This will be a short blog, but I’d like to talk about a couple of things that I decided this week, that I think warrant sharing on this little page ‘o mine.

First of all, I am slowly but surely finishing up my first afghan patch. Yes it is taking me a very long time – but it’s because I hadn’t realized it required so much math and for the first time in my life I’m having to check gauges with yarn/needles etc so that all the patches will come out the same size. I ended up purchasing a small afghan book online, that was recommended by someone on Ravelry. I think it will help a lot while I go through this semester long project. ๐Ÿ™‚ So there’s that.

Secondly – I’ve been incredibly sick for about a week now. Which means I’ve had no energy, and spent a lot of time sitting/laying down. But I’m the type to get bored easily. Last weekend, I purchased some earring making supplies. Earring making is a new hobby for me – I picked it up over the winter break when I wandered into a beading shop in midtown Sacramento. I made some pretty cool earrings that month, such as these (my favourites):

(Don’t they just scream: “NERD ALERT!” ? And yes, for those of you not in the know, they are Doctor Who themed, and I love them)

Anyway, I sat down for a few hours last week and ended up with 14 pairs of earrings. Over the course of the next week, I ended up with 32, even making a second trip to the store for more supplies.

Sick obsession? Maybe.

But then it occured to be I should probably turn some sort of profit from this crazy project. I mean, afterall when you have something that looks like this:

one should probably start considering how much it’s costing them to make earrings they aren’t necessarily going to wear.

So lo’ and behold, I have opened an etsy shop. Here you will find earrings for sale. Though, all the ones I have made aren’t posted (because they charge you 20 cents per post) I have posted 15 pairs to start.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I can’t help but cringe at the idea of making 100% profit off somethign when it’s money I want but don’t necessarily need. I have a job, I have student financial aid…so what would make this a lot more fun? Adding it on to the afghan project!

So, I’ve decided, for every pair I sell, I’m adding 10% of the profit to the Project Patches jar! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tenatively, for now, I’ve decided upon Save the Children for my charity of choice. My next blog (hopefully with a finished patch) will discuss in more detail who they are and what they do. But if you can’t wait, there’s the link.

That’s all for now. Check out the Etsy shop and tell me your thoughts below!


My Little Dumplin’

What a week of terrible weather it has been.
No seriously – this weather has been miserable. Normally, I enjoy rainy days…when I’m at home. If I can sit inside and curl up on the couch with a book and a blanket and enjoy the sound of it, then I’m content. What I don’t like is when I have to be out wandering around in it. Now, don’t get me wrong, a little rain is okay. But when it’s dumping buckets when you’re walking across campus, or showering you horizontally as you are on foot, going to work, it becomes an incredibly miserable experience. By the end of the day, you are wet, cold, and downright cranky.

So what’s the cure to all this? Soup, you say?
Of course!

This weekend I made two kinds of soup. Last night, it was an Irish Potato Chowder, which I had been craving throughout the day. Today, I made Chicken and Dumpling soup for my partner, T, who specifically requested it. And who can say no to a pair of big puppy boyfriend eyes?

So today, I am going to share two recipes with you. First – the Irish Chowder which is absurdly delicious. I will also be posting my favourite dumpling recipe – which can be paired with any chicken soup, really. My particular crock-pot chicken soup recipe is relatively mediocre, so I won’t waste your time with that. If you see a * this is my own adjustment to the recipe.

Ready? Here we go.

Irish Potato, Cheddar, and Broccoli Chowder
2 TB Butter*
1 Large Leek, Sliced (Pale & White)
1.5 lbs yellow potatoes – peeled, cubed**
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 c coarsely chopped broccoli flourettes
1 c half & half
1 pk Kerrygold Irish Cheddar, shredded***

*I usually use salted butter for extra flavour
**I never peel the potatoes – I think it tastes better when they are left on, and it doesn’t hurt nutritionally speaking
***I don’t think it matters what kind of Irish Cheddar…I bought the cheaper brand, but it was still just as good. As long as it’s a good, WHITE Irish Cheddar, that sharp flavour will still shine through.

