It only took me four months

I finally managed to “put up” some of our food overage, like I talked about back in January.  Last week, I managed to squeeze in making pickled asparagus between laundry and gaming.  This week, I made mango salsa and finished the laundry before going out with VetFriend and FlowerFriend.  I felt super accomplished.  Both recipes were from Preserving By the Pint, on opposing pages no less!  Both were labelled as “spicy” but, while I have no problem with spicy, I just don’t keep chili’s and such on hand.  Thus, I had to fudge on the recipes a bit.  Never fear, I didn’t mess with the essential make-this-food-safe ingredients, just the flavorings.  I have no idea how the pickled asparagus will taste, but I hope it’s good because Sister and I both love pickled asparagus.  At least I got to taste the finished product for the mango salsa before I canned it.  Also, there was a little left over that didn’t fit in the jars, so other people got to taste it, too!  So far, everyone has approved.

It’s really more fun canning in these tiny amounts, though I don’t have the usage of the fourth burner pot down quite smoothly yet.  I had to do both the asparagus and the salsa in two shifts.  It worked out fine, but I’d love to be able to do a batch all in one go.  Perhaps I’ve just chosen the wrong recipes to do the truly small batches?  Also, I was critically low on half pint (“jelly”) jars.  How the heck did I have only one?  That problem has been rectified, so maybe better luck next time.  Of course, I’m thinking of doing bread-and-butter squash pickles next, so maybe I’ll go larger batch on that one.  I’m fascinated by the idea of pickling zucchini and summer squash, and bread-and-butter are my favorite kind of pickle.  Of course, I also have some rainbow carrots that are going limp, so maybe I should pickle them first.  I also have a ton of beets, more than I need to make borscht.  Perhaps I should make up some pickled beets.  Tough decisions.  I might just have to make them all; as you might have figured out, I really like pickles.

Sakura-Con 2017

Once again, The Household had a good time at our local anime / Asian cultural festival. We watched a couple of new shows (A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and Valerian and Laureline), shopped in the exhibitors hall, and went to the Ouran High Host Club pajama party (hosted by the ADR director and voice actor Caitlin Glass – and yes, that was a lot of crazy fun).  Munchkin and I also got super close to finishing the scavenger hunt (seriously, we were only missing one spot!). We had fun in our casual cosplay, and Munchkin got some kudos and pictures for her cute Kirara costume.   It was a long day, but we had fun!

Casual Cosplay

IMG_3612Sister, Munchkin, and I spent this weekend gearing up for Sakura-Con next weekend.  Munchkin has known all year that she wanted to dress up again and may have known for just as long that she wanted to cosplay Kirara from InuYasha.  Sister ordered cream-colored pants and a shirt last month, which was harder than it sounds.  Apparently cream / ivory / ecru / whatever isn’t a popular color right now.  She ended getting a set of pants and shirt that are technically long underwear, but they’re a dri-weave tech fabric type, fit well, and feel pretty nice to the touch.  Yesterday, we bought some “fur” fabric to make the Kirara’s two tails and fur ruff.  We also got some fabric paint markers since Kirara has black stripes on her feet and tails.

IMG_3613Today, after a leisurely morning and brunch, the three of us started in on our craft projects.  Sister drew out a nice curved fluffy tail, which she sewed while I cut out a second.  I then designed the ruff while Sister sewed the second tail and painted the stripes on both tails as well as the cuffs of the pants and shirt.  Munchkin’s job was to use the hair blow dryer to try to speed up the drying rate of the fabric paint.  Sadly, the tails are still going to take the recommended day to dry before we can stuff them.  The ruff is mostly done, though; I just need to sew on some hooks so that Munchkin can easily don and remove it through the day.  We (or maybe just I) will stuff the tails tomorrow night and get them sewn onto the elastic belt that we’re constructing (with a buckle – again for easy removal).  I also need to sew some fur into the store-bought ears we got.  Even though the inside of Kirara’s ears are pink, I’m just going to use a couple of scraps from the tails and ruff.  We’re not trying to be that exact to detail; we’re not nearly that ambitious.

