A New Life

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Where do I even begin?

I’ve been gone from WordPress for about three months and let me tell you – I’ve been BUSY!  When I last posted, I mentioned that we would be visiting Central Florida for He-Man’s birthday.  We made it successfully and during the week that we were vacationing, we both came across job opportunities that far surpassed anything that had been made available to us in West Tennessee.  Since you can probably guess where this is going, I’ll just come out and say it: We are now living in Central Florida.

Crazy, I know.  In the last three months, we have busted some booty trying to save up enough money to get into our own place and I’m pleased to say that we have been blessed with a beautiful little house in a small town not unlike the one we left behind.  It has everything we wanted and more – PLUS we’re paying less than we would with an apartment in the city and now I have a lake view in the country.  Isn’t it wonderful?!

I do greatly miss the life I left behind.  After all, it’s all I’ve known for all of my twenty years.  Since I’ve been in Florida, I have missed the birth of two new cousins, the marriage of another, and the high school graduation of my baby sister.  I’ve only been back to Tennessee once since we decided to stay here and He-Man didn’t come with me.  I quit my dead-end job, called one of my best friends to ride down with me, gathered up the pets, and drove the 808 miles to my new home with only what would fit into every nook and cranny of a ’98 Honda Civic (which isn’t much, just so you know).  It is a drive that I will never, ever make again if I have anything to say about it.

We have started completely over with nothing.  We left our furniture, clothes, and relationships behind us.  I am now working three jobs at about 60hrs per week and He-Man matches those hours with only two jobs.  While it is a lot of hard work, we are doing quite well for ourselves and have even found ourselves in a new tax bracket.  That’s not bad for two, virtually uneducated twenty-somethings, even if I do say so myself.

There are several other things that I do need to update on here, such as the resolution of the Great Cake Debacle of 2014, but they will be saved for another post.  In the mean time, I will keep hoping that while I was gone, I had not been forgotten by my few, lovely readers.

Take care,
Claire

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Valentine’s Day in Retrospect

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Let me just throw this out there:  He-Man showed out!

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 I mean, I did have to leave out the sale paper with the necklace circled, the after-tax price calculated, AND remind him that the paper had not been laying under his face so conspicuously for no reason, but he pulled through.  Then he surprised me with flowers.  There was a semi-torrential downpour laying siege to this little corner of nowhere when I heard a knock at the door.  Angel, of course, brought it upon herself to try to take this unknown interloper down.  When I finally got her penned up – still barking – in the bedroom, I was able to let this soggy little man into my house.  It was the local florist.

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Now, before you all go judging me on the clutter and candy in the background, allow me to inform you that I am packing five days in advance to go to Tampa for He-Man’s birthday.  ‘Cause I’m sweet like that.  And I guess that’s why I ended up with flowers.  I have had a long, disappointing string of relationships over the last few years but I can honestly say that the last year with He-Man has been time well-wasted.  I say wasted only because we both agree that we should be doing a little more with our lives, but I digress.  We have had time to get to know one another on an everyday, in-your-face level and I love it.  I also love him.  He is so sweet, thoughtful, caring, and all the other mushy stuff that people say about “the one”.  He is also capable of leaving me speechless with a note that came with the flowers:

Claire, I love you so much!  I could never picture a day without you, sweetheart.  Sunshine or rain, every day with you is a blessing.  Love, