31 December 2009

Heads up...

Seven-Up. Cake, that is.

Seven-Up Cake, before and after dusting

I was hunting for a Bundt cake recipe that would let me use my cathedral cake pan (as well as the lovely cake stand Mom got me for my bridal shower), and came across one for Seven-Up Cake on AllRecipes.com. This particular incarnation had 110 reviews and still maintained a 4.5, so I figured I couldn't go too far wrong! The "batter" is so heavy it looks like dough through most of the mixing process, and I very nearly broke my mixer making it (burning smell but no actual smoke), but it was worth it. I will say, the butter/sugar mixture really does need AT LEAST 10 minutes of mixing to get a nice smooth consistency.

Sadly this was only the second use for both pan and stand... must do more baking in 2010.

30 December 2009

Typed to the sounds of rockin' out

The husband is playing Guitar Hero 5 in the background, which he got me for my birthday. We didn't have any real interest in it until I discovered that they had put Matt Bellamy - only the lead singer of my FAVORITE BAND - in the game... and that it came with a red sparkly guitar (akin to Bellamy's). Drool. We are enjoying it, as there are lots of good songs, and I have also discovered that I can play bass on expert mode.

We had a lovely Christmas, visiting my mother-in-law's family for Christmas Eve, watching the (six) nephews open their (mountain of) stuff Christmas morning, going to my aunt's for Christmas dinner, and then to my parents' house for our gift exchange. It was a little turned around from "normal" this year, but we enjoyed it.

I even got to squeeze in a fun project, converting a bridesmaid dress from 1969 so the husband's mom could wear it to Christmas Eve! (Her sisters were duly amused - they all have the same dress since they were all bridesmaids in one sister's wedding.)

Since then, life has involved work, cleaning, a bit of rockin' out, a doctor's appointment, visiting my grandparents, and preparing for our friend Mike to visit on leave from Iraq. I swear, this apartment will be clean and presentable by the time he gets here, and boy did it need it. I just haven't had any energy for cleaning/cooking/much of anything lately, thanks to work getting so hectic. I just come home after a shift and lay on the couch, and usually fall asleep hours before I intend to. Sadly I'm also sending my nutrition to heck since I have to eat in the food court a lot, and have been drinking coffee like crazy because my husband's parents gave us a brand spankin' new coffeemaker that they just happened to have sitting around (these things happen, when his father is involved. It's amazing.)...

Now we're off to the grocery store, to buy some food with actual nutritional value, plus a final container of eggnog if they still have it. (Just discovered it this year, myself, and now I'm obsessed!) Hopefully this means that I'll be posting soon with tales of excellent cooking experiences and better eating (and drinking, to stay better hydrated). Hopefully...

15 December 2009

Work and play

Things I've done in the past week:
  • watched my 6 nephews for five days (along with my husband, thankfully)
  • made highly successful meals while doing so, including lasagna and chicken with green bean casserole
  • discovered that Phineas and Ferb is hilariously awesome
  • finished Forest Born
  • went to the doctor, who told me that my sore throat was a "thrush" (whatever that means) and also that my dizzy spells, which have been happening over the last several months, are probably from being dehydrated, which can lower your blood pressure (mine is already low normally) and make you really sensitive to changes in heat
  • did some Christmas shopping
  • worked
  • finished Xenosaga III, thereby completing the trilogy (I really liked the games but the end was depressing and some of the plot was RIDICULOUS)
  • started Grandia III (and no, I haven't played Grandia I or II; loving this one so far though)
Things I need to do in the coming week:
  • wrap a LOT of presents
  • buy a few more
  • CLEAN THE FRIGGING APARTMENT
  • do some laundry
  • go to the vacuum repair shop to see if ours can be saved
  • finish the other book I have signed out
  • make a vet appointment for the cats
  • force my husband to write a resume
Sigh. I'm getting pretty bogged down by a lot of this stuff, and I find myself sitting around and doing the easy, fun stuff instead of the hard things. I really need to fix that.

