Curiosity killed the Kate

The good life

Let’s talk about the magic of making small decisions that feel good. I’m having a day. A really good day. For a hundred relatively small reasons. I actually have my period, but I seem to be in reprieve from the toxic wasteland that my thoughts often turn into during this time of the month and I’m going to use this space to give way to my gratitude for the day.

A project I’d almost finished at work has evolved into something bigger. I was annoyed at first, but now I see that I’ve been given a gift to flex my creativity and I’m in love with the process of making something that is hopefully worthy of printing.

I decided not to be a total bum and offered up myself for a volunteer opportunity which I also used as an excuse to rope in some other coworkers, because yay friends.

I took Dorian, my car, in for an oil change and let them talk me into balancing and rotating my tires and new brake fluid. I had planned on saying no to any and all additional sales pitches, but he asked me about some specific car symptoms and sold me with his rationality so I feel responsible and pleased with the purchase. My car is hands down my favorite possession. It means freedom to me so it’s worth the bit of extra maintenance. On top of the new breaks I just got last week to pass inspection, in the six years I’ve had him he’s never driven smoother. We’re feelin’ fly as hell. Unstoppable. Maybe we’ll make it a couple more years.

I took 45 minutes to close my eyes and zen out because I haven’t been sleeping well. It was restorative.

Then I remembered to take out my garbage before I went to Target to get deodorant and look at skateboard helmets. No helmet yet, but I got sunscreen and a glass pitcher to make all of the sun teas and fun summery drinks and I’M SO STOKED!

I’m writing this from my floor pillows stationed next to my balcony with the door open so I can hear the birds chirping and kids screaming and cars speeding by while I eat the leftover chicken lo mein I made earlier this week and I’m so high on life. And you better believe I’ve got a mint peach blend slowly steeping out there to break in my new pitcher.

None of these things is particularly earth shattering, but it’s funny how simple and good life can be when I focus on simply making decisions that feel right. They add up.

I have pineapple and wine in my fridge and I remembered to buy chocolate earlier this week because I tend to crave it. It’s supposed to be a rainy weekend and I have plans to clean my apartment, start editing a book for someone, and meet up with some friends to exercise.

I’ve got photos from my trip to go through and I’m already dreaming of where I want to go next. Tonight I’ll spend some quality time letting my mind wander and appreciate where I’m at mentally and physically.

Life is good.

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April pricked me: a lesson in embroidery

You know that old saying, something about having to learn to walk before you can run? Yea. That’s a life lesson that never stuck with me and would probably make me a more effective human. I regularly get ahead of myself because I’m good at visualizing the end result, then I get all excited and tend to skip the basic steps to build a strong foundation for getting there…and by default, the end result tends to be a bit rickety. Sometimes a rickety outcome is all I need, I get a high from trying new things after all, but sometimes it’s cause for frustration. Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever burdened myself with. I’ve always been in the “good enough, on to the next” camp. But sometimes I could use a lesson in taking things a step at a time.

This month I decided to finally take a stab at embroidery. Pun intended. And I say finally because it’s something I said I wanted to try over two years ago, my parents humored me and bought me a few kits for Christmas, and I’m just getting around to trying it now. Better late than never, yea?

So I read some stuff on getting started and watched this video, decided I should probably practice stitches, but ultimately said “fuck it” and jumped right in to embroidering a cheap sweatshirt with zero game plan. At the risk of stating the obvious after all that build up at the beginning of this post, it was kind of a train wreck. Take a look. I actually don’t think it looks totally awful, but the placement is off and I feel kind of “meh” about the design as a whole, if you can call it that.

It’s a good thing I amuse myself because otherwise I’d probably be pissed off all the time at the amateur running my life who’s addicted to trying new things. Since altering and customizing clothing is one of my favorite pastimes I decided it was worth another go so I cut the leaf monstrosity out and started over.

You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to commit to an idea. But as a self-described overzealous word enthusiast who figured I could handle a simple back stitch, I went with the word giant. Random as fuck, right? All I can say is that the word giant has been speaking to me. Between Magic Giant the band, Roald Dahl’s BFG, the Iron Giant, and “there are giants in the sky” from Into the Woods, I’ve become somewhat enamored with the giant concept from a metaphorical standpoint that I can’t quite put into words.

It’s not great largely because I didn’t practice or prep it in any way and I free-handed it in the spirit of getting shit done before the end of the month. I still need to dot the i and if I’m being completely honest, I probably never will. Or it’ll be several years from now. Given all that, it doesn’t totally suck and I probably won’t rip it out right away. I may even wear it.

