Thursday, August 30, 2012

Link dump

I’ve been keeping these links bookmarked in my browser for weeks now, figured I should just toss them here for other people to take a look at too.

  • The 300 Ultimate Ab and Core Workout Challenge – Really simple bodyweight-based workout routine. It’s funny, before I could even stop because I was too sore, I had to stop because my body just wouldn’t move. I still don’t understand why that happens. (And no, I’ve totally not been keeping up with doing this routine.)
  • Award winning olive oil – Yes, I want some.
  • Ancestral Health Symposium 2010 Review – This happened a few weeks ago now, at Harvard University. I never got around to listening to the review, but apparently, there’s a transcript! I can’t remember how much tickets were, and it’s unlikely they’ll host the symposium close to me anytime soon, but I’d love to go someday.
  • Abe’s Market – A natural and organic products market. It’s very family-oriented, so you’ll find a lot of snack foods, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t suitable for adults too! I was intrigued by their stock of sulfate-free shampoos. This is definitely a wish-list site for me (meaning, there are plenty of things I wish I could buy from there).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Currently

Inspired by Sometimes Sweet’s Currently post.

Loving: YES, AUTUMN, YES, YOU KNOW I LOVE IT. I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS FOREVER AND THEN MOURN ITS PASSING WHEN WINTER-LIKE WEATHER INEVITABLY COMES AROUND. Maybe we’ll have a mild winter again. I do like at least one good snow-fall, though. Perks of living in Massachusetts, I call it. I’m not one of those strange people that hates the snow. It is what it is.

Reading: I just snagged Zodiac by Neal Stephenson from one of the many bookcases at my parents’ house. Some of those bookcases are stuffed with books on computer coding, some with religious texts, but there’s a good collection of classic sci-fi and fantasy, like anything Isaac Asimov has ever written. I’m only 30 pages into Zodiac, but enjoying it so far. I like the narrator’s voice. Snowcrash is a classic sci-fi piece of his that I highly recommend to anyone.

Watching: My co-workers’ heads (uh…the punctuation may need improvement there, each co-worker has one head) bobbling just below the edge of the cubicle walls. I have a corner cubicle in the mostly L-shaped office, so I can watch nearly everyone mwahahah. After work, I watch White Collar on Netflix with the boyfriend, or Charmed. It’s perfect for Fall, I tell you! Leave me and my guilty-pleasure alone.

Thinking about: My brain is kind of hyper-active today. It’s frustratnig because I don’t have a lot to do, so I’m stuck in my head, trying to find things to do or things to read to distract me. My head is in planning mode with nothing to plan. I want to spend money, but I don’t have any. I want to check out Buffalo Exchange in Davis Square to see what their prices are like, and I wish I’d brought my red dress there instead of selling it on eBay. Maybe I can sell this one to them (just checked Yelp reviews, guess they don’t do formal wear). I need to buy some thermometers (candy/meat for yogurt, oven for…the oven). I reeeaaaallly need to do some work on my scooter, and there’s a project that me and my dad started a couple of months ago that hasn’t had any attention since then…

Anticipating: FALL. WHY MUST I KEEP TELLING YOU THIS? The cool mornings are just teasing me. I need more chai! I want to make more yogurt!

Monday, August 27, 2012

And in the morning, I’m making yogurt!

Since I’ve been eating a serving or two of yogurt every day lately to help with some digestive issues I’ve been having, I figured it was time to try and cut costs by making my own yogurt. I found a guide that just uses a crock pot, which seemed the easiest way. I think the next step, based on my results, will be to get a thermometer so I know when is the right time to actually switch stages, instead of relying on someone else’s timing.

So here’s what I started with:
organic grass-fed whole milk
I splurged on a 1/2 gallon of organic grass-fed milk from Whole Foods, which was over $4. The cream on the top of the bottle was absolutely delicious. I would love to drink this milk on a regular basis, but I don’t have a need for it often. Maybe when I can eat sugar again (long story, for another blog post), and it’s cocoa season, I will use it :)

