My Year In Review

my year in chalkboard

before and after morro bay 2013 was a very good year for me.  I started out not wanting to make a new years resolution out of fear of the disappointment that would always come from breaking it.  I decided to make one after a few days, and I stayed with it, well, until July anyway.  I said I wanted to lose weight and I did.  By July I had lost 70lbs with an android app called Noom, but then the weight stopped dropping and I gained 10lbs back, but fluctuated throughout the rest of the year.  I started out the year at 264lbs, went down to 194lbs and as of today I am 205lbs.  I will make another resolution to get back on my diet so I can get down to the weight that I wanted to get down to.  I know how to do it, I just need the willpower.

xray1 On March 16th I had an accident while riding the bicycle home from the grocery store at night and I broke my arm.  It was the ball of my left arm that fits into the shoulder socket.  I didn’t have a cast, instead all I was given was a sling from the emergency room.  By that time I had already lost 35lbs, and as you can already tell from the previous paragraph, the broken arm didn’t stop me from reaching my weight loss goal.

etsy banner While I was recovering from my broken arm, I decided that I wanted to start a new craft.  Well, it wasn’t really a new craft, it was an old craft that I learned when I was 9 and in the Cub Scouts.  I had some materials, so I wanted to use them up by making a couple of keychains.  I had so much fun that I decided that I wanted to learn a more complicated pattern.  I got so good at it and I was having so much fun that I ended up with about 40 keychains, so I opened up an Etsy shop.  I started out with keychains, and I added dangle keychain style earrings, studs and hoops and I already have plans on making and selling dream catcher earrings.

On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional and Prop 8 was finally repealed.  HURRAY!  What a glorious day that was for the gay community in California.  In fact, 18 (or 19) states made gay marriage legal in 2013 and legal on a federal level.  The reason I said or 19 is because Wikipedia doesn’t include DC, but says eighteen states AND District of Columbia.  Whatever.  18 or 19, it’s still a huge victory for us.  Illinois is in that 18, but theirs isn’t legal until June 2014.

IMAG2002 In late July I started having pain in my parotid gland, which happens at least 2 or 3 times a year for I want to say the last 10 years, but I am not positive.  It’s been going on for a very long time.  The parotid gland is the saliva gland and for some reason the saliva doesn’t release into my mouth, instead something blocks the way and it swells up to the size of a golf ball or bigger.  I try to milk it so the saliva goes into my mouth, and that does work, but it hurts really bad.  The doctors usually give me an antibiotic and it clears up in a week, but this time it didn’t clear up.  My doctor sent me to an ear, nose throat doctor and to have an ultrasound which showed that I had a stone inside of my parotid gland.  The ENT doctor sent me to have a cat scan with contrast which showed that I had several stones in both of my parotid glands, but the ones on the right side were much bigger than the left.  I had surgery on November 20th to remove my parotid gland.  The area is still numb and I was told it will probably be numb for another couple or few months.  YAY!

My back has caused me tons of pain for so many years and this summer I finally found out what was causing it.  Apparently I have scoliosis in my spine.  I told my aunt about it and she told me that my great-grandmother was born with scoliosis and she lived her entire life with it.  I remember she had a hump on her back, that was the scoliosis.  My doctor sent me to physical therapy for a month and that halted the pain, but it didn’t correct anything.  I have an appointment in January to start treatment up again, and it’s a good thing too because the pain is already starting to come back.  My first treatment was a shock, no, seriously, they put these electrodes on my back and it shot electricity to my nerves to dull them.  They had me do exercises for half an hour and then they would give me a deep tissue massage. The electrode was only applied to me on the first visit, all the other appointments were just me laying on the table doing exercises and then massages.  The last couple appointments didn’t include a massage.

bread slicer pumpkin bread We went to a thrift store in October and I found a bread machine for only $6.  I can’t say I have ever had homemade bread before, like ever, so that was quite an experience.  I did learn that I was doing it wrong for a very long time when I had such a horrible stomachache which felt like I had a 10lb brick sitting in my stomach.  Apparently the bread was too dry.  I read the instructions.  It clearly stated that I was to use exact measurements, no more, no less, so I was only doing what I was told to do, but apparently rules are made to be broken.  Now the bread is light and fluffy and it actually tastes better than store bought bread.  My favorite bread to make is Spiced Pumpkin Bread with raisins.  Have you ever had a ham sandwich or a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with pumpkin bread with raisins?  It’s quite awesome.  Although I will have to cut back on the bread when I start my diet up again.

