Saturday, May 30, 2009

Amy’s Bowls Teriyaki

Amy’s Bowls Teriyaki

Gluten-Free Non-Dairy

Contains soy

Calories 290

Once again Amy’s has a wonderful tasting tofu dish. The Teriyaki bowls has a wonderful mix of brown rice, vegetables and tofu with a very nice teriyaki sauce. The vegetables were crisp-tender and delicious.

Since I had an opportunity to join co-worker for lunch it stayed in my insulated lunch bag until I had a late dinner. It was still cold but had completely defrosted. I reduced the cooking time and it came out wonderfully. So while the children had their favorite Trader Joe’s Chicken Shu Mai I was able to enjoy my on Asian delight dinner.

It was a very satisfying dinner and I would definitely get it again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Only my kids

I have two young kids who like so many others love candy. We don’t believe in the clean plate club but when they do finish all of their dinner they are allowed to have a piece of candy. They also are typical kids and eat the frosting off of their cake first. So with that in mind I thought adding a little cake decorating frosting and large sprinkles would be a hit. For this bento I added faces to their cream cheese with large sprinkles and a dot of frosting for their eyes. I also added a bouquet of flowers to their peanut butter and Nutella spread. Both kids scrapped off the frosting and picked off the candies. When they came home from school they told never to put that stuff on their food again. Sigh, I tried. I’ll wait a few weeks and try again.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 National Trademark Expo

This month the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 2009 National Trademark Expo ( ). It was open to the public and free. We went Saturday taking advantage of the free parking. As we walked from the parking garage to the expo we could see giant USPTO balloons tethered to the buildings. The kids shouted with excitement to see the big balloons. They were even more amazed as we climbed the steps and could see the others staked to the ground. The Cat in the Hat white glove and hat poked out of the ground before them. Off to the left was a life size Thomas The Tank Engine. Tucked in between was a bright red Jelly Belly. And behind them all was a gigantic USPTO shield on a balloon. In front of the building was a smaller balloon of the Jolly Green Giant.

Travelers insurance had an interactive screen. If you stood between the projector and the screen you could make their red umbrella trademarks scatter like a pile of fall leaves. It was a hit with the children and the adults who seemed torn between playing and figuring out how it worked.

Hershey’s chocolates were there. Really, there were 3 bowls that seemed to magically refill as everyone took samples of their famous trademarked kisses’, peanut butter cups, and candy bars. Their booth was filled with informative posters and fliers between other merchandise from their factories and theme park. The kids thought it was even more amazing to see life sized Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s Kisses’, and a Hershey’s candy bar walking around. As my son hugged a HUGE chocolate kiss the peanut butter cups walked up. The handler asked which he liked best, with that my son ran for the peanut butter cups shouting “PEANUT BUTTER!”

The USPTO said 25 characters attended. We saw at least 20 of them. My son shook hands or hugged 20 of the ones we saw. He said “hi” to Olive Oyl, Dennis the Menace, Betty Boop, Curious George, Peter Rabbit, Maisy Mouse, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s Kisses’, Hershey’s candy bar, 4 Crayola Crayons (yellow, red, green, & orange), The Grinch, The Cat in the Hat, Faux Paw, Energizer Bunny, Pillsbury Dough Boy, and T. Markey (the USPTO Trademark mascot). Sprout got away without getting a handshake or a photo. Popeye and a few others didn’t come out while we were there.

My daughter is at the age where the characters are just a bit too scary. Those eyes don’t move and they are soooo big. Even when she saw Peter Rabbit she hid behind her dad. She refused to touch all but the Hershey's Kiss. But then, towards the end of our visit, Maisy Mouse came out to say hi. When she saw Maisy Mouse she went running to her, paused for a moment and then gave her a hug with a big smile.

The kids each had a chance to putt at the Callaway Golf Company. They sat still long enough for one story in the kids’ story time corner. The books featured the characters or the exhibitors attending the expo. The kids received ‘silver’ coins and water bottles from the US Air Force, who gave me a flyer on the right way to use their trademarks. I picked up a few trademark publications from the USPTO booth and more at the United States Department of Energy about their solar home competition. The booth that caught my attention the most was Internet Keep Safe Coalition. They were demonstrating their products featuring Faux Paw, the web-surfing techno cat ( ). This is a series to keep children safe on the internet and responsible use of technology. It is definitely something to check out since the kids will be surfing the web before long.

