Wednesday, December 10, 2008

daily recommended allowance.

I know I pride myself on not eating processed foods, but I find it hard to abstain completely. One weakness is crackers, another is kettle cooked potato chips, sometimes I eat tortillas, but the biggest one? Pre-made stock. Or broth. Or some variation of salty, flavored liquid to put in soup.

I tried making stock for a while, but this is what I noticed about making stock myself:

1. It became this huge event, like Sunday would be Stock Day! Only stock isn't really that fun, it's just boiling vegetables for a few hours.
2. Since I always made vegetarian stock, I never noticed it to be that flavorful.
3. I would spend all this money on veggies and parsley but even when I made double batches, that would still only be enough for maybe two batches of soup, and dammit, I like to make a LOT of soup and it was sad to see my stock making efforts only go so far.

I talked to some friends who admitted they just used the canned stuff because it was so much easier and I said, to hell with homemade stock! I still had concerns, though - mostly regarding waste and sodium content. I solved the former problem by using bouillon cubes instead of cans or cartons. That sodium was still a concern, though. 1 cup of stock (prepared as directed) contains 35% of the daily recommended amount of sodium. Gross. So I tried to alleviate this by putting in more water than directed, figuring everything was okay.

So anyway, the other night I was prepping veggies so I could quickly throw together some lentil soup after getting back from yoga. Since I was making tea already, I figured I'd boil some extra water so I could dissolve the bouillon cubes beforehand. I came back after a while and found this:


I stared at it for a few seconds before realizing that the layer on the bottom was a CENTIMETER OF SALT. EW. I tried to make myself feel better, remembering that I was going to be adding 4 more cups of water to that, but it was a pretty frightening display of all the gross things in our food.

Now, this is the point where I'm supposed to say, "And I will never use pre-prepared soup broth EVER AGAIN!" but the truth is, it's so convenient. Also, when I actually made the soup, I added more salt immediately, so who knows if I'll ever learn. But MAYBE I'll try taking out that stock pot again. Maybe.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

train of thought.

I just finished Plenty, which is about a couple eating locally for one year. I enjoyed it a lot, in part because it was engaging right away and I plowed through it in a week, and sometimes it's nice to just finish a book quickly. And even though it was non-fiction, it sort of played out like a story with suspense (how ever are they going to make it through the winter?!). But I would have liked more detail on things like how canning works and such.

The book got me to thinking about personal challenges and New Year's resolutions. I don't think eating locally is going to work too well, if only because I live alone and a CSA share can overwhelm even two people. But I feel like I should give something up.

The only thing I've thought of so far is not buying new clothing for a year. I really try to keep my purchases of stuff to a minimum for a variety of reasons, but clothes are my biggest weakness. Today, for example, I ended up in Urban Outfitters for no other reason than it was across the street from my brunch location. I ended up buying a pair of riding boots (not perfect, but good for $60), and then I needed new skinny jeans to pair with the boots, and then why not throw in a pair of $10 shorts for good measure? All of this without buying ANY presents for ANYONE! Ridiculous.

So yeah, it's something to think about. 2009 - the year without sweatshops?

(also, hello blog! I've missed you!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

diy spa.

A few weeks ago I went to a spa party, which is basically just an exercise in making me feel bad about not taking care of my skin properly while trying to get me to buy expensive lotions. The first goal worked really well, the second one, not so much. I figured, why spend so much money on a face mask made with volcanic ash when I can make my own using food from my kitchen?

I started on this site which has a bunch of suggestions with yogurt and honey, because I pretty much always have those. I tried a face mask first.

Moisturizing Mask

- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1-2 tablespoons oatmeal, cooked and cool (or, just add water to dry oats at about a 2-1 ratio if you don't feel like cooking it)

Mix together and put it on your face, yo. Be careful not to drip oatmeal all over your house. Also, it's really tasty but maybe don't eat it off your face. Rinse off after 10-15 minutes.

Then there were my hands. Lately they've been feeling like awful sandpaper and nothing really helped. So I clicked on the first google hit and found this recipe:

Oatmeal Hand Scrub

- 2 tablespoons oatmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix together, rub it on your hands, then wash off and moisturize. You probably don't want to eat this one, unless you really like oatmeal and salad dressing.

The verdicts? Who knows how well they really worked, but my hands and face feel nicer, I think. And I didn't have to spend a ton of money on it, throw away unnecessary packaging, or kill baby seals with exfoliating things! Hooray!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

the panda.

So, my friend Joel likes pandas. He likes them so much that he once had people call in and leave voicemails asking questions of a panda. Then he wrote little songs based from the perspective of the panda. Joel makes funny songs. You should listen to them!

Anyway, a long time ago Joel commissioned me to turn his stuffed panda into a puppet. I said, sure! And then he went and traveled around the world so I got lazy and put the panda on the shelf. (Really, this was necessary, because if not shelved my kitty would start attacking it.) Then something totally unexpected happened, he CAME BACK. Well, it was expected, it just came up faster than I thought. (By the way, Joel takes really nice pictures. You should look at them!)

The sum of this story is that I finally made the panda into a puppet. It wasn't super tricky, but it could still be improved and I might try to fix it some more. Also, it needs fashion accessories. I know, you just want to see the puppet, right? FINE HERE IS A VIDEO.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ramsey hill.

[Editor's note: we found this draft from the summer and decided to include it since the writer could think of no other suitable content.]

Four years ago, I had just graduated from college and moved back to the Cities. It was a big time for me - graduating, starting grad school, and also getting my very first car. I was ambitious with my first vehicle and decided I was okay with a manual transmission. So there was another first - learning to drive a stick shift.

While learning to drive a stick was a somewhat harrowing experience in and of itself, I soldiered through and was doing pretty well after a few weeks. Except I was deathly afraid of hills. I would make mental notes of hills while driving, so I could avoid them in the future. (Oddly, I do a similar thing now, but with possible bike routes instead.)

One night, I was driving to meet up with some friends who lived near Dale and Grand. This was back when my geographical knowledge of both St. Paul and Minneapolis was pretty poor. (Hey, I grew up in the suburbs! I hadn't lived there for four years!) I was looking for parking and couldn't find any - I was probably scared of parallel parking at the time too - so I ended up driving down Grand to...well, I didn't know where. I was lost and needed to find my way back. At the first light, I took a left and started driving up Ramsey Hill.

Ramsey Hill, the shortcut between highland and low land, and one of the few hills in the the Twin Cities that rivals the hundreds of hills in San Francisco or Seattle. So in reality, really not a huge deal.

But I was a new stick shift driver, and I was terrified. I chugged up in second gear, thinking to myself that this was the biggest hill IN THE WORLD, psyching myself out for what could be at the top. A stop sign? A light? Perhaps it just levels out with no forced stops! But I knew I could only be so lucky.

At the top is a three way stop. By the time I got there I knew I couldn't worry about turns, I had to go the direction that would get me farthest up the hill. I don't really remember everything at this point - I know I stalled first, and then to compensate I revved into oblivion to take a right, causing a faint burning smell.

Thoroughly freaked out and probably shaking then, I took a right at the first possible street to get my bearings together. After calling my friends, I knew where I needed to go, I just needed to turn around. Only I was on...another hill. Smaller, but still a hill. Somehow in the process of turning myself around, not wanting to back down the hill of course, I found my car completely perpendicular and blocking the entire dead end street. This wouldn't normally be a problem, except that I couldn't seem to drive forward, instead I would only slip backward. Commence more freaking out. I took some deep breaths, moved the gear shift around, and well wouldn't you know, I was in neutral.

After that near anxiety attack experience, it took at least a year to get over my fear of hills, and I also vowed to never drive on Ramsey Hill again. Until one night last summer. Because of construction and road closings everywhere, I ended up driving home on W. 7th St. Although there were many other routes to take, I decided to face my fear and take the shortcut up Ramsey Hill, now a familiar fixture in my neighborhood.

[Editor's note: this is where it stopped before.] To sum up a very long story, I drove up the tallest hill ever and it wasn't bad at all. To think, for YEARS I've been afraid of that thing! Now I can conquer it!

[Editor's note: As of press time, the writer has still only driven up Ramsey Hill twice.]

Monday, November 24, 2008

on why i blog.

I used to write a lot more. College was a happening time. I had a column for a year in one of the student daily newspapers, and later I wrote reviews and such for a music magazine. I had a purpose, and I had an audience. This doesn't even include the many papers I had to churn out for classes, which were often a source of pride as well. (Best moment: when my hot philosophy TA thought my paper on exploitation was so good that he wanted a copy of it, talk about academic swooning. And yes, I totally went to office hours just to see him.)

And in the past seven years or so, I don't think there's been a time where I haven't had some outlet on the internet for writing. Even this blog has been around for three years or so, though I think it took a year and a half or more to get used to the idea of telling people about it.

