Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been doing a lot of typing since my last post, but not really very much writing. Our situation with regard to moving plans has changed significantly recently, and it's put me in a super stressful place mentally. I'm trying to stay sane by planning, and being obsessive about planning, and doing as many things as I can think of to bring in extra funds.

So far that's been a lot of online transcription work when I can stand it, and swap meet Sundays. I think now that Thanksgiving has passed, the next time I go to the swap meet I'll have to go to SLO and see if I can get a better crowd there with more interest in my hand made items. It is prime time for picking up Christmas gifts. With this long weekend, I intend to knit like crazy, and see if I can come up with enough pieces to make my spot at the swap meet more craft-faire and less yard-sale, but we'll see.

Today was a whirlwind in the kitchen, but I find that I'm happiest there a lot of the time. We'll have leftovers to munch on for the weekend which will hopefully give me more time to get my crafts in order for the swap meet.

Reflecting on what I'm thankful for today, I realize that the position we're in is not a bad one. It's tough because the longer we're in this apartment, the harder it is financially to move out. Thinking about trying to move "all of our stuff" though is a thing I am starting to see from a new perspective. I know I have some things that are very special and important to me, and those things will definitely be coming along, but the more I look at all the stuff I've accumulated over my life, the more I see this as an opportunity to reduce what I own down to what's really important.

I've lived in California, within a bubble of about 60 miles, for almost my entire life. Every move I've made has been dozens of trips with a car dragging boxes and bins full of things to a new location. I want this time to be different. I want to get where we're going and look at what we brought and feel certain that it's only the stuff that matters.

The only part of this whole ordeal I'm still very nervous about is the part where I have to go on a hail-mary trip to what we expect will be our new hometown, and find a place for us to live in a few short days. Doing so during the holiday season might be a double-edged sword, because things like a hotel, car, and flight may prove to be more expensive, but everything I've read about moving suggests that rents are lowest during the holidays because nobody wants to be moving at that time of year, or during the winter. Hopefully that's true.

Anybody want to come with me on a brief trip to Oregon in the next few weeks?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Home-Made Cheese-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

Those of you who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Chef Gordon Ramsay. His show Kitchen Nightmares is one of my guilty pleasures, because it's largely the same story every episode. Chef Ramsay is invited to "help" a struggling restaurant fix all their problems and become a profitable business. Most of the time the restaurant kitchens are disgusting and to go along with that there are typically some kind of dramatic dysfunctional relationships between the owners and/or staff.

Now, I'm a fan of Chef Ramsay, so I tend to give him a pass on hyperbole, but just about every episode is "the most disgusting thing" he's ever seen, and the "worst food" he's ever tasted. Pepper in a bit of British slang and some curse words, and you've essentially seen almost every episode.

The episode I'm thinking of this evening has to do with two twin brothers running an Italian food joint in Cleveland. These guys were like the saddest real life Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum you can imagine. Over the course of the episode, Chef Ramsay learns that these guys have no clue about food safety, and they bring in frozen meatballs to serve their customers. He is absolutely shocked that they don't make their own meatballs from scratch seeing as it's "easy" and by the end of the episode he's got them in the streets shouting "We have home-made meatballs!" to bring in customers.

The Tweedles and Chef Ramsay
Now, don't get me started on how food made at a restaurant is not technically "home-made" unless the chef is also living there... but this got me thinking, if it's so easy, I should know how to make truly home-made meatballs.

So, I set out to learn how to make meatballs, and the truth is, it is easy. At this point, I don't really measure any of the seasonings that go into my meatballs, but I can give you a basic idea. I think everyone has their own taste anyway so give it a try and see what you like, and what you might like a little more or less of in your mix.

We've been having a game night with a local friend of ours every other week, and I started making cheese stuffed meatballs for our dinner that night. They've been a huge hit, so our guest -- being that he's a super considerate guy -- started bringing us some pasta sauce and ground turkey when he comes over for game night. Usually I make two meals worth of meatballs out of a 1lb package of ground turkey, but our friend didn't know that, so he brought us a 3lb package instead.

