Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Normally I am not the type to make amends for the new year. It's something about the whole "everyone does it" thing that I can't stand. People make their goals and never meet them. They go on fad diets for a couple weeks and then return back to their unhealthy lifestyles. They make these life altering resolutions and then come February, are back to their old ways. I just think it's stupid.
However, there are things that I would like to focus on in this upcoming year, and writing them down will help me feel less overwhelmed and keep myself accountable.

Here are a few things that I want to do next year:
1. Exercise more often. The whole month of December was a total flop. I got out of my workout routine and notice a difference in my energy levels and my overall feeling of strength. Come January, I will need to get back into my fitness routine. I want to get back into running a minimum of 12 miles/week. A 10-15 lb weight loss is my goal over the next few months and I know that with the right amount of motivation, I can achieve it.
2. Get more organized. Eric and I have been weeding through all the things that just sit around our little apartment. We don't use them, why should we own them? The good thing about living in a small space is that it is a bit easier to control the chaos. We have already made several trips to the Goodwill and plan on doing more over the next few weeks, too. I went through part of my wardrobe a few days ago and am forcing myself to get over holding onto clothes. If I haven't worn it in a year or I never felt that comfortable in it, it goes.
3. With the organization, comes the reward of new furniture. I want to save up money this year so that we can get a nice dresser (and maybe nightstands and bed set) that we will be able to fit our clothes comfortably in. I would also like to buy some wall shelves for all the rooms in our apartment because it would help with our lack of storage. I have this fear of making holes in our walls/putting heavy this up on the walls because of my lack of handyman expertise...I need to get over this!
4. Pay off credit card debt. I've had a small amount of credit card debt that I've been holding on to for the past couple years. It needs to go away. This year. It is a manageable amount that I need to focus on and get rid of, every month.
5. Keep working on building my bakery. This past year, I decided that I wanted to start a baking company. I told myself that I would take a year to develop recipes and come up with a business plan. It is something that I work on often but it gets hard to manage my time sometimes. I need to create a schedule for myself of things I would like to try making this year and a timeline for myself. I will also finish designing my business card which I started a couple months ago. I think I am doing a pretty good job of staying at everything I mentioned about starting the business, but I could be a little more persistent. If I create a schedule for myself, it will be a little less overwhelming and more organized.
6. Trust my gut. I think we all doubt ourselves sometimes. That makes others doubt us and makes us look less capable. As I get older, I get over my insecurities a little more, but there are days when the little voice inside says, "you can't do that". I want to work on being more confident this year. If I trust my gut about something I know to be true, I will be more confident and not feel like I need to be validated.
7. Blog more! I started this blog almost a year ago, and haven't been very faithful to it. It mostly comes with the fact that I just don't make time to do it. Next year I want to start another blog for the bakery, so whether it is in here or there, I will make time to write more in it. I think it is an excellent way for me to keep track of the year's progression.

Well, that felt good. Now comes the hard part, following through. Do you make New Year's Resolutions? What does 2012 have in store for you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

And She's Back.

It has been a couple months since my last post. Whoops. Well, all that matters is that I'm here, writing, now. The past few weeks I have especially been fired up in my kitchen. Maybe it's that summer fruit and veggie availability, I don't know. Last night I made a flan. The night before it was Vietnamese soft spring rolls with shrimp and tofu. I woke up this morning and started preparing to make some more strawberry preserves and then thought of throwing in some lychees with it. We'll see what happens. I'm going to start using Eric's nice Cannon camera to photograph my creations instead of the one of my iPhone, so stay tuned for nicer pics.

I've been thinking more seriously about starting a business (with food, of course). I am in the process of writing down all my favorite recipes and over the next year I want to perfect them, tweak them, and make them in large quantities to see how they hold up. I go back and forth between baking and having some type of cookie company and an actual cafe that serves only breakfast and lunch. We'll see what the future holds. Over the next few months I should have plenty of time to more experimenting since I've decided to give up on finishing Culinary school. Mind you, I only needed this one class to finish. But today was my registration date, and that one class I need is not only completely full, but the wait list is full too. Blah. This is the class I have been waiting all year (literally since last year when it was full) to just get over with. But now I'm just over it, and you don't need an actual degree or certificate or other form of paper to get you along in the food industry, unless you take it somewhere else other than the kitchen, in which you probably need a Bachelor's (i.e. Food Writing, styling, etc). So I have decided that I'm done!

My generous husband yesterday bought for mostly...a Kitchenaid stand mixer. Folks, it's a thing of beauty. We got the professional one too, so it's got more juice and a bigger bowl. I'm ecstatic and can't wait to use it...Photos to come.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yes, I can!

You've gotta love retro home economics!

So I'm on a roll here. An urban homesteading roll!! I have been fantasizing about a house, with a dog, a veggie and flower garden, and a chicken farm. In that order. Then Saturday after I made some butter with leftover cream we had, I added dairy cows to the list. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, in this fantasy, of course I don't work. I just maintain our home and all the animals and gardens, and keep our pantry full of home-canned goods. Sigh, maybe one day. It's the simple things, people!
So, I've been wanting to try my luck at home canning. I've never done it, but got lots of books at the library and have been reading stuff online. I bought some supplies at Ace Hardware a couple days ago. I thought I would start simple, with everyone's favorite, strawberry jam.
Saturday morning I had a great time at the Irvine Farmer's Market and got lots of goodies. An entire flat of strawberries, golden chard and red carrots, vanilla beans, and Meyer lemons! I had to stop myself from buying more.

