Archive for October 2009

pumpkin bread for the soul

October 30, 2009
So let me just start this with “OH MY JEEZUS, THIS PUMPKIN BREAD TASTES AMAZING!” As I said, I bought a pumpkin at the farmers’ market so I could try to make some pumpkin bread.  I have never made pumpkin bread before, but I found what looked like a good recipe given the 2,971 great reviews and 5 stars that it had.  It was called Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread.  You can click the link to see the original recipe, but I made a few changes based on a few of the reviews, and I am going to share the final recipe that I used.

 Ingredients for Bread:

  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

 Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour three 7 x 3 inch loaf pans
  2. In large bowl, mix pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, oil, applesauce, water, brown and white sugar until well blended.  In a seperate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended.  Pour into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in preheated oven.  Loaves are done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.

I waited all day for Dan to get home with the cloves and ginger that I needed, but then I realized I had a pumpkin, not pumpkin puree.  

Pumpkin  

  Thanks to the power of the internet, I figured that out pretty quick.  There’s not too much to it.  All you do is cut the pumpkin in half, remove all of the seeds and stringy stuff, and then put each side in a pan with 1 cup of water.  Then you bake it at 350 degrees F for about 90 minutes or until the pumpkin is very melty (not really the term I want, but it’s easy to scoop out with a spoon).  Then you scrape out the insides, stick them in a blender or food processor and puree, and wala!! You have pumpkin puree. 

Pumpkin Halves 

Puree 

 After I made the pumpkin puree, I called in my assistant to help me follow the recipe and mix all of the ingredients together.  She did a great job… watching from the floor… but she was especially helpful during cleanup.

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So all of the ingredients were mixed per the instructions and the batter looked and smelled delicious!  I admit that I had a small taste of it before it was in the oven — I couldn’t help it.  I had to keep the bread in the oven for longer than 50 minutes, but not too much longer and it gave me time to warm up my glaze.

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I made a glaze to put on top of the pumpkin bread.  It consisted of butter, cinnamon, and lots and lots of sugar.  I had a bit of the bread when it was done, and it is 100x better with a glaze than without.  My glaze was pretty crappy since I don’t really know how to make it and I didn’t take the time to look it up, but even though it was chunky, it still did the job.  Next time I’ll probably put a little more effort into it.

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The recipe made three loaves, and a lot of the reviews said that they froze very well.  I plan on sending Dan to U of M with one of the loaves, freezing one of them, and then we will continue picking at the one that we have already eaten over half of.  I’m assuming it will be gone by tomorrow afternoon.

Anyway, in conclusion, this is the best pumpkin bread I have ever had in my life.  It has to be.  I mean, I just stayed up until 2:15am ranting and raving about it.

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i feel like a princess with all of this special treatment

October 28, 2009
Yesterday I went in for my first curly cut (also known as a Deva cut).  I have grown up like a lot of curly haired women: hating my curly hair and wishing every morning that it was straight.  Since August 2009 I have strictly followed the Curly Girl (CG) method and have been working on learning to work with nature rather than against it.  Basically, the method requires that I accept that my hair is curly, be willing to embrace it, and rid myself of any hair products with any silicones and sulfates.  If anyone wants more information on it, Laura Lee has a great explanation in her blog “The College Curly“.
 
I actually really like my hair curly.  I admit it took me a couple of weeks to see the light at the end of a tunnel filled with dandruff, awful hair days, and oily roots.  I’m not really sure how I continued to stick with it (I usually drop things like that about 3 days in) but I think I was frustrated.  Straightening my hair takes up a lot of time, leaves my hair looking dead with awful split ends, and if it comes in contact with even a drop of rain, it is a frizzy mess.  Plus, even though it would like nice at first, after 4 hours it would just be laying flat on my head.  That’s not really my favorite look.
 
So, to make a long story short, my hair is now in its natural state.  But, even though I started the CG method, I never got a haircut appropriate for it.  My hair has had a nice curl to it, but it has had little curls sticking out all over the place and has just kind of looked funny to me — especially the back.  Below, you can see a  picture of me and my hair before my haircut.
 
