Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve, aka Food Prep Wednesday

Today, the day before Thanksgiving, was spent getting all the food preparation done. Some families live for Black Friday shopping. We delight in Food Prep Wednesday. It's become a bit of a familial challenge to see just how much we can get prepared on Wednesday without sacrificing flavor. This year has been pretty successful, if I do say so myself. Tomorrow's menu looks something like this:
  • Honeybaked ham
  • Smoked turkey breast
  • Bacon-wrapped green bean bundles
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Crock pot mashed potatoes
  • Marshmallow topped sweet potatoes (brought by guests)
  • Cranberry sauce (brought by guests)
  • Yeast rolls
  • Individual pumpkin cheesecake pies
  • Nutella fudge
Between me and my sister in the past 18 hours, we have steamed the green beans, mashed and seasoned the potatoes, made extra cranberry sauce because our guests are notoriously stingy when it comes to cranberry sauce, made a test batch of yeast rolls and then made another batch plus more dough to be baked tomorrow, and completely prepared the pies and fudge. For those keeping track, that means all that's left to make from start to finish is the dressing and the Brussels sprouts. Those two dishes are Mom's to make.

Reward for such miraculous completion? Relaxation tomorrow morning. I will sit back with a mimosa or cranberry cocktail or whatever else I decide to drink and enjoy every second of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Broadway musical performances that are featured before the parade makes its way to Macy's. Spoiler: the musicals are my favorite part. My family teases me endlessly because I actually turn into an excited child.

How about a few pictures from today?!

Test batch of the yeast rolls rising

RIP Test Batch. You were delicious.

They were particularly delicious with Nutella.

Bubbling dough for tomorrow during its first rise
Cranberry sauce simmering away, and Sis's adorable individual pies in the back

Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crescent Roll FAIL

I had incredibly high hopes for my Artisan Bread in 5 to make delicious and beautiful crescent rolls. After all, the authors made lovely ones, so why couldn't I?!

Yeah... let's just say it was pretty clear the crescent roll deities were against me on this one.

Rolled out and sliced. This is about the point I started noticing the dough was really sticky and that each sliver would sort of rise when I sliced it.
Of course, rather than be discouraged, I pressed onward, brushing each of the slices with olive oil and sprinkling them with Italian seasoning.

And that's as far as I got with crescent rolls. I stretched and rolled three slivers and they were perhaps the ugliest approximations of crescent rolls I have EVER seen. With my sticky doughy hands, I wasn't able to take any pictures of the little roll-monsters and to be honest, it's probably a good thing. It might have scared people off of bread.

Instead, the three roll-monsters and the remaining slivers got balled up and stretched into a standard bread in 5 boule:
It sat to rise, baked for the required 30 minutes, and came out of the oven smelling absolutely delicious and Italian seasoning-y. 
Just look at that crumb! No lie, I've been staring at the full-sized version of that picture for a good two minutes drooling. Sis and I claimed this loaf as our own and destroyed it over the course of the day. It was wonderful with butter.

Tomorrow I might try dinner rolls to see if that has better results. I think part of my issues stem from the ridiculous weather we've been having. We've had rain, rain, and more rain, and though my boules have turned out better than any I've made before, the dough is super sticky. I did thoroughly enjoy the Italian seasoning though. Next time I think I'll toss in some garlic too. Mmm garlic.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful Post #2

Yesterday I was thankful for my family. Today I'm thankful for my alone time because sometimes the family can be a little too overwhelming.

We went to brunch this morning and after that, I kept to myself for much of the afternoon working on a few of the projects that I have going. The Roses cross stitch kit has been washed and dried. Tomorrow it'll be ironed. Today is its future owner's birthday, so she got a lovely picture of it and is insanely enthusiastic about it, which is always a good feeling.

I mixed up a batch of the master recipe and made a loaf of bread from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipe book this afternoon too. If you haven't tried it and have an interest in making bread, try this book. I've tried everything from sourdough to sweet breads to yeast breads and nothing was ever as satisfactory as I wanted it to be. The AB5M technique is so incredibly easy and makes delicious breads. And my favorite part is that you're not limited to the recipes in the book. The writers run a blog where they post new variations on the recipes from their books. I've made breakfast bread cups with egg and cheese and several different styles of loaves to great success. Tomorrow I'll be testing a crescent roll recipe from the blog in preparation for Thanksgiving.

