Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And then she vanished...but no! Not that lucky.

I'm a terrible web log author. I haven't written enough posts to attract an audience, let alone keep one. In the interest of keeping myself fit this year, though, I've decided to return to this little soap-box of mine and make better use of it, if only to perform an intellectual form of exercise, much like people who are much more industrious than I am might walk on a treadmill every day or chase bees for a living. (I have no idea how the latter activity could even be remotely considered an appropriate metaphor. But there we are.) I also plan to purchase a bicycle this month. That was beside the point.

I'm going to do my darndest to make this a weekly thing, this foray into the world of, "Well, I didn't have anything else planned for the next two-and-a-half minutes of my life, so why not mosey on over to 'En Route to Hungary' to see what kind of nonsense she's passing off as an entry now?" So Dear Reader (there I go talking to myself in public again...), stay tuned.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Struggle Through Suicidal Thoughts

If you're contemplating suicide, put a pin in it. You can always change your mind about killing yourself on this side of death, but not on the other. Put such thoughts aside just for now. Commit to just getting some sleep tonight, waking up tomorrow, getting cleaned up, and going into the world to search for something beautiful. When you find it, contemplate it and keep it in your heart and for the rest of the day. When the next day hits, repeat. This is life, and life will get better.

I've spent most of my life depressed and contemplated suicide many more times than I can count. This is advice that comes from hard, hard experience. There is beauty in this world waiting for you to discover it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tip o' the Day: Oil-less Pasta

Well, this tip is a week and twenty-nine minutes late. What? It's not like anyone important was reading this web log* anyway.

So, I'll get straight to business. When you cook pasta, do you think you have to add oil to the water to keep it from sticking? Well, save the oil and save yourself from washing an oily pan and colander. All you need to do keep your pasta from sticking together is stir it up with a fork every fifteen-thirty seconds (less frequently the longer it cooks) during the first five minutes after you add it to the pot of water. That's it! No oil, no pasta served in a big clump.

I can hear you (yes, you) asking, "Wait! That's all?"

Well, what did you want? Seven pictures of perfectly-photographed cupcakes, taken from slightly different angles, followed by a recipe so mouthwatering that it makes you feel inferior simply because you didn't come up with the recipe first? Sorry, I don't serve inferiority complexes with my recipes. I also don't serve cupcake recipes, mainly because I haven't invented any.

So be satisfied with a pasta-boiling tip...or read a cupcake web log. It's neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned.**

*If you are someone important, and you're reading this web log, I apologize. Also, don't you have anything better to do?
**Please read my web log! I'm just playing hard to get. You can look at dessert porn later.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tip o' the Day: Don't Scrub Sugar

Yes, I've got a brand-spanking new Tip of the Day, less than twenty-four hours on the heels of my last one.  I think I might make this a regular posting, not daily (don't be led astray by the title) but weekly. Since this tip is being posted on a Sunday, I think I'll post a new tip every Sunday. The Bible says that a person shouldn't work on Sunday (well, the Bible really says the Sabbath, which Christian tradition has interpreted to mean "Sunday"). I guess it's good that I'm not religious anymore, then, although I do still feel a tiny pang of guilt/fear/something bad from this decision and from mocking the biblical prohibition, given my past as a religious churchgoer. (I might have added, "deeply religious churchgoer", but obviously it wasn't that deep or I'd still believe in it.) It's not that God is going to punish me any less for not caring, it's just that my lack of concern about the matter is, well...a lack of concern. I've probably already offended the twenty percent of my three semi-regular readers who are of the Christian faith, but I can't move the day to Saturday, or I'll offend the point-zero-one percent of said readers who are Orthodox Jewish, and I definitely can't move the day to Monday, or I'll offend myself, who wholeheartedly believes in refraining from performing any kind of work on Monday. Sunday it is.