Still, I often wonder why it is exactly that I keep up with this thing. When everyone and their mom can have a blog, when adding to the internet pollution sometimes seems at its best, self-indulgent, why continue? I would say that I write this for me, but that can't be entirely true. I write far too self-consciously in this space for it to be purely for me. I am constantly aware of the dangers of blogging, of putting myself out there on the internet for anyone to find, and I think my writing often suffers as a result. I stick with the safe topics like food and crafts. Even with my safe topics, I don't feel as though I've found a niche, and I'm still unsure of who my audience is.

Wow, that's quite enough introspective rambling for now. This is mostly motivated by my friend Sarah, who called and informed that she really enjoys this blogging (mostly) everyday thing, which made me happy and also blew me away because I tend to forget that people read this. So, like...if you read this on a semi-regular basis but never comment or tell me in any other way, I would totally love to know.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

how to save a sweater.

I have this sweater. It's brown, supposedly made of cashmere (though I'm wary of that), and I got it for a dollar or so at a church sale. It's a nice sweater, though I never wear it. The collar is too thick, and the fit is not quite right, but I kept it around. Now it has been saved and improved, thanks to this super easy tutorial on how to reconstruct a sweater.

I didn't take a before picture, but here it is!

sweater re-construction

It might be my new favorite thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

things i generally don't do.

I was reading this New York Times article about what Happy People Don't Do, and guess what it is? They don't watch TV. And I thought, hey, that's me! Usually happy and not watching TV! So in keeping with that, a list.

Things I Don't Generally Do

- watch TV
- eat processed foods
- cook meat at home
- throw up, ever
- push-ups in any way that could actually be considered a push-up
- read comic books
- watch Star Wars
- buy CDs (anymore, anyway)

That's all I got for now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on planners and cycles.

I used to have three planners, and they looked like this:

1. School Agenda Book - Extremely important, but also highly work based. It has things like days off, meetings, and lesson plans. It's so valuable I even keep the previous year's version around for ideas.

2. Google Calendar
- Fancy and digital! In this I note days off, some meetings, appointments, and certain very important social events (usually far off in the future, like weddings).

3. Personal Planner
- A small thing, I used it to write days off, certain meetings, appointments, and also cryptic markings that designated my menstrual cycles.

After a while genius me thought, why are you writing the same things in multiple planners? Streamline! And I toyed with this idea for a while until I remembered a site I had seen this menstruation tracking website, mon.thly info. And that solved the whole But how will I know when my period is coming? problem. I like this place: it's pretty and pink and it keeps track of lady business way better than pen and paper can, with standard deviations, predicted ovulation dates and lots of other cool stats. [Note: all of these stats are useless if you're on the pill or the ring or anything else, which makes me sad.] In fact, it's so great that I'm upset that my quick stint on birth control completely ruined my cycles and averages. But hey, I'm not pregnant.

Anyway, long story short: natural hormones are pretty neat. Digital planners are nice. And if you take my work agenda book away from me, I will cry (possibly more when I'm hormonal).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


[Now back to regularly scheduled programming - the post I was going to write last night, but was too full of rage to do so.]

Stuffing is one of my most favorite foods that I only eat for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's always been a bit of a mystery to me, since the only way I've made it myself is with Stove Top. But no more! Now I shall conquer the world with stuffing whenever I please! (And whenever I have extra bread, which I may need to buy more often.) Oh, you say you want to know too? OKAY!

stuffed pumpkin

1. Make the Croutons

I used about 6 slices of getting old wheat bread, cut them up into large crouton pieces, drizzled with olive oil (with salt, pepper, and garlic) and baked in the oven at 400 degrees. I don't remember the exact time, but until they're brownish and crisp. (20 minutes or so?)

2. Prepare Your Stuffing Holder

For me, this was emptying out the cavity of a large pumpkin I bought mostly for decoration. I've heard any type of squash works, or really any vegetable that can be stuffed. Or hell, put it in a glass baking dish. That works too. Or, I guess a dead animal, though that freaks me out.

3. Add Stuff To Your Stuffing

I sauteed onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, and celery in olive oil first. Then I mixed this in with the croutons, along with 1/2 cup or so of water (stock would also be good), some more olive oil, and some shredded parmesan cheese. I hear there are many other delicious things to add...such as fresh herbs, chopped nuts, or even chopped fruit? You can go crazy here.

4. Put The Stuffing In The Stuffing Holder And Bake!

In this case, into the pumpkin it went (and fit perfectly, imagine my luck), and then into the oven (@325, but later hotter because of my impatience) for a reallllly long time because it was a big pumpkin. The good news is the stuffing turned out delicious. The bad news is that the pumpkin was a bit bland. So maybe oil that veggie cavity before you stuff.

5. Eat

Um, duh. Did I mention I like how often this post has "stuff" and "stuffing" in it? Nice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

what's wrong is right, or something.

I usually try to make this blog a happy place about babies and mittens and baked goods, but today is tough. I'll attempt to balance it out, though.

Just A Few Things That Are Wrong With The World

1. Laundry. Hi, if you live in an apartment building with two washers and dryers and have two or more loads of laundry to do, AND you are well aware there are people waiting behind you, you had better well get to your shit in a timely manner. (Brought my huge basket down at 6, estimated arrival of clean, dry laundry? Oh, 11? 12?)
2. I can't transfer anything onto my external hard drive unless I erase it all or dump it somewhere else since I used it on a PC first and I'm a very sheltered mac user. Oh, also, I only have 1.6 GB of space on my iBook.
3. Schools in the Twin Cities are more segregated than ever, over fifty years since Brown v. Board of Education.
4. Since we're speaking of the world, I don't like this tilt business and the winter darkness it creates.

Just A Few Things That Are Right With The World
1. When you leave your lock in the locker room, a nice person might put it in the lost and found.
2. I forgot about the fundraiser cookie dough in the freezer. That just about saved me.
3. Homemade stuffing baked in a pumpkin, made from homemade croutons. MMM.
4. Further laundry complications have led me to only think of three things.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

happy birthday.

Dear Mia,

You were born a little over a year ago, a tiny cute ball of wonder who slept through the entirety of my hospital visit. I was in awe of you, even though looking back, during those first few months you were pretty boring.

But as every month went by you grew up a little and learned a little more. You started to recognize me and smile when you saw me, or even cry when I left (aw). You learned to to stand, to sit, to play the piano, to babble, to crawl, to point, and to dance and stomp your feet to the most unlikely of songs. Watching you change bit by bit every time I see you has been a joy.

I can't wait to see you grow up and talk and become the smartest little lady there ever is.

Auntie E

(This is my favorite picture of us.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

one time i tried to write a song.

I was in college, I had a wealth of file-sharing services available to me, and I was just getting into indie music. This is what happens under those circumstances:

1. You want to be in an indie rock band yourself


2. You want to date someone in a band, though not necessarily a good one

So, I bought a cheap electric guitar from my brother's friend, put some stickers on it so it spelled out my name and glowed in the dark, and learned some chords. Even though my I could never seem to fit my hands around the neck quite right, I still learned a few tunes - mostly along the lines of Liz Phair, That Dog, and Elliott Smith.

And of course, if I was going to fulfill my rock band dream, I better start writing. So I wrote a song. Now, I was listening to a LOT of Go Sailor at this time. (Think twee. Very twee. Example.) Therefore, my song ended up being an extremely twee ditty with no more than three chords, with lyrics about having the same shoes (hello, converse!) as a boy and dreams of doing cutesy stuff with said boy (while wearing said shoes, of course). No, I don't think the song was based off of any real boy but rather a fictitious version of the perfect boy for me.

No one ever heard this song except maybe the kids who had dorm rooms next to mine. And it shall stay that way forever. I don't even know where that guitar went, honestly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

to run or not to run.

Some friends brought up the possibility of running Grandma's Marathon in June. I am totally on the fence on this one. So, I'm making more lists.

Reasons to run a marathon:
- Bragging rights.
- Ability to eat whatever I want, I mean we're talking ice cream and chocolate every day without guilt.
- I've already done it, so I know I can.
- It is pretty empowering and all that.
- If I train in the winter/spring I won't be ruining my summer with training.
- I have a lot of trouble staying up past 11 on Friday nights anyway, so why NOT run an insane amount on Saturday mornings?

Reasons not to run a marathon:
- Been there, done that.
- Such a huge stressful time commitment.
- The last time I trained and worked at the same time, all I did was run, work, and eat.
- Uhh, it's hard and stuff.

Crap there are totally more reasons in the pro column. This was not my goal!

Monday, November 10, 2008

probably the only time i will discuss economics at length.

Analysis of the Sub-Prime Economic Meltdown and the Resulting Effect on World Markets™, as requested by Tim.

Dear Readers, I know in these times where people are throwing economic type words around left and right, well, things can get a little confusing. That's why I have been solicited to explain it to you.

You see, the people, they want houses. They want houses with bedrooms and backyards for the kiddies to run around in. They are sick of throwing their money away on an apartment with paper thin walls and water damage! And they also hear that building equity is a good thing, whatever that is. But what about the money? That's okay, house-desiring friends! Mr. Sub-Prime Mortgage Man is here to help!