It was a very informative event with exhibits and seminars in the USPTO National Inventors’ Hall of Fame Museum Theater. The booths had trademark owners explaining their trademarks, showing the difference between their products and counterfeits, and activities for everyone. Who knew trademarks could be so much fun?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yard Make Over: Making it happen

The May rains broke for part of a day giving them a chance to get to work. They started by moving the end azalea in the porch bed because it over hung the new walkway and would be in the way of the mason. Next was removing the 3 azaleas by the bay window and repositioning the white one so it would better fit the space. The 2 pink ones are waiting to be replanted over in the front corner of the property where they will have room to grow. A salvaged down spot cement stone was positioned to help direct water away from the house and into the garden.

The edge of the walkway was evened out and braced with salvaged scalloped edge cement blocks. The end of the walk used a few pieces of the same type of cement blocks with smooth edges, sunken so it won’t trip anyone. The gravel was leveled and then covered with sand. The mason started sorting through our salvaged rock and the addition rock they purchased. He started the gigantic puzzle which will be our walkway. The cracks were filled with blue sand stone dust. It is beautiful contrast to the lighter stoned. I’ll have to go back and fill in some more stone dust as it settles but then I’ll be able to try to grow some moss between the stones.

The 3 remaining azaleas then came out. To our surprise there weren’t three plants. There were 3 large ones and 7 smaller ones. All were a beautiful dark pink. The 4 large dark pink from in front of the porch and 2 large light pink ones were moved to the front edge of the property. They are set a few lawn mowers’ width with away from the curb to allow visitors out of their cars and room for the plants to reach their natural 6 foot diameter.

The remaining small dark pink will be planted between the drive way and the vegetable garden, on either side of the lilacs (lavender) I just planted next to the tree stump. This should help break up or block headlights coming into the windows as cars come around the corner. It will also "balance" the other azaleas on the other front corner of the property.

I moved some green on green variegated hostas my sister gave me to where the dark pink azalea was by the porch along with some mystery spring bulbs (white flower) from under another azalea on the property. I know they have a white flower and nothing else since they were in such a bad place before. Now we'll be able to see them as soon as they come up next spring. I planted a new small lilac bush at the far end of the flower bed in front of the porch. It will have lavender flowers and will only get to about 3 feet high and 3 feet around. A much better fit then the azaleas which get 6 feet around. I planted more green on green variegated hosta at the end to match the other end. A large flower pot of day lilies (from a co-worker) went down the middle of the bed. In front of the day lilies I transplanted some more of the mystery white spring flowering bulbs. Hopefully all the plants will enjoy the sunlight and space. The sheppard's hook with hanging flower pot is all back in the middle of the bed.

Under the bay window I pulled a thick rug of sprouting weeds. I moved the solid green hostas (also from my sister) so they could work than moved them back and transplanted the rest which were still in pots along the edge of the walkway. I repositioned 4 other plants in the bed under the bay window to make it look more finished. The following day I purchased a few pots of marigolds, pansies, Angelonia (Serena White) and Vista Red Salvia to fill out the bed. I picked up 2 new solar lights to match the ones lining the longer section of walkway.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yard Make Over: Preparation

I’ve been working on the yard since we moved in over 3 years ago. Things are slowly improving one plant and one stone at a time.

Two years ago a friend found flagstone which was being thrown away to make way for a new patio. My husband dragged home what seemed like a driveway full. I had a section of the driveway cut and removed to improve the drainage near the house’s foundation. At the same time I had a walkway foundation dug out and filled with crushed stone.

A year ago I installed plastic edging along both sides of a narrow flower bed I want to run the length of the new walkway. I used and over grown clump of green and white variegated hosta to fill the bed. That one clump was so tightly packed that divided it covered the 30 plus feet of the walkway with some space to grow. This year it looks wonderful especially with the Hamilton Bay Solar lights. Last August I was so frustrated with the azalea by the front door I cut one down to 6 inches. It’s come back and needs to be moved before it starts to attack the front door again.

So 2 years latter there is still a pile of salvaged flagstone and other miscellaneous bricks and cement blocks. After gathering bids from 3 reputable local landscapers and masons we choose one for the lingering project. The winner was Oscar and his mason.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yard Make Over: The Problem

Part of the driveway was used for the foundation for the sun room addition. Water from snow falls and heavy rains accumulates at the base of the foundation which could damage the foundation. In front of the bay window and next to the front door there are 3 full size azaleas crammed up against the house in a space that was more appropriate for a mums or hosta. The cramped space forced the plants to hanging over the walk. I’ve been constantly trimming them just to get the groceries by.