Now, if you haven't heard the word on sugar, let me enlighten you: it's pretty bad stuff, nutritionally speaking. Sugar is diabetogenic any way you slice it (and good luck with slicing it, 'cause I've haven't been able to yet...bah-dah-bam!). Setting aside the fact that diabetes is a pretty shitty disease on its own, it has been proven and/or suspected of putting the sufferer at greater risk for just about every other disease known to mankind.* If you don't really care about this fact, or if you're like me and maintain a strict low-carb regimen yet still indulge in sugar as a treat on rare occasions**, you may have tried to make candy a time or two. Maybe you're a regular candy-maker (in which case you might already be aware of this tip) or maybe you've never tried to make candy before (in which case you should pay attention anyway, in the instance that you decide to try your hand at homemade candy in the future). This tip also applies to homemade syrups or any similar cooking process that can cause a hard, sugary mess to cling to a saucepan.

Like the last tip I posted, this isn't my original idea. (Although I think I thought of the idea independently of anyone else, so I should at least be given credit for that. Please?) If you find yourself with a nasty sugary mess inside of your favorite saucepan after making caramels/peppermint syrup/sweetened condensed boogers, don't wear yourself out trying to scrub it off. Just fill the saucepan or pot until the level of water is higher than the level of hardened sugar (allowing at least a small head space at the top of the pan/pot) and bring the water to a rolling boil. Allow the water to boil for about five minutes, longer if necessary. Remove saucepan from heat and pour the boiling water down the drain, being careful to avoid steam burns/splashing yourself. After this, simply clean the pan as you normally would. If there is stuck-on sugar that was above the waterline, you may need to scrub that, but as for most of the pan, it'll be a piece of cake to clean, as the boiling water dissolved the sugar and washed it down the drain for you! :)

*This may be a slight exaggeration--but only a slight one.
 **This may be an outright lie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tip o' the Day: Be Happy Cleaning Your Microwave

Those who know me personally would find great humor in the fact that I, of all people, am publishing a housecleaning tip on my web log. They know me to be one of the world's worst housekeepers. You know that level of disorder and filth that a building gets to when the health officials are compelled to suggest that it be burned? Well, I get around to cleaning house when it's just short of that point. Seriously, though, no one could accuse me of having anything even close to an immaculate abode. I do, however, like living in somewhat sanitary conditions and occasionally getting a glimpse of my floor. So, on to the tip.

If you're anything like me, you put off the most icky jobs for as long as you can, your inner child engaging in the magical thinking that if you just let it go long enough, the mess will miraculously disappear. (And if you're not like me in this respect, than you probably don't need this bit of housecleaning advice.) When it becomes apparent to you that the world just doesn't work that way, and that if you don't get to cleaning the mess, you'll be declared legally insane by your family, you set yourself begrudgingly to the task, simultaneously fending off the willies and regretting the time you're spending slaving away. For me, cleaning a funky microwave is one of these jobs. The following method is a quick, easy, effective, cheap and non-toxic way to clean your microwave, even after you've put it off for too long. It may not make you happy to clean your microwave, but it will certainly make you less irritated with the whole process.

I won't claim that the ideas in this method are of my invention. I simply put together a few cleaning tips that I found that appealed to me, tried them out and was very pleased with the results! I live with my elderly uncle as his caregiver, and my boyfriend and his young son also live here. To my knowledge, they rarely, if ever, cover something that they're heating in the microwave, and I'd be shocked to find out that any of them clean up after themselves after they're done using the appliance. (Sorry guys--it's true!) After a few months or even weeks, the microwave gets to be one ugly place. I can therefore vouch for how wonderfully this method works!

