Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tis the Season

November is pressing down upon me and as my busiest month of the year I am not exactly looking forward to it in the traditional sense. Actually, I’m kinda freaked out about the whole thing.

November brings NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge that I have participated in since 2004. In past years I’ve run the gamut of writing: planning, note cards, winging it, basic ideas, just a character. I’ve done it all. This year is the first year I haven’t had a direction before October hit. In fact, I just got my ideas together and drafted a nearly naked plot with a few hazy characters. The years I’ve planned I’ve done better but I’m hopeful that I’ll continue my winning streak.

November also brings a last ditch frenzied approach to finishing craft projects for Christmas. As usual I have set myself very high craft goals and then there was the incident earlier this month that accidentally ruined three projects that were near completion. So I’m restarting three projects, continuing two more and trying to find the time for a good half dozen not even started yet.

November is also Cyra’s birthday month. In previous years we've gone camping, thrown small parties, had a simple dinner. This year? It’s bowling. We haven’t established if it will be a bowling party or just us bowling for fun. Either way it will be fun. She’s a whole decade old this year. It seems hard to believe. I cleaned out my closet last week and pulled out the girls’ baby boxes. I love how amazing they are, what wonderful people they are turning out to be but, still, I miss them as babies.

If I have a second favorite holiday, it is the completely made-up Thanksgiving feast. I love to cook and bake and it's like Thanksgiving was created just to enable my cooking obsession. Thanksgiving is often treated as a week long event in my house. I bake far too many desserts, way too many side dishes and a turkey three times larger than we actually have need for. I think the largest group of people I’ve fed in recent years was maybe ten. Typically there are six or seven.  But that doesn’t stop me from cooking as though I was feeding twenty-seven! This year might be slightly different as we certainly don’t have the budget for a proper feast.

Knowing myself as I do, I doubt that I will be writing much for the blog and that distresses me. I have let myself get out of the good habits of regular blogging and commenting and so of course I want to rededicate myself to daily postings. With all my focus on NaNo and crafting, I think I will once again participate in fatmumslim’s Photo-A-Day for November.

Tis the season alright! Season of crazy. Season of fun. Season of self-induced stress. I work best under pressure and deadlines. If I don’t have one or the other I tend to be lazy and self-indulgent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Bit of History, Gone.

Along with all of the other devestation that Sandy has caused, a minor news blip that got almost no attention (from what I can tell) is that the tall ship, the Bounty, sank off of the coast of North Carolina.


The Bounty.

It might have been just a replica built for a Hollywood movie but it was history. History that I walked upon and touched. History that introduced my girls to Marlon Brando. History that now lies at the bottom of the ocean.

Sure it isn't as tragic as the loss of the Titanic or the Lusitania. It isn't as pressing as the flooding in New York - my home state - or the tens of thousands without power. But I'm sad about it nonetheless. Maybe because there aren't many tall ships left in this world of gas and metal. Maybe because The Bounty represented a time and age that I long to be a part of.

Here's a blurb from CNN that shows rescue footage of three of the crew members and another from the Washington Post.

I wrote about the Bounty a few months ago when it docked in St. Augustine and the we took a tour walking the deck where Marlon Brando and Johny Depp walked - not that I'm a big fan of Depp but yeah it was used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

So Much Spanakopita

I've mentioned before how my town loves to celebrate. Every month there are at least two activities be they "fests," concerts, reenactments (actually that seems to happen every week) or gatherings of some sort. It's part and parcel of living in a town with HISTORY and pretty major tourist destination. When I first moved here these fests were an annoyance, just another crowd of tourists and locals that I had to wade through.

Well, my friends, it has finally happened. I am no longer just living here, I've officially become part of the sidewalk congestion problem because I love going to these little festivals.

A week or so ago the local Orthodox Greek church hosted their annual Greek Fest. Much like the Seafood Fest, the Greek Fest has the obligatory craft booths, the county fair-esque kiddie rides complete with creepy carnies, music and the adorable toddlers dressed head to toe in costume ready to entertain us. But the real reason to go to a festival is the food.

Sure watching the little kids dance traditional Greek dances is so. freaking. adorable. you might just squee yourself right into a hospital, but watching those same kids dance while you are chowing down on buttery spanakopita, tangy dolmathes and oh so yummy souvlaki is (to borrow a phrase from Matthew Inman) "like frolicking in the back hair of angels." 

While I did take pictures of the girls, the dancers, and the crowds in general, you know I'm not too comfortable posting them on the web - something about souls being wait, that's not it...oh the whole it's around forever and creepy internet people might, you know, look at them. So I leave you a few shots of the food. Forgive the half eaten state of some of the food as we were all so excited we forgot to take before shots! With so much to choose from the girls and I ended up sharing a combo platter which had a small selection of each meal.

This has the pastitsio, a baked macaroni, half a dolmathes (grape leaf stuffed with meat and rice) and a heaping serving of rice.