Here’s what I ended up with, after 5 hours for heating a cooling, and 8 hours incubation:
Note the film on top of the whey, that seemed to mix in just fine
Chunky, but delicious
Yummy!
The last one is the most color accurate photo. It retained the slightly yellowed color of the milk that I started with, which is totally natural. The taste is not as sweet as the plain whole-milk yogurt I used as a starter (really good yogurt, by the way), but it’s totally yogurty and edible! The texture is kind of off though. It was most thick (normal yogurt texture, in my opinion) at the bottom of the crock pot, probably the bottom half of the contents, then the next 1/4 was kind of broken up, and the last 1/4 was all whey. I could have drained/strained the whey, but I decided to mix it in and keep it with the yogurt. It’s totally fine to keep it, even separate from the yogurt, as it is a great source of protein (mix it in with a smoothie!). After the incubation part, I refrigerated overnight before stirring it or anything, so I’m not quite sure why it came out so separated. After the second night, the clumpy section is still clumpy, so I think it was some kind of heating issue.

Things that went wrong:
  • The guide I used did not say anything about a layer forming on the milk during the heating process. I mixed it in when I mixed in my starter yogurt, but apparently, it should be removed, as it doesn’t incorporate. It’s fine, but it appears in the yogurt as darker yellow pieces. I might’ve avoided it by stirring the milk occasionally during the 2 1/2 hour heating process, or heating more rapidly on the stove top.
  • The inconsistency of the texture tells me something was wrong about my heating, but I have no way of knowing what, without a thermometer. Next time, I’ll probably heat it on the stove to 185F, stirring occasionally, let it cool in a pre-warmed crock pot to 110F, then stir in my starter yogurt. I think the crock pot, wrapped in a towel for 8 hours, will hold the heat better to incubate, rather than a stock pot. My oven doesn’t have a pilot light, otherwise I could leave it wrapped up in there to retain the heat better (maybe that would still work well though?). Another method I read said to fill a cooler with 120F water, and incubate the yogurt in quart-size mason jars, and it only takes 4 hours.
  • I whisked in my starter yogurt, but some say it should be stirred in very gently, so that might also have something to do with the texture. Yogurt should be disturbed as little as possible during the creation process, but I’m not sure how much that matters before you actually start incubating.
In the end, I was able to fill two 32oz containers with the entire batch, minus the 1/2 cup I took out first to be the starter for my next batch (hopefully, it will work well enough for my next batch, but I might just buy a small container of yogurt till I get the texture right). That should last me through this week, if I can restrain myself/don’t catch a case of Michael Westen, though it’s certainly not an unhealthy habit to have.

I’ll be sure to post again if my next batch comes out better, and what I do differently!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pinterest challenge–Cream of tartar to clean stainless steel

When new pots are shiny, I love them even more than your average pot. When new pots are no longer new or shiny, I am saddened. So I embarked on a journey to see if making a paste with cream of tartar would clean my stainless steel stock pot from Sur la table.

Results? Awesome. It only takes a few drops of water per tablespoon of tartar to make a paste, then I just used a sponge to scrub it around. There’s still some elbow grease that needs to be applied, and I think I’ll do another round, but it’s a nice improvement.

 BeforeAfter

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to take a compliment

Over 3 months old now

I have never been good with compliments. I think it’s largely a self-esteem thing: when my self-esteem was low, compliments made me TERRIBLY uncomfortable. How can these people see this in me? By virtue of having a rather large and frequently visible tattoo, I get a lot more attention from strangers these days, and plenty of compliments on my skin-art. It’s just plain weird, when I’m sweaty and flushed, obviously pre-occupied with chaining my bicycle up outside the bank, and somebody strolls by and calls out, “Wow, great tattoo!”

“…thanks?”

What does it mean? Am I thanking someone for having similar tastes to mine? It’s such an odd thing. It’s nice, I guess, but I don’t really understand why.

Of course, the tattoo is not the only reason why I get attention these days.

SONY DSC

This is not the shade I thought I wanted, but I like it. It will fade pretty quickly anyway, the dye I’ve been using is pretty terrible quality. I’ve managed to have three or four re-dyes with one bottle (less than $10 for it), so it’s worked out well in that regards, with a color refresh every 6 weeks or so. I get a lot of passing “Nice hair!” calls when I’m out and about (even from passing cars, when we’re both driving, or I’m walking somewhere). I’m somewhat more used to that kind of attention, since I got a lot of it when my hair was pink back in 2009, and when I had a mohawk in 2007. Still, it mentally makes me skip a step and go, “Wait, what now?” Just keep walking, I guess.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Delayed weekend recap–Autumn is coming

Yeah, screw Game of Thrones and their fixation on two seasons.

