Friday, December 23, 2011

Flat tire, roasting coffee beans and the frustrations with growing out hair

I made my subject pretty transparent, so if you aren't interested in hearing me ramble on about any of those topics feel free to pass on by!

The first one is kind of bad news. Actually, it's more just really shitty for me news. Last night I was driving home and notice 3 police cars flashing their lights up ahead. I couldn't tell if they had pulled someone over and just decided they needed to have 3 police cars on MLK, one of the busiest streets during rush hour, or if there was a really minor one car accident. Either way, people started swerving to pass in the left lane (there are two lanes on each side of the road and occasionally a median) so I moved over into the left lane too. The cop closest to me was parked sideways and his car was a bit over into our lane and I swerved a little too much to the left and hit the median and BOOM flat tire.

I pulled off the busy street onto a side street and called my insurance. Thankfully I had signed up for roadside assistance for an extra $3 or something a month. The thing is, I know how to fix a flat tire, but my jack is not very good and just in case it's nice to have someone coming to help out. It's a good thing I called because the tire place put the lug nuts on way too tight and even my body weight wouldn't move them. The guy who came out was pretty quick and he was really nice. After having my panic lights on for an hour and the accessory part of my car on (so he could use the cigarette lighter to fill up the spare tire with air) my car needed a jump. D'oh! Thankfully he was there to my rescue!

He had inspected the tire and told me it looked like it was just the seal but today when I took it in to be fixed for free the sidewall had blown. Basically this means that my $100 Christmas bonus is now going to cover the cost of a new tire. A 3 week old tire. Ouch. They also don't have the same tires anymore so I have to get a different brand and I have to wait until Tuesday. I have plans to ski on Christmas and was thinking about maybe going up twice this weekend but it looks like I will only be making it up on Xmas with my friend Aundria and her boyfriend, Chris, who will be driving!

I'm pretty bummed about this news but oh well, it's life and I should have guessed there would be some other silly money thing left for this year. I got my insurance bill for the 5 stitches and it was $740. I'm going to call to ask them if they'll reduce it a little because that is a lot of money! Super glue, I tell you, super glue!

Okay! So that was my only big downer type news and I got it out of the way so I'll move onto some positive stuff! I sent out all of my Christmas presents earlier this week and I am really excited to hear my dad and Deborah's reaction (is that even the right word?) to their present. I love the way the present turned out and really want to post pictures but that would ruin the surprise!

Kim made me some super cute star, moon and sun handmade felt coasters. I was going to save the present for Christmas but decided after my night last night that opening a present would make me feel better! It made me beam! What a thoughtful and sweet gift. It also made me realize that I haven't gotten a handmade gift in a long time and they're so awesome to receive.

Last Friday I got a strand of lights for my tree and I think it looks prettier! It has put me a little more in the Christmas spirit. Anise also came over to stay the night last Friday so it was really nice to see her and also have a little "tree". Holidays are better with kids :)

For Christmas I received a nice card from my grandma (Wiley) with some Christmas money. I wasn't expecting it because she made me the nicest quilt earlier this year so it made me day! I also decided I would buy just one thing for myself and splurged on a really cute bag today for $29. Ok, that's a small splurge but most Xmas money is going to pay off my ski pass! Also, of course I got a good deal, I'm a big coupon person! I've never been a bag/purse person but I have been thinking it would be nice to find a bag that will go well with a lot of my brown dresses/clothes. My dad bought me a lovely red leather purse in Italy last year that I cherish (and it goes well with dark browns) but this bag is a little bigger so I'll be able to carry my netbook and a few other things if needed. It's also faux leather so I won't feel as anxious about ruining it! It looks stylish and I look forward to getting it in a week or so.

Before my tire puncture last night I visited a local coffee shop that sells green coffee beans. I really didn't know much about roasting your own, but I learned a lot and by the end of the chat with the owner I had bought 1/2lb to try out my skills as a coffee roaster! They're certainly much cheaper, as a 1/2 lb was $3.50 and it came in this cute burlap bag. Green beans are shelf stable for 12 months and should be kept in this type of bag.

I read up all about the roasting process and decided since I didn't have one of those air poppers for popcorn that I would try the old school method and use a skillet on the stove. Since it requires a lid I used a nice saucepan and I think it worked just fine. There are a lot of stages of roasting and you can pull the beans at whatever roast you prefer (I like darker roasts usually). Before you add the beans you have to put the lid on and get the pan really hot - like 500F hot. They warned that the process was quick and also could get pretty smokey so I had everything set up and the window behind my sink open before I started.

