January

January is a tough month. It’s long, for one thing, all 31 days of it, and for another, if you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do, it’s cold and dark and wet. You know you should be grateful for the rain, because that means snowpack in mountains, which will mean fewer summer wildfires fires, and a lush, verdant, and green spring. If you were raised partially pagan like I was, you also know all about Solstice and how the light will always return, literally and metaphorically. You know that you’ll eventually sit on your porch again like you did last summer, reading until 9 or 10, listening to the distant sounds of the county fair twenty blocks away that carried over the hill into your little valley and onto your porch.

You know all this, and yet, January still just sucks sometimes.

I’ve had three panic attacks this week and I have no idea why. If you’ve never had one, imagine feeling terrified for no good reason. Your heart starts racing. It’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to concentrate, and you’re pretty sure you’re dying. You can’t remember not feeling this way. And you would do anything to get out of it.

And yet, the only way out is through it, the only way out is to talk yourself down, again, and again. To breathe. To get other people involved, other people who will hold your hand and remind you that you’re not dying. And, you know, prescription drugs. Ducking out of the crowded movie theater to fish a pill out of your purse and swallow it with a sip from a drinking fountain.

And then, eventually, it’s over. But you’re tired. You’re still amped up. You’re worried for days, weeks, months, your whole life, that it’s lurking. That it’s going to strike again and you won’t know when.

It gets better, of course, and the more you understand about it, the less scary it becomes. It gets easier the more tools you put in your toolbox, the more breathing exercises you learn, the supportive people that you allow yourself to depend on, the more doctors and counselors you find. You make it work. You make it fit into your life, like it or not.

But still. It just sucks.

I was tired yesterday, and worried about my anxiety coming back, so I tried to stay busy, which I guess is the one plus side to anxiety: I get shit done.

One thing I did, and something I like to do to relax and recharge, is to cook. I made zucchini noddles, which is something I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. The premise is that you cut zucchini (or carrots or some other veggie) into long, thin, strips, and then use it to replace pasta.

I was a little skeptical, but they were delicious! They’re not a perfect facsimile for pasta, but they’re surprisingly close, and really filling. And they’re way healthier than actual pasta (and in a “literally-just-eating-veggies way”, not an “Organic-Evaporated-Cane-Juice” way.)

Here’s the recipe I used–it was great, and really simple, but there are also a ton of zucchini noodle recipes so if you find a better one, use it! (And let me know about it.)

I also used my brand new Zyliss julienne peeler which achieved what I wanted it to, so yay. The only hard part was ending up with weird little stubby end bits that were hard to grate, and might be easier with a vegetable spiralizer if you’re into that sort of thing.

I had mine with pesto. I think I’m supposed to put a picture here, but just imagine long, thin strips of zucchini with pesto on it. Bam.

Not that anyone asked me, but REAL QUICK RECOMMENDATIONS:

Book: Currently reading The Clasp by Sloane Crosley. It’s her first novel, and so far, it is just as precise, hilarious, and smartly written as I was hoping it would be. Go read it now. And while you’re at it, check out her two collections of nonfiction essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. Then go read anything else by her.

Movies: Brooklyn was quiet and sweet and lovely. It was realistic and harsh without being terrifying and violent. It was romantic and joyful without being saccharine. And Saoirse Ronan’s nuanced facial expressions are really amazing.

The Big Short manages to take a potentially complicated, confusing, boring topic and make it into a really good movie. And it actually manages to explain the 2008 housing crash. And it’s really well acted. And history is repeating itself, so there’s never been a better time to watch it.

TV: If you have not seen Master of None, it’s on Netflix instant and I would say go watch it right now. The jokes and dialogue are hilarious and seem natural, and each episode drops so many truth bombs about life that you almost miss them because you’re laughing. The show also gracefully manages to avoid being preachy or treacly by offering wisdom, reality, and different perspectives from the different characters, not offering perfect answers or providing perfect resolutions. It’s real, it’s funny, it’s smart. If you’re in your 20s or 30s you’ll relate to it very real ways. If you’re not in your 20s or 30s you’ll still appreciate it and hopefully gain some perspective on the perplexing Millennials. It’s funny. It’s smart. Go watch it.

January is hard. But guess what? I saw some crocus leaves just starting to poke out of a flower bed today. I think the light is going to come back after all.

Advertisements

Here We Go Again

I haven’t written anything on the internet since 2013, apparently.

This makes me sad, because this means that I basically have done very little writing besides journaling since then. And I love writing.

Though my existence on the farm wasn’t perfect, and while I’m quite content in my life now, I did combat my lack of technology and rugged individualism existence I experienced there with writing. And reading. A lot.

Then I moved back to Eugene at the end of 2013 and and I cut my hair and got a 9 to 5 office job at a nonprofit and I stopped writing as much. I still read and watched movies, but I rarely made time to create. I also spent a lot of time working on dealing with a debilitating anxiety disorder, so it’s not like I wasn’t, like, occupied.

I started this blog towards the end of college to write about life, but mostly things I’d cooked and crafted. I created the blog Farm Girl Adventures at the urging of my number one fan and good ol’ Mom to document my strange and wonderful existence as the office manager at a remote educational farm in Northern California, but that’s not my life anymore, either.

I thought about starting yet another blog today, but I think I’m just going to keep using this here one, Stuff I Made, because I still make stuff. I may not post recipes or craft instructions as frequently because my cooking has gotten more of a daily thing and less exciting/recipe-based since I started this phase in my life. And I rarely craft anymore, but I’m actually okay with that, because I have other things I do in my free time that I find just as fulfilling.

So, I guess this blog is just going to be about things. And stuff. Ideas. Things I find interesting. Music. Movies. Books. Life. And yes, recipes and stuff, too. Maybe I’ll invite people to discuss stuff. I don’t want any rules, man.

