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I tried cutting an LP with my Cricut Maker (and here’s what happened).

This post is NOT sponsored by Cricut. I’m adding it here because if I consider trying something (such as the crazy question “can you cut vinyl records with a Cricut Maker?”), I imagine there’s someone else out there who’s wondering the same thing so I’m sharing my experience. However, this post DOES contain some affiliate links which means if you click a link and make a purchase I may get a small commission that helps to offset the cost of hosting this blog.

My daughter gave me a small record player last Christmas, and I’ve been longing to listen to some vinyl lately. And wanted to dress-up the area with some wall art involving daisies made out of old records.

I’m a recent owner of a Cricut Maker — and, for the most part, this machine has been more fun than I imagined — it will do many things. But would it cut an LP?

While I’m sure it would cut the thin little 45-sized records you used to be able to find on the back of a cereal box (I’m showing my age here), I wasn’t sure it would cut anything more substantial. The Cricut Maker offers more pressure than the other Cricut machines, but can generally cut materials no thicker than 2.5mm.

But I decided to go ahead, risk my knife blade, and try cutting one.

RCA used to make a series of records called “Dyna Flex”; these are (as you would expect) more flexible than a standard vinyl record. So I found a couple of inexpensive ones on eBay (didn’t matter what it was, I’d be changing the label anyway) and went to work.

Cricut Design Space doesn’t allow you to configure a new custom material using the knife blade, so I chose to go with heavy chipboard as it had the most passes and quite a bit of pressure. I was worried about upping the pressure too much here. I used the strong grip mat — I find that the off-brand ones you can find in three-packs on Amazon work as well as the official Cricut ones.

The machine seemed to be cutting the material, but after 24 passes, still hadn’t cut through the record. And around 18 passes, the machine was starting to emit some sounds which worried me a bit.

So, what I ended up with was a record with a deeply etched daisy pattern — but no cut-through. I tried to see if I could break apart the design, but this ony succeeded in breaking the record. And I tried a sharp x-acto knife to try to cut through on the cuts, but didn’t make much progress and it would have been too labor-intensive to cut through the entire thing.

So, the verdict is: unsuccessful. HOWEVER, using “cut” with the knife blade might work if you wanted to deeply etch at pattern into an LP vs. cutting a design out. I haven’t tried the engraving tool on an LP yet. I might test it out on this damaged one and do something with my other Dynaflex record. But I’m afraid to try a cut with any more pressure. The groans coming from my machine suggested that it wouldn’t like that. I haven’t yet tried my knife blade again on another material, but I think it survived this endeavor.

My thought is you’d need a laser cutter to cut shapes out of vinyl records.

Post Update!

Since I wrote the original post, I’ve had the chance to try a few different things. Here are my conclusions:

Cutting a vinyl LP with a Cricut Maker

Verdict: Don’t do it. It didn’t destroy my knife blade, but it will not cut through your record. If you want to etch something into your record, go ahead…but it won’t cut through.

Cutting a Flexi-Disc with a Cricut Maker

Yep. It works. If you can get some of the thin, flexible records that used to be on cereal boxes (make sure they’re not a collectible first!) or given out as promos, these will easily cut with your Cricut machine on the Acetate setting.

For my current project, which is trying to make a wall garden out of records and removable vinyl, these will work great.

Flower cut with cricut maker from flexi-disc.

Heating an LP to cut it

This works! After you heat up the record, you can easily cut it through with scissors. However, the cuts I made with the Cricut were useless here and I warped my record. My advice? Lay your record out on a flat pan and your oven on the LOWEST temperature setting and watch it carefully after 15 minutes or so. You might also want to weigh the top of the record down to prevent warping.

Can you cut a vinyl record with a Cricut Maker? Click to Tweet

Have you successfully cut a vinyl record with your Cricut? If you have, post a comment and let us know how you did it!

How to Type Commonly Used Accents on Windows 10 International Keyboard (Including a Cheat Sheet for French Accents)

French is a lovely language, but oh, those accents! As a French learner, I frequently found myself forgetting accents or putting accent aigu where accent grave should be. Much of this was simply the mistake of a new learner, but it’s time for true confessions: sometimes, it was sheer laziness, especially when it came to typing in French.

While I’m not an extremely fast typist in English, typing in French felt très lentement (very slow.) If I were using an online learning program and found that the system would disregard my lack of accents, I’d just skip them, though I knew that ultimately I was doing it a disservice.

This blatant ignoring of accents is pure laziness as typing French characters on a keyboard is not difficult! When I had an iPad, it was very easy: press and hold for a pop-up menu of accents. However, I’m a PC user and, while I have a Bluetooth keyboard with a numeric keypad, my laptop does not have one. And using ALT and having to memorize a numeric code for special characters or, worse yet, using the character map to find individual letters with accents was headache-inducing.

The easiest way I’ve found to type characters not found on my US keyboard is to use the United States International Keyboard.

Adding the United States International Keyboard on Windows 10

Time needed: 5 minutes.

Here’s how to add the International Keyboard in Windows 10:

  1. Go to Settings

    Either click the windows icon on your taskbar (if your taskbar is at the bottom, it’s on the left) and then click the gear icon OR type Settings in the search box on your taskbar and then click on “Settings.” Either of these things will bring up the Settings menu.

  2. Click on Time and Language

    When you are in the settings menu, click on “Time and Language.”Time and Language Settings

  3. Click on Language

    As of the time I’m writing this, this should be on the left side of the menu.Windows 10 Language Settings

  4. Click your language under “Preferred Languages.”

    To add a keyboard, click on a language. The United States International Keyboard is available from both English (United States) and English (United Kingdom). I have NOT checked other English options.

    Preferred languages settings windows 10

  5. Click “Options”

    English Options Windows 10

  6. Click “Add a Keyboard”

    Then click on “Add a Keyboard.” Doing so will open up a long list of keyboards for you to browse. Oh, la, la…look at all of them! You can add the French keyboard if you want, but for me, it was easier to stick with the familiar QWERTY and use the United States -International Keyboard. In the photo, you’ll see I already have it installed here.