IMG_3616Speaking of low ambition, it’s only by accident that Sister and I are dressing up at all.  I’d been thinking of going in street clothes this year for the sake of comfort, but was leaving myself the option to wear my burlesque skirt and corset if I felt like it Saturday morning.  We were watching Zootopia last night, though, and suddenly I had that thought that Judy Hopps’ out of uniform outfits were cute and comfortable.  The next thing you know, I’d ordered a pink plaid shirt and a floppy straw hat and decided to do a casual cosplay of Judy.  Then, as I was snooping around on the internet and Pinterest for ideas, Sister got into the spirit and will be going as Marinette from Miraculous.  Both of us will be wearing was constitutes normal clothing for us and forgoing any wigs, prosthetics, etc.  Of course, Marinette is a human character, so Sister will be a little more “accurate” than me.  That’s okay, too.  I’ll wear a small amount of makeup to up my sweetness factor, and I’m going to put my hair into two pigtails to suggest rabbit ears.  That’s it, though.  Nice and simple for my first cosplay (I’ve only done steampunk before).  I love that people have come up with casual cosplay (or stealth cosplay, as I like to call it…oh, and DisneyBounding).

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Tune in next week for pictures of the three of us actually dressed up!  I have no idea if BIL will cosplay; he may just be our cameraman.  And, yes, the dining room was / is covered in little bits of fuzz…as were the three of us!

Nowhere Near Rainy

Sorry about not posting last week; I was out of town and forgot to set up a post ahead of time.  I flew down to Galveston to meet BestFriend and then take off on a (Western) Carribean cruise.  Our cabin was tiny, but who spends much time in their cabin on a cruise?  We sat on deck and in the lounge and in the cafe and even in the library.  There was plenty of stuff to do, including pedicures and massages.  We watched a movie on deck one night, which was really fun.  Of course, there was tons of good food (the Carnival chefs have a thing for fruit soups) and fancy cocktails and dressing up and pictures.  BestFriend and I read our books and worked on our knitting (I swatched for a new project rather than try and drag around any of my WIPs).

There were two at-sea days and two port stops, Cozumel and Progreso.  In Cozumel, we didn’t make any plans.  Instead, we just wandered around.  And by wandered, I mean walked…a lot.  Altogether that day, we walked slightly over four miles…in the sun and heat.  We did give in and take a cab between the cruise terminal area and downtown, after a while.  I didn’t altogether mind, though.  All that wandering let us find a really good place to have lunch, at what might be the tiniest resort ever.  It looked super cute, though, and I had absolutely perfect shrimp ceviche.  I even got a fresh churro from a guy selling them out of a bucket for a dollar each.  That’s a very important thing to remember – if you happen across a guy selling churros out of a bucket, buy one.  It will be the best churro you’ve ever had…just like tamales being sold out of someones car in Arizona are the best tamales you’re gonna get (other than home made).  Otherwise, we did some shopping (what is it about cruises and buying expensive jewelry?), dipped our toes in the ocean (okay, my heels), and found a Starbucks so that we could could connect to the world for a few minutes and I could get a couple of souvenir city mugs for BIL’s dad.  We even found the local synagogue.

For our stop in Progreso, we booked a shore excursion to the Mayan ruins at Uxmal.  It was brutally hot, very dry, and there was not nearly enough shade.  I overheated and was tomato red by the time we made it back to the visitor’s center.  Even though I was smart enough not to attempt climbing up the steps in the allowed places, towards the end I wasn’t entirely certain I was going to make it back.  And the site was entirely worth it.  Uxmal was amazing.  There’s an amazing degree of the original structures and architecture left, and they’ve done a remarkably good job restoring what they can.  There’s still a lot of damage and work to be done, but at least some of the original material was salvageable from the surrounding houses and villages where it had been taken.  Our guide, Antonio “Tony” was very knowledgeable and personable.  BestFriend and I loved him.  From what he said, I think he may have been an researching archaeologist at some point, though he has also been a tour guide for something like forty years. His love for the subject and the site was obvious, and it was very easy to see why Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was great to see BestFriend again and to see a part of Mexico I’d never been to before.  I had a lot of fun, but it’s always nice to be home…even when it means diving right back into work.

If I wanted to lick a campfire…

IMG_8831…a post in which I rhapsodize about a tea that Sister has forbidden me to steep without giving advanced warning (preferably enough that she can vacate the premises, though just to let her know the house isn’t on fire is sufficient).  Okay, any of you who know your teas are either nodding your heads wisely right about now or thinking, “Oh, ew, is she talking about that tea?”  Yes, I am talking about that tea – lapsang souchong.  For those not in the know, lapsang souchong is a nice strong black tea that has been smoked – and tastes like it.  I won’t say it’s an acquired taste; it might just be too distinct to acquire.  It’s definitely a love it or hate it tea.  Obviously, I love it and Sister hates it.

