Starting Anew

Well, It’s been just over 5 years since I last posted in this blog. 

Back in 2012, I was just starting my final semester at college. I was settled into my life with my then boy friend and excited to be graduating. 

Now in 2017, I am living in a new state with my now husband and am Head Cake Decorator at my store. 

So things in my life are just a little bit different. And I aim to make things more different by starting my New Year’s resolution, finally. 

My goals are:

1) To read more

Last year my goal was to read 50 books. I hit 28. 

Not a bad number, and I did move two states over which took up just a little bit of my time, but I had thought I could do so much better. (I never really kept track before last year so I don’t have accurate numbers) This year my goal is to read 35.

Ever since I graduated from school I’ve felt like I haven’t read nearly as much as I used to. I don’t have those moments in between classes and waiting in classes where I could just whip out a book and read for 5, 10, 30 minutes. Now my time for reading has become more limited to in before before I pass out.

I need to take back those moments, read a little before work, on my lunchbreak, in the bathroom (don’t judge me), as well as before bed. My first goal is to finish all the books I’ve started but put down for one reason or another. Then it’s time to tackle my to read stack, it’s almost as tall as I am. 

So far I’ve managed to finish one book (The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham) and I’m halfway through a book I started probably 2 years ago and never finished (Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson).

2) To write more

This is one I tell myself almost every year. And every year I do basically zero writing except for NaNoWriMo. I did manage a short story that is a sort of prequel to a larger story, so there is that.

But I could have done so much more. I have so many stories outlined, characters created, plots written down, that just sit in my Story Thoughts notebook and never see the light of day. 

My goal isn’t necessarily to sit down and starting writing books, not yet anyway. I’ll continue to save that for November. But I do want to do more short writings, story challenges and sprints. My goal is to write at least one challenge per week of more than 500 words. Start small and if it goes well I’ll up my challenge. I’ll be posting what I write in my other blog a place to put stories

My first challenge is this blog post itself. Put it out there so I have no choice but to follow all I’ve written down. 

3) To bake more

You’d think working in a bakery, I wouldn’t want to spend more time with baked goods. You’d be wrong.

I love getting my hands in the dough, experimenting with new recipes, and sharing my creations with friends. At work I don’t get that. 

(I wrote a long rant here about customers and work but decided to cut it in the interests of keeping this post more positive and hopeful. And I spend far too much time complaining about work and it’s affecting me negatively.)

I’ve actually done really well with this one so far this year. I’ve baked at least one item per week so far.

Some bread that definitely needed a longer rest time than the recipe called for.

Some cookies that are now my go to chocolate chip recipe.

And today a new experiment in trying to recreate these brownies my husband and I used to get from a local pizza place. They were thick and fudgy and rich and so damn delicious. The brownies I made today aren’t there but I do have some ideas how what to do differently next time. 

In Conclusion:

I’ve found myself more and more in the past couple years (re: ever since I found tumblr) spending more and more of my time of things that are mindless and pointless. It’s just so as to just zone out and scroll through a constant stream of content that suddenly an entire day is wasted. 

Enough is enough, I’m done wasting my time with pointless things. I’d rather spend it doing the things I love. 

Part of the reason for this is wasting time on timewaster websites like buzzfeed, reddit, and tumblr. So, I set up the Chrome extension StayFocused and gave myself a limit of 60 minutes to spend on timewaster sites before it blocks me from accessing those sites. 

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Delicious tea

I love drinking tea, I drink about a full pot of tea a day. And since I prefer loose leaf teas, this can get a liiiitttle expensive since the only place I know to get good loose leaf tea is Teavana and if you’ve ever been there, you know what their prices are like.
So I was excited to discover an online shop for teas on etsy.com (From 4chan no less). teaman’s prices are so much better, and he has an amazing selection of hand blended teas in loose leaf or tea bag form. He did not have my favorite genmaicha tea (sadness) but I did pick out a Rose hip Hibiscus tea that sounded yummy, and at only $5 for 4 ounces I bought it right away. I also picked out a sampler of five of his tea bagged teas. He has a special going on through the month of February where if you spend over $7 you got ten teabags of ceylon tea for free so I thought why not.
I think I annoyed my boyfriend a bit with my obsessed checking of the mailbox every day, a couple times a day, until my tea finally arrived.