In a 3 foot wide flower bed against the front porch there are 4 full size azaleas which would love to fill a space twice the size. They share the bed with two small pine trees. One of the pine trees leaned a little more with each snow fall and couldn’t be propped back up so it came down.

Then no walk way to the front door and a narrow driveway lead to very muddy feet on rainy days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lilac Take A Front Seat

I have beautiful old fashion light lavender lilacs along the back of my property. Every spring they bloom beautifully but so few get to enjoy them. Honestly there at times we only get to see them is when we take out the trash. Each spring they also send up shots close to the base of the main plant. In the past I have cut off a number for my sister to sell as a fund raiser at a school sale and I have given some to a friend to put in her yard. This year I decided some of the new plants needed to be moved to the front so we could enjoy the blooms and to help block headlights as cars come around the corner. I picked a place next to a tree stump since the two together will be easier to mow around and the lilac will take attention away from the stump.

The new plants are easy to pluck from the ground. A quick chop of a shovel disconnects them from the main root ball. Digging a new hole for them to go into is a little more time consuming. I have yet to hear anyone say digging in Virginia clay soil is easy. Once they were planted I lined the new bed with salvaged bricks. This not only looks good but will help protect them from “run away” lawn mowers, dog walkers, and kids chasing balls. Well at least they will see it’s not just more grass to trample.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gardening Gizmos

I’ve recently picked up 2 new gardening gizmos to help out in the yard. First I picked up a Tubtrugs flexible tub. Since the bucket can be used for food along with pretty much anything else in the garden I thought this would be a useful and versatile addition to the shed. The day I brought the tub home I used it to collect sticks, weeds, and trash from the yard, hold plants I was transplanting and water for them, and gathering lettuce from the garden. I intentionally picked up a color which was not one of the kids’ favorite colors in hopes to being able to keep it for myself. It didn’t work, within a day they had confiscated it for their pool toys. I picked up two more in their favorite colors so I could get mine back. If we need a few more ice buckets at the next pot luck I might need to use all three.

The second gizmo I picked up was a Magic Ring. This simple flexible plastic ring is used to hold open paper lawn bags. In our area yard waste is supposed to be put at the curb in clear plastic bags or paper bags. Yard waste would be grass trimmings, leaves, sticks, sod, etc. The bags are also good for composting leaves, etc. Many of the local gardening stores carry these super sized paper bags. I found the ring took a little practice to get just right in the bag so I wouldn’t rip the bag or have it slip and fall to the bottom. Once I got the hang of inserting the ring it worked great. I could toss invasive weeds in without the bag flipping closed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Office: Spring Peeps

After I decorated my co-worker’s cube with spring flowers her supervisor mumbled ‘do I have to get sick to get that’. I told her it had to be more then the flu. She may have been teasing but she sure seemed a bit jealous. I started to think of what I might be able to do to/for her. It couldn’t be more flowers. I’d already done that.

A friend on FaceBook posted pictures of her office after her boss “peeped” her. For several years now her boss has decorated her office with marshmallow Peep chicks. Then for even more inspiration there is the annual Washington Post Peeps Show. These dioramas are amazing with the contest winners spending hours or weeks designing and building their entries.

Luckily this co-worker has a sense of humor, likes flowers, and seems really down to earth. So the idea was developing. I would go back into the office after she left for the day and decorate her office. Armed with 10 boxes of 10 packs of various colors of Peep chicks, that would be 100 Peeps, marshmallows, pretzels and Wilton’s 4 tubes of cake decorating frosting the invasion began.

First pink Peeps popped up in her large potted plant. They were later joined by yellow Peeps.

Then green and yellow Peeps sounded off and marched along her filing cabinets.

Others decide to start pecking out a message on the wipe board.

Some camped out on her computer. I did insist they have a Peep poop (sugar) drop cloth so our technical team didn’t panic.

Some insisted on having a coffee break.

But most of the Peeps wanted to party.

They dressed up with flowers on their heads, leis hanging from their necks or mini bouquets and started to dance around a bomb fire fueled by pretzels with flaming marshmallows.

They were joined by 4 Peep drummers and a Peep choir. Others hung around in the background chatting while enjoying the music and the dancers twirling around the bomb fire.