When I wasn't working on projects or making bread, I was enjoying my own company. I'm a rather solitary, independent person. I like being around people and am quite social when I want to be, but I love being alone. I like to let myself get lost in thought. I like to plot out new adventures or projects to try. Being alone lets me take stock of how I'm feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. I woke up this morning and knew I was going to need alone time today, so I made sure to set aside the time I needed to recharge.

I'm thankful that I have the means to give myself enough "me time" to stay sane and that I surround myself with people who respect my boundaries and my need for alone time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful Post #1

So I figured with Thanksgiving coming up, I'd post some things I'm thankful for, and in honor of my family being in town, the first of these is about them.

We're all healthy, we're happy, and for the most part we get along and enjoy spending time together. Today started with a family breakfast after my mother woke up early (like 5:30 AM early) and started puttering around the kitchen. Shortly after, my sister and I made an emergency run to the electronics store to pick up a few cables so we could watch a football game. We lounged around the house for the better part of the day and never once did the conversation feel forced or awkward.

My family is nuts. We're a little neurotic, a little strange, and quite often much more passionate about things than the people around us. But we love and support each other and that's something I treasure so much.

Mom, Dad, Sis, should you read this, know that I am so thankful for you and all that you do each and every day. And yes, I'll be right there to set up the TV so you can watch old shows on my Netflix account.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Crock Pot Spaghetti

Yesterday I promised a recipe for spaghetti in the crock pot. Today I make good on that promise! This recipe is from my mom's Mega Book of Recipes, which I'm sure means that she found it online somewhere. Nevertheless, it is easy, tasty, and pretty easily customizable.

Supplies (L to R): Frozen meatballs, dried Italian seasoning, red sauce, diced tomatoes, slow cooker liners, spaghetti, onion, garlic.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Final Countdown

In a little less than 24 hours, my family's flight will be landing and I will be picking them up. The kitchen is finished, the house is clean, and by tomorrow, all the furniture will be back in its original location. It's been a whirlwind of a few days around here. Everything miraculously fits in the cabinets and the new refrigerator, which is the only one available that's as narrow as it is. The contractor and I are best buds now and are secretly plotting various ways to chew out the subcontractors who don't show up on time.

For the first time in about two months, I'm back in my own bed. My bed is a cloud of perfection and I had forgotten just how utterly cozy it is. And apparently, I'm a stress knitter. Remember my Scylla socks I started five days ago? Yeah, I finished the knitting on them.

I'm so excited for my family to get here. I can't wait to see them, of course, but I also can't wait for them to see the new kitchen. I've been staring at it partially done for weeks now and it's going to be great to finally see someone react to it that hasn't been seeing it every day.

And tomorrow, I'll have a crock pot spaghetti recipe to share. It's easy and delicious and you end up with the most tender meatballs ever. There's an easy joke in there. I'm too worn out to find it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


So I missed blogging yesterday. I literally looked up at about 11:30 last night and went, "Oh crap. I forgot to write!" At that point I was exhausted and couldn't even pull together a couple pictures to post, so I'm giving myself that one single day and will continue on through the rest of the month.

I'm actually feeling rather unmotivated in general. I've fallen into a bit of a funk and I'm not quite sure how I got here or how to get out. I'll probably end up pushing through it and forcing myself to do just a little bit at a time. I've got the Unfuck Your Habitat app for my phone, so I'll fire it up tomorrow and use its 20/10 timer to work in chunks.

I'm also very much a person who likes to delineate spaces for certain things and because of my house's floor plan, the kitchen remodel has forced me to essentially live in one room. Usually I can go to my desk to work, lounge on the couch and knit, and sit at the table to eat. Now I'm operating entirely out of the master bedroom, which is stuffed full with a king size bed. I know that everything in the house will be back to normal by Friday (when my parents and sister get here) but for the next few days in particular, it just seems like there's so much to do and I just can't find the motivation.

We'll see how tomorrow goes!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


As I write this post, I am eating the most delicious meal I have eaten in about a month. It's nothing special: some Asian-inspired meatballs and rice with teriyaki sauce from Budget Bytes. So why is it so delectable? Because for the first time in over a month, I got to cook on a stove instead of in my crock pot and wash dishes in a kitchen sink instead of my bathroom sink.
Yeah, it was that good.
Yep, the kitchen remodel is so close to finished that I can use it! There are a few cabinets that I can't use because the refrigerator is too tall, but it all works and I am l.o.v.i.n.g. it. The builders will be back tomorrow to fix everything and hopefully by the middle of the week, the interior will be completely done. Now I just need the washer and dryer to be up and running and I'll be fully functioning again.
And apart from getting my kitchen back, I started work on a pair of socks for Giftmas and Nerd Wars. It's the Scylla pattern (Rav link) and is meant to be knit in a variegated yarn, but I'm loving the textured look that knitting it in a solid color gives.
Tomorrow I'm off to pick up even more Thanksgiving supplies, including our honey baked ham. Fingers crossed that the new refrigerator is in place by the time I get home because if it's not, I'm not sure where I'm going to put the ham!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

WIP Update: One Less WIP!