    In the Preferred Languages area, you can also add other languages. Here’s a neat trick: if you do that, and then go to Spelling, Typing and Keyboard settings from the language menu (it’s on the right there), you can toggle a switch. Toggling this switch will make predictive language or autocorrect suggestions based on the other languages that you’ve specified. Most of the time, I prefer that to be off, though, but it can come in handy — and be a cheat — when you’re typing in your language of study.How to add the United States International Keyboard in Windows 10

  7. Accessing the International Keyboard.

    Now that you have the keyboard installed, to switch to it, look at your taskbar. Find where it denoted your keyboard. Mine says ENG US.

    Click on that and it will open up all of the keyboards you have installed.

  8. Use the United States International Keyboard for Windows 10

    Now that you have the international keyboard, you’ll choose characters that do not naturally live in the wild on your physical keyboard generally by pressing a puncutation mark and the key of the letter that you want to accent. So if you want a cedilla, you press the ‘ and then the c to get ç.

    The caveat for this, of course, is that if I then want to actually type an apostrophe, I need to tell the keyboard that. So to get an apostrophe, I’ll type ‘ and then the space bar.

How to Type Accents on Windows 10 United States International Keyboard

Knowing that I only needed to memorize several keys to type accents on the International Keyboard made using it much less intimidating. If I can remember five simple quotation marks, you definitely can!

Here’s what you need to know to type those special characters:

THIS KEYPLUS THIS KEYGETS YOU THISNAME
‘ (Apostrophe, located right below the quote!)c,y,a,e,i,o,uç,ý,á,é,í,ó,úAcute Accent (Aigu)
” (Quotation Mark)y,a,e,i,o,uÿ,ä,ë,ï,ö,üUmlaut or tréma
`(Accent grave – upper left of keyboard)a,e,i,o,uà,è,ì,ò,ùAccent Grave
~ (Tilde – upper left of keyboard)o,n,aõ,ñ,ãñ – eñe in Spanish
^ (Caret — found on the #6 key)a,e,i,o,uâ,ê,î,ô,ûcircumflex

Let’s Talk About Those French Accents Now…

French has five accents. As I included a cheat sheet about typing French accents on the keyboard and sometimes forget to use them correctly myself, let’s review them. It will be a useful review for me, too!

Where they make a difference in sound, I’ve been able to use that to remind myself. In cases where they don’t make a difference in the sound…well, I’ll consider that a good memory exercise.

Accent (Example)What it’s CalledWhat it does
éAccent AiguThis differentiates the vowel sound from either the unaccented vowel or the vowel associated with the accent grave.

I like to think of the word le café (and the actual drink, as well.) It’s a word that you likely know how to pronounce correctly. But what would happen if it didn’t have the accent? Normalament the final vowel is dropped in French. The acute accent here is telling you to pronounce that final e and how.

You might note that I only put E in this example. For other vowels, the sound is the same, but it differentiates words which would otherwise have the same spelling. The word ou (or) and où (or) comes to mind.
èAccent GraveI like to think of the sound in the name Michèlè here. The è sound, to my American ears, is only slightly different than é, but still, I can hear it.
çLa CedilleI like the cedilla for some reason. And it’s easy to remember what it does. Think of the word garçon. That little tail gives the word it’s soft c. Without it, the c would have a hard sound. I think your French waiter would be even less pleased to be called a “garkon” than a “garçon.”
ôl’accent
circonflexe
This changes the sound of a, e, and o, but also appears on i and u. It often appears on letters that used to be followed by an s in days gone by. So now you go to a hôpital and hike in the fôret.
ël’accent trémaI haven’t needed to use this as much in French, but I have an easy way to remember how this works. I have a daughter named Zoe, who insisted that I “spelled her name wrong on the birth certificate,” and likes to spell her name Zoë. And she very well could be right! The function here is that the tréma tells you to pronounce the vowels separately — like “Zo-ey” rather than “ZO.”

Hopefully, this was helpful. It was a good review for me, anyway! Writing things out is a great mnemonic tool.

French Characters on Windows 10 Keyboard

Managing Social Media Without Going Insane

Managing Social Media: Using Social Media With Sanity

Zip is a beginning blogger with a tiny blog just taking his first steps into the blogosphere. We mused on the subject of how many social media accounts one should have in the last post. Right now, he’s taking a (very) casual approach to social media. But what happens when you’re making a serious effort to promote a blog? Or even have several blogs and that many more accounts?. Juggling all those accounts can take a toll on your resources: both time resources and mental health resources. It helps to have some strategies for managing social media while staying sane.

Here are my two cents worth about managing social media without becoming an angry person and deleting all your accounts. I’m sure sloths don’t have that problem. However, I find that I start getting more irritable when spending too much time on social media. I’ll be talking more about platform-specific strategies more in the next post.

Managing social media by focusing on a few channels:

As Zip blogs forth, he might find that he particularly likes a specific social media channel. Or that one, in particular, brings traffic to his blog. He might keep his presence on the other networks for which he has an account. But he might decide to put most of his social media time and attention on what’s working for him.