Queue the dramatic cooking show music, it's time to make an unusually large batch of meatballs. My apologies in advance for some of the blurry photos below.

Here's all the stuff. In retrospect I should have used a larger bowl.
Ingredients:


  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 8-12 sticks of string cheese (I like Frigo)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp each of parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, paprika
  • 2 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper


Optional:

Fresh minced garlic to taste
Cracked black pepper
More crushed red pepper or other fresh chili paste like Sambal Oelek if you like spicy meatballs


I wear nitrile gloves while making this because I like to really get in the mix and make sure it's all homogeneous before making the giant meatball into tiny meatballs.

The cheese stands alone... sort of.

First, cut up your cheese sticks. I like to cut each stick into the same number of pieces, because this will determine how many meatballs I need to make with each third (or quarter, however your brain does meat and cheese math best) of my meat mix.


Giant bowl of meat
 I divided my giant meatball into three smaller giant meatballs. Then each smaller giant meatball into 32 regular sized meatballs. 

Running out of room for all my balls

After they were all done, I put them between layers of wax paper in a tin pan that fits in my freezer. Once they're all frozen, move them into plastic ziplock bags.

Finally done, 96 meatballs
They keep in the freezer for quite a while, and all you have to do to cook them after that is brown them quickly in a little olive oil in a skillet on the stove, then add some of your favorite pasta sauce to the pan. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes to make sure they're cooked all the way through, then serve over pasta.


When I prepare this for everyone, I like to put veggies in mine instead of 2/3 of the regular serving of pasta I give everyone else. Mine is on the left, it's six meatballs with diced steamed zucchini and a fist full of arugula.

Yummmm!
If you try your hand at making meatballs for the first time, I'd love to see and hear about your experiences! Feel free to share in the comments below!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Weekends, Hobbies, and Sleeperpowers

Fridays are great, right? So much potential with the whole weekend before you. As though I could decide what to do with all that free time. Last weekend I think I slept 12 hours a night Friday and Saturday.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm pretty sure my superpower is sleep. I have sleeperpowers.

Yesterday I decided to put my word count toward a different goal and worked on some set up for future posts instead of just writing one off the cuff again. Today I think I'll talk about weekends.

I've been trying this thing where every weekend I choose one of my hobbies and kind of go at it full-on. Last weekend it was knitting (while it wasn't sleeping) and the weekend before I think I sunk like 36 hours into video games. I say "games" but I mean The Talos Principle.



It's been a very long time since I found a game I couldn't put down, but this one definitely qualifies. The Talos Principle is a philosophical sci-fi first-person puzzle game. I've gotten three or four of the possible endings so far, and I just picked up the prequel and sequel from the Halloween Steam Sale so I'm looking forward to a few more hours in that environment.



I learned the other day that the game also supports VR for those of you out there pioneering that technology. I'd love to try it in VR, It was fantastic already, but the immersion I think would be magnificent, and it's just a perfect game for that in my opinion.

Also, it made me laugh plenty of times, and maybe question reality a couple times too.



For those of you who like to watch people play games, if you add me to your Steam friends, you can request to watch a live stream of anything I'm playing from the friend list there. My username is fairyrebel, feel free to add me.

Other than games and knitting, I have a sewing project in the works. Perhaps some of you saw the pictures I posted to FB about it. I've been trying to complete a few sets of fabric covered foam curlers with little matching bags. The issue I'm having is that there's no good place for me to sit at my sewing machine and maintain good posture, so after a couple hours of work my back is basically dead. With our housing situation set to change virtually any day now, I also can't really just go out and find something to use in the meantime. I wish it was easier to sink a whole weekend into sewing. Maybe after we get moved it will be.

I wonder how the rest of you handle having multiple hobbies. How do you make time to keep up with more than one passion?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Weekly Self-Care Spa Time

I've been trying my best to take time out once every week and get in the habit of self-care. It's difficult sometimes to put down the various half-done projects and take a break specifically with the goal of relaxing, but I'm starting to get used to it.

