Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pinterest Attempt: Vegan Ice Cream & Ice Cream in a bag

Since I don't own an ice cream maker, this Pinterest Attempt was actually a combination of two different Pins:

Vegan Ice Cream from Handle the Heat
(pictures belong to the respective blog owners--mine didn't turn out pretty enough for photos!)

For ingredients, I used another recipe I had found (and lost after taking a screenshot!) for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  I added peppermint extract, maple syrup for sweetener, and vegan dark chocolate chips.

All in all, this was a fail.  I think it might have worked better if I had used a food processor and sugar instead of maple it was, it took forever for the ice cream to harden (much longer than the 5 minutes of shaking the Pin called for) and I got frustrated and stuck the whole thing in the freezer.

Besides that, the taste just wasn't quite what I was looking for.  I'm well aware that vegan ice cream probably won't be as tasty as regular ice cream, but I think the combination of coconut milk and mint was a bad choice.  It all tasted a bit like toothpaste.

Verdict: Another Pinterest fail!  This hasn't been a good month for Pinterest attempts...have you had any luck with yours?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pinterest Attempt: Banana Bread


For some reason, maybe it's the weather, but our bananas have been going "bad" (read: too ripe) before we can consume them lately.

No biggie, I found a recipe for banana bread and decided I'd whip up a batch and bring it to work to share.

Well, this was a comedy of errors before it even got started.  First, I pulled out all the ingredients and started getting everything ready, only to realize the recipe called for baking SODA and all I had in the house was baking powder.


So I put everything away, and the next day I picked up some baking soda on the way home and pulled everything out again.

But when I poured out the flour, I quickly realized that this wasn't going to work.  There was a little weevil in the flour!  I guess that happens with wheat-based items that have been sitting around for a little while.  (Lesson learned: I'm going to buy a sealable jar for my flour!)

So...everything got put away again and the next day I picked up some new flour on my way home.

FINALLY, yesterday, I pulled everything out and got to work.  I used this recipe that I found on Pinterest, which called for applesauce and honey instead of oil and sugar, which I thought was perfect since I'm always watching my fat intake and I'll take all the help I can get!

This is what the bread looked like in the Pinterest recipe:

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this recipe.  The banana bread baked up all pretty (I wish I had taken a picture of it, it baked up TALL with a nice round top) but the inside NEVER cooked, and the top eventually caved in.

Honestly, the recipe said to cook the batter for "60 to 65 minutes" and I must have kept that damn thing in the oven for 120 minutes.  Sure, the outside cooked, but the inside?  Nope.  Damn.

Pinterest fail!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stitch Fix Update: Color me impressed!

After airing my grievances on my blog the other day, I received a really nice email from Stitch Fix this morning.

They must have one KILLER PR team, because they found my blog post and referenced it in the letter!  They were very apologetic and offered to give me a credit on my next styling fee, and they asked me some questions about my style so they could better choose my items in the future.

I copied them the same very specific instructions I had replied to my original fix with, and I pinned some new things to my Pinterest, we'll see! I hope they can really wow me with the second box and keep me around!  I'll definitely keep everyone updated when my next Fix arrives in August.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My First Stitch Fix!

I was super super excited to get my first Stitch Fix.  I had to wait THREE months to get it, and I was freaking out while I waited.  I tried not to buy anything new, as I had specifically asked for a maxi dress and a statement necklace, and I was holding out for those!

My Stitch Fix was delivered today. My curiosity got the better of me and I snuck a peek at the Stitch Fix site while I was at work and realized that I could see the names of the articles I had been sent, but not a photo.

I held my breath when I saw the words "geometric" and the word "chevron."  Hold up...there it is again..."chevron."  Chevron twice?  Really?

The Stitch Fix stylists are supposed to look at your Pinterest boards to get a feel for your personal style, so I tried to push the bad thoughts from my mind.  "They're professionals," I told myself.  "They know what they're doing."

And then I came this:

If you know me at all, you'll notice right away that that specific color palette is NOT my style...not to mention, I don't really care for patterns.  But, okay.  This was put together by a stylist.  Who knows, maybe they know something I don't! Maybe it will look good on me!  So I pull everything out and, trying to stay optimistic, try it all on.

