Hands

Panic.  It’s this weird overwhelming anxiety thing and it feels like there’s something squeezing me to death from the inside.  I can’t breathe right and I want to run away, even out of my own skin.

I don’t like panicking.  It’s really not fun, but it does happen unfortunately often.  The anxiety also causes migraines, which I know I’ve mentioned before, so it makes for an altogether not-so-fun day or days…depending on how long that impending doom feeling and the aftermath lasts.

Why does that matter at all?

Over time, I’ve sort of figured out that if I can do something with my hands, I’m usually distracted enough that I can remain calm.  Logan even bought me a spinning ring so I can fiddle with it when I get stressed in public.

Even better, I’ve found that the best way to help manage that suffocating, choking, crushing feeling is to do something productive.  Sure, taking naproxen like my neurologist suggested does knock off the edge a bit, but it doesn’t actually help me manage it.

But!  Making something does.  Putting something net positive and beautiful (or pretending it’s beautiful) out in the world helps to soothe those horrible nasty feelings.  If I can keep my hands wrapped up in yarn and make a pretty scarf, I’m usually pretty content.  If I’m using my hands to sew up a quilt, I at least have something to concentrate on.

I don’t know why but if my hands are occupied, my mind is too.

…so today, when I got a little overwhelmed out of nowhere, I made pretzels!

I don’t know why.  I’ve never made them before.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  I’ve been wanting to get more into baking, so maybe that’s what prompted it.

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Bonus:  baking is much more tasty than yarn or fabric.

 

Warming up for the Ravellenics

I’m actually pretty excited to be participating in this mass knitting event!   I didn’t really think I would be — I did it just to make myself do something, but I’m ready to get this rolling!  Hurry up, opening ceremony, I want to cast on!

I have all of my materials ready at my computer because I figure that’s where I’ll do most of my knitting on the scarf.  I’ve revamped what I call my “knit kit”, a little metal pencil box I carry around with me when I’m knitting and can slip in my purse when I’m on the go, to add a few items I always like to have on hand.

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I think I’m a bit of a pack-rat when it comes to wanting to have everything with me on the go.   I’ve found almost all of that stuff to be insanely useful at some point or another so don’t really want to go without any of it.

My new additions are point protectors, not to protect points but to keep my work from sliding off…because it does.  Oh, how it does, no matter how far it shove it up the needles.  There’s a tiny ball of crochet cotton to act as a lifeline because the circular needles I use for almost everything have a lifeline hole built right into them and that ball of yarn really does save lives and sanity.  I also carry a full size tape measure now since I’m making projects that are way larger than my swatch guide can accommodate.  I’ve added a colorful pen because it’s way easier to see purple notes.   …and I’ve thrown in an assortment of crochet hooks, a pair of size 2 DPNs that have lost their friends, and a cable needle.

Why didn’t I already have those?  Because I’m an idiot.  Especially the hooks and DPNs.  I used to frog or tink when I’d messed up but after working on that cardigan, I’m a pro at dropping back a column of stitches and zipping it back up to fix it with a crochet hook.  The DPNs can be used in the same way to drop and fix a botched cable.  Now I just need to work more with lace to figure out how to do the same (probably on this upcoming scarf knowing me).  AND wrap my brain around how to do it with double-knit.  It should be easy but there is some extra yarn to carry and thankfully I double-knit so slowly that I rarely make mistakes, so haven’t had to try.  😀

Anything else I should add to my knit kit?

Anyway!  Back to the Ravellenics: I printed my pattern out today and have read through it.  I’m really glad I did.

It’s all charted and not in the way I like my charts — it includes the WS rows and those always fuck with my brain because I just never seem to remember to invert them.  I’m glad I have time to let it sink into my head now before I spend the entirety of the Olympics and Ravellenics tinking my way through the scarf.

I also just went ahead and colored in the cable symbols to make my life easier.  I’m not going to bother memorizing this pattern because the cabling is just on the end then it transitions to lace in the center.

I *did* watch a bit of figure skating last night; it’s the only event I enjoy.

I’d love to be even a fraction as graceful as the skaters are but at the end of the day, I was really happy to be cozy and warm in my pajamas and not wearing spandex on ice.  Especially when I finally got to indulge in a bowl of French onion soup that had been simmering away in the crockpot all day.  Crockpots are awesome but having to smell whatever is cooking away all day is close to torture!

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Blue Apron 3 of 3

We had our final Blue Apron meal today…for lunch.

Logan was released early from work due to snow and came home hungry — surprise, surprise.

I was a bit preoccupied so he cooked up the last Blue Apron meal we had for lunch.

This time we ventured into vegetarian.  We picked the three meals out ourselves, so wanted to really try a range of everything.  Today was Chickpea & Cauliflower Tagine.

I was a bit more encouraged by the amount of ingredients we received this time.  They at least covered the top of the stove.

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Since Logan was cooking, I left after setting out all of the ingredients for him and didn’t bother pulling out the ingredients we have at home on hand to compare this round.

Another positive for this meal is that there were several ingredients I didn’t have at the ready: chard, cauliflower, and pita.  AND!  Even better, two that we had never tried, which we were both excited about: ras el hanout and labneh.  I’ve seen the ras el hanout at our grocery store but haven’t noticed the labneh — maybe now that I’ve tried it (we thought it tasted like a mix between yogurt and cream cheese?), I’ll be more prone to spotting it in the future.

