Monday, November 24, 2008

Last-minute baking

I decided to make the pumpkin cookies my mom and I made together last weekend (see Nov. 20 post for recipe). They tasted like crap because I decided to use less sugar since I thought they were too sweet last time. They do look pretty though.

I also made some apple sauce (which will be used in an apple pie for Thanksgiving). I had two large Rome apples left over from last week's groceries.

They were too ripe to just eat, but I sliced them up and added:
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. nutmeg.

I cooked them over low heat for about an hour, stirring ocassionally.

I like to use sweet apples instead of sour ones, which I know many people prefer. By using the overripe apples, they remind me of these pickled apple rings my great grandpa used to eat. Feel free to use harder or tarter apples if that's what reminds you of your grandpa.

My new toaster

I bought a new toaster last night. Some advice: don't just buy the cheapest toaster at Wal-Mart. a) The slots are too narrow to toast a bagel.
b) the slots aren't long enough to fit a piece of break.
c) the thingy doesn't push down.

Yeah. Once I crammed my bagel, then my boyfriend's bread into the slots, I couldn't even toast them because it's a piece of royal crap. Then again, what did I really expect from a $6 toaster?

My kitty liked the box it came in at least.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday crafternoon

My roommate and I held our first crafternoon of the Christmas season yesterday. As usual, we didn't get as much done as we had planned, but we have several ongoing project we will work on throughout the season.

Our first project was making gift tags. I originally was going to buy a fairly expensive set of woodland stamps from an online boutique, but found a similar set from the new Martha Stewart craft collection at Wal-Mart. Who knew?

They turned out pretty cute, but there were quite a few that we threw out. We compared them to our adventures in cookie decorating—we always have really good intentions and pretty colors picked out, but they always end up looking like a couple of 5-year-olds went nuts on them.

As we went along, we realize that less is more, and it got a little easier. Next time I would recommend having paper punches that can cut out various shapes. We scissored most of the cut outs and they didn't turn out very clean. Also, the ink we used for stamping dried slowly, so we ended up smudging quite a few tags.

We also used glitter from the Martha Stewart collection. I highly recommend it. It's messy, but it stuck very nicely to the glue. We also got a pen that contains glitter glue that worked quite nicely for lettering and find details.

The second project we are working on is felted stockings. So far, we are still knitting the stockings. We will be washing and felting them later this week. I'm curious to see which yarn works best for it. Both of the colors we are working with are 100 percent wool, but according to my sister, some yarns look better felted than others.

More crafternoons to come...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mama Mia!

Gosh, I've been bad about posting this week. It's crunch-time at school and deadlines for internships are fast approaching.

I did, however, have time over the weekend to stay with my mom for a couple of days. We got a lot of girl-time in, which included baking, soup-making, scrabbling and babbling—all over a glass of Bailey's on the rocks of course.

We made a Fresh Chicken Salad for lunch:


1 6 oz. can of white-meat chicken
1 bunch of red grapes, halved
1 stalk of celery
1/4 cup of light mayo
2 T walnuts
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
2 whole wheat pitas, halved

Combine chicken mayo. Add grapes and celery. At this point the salad can be refrigerated at this point until you are ready to serve. Once ready, add walnuts and cilantro. Spoon into pitas. Serves: 2.

We also made some cookies to freeze until Thanksgiving when the whole family will be home. OK, I admit we might have eaten a few this weekend, too.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies


2 1/2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 14 oz. can pumpkin
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, cream butter and sugar, once combined, add pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Slowly add in dry ingredients. Once the mixture is smooth, add almonds and white chocolate chunks.

Using a tablespoon, spoon onto cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes. Makes about two and a half dozen cookies.

We also made my Winter Minestrone recipe from a few weeks back. It was even better than I remember.

We ended the night with a rousing game of scrabble. My kind of weekend!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Put those scissors down!

So I started out cutting my bangs.

First they were crooked to the left.

Then they were crooked to the right.

They looked a bit thin, so I cut some more.

Then the rest of my hair looked off balance, so I trimmed a little there.

And a little here.

Then it looked like I had a mullet.

And not the sweet kind.

So I cut off the back.

Then it looked a little thick on top.

A large pile of hair on the floor later...



I liked it better before : (

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Striking gold

I stopped by the thrift store down the street to sift through the craft supplies. I didn't find much in the crafts (which is strange because I normally come away with at least one priceless item), but I did find three killer necklaces.

This one reminded me of a brooch my great-grandma gave me.
Plus, it's a really good color purple, no?