Sub-Prime, you say..what's that? Don't you know your prefixes at all? It means below prime. That doesn't help either? Okay, I'm going to quote a former student on this one.

Teacher, I think...not good.

Yes, exactly. Not good indeed. So here we are, the happy new homeowners with their not good mortgage. This is where the World Markets™ come in. No, not the Japanese Stock Market they keep talking about on NPR. Cost Plus World Market! Proud seller of "unique, authentic, and affordable" household goods. Also, imported wines and foods at low low prices.

Obviously, the new homeowners need to decorate. This is good for World Markets™, and it's also good for the homeowners since they may embellish their abode with worldly goods at lower prices than Pier 1. Everyone is happy. The homeowners are happy, World Markets™ are happy, and the not good mortgage provider is happy.

Then a bunch of stuff happens, but it's really way too complicated to get into here. IN SUM: The happy homeowners can no longer pay their not good mortgage. This makes the mortgage man sad. Furthermore, it makes the World Markets™ really sad because if the happy sad homeowners aren't going to buy these elephant bookends, then WHO WILL?

Don't cry, little elephants. Someday you will be loved.

This is where we're at now. The not good mortgage dudes are feeling sad, but we don't really feel too sorry for them. The homeowners are desperately trying to sell their worldly household wares on ebay. As for the World Markets™, they are having a giant sale on everything. With an extra 10% off anything elephant related.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

how i like my eggs.

- with fully cooked yolks.
- in a sandwich, with cheese and meat.
- scrambled, with a little milk mixed in, and not overcooked.
- not cold, unless they're hard boiled.
- hard boiled, and still a little warm.
- in quiche, with pretty much anything.
- in an omelet, but probably only one I make myself.

(Dear readers, would it be possible for you to think of silly short essay assignments for me? PLEASE?! I'll make you eggs.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

bring it on, cold weather.

A long while ago, probably when Spring was just about to start, I was at the thrift store and spotted a sweater. It was striped with loads of colors, so many colors it was almost obnoxious, but if there are only two things for which I am a sucker (and trust me, there are way more than two), they are stripes and bright colors. Here, why don't I just show you:

sweater before

A little much, yes? (If you recognize it, it's definitely one of the holiday sweaters from the Gap a few years ago.) I knew I probably wouldn't wear it, and it was also too small. Shrunken, in fact. In the crafting world this is known as felting, and most crafters spend their hard earned quarters washing and drying old sweaters to shrink the wool, which then makes it suitable for a wide range of projects. I looked at the shrunken sweater and thought, Wow, I won't even have to deal with that! And thus, I bought it immediately.

Months went by, and it was warm outside, and the sweater sat in my closet. Then today hit with its cold and wind and I was annoyed. And cold. And sick of having all my cheaply made gloves and mittens fall apart. So, I cut up that sweater and made mittens. Then I said, hey, there's still a lot of sweater left! I cut off the sleeves and made a scarf to match.

mittens and scarf

(This is the place where I would give you a tutorial but there are many on the nets. Here is one. Here's another.)

Oh hey, recognize that coat? Yes, I done bought it. It is the most expensive article of clothing I have ever purchased, but I just consider myself a small (and fashionable) hero for the economy. And now with my new colored accessories, I am so ready for winter. I think. Ask me in December.

Friday, November 07, 2008

dear michelle obama.

Hey Lady Michelle,

Can we talk about hope? Because I have a lot of hope in you as the new first lady. I hope that you will become the next presidential style icon, the next Jackie O.

Thank you for wearing this in my town - I love the color, and the necklace. It is a totally classic look that suits you perfectly.

Even in pants (jeans?) you still look classy, in a new Americana way. I look at you and I can't help but think of Jackie, who was an icon herself.

Now, I haven't enjoyed every fashion choice you've made, but there's enough goodness in there that I have good feelings about this. I hope you stay with the bright colors, and stay away from the pants suits of first ladies past. And I can't wait to see your inauguration gown.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

bulldog - lowertown.

I knew I didn't want to be alone in my apartment on election night - I would have been way too jittery, incessantly clicking refresh on news sites, and mostly just going a little nutty. So the best option was to get out with a friend and have some beers.

After some deliberation Stephanie and I decided to head to the new Bulldog in Lowertown. Here's how to make a bar in downtown St. Paul viable: have a built-in and trusted clientele who are already friendly with your locations in that other city across the river. When we got there, there were maybe four empty chairs in the only place. It hasn't even been open a week! They had lots of flat screen TVs, a nice beer list, TATER TOTS, and a whole lot of 90s music. Actually, that was almost weird. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love 90s music...but we're watching the 2008 election on mute while listening to the Counting Crows and the Gin Blossoms? My only complaint is that at one point they changed one of the TVs to a hockey game. Hello, elections come only every four years! People play hockey everyday or something.

So there's my initial review of the new Bulldog. Ladies and gentleman, we do have hope - hope for some semblance of nightlife downtown.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

hopes and dreams.

Eight years ago I was a freshman in college. My roommate and I were up watching CNN freaking out over results. I remember talking to people online and going over how Florida was all that mattered anymore. It was late. They called it for Bush. I don't remember our exact reactions throughout the dorm, but they weren't good. We went to bed exhausted and full of disgust. The next morning we woke up to a world of confusion.

Four years ago I was in grad school, and somehow my memories of election day are not as clear. It seemed a lot less hopeful, as Bush was an imcumbent, and Kerry just wasn't that inspiring. All I distinctly remember is wondering how so many people thought Kerry shouldn't secede when Bush clearly had a majority of the vote. And even though this was hugely disappointing, I think it fit my image of Americans at the time - so it all made sense in a cruel way.

Today I have hope. Not too much. But I do have a good feeling that isn't based so much on electoral maps. I hope it isn't crushed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

today's fashion and food tips.

-Do wear that entirely cute but completely unforgiving pencil skirt to your friend's birthday party, especially when he requests formal attire (as that is his way). Do pair it with a cardigan, scarf, and and contrasting belt.
-Do not, while wearing said skirt, order a plate of cheese and meat, AND potatoes au gratin, AND beer unless you're comfortable with feeling bloated for the rest of the night. (I believe the verdict was: grimly decadent.) Really, cheese on top of cheese with beer on the side? With that cinched waistband that has nowhere to go? What were you thinking?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Okay okay, it's not really a secret that I adore soup. In fact, I almost bought a soup cookbook today. One of my favorite Sunday night things to do is to make a giant pot of soup. For a while, I've used this guide as my recipe for veggie soup. I'm going to summarize here, along with my changes.

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil or butter. (For a while I wasn't doing this, and it always needed more flavor. This helps.)

2. Add water (8 cups) and bouillon cubes.

3. Add beans (I use lentils) and rice (I use brown).

4. Add herbs and spices (unfortunately I tend to use dried since it's what I have on hand most easily). Also, a parmesan rind if you have one! Yum.

5. Let this heat up while cutting a bunch of other veggies. (My favorites: parsnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots.)

6. Add the veggies and simmer simmer simmer.

7. Eat! (And eat. And eat. For lunch! Just bring a glass bowl for the microwave.)

In other news, I have not yet registered My guess is there are probably enough soup oriented blogs out there.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

one time i tried to write a novel.

It's November, which is when National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is attempted by writers all around the world! Now, I wouldn't even call myself a writer, but I've always liked the idea.

What's the problem? I really don't know how to write fiction at all. My one attempt (seven years ago?) was laughably a memoir, with additional little fantasies I would want to happen in my real life. (Such as meeting a boy in a record store, and the like.) And on top of the hideous non-fictioness of it, I barely even finished!

So instead I've decided to declare November as the month where I try to post to this blog every day. (I will apologize upfront, dear readers.) This is also known as NaBloPoMo, but on this site it appears that EVERY month is a good one to update every day. Isn't that just an exercise in which to be thoroughly annoying? I mean, if you attempt to write a novel nobody has to read it.

Anyway. That's my intro for the month, and I will try not to pollute your feed readers with too much trivial stuff. Alright, time for this BLOG PARTY to get started!

(In other news, it's 9pm on a Saturday so I should really be out. Woo.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

butternut squash soup.

My Sunday didn't start out too well. First it was confirmed that all outlets are out of tickets for Girl Talk (all my fault, I was one day too late). Then I had to walk home from a totally mediocre breakfast in the snow and cold. By the time I got home my ears felt like they were going to fall off, and I was determined not to leave the house again.

Luckily I had one thing to look forward to - leftover butternut squash soup! I love this recipe because it's really simple and delicious. In fact, I'm going to post it for you.

Butternut Squash Soup
(from the Joy of Cooking)

1 large butternut squash
2-3 leeks, white parts only, chopped
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
3 tbs. butter (or olive oil)
6 cups stock (I use 2 cubes of bouillon with 6 cups water)

Cut that squash in half, scoop out the seeds and stuff, and bake on an oiled baking sheet (cut-side down) at 400 degrees, or until it's easy to poke through. Let cool (mostly or somewhat) and remove the skins.

