Magicians Trilogy

It’s a few weeks into football season 2015 and I’m already behind on posts.

I am, on the other hand, up to date on The Blacklist and Once Upon a Time.  Yea Netflix.

I’m on a diet so I have not been baking, except for a batch of cupcakes for a friend’s housewarming party.  And oatmeal cream pies and bacon toffee chocolate chip cookies for a social.

I’m reading a lot lately.  It’s escapism but I cannot bear to stop myself. It all started when I went to the beach in June.  Chuck gave me a $50.00 gift certificate to the bookstore; I guess he knew I was being conservative with book purchases and wanted to encourage me to have some fun.  So I spent $102.00.

It’s not hard to drop that kind of cash in a book store.  The publishing industry is in transition; traditional books cost more than ever while e-book sales skyrocket and some authors, like K. C. Stewart and Hugh Howey, utilize the growing indie publishing world.  Most books I buy today are on my Kindle; it’s just more economical.  Sidenote:  I admire people who can utilize the library.  I have an insane need to put books on my shelves to display them and I am terrible at returning books to the library.  Just terrible.  I volunteered at the library for years and almost never borrowed books.

The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman was on sale, buy two get one half off.  I’ve been toying with reading the series for a while and now that the trilogy is complete and since it was on sale I treated myself.  You know, because I’m cheap and I’m sick of being jerked around by authors who hook me with a series and then never finish.  Ahem, Patrick Rothfuss.  Ahem, George R. R. Martin.

Dick.

The premise of the series, the hook, is it’s a world where magic is real and although few people know it, the magical world in a series of children’s novels is also real.  Think adult American Harry Potter, Narnia, maybe a bit of Discworld, and a realistic portrayal of gifted youths who struggle with the harsh realities of real life.  It’s dark and lighthearted at the same time; morbid and witty and painful and, well, magical.

One of my favorite bits in the third and final book.  The characters must travel to Antarctica and they transform themselves into blue whales as a vehicle for the journey.  So imaginative!  The transmogrification changes brain structure so each time a character morphs into an animal he takes on the instincts and “language” of that animal.  The whale part… is beautiful.  Now I want to do all the whale things.

But not Sea World.  That place is evil.  I saw Black Fish.

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More Pottery… Labor Day Weekend

Labor day weekend always marks the start of college football. Time to start entertaining myself!

The PYOP studio where we held my sister’s bridal shower closed. It’s a tough business with inventory that can sit for ages. Fortunately, a new place just opened in Elizabethtown!

Artspress is more than just a pottery studio. They have an oxygen bar, laughter yoga, espresso and tea, art lessons, writing lessons, Reiki massage and more. The owner, Jeneva, is a kindred spirit who loves art as much as I do!

Lea is the detail-oriented plotter when painting pottery. She pencils in tiny details and researches quotes and symbols on my smartphone every time we paint. Once she took two days to complete one piece. I literally brought her back to the studio the next day to finish. Usually her pieces pay homage to a favorite fandom or genre and this weekend’s choice was no different. Artspress had a pie-shaped plate. The opportunities are endless! A Pi plate, a pizza plate… these ideas were passed over for the obvious choice – a Supernatural pie plate.

unfired

unfired

Supernatural Pie Plate

Finished product

Finished product

If you don’t get the reference, Supernatural is a TV show that you can watch on Netflix Streaming. In a nutshell, two brothers cross the country in an Impala, staying in tacky motel rooms and slaying demons, ghosts, and other, well, supernatural beings. One character likes pie a lot. It’s an endearing show and if you are mildly interested in the genre of fantasy TV shows you should check it out.

Speaking of fantasy/sci-fi TV show fandoms, yes, she is wearing a Firefly tee shirt.

Emmi made a set of measuring spoons and cups. Because she likes to bake and because the set is ADORABLE.

Measuring teacups

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I needed something to look pretty enough for my desk at work to hold paper clips and binder clips. All I have are ugly plastic dip cups and they are stuck in a drawer behind me. After scouring the inventory I settled on a divided baby plate.