Pre haircut

BEFORE

I was actually lucky enough to get a same-day appointment with East 42nd Street Salon in Minneapolis!  I went in at 3pm and left there at 5pm.  My haircut took 2 whole hours.  Two hours.  I walked in, my hairstylist (I think his name was Styles? I called him Kyle — oops) asked me a bunch of questions about what I didn’t like about my hair, what I did like, and what I wanted to change.  It was very different from the typical “describe the look that you want” line of questioning I’m usually confronted with.  He did ask me about length, but when I started saying I wanted curls framing my face he stopped me, told me to slow down, and asked me some more questions about my hair as it is rather than how I wanted it to be. 

When he finally started cutting, he literally went curl by curl.  It probably took him 20 minutes to get through the bottom layers of my hair.  CURL BY CURL!!  I don’t know if I can accentuate that enough here.  I have a lot of curls on my head.  Because he didn’t wet down my hair, he saw how each curl laid on my head and how it laid in relationship to the others.  He also showed me that there’s a specific place in each curl that you have to cut so that it can still grow without looking choppy and weird.  As he said, “You have to cut it where the curl begins”.  By the time he finished going through all of my curls, my hair actually looked pretty nice.  It was pretty flat since it was handled so much, but the shape was great because there weren’t any weird hairs sticking out everywhere. 

I got my hair washed after the cut so that we could see how it would look after it dried and he could do any final alterations to it.  It was pretty nice — he walked me through how I should be washing, drying, and applying product in my hair.  Then I sat under a dryer for awhile (it took forever – my hair is really thick) and we went over my hair again. 

To be honest, I wasn’t that crazy about it.  My hair was flat and less curly than in the picture above.  The dryer kept it from being frizzy, but it still wasn’t that great.  The overall shape of the haircut looked good though.  Even though I left with crappy, flat hair (due to him handling it again so much after it was dry, the dryer, or his method of putting stuff into my hair), I still had high hopes.  Those high hopes cost me $45.

Today, I completely disregarded everything he taught me regarding washing and drying because it left me with gross hair.  The results:

 AFTER

I really love it! I don’t think I’ll be getting a “regular” haircut ever again.  $45 is worth a great haircut, and what’s even better is that it’s very low maintenance and I don’t need to go in to get another cut for 3 – 6 months. 

The best part?  Styles (.. or Kyle) is also a dance instructor at a nearby dance studio.  He gave me his card, and he’ll be teaching me and Dan a little dancing!  WOO HOO!!

the saint paul farmers’ market

October 25, 2009
Dan and I are fortunate enough to live next door to one of the many Farmers’ Markets in the twin cities area.  We usually sleep in on weekends and don’t get up in time to get to the market, but today we made it over there at about 11:30am.  As we walked the aisles, we were inspired to make a beef stew.  Lucky us – this was probably going to be the last weekend for a lot of the vegetable vendors. 
 
We found carrots, onions, potatoes, and celery for our stew.  We also got a small pumpkin so we could make pumpkin bread and some wheat bread for us to use for sandwiches.  As with all of the Farmers’ Markets I’ve been to, there were at least 10 vendors with the same types of vegetables, and there were also 3 or 4 stands selling meat.  I got to talking to one vendor, and he alluded to a cheese stand being somewhere, but we never found it. 
 
Overall, the Farmers’ Market was pretty nice.  There wasn’t really anything unique or hard to find (except some cute decorations made in tiny pumpkins), but maybe all of the special stuff stays indoors when it’s 45 degrees out. 
 
Photo courtesy Saint Paul Farmers Market

Photo courtesy Saint Paul Farmers' Market

The stew we made turned out to be fantastic.  We’ve never done it before, but I am definitely glad that I kept the crockpot despite Dan’s whining about how unnecessary it is.  He’s right, we could get by without it, but it makes such delicious foods!  Aside from the vegetables and meat, I added water, beef stew seasoning, and beef broth. 

Our beef stew

Our beef stew

I’m excited to try to make some pumpkin bread! I hope it ends up tasting as good as I’ve been dreaming about.

what… why… this place doesn’t make any sense

October 24, 2009

I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone or something.  Everything here in Minnesota looks like it did in Michigan, but… it doesn’t make any sense.

