Kombucha

I have been pretty busy these days, but I have also started making my own kombucha!  We’ve been having lots of fun trying out different combinations for second fermentation.  The kiddo asked for some strawberry kombucha and right now we also have some blood orange, lemon thyme, and honey kombucha fermenting.

The kombucha corner in my kitchen!

I also started my first batch of almond milk kefir this afternoon and I am super-excited to see how that turns out!

Noteworthy things: 

There has been a pretty big recall of frozen fruits and vegetables, including Trader Joe’s and Costco.  Please take a few minutes to read this: I have a bag of peas in the freezer that I need to return to Trader Joe’s!  You can also check the list on the FDA’s website.

Groceries & Things I Love

Right now I am trying really hard to eat out less, use what we currently have in the pantry, and get better about not wasting the food we buy at the grocery store.  We have so many odds and ends and a pretty full pantry, and yet with my busy work schedule we go out to eat most evenings, so we have been wasting money at the grocery store and at restaurants.  Not cool.  

Right now I have some mushroom broth simmering (mushrooms, onion, and some sweet bell peppers I found in the fridge) and I am making some gluten free pumpkin-chip muffins for breakfast this week.  Tomorrow I will see if there are any other veggies that I need to get to ASAP.  My step-mom brought me some kohlrabi from her CSA basket today so I need to figure out how to incorporate that into a meal this week.

Gluten free, vegan pumpkin chip muffins - Fortpoppin.com

Gluten free, vegan pumpkin chip muffins doubling as dessert!

We actually had a pretty huge moment today.  I work at the toy store until noon on Saturdays and I usually come home and we either go out to eat or pick up some tacos.  Today Andrew hadn’t eaten breakfast, the kiddo had been at a Harry Potter sleepover, *and* we had a few church work-related errands to run right after my toy store job.  But we still went home and made lunch after running the errands instead of going out to eat!  I know it’s a small step, but I am really excited and I am hoping to keep up the momentum.

Things I Love

Honey – this is a great site!  Once you add an item to your cart the plug-in automatically tries every coupon it knows about so you can get the best deal!  I saved $20.00 the first time I bought something online after signing up. | Strawberry daifuku!  The Japanese grocery store made some recently and I only bought one, but they haven’t made any more and I am pretty much obsessed with this stuff now.  I need some more! | Elderberry gummies.  I also make elderberry syrup, but sparkling water hasn’t been sitting well with me recently.  Elderberry gummies to the rescue! | I have been redecorating my office at work, and I was told I could paint the walls any color I like!  I went with Behr’s Lilac Tan, and one wall has two coats of All That Glitters paint.  I am about half-way done with painting, but I am loving the new color! | Simbi.  I haven’t really gotten a chance to fully utilize this site yet, but it looks really promising. | Brewing kombucha!  I have just started this, but am having a lot of fun.

Operation Zero Debt – Current Status

I haven’t updated much about Operation Zero Debt because sadly, not much has changed.  We took our family vacation to San Francisco, which I am incredibly proud to say we paid for the entire vacation in cash!  Almost immediately after our vacation we moved, which is always a more expensive endeavor than you realize.  However, we were also able to pay for all of our moving expenses (both planned and unexpected) in cash, which is pretty amazing!

The one thing that we did not pay in cash for?  Our new sofa.  That’s right: we went to Rooms to Go (which I do not recommend, by the way – we pretty much had awful customer service as soon as we signed the purchase paperwork) and applied for their store card.  I know, I know!  We were approved for about twice as much as we actually used.  Andrew kept saying things like…we need a new chair, what do you think about this table?  But honestly, I didn’t love any of their other furniture to justify buying it for the sake of buying it.  We found a nice sectional sofa that works perfectly in our new, huge living room and only purchased that.

The card was one of those “18 Months, Low Monthly Payments, NO INTEREST!” deals, but I still didn’t like that we had opened a new credit card, so we were focused on that and paid it off in about 4 months.  We are now going back to our original Operation Zero Debt with one major change: my paycheck is going to a different checking account, with a new bank.  Most of my paycheck is then going straight to paying off the current credit card.  If we stick with this plan, we will have the next credit card paid off before my birthday in 3 months.

Purrfect Party

This week I have been busy, busy working on a cat-themed party, nicknamed the Purrfect Party.  One of the first questions was what kind of food to have.  We decided on tuna sandwiches (with a separate platter of chickpea “tuna” salad sandwiches), milk (and almond milk), a fish bowl full of Goldfish crackers, and paw print cupcakes (along with lots of fruit, chips, and popcorn).

