Friday, May 31, 2013

Foodie Friday: a Fabulous Brunch Menu

That's right, a Foodie Friday post - back from the dead!

Here's the deal: I am not a food blogger. Like, at ALL. Here's why:
  • I'm a terrible photographer
  • I'm a forgetful photographer
  • I don't really "create" my own recipes (but I do modify and add to recipes a lot)
As a fervent Pinterest addict and blog-reader, though, I have noticed that while it helps to not be like me in regards to the first two bullets, the third isn't really an issue. If anything, most recipes I see on blogs are modifications of other recipes found on the internet (and some shouldn't even be called recipes, if I'm being really blunt).

So while I will never call myself a food blogger, or this a food blog, I have made some recipes lately that are quite tasty. They're modifications of other recipes, so I'll just include what I changed or any changes to the preparation methods were made along with the original recipe.

The week before Memorial Day our family had two different college graduations! One had a big party that was hosted by the graduate's partner, and the second was a small family brunch hosted by me! I was really excited to celebrate our family graduate AND make my first brunch for people other than myself! 

The Hubs is not a huge fan of most breakfast foods, especially eggs. I'm not a huge breakfast person, but I like savory breakfast foods like bacon, sausage, and EGGS. Yum. Since it's usually just The Hubs and I, though, I'll usually make myself a nice breakfast and he just waits until lunch. *shrug* So this was exciting! Not only did I get to do something nice for my graduating sister-in-law, but I also got to try out a recipe I've been wanting to do but couldn't thanks to The Hubs' egg ban. 

My cousin made this recipe when I was visiting IL in November, and it was DELICIOUS. She actually made two batches; one with spinach, one without, and I preferred the one with spinach. Since The Hubs' sister and mom aren't as picky as he is, I figured this would be the best option for a main dish! Bonus: It can be made the night before! 

I still needed to fill out the meal with stuff The Hubs WOULD eat, and I feel a good brunch has something sweet and fresh fruit also. Here's the final menu I came up with!
  • Egg Casserole
  • Cinnamon Rolls (pre-made)
  • Bacon
  • Waffle-iron Hashbrowns
  • Strawberries
  • MIMOSAS! It's a celebration, after all.
 All right, so here's the recipe as I made it, based on Jimmy Dean's Easy Egg Casserole.

The casserole pre-baking. I forgot to take a picture post-baking. This is a perfect example of WHY I'M NOT A FOOD BLOGGER.
  • 1 lb. turkey breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese block, grated
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut into 3/4" cubes
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  •  1/4 tsp black pepper (or 10 grinds of a pepper mill)
  • about 2 cups baby spinach
  1. Prep the ingredients: Brown the sausage and drain on paper towels, grate the cheese, cube the bread. 
  2. In a BIG bowl (seriously: HUGE), combine the eggs, milk, and black pepper by whisking the eggs to break up the yolks into the whites, then to mix the eggs with the milk and pepper. 
  3. Gently stir in the bread cubes into the egg mixture, then mix in the cooked sausage, spinach, and about 3/4ths of the cheese. (I didn't use a big enough bowl, so I had to do this in two stages and mix it up in the casserole dish. KIND OF A PAIN. Seriously, you want the big-ol' KitchenAid 6-quart mixer bowl size. I used the little 3-quart size. Sheesh.) 
  4. Spray 13"x9" pan with non-stick cooking spray, then pour in the casserole. At this point, I put plastic wrap on it and popped it in the fridge! Then I went and watched my sister-in-law graduate with her B.S.!
  5. To bake it, cook it at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes if it's from the fridge (45 if it's not), or until a knife comes out clean (watch out for sticking the knife in a cheesy section - it's misleading!). The original recipe called for it to sit for 10 minutes but, uh, we couldn't wait that long. 
How to prepare it so all the food finishes at around the same time:

Once the casserole was in the oven, I busted out the Mimosa ingredients so they could start celebrating while they waited for the food! I also rinsed and hulled the strawberries so they could nibble while the food was cooking. Around half-time in the baking of the casserole, I baked the bacon (but since it's at a lower temperature than the link suggests, I baked it for about 10 minutes longer). Once the casserole needed to sit, I threw in the cinnamon rolls to bake and started the waffle-iron hashbrowns. (I follow the basic directions in the link, except I used EVOO and I also mixed in garlic powder and onion powder!) The hashbrowns took a little longer than I planned because I forgot how long the iron takes, haha. So the hashbrowns were given out as they were finished.