In your soup pot, saute the leeks and ginger in the butter for about 5-10 minutes until they're nice and soft. Add 4 cups of the stock and the squash. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, breaking up the squash with a spoon.

Puree the soup in a blender (probably in batches), then return to pot and add 2 more cups of stock and salt to taste. (I honestly am not sure this is necessary, but whatever). Heat through and garnish with croutons, squash seeds, or cilantro, or nothing! So yummy. SEE?

butternut squash soup

Monday, October 20, 2008

weekend, footnoted.

I had a truly splendid weekend. It included happy hour, lots of book reading1, a somewhat disappointing trip to the apple orchard/pumpkin patch2 (yet it produced many lovely pictures of my niece devouring a caramel apple), getting songs by a fictional twee band stuck in my head, the farmer's market3, biking to dinkytown4, creme brulee at brunch5, having happily exhausted legs, and making a filling Sunday dinner all for myself6.

1. Night of the Gun, David Carr
2. Basically, it was too effing busy and you had to wait in line at least half an hour to buy any pumpkins or apples, and it didn't produce any of the fun or magical feelings of the pumpkin fields of years past.
3. I bought so much squash. A fall harvesta, if you will.
4. Yes, biking! My dad managed to once again snag a bike for me the day before we were set to go shopping for a new bike. It's the least cute of my many bikes, but it works the best. It'll be good for the fall, and perhaps the winter. Not a fan of straight handlebars, though.
5. At Loring Pasta Bar with Andy, after realizing we were never going to make it into Al's Breakfast.
6. Boulangarie Beans from Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

a. A Fall Harvest not to be confused with my new euphemism for the bounty of lads or ladies, whatever your preference, that should be available to all single folk. As in, "Don't worry about her, she is but one moldy pumpkin of the fall harvest."

Ah hell. Let's just be an annoying aunt and put the picture of the niece right in here, instead of begging you to click.


(sorry? not really, you love it.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

carpe diem.

I can't remember when exactly, but a while ago I was introduced to wardrobe remix via bits and bobbins (via google reader recommendations). I don't follow it all the time, but when I'm feeling uninspired I check things out. Just a few that caught my eye today:

Of course, I always feel a twinge of sadness looking at the outfits because my clothes aren't as cute and I don't have the guts to wear some of the things they do. (I also feel a bit vain taking pictures of myself - I still haven't worked up the courage to actually post a picture for judgment.) And yet when I find cute and unique things, I have trouble buying them for fear of never having a place to wear it. Right now, there is an adorable long-sleeved green on white print dress at Lula that I couldn't bring myself to justify yesterday. But gosh, it is cute and not ridiculously expensive. This is my eternal struggle with fashion - not being able to seize the day and wear fun things just for the sake of it, without worrying about what others think.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

i have confidence in shopping.

Without getting into the details, it hasn't been the best week. I was at my sister's yesterday and she was giving tips on what I could do to cheer up, one of which was shopping. For instance, I could buy a new fancy winter coat! And we laughed about how it seems absurd to spend so much money what with the economy and all, but screw it! I have consumer confidence even if no one else does. Which of course, only made us think changing the lyrics to "I Have Confidence" from The Sound of Music:

I have confidence in dresses!
I have confidence in coats!

Moving on. (And please note, I don't actually condone the wanton spending of money just for the sake of buying things, but I do condone carefully selected purchases that can keep one happy for number of seasons.) I'm looking at coats once again. I've been looking mostly at the Soia Kyo site, a brand I fell in love with last year.

Eh? What do we think? Of course, I am still concerned that either will be fabulously cute but not at all warm, which makes it even more ridiculous to spend more than $300 on a coat.

(I also want new boots, but I'm having trouble finding the perfect version of those as well.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

four vegetable pile-up.

Once upon a time I went to the Wisconsin State Fair. I think I've already mentioned that it pales in comparison to the Minnesota State Fair, but there were still a few amazing things:

1. One food booth had a sign that read "ONION PILE."
2. Another food booth (or possibly the same one?) had signs around that advertised its wares, such as french fries, cotton candy, pickles, and then simply FOOD. Y'know, in case there was confusion.

But let's get pack to the onion pile. I did not eat it, but it sounded quiet awesome, as I love presumably fried onions, and I like my foods in a pile.

Tonight's pile: potatoes, onions, garlic, and black beans. With gooey pepper jack cheese and yogurt. All in a pile.

So in conclusion: pile is a really funny word when you type it so much, and food piles are damn tasty.

(I'm also enjoying sauteed spinach piles lately, though that's a bit of a stretch.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

on voting and privilege.

I'm having a bout of voter enlightenment. Somehow in the past day or so, I've been hearing much more about voter registration, with various groups making sure you are registered to vote. (I swear even google was urging me.) And in my head I think, what is the big effing deal?

You see, I was born and raised in Minnesota. I lived in Wisconsin while I was in college, and usually voted absentee. But of course, it's a lot more fun to vote in an actual polling place. And in Wisconsin and Minnesota, this is quite easy! I did it for the first time during the 2004 presidential primaries (which happened to be on my birthday). All I had to do was bring a utility bill with my address, sign my name, and I was set. Then when I moved back to Minnesota, I did the same thing. I never had to designate a party, hell, I never even registered as an independent.

Sadly, though, I am coming to realize that I am a privileged voter. Only six states allow election day registration (besides North Dakota, where one needn't register at all).

I know what you're thinking - how could you NOT know that other states have to register up to thirty days in advance? Again, it's this state of privilege - I am in my happy bubble where I can decide on election day that dammit! I want to vote! And I can do that. Oh sure, I knew in some states it maybe isn't this way, but I figured they would be the ones that also once required people to pass literacy tests and pay poll taxes in order to vote. Not the majority of the country.

(Is it really a big question why Minnesota had the highest voter turnout of any state in the country in 2004?)

So pardon me if I am frequently baffled by these strange requirements.

In semi-related news, I started a twitter account that I may abandon tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last weekend I saw WALL-E. (Cute.) Later that night I was at a bookstore without periodicals so I was forced to browse books instead of fashion magazines. The horror! And the movie had me in an apocalyptic mood, so I thumbed through The World Without Us for a bit. I learned two things in my short reading:

1. I have no desire to actually read that whole book.
2. My exfoliating bath products contain tiny tiny bits of plastic that are killing precious sea animals. (See here for more info.)

God, just imagine what I could have learned had I decided to read the whole thing? Probably all sorts of truly horribly stuff.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about this entry I had seen on Nylon about how to make your beauty type items more enviro-friendly. So I started looking at ingredient labels of cleansers and stuff...and yeah, it's bad. It's all really bad and full of oil and plastic and junk.

This should be bad news, right? Well, sort of. But the good news is I now have all the more reason to shop at LUSH! Right now I'm most interested in the shampoo bars, since I've gotten into the glorious habit of seeing how long I can go with washing my hair. (Right now I'm averaging 3-4 days). I don't believe in throwing out items upon the realization that they're not super earth friendly (hello, wasteful), but once these products run out I totally intend to spend tons of money on yummy smelling lush stuff. Mmmm.

Ah hell, here's one more link: Treehugger's Guide to Greening Your Health Care Items

Sunday, September 14, 2008

this is the way we bike to work. (and then stop)

And now! The long story of how I started bike commuting but will not be doing so until further notice.

First, a long while ago, I switched out wheels on my Raleigh because they were super bent and crappy. This led to better wheels and less choppy braking, but horribly squeaky braking. As a result, I wasn't as inclined to bike because it was super embarrassing at times.

But I still stuck it out from time to time, avoiding stopping as much as possible, or at stopping very slowly when necessary. (How incredibly safe, I know!) I even made a long trek to Minneapolis! And not just west of the river but all the way past Bryn Mawr and back. I finally got to try out the Midtown Greenway and a few other trails, and it was a nice ride overall - but let's face it, squeaky brakes are NOT HIP. So on the way home, I stopped by the Freecycle shop on the Greenway and they switched the brake pads. For a while I was all, oh glorious brakes! I can stop without squeaking! But within a few miles they were still a bit squeaky (only when coming to a complete stop very quickly, though).

I also started biking to work. This was working pretty well, in part because I have my own bathroom in my room (!) and could bring outfits to change into on days that I drive. The route is mostly flat, with either bike lanes or bike paths for most of the way (except for the scary Pennsylvania/35E intersection).

What happened, you say? Well, on Wednesday night I biked downtown quick and was trying to race through a light but had to stop, and fast. And I'm pretty sure this is when the brakes tore through the tire. But since I was only a few blocks away from my destination, I didn't really notice anything. And even when I went home, in the dark, I knew something was wrong but decided I'd rather get home first (since it was less than a mile anyway) than stop on an abandoned street to figure out the problem. Sure enough, flat tire - thus ruining my goal to bike to work the next day.