One of the things I found on Pinterest and thought was too cute was these paw print cupcakes.  However, I remember that when my kiddo was younger she was not a huge fan of cupcakes.  She thought she was, but really she was after the frosting.  I knew there were going to be lots of younger kids at this party so I tried to keep that in mind.

I decided to see if a mini version of these cupcakes would work, and I think they turned out wonderfully!  Full disclosure: there were so many parts of party planning that these cupcakes are made with Funfetti cupcake mix and canned frosting.  One box of the Funfetti mix made 72 cupcakes!  I used Mini Oreos and Mini M & M’s for the paw print decorations.

Pawsitively adorable mini cupcakes!

I love these yarn ornaments!  I made them using foam craft balls so that they could be pinned to the ceiling and not fall down.  The girls found some cute birds at the dollar store, so we added a few birds as well, since cats love bird watching!

Yarn ball ornament decorations.

And finally, this is probably my favorite game from the party.  The girls worked really hard on this game!  We bought some cat mice toys to use as the bean bags.  We added extra food crumbs because we think the food crumbs are pretty funny.

Tubbs Toss!

Tubbs Toss!

Other useful items for a purrfect party:

 

Questions:  Have you ever hosted a cat-themed party?  Would you add to make your cat party pawsitively purrfect?

Conlan Press Update – Refund Achieved!

I received my refund check this week!  I had not gotten any notification from Conlan Press so I was shocked to see an envelope with their name in the return address section.  There wasn’t much to it.  There was my check, along with this letter:

The letter I received along with my refund check from Conlan Press.

The letter I received along with my refund check from Conlan Press.

Here is a transcript of the letter.  

“Hi!  

Here is your refund.

 We’ve been under attack for slightly over a year now by a pseudonymous internet troll whom we are suing for defamation.  He ducked the process servers for six months, but they finally nailed him, and sooner or later we’re going to have the pleasure of seeing him try to defend his lies and misrepresentations to a judge.  

One of his lies is that Conlan Press does not give refunds.  This is simply not true.

As a small company it takes a little time for us to catch up when something like having to suspend the Last Unicorn Screening Tour because of Peter’s health happens, because it’s never easy to have cash flow drop to zero and get a lot of refund requests at the same time.  But 10 years along in the business, with over 300,000 high-quality products delivered to our customers, I can safely guarantee that we always do what we promise – which includes getting refunds out as fast as physically possible.  You hold the proof of that in your hands.

Thanks for you interest in Peter S. Beagle and his work.  Our small but intrepid team wishes you well.

All Best,

Connor Cochran

President, Conlan Press”

 

Personally, I found the letter to be off-putting.  I don’t understand why they chose to start with the information that they are suing someone for defamation for saying they don’t issue refunds when I contacted Conlan Press on June 19th and did not get a refund until December 9th.  That is 6 months, which is absurd.  I only received one update voluntarily on their end – otherwise I had to be relentless with checking in and asking where my money was.  I feel that if Conlan Press wants to issue a sincere apology, the letter that is going out with refund checks needs to be re-done and the information about whatever legal actions they have against someone need to be removed.  It did not make me feel sorry for them – it made me feel like they were invalidating my anger and frustration over this ordeal.  All future refund letters should just apologize – that’s it.

I am also curious as to the timing of everything, since Conlan Press is being sued by Peter S. Beagle.  While I am grateful to finally have my money back, I do find the timing of it all suspicious now.

So, if you are still waiting for a refund there is still hope for you!  Keep checking in with Conlan Press and ask when you will get your refund.  Ask for a firm date.  Keep the documentation (I kept this letter, the voided check, the voicemails, and all previous e-mails I have received – you never know.)

Vacation: San Francisco

We just returned from our vacation to the San Francisco bay area!  We all miss the area but the week-long visit was enough to get us through until next fall at the same time.  ^_^  It was difficult deciding what we had to absolutely visit (Udupi Palace, Gather, Pier 39, Japantown, Fellini’s: the list could go on and on) and what places we just didn’t have time for this year.  We found a couple of neat new shops but also had a few encounters of, “you can never go home again” with some of our old favorite stops.

