Stumped by release. #reverb14

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What unfinished projects from 2014 am you willing to release now? (Regret not required.)

I’ve been thinking about this one. I’m not sure that I’m willing to release anything, because I think that my problem is starting projects and not following through. Its more a time for me of holding things close to my chest. The projects that I’m working on now are my new blog that I’m trying to get off the ground, a proposal I’m building, and also working towards a set of future personal goals. Letting go right now is not what I need.

It feels like I must be missing a big bright flashing sign of THIS RIGHT HERE. LET THIS GO.

Maybe I’ll see it soon.

Certainty. #reverb14

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#Reverb14: Today, I invite you to take a quiet moment to consider: what can you say right now with certainty?

 

I can say that I firmly feel in the middle of my journey. I can’t see much of my beginning right now. I only cling to the memories of it so that I can compare them to my place in the world right now. There is so much further to go and I feel like any time I try to veer from the path because it is too difficult or boring or just plain exhausting, I am blocked.

I know for certain that I’ll attain my goals. The next 3 years will be full of momentum for me even as currently, I trudge up this hill. Work is necessary. Hard work and doggedness I can do.

I am not happy right now. Not to say that I am unhappy, but I am not satisfied. The desire for the things I have planned is making it difficult to maintain appreciation of the present.

I will achieve my goal.

OMG CAKES!

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So, Leslie, what have you been up to lately?

Hmmm? Me? Oh, nothing… JUST MAKING AMAZING CAKES.

What? Amazing cakes? I don’t buy it. Prove it. 

BAM!

Pink Lace Cake

Pink Lace Cake

POW!

Elopement cake

Elopement cake

BOOM!

Naked Wedding Cake

Naked Wedding Cake

BIFF!

Mini Cupcakes

Mini Cupcakes

BOP!

Mini Cupcakes

Mini Cupcakes

 

OH YEAH. I made ALL OF THOSE. I’m super proud, as you can probably tell.

They’re a step up from the one I made for a friend’s baby shower only a few months ago.

cherry blossom baby shower cake

cherry blossom baby shower cake

We joked that I would get better and feel the need to provide her with a nicer cake when her spawn turned one.  Can I do one now? She was just born, that’s cake worthy, right? UGH. Look at that disaster. It’s like looking at a drunk sorority girl- pretty, but a disaster.

Whoa. I don’t know why I just took out my cake annoyance on drunk sorority girls. Sorry ladies, you’re lovely. Colgate Whisps are a wonderful thing after you’ve finished puking in the bushes. You got this.

So, anyway, I’ve taken on a small naked wedding cake, due this weekend, as well as a large tiered square cake in October. I’ve been learning at work, taken a couple of classes on Craftsy, youtube is super informative and just sort of practicing on my own. It’s coming along damn well if I do say so myself.

The most difficult part is that I’m super critical of my work and stepping back to admire it as if it was someone else’s is tough. Learning is fun and I’ve really enjoyed playing around with cakes at home. I’m currently procrastinating cleaning my kitchen because I have a practice cake to put together and I have yet to decide what I’m doing with it.

 

An unintentional post about a brain

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I don’t feel the need to always write. I like to communicate, however, sometimes I just need to fold inward. A good amount of time, writing feels like putting myself on display. 

Summer has come and gone and come round again. Last October, I fell on my face and got a nasty concussion. I was out of work for 4 months. Its been 6 months since I’ve been back to work,  but I’m still not 100%. I get mentally drained easily. I’m not the same person I was. My head feels different than it did before. Head injuries are terrifying, and I am frightened that I will never be ME again. That that last little bit of me will be forever out of my reach. 

My head injury is my 4th concussion. I had another work related concussion in 2012. It was severe as well. Before that was a minor concussion from a car accident and one minor concussion from intramural wrestling when I was a teenager. They get worse each time. 

I’m at an increased risk for dementia now too. And other terrifying mental degenerative states. It wildly terrifies me, so I ignore it mostly. This is the first time that I am putting the words and the fear together in one place. 

I would tell people the truth, that its scary, that I’m at risk for more scary things down the road, but with my characteristic “meh, life is life. deal with it when it comes” tone and dismiss it.