It is truly amazing what you can do with a kid free hour in a quite office. Needless to say she was VERY surprised and will be watching what she says around the office from now on. It took her most of the day to give away most of the Peeps but I think by the end of the week all but one was eaten and it was put on my desk.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Office: Spring Flowers

One of my wonderful co-workers was out for a medical reason and I thought I had to do something for her. I may have seen too many of those emails which are floating around showing what people have done to their co-workers while they were out. I thought I needed to fill her cube with silk flowers. Since I didn’t know when she would be back I thought silk would be the best choice. I set a budget and luckily a local craft store had a half price sale on their spring silk flowers. I have to say $25.00 even at a half price sale does not go very far when you are buying silk flowers. The vision of filling her cube with flowers changed to a pleasantly decorated cube. There would be no worries about her getting to her chair or opening any drawers.

I used clips designed for hanging things in fabric covered office cubes to hang 2 strands of spring flower garlands around the top of half of her cube. The gracefully scalloped garland hangs beautifully over the shared printer and her certificates. For the other side of her cube I ‘planted’ a forsythia bush consisting of 2 springs. Two mixed spring flower bouquets fitted nicely into her existing vase.

I had a little more money but not enough for more flowers. I picked up a gardening kneeling pad which I hoped she could use for her recovery or when she gets back out in her garden. I found a pretty journal book covered with spring flowers to brighten her desk too. Lastly, with less than a dollar left I picked up two gourmet butterfly lollipops to fly out of her pen holder.

My initial plan had been transformed into a beautiful cube that she was pleasantly surprised to come back to. She likes enough that she said she was going to leave it up… weeks latter it’s still there adding some cheerful color to her cube and a reminder that she was missed.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Amy’s Tofu Scramble

Amy’s Tofu Scramble with hash browns & veggies


Contains soy

Calories 320

I would never describe myself as a fan of tofu. It seems it can be hit or miss for me. Some things like hot and sour soup I love the tofu ‘noodles’ and other things I wonder why they were ever made. The picture on the box of Amy’s Tofu Scramble with hash browns & veggies made it look tempting enough to try and I’m glad I did. It was very tasty and satisfying. The hash browns were well seasoned with just the right touch of black pepper. The texture of the scramble was very pleasing and tasted delicious. It was a very satisfying breakfast and I would definitely get it again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pre-Made Meals: Tortilla Casserole & Black Bean

Amy’s Bowls

Tortilla Casserole & Black Bean


Contains Milk & Soy

Single serve

Calories 390

It isn’t often when I have a gluten-free lunch and I have people flocking to my desk to find out what smells SOOoooo good. I decided I needed a change from my homemade lunches and took an Amy’s Bowls Tortilla Casserole & Black Bean meal to work for lunch. It was really tasty. The textures of the tortillas was good and distinctive from the layers of other ingredients. The tofu was diced small and well seasoned. The black beans were delicious. I would definitely recommend it and get it again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Shopping: Catalog/Online Ordering Verses Store Front

In a recent Sierra Club’s The Green Life posting the topic was “Green Your Shopping Habits: Gifts”. After a few postings including one about shopping on line to save gas, gift wrapping, etc I had to put in my two cents.

Shopping: Catalog/Online Ordering Verses Store Front

I really consider the shop online or locally a lot like the paper or plastic bag dilemma.

There are things that, depending on where you live, can only be gotten via mail order or ordering online. If you would have to drive great distances to get something it would save money, time and gas to order the item and have it shipped to you. The postal service and other companies who deliver packages have devised systems to save as much time, money and gas to deliver packages. It is in their best interest to because it affects their bottom line ($$$). One of the major carries in the United States maps out delivery routes to decrease the number of left hand turns their drivers need to make since left hand turns often lead to delays at lights or waiting for traffic, both cost the company time and gas – in other words money.

Now if you can find the item in your local area and can combine trips you are going to save gas and money by shopping locally. In addition to eliminating lots of shipping packaging and saving gas you will support your local economy. and other online stores are great and often cost lest but then money goes a long way from where most of us live. If you buy locally you still may be shipping some of your money to far off lands for the manufacturing but you are paying the store clerk, local and state taxes for your roads, schools etc, and if it is locally owned the higher ups also are local and spending their hard earned money in YOUR city or town therefore paying more clerks, landlords, taxes, etc. Virtigo Books (formally of College Park MD) posted on their blog “Why Buy Local?” which explains why should support our local business. Their example states that for everyone $100 you spend locally $45 stays local; at national chains only $14 stays local; and internet purchases $0. Unfortunately not enough people heeded their post and their store closed this April.

So, just as we need to think about our choices for paper, plastic or reusable shopping bags, we need to think before we shop and make the best choice for where we purchase things.