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco

 

Things I Love, San Francisco Edition 

Trader Vic’s.  I always order a Menehune Juice so I can add another menehune to our tiki collection. | How easy it is to walk around in most of the towns | Daiso | Miso soup from Cha-Ya in Berkeley, CA. | Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco | The beaches | The public transportation!  The BART system puts the Austin-area public transportation to shame. |  The Soy & Tofu Festival.  If you are in San Francisco when this happens it’s worth the trip to Japantown. | The weather!  Coming from Austin, where it is still in the 90s, the bay area weather was a refreshing change, even though there was drizzle and fog. | This fog globe | The Presidio of San Francisco |  Pacific Redwood Wine by Frey Vineyards.  We stopped by the Whole Foods in Oakland and stocked up on these for the hotel!

Conlan Press Frustrations

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Last Unicorn.  When the kiddo was in Kindergarten we went to the Alamo Drafthouse to watch it on the big screen and meet Peter S. Beagle.  We all had a wonderful time, even though I was crying within 30 seconds of the movie starting.  It is overwhelming to finally see a movie you have loved your whole life on the big screen.

We heard that there was going to be another screening with Peter S. Beagle earlier this year so we immediately bought tickets for the show in town because it was being advertised as his final tour.  The show was this April (2015) and again, we had a great time (and again, I cried when seeing the movie on the big screen).  After the show we had Peter S. Beagle sign a few prints we purchased and we also pre-ordered a print.  At the time of purchase they told us that the delivery time would be approximately 4-6 weeks and that we would get updates via e-mail.  A few days later I ordered the new DVD on their website as well.

On June 19th we hadn’t heard anything, or received our print, so I sent an e-mail to them.  My first e-mail was ignored so I sent a follow-up email on July 3rd.  It was in the evening and  within 10 minutes I got a phone call from Connor at Conlan Press.  He didn’t really answer anything, but said that it would be easier to explain things over the phone and asked for me to call him back.  Phone calls are trickier for me than e-mail, so I wrote back about a week later explaining that and requested that he update me via e-mail.  The response to this e-mail was yet another phone call.  After responding that I cannot make phone calls happen easily I no longer got any responses from info@conlanpress.com.

I then started communicating with Ashley at Conlan Press on September 14th.  I will say that she has responded to my e-mails so far, but the situation is no less frustrating.  I was told that the items I had purchased would not be available and that I could get substitute items or a refund.  I opted for a refund and was then told that they would have to mail me a check since it had been more than 60 days since I placed my orders and that a check would be mailed out in a week.

I checked in today and am now being told that the checks aren’t really going to take a week, but four.  So now I am reasonably sure that Conlan Press has no intention of refunding my money.  In fact, if you Google “Conlan Press scam” you get a lot of valid responses: I, 2, 3, 4, 5

Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to update my blog with a, “Hooray!  I got my money back!” post.  Right now I am almost certain that I, along with many other Last Unicorn fans, have been scammed by Conlan Press.  My current advice is:

  1.  Go to Amazon and buy a new copy of the Last Unicorn.  Yes, I am reasonably sure that Conlan Press still gets some of the money (unfortunately), but is really is a beautiful version of the movie.
  2. Never, ever, EVER buy anything directly from Conlan Press.

For anyone who is interested, you can contact me and I will send you screenshots of all of my e-mails with Connor and Ashley at Conlan Press.  I will definitely write an update one way or another.

Water Communion 2015

Yesterday was the church’s annual Water Communion.  I got to put several things together for this service, which was a lot of fun!  I was asked to work on fidget activities for the kiddos, so I made some ocean bottles and bought some ocean themed water snakes from the local toy store.  I was also asked to provide coloring pages for all age ranges.  I found several neat coloring pages online (thanks, Pinterest!) but I wanted one that was specifically for Water Communion so I made one: please feel free to use this coloring page at your church’s Water Communion service, too!  

Download: Water Communion Coloring Page

Fortpoppin.com

The table in front of the sanctuary full of activities for Water Communion.

 

Things I Love: Bob’s Burgers Edition

A Bob's Burger image I made this weekend.

A Bob’s Burger meme I made this weekend.  Feel free to use!

❤ Things I Love ❤

Metallic tattoos | Pickle Pops | Making memes.  Mematic is one of my favorite sites for this.  I text them to my kiddo and use them at work. | Sweet tea | LUSH.  I am in love, love, LOVE with their Rock Star Soap! | Lattes with almond milk | Naps | Veg*n shabu-shabu | Blankets.  I know: it’s summer.  I still need my throw blankets when I am watching TV. | Atkinson’s peanut butter bars.  Seriously delicious stuff!