Sunday, December 25, 2016

T-minus 6

6 days until the new year - 2017.  I think it will be the start of many good years.  Christmas was good, typically is.  Yule time is often quite nice.  I am somewhat craving some Wassail - which to me means dark beer plus fruit juice and spices.  To my other half, all that minus the beer.  Not quite as warming IMO but to each his/her own.

Revisiting my plans from a few weeks ago -

1. Yule log - check
2. Yule themed wreath - gotta find materials....
3. Perfect Yule cocktail - I've been making gin + tonic mix + cranberry + club soda, does that count?  It looks reddish!  Just need to take a pretty pic and add some herbs in... rosemary would do nicely.
4. Figure out things to plant for spring - well, the plants are alive and the mint plant is thriving - still gotta discuss the plant plans.  I am leaning towards several herbs (see below) and a couple edible flowers, since they all do well as "companion plants" and encourage pollinators and discourage pests.  Need to find some sweet woodruff seeds... haven't ordered any yet but I think these would all do well.
5. Add on the XHIT leg exercises - yup!  Since starting two weeks ago I have maintained doing them Tues and Thurs!  Even this past Thurs when I REALLY didn't want to!
6. Journal Club at work - yup!  It is up and running.
7. Halloween costume - that will be a challenge, but I do have a lot of time to work on it...  Hopefully we'll get an update on Cyberpunk 2077, and what with the Bladerunner sequel coming out next year, I should have enough fodder!
8. Read a chapter of Ulysses with companion book between each "great book" completion - yup!  I've only done one, but considering I just finished Pedro Calderon de la Barca's "La Vida es Sueno" I guess I'm due to do the second chapter.
9. Clear my CME inbox - does putting them all in a folder titled "Medscape CME" count?  No... but that won't be happening.
10. New chapter of Red Horizon - this goal is now changing to re-read Red Horizon (partial draft 1) and revise it.  I need to make some changes to the dynamics of my future dystopia.  It's got elements of Orwell and Huxley, but finding the right balance is the key part for maintaining realism.

Bonus goals:
- Set up monthly donations to Electronic Frontier FoundationCenter for Reproductive RightsNational Resources Defense Council, and Move On
- Weekly World History and Marine Bio readings - even setting up flashcards!
- Got some longer-sleeve work clothing
- Added some aluminum prints to my office

Still need to work on drawings, finish SC2, and hash out the details of next years' vacations.

As a bonus-bonus goal, I organized my computer files!  Dating back to the year 2000!  Ugh my diary.  So painful.  Such a teenybopper.  Yes, I admit it, I was insufferable.  Now I have all my pics and documents in two places - desktop and portable hard drive.

I think things are off to a rip roaring start.  I just have to keep going on these things!  Time to check on the Jun tea -


Buche de Noel aka Yule Log

Yule Log!  I made my first one based on THIS recipe - it took about 2 hours of nonstop baking and mixing, so plan ahead - I didn't make it as decorated as that picture, but it turns out pretty well - here are the pictures of the process:


Here are all the ingredients laid out - it doesn't look like much, right?  Only problem is all the damn whipping you have to do!!


Whipping egg yolks...


Whipping egg whites...


Rolling the fresh baked chocolate-whipped yolk stuff...


Applying the chocolate whipped cream (third whipped item btw)...


Cutting it to look kinda like a branch



I thinly spread some melted semisweet chocolate along parchment paper and chilled it in the fridge - the brown is a bit homogeneous but it looks decent with the powdered sugar sprinkled on top!


And ta-da!!!

By the way, it tastes AMAZING.  I'm a chocoholic and I thought the amount of powdered cocoa that goes into it wouldn't be sufficient but it was fantastic.  I love this cake.  I want to make it a tradition that we try new ways to decorate it every year - I want to try those mushroom meringues next time!

Happy Yule and Happy Holidays!  
The days start to get longer from here on out!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Almost Back in the Saddle

Getting so much closer to restarting the writing.  Here's how it got started - surprisingly, with metal music binges.

It reminded me of epic adventures and romances - primarily the album by Dragonland - Under the Grey Banner.  It reawakened an interest in my old stories, and I mean old.  Like 2006 old.  

After reading through those, setting them to various music mixes, I remembered how fun they could be to read.  Not just write, but read too.  There were some plot devices I completely forgot about, and on revisiting, still felt fresh. 