  • Last night Dan and I looked for a place to eat at about 11pm.  We decided to check out Applebees, and there were people literally lined up outside the door.  Since when is Applebees the best place in town?
  • We looked for a Chinese Buffet tonight.  We stopped by a place that looked like it would be okay to eat, and the line was about 30 people long.  The line was routed through the restaurant as thought that kind of traffic is a regular occurance.
  • We found a china buffet eventually, but it was extremely expensive (as we found out upon receiving the bill).  $30 for two people?  WHAT?!
  • The chinese places here don’t seem to have crab cheese or crab rangoon.  There is no crab to it.  It is filled with cream cheese and cream cheese alone.
  • Leeann Chin is a fast food place here that seems to be everywhere.  The food is very very subpar.  I would prefer Panda Express to Leeann Chin. 
  • The China Buffet we went to was stocked with crab legs.  Nobody was eating them.  Their bin stayed full.  I ate a few and found that they were actually pretty good, but I felt weird for getting them.  What kind of place makes a person feel weird about eating the crab legs?

I was liking Minnesota, but now I’m not too sure.  And speaking of china buffet…

Dan and I have been joking about how much money he will be making in a few years.  I have been saying that, as soon as that day comes, I will quit my job and he will just give me a weekly allowance that I can go shopping with.  He always gets bitter and always tries to play it off like I am joking, but he’s never 100% sure if that’s the case.  I will never tell the truth.

At the china buffet today, Dan got two fortunes in his fortune cookie.  They read as follows:

“You will be a great success – both in business and socially”

“You will advance socially, without any special effort”

Mine?:

“Your financial outlook is great at this time”

 Looks like the fortune cookie writers are on my side!  I can’t wait for financial security in the form of Dan’s weekly $1000 contribution to my shopping funds.

WANTED: friend for lonely michigander. must have sense of humor, exceptional hygeine, and appreciation of animals. emotional baggage will not be tolerated.

October 22, 2009

I haven’t slept well lately, and I wish I had a good reason why.  I have gone to bed between 1 and 2 in the morning, but have been waking up before 8am.  I drag through the day, and then I try to go to sleep at 10pm and I can’t.  I take my grouchy-tired attitude out on Dan, lay in bed, and don’t fall asleep.  After an hour or two of that, I will get up and get on my computer.  Then I fall asleep at 1 or 2am and do it all over again the next day.  It’s becoming a cycle.

Perhaps I don’t expend enough energy during the day?  Today was the first day I did something.  I cleaned the apartment and ran some errands.  My body felt like it was hit by a bus by the end of the day.  It’s weird to me how, when I have all of the time in the world to do whatever I want, I choose to just sit here.  Now is optimal time for me to learn a hobby or learn to use my sewing machine.  I’ve been aching to do some art lately, and the time doesn’t get any better than this.  I could even read a book !  I have been putting off reading for the last four years because I have been “too busy”.  I don’t really have an excuse any more now that college is over and done.  Either way, my body is spent after getting in the car and stopping at a few stores, and that’s something to be ashamed of. 

I’m also interested in finding some clubs or organizations around here for me to join in order to help me make some friends, but I am hesitant to join anything until I know what my work schedule is like.  I’m not sure if that is a legitimate excuse or if I really am just trying to put it off.  It’s just strange to me that I’m here and I don’t know anybody around me.  I’ve met a few neighbors and people in the park, but it has only been in passing and nobody has really struck my interest enough to begin a good conversation.  Everyone that lives around here seems to be over 30 years old, and while we have things like the weather and the area in common, they don’t get my jokes and I don’t get theirs.  What’s a friendship without jokes?

Well, I guess I made a pseudo-friend.  I met one woman at the dog park a few days ago who was very friendly and was easy to talk to.  She also had a playful pitbull that would have made a good doggie date for Prandtl.  Turns out I got a “crazy” vibe from her when she started dropping huge issues in her life and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.  Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.  And then her dog ruined my new coat.  I left without looking back. Now I go to the dog park in fear that she will be there waiting to strike up another one of her “crazy” conversations.  I’m not one to look forward to meeting with people with more emotional baggage than they can carry on their own, or at least I’m not this early in the game.

Aside from the people, I am comfortable with the area and actually enjoy it.  I suppose I shouldn’t be so impatient with getting to know everyone around me, but I enjoy going out with friends and making new ones, so it’s kind of hard for me to adjust.  If nothing else, I am thankful that Dan is here to keep me company and I am relieved that he hasn’t gotten on my nerves because we spend so much time together.  Score 1 for a clingy relationship!

