Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lightbulb Moment

I've been scouring the internet and catalogues to find the perfect light fixture to go above my dining table. Our main dining area is technically the breakfast 'nook' but it's plenty big to meet all of our needs. The room that is intended to be used as a formal dining room is the 'golden arches' room, which I am making a sitting room because I'm just not a formal dining person.

Today, I was looking on the Pottery Barn website and found this pendant:

16 mason jars' worth of incandescent bliss hanging from charcoal grey fabric of varying lengths, which are all affixed to a board (or metal that looks like a board). In short, perfection. I love the beautiful chandeliers, such as my friend's divine capiz beaut from West Elm, but it just wouldn't look good in my space. I don't want to be too 'country' or shabby chic, or rustic, but I feel like the simplicity of the pendant still looks polished and isn't too fiddly.

At least my taste is consistent.  They've staged it with the Tolix cafe chairs that I fell in love with when we ate at Brasserie Four, but cost almost a grand for a set of four...on sale!
Now for the challenge. It costs $400...before taxes...or shipping. Really? For Mason Jars hanging on cords affixed to a board? I am going to investigate to see if I could make one myself for a fraction of the cost that would still look as polished and professional. The tricky thing that I foresee, aside from having absolutely no electrical experience (minor detail) is that the lids aren't just mason jar lids, but galvanized metal...does that mean I'll have to whip out my long-retired, and barely developed, welding skills? My dad is actually a pretty awesome welder, so I may have to employ his skills rather than mine. Or maybe I can find some galvanized metal lids that already have some sort of hook attached to them? In the end, it would be super awesome if I can making something like this, that also won't cause an electrical fire in my house.

I posted the photo on my facebook page, and a friend said she'd seen a DIY post about it on a blog. I'm excited by that prospect, but also a little disappointed because I was hoping this would be a more original fixture, but I guess if PB is making it, then it's probably a little trendy. A quick google search turned up some ideas, but the author of this particular post hadn't actually done it yet. Oh! And maybe I'll try to hunt down some colored mason thinks some olive green glass would look pretty sweet! Either way, I'm on a mission; stay tuned.

UPDATE: Our Hiding Place has an awesome tutorial on a half-sized version of this that looks stunning and would better fit my space anyhow...for under $100. And, I already have the spraypaint, jars and can probably rustle up some wood, so it will cost me even less. Yay for me! This project, however, can't see the light of day until I do the tile in my bathroom. Boo!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yarn Along With Her

Once again, Small Things is featuring a Yarn Along so we can all show what we're knitting and reading. I've been obsessed with fun and chunky knits lately, so I'm currently working on this chunky lace cowl in a great raspberry color.

My neighbor brought over a birthday gift for me and I love it! I've had so much fun with cookbooks lately, and this one is no exception. Based on their blog of the same name Our Best Bites is a collection of easy foods with an emphasis on healthful ideas for a family meal together. Something I've been pretty passionate about lately.

What are you knitting and reading right now?

Blues Traveler

After waxing poetic about the beautiful shade of blue I was planning to paint my room for several months, I figured it was time to actually slap some paint up on the wall. It wasn't until my brother-in-law was visiting my house for the first time over Fourth of July, and politely commented on my 'decoration' in my bedroom that I had some serious motivation to get 'er done. Paint swatches are about as decorative as Tyvek wrap. Read: They're not.

I've been reading Young House Love and Our Humble A{Bowe}d a lot. A lot. YHL has some great video tutorials, one of them being on the art of cutting in. It was very helpful for the areas around the windows, and I still need to go back (probably isn't going to happen) and fill in the tiny gap in some places where the edger couldnt get quite close enough to the molding. But, the result is great, and I love the color just as much as I'd hoped I would.

Due to the amazing amount of natural light we get in our house, the color looks very different at each phase of the day. When I was done painting at 11pm, I started having second thoughts because it looked very masculine and almost a mallard green. With the wood trim, I had the sinking feeling I'd feel like I was in a billiards room instead of feeling reminiscent of tropical waters. Never fear, the morning sun shone in the morning and all was well. I still have to arrange photos and find a cool decorative accent for the bed wall. I'm also thinking of plug-in sconces for the bedside, instead of the teeny, tiny lamps (that I love, but are looking off-scale).

