31 August 2012

Simplicity 3775

Dresses are so easy to wear.  The throw and go cop out when you don't want to think about dressing.

Why do I not have more?

In between wanting to finish a Knip Mode top and start cutting out a quick quilt top, I want another dress.  I have chosen the ubiquitous Simplicity 3775.  The dress everyone and their canine have made.  It must be a good pattern if every sewer on the face of the earth has made this pattern.  I wonder how many of these have been sold compared to the average pattern sale?

Google reports 74,000 hits on a search for this pattern.  For Jalie 2682, a "fairly" common Jalie, there is less than 5k hits.  Hm.  Is everybody on to something?

I've got two thin rayon fabrics, a pattern and a solid.  I'm planning to use the patterned rayon for bodice front, sleeve lining, skirt hem, and belt piece.  I think the fabric is thin enough that I need to double the bodice and probably the skirt as well. 

I'll be using the wrap front, because the one piece front has way too high a neckline.  Being that I'm right between sizing, I'll be using a 12 for the bodice front and a 14 elsewhere.  This can get interesting at the sleeve seam, but with a knit, I don't worry about exact matching.

Results after finishing the dress: it is gappy at the neckline and threatens to show my assets to the world.

Needless to say, this has gone in the donate pile, unphotographed due to the sheer horror of the result.

Not everybody has my body, and what works for the majority obviously does not work for me.  One day, I'll work out my perfect wrap top pattern.  Simplicity 3775 is not it.

Held hostage by that effing boob tube!

When I grew up, I turned on the television thusly: I walked over to the set, pulled on a power knob and transferred my hand to a second knob (located in close proximity to the first knob) to switch between channels.

Then my parents got a new set with a remote!  It had power, numerical buttons to punch in the channels, and volume control.

Then I got married.  And my husband thinks a television set is incomplete without a full complement of remotes.  There is the LaserDisc remote (I don't think this thing has run in years).  There is the DVD player (it has its own remote as well).  There is an computer to run the recording software (it has a wee little remote, and a mouse, and a keyboard).  There is the television (whose remote can and does turn on and off the DVD player ...).  And let us not forget all the various and sundry other "equipment": speakers galore (he has a speaker fixation), a subwoofer (which is a speaker, but not), and all the processing boxes that signals are fed into and out of (I think a couple of those have remotes as well).  And let us mention the new Blu-Ray player ...

Every couple of years or so, some parts of the system get updated or upgraded.  And each change is supposed to make the system easier to handle and understand.  He says, "We won't need the universal remote, this is going to make it easy enough for you to understand."

And yet, each change brings about the miraculous addition of ANOTHER flipping remote control!

And the worst part of it all?  The absolute glee and joy in my husband's face as I translate his expression, "You want to watch something?  Too bad, I'm going to watch the news.  And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, because I control the remotes and you don't know how to use them!"

I am held hostage to this boob tube and it really ticks me off.

At some point, I am going to decide that the television programs aren't worth it.  And considering all the crap that most networks are releasing, that time is coming sooner than later.

Because I have a little portable DVD player, and it seems to work just fine.

Husbands, you wonder how your wives can live without something?  Because you have driven us to it.

We watched "Idiocracy" the other night.  Every minute, the SO was backing up the frames to freeze or re-watch something.  I finally had to let fly the threat to end all threats, "If you don't leave that remote alone, I'm going to burn it!" ... or something to that effect.  Thereafter I was able to enjoy the movie in its director and studio intended order.

And you give us that, "What is your problem?" look that makes us want to perform a bodily injury upon your august selves.

Hulu is now one of my dependable tv watching buddies.  'Cause I really do not appreciate your remote and electronic monarchy, honey.

And can you guess who sets up all the computers and most of the accessory equipment?  Me!  Why does that living room array confuse the hell out of me?  Probably because I have not the single basic clue of what all that crap does and why one needs it.

When he added a switcher to my laptop so I could switch between playing stuff (on another TV) directly from the computer or via the DVD player in the office I practically cried.  I had two remotes: the DVD player and the TV.  I can work those just fine.  Now he is trying to turn my safe, comfortable, easy to understand computer office into the remote hell that is my living room.  Someone save me!

