Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Charlie and I would like to wish you a very, merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

I'll be back again after New Years.  See you in 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Five Stages

Like everyone else in the world, I really look forward to my weekend.  I enjoy spending some extra time in bed and not having to set an alarm.  In this post, I will explain to you how every Saturday begins.  And just so you know, before any of the following stages take place Charlie has been taken out and fed.  Ok, I now present to you:

Charlie's Five Stages of Morning Grief

Stage 1: Prowling
This first stage begins right after her breakfast.  In this stage, Charlie walks around the bed licking her beard and snorting.  She's trying to find just the right spot.

Stage 2: Whining
Though this may look similar to Stage 1, it sounds very different.  In this stage, Charlie has chosen the perfect spot to begin her whining.  This is not the take-me-out-now-or-I'll-pee-right-here whine.  Nope, this is the give-me-attention-and-a-belly-rub whine.  Those are two very different whines.

Stage 3: Denial
In this stage, Charlie pretends that I am awake and not actually sleeping.  Activities include: stepping on my head, licking my face, opening the curtains to take a peek, and bringing me toys.

Stage 4: Depression
This stage is the most pitiful of all the stages.  She lays down on me or next to me and sigh-whines.  Its a whine and a sigh at the same time.  It's one of the saddest things I've ever heard, but not sad enough to get me out of bed.

Stage 5: Disbelief
This final stage involves one last, long sigh-whine.  She give me the look, curls up between my feet, gives me that last sigh, and then falls asleep for 2 more hours.

Total Time: 20 minutes to an hour

I have no idea why we have to go through all five stages before she goes back to bed, but we do. Today is my first official day of Christmas break, so I'll be having many days in a row of this horrible routine.  Awesome.  It's a good thing I love her - a lot.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Last week, I showed you some wreath ornaments that I had made for my tree.  I recently made some more for the neighbor girls.  They are basically my little sisters and I wanted to make them something special for Christmas.

The gray one with the reindeer is for the youngest of the girls.  She loves animals, so I figured she would like a little reindeer on her ornament.  Plus, it's pretty cute so I needed an excuse to use it.

The only thing I did differently was use yarn to hang the ornaments.  I didn't want to use the light blue ribbon since it didn't seem to match too well.  Instead, I braided some yarn and glued it to the back.  Honestly, I think the last thing I braided was my Barbie's hair when I was 12.   It took my fingers a little bit to get the rhythm back, but it's just like riding a bike.  

Today is my last day of school before Christmas break!  Who's excited?! ME! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 2: Curry

It's 7pm and I'm just now relaxing for the first time all day.  It was one of those crazy days when I would have gotten take-out on the way home instead of bothering to make dinner.  Luckily for me, I had a resolution to uphold.  Is it wrong that I'm already sort of regretting this and it's only day 2? Ok I'm not regretting it, I'm just pretty tired, but you don't need to hear about that!  Moving on...

Curry is one of my favorite meals.  It might actually be my favorite.  It's pretty simple - curry sauce + rice + toppings = delicioso!  The rice and toppings are super simple, but the curry sauce is the difficult part.  Since I don't have a link to this family recipe, here is the card with all the info:

I left rice and chicken off of the ingredients list because theose are the ingredients just for the sauce.  For this meal I made 4 servings of rice and I will run out of rice before I run out of curry sauce.

This step was super easy this week!  I didn't even have to do any Google searches!  I had most of what I needed on hand and only had to pick up 4 things.  On my way into work Monday morning I needed to stop at Giant, since I was already there I grabbed the few things I needed.  I have never been in and out of Giant so quickly.  It took me all of 10 minutes, no joke!  And I was even all over the store - I started in the cold section and had to get all the way to the veggie section, with some stops along the way.  Not bad for 10 minutes.

That short amount of time will definitely go into the "Pro" column for shopping at 6:40am.  But I must say, the creepy guy waxing the floor definitely goes in the "Con" column.  He almost ran me over once, no lie.

Step 2 was pretty difficult tonight.   Of course, it started with a phone call to my mom so she could walk me through making the sauce since there were no pictures to follow.

