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I remembered that I had a blog this morning when I received an email asking me to renew my domain name. I figured that as long as I’m paying for this….I maybe should update it now and then. I’ve been scratching my writing itch for the last several months by using an actual physical journal; I’ve always enjoyed nice pens, plus using a paper journal means that I don’t have to pay attention to proper sentence structure or, you know, making sense.

But does it really matter if I make sense? Meh.

Because I haven’t posted in a long time, I’ll make this entry into a list so that I don’t get overwhelmed and delete it before I finish.

  1. Lately, I’ve been reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Had heard a lot of good stuff about it but didn’t want to spend $80 for the series on Amazon, and could not find all the books at McKays ever, so I finally started reading this when I remembered that Nashville has a library and I have a library card. It’s sooooo deliciously good. I haven’t been so engrossed in a book series since the Ender’s Game books, about 4 years ago. I’m going to the library today to see if they have book #6 ready for me to pick up yet…..
  2. Also lately, I finally started playing Elder Scrolls Online. Had held out for a while because it’s an MMO (massively multiplayer online) and I’ve never played that kind of game before. I haven’t spent much time playing the game yet, but so far I don’t hate it but also don’t love it. The quests (SO FAR) are suuuuper easy and I don’t really know how to do anything yet. But I’m hoping to learn some stuff over the weekend. May or may not update you later.
  3. Probably anyone reading this has seen pictures (or heard me go on about) our pool this year. It’s a blow-up kiddie pool. But it is PERFECT for cooling your body temperature down and just relaxing. Make fun of me all you want, I don’t even care. This year we bought some chlorine tablets and a little floaty dispenser thing, and it’s been helping A LOT to keep the water clean and clear. Highly recommend.
  4. I’m also reading this book called THE DANCE OF ANGER by Harriet Lerner. My therapist recommended that I read it, because she thinks I’ve had a lot of stuff in my life that should have made me angry, and she thinks I probably am a “bottler.” I have a lot of thoughts on this but am not sharing any until I finish reading the book and have a better mental grasp on everything.
  5. We’re tentatively planning a trip to Boston this fall! I’m hoping that it works out, although I also would not mind just spending a week at home – doing stuff like cleaning the house, baking bread, going to coffee shops in the middle of the day, maybe going to bars in the middle of the day, etc etc. ESPECIALLY since it’ll be fall. But the Boston idea sounds appealing too; I’m pushing hard for camping near a beach if we do go. Because that would be amazing. And day trip to Salem would also be amazing.
  6. Have been majorly slacking on creative endeavors lately. Heh. It happens, don’t judge. Or do, whatever. Last creative thing I did was painting a picture for a coworker (about a month ago). Or maybe making a glasses case for my sunglasses. But I’m not sure that counts since it just took about an hour. I keep meaning to make a silverware roll-up case for our camping cutlery, but I keep not doing that. It might be my next project though because I’ve been really wanting to go camping again.
  7. Which leads me to my seventh point – we just found a 4-person tent at Aldi for $30!!!! Have not actually used it yet, but need to try it out. We ALSO found a tent fan at Aldi – clips to the top of the tent and has two (I think?) speeds, plus a light. Is exciting and I want to use it.
  8. We’re (fingers crossed) going to see Roxane Gay tonight! I’m crossing my fingers because she’s a popular author, and the seats are first come first serve. And I’m curious about her new book and what she has to say about it. So, we’ll see, but I’m looking forward to it anyway!

I’m actually having a hard time coming up with more to say. I’ll leave it at this anyway, and kudos if you read through all this.

Weekend plans

Stephen’s birthday was on Wednesday, and we’re having some people over on Saturday to celebrate.  I have permission to make a birthday cake for him (!!!!) and FURTHER permission to make the Mondrian cake from this book .  I’m pretty excited.  I made this cake once before, and while it turned out fairly well, I did not have a Pullman loaf pan at the time and had to use regular-sized loaf pans.  I ended up buying a Pullman pan after I made the cake the first time, but haven’t used it since then.  I’m looking forward to making this cake for real this time.