Make sure that you control the input:

If that “Twitter bell”1 is driving you nuts during the day and you’re constantly distracted, consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Turn off notifications on your phone. Yep, this isn’t a recipe for constant engagement. You might miss having the first comment on the latest post or delay responding to comments on your post. But you’ll also be free of constant notifications on your phone diverting your attention from the task at hand.
  2. Set aside a “social media time” during the day. If you aren’t required to be on social media all day as part of your job, set a schedule. Decide how much time you want (or need) to spend, on social media on a daily and weekly basis. Then set aside specific times in the day or week to check your accounts, post, and respond. Stick to it and avoid getting sucked into the vortex.
  3. Use RSS feeds. I felt a loss way back when Google shut down Reader, their RSS tool. Fortunately, there’s Feedly, which I’ve been using to aggregate news sources and blogs that I genuinely want to read. Feedly interacts seamlessly with both Buffer and Hootsuite. This feature makes it easy to reshare items you find particularly inspiring, funny, or interesting. And it doesn’t Tweet me relentlessly all day — I can settle down and read the things when I want!
  4. Customize your notifications. Find out, for each platform, what types of ways you can control what you receive. Let’s say you have that aunt that constantly reposts false stuff on Facebook. You’ve found it’s unproductive trying to “educate” her. But she’s a relative and you don’t want to unfriend her. You can choose not to see her posts in your feed. You can set up Twitter to customize your notifications.

Automate

Plenty of tools like Buffer, SmarterQueue, Meet Edgar, Hootsuite, or the “Publicize” feature in Jetpack exist 2. These will post your latest content directly to your social media accounts. Most will let you share other content and post to your accounts on a schedule.

If you add a tool to your browser and an app to your phone, you can add that interesting article to your queue to share rather than forgetting to do it later.

What could go wrong with automating social media

But be careful with this! Make sure that things are posting the way you want them to post before you trust auto posters.

I set up and forgot about a “post to social media” in Mailchimp once. Then I found that, instead of only posting when there was an RSS-feed-generated email newsletter, it was posting empty content EVERY WEEK.

And just posting your own content isn’t truly a successful strategy for social media. It might work for certain types of accounts, and it’s what I’m mostly doing on this blog currently. Interacting regularly, sharing other people’s content, liking things, thanking others is the best way to go vs. only automatically posting your stuff. But it takes time.

Stuff happens. That stuff can make your scheduled post suddenly seem out of touch or insensitive. All of the posts in your queue are about things like kaiten sushi restaurants, travel, and upcoming mass gatherings. Then a pandemic hits, closing restaurants and canceling events. Time to hit the “pause queue” button! All of the social media management apps and services that I mentioned previously have such a button. Don’t forget about that pause button if a major event changes how the tone of that tweet will be perceived!

Managing Social Media by Keeping Things in Perspective

Comparison to others is the most-cited way that social media can make us unhappy. In the last post, I touched on this downside to social media. People put their best foot forward and it’s easy to start seeing your life as lacking in comparison.

This can also happen with counting numbers. Zip’s blog will likely benefit from having many followers. However, if he starts counting numbers, he might start feeling like he just can’t measure up.

It will do him well to remember that:

  1. His friends and competition sloth bloggers have likely been on social media much longer than he has and has had time to amass a following.
  2. If nobody is responding to his posts, it could be the posts themselves, but it could also be that nobody has seen them, either because of some algorithm or because he doesn’t have many followers.
  3. The same friends and bloggers we mentioned above who have tons of followers have that large following because they are constantly engaging on social media, thinking up funny and engaging stuff to post, and sharing other people’s content. Instead of hanging out in a tree and napping.
  4. If he wants to see this in a mean or negative way, he can tell himself that:
    1. Those poor creatures, constantly tweeting, are not experiencing life. This may not actually be true, but if it helps…
    2. He can imagine that they bought their large following. Also likely not true but, again, if it helps.
    3. He can do something inspired by something I recall reading in Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird. Something about imagining turning negative voices into mice, putting them in a jar. Then slowly closing the lid, drowning out all their squeaking little voices. While she wasn’t talking about social media, something about it made this pop into my mind. Of course, as I mentioned before, there are notification controls in Twitter.
Managing social media twitter notifications

Don’t be tempted to buy followers as a shortcut!

Since we mentioned buying followers, let’s talk about NOT doing that!

I’ve received too many emails over the years (though not many recently) with someone offering a certain number of followers for a specific price. NO! Just…NO! This just seems shady and any followers you get that way aren’t going to be engaged in your blog.

Once, I was offered some tickets for an upcoming local event to do a giveaway. I see doing giveaways as being different than buying followers. The people who signed up were already looking at my website for some reason so had at least some connection or interest. I would encourage Zip to do a giveaway at some point. They can be fun to do.

OK, now that we’ve talked a bit about managing social media, Zip is ready to sign up for some social accounts! Even after hearing all this! In the next post, we’ll go over some of the major platforms he might want to consider– and some minor ones, too.

References and Footnotes
  1. I mentioned this in the previous post — my husband, it seems, thinks the response to getting Twitter notifications is akin to the response of Pavlov’s dogs.[]
  2. Whether to use Jetpack or not is a subject unto itself that we’ll come to later, in another post.[]

Fantasy Novels with Older Female Adventurers

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I revised and reposted this from my other blog because it fits better here, where I write more about books. Last Summer, I hit a big birthday milestone — which I celebrated by hitting the road and traveling and camping solo down the coast. The trip gave me plenty of quality reading time in the hammock. I wanted to indulge in some fantasy books; perhaps ones that had solo female protagonists. But how many did I find? Zero, really.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

Last Summer (and I’m glad I went then before COVID hit), I spent a few weeks, mostly traveling alone and camping down the coast to celebrate a significant birthday milestone. This trip was escapist, as many vacations are; it was a chance to get away, challenge myself, be able to do things spontaneously — have an adventure.

Adventure. Maybe not a big one, just a little one, but that’s enough. I’ll read just about anything but love to indulge in a good fantasy novel or series. This time, I felt inspired to find some books with older female characters, maybe to motivate myself to continue seeking new adventures into my later years. I had put the very beginnings on a non-fantasy story I called, tentatively, “Millie Goes Mobile,” about a widow hitting the road in a VW minibus in the 1970s, somewhat inspired by a friend of the family who traveled around in one well into her eighties. But then I realized that at least the premise sounded slightly like “About Schmidt.”1

But, apparently, old ladies just don’t take fantasy adventures. When I started to think about older female protagonists in fantasy or sci-fi novels, my mind drew a blank. My husband is an avid reader, and he couldn’t think of any suggestions.