But sitting down, typing this out…  I didn’t expect this to be a blog about my brain. I’m going to have to change the title. I meant to make this post about the coming optimism of canning through the summer. I meant to make it about a photoshoot that I got to do last night with a friend. But now, its about my fear and my brain. 

I get headaches now, if I do too much. I’ve been training a gentleman at work and he’s a nice man, but he is slow and doesn’t retain information well. My boss finds him too slow and they’ve moved him to my shifts because I am a much more patient person. I’ve tried to get him to write things down. He doesn’t understand that its as much for me as it is for him. 

I’ve gotten my brain to recall recipes and methods of prep, but its been a slow and painful process. I’ve worked very hard to make quick progress, so that my employers still find me valuable and worth their effort. I feel that I’ve succeeded for all that I’ve lost a lot of my cheerfulness that they appreciated before my injury. I’m much more surly now.

In all that, training this one man who stubbornly refuses to write down things that he WILL NOT RETAIN is making my tenuous grasp on my neurological success fail. I have to teach and reteach things every time we work. This makes my brain work harder, which means that niceties are the first things to go, which means that he doesn’t want to learn from someone who can’t help but talk to him like he’s stupid. Writing things is as much for his sake as mine because this means that instead of answering the same question for the 20th time, I can ask “did you write it down?” I’ve also taken to staring at him until he figures it out on his own, because he is aware that he should know the answer.

I have some compassion, but he’s breaking my brain, and I have no compassion for that. I cannot allow one person to ruin my progress. Since he started working with me, I have started to have headaches, I’ve found myself sensitive to noise again, and light, I’ve found it more difficult to maintain conversations and generally be a functional person.

The reason I complain about him in particular is that we have another person training and he is adroit. He is an ambitious cook and will be a chef soon from what I can see from his machinations. This man also a funny, bright personality that is a delight to be around.  He does not make my brain work harder. He is there to learn and he does. 

I haven’t had mental setbacks for a while and for them to crop up now is frightening. Me scared equals me worrying which makes my brain hurt. Having to constantly work my mind makes my brain hurt.

When I say “brain hurt” I do not mean I have a headache. I mean that I feel a fog come over my abilities to think and reason, and my ears don’t ring, but they hurt as if they’ve been ringing for days and plugging them so that I can swim in the sound of my pulse is heaven, my eyes are relieved to my soul when I close them, and all I want in the world is just a cool dark place of nothingness to bask in so that I don’t have to sort through feelings of pain, confusion, anger, etc when I KNOW that I should not be feeling those things in relation to the problem at hand because its really just a small problem, but feels so damn insurmountable that I can’t function. 

THIS is what it is like to lose myself. To know that I used to be a person that handled things. That would be okay no matter what. Now I HAVE to lean on others no matter the discomfort it causes me because I cannot BE ME anymore because I’M NOT THERE. I am, but I can’t reach that last bit of me that just stays out of reach. 

I mostly okay. I’m like 80% better, which makes most days feel like I’m 100%. But if it’s been a tough week, or I’m under stress and have little sleep, then my brain hurts and I fall into the fog. 

Thanks for riding with me through the ramble of feels and such. This is the first time I’ve acknowledged it all at once. I cried, you cried, actually, you probably didn’t cry because you don’t have a broken brain. But, it was good for us. High five for making it through. 

What to do on your day off?

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I have had a really hard week at work. It’s wedding season and our new hire quit. Really, despite the time it costs me, it’s a very good thing. We’re all glad she’s gone. However, since she quit, I’ve had to work on one of my days off. So YAY for cramming all my ToDo into one day.

Josh bought some cucumbers from the farmer’s market since ours aren’t ready yet. He’s going to surprise me with a new thing to can every week. We’re both stoked about it.  I got my new book, Put ’em Up, and proceeded to tab almost every recipe (I skipped the cantaloupe and mushrooms, ’cause ew.)

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Since he brought me cucumbers, I flipped to the cucumber section (the book is organized by produce! BRILLIANT.) and realized immediately that there was no question. Bread and Butter Pickles it would be.

First, admire your produce.

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It’s really gorgeous and from a wonderful local farm. Cut up your cucumbers and onions according to the recipe. I like thick coins, so I sliced mine a bit larger.  Layer them with half a cup of salt in a bowl, then top with ice. Let it sit for two hours.

