Sunday, December 11, 2011

Computer Games 11.02

Well...I know I said I was done with New Vegas, but my boyfriend got me two posters for my birthday that were New Vegas themed so... I'm kinda getting back in the mood for the game now. Near the end I started focusing more on leveling up, fighting, and not really taking time to take in the scenery and ambiance, so I am going to emphasize that this time around. Also, I have played so many times, I have finally gotten down the perfect order to do everything in, and how to approach things.

I like to play with the "Wild Wasteland" trait because sometimes you come across weird things - this for instance.  Hopefully you get the reference.  Poor Indy...

The science poster looks better in real life because I didn't want to take a picture with any glare and so I took it in less-than-optimal lighting.  Anyway, those two are the ones I got - quite fitting.  

In other computer game news, my three best male friends (including my boyfriend, of course) are all on board for two games now, updated from just one before. We added Starcraft II to our playlist - in addition to Left 4 Dead (2). So now in the evenings when I wanna unwind and we can get the gang together, that's our new thing. We will be adding Alien Swarm shortly.  I also just discovered there is a short story that comes with that Amnesia game I finished recently - the pdf is in the download file, so I will have to look through that soon.

Haute Cuisine 1.17

It has been a while since the last Haute Cuisine post, has it not?  Well, my mom recently signed me up for a monthly box of fresh veggies and fruit delivered to my doorstep, so of course this gives me a chance to experiment.  Anyhow, we have a lot of spinach and two fennel bulbs.  Now, I liked my fennel soup that I made before, though my boyfriend didn't like it.  One of the nice things was that it actually used the fennel fronds - most of the recipes only use the bulb (unless it's a salad, which I generally never eat).  Anyway, I am going to re-make the Fennel and Zucchini Soup, then the other bulb I will cut and roast with olives and garlic.

We also have a lot of spinach - again, good for salads but I don't like salad - so it is up to me to find some kind of dish for it.  I thought quiche at first, but most recipes I found involved Swiss cheese, which I don't like.  I didn't want to substitute, so I looked on my two favorite places to get recipes (bon appetit, and whole living) and found these two dishes: Spinach Dill Pie and Semolina and Spinach Gratin.  I want to try the pie most, because we have a lot of fresh dill and I want to use it.  It all depends on whether I can find phyllo dough.  If I cannot find any phyllo, then it's the gratin.

... Fast-forward several hours, I boiled the mustard greens, tossed with my sweet and creamy vinaigrette (custom made...) and just finished making the Fennel and Zucchini soup, and the Spinach Dill Pie.  I will say this right now - I will probably never ever cook anything that requires phyllo dough again.  Of course, I did just open it without letting it defrost first, that was my first mistake.  Then unrolling it and trying to pick it up was my next mistake.  Luckily I managed to get a couple sheets off easily enough to make 3 or 4 layers and make some semblance of a pie crust.

Next I proceeded to saute the onions and garlic in butter on the stove and got the spinach set aside, chopped it.  Eventually added it in and cooked it long enough to wilt.  In the meantime, I mixed the other ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Eventually it was all set to go and I just had to spoon it into the crust.

Once that was in the oven at 375F for approximately one hour until it got browned on the top, I got the soup going - so cut and sauteed the zucchini, fennel, and onions, and sauteed the tomatoes.  Added the fennel fronds to the tomatoes, blended the veggies in the container, and voila.  

Now that this is out of the oven, I gotta say it looks really good.  The crispy perfectly golden-browned top looks great.  I was worried I was gonna burn it by approximating one hour but it was pretty much on the dot. Now it's cooling and we shall eat it later tonight!  I'll probably include a cross-sectional picture once we cut it out.  Hopefully the dough turned out okay, the edges are probably more singed than ideal but whatever.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Creative Projects 7.07

While on my Raleys trip today, I also got some fresh herbs!  Dill and Sage.  I got them all arranged and put in the plant press.  Since I didn't really show pictures of the process, here you go!

Step 1: Pick out some kind of plant or flower that you want to preserve and press - lay it out on a thin sheet of paper, in the arrangement that you like

Step 2:  If you have a functional pressing board, you can do what is recommended and place between some cardboard, place between the boards, and tighten the screws until it is night and pressed.  However, the boards that we got are kind of...well...shitty - the wood started to crack when we tried to screw them together, so I decided a better way would be to take one of my medical tomes and place it on top.  So first we put it between several layers and between the boards, then I place the extra materials on top, and then place my huge book on top.  It worked great for the thyme, and you can press different plants if you use different layers so now I am pressing two plants at once!

I am looking forward to seeing how they look.  It was originally intended to combine two of the herbs that my boyfriend wanted to show, because he wanted 5 and I got a quad frame, but I think we may just have to get a new frame for one of the remaining herbs.  Which should get it's own frame... Rosemary or Basil...  I'm thinking Basil because it is one of my boyfriend's favorite herbs of all time - and it deserves to be showcased solo.  