And since then, I haven't found the time to fix the tire. Sure, I want to fix it, but will that help the squeaky brakes? Is this cold weather going to bring snow soon, rendering any repairs moot? Will this craigslist bike haunt me forever with problems? Should I just get a new bike already? (Probably). Sigh. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 08, 2008


The truth is, I am far too tired to really write anything of substance but this box is egging me on. I am going to bike to work tomorrow, and I am typing this because you, the internet, will hold me accountable when I am even more tired at 6am tomorrow. Every day at around 3PM I start to wish my work had vending machines with salty snacks, and every day around 4PM I wish that I only had maybe three different classes to prep for instead of five. Fall is sort of here and I kind of like the cool breeze, but it feels too early to wear tights which means I have had to resort to pants. The RNC elephant stampede didn't cause nearly as much trouble as I thought it might, but I think I was also too busy to notice.

As usual, I will figure things out in the morning, when my brain is as sharp as a tack. Right.

Monday, September 01, 2008

rnc: the protest

I'm not a huge fan of participating in protests for a lot of reasons, the main one being that yelling and chanting gets tiring and also doesn't seem to get a lot done. (And that just makes me more depressed about government - how do ordinary people start actual change? But holy cow, that is not a topic I intend to broach right now.) Having said that, if there is a huge protest nearly in my front yard, I should probably at least stop by to gawk.

I headed out yesterday a little after noon to the capitol, where there were many people milling about. I soon realized I was way overdressed compared to all the punks and hippies. (Hello, it was Labor Day! Last Day to wear my pearly white skirt!) I wandered a bit, but I was by myself and so I just headed over to my friend's condo and waited outside.

I soon realized we would be very close to the parade route, so my friend and I hung around to take pictures. This one is my favorite.

oil bots

There's more pictures, but that's pretty much how it was...lots of people walking, carrying signs, sometimes chanting things. After a while, when we realized there was no end in sight to the protesters, we thought we would head towards the actual convention center. (Okay, my real ulterior motive? I was super determined to return my library book.) But every street we went down, we ran into these guys!


Somehow we managed to snake our way around the riot police to get to Rice Park - I was able to return my library book while my friend got a coffee. The delegates were lined up for over a block to get into River Center (surrounded by cages). I happened to be holding an anti-war sign (given to me by a protester), which invited a young Texan delegate to start talking to us. (Whose name I recognized later in this column - man, that dude gets around!) We (my friend, the Texan, and myself) got into some circular arguments: we agreed that war is bad and that maybe we don't have a true democracy, but what to do with all those trillions of dollars going to war? Surely not put the money towards health care, says the Texan! We didn't really get anywhere in changing anyone's minds, but I must say I was somewhat pleased to even have that conversation in the middle of the street.

[During this time, a friend was also calling me with reports on CNN about people breaking windows and other bad stuff. Honestly? If she hadn't called, I wouldn't have had a clue. That's why news reports are funny - you can be really damn close to the action and still miss everything.]

We started heading back home, but of course ran into barricades of riot police every direction we went. (Which is why I found this tale of a stroll through St. Paul so funny.) Make it home we did, after a while.

So yeah, there's my story. In conclusion, I can't help but think about how silly and cyclical this whole convention-protest-arrest thing is. Republicans (or democrats) convene, police get fired up and ready (almost in a way that says "I dare you to start something"), people show up and cause trouble, people get arrested, some people that shouldn't also get arrested, people get outraged, and the people who cause trouble will continue with their goal, which is to stop the republicans (or democrats) from convening.

In other news, helicopters. Lots and lots of helicopters. But life goes on for the rest of us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

the problem with produce.

Oh single friends, you must know how it is. You go to the grocery store and the farmer's market with such hope and ambition - you buy loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, making careful plans not to buy too much just because it looks nice. You are thinking ahead so as not to be wasteful! Good work! But then you do silly things like go out to dinner or happy hour, and pretty soon you are pawning off green beans on your parents (while stealing cherry tomatoes from their garden), wondering what the hell am I going to do with all this food?!

Such is my life as of late. It's gotten late enough in the week that all meals must be based around what is about to rot in the fridge. I finally finished the roasted veggies (eggplant, zuchinni, onions) in a wrap for lunch. For dinner, I stared at the cucumbers and the tomatoes, wondering if I should have tomato and cucumber salad again, and then I decided I would make some gazpacho.


(I've never made gazpacho before so I used this recipe as a guide. As usual, I was missing about half the ingredients so I just had to make do. It turns out that my gazpacho is tomato cucumber salad, pureed.)

Then I stared at the zucchini and thought, man, zucchini, you are boring. What can be done with you? The answer is definitely zucchini cheddar bread, with a recipe from The Joy of Cooking.

By this point the gazpacho was happily chilling (ha, get it? It's both hanging out and getting cold! [sorrrry]) in the fridge and the bread was in the oven but it was going to take an HOUR and I was starving. And it seemed like I should eat the bread with the soup, that just makes sense. So I made a small salad with spinach (never should have bought that!), blueberries, and walnuts.

Finally finally everything was ready so I ate this:

zucchini cheddar bread, gazpacho

The gazpacho is a little spicier than intended but still refreshing. And the bread is savory and filling. Hurrah! Summer produce meal!

...of course, now my new problem is that I have too much bread and gazpacho to eat. Whoops.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

random round-up.

1. David Carr, hosted by Common Good Books

I had heard a bit about The Night of the Gun through the internets, so I figured I had pretty much no excuse to walk a few blocks for a reading. The church hosting the space for the event was packed and extremely hot, but it was still a good time. Carr read a very short excerpt, and then fielded some questions before having to run and catch a plane. I actually found the question section to be the most engaging and I wish there was more time for that. He had really good answers about how to warn his children about the addictive dangers of college, and how he wishes he could say that writing a memoir about addiction and recovery was cathartic, but it wasn't. All in all, he was very endearing and appreciative and I enjoyed my time there. The book is going on the to-read list, as I have other books to finish in uhh, this next week. Oops.

2. Summer Borscht at the Amateur Gourmet

God, reading this made me wish I was wandering around the East Village with plans to stop at Veselka for a late dinner of borscht and pierogis, TODAY. Goddammit. Instead I'll be trying to finish two books this afternoon while waiting for sushi happy hour. (Okay, that's really not all bad.)

3. Housekeeping

I updated my link list, which means I made it much smaller. I can't stand link lists that go on for miles, so I'm highlighting the lesser knowns on the sidebar. 'Cause really, if you have more than, say, 50 subscribers on google reader you don't need any help from me. (By the way, google reader still says I only have two subscribers. Eff you! I have at least five. I think.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

RNC: the homefront

I know that people like my mom would not suggest that I give clues to my location on the Internet, but suffice it to say, I live very close to the Xcel Center, home of the 2008 Republican National Convention. How close? Close enough to be able to catch of glimpse of a bright red poster from my window, which on closer inspection has this on it:

Oh, that elephant. I think we'll call him Stampy.

Anyway, they're coming. They are erecting a giant white tent across from Xcel, for god knows what. They are walking around with orange tags around their necks that proclaim them to be convention workers/volunteers. They are making plans to infiltrate Minneapolis St. Paul (that's one city, not two) and pester all of those within.

Can't. Wait?

on getting out.

Sometime last week, feeling the threat of summer ending and still itching to make it out of the state, I booked an entirely last minute trip to Milwaukee and Chicago. I ended up taking the train to Milwaukee, the Megabus to Chicago, and the train home again from Chicago to St. Paul. The train was comfy both ways (if not a little long and loud heading back), and the bus was quick. I mostly needed to go somewhere without driving in order for it to feel like a true getaway, so I was thankful for the lack of a car.

The last times I've been to Milwaukee I was overcome by the smell of yeast and my naive eyes were disturbed by creepy grocers with bars in the windows, but I didn't find it bad at all this time around. In fact, I found it rather agreeable, even if the Wisconsin State Fair is far inferior to Minnesota's. I also got the best pair of pants ever, and sang Disney songs with friends in the car, so it was good times.

Chicago is a city that I can never seem to stay in for more than 36 hours at a time. While this is somewhat silly, it's good in that it always leaves me wanting more. On Sunday I hung out with a friend, and we sat in various locales...cafes, Wicker Park, and eventually wasted away the rest of the afternoon drinking beers on a patio. By the time we headed to the El to get to dinner (admittedly a bit drunk), I realized how much I want to live in a true city, one with trains, one with enough density to make places interesting solely because they are filled with people.

I did some touristy wandering on Monday (the Shedd Aquarium, Millennium Park) before catching my train home. Now I'm back, and I have just a little over a week before I head back to the stresses of work, which I am trying not to get too stressed about. Instead I'm stressing about which pre-established summer routines I need to throw out in order to make the last week and two days of summer the most awesome. It's a lot of pressure, and in the process I'm forgetting all the things I meant to do.

Anyway, why am I still writing this when I could be doing...stuff? Stuff indeed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

thai eggplants! and stuff!