So zebra prints have been my thing since before animal prints were hip. I’ve always collected zebra stuff. At my last job I was never given a tape dispenser or stapler or scissors so I eventually tired of borrowing these tools from my coworkers and bought a set at Marshalls – zebra of course. Once I was established in an office again I brought my own tools along. It makes for a cute conversation started with customers.

I think the zebra print is easy to paint. This was my first attempt. But that may be because I stare at this pattern all the time.

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divided plate

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We ended our painting session and Jeneva gave us a quick laughter yoga session.

I’m a big believer in smiling to feel happy. I perfected the genuine fake smile as a waitress in college and I’ve utilized it ever since; the weird thing is that after a while, the fakeness fades and you really start to smile because you are cheerful. There was a recent study linking this phenomenon to Botox. It’s a chicken/egg debate in the psychological community whether smiling induces happiness or happiness induces smiling but I for one never considered injecting poison into my forehead until reading this article. They suggest that because you cannot frown after receiving the injections you actually develop a better overall mood. Of course it is possible you feel better because your forehead isn’t wrinkly and old looking. If you can’t afford Botox, Laughter Yoga is a good alternative.

Laugh Captain Jeneva lucked out because we three sisters are already at ease with one another and tend to laugh a lot. What can I say; funny is genetic. The interesting thing is that the laughter begins as an exercise without a joke. You just laugh. But it becomes a real giggle quickly as you make eye contact and practice and eventually your muscles and voice just take over. Having the session in a beautiful old house like the one where Artspress operates only helps.

Lea, Emmi, me, and Jeneva after laughter yoga

Good use of my time on the first football weekend of the season, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Lemonade Cake Balls

I dislike weddings on principle.  They are expensive and selfish and wasteful.  When people say they are getting married, I think it’s good.  Monogamy has social, economic, and emotional benefits.  I’m married; I like it.  But when people say they are having a wedding, I’m like “why would you DO that?”

Okay, so my middle little sister Emmi is getting married.  Yay!  And she is having a wedding.  Blech!  But I love my sister so I said I’d help.  Plus she is sort of the anti-bridezilla because a. she loves that show and b. she hates being the center of attention.  I think she’s mostly doing the wedding thing because eloping is too exciting for her.  She’s not boring or anything; she’s just very low-key and anti-drama so anything that might step on people’s toes or whatever.  I’m not sure I know what that feeling is like, but I respect and admire her for it.

So Emmi declared that we were making all of the deserts for the wedding.  This was not surprising because anyone who is used to homemade desserts is likely to be picky about them.  My freezer has started to fill with delicious desserts.  I think I’ll share those with you!

The first delicious thing that is sitting in my freezer until the big day is PINK LEMONADE CAKE BALLS.

2014 Emmi's Wedding Baked goods

 

This cake is sweet and heavy.  I always mess with recipes like this one because I hate using processed food in my baking.  The original recipe calls for frozen lemonade concentrate, but I have real lemons and sugar on hand, so why would I go out of my way to thaw a tube of lemon juice and high fructose corn syrup?  I just estimated the amount of sugar and juice.

Me making this cake was like if Rachel Ray was using one of Sandra Lee’s recipes.  If you don’t know who Rachel Ray is, she’s controversial sometimes but mostly she cooks awesome food.  Not much of baker but she is a natural in the kitchen, instinctively substituting ingredients and mixing up flavors and finding inspiration everywhere.  If you don’t know who Sandra Lee is, good.  You are better off not knowing.

For the purpose of context: Sandra Lee is to Martha Stewart as Celine Dion is to Barbara Streisand.  A Canadian trollope who is too skinny to actually have eaten any of her own baking or cooking, Sandra Lee creates culinary abortions in her adorably coordinated kitchen.  Touting the phrase “semi-homemade” like that is even a thing, she cuts corners and creates sad semblances of food out of prepackaged mixes and processed foodstuffs.  Hey, I get it! You work forty hours a week, you have kids, you have Netflix, and you don’t want/have time to make it from scratch.  Just don’t expect me to be impressed.  Or to eat your Kwanzaa cake covered in corn nuts.  Ew.