So, I think embroidery is pretty cool. I’ll probably like it more with practice and I think it’s something I might grow into. Fabric paint and ink is still my favorite medium, but this whole thread and needle thing’s got potential.

And with that, I’m very excited to announce that May is my month for SOLO TRAVEL. Dun dun Dun! Stay tuned for what I expect will be an epic adventure…largely in part because I’m so good at planning, committing to an idea and taking things a step at a time. Teehee

Being human

Being human is such a weird, wonderful, awful thing. We’re all just kind of renting space on this planet and we desperately, foolishly, try to stake our claim on each other, land, this, that, and the other thing to make us feel like we actually have some semblance of control over our limited time here. That these things give us weight, give us staying power, give us reason, give us meaning. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Deep down I think we all want to feel understood, to feel as if we belong, but life turns into this messy battle of finding how your wants and needs fit in with everyone else’s. If you’re lucky like I am, you’re born into the right tribe that fits you and loves you and grows you, giving you the foundation and confidence to expand that love outside of the tribe, to open up to new people and experiences. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.

In this chapter of my life I feel a deep sense of belonging that is maybe somewhat ironically coupled with a sense of isolation. I feel oddly in tune with the universe, like our energy levels match and I can trust in the uncertainty of the path I’m on right now. Oddly enough, I am comforted by the uncertainty, at least as I’m writing this. It’s fluid and flexible and full of possibilities which very much feels like home. Moving weeded out some of the excess in my life and I feel lighter for it. I think it’s made more room for me to grow. I have entered into a bit of a reclusive existence, not in any extreme way, but enough to truly value the people I allow into my life on a regular basis with enough space leftover to probably over contemplate my own existence. What a time to be alive!

I acknowledge and appreciate that my impact, especially at this moment, is fairly limited. And for the first time in my life that doesn’t make me feel sad or small or insignificant. I can create in relative obscurity, try new things without any real fear of failure and choose to learn whatever I want without the weight of anyone’s judgement because I must survive no one’s scrutiny but my own and who am I to judge? I suppose I’m staking a claim in this rented space of mine and carving out the world I want to live in. Mostly I’m just here to play. Join me.

 

March went postal

Happy Easter, fools. I am late with my March learning summary. So it goes.

Given the riveting nature of the postal service (the government branch, not the band), I will admit to a wishy washy commitment to this past month’s education, but I picked up a few nuggets of semi-interesting information and a refreshed perspective which I consider a win.

When I first conceived of this post, I anticipated my writing to be fairly snide, but I’ve since come to realize that given the era of instant technology in which we live, it’s incredibly easy to take the ability and agility at which we communicate for granted. And while no one would ever confuse me for a history buff, the evolution of the U.S. Postal Service is actually quite remarkable.

As transportation technology evolved, so did too the mail system. Planes, trains, and automobiles (not to mention horses and steamboats) revolutionized the movement of mail and played a vital role in bringing about American independence.

I’m trying to do this while watching Fixer Upper which tells you I’m super invested. I’m about this close to moving to Waco, Texas to remodel a cute Tudor style house that I can live happily ever after in. I was going to bullet some information, but honestly, I don’t believe it’s worth the time or the effort. So I’ll leave you with this: if you want to wet your whistle on the U.S. Postal Service, this is a great resource. 

I think April is going to be the month I try embroidery which I don’t believe was one of my initial ideas for the year, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to try and my parents gave me some kits a couple Christmases ago. Will keep you posted.

February Bake-off

I’m writing this from the floor in my kitchen with music blasting and a glass of wine next to me. I took a break from dancing around my apartment to tell you about my half-assed baking attempts this month. Buckle up, kids. I know you’re on the edge of your seats.

I’ve gotta say, baking just doesn’t excite me the way that cooking does. I’m not a precise person. Nor am I one to follow directions closely. That being said, I do enjoy getting my hands in some dough. I don’t know what it is, but getting messy is therapeutic for me whether it’s playing in the dirt or in the kitchen.

Anywho, let’s get into it! I didn’t bake as much as I would have liked for a month I intended to be devoted to such things, but I learned some shit which is kind of the whole point of this year of the unicorn ordeal. Here’s what I have.

