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July 5th, 2016


04:30 pm
Ahhhh, here it is. I feel a little flipped out right about now, about work. I think it’ll get better as I train people this week, but now that my coworker is retired (and we have zero extra hours to do her 25/week job yet) I am feeling very trapped and overwhelmed. Not even that I can’t complete the work, but more what if I wasn’t here type of feelings/can't leave to take a vacation, etc.

I really hope it is settled one way or another soon, but it will probably be a few more weeks. If we don’t get the extra hours, fine, we will figure out Plan B, but not knowing and being in limbo is not fun, especially b/c so much in my life is in limbo right now!

Also, our office is HUGE. Like, way too big with three people, and silly big with two. We have tons of unnecessary furniture, b/c we kept taking more on as people got rid of it, since we had the space. It makes me feel completely claustrophobic to have all this shit in here like a storage room. And that probably won’t change anytime soon, either.

I knew this would happen, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. It’ll be ok. Let's all admit change is hard!

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March 14th, 2015


02:22 pm - Money

I am so bummed to see i still owe 5200 on my student loan. I thought it was a few grand less. If i just keep paying the usual, thats 3.7 more years...ugh. (This is a loan i took out in 2004 to finish my BA when i was in my upper 20s...i guess a 15 year loan.)

Even if i can double the payments, im still looking at 2 years or so. Man!

So right now im saving to pay off the car. If all goes well that can happen next month. Then im going to work on the student loan, but not go crazy because there are things we really need to save up for and buy like a stove. And floor. And tree cutting. And a fence...

Maybe i can save up chunks of $ for it and pay it down in bigger chunks instead of feeling like every dime has to go to it. My interest rate is 3.4% and monthly payment is $116 so its not breaking the bank but would be nice to pay it off early and get that $ in my account instead.

WWLJD?


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March 31st, 2013


08:31 pm
Here are some bookmaking projects I've been working on. For some reason, the last few months have been a personal bookmaking kick...talk about old school projects! Bookmaking was my venture into the online craft world, really, and here I am back at my roots.

Part of the reason is because the craft room (cellar) was cleaned out (again) over the winter and I came across a pile of text blocks that just needed to be sewn up and bound. It was a lot of fun to work on these, and there is still a small pile to finish. I love going through all the old books and picking the "right" pages for the covers.



Also, N needed his beer brewing book re-bound. The original lasted him about 8 years of heavy use, but it was time since it was literally falling apart. I really like how the new book came out. It won't be long until that one is filled, and a second volume will be in order.



Last, today the pea seeds were planted outdoors. I think they will be fine, but if not, what have I lost but a few packets of peas? Luckily I can buy more. It's all an experiment. Checking notes from 2011 (the only year notes were ever kept...bah, that's too much work!), I planted peas in mid March and early April, and the first batch caught up with the later. My hypothesis is, as long as you don't plant them so early or in such wet soil that they rot, peas will come up when they damn well please. You can't rush a garden, but you can certainly get out there and get your hands dirty as soon as the snow melts.

In the meantime, there is lots of green stuff growing inside.

gardenstarts

Be well!

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March 19th, 2013


03:50 pm - Snow Day Pot Pie
I am conflicted. It is the eve of Spring, but we have a snow day, with pretty much a blizzard coming down. But alas, a SNOW DAY, where I can putter around the house, get some things done, and cook.

N is working today, so to make up for the guilt of being home, I decided to make a hearty evening meal. Lo and behold, there was a package of pie crusts in the freezer, so pot pie it is. I don't have the car, so the challenge was to make it using whatever was in the cupboards.

I like a lot of hearty vegetables, plus some sort of "meat" substitute, whether it be seitan or tofu, or even cooked beans would work. I cook the "meat" on its own, to add a lot of flavor to it, and so the veggies can have a little alone time. I like flavors to meld, but you also want them to be able to stand on their own, I think.



Here is how I made it

Ingredients:
Pie crust, thawed
Butter or oil
Veggies, enough to fill up the dish you are using about 1/2 of the way
Seitan, extra firm tofu or beans
Cheese
Gravy/flavorful stock/wine, that kind of thing

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter or spray a casserole or deep baking dish.

