30 January 2015

Month End

January. Was. Exhausting.
But the party's not over yet.
  • Finish making more raised beds.  I've got three built, now it's time to place them, fill them and plant them.  They all cost a pittance, too, because we got the lumber from the nearly dead cart.
  • Make a bunch of tshirts. Hum.  I started.  They didn't go so well.  I'll do more.
  • Drop the engine in the bus.  Check out the photos below.  It's still in pieces, but we're in the "putting it back together" stage so that's progress.
  • Roll my old 401k over into an IRA.  Wow, this has been a giant pain in the butt.  I tried to open an account...and I'm still waiting on that to be approved.  Apparently it's a really busy time of year.
  • Begin two more Coursera classes.  Done and done.
  • Find some new workout to kick my butt.  Uh, yeah.  It's this great new workout where I squat for half an hour while scraping forty year old dirt off a transmission, then twist my body sideways to paint the inside of a shelf, then cry for days because my back hurts.
February goals are pretty easy to name...not so easy to do.  If I can survive the first two weeks, I'm probably going to spend the next two lounging on a bed of pillows while someone feeds me grapes (or...fermented grapes).
  • We have visitors coming.  On February 1.
  • Two batches of wine need to be bottled.  On February 3.
  • Put the bus back together.  Get it running.  Like, yesterday.
  • Go camping in the bus.  On February 6. 
  • Dirt needs to be acquired and plants need to be planted.  ASAP.
  • Start picking up more of the housework, as Kyle is taking a large classload this spring and has already been working sun-up to sun-down between his full time job and advanced engineering courses.
  • Just to add something fun - camping is fun, but it feels stressful right now because our camper is immobile - Charleston Food Truck Festival!  There's a food truck I keep meaning to try out and I can never seem to coincide with its location.  Time to do the thing.
If you can't tell, I might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed.  Does anyone want to come cook for me for a few weeks?  Okay, let's whip through my month in photos.  This month began with an awesome visit from friends.  First we hiked the Ravenel Bridge (better known as the Cooper River bridge).
We saw dolphins from the top of the bridge - that was neato because even when they were underwater we could still see them, as long as they stayed close to the surface.
Pineapple fountain: classic.
We even took a boat out to Fort Sumter, where the opening shots of the American Civil War were fired.
And when I got bored with the historical stuff, at least I had my camera to play with.
When our visitors left, it was all business.  First up, raised beds.  I built two of those!  I know they're super simple, but I built them and you can't take that away from me.
Second, a new shelf for the kitchen.  Kyle built, I painted.  And sanded.  And painted.  And sanded.  And painted.  If you're wondering what that cord in the kitchen is, it's an extension cord powering our fridge, because we killed the kitchen electrical circuit.  I tripped over the cord at least eight times (and the electrician did twice) but things got sorted out and I no longer have to unplug the fridge so I can use the microwave.  Score one for being renters, this fix was as easy as a phone call.
While waiting for paint to dry, we had plenty of engine work to do.  Here's freshly removed...
...and here's how much we disassembled.  Everything was extremely dirty and mostly we've just been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.
A brief reprieve from bus stuff to celebrate my birthday,
but then we continued cleaning up 10+ years of oil leak and dirt build-up.
Finally (I know - it was a big month) we celebrated Kyle's birthday with...burgers!  It's funny because we don't really make burgers at home so he (okay, both of us) gets really excited about going out for burgers. 

23 January 2015

Black Forest Cheesecake

So I wanted a cheesecake for my birthday.  And I made one.  The photos turned out terrible (the ones that aren't blurry just look...gory).  And the cheesecake, while tasting delicious, didn't quite turn out either.
At least I have cheesecake to console me.  
Yeah, that definitely looks like blood.  So, no recipe this week.  Sorry.  It's my birthday.
If you really want to make a cheesecake, try this one

16 January 2015

Buttery Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

I made some mashed potatoes over the holidays.  I forgot how much I love mashed potatoes.  I love potatoes in any form, but what makes these mashed potatoes stand out is the delicious Parmesan cheese.  And butter.
Mashed potatoes pretty much all start out the same:  boil potatoes.  With salt and garlic cloves.
Then mash!  I leave the skins on because they're healthy, and I like the texture.  The garlic cloves mash up right along with the potatoes.
Now add the good stuff...butter, milk, parmesan!
Stir until the butter is melted and the potatoes get smoooooth and creamy.  Salt and pepper to taste!
Buttery Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. milk*
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • pepper
1. Wash and dice the potatoes and put in a large pot (peel them first if desired).  Cover the potatoes with water, then add a little salt to the pot.  Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and remove the papery skin.  Throw them in the pot.  Bring the potatoes to a boil on the stove.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and then put them in a mixing bowl for mashing.  The garlic cloves should mash right along with the potatoes.  Stir in the butter, milk, Parmesan and pepper.  Taste test.  Add more salt and pepper as desired.

