Friday, August 31, 2012

Going Back To School

For many reasons, I have taken a short break from college. I was hoping to complete my degree by testing out of the remaining classes. This proved to be a harder task than I thought, and alas, I find myself in one last semester of college. This comes at a time of change in my life. I also start a new day job next week.

Heading back to college has been a strange occurrence in my life. I'd like to share some observations with you.

Something happened in the last year and I was bumped from the college student category to the old person going back to school category. Allow me to explain this theory. The final class I am taking is a math class. Mathematics is no friend of mine. Keeping that in mind, I sat in the front row to make sure I catch everything my professor says. I will need all the help I can get. This up close and personal seat gives me the chance to truly observe this professor. When the professor walked in, on the first day of class, I quickly stopped referring to him as a professor. He confessed he is a graduate student and teaching this class is a requirement. My hope for a brilliant math professor who has taught the same course for 17 years was quickly squashed.

As he rambled on and on, reading the syllabus verbatim, I began to really look at him. I notice his clothes, his shoes, the bag he carried into class. I then looked at his face, and something about him is off. He has a quality none of my teachers before him have ever had. But what it is? Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. He is younger than I am.  There is no possibility he is more than 25 years old. This has never happened to me before. How have I gotten so old that my teachers are younger than me? I know, I know - I am not that old (in fact, I don't turn 27 for 16 more days.) But something about hitting your late 20's while still completing your undergrad is not fun. This kid, who will be my arch nemesis for 3 and a half months, appears to have nothing in his life other than math. He acknowledged that some of us haven't had a math class in awhile (I personally have not had a math class since my sophomore year of high school, 11 years ago.) While making this observation, he happily announced there has never been a time in his life when he wasn't taking a math class. I hate him even more now.

Hate is a strong word, and I don't actually hate him, that would make me a bad person. I just struggle with the people that find the things that are so difficult for me, so easy for them.

The realization that I was in the old people club came to me during the second class. The freshman girl on my left, bless her heart, that introduced herself to me during the first class, clearly didn't make a connection with me. She seemed shocked when I raised my hand that I needed the teacher to have evening office hours as I work during the day. She seemed even more shocked when she pulled out her pencil case to retrieve her pencil, pen, eraser, and highlighter (all for taking notes) when I pulled out a pen from my purse. Where was my pencil case?! I did make friends with the person to my right, however. This gentleman also raised his hand that he works during the day. Thank goodness! In a class full of 18 year old freshman, and a 25 year old teacher, it is nice to have someone on my team. It turns out he's a middle-aged man going back to college and hates math too. Perfect. I found my study buddy. On my drive home, I was overwhelmed with a strange sense of feeling old and entering a new territory in my life. I used to be the freshman girl with a pencil case excited for college. Now, I'm a working woman just trying to get to the weekend and finally, finish my degree. I am a part of the old people club at college. And I like it.

I know that many people will think I'm crazy for feeling old at 27, but it's all relative. I am not old, but I am no longer a young girl. I barely get asked for my ID when I buy or order alcohol anymore, and after my upcoming birthday I will be officially in my late 20's. This makes me feel old. Maybe I am having a case of the birthday blues.

But enough whining. Instead of focusing on my old age this year, I'm going to focus on what my wise Dad said to me. "Think about all of the things you could teach him," when referring to my baby teacher. I will think about that. Maybe I'll even make a list, too.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mustache Party

One of my favorite trends right now is the mustache. It's fun, hilarious, and ridiculous - right up my alley. I'd like to give a shout out to my Pops for rocking an incredible mustache for my entire life. 

You may remember my friend Bee, from the Baking Soda - Who Knew?, Olive Oil - Olive You, and Shower of Love  posts.  Bee is getting married soon and I have the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding. The best part of being a bridesmaid is planning the bachelorette party. My responsibility was the theme, which so happened to be mustaches! I have been dying to make mustaches on a stick, to hold for photo ops. This was the perfect opportunity. 

I started by drawing a few different shaped 'staches and cut them out on black construction paper. 

I made one giant mustache for Bee. To add some sparkle, I combined glitter with Mod Podge and painted the mustache. 

I also applied Mod Podge to the smaller mustaches to give the construction paper a sturdier feel. 

For the sticks, I chose wooden sticks I had on hand. I also applied the glitter/Mod Podge mixture for more sparkle. I can never have enough sparkle. 

When the sticks dried, they weren't completely covered. So I used the same method as in the Sparkle Shoes  post. One layer of Mod Podge + Glitter, one layer of glitter only, followed by one more layer of Mod Podge + Glitter. You'll see the results later. 