1. Melt butter, add leeks, cook for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock, bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes.
2. Cool slightly. *here the recipe tells you to pour the contents into a food processor and blend until smooth – I skip this step, I like the chunks of potato*
3. Return to heat. Add the broccoli+half&half, stirring constantly for five minutes. (If you don’t stir, it WILL scorch)
4. Stir in the cheese over low heat until the cheese is melted and smooth.
Serve with soda-biscuits and you’ll have a lovely meal.

In addition to the ingredients above, I added a few dashes of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and finely granulated black pepper. Not too much, but it definitely brings the dish to life for us Americans who aren’t used to the blandness of British food. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We gobbled this soup down last night, and it gave us the warm fuzzies inside. I paired it with a glass of Chardonay, and it was lovely.

Tonight our dinner featured a recipe from a very useful book, which I picked up over the summer at Logos for about $2. I’ve found it handy a few times.

While it may not look like much this little book is full of bread making tips and absolutely lovely, foolproof recipes. It’s small so there’s lot of room to create and explore, using the recipes simply as foundations. However, this evening I kept it simple – taking the dumpling recipe from this book verbatium. I’d like to share it with you because I feel it’s an absolutely lovely and simple way to make your chicken soup even better.
Fluffy Dumplings
Fluffs as light as thistledown
2 c sifted, all purpose flour*
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
1 c milk**
*Using half wheat/half white flour is healthier, and tastes just as good, if not better.
**If you are a vegetarian/vegan, any milk substitute will work fine with this recipe. I personally recommend plain hemp milk, which will give it a slightly but not overpowering nutty flavour.

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
2. Cut shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal or crumbs.
3. Lightly mix in milk with fork to make soft dough. Stir as little as possible. (I usually use my fingertips instead of a fork)
4. Drop tablespoons full of dough on top of chicken pieces or meat/vegetables in stew. Simmer 10 minutes uncovered, and then 10 more with the cover tightly on the pot. This should make about 12 dumplings.
*I only made 6 dumplings this evening, but I made them twice as large – which is how I like them. If you choose to do it this way, simmer for 15 minutes, then steam for 15, and they will come out nicely.

The book also reminds the reader NOT to drop the dumplings into the broth. If you are making a soup with a lot of broth, like I was this evening – remove broth from the pan until the vegetables/chicken do not float, and set it aside. Dumplings are fragile, and need to sit on something while they cook or they become soggy and fall apart. Once they are done – if you are not going to eat them right away, remove them from the pot and place them on a warm plate. Pour the broth back into your pot of soup. Serve whenever you are read. The dumplings will reheat in the bowl of soup when you serve them. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hopefully you will enjoy this post and try the ideas here, in order to stay warm and cosy in such terribly wet and cold weather!

In distress? Maybe it’s time to de-stress. ^_^

Today’s post is not art/craft related. Well it is, in a way, but not in it’s entirety. Having just begun my second week of what is very likely to be one of the most stressful semesters of my life – I began reflecting on how I am going to manage not driving a pikestaff through my forehead, (this is, of course, assuming I can acquire a pikestaff, but still). You see, I am the type of person who gets very stressed very quickly – not in the sense where I lose my patience with others, but moreso with myself. I tend to be incredibly critical of myself, and become overwhelmed really easily when I feel I am doing everything incorrectly. For those of you who don’t know – I have recently done REALLY well in school – in fact, better than I ever have in the four years I’ve been attending college. My goal is to continue this trend, but my schedule this semester is definitely going to be a major roadblock for that success. I am currently enrolled in 17.5 units, which, now that I think about it, probably wasn’t the greatest idea. Mostly because it means my days are going to be from about 6am to 10 o’clock at night. Further more, one of my classes is a preschool practicum, which means 5 hours of my morning is devoted to working in a classroom and attending forums on curriculum, classroom practices, child dialogues, etc. Did I mention I also work three days a week on top of these full school days, and one of those days coincides with a class I am taking? Oh, and once a month I will have additional classes Thursdays and Saturdays. AHHH!!!

I’m already overwhelmed. But this is where the fun part begins. Now that you’ve got yourself in my shoes – I’m going to tell you five things I implement into my schedule to reduce my stress levels (aside from a good diet, exercise, etc which of course ALWAYS help) and hope that in some way it may help you in your own day-to-day routine, or perhaps you will have something to suggest to add to my de-stress regimen.