This week I'm enjoying some products from a small vegan business based out of Gresham Oregon, which is near Portland. They're called Haus of Gloi, and they make some of the most spectacularly scented bath and beauty items. I have a variety of their scented hair oils that I use in rotation, one every week. I also am a sucker for their limited edition seasonal "butterbombs" for the bath. These little scoops are a bit different from your average bath bomb, in that they are loaded with cocoa butter and mango butter, so they leave your skin feeling soft and moisturized instead of just foaming and smelling up the bath.

This week, I chose a butterbomb from their recent Fall release, in the Burnishing Amber scent. It's described on their website as "A warm incense laden amber. Frankincense, golden opium, nag champa." Burnishing Amber certainly delivered what it promised. I've been on a real frankincense kick lately, mostly wearing a fragrance called "Scrying Smoke" from another indie house which I'll have to talk more about later.

Burnishing Amber Butterbomb

I recently got a new bath pillow after my first few weeks of spa nights, and I have to say it's one of the greatest things I've added to this ritual. I picked it up off of Amazon for around $10, it's the Epica Luxury Foam Spa Pillow. It seems like such a simple thing, but it really makes the bath tub much more comfortable.

In addition to the smell-goods and pillows for the tub, I build myself a nice bathside table out of an overturned laundry hamper and a bath towel. This week, bath time included a nice hot thermos full of Twinings Four Red Fruits tea, my iPad playing a Genius mix that turned out better than expected with how little music is actually on that thing, and the book I'm currently making my way through - Contemporary Gothic by Catherine Spooner. I saw a snippet of this book linked somewhere online and was so intrigued I had to read it for myself. The description on its Amazon page does a better job than I could of summarizing what it's about:

In Contemporary Gothic, Catherine Spooner probes the reasons behind the prevalence of the Gothic in popular culture and how it has inspired innovative new work in film, literature, music, and art. In an engaging way, Contemporary Gothic argues that this style ultimately balances a number of contradictions—the grotesque and incorporeal, authentic self-expression and campiness, mass popularity and cult appeal, comfort and outrage—and these contradictions make the Gothic a crucial expression of contemporary cultural currents.  

Rogue Wave's MySpace Transmissions, Twinings Four Red Fruits tea, and some light reading.
After my bath, I give my hair its weekly wash, and part of my advanced hair care routine these days includes a little bit of hair oil on the ends of my wet strands before they go up to dry for a while in a cotton handkerchief. This week's scent is keeping with the fall theme, another product from Haus of Gloi - Scarecrow scented hair oil. They describe the scent as "Dried corn husks, dust, straw, weathered wood and a ruffle of inky black feathers." When I first smelled it, I thought all of the "dry" elements would make me dislike it, but for some reason the first whiff always smells a bit like fresh carrots to me, followed by a surprisingly pleasant straw and amber scent that reminds me of a warm autumn day waiting for a hayride at one of the local orchards. I love it, and I put a little in my body lotion during the same week I use this on my hair. It blends wonderfully with the frankincense scent I mentioned earlier too.

These bottles are much bigger than this looks.

I'll admit, my hair routine has gotten a little more advanced than I ever thought it could. My hair is also the healthiest and possibly the longest it's ever been now. I managed to extend the time between washings gradually to once per week, which has really improved the natural body of my hair quite a bit. I use products free of sulfates, pthalates, silicones, and currently everything I'm using for my entire routine is also vegan, and cruelty free. I didn't necessarily choose the products for those values but I like that it's a side effect of caring which ingredients I opt to put on my skin and hair. This year I started up a regular habit of having my hair trimmed every three-ish months as well, and I'm due for another visit this month. I feel like for the first time in my life, I have gained the confidence and understanding to ask for exactly what I want when getting my hair trimmed, which is something that has eluded me most of my life until now. It's really empowering considering all of the nightmare salon visits I've had before, to know that when I leave after a quick trim, I'm not going to be upset and plotting my recovery plan from yet another bad haircut by the time I get home.

I'll likely be heading in for my next trim around the middle of the month, and I'm weirdly looking forward to it.