In fantasy, older women tend to be side characters: mothers, merchants, shopkeepers. Or they might be a strong family matriarch like Lady Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones. She’s fierce, but not exactly out on the road adventuring herself.

Since that trip, I’ve finally started making my way through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The Aes Sedai are very old, though don’t appear so, and are very powerful and adventurous, but still don’t fit the bill for the main protagonist of a story. 2

I think one reason for the shortage of older female characters as protagonists is reader interest. It’s a general rule-of-thumb in writing, possibly particularly in the fantasy genre, that you’re writing characters just a bit older than your target audience. This, of course, is a rule that is made to be broken — look at all of the Harry-Potter-loving adults — but, generally, a young readership is going to be more interested in reading about young protagonists.

Another possibility is that many fantasy novels have a medieval-era setting. Perhaps the characters just don’t live that long. In such a world, 40 might be ancient.

And, maybe there’s just some truth here. As I age, while my mind tells me not to slow down, my body is reminding me that I would have no chance of keeping up if I could challenge my former self of just six years ago to a race. Still, it might be satisfying to see the protagonist of a novel deal with hip pain at the same time she’s dealing with villains. Maybe it’s time for me to stop blogging and pick up the pen.

Patrick Rothfuss, the author of the must-read Kingkiller Chronicles, is one writer who is penning a notable exception to this lack of older female characters in fantasy with his Tale of Laniel Young-Again. Laniel is an older woman who sets off on an epic-fantasy adventure after her husband is gone, and her children are grown (see him read from it below). Precisely the type of story I wanted! Only problem? It’s not yet published.

My adventure last Summer was much less epic than Laniel’s. Nobody will write tales of my exploits, which involved bravely checking into B&Bs on a couple of nights instead of braving the scary campground. Nor would I want those tales told; they would be not only dull but embarrassing. However, I almost gave in to the temptation to purchase a ukulele at one point and write some of my own. The people of the campgrounds narrowly averted terrible fate.

But getting out, getting on the road, can make you feel young again. And, faced with not being able to get out, it might be nice to be able to adventure along with a fantasy character with which you can relate.

Did I find any fantasy novels with older female protagonists?

What novels, fantasy or otherwise, are available that feature older female protagonists? I considered Howl’s Moving Castle but rejected that one as the protagonist only appears old. She hasn’t had the changes incurred by a lifetime of experience.

The later books in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon may have been a contender. Claire is older there, and continually has adventures, though they fall more into the area of time travel, romance, and historical fiction than epic fantasy.

What were the books suggested by Twitter book bloggers? As I mentioned, they suggested some excellent books (and I’ve read some since then), but none were the types of fantasy I wanted.

Here are their recommendations:

The Mrs. Pollifax Series by Dorothy Gilman

Thanks to Ellie the Bookwerm for suggesting this.

Mrs. Pollifax is a New Jersey grandmother who, tired of the same routine and the garden club meetings (I’m with her!), decides to become what, once upon a time, she might have been — a CIA spy. The books are short and light reading but are extremely fun. The books were written in the 1960s and 70s, and Mrs. Pollifax reflects that era. Most grandmothers I know now don’t wear crazy flowered hats, but Mrs. Pollifax misplacing hers while she engages in espionage is a recurrent theme here. Fantasy, no. Fun, yes.

Now is the Time to Open Your Heart by Alice Walker

Thanks to Our Traveling Zoo for recommending this one.

The protagonist of Now is the Time to Open Your Heart is 57, and so fits right into the demographic group that I want. She leaves her lover and sets out on her own and encounters (according to the summary from the inside flap:  “celibates and lovers, shamans and snakes, memories of family disaster and marital discord, and emerges at a place where nothing remains but love.”). I have yet to read this one, but it may be next up on my reading list.

Indelible

Thank you to the Uncorked Librarian for suggesting Indelible by Adelia Saunders. I’ve been on a trend, it seems, of reading novels set in France in WWII, so this one fits right in. Its premise of a woman being able to see the lives of people written on their skin is fascinating. I’m probably reading this one on my trip, but the protagonist has two small children, so she doesn’t fit into the “older woman” demographic.

Bring Me Your Tales

Have you read any good books featuring an older female protagonist setting out on an adventure? Let me know in the comments! If you can find a fantasy novel featuring a female protagonist over 50 setting out on an adventure, you are honored above all others!

References and Footnotes
  1. As an aside, for a little while, I was also playing an MMO and made my character buck the norm by being a tiny person with a grey bun and glasses. She was notoriously bad at healing but made excellent cookies.[]
  2. I’ve started to be annoyed by the characters in that series constantly ruminating on not understanding women.[]

Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise

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This recipe for Instant Pot clams has been a bit mobile. During COVID isolation, my blogging efforts have been in a state of transition. This recipe made the journey from my travel blog in an effort to better focus its content. Searching for a home for recipes, I started to create a food blog. But I realized that, while I like to post recipes or write from time to time, I don’t enjoy cooking and food photography enough to keep up a full-time food blog. So my recipes are finally resting here. Hopefully, this will their final home.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

On my travel blog, I had listed this as a “travel-inspired” recipe. What did inspire Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise?

I first started making wine steamed clams after falling in love with mixed shellfish steamed in wine at a French restaurant named Le Gavroche in Vancouver. That restaurant is now, unfortunately, no more. Then, I found a recipe for Clams Bordelaise in The Frugal Gourmet Cookbook by Jeff Smith and started playing around with it. So, in a way, this recipe is inspired by both the Pacific Northwest and French cuisine.

It’s easy to steam clams in wine; it’s even quicker and easier using an Instant Pot. Clams, mussels, or other shellfish work equally well in this recipe. Serve it up with some crusty bread (see my recipe here), a good salad, and, of course, some wine! 1

On to the Recipe for Instant Pot Clams (or Instant Pot Mussels):

Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise (and Mussels, too!)

