DIY Self-Watering Pots

I like plants because I like oxygen.  A major obstacle is that I don’t have a green thumb.  This is due to being forgetful, which is due in part to multitasking, which is due to having a lot on my plate and in my head.  You get the idea.  I have some pretty, ugly, plastic self-watering containers.  Why can’t they be pretty self-watering containers?  Google is my bestfriend for information.  I found this video and thought I hit pay dirt!

Irrigation pipe and float you say?  Find it where now?  I did some web searching and they seemed to cost around $30.  I’m way too cheap for that.  I went grocery shopping and the dollar store was next door.  I figured it was worth a look for irrigation materials.

From the dollarstore I found:

  • a plastic funnel that had a pipe that looked large enough for irrigation purposes.
  • pebbles instead of leca.
  • A microfiber cloth as the porous membrane to wick water up to the soil.







Great, now what do I do with all this junk?

    • I really like the look of the ceramic pots at IKEA but they don’t offer any drainage.  So I layered the pebbles at the bottom.
    • I took the funnel off and cut slits in the bottom of the pipe so that water would be able to flow into the pebbles.
    • Cut the corners off of the microfiber cloth and a hole for the pipe.  Place it on  the pebbles.
    • Place some soil, then the root ball of the plant and fill with soil.


Pour water into the pipe and do it again when you remember.

IMG_0889That’s it!  For a few dollars you can make a self watering pot out of any pot to match your decor.  If you really feel you need a water level indicator, you can shape a piece of styrofoam to fit the pipe, and jam a straw into it.  Make sure the straw is about as tall as the pipe.  When you add enough water, the level fills up to the top of the pebbles, the styrofoam will become buoyant and you will see the top of the straw rise up the pipe.

New Year, Same Resolution

Back from Christmas break and two weeks of over indulging.  My clothes have been getting noticeably tighter and more uncomfortable.  Since I tend to hang my clothes dry I can’t blame my clothes for shrinking.  This leaves the only conclusion – I’m getting FAT!

Every year we all promise ourselves we are going to lose weight, eat better, and work out.  All too often people make promises to themselves, get overwhelmed and dive into a pie.  It’s ok to fall off the wagon and into a pie during the course of a year.  Don’t feel completely defeated.  Pick yourself up, wipe your face and try again.  Your resolution should be to Keep Trying.  Don’t quit trying!

Studies show that  if you wear a pedometer, you tend to walk a little more, take the stairs and at the end of the day, you’ve lost extra calories!  I highly recommend the Sportline Traq Pedometer from Running Room.  Unlike other pedometers I’ve had, this one is digital!  It doesn’t depend on you clipping it on your waist and specific orientation.  It can detect your motion even if it’s in your pocket or purse!  Of course you do have to measure your stride length, age, weight and the rest is automagic!  What surprised me after the first use was that it keeps track of the total time you move.  It’s disturbing to know that after an 8 hour day of working in an office, I walked only 1 hour total!  These are stats that motivate me to get off my butt more.  If you purchase this online, you can use ”JANFEB2013” to save 20% off your whole purchase until the end of February.  So if you don’t have the proper footwear, and apparel for running, add it all to the cart now!

I would also recommend getting a calorie counter app like MyFitnessPal.  It’s free, and has a huge database of foods.  If it isn’t listed in there, you can use the camera to scan the barcode and it automagically creates the entry with all the dirty details!  You can also put in recipes and have it break down the calorie count for a serving portion.   I’m a huge fan!  The one thing I don’t like is, no matter if you’re a man, woman, tall, short, young, old, the default calories it sets per day is 1200.  This can be dangerously low depending on the variables I mentioned.  I’d recommend speaking with your doctor before starting any program.  Since my doctor tells me I’m pretty darn healthy I tend to figure out how many calories I need from online calculators.  Based on this calculator, I change the 1200 calories to the number listed for ”If you reduce your current caloric intake to insert number here calories per day you will lose one pound per week without exercise.”

So far I’ve lost 1 pound.  Losing 1-2 pounds a weeks is a pretty healthy pace.  If I lose a more significant amount of weight, I’ll go back to the calculator and see how many calories I need and adjust accordingly.

Colour Purple

Purple is my favourite colour!  If I’m buying something, and it’s available in purple, it makes my decision so much easier!  Even if it’s something I wasn’t looking for, if it’s purple, it will catch my eye.  I don’t know what it is, it’s a colour that makes me happy to look at it.  Is that weird?