The mustaches began curling and taking a weird shape, so I applied, you guessed it, more Mod Podge to both sides. Then I glued a small piece of construction paper to the back to keep the 'staches straight. 

So how did they turn out? GREAT. These were so much fun to play with and Bee loved them! 

We also had stick on hairy mustaches that I ordered from Oriental Trading but as soon as we put them on, we breathed in the small hairs, and I was coughing throughout the entire night. I would recommend the paper mustaches over a hairy mustache any day. 

We had hopes of playing 'Pin the Mustache on 70's Burt Reynolds,' from Archie Mcphee's Slightly Less Disappointing Blog,as well, but we were too busy dancing the night away. 

Hope you had a fabulous bachelorette party, Bee! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Black Bean Quesadillas

One of my favorite meals that GB makes often is an incredible black bean quesadilla. One particular night, I was feeling ambitious and decided to make one for myself and a friend. I went over the very simple instructions with GB about 3 times and then got cooking. 

Although I would love to use fresh black beans, but all we had on hand was canned. I drained and rinsed the beans before starting. 

Next, I added chopped onions. 

I seasoned the beans with salt, pepper, and chili powder. This was a big day for me in the cooking department - I did not use any measuring tools. It's hard for me to go with the flow and not follow a strict recipe. I gave myself a pat on the back. 

I tossed the bean and onion mixture with a little cheese into a tortilla. I had cheddar cheese on hand but any type of cheese would taste great. 

After chilling with my man George Foreman for about 10 minutes, the quesadillas were ready. 

Success!!! The quesadillas were delicious. I can't wait to make these again! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Soften Me Up

Due to unfortunate circumstances GB and I have a bum dryer on our hands. It seems fixable, but it just hasn't been fixed yet. We have been hanging our clothes to dry, and surprisingly, we've really liked it. We could have gotten a new dryer at any time - but just haven't felt the need to. There are some perks to hanging our clothes to dry - it's much more earth friendly, and somewhat whimsical and romantic to have our clothes drying in the summer breeze. 

There's one thing I don't like about it. A majority of the time, the clothes are lacking in softness. I've never used liquid fabric softener but thought that this might solve my softness problem. I already make my own laundry detergent as seen in the Clean and Green post. I wanted to stick with a homemade version of fabric softener. Luckily, I have a great book, gifted from my sister Sly, with such a recipe. The book is called Salt, Lemons, Vinegar and Baking Soda. As the title obviously suggests, the book contains hundreds of household uses with those items. It offers great tips for cleaning and other uses, for example, how to remove sweat stains from a shirt. This offers great alternatives to buying chemically-laden products. In a day and age where we are so used to buying something to fix our problems, I'd rather make something to fix those problems. This book helps me with that. 

The recipe for the fabric softener is simple. Combine 2 cups of cold water with the juice of 4 lemons. Then toss in a teaspoon of baking soda and shake it all up. Luckily, I had all of the supplies on hand. 

I chose an old plastic drink container that we no longer used. 

I was surprised at how much juice 4 lemons actually produces. 

Unfortunately, my lemons had many seeds. I used cheese cloth to pour the lemon juice into the container and separate the seeds.  

The real action happened when I added the baking soda. Bubbles exploded everywhere. I closed the lid, following instructions, and shook the contents to make sure everything was thoroughly combined. 

The true test was the first load of laundry. I had to wait awhile to make sure the clothes were dry before I made my assessment. I had to ask GB what he thought to make sure I was accurately judging the true test of the fabric softener. We were elated to find our clothes were soft! They weren't as soft and cuddly as when they come out of a dryer , but a huge improvement to our previous situation. If you are into the homemade household products I would absolutely recommend making this fabric softener and while you're at it, get the Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda book. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shredded Barbeque Chicken

I took a risk when I chose to bust out the slow cooker again. This time, I stole the idea for dinner form The Gracious Pantry. It was a simple idea. I love simple ideas. 

Instructions: 1. Put chicken in slower cooker. 2. Cover chicken in barbeque sauce. 3. Cook on low for 7 hours. 4. Stir and eat.

After the first few hours the chicken shredded easily just by stirring with a fork. The chicken was swimming in the sauce. 

After a few more hours, instead of swimming, the chicken was soaking up the barbeque sauce and having a party. 

While the chicken finished up it's party in the slow cooker, I chopped up lettuce and tomatoes. 

Using the blogger's idea, I served the barbeque chicken in a tortilla with the lettuce and tomatoes as toppings. It was a delicious combination and I can't wait to make it again. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excuse Moi

I've been waiting for the perfect moment to share something special with you, and today is the day. I met someone incredible, I fell in love, and now I have to tell you all about it.