CherylCheryl
Cooking shellfish is easy anyway, but even quicker and easier in the Instant Pot. The recipe here is easily adaptable depending on your tastes — my version has a lot of garlic and some red pepper — if that's not to your taste you can decrease these or omit them entirely.
The recipe is sized for two people who like to eat lots of shellfish! The cost varies — if you can dig your own clams, it's very low cost — if you buy them at your boutique grocery, it can be pricey.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Pacific Northwest
Servings 2 people
Calories 605 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs clams …or mussels, or mixture of clams and mussels (my preference)
  • 5 cloves garlic minced. Can be reduced or omitted, to taste
  • 2 shallots medium to large
  • .25 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 cup dry white wine Chardonnay is my fave. Drink the rest!
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste, can be omitted
  • 3 tbsp butter also can be omitted — I like to add this for a more buttery texture

How to Make It
 

Before You Cook

  • If you are using mussels, they must be debearded. To to this, pull that gross stuff firmly toward the pointy end of the mussel.
  • If you are using clams, you can clean them and get them to spit out any sandy stuff they're holding on to by putting them in a bowl with heavily salted water.
  • Mince your garlic, chop your shallots, take a sip of wine, and get ready to cook!

Cooking

  • Turn the Instant Pot on to saute. Heat up the olive oil and butter, then add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently to cook evenly, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If you want to add red pepper, add some toward the end of the cooking.
  • Add the white wine and keep sauteing until the wine is reduced by half or so.
  • Add the shellfish, put the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to cook on High for one minute.
  • When the Instant Pot is finished, do a quick release, then open the pot. All of the shellfish should be open. If not, put the lid on, set it to saute and let it steam a bit longer.
  • Serve up the shellfish, spoon over the liquid and serve with some crusty bread, salad, and wine.

If You Don't Have an Instant Pot:

  • Well…get one! Just kidding. This is easy enough to make in a large lidded pot on the stove. Saute all of your ingredients as above, then add your shellfish, reduce the heat, and let it steam on the stovetop for about 10 minutes or so, until all of the shellfish have opened.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Instant Pot Clams Bordelaise (and Mussels, too!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 605 Calories from Fat 405
% Daily Value*
Fat 45g69%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Cholesterol 76mg25%
Sodium 778mg34%
Potassium 246mg7%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 905IU18%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 78mg8%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword clams, mussels, seafood, shellfish
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
References and Footnotes
  1. Though I’m not drinking wine again now and trying to transition back to a vegetarian diet so I may not be making this in the future.[]

Harold and Maude at 50: I, Too, Should Like to Change Into a Sunflower Most of All.

The Harold and Maude flower scene is one of the most beloved (and quotable) segments of Hal Ashby’s 1971 cult classic film. Here are some thoughts about this scene, why it’s much-loved, and some Harold and Maude quotes from the segment. But first, here’s a video clip:

On December 20, Hal Ashby’s now cult-classic, Harold and Maude, will turn 50.

Ruth Gordon, such a wonderful actress in so many roles, is remembered by most people either as Maude or for her turn in Rosemary’s Baby1. Bud Cort likely had difficulty disassociating himself with his turn as death-obsessed rich kid Harold. I recall seeing him here and there in later roles and thinking, “Hey, it’s Harold!”

My introduction to Harold and Maude was back (and I’m dating myself here) in the days when it was a rare and precious event to find it was on the TV schedule. These were also the days when “recommendations” were not given via Netflix but by the two guys who owned the neighborhood video store. With an air of extreme sadness, they told teenage me that it wasn’t available on video. Then, fortunately, recommended The Producers. Fast-forward to its 50th anniversary, and you can stream Harold and Maude on Amazon Prime any time you want. Something’s been lost, but something’s gained!

Harold and Maude isn’t everyone’s cup of oat straw tea. I’ve met those who don’t appreciate the film’s morbid humor and Harold’s (faux?) suicides. But amid all that dark humor is much light. It’s been atop my list of favorite films since I first heard Maude’s whisper of “Psst. Want some licorice?” during a funeral.

But, back to quotes.

Harold and Maude has quite a few quotable moments. And many of them occur in one particular segment of the film.

The microcosm of the “flower scene” condenses the macrocosm of the entire film into two minutes. Harold’s disjointed preoccupation with only the death and destruction part of the big picture, and Maude’s pointing him toward the creation side of things.

Maude points out her pleasure in watching things grow at the same time that she acknowledges the necessity of destruction. After all, it’s what makes change possible. We need both the nursery and the wrecking ball.

Things changing into other things: the nature of the universe. She, Maude points out, would like to change into a sunflower.

They grow and bloom and fade and die and change into something else! Ah…life! I should like to be a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple.

Maude, Harold and Maude

I think, perhaps, that Maude was my first Zen teacher. She seems to have a grasp on the Buddhist concept of emptiness; the constant, fluid nature of what our mind makes into static “things.”2

I feel reasonably confident that, someday, I will be a sunflower. At least a small part of one. Finally! An achievable goal!

Harold’s conjecture that he would like to be one of “these” (daisies) “because they’re all alike” leads to another teachable moment.

“Oh, but they’re not!” Maude observes. “Look! See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All kinds of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are this yet allow themselves to be treated as that.”

Harold and Maude Quote I feel that much of the worlds sorrow comes from people who are this yet allow themselves to be treated as that from the harold and maude flower scene

Who hasn’t felt, at some point, that they were being treated as that when they’re actually this? Perhaps the reason this scene seems to have struck a nerve with so many people?

A Zen teacher/psychologist3 I know commented that we tend to like people whose ideas and treatment of us accord with our own self-image. But when they don’t–as sometimes happens for whatever reason–what do we do with that? Do we counter that by being the person we know ourselves to be, or do we decide that their external view is probably the right one? It’s like knowing you’re a tiger, but everyone sees you as a kitten, so you learn to meow. Until one day, maybe, you unexpectedly let out a roar. And, even though nobody around you likes it (What’s wrong with you? We always appreciated the friendly way you purred!), it feels good!

