In My Life, I've Loved Them All

Playing in the Kitchen: Quick Garden Salsa

Between our backyard garden and our friendly neighbors’ gardens, we’ve been getting a lot of pretty, fresh vegetables… especially jalapenos and bell peppers. So after lots of chopping and some onion tears, I created this:

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Yum Yum! There wasn’t a specific recipe, I just went from the memmory of past dips. :)
Here’s the ingredients, from the bottom of the bowl up, stiring after each addition:
1/4 cup olive oil
3-5 gloves of garlic, minced
5-7 jalapenos, minced
2-3 tsp cumin
2 tbls Lime Juice
Splash of red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 can diced tomatos, drained and cut into small chunks
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kernel corn, drained
Mix well, cover, and let sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors blend. Adjust seasonings to your taste :D

A skein is a terrible thing to waste: Learning How to Knit

While cleaning my room/organizing my living space this weekday-weekend (my days off rarely fall on a Saturday-Sunday), I realized I have a lot of space-hogs. One is my VHS movie collection. Another major culprit is YARN.

Apparently I have lots of yarn… 2 big Rubbermaid plastic storage bins full. And then I got ANOTHER huge plastic bin full from my Grandmother. Yarn may seem like a random thing to “collect,” but for a crafter, it’s hard to buy just one skein. There are SO MANY different colors and textures and weights and brands… you think “I can make something out of this… someday.”

Two of the obvious things to do with yarn: knit and crochet. I learned how crochet my sophomore year of college, and after a few swatches I went nuts and bought all the yarn necessary for a blue stripped ripple afghan. It’s a really beautiful afghan, or at least the 3 or so feet of it I have done so far. Lesson learned: big pieces take a LONG time… which should seem obvious seeing as you are doing them one little stitch at a time. In the mean time I’ve made some smaller/more manageable items like baby hats, baby blankets, baby booties, and several scarves.

Though not an expert, I feel like I have a handle on crochet… but for some reason never picked up knitting. What was I afraid of? Two needles at once and confusing patterns? I asked my mom why she’d really only introduced me to crochet… turns out she used to do both, but like the way her crochet turned out better, so she just stuck with that. I feel like I should at least try knitting for a little bit, and see which one I like better. And it’s a project I already own all the supplies for, woo hoo!

I’m teaching myself how to knit the way I teach myself how to do a lot of things: reading and watching things on the internet. YouTube isnt just for random funny videos… it is chock-full of on how-to videos on how to do just about anything… which is perfect for visual learners like me :D

Here is the Best Video I came across for “Casting On” your stitches (English Method):

Here is a Good one to watch to learn how to do the “Knit” stitch or “Garter” Stitch:

Here is a Good one to watch to learn how to do the “Purl” stitch:

That’s it. Those are the only 2 stitches there are in Knitting. It makes knitting sound so easy… I can knit anything.. right?! Technically, I probably could eventually, but there are so many “additional techniques” to create beautiful things out of yarn, that I may need more than YouTube videos to get the hang of them. So for now, I think I am going to start on the knit/purl scarf route :) (i.e. big long rectangles) Unfortunately, in TX, scarf season doesn’t last too awful long :|

Here is on of the cool projects I want to try once I get the swing of things: A Binary Scarf :D Centuries old craft meets modern technology. Nice.


Sew what?? A bag and a bear!

September is National Sewing Month! But you already knew that, right. :/ I found out via a Joann’s Fabrics email. If you cant find a Happy Sewing month cards at Hallmark, you could always make one yourself :D

My last weekend was originally supposed to be 4 days, but turned into 6 days off… leaving me plenty of free time to do some productive type things and pull out the sewing machine too. The procrastinator in me is very impressed that I could get a jump start on some holiday gifts… and heres a couple projects I did for myself. I have a little less guilt watching TV when I am making something at the same time :)

sewing project

I made this bear while watching the America’s Got Talent finale. It’s technically from a pattern I found online, but doesn’t resemble the original photo of the project, oops. I used one of my favorite old shirts from High School (aka no longer fits, no longer in style, but hard to let go). People say he kind-of looks like a gummy bear.

Bear in a Chair

Blue Bear

Me and my new BagThis is a bag I have been meaning to construct for a while (please excuse my awkard stance and baggy jeans :| ). This summer the DIY website ThreadBanger held T-Shirt Madness, a T-shirt reconstruction contest. I had this idea and wanted to enter it, but being the procrastinator I am, the idea remained in my head until long after the contest was over. :|

First I took the boxy-ist of boxy shirts I had in my Good-Will/donateable pile. Seriously, think big rectangle with sleeves. Inspired by the competition, I really wanted to make something out of a shirt that still resembled a shirt, not just something out of knit fabric. The easiest and most logical part was to sew the bottom closed. I used the reinforced-stretcy stitch, and then boxed out the corners to give my new bag an actually bottom and sides. The neck hole is obviously the opening to the bag, and it slouches over enough I didn’t add a button or zipper or anything.