Since I didn't have an oven thermometer to put in the pan to tell me the heat, I guesstimated the temperature then added the beans. Once they are added you have to constantly agitate them to make sure they roast evenly and don't burn. After the beans reach about 400 degrees they start to crack, which sounds a lot like popcorn kernels popping, but less dramatic. They start to brown by releasing sugars and those caramelize. This is also where the different levels of roasting take place. The pan gets pretty smokey so I brought it up to my window and opened the lid before I peaked in to see where the beans were in their roasting cycle. They advised to pull them early as they keep cooking so I think I pulled them a little before the Vienna Roast, which is a dark roast right below French. I think this will take practice and more experimentation before I really know! It only took about 5 minutes after I put the beans in the pan.

I poured them into a colander to let them cool off quickly and any of the remaining chaff (the flaky skin that surrounds the bean) can be blown off at this point. I only roasted about 1/4 cup. of beans. They weren't superbly uniform but I think for the first time they turned out well. The smell of coffee isn't really apparent until about 20 minutes after the roasting and the smoke clears. As the coffee off-gasses CO2 for the next 12 hours you have to let it sit for about 2 hours before storing it. I kept smelling it last night and I was getting excited for tomorrow mornings cup of coffee! I ground them this morning and had enough for 2 big cups so tomorrow I will have some fresh coffee too! It tasted pretty delicious so I might just start roasting my own coffee every once in awhile.

Finally, I've been growing my hair out (and I know that I'm probably the only one who notices the awkward stages) but I am finding it very difficult to refrain from using the scissors. My biggest thing was my bangs, because the top of my hair is still too short and the bangs had to be pinned back with bobby pins but since my hair is so fine bobby pins don't work very well. I haven't found a barrette or cute clip that will work so I decided just to trim the bangs. By the time the rest of my hair grows they will grow too so anything I can do now to make me feel a little better helps! Usually I wear them side swept but I think they also look okay straight across on the days where I don't want to do anything to my hair. I love my hair short but I also am looking forward to it being longer again for at least a little bit!

Since I haven't been posting too many pictures of me, here is one picture after I cut them and one of me right now!

And finally - Merry Christmas to everyone! I wish I were home for the holidays but I'll at least be skiing and should be having an excellent time. May your Christmas be Merry and time spent with family be joyous! Love you all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A little bit of Christmas!

I think as you all know by now, if I don't post pictures and an update right away, it doesn't happen. I promised pictures and updates of the Eugene 1/2 and that was back during labor day weekend. I promised Meadows pictures and more on skiing. Sorry. As a blogger I will stop making promises like these and just take the time to post even if it's just a little bit.

This weekend was a lot of fun. On Saturday my friend Aundria and I went to the Convention Center to a local arts and crafts fair. It was called Crafty Wonderland. Neither of us had heard about this event until a few days prior so I was pretty amazed at how many people were there! The first 150 people got a free goodie bag so you can be sure I was there right when it opened. I love free stuff. I love coupons and coupons were promised. Unfortunately so did about 600 other people who were all in line before us. I'm not kidding, the place was packed! I have no idea what was in the goodie bags and I am better off not knowing.

Mostly I went to get crafting ideas. I've been feeling really creative recently; I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the colder weather and trying to find non-media ways to spend the time inside. On a side note though I decided I am going to devote myself to taking a 30-45 minute walk most days. Just a little more activity to ease myself back into running will help. It also helps that my neighborhood is pretty amazing and a perfect place to take a long walk. Besides skiing I've been all down on myself for not being as active as I'd like to be as I think everyone who reads this knows by now.

So... back to crafts! Wow. Okay. So people are really freaking creative. If I had enough money I would have easily spent $500 on beautiful locally crafted items for myself, family and friends. Actually I probably could have spent a lot more. I only bought one thing though, a locket for my sister's birthday. I didn't take a picture of it but I thought the design was really neat. It's a vintage brass locket with a picture screenprinted (?) on the front. The background of the picture is teal and there is a cassette tape with the word Love on it and a couple small hearts below it. It reminded me of 90's mix tapes and I figured Claire will either really dig it or think I am nuts. I have wanted a locket so maybe Claire has had that desire too.

I took pictures of other items that people made and tried to be sly about it. I was taking pictures just so I could figure out how certain things were sewn/designed and then I could make something similar later. I found a neat flannel sewn cowl (but it was angular and nifty) and a beautiful knit skirt with a felted design. The cowl was reasonable ($25) but the skirt was not ($80). After the craft show I went to Michaels and bought some felt, small double pointed knitting needles for the gloves I'm making my dad (for the fingers) and some wrapping paper. Felt to be used later on a knit skirt that will cost me less than $15!