1. Pixley Laural Sleeveless Geometric Printed Maxi Dress

Gah, NOPE. I HAD asked for a maxi dress, and I already have one in black, so I was okay with a color (and pattern) except I was not a fan of this one.  It had a weird elastic waist that caused the back to ride up and wrinkle, the tiny geometric pattern called attention to EVERY imperfection, and the combination of high collar and thick straps made it just look frumpy.  Bigger girls like me need BIG patterns, not small ones, when it comes to maxi dresses. Bad move, Stitch Fix.  And they wanted $78 for this. I'm not above paying that much for a dress, but I'd have to really love it. Nope. Verdict? Sent back.

2. Pomelo Indiana Abstract Chevron Print Mixed-Material Tee

Don't mind the lines underneath this--I threw it on over a dress to see how it would look with a black skirt.  The answer? Bad.  The heather gray reminded me of a gym shirt, and the blue patterned sleeves were just busy and weird.  The worst part?  There was FOOD on the collar.  Gross, gross, gross. I guess that's the hazard that comes with getting previously-tried-on clothes. It WAS made of jersey cotton, which I love (well noted, stylist Cynthia!) but it wasn't enough to make me love the shirt as a whole. Verdict? Sent back!

3 & 4:

Kut from the Kloth Marquis Slub Knit Dolman Sweater 
Gilli Dawn Jersey Chevron Print Maxi Skirt

This COULD have been cute...but it wasn't.  The chevron skirt is just too busy (it makes me dizzy just to look at it! Maybe I should have mentioned to them that I have vertigo?) and the waistband was very strange--it really clung to my stomach and butt and was just not flattering.  Plus, the material was really hot.  I'm always hot as it is, so this wasn't going to fly.  Verdict? Sent back!

I considered keeping the top at first, but at $48 I didn't feel it was worth the price.  It looked too casual--like something you'd throw over a bathing suit while you're at the beach--and I knew I wouldn't wear it enough to justify that price.  If I wanted something like this, I could probably find it at Target for $, I hardly EVER wear white.  I'm okay with stepping out of my comfort zone, but this sweater isn't the piece of clothing that will get me to do that. Verdict? Sent back!

Gorjana Finn Open Teardrop Stud Earrings

It seems like they usually include one accessory in each Fix, and I was bummed to get these as mine. I was counting on a great statement necklace.  But, here's the thing: Stitch Fix charges you a $20 "styling" fee no matter what, BUT, if you buy something that they send you, you get to apply that $20 to that purchase.  Basically, if you don't use it, you lose it.
These earrings, at $40, were the cheapest item in the fix.  I'd have preferred something a little more fancy (maybe a chandelier earring) but they're okay. Verdict? Kept!

All in all, I was REALLY disappointed by my first Stitch Fix. You'd think they'd try to pull out all the stops to get you the greatest Fix so that you'd stick around, but nope. It seems that a lot of people have a terrible first Fix and they have to work with their stylist in order to improve them.  I wrote my stylist a LONG letter about what I'm looking for and what works for me, so hopefully my next Fix will be a lot better.  Like Birchbox and ipsy GlamBag, I'll give these guys three tries to get it right!  (And hopefully I won't wind up with three pairs of earrings that are "just okay.")

I'll be sure to blog about my next Fix!

If you like the sound of Stitch Fix and want to give it a try for yourself, please use my referral link!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pinterest Attempt: Honey Lime Taquitos with Cilantro Lime Cream

In addition to having a shit ton [this is an actual unit of measurement] of cucumbers coming out of our garden, we also have more cilantro than we know what to do with.

I don't know why I picked cilantro, honestly.  I've never been eating something and thought "you know what would taste great in this? Cilantro!"  It just sounded good at the time.

So now I've been pinning recipes that call for cilantro like crazy.  Here was the first attempt:

Honey Lime Taquitos with Cilantro Lime Cream

I grabbed this recipe from over at Julie's LovelyLittleKitchen blog, and I followed it pretty closely, except that when she shredded up some rotisserie chicken, I poached some chicken breasts instead.

(I'd never poached chicken before, so that was a little exciting.)

Also, her recipe called for green taco sauce and apparently our supermarket only stocks the red kind.

Her dinner came out a little prettier than mine:

The rolling of the taquitos was hilarious.  I really recommend using toothpicks to hold these suckers together after you roll them! I kept rolling them shut and they kept coming apart and spitting chicken onto the floor.  

You can find Julie's recipe here.  It came out really good, and I would make it again...although I'd use less honey and more lime juice next time, and maybe some cayenne pepper in addition to the chili powder.  It was just a touch too sweet as-is, and I couldn't taste the lime which is a problem because I LOVE lime.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our Jungle Garden

When Shaun and I first moved in, we were excited that we had a HUGE garden plot in the backyard.  We'd both dabbled very briefly in gardening (I grew some herbs on my windowsill, he grew tomatoes, jalapeños and eggplant in pots) and we couldn't wait to do things on a larger scale.

