Thursday, July 26, 2012

Portobello Burgers!

So last night I tried making Portobello Mushroom burgers.  This is totally a first for us (our only other foray into vegetarian meals has been eggplant parmesan); multiple sources confirmed the mushroom has the consistency of hamburger and "even if you eat meat you won't miss it in this burger".  We'll see σ___σ (this is my skeptical face)

Portobello Mushroom Burgers from

 Here are the mushroom caps and all our marinade ingredients!  I washed the mushrooms and removed the gills because those creep me out.  Mushrooms with gills.  Like fish.  Ew. 

Since I was only making 2 burgers instead of 4, I cut the marinade down by half as well.  I threw soy sauce and worcestershire in there along with onion powder just because I could.  So there.

Here is a mushroom, happily sitting in its marinade.  I let them sit for about 20 minutes while I ran around doing other things (laundry, cleaning).  I love recipes that I can forget about - it's why I'm such great friends with my slow cooker.

Since I don't have a grill (shame) I ended up cooking these guys on the stove.  I'm happy to report that they shrink as they cook so what starts out as a giant mushroom-zilla ends up being a rather manageable cap in the end.  Sidenote: this recipe makes your house smell delicious.  Seriously.  My mouth was watering before the food was even done.

I also decided hey, why not grilled onions? and tossed those in with the provolone-covered patties.  Mmmm.  So good.  They smelled like the ridiculously huge burgers you can get at the fair, that are like the size of your head.  I love those burgers.

Viola - the finished product!  I toasted the onion buns, whipped up an aioli sauce, sliced some pickles (seriously I have a thing for pickles... husband always jokes he'll never be able to tell if I'm pregnant because I already eat pickles with everything) and smothered it all in onions.  Is there any way this burger could not be delicious? (The answer is no.)  We ate these babies with a garden salad and baked potato, and I will totally be the first to admit I was surprisingly full coming away from a meal with no meat.

So this was pretty darned good, though as someone who was raised on beef burgers I have to say there is definitely a difference.  But at only 200~ calories you're going to have a hard time going wrong with this.  I think next time (read: tonight.  We are a household that looooves leftovers) I'll cook them longer; I tried 40 minutes on the stove but the center was still very mushroomy (sides were really soft and easy to eat, though).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Batman and Marriage

So!  We went and saw Batman this weekend.  And we were kinda late!  I was totally expecting the theater to be packed, but to our immense surprise it was totally empty.  There were about fifteen other people there (more streamed in as the movie started), but still.  The movie was excellently amazing, probably my favorite out of the trilogy (which was already really really good, in my opinion).  I'm not a huge Batman fan (I know the basic facts), but this is probably one of my favorite movies ever.  Anyway, go see it.  That's all I'll say.

We're celebrating our second anniversary next week (I can't believe I've been married for two years - it's all gone by so quickly)!  It's been an amazing joyride, I totally love being married to my best friend!  We're going to the ocean to celebrate, which is super exciting since I haven't been there for several years and he's never been.  I love the ocean - water is so calming.  Plus, this is perfect beach weather (it's currently sunny in the high 70s)  I am totally hitting that pool for at least a few hours of swimming!  Here's hoping the weather is as amazing next weekend as it is this one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chickens and bathrooms

Today I tried something that has scared me for years (both because it's kinda gross and looks hard)... cutting up a whole chicken!  On a random sidenote, I kinda like the smell of raw chicken.  It makes me want to sink my teeth into a steak (yeah I don't understand me, either).

This is my second chicken (out of three).  Normally, I would throw this little guy into our crockpot with some seasonings and in the evening have a fall-off-the-bone roasted chicken.  This time, I'm performing surgery.

I've already found I like starting with the legs, the bigger bones are easier to find versus the wings.  The video I watched advised breaking the legs and cutting the skin, then cutting between the two bones (kind of like a ball and cup) to separate the legs.  One of the worst parts about doing this is the sound of bones breaking and shifting around inside the flesh (seriously).  In this photo I've broken both legs and cut through the skin so all I have to do is find where the ball joints meet and cut through that (I love these knives)

 No legs!  The process is essentially repeated for the wings (find the ball joint, which I totally misjudged the first time and ended up with a super short wing).  I'm planning to use the thighs and drumsticks for fried chicken and the chicken breasts for sweet and sour chicken, but have no plans for the wings... maybe we could make some impromptu buffalo wings?