Okay so I made a delicious cake using logical substitutions from this recipe.  I crumbled it up and added buttercream icing, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pink food coloring.  The resulting mixture is then rolled into balls and coated in yellow coating candy.

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Because this is for a wedding/I am a nut about food I make looking aesthetically pleasing, I added adorable straws!   I cut up the straws into thirds and dipped each one into the candy, then I stabbed the cake and used the straw as a handle for dipping. The trick with this candy coating is to add some Crisco to the chocolate, thinning it out to a smooth enrobing solution.

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Because the chocolate is thin, the bottom of the cake will peek through, so I settle each bon bon on an unmelted candy wafer.

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Some pink sanding sugar finishes each ball.

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It’s a small wedding and you are probably not invited.  Ha ha.

Painty Painty!

I’m not blocked; I have just been busy with other stuff.  Like Pinterest, Netflix, and family stuff.  Nothing serious.  Oooh, I had one job interview.  Haven’t heard yea or nay on that yet, so that’s good.

It’s hard to get into a pattern of behaviors and tasks when one is unemployed.  I find that things just slip through my fingers and suddenly I have spent all day making my Sims grow tomatoes.  A definite weakness upon which I promise to improve.

One thing I did recently was I helped my brother move.  Moving is an integral part of the twenty-something lifestyle.  As we grow older, we tend to become less migratory and sometimes we even establish ourselves enough to be able to afford movers. A more common milestone at my age is having enough stuff to move that a truck rental is necessary.  We all have that list of pals who we have helped in the past and now owe us a favor or two.  When the time comes, we call in favors and ask friends with pickups, painting experience, or just nothing better to do to come over and spend the weekend moving.  If you are like me, you also have a huge family that may not even call in the owed favors.

I like to imagine that when we get together to do something constructive or creative, my siblings and I form a small but effective work force called the Handy Dandy Sibling Construction Company.  Together we can garden, paint, move, design, decorate, bake, and cook our way to a magnificent display of craftsmanship and old-fashioned know-how.  For all that I spent most of my childhood wishing I was an only child, I appreciate the way I can mesh my skills with those of my very different but very similar brothers and sisters.  Like most siblings, we each have unique personalities and interest, but the commonality that occurs among us is unique to large families.  We were raised in the same way by the same parents in very tight quarters; we can almost read each other’s minds as we negotiate our tasks and chat to catch up.

So, my middle little brother, Jed, moved last week and neglected to ask for a lot of help.  He called in favors to friends but not to family.  Actually, I found out about the move because his wife posted something on Facebook.  (sidenote: Facebook is an excellent tool for stalking family)  Jed helped Chuck and me move a few years ago, and he has also used a shovel quite a bit around my property, so I guess I sort of owe him.  It’s natural enough for me to demand that my younger sibling drop everything to help me when I need them; that’s just how big sisters are.  Plus, Jed is pretty much the biggest workhorse I know.  He’s huge, strong, good-natured, and smart.  It’s hard to believe we are full-blooded siblings, really.

Summer 2011: My tall, thin, hairy, blond-haired, blue-eyed little brother Jed and me (with crazy eyes). His beard is worse now.  Ke$ha would be all over him.

I suppose I felt guilty about always using Jed’s muscles, and also a bit bored and useless since I am unemployed, so I volunteered to pitch in.  Jed and his wife hated their old apartment – a dim basement hole with little light and no charm.  My brother’s new rental is awesome and as I am handy with a paintbrush/terribly lazy when it comes to lifting and hauling, I immediately volunteered to help paint.  The dining room is red so I ended up with a Dexter manicure.  Pretty sweet.

