The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

31 Oct

Crafting it Up MacGyver Style: Equipment

Posted in Craftin', General on 31.10.10 by Octopi

I have a tendency to dream up a project and decide that “Yeah, I don’t need official plans/directions/instructions. I can figure this out.” Typically though, one must at least have a general plan of attack, even if it’s a bit “fluid”.

I’ll have some upcoming posts with a few tips if you like to craft it up MacGyver-style. This post is a focus on equipment.

  • If it’s a dangerous piece of equipment (like an electric saw of some kind, heck even if it’s a hand saw!) make damn sure you have received instruction on how to safely operate. Don’t MacGyver this one. Just make sure you know how to use it. And protect yourself while you’re using it with appropriate safety gear (safety glasses, gloves, etc. as appropriate).
  • If it’s equipment or tools you use but not very often, you will still need to pay attention to how it works. For example, I always leave my sewing machine threaded (needle and bobbin) because it helps me remember HOW to do both (I can back-track into it by following what I see). So if it’s been a year since I’ve used it, it doesn’t take 10 hours to remember how to do mundane things.  I also keep the instruction manual right with the machine.
  • If equipment breaks and you decide it’s a great idea to start taking it apart to fix it, keep track of how you took it apart. EXACTLY. Get some small dishes to put screws, etc., in so you don’t lose them. Make note if you are turning things clockwise/counter-clockwise. Take some actual notes. I’ll even take pictures of the steps I took in taking something apart so I can flip back through them while putting it back together.

  • Keep your equipment and tools organized and in good condition.  Most of the time, when you have to send the Bat Signal out for a particular tool or piece of equipment, you need it right away.  Keeping your equipment well organized and in good working condition means they’ll always be there when you need them.
  • Sometimes it all comes down to using the correct tool. My new commuter bike is well, not quite new. Quick release apparently wasn’t invented back in the early 1970s. So I had to re-learn how to fix a flat with these new tires. Except I couldn’t figure out how to easily get the tires off with the tools I had. That and a string of bad luck with some flats got me “this close” to launching that bike off the nearest bridge. However, a bike shop angel at a nearby shop kindly and patiently showed me what to do. In the course of that I realized that I actually needed the right tool (socket wrench) to get the wheel off, not just a random old wrench. That “aha!” moment has saved me headaches and time. Helpful Instruction + Correct Equipment = Happy Girl


Be a MacGyver, not a MacGruber.

Any other equipment/tools tips and tricks, Mess Hallers?


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19 Oct

Cupcakes. Get in my belly.

Posted in Makin' Food, Substitutes on 19.10.10 by Octopi

Hey all. Back on the blog from a stint of crazy life stuff (marathon…check!) Yesterday was National Chocolate Cupcake Day. There’s a national holiday for everything, I guess. But I can get behind this Hallmark holiday because I love me some cupcakes!

Speaking of, I rushed home last night and had to have cupcakes RIGHT AWAY. I came across a simple recipe using (gasp) cake mix. Yes, I actually don’t make every single thing from scratch.  The genius behind this recipe though is that it doesn’t use oil or eggs. Wha? It uses canned pumpkin as a substitute. Booya! 

THEN, I found a great “healthy” or “healthier” option for frosting. Double Booya!

Chocolate Cupcakes


  • 1 package devil’s food cake mix
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Yeah. That’s it.


Makin’ it Happen

  • Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees.
  • Mix cake mix, canned pumpkin, and water together.
  • Drop in muffin tins (with cupcake foils)
  • Bake for a good 18+ minutes.  Keep an eye on the cupcakes, just keep inserting a toothpick every 3-5 minutes to test if it’s done. If it comes out clean (no goo on the toothpick) it’s ready!


Chocolate Frosting


  • 16 oz light whipped cream
  • 4 oz chocolate pudding mix (I used instant for this go-round)
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy milk) 
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar


Makin’ it Happen

  • Mix well the pudding mix, soy milk, and powdered sugar.
  • Fold in the whipped cream.

This frosting won’t keep well just sitting on the counter. I keep the frosting separate in the fridge and then put it on the cupcake as I eat them (of course you can frost them all at once if you’re serving them all at once!)

Nutrition stats here for the cupcakes, and here for the frosting.

I may try to use regular pudding in the frosting in a next iteration.  I may also try to make my own devil’s food cake mix with Mess Hall staples to keep on hand for those “emergency” cupcake occasions.  Will keep you posted as those experiments play out!


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02 Oct

SOS on SFS: Part Deux

Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 02.10.10 by Octopi

OK, so I’ve posted previously on the book I had started reading called The End of Overeating. Well, I’ve renewed it once and now the book’s overdue, but I’ve finally gotten through the last of it and wanted to present some final interesting factoids to ponder from the book.

The author (Dr. David Kessler) summarized some facts on consumption that I thought were particularly breathtaking and supports some of the USDA data I’ve summarized in the past.

  1. There has been a 63% jump in consumption of fats and oils over a 33-year period.  This is per capita consumption going from 53 lbs to 86 lbs!
  2. Interestingly, sugar and sweetener consumption has increased, by 19% compared to 63%.

     Author’s Source of Data here and here

Here’s another thing.  You know how we always talk about food that melts in your mouth and how great it is?  Well,  it’s fat that’s making it easier to chew.  On top of the whole consuming fat thing, the easier to chew reality, in my mind, leads to eating faster and eating more.  The author cites research that in the past Americans would chew a mouthful of food an average of 25 times before swallowing; now it’s only 10 times. 

I am totally guilty of what I’ll call Shovel Syndrome: I eat too fast and don’t chew my food well.  I’m sure some of this is attributed to not only the type of food we eat, but also our go-go-go culture that includes eating on the run.  I’ve been told several times recently that I “eat so fast!”  I need to stop and smell…the food (and savor it!).  Plus, if I slow down I’ll probably eat less because my body will have more time to tell me that I’m full.  So I’m going to chalk that up as a small goal for sustainable changes that help me live a healthier lifestyle!

I WILL Stop, Smell, and Savor the food!! In other words, Slow down.

In the meantime though, I’ve gotta hurry up and get this book back over to the library.


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