I believe there is a very good reason that universal remotes are generally referred to as "marriage savers."  Boys, take it from a wife, it might be one of the best investments you ever make.

Powerstrike Review - Ilaria Montagnani

Powerstrike, http://www.powerstrike.com/, developed by Ilaria Montagnani, is probably one of toughest low impact workouts I have (same exhaustion level but not as bouncy as Cathe workouts).  I would say it should not be attempted by a beginner, and intermediate exercisers need to proceed with caution.

There are (currently) 3 different videos available: Powerstrike (4?), Powerstrike 5, and Powerstrike Kickboxing 6, ranging from 40 to 49 minutes long from start of warm-up to end of cool down.  Even if I haven't been working out recently, I can get through the entire workout by my second week ... IF I take it easy and stay at the low kicks.

If you extend your kicks fully and put your all into the punches, Powerstrike is a heck of a hard workout - imagine sweat flying everywhere, dripping off the elbows, chin, and eyelashes, and you have an idea of the effort involved.

However, I think everyone should be extremely careful with their joints.  These workouts can make my knees ache for days if I'm not very aware of body placement.  Especially when reaching the tired stage, it is easy peasy to lose track of the extension at the knee and harm the joint.

You really can't follow Ilaria very closely, her joints are exceptionally protected by some bulky muscle (especially for a woman) and she can get away with moves that could damage many of us due to her extreme conditioning.  Additionally, the camera work is, eh, not so helpful at times.

So, while I urge all exercise enthusiasts to enjoy the Powerstrike workouts, but you must enter the workout already knowing proper form, and where your body should be in all the moves.  I would recommend this only for people who are very familiar with kickboxing routines and karate positioning.

Great leg workout, moderate upper body workout (add weighted gloves for upper body oomph).

FYI - If you do not like muscular women, you will not like watching Ilaria.  She has a truly enviable muscular physicality.  The hubby walks by while I am working out and starts muttering about the individual teaching the video.  Ilaria is pretty massively muscled for a woman (not for a professional body builder though).  She can do pistol squats without any difficulty.

All photos from Powerstrike.com and facebook pages:

I think this may be one of the most beautiful photographs I've ever seen of her.  It hits all the marks for perfect use of negative space and awesome lighting.

Another gorgeous photo ... someone was being artistic for this shoot!

Sorry, or not, to say that following her workouts will NOT give you her body.  You would need to be lifting heavy weights for several years to come even close (not to mention drastic changes to your diet).

"Bodystrikes" is another release of hers that concentrates on lower body, low impact.  It could replace a lower body weight lifting day if need be.

Athletica is her "functional" weight lifting video, and I use it once a week in addition to New Rules of Lifting for Abs workouts.

Individual Reviews -

 Powerstrike (4)
After running into a wooden table, and giving my right vastus lateralis a humdinger of a bruise (seriously feels like I stuck a softball in my leg), I needed an "easy" workout, i.e. one without a lot of bouncing.  I reached for this first Powerstrike DVD, which is sometimes sold as Volume 4. 

I still burned 400 calories in this 57 minute workout, which is pretty impressive for low impact (to compare, I generally burn about 300 calories on a lopping jog for the same amount of time).

There is a bunch of kicking in this video, but the kicks involve fairly simple combinations that are moderately easy to do.

Ilaria does include circle, or crescent, kicks, but begins with a knee circle that could be used in place of the kick.  (There are also front snap and roundhouse kicks.)

The punching combinations are not difficult.  And, there is some jogging in place that could easily be converted to marching.

If you can find this first powerstrike DVD, I would recommend it for moderate exercisers and anyone with a martial arts background for those low impact days.


If you try this workout, and say, "Gosh, it is not hard enough" ... I suggest you squat deeper and kick higher.  Head level roundhouse and snap kicks wear me out.

Powerstrike 5

Once again, I have pushed my body enough that my calf said, "Please, no jumping today" so I turned to my low impact videos and grabbed Powerstrike 5.

This is a 49 minute workout where I burned around 400 calories.  I was able to keep up with almost the entire workout.