We stepped up to the challenge of this new garden the best way we knew how:  We divided it in half, tilled it, mixed in some fertilizer, and started planting!
Here's Shaun tilling the garden in preparation for planting!

We pretty much picked up anything that sounded good to us at the store.  There was no rhyme or reason: we didn't check which plants needed full sun, which needed shade, or when their harvesting times were.  We just went a little nuts.

Tomatoes, jalapeños, cucumber, squash, eggplant, zucchini, strawberries, green beans, corn, basil, spinach, cilantro, rosemary...we planted pretty much anything we could think of.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the garden is looking awesome.  We've harvested some cherry tomatoes, a few cucumber...I've done some pickling.  It's been fun.

Fast forward a WEEK later, and all of a's a literal jungle out there.

Has anyone seen Shaun? He said he was going to look at the garden, but I can't find him...

Needless to say, next year we'll keep up with weeding and mulching, and get some stakes for the climbing plants to climb up. (I had no idea that cucumbers and squash were climbers!)  We can't even walk around some of the plants!

We've had some nice harvest so far, though. I can't wait to see what else we get! Not bad for a first try.  I've been pinning recipes on Pinterest for days!  I'll share some here. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What is WattPad?

I've recently started using WattPad.

Here's the thing: I'm super picky about my writing.  I literally have boxes and boxes worth of old writing, as well as a huge folder filled with all my digital writing.

Out of all those pieces, how many actually see the light of day?  How many do I actually submit to magazines, literary agents, or contests?  Maybe 10.  Maybe.

The rest sits around collecting dust.  Sometimes I think maybe I should polish these up and try to publish them... but honestly it's such a huge undertaking that I've never done it.

Enter WattPad.

I just made an account and began publishing my first novel there, chapter-by-chapter.

No, not the most recent novel that I've been shopping around to literary agents and publishers--my real first novel.  The one I don't talk about.  The one that will probably never result in people calling Ladybird Adrift my "second novel."

Completed in 1998 when I was in eighth grade, Final Departure is the story of Jamie Munroe, a young girl who gets a more exciting summer than she bargained for when her friend Johnny goes missing.

If you miss jelly sandals, a world before cell phones, and that time when the internet was still a new and exciting invention, you might want to check it out. Link below!  The more views and comments I receive, the more quickly I will post chapters.

Final Departure by Alison Downs

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Writing Storybooks for Children

I found a Groupon for the course Writing Storybooks for Children.  Because naturally, taking a break from school means I have to get something else done, or else I feel like a slacker.


It must be nice to relax, but I'm not familiar with that sensation.

Anyway, I felt like it would be a good idea to take this course, since it gives you a certificate when you're finished (something to put on my resume, huzzah, even better!) and since my work-in-progress is a middle-grade novel.

By this point, I'm almost through with the course.  And I have to say that I'm not terribly impressed.  I've taken some notes, but overall, I'm not sure how this course (which was written in the UK) translates into American writing.  It feels a bit outdated and incorrect.  (For example, it keeps suggesting I write to publishers to request their submission guidelines...with no mention of checking their websites, and no mention of querying literary agents.)

I'm pushing through and getting what I can out of it, but, holy cow.  The Groupon was for 95% off, meaning the original price is somewhere around $500.  I would have felt so ripped off if I had paid full price!

That being said, if you are in the UK, you might get quite a bit out of the course.  But I'm not sure that I am!  I'll continue taking notes and trying to make the most of it, though.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You aren't a blogger if you don't blog!

I've been so bad about this updating thing.

June was crazy busy.  I'm taking a self-imposed break from school, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

For my birthday, Shaun & I went to Concord MA and did a literary tour.  We hit the town a little late so I unfortunately missed out on a few places, but I got to see some artifacts from Thoreau's house on Walden Pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is where a bunch of famous authors are buried, including Louisa May Alcott.

Yes, I realize this sort of thing is probably boring to most normal people.  But...well, I never said I was normal.

The day after my birthday we headed to the Eric Carle Museum because Norton Juster (the author of The Phantom Tollbooth) was giving a Q&A and a book signing.

Again, this is the sort of thing that is probably boring to most people.  Too bad.

I'll be checking in soon with my 30 by 30 list to see how I measured up.  I'm certain I didn't get to everything, but I did fairly well.  I can finish up the rest within the year, I think!