Everything worked out well enough, though: Mom- and Sis-in-Law both loved the casserole, The Hubs got bacon and hashbrowns AND cinnamon rolls to fill him up, and we all had a nice and relaxing brunch to celebrate the sister-in-law's big accomplishment! She was happy, and that's all I could ask for. :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pinteresting: DIY Air Fresheners

So as I've mentioned before, I'm *ahem* slightly addicted to Pinterest. Oh, just a total of 22 boards and over 1,300 pins, not addicted at all, I CAN QUIT ANYTIME I WANT.

I say this with a small amount of annoyance because while I have all these great pins, I've yet to try most of them out! So since I have all this free time on my hands for now, I'd like to try at least one new thing from one of my MANY Pinterest boards out.

This week is actually kind of busy; I have some things going on that I need to prepare for, so I wanted to pick something easy to try out for the first round, and with a high likelihood of success. So I found a pin on my Housewifery board for air fresheners made from fruit and herbs.

I decided to go with the "Williams-Sonoma Scent", which consists of lemons, rosemary, and vanilla extract; I used the miniature slow-cooker method, since I have a handy-dandy Mini-Dipper.

The original "recipe" is for 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 2 lemons, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. The changes I made based on cost/necessity/size of mini-dipper: I used baby lemons (2 babies for every 1 regular size) 'cuz they were on sale for 10/$1; I could only fit in 2. I couldn't find fresh rosemary at the grocery store, so I threw in about a half-teaspoon of dried. The mini-dipper only fit about 1.5 cups of water. With all this half-ing of the original recipe, I figured it would be best to half the vanilla extract - and I figured right, 'cuz the extract is STRONG.

My verdict: It's subtle and it's nice! Every time I breathe in deep, it smells like either lemon or vanilla, neither of which is bad! As you can see, mine's not NEARLY as pretty as the website's thanks to using dried rosemary (which isn't really a part of the scent). I also like that it's all natural stuff, so I'm not adding chemicals into the air AND I can still re-use the mini-dipper for food stuff, too (my personal favorite use so far: chocolate fondue!). Plus using the slow-cooker method means I don't have a super-hot stove-top burning all day and posing a possible fire risk; slow-cookers don't burn hot enough to be a danger (although naturally I keep all possibly flammable stuffs away from it just in case, because duh).

Edited to add: Once it gets simmering after about 3 hours, the rosemary kicks in, the scents all combine and it smells HEAVENLY. Oh muh guh. Only downside is that it only really smells heavenly in the kitchen - the rest of the place is very subtle but clean-smelling. So I need to figure out how to make the WHOLE house stink good, not just the kitchen (although I'm not complaining when I walk by the kitchen - yum!).

This was perfect: easy, nice-smelling, and it makes me feel like a housewife. Now to find another Pinteresting project!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Getting Out of the House: Week 2

So I did manage to get out of the house every day last week, although I didn't do any of the fun things I suggested in my last post. I also managed to apply for one job, walk the dog 3 times on "the loop", and I made dinner most nights! Oh, and I did at least one chore on three different days.

So if I were to grade myself, I'd give myself a C. *shrug* I'm normally an A student (my blood type is even A+!), but it was my first full week in this situation, so I'm not beating myself up too hard.

There are things I really want to get done (like Mount Laundry in my bedroom), so this week the goals are the same. Walk the dog every day, apply for one job every day, cook dinner every night, and do one chore a day (this week's chore: One load of laundry a day - Wash, dry, fold/put away).