It was also a great opportunity to re-evaluate what's in the room. The only furniture I brought back in was our dresser, nightstands and bed. I figure the less flat surfaces we have, the less opportunity for clutter. I'm on the hunt for a great chair to serve as a knitting and reading nook, but it would be ideal if it were comfy enough to nurse in when the time comes again.

I love this wall sculpture for above the bed, but it would definitely be a splurge, so I need to decide if I lurve it, and not just like it.

So here we go; boring in beige to awesome in aqua in one evening. 

The dreaded cutting in!

When we get our king bed, the red skirt will be gone but for now it works, picking up the red in the curtains.

Love the fun pop of color in the nightstands. Oops! Forgot to put our pillows back on :)

Above the dresser will be a gallery wall of ocean vacations, surfing and some prints I've picked up along the way; all in crisp white frames.

When we get our bed, this is the bedding I'm getting (in natural or white), along with a simple white or natural fitted bedskirt.
...and plug in sconces like this with a lighter, or white shade

Any suggestions for the bedroom decor are welcome, so please leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All Buttoned Up

I'm having fun with these chunky knit projects! Not only are they fairly instant gratification, taking just one evening to finish, but they're also super sassy and fun. And selling really well! My latest hat sold almost the moment I listed it on etsy, and I was requested to have the picture listed on ravelry as one of the featured photos for the pattern.

Want one of your own? You can purchase one on my etsy shop, and you get to choose from a neutral button, or one of the fun colors pictured.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

She's No Slouch!

I am more than a little bit obsessed with poking around ravelry and looking for new patterns to add to my queue. I have several friends with babies due this winter, so a lot of my time has been spent looking for a special blanket or sweater that would be something different. It'll be awhile before I make another Serenity or Tree of Life, especially since I have four babies to create for in as many months. I needed a little break from tiny knits, so I busted out a stashed skein of Lion Brand Hometown USA to make this fun hat , designed by Midnight Knitter, that I've been eyeing for some time. I pretty much never knit with acrylic anymore, but this one isn't bad at all, and the fun color makes up for a lot.

Every once in awhile I stumble upon a pattern and it just screams someone's name. I have a friend from high school who I've reconnected with via Facebook, and she's still just as sassy and stylish as she was in high school. I remember this grey beret she had that I borrowed once, for what is now reflected upon as an embarrassingly long time, but that's just one of many things in high school I look back on with a cringe, so we'll move on.
Photo from pattern page c. Missa Hills/Midnight Knitter. I have to admit that part of my love for this pattern is the delicious yellow coffee mug she's holding, and her meticulously painted nails. Pretty soon I'll start taking the time to stage photos for my creations...allegedly.

Now that I know I love the pattern, I'll try it in a chunky wool or cashmere to see if I can get it to drape a little more softly, but for now, it's made in acrylic so it's ease of care will hopefully increase it's number of wears. In reading through other people's comments on their project pages there were a lot of complaints about this hat design, in that the band was incredibly tight and there was not enough slouch. It's not a rasta hat, and it's meant to be worn back on your head instead of down around your ears, so that may be where the problems were. I think the biggest thing is that some people weren't using a super bulky yarn; I made it according to pattern and it fit my noggin with ease, and will also be able to be worn beanie style if you want to pull it down further. I did one more repeat of the 2 round pattern so it has a touch more flop, but that's the only change I made.

With a simple k2, yo, ssk on one round followed by a round of yo, ssk, k2, this chunky slouch cap is a fun look. It's also something that now that I have the basic recipe (number of stitches for the band, height of the body, I can change the stitch pattern in the body to make it my own. For now, look for this cap on SallyHP Knits' etsy shop!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I ran my first 5k in almost two years this weekend and it was great! Click over to My Sole Sister to read all about it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blueberry Playdate Scones

This morning I dropped H off at the Y for 'Little Campers' and then Charlie and I started on our way back home when I saw what looked like an opossum crouching right near a curb, with it's little tail curled beside it. But it had it's mouth open as if it were licking water from the side of the road. And it wasn't moving. Perfectly still. With it's eyes closed. It looked a little mangy and was so still that I thought it had just died where it was sitting. I stopped in the middle of the's Walla Walla, it's all good, and whipped out my iPhone to take a picture. Of course, the camera feature wasn't working, darn!