The tea I ordered from teaman

I kinda look like a drug dealer.... of deliciousness!

It was late when I got the tea so I went right ahead and brewed me a cup of the sleepy time tea that I picked out for the sampler. I don’t know if it helped me sleep or not but it sure was tasty. The next day I brewed up a pot of the rose hip hibiscus. As soon as I opened up the Ziploc bag I was entranced, the smell was so strong and so deliciously amazing. I would love to have a candle of it so I could just continue smelling that tea.

my teapot with some rose hip hibiscus tea in it

Yes, that is my stove, the lighting in my apartment sucks.

I think this what heaven smells like.

The tea brewed up into a gorgeous deep pink color. The taste was delicious. Similar to Tazo’s passion fruit tea but less….in your face. I would love to brew this as iced tea sometime. Mmm….drink a cold glass of this on a hot summer day…ahhh.

I recommend anyone who likes tea, even a little bit, to check this guys teas out HERE. His selection is large and his prices are good.

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Ah…online arguments

I just got into an argument over at sociological images, one the recently posted article “Lady Gaga’s Patriarchal Bargain, because I disagreed with the way the majority of the commentors were reacting to various posts. Specifically posts that did not have a feminist slant to them. They generally treated the posters like idiots, that they had no idea what they were talking about, basically treating them like children.

I stepped in and tried to talk with one of the posters. This poster had called one of the others a “poor uninformed misogynist” despite other posts showing that this is not necessarily true. I tried to explain that perhaps the poster would be better listened to if she had a better attitude, his opinion wasn’t wrong, I agreed with it partly. But she flat out denied any truth to it.
Does this seem like a good environment for a conversation? Perhaps to the majority of the commentors who didn’t seem to want a conversation, rather a validation of their views instead. I was under the impression that the blog in question was a teaching blog, there to inform readers about different sociological problems and inequalities. So I assumed the commentors would be willing to teach and discuss.
I’m venting a little bit here, I tired to stay reasonable over at the blog but at the end I got, as  I was called, “passive aggressive.” I supposed you could say I was passive aggressive, but I still truly meant and felt everything I said.
If anyone who reads this cares to comment and perhaps explain where I went wrong in what I was trying to do, I was the poster Sarah over at Sociological Images.
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Ruling of Prop. 8

The federal appeals court finally ruled the Prop. 8 is unconstitutional today. It’s about time. Of course it’s unconstitutional. I honestly, really, truly, don’t understand why so many think homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry. I mean, so what if they do? Does allowing them this somehow lessen the meaning of a marriage between heterosexuals? They’re just asking for a basic right everyone has, you could still easily live your life without ever knowing a homosexual couple.

People bring up the argument that marriage is an act before God, and God does not approve of homosexuality. So…. does that mean my atheist boyfriend and myself, who is agnostic, shouldn’t be allowed to marry? Who says marriage has to have anything to do with religion for every couple. If a couple wants to get married in a Church, they have that right. If a couple wants to get married in a sacred forest, that’s their right.

Another argument is that homosexuals cannot have children together so it’s unnatural. So does that mean that my aunt, who has never been able to have children, should not have been allowed to marry her husband. Does that make her marriage unnatural? And with advances in genetics and in-vitro fertilization children for homosexual couples is hardly impossible.

A funny thing, (well, not really funny) is that a lot of the arguments used against same sex marriages are the same arguments that were used against interracial marriages. I wonder when people will learn that their arguments just don’t work. Unless someone can explain them to me?

