it was handy that I scanned some lab reports (she took the originals with her to fax) with Genius Scan and saved them in my Dropbox.  I was able to e-mail the lab reports and expedite some appointments.  Between the two apps, I'm able to scan and save records and paper work that I'd like to keep a copy of and not have to find a copier to make copies and then carry around a bunch of paper files.  Upgrading to Genius Scan+ (for $2.99) gives you direct upload choices to Dropbox, EverNote, etc., but so far the free version just has the extra step of hitting the "other apps" icon and then selecting Dropbox, Evernote, etc. from there, so I'm totally happy staying with the free version.

Currently you get 2GB of memory on Dropbox for free and you can pay a monthly fee for more space.  Or they offer incentives that earn you more space, like referring friends to Dropbox.  So on that note, if you are interested in Dropbox, help this girl out and use this link: http://db.tt/cJyBd4A  We'll both get an additional 250MB of space if you get it.

Anyhoo, whether personal or for work, both these free apps are pretty handy and easily applicable to a variety of situations.  I highly recommend both--especially since they're both free!

Pic Collage app

Another app that I've been playing around with is the free (currently) Pic Collage app:

What a great way to use a bunch of pix, especially when you can't decide which one is the best (or cutest). So easy to pull in, move, and re-size pictures, though I would thoroughly appreciate it if I could pull in multiple pictures in at a time (rather than one at a time which can get tedious with a lot of pictures I want to include or a camera roll as large as mine) The text feature offers a variety of fonts and colors and there are a variety of background and seasonal "stickers" as well, though I would admit the selection is somewhat limited.

I would really love a way (or template even) to get all pix evenly and neatly laid out (in, uh, a non-collagy way) for those times I do want the whole pictures in. It's kind of difficult to do it by hand on the iPhone screen and definitely looks laid out and re-sized manually:

For a free app, I love it for being a way to share multiple pictures or share the highlights from an event without clicking and sending actual multiple picture files. And in a collage format, you can highlight the meat of the pix by the collage arrangement. If any of this appeals to you, I highly recommend it--it's one of my new favorite apps.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Sunday: Super Bowl 46

For Super Bowl Sunday, I went up to the city to help babysit this cutie while his parents had an appointment:

Is it naughty of me that I thought it was hilarious that he's "holding" my coffee?

Anyhoo, I fell madly in love with my Hipstamatic app all over again today!  Deets on lenses/films are in the caption.  When he woke up, I took him to the playground:

Loftus lens, Pistil film
He enjoyed it much more than holding my coffee.

Loftus lens, Pistil film
Then my sister, Augie, a friend (Colleen), and I grabbed brunch at Maharlika.  This time I had the ilog breakfast with garlic rice, fried egg, and bony milkfish--delicious:

Loftus lens, Pistil film
It was great catching up with Colleen, a friend since Annabelle and her went to college together (hee! do you see the little guy napping in the pic?):

Chunky lens, Pistil film
She's one of those wonderful people with such wonderful positive energy that always puts a smile on my face:

Chunky lens, Pistil film
After brunch, we got geared up for the Super Bowl:

Loftus lens, Pistil film
With moments of contemplation:

Buckhorst H1 lens, DC film
While squeezing in a selfie with Auntie:

Buckhorst H1 lens, Cano Cafenol film
And there was awesome food to be had, including Luke's lobster rolls, chips and dip:

Loftus lens, DC film
And we were thrilled when the Patriots scored a touchdown:

Loftus lens, DC film
Including some high-five celebrations:

Chunky lens, DC film
This guy definitely had a good time and went to bed before the final score, therefore he went to bed happy.

Loftus lens, DC film

Personally I thought the best part of the Super Bowl was the half-time show with Madonna.  That grand entrance, the parkour guys, that wacky tightrope guy, the drum corps, the robed choir, the awesome guest singers--I loved it all.  Kind of made me want to put "Madonna concert" on the bucket list.  I remember having a slight anxiety that the half-time show was going to end any minute now because I was enjoying the show so much.

What disappointed this year were the Super Bowl commercials--I can hardly remember them.  What was with those GE ads?  Am I supposed to buy a turbine?  And those Budweiser, historical, post-prohibition ads did nothing for me though I thought it was a catchy soundtrack on its Eternal Optimism ad to lay Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" vocals over the opening bars of The Cult's "Sanctuary".  And I thought those commercials that tried channeling a "Victoria's Secret Come Alive!" theme were over-the-top to the point of eye-rolling (Fiat and Kia, I'm looking at you--yeesh, are you really expecting an uptick in sales from those ads?)  And good grief, haven't these typical GoDaddy.com commercials of promised unrated girlie material run out of gas by now?

