Website Redesign Launched!

I have been wanting to redesign my website for a long time. A really, really long time. And I wanted it to be something that I created from the bottom up, not just some WordPress theme that I found and installed and customized. So I figured out how to develop a simple WordPress theme, which is basically just CSS, and a few modifications to the PHP files if you’re into that sort of thing.

First, I set up a dev environment on my local machine using MAMP and then installed the latest version of WordPress. I used the WordPress export tool to create a backup of my live site, and then I imported that backup on my local machine’s WordPress install so that it would be as close as possible to the real site.

From other projects that I’ve worked on in collaboration with Daniel, I’ve learned that using Sass is awesome. I set up Compass for my project both so I could use Sass, and also so I could use clever mixins to make less work for me!

Once the theme looked good on my local machine, deploying the theme turned out to be challenging for two reasons. First, I got PHP errors that didn’t make sense. (Admittedly, most PHP errors don’t make sense to me because I’m not, in fact, into that sort of thing.) All of  them were complaining about syntax errors on line 1 of the files, on the server all of the code was on one line. Turns out that because I used some simple PHP files for my theme that I did not write, just downloaded, that the end of line format was different on my Mac than it was on the server. *sigh* An article on the Vim wiki was helpful in fixing that.

Second, when deploying a new theme, I figured out that I needed to add my sidebar widgets over again. I got this blank space where the sidebar was supposed to be and thought, “Aw, man, what else is wrong with the PHP files? Or is it my CSS?” Then I looked at the sidebar div and it was completely empty, and then I figured out adding the themes again was the answer.Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve changed themes. :)

So hooray, I’ve fixed the issues and I’m happy with how everything looks now. I think there are a few outstanding formatting issues in old posts and pages, but not enough to stop me from using my new theme. I figure, if they’re problematic for me or someone else, I’ll fix them if that time comes.

One of my pet peeves when blogs launch a new redesign is that the old design goes away, so there’s nothing for comparison for new readers to see what the changes were. And I’m really proud of these changes! So here are before and after screenshots so even if I redesign this thing many times in the future, this post will still make sense.

 

Before

Before the redesign

After!

After the redesign

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Elastic laced shoes for pregnant women (or lazy people!)

I am getting to the point in my pregnancy where it’s a pain to tie my shoes.

I can still do it, but the baby bump in the way is getting bigger all the time, and I have to sit down, rather than just bending over and tying them like I used to before I got pregnant.

So I started browsing Zappos to find a nice pair of slip-on shoes, and noticed that the Simple brand had a “flat elastic” version of several styles of their shoes. This looks exactly like they threaded white 1/4″ elastic through the holes.

I realized I had several yards of white 1/4″ elastic in my craft room.

So I pulled the laces out of my blue Converse shoes, and estimated that I’d need about 21″ of elastic (unstretched) per shoe. I wrapped one end in tape to make it easier to thread through the grommets. The other end I tied in a large overhand knot to keep it from pulling through the grommets. Then I laced my shoe like this:

Lacing Pattern

I slipped the shoe on, and tugged on the elastic to tighten it comfortably around my foot, and then tied the taped end into an overhand knot.

Both shoes now laced with elastic, I just slip them on and go!

Elastic Laced Converse

 

I’m most happy that I didn’t have to buy another pair of shoes, just used elastic I already had around the house. If you plan to do this yourself, estimate at the fabric store how much you might need by holding it up to your shoes in the lacing pattern, and then give yourself a few extra inches to play with. Or just play it safe and get a yard and a half, which should be enough for many types of shoes.

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It’s a girl!!

Daniel and I are very excited to be having a little baby girl in late January or early February 2012!

We went in for a very detailed ultrasound this week, and the technician measured her little head and abdomen and arms and legs, as well as checked out all her organs and body parts and whatnot, all of which are normal and developing at a good rate.

At our first ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy at 8 weeks, she was only about 18mm long, less than an inch, and looked pretty blobular, though definite arms, legs, and a head were visible if one knew where to look. It was amazing to see how much she had grown in just 10 short weeks!

The doctor provided me with a stat sheet telling me all her measurements, which I totally wanted but did not expect them to give me without me having to ask. I love that kind of stuff!! Please share my enjoyment as I list her little statistics:

  • Biparietal Diameter (BPD): 4.11cm. This is how big across her skull is.
  • Head Circumference (HC): 15.47cm.
  • Femur Length (FL): 2.64cm. Her tiny little femur is only about an inch long!!
  • Humerus Length (HL): 2.47cm.
  • Abdominal Circumference (AC): 12.78cm. Her head is bigger around than her body is. :)
  • +1 water magic (This one came from Daniel, not from the ultrasound technician)

Using the BPD, HC, AC, and FL measurements, they took these and put them into a formula to estimate her weight at 254 grams, or about 8oz.

