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The Crisis

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Okay, so this was my day.

I got off work and ran some errands (and in the process got a killer new split-end leave-in treatment), then went home and discovered my doctor’s appt was not covered under insurance so I stayed on the phone with Aetna for 35 minutes fixing that mistake. Afterwards, I worked out, and made some nice jalepeno popper chicken (recipe tomorrow), and decided to be really awesome and clean my fish tank. A simple water change. Cause I’m so wonderful.

No!

I’m not wonderful. Somehow in the process of doing a simple 30% water change I introduced a deadly and swift enemy. This enemy is still unknown, and sadly there were four casualties. My lovely and sweet cardinal tetras (photo below is not aquarium… cause sadly I barely have any fish in there) died. Within 30 minutes of the water change. At least the death was quick and painless (I hope).

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I digress. Luckily, my ottos survived and the water is more or less clean. I went to my local sea/fresh water pet store and they double checked my water levels… and it was all good. All clear. I just have to say, I’ve never felt so helpless than being away from my ottos in those 45 minutes I was away. Simply awful.

When I got home I had a bunch of solutions to my problem, even one that was on the back burner for a while (my plants), and advice on how to proceed. I decided to share with you all, all those fishie lovers out there, that if this happens to you- don’t panic, and follow these rules, if the following applies to you.

Comments if I’m wrong on anything, etc are welcome. I want to know if I’m wrong so I never kill another fish again. Thanks 🙂

Here are my aquarium specs, before the tragedy happened:

  • 5.5 gal freshwater
  • 3 ottos
  • 4 cardinals
  • live plants
  • gravel, not sand
  • 3 years old
  • heater, filter, and aerator in operation
  1. I cleaned and moved around the gravel and noticed when the fish died that little white worms were in the water- and I thought “on no! they got my fish! Bastaaaards”.
  2. Don’t think #1
  3. The wormy things are planeria, and are harmless. If anything they break down the gravel bacteria. (see, it’s still a mystery of what killed my fish).
  4. Check your water for nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia.
  5. Check the pH level.
  6. Check if your temp is too high or too low (the shock of the change usually kills all fish unless the tank is over 30 gal- then the change is less noticeable and is mildly irritating to fishies).
  7. Add a poly-filter to your filter medium (this will help remove ANY additional toxins, irritants, bacteria that’s not good,etc in ONE week).
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Cut this baby to size to fit into your filter.

  1. Toss poly-filter in a week and note it’s color. whatever the color that’s what the problem was.
  2. Add in SeaChem Stability (or similar) every other day in half doses for about 3-4 days for the good bacteria in it.
  3. Feed fish every other day
  4. Don’t MESS with the tank anymore for AT LEAST a week
  5. DON’T ADD ANY NEW FISH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, just don’t.

BONUS:

I have live plans in my aquarium, and for a while they flourished. So did my algae. That’s why I got the ottos. Then, they started to die out, like the leaves would slowly disintegrate, one by one. I used Excel 3 times a week (to regulate the algae problem).

Apparently, my water was too clean (oddly, cause I do water changes about once every 3 months) and therefore the plants were starving. How strange! But basically, I had no nutrients in the water; in order for photosynthesis to occur in a tank, the plants need potassium, iron, and small traces of phosphate and nitrate (according to the aquarium dude- he’s worked there for like 8 years). And I had none!

I quickly picked up SeaChem Flourish which has all the different chemicals in varying levels to support plant growth.

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So lessons learned. Several of them. And although I’m going to miss my three year old carindals I’m excited at the prospect of maybe getting some new fish, aside from tetras (should my tank survive this mystery attack).

Thanks for hanging in there in this “lesson of the day” sort of post. But seriously, I was bawling, I take fish seriously. This was traumatic, and now I’ve got a plan. And when there’s a plan there’s bound to be success.

Wish me luck!

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What I Did for Valentine’s Day

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I’ve had quite an eventful weekend. This was the first weekend where I forced myself to do homework, tons of homework, after work  and throughout the week, instead of waiting for the weekend. This was because Friday, February 15 was my Valentine’s Day. I haven’t had a chance to really hang out and see Boyfriend the past three weeks or so. And I know there’s a chance I won’t be seeing him this weekend either (thanks odd work schedule). So we decided to be indulgent, and extravagant, and lovey-dovey (sort of), and have a Valentine’s Weekend.