02 December 2009

Successss

Made bangers & mash for dinner tonight. With gravy (although I used store-bought gravy. Wasn't even gonna ATTEMPT that at the moment). AND IT WAS MARVELOUS. Finally found a kind of sausage that the husband and I both like! The mashed potatoes even turned out better than normal.

I also picked up an issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, which looks promising. I love that it has a shopping list for the 5 main recipes - very helpful. We'll see how the recipes go!

***

We put up our Christmas tree tonight! I found some really neat garland at WalMart today and I started actually getting into a Christmas-y mood, so I figured I better strike while the iron was hot. When my husband was deployed last year, all my holiday spirit went right out the window. The only tree I put up was 4 inches tall and made of silver tinsel. I am sure it would have been different if I'd had kids, but when I'm alone, I become somewhat of a grinch, I guess.

The tree looks great, and I have more decorations to put up.... so off I go!

01 December 2009

Cooking stuff; tech vs. tradition

First off, I actually cooked stuff for Thanksgiving! Being once again relegated to the "bring a veggie" or "bring the rolls" crowd, I realized something. I think that part of why I am so inexperienced at cooking, especially for the holidays, is that i was never entrusted with anything of significance. So, this year I decided that even if i was bringing a veggie, it was going to be something that required some actual cooking.

Hence: Grandma's Corn Pudding and Green Bean Casserole (we used a different recipe that didn't involve crackers - the one off the French fried onions package). The corn pudding recipe is apparently really more like scalloped corn, since it uses lots of eggs and is extremely fluffy rather than being bread-like. Both styles are delicious. As for the green bean casserole, I'd made it before and would make it again. I can also attest that both items reheat well.

***

On a very different subject... I found this blog post by David Weir very interesting: Time to Move My Bookshelves Into My Pocket? This is an issue I've considered as well, as my book collection has surpassed 1,000 and my bookshelves are stacked two-deep (even though I bought two more shelves a year or so ago). I get dragged down sometimes by the idea of just how much stuff I have, and the effort it takes to move it all when the need arises. Obviously books aren't the only problem, but they are the most numerous, and one of the heaviest.

I don't think that the choice between physical books and ebooks has to be all-or-nothing. There are books in my collection that I don't plan to ever discard, and which may get passed on to my children someday. But there are also hundreds of books that are just sitting there waiting for me to get to them - in some cases, these have been in boxes in my parents' basement for ten years or more - and I think I (and my parents too) would benefit from having them in a digital, space-saving format.

I've been drooling over the Kindle and Barnes & Noble's new nook reader. I've seen the Sony eReaders in person and they hold no sway over me. The idea appeals to me, but the price does not. Even if I was willing to shell out the $259 for the device itself, I am pretty disgusted with the prices of ebooks. You cannot tell me it takes as much money to publish an ebook as it does to print, package, and ship a physical book, even though I do understand that the bulk quantities being produced do lower the costs per book. Happily, some companies are trying out new options and are offering their new release ebooks at lower prices. Still, there is no such thing as bag day book sales for ebooks, so far - I won't be picking them up for a quarter or fifty cents.

I am semi-impatiently waiting for a full demo model of the nook to arrive at our local B&N...

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things I am thankful for:

  • my marvelous husband, who is so friggin' good to me
  • my lovely, entertaining, not-drama-prone family
  • many great friends who are smart, funny, and fun to be around
  • two most excellent kitties, of course
  • a nice place to live and nice things to fill it with (way too many things)
  • a job that I enjoy, for the most part

I hope everyone stops to think about what they are thankful for today. And eats lots of yummy food.

25 November 2009

"Do they have to keep repeating EVERYTHING?"

Finally had a day to relax yesterday, so I spent a bunch of it playing Xenosaga III. That game.... it's mostly cut scenes. You can literally sit there for an hour watching movie bits without having to do more than X through the dialogue. The story is confusing as heck, and the voice acting is mostly terrible... and yet somehow, I'm still enjoying this game. I'll be sad when it's done, because then there is no more Xenosaga to play.