Let me give you a general idea of how to make the cake.  It’s really FOUR cakes, all baked in that loaf pan, and then cut into long strips.  Most of the cake is white, but you also have to make a yellow cake, a red cake, and a blue cake to get a couple of strips of each color.  After baking these four cakes, you let everything cool and then VERY CAREFULLY cut your strips.  You’ll end up discarding (or saving for future trifles) most of the cake because you really only need a tiny bit of the colors, but – trifles are delicious.  And I work in an office with coworkers who will eat anything you bring.  So.

Anyway, after you have your strips, you freeze them – which makes it a lot easier to not break them in half while handling.  Then you coat everything in ganache and stick it all together.  You won’t actually know whether the cake is a success or not until you cut into the final product….but you should have a good idea based on how your ganaching went.

I’m also making pizza dough tonight.  Pizza dough, and four cakes.  It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I’m already chomping at the bit to go home.  This isn’t good.

 

Bread-baking

I’ve been around homemade bread all my life, and learned from my mom how to mix yeast and water and flour and salt.  My favorite part is the kneading, because I love to feel the dough go from a lumpy mess to a smooth round by working it with my hands.  One of my new years resolutions this year was to bake more bread, and to that end I bought the book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish (which Amazon highly recommended to me).  This book is full of recipes that approach bread-baking in a strange (to me) way; all of the recipes recommend using a very small amount of yeast and letting your dough rise for several hours – which runs contrary to my instincts, which are to use 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast and about an hour per rise.

So I decided to try this low-yeast-long-rise method of Mr. Forkish’s yesterday.  I also ordered two proofing baskets, which are definitely not strictly necessary to this technique but which do make the loaves of bread very pretty after baking.

I started around 9:30 am by mixing 7 3/4 cup of flour with 3 1/8 cup of warm water.  I let this sit for maybe 20 minutes, and then added one teaspoon of yeast and one tablespoon of salt.  I mixed this up using the “pinching method,” which basically means that you imagine you are a lobster who likes bread dough.  After getting the salt and yeast all mixed in, I let the dough rest another 20-30 minutes or so.  The “kneading” part is next, but it doesn’t really count as kneading (imo).  It’s more of a “up and over” movement – you grab a quarter of the dough from the bottom of the bowl, pull it to the top, and repeat three more times.  This particular dough is folded just two times, but it worked anyway.  After letting it rise until 4:00 ish, the dough was just as smooth and soft as if you’d kneaded it for ten minutes.

The book said to wait until the dough had tripled in size, but because I am impatient I only waited until it had doubled.  I then separated it into two loaves, and put each into their respective proofing baskets.  By the way, “proofing” is just a fancy work for the final rise.

So I let them proof another hour or so.

As it turns out, the trick to a really nice, crunchy crust is to bake your bread in a dutch oven.  I have a really nice cast iron dutch oven that I’ve been using for this.  It’s a little more complicated than just using regular loaf pans, but it’s worth it if you like a nice crust.  You put your dutch oven (lid on) into the oven and preheat to 475*.  Then you take it out, add the bread (which you’ve just gentle dumped out of your proofing basket), replace the lid, and stick it back into the oven for about 30 minutes.  After the timer goes off, take off the lid and let it back until you’re happy with the color – another 10-20 minutes.

And this is what you end up with!

In other news, I’m thinking of going on a bread and wine diet.

bread-oblong

bread

Post-Christmas Blog

As it happens every year, Christmas is over and I’m back at work.  I’ll have next Monday off for New Years, but I can’t help but wish for whatever job the people who are not clogging up the highway this week have.  (True, the decreased traffic IS nice….)

I’m sitting here this morning feeling like I need to brush my teeth and stop eating for about a week.  I might try the cabbage soup diet again.  Last time it was a miserable failure, mainly because I have no self control but not helped by the fact that Stephen has no interest in participating.  Grumble.  I would really like to not be so unhealthy though, so maybe I’ll try it for myself and let Stephen fix his own meals at night.

I got a new yoga mat last week, and I want to make a goal of doing yoga several times per week.  I enjoy yoga more than I enjoy cardio (for example), and Stephen does too, so I can foresee us getting into it if we really give it a fair shot.  I’ve never been as fat as I currently am, and I seriously want to lose some rolls.