So, if this sounds good to you, subscribe or just check back here periodically!

Allons-y!

 

New Blog & Dumpling Magazine Article!

1. I have a new blog, Farm Girl Adventures! Check it out, tell all you friends, don’t touch that dial, etc. 

2. I wrote an article for Dumpling Magazine in which I  interviewed the lovely Amy Cao, of Stupidly Simple Snacks fame. Check it out, too! 

Little eLit post & changes coming soon!

I wrote a blog post about technology over at at blog called Little eLit. Check it out!

http://littleelit.com/2013/03/17/and-sometimes-you-just-need-to-leave-technology-at-home-and-go-to-the-farm/

Also, obviously, it’s been *ahem* quite some time since I’ve updated this blog (although I did get a non-spam comment from someone a few months ago. So that was exciting.)

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting another blog, a more general blog, about farm life/being in my 20s/whatever else I decide to write about. So, look out for that one. (I’ll still keep Stuff I Made, too.)

Bananscream

This recipe comes to me from one of my best friends and her lovely boyfriend, who, since shaking up together this summer, have become a dynamite cooking duo that makes me tremble in awe. (Seriously, they’ve made homemade pho, complete with raw beef. And it was good. And it didn’t make anyone sick. Total cooking badasses.)

The recipe is pretty simple, and has three main ingredients which can be modified based on your cooking desires/needs/what you happen to have in your cupboard. The ingredients are: Bananas, chocolate and milk (or, more generally, liquid.)

                                                             Exhibit A

For this batch, I used four bananas, one cup of skim milk and 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips.

Take the bananas and cut them up into chunks, then put them into a plastic bag and freeze them for a few hours. You’ll be freezing the whole thing later, so this is really just to get a head start on the solidification process. (Ooh, fancy science terms.)

After a few hours (or whenever you get impatient,) take the bananas out of the freezer and dump them into a food processor or blender. (I think my friends used a food processor. I used a blender. I’m not sure it matters.) Add your chocolate (however much you think is good) and your liquid (again, a cup seemed right for my needs, but I think less would have been okay, too.) Then blend it all together until it’s thick but pourable. (Or, you know, food process it.)

Pour the mixture into a plastic container for freezing. (Mine fit into one 32oz yogurt container.)


Then, freeze for several hours, stirring throughout the process (I found I needed to scrape the sides and top of the container to get the really frozen stuff mixed in with the more soupy stuff.)


It looks partictularly unappetizing in this picture, but I promise it’s really good. Plus, it’s basically just milk and bananas so it’s mostly healthy. Yay!

P.S. Like a true blogger, I’m going to apologize for the partictularly crappy quality of photos in this post. My camera was being weird and I don’t know how to fix it! Lol! Technology, right? Plus, I’m a just a girl!

(No, but seriously. It’s a crappy five-year-old point and shoot and the batteries were low. So hopefully next time it’ll work better.)

Beer Cake

Last summer, our local alternative weekly newspaper ran their annual beer guide, complete with a recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake. Beer and cake are both great on their own, but together? Delightful.

Of course, being me, I modified the recipe a little bit based on my needs. The recipe is for a giant layer cake, but that sounded complicated and I don’t have any pans or baking dishes that are the same size. So I decided to halve the recipe and just make a single-layer cake.

When I went to ice the cake, I realized I had forgotten to buy any whipping cream, so I used a recipe from the Sweet Times at Emandal Cookbook.

I used Rogue’s Chocolate Stout (per the recipe’s suggestion,) and it turned out well, though I’m sure other types of stout would work.

Chocolate Stout Cake (via the Eugene Weekly)

Cake

2 cups stout of your choosing (like Rogue’s Chocolate Stout)

2 cups unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 eggs

1-1/3 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper; butter paper. Bring stout and butter to simmer over medium heat in large saucepan. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl until blended. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl until blended. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just until combined. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. With a spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide batter equally among pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

Icing

2 cups whipping cream

1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently (about two hours).

Place one cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

It was tasty–really moist and thick.

 

Damned Good Pancakes

I think I may have found the perfect pancake recipe. It’s the best one I’ve made, anyway, and it’s supposedly healthier than regular pancakes (fewer calories and Weight Watchers points, anyway.)

When I was growing up, my dad use to make us pancakes on weekends. It was probably a disgustingly Rockwellen scene: my brother and I reading the comics while my dad expertly mixed the batter and navigated the hot griddle. Sometimes he’d add oatmeal or bananas, or if we were lucky, chocolate chips.

Sometimes I still get a hankering for pancakes on the weekends. Recently, I’ve used both Krusteaz and various cookbook recipes, but I’ve been kind of frustrated because I feel like all the batters I use don’t cook evenly (though this may have more to do with my technique than the actual recipe.)

Anyway, I randomly found this recipe online and I was super pleased with the results. These guys cooked quickly and evenly and were moist and delicious.

Note that it calls for the batter to sit overnight. I realized this after I’d mixed all the ingredients together and heated up the griddle (though you’d think the “overnight” part of the recipe title would have tipped me off.) However, it didn’t seem to be a problem.

Super Improved Overnight Pancake Recipe (via Snack Girl)
Makes 9 pancakes

3/4 cup whole grain flour
3/4 rolled oats (not instant)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1/2 yogurt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Place in refrigerator overnight. (Again, I didn’t do this and they were still great.) In the morning pour batter in heated non-stick pan until bubbles begin showing on the surface. Turn pancake over with spatula – wait 2 minutes and serve.

P.S. My friend turned me onto this super cool blog called Jim’s Pancake’s — it’s written by a dad who makes awesome pancake art for his kids. (Who, by the way, are freaking adorable.) Check it out!