365 Project – Week 9

After a whole week of photos not containing food (I don’t think sake really counts), here comes a whole bunch to ruin all that progress. Only homemade food, though. I think that counts for something. Right?

Probably not.

365 2012-02-25

Blocking wires make life easier. There’s not much else to say.

365 2012-02-26

A slightly out-of-focus rose bud, the very first one from the rose bush/tree-thing that Dan got me for Valentine’s Day. Right now, it takes up a place of honor on the edge of our vegetable garden, waiting for spring to properly take hold.

365 2012-02-27

I finally got off of my butt in the morning and made myself a protein-packed breakfast, worthy of admiration from many a food-blogger (particularly you, mixxedtape, your breakfasts make me rather jealous every morning). Quinoa, tomatoes, and onions, with a poached egg and wheat wrap…kind of an off-the-top of my head huevos rancheros (something I really miss about Colorado is not being able to order this in almost any restaurant…).

365 2012-02-28

Baby blanket! Finished up my special project for the upcoming special baby! More coming later, after all gifts have been sent, so as to ruin any surprises. For those of you who hate to wait for surprises (and any expectant parents should definitely NOT click any further), check out the Ravelry page.

365 2012-02-29

Made pizza with my love. You can see the pretty clear delineation of cheese vs. no-cheese here, one of the many weirdnesses I’ve learned to live with and love about my Daniel.

365 2012-03-01

My mom bonding with Bowie. He loves when she comes around and always comes out of whatever hiding place he’s in to come and find her when she’s around.

365 2012-03-02

I fancied myself a genius today when I came up with a better system for letting my freshly-cleaned records dry than perching them up on the corners of books like I’ve been doing. I cut up some toilet paper rolls and used them as spacers, letting me stack up a whole bunch to dry in a much smaller space. I can’t believe I’ve been working on this for this many months and it took me this long to figure out a better way. Geez.

Onto the rest of the day…more record cleaning, more watching Misfits on Hulu, going to work at some point, and trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t make these amazing-looking homemade Oreos. Not just yet. I suspect I might lose that battle eventually.

Advertisements

How to Have as Non-Garage of a Christmas as Possible

The title of this post is probably rather confusing to those of you who do not know me personally. Those of you who do have probably already heard me rail on about how, during the Christmas that Dan and I were hosting this year, my father determined that we would be eating Christmas dinner in the garage.

Yes, the garage. With the garage doors and the bikes and the cars that live there. The garage.

Upon hearing this news (and after complaining about it for who knows how many hours), I resolved to make our garage Christmas as non-garage-y as possible. With 10 people at the table, there was limited space to make this happen, but Dan and I persevered.

022

Candles and greenery helped to draw the eye down from the roll-doors and down onto the delights of the table, I think.

042

My tone is sarcastic, I know, but watch what happens when you turn the fluorescent lights off and let that candlelight shine.

056

Much better, yes?

048

The word ambience was even tossed around by certain relatives.  I love the wonder that a few candles, some pine branches, and some nice placemats can do.

060

Dan did his part by stringing up the Christmas lights, which imparted a rosy glow to the table and buffet-style line as well.

2011-12-27 008

Atop everyone’s plate was a gift bag, pointing out their place at the table and giving them some special after-dinner treats! The stockings were hand-knitted by yours truly, using Mara Jessup’s adorable pattern, Mini Stocking Ornaments. I figured that the hand-checked name tags were a cute reminder that everyone was on Santa’s good list this year.  (Ravelry links above, by the way.  Are you on Ravelry yet?  You should be.)

2011-12-27 018

What’s that peeking out there on the side? Homemade Peppermint Bark! Per Martha’s Basic Bark recipe, of course.

2011-12-24 041

This…

2011-12-24 045

…became this…after several whackings with the rolling pin.

2011-12-24 050

There was also considerable amounts of chopping up chocolate, and then melting it over the stove and resisting the urge to shove my face in it.

2011-12-24 053

The peppermint pieces were doled out, and the whole thing got chilled in the fridge until it was quite cold and satisfying to break into little pieces.

2011-12-24 064

Yes.

2011-12-24 062

I feel that peppermint bark is very photogenic.

2011-12-24 069

I also did a batch with less, but bigger candy cane pieces, just to mix it up a bit and to not make a huge mess all over the counter with broken candy bits like I did the first time. Picture not available of the mess, thank you very much.

The second treat that ended up in everyone’s gift bags was my second attempt at Sprinkle Bakes‘s Icicle Candy.

2011-12-24 060

I went with red, clear twists with peppermint flavoring, which seemed to make sense at the time, but which ultimately confused everyone. Dan was expecting cherry when he saw the color, but I just wanted it to look good with the peppermint bark. *Le sigh*

This recipe was an adventure in candymaking that made me terribly unsure of my kitchen skills. First of all, the sugar and corn syrup that make up the candy twists are melted in the microwave, and because I do not want to call Sprinkle Bakes or her microwave a liar, I’m just going to call my microwave a monster. After the second called-for trip in the microwave, I ended up with a black melted sugary mess that required a lot of soaking in the sink and a lot of swearing in order to give things another go.