Then we painted the den/craft room with a taped-off chair rail look.  My SIL Alice, Jed’s wife, is very crafty so the room needed to be inspiring.  It took all day, but I think she likes it.  Also, I helped move furniture around and told embarrassing stories about my brother when he was not there.  As is customary, I was provided with food (Thai, Taco Bell, and pizza!) in return for my help.  Overall, it was not a bad way to spend my day.  Much better than going to two football games with Chuck.

……………..

Painting for Jed made me reminisce about my oldest little brother’s last move, too.  As I was painting the den in Jed’s new home, I recounted this conversation between Jon, his wife Angela, and me:

Angela: I want the living room to be red and tan, with a white chair rail.  Can you help me pick out the shades of paint?

Me:  Of course!

Angela: Should we put the red on top or on the bottom?

Me: Your couch is red, so I would say the red paint should be on the top.

Jon: I read on the internet that if you have a darker color on the top half of the walls, it makes the room seem smaller and the ceiling seem lower.

Me: It’s your living room, not a palace ballroom.

Angela: Trust your sister.  She is right.  We will buy the paint and the chair rail tomorrow when you are at work.

Jon: Chair rail was invented to protect the plaster walls in dining rooms from being dented by chairs being pushed into them.  The living room does not need chair rail because it is not a dining room and we have drywall, not plaster.

Angela and me:  Shut up.

Jon says he does not understand the chair rail but he also freely admits that aesthetics are lost on him. Good thing he is so easy-going!

Xoxoxoxo I love my brothers and their wives!

Must Be Football Season Again

“Can we wait to go to dinner?  I paid $5 to watch something on the internet.”

This is what my husband said to me this evening.  Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Tonight I came home and Chuck and I debriefed each other on our days.  He had the day off as he originally planned to go to a game in Worcester, MA tonight, but at the last minute he found an opportunity to carpool to the Friday and Saturday games in New England with a fellow football fanatic so the schedule changed.  Actually, he was going to go to the Kutztown game tonight instead, but I guess he wanted to spend one last night with me.  The day off gave him some time to work on the kitchen, which is about 90% remodeled at this point.  Soon, baby, soon!

So, I told him about this awesome new machine I tried at the gym.  It’s an ab twister and it cracked my lower back as well as Dr. Ed, my chiropractor.  He told me about the great prices at the contractor counter at the electrical store.  We oohed and ahhed over the china hutch, which has been sitting in its box in our living room (and then hallway) for two months and is now unpacked and in place, ready for me to fill with pretty dishes.  Then he cautiously mentioned needing to go to the ATM.

Usually any errand is an excuse to eat out in my book.  The impulse has been made worse by our kitchen remodel.  When I heard that Chuck might need to go to the ATM, my first thought was a flicker of recognition that the cash was for his trip to New England this weekend.  My brain almost immediately moved on to the more important thought “this means I don’t need to eat cereal for dinner tonight.”

“Do you want to come along?  We could go to City Wok* or something?”

“How about Subway?”

“Can we wait to go to dinner?  I paid $5 to watch something on the internet.”

Before you go assuming my husband is paying to watch videos of adorable kittens (or perhaps something more perverted), let me assure you; this is an honest marriage and I am completely comfortable with his choices.  Yes, he was watching a pay-per-view internet broadcast of a football game.

And the season begins…

* This is a non-politically correct reference to South Park.  Neither of the Chinese restaurants in our town is called City Wok.

Stuff I did tonight to celebrate football widowhood:

  • Went to the gym.  It’s been a while because of the kitchen remodel and because I had the Swine Flu/bronchitis/walking pneumonia.  I finally don’t feel like I am obligated to work on the kitchen every instant I’m not sleeping/going to hack up a lung.  It was good.
  • I dyed my hair.  It’s auburn-ish.
  • I started watching a miniseries on Netflix called The 10th Kingdom.  Technically I am re-watching it because I saw it on TV when I was in high school.