There is a lot of prep for curry.  I started by cooking the chicken and rice, grating the cheese, dicing the tomatoes, and getting everything ready for lunches.  Now I have a better understanding of why my mom puts us all to work on curry night...and why we don't have curry very often - I'm pooped.

The sauce was pretty difficult for me.  And talk about a disaster - when my mom made curry at my apartment back in September, we froze the leftover chicken broth.  Well, two days ago I put it in the fridge to thaw.  I needed two cups and after two days of thawing I could only get 1/2 a cup.  So I stuck it in the microwave...1/2 cup and 10 minutes later, I ripped the frozen block out of the package and put it on the stove.  About 2 minutes later I was good to go.  Why didn't I put it on the stove in the first place?  Lesson learned.

It's all about the prep people - once the sauce is ready it's time to eat!  As you can see, I even had my lunches ready to be packed; not to mention the toppings already in their little containers in the fridge.  I only made two lunches since I only have two days left before break, but I have enough sauce left for three more.

The dog was waiting in her normal spot.  She only sits in the kitchen with me when I'm cutting something because she knows she'll get a piece and she is always right.  What can I say?  The girl loves tomatoes.  She takes after her owner.  Once the real work begins, she clears out.

I'm not sure how long this whole meal took, but I can tell you that I watched about half an episode of Grimm and at least two Frasier episodes (maybe more) before I was ready to eat.  I'm hoping that the more I make curry, the faster I will get.

I have never been so excited to eat - mostly because I was excited to sit down!  I made curry once before and it was terrible - I accidentally used regular milk instead of condensed milk; a mistake I will never make again.

My favorite toppings for curry are tomatoes, cheese, and mandarin oranges.  Sometimes I add pineapple, but only when I'm feeling adventurous, and  don't get very adventurous with my food.

One thing that I wasn't happy with was the thickness of my sauce.  My mom's curry sauce is always thick and delicious.  Mine was still delicious, but not so much on the thick side.  I either a) did something wrong or b) was too impatient.  I'm going to go with B - that's my final answer, Regis.

Either way, I'll be very proud to eat this for my next two lunches because I made it all myself.  The best part is that I have plenty of sauce leftover so I can eat it for dinner as well.  By the way, this meal is just as good reheated as it is the night you make it.

1 shopping trip
1 phone call
0 iPhone searches
90 minutes
$8 (this could be more depending on what you need) 
1 dinner
5 lunches

Why is she the one curled up in bed when I'm the one that did all the hard work?  This is a question I ask myself almost everyday.  It's a question I will never have an answer to.

It's currently 8pm on Tuesday night and I have big plans: take the dog out and hit the sack.  Yup.  Big plans, people. Big plans.  Adios!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Shopping Trip Test Drive

Being so close to one of my best friends is something that hasn't happened since high school (8 years ago).  My friend Kristin and I are a mere 45 minutes apart.  That is nothing compared to the 3 hours it used to be in college.  It gives us the opportunity to spontaneously see each other.  On Friday night, we decided to go shopping Saturday afternoon.

We walked around the city, window shopped, stopped in a few boutiques, and ate delicious crepes.  This gave me the opportunity to take Jane out for a test drive.

How cool are ball things.  Whatever they are called they are awesome and I want to own them.  Why are they not for sale?

This was another nice light fixture.  I love the contrast between the dark lines and light triangles.  It's awesome.  I really need a house to decorate so I can actually buy cool stuff like this.

Kristin always makes sure to have a candle to light her way.

As far as the camera goes, I'm definitely still working out the kinks.  I need to spend more time with it because it takes me a while to fix what I want to fix.  I'm still finding my way around.  Luckly, I'm getting lots of practice.  I met my sisters on Sunday for some Christmas shopping and they took turns playing with it.

Esther took this picture with the screen flipped out and facing toward her.  It's a pretty awesome feature and Esther was in awe.

This is me saying "Are you taking a picture of me?"  This is definitely a frame worthy photo.

Oh, did you know it "snowed" last night?  If you blinked you missed it, but the snow was there.

We took the opportunity to pose with the giant tree in front of the mall.

I think this one should definitely be in the family Christmas card.