IMG_3068Dad introduced me to this variety back when I was in high school, and is significant as the only tea I remember him making a point of buying.  He always enjoyed his tea at Chinese restaurants and shared my sweet-toothed love of Thai Iced Tea, but he was a dyed-in-the-wool, multiple pots, who cares if it’s gone cold coffee drinker.  We bought it at the coffee shop that was across from our accountant’s office.  I think it may have been a Gloria Jean’s at one point, but was an independent shop at others.  I’m not entirely certain Dad had ever had lapsang souchong before, if he just recognized name, if he just liked the smell, or if he knew exactly what he was doing when he bought a pound of tea.  That pound of tea was relegated to the freezer (sacrilege!) after we’d only tried it once and only occasionally got to see the light of day.  Hmm, maybe Mom shares Sister’s disgust with the aroma.

There was enough left of that pound of tea that when I went to graduate school, Dad and I split it and still had a large amount each.  It was the only loose leaf tea I owned for quite a while and was the seed for my tea cupboard in Montreal.  Mind you, it had company when it came with me to Sister’s house six years later, but still had a significanIMG_1833t presence even though it was (and is) a favorite of mine.  Eventually, even with usage restrictions, I did finish off that original lapsang souchong.  Amazingly, its flavor was perfect all the way to the end.  Or maybe I just got used to it when it was already stale.  I’m not sure, but that would explain why I have trouble getting any that is quite as good.

I like my lapsong souchong strong and very smoky.  The version I got at Teavana was not as smoky as I like.  I currently have some from David’s Tea, and it’s smoky but not as strong. Both were good but not perfect.  The Butterfly #1 I got at The American House in Old San Diego was perfect but I didn’t buy much.  Maybe I should order from them next time.  I’ve also been thinking about trying the lapsang souchong from Oliver Pluff & Co. (their Colonial Bohea and East Indian teas are excellent).  I haven’t it tried the lapsang souchong from Adagio yet, though I have used it as a base in two of my fandom blends there.  If nothing else, it’s fun to try to find some at any tea shop I’m in when travelling.IMG_1746

Funny side note:  I was very excited to find a shampoo at Lush that smells just like lapsang souchong.  Sister constantly thought the house was on fire for two weeks before she figured out it was my new shampoo.  I am forbidden to use that shampoo (but it still lives in a tin under my sink!).

Pi Day 2017

Happy Pi Day!

So, for two weeks straight, I have failed to post on Sunday. My apologies.  Last week, I couldn’t think of anything to post about, and this week, I just plain forgot.  Thus, off day though it may be, I hope to win your forgiveness with pie.  I would give you real pieces if I could, but hopefully pictures and the recipe will suffice.

I give you Open Face Peach Pie.  I can in no way take credit for this recipe; while my family seems to be the only people who make it, I’m pretty sure my grandmother got the recipe out of a magazine many years ago.

Open Face Peach Pie

  • uncooked pie shell
  • peach halves, sprinkled with sugar
  • 1/2 pint whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp almond flavoring

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pie shell and peach halves in pie pan.  Mix remainder of ingredients and pour into pie pan around peach halves.  Bake for 1 hour.  Cool completely before cutting.

That’s it.  Now, those of you who look carefully may notice that those are nectarines in that picture, not peaches.  In truth, I rarely use peaches. Mom got us started with nectarines and plums, and I have used raspberries (my favorite version), strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and pineapple.  That brings me to another point; while fresh fruit is best, canned fruit can be used due to circumstances or season. No need to sprinkle your fruit with sugar with the canned – or the berries for that matter. Now, I’m off to eat dinner so that I can eat my pie!

Garden Show 2017

I really don’t intend for this to be a photography blog, but I seem to be doing a lot of photo posts recently.  I guess I haven’t been doing many crafts of late.  I keep thinking of pulling out some sewing or knitting and then not doing it.  It might be time to make a goal – like finishing the sweater for Munchkin that I was supposed to finish last fall.  Or finally making that vest I bought the pattern and material for well over a year ago.  Or working on my t-shirt quilt.  Or using any of the fabric I’ve accumulated from the Kyoto Arts and Antiques sales.  Yeah, lots of crafts to do.  I even want to do them, but can’t quite get myself actually working on anything.  Hmmm…crafter’s block?