It took Logan quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested to prepare the meal, but I think that’s just Logan.  He’s easily distracted and tends to get a bit overboard with trying to make things perfect sometimes.  He also doesn’t read ahead so misses the “meanwhile” instructions.  It’s not a big deal, I just can’t say whether or not it’s something anybody else would struggle with.

He did make a few changes to the recipe.  He only added half of the water to the cauliflower.  Even he recognized that it was entirely too much if it was expected to reduce to a sauce in the allotted time.  He chose well.  He also reduced the cooking temperature and time on the pita bread after the carrot disaster.  Again, I think he chose well.

Once cautionary thing, Blue Apron has you salt and pepper in EVERY step, in EVERY recipe.  It seems a lot of people don’t taste when they cook, they just season if it says to season.  Thankfully Logan knows to taste by now and stopped seasoning before it became a salt-lick.

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For once, Blue Apron provided enough food!  Logan was satiated and I couldn’t finish mine.

I also have a weird condition that causes me to have issues digesting fiber (it takes me at least 3 times longer to digest it than most people), so I was still stuffed at dinner time.  I’d consider this one a value meal for a change!  The ingredients we were sent probably weren’t worth the cost but the meal at least wouldn’t have disappointed me had I paid $10.99 for it at a restaurant.

The flavors were nice enough that it will probably be something we revisit, especially since we have a friend who is vegetarian and we’re always looking for new things to cook when she visits.

So, final thoughts?

Logan and I both really liked the first meal we had with Blue Apron.  It was tasty and easy, but he thought the portions were skimpy.

Neither of us were impressed, at all, with the second meal.  The quality of the ingredients were poor and the portions were downright sad.

This last meal was good across the board.

Is the service worth $10.99 a person, a meal?  Not if you cook frequently, eat like a normal human being, and have access to a good grocery store.  Blue Apron does have a few good recipes but they’re also totally free on their website so you can make them without the subscription if you can find the ingredients.

It was fun (and sometimes frustrating) but I’m glad it’s over.  Also, the service is a total pain in the ass to cancel.  There’s no simple cancel or discontinue button, but an emailing process.

I still think somebody like my Mom would enjoy it, though.  She lives in the middle of nowhere with only a tiny IGA and Wal-Mart around and frequently complains that they don’t know how to cook for two people or have the same things over and over.  It would probably be more cost beneficial for her to spend the $21.98 a night for two people rather than eat out several nights a week just to avoid the “What are we cooking? Ughhhhh….” dilemma.  She also says she’s not eating a whole lot these days — she says she’s getting old — so the portions may suit her.  I may recommend she try it, who knows, maybe she’ll like it?

Shrimp and scarves

Logan asked if we could take a break from Blue Apron tonight and cook something with a bit more hearty of a serving and some more vegetables.  He loves his vegetables.

…which is kind of funny considering our last Blue Apron meal IS vegetarian and I think it will actually have a large serving since they sent us an entire head of cauliflower for it.

I also think the poor guy is just starving, so didn’t want to take the chance.  XD

So, I threw this together with stuff we had on hand:

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The lotus and bamboo were left over from his extravaganza at the Asian market so I just sauteed them up for him with some cremini mushrooms.  He wanted the enoki raw — he really loves enoki now.  The other mixed vegetables were just a grab bag of what I had on hand — carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and the never-ending baby bok choy that I got in bulk at the Asian market.  I tend to pick up whatever is on special so we can throw together sides when we need them or so I can make things for his lunches.

The shrimp was sauteed in garlic, ginger, honey, and a splash of soy sauce to make a sauce and served over some basic garlic couscous.

It’s not the prettiest, but Logan was very happy with his meal, properly stuffed at the end, and has veggies left over to take with his lamb leg tomorrow for lunch.  He already has some roasted eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and creminis that I made earlier this week…but as I said, he loves his veggies so has been hitting them harder than he probably should since he’s been having light dinners, so I think he was getting low considering it’s only Tuesday.

I spent the day resting my sore ankle — I managed to tweak it again — and knitting a bit on my RPG scarf.  I’m on Chapter 7 and it ends on Chapter 8, so not too much more to go with it!

I decided to try to join in on the Ravellenic Games starting on Friday, making the Black Cherry Lambic scarf for Mom, so while I’m itching to cast it on, I’ll put it off until then!

…and hopefully I can knit under a deadline.  I’m used to having all of the time in the world and allowing myself lots of time for things.  I don’t do well with pressure!

Blue Apron 2 of 3

Well, tonight’s meal from Blue Apron wasn’t an $10.99 steak dinner kind of meal.

The recipe was Steaks & Cheesy Mashed Potatoes.

I LOVE steak.

When we first started dating, I once told Logan that I might like him more than beef.  That’s the biggest complement I could ever pay a person.

When we moved to NY, when our first Valentine’s Day away from everybody we knew rolled around…Logan bought me an entire beef tenderloin.