My feelings of encroaching Autumn are finally being fulfilled with cooler mornings and evenings. I have had to start warming up the scooter for a few minutes before I head out in the morning to prevent stalling out (more than usual). I am please, but not appeased. Next stop: epic foliage! Hopefully, I can get a photo to replace the stock image I’m currently using as a background for the blog.

This past weekend felt very productive to me. I did a lot of tidying around the apartment, as well as a whole lot of nothing. Motivated by Young House Love to make my apartment a home, as much as I can while renting, I decided to do some rearranging and Spot the kitty!cleaning up, to see what I can make of the space with what I have. First up was my closet. It’s kind of a Harry Potter closet, as it extends behind the wall seen in this photo, under the stairs going up to my land lady’s place, and the ceiling slopes down accordingly, so I can technically walk into it, but not very far as you go in towards the left.

I clean best by empting stuff and and sorting piles as I go. The pile at the corner of the bed/room has clothes that I need to adjust (take in the sides, mostly, but some are dresses I want to convert to skirts), the rest is just sorted by type, as there’s nothing I’m getting rid of. Once I’d Imagine stuff against the back wall here, but a lane open on the left sideemptied out everything, I put it all back in a more sensible fashion. Since my closet has two hanging bars, I decided to try and just use the back bar so I could walk into the closet and use the space more to sift through things as I’m picking out clothes. I kept work-shirts and skirts in line with the door opening, since I use those most, and will swap those with sweaters when it gets colder out. On the front-most bar, to the left of the doorway, are my sweaters, since I don’t need those right now. I kept a lane open on the floor so if I move the sweaters, I can crawl back to go through the boxes in the closet. There’s not much back there that I need to access anyway, but I like that it’s functional.

SONY DSC

I also moved the book cases that were previously in our bedroom, and rearranged the photo display in the living room. I centered the bookcase that I left in our bedroom, and moved favorite books that I wanted displayed out to this one. The top shelf will be mostly filled with Vampire Hunter D, from Boyfriend’s book collection (a huge box of mostly sci-fi and fantasy novels currently living in his parents’ attic). The sewing machine under the desk will go in my closet. Eventually, I’d like to replace the photos with a larger piece of artwork (something with color, maybe), or at least get some frames so I can rotate the content periodically. For now, I like it as a little display of Boyfriend and me, as they are photos I took of us and a vacation we took together (Washington DC in 2010). I also changed up some of the things on the desk (removed the pirate ship tablecloth that had been on it since March, for one) and made it a bit more Autumn-y with my empty Evil wine bottle and empty UFO pumpkin ale by Harpoon.

So, screw Spring cleaning. I do a rearrange/major cleaning/overhaul of my living spaces at least once every season to keep on top of it, and also because it makes me feel better about my living environment.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Travel history

In case I’ve never mentioned it before, Boyfriend and I love travelling. In fact, we are hoping to spend some time travelling in a couple of years, once he’s all graduated. It’s a lofty dream at this point, when our primary financial focus is still to keep us warm this winter, but lofty dreams are important to keep folks like us happy.

We’ve been on a number of vacations together in our 2.5+ years together.

In March of 2010, we went to Washington DC. We spent the whole day walking around with our backpacks, then met up with my aunt for a night. It was a really quick trip, but we actually packed in quite a lot and it was lots of fun. The timing was terrible, but it’s all we could fit with our overlapping Spring Breaks.

Outside the Air & Space Smithsonian

This does not accurately convey how windy it was

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hair-owing experiences

It’s just not a week for hot things with me. First, I burn myself on the iron while ironing clothes, then I burn myself on the cast iron while taking it out of the oven! But with the wonders of gauze, somehow the pain is alleviated. I decided to go the old Neosporin route to try and speed up healing and avoid a giant blister (on the inner joint of my thumb, really unfortunate spot), rather than messing with coconut oil’s supposed magical properties.

Oh, look. So sad.

In other news, yes, I need to re-pink my hair soon. Hopefully Boyfriend will assist with the bleaching of the roots this weekend. I’m still holding off on purchasing my favorite pink shade, Special Effects Atomic Pink, since I still have crappy pink leftover. I’m still not sure what I’m doing in terms of growing out my hair (or chopping it off). I kind of like the idea of doing something like Quorra’s from Tron: Legacy, but I don’t know if that would be too harsh for my features. Thoughts?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nesting…still??!

