Monday, August 24, 2009

(Crafty) Nerd Alert

Here's some crafty/geeky stuff I working on! Some of it is really cute, and I wanted to share it. Let's go in order of completion, shall we?

First up: this is a cross-stitch I'm working on of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly character from Breakfast at Tiffany's. I just started working on it, which is why there's been so little progress. I found the pattern in the Craftster forums (an excellent place to go for ideas and inspiration, I might add). I'm doing the piece in various shades of blue, and if it turns out well it'll be a Christmas gift for a friend of mine. She loves Audrey, and already has a painting of her hanging in her daughter's room. Fingers crossed!

This hat is another project I'm working on for someone else, and I need to get it finished relatively soon. It's going to be a viking beanie (I still need to crochet and stuff the horns on the sides) for my friend Casey. Dragon*Con is coming up, and this year I'm going to be in the parade! A whole group of us are, actually, and we'll be representing the Periodic Table. (There's a Facebook group if anyone else is going and doesn't have a parade costume yet - we still have elements available!) Casey's going as "Thorium," so I talked her into dressing like Thor by offering to crochet her a viking helmet. I found this pattern on etsy, the home of awesome stuff.

Next up is the only thing I'm currently working on for myself. Anyone else a Doctor Who fan? I recently fell in love with the newest incarnation (thank you, Netflix streaming video!) starring David Tennant. I haven't been able to catch up with the older series (yet), but I decided to go ahead and make this anyway. It's a scarf based on the one worn by Tom Baker during the 12th season of the original Who series. The pattern is available online if you'd like to give it a go as well. I've been working on this thing off-and-on for MONTHS. It's an easy stitch, so I usually pick it up and knit a few rows while I'm watching TV. You can't really tell from the picture, but it's already longer than I am tall (5'5") and it's probably one-third to one-half finished. I was hoping to have it done in time for Dragon*Con, but I really doubt that'll happen. Next year, maybe...

This little guy is another Who-inspired creation. He's an adipose baby, which if you watch the show you know is basically an anthropomorphic blob of fat. But isn't he cute? He's a birthday gift for a friend of mine. I bought enough fabric to make 4 or 5 (I think), which is good because I've already started making another one for my BFF and one to keep for myself. I got the pattern for him from the Crafty Tardis livejournal community. I'm pretty sure you have to be a member to see the pattern posts, but it's well worth joining if you're interested in this kind of stuff. Next I might make a sonic screwdriver out of Sculpy! Or just buy one from ThinkGeek when they get some back in stock.

Last, but not least, we have The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Made. Srsly. I saw this in an episode of Futurama a few years ago and always thought it was a funny/geeky take on the "Home Sweet Home" sampler. My friend Jay recently bought a house, and seeing as we met in a computer class back in 6th or 7th grade, I thought this was pretty much the best housewarming gift I could make for him.

Your turn! Do you have any craft projects you'd like to share or patterns you think I'd like? Post 'em in the comments.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: Fables #12: The Dark Ages

Title: Fables #12: The Dark Ages
Author: Bill Willingham
Illustrators: Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: August 2009
Collects Issues: 76 - 82
Pages: 192
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge
Awards: Fables has won 12 Eisner Awards so far

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The great war between Fabletown and the mighty empire of the Adversary is over, and the victorious free Fables have brought their defeated enemy back from the Homelands to join them in exile. Their celebrations, however, are destined to be short-lived. As it turns out, not even beloved storybook heroes can escape the law of unintended consequences. In the post-war chaos of the Adversary's former realm, a terrible force is about to be unleashed - an evil that threatens not just Fabletown but the entire mundane world.
My review: I was a bit worried about how Willingham et al would keep the Fables story going after ending the big bad war in War and Pieces. My fears turned out to be completely unjustified, as this was an amazing (albeit sad) book and perfectly set up the next great arc in the Fables saga.

Fair warning: SPOILERS to follow. I'll try not to give away the big ones, though.

The book opens with Geppetto being escorted around Fabletown by Pinocchio, who's trying to get him adjusted to life after ruling the Empire. Not everyone is happy with the newest Fabletown resident, but I thought it was interesting to hear Geppetto's side of the story. He believed he was acting for the greater good, so sacrificing a few thousand lives was worth it, because in the long run he saved billions, or so he claims... Now that the Fables have taken him out of power, he believes the other worlds will suffer even more.