Now, I still haven't revisited Red Horizon with fresh eyes - that's the part I'm really working towards.  I'm feeling some extra motivation also after watching the Red Letter Media discussion of why the first three Star Wars movies were not good.  One interesting point he brought up was how to move the plot along while at the same time giving background information and present the information in interesting ways.  It brought me back to some of the ways I thought of doing that.  Opening on a major crisis,  Bringing up backstory while heading into a surface walk that results in discoveries.  Talking about plot developments while traversing a fractionator room, scientific research facilities, pre-during-post hallucination experiences.  The biggest thing I remember from Red Letter is avoid just having them sit down talking.  Sure, in an environment/atmosphere-heavy story, I think it's forgivable to have discussions in previously unvisited areas, like musings in a storage facility, or common areas and cafeterias.  

At any rate, I think the next step is rereading Red Horizon and getting re-engaged in the characters.  Time to pay Tharsus One another visit.






Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stabilization

After spending 2 months at the new job and the new apartment, things are starting to come together.  I won't go on about the new job, it's pretty much paradise.  

I think I have a routine somewhat figured out - managing to do Duolingo again daily, practicing violin fundamentals with the new teacher, starting my XHIT arm exercises again, finally playing Mankind Divided, even starting a new skin regimen which I already really like.  I think I've just had to come to an understanding with my brain that yes, we will still not be sleeping as much as we'd like.  There's simply too much to do in a day.  Brain protests sometimes, even tries to trick us, but putting the alarm far enough away that I have to walk to it gives me just enough time to convince my brain that we might as well just stay up and get things going.  If I don't put it far enough away, this will happen:


I'm quite glad that things are 'stable' - my activities are finally reaching an equilibrium, and maintaining themselves.  But... there are a lot of projects that have not gotten started, and many that need to be defined.  

Yule is approaching, so there are many opportunities for crafts, decorating, cocktails, new menu items.  

Not sure what order these things will be done in, but let's get started!  I'll limit it to 10...

1. Yule log chocolate cake for the solstice
2. Build a Yule-themed wreath
3. A perfect Yule cocktail
4. Figure out things to plant for spring and keep Gene (Triple Crown Blackberry) and Rudy (Boysenberry) alive - thank you weather for helping out!
5. Add on the XHIT leg exercises (I'm not a fan of Miley Cyrus but I like this video aiming to make your legs look good like hers): 
6. Start a journal club at work
7. Android/cyberpunk/cybernetic human costume for next Halloween - I know, I know, we just had Halloween.  Heck the last post was THIS year's Halloween costume.  But I've been wanting to do this one forever and it will require a lot of planning and research.
8. Read a chapter of Ulysses with the companion book between each book I complete from my list
9. Clear my CME inbox buildup from Medscape and various other sources and keep it under control
10. Get at least another chapter of Red Horizon finished before the end of the year
Bonus: Donate regularly to progressive funds to keep the new regime from destroying civil liberties, science, internet freedom, etc.


   


As usual, still can't stop at one thing so... things that take less precedence:
Work on more drawings, decorate office more (just ordered a couple birthday presents for myself to put up!), keep reading the World History and Marine Biology books, go insect collecting when the weather is more conducive, finish Star Craft II epilogue missions, plan CME trip and other vacation itineraries for next year, consider getting some non-work clothes that look nice and don't have holes?

Try out more youtube makeup videos - this girl is in high school but I really like her fresh-faced looks and I like her editing and narration.  Found her video when I looked for makeup ideas for the Rey Halloween costume - honestly these videos make me want to care about makeup again because it'd be fun to actually try to have a 'wow' look.  

...and I just added 8 things to my wishlist.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween!

As usual, put a good amount of work into a costume, but alas, this time no where to go.  Guess the trick or treaters will be the only ones to see the costume - but kids really like the new Star Wars, so maybe they'll like seeing me as Rey - here are the photos!

 

 


 

 

  

Well, Happy Halloween and may the force be with you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jun Tea For Beginners! A Guide

Due to sudden high demand, and the fact I can't recall posting about this yet, I shall do a step-by-step post on how to brew your own Jun Tea, aka Green Tea/Honey Kombucha - the principle is the same, get a SCOBY (mother culture), make some tea, give it something sweet, wait, maybe ferment a second time, and enjoy.  Here's the very explicit instructions showing just how easy it is!

So, let's start!

Step 1 - Get your materials! (like any good chemist, of course)


Materials pictured: 
1) Large pot for boiling water / tea
2) Couple bottles for bottling later (cork top so I don't have to worry about pressure building up)
3) Raw local honey ideally, I've made it with generic store brand stuff before though.  Loose leaf green tea (preferred) - you'll need approximately 1 cup of loose leaf tea, or 12-16 tea bags
4) large glass jar (1 gallon) for brewing tea ($10 on Amazon)
5) Something to fasten a paper towel or tea towel around the lid (the blue long twist tie)
6) Your SCOBY in its 1-2 cups of starting liquid
7) Source of unchlorinated water - whether it's filtered water, purchased spring water, or you boil it to get the chlorine out, just has to be free of added chemicals that would kill the SCOBY
8) Funnel with filter (mine's an OXO I got off Amazon)

Ready?  Okay, let's begin.