Warm-up - The warmup is an intro to the punching drills and kicking form.  There are 4 punches: jab, cross, hook, and upper.  They are usually taken at a reasonable speed, and should be fairly easy for anyone to pick up.

There are 4 kicks: front, roundhouse, side, and crescent (or circle).  The crescent is simplified as a knee circle for beginners and you should stick with it until you are comfortable with a full crescent kick.

Body - The main workout consists of 3 combinations, and I really like Ilaria's combo choices here.  Unlike most workouts, you do NOT repeat the same combinations on both sides.  Finally, a change!  You pretty much work each side equally, but learn a new combination for the second side.  Yes!!!

Granted, this is a complaint for some people, but Ilaria's approach to this shakes up the workout and keeps you on your toes.  I approve.

Except for the crescent kicks, I think this is a fairly easy workout.  Some of the movements are a bit quick, but you do not have to keep up with the participants to get a useful workout.

The third combo, which is her karate combo, is kinda boring.  I think if I did not have a familiarity with martial arts, this would be new and interesting, but since I do, it drags.  Luckily, it is short.

Cooldown - Waaay too short.  And you hardly hit any important muscles.  No bicep stretch, no shoulder stretch, no quad stretch, no glute stretch ...  I barely follow her instructions in this part.  Another thing I'm starting to notice is that she does not exhibit much flexiblity in her stretch routines.  So if you are flexible, be sure you know how to take the stretches deeper, because her's are really shallow stretches.

Cueing - Her cueing is definitely better in this video than what I've found in some of her other titles. 

I'd recommend Powerstrike 5 for anyone who has a basic understanding of martial arts (I first typed marital!), and wants a low impact, full body routine.

My left calf complained 3/4 of the way through, "I thought you were taking it easy, as I requested!"  Some of the kicking routines definitely will make the calf a bit stressed.

Good for us, use it or lose it!


Powerstrike Kickboxing vol 6

I can definitely tell that my body is slowing down this week, and needs a rest and recovery period.  Since I do not want to begin that rest until next week, I reached for the last Powerstrike video for an "easy" workout.

There are no plyometric type moves in this video, but some running in place and bouncing. 

This is more high intensity that the other Powerstrike videos, but still only burns about 380 calories for me. 

Ilaria's cueing is really coming along very well, and the transitions "feel" right (I've got a Kelly Coffee-Meyers workout that always feels like she is starting on the wrong foot). 

The only new addition to the punches and kicks from the earlier videos are elbow strikes and back kicks. 

Same recommendations as her earlier videos, only for moderate exercisers who are somewhat familiar with martial arts moves and kickboxing drills.

Warm up
The warm-up is adequate, and familiarizes you with the punches and kicks, not the combinations (all good in my opinion).

Her verbiage gets a little off in comparison to her movements, watch and follow the movements.

The combos are long, as you are learning only two (a total of four, two on each side).  So they build rather slowly, and you will work any given combo for 2 minutes before adding-on.  You might do this four or more times for any given combination.

I was definitely getting low on carbs for the brain pan, because the last bit of two combos was pretty sloppy.  Via my heart rate monitor, I spent the vast majority of my time in aerobic zones 2 (29 minutes) and 3 (16.5 minutes), which is also why I got sloppy.  Zone 3 is an exhausting zone to work in for an extended period of time.

Another: what?  where?  cooldown.  I'd strongly recommend you do real stretches for the hip flexors, quads, calves, and hamstrings.  I'd also encourage bicep, tricep, latissimus, and shoulder stretches, because you certainly work them thoroughly in the body of the workout.

My cooldown runs for another 2 or 4 minutes after Ilaria's finishes.


CND Colour and Effects Bottle Problems

In my recent purge, I've noticed a major problem with a good 25% of my CND polish bottles.  They are leaky, seriously leaky.  This allows a great deal of air into the bottle, and volatiles out. 

The result is that tightly closed bottles of polish are drying out, and stinking up my house (my SO kept complaining, and I could not find the loose bottle cap ... turns out that was not the problem).

Needless to say, while I love CND's Colour and Effects lines (the combinations are amazing!) as well as their awesomely quick dry time (out and about in an hour!) AND longevity (manicures lasting for a week!) ... I'm not buying any more CND polishes.

