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Monday, July 20, 2015

Easy One Pot Chicken Dinner

 I didn't really have a good picture of a recent and very tasty dinner I made so you get to stare at this steak for a little bit. You're welcome. 

Anyway, the other night I had about 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs and some mushrooms that needed eaten so here's what I came up with. It's kind of like a cocquo vin and kinda not. Let's pull a que from Hollywood and call it "Based on a Cocquo Vin"

Ingredients

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, whole
3 tbsp butter
Some olive oil
4 strips of bacon
A bottle of chianti
Herbs de Provance to taste
Parsley to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup long grained white rice
2 cups of water

So here's what I did with all this: Heat some olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of a frying pan, once hot brown the chicken thighs on each side. Take the chicken thighs out and set aside. Cut the bacon strips into about one inch lengths and cook in the same pan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside with the chicken. Put the onion and whole cloves in the pan and cook until the onions are soft and have a little bit of color on them. Pour in half the bottle of chianti and add the butter. Place the chicken and bacon back into the pan and season with the salt, pepper, parsley and herbs de Provence. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir everything. Put a lid on it, turn down the heat and let simmer for 40 minutes. 

For the rice, bring 2 cups water with a little bit of olive oil to a boil in a medium size pot.  Once boiling add one cup of long grain white rice and stir briefly. Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on it. Let simmer for 29 minutes. After 20 minutes just turn the heat off and leave the lid on until ready to serve. 

I served the Based on a Cocquo Vin over the rice and you know what? It was delicious. I did get a picture of it and I am by no means a food photographer so it actually looks really unappetizing so no picture for you. But give it a shot. It's well worth the caloric intake.  


Monday, July 13, 2015

The Best Used Book Store Ever


I like books. A lot. Seriously. Growing up there was literally a book case in every room of the house each filled with books and before you say "Yeah right, like you had a bookcase in the bathroom" well no we didn't but the linen closet wasn't full of linens. It was full of books. 

And we had all kind of books too. Kids books that were my sister's and mine, old text books, instructional books, mysteries, and westerns. Lots of westerns. 

We weren't uppity either. It never mattered where the books came from. Retail bookstores, used bookstores, yard sales, and thrift shops. If there were books to be had my family was there sorting through them all. 

When I was really little we used to go to a really awesome used book store in Morro Bay, California called "The Book Peddlar". It's no longer there but that was one of the best places ever. 

As an adult this hasn't changed. I still like bookstores. In fact, every year on our wedding anniversary my husband and I will go out to dinner and then go to Barnes & Noble and buy each other a book. 

When we go on vacation I go hunting for bookstores too. So now I'm going to take the time to list some of the places I like to check out and then I'll tell you of the best place to go for used books. 

Cambria, California - a local impressionist style artist, who's name I cannot remember, shares her studio space with her husband who just happens to run a little book store called The Bookery. The last time I was there he had several antique book volume sets including a very old set of the works of James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans for those who prefer the movie over the book). 

Julian, California - I didn't get the name of this book store but it's just up the street from the Miner's Diner in Julian. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Julian, it's a very rustic old mining town in Southern California. The bookstore was small and really really great. Also, you could tell the owner pretty much spent all his time reading. 

Taft, California - the small town of Taft (the town actually was originally called Moron, but that's another story) has a very good used book store called Ben's Books. Ben is an older gentleman who sells books. The front of the store has rare and vintage books while the back of the store has your average used book store findings. 

Kennet Square, Pennsylvania - this was, I feel, one of the best bookstores ever. One thing about the Eastern regions of the U.S. is the fact that the best antiques and vintage items tend not to find their way West. As with a lot of these stores, I didn't get the name, but Kennet Square is small so it wouldn't be hard to find the book store. In addition to vintage and rare books there were also old maps and magazines, books on every subject imaginable and even books in foreign languages. 

Random Monuments of Washington DC - so places in DC like the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial which are famous for their architecture surrounding the statue of whomever is being memorialized actually have little book shops off to the side. They are tiny but are just wall to wall books of the subject of that memorial. While not used book stores, they are pretty neat. 

Now for the best place to get used books. 

Ready?  

It's actually the Book Sale periodically held at the Coalinga District Library in Coalinga, California. But why would a random book sale at a library be the best place?  Many reasons. For starters, it's good memories. My mom always took us to the library when we were kids. I had a library card before I could even write my own name. On an interesting side note the Coalinga District Library is part of the San Joaquin Library System which means  that same library card I got when I was young is still in my wallet and works at all the libraries here in Bakersfield. 