As far as resolutions go, I also want to do more painting this year.  I’ve sort of gotten back into drawing this last year, but have not done much painting.  I want to try “life painting,” which – if nothing else – will help me to mix skin tones better.  We should start going back to the Drink and Draw meetup.  Sort of like buying a gym membership – if you pay for a month, you’re wasting your money if you don’t go.  So.

I’m pretty happy with the number of books I’ve read this last year, so don’t see much need to change that.  I ought to journal more, though.  That has definitely fallen to the side.

I’m going to start making and listing stuff on my Etsy store again this year.  I recently got some new leather so I have the stuff to make some more apothecary satchels to list, and I also want to try to sell some of those rucksacks and backpacks.  I ran out of duck fabric and all the fasteners/hardware that I was using so need to acquire more of those…but that shouldn’t be hard.  I need to keep an eye out for Joann’s canvas sales.

Anyway.  I’m blogging because I feel like I’m wasting time at work since I can’t really do any of this stuff here (excepting little desk exercises, and reading).  Tonight, the plan is to do some yoga before dinner, and then after dinner I’ll likely play more Fallout 4.  I got myself an Xbox One (birthday gift?) and have since then bought several games and finished none.  (Sad face.)  I struggle with having time to do all the things that I want to do — namely, arts and crafts and video games.

Oh another note, related to time.  We’re tentatively planning two get-aways soon.  The Tennessee Parks department is having a sale on cabin rentals through February, and we’re planning to go to Standing Stone again for a few days probably in January.  Sometime later this year (spring?) we’re going to try to get up to Boston though — and visit Salem, and possibly the Edward Gorey home in Rhode Island too.  Should be very fun.  Have never been to New England before!

 

Christmas planning, for my own sanity

We are already 20 days out from Christmas.  I have most of my Christmas gifts finished already, but for some reason I’m still feeling disorganized at the moment.  Could be because we haven’t gotten a Christmas tree yet and the house is still partially decorated for Halloween.  All the Christmas presents are sitting on my dresser in the bedroom, waiting to be wrapped.

This week is going to be fairly busy.  Tonight, after tutoring, we’re going to focus on cleaning the house.  Tomorrow we’re going to see a movie at the Belcourt.  Wednesday is dinner with some friends.  Friday is a Seu Jorge concert at Marathon.  Thursday is looking like it’ll be the day for Christmas tree acquiring and decorating, then.  This weekend we need to do some shopping around for finishing touches to some presents, and I also do still need to make one or two presents.

Will need to devote the weekend after next to baking.  We’re going to Chattanooga for an early Lamb Christmas on the 23rd, and then to my parents’ for Christmas on the 25th — so I won’t have as much time as usual for baking.  May end up skipping the rugelach this year and just doing a couple of batches of babka, and some linzertorte perhaps.  Would be a shame to not make any linzertore for Christmas, after all.

So anyway.  One reason I’m glad that I’ve gotten such an early start on Christmas presents is that it ought to leave plenty of time for enjoying the Christmas tree without being surrounded by scraps of fabric and leather and a sewing machine.  If we put up the tree on the 8th, that will leave two weeks to enjoy it.  I almost want to blow off cleaning the house tonight in favor of getting a tree, but that’s  probably not a good idea.

 

Thanksgiving brainstorming!

It’s that time of year again!  I’ve sort of let November get away from me (somehow today is the half-way point) and I have about a week to prep for Thanksgiving.  I have already ordered a turkey from Porter Road Butcher, but until this morning had not actually put together a menu.  I’m probably going to consult some cookbooks when I get home, but here’s the tentative plan —

Make an Alice Waters-inspired turkey brine, and then cook the turkey with herbs and white wine.

Make Alice Waters’ cornbread stuffing.

Make gravy and a vegetarian gravy for Katie.  The regular gravy recipe I want to try is Ina Garten’s and calls for cognac and heavy cream.

Make a bourbon (or possibly cognac or brandy) vanilla cranberry sauce.

Make caramelized shallots.

Make sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes.

Make honey butter rolls.

And make Grandma’s Magic Chocolate Pie, of course.