Not so much because we’re lovers of the holiday (and I’ve read plenty of blog posts about how Valentine’s day should be every day, and why should men assume that they can be awesome this one day, and completely romantic and the rest of the time be completely ignorant in the ways of love) but because we haven’t seen each other in a long time, and we haven’t been alone in a long time, and just, couple-y, therefore Valentine’s way the perfect excuse to go over the top.

That being said, I was so happy with how our plans turned out that I, sadly, didn’t take many photos (being so lost in the many moments). My apologies. I did take a few photos. And I hope to be better in the future about it, however, there are recipes that I made (even though two photos are missing), that were completely amazing, and I can’t wait to make them again!

But first, say hello to my three new Otto fishes. I could only get a shot of two at a time, so you’ll have to imagine the third 🙂

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First recipe up, is this lovely Molten Chocolate Cake. 

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This was my first time making this recipe, so I followed it to the T, except for used two larger ramekins (to serve two, obviously), and adjusted the cooking time to 15 minutes. The original recipe follows.

4 pieces (squares) Bitter-sweet or Semi-sweet or just plain sweet Chocolate (this is a matter of preference)*
½ cups Butter, chopped into several pieces
1 cup Confectioner’s or Powdered Sugar plus an extra 1-2 Tablespoon for dusting, separated
2 whole Eggs plus 2 Egg yolks
6 Tablespoons Flour
*I actually used chocolate chips, and eyeballed what I thought 4 squares would be. It really doesn’t matter here how much chocolate you use. I think mine was roughly 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chips.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease/spray about 4 custard molds/cups or small ramekins with a non-stick spray and then place them on a baking tray (cookie sheet).The next step requires melting the butter and chocolate. You can use the microwave, in 20 second increments till the butter is melted and the chocolate is softened. Or, you can use a double boiler. (I used the microwave. It’ll look scary with all that butter surrounding the chocolate, at least it was scary for me, however you have to keep stirring, and it’ll all work out).
Add 1 cup powdered sugar then whisk together until smooth.
Add the 2 eggs and the 2 egg yolks then whisk together again until smooth. Stir in the flour till just combined. Divide the batter into the four (or two) ramekins you’re using.
Bake until the sides and top are firm, but center is slightly wobbly and gooey. Let sit for 2 minutes (no more and no less, I MEAN IT), and serve by inverting to a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with whipped cream.
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Next recipe comes without a photo. This one came from Add A Pinch, and was really an amazing recipe. The only thing I can say I followed was the gorgonzola butter and improvised, to taste, the rest. Below is my rendition of the recipe, but you can follow the link to view the original.
Skillet Steaks with Gorgonzola Butter
2 Ribeye steaks
Salt and pepper
Herbs de Provance
1/2 cup cognac
Gorgonzola cheese, about 4 tbsp
4 tbsp butter, softened at room temp
Pat dry the steaks to they are free from blood. Take a fork and liberally stab the steaks throughout, on both sides, and by the fat areas. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the steaks in a ziplock bag and add the cognac. Close the bag and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, and up to several hours.
Next, season your cast iron skillet* and heat it over medium heat. Take out the steaks and let them come to room temperature (about 10 minutes) while the skillet is heating up. Dry the steaks again, when taking out of the cognac marinade. Do not do this liberally. I did because I was so hungry and in a hurry, and my steaks did not brown as well as I would  have liked.
Place in skillet, and cook about three minuets each side. I started off with two minutes a side, but had to turn mine about two and a half times because they were thick .
While the steaks are cooking, mix the butter with the gorgonzola cheese, and place in fridge, to wait for the steaks.
When the steaks are ready, sprinkle top with herb de provance and let sit for three minutes before plating. When placing on plate add a generous tbsp of the gorgonzola butter to melt and ooze around the meat.
Serve with potatoes, salad, bread, and good wine.
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Lastly, this recipe has been in the making for a while. I added more cheese than the recipe called for and added my own spices to the mix, however, the recipe basics were thanks to allrecipes.com.
This recipe too, was too good to be photographed. I even forgot to photograph this while writing up this post, when eating leftovers. So Sorry!
Baked Ziti
1 lb dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 lb gound beef
2 (26 oz) jars of your favorite pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil flavor)
1 tbsp salt and pepper (or to taste)
1 tbsp herbs de provance
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp grouond garlic and ground onion powders
dash of liquid smoke
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz of provolone cheese (sliced)– again, I used I believe 8 oz, a full Sargento bag of sliced provolone
6 oz of sliced mozerella—again from sargento, and I used the whole bag
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F . Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, and remaining sauce mixture. Top with remaining mozerella cheese slices and grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.
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Lastly, I want to say Happy Valentine’s Day again to all those that celebrate or enjoy the lovey stuff that comes with the holiday. The photo above has become a standard dessert treat I’ve been making myself after working out and a light dinner. I’m feeling great and happy, and I must say, nothing makes me feel better than strawberries, chocolate sprinkles, and whipped cream.

