Friday, January 29, 2010

Gracie: 'Exploring' the Great Outdoors

We did some yard work last Saturday. I pulled weeds while Dan cleared out the bushes and whatnot. I knew I would have to take breaks because I’m out of shape. So, I grabbed Dan’s camera and placed it on the front porch so that I could shoot pictures whenever something snagged my attention. I wanted to practice taking pictures with his camera because someday I will inherit the camera (without the lenses).

I got tired of pulling weeds and quit. I then decided to shoot pictures of Gracie. What I didn’t realize was that I was using a wide angle lens. But still, most of the pictures I took came out pretty good. I’m real pleased with the pictures – it was hard to weed through them all to pick a few to use here.

Here she is on the front step being a very good kitty. The thing about Gracie is that she can’t stand to be apart from us. She is also brave and stubborn. It was a blustery day and yet, she still was out there with us. She’s also a camera hog. In other words, she’s not shy nor does she let the camera itself bother her. This makes taking pictures of her easier than one would think.

She takes her time before moving forward with most things. She’s a cautious but curious creature. Here she is doing something I rarely let her do – come down below the step. But, she was just dying to explore the debris Dan put there. With both Dan and I out there, and a leash to slow her down some, I felt that just this once, it was okay to let her explore just a tad. I’m so glad I did. You’ll see why soon.

It looks like Gracie is meowing here. In reality, she had just sniffed the leaves in front of her and smelled something really good.

Cats have a second sensory gland located in roof of the mouth. By leaving their mouth open and breathing in air deeply, they let the odor go over that sensory gland to get more sense of the smell. It can be an amusing look because they can look so offended or disgusted. But in reality, they are probably enjoying themselves.

At the time I snapped the above picture, something caught Gracie’s attention; she started to go towards the landscaped area to the right. I stopped taking pictures, looked at her and firmly told her “NO”. She promptly sat her butt down and looked all innocent. Yeah right.

Here she is when something in the bush above her caught her attention. As you can see from the expression on her face that she was just dying to see/smell whatever it was that got her attention. And yet, she knew she couldn’t move much further because I was watching and wouldn’t let her go…

She starts to stretch up as high as she could go. And…

proceeded to stand up. The amazing thing about Gracie is that she can balance herself on her hind legs for a long, long time.

She can move about all the while and not lose her balance. At this point, she did let her front paw down to shift her butt a little and then…

up she goes once again to investigate some more.

And, higher up she goes.

I had to quietly move my position a tad after shooting this picture because she had gotten up even higher up into the bushes – I could no longer snap pictures showing her cute little face.

There she is; high in the bushes.

And, higher still. Amazing!

She had gotten her fill of whatever she was exploring soon after this shot and then proceeded to head towards me.

I love this shot that I managed to snap of her – she looks so intense or intent upon something she spied on the ground. It was probably a leaf because it was a blustery day – anything that moves always catches her attention.

Here’s another shot of her with enjoying the smells from the leaves to her right.

I quit taking pictures of her soon after this point because 1) it was approaching lunchtime and 2) it was time to clean up and go in. So, I made her go back into the house. We had been out there maybe two hours.

Tired and Happy Kitty.

I found Gracie in the office, on this box, completely out of it. She didn’t stir much when I came back in with the camera to shoot a picture of her. She was out for HOURS.

Note: I tried to limit myself to using 15 pictures. But, I ended up using 16. I had to include the last shot – I couldn’t help myself. :-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why? Why did I do it?

Why? Why did I do it? Why did I step inside Michaels yesterday? After I finished running errands, I decided to go inside that place and just look around for crafting ideas. I wasn’t going to get a single thing. Yeah right.

I have to admit that stepping inside the store made me feel like I was home – at peace. I really enjoyed roaming the place – it has changed a lot since I last stepped inside. The cross-stitch section is smaller; but, the beading section is larger and so much nicer. I didn’t pick up a single item.

Until, I saw the Clearance section. Great – just what I needed.

In case you don’t know it, I am a frugal gal. I am a devoted follower of Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”. I do try to budget, use coupons, etc., & etc. I have a lot of self discipline in the area of spending. I rarely shop these days because I want to avoid temptations.

I have a confession. I absolutely LOVE clearance sections. I was moseying around up this particular aisle in Michaels and managed to resist all temptations. Until...

Beads (Single)

I came upon some beads. (The price was actually $1.99 - not $2.99) These weren’t you average el cheapo beads. I’m real picky when it comes to beads (and other crafting products). These were very nice…

How could I resist? What’s a girl to do?

01/26 Michael's Beads

I ended up getting ALL of these. Sigh.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen (Tomato Sauce for Pizza)

I don’t know if anyone knows; but, it’s awfully fun cooking with your spouse. There is just something about it just makes one feel closer to the other. And, it can be downright fun, not to mention sexy. I love it when Dan joins me in the kitchen. Because of him, I’m slowly becoming a confident cook and enjoying the process.

It used to be that if something flops, I would feel awful and a failure. And, I wouldn’t try it again. But, Dan has slowly convinced me that it’s okay to fail – It is how we learn. So now, when something flops, I just toss it all away, review the instructions, and try again. When something finally comes out right, I feel pleased and sometimes, triumphant.