Here we divided everything up into thirds. There's a few pieces of flat bread, the spanakopita (filo dough with spinach, cheese and egg), the tiropita (filo dough with egg and cheese) and another half of a dolmathes.

I'm not sure of the origin of calamari. Is it Greek? Who knows? Who cares? Because it was all around the best calamari I have ever had! 

And then after a stroll around the craft booths we headed back to the food tents for desserts! These little gems are called loukoumades. Essentially they are doughnut holes (although to be honest they had a more fried dough taste then a doughnut taste) coated in honey, cinnamon, nuts and powered sugar.

Like the main meal, the girls and I opted to get a sample platter of desserts. There were two of everything so we shared one and saved the other for Scott who was home sick (because the best way to make someone get over a cold faster is to bring them Greek pastries!).

Clockwise from top: flogeres, melomakarona, koulourakia, kourambiethes and baklava
The platter included flogeres (a filo cookie similar to baklava with one end dipped in chocolate), melomakarona (a spiced butter cookie dipped in honey), koulourakia (butter cookies), kourambiethes (wedding cookies rolled in powered sugar) and finally baklava (filo dough stuffed with walnuts and honey).

After all that food we decided to walk around downtown and do some exploring we ended up at the Lightner Museum but that's a tale for another day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Made It Monday - Tuesday Edition

Recently, in an effort to minimize the amount of time I spend in the kitchen, I’ve been researching OAMC (or Once A Month Cooking) and Crock Pot Freezer Cooking. Now this isn’t to say that I hate being in the kitchen. I don’t. I love cooking and baking and making. The problem is I quite often end up busy in the late afternoon running around with the girls or errands or crafting and then it is too late to actually make anything. 

Also, I forget to take things out to thaw.

Plus, guess what’s coming up in nine days? NaNoWriMo! And of course once November hits, everyone is on their own for food, laundry and attention. Having a bunch of prepped meals will make November run just a bit smoother.

I wonder if I can pre-cook Thanksgiving?

In any event, this will probably be a thing now. Six hours of prep, five recipes and at least nine meals clearly equal a win (although I only doubled one recipe, the way they are packed and frozen one bag would be one meal with no leftovers). The only minor drawback of prepping so many meals in advance is storage of said meals.

Up until about a month ago I had a freezer that we bought from a friend which worked fantastic. Sure it was older but it was wonderful! I hadn’t even gotten it stuffed full yet when disaster struck. Because we had to keep it outside on the screened patio (yup) the poor thing worked really hard keeping everything cold until it just couldn’t anymore and blew up.

Alright. Fine. It didn’t technically explode but it made a pop pop popping and then smoke started billowing from the vent. Luckily I was home. Even more luckily, I was out on the patio at the time so I was able to unplug it and stash all of the food in the regular freezer. We’ve been looking at getting another one but smaller to fit it inside…but with only 1300 square feet floor space is at a premium. So while I wanted to prep a few more recipes, I only made what I figured would fit.

Clockwise from lower left (in a spirally manner): baby portabella mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers, onions, carrots, sweet potato, Yukon gold potato, jalapeno, celery and zucchini.
 Once the veggies are prepped then it's on to the meat prep and assembly.

Just to give you an idea, this is one recipe divided into two one-gallon ziploc bags. So while technically one would cook these both together, it is possible to cook one at a time and not have to deal with leftovers - which in my case would be good since somehow leftovers often get shoved to the back of the fridge and neglected. Poor, poor leftovers!

And here is my tiny freezer neatly stuffed with prepped food. Five recipes fit nicely although I'm sure I could have squeezed in one more if I tried.

And, of course, the aftermath. Well, some of the aftermath. Scott was very nice to help clean up as I was finishing up the last of the recipes so what you are not seeing is all of the cutting boards, the stuff still on the floor (mostly canned goods that will be used in other non-prepped meals) and the multitude of dirty bowls.

Just for reference, here are some of the sites that I used for recipes and ideas:

Once A Month Mom


I used the following recipes from Loving my Nest: Meat Stew (I used beef), Pork and Veggies, Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew.

I used Healthy Mama's BBQ Chicken from Mama and Baby Love

I used a Taste of Home recipe, Southwest Chicken, that I modified so I could freeze it.

And last I made Lime Salsa Chicken from a site I neglected to include above, Kojo Designs.

 (the first four links in the update will bring you to the recipe pages)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Photos

Crafts Attack!!

September through December are ridiculously busy for me each year. Between crafting for Christmas and NaNoWriMo (post on that coming soon), birthdays and holidays, I often find myself snatching craft time when I should be doing other things or working on two or more crafts simultaneously because one needs to dry between coats.

A few days ago I found myself darting between two projects - both of which, unfortunately are super top secret so no photos and no actual descriptions of said projects. Although really? Just wait until December 26th and then I'll have about three months of "I Made It Mondays" ready to go!

So while I was darting between a dining room project that involved mod podge, a living room craft with yarn, and trying to squeeze in some kitchen cleaning time I grabbed for the mod podge and...well...

Craftastrophe struck!