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Wait. TWO HOURS? Uuuuuuuughhh. What am I going to do with TWO WHOLE HOURS while I wait for the freakin’ cucumbers to be done? Well, I mixed up my vinegar, water, sugar, salt, turmeric, pepper, mustard and celery seed. Okay. One hour fifty-nine minutes to go.

Well, my best friend’s birthday is also today. Alright! Let’s make a cake.

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Cool. That took about 10 minutes to throw together and now it’s in the oven.

Now that I’ve used a bottle of white vinegar, I can make my fabric softener and pour it back into the neat bottles. I found the glass bottles of vinegar on sale at Grocery Outlet so I bought a bunch because I just really like the way they look. Having my fabric softener in a mason jar wasn’t really the most tidy way of dispensing it either.  So, BAM. Fabric softener made!

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I had a little left over that didn’t fit in the bottles, so I did a load of laundry. Go me! I’m so productive. Oh. I should do dishes since I just made cake, pickles and fabric softener. UGH. FINE. Dishes accomplished.

Okay, now that that’s out-of-the-way, I realize that I feel really crowded in my kitchen. I notice that I have yet to find a place to store my jars for canning. OkeeeDokee. Off to organize the pantry! I keep it relatively organized to begin with but I hadn’t tidied up in a bit and I moved some non-essential boxes to the harder to reach lower shelves. Now there’s plenty of room to fill the pantry with LOTS of canned goods and I have spots for the unused jars too.

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At this point, C.J. was about done with my forgetting to feed her, so she gave me her very best “FEED ME BECAUSE I’M CUTE” face. Forgive the dirty floor, sweeping is done last cause I’m messy.

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So now, we’re at a point that the cakes are almost done, the pickles have a way to go, but I decide to sterilize my jars, or at least start the process. 20130801_122216

Go ahead and make fun of my tiny stove. I make it work.  So while that’s going, I look for my cake decorating and canning boxes. I have an obsession with the black organizer boxes since I put all my art supplies in them two years ago. I can always find things, I don’t end up with a junk drawer, and its tidy looking. Plus, with my love of color, it’s a nice way to put a neutral in the space. The problem is that I bought the boxes, filled them, and then didn’t label them because I’d have to cause a bit of a ruckus with my tv since its sitting on the box with my labels in it. So, next best thing? Stopgap! Post it notes and marker. I labeled my boxes so I don’t have to open every single one.

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The bottom one is my canning box. Let’s get the countertop ready. I filled in the labels, laid down a kitchen towel and pulled out the tools I need. Also, this all looks very cute together. I planned this (I didn’t plan this).

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I still have a bit of time to kill so I remembered that I’ve had this soap dispenser project that I wanted to do, so out came the mason jar, soap pump and power drill. C.J. found this stressful and hid in the bathroom. She was pleased, though, that it turned out so well. She’s generous that way. Oh, I also had to buy new spices for the pickles, so I had to make new labeled jars. So I’ve been painting the chalkboard paint on every so often.

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Okay! Time to get to work. Boil the brine for the pickles, drain your cucumbers and rinse them well. Pour vegetables into the brine, bring to a boil. Ladle into jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headroom and wipe the rims with white vinegar. Apologies for the blurry picture.

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Cap them and then put them in your water bath. They process for 10 minutes and rest for 5.

I made a banana cake for Lori, and was trying to make cream cheese icing for it. The cheese was previously frozen though and I think that affects it greatly. I’m dismayed by the somewhat grainy texture of my frosting. It may just have to be regular buttercream icing, since I have that sitting around.

Pulling the cans out of the waterbath is neat. Almost immediately, they started pinging. So, that’s all done. I just have to wipe them down, label them and then share them with my friends and coworkers who have NEVER HAD BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES. I assume that’s because no one loved them when they were children. Poor souls.

Anywho. I need to get the clothes in the dryer, and build a cake. Oh, and shower.

Toodles!

Now on to food!

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In preparation for the garden, Josh bought me a pressure canner and a food dehydrator.