And another savings to my wallet!  I'm practically down to China Glaze, Color Club, and Misa as my only polish purchases. 

Ah, it is just as well, CND rarely bring out anything new and interesting, having spent most of their time on the Shellac line ... which I strongly urge people against due to the UV light exposure for curing.  UV light is dangerous, whether on your body as a whole or your hands as a part.  The lighter your skin, the more you should run away.  I don't care how long it lasts or how great it looks ... because skin cancer is not worth the pretty or the longevity.

Nubar "Walnut" Swatch

Ah Nubar, what can I say ... your color developer has a interesting/unusual/backwards eye.

Nubar Walnut appears perfect in the bottle, until you look closely. Walnut is a warm reddened brown lacquer, with the slightest hints of red and silver microglitter. Yes, silver.

It's savings grace is that the microglitter pretty much disappears once the lacquer dries.

Walnut appears to apply fairly evenly and dry very quickly. However, when the nail is backlit, you can see an extraordinary streakfest along the free edge. It is not at all obvious when looking at the color in any other lighting conditions.

Within 24 hours, I had a pretty chippy manicure. Between the chippies and the cool silver mixed with warm red color, this has landed soundly in the donate pile.

Nubar is another company that is getting placed mostly in the donate, rather than keep pile.  I believe I have less than 5 bottles of their polish remaining after my recent purge.

I do not like cool and warm mixes in my nail polish colors, and that is what I consistently see with Nubar.  If Walnut was a cool color, such as chocolate brown, I could understand the silver addition, but it is a warm color and should have gold added instead.  Harumph.

BB Couture Butt-Naked Bronze Swatch and Review

BB Couture Butt-Naked Bronze is almost a light cocoa.  Depending on the light source, it can appear cool or warm, and neither source makes it look good with my skin.

It is lightly pigmented, slightly streaky, and sparsely populated by holographic glitter that flashes red, green, and gold.

I saw this on another blogger, and absolutely fell head over heels.  But her skin was more pigmented, and now that I have this color on ... I am not drawn to it.

Bye-bye BNB.  I'm starting to get very low on BB Couture polishes.  I think this is another company that does not cater to my skin specifics.  Much like cult nails, they simply do not have a large enough hold on the market to create for warm skinned individuals.

30 August 2012

Zoya Rica Swatch and Review

Ah, the last of the sunshine collection, and like the other two before it: Apple and Faye ... Zoya Rica is heading directly to the give away pile.

I started with two base coats and a first lacquer layer at night.  Let it dry for over an hour before going to bed.  No problems.

Wake up in the morning, and add a second lacquer coat (nothing too thick, just a thin second layer).  No activity for over an hour.  Get in the car to drive ... smudge and dent four nails in short succession.

These truly are the polishes that refuse to dry.  I don't know what Zoya did wrong, but it sucks.

I may eventually forgive Zoya for this travesty ... but it may take a long while.  I still haven't purchased anymore from them, even a year after this collection was released.

I would describe Rica as a slightly coraled rose pink with heavy gold glitter.  Depending on the way light catches it, the polish can seem quite warm or quite cool.  It was a fun experiment, but I don't like dents in my polish, so I've given up on Zoya for the time being. 

I had this same issue with Orly polishes.  Hm, what a darn shame, it really cuts down on my polish spending!  I still see swatches to drool over, but the drying issue is a major irritation.  So I continue to sit and wait for dupes to appear (hey, it worked for that Peridot polish from way too expensive-ville, China Glaze released Rare and Radiant, and it now has a home with me - I am patient ... next up is hoping CG releases a Zoya Faye duplicate).

List, Prepping for a Quilt Retreat

How to prepare for a quilt retreat weekend -

I love going to quilt retreats, but I had to be convinced to attend my first.  I kept thinking to myself, why waste the time and money when I can sew at home?  And then I visited a retreat ... someone else cooking (can be good or bad), no interruptions, and amazing camaraderie!  What else could anyone ask for?

Having now been to retreats at least half a dozen times, I've started this little list.  It is both reminder for myself, as well as an intro for anyone wishing to know more about retreats.