In a skillet, cook up an onion in some butter or oil. When onions start to brown, add in some veggie stock and/or wine. Keep simmering the onions. Add in some garlic in big chunks. What we are doing here is adding flavor. You want your pot pie to be nice and rich and full of flavor. Reducing stock, wine and onions will accomplish this...at least I think it does. Add spices if you want. After about 10 minutes, add in your tofu or seitan chunks. Turn down the heat and let it all simmer for 10-15 minutes, then turn off the heat. If you use gravy instead, just thin it out, or else it will be way too thick to simmer and reduce.

Meanwhile, cut up your veggies into small, bite sized pieces. I love big chunks of things, but when you eat pot pie, you want a whole bunch of different things on your fork, not just one giant piece of potato. So, bite size. For my pot pie, I used two large potatoes, one and a half carrots, two red peppers and a half bag of freezer burned peas. See, what I had on hand!!

In a big pot, heat some oil on medium heat, add another chopped onion, and let the onion get soft. Add in all the "hard" veggies, like the carrots and potato. Let this cook a bit, and sprinkle in a little salt to get rid of some excess moisture. Put in some spices if you'd like. I added in some pepper and hot pepper flakes. When the veggies are cooked a bit, add in the soft veggies, such as sweet peppers. (Don't add any frozen veggies until the end, since they are already partially cooked.) Add another healthy glug or two of wine. Put the top on the pot and let it all cook for a few minutes, until the veggies are al dente. Stir in any frozen veggies.

Go back to your seitan, and thicken up the sauce a bit by dissolving a little cornstarch in cold water, and then pouring it into the mixture and stirring. It won't thicken up now, but it will once it cooks in the oven. If you don't like the cornstarch thing, then you could do a rue, but this is the lazy way.

Pour the veggies into the casserole dish, then pour in seitan/sauce mixture and stir gently. If there doesn't seem to be enough sauce, add a bit more stock or liquid.

At the last minute, I decided to use up a small hunk of cheese by grating it on top of the veggie mixture. I didn't stir it in because I wanted it to kind of stick to the pie crust on top.

Place your pie crust on top of the whole sha-bang, cutting off any excess crust hanging over. I put the extra crust right on top of the other crust, and stuffed some in my mouth, and gave a tiny piece to the dog. Poke a few holes in the crust for the heat and gravy to bubble through. Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Turn the dish 180 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Then take off the foil, give it a quarter turn, and bake another 15 minutes or until the pie crust is nice and dark and the gravy is bubbling. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve in a bowl, maybe with a slice of cheddar.

Oh YUM!

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March 8th, 2013


01:55 pm - Quiche
I never have been a huge egg fan, but since I've become a runner, I've realized that my body does really well with them. In Mexico, we would have some form of eggs/beans/tortillas most mornings, and I always felt full and energetic well into the afternoon. At home I'm hungry for second breakfast by 10am, even first breakfast was something hearty.

DSCF3116

Therefore, I'm trying to incorporate more eggs into my diet. It's hard to find time to cook eggs before work, so making quiche is a great option, since you can just warm up a slice and eat it on the go. The other day I wanted to make a quiche since I had a crust that had been in the freezer since December. I just used what I had on hand, and it came out quite good! The only thing I would change is that cheese needs to be a top layer, even if its just a sprinkling. My quiche top was a little too rubbery without it.

DSCF3117

This is how I made it. Excuse the lack of defined measurements and temperatures. You know how I roll!

Easy quiche

*one crust (homemade or store bought)
*five to six eggs
*ricotta cheese (this was leftover from making lasagne, which is why I used it...I used a lot, probably a full cup)
*shredded cheddar or other cheese, for top layer
*assorted veggies and herbs, cut up small (I used zucchini, a yellow pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro)
*oil or butter
*salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 or 375 degrees.

Bake the crust in the oven until it just starts to brown around the edges. This will keep the crust from getting soggy on the bottom from all the veggies.

In a pan with a little butter or oil, saute the veggies and sprinkle in a little salt. The salt will help draw out any excess moisture. Cook until the veggies start to brown. Turn off heat, then stir in herbs.

Beat the eggs well, then mix in ricotta. Add in salt and pepper if you want.

Put veggies on the bottom of the crust. Pour on egg mixture. Add a layer of cheese on top.

Bake 30-45 minutes. You really have to check on it at 30 minutes and go from there. The center should not be too jiggly, but it will cook and firm up as it cools. If you notice the crust browning too much, cover with foil.

Let cool a bit, cut and serve!

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February 28th, 2013


09:36 am
Homemade muesli is my newest discovery. It is another one of those recipes where you can just use what you have, and it's even easier than granola! For this, I did toast the oats, coconut and nuts just to add a little bit of toasty flavor.