Remember the Gathered Pullover? The knitting and weaving in is done! I finished today while watching my poor Northwestern Wildcats lose to Michigan. What a tragic game. 
On the plus side, I got a great new sweater. It has yet to be blocked (and it certainly needs it) but it fits and is cozy and I'm quite happy with it. It'll get a good blocking tomorrow since the only blocking surface I have right now is my bed. 

And now it's one less project in the project basket! Now to get started on the sewn napkins for Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving Supply Trip

Oof. I'm exhausted. In one week, I will have picked up my family for their Thanksgiving visit. We will probably be eating spaghetti and gushing over how awesome the kitchen looks. Maybe after that, we'll put a movie in and be incredibly lazy for a Friday night.

But today? Today, just seven short days before my family arrives, I was running all over town. Mom has been watching the grocery store circulars and this morning I got my marching orders for grocery shopping. I made a quick stop at Wal-Mart (I know, I know) to pick up a giant new TV, a larger crock pot, and a few groceries that Mom had ordered, plus a space heater because the thermostat has decided it only wants to work if I do a tap dance around it. Then it was off to the local grocer's, where I felt a bit like an extreme couponer. Largest quantity of a single item? Six 32 oz boxes of low sodium chicken broth. I think it's for Thanksgiving's cornbread dressing.

It's strange to be doing the shopping for a family of four. For the past few months, I've just been shopping for myself. I can cook one entree recipe and two or three sides, divvy them up, and be set for a week. I only buy half-gallons of milk because I can't go through it quickly enough. I usually buy six eggs, unless I plan on doing a lot of baking. I came away with three bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts, two bags of frozen meatballs, four boxes of pasta, two dozen eggs, and two half-gallons of almond milk. And that's not even everything I bought today, nor is it everything we'll be getting in terms of groceries.

Thank goodness the kitchen will be finished soon, or I don't know where I'd put all this stuff!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

(Nearly) Wordless...Thursday

I have talked a lot the past few days, so here. Have some pictures of our soon-to-be completed kitchen remodel.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Thoughts

I know we're probably all sick and tired about hearing about the presidential election by now, but I saw this photo on the Obama campaign's tumblr and felt like I needed to share.

During a really, really interesting discussion with one of my theatre professors, Mr. C, last year, he told my class a story about a children's show he directed. It was a version of Charlotte's Web and the department invited tons of local schools to see it, including many schools in urban and lower-income areas. As Mr. C watched the students come into the theatre, he was so excited. For many of them, it was going to be the first time they had ever seen a play before. Throughout the performance, he spent more time watching the audience than watching the show. The kids fell in love with all of characters, but particularly Wilbur, and Mr. C couldn't wait until after the show because they had arranged for the actors to meet the kids in the lobby after the show.

Mr. C stayed behind in the auditorium after the show ended to congratulate the crew, as he had always done. He walked out into the lobby and saw the kids talking to all their favorite characters. As he scanned the room, there was a huge crowd of people around one particular person and he couldn't tell who it was. He started accounting for each of the actors and realized that the kids weren't crowded around any of the actors. The person that all these students had flocked to was Miguel, one of the custodians.

Miguel had been with the university theatre department for years. He was a friendly face in a cutthroat environment and he would always ask you how your day had been. He was also, Mr. C noticed as he looked around, the only person of color from the university in the room. What sort of message had their show unintentionally sent? From that point on, Mr. C told our class, he made a concerted effort to make sure that he casted his children's shows conscientiously and included as much diversity as he could.

When I saw the picture above this morning, it wasn't hard to connect this story to it.  It just reminds me how incredible it is to live when we do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spoiler Alert: It's Election Day.