Now please enjoy these pictures!

Viewing the baby in profile, you can see her little nose, lips, and chin!

Here she is on her side, facing down. You can see her little spine and her legs curled up underneath her.

It was so neat to see inside her body! Here the hemispheres of the brain are clearly visible, along with the eye sockets, nose, jaw, and chin!

I have such an awesome baby and I can’t wait to meet her!

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Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Daniel really likes sweet potatoes. He bought two bags of them at Trader Joe’s on a recent trip and has been steadily eating his way through them. I haven’t had the same desire to eat them as he has, but browsing through recipes online the other day, I found a recipe for African Sweet Potato Soup with Peanut Butter, Black-Eyed Peas, and Beans that sounded really delicious.

Daniel took a look at the ingredients, and said he didn’t want any of the yellow pepper, and didn’t want me to use peanut butter either. I couldn’t find cilantro the last time I was at the store (and I wasn’t about to make a special trip), and I didn’t want to buy limes, because we have lots of lemons already, and two sour citrus fruits on hand at one time seems like decadence.

So I give you my version of the soup, which was indeed very tasty, and shares much in common with the original, but with a few twists based on what I had in my refrigerator and cupboards. The apple as a replacement for both the yellow pepper and the added sugar was really effective, giving it a more subtle, natural sweetness. I also had my doubts about how coconut milk and almond milk would go together, but it was really nice, and the kitchen smelled amazing while I cooked.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced (I used a Gala apple because that’s what was on hand – try a different one and see how it turns out)
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon red Thai Kitchen curry paste (yes, I actually had this on hand)
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup almond butter dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water (1 cup total liquid)
  • 1/2 of a 15-oz can light coconut milk *
  • 1 15-oz can black beans
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans
  • lemon and diced tomatoes for garnish
  • hot rice

Directions

Sauté sweet potatoes, onion, and apple in the oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat until they are soft and ideally have caramelized some. Add in garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add water and bring to a boil. Dissolve the curry paste into the mix, add salt to taste, and toss in cinnamon sticks. Reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Smash some of the sweet potato pieces and all of the garlic cloves until the broth is a little bit thicker and there are no big hunks of garlic left. Add in almond butter mixture and coconut milk, and stir. If the soup is too thick, you can add a little more water at this point. Taste and correct seasoning, adding more curry paste or salt as needed.  Simmer 10 minutes more. Add beans and continue to simmer until everything is heated through. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a few diced tomatoes on the top, alongside or on top of some hot cooked rice.

* Note: I only used half a can of coconut milk for this soup, since I had it left over from another recipe. You could use an entire can so you don’t have any left overs, or use the other half can for another recipe. I recommend starting with half a can, and then tasting it and seeing how you feel. I think if I’d used any more coconut milk it would have overpowered the more delicate flavor of the almond butter.

 

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Baby Squirrelio, Cute-Overload Style (plus Gilroy Garlic Festival Recap)

Hi! I’m a baby squirrelio!

I’m really friendly and curious! I live in this park, and there are thousands of people here today. There is some sort of festival going on, and people have been dropping lots of tasty garlicky food, which I’ve been feasting on. Yum!

Whoa, who are you?

I’ve seen people, and puppies, and other, bigger squirrels, but I don’t even know what you are, Orange Thing.

Better retreat to a safe distance and stun you with my GARLIC BREATH!!

MNWXCU (My Name is Wool eXtreme Close Up – thanks Cute Overload)

 

Daniel and I attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival at the end of July, meeting Bryan and Tania there for an interesting, if hot, garlic-filled afternoon. Daniel got a gourmet sampler plate with garlic bread, a garlic sausage sandwich, garlic shrimp, garlic mushrooms, and garlic chicken stir-fry. We browsed the rows and rows of vendors, and we came away with a 13-head garlic braid (some of which we later roasted and enjoyed on fresh, lightly toasted sourdough – absolutely delicious!) Bryan and Tania picked up some garlicky sauces. I enjoyed frozen lemonade, which at $4 a pop, wasn’t cheap, but was extremely refreshing given the heat. I had one .5L water bottle which we filled up from a drinking fountain – the only one available. Other bottled water was $3, too steep for my tastes.