But that was a diversion. Rawr!

Again, Maude is pointing out two sides of a whole, and both are true. We are that, and we are, particularly, this. You ARE special and unique…just like everybody else. And I don’t say that to be cynical. We can cherish both our individuality, peculiarities, and eccentricities. At the same time, we can celebrate our unique talents (and unique neuroses) and affirm the common ground of being human that connects us all.


This is a “quotes” post, but not a movie review. However, I’d give Harold and Maude five stars if I were reviewing the film as it’s one of the few I’ve watched again and again.

What do you think? References and Footnotes
  1. I’ve read that she was even considered for the lead in the film version of Cabaret over Joel Grey. I think Ruth Gordon was a great actress, but I’m glad that one didn’t happen[]
  2. Though I can’t agree with what Maude does at the end of the film.[]
  3. There seem to be a lot of those.[]

So You Came Here Looking For a Caffeine Journal?

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No, despite our name, we’re a caffeine tracker. But if you came here looking for one, this post may point you in the right direction. What you’ll find here is a caffeine infographic with the approximate amount of caffeine in common caffeine-containing foods and beverages, a look at some of the available apps for tracking caffeine intake, and a simple printable pdf daily caffeine tracker sheet. However, we might post more in the future about caffeine and coffee, as we enjoy writing about both health and yummy beverages.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

So, you came to a website called CaffeineJournal.com, expecting to find an actual Caffeine Journal here? We’re genuinely sorry for your disappointment (and, it seems, know how to apologize without actually apologizing.)

But, so that this website lives up (just a bit) to its name, we include this post about caffeine intake and tracking.

Are you up at night? Are you getting the jitters, is your heart pounding? Maybe you have a caffeine issue! Is caffeine addictive? Are you considering the Folgers Crystal IV Drip? Hmmm…maybe you do have a coffee addiction (though, of course, you’re off the hook if you use only freshly ground monkey-picked organic coffee in your IV.)1

If you do, it might be beneficial to look at reducing your intake or (*gasp*) possibly even eliminating it. And if you’re like me and have a Nespresso in your bedroom, you might need to look at the question of whether you have a caffeine addiction. My rationalization is that I’m trying to “make my bedroom like a B&B.” Excuses, excuses!

Let’s take a look at many things caffeine related here, but let’s start with an infographic because you love them. You know you do.

Possible Benefits of Caffeine

You want to hear of the benefits of caffeine because it helps you feel OK about that pot of coffee you drink every morning or those triple-shot beverages you drink throughout the day. But research has suggested that caffeine does have some positive effects. Caffeine may:

Note that the word here is may. The studies cited above are only a small sampling of the vast literature on the subject. Some of the studies you’ll find seem contradictory. And caffeine is not a treatment for any condition. When I worked in healthcare, I knew plenty of coffee drinkers who had diabetes or dementia. Still, it’s good to know that my daily dose may be doing something worthwhile for my health.

Possible Harmful Effects of Caffeine

Despite the potential benefits to cognitive and physical performance, caffeine also has some potential harmful side effects:

  • Insomnia: It is is a well-known drawback of caffeine (though sometimes an advantage when I pulled those late-night cram sessions as a student.) But, like most things, it doesn’t appear to affect everyone equally. Anecdotally, I’ve heard reports of people who could nap after consuming an energy drink. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggested that caffeine, even six hours before going to bed, could contribute to insomnia, a good argument for not imbibing later in the day.
  • Anxiety: Racing heart, jitters, racing thoughts. Too much coffee: Racing heart, jitters, racing thoughts. I’ve had days where I had these symptoms? Was I anxious, or did I just have too much coffee? One interesting study in Psychiatry Research suggests that people who score higher on anxiety scales are also more sensitive to caffeine intake. If you’re anxious, try to reduce or eliminate caffeine for a significant amount of time and see if it makes a difference; likely it will.
  • Headaches: Caffeine headaches go two ways: withdrawal is the typical reason for a caffeine headache. If you’ve ever tried going cold-turkey when you’re an avid coffee drinker, you know for a fact that caffeine is addictive. The proof is in the headache. But many conventional headache medicines, like Excedrin, contain caffeine. Caffeine is both a vasoconstrictor — meaning that it narrows your blood vessels — and an anti-inflammatory. Between constricting blood flow just a bit and fighting inflammation, some caffeine can actually fight headaches.
  • Digestive issues: If you shop at novelty stores, you’ve likely seen the “Coffee Makes Me Poop” mug. If you’re a coffee drinker, you know this to be true. This laxative effect can be a benefit of coffee. But if you have IBS, heartburn, or other digestive issues, coffee can be a problem. Its acidity can contribute to heartburn and reflux; people with IBS and other digestive problems don’t need something that irritates their stomach lining further.

So what if I need to reduce, eliminate, or manage my caffeine intake?

Trying to look up studies, I couldn’t find the “one true right way” to quit caffeine. It’s really up to you and your quitting style. Here are your options:

Quitting Caffeine Gradually

My best quitting style is this: gradual. Start reducing your consumption by replacing food and beverages containing caffeine with those free from caffeine. Keep doing this progressively until you’ve either reduced your caffeine intake to a level you can tolerate, or eliminated it entirely. Start using half-caf coffee, or water down that Americano a little bit more. Then progress to decaf. Or, if you genuinely hate drinking decaf coffee, find other delicious warm beverages to replace your coffee. Just make sure they don’t, themselves, contain caffeine. Pretty soon, you’ll have less caffeine in your blood system instead of not enough blood in your caffeine system.

If you’re having withdrawal symptoms during this time — headaches, for instance — make less severe cuts in your caffeine consumption and prolong the duration of your quitting plan.

Most of the time you know your typical behavior. You know you drink ten cups so maybe you start with reducing to nine.