National Novel Writing Month & Yellow Chicken on Salad

November is National Novel Writing Month. Every year tons of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel within the 30 days of November, and many of them succeed. I have participated most years since around 2005, and I've come close to "winning" many times, but never ended up producing anything I was proud of. Last year I penned roughly half of a future-dystopia alien-invasion girl-power story, and I figured this year I'd just keep working on it and see how far I could get. Well, it's this year, and once again I've changed my mind about what to write for NaNoWriMo.

This year, I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to make my best effort to write every day here in this very blog and see if I can get to 50k by the end of the 30 day sprint.

Find out more about NaNoWriMo on the official website.

The past few years I've been through a lot of changes in my personal life. For a little over a year now, I've been working from home as an IT analyst for a group of animal hospitals with roughly 800 locations in the US and Canada. Before that, I spent two years mostly living out of a suitcase, traveling around the US teaching the software I now support, to staff in the hospital environment. I saw 28 states in two years, and I learned a whole lot about what a vast and variable place the USA is.

Also, if you need any tips for traveling, feel free to ask. Catching 4-8 flights a week most weeks, living out of my suitcase in a hotel, and driving a variety of rental cars, has made me something of an expert in air traveling, car renting, and hotel staying.

I picked up some new habits and interests while I was on the road. I'd like to talk about some of those things here, along with some things I'm glad to be able to do again now that I'm home all the time. I also got engaged in January to my beau of 8 or 9ish years, so wedding planning has been happening. Though a lot of the details of that are still up in the air since we plan to move, possibly far away, within the next few months.

After the jump, I'll give a rundown of what topics I expect to cover over the next month, and a recipe for "yellow chicken on salad" -- a crazy random happenstance dish we've been enjoying quite often lately.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wake

The lurching of the world below her woke her from her slumber. She struggled for a moment to understand her surroundings. 

Inside. This was the inside of a boat. 

It rolled under her and she strained to stay upright as the waves pounded it into the shore again. Had she been alone? The night had brought storms, and with them rough waters. He had insisted on hiding below deck, both of them terrified, as the tiny boat was knocked about the chopping sea like a bit of fruit in a blender. Their reserve motor had failed, that was the last thing she remembered.

She struggled to clear the fog in her head and the blur of her vision, and to pull herself off of the floor. Where was he now? Panic set in suddenly and her head cleared with a snap as she felt her heart rate increase. She looked around the small cabin frantically. Their hastily gathered belongings were strewn all over the floor and small bench inside. He was collapsed in a heap beneath a sleeping bag.

Dragging herself up on to her hands and knees, she scrambled toward him. Reaching out her hand timidly, she touched it to his face, afraid of what she might learn. The heat of his skin was enough to calm her immediately. He was alive, and he was breathing. She pulled the sleeping bag aside carefully and checked him for any obvious signs of injury. He looked as disheveled as she must, but no clear injuries, no blood. 

Another wave struck and she nearly fell on him. She steadied herself and tried to wake him as gently as possible. Whispering his name softly, she touched his face and tried to bring him around. 

"Lief, are you okay? Can you hear me? Lief, wake up. We have to get out of here."

Another wave rocked the tiny boat and it creaked against the the abuse of the ocean. He screwed up his face in pain or confusion, she couldn't tell. He opened his eyes only slightly and grimaced. She couldn't restrain herself. Leaning over him, she gave him an awkward half-hug and pressed her lips to his temple. 

As she plunked down on the floor in front of him she tried to decide if she would count that as their first kiss. Probably not, she figured. He wouldn't remember it.

"I was so worried you wouldn't wake. I don't know how long we've been here. Are you in pain? Are you injured?" she blurted out quickly, without giving him time to respond.

"What happened? Where are we?" He was also full of questions, but no answers. She decided that must mean he wasn't injured.

They briefly discussed the last of each of their memories of the night before. Grabbing his backpack and running out the door without looking back, checking nearly every ransacked boat at the docks before finding one seaworthy, taking off into the Pacific with black clouds on the horizon.