I was on a cruise this past summer, and we had a stop off in the Bahamas.  I was so good not to get my Canon SD1000 wet all day.  Then at the end of the day, I forgot that I had it in my mesh, back pack.  A friend and I decided to go for one last dip in the salt water ocean….   Fortunately the SD card didn’t fry and I was able to retrieve my photos.  The camera however wouldn’t power on.  Even when I left the battery out to dry.  Months later, I’m sad to say that it never took another snap.  It has served me well for a good 5 years.  I got it on sale for $180 back in the day.  It was a good deal.  So I’ve been camera shopping for a while.  I considered a waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof – (possibly idiot proof)  camera.  I consulted a photographer friend of mine about what he thought of the Olympus TG1.  He told me waterproof cameras were over rated, and NO ONE looks good under water.  He recommended a Sony RX100.  I looked it up, and it’s a $700 camera!  As a professional, that’s his idea of a pocket camera to whip out for that great shot that’s comparable to his DSLR.  I was actually looking for something 1/6 that price.

As a nerdette, I was one of the early adopters of a digital camera.  The first one I bought was a Canon brick, that required a compact flash.  It was a necessary evil and a graduation present for myself … along with a trip to the Dominican Republic and a summer in Europe.  I dropped that one 4 years later and the LCD screen cracked.  I was still functional, because it had a view finder but it seemed like it was time for a new one.  I surfed around, and ended up with my second Canon, the SD1000 after a friend sent me a Red Flag Deals tip of a good sale.

I surfed the internet a little more, listened to a bunch of reviews on compact cameras and once again, gravitated to the Canon Elph 110HS, 320HS and the S100.  The Elphs were all in the $200 range, and the S100 was in the $400 range, and the most comparable to the Sony RX100.  Now it was a matter of waiting for a good sale.  Boxing day is just around the corner!  Emails from Amazon, Blacks, Sony, Red Flags, Future Shop, Best Buy etc. were bombarding me daily with emails. had a really good deal for the Elph 110HS at $149.90.  Future Shop had  at $159.99.  They also have a policy where they will beat any price by 10% of THE DIFFERENCE between prices.  For my $10 difference, I would be haggling for $1.  I poked around the site a little more and found the 320HS at $189.99, with the case.  Best buy had it listed for over $200.  I was pretty sure I had my heart set on the 320HS.  I was even day dreaming about blogging with pictures easier with the Wi-Fi feature.

I had to run into Costco for gas, and for grins, I decided to see what cameras they had.  Their website indicated they had the 320HS, with case and a 16GB SD card for $199.99.  For $10, the SD card would be worth it.  THe downside is, the only colour choice was silver.  It looked too similar to the SD1000 I fried.  I also know that I would be reminded of what a complete tool I was.  I mean, an electrical engineer, taking a digital camera for a swim?  :/


I got to the camera display, and what caught my eye?

A purple 310HS!  Then I scanned the display for a price – $79.99!  What?  It had a red “last item” stamped on the label.  I had to quickly Google 310HS vs 320HS.  It was quite a mixed bag of features.  The 310 pros: 12.1Mpixel, 8x zoom, $79.99, and PURPLE!  310 cons: no Wi-Fi.  The 320HS pros:

16.1Mpixel, touch screen, Wi-Fi.   320 cons: 5x zoom, $199.99, not purple.

So of course I come to my senses and go back for the 310!IMG_2181 case was missing the SKU and price but I found the nice guy who helped me before.  He took the camera out of the case and went to the office in search of the box.  He met up with me at the cash when another Costco employee ran up to him holding the missing label.  She said she was trying to get it for another customer but couldn’t find the camera.  He told her it was in the box.  The cashier had the box in his hand and didn’t know if he should scan it in or hand it over to the angry Costco lady.  My guy told her tough luck.  Funny how I never wanted the camera more, until someone else was trying to snatch it out of my hand.

The moral of the story is, if you see something at a price that’s too good to be true, and in your favourite colour, why think twice?  The lesser moral is, don’t go swimming with a back pack!

Cauling all recipes!