Lucky for me I hadn't yet put the project in front of me. I was just setting up for a second coat.

This stuff is washable, right?

Man! My mom's table! She's gonna kill me!

Have I learned a lesson?

Yup. Make sure the cap is actually on the jar before grabbing it while drinking tea and not actually looking at what I'm doing.

The lesson I still haven't learned?

Focus on one project at a time.

Sorry. That just will never happen. I get way too bored, way too quickly. No. I take that back. I don't get bored with the projects. I just know I have so many in progress that I can't just wait for glue to dry without having something else to do. Sara yells at me for this all the time. Well, not this exactly, but she has never understood why I can't just sit and do nothing occasionally. I've got to have something to do. And I can totally pin that one on my Mom.

Back to work!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

birds win because they can fly

So I came home last night after a successful trip to Barnes and Noble (any trip to the book store, by the way, is always successful) and found this hanging out along the roof of the carport:

 Can you see that little squiggle up next to that ledge? No? Let
Meet Winston the Yellow Rat Snake
 WHAT?!?! Seriously? That snake is totally waiting to ambush us as we get out of the car!
Just to give you all a bit of scale: that pillar is about 1x2.5 and he is wrapping himself around nearly all FOUR SIDES!
Let me do some math here (it isn't my strong suit so give me a sec)...

Winston is at least three to four feet long! And he's all scrunched up which means he's probably longer.

This is what I think he was after:

There were two birds up in the corner of the that ledge sleeping. They've done it before and I've always told them that they need to go home to their nest because I'm no voyeur. And Winston looked rather intent upon getting to that ledge.

Fortunately for the bird - not so much for Winston - our shrieks of fear that a monster snake was about to launch itself at us from the ceiling woke the birds up and they took off. This one only made it to the pillar on the other side of the carport. I think he was still a bit groggy from all the partying he was doing. Winston, however, seemed less than pleased that his dinner had flown off and took to hunting some moths while we watched from the safety of the house.

This morning when Scott left he found the bird had come back to the pillar after Winston slithered off:

Jackie Chan (I've just named him that) is clinging, ninja-like, to the interior corner of the pillar completely asleep. Not even flash photography disturbed him!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Big Dream One: The RV Life

I’ve always been a big dreamer. I set my sights on goals that are almost unattainable like winning the lottery despite never actually playing the lotto. I dream of sailing around the world in my custom built 60 foot sailboat, The Hyperbole, despite the fact that I get seasick just looking at a boat. I dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail despite my overwhelming fears of aliens, sasquatch, and alien sasquatch. I dream of opening a gaming shop with my husband even though we’d end up strangling each other after the first day or two. I dream of a bakery with Sara even though she isn’t nearby.

I dream Big Dreams.

Two of the most diametrically opposite Big Dreams have been at the forefront lately. One stems from my love of travel and sightseeing, the other from my growing desire to be self-sufficient. A third Big Dream is really the most realistic it's just a matter of pushing myself. 

Today I’m going to talk about Big Dream Number One.

Before I met Sara, home to me was a place. A single location where roots were set down and bonds formed in the community. Home was a tangible, unique space. Growing up, I moved around a lot. Maybe not more than a military family, but it seemed every few years we were up and going somewhere else. I hated it. I wanted a place that was ours and we’d never have to leave. Sara, however, taught me that home wasn’t a place and roots could be transplanted quite easily. Home is my family: Scott and the girls. If I’ve got them, then I’m good. It doesn’t matter where we live. I’m sure I would have figured this out eventually, but Sara, being awesome, helped speed the process up.

The longest I’ve ever stayed in one house was six years. It seems that maybe all that moving around in my youth stuck with me and I get itchy feet every three years or so. There’s a Tom Petty song I love, Time To Move On, and I am fairly certain he meant it to be my theme song because I always have this need to just go. 

Dream Number One would help to alleviate those feet. If I had any assets to liquidate, I would do so immediately, buy an RV (I really like this one and this one) and take to the road. I would love to travel the back roads with the girls and Scott exploring every nook and cranny this country has to offer. How cliché, right? But how very cool would it be to wake up in the morning and say, “Hey, let’s go check out Montana” and just go? How freeing is that? Today I feel like…New Mexico…Next week, how about Ohio?

If I RV’d my life I would certainly have to make some major changes. And maybe they’d be for the best. The appealing idea here is that not only would I get to travel the country, but I would have to, by the very nature of living in an RV, downsize my life. Go minimalist. I am the first to confess an attachment to my stuff: books, craft supplies, gaming supplies, bakeware, all my Christmas decorations! Gack! Just thinking about not putting my Santas out on display makes me squirm in my guts. But like wiping a blackboard clean, there is something very appealing about getting rid of everything. I’m not anywhere close to being a hoarder. I’ve seen true hoarding and trust me, it keeps me in check! And surely anything that I could not bring myself to part with would find a home in storage until I needed it again.

Maybe after a few years or so driving the road, I’d yearn to plant myself firmly in one spot.