Enough of my rambling; here's the recipe for success:

1 whole lemon
a microwave-safe mug
table salt
paper towels
a clean rag or two

1. Remove the turntable and wheeled platform under the turntable from the microwave. These can be washed in the sink.
2. Take the lemon and slice it in half. (It can even be one of those lemons that's gotten to be a little bit old and shriveled in your fridge because you bought it ages ago for a gourmet recipe, and you ended up being too lazy to prepare the meal.)
3. Fill a regularly-sized mug about 1/2 to 3/4 full of water. Place one of the lemon halves in the mug of water and heat in the microwave until it's nice and steamy. (Pretend you are heating a mug of water for tea. You want it to be that hot.) The steam combined with the acid in the lemon will help to loosen up stuck-on gunk.
4. When the lemon-water is hot enough, remove it from the microwave and set it aside. (Don't throw it out yet--you'll be using it in a moment.)
5. Take the other lemon half, squeeze it lightly to start to release the juices and cover the cut side with salt. Rub the salty surface of the lemon all over the microwave, scrubbing if necessary (you shouldn't need to scrub very much). Re-salt the lemon as needed. The acidity of the lemon juice combined with the abrasiveness of the salt will help to release all of the soil in the microwave.
6. When all of the stuck-on gunk and dirt is removed, use paper towels to dispose of the old food particles and loosened gunk as well as to absorb any filthy cleaning liquid in the microwave.
7. Here's the part where you'll be using the lemon-water again. When you've removed loose particles and dirty liquid from the microwave, rinse the microwave out. To do this, dip a clean rag into the mug of lemon-water and wipe down the microwave. (Caution: Because the process of cleaning out the microwave is normally quick with the salted lemon, you may need to wait for the lemon-water to cool down a bit before you dip the rag into it.) You may need to do this a few times, just to make sure that it's clean and fresh. Bonus: The rags dipped in the lemon-water help to clean surfaces on the outside of the microwave, too, such as door handles with smudges or fingerprints.

There you have it! My personally-recommended method of taking care of a gross microwave that leaves the thing clean and lemon-fresh, without leaving behind noxious residues or leaving you with an empty wallet. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Knitting Pattern: Mommy and Me Snaky Sevens Scarves

This is my first attempt at a knitting pattern. It is for two scarves, made as a set, one for an adult and one for a younger child. The adult's scarf measures approximately 5" wide by 62" long, whereas the child's scarf measures approximately 3" wide by 43" long. This can be made using two skeins of the same yarn in different colors. Feel free to use colors other than those specified. For that matter, feel free to use a higher-quality yarn of the same weight, as the grade of yarn I used isn't terribly soft and so isn't as snuggly and flexible as one might desire in the adult's scarf.

Also, if you decide to make only one scarf, you'll likely only use half a skein of each color, or if you prefer, one skein of one color/design.

Gauge is not critical with this pattern; however, try to get a gauge as close as possible to what I've knitted in order to get the same size scarves as I have as well as to avoid the risk of running out of yarn. The gauge listed is based on my knitting, not that of the average knitter. The gauge for the adult's scarf, using size 9 U.S. needles, is: 3 stitches and 5 rows per 1 inch in stockinette stitch. The gauge for the child's scarf is: 3.5 stitches and 6 rows per 1 inch in stockinette, using size 8 needles.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, corrections or improvements to the pattern. Thank you!

Snaky Sevens Scarf Set Pattern

Interesting Note: I've called this pattern "Snaky Sevens" because the rows of stitches go in multiples of seven, and the majority of knitting is done in either stockinette or reverse stockinette, creating sections that curl or "snake" back and forth.


  • 1 skein Loops & Threads Impeccable Yarn - Solids (100% Acrylic Worsted Weight Yarn, Medium 4, 4.5 oz. skein/277 yards), in Cadet (Color A)
  • 1 skein Loops & Threads Impeccable Yarn - Solids (100% Acrylic Worsted Weight Yarn, Medium 4, 4.5 oz. skein/277 yards), in Fern (Color B)
  • 1 pair size 9 U.S. (5.5 mm) knitting needles
  • 1 pair size 8 U.S. (5.0 mm) knitting needles
  • 1 yarn or darning needle or crochet hook (for weaving in ends)

Instructions, Adult's Scarf:

Cast on eighteen stitches using a double strand of Colors A and B (hold both yarns together as one strand).
Knit 7 rows in garter stitch. (All knit stitches.)
Knit 14 rows in reverse stockinette stitch. (Purl the first row, knit the second, repeat until end of section.)
Repeat this pattern (7 rows garter stitch, 14 rows reverse stockinette) for 16 reverse stockinette sections.
After you've finished knitting the 16th section of reverse stockinette, knit 7 more rows of garter stitch. Your total number of finished rows should be approximately 343.
Bind off and weave in ends. Scarf should now measure approximately 62" long.