#1 – Mandatory, 2o minute bubble baths, twice a week.
While this may seem girly, even for me, I have found this to be an incredibly successful way for me to reduce the amount of stress I am experiencing. It forces me to not only sit down and do absolutely nothing for twenty minutes, but it allows me to do so in a space that no one can enter, no one can interupt, and that is entirely my own. And it also helps that aroma therapy and bubbles are involved – in addition to some good tunes playing out of a set of mini speakers I hang on the back of the bathroom door. For twenty minutes the world is mine…and I come out feeling pretty darn good about myself. Also, let it be known – the one thing in my life that I DO indulge in, is expensive soap. Lately, in particular, products from a local store in Capitola called Panache which carries some of the most delicious smelling soaps and lotions I have ever experienced the pleasure of, well, sniffing. While they are a little pricey, the bottles go a long way – and the smell stays on you for 24 hours. It’s delightful. They also sell great lotions, which I need to add, is part of my bath-time process. After I’ve bathed, I rub myself all over with a great smelling lotion. Giving your legs and feet a good massage after a hot bath is wonderful, and it helps you have a little extra spring in your step the next morning.

#2 – I keep these in the freezer.
Mind you, I am out of them right now. But typically I do keep something on that scale around. These in particular are great because you can eat about three and your sugar/stress eating craving is killed. They are dairy free as well, so if you do overindulge, you aren’t going to feel like dying afterward. Plus, in comparison to products such as Dibs, you can’t really go wrong with less fat, sugar, and calories. It’s important to remember it’s really okay to treat myself to something yummy once in a while, but also not to feel awful about it later. That’s why these babies rock.

#3 – Keeping in mind, I have to create one new thing, every week.
In the same tone as the baths, I have to allow myself at least half an hour (or more, depending on my free time) to allow myself to create something new. It’s important not to get totally sucked in to all the academics and stresses of the everyday. Being able to close my bedroom door, sit down, and make something new (or sometimes, go into the kitchen and make a baking mess) is key to my own personal pursuit of happiness. That is why I have started the afghan project – it is a purposeful goal but it still requires creative thought and process. Which design will I use next? How big will it be? Will all the patches fit together? Which yarn is best, which pair of needles? And while time may not always allow for a large baking project or the math and thought it requires to work on the patches, I can quickly create things such as these:
I made them on a whim Saturday night after realizing I hadn’t done anything crafty in over a week and a halfย  – I literally had a craving to make something, but my energy levels were feeling incredibly low and I needed something that required little to no thinking. These? Perfect.

#4 – Norah Jones, James Blunt, John Mayer
Now, while this not be your particular taste in music, this is what I tend to put on after a very stressful day. Why? Because most of the music of these particular artists is relatively smooth, harmless, and well, relaxing. In particular, after a bath I really like to put on Norah Jones’ latest album, The Fall, because her voice sort of puts me at ease. Plus, her songs are honest, at times comical, and overall low key. I don’t feel the need to shag my boyfriend or cry in a corner after listening to this album, nor do I feel it’s necessary to hop on my bike and burn 1,000 calories or kick the stuffing out of a punching bag – I just want to lay in bed, look over my textbooks, and drink a cup of tea. Finding music that calms you down is important – I can definitely tell when music is making me feel neurotic or tense. Take for example, the copious amounts of techno my partner, T, enjoys. While I appreciate his unique choice in music, there are times when I reach over and turn down the dial in his car because the loud, high paced music makes me feel more antsy and stressed than I already am.