Merry Christmas!  Only 2 more days of school!  Today doesn't count because it has already started.  Getting out of bed and getting to school is the most difficult part of the day, so once that is over its all down hill from there.

I can't wait to give Jane some good use this Christmas.  My memory card can store 2,000 photos - so Camo better get his game face on.  It's all about the baby.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Introducing Jane

After saving up, researching, and debating whether or not to do it - I finally did it.  I got myself a camera.  Say hello to Jane.  Jane is a Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  She is amazing.  I am deeply in love.

My dad generously lent me his Canon Rebel XT for the past year.  It all started with me borrowing it for a week.  Well, a week turned into a month, a month turned into 3 months and then, before I knew it, I started calling it "my camera."  I have been debating whether or not to get my own camera for a few months.  I thought "Can a new camera really upgrade my photos or do I just need a new lens?"

This is definitely an upgrade.  I took these photos with the same camera settings and lighting.  Jane was spectacularly better than the old camera.  I have no idea why, but she was better.

The first thing I did Saturday morning (before even getting out of bed) was grab my camera.  It has been sitting on the nightstand from the previous evening.  I felt like a kid on Christmas; I just wanted to play with my new toy.  Though both images are grainy, You can see that the new camera was able to give me a faster shutter speed, which gave me a focused picture.

sorry for the poor quality - I had to resort to using my phone.
One of the main reasons I was looking forward to getting this camera (aside from the awesome photo quality) was the large screen.  The information is organized nicely and the back gives me a great view of my photos after I take them.  Also, the screen flips outs and rotates.  It gives you the ability to hold the camera above or below your head and still see what the camera sees.

Seriously, look at how big that is!  Is it just me, or does Charlie look cuter on this awesome screen?

One of the simple changes that I'm really loving is the size of the grip.  It's wider and fits my hand better.  Since I don't use a strap it's nice to feel like I have a strong grip on the camera.

Of course I tested out the camera on my favorite subject.  She may not have been thrilled that I ignored her hot dog, but I was thrilled with the quality of this picture.  Low lighting indoors with no flash?  Impossible with the old guy, completely possible with my new girl.  Don't worry Mom, I threw the hot dog after I took the picture.

I took this photo using the fold out screen.  I could actually see myself instead of just guessing.

After a long night of fighting traffic, shopping, experimenting, photo taking, and puppy playing it was time for bed.

It may have taken me months to finally take the plunge and buy a new camera, but it only took me minutes to get in the car and go find it.  I kept my parents updated on the camera search via text.  After telling them that I finally got it, we had this conversation:

Mom: Congratulations!
Me: Thanks! I can't wait to open it!!
Mom:  Dad wants to know if you are waiting for Christmas? hehe
Me: haha, actually yes.  And to quote Elf "Treat every day like Christmas." 
Mom: We are both lol!

I don't think I'll ever get used to my parents using "LOL."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Wreaths

I had a little free time on my hands the other night, so I decided to put it to good use.

This little wreath was a very simple project.

-snowflake button/bead/thing
-glue gun
-foam core board

The first step was to trace a circle onto some foam core.  I used my lens cap since that was what I had around.  Then I made a smaller circle inside.  Using my exacto knife, I cut out both circles.  I secured the yarn to the back of the wreath with hot glue and then started wrapping.  I cut my pieces of yarn to about 36 inch lengths.  It took about 4 to get all the way around.

Next, I added a little decoration using some beads and buttons my mom had given me.  Lastly, I added blue ribbon to the back of the ornament using the hot glue.  Super simple and easy!  I love how they look on the tree.  There's just something about yarn that makes and ornament feel nice and cozy.

I love me some nice and cozy ornaments.  And I only burned my fingers twice.  I think I need to invest in this handy dandy kit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My First Free Printable

Starting a big project can be daunting, but having a design project makes things easier.  I have zero Photoshop training and what I've learned has been through tutorials, experiments, and hours in front of the computer.  When I decided to start the Awkward Chef dinner challenge for myself, one thing was for sure - I wanted was a banner.  And, that was the only thing I was looking forward to with this challenge.

I came up with this:

Before I posted the challenge on my blog, I decided I wanted to make recipe cards for this giant, scary experiment and then (if I liked it enough) share it with you.

