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taygete

adventures, by accident

Month

February 2012

Challenges pending

I have to admit, I’ve been finding my February “recipe diet” more than a little oppressive. I did a pretty good job removing most sources of temptation, but some links slip through the cracks, and it’s so difficult not to click! I had envisioned the break as a way to catch up on some of my proverbial backlog – the stacks of recipes I want to try and haven’t yet. I have tried a few new things, true, and revisited some old favorites, but I’ve also done a lot of reverting to the mean. It seems that when I’m not browsing recipes on a regular basis, I’m not feeling inspired or creative about food, and my little spark of excitement gets drowned out by other interests. I’ve been eating a lot of okay foods – breaded pork cutlets, roasted asparagus and zucchini, pasta with sauce – and a lot of Sandra Lee-style semi-homemade foods – boxed Annie’s macaroni and cheese with some steamed broccoli or peas on the side. Part of this may be due to an usual number of weekday evening activities in February interfering with my energy level, but even with a house full of food, I’ve been feeling particularly uninspired since the first weekend of the month.

I’m also considering trying my hand at lace knitting. I’ve  never really knit lace before, and though I’m enjoying the cowl I’m working on, the pattern isn’t especially complicated (perfect for catching up on The Closer!) There’s a pattern a coworker pointed out to me, for the Kari Baby Blanket, that I’m curious to try. It looks like the right level of a challenge and the results look worth the effort. Plus, the yarn I’m eyeing for it is the right price!

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Projection, part 2

I’m pleased to report that my weekend of projects was success!  I even managed to work in some episodes of The Closer and some reading.

My first project was to move my substantial DVD collection from cases into sleeves. I’ve held onto the cases, and probably will for about a month, just in case I change my mind. Basically, the lower half of my bookshelf went from this:

Bookshelf full of DVDs
Lots o' DVDs!

to this:

Bookshelf with fewer DVDs
DVDs all stored away!

And since I had so much extra space on my bookshelf, I decided to just fill it up with books and stash the DVDs elsewhere. So the final result is:

Bookshelf with Books Only
Books galore!

Ta da!

I also lined the shelves of my dresser drawers, starting from:

Empty Ikea MALM Drawer
Gross gray dresser drawer.

adding a little contact paper and some quality craft time, to end up with:

Ikea MALM Dresser Drawers, lined with green print contact paper
Marginally less institutional-looking.

And somehow, on top of all this, I managed to whip up some brown sugar pecan muffins for breakfast this week. Which have already been sampled!

Brown Sugar Pecan Muffin
Delicious sugary insides!

Projection, Part 1

Last week, when T was in town for Anna Howard Shaw Day, we managed to cross a few to-do items off my list. As these things usually go, crossing a few things off the list means adding more things to a different list. With crummy weather – wintery mix – approaching Baltimore, I’m hoping to spend the rest of my weekend doing some indoorsy craft and baking projects.

For example, I now have a dresser (a la Ikea), and it needs to be filled with things! But only after I’ve lined the ugly institutionally gray drawer interiors with something more cheery.

Cat on Dresser
The little cat likes to have the high ground.

I also inherited a new bookshelf from moving neighbors, also courtesy Ikea. It has no back, so I need to take care of that, but mostly I need to put stuff on the shelves so that it’s no longer strewn about the floor. This includes moving a stack of my DVDs out of their cases into more boxes – you guessed it – courtesy Ikea!

Cat on Bookshelf
The little cat surveys her domain.

As you can see, I’d better get a move on. Otherwise, the tiny cat will plant the flag of Catlandia, and the furniture will cease to become my property.

Running

Does anybody out there run outdoors for regular exercise? Has anybody tried the Couch-to-5k running plan? I’ve been doing fairly well with yoga and the gym lately, and have my bike and bike rack ready to go for the nicer weather, but I’m contemplating taking up running as an activity for days I can’t get to the gym. Except in the past, I’ve always hated running, finding it both uncomfortable and mentally numbing. Not in a zen way, either, but making me feel brain-dead when I’m done. It’s so healthy and frugal, though, I feel I should give it another chance. I think it’d be a nice way to see more of Baltimore, too. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day!