Katie said she could bring some green vegetables, and maybe another pie.  And wine and cheese.

I’m sad that Stephen won’t be there this year, and not just because he won’t be there to help with paying for groceries (ha, ha)!  At least I’ll be able to sit around playing video games that weekend and eating Thanksgiving leftovers without feeling guilty, though!  (If you’re reading this, I will definitely miss you.  I’m just trying to make myself feel better about not being in London.)

So far my Thanksgiving schedule is thus.

Saturday/Sunday

Go grocery shopping

Clean out the fridge before grocery shopping

Get Thanksgiving stuff out of garage (e.g. roaster etc)

Make pie crust(s)

Monday/Tuesday

Make cornbread for stuffing

Chop veggies for brine, stock

Make cranberry sauce

Clean house, prep linens, centerpiece, etc

Wednesday

Take Stephen to the airport

Pick up turkey

Brine turkey

Prep stuffing

Prep sweet potato casserole

Prep mashed potatoes

Make pie

Make whipped cream

Thursday

Make stock

Make turkey

Make rolls

Caramelize shallots

Make gravy

Make mashed potatoes

Bake stuffing

Bake sweet potato casserole

Set table, etc etc etc….

 

I think that just about covers it!  I guess I’m done planning, then?  Already wrote out my grocery shopping list too.  I need to work on dragging out my planning sessions a little longer….

Update, continued.

Anyway.  Too many picture in the previous entry — computer was being slow.

Here is what I’ve been up to.  In no particular order.

I’ve been working on the DLC in Fallout New Vegas lately.  Also bought Dishonored on Saturday but after a few hours, swapped it out for FNV.  Because, next to Skyrim, that’s gotta be the best game I’ve played.  I would have been playing Skyrim but I think somehow the DLCs I have saved on my hard drive have been corrupted — because each time I try to start it, the xbox freezes on the “Loading Downloadable Content” screen and won’t do anything without being reset.  Pretty sad, but.

I hadn’t actually been playing that much before this last weekend, though — I’ve been working on Christmas presents which I want to tell you all about but can’t.  So…I’ll just say that I want to keep them all.  They’re turning out so well!

I’ve also been doing some adult literacy tutoring, which is proving to be a very rewarding activity.  Makes me feel like I’m not a total schmuck, and I can do it as often or infrequently as I want.  I’ve just been doing one hour/week so far, but can see myself expanding that potentially.  We’ll see.  I feel like I’m at my capacity for enjoyable busy-ness, though, and that if I add something else I’ll have to maybe get rid of something too.  I was so happy to be able to mainly just hang around the house all weekend — after having people over on Friday.  It was delightful!  The house was fairly clean, so I was able to game mostly guilt-free.  🙂

OK, anyway.  Expect another update in 2-4 months.

Semi-annual update

Just realized that I haven’t blogged since July.  Oops!

We had a Hallowe’en get-together on Friday, and I had a ton of fun decorating and fixing spooky hors d’oeaurves for it.  Made pretzel spider legs and Stephen made marinara sauce to go with them.  Also made stuffed jalapeno mummies, and a cheese ball shaped like a pumpkin.  Oh, and I made jello shots with apple cider, apple schnapps, and fireball.  Was delicious!

foodz

So I played Silent Hill 2 for the first time about a month or two ago.  It’s a horror/survival video game from like 1998 or something. – so graphics weren’t great, but it was SO creepy.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought that some elements would work perfectly as Halloween decor.  Unfortunately, no one who came over on Friday had ever played Silent Hill, but!  They are all at least aware of its existence now, anyway.

This is the in-game screen shot of this picture of Pyramid Head —

silent-hill-2

And here is my rendition.

pyramidpyramid-2

Also, the infamous “There was a hole here” message —

download

and here it is outside of the bathroom.

hole

Also made “floating candles” to go outside – which ended up looking cool enough to keep up indefinitely.

floating-candlesfireplacewitch

I realize that this is a short work week.  Tomorrow is Friday, not Thursday.

However.

I’m tired.  And the news is making me more tired.  And I want to go hide at home and sew a quilt.

That’s all; I’m working on my first cup of coffee so am hoping that things look up from here!