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Managing Death by Trent Jamieson

Last night I finished the second book in the Death Works Trilogy by Trent Jamieson. This one was another fun read similar to the first book. In this book though, things are very different. Steven is now the RM of Australia with his cousin Tim as his Ankou. So now we get to see more about the day to day stuff of the buissness of death with still quite a bit of Steven running around and getting into trouble. And we finally get to meet some of the RMs from the other regions around the world, particularly Suzanne, the RM of the US.

I found this story to be more interesting than the last one, there is more neat Death powers and less running away from stirrers. The story is also more complex with two, (or maybe three?) bad guys this time around coming from the history of Mortmax.

Some things in the novel were rather predictable, a few tried and true plot points. But other things swung at me way from left field. So far from left field it makes me wonder how and why they happened. Almost doesn’t make sense. But then again, when you’re dealing with beings who have been alive for millenia who really knows what they think about?

One thing I really wanted explained were the caterers. Who the hell were they? They’d been at every death moot so are they human? If not, why would there be an inhuman catering group? What do they do for the rest of the year? Are there other groups around the world that require their services? It seems a small detail but I really want to know. It seems like the author has a habit of having things and people in his universe but never really explains how they work. Strange considering how well his concept of death is developed. I’ve always been one of those who really enjoys a book if the author really makes everything work. Magic and other phenomena work based on a set of logic and rules that fit their world. I don’t understand Jamieson’s world.

I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

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Adventures in Potato Bread!

So today I decided to use up some of the 10 lb bag of potatoes my boyfriend and I picked up from Costco and have yet to finish. So I pulled out another recipe from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” and made the potato cheddar torpedoes. It uses the some of my sourdough starter but it only took a day to make instead of two. It was fun making a flavored bread instead of the play breads I’d been making, and it was an awesome combination, sharp cheddar, red potatoes, and fresh chives. I knew the moment I saw it in the book, I’d be making it at some point. So here we go!

the ingredients to my potato bread
Here are my lovely ingredients. The murky liquid in the measuring cup is the water that I boiled the potatoes in for added potato flavor. The chives and the cheese will come later.
partially mixed potato bread
This is only half of the final amount of flour. I knew I’d be kneading it after it rested so I didn’t bother trying to mash up all of the potatoes.
final kneaded dough

Polka dots!

Trying to get all of the chives worked in there was kind of a pain in the butt. But the dough was sticky enough that at least they didn’t fall out. My hands still smell like flour and potatoes.
shaped potato bread loaves
The dough rose super fast so I punched it down once because it still had a 30 minutes left of fermentation. The cheese is finally rolled up  inside the dough, jelly roll style. Next time I will try to slice the cheese thinner. Based on how much cheese the recipe called for it didn’t cover all of the dough so I ended up cutting more.
baked potato bread
Finally came out of the oven and it smells AMAZING. I can really smell the sweetness of the red potato and the chives.  My scoring is a little bit better this time around but the loaf that was closest to the back of the oven still got much darker than the rest even though I turned them halfway through and made sure to pull them away from the backside of the oven. Hmmm…there must be a hot spot there or something. A little annoying but it should take away from the taste at all. I love how you can see all the chives sprinkled throughout the dough and the cheese that melted out of the top and crisped up. Mmmm…. only 30 minutes before I cut into them!
UPDATE:
I finally cut into the bread. It was super soft and fluffy inside. I didn’t cut in far enough to really get at any of the cheese but what I did get was tasty. Next time I’ll make sure to get a better distribution of the cheese. Sadly though I overcooked the loaves a little, the crust has a slight burnt taste to it 😦 I had a lot of things going on at the same time so I didn’t pay attention to the time as well as I should have. Next time will be better!
cut loaf of potato bread
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Book Review: Death Most Definite

Today I finished reading “Death Most Definite” by Trent Jamieson, the first novel in the Death Works trilogy.