On my second attempt, I adjusted things for the melting times, and everything seemed like it was working great. I poured out the candy and waited about 30-45 seconds before attempting to cut the candy strips so they could set up a little. Set up they did.  It was already pretty much solid. I had to stick the entire sheet in the oven and work on cutting through the candy slowly and painstakingly while half-hanging out of the oven and shooing the cat away as well. Most of the shorter pieces on the ends were already so hard that there was no way they were twisting. Others got twisted just fine on the way out of the oven (which is a fantastically new way for me to singe my fingers, I discovered), but then slipped right through the wire cooling rack, shattering on the counter top.

2011-12-24 054

I was originally going to make 2 different colors of candy for everyone, but after I realized that I had enough for everyone to get a little sample after only one go, I gladly gave it up for the rest of the day. Possibly for the rest of my life.

2011-12-24 078

After the fact, I have to say that I’m proud of them and my first foray into hard-crack molten sugar, but I think next time I’m going to do something with a lot less sugar-to-skin contact.

014

The rest of the house was kitted out in lots of my grandmother’s old Christmas decorations, including a small tree that we decorated with all of her gold, white, and crystal ornaments. Bowie has been really good so far in resisting the temptation of all the dangly bits, I must say.

067

Here’s the grandmother in question, Grandma Winnie. She is my last living grandparent, and part of my goal was to make her feel as welcome as possible during a Christmas that could have been very confusing and troubling for her. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and has a lot of troubles with memory and changes in her routine, but I feel like the day was a success.

068

I’m glad that my mom and I had the opportunity to get this picture together with her on one of her better days.

073

Add to all this the sweet sounds of our Elvis and Booker T & the MG’s Christmas records (that got all cleaned up with my handy-dandy rubbing alcohol and an old toothbrush), and you’ve got a good idea of how non-garage-y it was in there.

020

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate!), and I’ll be seeing you more in the New Year, I promise!

Just a Little Love & a Little Rubbing Alcohol

When Dan and I first met, we liked each other right away.  However, when we both discovered that we each had a passion for vinyl records, it may have been what sealed the deal that we were meant to be.

I started early, with Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears records, moving on quickly to stealing my parents’ records and keeping them in my room, listening to the Doors and Iron Butterfly with incense lit and blacklight on. The only records from my parents’ large collection that made it through Hurricane Katrina safely were the ones that I had stolen long ago and were safe in Colorado in my greedy mitts.  I added to my collection from Goodwill and other thrift stores and garage sales, never buying a record unless it was preowned and preloved.

Dan has a ridiculously large collection of pristine techno, dance, and breaks, rounded out by lots of alternative and classic rock. He’s the real deal, buying new, still-wrapped albums on vinyl if it’s available rather than CDs (Are we really old? Do people buy CDs anymore? I think the evidence that we are might be in the fact that I don’t know either way.) or downloading them. He’s got an unnatural aversion to used records, thinking that they might taint both his equipment and the rest of the collection with their battered covers and scratches.  However, both my preloved records and I won him out in the end, and the rest is history.

Since we got together, our collections have merged into one really big, weird, electic mix that demonstrates how two very different people came together. There’s Chemical Brothers next to the Kinks, Lady Gaga residing by Pearl Jam, and all kinds of crazy stuff in-between.

2011-09-14 001

Which brings me to my point. Upon moving back home, Dan and I discovered boxes and boxes of albums and 45s that needed some extreme TLC.

2011-09-14 004

All of the records that didn’t make it safely through Hurricane Katrina have been sitting in my parents’ garage ever since in their rusty carrying cases and mold-ridden sleeves. I’ve been taking my afternoons and using them to dig out these jewels and help restore them to their former glory.

2011-09-14 005

I was scared to start at first, but I discovered (after a little online research) that rubbing alcohol can work wonders. All I’m doing right now is using a towel and some 1:1 isopropyl alcohol and water solution. I’ve been taking this…

2011-09-14 007

…and coming out with this…

2011-09-14 008

…much to my surprise. Now, the final results are a little less striking in person after the rubbing alcohol dries because then you get to see all those years of tiny scratches and dings, but it’s still an amazing change to me. All those people who have taken proper care of their records since they started collecting are probably not so impressed, but I can’t even say how excited I am.

I can’t wait until I give them a few more passes and make sure that they’re all ready for their maiden voyage on the turntable. I’m excited about getting them all new paper sleeves and cataloguing them and alphabetizing them, although I know that there’s no way they’ll stay that way. I’m especially excited about this one.

2011-09-14 010

Harlem Globetrotters? This is awesome.