To eat it, I've read everything from letting it soak overnight in milk to you must NEVER use a dairy product to use only a bit of apple juice and eat after just a minute or so. Who cares about being a purist...just eat how you like it!



For this version, I used rolled oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, unsweetened coconut, a little vanilla (also not purist), chia seeds, crystallized ginger and some almost dried up dates I found in the back of the fridge. I just cut up the dates very small, mixed it with the oats to break up the sticky mess, and it worked perfectly! To serve, I use strawberries from last summer's garden or blueberries and a little milk and leftover coconut milk that needs to be used up. In other words, I bought NOTHING to make this big batch of muesli, which will last me about 2 weeks.

This is the perfect breakfast. Not too heavy, full of protein and just sweet enough.

Have you even eaten muesli? How do you fix it?

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February 13th, 2013


08:29 pm - Pantry Granola
During this slow season for N's work, we are on a tight tight tight budget.  One thing I never really budget for is food.  I love food, I love GOOD food and think its important, so I spend a lot of money every week to fill our cupboards.  This past weekend, I went grocery shopping with thrift on my mind.  (And spent a mere $24 instead of upwards of $50...go me!)

Since I run, I need a good breakfast, which is especially important right after a morning run.  One thing that works well for me is granola with lots of nuts for protein.  For what it is though, granola is ridiculously expensive.  Why is that?  The cheaper granolas have sugar or brown sugar as the second ingredient...not what I'm looking for.  After looking at the prices and comparing labels, I said "Screw it, I'll just make my own".  Sigh...I say that a lot.

When I got home I decided I would make granola from what  I could dig up from the cupboard.  This is what I came up with, and I have to say, it is pretty tasty!  The base is oats, then lots of nuts, some fun stuff, top off with a little oil, sweetener and maybe some juice.  I know people do all sorts of complicated things for granola, but this is easy, yummy, full of protein, has little sugar, and was practically free since I didn't buy one special ingredient.

This is what I did for my Pantry Granola:

Put a bunch of old fashioned oats in a bowl. 
Cut up a bunch of nuts, or leave them whole, whatever you prefer.  I added pine nuts, walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds.  It's what I had on hand. 
Poured in some coconut, unsweetened. 
Threw in some chia seeds, still contemplating  why I bought those months ago. 
Found an orange in the fridge and took a few swipes of the skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut that up small and added it to the mix. 
Found some sub-par almost dried up dates in the back of the fridge and cut them up small. 
Poured on a bit of veggie oil (just a few tablespoons), a healthy amount of maple syrup, and a few glugs of orange juice. 
Sprinkled on a little salt. 
Stir, and baked at 325 for about 30-40 minutes on a baking sheet, stirring a few times.  I put it on parchment paper to bake because I had that on hand.  When done, the granola should be dry and lightly browned.






Please excuse the cell phone pictures.  It's what I had on hand!  :)

I've been eating it all week with blueberries N and I picked this summer and froze, with milk.

I hope this inspires you to take a peek in your pantry and create something!

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December 27th, 2012


07:46 pm - Some things are best to leave to professionals
I am lucky enough to have 10 glorious days off from work.  Lucky me!  Vacation is half over, and I'm stuck feeling stressed about all the things I haven't accomplished, instead of relaxing and reveling in all the things I HAVE.  What I have done are some things that I've been wanting to do for ages, but never have the motivation, especially because they aren't exactly "important".  Things like going through my overflowing recipe holder, going through the "important box" that contains everything from insurance information to the manual for the lawn mower, finishing some craft projects, bathing the dog, etc etc.  Still left to do are cleaning the cellar, going through our food cupboards, having Christmas with N's mom, going to Boston hopefully on Monday, etc.

One thing I have done a bit of is cooking, though honestly not TOO much since we have been eating our way through the Christmas lasagne.  I spent a good part of Monday making homemade bagels.  I was really excited to make the best bagels EVER.  Unfortunately, they turned out a little lackluster.  Plus, I think I chose the most complicated recipe that I could find.  (I chose the recipe because it gave weight measurements, and I really like that for baking.)  Needless to say, homemade bagels goes on my mental list of food to "Buy, not make".  I might give it another go if I didn't have a hole in the wall bagel shop about 2 miles away with the most perfect bagel I've ever eaten.