Was I going to take a picture because I'm a totally morbid weirdo? Not entirely, I wanted to show J, because it was the oddest thing I've seen in awhile. Wait, aren't they nocturnal? Why was it sitting there in the middle of the morning? Just as I was about to drive away it gave it's head a little shake and it kind of startled me. Curiouser and curiouser. I know, you think I've entered the early stages of dimentia for writing a post about dying animals with a photo of delicious scones. I know it's gross, but bizarre little things like that happen all the time and we forget about them if they're not documented. Almost dead opossum is definitely one to save for posterity. Right? Hm. Wrong? Okay, continue on.

Morning death watch over, I got to the end of the block and saw my friend walking with her kids. I told her about Operation: Dying Opposum, and she said she saw him in the middle of the road yesterday and he was moving slowly and looked 'squishy'. Ew. But on the bright side, since she was just a few blocks from her new house, she invited me over to see it. Tour commenced, opposum put out of my mind, and I realized I was supposed to be using this valuable hour to mop my floors and bake something for snack before hosting a playdate at 9:30. Yikes!

We got home and I started clearing the debris from the previous day from our counters. Discarded envelopes, yesterday's paper and all the other recyclables were swept to the new, glorious, stacking bins in the garage. A quick sweep of the floors, dishwasher loaded and counter wiped off and it was already 9am. Crap! Hmm...what do I have that's quick and yummy?  I couldn't remember how many kids were planning to be there, muffins would take too long, quick bread--not so quick. Then I remembered; Blueberry Yogurt Scones. Low-fat, low-sugar, delicious. This is a recipe my sister passed along from her days at Humble Bagel in Eugene, OR and I've made them about a million times. Most of all, they're fast and wicked easy. I grabbed the ingredients (all of which most people will have at any given moment in their house), pre-heated the oven to 350, pulled down two bowls and a wooden spoon and got down to business.

It's meant to make 8-16 scones, because you separate the dough on a floured surface into 2 or four mounds and then cut each mound into quarters. Instead I separated them into four mounds and patted them into rectangles and used a pizza cutter to make one length-wise cut and three width-wise cuts in each to make scones about the size of the commercially marketed 'two-bite' variety. The perfect size for kids and it also makes over two dozen, so there's enough for everyone.

Laid out on parchment covered cookie sheets (bakeware can be returned to its proper place after discarding the paper so you have very little clean-up), I brushed on a quick egg-wash and then sprinkled each with a little organic turbinado sugar for some bling. Since they were so small, I cut the baking time down to just 15 minutes and they were perfect. And, once everyone arrived, gone. From start to finish, it was less than 30 minutes. I baked each tray separately, or it would have been even less time.

Next time you find yourself facing the tick, tick, tick of the clock, (yes, I just finished Season 5 of Dexter...sorry, if you haven't watched, that reference means nothing) pull out this recipe and you'll have fresh scones in no time. You could substitute any berry for the blueberries, or a little orange zest and dried cranberries. But without further ado:

Low-Fat Blueberry Yogurt Scones
based on the recipe from Humble Bagel

2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3T sugar

2/3 c. oil
1 egg white
1 c. yogurt (I used non-fat plain greek)
1 t. vanilla (if you use plain yogurt, omit if you use vanilla, or just don't want to use it :))

3/4 c. blueberries (or other fresh berries, but blueberries are so good!)

1 egg white
Organic Turbinado sugar

Sift dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and then add to dry ingredients, without over-mixing. Fold in the blueberries carefully so you don't crush them. Dough will be sticky. Turn out onto floured surface and pat into four rectangles, cutting each rectangle into 8 scones. Place on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets and brush with the egg white. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of turbinado sugar and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden on the underside and just turning golden on the top. These are best when eaten immediately; they're so good, this won't be an issue anyhow!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Knit Lits

Over at small things, she was hosting a yarn along for knitters who also love to read. In addition to talking about what you're currently working on, you get to talk about what you're reading as well. Lucky me, I just wrote a post about a couple of my current obsessions reads, but I didn't show what I'm working on. In taking a break from newsboys and large afghans, I thought I'd take a couple days to bust out a new stuffed animal, Ella-funk, which is based on a great pattern from Ysolda Teague (Elijah) and knit with hand painted wool by cosymakes. I love that there's no seaming involved, although some did criticize that picking up stitches for each body part was fussy. I only had trouble with the first two rounds of each new appendage, but after that it was easy-peasy.