So The Vitamix, Broccoli Cheese sup recip said you could also use cauliflower instead of broccoli.  I received a HUGE head of cauliflower and used half of it in my breakfast smoothies.  Say what?  Yeah, that’s right, I was running out of time before I fly out for the holidays so I threw a bunch into my smoothies:

  • 2 cups of rice milk
  • 1/2 cup of home made yogurt
  • a handful of cauliflower florets
  • half a mango
  • an orange, peeled
  • 2 bananas (had a bunch going bad)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (I just shake a bunch in without measuring now)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (added afterwards to take the bite out of the raw cauliflower)

I felt that oatmeal and chia seeds weren’t necessary because there seems to be enough fiber in the mango and cauliflower.  This mixture also generated 6 cups of smoothies versus the usual 4 cups.

Now, what are we gonna do with the other half of that albatross?  The broccoli and cheese Vitamix recipe mentioned cauliflower could be used instead.  I ran out of rice milk, and with upcoming holiday travels, I decided not to go through the process of steaming rice.  I figured I may just use water, but realized I needed something to add a creamy texture.  I rummaged through the fridge and found – MUSHROOMS!  They were part of my organic basket delivery, they didn’t sprout from spores in my fridge.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 white mushrooms, washed
  • 2 mini Light Babybels
  • half a head of cauliflower, steamed
  • 2 teaspoons of onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch

I placed the head of cauliflower in the Pampered chef microwaveable pot, added someIMG_0001 water to cover the bottom and covered it.  I microwaved it on high for 3 minutes.  While the cauliflower was steaming, I decided to blend the water and mushrooms because it’s supposed to be a substitute for milk.  I dumped the rest of the ingredients in and brought the variable speed up to 10, then let is spin on high for 6 minutes. some salt and pepper to taste, and it turned out to taste really good!

Green soup?

Another reason why I enjoy my Vitamix is not only is it a time saver, but it  has recipes for single people.  I have another organic basket coming, but I still have broccoli in the fridge from 2 weeks ago (kept in Tupperware Fridgemates so they’re still good).  It’s a chilly -11 degree Celsius kinda day so soup would certainly hit the spot!  Based on the Vitamix recipe book I decided to try the broccoli cheese soup again.  The last time I did it, I took the lazy way out and didn’t bother steaming the broccoli.  I also made the mistake of using 1/4 of a raw onion instead of the 1/4 teaspoon of minced onion (I assume dehydrated flakes of onion).  I’m a self proclaimed culinary genius so I also figured I’d toss in a clove or two of garlic.  It was my first stab at making a soup and it tasted AWFUL.  I choked most of it down anyway because I hate wasting food.  The garlic and onions liquefied into a mouth numbing taste I can’t describe.  Raw broccoli isn’t something you should dive into.  So my second attempt:

  • A big stem of broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of the rice milk I made (yay me!)
  • 2 Mini Babybel Light
  • 2 teaspoons of onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon of corn starch
  • salt and pepper to taste

I took my Pampered chef micro cooker, added enough water to cover the bottom, put the broccoli in and microwaved it for 2 minutes.  (That’s how lazy I was before.)  During that two minutes I poured in my milk, unwrapped my Babybels.  Once the broccoli was done I Vitamixed it with the milk to break up the stem.  Once that turned into liquid, I threw in the Babybels, corn starch and onion soup mix.  I turned the variable speed up to 10, flipped the high speed switch, and set a timer for 6 minutes.  During that time I tidied up my minimal mess.

It looks like a nasty colour of green, but it turned out to be tasty.  I will most likely do it again tomorrow ’cause it was so quick and easy.

Milking it

I have an intolerance to milk.  I hate to say it, but I am in fact … a lactard.  I really hate that noun.  As a petite, Asian, my doctor has always shown concern that I get enough calcium through supplements and milk substitutes.

The cost of milk seems to be rising, and lactose free milk is even more expensive.  I had been buying a 6 pack of soy milk from Costco for $8.99.  Whenever it would go on sale for $6.99, I’d stock up.  It’s shelf stable so it can be bought in bulk.

I was at my local natural food store and saw a booklet about eating right for my specific blood type.  I have suffered from allergies all my life so I have always been willing to try anything.  People have tried elimination diets, so why not?  I would never know where to start.  One of the first things it said was that I should be avoiding everything soy!  I recall reading an article that soy has a chemical in it that mimics estrogen.  At first I thought it shouldn’t be a concern for me, but some other articles mentioned that too much estrogen can throw you out of whack.  Given my high stress/anxiety level I figured I will lay off the soy milk and see how I feel.  I started buying almond milk from Costco instead.  A guy on FB mentioned he was trying to find an almond milk without carrageenan.  Again, health risks, and it’s on my avoid for my blood type list.  I couldn’t win.  I’ve tried rice milk before, and wasn’t crazy about the watery consistency.