He still does if the grocery offers them around that time of year.  He knows that’s a quicker way to my heart than a bouquet of dead flowers.  😛

So saying this wasn’t quite an $11 steak dinner isn’t the best complement.  I mean, I’ll happily take a cheap steak dinner.  Have you eaten at Texas Roadhouse?  They have some AWESOME and affordable steak dinners.  I especially like their filet medallion meal.

…but once I opened the pack of meat that Blue Apron sent us, I wouldn’t have purchased either cut at the store.

Here’s what today’s $21.98 provided us:

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Logan was really hands on with tonight’s dinner and did most of the work.  He does like to cook and often helps.

He was really perturbed by the carrots they sent, especially since they were all supposed to be quartered then halved per the instructions.

I was more annoyed that the red wine vinegar had all leaked out as I mentioned last post…but that’s okay, I had some on hand.  Actually, just like last time, I had every. single. ingredient. in. spades.

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All of the condiments, again, I keep on hand.  I also usually have cheese either in block or shredded form — this week is shredded because I’m making macaroni salad and am saving myself some one-on-one time with my box shredder.  I also have FOURTEEN (yah, that’s insane, isn’t it?) sirloins in my deep freezer.  We’re well covered.  I’d also like to point out our potatoes and carrots were free!  🙂

The other thing with tonight’s dinner that perplexed Logan (yes, Logan!) was the instructions.  Everything was cooked on a really high temperature.  The carrots were baked at 450, the steaks were cooked on medium-high, the potatoes were boiled on high.

The cooking times were also insanely long.  I advised him not to cook the carrots for the 15 – 17 minutes in the instructions and he didn’t.  He cooked them for 10.  Oops.

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The potatoes also weren’t boiled for 14 – 16 minutes as suggested and they were already getting a bit mushy from taking on too much water.

I really do think the recipes on this one, while extremely basic, need to be revisited.

…and then there were the steaks.  I didn’t cook the steaks like they suggested at all.  Our steaks were 2.5″ thick.  My piece was shaped like a pyramid.  They would have been charcoal on the outside and blue on the inside if I had cooked them according to Blue Apron’s instructions.  So I threw those instructions out of the window and did my best.  Logan said his was cooked like he liked it and well seasoned (thanks, since we have to provide our own salt and pepper!) but mine had a nasty strip of gristle in the middle so Mitzi helped me a bit with it.  As I said, I wouldn’t have picked either cut out at the butcher.  I don’t think my butcher would have sold them to me either; he’s a pretty fickle guy and will straight up tell some people not to buy certain cuts.  😛

The ONE nice thing about the meal was the pan sauce.  I don’t usually like sauce on my steaks — a good steak, one that is properly seasoned and cooked should be able to stand on its beautiful, succulent own.  These steaks needed the sauce and the sauce was actually really good.

I’m still not sure how the one in their picture ended up so red because no amount of reduction would have made mine that bright.  It’s like there was some red velvet cake food coloring hoodoo going on there or else they just used straight up ketchup for a prettier photo.

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Either way, the photo is a total lie on the servings there.  Even though we had to toss a few burnt match carrots, we still wouldn’t have ended up with anything like what they have in the photo.  I feel like all of the proportions of this meal are off and it was all really underwhelming.

Logan said he was going to have to eat tonight’s dinner “really slowly” to appreciate the fact that there was food to be had.  That is one very positive thing I will say for Blue Apron — they force portion control on you.

Logan, however, is now eating cookies and cake.

…which I’m assuming is an act of desperation because earlier this week he begged me to make, of all gross things, a fruit cake.  He watched a bit of Great British Bake Off Masterclass with me and for some reason seeing Mary Berry make one had him convinced he finally wanted to try one.  He’s been prancing around saying it’s “packed with fruit” for the past few days.  Ugh, smack me.  My great-grandmother, Granny, used to make them as did all of her sisters.  I had enough of these monstrosities as a child to convince me I never wanted another.  Ever.

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Turns out, he does like it.  He’s already requested a proper brandied one for Christmas…

 

Blue Apron 1 of 3

This Christmas, Logan and I were given a gift certificate for Blue Apron from Logan’s sister and her husband.

TL:DR  Shitloads of packaging.  Meal one was tasty but nothing super exotic for us.  Somebody that isn’t an adventurous cook or doesn’t have good grocery stores nearby would probably benefit more from this service than us.

Food and groceries are, admittedly, one of our largest monthly expenses so we’ll gladly take any sort of break that comes our way!  In January, 16.3% of our budget went to grocery related items and an additional 12.9% went to dining out.  Given, we traveled a lot in January — we were gone for the entire first week and Logan had work travel, so that thirteenish percent is unusually high…but we still put a lot of money towards food.

I also like to budget and meticulously track where every cent of our money goes.  😀

We ordered three meals with their generous gift and the shipment arrived yesterday afternoon.

This is the start of my Blue Apron experience.

First off, it took us a while to actually decide when to cash in on the certificate.

The meals at Blue Apron are expensive.   $10.99 a serving for the 2-person plan, so $21.98 for the two of us to cook at home…that’s on par with our Chinese delivery and we gorge ourselves with starters, soups, and entrees.  That $21.98 is also a whopping 14.65% of my entire weekly grocery budget for both of us for one meal.