Regardless, today is going to be a photography post because of what I did this weekend, of Friday to be exact.  Every year, around this time, the Northwest Flower and Garden show happens at the Washington State Convention Center.  And every year, Sister, Munchkin, and I go.  Sometimes a friend or Mom comes with us.  Sometimes, it’s just us.  I think I may have missed one or two, but I look forward to it every year.  The show goes on for several days, but we just go on Friday night.  All of the judging on the show gardens is, and there aren’t any classes at that time, but it’s a less busy.  That’s important, too, because I like to take photographs of the gardens.  And the flowers.  Of course the flowers; we all know I like to take pictures of flowers.

I’ve used the Nikon for the past few years, which gets me a kind of mild respect.  People aren’t sure if I’m just another “tourist” or if I’m a professional photograph (hah! hah!  so not!), so they try a little harder not to get in my shots.  When I’ve had a pocket digital, I can maneuver better (the Nikon is so big and heavy!) but am just another person jockeying for position.  I’ve gotten some good photos either way, though the zoom lenses on the Nikon get me some really nice macro shots.  Last year, I did the show with the Nikon but only a 35mm lens (because I’d already broken the two zoom lenses).  It was a different experience, and required some adjustments to my shooting style, but I still got some good material.  This year, I took only my new phone (iPhone 7).  I wanted to test out its low light and macro capabilities before I go on a cruise with BestFriend next month.  It performed beautifully, better than my last pocket digital camera.  Of course, I think it’s technically a better camera in general, but the screen interface on the phone also worked for me.  Now I just wish I could find a clip on lens set that works with my case.

So, I’ve nattered on about my cameras and taking photos, but the Garden Show really is about more than that.  It’s a fun outing with my family / friends.  I doubt I’d ever go alone despite all the photogenic flowers.  It’s much less fun when you can’t point out really cool things and debate which version of a concept we liked better.  Even taking pictures is a group activity.  I may be the most obsessive one, but we all like to take photos.  It’s fun to see who took pictures of stuff that the others missed or who got the best photo of a really spectacular flower or who managed to actually get the spot with the tricky lighting to photograph decently.  The show also always fires up my imagination on stuff we could do in the yard, so I get excited for a while and bug Sister about stuff we should do outside.  Occasionally, we even manage to implement something.

Most important, though, is that we don’t forget about the treasure hunt.  We all help Munchkin with that. Every year they have a theme and in recent years they’ve given the garden designers a piece of wood cut into a shape that fits with the theme (for a few years before that it was a random thing like a piggy bank).  The designers can then paint them (or not) and incorporate them into their display.  Sometimes they’re really easy to find and sometimes they’re not, but there’s a printed list that the kids can fill out describing where in each garden the shape is.  Then they can take that list to the information and get a prize.  Some years the prize is seeds, some years it’s a plant.  This year the theme was “Taste of Spring” (food plants), the shapes were apples, and the prize was a three-inch pot of kale (Red Russian – surprisingly less bitter than most kale I’ve had).  Altogether, it’s a simple outing but an annual tradition, and I like those.

Love through experiments

By chance, I made Valentines dinner this year.   Chance being that I had the day off (Tuesday is my regular day off) and usually cook on such days.  We don’t actually tend to make a big deal out of Valentines.  Munchkin gets candy at her school party, Mom usually gets us something, and flowers get sent to the grandparents.  Sometimes Sister and BIL will go out for dinner or a night away on the closest weekend.  This year BIL bought Sister a beautiful bouquet, but otherwise we were too busy preparing for vacation. Dinner ended up seeming a little fancy because I was trying to clean out the fridge.  Thus, I ended up cooking three things I’d never made before. I had a flank steak that needed to either be used or frozen.   Usually, I slice up flank steak for stroganoff or fajitas or mango beef and so on.   Thus was the first time I’d tried roasting one. My trusty old Betty Crocker Cookbook suggested an herb marinade, so I used the cilantro lime crystals and soaked the steak for a few hours.  It ended up a little more done than I like (I’m a “rare please” kind of girl), but it was still tasty.  I also made balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, which are simple even the first time.  Mom had given us leftover roasted potatoes after we dined at her house last week, so I threw those in the food processor with cheese and some sliced leeks.  I added some minced garlic and cream to the goop and fried up some potato cakes.   To my delight (and slight surprise) everything worked.