I like going to the Farmer's Market and picking up unfamiliar vegetables and then figuring out what to do with them. This week it was Thai Eggplants. They look nothing like normal eggplants in that they're not purple and they're round. And of course, I had no idea what to do with them so I went to the old internest and found this: Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

And then I did what I normally do with recipes that seem complicated - I skimmed the ingredients, decided which ones I could skip, and also adapted it to suit my lazy needs. Basically, I skipped the whole food processor part because I didn't feel like dragging it out of the closet, and I just added the spices while sauteeing the onions/ginger/garlic in oil. And I didn't measure a damn thing, because I am just that hardcore.

It turned out to be pretty good. Sometimes I wish I could upload smells.


(And once again, I need to remember to stop making semi-elaborate meals when everyone is at work! Sheesh.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

a half is still a lot of work.

How does one write about running a half marathon, anyway? It's pretty much the same motion, over and over again, for a long time. But I will try.

On Saturday I ran the Urban Wildland half marathon in Richfield. The course is very nice, as it goes around lakes and through nature reserves and is flat most of the way. They also strive to be a green race by being waste free. And they had good stuff - the shirt feels great, and I got yet another reusable tote bag. (Seriously, five envirosax and another six bags that I've gotten from classes/races/catalogs/transit initiatives. Enough! Though, I do like this one, and it comes with the double superiority of being eco-friendly and running a half marathon.)

On to the actual race...this was the first one I ran where I was really alone. Usually I have a running companion, or at the very least finish line companions whom I can't keep up with. (I did get my parents to come to the finish line, so I guess that's something.) And although I had made ambitious time goals long ago, I knew I probably wouldn't reach them given my laid back training. It definitely wasn't my best race, in terms of how I felt or my time. The interlude between each mile marker always felt much slower than my actual pace, and at some point around mile 7 my legs turned to jello and never really came back. And somehow I still finished with a reasonable time - 2:05:30 (9:35 pace). I definitely didn't reach my goal (under two hours), but it's not in the horrible range either. (These are all relative to me, of course.)

So there's that. My quads are still killing me, and I'm hoping to bike a lot more this week instead of running.

Friday, August 01, 2008

stream of consciousness.


I've really been enjoying my meals this week, much more so than usual. I could attribute it to the fine farmers at the market, the freshness of the fruit, or maybe that I'm just an awesome chef, but I know what the real deal is: it's just that time of month where everything tastes amazing. (Ladies, you feeling me? No? Well, it's cool. Me and my hormones are getting along, for the time being.) It doesn't even matter what it is: cucumber and tomato salad, tortillas filled with black beans, fresh corn kernels and avocado, homemade oatmeal with berries and bananas, or even a small sliver of Parmesan, it's all glorious and I am loving every mouthful.

bike outcasts

I biked to my parent's house yesterday, and traded in the lady bike for a new bike, which is actually my old bike, but slightly improved since I last knew it. Meaning, the pedal arm (crank arm?) actually stays on, and it also has a rack and a pannier. And it fits so much better than that damn lady bike, I feel like a decent biker again. Never mind that braking is annoying because I need to get a new wheel or two, when I'm in motion I feel stronger, faster, not unlike a Daft Punk song! (Sorry, I myself am shaking my head at that one.)

Hi, my name is e and I'm addicted to dresses. No, this is not a dress, it's shoes to match a dress that I bought while at Target, intending to buy toilet paper or something. The shoes are surrounded by three dresses (bought in two weeks), plus one from my old bedroom closet that I decided is actually wearable again (after a decade). I try to buy cute tops or, I dunno, nice pants for work but no, dresses and skirts. That's it. So please, if you ever see me out shopping, remind me that I don't need any more dresses.

[Sorry for all these random posts lately.]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


1. The Big Picture

I've had this in my reader for a few weeks now and I LOVE it. Those pictures are so great, and so large, that to throw them into my tumblr seems to be an injustice. My favorites lately have been from the Tour de France and the crazy crowded pools in China.

2. Peanut Cole Slaw

I had people over for dinner the other night, and of course neglected to take pictures of any of it. I made salad and pizza with caramelized onions and walnuts, and a friend brought quinoa tabouli and raspberry bars, and these were all yummy. But I was nicely surprised by this peanut cole slaw, because I usually hate cole slaw and therefore thought I hated cabbage as well. Not true! So, taking a chance on that beautiful cabbage that was only a dollar at the farmer's market was a good thing.

3. My parent's pool

This list feels empty with only two things. With highs in the mid-90s later in the week, I am so thankful for this. Suburban pool party, anyone?

Monday, July 21, 2008

on anything and everything.

On Projects

Once upon a time, I got a tapestry type thing from Urban Outfitters. It was perfect for covering up $20 thrift store love seats in my dorm room. Then it was perfect for covering up a dusty bookshelf in my classroom. Then it sat unwanted for a while. Then, it was decidedly perfect to fashion new curtains for my bedroom, since I had been using a beach sarong.

"curtain" beforecurtains after
(But now, what to do with the sarong? God knows I don't go to the beach.)

And since I had some fabric leftover, the tapestry also became perfect for a skirt, Maria von Trapp style.

skirt and curtains

On Biking

I have actual obligations this week (sigh!), and I'm being a good girl and biking to my class, which is just a few blocks away from my old workplace. And the ride there is really not bad at all, which makes me feel silly for having avoided it for so long. (Still working on the sweat factor.)

Also, I'm realizing that while my bike is fine, it's a bit small, so I'm dreaming of bigger and better options. Namely, a bike that is good for all of the following: commuting, dragging in and out of my apartment, not getting stolen, and a triathlon perhaps next summer. (So basically I want an impossible commuter-road bike with convertible handlebars and both clip-in and non-fancy pedals.)

On Motivation

I was talking with an old coworker last week and when I mentioned that I had run a marathon, she said I must have a lot of self-discipline, and that she would always talk herself out of running. I wouldn't say I have that much discipline, it's more that I talk myself into situations where I would feel like a jackass if I don't do something. As in, "You better run 11 miles today like you said you would or you will hate yourself!" I don't know if that's discipline or just well-channeled guilt. Either way, I signed up for a half marathon - it's in a week and a half.

On Travel

Crap, it's almost fricking August and I have no travel plans whatsoever. I need to get out of this state somehow without paying millions of dollars. Not even because I don't have the money (what, I never mentioned my millions?), but because I'm still not accustomed to paying $500 or more for continental flights. I'm also sick of wandering around cities by myself, reading in every possible park, coffee shop, and museum imaginable, and yet travel partners are hard to come by. But maybe I can channel my guilt-motivation into just buying a plane or train ticket to anywhere.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

how to make crackers - with video!

Deep breaths. Sometimes I do this thing where I think, "I want to put videos of myself on the internet!" and then I do and then I just want to hide under my bed with my cat. And then I slowly come to terms with it, start showing it to people, while running away at the same time. (How do you run away from something on the internet? You post something, then you pretend to FORGET that you posted anything and that people may make comments, or may also completely ignore you. And then hours or days later you slowly come back to the response or lack thereof.)

Where's the video already, right?

How To Make Crackers

(Not embedded because I can't handle that right now. Apologies.)

It's pretty much all in there, except for a few notes.

1. The recipe says 4 servings but that is only true if you eat like a bird. It is, at best, one or two servings for normal people.
2. They only keep a few days. But it doesn't matter because I guarantee you won't be able to keep them around that long.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

finally, it's done.

This skirt took a year and a half to make. I have this a-line pattern, and with my first attempt I ended up with a skirt so small I had to wear it way up on my waist and it looked stupid. So I gave it to a much smaller friend. With my second attempt I had a skirt so large it was falling off. (And that doesn't work as well with giveaways...hey friend, this skirt is WAY too big for me! You want it?) I tried to take it in, but it was still too big. So I did the completely normal thing to do in this situation - I got extremely frustrated and gave up, sticking it in a closet to be buried for a long long time.

I finally decided I should maybe make it work. But it needed something, so I added some appliques...a first, which took a lot of practice. The fit still isn't perfect, but I'm more happy with the fact that this sucker is finally DONE.


p.s. I just noticed that my last three posts have all been about skirts. This is a good thing, right? In fact, yesterday I wore this skirt I got about seven years ago. This was one of the first skirts I got that wasn't for a specific purpose, it was just for wearing. I remember the time when I rarely wore the things, and now I can't envision a (happy) future without them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

hey frenchies! tell me how to bike in a skirt!

I was reading this article about those rentable bikes in Paris, and they mentioned how the bikes have an accompanying blog, with a recent post about biking in skirts. I immediately clicked, hoping to learn some very sophisticated advice, but of course, it's in French. So I google translated it, and the results were...funny.

Especially that, as we swallow meters bikeways, our skirts have an unfortunate tendency to go back… The red light has become an opportunity to readjust, air worthy, ignoring our male neighbors, pedestrians, motorists and other vélibeurs… Knowing that these gentlemen are always looking to "see under the skirts of girls" (even when one is fagotée as a bag potatoes!) I arrived at this conclusion: length knees ie mid-thigh after 100 meters…

So, wait. Potatoes are gay?