I’ve posted a few cooking extravaganzas here and as I post more food here, I think everybody will understand that’s one area we don’t skimp out on (Logan is having a stuffed leg of lamb for his lunches this week…we don’t skimp on food).   …monopolizing 14.65% of my weekly grocery budget on one dinner is pretty damn spendy.

So, it took me almost a month to find a week that I would concede to spending our gift certificate on the food at Blue Apron.  They have a lot of different offerings each week, which was nice, but I flat out refused to spend the money on most of them.  $22 for two small pizzas or a bowl of spaghetti?  I’ll pass, thanks.

Usually I could find one recipe a week that sounded interesting enough that I’d order it out at a restaurant and not flinch at the price (<– that was my guideline) but I had trouble finding two some weeks and I had to somehow find three to satisfy the gift certificate.

This week won!

As I said, our shipment arrived yesterday.

First impression:

HOLY SHIT THE PACKAGING!

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Seriously, the packaging.

Bags and bags and boxes and more bags and little bottles and what the fuck.

Logan and I try to live relatively green.  We bring our own bags to the grocery store, we put our produce in baskets rather than bags, we recycle almost everything that makes its way into our house.  We buy in glass or paper over plastic when possible.  We really try not to waste stuff or go crazy around here.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  It really is a great motto.

…so considering how sustainable, non-GMO, anti-food-waste Blue Apron is, I was pretty surprised by the number of bags that kept coming out of the shipping box.  Blue Apron’s policy of “Send this back to us and we’ll recycle it for you!” is great but that’s also a pretty sad carbon footprint just to keep shipping plastic baggies back and forth.

My three potatoes and three chives and handful of carrots didn’t need to be in their own separate plastic bags.  I would’ve been perfectly happy having all of  my produce just kind of tossed in there as it was like the onion, garlic, and lemon were.  Or, better yet, having all of the fresh produce in a brown bag together like the “knick knacks” are.  That’s just me being on a soapbox, though.

Ingredient wise, most of them were fresh and nice.  The bok choy was crazy dirty for some reason, though.   Unfortunately, the lemon had a really bad bruise spot that had gone rotten and the little red wine vinegar bottle twisted open and all of the contents had poured out in that bag of knick knacks.  Luckily I keep both lemons and red wine vinegar on hand, so no real loss for me.  It may be a bit more frustrating for somebody else, though.

Onward to the food!  Food really is the important part, after all.  🙂

The first meal we chose to make was Spicy Pork & Korean Rice Cakes.

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The meal was incredibly easy to prepare and cook up.  Even if you’re a total beginner, Blue Apron has great instructions and even videos so it should be almost impossible to botch up.  It looks a bit like a fancy Hamburger Helper, if I’m honest, but it was pretty tasty.

We’ll be adding the recipe to our rotation with some modifications (like more gochujang since it’s supposed to be spicy but neither of us felt it had any heat).

Logan was a bit disappointed with the serving size, as seen above.  He has a really hearty appetite though and often finishes his meals, mine, and whatever else he can scavenge around him…  I felt it was right for me. Blue Apron’s site did say it has about 850 calories per serving which is a bit on the heavier side buuut who’s counting?  😀

As an end note back to the cost of the meal, this is what Blue Apron sent us for $21.98:

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…and as a fun aside, I already had all of this in my refrigerator:

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I think when we make it ourselves, I’ll save myself the hassle of chopping garlic and ginger and just use the pastes.  😛  I also had chives in my crisper and three pounds of ground pork carefully packed away in my freezer.  Their soy glaze was really sweet and sticky and reminded me more of that (kinda sickly sweet) Thai sweet soy sauce than any soy reduction I’ve made or had elsewhere, so I think it’d also be a good substitute.

Quite literally the only thing I was missing from being able to make this meal on my own already was creme fraiche and black bean sauce.

…and just to be an ass, I checked my grocery store.  I can get 8 ounces of creme fraiche for $6.99 and 8 ounces of black bean sauce for $4.59 rather than the 2 Tablespoons that Blue Apron sent of each.   Soooo $12.50, including all applicable taxes here, for enough of the same meal to feed a small army with foods I already have on hand.   Having them on hand means I purchased them for another meal and they’re left over or were bought on a maddeningly good sale and preserved for a later date (in this case, all of the condiments are used in near trivial and always kept on hand, the bok choy is left over from a bulk purchase and we’ve been eating it with nearly everything for a week and a half now, the pork was bought at 99 cents a pound and we ground it ourselves, and the rice cakes we snapped up at our latest excursion to our favorite Asian market for a few dollars because those things are awesome).  Either way, still well under Blue Apron’s price for the same meal and that’s with the ability to feed a crowd instead of just two people.

As a final thought, I think somebody like my Mom or Logan’s parents would really benefit from Blue Apron.  They don’t have the best variety in grocery stores where they live.  Logan’s parents are definitely open-minded when it comes to food and I think Mom would probably like having a variety of fresh food, with just enough for her and her husband, delivered to her house instead of having to make a grocery run so far away.

 

 

 

Foooooood!

A weird thing happened.

Logan posted the photo of the ramen I made on his Facebook and several of his coworkers asked for MORE photos of the food we eat.