I did manage to take books to the used bookstore yesterday, so that's one goal accomplished for the week. Unfortunately she only wanted a few, and I have a whole box of them to go. I guess I will just donate the rest to the library book sale.

I'm doing pretty well on the thermostat - using blankets and sweaters instead of turning it up. I'll stick with it as long as I can stand it. It's more of a lifestyle change, really, and I'll be very happy if I can switch myself over permanently.

Looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I don't even mind having to work Black Friday. (We'll see how I feel about that after Black Friday is over.)

22 November 2009

Let's give it a shot

I recently picked up one of the many, many guides to greener living in the bargain bin. It's Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life by Lori Bongiorno (with a forward by Frances Beinecke). I like the idea of this book, because it isn't the type of book that expects you to just jump into total lifestyle change from day one. The author of this book gives you options of just how far you want to take things, whether your limiter is expense, access to necessary items, or just motivation.

The chapters are divided into categories such as Food, Home Building, Babies and Children... and in each category, suggestions fall under "Green," "Greener," or "Greenest." This bypasses the feeling you get with some books where if you're not following every single instruction, you're just being too lazy to make the effort and obviously don't care about the subject matter at all (a good example of this, in my opinion, was Skinny Bitch).

Goals for this coming week:

  • Instead of turning up the thermostat, use blankets and wear warmer clothing. Obvious, but I'm a giant wuss about being cold. So, I'll try to be less wussy.
  • See if the local used bookstores will buy any of the books I'm done with... and if they won't, donate them to the local library sale.
  • Bonus task: find out if the local recycling plant offers tours! I am fascinated by this process and I'd love some confirmation that the effort I put into recycling is really worth it.

Happily, we got to hang out with friends tonight (for the first time in weeks, I think) and it made us clean up the apartment. Our spare room, however, is a TOTAL DISASTER and we really need to tackle it. There is a lot of stuff in there just waiting to be dispersed to the right place - eBay, Salvation Army, etc. - and we need to reach the point where we can see the floor again. Weed out, weed out, weed out! My unruly stash of craft supplies (especially yarn) is not helping either, so I'm determined to use some of the stash for Christmas gifts this year. Less money spent, and I'll be making use of yarn I just haddddd to have at one point or another. One project has been completed already, and I have a few others in mind. Finishing up UFOs also falls into this category.

The husband made a nice dinner tonight, so we ate a decent meal, and I am using the leftovers to pack a lunch for tomorrow so I'm not stuck eating in the food court again. Wish me luck in remembering to take it with me. Heh.

21 November 2009

Here we go

Things that have happened this year:
  • fiance got home from deployment (technically, on New Year's Eve last year)
  • got married
  • did another semester of school
  • decided NOT to do another semester of school
Things that will happen soon:
  • turning 30
  • losing my job
Things I need to work on:
  • clean more
  • learn to cook
  • live greener
  • assist with finding a job for the husband...
  • did I mention learn to cook? Because that's a big one.
I don't know how successful I will be in keeping this up, but I need some motivation to get moving on these issues, and I thought it might help to have a place to discuss some of it - questions, progress, successes, failures.

I'm just trying to get my head together as I (soon) begin my third decade and the supposedly "grown-up" phase of my life. Probably will throw in some book and knitting stuff on the way.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)

Par exemple: One of the best books I've read lately is Soulless by Gail Carriger (the first book in her forthcoming Parasol Protectorate trilogy). It's everything I didn't even know I was looking for in a paranormal romance. Highly recommended if you don't mind some werewolves with your tea and crumpets.

Something else to check out: Simple 4-Step Carbon Footprint Calculator. I checked mine and it said 14.3 hectares. We're good on recycling but probably bad on electricity and gas. Admittedly, it's a rather simplistic test.