My procrastination gave me this:
It's just a little something to help me keep track of the recipes I use for this project.  I don't make scrapbooks or write in journals, so I thought it would be fun to have these cards.  Then when I pull out the recipe in the future, I can remember all the good times...and hopefully see how far I've come!

After I was finished, I searched Google and did some testing to find out how to share this with you.  This is the first time I've ever done this, so please let me know if this doesn't work!

Recipe Card Printable

If the above option doesn't work, you can always go directly to the site and download it here.

My family is opinionated in all the best ways (believe it or not, I'm not being sarcastic).  They will tell me exactly what they think.  My mom always says "There's no shortage of opinions in this family."  We truly love each other, so it's not a problem.  Like when I told Charlotte that the shirt she was buying made her look like a Grecian statue (not in a good way).  She didn't care, she bought it anyway.

All that said, I'm sure if this printable turns out to be a big bust, they will let me know!  Feel free to share your opinion, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 1: Fettuccine Alfredo

Yesterday was my first homemade-meal-Tuesday.  Overall, it went pretty well.   For my first attempt, I chose p-dub's Fettuccine Alfredo.  Simple ingredients and steps sold me on this recipe.

Waking up with a pooch in my bed told me it was going to be a good day...or that she was cold.  Either way, I was excited for my evening of cooking and blogging.

This process was pretty painless.  I had to call my mom (of course) to find out where in Giant I could get fresh parmesan.

Who knew there was a fancy cheese section?  I didn't.  I don't buy fancy cheese.  I can't imagine what I must have looked like while walking around this giant bin of cheeses. to describe the look on my face...the word baffled comes to mind.  How is this thing organized?  Is this thing organized?  Whatever, on to butter!

When I wrote my shopping list, I neglected to write whether I needed salted or unsalted butter.  Not a big deal for you experienced chef, but a spur of the moment decision in Giant is not my thing - so I got unsalted.   Then when I got back to my apartment and checked out the recipe I saw PW had written this:
You need butter. Regular, salted butter.
FYI, I never use unsalted butter except in the occasional cake or cookie recipe. But cooking? NEVER!

I hit another speed bump when shopping for heavy cream.  Good thing I have my iPhone.  I do know that there are 8 ounces in a cup, but better safe than sorry.

Cooking the fettuccine proved to be my biggest challenge.  This is where my need for precise directions and timing throws me under the bus.  The recipe said "cook the pasta until al dente."  Confusion set in so I did this...

This search was very helpful.  I learned something I have never known before - how to cook pasta al dente.  Also, I learned this trick: 
When the pasta begins to soften, try tasting it. If you bite into a piece and see a thin, starchy line inside, keep boiling.
Thanks Bon Appetit, this really helped!  Though, biting plain noodles makes me sick.  I confess that I bit the pasta without letting it touch my tongue.  I took a close look at the noodle, saw the white line, and then I fed it to Charlie.  Bleck.

Aside from a little al dente confusion - cooking went very smoothly.

Not gonna lie, taking my first bite of this dish was pretty exciting.  

The fettuccine was pretty good.  One thing I have learned for the future - I am not a huge fan of parmesan.  I ate my meal thinking "I definitely did something wrong", so I called my sister.  After talking to my resident chef, I discovered that 2 cups is a lot of parmesan for one recipe.  Now I know for next time to leave some out.  I also think the strong taste is probably something I can get used to, at least it better be.  I'll be eating this for lunch at work for the next 4 days.

Charlie and I made a deal before this whole challenge began - if her life is ever in danger while I'm cooking, she gets a taste.  Well, when moving the boiling hot pasta from stove to sink, I almost stepped on her.  Then (because I almost stepped on her) I almost spilled boiling hot pasta on her.  Almost.  Needless to say, she loved the fettuccine alfredo. 

1 shopping trip
2 phone calls
3 iPhone searches
30 minutes
1 dinner
4 lunches

Update: I ate the fettuccine alfredo for lunch today and the parmesan taste was much weaker.  It was delicious when reheated.  Also, I could definitely have stretched it to 6 lunches.  Now I know for next time!