Self Improvement 10.04

Well I know it's too soon to say the sweet potatoes are helping (my skin has been doing better it seems), and I know that it's bad form to add another variable into the mix, but while I was at Raleys I remembered that they might have flaxseed oil and that is good for skin, eyes, cholesterol, etc.  So I found some in the refrigerated natural foods aisle (took me a while to find it) - and when it's refrigerated you know it's legit - and got myself some.  Before I had gotten some flaxseed oil which wasn't refrigerated from Safeway, and used it on sliced whole wheat bread and it was tolerable - an acquired taste, I came to like it.  I tried some of the new refrigerated kind today on my bread - it tasted amazing!  SO much better than the other stuff - the room temp stuff from Safeway had this kind of acrid olive oil-like flavor to it - this was wonderful, and significantly healthier than butter so I think this shall replace my toast cravings.  Expensive stuff, but delicious.  Since the fortified one was the same price as the non-fortified, I got the fortified.  No harm.  Soooo good though.  

I am going to run today, I think since the jog before was so easy that I will jog an extra 10 minutes today, making it 4 miles instead of 3.  I also have to walk to and from a BART station to get to the hospital I am rotating at so that adds some good exercise to my day.  I am also mixing in my pilates video for days where I just don't feel up to running or my ankle is killing me or something like that.  Good times!  I also got a lot of errands done today.  Until I run, I will do some studying, snack on some berries, maybe an almond or two (I limit myself to 10, because my jaw joints are not so good and ache a lot after chewing tough things, and also because I don't want to just eat them like candy - they are pretty nutrient dense, and that includes calories!)

Cocktails 12.01

Okay, so I may not have mentioned yet on this blog but I ADORE making cocktails - the more colorful, creative, and esoteric the ingredients, the better!  Anyhow, I recently went through a St. Germain phase - it is a French liquor, ends up being about $35-40 dollars a bottle depending on tax, and is from Elderflowers.  The taste is difficult to describe - it is flowery, tropical, fruity, also with a hint of tea flavor.  It is a rather delicate flavor, and the proof is low enough that you can drink it on the rocks really easily.  Speaking of rocks, I think my order of stone cocktail rocks just arrived!  Can't wait to put those to use!  Anyhow, I was making tons of cocktails with it - the cocktail that started it all had rose water, grapefruit juice, vodka and St. Germain liquor in it and was absolutely wonderful.  Tasted it for the first time on my trip to Portland, OR.

Anyhow, that phase was fun, and I will certainly get some St. Germain again at some point in the future, but for now I'm thinking of holiday-themed drinks.  I know there are a million out there, mostly mixing eggnog and rum, or brandy, or anything to get you liquored up enough to stand being around tons of family members you haven't seen in forever who annoy the crap out of you, or children who are incessantly begging you to give them stuff or pay attention to them.  I know I say that like someone who may have been there but I really haven't - no children of my own, essentially no extended family (you'd be surprised, besides my mom, dad, and sister, I just have one grandma, one aunt, and a cousin's family who has two kids and I see them once a year, and not on holidays).  My boyfriend has added his family to the mix now, however, so that shall be quite interesting.

Back to the cocktails - I subscribe to the free weekly newsletter from The Spirit, which is a website devoted to liquors, cocktails, they have a magazine, and the website has a really nice design, which is one of the main reasons I like it, to be honest.  They also have tons of pictures.  Anyhow, below is the ingredients for one of their seasonal cocktails I saw in their thanksgiving newsletter.

Serving Size: 1 

1 ¾ oz Bulleit or Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/8 oz St. Elizabeth All Spice Dram
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
2 tbsp pumpkin spice puree
1 egg, whites only
½ oz marzipan syrup (2 cups water, 5 oz marzipan paste, 1/8 cup sugar, melted into milky syrup)
½ oz fresh squeeze lemon juice

Place liquor, thyme, pumpkin, lemon, marzipan syrup and egg white into shaker and shake vigorously for 20 seconds without ice. Add ice and shake again for another 15 seconds. Fine strain into a coup glass and serve as is. 

Pumpkin Spice Puree

1 14.5oz can pumpkin puree

1 ½ cups water

1 cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground, dried ginger
1 tsp molasses (optional)

I made the cocktail - here are pictures of the more challenging parts

Step 1: Pumpkin puree with added sugar and spice (and everything nice - haha, I kid) 

Next I cut the marzipan paste (which comes in a quantity of 7oz) into 5/7 so that I could get 5 ounces, then broke it into pieces to increase surface area and thus decrease dissolving time in the water-sugar mix.  Below you can see that it did eventually turn into (as described) a milky fluid.