How I'm getting out of the house this week:
  • Helping out my friend V by watching my adorable goddaughter E
  • Attend a farmer's market
  • Check out the space we're using for a party my friend R and I are hosting for a mutual friend
  • Prep work for Friday's appointment (I need to make copies)
  • a Friday appointment that's very important (Cross your fingers for me!)
 Plenty of stuff to keep me busy and productive! Here we go!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5 Random Things: Physical Health

I haven't done one of these in a while and considering I have a lot of weird ailments, I thought it might be an interesting topic. :D Here's why I'm a freak!

  • I don't think I'm the only person this has happened to, but as I grew up I out-grew my allergies. Which, thank GOD, because they were so bad when I was a pre-teen that I had to get weekly allergy shots to keep them at bay because if I didn't, I would literally have to stay home due to sheer misery. My head would get so heavy that I couldn't move, UGH. Now I can use over-the-counter stuff to keep my hay fever at bay, and usually Fall and Winter are allergy-free seasons for me. Also, any other allergy sufferers still traumatized by their first allergy test? O.M.G. My mom had to squeeze my hands as pretty much every test spot on my back turned bright red and itchy and I screamed and cried. (She felt TERRIBLE.)
  • I have slipped caps in both of my hips. It wasn't diagnosed until it had gotten pretty bad, so my legs are turned out really weird. You can't tell unless I point it out, but I notice my legs stand weird. My feet are pretty much in permanent ballet position 2. :) They put two pins to stop it, one each, but without fixing the slips, and now the bones have grown OVER the pins so it won't be fixed. So far there aren't major complications other than one leg is a little longer than the other (the worst one), and I haven't been able to ride a bike since I was 12 due to my legs being turned out weird. It is what it is at this point.
  • I am in treatment for PCOS, which also has the "funsies" tie-ins of hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes. With medicine, I've got my A1C (the diabetes number) just under the lowest "danger" number, but it still needs improvement which I need to improve with diet and exercise. My thyroid is finally getting to the "magic number" which will give me permission to start trying to get pregnant. The next checkup is in July, so one of my focuses now that I have the free time is to get my eating under control and exercise more to help up our chances. 
  • Despite being "morbidly obese" for most of my life (a term I HATE, btw - it sounds like my fat will become sentient and kill people), I actually was a fairly active kid. My bike was my independence and I rode it EVERYWHERE, including daily swim practice when I was 9-11. I also took dance classes when I was little, which I loved and wish I did more of. 
  • I've been on crutches four times in my life, all before I was 18 - two for hip surgeries (The initial pins and then a second surgery to remove a bone spur that developed in hopes it'd give me more flexibility - it didn't), and once for when I tore two ligaments in my right ankle during volleyball practice, literally two days before the first game. SO ANNOYING, and I was in a weird, smelly fiberglass cast. My foot swelled up and looked like Sherman Klump's foot for the first two weeks! The following summer, less than a year later, I re-injured the ankle AGAIN in a game of tag at summer camp, and had to finish the week in crutches, then crutch around for a few more weeks. *sigh* Swear, as a teenager I was a walking calamity. 
Whooo, I'm just a MESS, ain't I? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting Out of the House, Week 1

So, I've been stuck in this situation before - the days of nothing while you hope a job application turns into an interview and then a job. It's the WORST, or at least it has been in the past. BUT I'm determined to not let that be the case this time.

From previous experience, I've noticed that having an appointment or something to do OUTSIDE of the house usually results in a more positive, productive day. Something about feeling like I have a reason to get off my butt is a big motivator for me. Last week I was lucky in that I had two days where I had friends who invited me to spend time with them - it helped delay the emotional regression a few days, and resulted in feeling decent on those days.

This week my plan is to get the f*** out of the house. Even if it's only for an hour, it still helps me. Maybe it's the fresh air, maybe it's the Vitamin D, maybe it's actually moving as opposed to sitting on my big butt, WHATEVER, it works. I mean, let's be honest - if I was at work, I'd be wishing I could be home doing other stuff. Now's the time to do the other stuff!