Best thing I made: Lime Sugar Cookies
I followed the recipe linked above, mostly. A quick Google search gave me permission to replace the baking soda and cream of tartar with a teaspoon of baking powder. For as often as cream of tartar is called for in something I want to make (read: basically never) I didn’t want to run to the store for it if I didn’t have to. Fortunately in baking, according to the Google gods, when a recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tartar to be used together baking powder is a viable substitute, and is conveniently a more common substance in my cupboard. I also skipped the coconut and cream cheese in the frosting and added fresh lime juice instead. In hindsight I would have also added some zest to the frosting to really add that POW in-your-face lime factor. These turned out really well. I probably ate 5 or 6 or 8, ya know…to make sure they were good and test out the cookie to frosting ratio, then brought the rest in for coworkers. They seemed to go over well. They’re best chilled in my opinion.

Worst thing I made: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, I had high hopes for these cookies and was wildly disappointed. I made these the day of the Superbowl to bring to a party and the guys seemed to like them, but I was expecting and hoping for a soft chewy awesome cookie and ended up with an overly thick, somewhat crunchy cookie. Not ideal, especially since the whole reason to bother with an oatmeal cookie is for the chew factor. I will say the flavor was good, but the texture didn’t work for me. I’m assuming I made an error somewhere and the recipe may be worth trying again…but my personal quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie will continue…and the giant container of oatmeal I’ve had on my counter since the fall will have to prove itself useful in some other way.

Cheated with this: Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
I don’t have a link for this and I feel like including this is kind of cheating because it’s a hybrid cooking/baking meal, but it went in the oven TWICE so I’m including it. Plus, it was delicious. I got a mandolin for Christmas so any excuse to break it out is cause for excitement and this is a bit healthier than always making potato chips :) It starts with a sweet potato crust that par-bakes at 350 for 15 minutes and while that’s going down you saute some onion and garlic and spinach until thoroughly wilted. In hindsight I would have tried to squeeze out some moisture here, but it still turned out fine. This mixture gets dumped into the crust and then you beat 4 eggs together, pour that over the top, then top the whole thing with a mess of any kind of shredded cheese that makes your heart happy and throw it back in the oven for 30 minutes until it gets a bit crusty on top and the egg mixture is set. I liked this a lot. The sweet potato crust holds up surprisingly well and it even reheated nicely a few days later.

Second shoutout to these bomb blueberry muffins. Planning on making these again this week because blueberries were on sale and they’re amazing. I’m a sucker for anything with a crumble topping and the blueberry swirl is just killer.

Lastly, here’s a cake I’d like to make eventually. Maybe for my cinco de mayo birthday momma.

Also, these nutella swirl banana muffins are on my list to try.

With a day to spare, that brings us to March. I think this may be the month I do some research about the history of the US mail system. We’ll find out how riveting of a topic that is together.

 

 

January: Playing with food (and eating it too)

I decided since I conveniently have 12 topics of interest for the year that it makes sense to devote a month to each one, at least on here. I expect many of the topics will continue beyond a month, particularly the food ones, but it’s tough to resist a convenient breakdown. So I’m calling January the month of recipes!

I’m forever playing with food and browsing online for interesting meals, snacks, and baked goods to try. This month was a good one for kitchen experiments. You’ll notice a lack of photos. I don’t have the patience for food photography. I appreciate the chefs and bloggers out there that take the time and have the skill to focus on presentation, but I honestly just want to fucking eat. I’m the one snacking as I go while I make something and then impatiently waiting for it to come out of the oven only to burn my fingers and my mouth in my rush to taste the finished goods. No, you’re impatient.

Here is a sample of what I made this month linked to any recipes I followed along with my thoughts:

Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
This was surprisingly tasty. I never would have thought to combine cauliflower and mac n cheese, but it works. I riced my cauliflower using a food processor and then boiled it with the pasta. I liked not having large chunks of cauliflower, but knowing I was getting an extra serving of vegetables.

Pro tip: If you rice your cauliflower and then put it in a covered bowl in the fridge, it WILL smell like a battalion of babies shit in there. I made this mistake for you. You can thank me later. To avoid that, rice your cauliflower right before you cook it with the pasta or boil it separately right after you rice it THEN store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Boiling it eliminates the pungent cruciferous gas.

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
This was insanely delicious and so so simple. Highly recommend and will be making it again. I substituted rice vinegar for regular white vinegar because I had it on hand, served it over quinoa and added some steamed broccoli at the very end to round out the meal.

Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken
Does this even need to be discussed? Chicken, bacon, and cheese. If that’s not comfort food I don’t know what is.