#5 – Soap Operas.
Yes, this is my guilty pleasure. Like it or not, I am hopelessly attached to the lives of the fictional people living in Port Charles on General Hospital. But before you laugh at me, let me explain – I enjoy this type of entertainment because when I come home for 45 minutes I can turn my brain completely off. Watching soap operas is like pouring applesauce into your brain. It requires little intelligence, small attention span, and is so incredibly “out there” that it sort of puts my life in perspective for me, in two ways. The first is that it reminds me, my life is not nearly dramatic as I sometimes tend to think it is. Because, c’mon, these people tend to react to their problems in the way I initially react to my own…only they take it a step further, and it just gets ridiculous. Which in turn, points out how ridiculous I’m being about my own issues (sometimes). Secondly, they tend to remind me there are REAL problems out there. Soaps tend to focus on rich, fabulous people with complex and unrealistic lives. It’s alluring to watch these shows for a lot of people because the romances are always “perfect” and the problems are always explosive – but it’s FICTIONAL. Which helps remind me what things are real, and how much better they are that way. A prime example is that, while the romances are “perfect” they never, EVER last on soap operas. I can’t name one couple, currently, on General Hospital that was together two years ago. Non-perfect relationships tend to work out better. There are many other examples of the things that make me wrinkle my forehead and think hard on these shows, but I most definitely don’t want to bore you with the details of soap-opera land.

So that’s it. Those are my five weekly ways to reduce stress in my life. And thus far, it’s worked quite nicely. (These are things, by the way, I’ve been using for a while, it’s just recently that I’ve thought about how useful they really are)

So, what about you? Do you have anything that helps you reduce stress in your day-to-day life? Do you think you’d implement any of these five ideas into your routine?


ยกQue delicioso!

There are times in my life when I feel a sudden urge to play hostess. It’s funny because fifty-percent of the time, I’m incredibly anti-social. I hate crowded rooms, noise, messes, etc – I’d almost even label myself agoraphobic, except that I don’t freak out every time I open my front door. But more often than most, when faced with the prospect of going out on the town or filling my apartment with people and entertaining them for several hours, I run and hide. But there are times when I absolutely MUST make a spectacle of my household – to have a fun evening filled with warm, friendly hearts and happy tummies. When I came back from being in my hometown over winter break, this urge was surprisingly overwhelming. I blame it on the fact that perhaps I was more social than usual while I was away (reuniting with old friends, etc), and got used to the tune of things, and once returned found myself incredibly lonely.

So I started to brainstorm. It occurred to me that several people had asked me to pass on some knowledge I had gained while I was at home. This knowledge was quite tasty – I spent several hours one afternoon with a “grown up” friend – S and our mutual grown up friend, M, making tamales. S is a tamale expert and showed us all the things we needed to do to make perfect tamales from scratch. I had a blast, and had mentioned it to several people who all agreed I needed to pass along what I had learned. I decided this would be easy in a mass group setting – which I’ve been told is the best way to make tamales anyway. So I discussed it with roommates, created a Facebook Events Page (how awesome are those, btw? So convenient…assuming all your guests actually use FB of course), and a few weeks later my apartment was filled with a dozen or so of my peers (ironically none of the folks that had actually asked for the tutorial – they had previous engagements) ready for some cooking! It took us several hours and made a huge mess, but eventually we produced around 85 tamales, which I have to say felt like quite an achievement!

Things I learned working on the preparation and cooking for this little event:

– Next time, order less masa and make more filling.
– Dried California Chile Peppers really DO burn through your skin if handled without gloves. o.O
– Ask people to help with the dishes – because, dear Heavens, there will be A LOT afterward. I thought they’d never end.
– After cooking for almost two days straight – a stiff drink afterward is totally allowed.
– When attempting to make super spicy food, be sure you actually have enough cayenne pepper to follow through. I ran out mid-prep. So sad.
– As a Child Development Major, I have a huge mental roadblock when it comes to creating a model for others to follow. As in – putting out a model of what something should look like is a BIG no no. This, however, should not apply to tamale making. Next time I will most certainly create a model and place it on the table, so that the tamales stay consistently the same size. (S warned me that if they were not, they’d all cook at different rates. She was very correct in that regard – I was pulling tamales of different sizes and shapes out of the pot for close to half an hour before all were totally cooked)
– PAY ATTENTION TO GIANT POTS THAT ARE STEAMING FOR OVER AN HOUR. I scorched the bottom of one of my pans, as it ran out of water and I didn’t notice until I smelled it. It took me 45 minutes to scrub it clean after, and there was still some left at the bottom when I gave up – thank goodness it was my own pan and not the one my boss loaned me. (And yes, laugh, because I really did manage to burn water. The apartment smelled like popcorn for hours)

Despite these gliches, the food came out fantastic and we all had a lot of fun. It’s interesting killing several hours while tamales steam by playing cards and watching silly video games on tv. Just saying.