…which I think is odd, but hey, whatever!

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So we had our version of sukiyaki two nights ago.  We definitely don’t go traditional and dip our food in raw eggs; I prefer them cooked with runny yolks.  😛   We’ve had to make it at home since the little Japanese place we ate at closed down several years ago, but I  grilled the lady there that made it enough that ours tastes scrummy enough.  I, of course, don’t have her exact proportions but at least I know what she put in the sauce so can adjust it to our taste.  🙂

Regardless, while it was cooking away, adding eggs and flipping the food around so it would all get coated before making room for the udon, and Logan took the above photo to send his coworkers so I thought I would share it here as well to show what kind of mayhem I get up to when I’m left to my own devices.

Also, I LOVE that electric skillet.  I picked it up at Tuesday Morning as part of the Chef’s closeouts they acquired.  Ugh, it’s amazing.  Logan fought me on it because it’s huge and beautiful and he didn’t know what we’d do with it.  The answer has been cook with it almost every night.  I wish I had bought two in case this one ever breaks!

Last night we had my Grandmother’s spaghetti.  Meat sauces aren’t the most photogenic but it’s divine and a bunch of “throw this in the pot” style of cooking.   She cooks hers for hours on the stove, I’m lazier and like my crockpot.

I’m slowly trying to glean all of Grandmother’s recipes when I visit…next up is her macaroni salad, I hope!  I can do most things by taste once I have a baseline for ingredients, so once I watch her make it and write down what she throws in, I run home and practice until I’m reasonably satisfied; it will never be hers, but close enough is good enough.

Over Christmas she made her delish cheeseball (the only one I ever ate as a kid — all others I deemed disgusting and still don’t eat but two others) and we wrote down the ingredients to that one when she called Logan and I over to sample the batch she was making for the holidays to “make sure [she was] making it okay”.  That is one job I will never refuse!

I did get asked to do one other “job” over the holidays, this one by Mom.  …and it’s another I won’t often refuse — knit something!

I made her a wide scarf to tuck under a coat years ago and she has since gotten a new coat, so she wants a new scarf to match.  She wanted it at least as wide and long (10″ x 50″), so it’s going to be a fun project.

I’m just now getting around to it but I sent her to ravelry to browse some patterns that fit her specifications (I had already down selected them, don’t worry!) and she chose Black Cherry Lambic by Thea Colman.

I have the yarn on hand; the same yarn I used for Grandmother’s sweater actually.  It’s sooo soft and snuggly and was the perfect color.  Nice how that worked out!  So now I just have to make the time to start knitting it!

Fabric and food

I finally got around to ordering some thread from Wawak for my new serger.  I’ve had good experience with the company in the past with zippers, needles, and almost every type of notion, so figured I might as well try some thread.  I’ve never bought anything other than quilting cotton, so serger thread is new territory for me!  One of my quilting buddies is a serging pro and I’ve been picking her brain every chance I get.  I’m pretty excited…but still nervous.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to cut my fingers off.

As props to Wawak, I placed my order at 3:30 p.m. and my order arrived the next day at 11:00 a.m. for $4 shipping/handling.  That’s INSANE!  I was totally impressed — they’ve done me well in the past but just wow.  Mind blown.

I think for my first serger project I’m going to try a Stitch Upon a Time Merryweather tunic.  I made one several years back in a kind of space-dye knit, so I already have all of the adjustments I need to make it fit right for me…I just didn’t like how the seams and hems laid after everything because all I had was an old straight stitch and a machine that likes to zig zag only when it’s in the mood and you whisper the proper sweet nothings to it.  I think now that I have a proper serger and the ability to do a nice coverstitch that it will be a different story.  I also have the cutest TMNT knit that I think will be perfect for it!

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Coincidentally, the knit was next to a pair of fleece TMNT pajamas that need to be repaired in my sewing room.  I sense a theme in my life.  😀

In the meantime, until I work up the bravery to plug in the serger, I’ll just continue to cook.  I received a spiralizer for Christmas from my in-laws and let’s just say that thing is going to get A LOT of use!  I love it!

Last night I made a spicy “ramen” zoodle soup.

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That was Logan’s bowl.  He wanted some extras in his soup that I didn’t put in mine: bamboo, lotus root, enoki mushrooms, and sauteed fish cakes.

I tried all of the additions except the fish cakes.  His trying to sell them to me as “gelatinous fishy cubes” didn’t go over so well.  😛  They looked more like a stinky tofu and I’ve just recently accepted the texture of extra firm tofu…let’s not go throwing mystery, smelly fish into that mix.

I’ve never been a fan of bamboo but what we get from the Asian market is world’s better than the canned stuff at our grocery store so maybe someday I’ll welcome it.  For now, I continue to try it every time I cook with it.  There’s something about you have to get used to something before you like it, right?  At least I don’t spit it out and want to scrape my tongue after eating it like I do with the canned stuff…

Also, enoki mushrooms aren’t the worst.  I hate mushrooms as a rule — the only ones I’ll willingly eat are morels — but enoki were different enough without the dirt flavor that I could also see myself eating them in the future.  They were delicate, not over powering, and definitely fun to play with, so those are all huge pluses.