I know what you're thinking, but please don't worry. Everything between GB and I is perfectly fine. The person I fell in friendship love with is Frenchie. Life has many winding paths and one particular path led me to meet a French native, who many lovingly refer to as Frenchie (I must stress the lovingly.) She is incredibly smart, witty, and nothing what I expected. As our friendship developed, I found that although she is from chic Paris, we are similar in so many ways. For example, if her boyfriend is supposed to be home by 10 and it's 10:30 she immediately assumes he is hurt somewhere and in need of help. I do the same exact thing. She loves changing her nail polish every other day. So do I. Our individual countries of origin could not put up a wall between us.

However, there are some differences between us. Her English, while rather impressive, sometimes lacks a word here or there. Every once in awhile an expression thoroughly stumps her. But most often she questions why things are the way they are. A girl after my own heart.

Well lucky for you and for me, she is chronicling her visit here in America on a fabulous blog - Excuse My French. The beauty of this blog is that she writes in French and English for her readers her in America and back home in France. Her dry, witty humor is sure to make you laugh. Her view of society here in America is so dead-on and questions everything in the most intelligent without being judgemental.

I beg you to head over to Excuse My French, laugh til you cry and learn about America in a new way. Make sure to keep scrolling down to find the English portion of each blog post.

In other news,  I'm happy to announce the next selection for the Kiss My Smash book club. The new selection is.... drum roll please... The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am ashamed to admit the photos of the movie version starring Leonardo Dicaprio is what sparked my intrigue. I typically love classics but this is one I haven't read. I can't wait to get started. I am not above begging, and I beg you to read along with me. Comment below and pledge your allegiance to the Kiss My Smash book club and vow to read The Great Gatsby with me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

In addition to cooking all weekend, I also did some baking. GB and I have been working really hard at eating healthy so I've had to put baking on the back burner. Even though I make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen, I love baking. I was happy to have the mixer back in hand.

I searched on Pinterest for a chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe and found an enticing version on Bake or Break.  For the full recipe, click here

The recipe requires minimal ingredients which is a big plus for me. 

I whisked together 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. 

In another bowl, I combined a stick of butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar,  and 1/4 cup of peanut butter. 

Next I added one egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water. 

Next I combined the dry and wet ingredients. I always fear this step in baking because the flour always manages to end up on my face, the counter and the floor in addition to the batter. 

I chopped what Reeses peanut butter cups I had on hand leftover from my sister's birthday party

After the candy was thoroughly mixed in, I formed the batter balls. I baked the cookies at 375° for 7-9 minutes. 

Clearly, I baked the cookies a little too long. The first clue that I should have taken the cookies out sooner was the big cloud of black smoke that emanated from the oven as I opened it. 

My suspicions were right, the cookies were badly burnt. The bad news: the cookies were completely inedible. The good news: my healthy eating kick wouldn't be affected. 

Luckily, one pan of four cookies survived the fiery inferno that was the oven. I was thrilled to at least get a taste of the cookie.  

 Verdict? GB loved the cookies and ate all four within 12 hours. I was only able to get one bite in. The cookies were light, fluffy and not overbearing. I prefer my chocolate to be served in the form of silence-inducing awe. But if you are someone who prefers a lighter tasting chocolate or sweet, this cookie is for you! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pot Roast

I think I reached a whole new level of domestication when I decided to take on the scary pot roast. I call it scary for two main reasons. One, any large chunk of meat, in my opinion, takes a skilled cook to craft. Second, It requires hours to cook, which give me more time to screw things up. 

I decided to go for the slow cooker version. I assumed it would be the most successful outcome. GB, who's made quite a few pot roasts in his day, gave me some instruction and went off to work. 

GB suggested I pan sear the roast first, to "seal in the juices." I'm not sure if this actually worked, but with no prior experience, I gave it a go. After rubbing it with salt, pepper, and garlic I seared each side for about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, I chopped 6 potatoes, half a bag of baby carrots and one whole onion. 

That is one whacky carrot. 

I added the vegetables and meat to the slow cooker along with 2 cans of cream and mushroom soup and a half a can of water. I set the slow cooker on high for 6 hours. 

The meat was still tough around the 5 hour mark. It wasn't falling apart as I had hoped. We waited until around 6.5 hours of cooking to dive in. The extra time was exactly what that meal needed. The meat was tender and fell happily apart. The remaining stew portion was too thin for my liking. I knew I could thicken it with flour, but as I reached into the cupboard for the flour, I discovered we were completely out of flour. 

So we ate it as it was. 

I was quite happy with the turnout. For my first pot roast, I don't think I did a bad job! What is your favorite way of preparing a pot roast? What would you have done differently?