It’s been a fun read, it was hard to get into at first, I know nothing about Australia so some of the vernacular made no sense to me, but I managed to settle in. The main character, Steven de Selby is a quirky kinda guy. I love his idea of the Pomps and everything about death. Treating death as a business, one that comes with a decent pay package, Where there are Regional Managers, RMs is fun to read about. It’s been very well developed. He also goes into how the Pomps feel differently about death because of how they grow up, they don’t fight it. It’s logical to me and I like that.

I do have a few issues with some aspects of the novel that seem rather less developed. The relationship between Lissa and Steven for example. Ok, I can understand the love at first sight thing. But with Steven it seems a little forced. Like boom, instant love. His reactions to is almost seem like an addiction. And the entire time I got no real sense that she loved him too but first chance they have BOOM, sex in a not very sanitary place. Desperate times call for desperation but still, I feel like her reciprocation came out of left field a little bit. Not that I don’t think they’re a cute couple, they are. I just think the sex could have been left out. And it being used as a gag several times later on.

Another big issue I have is that with everything in the novel going on, it’s almost like a zombie Apocalypse, there is little to no mention of what’s going on with the regular people. Do they notice what’s going on? With the events in the novel it would seem to be impossible for anyone not to notice. Every time something happens it seems like they’re in a deserted area. And when he goes into cafes (which he does quite often) the only people we are introduced to are the baristas. What about the other customers? People talking about the strange things going on? I really wanted to know.

Anyways, The ending was good and set it up for the next novel, “Managing Death.” It should be interesting to see what Steven does with how things are left at the end. This was the authors first novel and I think it shows a little. But I do have high hopes for the next two novels.

I give it a 3 out of 5.

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Adventures in Bread, Pt 2

The bread from yesterday was delicious. Nice and chewy, the crust had a good bite to it. I wish it was more sour but I’ll take what I can get. The crumb was good, it had a lot of larger air holes in it which made me happy. I don’t know if I did something different or if it was just the different dough.

I think next time I make bread with the starter I’m going to try my dad’s way of doing it. He uses a no knead recipe that you just mix and let ferment for 12 hours. Not kneading is such a strange concept to me that I’ve avoided doing it. But I’ve had the bread my dad made that way and it’s quite tasty.

Now I just wish I had a baking stone. Or even parchment paper and cornmeal. Ah, the things I would do with money.

my finished bread

OM NOM NOM

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Adventures In Bread!

I finally pulled that sourdough bread out of the even. It smells AMAZING. But I will do the right thing and wait 45 minutes for it to cool to perfection before cutting into it. I used Peter Reinhart’s basic sourdough recipe from his book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” and my dad’s sourdough started that he started about a month ago.

Some of my process:

Starter from the fridge

My pre ferment pulled from the fridge to warm up a bit. As soon as I pulled it out and as I was kneading it I could smell the delicious sour flavor.

final dough fermenting

Raise my minion!

Dough before it ferments

shaped loaves

My shaping sucks =/

My batards after shaping. I still can’t get the skin tight enough so during the final proof they mostly ooze outwards instead up upwards.

loaves pulled from the oven

Mmmmm....

I had some problems with scoring the loaves before I put them in the oven. This dough is a lot denser than others I’ve done and my knife is cheap. That’s another thing to add to the list of things to buy when I finally have money. I don’t know why one got blistered on one side like that. I turned them halfway through. Unless when I turned them, they got pushed too far to the back wall. They smell amazing though. The crust seems nice and crunchy. Sigh… only 30 minutes before I can eat them.

 

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My New Sourdough Starter!

In his retirement, my dad has begun baking. Never has he been particularly interesting in any sort of cooking, much less baking. Not that I’m complaining, I love fresh bread, it’s why I make it myself. It’s just rather….strange.

But anyway! He’s been working on sourdough bread, something I haven’t had the time to explore, and when I went home for the weekend he gave me some of his starter 🙂 Later tonight I’ll get a loaf started and tomorrow I’ll bake it. I’ll post more of my process later.

sourdough starter

Mmmm... smell that yeasty goodness

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