Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Always Kiss the Cook"

Wow, costume updates on Mondays, cooking on Tuesdays, what''s next?!

So this week I decided to experiment with three food items that I have never used before: udon noodles (not so daunting), miso, and tofu. Yes, despite being a vegetarian, I have never made tofu myself.

Three new ingredients!
 I used a recipe from a book called The Tofu Book. Basically, that is. It called for leeks which I didn't know what to do with and didn't have time to find out so I left them out (four never-before used items maybe a bit too much?) and seaweed (which I haven't used before but did not include only because I couldn't find it at our grocery store). It did NOT call for udon, but sticking with the Japanese theme and trying to make a soup into a meal, I decided to add them.

I started by pressing the tofu. Per the advice of friends, I used three, large, heavy books and pressed it twice while I prepared other things.

Pressing tofu.
 The miso I bought had a very similar recipe to the one I was using on the side. The only difference was that it recommended cutting it with a stock, so I used vegetable (of course).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Apparently miso should not be boiled. This was very good to know because I was going to use the miso as stock and cook my noodles and carrots in it.

So I boiled some water with vegetable stock and added my noodles and chopped carrots. While this went on I dissolved some miso (about a tablespoon maybe? It was pre-cut) in some warm water and cubed my tofu. Once the noodles and carrots were about done, I lowered the temperature and added my miso and tofu and let it sit on very low for a while.

Here is how it turned out:

Taste test: alright, but not as flavorful as I would like. Maybe some more stock and/or miso. Or maybe more miso and no stock. I needed to add a little salt. Isaac agreed that it was a little bland, but he liked it otherwise. And it would be nice to have more veggies in it. Perhaps potatoes? Overall, not as successful as last week's dinner.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Costumes Part Three

Sorry I didn't update on my costumes last week. I made shockingly little progress at all the week before. This week was much more productive.

Here is my belt for my Jareth costume. It sparkles. Need I say more?

All of these tiny rhinestones don't really like to stay attached so I tried Modge Podge on the backside (so as not to cover the sparklies). We will see if they hold up.
And I am almost finished with my Yoko Kurama costume. I just need to make a sash and finish the ears and tail. Oh, and the wig. Guess I need that, too. And find my shoes. Damn.

During the course of making this, I had to have my mom come over to help with the fitting. In case you don't know, it can be difficult to fit things to yourself without help. Especially under the arms. I had to interrupt my mom for this and she suggested getting a dress-maker dummy. While this would be a great idea, I don't have a whole lot of money to spend. The cheapest I found one was about 50 dollars, but I'm not sure it was adjustable (which is not a necessary feature, but it would be nice). The others were closer to 100 dollars, and I'm sure more with shipping such large, awkward objects. I haven't actually looked in a store yet, but I'm sure Joann would have something.

Then I ran across this link: How to Make Your Own Sewing Dummy on eHow. Brilliant, right? I think it would be fun to try. The most expensive part would probably be the stand. Anyhow, I ran the idea past my mom, and she thinks it would be fun to try. So this might be my next project. Totally psyched. Then I don't need help with fittings! Yay! I will post that when it happens.

I also started the pants for my Shuiichi Kurama costume, but they weren't far enough along to justify pictures. It's been a while since I have done pants, it took a while to remember how to put them together! The Yoko pants turned out well and the Shuiichi ones are fine so far. They are a little more complex. I also remembered after I finished my Yoko ones that I wanted to put in a pocket... I will make sure my Shuiichi ones have one, but I will have to go back and add one to the Yoko pants... Ugh.

Oh, I have also added another costume to my NDK list for this year: Katamari cousin. My friends talked about a group cosplay with someone dressed as the Prince and others dressed as his various cousins from the games. If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katamari_Damacy. The basic premise is that the King of the Universe destroyed the stars (or something) in a drunken fit and his tiny Prince has to roll things up on the Katamari (a big ball which sticks to things smaller than it to grow) and make new stars. It is fun and silly. As you go through the game, you encounter various cousins.

It was decided recently that this will actually happen. So Amie will be the Prince and I believe we have someone who will be the King, and two or three others. I think that I will be June, shown here:

And hopefully we will all have Katamari. Hopefully with velcro things to stick on them! Fun fun! More soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

~W. C. Fields

Since I completely skipped my costume update of the week, here is a cooking update instead!