I also just finished seaming the body of a 'tattoo' pillow for my friend (for which I'm exchanging yoga classes; long live the barter system!) on which I'll be writing Happy instead of mom, and changed the pattern so that it was about 3 times as big as the original pillow. In addition to the fun stuffed pieces, I have the first sock of two different pairs that are just waiting to be completed.

As for reading, I just finished The Island by Elin Hilderbrand and am currently reading Deep Down True and Arms Wide Open: A Midwives Journey by Patricia Harman, which I expected to be over the top crunchy, but is actually really easy for me to identify with and written in a very thoughtful way, so I'm taking my time with it.

Wait, are you sensing a theme? Yes, I almost never have the discipline to do just one thing at a time. If having one project in process is good, then four is great. Having the characters from several books swirling around in my head is way better than focusing your attention on a single plot-line, right? Sadly, I often find that the answer to that is a resounding no. Therefore, I had to put myself on notice. No more projects may be cast on until I've bound off or put away all of the projects that are sitting around the house mid-knit. Not another spine will be bent until the last page is turned on the books I'm currently reading. Will I be able to curb my enthusiasm? With only one project and book going at once, I definitely notice a significant decrease in the clutter; books on the counter, multiple balls of yarn in the bag by my bed instead of just enough yarn for one, you get the picture.

Plus, with the long days of summer, I want to make sure I'm focusing on the two reasons that I've become so passionate about creating a home that's full of healthful meals, honest fun and a commitment to building a strong family.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cooking and Canning and Eating, Oh My!

I love my birthday. I know that at a certain age you're supposed to start being blase about it, and not care if you get gifts or not, but I really, really love my birthday. It's the one day that you get to have all to yourself, where people think of thoughtful things just for you, give you well wishes and essentially make sure that you feel special. This year was no exception. I think my family is starting to sense a theme in my current interests: Home decor, running and cooking, with a string of manic knitting sessions thrown in.

As I said before, the Fourth is my favorite holiday. I forgot to mention that that could have a tiny bit to do with the fact that my birthday is right around it, leaving me in the post-birthday high just in time to watch the fireworks, eat food and bask in the glow of family togetherness. Three of my gifts were cookbooks; Canning For a New Generation (which I reviewed here), My Father's Daughter and The Family Dinner and I have loved spending time pouring over them and riddling them with sticky notes for recipes I want to try. I love them all for different reasons, but the one thing they have in common is that they're not a strict cook-book but have a lot of side stories to share. 

The Family Dinner is all about establishing routine, getting your kids involved in the preparation of the meal, and things to do during the meal so that you have a lot of variety and a lot of starting points to tweak and make it our own ritual.  I had already started incorporating a lot of things she mentions, but the one thing I did at the author's suggestion was offering only water at dinner. 

Every night, I felt like I was constantly up and down getting each person the beverage of their choice and now I just have a big ole pitcher of water in the middle of the table. Sometimes I throw in a couple slices of lemon or lime, or muddle some mint, but most of the time it's just crisp Walla Walla tap water. I know that this wouldn't work for every family, because sometimes it's the chance for you to make sure your kids drink enough milk if they're not good at it, but I'm home all day with my kids and I know what they drink. The last thing they need is more sugar. With the blazing temps here, some extra agua at the end of the day never hurts, either.

In My Father's Daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow pays homage to her late father, Bruce Paltrow, in creating a book of recipes and ideas for creating family togetherness through simple goodness and nutritious meals. Plus, I'm a sucker for Gwyneth, so I would love it no matter the topic.

The 'family dinner' is something that has increased in importance to me the longer I'm an at-home mama, which started last year with not creating a separate meal for each person. Since we've moved, I've been successful at all of us eating together at least five nights a week; no exaggeration. J is obviously not always able to eat with us, but when we were in Mass, I had gotten into the habit of feeding the kids quickly and rushing to shuffle them off to bed only to sit by myself and eat whatever meal I pulled together in my exhaustion from the day spent running them ragged. 