Daniel and I went to a cooking demonstration featuring Angelo Sosa. We had no idea who this guy was, but apparently he was on Bravo’s Top Chef, and spoke at some length about his experiences, which probably would have been more interesting if we had ever seen the show. He made both a white gazpacho, and many crude jokes that made the audience groan. Someone came up and spoke to him after he had finished cooking and had made a particularly terrible joke, and he immediately ended the demonstration. I’ll never know if it was just that he was out of time or if it was the caliber of the joke.

I did learn one valuable thing from Mr. Sosa – he added sugar to the gazpacho mix, saying that sometimes you have to add a little sweetener to let garlic be garlic. He made what he called “garlic brittle” which was really more like candied garlic. He passed some around for the audience to try, and first it was sweet with the sugar coating, and then like sauteéd garlic. I tried this out the other day when making a coconut curry (with lots of garlic) and added a little bit of maple syrup to the mix, and it did improve the taste.

I’m going to pretend that later the squirrel found Mr. Sosa, and they swapped recipes and/or compared garlic breath.

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The Buggiest Relish Plate

When I was in Fillmore a few weeks back for Grandma Shirley’s life celebration, the Moores all gathered after the service for lunch at Donna’s. On the menu: sandwiches, fruit, salads, cake, and cookies. Simple and crowd-pleasing!

One of my jobs in food prep was to slice the tomatoes for the sandwiches. After I placed them on a glass serving dish, Daniel looked at them, and said, “Wait, I have an idea.” He grabbed blueberries and put them on toothpicks, then inserted them in between the slices so they looked like bugs.

Tammy then contributed the mini dill pickles she was putting out as “grass” and we created this cute relish plate full of bugs.

If we did it again, I’d try different colors of tomatoes, like yellow, red, and some heirloom varieties, to make different bugs. I’d also use little black and green olives here and there for even tinier bugs!

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Bouncy Ball

After creating the Wiggly Worm animation last week, I decided I’d better seek guidance from the internet to help me learn a little more about animation.

I found a great tutorial from the Angry Animator on how to animate a bouncing ball. It had lots of great details and was easy to follow along with. I’m really looking forward to working through the two other tutorials on the site, for a walk cycle and animating speech.

Here is the finished animation:

The biggest problem I ran into was not the drawing or having to do all the in-between frames by hand. It was actually the limitations of Pencil. The program crashed on me several times. The behavior of copy/paste, the undo buffer, and moving/stretching/resizing could be hard to predict. I basically found myself saving after each and every change so I wouldn’t After perusing the user manual online, I couldn’t figure out a way to add in-between frames in a way that would distinguish them from keyframes. I love that it lets you draw vector graphics, but editing/deleting control points and adjusting curves was very difficult. While Pencil has a low barrier to entry – I did already make two animations – and seems like it has a lot of potential if some of these issues were addressed, I think my quest is not quite over to find a good animation tool.

I may just have to hold out for the new Pixie animation tool, when Daniel finishes that. He’s been asking me lately what I want in an animation tool, and he’s already written some code to do tweening and transformations. I have an awesome husband. <3

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Wiggly Worm

Daniel’s Red Ice hockey game needs some animated cutscenes, and he’s asked me to create them. I haven’t animated anything since using Flash in high school, but I thought I’d give it a shot, since I remember animation being pretty fun, and I’ve been wanting to improve my art skills.

I don’t like paying for software, so Flash is out, but Google told me I should use Pencil, a simple program to create traditional 2D animation. It had a pretty low barrier to entry – I quickly read through the User Manual and that gave me enough to get started. I wasn’t quite ready to jump right in to making cutscenes, so I decided just to do something simple: a little worm wiggling along.

I made a little sketch on the bitmap layer – it seamlessly worked with the pressure-sensitivity of my graphics tablet and felt really natural. Then I “inked” it on the vector layer, and repeated for the other keyframes. The onion skin feature helped me to make the transitions between the frames as minimal as possible (though obviously they’re still visible since I haven’t done hand-drawn animation like this before). I couldn’t figure out copying and pasting keyframes and/or inserting in-between frames, but I made do with a bunch of manually copied keyframes, and nothing in between them.

The results are cute, though very rough. Please enjoy the results of my labor:

Eventually I’m supposed to make a scene taking place in a subway. Oh man. Wish me luck on that!