I think I ate a whole pint of berries while I was prepping them for making jam. They're not organic, but they sure were tasty. I knew they would make a delicious jam, and I was right! It's so true what they say, that if you start with good ingredients, you can't go wrong.

Simmering Away.

Making the jam was a little tricky. I macerated the strawberries in lemon juice and sugar for about 2 hours, then simmered them for about 30 minutes. I was a little short on the sugar so I don't think it gelled as well as it was supposed to. That was the tricky part. I read that if you don't follow the recipe exactly, or double it, you could end up with unwanted results. The thing is that, I thought these strawberries were so sweet on their own anyway that they wouldn't need the 1/3 cup that I cut out. Turns out, I was wrong. It came out really delicious and a little on the syrupy side, but too stiff to be a sauce. Still really good though! Eric and I already finished off a half pint jar.

Cannery Row!

At first I thought I would just get a rack to put in my stockpot to use for canning, but my stockpot isn't quite large enough. So, I bought a boiling water canner at the hardware store, fitted with a rack. It's made of thin aluminum but is HUGE, big enough to make sure that you have plenty of room for water to circulate around each jar. Canning is intimidating at first, but once you do it, it's pretty easy and safe. Most foods that are canned are good forever but should be eaten within a year for the best flavor. What a great way to get homemade goodness all year round!

This was a fun little project and I can't wait to start canning more stuff. Especially when our little balcony veggies start to show themselves. Mmmm, pickles...and Marinara sauce...

All Finished!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Balcony Gardening

Living in an apartment is always tough when it comes to creating a home with less of a "temporary" feel. Lately I've been trying to warm our space up with buying lots of plants to put not only inside our apartment, but creating a nice place to hang out on our lil balcony since we get good sun throughout the day, not too much, not too little. In addition, my husband Eric has been inspired to plant some vegetables in buckets, which are also known as SIP buckets (sub-irrigated planters). It basically looks like this:
Eric got some organic seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. A couple months ago we planted Arugula, Golden Swiss Chard, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, and Dragon Carrots. So far the lettuce and carrots are winning...we think it might be a little too cold still for the others and they may need a second run.
On Sunday he planted our summer vegetables, since it is warming up now. Yellow Peppers, Pruden's Purple Tomatoes (a large heirloom beefsteak), and Pickling Cucumbers.

We also have lemon basil, oregano, and cilantro. The cilantro was doing really well until it got hailed on a few weeks ago. Yes, hailed on. Apparently it only hailed in our little part of Irvine too. It was nuts.
I can't wait to eat the fruits of our labor.

I've been into all the flowers that are popping up around the nurseries lately, and today I bought a Hibiscus shrub and potted it, along with a dozen and a half mini succulents! I am a novice gardener, so I hope I did an ok job. It's just nice to be outside on a nice day potting these little guys. Here's the before and after:

And all potted away, with Freesia and Bonsais in the background:

Moving from flora to fauna, we bought a hummingbird feeder. At first I wasn't sure if it was bad for the ecosystem, but everything I have been reading online says that it's fine for hummingbirds, since it's not their main source of food. It's kind of a quick grab and go, and their speedy little metabolisms burn everything off right away. I've just read that you shouldn't put any dyes in your feeder and just use a sugar-water solution. So, we got this cute one and filled it up and the hummingbirds visit us several times a day!
Today I took the feeder down to clean it, and our usual visitors were very confused, flying around where the feeder usually is and couldn't find it! Guess now I know we have our "regulars".
Our apartment is definitely starting to feel more cozy and I'm realizing that I should count my blessings as to what I have and how to work with and make the best of it, rather than being bummed out about the things I don't have!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Promotionary Pie

Last Saturday was one of my favorite co-worker's last day before he transfers for a promotion, so I wanted to do something special for him. Last Friday and Saturday were both 80 degrees and beautiful, so I thought a key lime pie would be appropriate! It was pretty easy to make, with just a handful of simple ingredients. I used a couple pounds of fresh key limes and juiced them all by hand, which was pretty time consuming, but in the end you could taste the difference! Here are some photos:
This was basically it as far as ingredients go!
Processing the graham crackers and almonds:

Fresh out of the oven:
...and the finished product:

Congratulations, Nick! Don't forget about us lil guys, okay?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

...all up in the interweb!

Hello friends! I have decided to jump on the blog train because lately I've been feeling the need for a creative outlet. I've tried blogging in the past but have been unsuccessful because I think I lose focus on what it is that would be fun to read or write about. This time I plan on taking a different approach, one where I can post stuff about things that I love to look at, make, and do - and leave it at that. I think I over thought things a little too much in the past. 

Well here it goes, with my first inspiration coming from an article in Real Simple Magazine: Make the Most of Small Spaces. I thought this would be appropriate since it's Spring Cleaning time. Speaking of Spring, I also wanted to share a picture of my current favorite flower, the ranunculus!