Lotus I can take or leave — it just ended up being sauteed on a higher heat to soften it rather than cooked in the soup with the faster cooking ingredients (zucchini, baby bok choy, tofu, etc…).

Tonight is hot dogs.  I’m breaking out my cousin’s grandmother’s Michigan sauce recipe!  So yummy.  🙂

 

 

Passing the time

Logan has asked me to take on the monumental task of digitizing our music collection and collecting what’s already digital all in one location.  Eep!

We’re showing our old and rigid ways; we still purchase CDs, which essentially makes us dinosaurs in this digital era.

He wants a backup in case something tragic happens (some of the discs are almost two decades old now and others are impossible to find) and I’m okay with that…other than having to sit at my computer, bored out of my mind while they rip.  I like to organize and create insanely detailed lists — I’m looking at you, budget! — but this one is a little out of hand.  I honestly don’t know how many CDs we’ve collected over the years, much less how many hard-drives our digital collections are scattered across now or if I even want to find some of the old stuff Logan listened to.  Sorry, not sorry.  ;P

…so since I’m stranded at my desk, I figured I would blog to pass the time.

Joule is pouting, as she tends to do, when she doesn’t get her way.  Last time she hid under a blanket on the bed, growling, after I shooed her out of my crafting room until I let her back in hours later.  Then she was back to being Miss Rainbows and Sunshine.

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Today she was on my desk, playing with a pair of plastic elephants I found hidden in a hole in the floor — my glasses broke last week and the lens disappeared into a hole under the heater and I found it after hours of searching, along with the elephants and a lot of dust — and, being a typical cat, she knocked it right off into the trash.  Not really wanting to keep the elephants, I left them in the bin.  She tried fishing them out and then started fussing at me when she couldn’t, but I ignored her…so now she’s blatantly ignoring me and sulking under Logan’s chair.

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It never fails to amuse me when people who don’t have pets claim that animals don’t have personalities…because they do.  They soooo do.

Our dog, Mitzi, for example, got in a bit of trouble a few nights ago for breaking into the trash can.  She knows the rules of the house.  She knows them so well that she tattles on herself.  If she doesn’t meet you at the door with her head hanging, she’s hiding and is nowhere to be found.  This time, she was missing and there was a bone on the living room rug, so we knew the dogs had been having a party without us.  Thorin pretended he had no clue what was going on, as he always does.  Mitzi, though, was missing.

Thankfully, she’s not that good at hiding.

In fact, she’s hilariously bad at hiding.

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Thorin was cheering us on from the side, blaming it all on her…even though there was also a bone in his favorite chewing spot.  Mitzi may have no dignity, but at least she’s honest.  😛

I’m glad the dogs felt my food scraps were worth raiding the trash and a chiding; I would have given the bones to them to begin with if I wasn’t afraid they would’ve splintered and hurt them.  Logan tried cooking and feeding the squid scraps to them and they turned their little noses up at him.  He was pretty aghast over it.  I don’t blame them though — I wouldn’t have eaten it either and I quite enjoy squid.

Last night I cooked the pork belly I mentioned in my last post.  I decided to make it a bit spicy with a rub and did a honey glaze at the end after it had rendered and crisped nicely.  Logan and I are doing a gift a day this December as a way to spice up our normal Christmas celebration — we’ve mostly done really small gifts but he gave me my large gift on Wednesday since it’s my wet blanket day.  I’m now the gleeful owner of an immersion blender, so I had to test it out.  LOVE IT!  We had garlic-sauteed kale, some sticky cabbage, and some pureed sweet potatoes to go with the pork belly.  Logan was super happy…and since my only job in life is to feed his hearty appetite, I guess the mission was accomplished.

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Logan and I tend to eat a crazy variety of food — I get easily bored making and eating the same things.  It seems not everybody is the same way?  I hear a lot of our friends/family complain about being in food ruts.  It’s easy to break out of it; just cook something different!

Wednesday, I made Kapustnyak (a Ukranian sauerkraut stew) with some soda bread.  The stew looks like any other bowl of soup but Logan thought the bread was worth taking a picture of.  He’s been craving it since our trip to Ireland, so I figured I might as well try to make some.  Turns out it was incredibly easy to make and only took about 45 minutes total, so I’ll be doing it again next time he wants bread with a meal.

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Tuesday, we had a comfort food meal of meatloaf, collards (Logan’s favorite, I think they taste like farts smell), carrots (with cardamom because I like cardamom), fresh pickled beets, and some stove top potatoes…that Logan turned off the heat to because he thought he was being helpful so they didn’t color or thicken right…but at least they were cooked.  Ugh.

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Monday night was…a hilariously horrible casserole straight out of the 70s known as Saucy Twist Pork Dish.  It was my Dad’s favorite meal, competing only with Grandmother’s spaghetti.  When Logan first visited my home in Virginia a decade ago, Dad was still living but not doing very well…and Dad asked that I make Saucy Twist for him — he even used to call me home from college to make it for him.  Who was I to say no at that point?  Saucy Twist looks like vomit in a pot.  Ketchup, rotini, SPAM (no kidding), cheese, canned soup…it’s special.  I grew up on it, I’m used to it.  Lo and behold, Logan LOVED it.  Loves it like Dad loved it.  He asks to have it every week if I’ll put up with it.  I try to keep it down to once a month but it doesn’t keep him from asking more often and begging for the leftovers. 😛

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Whoever reviewed it as having an attractive appearance needs their glasses fixed more than I do.  It looks horrible, especially before it’s baked.  It tastes a whole lot better than it looks.

