Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Still alive

I'm still here. I've just been busy with life lately. I've been in and out of town and still have one more weekend trip to go. It's all fun stuff, but the homebody in me is craving some down time at home.

I spent some time with this baby girl:

And was grateful for the chance to spend time with the whole family.

This weekend, I tried to document spring before snow ruined it all on Sunday.

Hopefully, I'll get back to regular posts soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sewing projects 2

I've been working on a few more sewing projects. I became obsessed with making these tote bags from pillowcases. I made 10 in total and gave them to family and friends while keeping two for myself. They are really easy to make, and don't require a lot of machine stitching. Here were the last four I remembered to take pictures of:

My mom sent me a care package several weeks ago full of fun goodies. A book about making bags was in it, and I've made most of one of the bags. I still have to hammer in the eyelets and add the straps, but here's the basic bag:

And then I followed this tutorial to make a spring/summer top. The picture is before I finished sewing on the straps. I made several adjustments in an attempt to make it more fitted, but I haven't worn it so we'll see how it actually looks.


I've determined online tutorials are easier to sew from than patterns. One, there are photos, and two, you can read the comments and find out what adjustments people made.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A weekend away

I think I'm slowly recovering from the time change, but I've been dragging all week. I'm glad to see the sun today and feel like spring is really here. The 80-degree temperatures I expect to enjoy this weekend will help too.

I spent the weekend in D.C. visiting a few friends. It was a great weekend away; there was shopping, lots of walking and good food.

My best friend from high school took me to a Mediterranean tapas restaurant because, as she said, I'm not picky anymore. She further expanded my adventures in food with our meal. Of course, the one thing that was totally new to me, I forgot to take a picture of. But I ate lamb sliders, probably the first time I've had lamb since I went to Switzerland at 13, and this was in a form I was much happier with. Of course, I did scrape off the spicy sauce they had on it. Here are photos of the other things we had, all taken with my iPhone in a dark restaurant:

I don't remember what this cheese was called, but they set it on fire before serving it to us. I wasn't fast enough with my phone to catch it on camera.

Asparagus with goat cheese, two of my favorite foods.

Calamari, this is something I love to order in restaurants, and these were really good.

On the way home Sunday, it was absolutely gorgeous and I took a small detour and shot some photos of the beautiful mountains and countryside. I love visiting our nation's capital, and I did pretty well navigating my way around, but it's always nice to come home to my town in the mountains.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cupcakes (slightly healthy?)

This year I have found I enjoyed cooking, but I've always enjoyed baking. I'm always looking for ways to make yummy desserts for my friends on restricted diets. Cakeballs have been successful, and for two separate occasions over the last two weeks I made chocolate cupcakes that were vegan AND very tasty if I can say so myself.

I got the recipe from Food Network; these won a Cupcake Wars show. The recipe comes from Chef Chloe. I made a few adjustments based on some of my preferences and what I could actually find at the store. I also only made half the recipe, this made 8 regular size cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes. Half the recipe of icing was enough for both batches.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used almond milk because I didn't want any coconut flavor in them.)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (left this out because I couldn't find it)
  • Frosting, recipe below
  • 1 ½ cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
Sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and espresso powder until smooth.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a fork or small whisk.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners until each cup is 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, slice off the top 1/3 of each cupcake and slather with frosting and sliced strawberries. Place the top of the cupcake back on top and add an additional bit of frosting and sliced strawberries. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (refined coconut oil at room temperature OR vegan margarine will also work)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup water
Combine the confectioners' sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat on medium-high speed until combined. With the mixer running, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until the desired buttercream consistency. NOTE: You probably will not use all the water. Simply add as needed while beating.

Obviously this recipe could be turned into a non-vegan version by using actual milk and real butter in the icing. But doesn't it sound healthier to say it is vegan?

I will also say I've been eating some homemade granola with the almond milk, and I am actually a fan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Life at 90%

I can't believe it's the 9th of March, and I'm just getting up my first post for the month. I feel like I've been running at about 90% lately. I get motivated and get about 90% of whatever I'm doing done and then lose motivation and fail to finish the last 10%. I have to admit this isn't really a new development, it just seemed more apparent this week. A few examples:

There are three blog posts that have been 90% finished for a week, but they still aren't completely finished and obviously haven't been posted.

On Saturday, I posted on Facebook about what a productive day I was having. In addition to some fun things, I cooked and did laundry. And while I completed all of the cooking, I went to bed with dishes in the sink and my kitchen in chaos. As for the laundry, I got farther than usual but here's what my drawer looked like:

On Sunday, I decided to start two sewing projects, and I got to 90% on both before stopping. Some of it was out of my control, I didn't have a good spot to hammer in eyelets since it was raining outside. But it was also because the other project got complicated, I got frustrated and gave up for the day. Now I'm afraid these projects are just going to mock me for the next few months.

So I'm pretty much resurfacing today with nothing to say. But hopefully, I'll start finishing up some of these things and have new posts this week.

Oh, one other thing, remember my visitor from a few months back? You probably thought the raccoon was gone; I knew he wasn't but had convinced myself to believe that he was. But last week I couldn't deny the racket he was making and I cried for help, i.e. emailed my landlord. Apparently, this is a smart and quick raccoon, he took the food, tripped the traps and got away with it three days in a row. I'm told they're going to try something else, in the meantime, I'm trying to ignore the scratching of claws I hear in my living room.