There was no way to know where they were, or if they were safe in this tiny husk of wood, but they were both alive and that was all that mattered now. The few minutes it took to collect the remains of their supplies from around the boat and pack them back into to the bag seemed like ages. When they had the last of their provisions secured they shared a glance around the tiny wooden shell that had carried them to safety as it rocked in the surf.

"I can't believe we made it this far." he marveled. "Come on, we have to make some time and get away from here. I don't know how we're going to find somewhere safe to hole up for the night if it gets too dark." 

He grabbed her hand and they headed up the shore to a darkening wall of trees not far in the distance.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pacific Blue Dragon Egg Shells

Sally Hansen's Xtreme Wear Pacific Blue and OPI Hands Off My Kielbasa!


This manicure was something I had high hopes for, and though I was a little disappointed with it, I still really enjoyed wearing it for a few days. How subtle the pink stamping is over the vibrant blue was an unexpected joy to behold.  I had some help selecting which manicure to review this week, and though I didn't see it at the time, I think my friend's description of these as "dragon egg shells" is right on. This is Sally Hansen's Pacific Blue stamped with OPI's Hands Off My Kielbasa! and MoYou US Plate #217.

Pacific Blue is a fantastic cream blue, and one of my favorite polishes. Hands Off My Kielbasa! is a red-shimmering pink with a bit of a gold undertone, and with as often as I wear it, I'm sure you'll see it reviewed here later. I was a little disappointed in how it stamped, but I don't blame the polish so much as the plate.

Plate #217 from MoYou US is my first plate from this shop, and boy oh boy was I unhappy with the result from it. The designs are just so gorgeous online and on the plate, but the images are SUPER small and so intricate that I could not get it to stamp well with any polish I tried, and there was no way the narrow images would cover my whole nails. My nails aren't even that big really, though they are exceptionally long here compared to my average.

In the future I will probably not purchase any more plates from MoYou US, though the MoYou UK plates are some of the nicest I have ever had the pleasure of using. Don't get the two confused!


...and now for the scoring part -- The Finger Scale!

On a scale of one (I'll let you guess which one) to ten (ALL IN!) fingers, I give Pacific Blue:

Cost: 10 fingers - These polishes from Sally Hansen are very reasonably priced at around $2-3 each, and for the coverage they are a super bargain.

Coverage: 8 fingers - You can usually get away with one coat of this color, though two looks more uniform.

Wear: 9 fingers - This particular shade wears a long time with or without top coat.

Clean-up: 7 fingers - It's blue, it can stain your skin if you aren't careful, but it comes of easily with acetone or non-acetone remover.

Color: 10 fingers - The color in the bottle and on the hand are completely identical and I always get what I expect from this line of polishes.

Final Score: 9 fingers!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bond with Wild Violets

Bond With Whomever by Essie with Revlon's Wild Violets




Bond With Whomever is a fabulous purple cream from Essie. It was my first Essie polish and secured a place in my heart for the brand, both by being an awesome color, and by having a great formula. It's a springy color, and it's shown here paired with dotted flowers in Wild Violets from Revlon, with glitter centers in Scorpio from Color Club.


Funny thing about Wild Violets...



I couldn't stop smelling my nails. I LOVE Choward's Violet candies!

...and now for the scoring part -- The Finger Scale!

On a scale of one (I'll let you guess which one) to ten (ALL IN!) fingers, I give Bond with Whomever:

Cost: 8 fingers - Essie is among the higher-end drug store polishes, but is not super expensive, and you get a lot of wear for your money.

Coverage: 9 fingers - This reaches opacity in 1-2 coats and is so shiny It hardly needs a top coat.

Wear: 8 fingers - I wear this when I travel and it often looks as great when I land as it does when I leave.

Clean-up: 8 fingers - The unoffensive milky color removes easily and doesn't stain.

Color: 10 fingers - The color in the bottle and on the hand are completely identical and completely awesome.