Four years ago, I was a freshman in college just north of Chicago. I had sent my absentee ballot in weeks before and was anxiously awaiting the results. My dorm had a massive watch party in our great room, with CNN on the projection screen and all of the residents sitting around with our laptops discussing possible outcomes of every possible election in the country. When the presidential election was called, I was out in the hall calling a friend with updates. A music major busted out the piano and started playing "Don't Stop Believing." A few of us went outside and could hear the cheers from Grant Park. After McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech, about forty of us jumped into Lake Michigan and were subsequently given warnings by the city police for being on a public beach after sunset.

It was worth it.

This year, I'm in South Carolina. I sent in my absentee ballot weeks ago and am anxiously awaiting the results. I'll be watching the results alone but still connected with friends around the world as we discuss the possible outcomes. A friend who is studying abroad in London is staying up until the wee hours of the morning just to watch the results come in. I imagine I'll be in touch with my family when results are announced as well.

The circumstances are different than four years ago. We are facing new challenges as a country and still facing some lingering ones. I don't think anything will ever top the memories I have of 2008's election night, but it was my first national election to vote in and only my second-ever vote. I am more cautious this year, more concerned with what the future might hold, more informed about the social, political, and economic issues that face us today. A few weeks ago, I cast my ballot for the candidates I believe in.

And tonight we find out together who will be representing us in the highest governmental offices. Whatever the outcome, it is my sincerest hope that everyone made their voice heard where it counts: not on the internet with its constant barrage of noise, but at the polling place.

Happy Election Day. I hope this thing's decided by tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Value of The Arts

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea what to write about today. Fifth day of NaBloPoMo and my ideas are already running dry? Rough. And then I stumbled across an article in The Atlantic and knew what I wanted to blog about.

Should Science Majors Pay Less for College Than Arts Majors?

My degree in theatre and I both say, "No," followed by a resounding, "Go to hell." And that was the polite phrasing.

Basically, a Florida task force is recommending that the Florida state university system find a way to lower the cost of tuition for students majoring in topics "in high demand by Florida employers." So probably math, science, technology, business, et cetera into eternity. The Atlantic goes on to present a bunch of different possible problems that could arise out of actually implementing these recommendations, but really what it comes down to is that our society is continually devaluing the arts and that infuriates me to no end.

I had the privilege of being able to take a Creative Drama course during my undergraduate years in the literal birthplace of the Creative Drama movement, Evanston, Illinois. Theatre, and Creative Drama specifically, allows people to live out situations that they might never have been confronted with and offers the opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, if only for a few minutes. Children benefit from exposure to the arts. Evanston public schools have a mandatory semester of Creative Drama every year from kindergarten through eighth grade. After observing in several of those classrooms, I can say with the utmost certainty that those children were some of the most understanding and cooperative children I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

There is such a move these days toward standardization in education and frankly I find that tragic. Apparently, I was one of the last graduating classes from my public school district that actually had some say in what classes I took and how I wanted to spend my time in school. My sister, currently a junior in high school, is constantly frustrated because she feels like her teachers and administration aren't listening to what she wants. She has no idea what she wants to do after high school and is nearly always feeling the pressure to decide. She loves to make things, to learn, to meet new people. She is also incredibly budget-conscious. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have a terrible time studying something she absolutely loved knowing that she would be paying less if she were studying something that the government deemed worthy.

And that perhaps is the crux of it. No one should be able to define what is valuable when it comes to education. I am tired of having to defend my decision to major in theatre to anyone and everyone. I am bone tired of people sending me articles that list "Theatre" as one of the least employable majors, and that's not even taking into consideration that most of those lists only consider acting when they think about theatre.

Education is a valuable thing. Education is also a deeply personal thing. You have to want to learn. You have to be excited about your studies. If you're not, then it's a waste of everyone's time.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Green Sleeves

The end is in sight for my Gathered Pullover! Only about a sleeve and a half to go!

I'm really, really loving this pattern. I know it's several years old, but the decision to knit projects that have been sitting in my Ravelry queue for years on end was definitely a good decision.

I'm also working on slowly paring down my stash. It's not large by any means, but I have lots of little misfit skeins that like to hide away from view, so limiting myself to what patterns I can knit and what yarn I can use has really helped me actually use up the lovely yarn I have and knit the patterns I want to knit.

I know a lot of people like to have a lot of projects on the needles at a time and I just can't keep track of everything. When I was younger, I would check out bags and bags of books at the library, start reading them all, and then forget about one or two and rack up a huge late fee. After about the fifth time I did that, I finally learned that I lose track of things if I do too much at once, and I guess that's just carried over into my knitting.