Instructions, Child's Scarf:

Cast on 14 stitches.
Knit 7 rows in garter stitch with Color A.
Knit 7 rows of reverse stockinette.
[Join color B. Knit 7 more rows reverse stockinette.
Knit 7 rows of stockinette (Knit 1 row, purl 1 row, repeat).
Join color A. Knit 7 more rows of stockinette.
Knit 7 rows of reverse stockinette.]
Repeat pattern listed above between the brackets 7 times (there's that 7 again!) :)
Join color B. Knit 7 more rows of reverse stockinette.
Knit 7 rows in garter stitch. Your total number of knitted rows will be 252.
Bind off and weave in ends.

Tip: To switch back and forth between reverse stockinette and stockinette, simply repeat the last type of stitch you knitted (for example, if you ended a section on a purl stitch, purl the next row).

Voilà! You've made two attractive new scarves, as a set, out of a mere two skeins of yarn and a few evenings' work. Now who to give them to--or maybe you'd like to keep them? :)

Copyright 2012 Michele R. Johnston. Use pattern only with permission. Designer grants user explicit permission to craft from pattern for personal use or to sell crafts made from pattern at craft fairs and similar markets.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sustainability, Kiss Mah Butt

Being human is not sustainable, at least not according to the current philosophies on living green. About the most sustainable thing I could do right now is to commit suicide. I would immediately stop consuming, and while my corpse would become a small source of pollution, it would at least counter that by renewing the soil in which it were placed.

Even if I were to divest myself of a modern life and go to live in the woods as a gatherer, I would still be a drain on the environment. I would pick wild berries and seeds for my (of course) vegan diet, which I would proceed to digest and eliminate as feces, which would be pollution. There would be times when I might need to make a fire to keep myself warm, which would also pollute. I'm sure there are other tasks that I would perform for my survival that would leave some footprint, but even the two basic functions listed above would prove to leave too much of a mark on the earth to be considered 100% environmentally friendly.

We do face real environmental problems, problems which require solutions. I simply don't believe that following the latest green fads and marching in step with everyone else, regardless of your own personal needs, goals or desires is the way to achieve solutions. Americans (and others in the industrialized world) throw themselves head-first into the latest advice on being good to the planet without fully researching the pros and cons, the benefits and potential drawbacks of every scheme. So while I do not contest that man-made environmental damage takes place, I do part ways with those who contend that all environmental change is man-made damage and that the "solution" of the moment is the one we should follow to save the earth, regardless of the consequences to man or even the environment itself down the road.

I could go on, and I could list specific examples which illustrate my point (and I will, if anyone asks), but in this post, let it suffice to say that I reject "sustainability" and living "green" as it is force-fed to me. I desire real change--both in what we do to the planet and in our attitudes towards the planet. Obviously, it doesn't make any sense to use and use and use until there is nothing left, but on the other hand, humans are not enemies of the earth. We deserve to live here as much as any other creature.

So it is out of my rejection of milled environmentalist philosophy that I feel little guilt for buying fruit out-of-season, shipped from distant corners of the country. Usually, I buy fruit in season for two self-interested reasons: it is less expensive and tastes better. During my last two shopping trips, however, I found both blueberries and strawberries at reasonable prices, and to my surprise, they both tasted nearly as good as the in-season varieties. These aren't the kinds of purchases that I can make all of the time, namely for the two self-interested reasons listed above, but since I was able to do so this month, yay! As much as I love winter (I really do!), a little summer fruit in the middle of a mostly mild and dreary cold season is most welcome, sustainability be damned.