I got a lot of compliments on the meat filling we used so I figured I’d wrap up with a post of the recipe here. I mixed one of my favourite shredded chicken recipes with S’s red chile sauce, and the result was quite fantastic. While I will not walk you through the tamale making process (it’s a bit too complicated for my mediocre writing skills to convey) I will share the filling recipe to be used in tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and more! Following will be a pretty picture of some of our tamales. I hope you enjoy!

For the chicken:(Do this in a slow cooker for close to 16 hours, for best results)

4 cups chicken stock
1 large jar of salsa
Sprinkles and Dashes of Preferred Spices (I use onion powder, garlic seasoning – this is a mix that has pepper, garlic, salt, and herbs in it – and a packet of taco seasoning)
1 bag frozen chicken breasts
2 to 3 TB olive oil

Heat your chicken broth in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil. Whisk in your spices/flavor and olive oil until it tastes/looks right to you. Personally, I like mine overly flavourful since I know a lot of the taste will boil off after 16 hours.
Place an abundance of chicken breasts in the bottom of the Crockpot. (I usually fit about three) Pour half the jar of salsa over the chicken. Pack on top as many breasts as you can. (I think I ended up putting 4 more before it was too full) Pour the broth mix over the breasts, hopefully fitting it all in the pot. Dump the rest of the salsa on top. Make sure all of the chicken is soaking in the liquid. If you have a large pot you may have to add 1-2 cups additional water. Set your Crockpot to high, secure the lid tightly on top, and go to bed. When you wake up the next morning, move the setting to low. At this point the chicken usually has begun falling apart (which is what you want). As silly as it sounds, I take a potato masher to the chicken in the pot to help shred it apart. Allow the chicken to simmer on low until you are ready to use it. If you feel you’re getting low on liquid add another cup or so, and put in some more spices.

When the meat tastes the way you want it to – move it into a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Try to drain off as much liquid as you can. Once you’ve removed the chicken, add a small part of the broth (approx 1/4 c) to the bowl to keep the chicken moist. Now you have a bowl of shredded chicken! If you aren’t going to use it right away, put Saran Wrap over the bowl and set it on the counter or fridge until you’re ready. Oh also, make sure you don’t dump out the leftover broth. You’ll be using it in the next part.

The Red Sauce: (Adapted from recipe provided by S, any additions I made I’ve marked with a *)

2 to 3 bags of Dried Calif. Chiles (seeded, and soaked in a ceramic or glass bowl, in water, overnight) **When you handle the peppers WEAR GLOVES.
*Leftover Broth (If you want to make the red sauce but not the chicken, use 3 cups beef or vegetable broth depending on your dietary restrictions)
Chile Powder
*1 packet Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning Mix
*Crushed Red Pepper
1 diced onion
Chopped Cilantro (I omitted this solely because I forgot to buy it)

After the peppers have soaked, place them in a blender or food processor and puree them.
Place them in a ceramic bowl. Whisk in broth (2-3 cups, depending on what consistency you want – S did not include this step but I felt the sauce seemed a lot thicker than what she had made with us, so I added it and it came out nicely). Whisk in the spices. I kept testing the sauce with tortilla chips until I decided I had reached the taste I was going for.

Now, saute your onions in some olive oil. When they are soft and transparent add the chicken and sauce to the pan. If you’re making tamales, make sure the filling is REALLY saucy, the masa will soak up most of the moisture. At this point, I added more taco seasoning, and then let it simmer with a lid on for about 15 mins. The end result was delicious!

I give the masa we purchased an A+ as well. S had told us the masa was everything in the recipe – El Rosal on 16th & East Cliff did not disappoint!

When the tamales were done, we gobbled up several with some rice, cheese, Crema, etc, and margaritas! Overall, it was a wonderful time. The next day I was up to my elbows in dishes, but it was totally worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

For anyone who attended the party and is reading this looking for the vegetarian filling, it’s relatively simple. White Frozen Corn, Black Beans (canned), and La Victoria Green Sauce (also canned) + chopped onion and added spices.

Gracias por leer esto!ย  Hasta luego!