No retreat center is like another, so you need to be prepared for a lot of possibilities.  Here are my thoughts, and my list (with some additions and subtractions, this list could also work for embroidery machine retreats as well as scrapbooking retreats): 

Sleep - Can be hard to come by.  For me, the centers are usually too cold.  But the last center I stayed at had winter weight quilts on the beds and sheets.  The sheets were too chilly, the quilt was too hot.  I was quite uncomfortable.  I'm making several lightweight quilts to bring with me to retreats for my next experience.  Whew.

Snoring/Lights/Squeaky beds -
You will usually be in a room with one to several other women.  Someone is going to snore.  If it is a problem, try to bunk with someone who does not snore.  Otherwise, bring earplugs ... honestly.  These are the only things that have allowed me to drop off some nights.

There are nightlights in every center I've stayed at, but if you wake up confused, please do not automatically turn on a bright light.  This is where a discrete little flashlight is an awesome tool to carry with you.

Squeaky beds are the bane of some retreaters existence, especially if they or someone else is not sleeping comfortably/easily.  Sleep machine or white noise apps are an excellent option for these occasions.  Make sure the sound level with not bother the other occupants.

Food -
This is a biggie for me, because I cannot eat dairy (allergy) and I do not eat meat.  Which basically restricts a lot of food for me, some retreats are great about this, while others are crappy.  If you have a food issue, it is better to call ahead (or email) and find out the owner's policy.

One of the retreats I used to attend refuses to cater to my dairy allergy, and also refuses to reduce the cost of my weekend.  Needless to say, I no longer attend this retreat.  However, the times I did attend, I was prepared with my own food.  I never went hungry.

On the other hand, I did hear from other attendees that they were having digestive issues with the high amounts of salt and extremely high amounts of carbohydrates and fats in each meal.  Yikes, my stomach just moaned in sympathy.  I did not have these issues, but being prepared for the possibility is very important.

Additionally, bring along healthy, good snacks for yourself, even if the retreat provides food and snacks.  What the retreat owner/manager considers snack product may differ greatly from yours.  I pack hummus and carrots, fruit (apples, nectarines, plums, melon, grapes), tortilla chips and salsa, etc.

Along with this, if you are carefully watching your food intake: i.e. measuring (bring your scale) or cooking, be aware that the "kitchens" are no better set up than many hotel/traveling kitchens.  Plates, forks, spoons, and butter knives, yes.  Sharp kitchen knives, measuring spoons and cups, and preparation cookware ... not so much.  So make sure you are prepared for any kitchen eventuality.  I would encourage you to bring items already cut up and ready to use.

Drink is similar.  I drink a lot of water, so I've never had an issue with what flows from the tap.  But, if you have a favorite drink you want, bring it along with you.

FYI - You do a lot more sitting at a retreat than you expect.  You do not need and really will not like what high fat snacks will do to your system.  Keep it cleaner than you would like, and you will exit your retreat healthy and happy.  Much better than sick and nauseous, in my opinion.

Clothing - comfy and flexible.  Elastic waists are your friend, so too are loose fitting tops.  Also, be prepared for conditions where you are either too cool or too warm.  If you have the items with you, you can bundle up or strip down as conditions require.

Nobody cares what you wear on retreat.  Heck, half of us are in jammies until noon (or later).

If you want to exercise - take a walk or run while on retreat, make sure you bring all the items you need to be comfortable: shorts or pants or running skirt, top with appropriate bra, socks, and shoes.  

Shoes - Slippers or socks are the common foot coverings I see at retreats.  You want to be careful about barefooting in this environment because there are pins everywhere!  My mother stepped on a pin when I was a kid.  The exploratory surgery she went through to find the piece that broke off will stay with me until the day I lose my mind.  Ouch.

Having said that, I did go barefoot on my last retreat, and did not have pin issues.  But it is a possibility of which to be aware.

Irons - Most retreats have irons, but bringing your own saves you an oops experience in the event that the last iron the retreat has just died and it is midnight and this is the last seam to press and and and. 

However, having an ironing station set up at your table encourages you to sit longer, and longer, and longer without moving.  I discourage this, as your body is not built to sit in a chair for hours without a break

Rulers - This seems to be one of the things I always forget.  Learn from my mistake and bring your own, it keeps you from having to beg an unfamiliar tool from someone else.