But if you’re really nit-picky and like to track everything or if you don’t’ know how much caffeine you’re taking in, tracking your caffeine intake, either via an app or the “old-fashioned” way on a piece of paper, might be helpful.

Quitting Caffeine Cold-Turkey

For some people, the gradual reduction strategy will just lead to slipping in that extra cup. “Oh, just one more right now won’t hurt…” If this is you, cold-turkey might be the best approach.

Of course, if you’re a heavy consumer of caffeine, you’ll likely encounter withdrawal symptoms with this approach. However, your time to zero caffeine will be much shorter. Kind of like ripping off a band-aid: the pain will be more intense, but it won’t last as long.

While I don’t know of any ways to entirely prevent caffeine withdrawal when you’ve decided to go cold-turkey, some things may help to mitigate the suffering. If you’re getting headaches, some medications may help. But be careful, some medicines used to fight headaches have caffeine themselves. Acetaminophen is generally safe to use. However, check the safety with your doctor if you have liver issues or drink alcohol. And developing good sleep habits can help.

Caffeine Tracking (or Quitting) Apps

If you want to know how much caffeine you take in during an average day, there’s, of course, an app for that. I’m an avid user of MyFitnessPal, but I think it’s unfortunate that, with all of the nutrition information MyFitnessPal tracks, it doesn’t track caffeine. However, sometimes foods sneak caffeine in on you; frequently, you won’t find on the label how many milligrams of caffeine they contain.

Several apps on GooglePlay or the iOs App Store can help you keep track. Here are some of my favorites (perhaps I’ll review them individually at another time):

Caffeine Tracking by RECaf (iOS only, with an Apple Watch app):

RECaf is one of my favorites among caffeine tracking apps; it integrates nicely with HealthKit, has an Apple Watch app. But, it turns out that it comes with a price tag. You can try it for fourteen days free, but then it’s $4.99/year after that.

It’s pretty thorough: you can choose from plenty of categories from coffee to food to medications, and then you’ll find several choices within each category. If you can’t find what you want, you’re able to enter outside information about your caffeinated food or beverage.

The dosages of caffeine on some of the items in the app differ a bit from some of the data that I have encountered. One cup of coffee, however, likely does not equal another. I’m willing to bet that my Nespresso differs from my Keurig differs from my Americano brewed with my Espresso machine.

Caffeine App (iOS)

Caffeine App

Caffeine App is another good premium caffeine tracking app. By premium, I mean that it’s not free. However, the cost is only $3.99 on the App Store. It doesn’t seem to offer as many built-in choices for food, drinks, and medications, but it also gives you a “sleep level” notification: when it thinks you are “sleep ready,” due to your lack of caffeine intake over time.

Caffeine Addiction Calendar (iOS)

caffeine addiction calendar caffeine tracking apps

Caffeine Addiction Calendar is for those who want to quit, versus managing, caffeine. I love it because its bright interface looks like someone designed it who’d had a bit too much caffeine themselves.

It makes this list mostly because I love it; it’s not truly a caffeine tracker; it’s more just a fun motivational tool. Enter your start date, and it awards you with badges for different caffeine recovery milestones. Need motivation? It will give you an inspirational quote. Need reasons to quit? It will remind you of the adverse effects of caffeine. Panicking? It will reward you with calming puppy pictures.

This is a “cold turkey” approach app, but it might be fun on those days when you’re tempted just to have that lovely quadruple shot in the morning, only this one time.

Quit Caffeine (Android)

Like Caffeine Addiction Calendar, Quit Caffeine is geared toward stopping. I don’t have an Android phone, so I haven’t been able to test this one. But it appears to have a fun interface that reminds you of money saved, mg avoided, as well as the time it may take you to recover as you as you get more blood in your caffeine system.

Caffeine Tracker (iOS)

caffeine tracking apps

Caffeine Tracker is a basic caffeine tracker app. Its present selections, however, are beverage-oriented — you won’t find medications or food in here — and, as it’s a free app, you’ll find plenty of ads.

Of course, you can always add additional items here not included in the app, but it just tracks today’s total of caffeine. It doesn’t track history, nor are there any charts comparing one day’s caffeine intake to another.

I also couldn’t find any options to link it with the caffeine intake stats in HealthKit — most of the caffeine tracker apps you’ll find on iOS include that option.

But if what you want is just your total milligrams for the day, this app might work for you.

Caffeine Tracker (Android)

This Caffeine Tracker differs from the caffeine tracking app mentioned above. This one includes some preset beverages and the ability to add your own. It also includes a nice graph to see your caffeine levels at different times. Its price? .99.

Water and Coffee (iOS)

Water and Coffee app caffeine tracking apps

Water and Coffee — which is an app about precisely what its name implies — currently has a five-star rating on the App Store, which, I think, is purely for its simplicity. You can add 8oz water at a time or 1 cup of coffee at a time. Just two simple choices in a world of decision paralysis. It tracks your intake of these two beverages and calculates your total caffeine during the day. You won’t find any fancy beverage choices here. Just water and coffee. That’s it.

Tracking Your Caffeine Intake With Pen and Paper

If you’re low-tech, you can, of course, just use pen and paper to track your caffeine intake. Just make a daily sheet and keep track of the amount of caffeine-containing food and beverages you take it and the amount of caffeine each one has, then total it up at the end of the day.

Tracking your moods, sleep, and any physical symptoms along with it can give you some insight into how your caffeine intake may be affecting you physically and mentally. If you keep a written log, save those daily sheets, and look back at them over time to identify any patterns in quality of sleep, headaches, or anxiety.

caffeine tracker
Here’s a simple daily caffeine tracker sheet. You can download it as a pdf below or you can access the design to edit it on Canva. Of course, using a piece of paper, a journal book, or anything else will work just as well.

While I enjoy my morning cup (OK, cups) of coffee too much to entirely give up caffeine, I am working on decreasing my intake. Maybe that first step is moving the Nespresso out of the bedroom.