Tonight it’s either pineapple fried rice with Chinese sausage and shrimp or little handheld meat pies…depends on which Logan wants when he gets home.  I’m leaning towards the pineapple fried rice.  The pineapple I have is HUGE and smells so delightful, I can’t wait to cut into it.

I finally finished the CDs but I had one final thought I wanted to toss out there.

I posted some photos of my sister on her birthday on Facebook.  I tagged my Mom in them so her friends could see them too.  I keep my friend list pretty sparse, so normally don’t receive much of a response to my posts…but this one did, at least for me.  105 reactions and 34 comments as of right now.  Most of the people I found appropriate, but one almost sent me into a rage fest…and it still might.

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To give a frame of reference — this is how most of the comments were.  The first comment was from one of our neighbors.  He’s my age and we were pretty decent friends through school, really good friends when we were younger.  He’s always been a nice guy and always treated my sister well.  He sent me flowers at her funeral and every year has sent a message of some sort to me on her birthday or the day she died.

The second comment was from the lady that drove my sister to pre-school for years, so knew since she was a toddler.  She’s also the one who was the dispatcher when I made the 911 call and stayed on the line with me for half an hour, even though she was crying, while I was performing CPR and waiting on an ambulance.

The fourth comment is from an old co-worker of my mom’s.  When we were little, I remember visiting her a few times and she made beautiful porcelain dolls to look like my sister and me when we were in elementary school.

The last comment is from one of my sister’s best friends, “Good Buddy” as they called each other.  I don’t have to say any thing else about her, some friendships are special.

The comments were all from people that knew my sister, knew her well, and have reason to remember her.

…but that middle comment makes me want to rip out somebody’s hair, namely the person that commented and her family.  The lady that left the comment is the mother of my sister’s biggest bully in school.  The girl tormented the shit out of her, made a game out of making her miserable (even when my sister went to a different school for two years), to the point that I had to intervene.  She would tell other kids that they could be her friend if they would stop being my sister’s friend or bully them relentlessly as well if they wouldn’t.  She even threatened her physically — which is when I stepped in and told her I’d be there after school to handle it.  Thankfully the kid was chickenshit and I saw her running out of the school as I was closing my locker at the final bell…but of course, not before she had her older sister confront me about “picking on” her baby sister. At my sister’s funeral, the bully showed up crying harder than anybody else in the room.  I had to leave the room at that point or I honestly could have stabbed her with a flower spike.  Their mom is a complete jerkwad too, though, so I’m not surprised.  I AM surprised she had the balls to comment though and it’s really taking all I have not to spit some venom at her.   …so this is my outlet, for now.   Fuck you, Glenda, and your shithead spawns.

 

A post that’s all over the place

It has been a few weeks since my last post but I haven’t been dawdling too awful much.  Maybe I’ll get back to more frequent updates so my posts are less massive and more on one subject. 😛

Our Asian Supermarket remodeled over the last month and I was like a kid in a candy store.  They have a butcher and a fresh fish counter now!!!  *happy dance*  I now have a resource for almost everything I could dream of, including Silkie chicken (okay so maybe I want them more for pets than food), quail eggs, and pork blood for black sausage!

I didn’t go too far off my restocking list, but I did come home with some pork belly for dinner this week — think I’ll pair it with some sticky red cabbage, sauteed kale, and mashed sweet potatoes, and Logan brought home a bag of fresh squid.  He spent Sunday learning to clean squid.  It was a mess but he loved it, especially eating it after I cooked them up as Korean-style Ojingeo bokkeum.

On Thursday, Logan and I went to NYC and finally saw The Nightmare Before Christmas: Live to Film.  The show was amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Catherine O’Hara and Danny Elfman singing Jack and Sally’s Song

We had an adventure getting there.  We almost missed both of our MTA-North trains…you know, the kind where you dash onto the train and the conductor (as he’s laughing at you) gets on behind you to close the doors and already has everything in motion before you reach any seats.  We live an hour and a half from the furthest line north, so we take the last train on the line.  We would have had to wait another hour for the next train to the city or possibly had to have stayed the night in the city if we’d missed our train home.  Sometimes we cut things a bit too close for comfort.

To add to the fun times, our arrival train lost its brakes approaching Grand Central Terminal.  The conductors’ radios weren’t working like they should so they announced that fact to the entire train to tell one another.  We were sitting across from a screaming kid.  The conductor in our car was cool as a cucumber, though, so we didn’t see a reason to worry about it.  In the end, there was no reason to.

Since we made our train, we got to enjoy dinner at La Vara in Brooklyn.  Logan was especially excited.  He’d never had Spanish cuisine and they’re Michelin starred!  We ate at a Michelin mentioned restaurant in Scotland and the food was so phenomenal that now he wants to work his way up the star chain.  I’ve noticed there’s a bit of a bias towards Japanese and fancy French styles of cooking in the guide, so wanted to try something a bit more off beat and closer to Barclay’s Center since that’s where our show was…La Vara fit the bill.