So tonight is my cooking night, again. I was pressed for time and quinoa came to mind. I did a quick search on my phone for quinoa recipes and this came up: Quinoa and Black Bean. Sounded delicious to me! First thing I did was change the servings from the default 10 to 4 (I like left overs).

It was pretty easy overall. Simmer the quinoa in seasoned vegetable broth (seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper) and when it is almost finished, add corn and beans (I used canned for both, though the recipe calls for frozen corn). Before the quinoa finished simmering, it smelled amazing! I did end up needing to add more vegetable broth.

Here is the end result! Again, I need serving dishes...

Verdict? I thought it was quite tasty! Isaac liked it, too. I think the seasoning came out well, considering I hardly know what I am doing. I probably added the most cumin because I like it. Very little cayenne pepper and pepper. However, even though it was altered for four, I felt as though we barely had enough for two... In the future, 10 may not be too many servings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Love people. Cook them tasty food."

I got this free bumper sticker from Penzeys Spices (http://www.penzeys.com/) which is an amazing spice store. If you haven't been there, go! I highly recommend their vanilla and taco spice. Anyway, I got this bumper sticker which is hanging on the fan above our stove:

On that note, Isaac and I decided to start cooking more dinners. We've been eating out quite a bit lately, which is expensive and not very healthy. So we each picked two nights a week to make dinner. Tonight is my first night. I cook on occasion, but I am not very adept. I hope to keep note of my cooking endeavors here. I will try to post helpful hints for those who, like me, know very little about cooking.

So I used this recipe tonight: Five Ingredient Pasta Toss. It calls for olive oil, bow-tie pasta (I bought the Barilla Plus brand because it is healthy and tasty), a couple of garlic cloves, fresh basil, white beans, and fire-roasted diced tomatoes. All of this was fine for me. Except the garlic. First, I mis-read and only needed two cloves when I bought two heads... So I need to find other things to do with the other one...

So I needed to crush the garlic cloves and combine them with the olive oil. I didn't really know how to work with garlic, so like the all-modern-woman, I googled it. This video was super awesome (and it worked!): How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds. From there I could handle chopping and crushing, but here is a pretty good little video just in case: Garlic: Easy way to crush garlic.

Here is how my garlic turned out! So proud.

Just like the video!

And this is how the dish turned out. (Of course, I should probably invest in some serving bowls or something...)

And the verdict?

The garlic flavor didn't come through quite as well as I'd hoped and the whole could use a little salt and pepper. But otherwise, it was good. Isaac also approved. I call this fairly successful and I know how to change it for next time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Costumes Part Two

Costume progress report! Nearly all of my white fabric is cut out. So that means essentially everything for both Kurama costumes is cut (all except the trimmings). A couple pieces are pinned together, but that is about it... In other words, everything still looks like a pile of fabric.

I bought this set for the ears and tail for Yoko Kurama:


I know, it has sparkling pink with bling, but I figured that I could take all of that off and alter it to suit. So here are the tail and ears without the pink and sparklies on them (as much as I love things that sparkle...). I am trying to turn other pieces of the set to make the ears fuzzy like the tail. This is what it looks like thus far:

Not too bad, right? The strip at the top is one of the fuzzy cuffs that will hopefully fit on one of the ears. I'm not sure how yet, but I'm working on it.

I also bought white gloves for my Jareth costume, but I am still sort of afraid to start it.The belt seems easiest so maybe I will tackle that soon. Then I will have an awesome sparkly belt to wear if I so desire.

Still no wigs.

Still no money for contacts.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Costumes Part One

Yesterday I thought I needed a little retail therapy after Pico died. So my mom and I took a trip to Joann to buy fabric for some costumes I want to make.

In case you don't know, I am a pretty big nerd. I love, LOVE Halloween and dressing up in costumes. I also like many animes so I will be attending our local anime convention, Nan Desu Kan (NDK for short). Told you, big nerd. That's OK. Being normal is totally boring.

The fruits of my trip are shown below. Tons of white fabric, some dark blue and pink. Yellow ribbon, gathered sheer fabric (like gathered lace, but not lace) and a bedazzled silver finding. Plus, YARDS of interfacing, which my mother assured me many times that I really do need...

Oh, and patterns. I will be using these as my basic patterns and altering them as I need to. Yes, much altering.