In addition to having a secret connection to Mount Holyoke (commercial Valentines were invented by an alumna), today also memorializes one of my favorite 30 Rock episodes – Anna Howard Shaw Day! I’m also grateful to have been able to spend part of the day with T, even if the day ends with a late night at work. At least there are plenty of baked goods around the office!

Speaking of baking, February has been a particularly good food month for me. I’ve put myself on a recipe “diet,” and have temporarily stopped following the blogs/Tweets/emails of all the sources of recipes in my life. It’s been hard, but I have so many cookbooks and printed and recommended recipes I haven’t tried, I needed a break! I had a few excuses to try new recipes, or revisit some old classics. The old classics include whole-wheat banana bread, with 1/4 cup nuts and 1/4 cup chocolate chips instead of 1/2 cup nuts, and a recently-discovered favorite, morning glory muffins:

Morning Glory Muffins
Two regular and two mini!

As you can see, I had batter (but not liners) left over from my dozen muffins, and made a half pan of mini-muffins to finish off the batter. I added unsweetened shredded coconut (hard to find!) and substituted about 1/3 of the white flour with whole wheat. I’m pretty pleased with the results, but they’re all gone now! I have a quiet weekend coming up, and am planning a batch of brown sugar pecan muffins, which are sweet and rich but still quite satisfying.

I also tried some new recipes, or at least new to me. I went to a great Superbowl/Deep fry themed party on the 5th, and had reason to try making my own jalapeno poppers as well as a belated birthday cake for a good friend.

Bowl of Jalapenos
Jalapenos, ready to go.

The jalapeno poppers were quite a diversion from my usual repertoire, but the recipe (from A Cozy Kitchen) came across my eyes at just the right moment. I’m not normally a spicy food person, but they seemed perfect for the party. I’m disappointed that I didn’t take pictures of the stuffed and breaded jalapenos, or after frying. I ran out of panko and replaced it with regular breadcrumbs halfway through the breading process, and I liked the effect of the regular breadcrumbs better. The coating was more even and survived transport better, and the post-fry browning was deeper, too. I was smart enough to use gloves when cutting and seeding the jalapenos, but still ended up with some oil in my eye. Poor me.

Leon's Favorite Chocolate Cake
Leon's Favorite Chocolate Cake

This cake, a sour cream and chocolate Bundt cake, was recommended to me a while back by the friend whose birthday was being celebrated. It turned out great, and was enjoyed with some extra creamy Reddi-Whip. I forgot to get a picture of the turned-out cake, but I’m sure you can imagine. So far these have all been successes, and I’m looking forward to more experimentation, especially with pizza dough!

The 100s

Last weekend I did one of the exercises from a time management book I read recently, one of many I’ve been wasting my time on. (It’s the law of diminishing returns; the more I read, the less I’m getting from each book and the less I have time to do actual productive things.) The suggestion was to make a list, or lists, of 100 ideas of things, whether it’s ideas for work or travel or dreams or goals or whatever.

I made two lists of 100s; one of creative or crafty projects I want to try, and one of dreams. It was surprisingly hard. Especially with the creative list, I could come up with some easily and then the rest were a struggle. I’ve been feeling so listless, lately, and work’s been consuming so much of my time, I feel like I needed another outlet. I officially abandoned my last knitting project, but haven’t stumbled across anything that really engaged me, either in knitting or reading or almost anything else.

I’d hoped the lists would help me get past this mental block, but it hasn’t worked so far. This week has been just as exhausting as the last two, and I’m really running out of my reserves. At this rate, I’ll be subsisting on frozen pizzas and sporadic desperate texts to my friends by the end of the month.

Surviving

Survived a slightly disappointing weekend – lost a lot of time driving in bad weather. DC seems so close sometimes, but when there’s traffic or bad weather it seems like it’s painfully far away. The Super Bowl made me very grouchy (and I swore a lot), even though I successfully managed to make fried cheese-stuffed jalapenos and a chocolate cake. I failed to take pictures of either, sadly, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Work continues to be extremely busy. Every time I finish one task, I end up with two more, with no sign of respite. I feel like a student, already dreaming of summer break.

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