We also helped feed a couple of neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which frankly is what the holidays are all about.  It’s nice to receive presents, but it’s even nicer to do a good deed for someone.  I guess those were our good deeds for the year.

Of course we exchanged presents.  I got a Nook HD+ 32GB tablet from my partner, and I gave him a Google Chromecast so he can watch Netflix and YouTube from his tablet, plus I got him Netflix.

I don’t know what will happen in 2014, but I’m sure it will be as memorable as 2013.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Bread Machine for Beginners

wheat bread

I have been having a lot of fun with my new bread machine.  I’ve mostly made 100% whole wheat bread for sandwiches, but I’ve also been making spiced pumpkin bread which I also use for sandwiches.  The picture above is my first attempt at making bread, this one is wheat bread, not 100% whole wheat.

Not every loaf of bread comes out perfect though, in fact, I had no idea that my dough has been too dry until now.  The other day I made a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread and it came out smaller than usual, and when I took it out, it was really thick and hard.  I cut the slices and noticed that it wasn’t light and fluffy at all, which is how bread should be, but decided that I will just go ahead and eat it anyway and hope for the best.  Last night I had a sandwich with that bread and had the worst stomach pain in my life about 6 hours later.  I don’t know if it was the bread, or a combination of the bread and all the pretzels that I ate and the fact that everything was dry that was causing the pain.  I had a heating pad on my stomach for nearly an hour.

I decided to do a little bit of research, which I should have done to begin with.  I found this website called Salad in a Jar with 6 Bread Machine Secrets for Beginners.  I am glad I found that because I found out that I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.  My bread is always the same consistency, but never touches the sides of the pan.  It’s always a hard ball in the center of the bread machine that just spins in circles.  I didn’t know it had to touch the sides.  So now I know why the bread is so thick.

The person who wrote that blog post said to use the bread machine to knead the bread, but then transfer it to a bread pan and bake it in the oven.  Well, I don’t have that luxury because I don’t have a normal oven.  Well, we have a normal oven, it’s just old and I never use it.  I bake everything in the toaster oven, which is why I bake the bread in the bread machine.

So now that I have this new knowledge, I am going to attempt to make a regular loaf of wheat bread, not 100% whole wheat.  I will make sure it has enough water and is tacky and sticks to the side and is not too dry.

I really want my bread to come out light and fluffy and not too heavy and I want it to taste good.  I also want my partner to like it so he doesn’t have to buy his own bread from the store, which was the whole reason I have a bread machine lol.  I don’t blame him for wanting to buy bread, because it is too hard to eat, so I really hope it works out now.  I have my fingers crossed.  I have my eyes crossed for good measure.

Bread Slicer

bread slicer with pumpkin bread

I know, this is a very strange thing to blog about, but I’m excited because the bread slicer that I bought on eBay actually works.  I tried using it when I first got it, but it didn’t really work out because I sliced the bread too soon, so it wasn’t slicing right because it was too soft.  The trick is letting the bread harden a little before slicing it which usually takes a day.  I was also pushing down on the top when I was slicing it the first time because it was wobbling too much in the slicer.  That gave me uneven bread.  If I don’t touch the top, it gives me perfect slices every time.

The bread in the image above is spiced pumpkin bread.  I normally only make 100% whole wheat bread to use for sandwiches or toast, but the spiced pumpkin bread is awesome to eat during the holidays.  In case you want the recipe, here it is.

spiced pumpkin bread

I substituted the oil with butter, and I don’t use the lemon juice and it comes out just fine.  I don’t use the lemon juice because I found a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread from Betty Crocker that uses butter instead of oil and it doesn’t use lemon juice.  The recipe for cinnamon raisin bread that came in the recipe book that this recipe came in used oil and lemon juice, so I simply just cut out the oil and lemon juice and replace them with butter in all of my bread recipes and they still come out good, amazing in fact.