Turning the sleeves into handles was not as simple as you’d think. Just tying them together at the top made the bag hang funny on my arm on the shirt would fold almost in half on itself a.k.a UGLY. When you think about it, a shirt’s sleeves extend horizontally from the body, but a bags straps should extend vertically from the body. So, after several experiments with safety pins and folding, I figured out a way to make 3 folds and sew one seam per arm to get a natural up-and-down look to the sleeve. Woo Hoo!

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I’m not sure how strong this bag is, but I’m sure it’ll hold up fine for light groceries, craft projects on-the-go, or taking my lunch to work. Eventually I’ll add something to it/paint something on it to make it a little less plain. But for now… YAY, New Bag!

t shirt bag

t shirt bag

8 Years ago

NYC: September 11, 2004
Manhattan/Financial District as seen from Hoboken, NJ
September 11, 2004

It’s weird living in Texas on September 11th. Texas itself isn’t to blame. It just feels different, almost inappropriate, on how normal the day feels here. As many of you are aware, I was in Washington DC as a college student on September 11, 2001. I was still living in DC on the 1st and 2nd anniversary, and then New York City for the 3rd and 4th. Both cities where you’re surrounded by people who had a similar experience that day, who can genuinely relate to me and how I feel about the day. They can understand how it is almost hurtful to hear people talk about the events in the abstract, or not even take the date into consideration at all.

I was going to write a new blog, reflecting on my experiences 8 years ago and how they have shaped me into who I am today. But then I read the blog I wrote a year ago, and it still rings true.

September 11, 2008
Hello My Friends,

Many of you have heard this before, but it’s been another year, and I hope this story is worth repeating. I have also made a lot of new friends since last September who probably have not heard the story; it’s not one I talk about often, hardly ever really. I’m not posting this to gain anyone’s sympathy, only to offer some perspective on the events of the day 7 years ago, and maybe a reminder of why things are the way they are today.

I was 20 years old and a sophomore at The George Washington University in Washington DC. It was just supposed to be another day. Get up. Go to class. Hang out with friends; but it turned into the most daunting, panic-stricken, humbling day I hope I ever have to experience. I am eternally grateful to my friends at GW who were there with me that day… you see, we were all 18-20 yrs old, basically just kids, all far far away from home, in the middle of a terrifying ordeal. We couldn’t be with our families, but we had each other. It is hard, if not impossible, to impress upon anyone who wasn’t in NYC or DC that day what it was really like. You can see a million pictures online, hear countless news reports, even watch computer- generated models of the events on Discover Channel Documentaries; but if you weren’t there, you’ll never really know what it was like. The best I think I can do is to repost the email, unedited, I sent out to friends and family back in 2001 (below).

I love my country so much, and to watch the Pentagon burn with my own two eyes just broke my heart. In that instant I knew the world would never be the same. There would be no going back to the way things genuinely used to be. But that’s alright. I am not sad today. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in America, with all of the freedoms our flag represents. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women standing up for these freedoms at home and abroad, so people like me will hopefully never have to experience that kind of fear again.

Thanks for taking a moment to read this. Everyone has their own story, and this is mine.
Take care.

Your Friend,
Cindy


Tuesday, September 11, 2001 10:06 PM EST

Hello Everyone,

I thought it would only be appropriate to document the events of the day, from my perspective. I am writing this for those who are more removed from the actual danger, but also to clear my own head. Read it if you like, don’t read it, I don’t mind. I just need to clear my head.

I had a class at 8am, in which we start the day discussing current events. Ironically, no one had that much exciting to say (clutching at straws, someone brought up that Michael Jordan might return to the NBA, playing for the Washington DC Wizards). When this class ends I walk straight to my 930 Health class. And today enroute I ran into two friends, Sarah and Catherine, who had just finished watching CNN. By that time, the first plane had ran into the world trade center, and as they watched the coverage of the incident, the watched as the second plane crashed into the other tower. Catherine said how we could be next, Washington DC being such a major city. At that point, the full impact of the event did not really take hold, and I continued to class. Ironically, in my health class we discussed how to effectively deal with stress in you life, and also psychological health problems. At 1030, and administrator entered the room and in a calm voice said “just to let you know the school will be closing…” at that point no one in the room really understood what she meant, for we all already knew the school was closing down at the end of the month for the IMF/Worldbank protests. The administrator, noticing our bewildered looks, continued “oh, you don’t know? The Pentagon has been attacked, the Capitol has been attacked and there might be a bomb at the State Department (for your reference, my school is located in the heart of DC, 3 blocks east of the white house, maybe 2 blocks north of the State Department, and the World Bank and IMF buildings actually lie amongst the University buildings…) I walked back to my dorm in a daze and a state of shock, regretting that I was the last student at my school who didn’t have a cell phone and then realized that all cell phone lines were busy anyways so it didn’t really matter.

When I got back to my residence hall, my roommates were already home, and the TV was tuned to CNN. I was in a state of panic, I wasn’t really sure what to do. Information from the news said that there was another plane that was 10 minutes outside of DC, and the White House or Capitol was probably being targeted. I was very distressed… the phone lines were down and I had no way to call and talk to my parents. My roommates and I all packed our backpacks with a few changes of clothes, water, some food and other bare necessities, knowing at any moment my school could be evacuated. I can barely even begin to convey how scary a time this morning was, phone lines down, random information trickling in, and knowing that there was absolutely nothing we could do but sit and wait. So I sat at my computer, IMing the few people that I saw online, in tears as I typed. Since my room is centrally located on campus, several of my friends came and we watched the TV together. My only form of communication was via the internet, but I didn’t really know what to say. The street outside my window was blocked off for they were securing the area around the white house. In the plaza across the street, people were gathered, not knowing really where to go or what to do. Some of my friends considered fleeing to relatives houses in Maryland or Virginia, but all the bridges into the city were being shut down to all traffic except medical personal. We eventually found out that there was no bomb at the State Department, and the plane that was heading toward downtown DC had been diverted (it eventually crashed in Pennsylvania). Eventually, the phone lines started working again, and I was able to talk to my grandmother,my mother and Heath. It really helped to be amongst my friends during this heightened state of emotional trauma.

By about 1pm, my friends and I realized that things had cooled down enough to leave the dorm and go eat lunch at the student center ( the building next-door). There was tight security around the building and we had to show are student IDs, and you could only pay for food with your meal plan points or university debit dollars. The dining area has several large screen TVs, so we continued to watch in horror about the tragedies of the day. Pictures of the Pentagon on fire… my friends and I regularly travel to Pentagon City (only a few stops away on the metro) which is directly across the street… to know that it was attacked was daunting. University counselors were going table to table to talk to students and to let us know their services were available. All of the stress and trauma of the day made me physically ill, and after lunch I returned to my room and slept for 3 hours.

I spent this evening with my friends in another residence hall on the other end of campus. They live on the 12th floor, and you can see a clear view of the Pentagon out their window. You could still see smoke and flames, though the said earlier in the day things were a lot worse… had they been in their room that morning instead of class, they would have clearly seen the plane as it ran into the side of the Pentagon. Together, my friends and I ate pizza and watched the news (they have 3 TVs in their room) and President Bush’s address. It helped a lot to be amongst friends, since none of us were able to be with family at this time. It is all still very daunting.

People are saying this is like a modern day Pearl Harbor, but somehow I think that comparison does not do this situation justice. Though I was not alive back then, you have to remember that the world was already in a state of war, and it was one target, and not to downplay that situation but it was Hawaii… this was an attack on the nations capital and also one of the largest and most prominent cities in America. They say there was actually 11 different targets, fortunately only 2 were reached because the FAA was able to stop all air traffic. Pearl Harbor involved kamikaze planes filled with people ready to die for their cause. The planes today were passenger planes, full of innocent men women and children trying to travel across the country. It makes me sick to my stomach when I realize that the terrorists purposely chose cross country flights because they would be full of fuel and cause the biggest explosions, that they knew they second attack on the trade center would be seen live because of the news covering the 1st plane, that people jumped from the 80th story of the world trade center so they wouldn’t be burned alive. This is all very hard to swallow, and this date will go down in history, ironically today is 911.

I want to express my extreme gratitude to those friends that talked to me this morning via IM, it really helped me to stay grounded amidst the chaos. Thanks for the phone calls and your concerns. Let me reassure all of you that I am alright, a little shaken, but hopefully out of harms way. I hope reading this has helped you in some way to see the events of the day from ground-zero (of sorts)... This whole ordeal puts a new perspective on life as a whole.

Sincerely,
Cindy Campbell


How to go on the St Arnold Brewery Tour

Lets start by stating the obvious. Beer is delicious. And beer should not taste like water. Yes, some people choose to drink beer that tastes like you just dunked your dixiecup in a toilet for one reason or another. But wait, you say… it’s inexpensive, and refreshing, and the commercials are so funny. Seriously? Maybe it tastes so refreshing because it tastes like WATER! Water is refreshing, and most places give you a glass of water for FREE, or you can drink the free kind that comes out of your faucet. And water has ZERO calories… so there’s no fear of getting a water-gut from enjoying some refreshing water. So if you’re going to be drinking something that tastes like water anyway, just drink water. Yes, water wouldn’t give you that happy,relaxing, i need-to-unwind-and-beer-makes-me-happy feeling. To that I say, pay the extra dollar or two and order a real beer with some flavor. And if you dont like the way real beer tastes (i.e. non-water-like), drink something else.

