Monday, June 21, 2010

In Search Of ...

It's the solstice, we're in Key West, and it's raining. *sigh* I have been searching for the perfect Cuban sandwich now that Chicharrones has closed, without much luck.

UPDATE 6/26/2010: although I didn't try this one until we were packed up, leaving Key West, and grabbing food for the road, and despite me not asking to have our sandwich made without mayo (ick, and not Cuban either), I have found the (otherwise) perfect Cuban sandwich at the Cuban Coffee Queen! So it's fresh fish from Eaton Street Seafood Market, and Cuban sandwiches from the Cuban Coffee Queen as our two best new discoveries on this trip to Key West.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poor Sleep

Let me tell you why I didn't get enough sleep the night before our trip. I was asleep, in our bed for once (instead of next to Cale). I was partly awake, idly noticing how shallowly I breathe when I'm (mostly) asleep. I heard a deep sigh, so after a moment I woke up enough to roll over to pat Daddy's shoulder. Nope, no Daddy. OK, who was breathing heavily in my bedroom? That's freaky, so I was suddenly awake.

What's the first thing a mom will do in that case? Check on her babies. So my next discovery was that Cale was not in his bed! I was now wide awake. Really, really, really wide awake.

Hoping for the best, with my eyes better adjusted to the dark now, I went back to our bedroom to look for Cale. I found him in our bedroom asleep on boppy next to the rocking chair. Apparently he woke up at night, came in our bedroom (looking for me?), and decided to sleep on the floor instead of waking me up. I had trouble falling back to sleep after that much worry, though.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Travel Toys

I just printed one of the cars at to try my hand at the assembly. If it's not too bad, I think this is probably a great way to bring toy cars on a trip! (Like we're about to take, so we're packing toys that are fun, but not so precious that there will be tears if any one is left behind.) Just think about, first a kid colors the car, then (older kids than mine, or parent) cuts it out and assembles, and then plays with the car! I'm glad you can find anything on the web nowadays.

The Elliptical Problem

Last week when I was on the elliptical to do a little cardio exercise after the kids went to bed (and I remembered again last night), I realized why I don't love it the way I expected. Keep in mind that I've had osteoarthritis in my knees for the past 24 years! The person who assured me that an elliptical trainer is easy on the knees (granted it doesn't have the impact of running) is almost 10 years younger. After a minute on the elliptical even at low resistance, my knees are burning, but I haven't broken a sweat. I do not love my elliptical because it's a workout for my knees long before it's a workout for my lungs. I don't like feeling my knees burn; it can lead to a bout of tendonitis. Most non-machine cardiovascular exercise is limited by my lungs. I do like getting in a quick blast of cardio, but the treadmill is so boring. My natural running pattern is to run a little faster when I can breathe, and to run a little slower when I want to catch my breath. Treadmills are best for longer patterns of uniform speeds than how I run. So nothing cardio beats lacing up my sneakers and heading out the door for a run. Which I would do, but it's 94 stinking degrees with humidity ...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I always love it when my crazy ideas end up being easy to implement. I'm using version 3.1.3 beta of mGSD (a custom TiddlyWiki for GSD), and I don't actually know Javascript. I like the provided dashboards, but most of my work (this reflects my actual job) is a bunch of actions that are rarely bundled into projects so many of the consolidated views hide, not highlight, what I need to do.

I started with the "Projects Dashboard" tiddler but I wanted to order actions by Area (since my tasks do fall into general areas, just not projects). Basically I changed:

  • Project to Action
  • Active to Next
  • Someday/Maybe to [[Waiting For]]

Then I added a copy of Someday/Maybe, but changed to Future. I called it "Action Dashboard by Area" and ta-da! it's exactly what I wanted. That's how I think about what I need to do. Yes, my job really is that all-over-the-place, it is not easily categorized, and it is not well-organized except by me for me.

Here's the new tiddler I'm using:



<<mgtdList title:'Next Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Next && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Next Action'




<<mgtdList title:'Pending Actions' startTag:Action tags:'[[Waiting For]] && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Waiting For Action'


<<mgtdList title:'Future Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Future && !Complete' view:Action mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Future Action'



<<mgtdList title:'Completed Actions' startTag:Action tags:'Complete' view:ActionComplete mode:global



        newButtonTags:'Action Active Complete'





I also really like that I can use Realms to hide what isn't relevant in mGSD. I use three Realms, Work, Home, and School, and I prefer to hide the ones that aren't what I should be doing right now.