 Now we're left with just the chicken carcass.

I flipped the bird over (breast side down) and broke through a ribcage with the scissors, then split the breasts apart and deboned them.  Nice and easy (mostly).  This photo looks like something out of Resident Evil.

 Now this looks more like chicken I'm used to seeing!  I'm thrilled - I've never been brave enough to try deboning a chicken (always afraid I'd mess it up or chop off my hand somehow), but it's actually not too terrible and by the third one I was slicing pretty quick.

I have realized that while I always thought I'd have an edge if a zombie apocalypse ever occurred (because I spent so much of my youth playing zombie videogames); this dismembered chicken has made me realize that all I would do if confronted with a zombie would be to run for the hills screaming like a small child.

Sooo... since I don't have access to the internet on Monday but I don't want to miss a day writing, I'm going to just start double posting on Tuesday (writing on normal like Monday then uploading it the next day).

Jump for the post from Monday, 7/23/12

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thunderstorms, Slow Cookers and Air Poppers

We woke up this morning to a thunderstorm, complete with big fat raindrops and flashes of lightning.  I love storms, though I have to admit I love them a little less when it's 6 in the morning...

So since we have no oven (we're kinda ghetto like that atm), we've been relying heavily on our slow cooker to roast chickens, make lasagna and do neat tricks like chicken and dumplings.  Growing up my family didn't really use slow cookers, but I have to say I think they're pretty darned amazing.  Who doesn't love the idea of spending 20 minutes in the kitchen in the morning then walking away and coming back at 6 to a roasted chicken?  I was also recently informed you can do cakes in them.  Is there no end to their awesomeness?  Seriously.

In other news (this is a mostly food/kitchen gadgets related post today), I really really really want a salad spinner.  And an air popper.  The first one would be fantastic because, well, you know, then I could make my own salads (and possibly hash browns, which would just rock.  Why am I paying $2 for 8 ounces of grated potatoes again?).  The second is practically a necessity - we almost live on popcorn in this house (seriously, we bought a Costco sized tub of popcorn and it's almost gone.  There are only two of us in this household.  We have issues.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dogs, Lawns and Laziness

I dropped the dogs off at their grooming appointment this morning which meant I had about 6 hours to kill at home by myself.  I've always lived in homes with pets around so not having any around is a weird feeling, the house feels way too quiet without the random snuffing, tapping paws on laminate and the flapping noise of shaking heads around.  I ended up mowing our lawn (which is seriously way too big for our little electric lawnmower) and then lining up the usual suspects (cleaning, laundry, vacuuming, etc) before lounging around for about an hour (sorry, I'm lazy!)

Have you met our kids?  We have three:

Eli is the oldest (and the only boy!) He's energetic, loving and is the definition of "happy go lucky" up until 8pm, at which point he transforms into a very grumpy old dog that doesn't want to play or be touched (seriously, just don't).  His head isn't normally this huge, it's just a bad angle and he's just been shaved down.  His big thing is to slap the ground with his front paws whenever you come home from work and he'll have a conversation with you if you start talking to him.

Chloe is our middle child and she's... different (that's a word you can use to describe crazy, right?) She's got an awesome bark that we've identified sounding most like "ARBIT!" and is bossy, stubborn and spoiled.  She's also the alpha (don't ask us how that happened) and is the first to eat, the first to get on the bed and the first to get up and run to the door in the morning.  She's aggressive to anyone outside of family (which scares the neighborhood children) and has an enormous snaggle-tooth.

Finally there's our baby, Bre (and yes, she's as derpy as she looks in this photo).  We theorize she must have been the runt of her litter and she's certainly the runt in our household; last to eat, last to get on the bed and last to

She looooves squeaky toys and is the least social of the three; preferring to sit separate from the family on the floor or on a pillow when we're all gathered on the couch.