Now that that’s settled… on to the St Arnold tour! St Arnold is a craft brewery here in Houston, Texas. You can go to the official brewery website to find out all about the history of the brewery (a small hobby that grew out of control), the award-winning beer they make (my favorite is Oktoberfest, and when it’s not in season, I highly recommend Brown), and some history about St Arnold himself (yes, he is an official Saint recognized by the Catholic Church).

The website can tell you about the tour too. But to get the unwritten rules on HOW to go on the tour, you need to find someone in-the-know. I think my family qualifies; we’ve been going on the tour since 2006, have several family photos there amongst the kegs and bottling lines, and even went on the 2008 St Arnold “island-crawl” Cruise through the Caribbean. So here are a few insider tips for you about the tour :D

Family on the Website

For starters, it’s not what you’d typically think of as a tour. The tour starts at 1, but plan on getting there early. There will be a line to get in. If you want a seat at a picnic table inside, get there REALLY early. $5 at the door gets you a hand stamp, 4 wooden tokens, and a cute tasting glass to keep.

You also could turn in your tasting glass at the gift shop for a dollar credit towards a St Arnold pint glass. Get a pint glass. Each of your little wooden tokens is good for one beer on tap… so you could get a little tasting glass full, or a pint full… you decide. There are a lot of different glass options, they make lovely souvenirs, and you can bring it back the next time you’re on a tour!




When you arrive, you stand amongst the tanks and listen to a brewery employee talk about beer. The length of the talk usually depends on the employee and the weather (the current brewery is not air conditioned, and Houston can get pretty hot and humid). Sometimes this lasts 15 min and sometimes this lasts 45ish minutes. Be prepared to stand. You’ll hear some of the most interesting facts on how beer is made, how the Brewery grew into what it is today, and essentially why Beer is more complex than wine :D Listening to these talks has made me appreciate beer and what it stands for; how its beverage meant to capture the unique qualities of the region it’s brewed in.

After the talk, it’s time to get in line and turn in your tokens for some tasty beer! Heres another tip from a repeat brewery fan: bring snacks. This is something we always manage to forget/not leave time for on the way to the brewery. But there are ALWAYS the people there who are super prepaired, bring an entire lunch, or some snacks, or cakes… and you just look at them with envy. But we have our own solution to this dilemma (more to come).


The gift shop is conveniently located on the left side of the main bar, and the line also gets you up to the taps to get your beer. So if you don’t plan on buying anything, I recommend going to another line. At the gift shop, you can also turn in your used 6-pack carriers for points! This is the brewery’s way of recycling and helps keep packing costs a bit low (so don’t be alarmed when the beer on the shelf at the market isn’t in a brand-new case). My brother was nice and organized my family’s 6 pack carriers by type of beer ( BTW this is about a years worth of carriers, so don’t go getting the wrong ideas out us :|).




The remainder of the tour is more like being at your favorite bar… great music, friendly people, draft beer, and it’s freakin CROWDED. The bonus is that you can wander all throughout the brewery and talk to the volunteers and brewery employees. They have great stories and are super nice!
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Beer is made from grain, it cant be that bad ;)

So after a couple hours of fun and merriment, and several pints of beer, you will no doubt be very happy but not necessarily in any condition to operate heavy machinery. And it’s the middle of a Saturday afternoon. This is where a designated driver comes in handy. There is another solution that my family highly recommends: GO TO Wings n Things!! It’s in the shopping center right around the corner from the brewery (the came center as JoAnns Fabrics and the BlackEyed Pea).


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Wings n Things is a local chain, and hands down the best wing establishment in Houston. There are so many wing choices in the Houston area (Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Stop, Wings and More, Wing Street… But Wings N Things is definitely, by far, hands down, the best around. And believe me, this family has had their share of wings. It’s no-nonsense, order by the basket wing goodness. The keep the ingredients simple, and the flavor really comes through. I can taste the butter in my Medium wing sauce. My mom loves that they use real lemon juice in their Lemon-Pepper Wings (yes, we asked what their secret was). They serve curly fries and and onion strings too, yum yum.




But the secret/not on the menu/must try wing that they recommended to us: Hot Lemon-Pepper Wings! Yes, Hot Buffalo Sauce + Lemon Pepper Seasoning. They’ll serve it to you proudly, where other wing establishments wont (some others will give you a side of lemon-pepper seasoning though… not the same).



Seriously, how can you beat a Saturday afternoon filled with great beer and great food… you learn a little, you make new friends… and usually end up taking a nap when you get home. Cheers!

Please note, these tour tips will only last a few more months. St Arnold is in the process of moving to a new, much LARGER brew space on the other end of Houston. Sadly, the new location will not be around the corner from a Wings and Things. On a happier note, it will be air conditioned! I cant wait to see the new digs :D

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