There are other reasons though. They sell more then just library discards, they also sell books donated from various places. This means that if you have a pile of books and no time to hold a yard sale you can just donate them like you would to any old thrift store except the proceeds from that donation go to the library. 

Another reason is all the interesting things we've found there over the years. Books from the International Collectors Library (there'll be a future blogpost on those), rare books (my mom once found a misprint book containing of two stories by Robert Louis Stevenson from the 1800s), first editions (recently we got a first edition of Lost Horizon) and ridiculously reasonable prices. The library doesn't have the resources to research each book they sell so there's a generalized pricing. As I recall, and don't quote me on this, but it tends to be $1 for a hard cover book and 50 cents for paperback. Also towards the final days of the sale they have been known just to hand you a box and tell you to fill it up and charge a low flat rate for the whole thing. 

The book sales though aren't widely advertised. 90% of the time someone in my family will discover the sale just because they saw the sign out front while driving by. The library though does now have a Facebook page and they will announce book sale dates there as well. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Product Review - Google Drive





Some parts of technology are pretty awesome.   A lot has been created not just for fun, or because it was possible, but also to fill a need.  This post is all about one of those programs that was created and definitely filled a need - Google Drive.

For those of you who are not technically savvy, like me, you may not have ever had reason to make use of Google Drive at all but I'll take time to explain its uses and how here at Stitchy Impressions its been a very useful business tool.

So, what is Google Drive?  Well, its a file sharing system that comes with all Google accounts.  That's right.  If you have a Gmail account, you have Google Drive.  Additionally, any device where you access your Gmail can also be used to access the Google Drive.  And as with all things in life, there's an app for that.  Google Drive apps are available for most mobile devices.

Here's some stats.  The Google Drive that comes with your Gmail account gives you a full 15 GB of storage. By comparison, iCloud, which comes with your iPhone and iPad gives you 5 GB of storage for free.  Google Drive does have a subscription plan, however, if you need more storage.  For $1.99 a month you get a full 100 GB of storage and for $9.99 a month you get 1 TB of storage.  A TB by the way is a terabyte.

But, what are the features of Google Drive?  Well, it has a lot to offer.  As stated before, its a file sharing system which means you can upload your photos and share those out with your loved ones by just giving them a link or inviting them to your Google Drive through an email invite.  This will allow them to download and save your photos as well as upload photos of their own to share with you.

There's more though then just file sharing.  There's also several programs that work as the equivalent of multiple Microsoft Office programs.  This is especially useful for those operating businesses.  In fact, if you have created something as a Power Point presentation or a Word Document, you an upload these into the Google drive and convert them into Google Slides or Google Docs that can be as easily shared as photos are.

This also offers the ability of real time collaboration.  If you are working on a presentation for work or school, you can create it in Google Slides, share the link with anyone who will be working on the project with you and you can both make adjustments and additions to it at once.  In fact, it will even show you who's in it while you're there and where exactly in the document they are and you can see the changes they make as they make them.

This collaboration also allows your various collaborators to chat while in the document as well as leave notes and comments while working on it.

How do we here at Stitchy Impressions use Google Drive?  Primarily for our inventory.  We have a very extensive inventory.  Usually there's anywhere from 150 to 200 active items in our Etsy shop, however, there's at least 600 more item listings that are expired and another 100-150 that still need photographed and listings created.  Google Sheets, the spreadsheet portion of Google Drive, allows those of us here at Stitchy Impressions to keep track of all inventory.  Anything created, listed, sold, expired, renewed, or needing photographs are all tracked an documented in Google Sheets.

Why Google Sheets and not good old Microsoft Excel?  Well, the main thing is the apps.  Google Sheets has a very easy to use app for mobile devices that allows for updating the inventory spreadsheet on the go.  This means that if an item is sold, or if someone gets an idea for a new item, no one has to wait to sign in to their computer when they get home. Any one of our collaborators can add what's needed at any given moment. Additionally the functionality of Excel and Sheets is basically the same so there's no need to learn any new formulas or macros to be able have it work out the same. 

So far using Google Drive has been pretty simple and very useful for Stitchy Impressions.  Its something that I would highly recommend for anyone needing a file sharing system or a way to quickly and easily access documents from anywhere.