As of right now, I have three costumes in mind. (Yes, there may be more depending on whether or not Isaac wants to do a cosplay with me for NDK).
First, Jareth, the Goblin King, from my all-time favorite movie: "Labyrinth." And not just any Jareth, ballroom Jareth. Mask and all. Here are a couple pictures. Luckily, I have an awesome friend and professional costume maker who is helping with the mask (she already has a prototype!) and possibly the wig. (Here is Cat's deviant site in case anyone wants to see what kind of work she does: http://angrylittlegnome.deviantart.com/)

Second is Kurama as Shuiichi in this particular outfit. When people dress like him, they do not wear this outfit, but it is probably one of my favorites.

Third is Yoko Kurama (same character, totally different look).

I will start with the very last because the costume itself should be easiest. Then I will probably work my way to the top. The Jareth costume is going to be intense. It has lots of little pieces to it (watch the ballroom scene in the movie a few times if you don't believe me).

Problems: The wigs. Especially for Jareth and Kurama as Shuiichi. The white wig for Yoko Kurama should be easy enough, but I am not sure how I am going to do the ears and tail...

Bonuses: I already have shoes for all three costumes! As well as black leggings for Jareth. Awesome.

If I have time: I may do colored contacts, but that's a lot. As a perfectionist, I really want to in order to "complete" my costumes. I would need a gold set for Yoko Kurama (which I could use for other costumes I have), green for Kurama as Shuiichi, and one blue and one brown for Jareth. That might be a hard order to fill, especially if I actually want to use prescription lenses. Well, we can save that for later.

I will be posting updates as I make progress. I am going to start Yoko today. Here we go!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The End of an Era

In memory of little Pico.
March 8, 2009 - June 4, 2012

Following an all-night vigil with my hamster, Pico, he passed away this morning. Why is this important? 
  • One: I love my pets more than I like almost anyone else. For a long time, it seems, my pets and my hamsters were my closest friends and I get very attached to them. 
  • Two: Pico was a unique, special hamster. He was smart and expressive, not to mention adorable.
  • Three: I have known him all his life. I bought his mama, Raya, March 6, 2009. She had babies two days later and I ended up with a little family: Raya, Gary, and Pico.
I got Raya during a time of my life that was very difficult for me. It was shortly after the divorce of my parents, which I struggled with for a long time. I had left the college and roommates that I loved and was going to a school I hated with people I hated. Not long before, I had moved in with my mom and we were having difficulties concerning the divorce and her now-husband, Jake.

Raya eating my toast.
Raya means "friend" in Hebrew. And boy did I need one. She was so pretty and interactive. As soon as I put my hand in the cage at the pet store, she came to me and climbed on my hand. It was love at first site. So she came home with me. Smart little thing figured out the most efficient way of chewing out of her carrier box before I got her home to a cage.

Two days later, the boys were born. Raya wasn't the most attentive mother, she was more of a people-hamster, I suppose. They were so cute as babies. The fact that they were a bit inbred didn't show up until they were older. Pico was the runt and outwardly the most inbred, but Gary got sick several times during his life.

Babies! The one with more white is Gary. He looks a lot like his mama.
Bombarding mama while she is trying to run in the wheel.
Almost exactly a year ago, I lost Raya. That hit me very hard. A little over a month later, Gary died. That was a tough one; he was sick and I stayed up to hold him until the end. I still get sad, thinking about them. Especially Raya as she marked an important turning point in my life. I focused a ton of my time and energy on them, taking them out to be held and run in their hamster balls, cleaning cages, administering medicine and electrolytes... But they were all well-behaved (well, Raya could be a little rebellious and Gary did get awful tired of taking so much medicine, poor thing, but he always did without too many complaints and without any biting). They were a big part of my life.

Young Gary.
Pico, the mildly deformed runt lived on. He never got sick, even when Gary and Raya had bouts of a very contagious disease. Despite this, he took the medicine I gave him with no complaints (just in case. He never put on weight like the other two so had no reserves if he did get sick). He never bit me, even when I smelled like food or startled him. He was always sweet and gentle, even to the end. He was smart, too. I know that people probably won't believe me when I talk about brains and personalities of hamsters, but I spend an awful lot of time with them.

Pico. He had bat ears. And see the funny long tufts of fur? He and Gary both had those; a sign of inbreeding, I'd say.
Three years is about the maximum lifespan for a hamster. Pico is probably the oldest I have had (I'd say about 100 in hamster years). At about three, he began having problems: his back legs slowly stopped working. He could barely walk, but he still wanted to come out and run around. He could always tell when I was nearby (I'm sure he couldn't see well, if at all). If he wanted out, he came to the door and let me know by raising his paws. If he didn't, he would stay where he was. As the last couple months went by, he stopped being able to open his eyes and he could barely walk at all by the middle of May. Isaac would often go to his cage and ask "Still alive, Pico?" But I was convinced that he had something worth living for. Sounds silly, I know, but it sure seemed that way. And despite his decrepit condition, he crawled his way to the door to ask to be let out a few times. I am still convinced that he wanted to stay for me.