I just love it when a useful change that could be a bear (what with not knowing Javascript) ends up being easy!

UPDATE 06/11/2010: I just created a "Tickler Dashboard by Area" by copying the "Tickler Dashboard by Contact" tiddler to that name (using same tags) and changed the two lines that said group:Contact into group:Area. I liked that so much, I added it (just the <<mgtdList ... >> parts) to this "Action Dashboard by Area" so I have one view of everything as long as my tasks don't overflow my screen!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cherry Jam and Fruit Pectin

At some point while I was cooking for (around) Cale's food allergies, I crossed a threshold to another level of kitchen skills. Call it kitchinvincible. I had never before considered making my own crackers, but now that I've made some a couple of times, I know crackers are both easy to make and mindless munchingly good! The latest notch is jam and preserves.

I have a pin cherry tree in my back yard, leaning over the deck. I tend to avoid highly specialized tools, like a cherry pitter, except when those tools could get a lot of use. Having a cherry tree has been a good reason to have a cherry pitter. The first or second summer we lived here, I made two cherry pies from the output. The cherry pies tasted great, but I have to admit that my homemade cherry pie filling tasted just like commercial cans of cherry pie filling, at least as best as I can remember. The other six years, the squirrels or the birds have eaten the cherries before they were ripe enough for us to pick them. This year, I said squirrels in the tree should be shot on sight with the BB gun (which just hurts). It worked! I've already picked as many cherries this year as all previous years combined, and the tree needs more picking even just on the branches I can reach without a ladder. However, pin cherries aren't sweet ... or tart ... they're sour! So I needed a recipe with enough added sugar to make pin cherries palatable. Like jam.

I started with Ball Freezer Fruit Pectin. This pectin was, by far, the easiest to use. 4 cups of cherry purée, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 package of Ball Freezer Fruit Pectin. Mix the purée with the sugar, let stand 5 minutes. Mix the pectin in that for 3 minutes. Pour into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headroom, then pop in the freezer. So easy! The taste is fantastic! I wouldn't mess with such a good thing, except I had other pectin on the shelf already, and a lot more cherries.

The next one I tried was Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin. It did have a freezer recipe, but I didn't want to follow it because it called for 3/4 cup added boiling water (likely to crystallize in the freezer) and significantly more sugar. In fact, it called for 2 cups of sour cherries to 4 cups of sugar! Ouch! I could have a sugar crash just thinking about that. Since I knew what proportions tasted good, I ignored the recipe, even knowing that sugar is necessary for pectin to gel. Since I didn't want to dissolve the pectin in boiling water (didn't want to add water), I had to wing it. Let's be honest: I didn't follow the recipe at all, since I ignored the ingredients and the major ratios. I added the pectin to really hot sugared cherry purée. There was no reason for this recipe to work; although it was very slow to gel, it did set overnight in the refrigerator, and it tastes just as good! So I was able to ignore the recipe that came with this pectin, and just squeak by.

The last one I tried was Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin. The included freezer recipe called for dissolving the pectin in 1 3/4 cups hot apple juice before combining with 3 cups of cherry purée. Yeah, I followed the first recipe instead. (Now I'm out of sugar. I don't use it often, but then I go on a run like this cherry spree.) Again I mixed the pectin with hot, sugared purée. I could tell right away that it would set, probably because pectin does like sugar. Same good taste! (Sugar also maintains the bright color of fresh fruit.)

The final analysis on the different varieties of fruit pectin is that I had more flexibility in recipe selection than any of the included directions led me to believe (thankfully!). I prefer the taste of the lowest-sugar (but not sugar-free) recipe, so I made it with all three pectins. The Freezer Pectin was the easiest to use since I didn't have to heat the jam, so it also didn't froth up like the other two. The No Sugar pectin was the next easiest. The regular Fruit Pectin did work just fine, although I did worry about having to reprocess the jam to get it to set, and it did froth up the most. I could tell during the preparation that all three responded differently, but in the end, they all worked too. As expected, I can't taste a difference in pectin brands when pectin is the smallest ingredient. I'll have to make sure all of these are fully set before I decide if I can tell a difference in the final cherry jam textures.