When I was 9, my Christmas list consisted
of anything with whales or dolphins on it.
Here's to my old self. Now, I'd prefer whales.

Obviously, I will wear this with my gold tuxedo.

If all else fails, make soup

What a lazy day. I had every intention of getting everything done, but my seemed to get foiled at every turn. My portfolio has yet to be recovered from my stupid corrupted USB disk, my photo subject never showed up for the shoot and my gym buddy flaked out on me again.

I did get a few things done.

The leftover vegetables and herbs from my soup-making escapades of the weekend went into a big pot of what I'm calling "Leftover Soup"

1 potato
3 cans of stewed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 T vegetable oil
1 t pepper
1 t salt
1 head cabbage
4 carrots
1 cup water
1/4 cup parsley
1 cup uncooked pasta
(This is all I remember including anyway)

Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, potato, carrots and water, simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots a potato are tender. Add cabbage, cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Bring to soft boil, add pasta and cook for about 10 minutes.

Voila. It's a fast, easy way to get all five of your daily servings of vegetables and clean out your refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Forward and back

On my way home from my great-grandmother's funeral, I turned off the radio and drove in silence, so I could enjoy the late summer drive through Minnesota and unwind. Through the open window, I felt the late September heat as a warm wind buzzed in my ears and kissed my face. It was that time of afternoon when the sun is low enough in the sky that the car visor no longer shielded my eyes. Dust, insects and birds were backlit in a dreamlike vision.

Following the burial service at a cemetery a small town away, I came to visit another cemetery where my infant brother and great-grandparents were buried. As I stepped out of the car, holding my hand as a visor above my eyes, the sun illuminated a rabble of butterflies. I recognized them as Danaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly and remembered a time when they were more than just a rabble—they were my special project.

Throughout my childhood, my dad worked at a wildlife research center in central North Dakota. My older sister and I grew up accompanying him on various wildlife adventures. My earliest memory took place at the center when, at age 3, I followed my dad along a weed-lined path. Near the edge of the path, a fence encased a group of animals the center was studying. “Don’t touch the fence,” my dad warned, as we got closer. As most curious three year olds would, I grabbed the fence. A bolt of electricity traveled through my body.

The summer before I started sixth grade, I grew particularly interested in research the center was doing on monarch butterflies. The biologists and statisticians spent countless hours recording and calculating mating, reproduction, and metamorphosis cycles. I was most interested in the metamorphosis stage.

My research began without the intention of it really being research. My dad and I wandered along the gravel road near our house and came upon milkweed—the only plant in which monarch caterpillars will feast. As I examined the weed, I began to find caterpillars of nearly the same bright color green, devouring the leaves. I could actually see the leaves shrinking before my eyes. I broke off a branch of the plant, careful not to disturb the caterpillar's noshing and carried it home.

I found a Mason jar my mom used for canning our yearly apple harvest. I slipped the branch into the jar, covered the top with paper towel and screwed on the gold ring used to hold the lid in place. The jar sat on the windowsill in the basement for a couple of days. I replaced the milkweed daily, keeping my caterpillar happy.

One day, I couldn't find my caterpillar on the milkweed. I was almost convinced he had mysteriously escaped from the jar when I spotted his white, fuzzy cocoon hanging from the paper towel. Over the next couple of days, I checked on him every chance I got. On the third day, I began to see the orange and black tips of his new wings. Soon he emerged a beautiful butterfly, and I released him where I found him and began to search for a new caterpillar that I could watch transform.

It wasn't hard to find a new one. In fact, I wasn't sure I'd be able to find enough jars for all the new caterpillars I had found. My mom probably wondered what I was doing running up and down the stairs and in and out the back door. I don’t think she ever noticed her canning jars disappearing one by one.

I named each caterpillar and gave it a number and recorded its measurements and length of the metamorphosis cycle. Some caterpillars took three days to transform, others emerged only a day after I found them. One caterpillar remained in its cocoon for nearly a week. My anxiety heightened each day as I wondered when it would emerge. One morning, the cocoon disappeared. I looked for a flash of orange and black. Instead, the lifeless cocoon lay at the bottom of the jar. Tears welled in my eyes, and I left my caterpillars unattended for the rest of the day.

It probably wasn’t my fault he didn’t make it, and I knew there were many more caterpillars to take care of in my basement. My work continued. With each release, I gained a deeper understanding of its life cycle.

By the end of the summer, I had caught and released several dozen butterflies. I also had the makings of a pretty good science project for school the next year. Most importantly though, I learned about how fragile a life can be.