Fun things Bre has done: tripped going up the stairs, gotten a bee stuck in her fur, tripped over the wind, tangled an untangle-able leash and gotten lost

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writing, Batman and the Cake Is a Lie

So when I first started this whole thing my initial plan was to write for 2 hours in the morning, then go about my day to give my ideas time to refresh.  However, I'm starting to find that I want to spend my afternoons (usually reserved for illustration) writing as well - which is awesome, because to me that says: progress is being made.  I am learning to write every day because that is what I am - a writer.  Which is pretty awesome.  I think it's important to chronicle your journey because there are days where you will wake up and go "I've done nothing with myself", to be able to look back and realize that you did is incredibly motivating, moreso than any book or TV program.

I tried scrubbing my kitchen floor clean today and found out how disgusting it really is (hint: very very very much so).  I kind of want to tear it up (seems to be just a sheet of vinyl) and put down Pergo, but I'm not sure how well Pergo would hold up to spills and certain people in our household (me!) dropping things on it all the time.

The Dark Knight Rises is coming out Friday!  I am super psyched - I think Catwoman is awesome sauce (though surely I'm not the only person who thinks she looks like a cosplayer...)

Finally, is this not possibly the most awesome site in existence?  Gourmet Gaming takes food from games and makes them real (ex Portal Cake, Rations from Metal Gear Solid,and the TF2 Sandvich).  Seriously those all look delicious.  Except that sandwich with cereal and turkey and jam.  That's kinda whoa.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pie, pretzels and lost dogs

Our guests!

We took our dogs for a walk yesterday and came back to our street only to have another dog run up to us and follow us back to our house.  We decided we'd leash him up (he had no collar) and walk him down the street to see if anyone was looking for a dog.  Which is how we met the second one (on the left).  The lesson I choose to take away from this is if you try to help, you will just end up doing more work.  (They were so cute, though.  They both belonged to one guy who was running up and down the street looking worried.)

So I'm looking back at our weekend and we... actually had a pretty busy one.

We took the giant piece of glass off of the hallway bathroom, for starters.

Surprise!  Yes those walls disgust me, too...

Then we went to a nearby farmer's market, which was totally rad.  I loooove farmer's markets.  Know what I don't love?  Ten thousand strollers.  Everywhere we went there were strollers.  It was stroller city.

But that's forgivable, because they had giant pretzels and cupcakes:

Also on the table: I had no internet yesterday but I did write a post!  It's after the jump...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Link: This is why I love the internet

Sometimes you just run into something so awesome it just makes your entire day a happy, happy thing.

Yes, it is a guy singing as Darth Vader.  Yes it is possibly the neatest thing I've seen all week (I don't get out much).
I've been talking with my husband and we've been discussing how we kinda feel in a rut - not relationshipwise, but new experiences wise.  We've pretty much stopped going out to eat, which was our "date night", but since I'm happy to cook (and we've basically agreed we prefer my cooking over restaurants anyway) it seems like we struggle to find new things to do.  It's not that there aren't tons of things to do around here, it's just that it feels like so much effort to get off the couch.  Even though me quitting my job to take care of the house has opened up our weekends to the point where  it's almost silly - there are no chores, no laundry and no projects to take care of - we're still hesitant to venture outside on the off chance that we "waste some of valuable weekend time".  I think my issue is that I'm still thinking like someone who is out of their house 50+ hours a week ("my time with my family is precious and I can't waste one single second of it").  Perhaps what I need to do is retrain my brain to realize that because our situation has changed (ie I'm home all the time now) it's okay if we try something new and it doesn't work out, because there will be the weekend after that.  And the weekend after that one, and the one after that as well.  Because the time that would have been spent maintaining the house and catching up on housework on Saturday/Sunday is spent over the week instead, which has given us back several hours of our lives.
So my goal this weekend is to do one new thing; go somewhere new, try a new food I can't make at home.  Just do something that will expand my horizons a little and show me that yes, it is okay to leave my house once in a while (but I don't wanna :-*!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Hearty Jaunt About Town, and Mushrooms

Because I've basically cocooned myself in my house for the past month and a half, I'd forgotten how much... fun... (fun is not the word I'm actually thinking of :( ) it is to drive in rush hour traffic.  At one point I watched the light turn green no fewer than three times before I was finally able to get through it (seriously, you guys?) I know we don't have the worst traffic (I think that award goes to Los Angeles or somewhere thereabouts... and in all fairness that is traffic I would not wish on my worst enemy), but dang.  That's insane.