On Sunday I worked for awhile from home and then got down to business. I made my mom a set of coasters as requested and I think they turned out pretty nice. I like the fabric choices but it remains to be seen if she will too. I sent them out today. I am about 1/2 way through the gloves for my dad and they are proving to be quite a long task. They look pretty great though, especially considering this is my first (and last - ha ha ha) pair of gloves. After I post this I am going to watch an episode of something on netflix and work on the forefinger and thumb on the first glove! I would post pictures but since both my mom and dad get this blog as an email in their in box they are going to have to wait!

The gift I'm collectively making my dad and Deborah (which my dad knows what it is - what can I say, I am a present surprise spoiler) is taking a long time but I've gotten a lot of positive feedback so far on the outcome. For my first bigger sewing project I think it is coming out pretty nicely. My accounting teacher from Paul Smiths actually asked me if she could buy a set from me. I thought it was a sweet compliment! I would have no idea how much to ask and I love Pat anyway so I wouldn't want to charge her much more than the cost of materials/shipping. It is unlikely I will be finished until after this weekend so I'll have to send that out next Monday by priority! Lots of time and love is going into the gift and I hope they enjoy it.

As for myself I don't really celebrate Christmas by myself. I'm not very good at waiting to open presents and I honestly don't really get many actual presents. My dad always sends me a stocking and that is the highlight of my Christmas. I loved my stocking as a kid and it makes my year every time he sends it out to me. My mom sent me an electric blanket this year (yeah, I opened it, it wasn't wrapped!) and I think I can safely say that 3 felines and 1 human have thoroughly been enjoying it!

I don't buy a tree or decorate my house. The only time I did that was when I lived with Anise and I think it's because I love kids and seeing how excited they get over holidays. We had a tree but it was a potted tree that we planted in the yard after. I bought her a couple snowbabies ornaments with the year on it that I hope she keeps. I miss her a lot.

I did buy myself a tree this year though! A rosemary tree! I had been coveting one for awhile now and it makes my apartment smell wonderful. I have 3 ornaments and I swear I bought them back in 2008 when I only had one cat. They are 3 heavy silver cat ornaments that are on burgundy ribbons. Here is my little slice of Christmas! I quite like it and it's especially great because rosemary doesn't die out here. It grows into huge bushes so in the summer it will be kept in a pot (a nicer one) outside my front door.

And finally, because everyone loves pictures, here are a few I took of the sunset today. I tried to intersperse them into the blog to be a good blogger and hold everyone's interest but I failed.

This is the view from where I work. Not from my office, as I don't have any windows, but from outside.

Here are a couple more pictures on the way home! Sunsets make me smile.

Pretty Pink Clouds!

The last one is a picture of the Fremont Bridge. Snapped really quickly while I was stopped at a red light.

Sometimes I need reminders on just how much I love Portland!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A few pictures and more to come!

I went up to Meadows today and it was so beautiful! I finally took my cell up with me so I could take a few pictures and I'm glad I did. I have a lot to share but I'm pretty exhausted tonight so I'll post them in the next couple days.

I broke down and bought a new winter coat because my other one wasn't long enough. I found a great deal on a coat marked down from $185 to $124 and then 25% off from REI outlet so I scored a nice ski coat for $99. The brand is Orage and it's apparently a ski type coat as it has lots of pockets, a spot for my pass and a powder skirt.

I am officially done buying anything ski related though as I am broker than a mule. The coat is pretty splendid though! I used it today even though it was 40 degrees out because I wanted to try it out. I just opened the vents and unzipped it a bit. Ahh, fresh clean mountain air. Nothing is better!

What a great day! Here are a couple pictures to tide you over until I can post about my weekend (I went up Sunday too) and today! The air was crisp and the sky was so blue. I haven't seen that much blue sky and sun in a long time. It's been nice in Portland recently but working in a warehouse means no concept of time and by the time I leave it's dark. I have to work this weekend but it was worth it to get some sun. I've been feeling pretty sapped of energy and I'm sure some vitamin D helped!

The first run of the day:

You could see for miles and miles:

It was so sunny, I couldn't stop smiling! I took a break on a rock and kicked off all my gear. This was at the top of the mountain (~7400' elevation):

Pretty Mt Hood Meadows at 3pm (end of the day when we left):