Everything was served tapas style and was very tasty.  I agreed to eat everything, even things I don’t normally like (olives and cilantro) since the waitress took note of allergies before taking our order and recommended ordering about 5-6 items (minus dessert) for two people.  The chef did a great job — I even liked the olives and chimichurri.  Normally I think cilantro in anything tastes like soap but not this time.

I agreed that I’d remember what we ordered if Logan would take the pictures.  So we ended up with the a free little fried olive in a mint yogurt sauce as the “Amuse”.  Then we started off with the Croqueta Del Día which were serrano ham. Soooooo good!  Next was Sobrasada con Miel which was a Menorcan spreadable sausage and honey foam on charred bread (sadly, my personal favorite — that combo was to die for), followed by the Pulpo — grilled octopus with a spicy ink sauce and a garlicy sauce over white beans.  Next we had Conejo en Escabeche, stuffed rabbit loin in a tangy onion vinaigrette with prunes and onions, which was Logan’s favorite even though he’d sworn never to eat rabbit.  Our last savory plate was Cochinillo which was a crispy suckling pig with a rose-quince sauce and, of course, chimichurri.  Desserts were Egipcio and Budin — the first was an orange blossom, walnut and date tart (reminded me more of a shortbread, though) with lemon curd and cream, the second was a super awesome bread pudding with a cinnamon cream and blueberries.  Can you tell which I liked more?  😛

All in all, I’d recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.  It was a cute and cozy restaurant and a not a bad walk from the nearest underground.  It also wasn’t busy when we were there — but we went early so we could go to our show — which is a huge plus for me.  It was filling up fast by the time we left.  It also wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be — our bill ended up being just a bit over $100, for eight plates of food.  Logan is a heavy-hitter when it comes to meals and we did -not- order cheap plates.  Here at home we can rack up $80 bills at our Chinese restaurant if Logan is in the right mood, so considering this was NYC, I was really pleasantly surprised.

Crafting wise, I’ve been working on the endless RPG scarf (I’m on Chapter 6 of it, so just two more left, I think?) and I finished my end of Mom’s birthday gift!  Her birthday is two days after Christmas, so it adds to my crafting mayhem for this time of year.

Is it time to finally reveal what it is I’ve been making for her?  Sure!

When we were in Northern Ireland, we visited the ancestral castle of her maternal family.  It’s in ruins now, but we still hopped a fence and explored around as much as we could.  It was spooky and lovely and one of the most fun things we did in my opinion.  Mom’s too, if I had to guess.  At least, I hope.  😛  I’ve had this gift in the planning works for a while now.

The whole castle is enveloped in ivy now, completely swallowed by it except for one little corner.  Even the inside of the rooms are draped with it since the roof has long collapsed.

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I pinched four leaves of that ivy while I was there and smuggled them back with me.

Once home, I’ve been slowly coating them with a PMC3 slip — a silver clay.  I finally got them all up to the proper thickness last week and started torch firing them since I don’t have a kiln.

I’m glad I was smart and brought back four.  The first time, my butane torch (using the same one I use for plumbing, not food) was too hot and I melted the damn thing right at the end.  Three left and they fired fine.

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After being fired and the charred leaf remnants removed — ivy is oily so didn’t burn completely

Three left and then I had to drill a hole in them so I could turn them into jewelry.  Of course, one didn’t get along with the drill and cracked.  Two survived.

Two is good.  One for Mom, one for me, if they survive.  I scuffed off the clay residue to expose the silver with a stainless steel brush then burnished them just a bit to give more of a mirror shine on some surfaces so the leaf veins and textures would be a bit more obvious.

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I dropped them off a few days ago at my local jeweler to add a jump ring — they need a large one due to size and weight — and I knew he’d do a better job and for cheaper than I could get the materials.  I was right, of course.  He’s charging me $15 for the work when I can barely get the solder I need for it, much less the boric, the jump rings, the pickle mix, etc… for that price.  I’ll save myself the panic and headaches and let him do it.  If one of the leaves survives for gifting, I’ll be happy.  I also went ahead and ordered a chain from him while I was there.

I hope she likes it!  At least it will be something completely unique.

To finish off the post, I can’t leave without mentioning today would have been my sister’s 30th birthday.

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…and yes, I chose this picture of Pissant for a reason (no, I have no idea why I called her Pissant for most of my life, but I can remember doing so even when I was really little).  It absolutely encompasses her personality.  She was absolutely full of mischief and “fuck you” attitude.  Life has a funny way of building character.

I’m doing my best not to be a complete wet blanket over my missing partner in crime, so I’m going to go finish sewing some pillow cases — 30 for her 30th to donate.  I just have 4 more to finish!  I still haven’t decided if I’m giving them to our local Ronald McDonald House or the local charity for children in crisis — they’ve went viral this year with their Christmas wishes, so they may be a bit swamped right now.  I have a soft spot for both.  We stayed at RMHs a lot growing up and I know (and worked with years ago) quite a few kids that went through the foster system.  Maybe I’ll split the difference and give to both?  Time will tell.