In other news, we've been trying to eat better (smaller portions, more fruits/veggies) and I'm at the lowest weight I can remember (so at least 5 years).  Woohoo!  Since we cook in menus, I've been looking for vegetarian recipes that won't repulse us and sending running to the nearest hamburger, here are a few I've found that look promising:

Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Chive Butter Sauce
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
Stuffed Mushrooms

(Can you tell I was really on a mushroom kick here..)

I don't know about anyone else, but I always grew up thinking it wasn't dinner unless there was meat on the plate (my husband is the same).  So it's an interesting experience - we've tried doing eggplant parm with great success, but it was just one vegetarian meal out of 10 or so.  Also I deep fried it, so I'm pretty sure I totally negated the point of having vegetarian in the first place.  I'm really interested in those portobello burgers - people have told me you can't tell it's not meat but my brain is having a hell of a time reconciling that mushroom = meat.

Have you tried portobello burgers?  Are they good?  Am I crazy for trying this experiment?  I guess I'm figuring that if it doesn't work, I can just go back to eating chickens and cows and when people say "have you tried NOT eating meat?" I can go "Yes I have.  And it was terrible."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We have tomato plants! ...apparently...

Summer always makes me want to do crazy projects like paint the house, recarpet and plant a garden.  We cleared out the old dead tomato plants but never got around to doing anything with our little garden box, so imagine my surprise when I went out there the other day and found what appear to be renegade tomato plants happily sitting in the bed soaking up the sunshine!

True story: I mowed the lawn about a week ago and thought they were very hardy weeds...

With my (very) rudimentary gardening knowledge I know they aren't supposed to be that close (there are about 5 in the top tier and like...13 on the bottom) but I feel so bad about pulling them out after all the work they did to germinate and stuff... plus I'm not sure which ones I should yank.  Do I go for the smaller ones?  It's the middle of July, if I pull the small ones will they have time to actually grow tomatoes?  Could I transplant those into a new container (I have some loose containers sitting around waiting for something to do)?  I've got this giant backyard and nothing going on it except for the garden bed.  I'm really not sure.  Someone help :-(

Hi cutie!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays >:C

We just finished Silent Hill 2 over the weekend and I'd forgotten what a wreck that game leaves you (this is the only game I've ever played that continually gives me nightmares).  The whole series is disturbing but Silent Hill 2 is truly the icing on a psychologically damaging cake.  I think it's probably one of the scariest games I've ever played (if not the scariest, period!).  Probably the only other one that comes close is the remake of the original Resident Evil for the GameCube (which perfectly nailed its atmosphere).  But even REmake can't compare to the journey taken by James Sunderland, and after some discussion with my husband (bless him for being so willing to listen to me ramble about made up characters in a made up world) it's because nobody is a Chris or Claire Redfield, or a Jill Valentine.  But a lot of us, potentially, could be a James Sunderland.  Under the right circumstances (or the wrong ones, depending on how you look at it).

Does it make a story more interesting when there isn't a clear cut "bad guy"?

I've been writing (because that is what I do) and the deeper I get the more I realize there isn't really a designated bad guy in my story; there are just people whose views and situations are all different.  And they need different things.  And sometimes those needs clash with the needs of others, and that is where our conflicts come from.

Though some people are just asshats, too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I had a breakthrough today.  A long overdue one, but late is better than never (at least that's what I've always been told).

I never realized how hard it is to write a good character.

That is, I never realized how much work actually goes into learning about your character. And not just memorizing their eye color, weight and favorite food but actually learning their habits, their motivations. What's their favorite memory? Why do they behave the way they do? One thing I've always struggled with is getting inside the heads of my characters, learning their motivations and driving forces. I'll scratch the surface but not dig deep, and digging deep is what you have to do if you want a strong story that resonates with a reader.  This is really what this book is about, I think - learning to dig deep.  I get lazy, and want to stop at the statistics.  Because we are so much more than our weight and eye color, aren't we?