Now, I spend the later afternoon hours that the boys are playing quietly running around the house and (glorious) fenced yard like hooligans to get dinner going and on the table by five, five-thirty at the latest. Having my meals planned out at least a week in advance helps keep this task going smoothly. This leaves plenty of time to eat, bathe them, read stories and get just one more (read: 800) drinks of water and still have time to myself. Something that I have found to be very important to me. With such early risers, I take the time that some people get to sip their coffee quietly in the morning when it falls into my lap, which just so happens to come around 7:30 each night. 

As it's now 7:12, the bath routine is winding down (J is home, which means no bath routine for me, yay!). One load of dishes to put into the dishwasher, with a delayed start of 4 hours so I can watch Season 5 of Dexter on demand without the swish and hum to distract me, counters wiped down, change into jammies, wash my face, contacts popped out of my currently drying eyes, feet up and I'm a happy girl. Oh look: 7:19 and the only thing I hear is the ocean waves of their sound machine (and whatever game my beloved has decided to play at almost-too-loud levels on the PS3). Bliss.

Now to cast-on some yummy yarn for a new hat pattern and the evening will be perfection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jimmy Crack Corn

The Fourth of July is definitely my favorite holiday. There are no gifts or cards or other stressful obligations involved (other than those who cash in their 401k's to buy an armory's worth of commercial fireworks for their backyard show), just blissful relaxation and all the summer food you can handle, with the Fourth of July cable music station setting the mood...who knew there were so many songs about the good ole USA? I seriously have a nerdly obsession with all things marching band, so this was seen as a plus by me. For my niece who wore her iPod earbuds like armor, not so much.

This summer, I called dibbs on hosting this day well in advance this year, so my family made the trip over the mountains and through the woods. In exchange, we greeted them with fat cheeseburgers with all the fixins including hamburger buns by Dave's Killer Bread (yum!).

On the dessert front, I had planned to make the Corn on the Cob Cupcakes featured on Woman's Day this month, but spaced getting yellow jelly beans, so they'll have to wait for my friend's visit with her kiddos next weekend. When I was searching for the image of these, I found there were several recipes, including this one, but like that the other one has cornmeal in it and utilizes browned butter in the frosting to make it a more savory cupcake. (note to self: Add Hello, Cupcake! to Amazon wishlist)
(Photo: Moica Buck/Woman's Day)

We did, however, get to enjoy the deliciousness of my new favorite way to have real corn on the cob; Drop the husked ears in a pot of boiling water for just long enough that they're warmed through (about 2-3 minutes). Slather them in butter; I used the French butter La Baratte des Gourmets, which has salt crystals embedded throughout and can be found locally at Salumiere Cesario. It's so good, it's been dubbed 'crack butter' by some customers. After thoroughly slathering each ear, sprinkle with a mix of spices (mine had chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper). Devour. Wipe Chin. Floss.

Our Aunt Jackie's potato salad is one of those things that it just doesn't feel like a summer barbeque without. Thoroughly boiled potatoes, lots of hard-boiled eggs and even more seasoned mayo; Made just before you're ready to serve it, it's warm and creamy perfection.

For a little festive flair, I made white chocolate-covered strawberries with blue-sugared tips and printed star shapes out on colored paper to cut and string on a garland, as suggested by Our Humble A(Bowe)d  (I love this blog!).

To all this food, you just add some blissful vitamin D soakage, water-play fun for a bunch of giggling kids, and a heaping helping of patriotism by capping the day with a plateful of stars and stripes (read: star-shaped pbj and string cheese) for the kiddos.

Charlie was woken up by the abundance of large-scale fireworks visible from our back-yard at 10pm so we sat outside with his face peeking from the blanket, eyes wide in wonder. I couldn't help but wonder if he'll remember them.

And, yes, I finished painting the room the night before they came to town (and hadn't moved the furniture back when I snapped this photo with my phone). It's Goldilicious! I promise to take a crisp photo when all the decor is in.

Next up, the first all family tent-camping experience; should be good for a few laughs.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The (Hammered) Golden Arches

In just a few days, we will have lived in our house for a year, and what a year it has been! With new construction, I naively thought we'd just move our little family in and be done. Voila, right? Not so, my friend. Had we the money at the time, there are a number of projects that could have been completed prior to moving in, but we didn't. I have to say, I've had so much satisfaction from looking around the house and realizing how many little (and big) projects or finishing touches have been done with our four hands. Taking a few days in the sun to build the fence, and a long day to stain it a year later, are grueling in the moment but oh-so-delicious when you gaze out at your developing yard.

For the sitting room, I've agonized (maybe a little obsessively) over the perfect shade of golden yellow that will complement the Emmy rug that I bought on sale at Crate and Barrel just after moving in. It was the anchor of the entire room and I was not willing to swap it out for something else, so find that perfect shade I must. After about ten different swatches had been painted on each of the four walls in the room (to determine how it would look in every light, of course!) J finally quipped that if I kept up I wouldn't have to actually pick, it would just meld into a yellow crazy quilt. The pressure was on. 

I had invited mi familia to join us at our house for Fourth of July, and I like for there to be some progress with each trek they make to the Walla. Home Depot's paint sale just happened to coincide with my goal, so I bought the paint for the master, and took the Emmy swatch to the trusty paint counter.

After careful consideration with my friends in Orange, I took home sample cans of Behr Premium in both Ground Cumin and Hammered Gold. I was so frustrated with going for the gold that I decided to go in a different direction and try a green for contrast. Here's what I had to decide between:

Both were beautiful, but I knew the Hammered Gold would have the impact I was going for. After cutting in along the baseboards (tonight I have to bite the bullet and get up on the dreaded ladder to cut in on the top) I'm so happy with my color choice. It looks so beautiful against the trim and floors.

I liked the Ground Cumin so much, though, that I may have that be the color for the living room/entryway. Although, after my bedroom, I'll be taking a little whole-room painting hiatus. Our ceilings are high!

The only wall that doesn't have an archway or windows will have a photo montage of all the places we've lived and the fun things we liked to do while living there; Chunky frames in black and white will hopefully pull it all together. I also found these cool state watercolors and bought one of each for Oregon and Massachusetts in the 5x7 size and Washington in 8x10 on etsy, which I'll frame in black and intersperse on the photo wall.

I've had the same black scroll sconces that I bought at a PartyLite party about 8 years ago and have included in all of my decorating schemes after each move. I've spray painted them ivory, and plan to put mason jars filled with corks that I've saved on them instead of candles, and candle wreaths with ivory berries and greens.

I'm going to attempt my very first mood board in Photoshop, but until then, here're some of my ideas to fill out the room. I'm making a run to IKEA in August when we go to visit my old posse from the Child Welfare days to pick up some white sheers and fun pillow covers for the sitting and living room. These will look mahvelous with the one splurge for the room: The white slip covered PB Comfort sofa with down-wrapped cushions. A lot of people say you can't have a white sofa with kids or pets, but it's actually the best to have due to one little household genius: bleach. It's the only color you can successfully bring back to it's original state with a toss in the wash and some helpful chemicals. Not super earth friendly, but fashion friendly trumps it in this case.
The 'reading nook' will be relocated to the kids' bedroom and playroom when I get my white couch, but this is the gallery wall for the sitting room. All photos of places we've lived along with the three heart state prints (MA, WA and OR) from poppy & pinecone on etsy.

I found these two chairs on overstock to anchor the window, but depending on how they fit with the couch in the room, they may sit on either side of the arch, with a gate leg table or something under the window instead.

 I love the fun print of these chairs, and the green has the perfect touch of olive/gold to complement the rug.

A new light fixture will be a must down the road (I love the old 'school' pendants), as well as a couple of lamps, with an emphasis on leaving the space with an open feel. Crisp colors, livability and an inviting place to chat, knit or read a book when you first step in my home; all the things I wanted from that room. I love that the new color is making it feel like its own space, even though the giant archways keep it open to the rest of the house. Next up (I swear) tile installation.

(I also am drooling over these for my little back porch seating area. I know it's off-topic, but had to include it.)