I will admit that the Chevy Sonic ad made me Shazam the song ("We Are Young" by Fun featuring Janelle Monae).  And I've been enjoying the current run of Samsung ads that poke fun at the Apple devotees who are constantly waiting for the latest iDevice and the Super Bowl version was the most lavish version yet.  Other than that, a disappointing Super Bowl ad year.

So on that note, looking forward to next year's Super Bowl!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Five Guys Burgers

My sister came down for a packed 24 hours to help with appointments with our mom. On the way to the train station, she was really craving a burger so we decided to try the Five Guys Burgers that opened up in our town recently. I didn't try the burger but gladly helped with the fries, which were good and crispy. My sister definitely enjoyed the burger and I think we both agreed that Five Guys offers a great value for loaded burgers and good fries. For a regular order of fries, it was a portion that bested most other chains' "large" portion that, despite my efforts on portion control, got the thumbs up from me. And my sister liked the generous variety of toppings (that are all free) for the solid burger.  So thumbs up from the both of us!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ink joy

I was wandering Target on errands and these new Ink Joy pens by Paper Mate caught my eye. They were about $3.50 for each package:

First, the name--Ink Joy--grabbed me alone. As a crafter and scrapper, those two words together just made me want to scribble with them. Second, the ink is smooov. When I tested it out at Target, it was a like a Segway in my hand, the pen just glided across the paper. That said, when I got mine home and started just writing with it, it's almost too smooth and fast. My handwriting can get hard to read if I write too fast. So generally, my handwriting actually benefits from a stickier ink because it forces me to write more deliberately. But I certainly loved the feel of the smooth ink. Guess I should work on my penmanship. Finally, I loved the availability of colors. To find all these colors in ball point (rather than markers) was such fun find for me and the colors are satisfyingly saturated.

The numbers, like the 700RTs and the 300RTs above, stand for the style.  The higher the number, the higher (or fancier, e.g. cushioned grip) the style. RT stands for retractable, which I always prefer to pen and cap (because I inevitably lose the cap).  So far, they've become my new precious pen along with my Seven Year Mustache pen.

They even inspired me to do a little smashing on a plain blank page:

I used all the colors to make my own pattern paper:

Added this cute instax of Velina and Augie together:

A little washi tape and tiny letter stickers to frame them:

And some other tiny embellishments, some journaling, and accenting of some of the hearts with my black 700RT:

A really basic page, but I heart it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthier Microwave Popcorn

My mom was craving a snack and specifically mentioned microwave popcorn, but the stuff available hardly fit her low-sodium needs.  So I did a little research online and decided to try to make a healthier version of microwave popcorn.  The results were impressively healthy, easy, and cheap.  And tasty enough to satisfy my mom's popcorn craving.  Interested?

You'll need some popcorn kernels and brown lunch bags.  For the light butter-ish flavor my mom was craving, I also got some buttery topping/spray.

For a decent 4 cup snacking portion, put 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in the brown lunch bag. You could definitely put 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) in a lunch bag for a larger portion. Some versions online also added 1 tsp of olive oil and some salt to the 1/4 cup of kernels in the bag as well to add flavor, but I stuck with the no-oil version to keep it healthier for my mom:

Fold the top over twice and stand up in the microwave.  In my mom's new 1100 watt microwave, I set it to 2 minutes on HIGH.  The timing varies--it could be done in 80 seconds or a minute and 45 seconds--you'll want to stop it when the popping slows down to about 2 seconds between single pops. Definitely hit stop when you start to smell burned popcorn.

It kind of didn't look like much in the bag:

But when I poured it out, I only had a few unpopped kernels.  I was pleased at how crisp the popcorn was--as crunchy as regular microwave popcorn and I'd say it's crisper than air-popped corn.  Here you could top it with real melted butter and salt, but again, to keep it lighter for my mom, I sprayed the popcorn with some buttery topping/spray and tossed it to kind of spread it evenly. By then, my mom was ready to grab the bowl:

Nutrition-wise (from what I gathered from the label), this 4 cup serving of popcorn was 60 calories, 13 grams of carbs, 0 sugar, less than 1 gram of fat, almost 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 0 cholesterol, and about 20-35 grams of sodium (5 for the popcorn, 15 for 5 "sprays" of buttery topping--though I think I did about 10 squirts).

And bonus! This was much, much cheaper than buying packaged microwave popcorn. That 2 pound sack of popcorn kernels pictured was $2 and will yield over 50 four-cup servings, at about 4 cents each. And that 100 pack of lunch bags was also $2, so at most it's 2 cents at a time (though, since I didn't use any oil, I could see reusing a bag if I was going to pop more than one serving).

So a healthy snack at less than 10 cents a serving. I've said it before: I don't know who is more excited: the fat bastard in me or the cheap one!