I’ve been going out of my mind with excitement over the new cooking things I get to try. I’ve found the most glorious of canning blogs and she posts things about other methods of food preservation every once in a while.  Today, I am dehydrating watermelon, because, WHY NOT?

Say hello to the pretty dehydrator!

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Holy crap! You grew up so fast!

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Yeah, I’m showing off its size. It also has two mesh trays and two fruit leather trays. Hello, watermelon. Are you ready to be dehydrated?

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So start by cutting the rind off. I prefer doing this before I cut the watermelon into pieces because I’m not an idiot who likes to make more work for herself. Cut off both ends and then just slice down the sides, following the curve of the melon. I cut it in half and then quartered the halves, slicing the quarters about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.

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Then I filled the trays, and saved a quarter of the melon for Josh, because he was not willing to allow me to dry his watermelon if he didn’t get any fresh. I bargain with food. Set it for 135 degrees and let it go.

 

 

 

 

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I’ll post pictures when it’s done.

The other project I worked on today is learning how to decorate using buttercream. I work in the pastry department of a really wonderful resort and I want to be of use decorating. So, I went to Michael’s and bought a piping kit. It was a fantastic deal with coupons and had all sorts of things I needed, and a few I didn’t. I made buttercream this morning and started building with the cakes I had in the freezer.

I didn’t take pictures of the process, but I learned how to make shells, ropes, roses, rosebuds, leaves and c-swirls.  This is my first rose!

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A few times I dropped my roses, or went to place them and they said “nope” and landed on their sides. That is why the top of the tiny cake looks the way it does.

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If you look carefully, you can see the two NOPE roses laying on their sides, and the champion rose is on top.

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Ooooh, pretty.  Okay, on to my square cake. Here you see the shells on the outside, ropes on the inside and the c-swirls for the flower spray.

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After that, I just placed some roses and then made a few buds with leaves.

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By the way, neither of my cakes are entirely smooth. That is for a few reasons. One is that I didn’t have the best paper towel for the purpose. Two is that I messed up that center bit on top of the cake and said “fuck it, this is for practice purposes.” Three is that I really didn’t care that much. It was about the piping, not the smoothing.

So there you have it. My first attempt at decorating a cake.

Apparently, I’m pretty good at this.

You say “Tomato”, I say “HERE LIES THE CARCASS OF A DEAD FISH!”

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More about the garden!

We finally got the tomatoes to a point that we felt comfortable planting them. I put them outside a few weeks ago and it shocked them a little too much, so we brought them back in and gave them worm tea and they went crazy.

So we both had the same day off (SHOCK!) and so we decided to work outside a bit.

Here’s the garden on the 5th.

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This is what it looked like when we were done yesterday.

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WOW! Look at all the growth in only 20 days!

Well, it’s impressive to us anyway. We’re like little kids peeking through the stairs at christmas. We check it every day and give each other status reports. It’s all very exciting and I know you’re envious. It’s fine. You can be.

Planting the tomatoes was a task we had been preparing for. I have collected one fish worth of bits and one sunday’s breakfast worth of eggshells from my work. Josh watched me do this with a varying degree of concern for my sanity as I claimed that “Pinterest TOLD ME TO!” and “I found a blog through pinterest and it said this is how to get the best tomatoes!”  He lovingly shrugged and scooped up all the soil we had previously laid down for that bed and even dug a little further for the fish to be given a proper burial.

I laid the fish out carefully (read: chucked it while giggling) and announced “I must take a picture!” So I ran inside, washed my hands and when I came back the fish bits had mysteriously been spread out more evenly through the bed.

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We covered the fish lightly and then I dumped the eggshells over the top.

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We laid out the tomatoes according to type and Josh put a stake next to them and gently tied them to the stake. He did this because even though he has larger hands than me, I managed to break any tomato I tried this with. I am a failure at tomato bondage.

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Also, Josh assures me that singing classic rock to the tomatoes will make them grow better.

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We had too many tomatoes for one bed, so I put the Pink Ladies where the celery decided it didn’t want to grow, and the Black Brandywine with the tomatillos and brussels sprouts. Anyway, I didn’t take pictures of the rest of the process because it involved me gently covering all the tomatoes with dirt while Josh put worm poop on all of our other plants.

We rewarded ourselves with two strawberries.

They were, of course, delectable.