I use the 1lb recipe for my bread machine and the bread usually goes over the top, if I use the 1 1/2lb recipe, it goes way over the top and touches the vent and the glass on the door of the machine.  That’s way too much bread, so the 1lb recipe is perfect.  The Betty Crocker recipe must be the 1 1/2lb recipe because it always goes over the top.

So I just wanted to show the slicer and how thick the slices come out.  I was hoping for thinner slices, but this is fine.  At least they aren’t too thin on one side and too thick on the other which is what usually happens when I don’t use the slicer.  It’s a good guide to use.  Oh and this bread slicer was only $7.99 on eBay.  I give this bread slicer a thumbs up.

Here is this same bread slicer on Amazon and here it is on eBay for $6.99.  Naturally they lowered the price by $1 the day AFTER I bought it lol.

Oh and just in case someone asks, because I was thinking about it too, you can buy an electric knife if you want to, but a regular bread knife works just fine.  Although an electric knife will probably give you a more even cut on each slice, a regular one works just as well.  The bread in the image above isn’t 100% perfect, it’s uneven, but it’s not too uneven so it doesn’t make too much of a difference to me, but I’m sure you will get the same or near the same results with an electric knife.  So if you already have a regular knife like I do, save your money and just use that.  If you don’t have either then buy whichever one you want, but a regular bread knife will work just fine.

Toastmaster Bread Box 1155

wheat bread

I took a trip to the thrift store yesterday, well, my intention wasn’t to go to a thrift store, but while I was in the neighborhood, I figured let’s go check to see what they have.  I was actually hoping to find a hot air popcorn popper, but instead I found a bread maker machine.  They had at least 5 of them, but this one had the little paddle inside of it, 2 of the other ones I looked at were missing that.  I didn’t look at the other ones because they were smaller than the one I found.

Okay so I’ve never made bread in my life and I’m 43 years old.  I have always wanted to, but never tried it because I knew it would probably be a lot of work because you have to knead the bread and what not.  I have a habit of burning water, so I was afraid of trying to bake my own bread.  This machine does it all, so there is literally no muss, no fuss.

toastmaster bread box

This is what the Toastmaster Bread Box 1155 looks like.  It was quite disgusting on the inside and outside, but I cleaned it up so it looks practically brand new.  It was only $5.95 plus tax, so how could you not buy it?  I knew I was taking a huge risk because you never know if what you are buying at a thrift store will work, but it works just fine.

The bread maker was cheap, but the ingredients for making wheat bread weren’t.  I went to the store to buy everything I needed for making wheat bread and it came to $30.  Ouch!  But, the good thing is that I will get a lot of bread with those ingredients, so the money I will save will make up for that.

Good wheat bread is expensive and you never really know what is inside your bread, so at least now I know what I am putting into it.  It’s basically water, oil, lemon juice, salt, brown sugar, dry milk, bread flour, whole wheat flour and active dry yeast.  That’s it.  100% whole wheat bread is the same, except I don’t use bread flour and it takes 1 hour longer to make.

White bread is unhealthy, but it’s basically all the same ingredients except there is regular white sugar and you don’t use whole wheat flour.  I don’t plan on making white bread unless it is requested.

My first time making bread was a success, but I thought I screwed it up because I used the whole wheat setting.  Well, I was making whole wheat bread, so naturally I thought I had to use that setting, but it turns out I only need to use that setting if I am making 100% whole wheat bread with all the ingredients minus the bread flour.  Since I made regular wheat bread, I should have used the basic setting which takes 3 1/2 hours.  Now I know.

I’m particularly excited about making other things with this bread maker like spiced pumpkin bread and banana bread.  The machine didn’t come with a manual or a recipe book, but I did manage to find them online all in 1 pdf file.  The recipe book has many good recipes, but I will probably only make wheat for our bread and the pumpkin and banana bread for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.  They also make great gifts.  Someone gave me homemade banana nut bread for my birthday once and it was AWESOME!  So I plan on doing the same.

So I finally have a bread machine that didn’t break the bank.  What an awesome gift from whoever donated it to the thrift store.  I know it’s an old machine, but it’s still a gift to me since I didn’t have one and couldn’t afford to pay $75+ for a brand new one.