When I came home last night, I thought he was dead. When I petted him, I could see him breathing more (I could swear he was barely breathing when I got home, if at all). So I took him in the cage bottom with me and stayed on the couch with him all night, petting him and touching him and talking to him. During all of this, Isaac and I were having some disagreements. I suppose I shouldn't get too upset with him as he's never had many pets to get so attached to, but it's difficult when you are grieving. I'm sure he, like many others, doesn't understand how I could be so attached to something so small and ephemeral. I suppose I have a very soft heart. Maybe too soft. ("Her hand that was holding Calcifer squeezed... Howl and Calcifer both screamed. Calcifer beat this way and that in agony. Howl's face turned bluish and he crashed to the floor... She stared at Howl. 'He's faking,' she said. 'No he's not!' Calcifer screamed, twisted into a writhing spiral shape. 'His heart's really quite soft!'" ~Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.) Even though he is a little rodent, that doesn't mean I can't love him and give him a good life, right?

So Pico lived all through the night, breathing steadily, but not rousing. Isaac got up and went to work and I stayed on the couch with him. I share my love of animals with most of my family and had already alerted my mom to Pico's condition. She came over and sat with me while I held Pico and cried. Then, once she was there, he took his last breath. I know this sounds silly, but indulge me: I think he was waiting to make sure someone was there with me. I know Isaac was there last night, but he didn't sit with me and comfort me, so I think Pico wasn't going to leave. Once he knew I was in good hands, he left. Call me crazy, but I believe this. Maybe if you knew Pico as well as I did, you would, too.

So I cleaned out his cage and put all of his things away in a box. His little body went into it's own bedding-lined box and we took him to the vet to be cremated (you have my permission to think I'm insane if you like, but living in an apartment, I have no place to bury him and I refuse to throw away something I love so much). Dropping him off was very, very heart-wrenching for me. It's so final and I can't explain it, but I almost felt like I had betrayed him in some way. I came home and tried to do a few chores, but really had no heart for it. I never realized how much I talked to him and looked in on him until he wasn't there. I would get up to go to the kitchen or bedroom or bathroom and I used to stop at his cage all the time. It feels very empty there now.

Later, my mom came back and she and her husband brought me the little bunch of pink roses shown above. It was very sweet. I put them on the table where Pico's cage used to be. That was shortly followed by texts from my sister and brother. They are sensitive to things like this, too. I guess you can tell we are related, right? I have the best family. They don't think I am nuts and they have a lot of sympathy for me. It was nice to know that they were thinking about me.

So thus concludes the end of an era. (I thought so in those terms as I sat watching over Pico and my mom said the same thing after he was gone.) I miss all of the pets that I lose. They mean so much to me and, in their own little ways, do so much for me. Raya and the boys were good for me and came during a time of great need in my life. Little Pico stayed longer and he took good care of me. I will miss them all, and I will miss Pico. Time to begin a new era. Thank you Pico. Love you all.

Pico and his 3rd birthday apple. March 8, 2012.
"Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die." ~Sabriel by Garth Nix.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gardening Endeavors Part Three

New update! All of a sudden these popped up:

I know they are hard to see, but they are sprouts for my mini carrots! I was excited! And here are my pea and bean plants, respectively. We seem to be having a great deal of success. We use a spray bottle and spray them everyday. I usually do so when I get home in the early afternoon. I've heard it's best to water in the morning or evening, but this seems to be working. And you know what they say, "if it's not broken, don't fix it."

Some of Isaac's herbs are coming in. All the tiny green dots in the first picture are little basil plants and the many, many green sprouts in the second are oregano.

Barnabas was getting very sickly for a while (nice and pale, like his namesake). With my mom's help, he is starting to look healthy again. I think he needs to be an indoor plant. He was a clipping from a much larger, much older aloe that is at my dad's house and we have always kept them inside. I think his sickly look while he was outside was to tell us that he needs to stay indoors. I don't know a whole lot about aloes, but maybe they are not well suited to Colorado weather? Here is a nice, much healthier picture of him, anyhow.

If anyone has gardening tips, please feel free to share!