As a form of keeping myself accountable, I'm going to list my plans for the week AND I plan to update my instagram with a picture of each activity. I know no one else cares, but it matters to me. (If you want to follow me on Instagram, I'm at mantequilla81. (I don't update it often, so don't worry about being bombarded with photos of food.)

So what's on the agenda for this week?

  • Buy fresh food at a local farmer's market.
  • Take Daisy to a nearby park for a nice long walk.
  • Walk around the Capitol lawn and building and enjoy a picnic lunch/stalk Gavin Newsom (YUM).
  • Errand-running, 'cuz they can't all be fun. I have enough that I can split it between two days. :) One will be mall-based, one will be grocery/house needs based.
These won't be the ONLY things I do all day; as I mentioned last week, I have a daily checklist I aim to hit, and getting out of the house is one of the items on the checklist. :) I plan to attack the daily chore via a method from Unf*** Your Habitat (love that site): 20 minutes of work, 10 minute break until the chore is complete! (They call it "20/10s", or they also suggest 45/15s - it's a variation on the Pomodoro technique.)
I think it's a good start; of course, I have to figure out what else is available around here that's cheap and/or free to keep me occupied. Might be buying myself an iced coffee at Starbucks and reading for an hour, or reading magazines at the local library, etc. Gonna keep an eye out for local events too.

Anyone else have suggestions for cheap/free things to do that'll get me out of the house?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Looking on the Brighter Side

So my life at this moment is what it is, and I'm trying to find ways not to dwell. Which, admittedly, is really REALLY hard.

To get started, I'm going to set little goals for myself, little markers to hit every day and feel like I'm getting stuff done, even if it doesn't seem like that much to others. I have a tendency to sink into the mire of depression that is unemployment, and I don't want to do that yet again.

The daily checklist:
  • Apply for one job a day. Revamping cover letter and everything, but take the time to really put my best application forward. One a day isn't so overwhelming and stressful. (Yes, applying for jobs right now is stressful - I'm still really raw from this recent turn of events and it's more stress-inducing than even I realized. The thought of applying for a teaching job right now hunches my shoulders and puts my stomach in knots; I'm giving myself until Monday to start this part of the daily check-off.)
  • Take Miss Daisy out for a PROPER walk everyday. I've been really lazy with it, and as the primary dog walker now, she needs more exercise than I usually give her (relying on her dogwalker to do it during the week). No more 5-8 minute walks around the building - we'll do what we call "the loop".
  • Get out of the apartment every day for a reason other than walking the dog. Even if it's to go to the library to read magazines, or to walk around Target and window shop, I need to get out and do SOMETHING. Being cooped up at home is no bueno para mi. Something tells me I'll be seeing a lot of $1 kid movies at the local theater this summer. ;)
  • Cook dinner every night. No excuses now!
  • Do at least one house chore. One a day will gradually get the place clean, right?
I know it's not much, and those of you who are super-awesome-and-responsible muthaf***in' ADULTS are probably rolling your eyes. I'll grant that the eye-roll is somewhat deserved on my end, but at the same time I'm coming out of a really messed up situation, and I have the luxury of letting myself heal a little bit at my own pace. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Paid Vacation Shouldn't Be This Miserable

So my job ended earlier than expected. For reasons that everyone reassures me are completely ridiculous, I was asked to leave my job about a month early. It's paid leave, so we're fine for a while. It's just the ridiculousness surrounding the situation that cause the emotional pain I'm going through. Even more frustrating, I would like to ensure I get the money that is coming so I can't smear the name of the district and administration who made this decision. All I'll say for now is this: Small ponds are dangerous when the few big fish are piranhas.

Ultimately it'll be a blessing rather than a curse, especially considering how toxic that place was (seriously, in the last few months I've had three anxiety attacks due to that place). It's just getting over my ego and figuring out the next step. Right now I'm so burnt out by all the ridiculousness I've experienced in my teaching career that I'm thinking I need a break from it. Never say never again, but I think a boring 9-5 where I'm a mere cog in the machine sounds strangely nice for a while. Maybe it'll even have some job stability! That'll be a novel change from the last 5 years.