I had bought a Vitamix to liquefy my foods that were going bad in the fridge.  I hate to waste food, to the point where I’m willing to drink it!  Finally, I get to my point.  There’s a recipe in the Vitamix book for making your own milk substitutes.  Rice seems like the cheapest ingredient to use rather than almonds or sesame seeds.  I may try almonds later, since sesame is yet another food I should avoid for my blood type.

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice (I used basmati because it has a low glycemic index)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Splenda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put the lid on, turn on the Vitamix on variable speed 1, cranked it up to 10 pretty quickly, flipped the “high speed” switch and let it spin for 2 minutes.  I was surprised that there wasn’t a single chunk of rice to be found.  It tasted a little weird because the Vitamix blades spinning at high speed for 2 minutes starts to heat up.  It can make hot soup in 6 minutes!  I had made a lot of rice for my stir fry lunches so I was able to make 2L to keep in the fridge.   I was also able to make 2 cups to have with dinner, and another 2 cups for my breakfast smoothie.  Essentially, I was able to make 12 cups without frying my Vitamix!  I’m sure you can do this with any blender, but it would probably take a little longer.  I know when I had a Magic Bullet, it would smell like it was burning after a few pulses to make a smoothie.

Sure, Vitamix is pricey.   I waffled about buying one for about a year.  I did my research and found the best deal to be Costco (US).  It comes with a 7 year warranty and I would say that I have been putting it through it’s paces since I got it.  Given my TMJ, recent concussion, and motivation to consume all my organic produce before it goes bad, I drink at least 2 cups of liquefied food each day.


Irish Stew, Don’t Mind If I Do!

After a quick search I had versions of all the ingredients for this Irish Lamb Stew Recipe.

1 1/2 pounds thickly sliced bacon, diced
6 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut
into 2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
4 cups chicken boullion
4 cups diced carrots
2 large onions, cut into bite-size pieces
3 potatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Instead of “real” bacon I’m going with turkey bacon.  I picked up a 3 pack from Costco for $11.99.  Using my digital scale, 1.5 pounds, is about 2 packs of bacon.  I also only had 700g of lamb, instead of the >2100g/6 pounds this recipe called for.  I’m not sure how the heck Danny O’Flaugherty is able to prep this stew in 20 minutes, but I’d love to know his secrets.  I’m thinking he has a robot to peel his veggies (note to self, invent culinary, veggie peeling robot) and bought a better cut of meat so he didn’t have to spend a crazy amount of time trimming the fat.

I tried the sauté function on my new gadget.  The turkey bacon was done in minutes.  I

Saute setting

scooped that out and put in the lamb.  It browned up in around 5 minutes in the turkey, bacon juice.  Dumped in the rest of the ingredients.

To convert a recipe into a pressure cooker recipe, you should reduce the cook time by 70%.  Doing some “fancy math”: 2.25*(1-.70)*60min =40.5 minutes   Let’s see if we can cut down the 2.25 hour cook time down to 40 minutes.

*40 minutes elapses*  Tada!  I think a lot of the potatoes and onions couldn’t take the pressure and were vapourized in the making of this stew.

Irish stew completeIt certainly smells great.  The taste – pretty good.  If I were to do this again I would add only 1 pack of turkey bacon.  Half the lamb still turned out pretty meaty in my opinion.  I would certainly lay off the salt out of the mixture.  I think the turkey bacon had enough sodium in it to make my face pucker.  I’m pounding back a lot of water here just to put moisture back in my mouth.  I would also add in more potatoes.

Pressure cooker

The title describes both my life and my new toy!  Instead of studying for my final, or working on my course project, I was compelled to procrastinate and create a blog!

I have been using a slow cooker for 10 years now.  I truly love my crock pot, but these days I’m usually pressed for time (even when I’m not trying to waste it).  As I was sifting through my weekly flyers a new gadget leaped off the page and hit me in the face.  Of course I had to run out and buy it with a 20% off coupon!  The Breville Fast Slow Cooker  may be the newest gadget to change my life since the crock pot!

I have a bunch of root veggies piling up from my organic baskets that I have delivered to my door and some lamb that might be going bad in the fridge so I will attempt to make my first pressure cooker stew.

I know I will lose the manual eventually, so here’s a soft copy for future reference.