Anyway, my only advice is as such: wear bike shorts or cut off tights underneath the skirt. (You know you have some old tights that got a hole or a run in them but you just can't bear to throw them away, hoping that someday there will be magic robots to fix them. Face it - there will be no magic robots, but you can put them to other uses!) When you get going, you can tuck the end of the skirt into the tights or shorts and ride along without worries (for the most part).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

on pencil skirts.

On The Street - Sharpened

I put this on the ol' tumblr too, but I wanted to add a few thoughts.

1. I love how this is not only a celebration of pencil skirts, but a celebration of legs and butts. (And somehow Bill Cunningham discusses the glorious view in a decidedly non-creepy way.)
2. Of course the ladies aren't wearing flip-flops with these skirts, because that looks ridiculous! (Some flats work, but heels really work.)
3. On the other hand, the heel requirement makes pencil skirts much more difficult to wear. They're great for work, but for summer barbecues? I don't want to show up looking like a secretary! (Yeah, the secretary look is hot. But it needs the right situation.)
4. And this is why I am forgoing my red pencil skirt (an old find from my mom, modified from dowdy to cute and slim) for a much more forgiving and flowy red skirt today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

when in doubt, try baking soda.

I was trying to clean my bathtub today, and you know how it is - you wait way too long, and then there's soap scum everywhere. (Also, I don't get any satisfaction from cleaning unless the thing being cleaned is truly dirty.) I was using my bathroom cleaner, spray spray spray, and it took off the scum in a clear, distinct path where the cleaner had trickled down the tub. I'm not a huge fan of spraying massive amounts of chemicals only to scrub furiously while inhaling the junk. I usually give up at that point, content to live a life of scum.

BUT NOT TODAY, MY FRIENDS. I thought, what the hell, let's try baking soda. I sprinkled some on a wet sponge, and it worked LIKE MAGIC. Scum be gone!

So there you go. I promise to never ever blog about the trials and wonders of cleaning again, but I thought I would be doing a disservice not passing this tip along.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

things i learned from television.

My TV is about 13 inches and has horrible reception. These facts, plus the fact that I use the internet as my TV-like entertainment, make television watching a rare occurrence. But I was at my grandma's for a few days, and she has cable. (!) My addiction while there only solidified my conclusion that I can never have cable, because I would flip channels all flipping day.

But let us not pretend that my television binge was useless - oh no! I learned a lot. Here are some things I learned:

1. The Paparazzi are HORRIBLE. (Denise Richards: It's Complicated)
2. Ellen DeGeneres saved at least one person's life by coming out, I think. (E True Hollywood Story)
3. Yes, you CAN make tortillas from scratch and they are probably delicious, but damn, I am never going to appreciate that $2 bag of tortillas more. (Good Eats with Alton Brown)

Wait, I watched at least 5 hours of television and only came up with 3 semi-useful bits of information? Alright, TV is worthless. But FUN.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I have at least two unfinished drafts and what do I do? Leave town, to the land of no internet. Actually, I'm going to visit my very hip grandma who does have internet, but my vacation rule is to avoid it as much as possible. Instead I plan to take many pictures of my adorable niece and make overly ambitious plans to get lots of reading done and then hardly finish any of it. Also, lake swimming. See you in a few days.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

26 a few months ago.

I love that Aimee Mann can write a song that sounds initially uplifting but is actually completely depressing, a song that also has a video that makes me laugh out loud. Stop playing with my emotions, Aimee.

Aimee Mann - 31 Today

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I love biking on any bridge over the Mississippi. The bars on the guard railing start to blur together and disappear as I bike past, making it look as if I could go a few feet to the right and plunge right into the shimmering water. And while normally this should scare me, it actually sounds quite thrilling - flying through the air to land happily in a pool of cool water, washing off the sweat I've accumulated while biking under the sun.

(What is it about biking that makes me completely forgot that a fall into the river would hurt, a LOT, and that the Mississippi is totally gross? I feel bad even putting that here as it completely ruins my idyllic fantasy.)

projects - wristlet and a beyond new dress.

So the other night I was having major ADD and decided I needed to organize my fabric. But in my world organizing means rummaging through a giant box and deciding to make something straight away. I still have a bunch of vinyl leftover so I decided to make a wristlet using this tutorial.

Here's what happens when I read tutorials: first I start scanning it, and soon realize that it doesn't make any sense. So then I turn off any music I'm listening to, cut off IM conversations, and read it with my full attention. Yup, it still doesn't make a ton of sense. (Something about any directions with sewing takes me hours to figure out.) At this point I either give up or decide I can figure it out myself, which usually works.

Anyway. I made this!


The zipper isn't perfect but for a first try, I was okay with that.

Next up. So I was shopping on Wednesday, hoping to maybe find a cute and wonderful dress for the weekend of weddings. (Yeah, I have things I can wear, but they're Ugh.) I ended up buying this dress in white, not thinking about or ignoring that rule that you're not supposed to wear white to weddings unless you're the bride. Etiquette be damned, I said! Also, it looked really cute with this red necklace I had just bought. But I later consulted with my sister who said it just wouldn't work for a wedding. And then I realized that I really had nowhere to wear it. Not to mention, white on white is scarily impractical.

I was complaining about the dress situation with my friend Andy when he suggested I just dye it. GENIUS! I ran all over trying to find kelly green dye. I consulted the internets for advice. I got really nervous that I could possibly ruin a good dress. But I went for it anyway.

Before and After:
white dressgreen dress!

I wish the green were a little bit darker, but I still have half a bottle of dye left and much more confidence in the process. Overall I'm happy with the lack of streaks, and green is so much more fun than white. Yay! New Dress!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

legacy chocolates.

I'm going to a wedding this weekend - wait, no, I'm going to two weddings this weekend. Well, ACTUALLY, I'm going to one reception for a wedding that already occurred and one full wedding.

For the reception only wedding, the invitation specifies not to bring gifts. Yet I feel a bit naked bringing nothing to an event like this. So what's the perfect gift for someone who claims not to want gifts? No, it's not a crystal vase or a figurine with a faceless couple holding hands. The perfect gift? Consumables. And what is a better consumable than chocolate? The answer was all too clear. (And don't worry, I checked in with my friend first and she said that this type of gift would be acceptable.)

I think, really, I just wanted an excuse to go to Legacy Chocolates. [At Cleveland and Marshall in St. Paul] I've only heard good things about the place, and I love chocolate, so it seemed quite pathetic that I hadn't been there yet. So I hopped on my bike and chose a wide selection of truffles to go in a pretty box, plus one for myself.

I hadn't quite thought out that chocolates + heat = bad news, so that killed my plans to stop by the vintage stores at Snelling and Selby on the way home. I biked home quickly under the hot sun, knowing that a mason jar full of iced tea and a shower awaited me. (Of course, I wasn't yet aware that a centipede was also waiting for me in the shower. There was screaming.)

Back to the chocolate. After the truffle had a chance to get cool again, I decided to eat my one and only. It was an 85% espresso truffle, and oh my god. It was, dare I say, better than Izzy's ice cream just doors away. Why didn't I buy more? That was extraordinarily stupid of me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

a random list of junk.

1. Yesterday on my run (outside) I was continually intoxicated by the smell of lilacs. Then I was nearly reduced to tears by a dead cat on the sidewalk. This still totally beats the gym, where all I get is sweaty.

2. Remember when I grew herbs? That pot looks drastically different now. The thyme is dead, as is half the rosemary, and the mint is about to take over. The worst part is I'm not sure I even LIKE mint. But I do like mint in water, it's quite refreshing in the summer.

2.5 In other herb news, my basil plant is doing well, and I made some delicious pasta sauce with it the other night.

2.75 Doesn't this eggplant salad look yummy? Also, it has mint in it!

3. Here is my nugget of wisdom for the day: to get clean, you must first get a little dirty. Take that any way you wish.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

rock the garden.

Rock the Garden at the Walker, with Bon Iver, Cloud Cult, The New Pornographers, and Andrew Bird

I'm so out of practice with writing reviews, but I'll attempt anyway. Rock the Garden was placed smack in between the Walker and the Sculpture Garden in the middle of the street. It actually seemed like a really small space for 7,500 people. Overall, I had a great time and was really glad I went. All of the bands put on solid performances, though I wish I could see some of them in other places.

Bon Iver

This was a really good set. Although you can hear the quality of his voice on record, the beauty of it comes across so much more live. My complaints have nothing to do with music, but were circumstantial. First of all, it was 4:30, the sun was beating down with no respite, and I just couldn't stop thinking about the heat. It was also hard to reconcile such intimate songs in a decidedly non-intimate setting. I would love to see him in a smaller club.

Cloud Cult

I don't have much to say about these guys since we took a break sitting on the hill and I wasn't paying attention. Next!