Having said that, the most kindhearted gals retreat, and a call to borrow a item you left behind quickly produces a generous wealth of options at your fingertips.

Rotary Cutter - Same as above.  With all the different handles, I know a bunch of people who say, I can not use that "fill in the blank" style.  If you bring your own, this is not something that will concern you.

Projects - Make sure to bring several more projects than you think you will need.  You will get tired of a project and need something new OR you will work through them much faster than you believe.  I took 5 projects to my first retreat, and worked on all of them.  I was shocked, I expected to finish one, and I finished three.  Better to over, rather than under, prepare.

Thread - Bring more than you need and enough spools to match every project you have brought.  It is a guarantee that you will not be able to find your needed color or brand when you shop at the local shops around your retreat center.

Brainstorming - I have never been able to successfully brainstorm at a retreat.  It is noisy, nothing is in the place that I need it, and I cannot settle enough to be creative.  Mostly it is a place to work uninterrupted by spouses, kids, and pets.  Which means that you push yourself much further than you expect.

So I recommend you have your projects planned out in advance, rather than bringing graph paper and yards of fabric that you will draw into being at the retreat.  Probably not going to happen!

And Finally, music.  Probably one of my biggest pet peeves (right up there with someone dumping salt all over the chip bowl, ugh) is those people who insist on playing their music for me.  If I wanted to listen to music, I'd bring my own playing device AND earphones.  You probably don't want me playing Nine Inch Nails or Pink, so why do I have to listen to your oldies or country or whatever else you decide to share?!?

Be thoughtful of others, and hopefully, they will return the favor.

List -
Directions to Center, and access codes if needed

clips for chip bags, etc.
Cooler and Ice if needed (many centers offer refrigerators)

Extra Blanket

Projects - more than you think you will need
Needles (both hand sewing and machine sewing)
Cutting Board
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Machine
Sewing Machine Cleaning kit

Ironing mat
Extra light for sewing machine (I have a fold up Ottlite)

Two pair shoes: sandals, tennis shoes, all comfy
Clothing - lightweight layers to put and take off easily

Personal care items
Hairbrush, Comb, or not (I just use my fingers now)
Hair ties or clips

What else do you make sure to bring?

12 August 2012

Blendtec DesignerSeries Blender: Smoothies and Spinach Soup

I have had the summer off, and have spent that time slicing, dicing, cooking, baking, and [lightly] frying (and sewing and net surfing, but the sewing really does not have a direct impact on this post).  So I suppose it should come as no surprise that two of my kitchen appliances, members of the family for the better part of a decade, started their slow gallop to destruction, disorder, and chaos.

One of them, my Kitchen Aid food processor is cracking everywhere it is possible to crack, and sounding a bit sickly and protesty when I ask it to work ... although work it still does.  This saga requires a post all its own, complete with piss poor customer service responses, and a backward motor!

The other appliance, my Oster Commercial blender, began sounding really loud, and while the glass jar has never seated all that securely, I've had to start applying amazing amounts of downward force (and I lift weights two times a week) to keep that jar from taking off like Wonder Woman's Invisible plane.  Not to mention the thing refuses to grind up ice in a smoothie anymore.  It is more along the lines of pea and lima bean sized cubes of ice in a halfway blended smoothie.  Uh, ick.

I've started drinking a lot of smoothies, and therefore my blender is getting a lot of workouts.  Smoothies are a great way to get more fruits and vegetables in my diet ... though really, it is the vegetables that I am missing.  I've been pushing my workouts the last couple months trying to "transform my body" to slightly mis-quote Jari Love.  Incidentally, my body type is most like water polo player, Simone Abbate, according to the BBC Olympic app ... or, if my plumbing was different, equestrian Scott Brash.

So gritty, lumpy smoothies were turning me into grumpy, irritated wife who bad mouths the appliances, and the hubby said, "Buy what you want."  Oh, boy, always a dangerous thing to say to the wife.  Of course, this is my "anniversary" present ...

A quick search quickly revealed there are two major players in the American blender market, Blendtec and Vitamix.  Both companies get great reviews, "tend" to produce quality products, and have a substantial warranty (which is good considering how proud they are of their products).