The flavor of the homemade bagels is fine, hands down better than any frozen supermarket bagel, but I think I got impatient and didn't give them enough time to rise because I used regular, not instant yeast.  I also used regular flour and just added a little wheat gluten, because I didn't have bread flour.  They also look funky.  Like, werid.  See?



Tell me about your epic food fails!

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December 23rd, 2012


12:22 pm - Impressive and easy
I love homemade gifts that look oh so impressive, but are SUPER easy to make.  Chai Caramels is one such example.  I used this recipe with absolutely no alterations, and it turned out divine.  The only "problem" is that the recipe makes SO MANY.  Seriously, well over 100 pieces.  The pieces are fairly small, because no one wants a mouthful of caramel, right?  You only want a bite to melt in your mouth.  I used this chai because it is the best chai I have ever had, and it is fairly local (blended in Vermont). 



The caramels were wrapped over a series of days, and I kept the caramel chunk stored in the fridge in the meantime.  I think they will keep well for quite awhile, but since it does contain butter and heavy cream, I think storing them at room temp is sort of iffy.  Am I right, or just being paranoid?



I wrapped some of the caramels in parchment, but after I ran out of that, switched to wax paper.  The wax paper was actually preferable because you can see the pretty color of the caramel better, and wax paper is a little more bendy.  (That is really too bad, because "parchment" sounds so fancy, doesn't it?  And I'm a complete sucker for anything fancy sounding.)  It takes a few tries to get the knack of wrapping without ripping the paper, so just be patient and gentle.  Just use a small piece of wrapper...I used a rectangle about 3 by 1.5 inches.

Wrapped up in a little box or bagged with a ribbon and tag, these would be the ultimate little something for your neighbor or the hostess/host of a holiday party.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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December 17th, 2012


07:58 pm

Like so many other people, I've been feeling really sad because of Friday's events at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Of course, I was really REALLY angry and sad.  On Friday night, N and I got into arguments about guns which ended up in me saying something to the effect of "I don't know if I can even be with you anymore!!".  (We also both learned that we are both unclear on the details of what current gun laws are and have some research to do.  We also came to the conclusion that we both are in the process of figuring this out, and how complicated it is, and that we probably agree more than disagree.  But I digress.) 

Saturday morning I woke up to the free version of our local paper on my doorstep...you know, that kind that contains about one article and the rest coupons.  Horrifyingly, the front page of the paper was a portion of this story.  I let them know with a phone call and a facebook post that this was NOT OK.  I mean, seriously, WTF, right?!

On Saturday the only thing I could think of doing was to light a bunch of candles.  Years ago I bought a bag of 100 tea lights that was practically unused.  I scrounged up 26 jars and placed them in a row in our front flower bed,  put in the tea lights and lit them all.  I wasn't sure if anyone would "get it" since it also just looked kind of Christmas-y and festive, but I didn't care, because I was putting the candles out for my own sanity.



Luckily, Sunday I was able to get out of my head a little by getting out of town.  When I got home it was snowing, so I didn't light the candles since they would just go out.  I just turned over each jar so it would not fill with snow.

Tonight when it got dark, I went out to replace the candles and light them again.  I turned each jar right side up again and put in a candle.  At one point I noticed that there were two extra jars there, with tops.  "That's funny," I thought.  "Why did I put tops on these?  And they are right side up.  Huh?"  That's when I realized that a neighbor must have put them there. 

I had forgotten the two other people who lost their lives who were not at the school, and my neighbor reminded me by giving me the jars.  I was torn.  I had intended to add another candle tonight for the mother, but hadn't considered of adding one for the shooter?  I hated him, didn't I?  He killed all those people.  If I light a candle for him, what does that say about me?  Do I put his candle someplace else?  A part of me felt like it should be far, far from the others, you know, like in the backyard.  Or the garbage.

Then I got the message.  We have failed all the people that have died, as a society.  Each life that was lost is awful.  No life is more important than another one, and whew, it really is hard to type that with some thoughts that I've been feeling.  I don't know why this happened, and anyone that tells you that they "know" why is full of shit.  It is complicated and multi-faceted, and I really don't think there is one reason.

I really do not know who left the extra jars.  But whoever it was, I appreciate the sentiment.

Peace, all.

P.S.  Feel free to share your thoughts if you wish, but I will not engage in debate regarding this post.  I am merely sharing my raw thoughts on this topic at an emotional time.  As a thinking person I expect my stance on issues to develop and change as I learn and grow.


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