The New Pornographers

This is one band that has stood the test of time with me - the last (and only time) I saw them was five years ago. Silly things have gotten in the way of me seeing them in the meantime, so I was super excited to see them again. It ended up being the highlight of the night, partly because I just like them that much, and the setting suited their music really well. I think at this point, most people (myself included) had just enough beer in their system to happily sing along with the music (such as "The Bleeding Heart Show." So good!). The sun was still out, though not as strong, and everything just worked together to make it an awesome time.

Andrew Bird

This boy is so supremely talented, and his whistling is unsurpassed, but again I was bothered by both venue and circumstance. First of all, there were minor threats of storms so they had to take a ten minute break, which broke up the flow of the set. It also seemed like the point of the night where the drunk were just getting drunker, and more annoying, and that didn't jive well with Mr. Bird's music, either. Don't get me wrong, he put on a great show as well, but it just reminded me that I should really see him a theater sometime.

Other thoughts? There were many well dressed and attractive people there, so that was fun. The lines for any sort of food were ridiculous, though. Which is why my friends and I smartly decided to drink instead and go to King and I Thai for dinner later.

In other news, I made a new muxtape in honor of summer. CLICK!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

the naming of things.

Many thanks to James for helping me with my new banner. (Banner! Of course! How did I forget that?) Even though our methods would probably be laughed at by any designer, they work for now. Although we did notice that I have all these pictures, none of which are of cupcakes. So maybe at some point I will change the name of this blog and move the entire thing to wordpress. Or not, because I would certainly have a total crisis about a new title.

Going back to cupcakes and pictures thereof, I FINALLY went to A Piece of Cake, a delightful bakery in my neighborhood. I've walked by it so many times, usually alone, and it just seems like cute cakes and baked goods are things to be shared. Of course, whenever I was with people we weren't hungry or it was closed. But yesterday I had friends in town, and we shared a peanut butter filled cupcake and some lemon yummy things. And yes, they were quite good.

a piece of cake

THERE. It's a picture of a cupcake. And my job for the day is done.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

bloggy blog blog.

I feel like my blog needs an update. My links list on the sidebar is so so old, and not really reflective of what I actually read now. I also want a...I don't even know what you call it. A title bar? Sure, a new title bar. With pictures! The problem is, I clearly have no design know how when it comes to web elements, and no programs with with which to design anything. Don't get me wrong - I can figure out what looks good. But I can't create it and install it into my blog.

Digressing, digressing. What I want is something like this:

coffee.rooftoptri-color tomatoesIMG_4937blood orange

Basically, pictures (perhaps bigger) across the top, then with pictures of cupcakes scrawled on the bottom right hand side in a pretty font. Now, let's ignore for a second that this seems not too difficult and yet I have no clue how to do it. Instead let's think about: what do these pictures say about my blog? Do they reflect what I write?

The way I see it, the pictures that I have chosen (for now, this could be changed) say that the content of this blog is 60% food, and 40% buildings/lighting fixtures. Uhh. Hmm.

So then of course the nerdy math geek in me came out (again! you've been so persistent lately!) and said, "Hey, why don't you do an analysis of what your blog is really about?"

I came up with 6 basic categories, though some are quite broad:

- Food
- Links
- Life/personal/etc
- Craft
- Semi-enlightened attempts at writing (Really, this is life/personal/etc but longer and trying a bit harder, I guess. For example: comparing ReadyMade in digital and print form)
- Music

I crunched the numbers (just for posts from 2008), and came up with this:

36% Life/personal/etc
24% Links
21% Food
10% Semi-enlightened attempts at writing
7% Craft
7% Music

..and, those numbers totally add up to 105% because the extra 5% is for AWESOME. Or, I rounded and counted a couple of entries in more than category.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, header picture thingies. I need one! The end.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

about that cake (and other food).

Soooooo I managed to transport the cake to the retirement party in one piece! It was received well, although it turned into a total mess when cut into small pieces. A total mess of gooey chocolatety caramely DELICIOUSNESS. Mmm-hmm. So I'd say it was a success.

As for other food at the party, I have been on a disgusting meat binge due to excessive chicken and pork leftovers. I also made a super awesome mango salsa. I'm going to have to make that again.

To close, a picture of vegetable kebabs, because vegetables are pretty.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

the cafe latte challenge.

Anyone who lives in the Twin Cities and loves dessert has probably been to Cafe Latte, or has at the very least heard of it. One time I went there with a boy, who wanted something sweet after dinner. We got a piece of cake (though not the famous turtle cake, I don't actually remember which kind) and ate it. I asked him what he thought, and he said it was alright, but certainly not worth $5. (Which I believe I paid, by the way.) I defended the cake in question, stating that Cafe Latte probably uses high quality ingredients, which aren't cheap, and then there's the whole cost of labor in making the cake. And sure, $4-5 seems a lot to pay for flour, sugar, and eggs mixed together, but you're not only paying for the cake - you are paying for the experience of going out to eat cake among the people! Cake you didn't have to make yourself!

[Aside: When recounting the story to a friend, she agreed with my view completely, saying that the price is totally worth it cause their desserts are just that good. Also, if you want yummy dessert for cheap, look for the smaller pieces with a toothpick in them - they're half off because they don't look as pretty. But they still taste delicious!]

Fast forward to Friday. My sister and I are hosting a retirement party for our parents, and there was the question of dessert. My sister suggested I pick up a cake from Cafe Latte, but also noted that the recipe for turtle cake is on their website. That recipe was like a challenge, egging me on. Sure, some of the ingredients would be expensive, but so would the cake. And the truth is I like baking, and I don't normally have a reason to make fancy three layer cakes. Also, it was a Friday night and I had nothing better to do except watch depressing holocaust films. (Because I'm just that cool.) So the challenge was on.

I headed to Kowalski's for the finest of ingredients. (More on the cost of ingredients later.) I came back home and started mixing, then put the batter into cake pans that I've had for over two years and have never used. It wasn't until the pans were in the oven when I realized I had possibly made a huge mistake - what if they turn into something that is not cake like at all? Was I completely overconfident in my baking prowess? After all, this could turn into a major disaster and then I'd be out all the money for the ingredients AND I'd have to buy a replacement cake.

But it turned out I was freaking out over nothing, as they baked into something that did indeed look like delicious cake.

cakes and pecans

So phew, disaster averted. Until I remembered that I had to get the cake out of those pans in one piece. Shit. I had a little more trouble with this part.

eep! perfect!

Only one came out perfectly (don't ask me how). One was missing a small portion from the middle, which could be easily covered with frosting, but the other was missing a large chunk from the side. Crap!

Sheesh, this is getting obscenely long. After the cake cooled I started the frosting process, using delicious chocolate goo to cover up any mistakes.

layer one

There was three layers of this, and in the end it looked pretty good, if not a bit lopsided. Leaning cake of Pisa, or something. BEHOLD.


So there it is, ready for tonight's party. Taste reviews will have to come later. Now let's talk about cost, so the hidden math dork in me can calculate this.

1 Egg - bought in bulk from the co-op = $0.25
2/3 cup vegetable oil - Oil is like...a buck? And I still have a lot left. We'll say $0.25.
1 cup buttermilk - 4 cups is $1.79, so 1 cup = $0.45.
2 cups flour - Google tells me there are about 20 cups in a 5 pound sack, which I believe cost $2.50 (rising food prices, man.) 2.50 / 10 = $0.25.
1 3/4 cup sugar - Aw, who cares. We'll just say a quarter for that too.
1/2 cup good quality cocoa - I don't remember how much this was when I bought it, but I used about 1/4 of the guess is $1.00.
Salt and baking soda - What, like 4 cents? Not computed.
1 cup hot coffee - Crap, I have no idea and patience to figure this one. Um, $0.30.

1/2 cup milk - 1 gallon = $4.49 (food prices! geeze!) = 16 cups -> 4.49 / 32 = $0.15.
1 cup sugar - Again, who cares. A quarter.
6 tbsp. butter - I feel like 1 pound of land o'lakes butter is around $3. This is very shaky math territory. 1 pound = 32 tablespoons -> that's about 10 cents per tablespoon x 6 = $0.60.
2 cups high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips - Ghiradelli bag = $3.59
3/4 cup caramel - I just used Smucker's stuff. = $2.15
1 1/2 cups pecan halves = $4.89

Don't worry, I'll do the math for you. The cake only costs about $2.50 to make. The frosting and toppings are $11.63. Yikes. That's a grand total of $14.13. I think a full sized cake from Cafe Latte is about $35. So I saved about $20, not including labor costs.

But are we really talking about cost here? Not really. We're talking about the fact that if I walked in with a cake that I bought, although impressive and delicious, it is still a cake I bought and does not carry much pride. But this one I made? It is also impressive and (hopefully) delicious, and the bottom line is I MADE IT. And labor costs? This was a labor of love, indeed.

Anyway, more to come later. I have to go cut millions of vegetables now.