I am hopeful that the people that start working with me at Delta will be young and approximately my own age.  I also hope that they are friendly and not workaholics.  I hate it when people have so much focus on their computer that they can’t give any real people around them the time of day.  I will forever be an advocate of in-person or telephone interaction versus e-mail.  I also hope that the people I will be working with will share these ideals.

Ah well.  I guess I just need to suck it up and stop whining.  Moving to a new place is hard, but it’s something people do all of the time.  This isn’t my first time moving to a new place and not knowing anyone (that was college) and it certainly won’t be my last.

the lucy – prandtl showdown

October 19, 2009

Prandtl was egging Lucy on today, and I wanted to see what would happen.  She does it all of the time, and I wanted to see her learn her lesson.  I caught it on video and made this silly movie out of it.  Enjoy.

our beautiful weekend

October 18, 2009
Since I have gotten here to Minnesota, everyone keeps saying that the weather has been “unusual”.  They tell me that snow and temperatures below 40 are strange and don’t typically happen around this time of year.  This weekend I was lucky enough to see the type of weather that is expected around this time of year. Sunny, a little breezy, and 50. Beautiful.Saturday, since it was still a little cold, I headed out to the Saint Paul skyway to get a better look at what stores were around.  The skyway has all kinds of shopping along it, and I found a neat shop that I want to visit called the Fun Sisters Boutique.  Unfortunately it’s only open the third week of every month (WTF?) so I don’t think I will get the opportunity to shop there since I will be working by the time it is open again.  Additionally, since things along the skyway are only open  during the working week between 9 and 5pm instead of late at night or on the weekends like normal stores, I won’t get the opportunity to shop there for a long, long time.  Very disappointing.  I did find a Macy’s though and bought a cute new sweater dress, some ankle booties, and flat leather boots.  Tres chic.

Saturday night, Dan and I went to 101 Dalmations the musical.  I will admit that I was a little skeptical at first.  I have been craving to go to a musical, but 101 Dalmations, to me, didn’t sound like my cup of tea.  But, because the tickets were free (courtesy of Dan’s aunt and uncle that couldn’t make the show), we went.  After a 45 minutes of driving around, getting lost, trouble finding parking, and getting booted out of a parking garage because we didn’t have cash, we made it and were only 5 minutes late.  We didn’t miss a thing.

The show was great.  The singing was fabulous.  The sets were impressive.  Overall, it was just a really fun experience.  There were real dogs in the show too, but they didn’t make as big of a presence as I had hoped that they would (they were probably only on set about 10 whole minutes).  I even ordered a rum and coke during the intermission.  The bartender filled the glass full of rum and added only enough coke to give it a light brown color, and Dan and I couldn’t help but giggle about it.  Dan actually bought an extra coke because he didn’t think I would be able to handle it.  He was right.  Thank God for having a boyfriend that knows me.  And, because I’m a lightweight, I was a little bit drunk by the time that the show was over.  It wasn’t a bad thing though — the jokes only got funnier.

Today, Sunday, Dan and I went to an apple orchard that is only about 20 minutes from here called the Pine Tree Apple Orchard.  I guess I didn’t realize that orchards were more for parents and their small children, because Dan and I were surrounded by 3 – 12 year olds running around and their respective parents running after them.  I wanted to pick some apples, but apparently that wasn’t allowed.  And, although we wanted very badly to buy pumpkins and carve them, we realized we had no place to put them when we were carved since the view out of our windows was only a brick wall.  Dan did find his dream pumpkin though, and because he was so excited about it I told him that we could get it anyway.  We didn’t want to lug it around, so we tried to hide it in the brush so nobody else would take it: 

Pumpkin Hiding
Pumpkin Hiding

 We walked the corn maze, looked at more pumpkins and apple trees, and went shopping and bought apple cider, apple pie, cinammon ice cream, pure maple syrup, and apples, stopped at an antique store, and then headed home.  Unfortunately we left that perfect pumpkin in our hiding spot.  Poor little pumpkin.  I hope somebody finds it and gives it a home.

Beautiful days really encourage me to get out and do fun things.  I hope to have more days like this so I can stop sitting around the apartment wasting space.  It’s not as fun as it sounds.