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Minted Israeli Couscous Salad

Maybe it’s the approaching summer and a few hot days we’ve had recently (why can’t it be 70 degrees all the time?), but I’ve been feeling really un-motivated lately, and the last thing I want to do is cook. I’ve been subsisting for the last few weeks on smoothies, salads, cereal, soy yogurt, sandwiches, and fresh fruit – foods that take less than 10 minutes to prepare and aren’t hot.

As a child, one of my favorite cool summer foods was tabouleh, but recently I’ve discovered an aversion to bulgur wheat (though cereal, bread, and pasta are all right, wheat itself is a no-go). Since I’ve been craving something like tabouleh, I have to be a little creative. I actually felt like expending a little extra effort to make something really tasty, so today I made a tabouleh-inspired Israeli couscous salad that is absolutely delicious. I just tasted it before I put it into the refrigerator, and it’s so good, I can’t wait to pull it out and eat it for lunch in a few hours.

Ingredients

  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous (or 1-1/3 cups Israeli couscous)
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 12-15 small grape tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2-3 sprigs of mint, cut into chiffonade
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 teaspoons of champagne vinegar, or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the couscous: in a medium saucepan, saute couscous in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until the couscous is golden brown. Add 1-3/4 cups boiling water and a dash of salt. Reduce heat to low, simmer 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff, and let cool, then transfer to refrigerator to chill overnight.

Place minced onion in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak while you chop the other ingredients. Place chilled couscous, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, and drained onion into a large bowl and stir to combine. Add mint, lemon juice and zest, vinegar, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Drizzle on olive oil and give it another good stir. Taste it and correct seasonings as needed.

Cover bowl and chill at least 2-3 hours before serving.

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Sloppy Joes!

This dish has become a staple in my house – delicious, very fast, and filling. It’s based off the Snobby Joes recipe from the Veganomicon. The first time we made it, we didn’t have half the ingredients the original recipe called for, so we improvised. It was really yummy and since then I’ve never felt the need to make the recipe as written in the book. I have just fine-tuned our modifications until they practically make themselves.

I’ve used creative measurements in the ingredients list because I never measure them myself – just add what looks good, erring on the side of caution, and taste it. If you like it, it’s done! (I put approximations in parentheses but I’m very much in favor of cooking by feel whenever possible.)

I served these to David and Alex when they came up to visit not too long ago. We were at the store getting ingredients beforehand and I told Alex if she wanted things like milk or cheese or meat on hand while she and David stayed with us that she should grab them while we were there, because as a vegan I don’t usually have those things in my fridge. She asked me, “So, isn’t there meat in Sloppy Joes?” and I replied, “Ohhh, yeah, they’re made with lentils.” I had completely forgotten that most Sloppy Joes do, in fact, contain ground meat. This recipe is that good that it has eclipsed all other Sloppy Joes I have previously eaten.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil (approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or smushed in a garlic press
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (available in the refrigerated section near the herbs, vegetables, and prepackaged veg mixes)*
  • 15oz can of tomato sauce (or use marinara sauce from a bottle)
  • a squirt or two of ketchup (or a splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar) (approximately 1-2 tablespoons)
  • a few liberal shakes of liquid smoke (approximately 1/2 teaspoon)
  • several “glugs” of maple syrup (2-3 tablespoons)
  • mustard to taste (optional) (1-2 tablespoons)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 long sandwich rolls (favorites among our family and friends are sourdough or dutch crunch) or 1-2 baguettes, cut into desired lengths.

Directions

Saute onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for another minute. Add in the lentils – they are very tightly packed so it helps to squish up the lentil brick with your hands while they are still in the plastic packaging, then cut off the top and dump them in. Stir until all the lentil clumps have broken up and everything is well-combined.

Add the tomato sauce and the ketchup. At this point you will need to keep stirring because the sauce will bubble up wildly and get all over if you are not careful. Mix in the liquid smoke, maple syrup, and mustard. Stir a little bit more, then remove from the heat and let the mixture sit and cool. Split the sandwich rolls in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides so you have little bread canoes. Toast them in the toaster oven if you like. Scoop the Sloppy Joe mix into the canoes, and serve open-faced on a large plate.

Serves 4

*Note: If you can’t find the Steamed Lentils at Trader Joe’s you can substitute 2 heaping cups of cooked lentils. But I really hope that you can find them, because they’re just amazingly convenient and totally worth not having to cook up some dried lentils.

 

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