All I know is that right now I need to take care of myself, and surround myself with love and comfort. Luckily, I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who are horrified by this situation and want nothing but the best for me and to help me. Also, some of them will need help during the day for the next few weeks, and I'm actually happy to be available to help them (and could use the distraction). Seriously, though, I have been incredibly fortunate that friends and family have offered me condolences and comfort, and The Hubs is a superhero - as soon as he found out what happened, he was able to get out of work (he made up the time later) to come pack up my classroom because "I don't want you to have to come back to this place," and he has been incredibly concerned and comforting in the days since.

For now, I want to find my smile again and try and find some joy in just hanging out around the house again. I want to recognize the blessings that are in my life and stop focusing on the negative. I want to remove the poison working there put in my brain. I want to work towards building the life The Hubs and I want but we were waiting for my career to get stable. I'm tired of waiting for my career to work out so the rest can fall into place, it's time to let go of my dream job and move on.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Works for Me: Curly Girl!

So as I mentioned before, I have been trying to figure out my hair for the last 10 years or so. My hair was never perfectly straight, and I noticed as I got older that it started to bend more and more. I never considered myself "curly", though, because as soon as I brushed it out the curl turned into bends so I assumed, well, must not be curly hair! Plus neither of my parents have curl in their hair.
As you can see, I should've caught on sooner.
In college, I had a roommate with curly hair who clued me in; she let me try some of her products and told me not to comb it out, and VOILA! Curls! Or at least definite waves. I started using products and working the curls, but they still seemed awfully unpredictable.

In the last few years, I managed to get my waves to a point where they looked ok and were fairly consistent, but I still wished they looked better and it still felt like guessing as to how to make them look good. I did some internet research, like the "no poo" method, but all the methods depend on the person, and frankly I still wasn't sure if I could count my hair as CURLY when they aren't tight curls. I got some help from, but not as much as I wanted.

LUCKILY, my girlfriend J has legitimately curly hair. She also struggled for years trying to get it manageable (not that you'd know as she's so naturally lovely ;D), and finally found a resource that helped her out, and passed it on to me - the book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. And thank GOD, because it was SO HELPFUL.

I've only been doing her methods for the last two weeks, and I'm still figuring things out, but it has been a crazy change (for the better). I even have photo evidence:


I don't know what is wrong with my face in the last picture, but look at those CURLS! That's after just one week!

Here's what I do differently, based on Curly Girl's advice:
  • I've only washed my hair with shampoo three times in the last 2 weeks. Seriously. If it's looking a little greasy, I rub it gently under the shower's running water. 
  • I condition every day, about a teaspoon's worth, and wash it out. 
  • I no longer do the towel turban to dry my hair; I scrunch it gently with the towel and squeeze a little. I will confess I kind of hate it, because I hate that feeling of water dripping down my back, but I can't argue with the results. ;p
  • Clear dollar-store gel is all I use to style it. Scrunch it in, and done. It air-dries in about an hour.
  • I was using Garnier's Curl Calm Down cream (which I still highly recommend if you're not in my situation), but the conditioner I just started using (Trader Joe's NOURISH brand) is REALLY rich - seriously, the second ingredient is rosemary oil (yeah, it smells delish too). That + more moisturizing cream = flat curls again. They were soft as heck still, but it's too much for my hair, I think. I used just gel today and they're back to their glorious springy selves!
Even The Hubs has noticed a huge difference, and he loves how soft the curls are. I'm just happy because my dream has finally come true - low-maintenance hair that makes me feel gorgeous! It's a little more work, but it's still maybe 10 minutes total of my morning routine, and that's including the part that takes place in the shower.

This post isn't paid in any way (Pfft, I WISH I had enough readers to merit paid opinion posts). I wanted to post about it because while it's vain as hell, it's also exciting to finally have my hair look so good and I have to share it SOMEWHERE (The Hubs can only tolerate so much). Plus if I felt so much confusion, I figured it can't hurt to spread the word around about this great resource.
  I'm linked up at Tatertots & Jello!


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