A Slow Start to the Holiday Season

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I’m not sure where to begin. But I suppose so people don’t think that I’ve disappeared I had to write a little something. Recently there has been a family emergency that I have had to step up and take care of. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of my mom. Honestly, I haven’t had the strength to do much of anything, including crocheting Boyfriend’s mom’s Christmas blanket (which is about 1/3 of the way done). I have cooked, and sadly, all those lovely apples that I picked  were wasted. I couldn’t bring myself to bake or care about anything under the circumstances.

Slowly, I’m getting back on my feet. I managed to make some ragu this weekend, as well as some ill-fated stuffed mushrooms (I’m sure I forgot to add…flavor? because they were sad little things), and as we speak/ write/ read I’m attempting to make Ranch Roasted Potatoes.

I’m any case, my slow progress is nonetheless, progress. And I promise a  steady turn around of recipes to come for the holiday season. Not to mention a bunch of crafts and home inspirations for the lovely months to come.

Apple Picking in Yuciapa

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This Sunday I went apple picking. It was the first time I ventured out past San Bernardino on my own (well, Boyfriend was with me) and it was the first time I’ve ever been that close to orchards. I’ve driven past them on my way to lovely San Fran on the Golden State Fwy (I-5) however this was a completely different experience.

First, we went to Snow-Line where Boyfriend and I stood in line for a good 18 minutes to get the most amazing (and fresh) apple cider cinnamon donuts on the planet! I don’t think the actual flavor is what mattered most here, but the freshness. Being made, right there, in front of our very  (greedy) eyes!

After we had our fill of donuts, although for the rest of the day I wanted more, we wandered around the charming store. It was a mix of orchard store, vintage shop, and mom and pop garage sale. I couldn’t have been happier.

I wanted these most of all!

 

Next, we drove about a mile and a half to Riley’s Apple Farm. That was a completely different experience entirely. They had a small orchard for families and children that couldn’t handle their bigger, hillier, orchards as well as a lovely and secluded picnic area.

 

 

 

Dogs and cats a like roamed and welcomed visitors!

 

As we proceeded further into the orchard however I found this (good luck) sign that the apples are delicious. Clearly, someone wanted this apple so much that they forgot to pick it and went right for the flavor!

 

After a good 30 minutes of walking around looking for Rome Beauties and Braeburn apples we located their top-of-the-hill pumpkin patch and corn! Although it was very small indeed, a bit slimy, thanks to the dewy morning, I had fun attempting to pick one out that was just right.

Sadly my expectations are too high and no pumpkins made the cut.

 

On our way back we were able to say “hi” to this guy again.

By the way, his name is Tom. Apparently, every farm has an orange tom tabby cat that anyone can come up to and love. That was a great part of the weekend for me personally.

Aside from the lovely cats roaming around me, I went home with fresh apple cider, something called Christmas Jam, and a heaping 6 lbs of apples I picked myself. My hands picked those beauties sitting on my kitchen floor. I feel (a little too) proud.