Final Score: 9 fingers!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scalding Emerald Dragon

Covergirl's Scalding Emerald with Essence Gold Holographic Glitters




Scalding Emerald is a very pretty olive colored micro-glitter which leans gold or even a bit red in the right lighting. It was released as part of the Hunger Games collection from Covergirl, and I love that there were minis available because they are so much easier to take through the airport in my carry-on bag. This was my first try at individually hand-placed glitters, and the effect of the gold holographic glitter from Essence along with this beautiful polish was a bit like dragon scales on my hand. I was amused by how many times other people compared it to dragon scales too.


...and now for the scoring part -- The Finger Scale!

On a scale of one (I'll let you guess which one) to ten (ALL IN!) fingers, I give Watermelon Rind:

Cost: 9 fingers - Covergirl is inexpensive, even more so when you buy mini. In some of their cosmetic products the cost leads to a drop in quality, but I do love some of the polishes they come out with, and the micro-glitters in this collection are great.

Coverage: 6 fingers - This color needed at least three coats to achieve opacity, and is still not as opaque as I would like at the cuticle.

Wear: 9 fingers - This particular shade wears a long time with or without top coat.

Clean-up: 7 fingers - It's glitter, yes, but it's pretty easy to remove and came off a lot easier than I anticipated.

Color: 10 fingers - The color in the bottle and on the hand are completely identical and I felt like I got exactly what I expected.

Final Score: 8 fingers!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Orange Party Dinosaurs




Custom Darling Diva Polishes!!!

The winnings: She's Kayzee!!!, Shake Your Tail Feathers, and Whip 'er Hahr


My first successful gradient of She's Kayzee!!! and Whip 'er Hahr


She's Kayzee!!! stamped with Sally Hansen's Cherry Red, Maybelline's Twilight Rays, and Mash plate #74


In April, I won a gift from a massive "Orange Party" giveaway over at Superficially Colorful and shortly after that my custom polishes from Darling Diva arrived in my mailbox. These are my first indie polishes, and what everyone says about indies is true - once you have one, you're going to want more.

I'll stick to reviewing the colors used in my gradient here, as I've only worn Shake Your Tail Feathers once and it is such a pretty orange holo that I think it deserves its own photo review later. 

She's Kayzee!!! is a color I never ever would have chosen for myself. It is still the only yellow in my whole arsenal, and boy is it a gorgeous one. It's got shimmer and sparkle, both in fine micro-glitter particles and in a bit of an opalescent flake glitter tossed in the mix.

Whip 'er Hahr looks to lean a bit more red in the bottle than it does on the hand. It's a beautiful red-orange version of She's Kayzee!!! and packs the same sparkly punch in a warmer shade.

This was a first attempt at stamping with Twilight Rays, and I would not recommend it. It was very very smudgy and did not stamp well at all. Cherry Red on the other hand, was a fabulous stamping polish, as are many of the Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear line.

Mash plate #74 is such a fun plate, and all the images together made for a really cute manicure. I especially loved the full nail suns print, and will definitely use this plate again.




...and now for the scoring part -- The Finger Scale!

On a scale of one (I'll let you guess which one) to ten (ALL IN!) fingers, I give She's Kayzee!!! and Whip 'er Hahr:

Cost: 6 fingers - These particular polishes were a prize in a giveaway so I can't comment on what a custom polish would normally cost, however, as an indie brand Darling Diva's new releases tend to be a few dollars more per bottle than high-end drugstore polish.

Coverage: 6 fingers - These both come to opacity in 3-4 coats which can be a bit much if you are pressed for time. They also look fabulous over a more easily opaque base coat of white or black... or any other complimentary color to their shade.

Wear: 9 fingers - The formula is great and these colors wear for quite a long time.

Clean-up: 7 fingers - It's glitter folks. It can be difficult to remove but if you let your polish-remover-soaked- cotton-wad sit on your nail for a few seconds and then wipe, it'll budge quicker than most other glitters. After cleanup I did have a few little flake glitters still sticking around, but nothing major.

Color: 9 fingers - The color in the bottle and on the hand are super similar, but in the case of Whip 'er Hahr, not identical. Very very close though.

Final Score: 7 fingers!

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