Blueberry Swirl Muffins
If I could only recommend one recipe on this list, it would be this one. It’s the only item in this post I actually snapped a picture of. Easily the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had and the recipe is actually really fun to make. It also gave me an excuse to try out my new silicone muffin “tins” which worked flawlessly. Do yourself a favor and make these muffins.

Crockpot Carnitas
This. Is. Bomb. Ugh. I don’t often make the same thing repeatedly, but this has been an exception. I LOVE crockpot recipes and this one is just so delicious and easy. For the rub, I just use some olive oil, salt, pepper, and mixed italian seasoning mix. I like to take the finished shredded pork and make nachos. It’s also awesome to add to trashed up ramen noodles with some fresh veggies and an egg. Swoon.

Crockpot Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta
I’ve already made this a few times, including once for friends, and it’s a hit. I’ll eat cheesy pesto pasta any day of the week and the chicken just adds some extra substance. Don’t threaten me with a good time. The huge bonus here is that the crockpot does all the heavy lifting and store bought pesto (I used Wegmans) is the magic touch.

Gnocchi with Feta and Mushrooms
Not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but I have a bit of a love affair with pasta. This dish is super simple, delicious, and comforting. I only used basic white mushrooms and dried rosemary because I had it already, but I don’t think it loses any flavor.

Roasted Chickpeas
This is probably my least favorite thing on the list, but they grew on me the more I ate. I really love chickpeas/garbanzo beans rinsed right out of the can or with a little olive oil and some herbs. When they’re roasted the texture completely changes. Some get crunchy, some a little chewy and I feel like they don’t retain a ton of flavor from the seasonings, but maybe I just needed to use more? Who knows. It’s possible I’ll try to make them again, but I think my preference is still unroasted.

Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast
I didn’t follow a recipe for this. Today I happened to bring a crunchy peanut butter sandwich for lunch, but didn’t end up eating it because one of my favorite people gifted me a donut and then I lost interest in said sandwich. I know. Life is tough.
Well my lowly sandwich made the trip back home with me and I didn’t particularly want it, but I didn’t want to throw it out either. That’s when I was inspired to turn it into french toast! An egg, a splash of milk and vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon later and that peanut butter sandwich was feeling pretty sexy grilling in some butter. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar at the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to eat a sandwich the normal way again. I think using crunchy peanut butter was key, too, for adding texture and keeping the peanut butter from turning into a total melted mess. I would not eat my pb sandwich again just to have the excuse to make this.

I think I might continue on the food focused trend and make next month the science of baking…which is really just an excuse to make cake and cookies. Save me from myself while I have my cake and eat it too. Perhaps it will also be the month that I recommit to consistently exercising. Cheers.

The year of the unicorn

If you’re an observer of the blogosphere, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that it was pretty trendy for bloggers to choose their word of the year, something to base their intentions on. While I don’t consider myself a blogger anymore and this space has really turned into a personal catchall where I indulge my whims or neglect it for long periods of time, I appreciate any kind of wordplay, especially if it encourages substance.

So, for me? This is the year of re-schooling which I have fondly nicknamed the year of the unicorn because it’s more fun to say and there is magic in learning, especially learning for fun and mischief.

Why re-schooling?

Because there is so much I want to learn about still! Hopefully always. I never want to lose my curiosity. I want to investigate random shit for no reason other than I’m curious about it and want to know more. I was always a good student when I was in school and I’ve always been a solid employee, but I’m finding in my adult life that I am not great at showing up for myself and committing to personal goals and ambitions because I get tired and lazy and it’s easy to push off things I want to do because I’m not being held accountable by anyone but myself. But, no more wimpy excuses! I’m hoping that by learning new things and experimenting that I will keep growing and my journey will continue to be interesting. Plus, I don’t want to be a damn cog in someone else’s machine my whole life. I’ve got big ideas and an independent heart.

So! I’m sure this will evolve, but here’s a list of things I’d like to start with:

  • the science of baking
  • new recipes (I LOVE to play with food! and I already do this weekly, but I will continue to experiment)
  • clothing deconstruction and pattern making
  • the US mail system
  • how to use more power tools
  • Thoreau’s writings
  • Da Vinci’s inventions
  • existentialism
  • transcendentalism
  • traveling solo
  • poetry/creative writing
  • photography/videography

I may chronicle at least some of my adventures here as this space is sort of my own personal time capsule–open to the public, but not actively shared. If you’re reading, you’re welcome to join the adventure.