 

 

 

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Without Me and Other Concerns

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Today I had the pleasure of starting and finishing Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and other Concerns. Overall it was a great read though there are a few things I have to say to Mindy (assuming I’d ever be lucky enough to have her stumble into my blog) about her writing.

First of all, it was stylistic, personable, and very natural. I’m a fan of that when it comes to autobiographies. The style is very simple, often in the form of dialogue with paragraphs and lists thrown together to make a mixed jumble of topics stand together and only make sense thanks to the chapter titles. This is how most of our brains work and I’m not complaining. I actually enjoyed getting through a lot of the chapters within 20 minutes or less because of lists.

Speaking of lists, the lists that she makes and references are amazing! At least from a woman’s perspective. She describes how to be the perfect boyfriend/ man. How to style yourself (if you were a man), so that women don’t go snooping through your medicine cabinet and see that you have more lotions, potions, colognes, and knick-knack’s than we do! It is a great turn off to know that a guy has more products, useful or otherwise, than I do.  The rest of the lists, and one which I really enjoyed, stem from female relationships, and daily life. One of my favorite lists was one in which she outlines the duties of a best friend, everything true and unspoken between female friends, from borrowing clothing to secretly loathing boyfriends (but giving them a chance anyway).

Some things that I didn’t like: the pictures were in black and white.

Although if they were in color the pages would be in different styles. The pictured ones would be thick and gross, and glossy, and not fit into the other, normal pages. This would bother me as well, so in any case there’d be at least one con against Mindy.

That’s basically my only con. I think that maybe Mindy dwelt on the issues of men for a long time, and not enough time on her other traits (or who she might be crushing on now, just kidding, that falls under guy talk as well) but let’s face it, any woman, given the chance to write her own biography, would write about the men in her life. Her father, brother, grandfather, men that stayed, men that got away, the good guys, the bad boys, and all the ones in between. They are the ones that shape us, and the ones that teach us our likes and dislikes, and eventually shape our images of the ideal mate (with all of their un-idealistic qualities).

Personal story: I know now, thanks to an ex (if he can even be called that), that I will never want any man by me that is obnoxious, self absorbed, and willing to make gurgling sounds during a movie. Yes, very specific, and probably will never be exhibited by anyone normal, however, Mindy brought this little revelation out in me, and I share it with you all.

 

 

 

Total stars: 4.5 out of 5

Recommendations: Yes, and MANY!

 

P.S. If you happen to google yourself Mindy, and you see this post and read it, you’re funny, and I loved your story about the stylists that have put you into moo-moo’s for a very long time. Clearly they’ve never been inspired by anything other than a worm.  Goodnight!

Blueberry Lemon Loaf and a Weekend at the Beach

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This weekend the news reported that Saturday’s full moon would be the largest all year. The first thing that I thought of was how romantic it would be to say hello to such a moon under the stars, at the Redondo Beach Pier. Well, the moon was pretty, and bright, but not what I had anticipated. Although I’m a big fan, and sort of a goofy one at that, when it comes to the moon. Still, I knew I had to see it anywhere but my bedroom window.

Boyfriend and I got the pier a little early, and we decided to get a nice workout on the water. Pedal boating is the most fun, and most stressful thing I’ve ever done on the water. Not to mention the most exhausting. We had a few seals in our path a couple of times, and they were able to evade my camera pretty successfully. Aside from the seals, I believe we had a few pelicans fly a bit too low and almost wing us.

In any case, it was a wonderful thing that lasted for about 15 minutes, till we got seasick. I don’t usually get seasick, on an empty stomach anyway, however, weird turnings in the tummy are usually a sign to turn back and get on dry land.

Aside from the cold weather, I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures, of the beach and the recipe. In both cases I was in too much a hurry to get to the fun stuff to record anything aside from the basics.

(had to remove the broken links- for some reason a few of my pictures were mysteriously deleted)

Now onto the recipe which was inspired by Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.

I wanted to make something fresh for boyfriend, something that would use up my blueberries left over from berry picking, (and I still have about  1.5 cups left over for muffins). He picked out the recipe out of a handful and I made it right away. Although I was in a hurry, which is the reason for the lack of photos, the loaf was perfect, and Boyfriend even went back for seconds. That’s a winner in my book!