I really like making food for my family.  It’s one of the things I miss from when I was unemployed.  Okay, I don’t miss cooking every night, but I wish I got to cook more often.  I’m the last one home most nights, so it just doesn’t make sense for me to be in charge of dinner.  Tuesdays are pretty much it…and I get requests for the same time hint pretty often.   I don’t mind that, though; it means they really like my stroganoff.  Again, that makes me happy because I made something that makes them happy. I’m connecting to the people I love through my food.  It’s particularly gratifying that they like some of the recipes that I developed when I lived by myself during grad school.  Those dishes were tailored to my taste specifically, so at first I wasn’t sure other people would actually like them. Cooking them also makes me feel useful in the Household, that I contribute not just the action of cooking but the creation of family favorites.  And given that sometimes a feel like a freeloader, I’ll take whatever feeling of usefulness I can get.

Footsore but Fancy Free?

Not going to be much of a post tonight. Did a race today, and I’m a little tired and sore.  I had a good time, though.  A bunch of us local Hogwarts Running Club members organized a get together to do the current race as a group.  I brought Munchkin along, and she got to do her first 5k “live” even though it’s a virtual race.  She did very well, and we achieved a personal best for our time and pace.  We even did a little extra on the distance!   I tried to make the race as much like an event as I could.  Okay, no check in or corrals (or huge long line to the starting point), but I did what I could.  Our medals had come in the mail a few days ago, so we got to hang them around our necks right away.  I also printed out our bibs, and we wore them around the whole course.   That was kinda fun given that there was an official race going on, too!   We got a few odd looks, but I also got some compliments on my HRC running shirt. So we had fun, did well, and got to meet a bunch of new wizards!

Now it’s time to plan some craft projects. I’ve been wanting to set up a medal and bib display for a while, but now Munchkin is going to need one, too.  I’m pretty sure she’s gonna want to keep signing up for virtual races with me, and our current goal is the Disneyland 5k next January.  We need to improve our pace still, but that’s the goal. Anyway, now that I gotten started with printing out the bibs for the virtual races, we’re gonna have more.  I’m actually pretty tickled about the bibs.  I didn’t want to print them on regular paper and have them seem less “real” than bibs from live events, so I found some Tyvek paper that would work in an inkjet printer.  The printing bled a little, and they’re not water proof (I need to remember to hairspray them), but they have that slick, toughness.  Pretty cool!  I want something like a BibFOLIO for my bibs, but none of the available styles are quite what I want, so I think I’ll make my own.  It will be a fun project to do with Munchkin.  I also want a medal hanger with a shelf, but that might be more of just scoping out what’s available at IKEA, Target, or Hone Depot that fits the bill or requires very little modification.  I’ve got a pretty specific picture in my head of how I want the medal hanger to look / work, so it might actually turn into a fun “treasure hunt” to find what I want.  I’m looking forward to it.

Garden d’Lights

Note: I would have posted about this sooner, but I couldn’t find the sync cable for my Nikon.  Located it this week…put away in the camera bag.  This is what happens when I put stuff away.

This past year, I was determined to do more holiday things during the season.  As a kid / teenager, there were concerts (both performed and attended) and school programs and craft fairs.  There was caroling with Girl Scouts or choir, and I went to a lot of Mom’s Sweet Adelines holiday performances.  With something every week, it made the holiday season exciting and fun.  As an adult, I still love holidays.  I get to decorate and go shopping for gifts (I love buying gifts for people).  There’s usually an extra day or two hanging out with friends, not to mention the actual holiday get together with the family.  We’ve gone to The Nutcracker a few times.  It’s still a lot of fun, but it’s not quite as exciting.  It’s not the rapid fire round of events, and I think there’s less anticipation when you’re making the magic of the season than on the receiving side.  Thus, I wanted to do some stuff that would remind me of the whirlwind.

Sadly, I really only managed to do one extra thing.  I missed all the craft fairs that I thought about attending, mostly by forgetting or by being too blah after work on Saturday.  Anyway, the event I did make is one of my favorites: Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden (which I haven’t visited in far too long).  Sister and BIL had taken me and various family members when we visited for the holidays, and we’d gone a few times after I moved here, as well.  It’s been several years, though, and I’d been wanting to go back.  The weather was cold; it always seems to be unusually cold when we go.  At least it wasn’t raining this time.  They’ve redone the entrance to the gardens, and much of the layout, since I’d last been to the garden.  They still had the scavenger hunt for animals “hidden” in the light displays, though, which is always fun for Munchkin.  Very few of the displays are holiday themed; it’s more about making the garden “bloom” in the winter.  And doing a light show at the only time of year where people wouldn’t have to come in the middle of the night!

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