I’m still feeling majorly nesty and the Autumnal vibe that’s been going on is still strong, despite the mid-80’s, humid weather we’ve been having. The change is coming, I can feel it! Perhaps it’s time to change up the blog theme, too, since this one is rather Spring-y.

Of course, reading blogs about epic home transformations does not help. But it certainly does inspire. I found out that Target carries 8x10” photo frames, which is exactly what I need for my black and white prints (yes, I made them myself!). I could even paint them to go with the scheme I’ve quietly dreaming up for our dining room. I originally had a dark wood and “tiki” idea for it, but now I’m in Fall-mode and just want Hallowe’en-y stuff, so black frames would be more than suitable.

The only thing I can do for now to change things up without spending money is change up my displayed artwork and photos, and clean up the apartment. I’m sure there are inspiration and potential decorations hiding in the attic of my parents’ home, so if the weather cools off a bit, I fully intend to dig around up there.

I’m also dying to travel right now. I’m hoping that if I quell my nesting bug a little bit, that will help, but with thoughts of Autumn, all I can do is dream of Seattle. I’m not sure why I link the two together, maybe it’s something to do with my romantic ideals surrounding this season. I have absolutely no ideas on what I’d want to see in Seattle, except that I’d bring cash to the market, but planning a vacation with Boyfriend is one of my favorite things to do.

Can't eat these right now (too much sugar), but they sure are pretty

I don’t think the budget will allow any travelling next year. I’d rather save up and know that I’m on track or ahead with my loans than do much, if any, flying for pleasure. Maine is a cheap enough getaway, and I get to see my adorable Babushka.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The sky was still honestly blue

It’s been cooling off in the mornings lately, which means my stupid scooter starts harder and my rides to work are more comfortable. I’ve even seen some leaves on the ground, though probably just from faulty trees or dry weather (when?!), it throws my head for a loop. We’re only a week into August! But really, I don’t mind the Autumnal weather. I’m a big fan of the Fall aesthetic, though my coloring is apparently more suited towards Summery tones. Fall means Halloween, which I have always loved preparing for.

A park in Worcester, MA. 2009

One of the things that got me thinking about having a home was hosting parties. Having a party with cheap booze, BYOB, and $5 large cheese pizzas is pretty, well, cheap, but it’s not what I’d really like. What I’d really like is to have a bit of a potluck party, with Fall-ish or Halloween themed foods. I’d love to make a pumpkin soup or stew to share, have hot cider going in the crock pot, and desserts with orange and black decorations. Last year, we hosted a party with booze, pizza, and some cupcakes. It was fun, but very “college”. If I had my own home, I feel that it would also mean that I have enough spare income to make this kind of party happen. I think I can still make it happen, even if it just means some gluten-free treats for me/to share, but it won’t be the scope that I’d like it to be.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What’s in front of me these days

Title gleaned from Manchester Orchestra’s “Where Have You Been?”

Dreaming about home

Lately, I’ve been finding myself dreaming of owning a home. I realize that this dream is probably many years from actually coming true. I would need to be in a much more stable (and fruitful) financial situation to buy a home and be able to afford any repairs required, as well as taxes and regular maintenance. But it’s nice to think about being able to do anything in your own living space. My landlady approved painting the chair rail in the kitchen blue ages ago, but I still haven’t gotten around to doing it. I think doing something small like that might help me feel more “at home” in the apartment, as well as changing up some of the art work and photos I have up.

I also really want a different couch. Ours is huge, which is great, but torn up and I don’t like the texture of the fabric. It has a broken pull-out bed, and I don’t think I need to explain anymore why that’s annoying. Ikea has some really great (and fairly affordable) options, but before anything, I think we need to be a little more concerned about having our own washer and dryer :) We’re coming up on 1 yr at the apartment. 1 year feels like a long time ago…and yet it also really just feels like 1 year.