For the Loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
For the Lemon Syrup
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
For the Lemon Glaze
  • 1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely, (personally, I skipped this step and just used the glaze because I didn’t want the loaf to be too sweet).
To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff.
Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

Bargains and Reviews

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A while back I wrote on some new purchases that I made from Lush. In that post I also promised a review that would be forthcoming to make sure that what the products claimed, they did. So to recap, I’ll be reviewing their body butter: Aqua Mirabilis (although I originally mentioned having their Buffy bar on my wishlist), their shampoo bar: seanik, and lastly, their mask:  cupcake (available fresh only, in-store).

My Characterists: Ok, when I say characteristics I mean what my skin, face, and hair are like so you can know if these products will work for you. Firstly, my skin tends to be dry, although you wouldn’t know it by touching or looking at it. It’s more of a tightness that I, personally, feel. Next, the face; my face is oily, and very prone to breakouts. My hair does have an oily scalp, and I have thin-ish, and straight locks. I also have bangs, which doesn’t help my forehead in the battle against oil.

Now to Review:

I got this over the Buffy bar and I couldn’t be happier, it’s got bits of ground up almond in it so it smells amazing for me. It’s gentle on my skin and very soothing after I use a scrub or shower gel. Usually after using this in the shower I don’t need to use lotion till morning. That’s  an A+ in my book.

I have oily hair and scalp as I’ve mentioned. Usually I can’t go 24 hours without washing my hair, and dry shampoos only make the oil look like caked on dirt. I was told this shampoo, as a result of the seaweed it contains, draws moisture from the environment when it’s necessary to keep ends and other parts of hair moist when they have to be. Also, keep it balanced when it’s dry outside and when you’re nearing the end of the day and your hair is less than perfect. Surprisingly, this miracle shampoo does all that!

On my trip to Northern Cali for Valentine’s Day, Boyfriend and I stayed right on the ocean, meaning lots o f moisture to go around. My hair was wonderful for two days without washing because of the amazing seaweed “balancing” action! I’m in love. And I refuse to use anything else.

Added bonus: because it’s so hydrating, I haven’t used conditioner in months!

This mask is supposed to draw out the oils and toxins from your skin while keeping your oil glands in check. If used twice a week the coal in this chocolate concoction should act as a natural regulator (like the sulfur springs everyone is raving about) for oil, pore clogging debris, and toxins. This is what I thought: it reduced my oil on the forehead (which is the oiliest) by about 40% on a good day. I still had breakouts and my skin felt great only right after I used it. I’ll pass on this one next time and see if I can try another happy mask.

Finally, to mention the star of my skin routine: Ole Henrikson Truth Serum.

This thing helps to make my pores smaller, makes my skin brighter, and since I’ve been using daily it’s helped to brighten the dark spots past acne has left behind. Also heals current breakouts faster due to the vitamin C booster. I’m really happy I splurged on this item because I’ve been using for the past three months and barely dented the serum to half the bottle!

My title has in it also “bargains”, not just reviews. This part of the post is the reviews. Rite-aid reviews to be exact. A lot of great, and cheap, products can be found at drug stores, if people know where to look. My goal was not go over $30 and buy at least 5 items that dealt with skincare or beauty. Today was my lucky day as they had a sale going!

  1. Pure Springs brand Bath and Shower cream in lemon and mint: $4.99
  2. Julie brand nail polish, color unknown- stamp on bottom A26: $3.99
  3. Yes to Carrots brand chapstick: $ 1.99
  4. Revlon nail polish in Sassy: $4.99
  5. Yes to Cucumbers brand face towelettes: $5.99
  6. Cuticle Remover Cream by Sally Hanson: $4.59
  7. c.Booth Walnut Shell Body Scrub and Cleanser: $4.49
  8. c.Booth Deep Cleansing Volcanic Mud Mask : $7.49

I’m looking forward to testing all these products out and posting their successes (hopefully) soon! By the way, I purchased 8 items, not 5 as planned, and only went over budget by $10. Today was a good day~