We have been cooking something together every weekend. It could be something old, a standby, like the tomato sauce we made last Sunday for pizza. Or, it could be something new – from a recipe book or from a “foodie” blog.

It was different this time in the kitchen. You see, I have been sending Dan some links to foodie blogs that had what I thought were good recipes. Some of those foodie blogs are downright cool – they (blog authors) would take and post pictures that explain the process of making a recipe.

I think, over time, he decided he wanted to try taking pictures in the kitchen. So, this past Sunday, the kitchen was turned into a studio and he snapped and snapped pictures – about 77 in all. Many of the pictures turned out great! It’s so hard to pick and choose amongst them all. (Using the old fashioned word, “amongst”, gives me such a delicious rush. :-)

I actually had a blast! I think Dan did too.


The recipe for the tomato sauce comes from an out of print book called “Book of Pizza” by Louise Love and Sassafras Enterprises, Inc. This book originally came with two pizza pans. We started trying the recipe for the sauce and dough. It turned out amazing with a few adjustments.

We then started having annual pizza parties at the house which gradually ended due to the fact that our lives and the lives of family and friends became so busy and hectic (I had gone back to school and the kids were growing up).


As you can see, this book is well used with the splatters from the tomato sauce. Yes, I’m a messy cook. But, I do try to keep things clean. :-)


Cast of characters including extras (a spoon and a favorite knife) that didn’t want to stay out of the picture.

Let me tell you that we had the toughest time trying to find canned Italian plum tomatoes here in San Antonio. We finally found some at Whole Food Market. We decided to go with the brand shown; but, I think I will try the “San Marzano” brand next time as I wasn’t quite pleased with this one for some odd reason I can’t place my finger on.


Chop up the onions…


Peel and chop up the garlic cloves…


Measure out the spices (basil, tarragon, and oregano). Isn’t this an amazing picture?!?! He managed to capture spices flying up in the air while I was tapping the spice jar. I told you that I’m a messy cook. :-)


And, don’t forget the brown sugar… We cut ours in half as we didn’t like the sweetness of the original sauce recipe.


Add oil to a sauce pan and heat it until hot… Another amazing picture – I didn’t think this was possible…


Add the onions and garlic and cook until transparent.


Crush the tomatoes. Let me tell you, this is a fun part – getting your hands “dirty”. Make sure you have a towel nearby. The recipe says to chop the tomatoes with spoon; but, I find doing this by hand is so much more efficient not to mention quicker.

And oh, I forgot to “cover” the first tomato with my hand and squeeze it gently. I had squeezed rather too quickly and the juices of it went flying everywhere. Some even landed on Dan’s jeans (he was about two feet away at the time). Oops! I told you that I’m a messy cook. :-)


Add the spices, rubbing them between the palms of your hands before letting them drop into the pan.


Add the salt… And oh, add a few grinds of pepper – I forgot to do that this time around…


Add the sugar...


and a can of tomato paste. Stir it all in.


This is what it looks like. Let it simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. After it’s cooked, take it off the heat and let cool…


This is what it’ll look like after it’s cool…


So thick and chunky. Some people like their sauce this way. However I do not…


So, out comes the boat motor and I attack it with a vengeance. Actually, I was gentle as I didn’t want to scratch the pan. :-)


The final product…

I usually split it up into three or four baggies and freeze all but one. By doing it this way, I can just grab a baggie out in the morning of pizza night (Tuesdays for us) to thaw out.

Here’s a tip if you are alone and don’t have a partner to help you do this:


Grab a glass. Grab a corner of the baggie. Shove it into glass. Roll the top of baggie outside of glass. Spoon tomato sauce into the glass...


Once you have the portion of tomato sauce you want in the baggie, remove baggie from glass, squeeze the air out of it and zip it up! You’re done!

Added May 2010: Fun in the Kitchen II (Pizza Dough)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How "Unfocused!" Came Into Being

Some of my friends on facebook (and elsewhere) have asked if I would blog. With the addition of all the gaming strangers on my facebook profile, I realized the notices of new “notes” could get lost in the “live feed” if my friends have many “friends” of their own. The same thing happens with notices on pictures.

One day, while Instant Messaging with Dan, I jokingly told him that I thought I had ADD or ADHD because I would start one task, get distracted, and start another. He asked if I was hyperactive. I said no; but, my mind is! He then replied with “you’re just unfocused”. I immediately had an epiphany – “Unfocused!” would be the name of my blog.

I received an email from a friend several days ago and she was asking about me. It has been eons since we’ve updated one another on life and she is one of many friends I have that are not on facebook. However, they’re online. I then realized that they could get updates on what’s happening in my life if I blogged.

And now, with my life looking up, and with having fun in the kitchen and elsewhere with Dan, I decided to just go for it. I don’t know the details, the direction, of this blog yet. I also don’t know how often I’ll write.

If you’re an avid blog reader like me, you could use a web-based aggregator program, such as Google Reader, to keep up with all the blogs you visit just by subscribing to (inputting) the RSS (or Atom) feeds. I use Google Reader; but, there are other programs out there. I don’t have to go to each and every blog just to see if a new post exists. Google Reader takes care of that for me.

So, here you have it: the first post!

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