Here are all my new fluids that I purchased - the bourbon and the kracken spiced rum were for the great pumpkin cocktail (I couldn't find the all spice dram, so I used spiced rum and added a dash of allspice) and the apple cider and brandy were for a cocktail of their own.  The ginger beer and sarsaparilla was for the kraken rum, because on the website the kracken rum goes with coke, ginger beer, ginger ale, and root beer/sarsaparilla, so we tried that and everyone agreed the flavors all complemented each other very well.  Tonight was a fun night of cocktail experimentation and fun with friends.  We are planning to do a truffled mac and cheese with kielbasa night on Wednesday, and my boyfriend and I will be going on the Napa wine train on next Friday!  That shall be amazing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Creative Projects 7.06

Since I am relatively certain my boyfriend's parents do not check my blog, I shall post the latest creation of mine.  I was at Michael's a while ago trying to figure out a present for his parents, who I am visiting for Christmas.  Last year I got each set of parents (his parents are divorced so there are two couples now) a nice bottle of wine.  This year I was thinking of making a Christmas ornament, something fancy.  As I walked around the aisles, I came across some glass etching patterns - you get a pattern, put it on something made of glass, put this paste on that corrodes at the surface, wash it off and voila, a lovely professional looking glass etching.  There were some with letters and with grape designs, so I figured I could put the names of his parents on the glasses and decorate with grape stuff.  

After getting the kits and the corrosive paste, I ordered some nice cabernet sauvignon glasses online (they are fans of cabernet).  The glasses arrived a couple days ago but I hadn't gotten around to doing anything with them. I started a new rotation today and had a fair amount of time so I figured I would do that today.  It took 3 hours! I was surprised.  First I had to cut out and duct tape the designs (with their protective plastic) onto four glasses.  Then I had to use a popsicle stick (essentially) to grind the pattern onto the glass - this is just the stencil, mind you.  Then I had to carefully remove the protective plastic and re-duct tape around the stencils to ensure none of the corrosive paste could mess up the design.  After that I added the paste, waited 60 seconds per glass, and washed it off.  I ended up with some very nice looking glasses - better than I had expected, actually.  Also, I was surprised that the etched part didn't have a rough texture - it feels essentially as smooth as the original glass.

Another project I have been working on which seems to be ready is the pressed plant project - I think it has been two weeks since we placed it in the press, so I shall now check it...and it looks great!  Just fitted it into the quad - need to start pressing other plants now - he wants dill, sage, rosemary, and basil, so we will have to combine two of those into the larger quad space. 

Bloodlust 2.05

I suppose this has become more of a Halloween/bloodlust post stream rather than just plain bloodlust, but anyhow, I shall continue.  The wig I ordered came today - I tried it on, and I think it will do nicely - of course it will look better when I'm wearing the costume and do makeup and such, but here it is.  It looks pretty much how I pictured it would - there were a few other ones that I had read do not come out looking as nice as pictured.  Wigs can be tricky, they aren't very easy to keep nice.  

I think this will be the last of the bloodlust posts until Halloween comes around, unless I decide to do some photo manipulation or drawing or something along the bloodlust theme.  Until then!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Self Improvement 10.03

My ankle has been bothering me when I run lately - my left ankle on the medial side and it's only when my foot lands a certain way.  It feels more ligamentous in nature, so I am not sure what the problem is.  I've started taking Glucosamine since I'm worried about wearing down my joints, and I tried running on the treadmill today since it's just straight running and I could evaluate whether my gait or just running in general was the problem.  As far as I can tell, it's my gait.  Some good news though - I set the pace on the treadmill for the same speed I go outside, about 6.0 (so about a 10 minute mile) and I was able to just keep going - no problem.  It was fun - relaxing.  I then just speed-walked for the rest at 3.5 and listened to a medical lecture on my phone.  I think I'll stick to the treadmill until I don't notice my ankle pain anymore then go back to trail running.  They are very different experiences - trail running the scenery changes and I keep changing direction so it's a little harder to daydream, but it's more fun because there's more variety and beautiful sunsets - also half the time that I run outside I have my best friend join me, so there's that.  

As far as eating healthy - that has been going well as well.  I am still eating half a yam a day - my skin is doing better but I will wait a month before making any judgement one way or another.  Also, I got the Black Malva shampoo and conditioner - as well as a color protectant leave-in product.  I like the products, but I've only been using them for a few days so we shall have to wait and see if it makes any difference in color.

I have also been splurging for blueberries, so I can snack on those.  It's expensive...but I'll do it.  Then greek yogurt, avocados, almonds, various other fruit like Japanese persimmons, and various types of brewed tea for my drink.  I feel pretty good - nice and healthy.  Most of what I eat when I eat out has been sushi.  Today is my birthday so I went out with my best friend for some Japanese food - tomorrow I'm going to get sushi again with my boyfriend.  Should be delicious!  

Bloodlust 2.04

So I was going to grow my hair out, but my boyfriend doesn't really want me to - so it is unlikely I will just grow my hair out for next Halloween.  I looked for some wigs, and eventually found one that looked to my liking.  I ordered it after much deliberation, so in a bit I will have my costume complete for next year.  I was thinking of another costume for next year, maybe Sarah Kerrigan the Queen of Blades from Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, or Chell from Portal 2 - Chell would be the easiest costume but I would really need to make a Portal gun prop.  Kerrigan would work if I only did the version of her after she becomes less Zerg-y in the soon-to-be-released sequel to Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty.  Since I have all the materials for my geisha samurai girl, that will be next year's for sure, but I can still dream of other costumes!

One reason I like this wig is because it has red in it - and it's not just short, it's got other stuff too.  Looking forward to getting it in the mail - I may post a picture with it on!