I keep baskets around that every work in progress gets returned to after I'm finished working on it each day and it keeps me in check. As soon as the basket starts getting too full, I know I can't start any new projects and will usually pick one to focus on. Most recently, it was the roses cross stitch pattern. Now it's the Gathered Pullover. After that, I'll probably let myself pick a new project.

What I really need to do is organize my supplies again. Eek. They're a nightmare!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crock Pot Queen

When I was growing up, I could always tell when we were having pot roast for dinner. I would come home from school and the house would be filled with delicious smells. My mom loved (and still loves) cooking in a crock pot. You can throw all your ingredients into the pot, turn the thing on, and let it do its thing for hours on end without having to worry about it.

With no kitchen to speak of, I have gotten quite good at crock pot cooking. Chicken taco rice bowls, a great beef stew, Thai-inspired peanut chicken, everything's been delicious. Last night, I made brown sugar chicken and sweet potatoes, and let me tell you how easy this recipe is.

It's really easy.

There are four ingredients: 2 lbs of chicken breast, 3 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into chunks, 5 tbsp of butter (melted), and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Throw the chicken and sweet potatoes in the crock pot, mix the butter and brown sugar, pour it into the pot, sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste, and cook it for 5-6 hours on high.

Y'all. It wasn't pretty (hence the distinct lack of photographic evidence), but it was damn tasty. And it smelled so good while it was cooking that the contractor for the kitchen remodel asked for the recipe. Next time, I'll be adding a little cinnamon just to give it a little extra oomph.

On the remodeling front, progress is being made. The new cabinets are in and the painting is, for the most part, finished. Countertops are being delivered Monday and as soon as those are in, the tile backsplash can go in and appliances can be installed. And then it's just a waiting game until the county inspector comes and says everything's good to go and we can actually plug all the appliances in. And then I'll have a kitchen again! I. Can't. Wait.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Works in Progress

So as a way of keeping myself accountable, I've photographed my current crafty works in progress. Updating them once a week seems reasonable, right? Right.

Here we go!

1. Through the Woods Hood (Ravelry pattern link): All that's left to do is sew on the buttons and photograph it on a person instead of in a heap. Maybe I rope Sis into modeling for me over Thanksgiving!

I really love the color of this. It's a deep, rich red, though it's showing up more purple in the photo. I'm hoping it gets cold enough here for me to get some good use out of it.

2. Gathered Pullover (Ravelry pattern link): Just the sleeves and seaming left to do and I'm so excited about this sweater. It'll be my third sweater to knit and definitely my favorite so far.

The yarn is Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, bought on sale at my LYS. 10 skeins at a major discount was a great treat for me, since I don't knit too many sweaters because of the cost. 

3. Roses Cross Stitch: This needs washing, pressing, and framing (And apparently a picture that's actually in focus). As soon as that's all done, it'll be sent off to its new home with a close friend of mine who is an avid Glee watcher, but only because of Kurt and Blaine. I hadn't originally intended on gifting it; it was just a time-filler project that was hidden away when I had other, more pressing projects going. When I remembered that red and yellow roses were the flowers that Kurt and Blaine always give each other, I added the "Klaine 5EVA" (because five-ever is more than forever) and decided it would be going to said friend.

4. Platform 9 3/4 Cross Stitch: Over 80 colors in this thing and I'm just getting started! Progress will probably be slow going on this since it's by far the most complicated cross stitch I've done yet. But I just adore the pattern so much. I'm already thinking happy thoughts about other book related cross stitch projects that I want to do!

That's all I've got in the works right now, but it's more than enough to keep me busy. Now, if you'll excuse me, my crock pot chicken and sweet potatoes are smelling delicious and I need to find a green veggie to have with them!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another New Blog

Yes, that's right. I'm adding my voice to the millions of blogs that are already out there, because why not?

That actually seems to be a bit of a mantra for me throughout the past few years. I'm going to knit and cross-stitch and sew and craft, because why not? Hell yes I'm going to major in theatre, because why not? I'm going to challenge myself to cook one new (well, new to me) recipe every week, because why not?

I've never been one to walk away from a challenge, so when I stumbled across NaBloPoMo 2012, of course I thought, why not? The worst that can happen is that I end up right back where I started, and that's ok.

So in the real-life sphere, here's what's going on with me this month. I have a knit sweater I want to finish, several books I've started and that are now languishing, and a house that's in disarray because of a kitchen remodel. Oh, and I'm hosting Thanksgiving for my family. I'm an intern at a local theatre alliance. And I'm participating in NaBloPoMo.

Happy November!