Fitness goals

Aside from the biking stuff, I’d like to be able to do 1 real push-up (hands positioned under shoulders, knees off the floor), but after talking to a few different women about it, it seems like our structure might not support this kind of push-up. Some women can do it, obviously, I’ve seen it done, but I’m not sure I’m designed to be able to. It’s okay if I can’t, I’m still going to work towards it. I can almost do a wide-arm push-up, and my max # of kneeling push-ups is slowly increasing. I also figured out another good strength marker: to be able to comfortably lift 50 lbs. I think a kettlebell would be the best way to test this (not going to buy a 50 lb kettlebell right now though!). I’ve seen job listings for my kind of position requiring the ability to lift 30-50 lbs in the past, so I think it’s a good goal. I am sure I can lift/carry 30 lbs now, but for how long? 50 lbs, I feel like I might hurt myself right now. Gotta work on those squats.

Taking a banana break while out on my bike

I’m getting more and more interested in Crossfit, but most of what I’ve read indicates that it’s better suited to people who are already athletic or very active. I am neither, right now, and even when I hit my fitness goals, I have no gym/equipment experience. Well, the budget does not allow this right now anyway, so it’s something to think on for later, but not to worry about. I love the inclusion of gymnastic exercises, which is something that I’ve always found appealing, but have always sucked at! Practice makes perfect, or better, at least. And hey, if I do Crossfit someday, I’ve already got the diet down.

Keeping offline on the weekend

A few months ago, I set myself a limit to how late in the night I was allowed to check email (7 PM). I am a compulsive email checker and found myself feeling irrationally irritated when I would have no new emails at 9:30 PM at night. It was silly so I stopped checking. Now I’m working on cutting back on things like Facebook and Tumblr too, because they’re big time wasters for me, and I think I would sleep better with less screen-time in the evening. In order to successfully stay offline, I need things to do! Over the weekend, I failed miserably at staying offline, opting to play Skyrim and Borderlands instead of going online, but it kept my brain way too active on Sunday night, making it hard for me to fall asleep. It wasn’t a good trade-off. I have a dress project that I’m working on, but I only have the patience to work on it for a little bit at a time. I think I will spend some time writing out potential projects and take inventory of my supplies. Perhaps I can spare a little money for more supplies, if there’s a project I know I would want to work on, but I just don’t have what I need to complete it.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Keeping fit, on the weekend!

  • Tracking results at the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry - From the first 1100 people to enter the registry, there are some good results! I found it interesting that they included Atkins. Originally, it was much like a Primal diet, focusing on real foods and low carbs, but it’s morphed into your usual Western diet scheme complete with shakes and processed foods over the years. I put my measly 15 lbs in there :)
  • I am biking up a storm (not really) and keeping track on Fitocracy. I take pictures of my little odometer after every session and post them to Facebook, but with this site, I’ll be able to chart my progress. It’s pretty cool to see my distance increasing every time! Eventually, I’ll track times too and enter that so I can improve my speed.

In other news, Skyrim’s DLC Dawnguard is out and I am hunting down vampires.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Off-day link-day

  • Members of Ok Go! are Paleo! – What can I say, I’m a dork. I think it’s really cool that two members of one of my favorite bands follow an ancestral diet. I wonder how hard it is to stay on track while they’re on tour.
  • And their site about cheating on the diet, is pretty fun. I can’t “cheat” (because there would be disastrous consequences for me right now; screw you, yeast overgrowth!), but it’s fun to live vicariously and see what junk people are consuming. Ice cream will always and forever be my vice. I’m really not interested in/tempted by pizza anymore (except, probably, when drunk, but since that’s also off the table for now…).
  • Wait, seriously, olive oil? – I’ve been reading about this banana ice cream for a while now, and still haven’t tried it. I’m hoping to bike to the grocery store tonight for bananas and sweet potatoes anyway, so I will pick some up that are near ripe and give this a shot soon! It sounds awesome.

Blah, blah, blah. I write so much online in various places, I don’t feel like reporting on much else here today. I think I’ll do a weekly check-in of my Whole30 progress. Yesterday was day 1 and it started off pretty rough, I had to leave work because I was feeling so sick, but I feel much better today! I realized recently that the Whole30 probably comes across as a cleanse or just another temporary diet to some people. This is how I normally eat, I’m just using it as a way to stay accountable for my digressions, since I really cannot afford (financially OR health-wise, haha) to eat off-plan. Following an ancestral diet is not a “diet” in the sense that it is used all too often these days, it’s just a way of eating.