So, I finally settled on a Blendtec DesignerSeries (or Designer Series) for a handful of reasons.  1) Wildside jar - big, but not tall, 2) touch interface! - what can I say, the looks won me over, 3) idiot proof buttons - I really wanted a machine that I walked up to, hit the smoothie button, and Voila! out comes a smoothie, 4) No tamper - I neither need, nor want, another accessory to keep track of, 5) it fits under my kitchen cabinets on the counter, and 6) it was "supposed" to be quieter, although if it is quieter than any other Blendtec blender, I'd recommend hearing protection for all of them!

This is the blender I bought.  It "blends" in well with my counter, and is easy to clean.  A plus since it is getting daily use, and never gets put away.

It has a smooth (and dark) touch surface that is not apparent until you touch it to activate (yes, be aware, this will probably be the first thing to go out on the machine.)

The idiot proof buttons.  I've used the Ice Crush (it gets a 6/10, there are some lumpy pieces of ice left with this button), Smoothie (ah, yes, more smoothies please, no lumpy ice issue, so a 9/10), and now the Soups (used once, and so far 10/10, while I retain the right to change the scoring in future).

That heartbeat signal on the far, lower right is the pulse button.  Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't.

All photographs "borrowed" from Beyond Blenders, which, coincidentally, is where I purchased my blender.  So far (always hedge your bets), I have no complaints about their customer service, shipping, or email processes.

Back to the newest member of the household - Smoothies have been wonderful with this machine.  I'm making a smoothie a day, usually, and it has chowed through everything I've placed in it.

Tonight, I decided to really go crazy and make a soup.  Why soup?  Oh, for various and sundry reasons ... I hadn't used that setting yet, I had found a recipe online, but, ultimately, I wanted to use up some of my ridiculous stash of Indian Spinach.

This is the leaf that my CSA has delivered in large quantities for the last month.  I've tried it in smoothies ... too green, even greener than kale, if you can believe it!  I've tried it in cooked recipes, but it has a weird result.  It was edible in a potato and spinach dish, but just barely.

Indian Spinach is a great summer crop (I assume, since my CSA seems to grow so much of it so easily!), but the leaves are thick, thick, thick, and very mucilaginous (think okra, think aloe vera, think Alien gun goop*, think snot).  And this combination makes the leaf fairly unpalatable, trust me, I've tried.  So I saw this recipe online and thought, "Hm, I don't have half those ingredients, but I bet I could substitute, and I can say I've tried again as I dump the nasty soup into the compost bin."  And honestly, that is what I thought.

So, the recipe ... from Blender Girl - http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/recipes/vegan_cream_of_spinach_soup/ - Vegan Cream of Spinach Soup

Here is what I did -
2 cups thick Indian Spinach leaves de-stemmed and coarsely chopped (very coarsely)
1 crook neck squash, diced (around 1 cup)
1/2 cucumber, diced (around 1/2 cup)
4 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons roasted, diced garlic
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 packets True Lemon
a dash of salt

Cook the first four ingredients in a pan on medium for five minutes.

Add in broth, garlic, and true lemon, bring to boil, turn down to simmer for 20 minutes.

Carefully! transfer to blender along with cashews, attach lid, push soup button.

Experimentally taste, prepare to make ugly face.  However, ugly face never materialized, this is a surprisingly good tasting recipe.

This makes 6 appetizer sized servings of 43 calories each, via myfitnesspal.

Hey, what can I say.  I made a keeper.

* Exactly where does the "Alien" goop come from (see, pretty much any Alien movie ever made, even AVP)?  The audience always knows "the Alien" has been along that corridor, because of the resultant sticky, goopy mess left behind (usually stuck to a rifle of some type, or gluing the rifle to the floor) and discovered by victim next.  But what I want to know is, what body orifice produces it?  Their saliva seems much more liquidy, and their blood is acidic, not to mention yellow.  So, inquiring, biological minds want to know ... from whence does goop arise?

Don't even get me started on the host cocooning substance.  Maybe those skinny, little, useless looking abdomens are multipurpose???

And this is why it can be scary to release a biologist in the kitchen ...