Step 2 - Put (in my case, filtered) water in glass jug, fill just over 3/4 of the way up, since you need to leave room for SCOBY and starter liquid


Step 3 - Put water in pot


Step 4 - Turn the heat on (I did say I was making this as easy as possible, right?)


Step 5 - Put the tea in when bubbles start to appear at the bottom, it is generally hot enough - you can measure the temp with a thermometer if you want, about 195F is standard unless you're using a different kind of tea.  



Step 6 - It looks like a lot, I know - about 1 cup.  I probably put in a little extra.  You can turn off the stove and move the pot away from the heat now while it sits.


Step 7 - Wait about 15 minutes, just so it's nice and tannic - the SCOBY likes that.


Step 8 - When it's cool enough that it won't scald you, scoop out the tea leaves as much as you can then let the rest get filtered out by the funnel when you pour the tea into the brewing jar.


Step 9 - Add honey - I add it at this point so that if I spill between the above steps, I won't get the counters all sticky.  Plus you can just cap and swirl the jar to dissolve the honey.  Easy peasy.


Step 10 - Once the tea is cooled enough, ideally to room temp but it's okay as long as you can hold the jar for 5 minutes without feeling like it's burning.  You just don't want to burn your poor little SCOBY.  Add the SCOBY and the liquid it is sitting in.


Step 11 - Put some kind of cover on that allows air flow and loosely fasten it to the top - I just use a long twist tie that came with my salad bunch - it's the perfect circumference.  


Now, you set it aside, maybe in a spare cupboard or corner, avoid direct sunlight, but absolute darkness is not by any means necessary.  Wait 3 days before you start checking it - when it starts to get a little vinegar-y cider-y acidic flavor to it, and doesn't just taste like room temp tea with honey added to it, then things are starting to happen!  At this point, keep tasting it until it is to your liking (i.e. tart enough - the longer you ferment it, the more tart and less sweet it will be - if you let it go long enough, it'll turn into vinegar essentially).

Now, during the summer when it's warmer, and when the culture is super active, this may only take 3-4 days for the first part.  Now that it's colder, it takes longer - this batch actually took 7-8 days.  Here is how it looks after those days.  A lighter golden yellow color.  First step is taking out your SCOBYs and putting them in holding containers.




Make sure to add at LEAST 1 cup of your Jun tea to the jar(s) containing your SCOBY so it doesn't dry out - it may continue fermenting and grow a new light layer on top while in its holding container.  Leave the lid a little loose so it's not completely cut off from air - it'll produce carbon dioxide anyway and push the lid off if you do try to put it on tight.



Now get your containers for the second part - I use old whiskey bottles because they come with cork tops so I don't need to worry about gas building up, if it's getting higher pressure, it'll just pop off.  The swivel-top glass bottles also work - honestly any container will work, just have to make it sealed and check it from time to time.




*Not product placement, FWIW, but they were good.


Filter helps keep some extra chunks out but a lot of stuff gets through - if you really don't want any yeast sediment pieces going through, use something like a cheesecloth or coffee filter but then filtering takes a lot longer.  I'm kinda impatient.




At the end, this is what you should have - your SCOBYs in their little houses, ready to wait for your next batch, and some bottles filled with the Jun tea.  If you don't like a fizz, you can just put these bottles directly in the fridge.  It's nice to let them do some anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation to give it a little spumante / frizzante feeling on the tongue.  I usually wait until the bottles' tops pop off once, or when I pour a little to check I see some bubbles form.  Generally 1-2 days, but in colder weather probably 2-4 days.

If anyone has questions feel free to post - 

As a precaution, I would NOT recommend giving this as a gift to anyone expecting or expecting to be expecting a baby - simply because with home-brewed drinks, there is always the chance for contamination.  Ideally this wouldn't happen because there are so many of the 'good' SCOBY parts that bad ones just wouldn't get much of a foothold, but it could potentially happen.  If Listeria, or other bacteria got into the batch, that could be potentially serious and cause miscarriage or pregnancy complications.  Since I cannot guarantee that Clostridium wouldn't be present, I'd probably also advise against giving it to a child under 1 year of age.  

This drink is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease . 

But it is yummy and feels good in my tummy.

The End!