*I've also used some concentrated chicken broth instead of milk - works great.
This is the recipe I used when I made the Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie, but when I was a kid, my favorite use for leftover mashed potatoes was mashed potato pancakes!  Another fun thing to try with mashed potatoes would be papas rellenas - I had one while down in Key West for Christmas.  I'd love to try making my own if I could find a baked version.

09 January 2015

Thoughts for a New Year

Well, I've had over a week to think about what I want to accomplish in 2015. 
And I still don't have a good idea of what I want my year to be.  So I'll ease into it.  What does January hold?
  • Finish making more raised beds.  This is an easy one because it's 80% done (but the 80% was still done in January, so count it!).
  • Make a bunch of tshirts.  I've had a lot of interest in the shirts I made for Kyle and me for Christmas, so I guess I can make a few to sell.
  • Drop the engine in the bus.  Kyle has a list of things to get done and I want to be there every step of the way.
  • Roll my old 401k over into an IRA.  I tried to start this process already, it's more of a pain in the ass than I anticipated. 
  • Begin two more Coursera classes.
  • Find some new workout to kick my butt.  I'm tired of all the things I've been doing, I need something new.  I just ran into this so I'm going to start here - it looks like there's something for everyone in this list.
That seems reasonable.  January is looking like a pretty quiet month.  I will have to find a couple fun things to do to break it up.  I think I'm hibernating right now - all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket.  I'm not feeling very motivated.
That makes 2015 goals that much harder.  But here goes:
  • Put a camping set up in the bus.  That's a lot of work.  We probably won't get too much done in the summer when it's ridiculously hot out.  Can we get it done in a year?  I think yes.  It would be reeeeeeally fantastic if we could drive it up to Michigan this summer, but that might put a lot of pressure on our few vacation days.
  • Recover the seats in the bus.  That's a big job that scares me.  It probably won't be as bad as I think.  Just need to DO!
  • Track my net worth on a monthly basis.  I actually started this last year, but I wasn't checking retirement accounts because it involved logging into several more sites, so I wasn't getting the full picture. 
  • Continue taking free classes!  Here's a great post with a list of resources for free education.  Here's a site with a list of free online photography courses, which I hope to work on after I get through my next round of Coursera classes.  Specifically, I would like to be taking two classes at any given time (although a couple weeks of break in between classes is okay).
 Alright.  Happy 2015 - can't wait to see where it takes us.

02 January 2015

December Wrap-Up

Happy New Year!  Before we get too far into 2015, I want to take a minute to look back at my year. 
That gif is really frustrating because Edna can't quite get on the chair.  Jump, Edna!  Anyway.  Let's start with December goals.
  • Christmas travel.  We went down to the Keys for Christmas, and we had the best weather.  So great.
  • NYE visitors.  Yay!
  • Bottle the IPA.  Bottled, carbonated, drank.  Gotta love homebrew.  I also started some grapefruit wine on a whim - we found some cheap fruit.
  • Bus stuff - interior sketchup and/or upholstery.  Whoops.  Got busy doing other things. 
  • Eat better. Yes!  Mostly.  Spending a week on a road trip doesn't help, but other than that I stuck with the healthy and fresh.
  • Start thinking about our next big trip.  My passport expired at the end of October, and my new one arrived early this month!  And fortuitously, my family started to talk about a trip in early 2016 so that might be our Big Trip.
That wraps up December, but 2014 as a whole needs some recognition too.
  • Get more art in my life.  Charleston's French Quarter Art Walk is my new favorite event.  I'm tapping into my creative side a little more.  I could have done better, but I did achieve this goal.
  • I want to learn the language of finance this year.  I knocked this one out of the park.  It probably deserves it's own post.  I've got goals, I know where my money is going, and Kyle is already talking about my future career as a financial advisor.  I'm excited.  Numbers have never been drab to me. 
  • Get involved in a local charity and donate some time to helping people.  I didn't do this.  I can offer excuses (we bought a 40 year old vehicle, we moved twice, we did a lot of entertaining) but the truth is that if I was committed, I would have found the time.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I am going to do better.
Alright.  Life goes on.  But before it does, here are my favorites from 2014.  We started the year off by forming Team Lake Effect and braving the cold.
Our efforts were rewarded - we won first place with our snow sculpture.
Soon after that, we took a trip down to Chicago to see the river turn green.
We ate this amazing pizza while we discussed our latest purchase - a vw bus.
Soon after that I took a job in South Carolina.
We went through a pretty rough patch this summer, but things always look better when you're at the beach.
We managed to scrape together a trip up to Michigan to see my grandma one last time.  It was really good to be able to see everyone again.  This was from...uh...a fun night with friends.
We had tons of visitors after we moved!  We celebrated an engagement with these two lovely people.
We moved again, this time from an apartment to a house.  With a garage.  And a yard.  And enough space for hobbies.
We also made some new friends with Full Moon Bus Club.  We went camping and joined them at a Christmas parade.
Finally, we ended the year on a high note with a trip south.
Kyle got to see a tug he outfitted in Maine when it was just being commissioned.
And at the moment, we've got more awesome visitors from Michigan.
Okay, bring on 2015!  Cada dia es mejor!