I stood in the cemetery and looked at the gravestone carved with my brother’s name and a date that reveals he didn’t even live a day. Next to it, stood the large gravestone of my great-grandparents, who both lived into their 80s to see their grandchildren’s’ families grow. I thought of my butterflies. Some caterpillars never made it into their cocoons, while others never made it out. Some made it through the summer, the long fall migration and rough winter, back up north in the spring to lay eggs of new caterpillars.

OOOh. Volare.

I can't get over how adorable Ximena Sarinana is. Besides, you really can't go wrong with a little Dean Martin, which reminds me that it's time to get out my Rat Pack Christmas songs.

She also makes me feel a little better about wearing my samurai ponytail in public.

Apparently this song is not available on CD, but it's downloadable on her MySpace. I wish I spoke Spanish because her CD probably contains amazing lyrics. Oh well, her voice makes up for the lack of comprehension.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Most wonderful time of the year (list)...

So now that I've started my list for my loved ones, it's time to start my own. Selfishly fun.

1) I want this bag, I WANT IT. It's organic and just plain lovely. It would be even lovelier packed full of my crap.

Moop's market bag in gun metal

2) I'm growing my hair out (trying...again), so fun accessories are my new favorite. I adore these bobbies from Sprout Studio.

I plan to plan my outfits around these hair pins.

3) I secretly hope the trip to Costa Rica gets canceled simply so I can buy my dream camera.

The Nikon d300 leaves my mouth agape. All I really want is
to just be able to take decent photos at 6400 ISO.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bike Workshop

Bike Workshops are a non-profit organization that provide bikes and bike repairs for those who need them. The organization is looking for bike and parts donations and well as those who can help repair bikes. Volunteers work two days a week fixing bikes and sorting donations.

The workshop outgrew their previous space in downtown Fargo and moved Nov. 1 a few blocks down First Avenue North to a larger building. The slower winter months will be spent fixing up the new space. Volunteers are needed for painting, building, plumbing and electric work.

The organization continues their work through the winter months holding winter bike-riding classes, in which volunteers with teach winter safety techniques and illustrate how bikers can make their own studded snow tires.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Freezer-ready food

This week was stressful at work. I tend to eat a lot of crap because it's what I crave, and I simply don't have time to pack a lunch.

Fall is quickly turning into winter, and what better than some yummy soups to warm me up. I wanted some that I could freeze and bring to school this week. I found two recipes that have several overlapping ingredients, as to save a bit of money, but each features a very different taste.



2 medium onions chopped
4 carrots chopped
4 celery stocks chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
2.5 lbs. beef chuck
1/2 cup flour
2 14.5 oz. cans beef broth
3 large russet potatoes
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
1 bunch parsley
1 sprig thyme
4 T. butter
2 T. red wine

Coat beef chunks in flour, salt and pepper well. Heat 2 T. butter over medium heat, add beef and cook thoroughly.

In separate skillet, heat 2 T. butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook until tender. Add mixture to beef. Add beef stock, tomato paste, potatoes and tomatoes.

With kitchen string, bind parsley and thyme. Add to stew. Add wine.

Cook for 1.5 hours. Remove herb bunch.

Let cool overnight in fridge. Skim off fat and divide eight servings into microwave-safe plastic containers.

(adapted from a recipe by Giada deLaurentiis)


2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stocks chopped
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 large russet potato, cubed
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
2 T. parsley finely chopped
2 14.5 oz. cans of Cannellini beans
1 14.5 oz. can of chickpeas
2 14.5 oz. cans beef broth
1 cup pasta shells

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. In a food processor, mix 1 can of Cannellini beans with 1 can of broth.

Add bean/broth mix to onion mixture. Add second can of broth. Bring to soft boil.

Boil pasta shells just until tender, add to soup. Add potatoes, cook until tender.

Add second can of Cannellini beans, chickpeas and parsley. Cook until beans are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Let soup cool, divide into six single servings in microwave-safe plastic containers.

Freeze, thaw and eat as needed!

First snow

Snow is expected if you live in Fargo. This first snow was pretty tame, but it makes me excited for what is to come. I will love the snow until Jan. 2, when winter is finally just winter and not the holidays.

Time to take my running indoors. I have really been slacking on getting to the gym over the last few weeks because school has been crazy. I got my new Runner's World last night. I'm hoping it will have some tips for winterizing my running.

Tomorrow I get to go to the non-profit bike workshop in town to shoot some photos. Can't wait.