Geppetto's warnings seem to have merit, though, as back in a recently-freed-from-the-Emperor-land a pair of marauders unknowingly release a very powerful new enemy. This new adversary wants revenge on the Fables for taking away his magic and using it themselves, and he means business. The Fables are forced to evacuate The Woodland and move upstate to the Farm after the magic spells holding their community together begin to crumble. Baba Yaga comes back, and although she didn't get to do much in this book I'm curious to see what havoc she'll wreck in the next one. Even Frau Totenkinder is scared!

The main purpose of this book seemed to be setting up the new big bad and the next event in the Fables series: The Great Fables Crossover (with Jack of Fables, an offshoot of this series that I also really enjoy)*. The other big part of the story was the death of a character (one of my personal favorites) that brought up questions of what happens to the Fables when they die. We've seen some come back (there are always three little pigs, for example, and Snow White managed to survive a gunshot to the head), so I'm hoping this character will reappear at some point, too. But it was still an emotional arc and really made me question just how great a surgeon Dr. Swineheart is. He seemed like a bit of a pompous jerk, actually, but that could've just been me projecting because of the way he was treating said beloved character.

There was also a smaller mini-story that dealt with Mowgli returning to a jungle world with Bigby's brothers that was a bit more light-hearted and I nice diversion from the darkness in the rest of the book. Oh, and Flycatcher's back! That was one of my grumbles with volume 11, so it was nice to have him back...even if he is still clueless about his relationship with Red Riding Hood.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

* I read Fables and Jack of Fables in trade format, so I haven't had a chance to read the crossover stuff yet. My friends who have read it were less than thrilled with the resolution, but I'm still looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it won't be out in trade format until NEXT FEBRUARY. Sigh.

Zombie Chicken Award

The wonderful Care has bestowed upon me the honor of a Zombie Chicken Award. Thanks, Care!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

My five worthy bloggers are: Ali at Worducopia, Veens at Giving Reading a Chance, Laza at Gimme More Books!, Staci at Life in the Thumb, and Andi at Tripping Toward Lucidity. These ladies are amazing and if you're not reading them regularly, you should check them out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Hot and Sour Soup

Today's recipe is a bit late (sorry!) and it has WAY more ingredients than I normally bother with, but it is so delicious. Hot and Sour Soup is one of my mom's Chinese restaurant favorites and she asked me to make this for her a few weeks ago. I divided it up into 1-cup servings and froze the soup in individual plastic bowls (saved from Chinese takeaway) so she could pull them out one-at-a-time and heat them up whenever she wanted some.

* 8 shiitake mushrooms
* 3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
* 4 oz white mushrooms, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 4 oz extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, drained and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 1/4 cup carrots, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
* 3 Tbs rice vinegar
* 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
* 2 tsp Splenda
* 1/4 tsp black pepper
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
* 2 Tbs cornstarch
* 3 Tbs water
* 1 egg white, lightly beaten
* 1 tsp sesame oil

Cut the stems off of the shiitake mushrooms and cut them into thin slices. Put the broth, shiitakes, white mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, and carrots in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, Splenda, black pepper, and red pepper. Cook for another minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the water and add this mixture to the soup. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken. While stirring, slowly add the egg white to the soup and cook until the egg turns white. Remove the saucepan from heat and add in the sesame oil. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Die, spam bots!

Sigh. I've dealt with the occasional comment spam every once in a while since I started posting here. But I just got hit again, and I'm sick of going through old posts and deleting them. So I've decided to turn on word verification. Sorry for any annoyance/inconvenience, but this will keep me from going crazy. Hopefully!

Recipe Tuesday: Basil Peach Sangria

The diet's done - time to celebrate with a drink! This is a recipe modified from Not Martha and Epicurious.

1 cup basil, plus a few sprigs for garnish
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar
3 cans peach nectar
1 bottle dry white wine
2 peaches, chopped
ginger ale

Put the 1 cup basil, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan. Bruise the leaves by pressing on them with a wooden spoon. Add two cans of the peach nectar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Strain the mixture into a heat-proof container and discard the leaves. After it cools, add in the remaining can of nectar, wine, chopped peaches, and basil sprigs. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve over ice. I cut it with ginger ale to help counter the syrupy-ness, but you can drink it by itself as well. Yum!

#gameondiet Challenge Wrap-Up

Today was the final weigh-in for my Game On! diet, and all I can say is, "Thank God!" I enjoyed playing this game. It was definitely a challenge, and definitely different from every other diet I've tried. I only ended up losing about 5 pounds, but I hope I've made some lifestyle changes that will enable me to lose more.