References and Footnotes
  1. Footnote for the too-serious: do not ever give yourself a coffee IV. Just like you would never inject yourself with household disinfectants.[]
  2. Though caffeine intake when you’re not training may lessen the benefits when you’re ready to train.[]

Spring Haiku 2021

In the early Spring

Snows will melt clear away

and I will see your face.

CD

As the seasons change, I sometimes get inspired to write haiku. I ended up with handful last year about the cherry blossoms still blooming event admid my frustration with being stuck near home due to COVID.

But this one is from many years back; I previously published it in Frogpond: The Journal of American Haiku. It’s actually how I earned me first writing dollar! They actually sent me a dollar bill in the mail! Don’t ask me the issue; it’s somewhere on one of my shelves. The single haiku they published was from a related seasonal bunch I sent. Maybe sometime I’ll recall the rest.

Clotted Cream

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Summary: Here’s a homemade clotted cream recipe so you can serve your tea and scones English-style.

Clotted does not sound like an appealing word. But if you’re like me and you’re an adult who like the occasional tea party high tea, clotted cream will add some authenticity. I used to go to an “English Style” tea house, but it wasn’t until I actually went to English that I realized they were missing something. Every tea place I encountered there served this stuff.

This post or page may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a subsequent purchase we might get a small commission that helps to run this website. Not all of our posts contain such links; many don’t. However, some do and we put this disclaimer here to ensure that we disclose that if such links ever are added.

Alone, it’s not that tasty. It’s not like ice cream, though the picture looks a bit like it. Sugar is not added, and it’s not frozen. But serve it up with some scones and lemon curd or jam and…yum!

Clotted cream is also called Devon cream or Cornish cream and is typically made by heating the heavy cream in a steam or hot water bath and letting it slowly cool.

But we’re not going to do that here. We’re going to use our home oven to make this fatty taste of heaven. Be aware that, though homemade clotted cream is easy to make and does not take much time “hands-on,” it DOES take a significant amount of time from start to finish. It’s not something you can just whip up before your high tea.

Questions about making homemade clotted cream:

Can’t I just buy clotted cream? Why make it?

I live in the Pacific Northwest United States and I’ve never seen fresh clotted cream sold on shelves here. I have seen crème fraîche but, while that’s delicious, it’s a little different in flavor and texture than clotted cream. You can buy clotted cream in jars. While I haven’t found them on the shelves at my higher-end grocery (that does happen to sell lemon curd,) I’ve found them in a local English specialty shop and on Amazon.

Are these jars of clotted cream OK? Sure, if you don’t want to take the time to make the stuff fresh, they’ll do — but, in my opinion, the homemade fresh stuff better matches the clotted cream I experienced at some of the better tea places I visited in England.

How long does homemade clotted cream last?

About five days or so in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze homemade clotted cream?

Hey, I’m experimenting with that question right now and will have an answer very soon!

So, let’s go…

Here’s the recipe:

Clotted Cream

CherylCheryl
The word "clotted" is not appealing, but clotted cream is SO appealing! If you want to serve up a high tea like you would get in England, you need this fattening but heavenly stuff on the menu (along with some scones, lemon curd and tea sandwiches.)
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 12 hrs
Time in Refrigerator 8 hrs
Total Time 20 hrs 15 mins
Course Dessert, Tea
Cuisine English
Servings 8
Calories 411 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Wide baking pan (I use a 13" x 9" Pyrex pan for this)
  • Blender (recommended)
  • Rubber Spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups heavy cream NOT ultra-pasteurized

How to Make It
 

  • Pour the heavy cream into the pan. Having a wide flat pan is important here as you want the cream spread out over a large surface area. For this, I use my old standby 13" x 9" (or so) Pyrex pan.
  • Set your oven to a low temperature. The lowest my oven goes is 170 degrees F, so that's where I set it.
  • Leave your cream in the oven for about 12 hours. Yes…12 hours. I either start this late at night and take it out the next day or start it early in the morning.
  • After 12 hours, take it out of the oven. Your cream will look something like the photo shown here. I worried about this the first time I made it — wasn't it supposed to look thick and creamy and not like crème brûlée? Don't worry about this…I'll get to what I did to fix it later.
  • Put your pan in the refrigerator and chill it until it's cold.
  • Remove it from the refrigerator. You'll find that your cream has lots of liquid under the top "crust." Drain this off by pulling back one end with your spatula and draining the liquid into a container (you might use the liquid later.) The photo here shows how mine looks (and note that if you pull this much back you might have more trouble draining it without chunks falling out into the liquid.)
  • So, what to do with this stuff that looks nothing like the clotted cream I had in England? I put it in the blender. This stuff is thick so it helps to have a heavy-duty blender like a Vitamix. Start it on low speed, and move up to higher speed and add a little bit of the reserve liquid if it's too thick. Voilà! Clotted cream.
  • Put your clotted cream in a container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for about five days. Serve it up with some scones and jam or lemon curd (another delicious thing with a name that sounds a bit off.) Enjoy!

Notes

You need the heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurizedTrust me, I’ve tried it and it didn’t work out well (it didn’t thick up enough.) Below is the photo of a couple of types I’ve found in my local grocer that worked:
VAT pasteurized cream for clotted cream
These are local brands; you’ll have your own in your own area. But note that one clearly says VAT Pasteurized. This is OK. If you look at the cream on your grocery shelves, you’ll see some clearly state that they are “ultra pasteurized.” These are the ones you want to avoid.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Clotted Cream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 411 Calories from Fat 396
% Daily Value*
Fat 44g68%
Saturated Fat 27g169%
Cholesterol 163mg54%
Sodium 45mg2%
Potassium 89mg3%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 1749IU35%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 77mg8%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Clotted Cream, Dessert, England, English, High Tea, One Ingredient, Tea, UK, Whipping Cream
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!