I've been mostly working on my outline today, getting down the history of each of the main characters as well as some secondary ones (that's where this whole spiel came from!).  I feel like I've hit my wall and broken though it - woohoo!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sunny weather and coupons

Have I mentioned how much I love the sun?  I live in the Northwest so we see the sun approximately 2 weeks a year (and that is our summer and we like it).  This weekend is forecast to be sunny in the mid-70s -at the risk of sounding like a 4-year-old, I totally think this would be a great weekend to go picnic somewhere.  That is seriously one of my favorite things to do - sit on a blanket under a tree, eat and fall asleep in the summer sun (well that and ramble endlessly).  I love it so much I even went and mowed my lawn (have you seen my lawn?  No matter where you live, the answer is yes.  It is that large.) so we could sit outside yesterday and eat on our blanket.  I love it.

I'm not sure how many people know this but I've really gotten into budgeting over the past year; I even went and taught myself excel so I could have a spreadsheet (make no mistake, I will be one of those old people running around going "back in my day we didn't have smartphones or apps and we LIKED it).  I feel like I could be better at using coupons, though.  My real problem is it seems like coupons are always for things I don't never buy/don't need.  What I've been trying to do is pay attention to when meat we actually use (mostly chicken) goes on sale and stock up then.  Right now our menus are done in 4-week cycles (ie I shop once every 4 weeks for 90% of our groceries.  We weren't having luck with just doing one big trip every month so every other week we run for milk and fresh fruit/vegetables), but things aren't always on sale when I'm ready to shop!  I believe I could cut costs down further by stocking up when stores place things on sale.  Even though it will mean an extra trip, it might be worth it to save an extra $5-10.

Daily art after the jump

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It is the middle of 2012. Where did the first half go?

This year is going by fast.  I swear I just bought my house and painted it (wait that was a year ago...)

What have I learned over the last 6 months?  Probably not as much as I could have, but more than I expected to (so I guess that means I break even).

- I've learned you can't wait for things to magically fall into your lap, you have to go get them.  Because if you do that, you'll spend all your time waiting.  It's better to go out there and get started, even if it seems overwhelming, because as long as you keep moving forward you'll reach your goal eventually.

- I've learned that failure isn't permanent, unless you want it to be.  I like to think of it as part of the learning experience, something that helps you become the person you're supposed to be.

- I've learned there are things more important than a steady paycheck, like being happy.  And not making your husband crazy by grinding your teeth at night because you're so stressed out.

- I've learned how to budget, because when you are on one income that is what you do.  I've learned to enjoy doing things that I might have passed up in lieu of spending money (going to the park, wandering around the mall).  In the same vein, I've learned how to enjoy the little things like cooking and walking the dogs (unfortunately I still haven't learned how to enjoy my garden).

- I've also learned that paint gets everywhere.  Somehow, magically.  It doesn't matter if you're painting your bedroom, paint will inevitably end up down the hall in your dining room, too.

Daily art after the jump >>>

Monday, July 2, 2012

I is for insurance. And idiotic.

Since I quit my job (remember that?  Like a month ago?) I've been trying to get insurance.  Which noone told me is actually a full-time job in of itself.  (Don't get me wrong, I'm a pretty healthy individual.  I have no idea what people who actually have conditions do...)  I actually can't even get past the paperwork stage because ehealthinsurance and the insurance company I'm trying to apply with are in this vicious cycle (it would be funny if it wasn't true) of: submit paperwork, the insurance company is behind 2 weeks and the paperwork expires, the insurance company says they need new paperwork, submit paperwork, repeat.  Repeat repeat repeat.

This has been going on for a month and they are making me crazy.  I mean, come on.  When YOU take two weeks to get something done don't go back to the person who submitted the paperwork on time and go "whoops that expired now we need a whole new application :B".  Lame.  Lame lame lame lame lame.

Okay enough of that rant...

So we've been going back to old games on the PS2 lately and we actually started Silent Hill 2 last night.  I'd forgotten how excellent that game is, from the graphics (which don't really show their age in the CGI cutscenes) to the story to the voice acting to the puzzles.  (I'd also forgotten how much I hate the combat, but since I've already ranted today I won't yell about it too much... plus right now I hate the insurance company waaaay more than I hate the bad hit detection >:O) I remember it being way more difficult, but that might be because I was a kid when I played it.  It's still a lot of fun.

daily art after the jump