Things I liked about the challenge:
* Drinking lots of water. This was an easy part of the challenge; I normally drink unsweetened tea or water anyway. I never felt bloated or thirsty (except maybe after exercising) and my skin has really improved over the past month. I don't know if that's because of the water or not, but it certainly didn't hurt.
* Eating smaller meals throughout the day. I wasn't hungry all the time, because I felt like I was constantly eating! But I also ate less at each meal, so I didn't end up feeling full and lazy for a few hours.
* The good habit/bad habit changes. The good habits I decided to pick up were flossing every day and taking my vitamins. I did two, because these were things I really knew I needed to do. I don't eat red meat, so I took an iron supplement in addition to my women's multi-vitamin. Hopefully this has helped with my anemia. And for the bad habit, I stopped going to fast food restaurants. I have no idea how much money this saved me, but I can bet it's a lot!
* Doing the challenge with a friend. Having Brandi around really helped - we walked together in the mornings and commiserated over our wonky food plans daily. I probably didn't need the excuse to talk to her, but it was nice to have someone to talk to about the diet and my frustrations.

Things I didn't like:
* Drinking lots of water. Yeah, it's a double-edged sword. Drinking all the water also meant that I had to, um, get rid of it as well. I can't tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night to stumble to the bathroom.
* Eating smaller meals throughout the day. This was another good/bad aspect - I felt like I was constantly eating, which meant that I sometimes had to eat even when I wasn't really hungry. Plus, it was kind of a pain to plan my life around food.
* Eating protein at every meal. I'm a vegetarian, so this meant I was eating a lot of soy, cheese, and fish. Not terrible, but sometimes I just wanted a little variety. I did discover a love for Greek yogurt, though, which counted as a protein and served as a base for many a smoothie. So this wasn't all bad.
* Fresh fruits and vegetables. Let me explain: I have nothing against them, per se. I love fresh fruits and vegetables! But buying them all the time got really expensive (and probably canceled out whatever money I was saving by not eating fast food). Plus, they went bad really fast. I bought a couple of peaches one week and had finished all but one when I went to Atlanta for a few days. I put it in one of those Debbie Meyers Green Bags (which usually work), but when I came home it had molded and I was suffering from an infestation of fruit flies. Gross.* Not entirely the diet's fault, but it's something I associate with it nonetheless.
* The alcohol penalty. Oh, man. This one was huge for me. If you didn't lose 1% of your weight one week, you lost alcohol privileges for the rest of the game. I lost them after the first week, and it really sucked. I'm not an alcoholic or anything, but I do spend a far amount of time socializing in bars with my friends and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with my dinner. This penalty made me miserable, and I really don't think it helped that much because after that first week with no alcohol I didn't have any significant weight loss. Le sigh.

So, will I be doing this again? Eh, we'll see. I'm definitely going to keep up with the daily exercise (Brandi and I walk three miles almost every morning!) and the good habits. I've learned to read my body a bit better, so I'll probably continue to eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep myself from feeling hungry and deprived. I have a permanent place in my fridge for Greek yogurt (those smoothies make a great quick, easy meal!). I think the biggest thing I learned is moderation. Today, for instance, I know I'm going to be having a big dinner (with beer!), so I'm going to eat less for the rest of the day. Brandi and I talked about recruiting some more teachers into our next challenge, but I'm going to wait and see what our schedules are like when the school year starts.

Oh, and I totally kicked Brandi's ass at this thing. :) We had a lot riding on it - a car wash, morning duty (teachers are assigned an area of the school to patrol every month), balloons, a trophy, flowers, and a haiku written in the winner's honor - so I'm super-psyched. I would've enjoyed a bit more weight loss, but now that I've started I'm pretty sure I can continue losing even without the challenge. :)

* If you ever have to deal with these annoying little pests, here's what you do: roll a piece of paper into a cone shape, tape it together, and snip off the tip so you have a funnel. Put some cider or balsamic vinegar in a glass, and tape the funnel (cone side down) onto the rim. Make sure the tip of the funnel doesn't touch the vinegar, and make sure there are no gaps between the rim of the glass and the paper. The fruit flies will fly down the funnel to get to the vinegar, but they won't be able to fly out again! When I first read this (after Googling "getting rid of fruit flies"), I was like, "Yeah, right! How stupid are fruit flies? Do they not know how to fly back out through the hole in the funnel?" The answers are: "Very, apparently," and "Nope!" You have to make sure you toss the vinegar and paper funnel daily, though, because they will lay eggs and you don't want to have to deal with even more of the little suckers. The good news is, fruit flies only have a ten day lifespan, so you shouldn't have to deal with them for too long. *Cue "The More You Know" music*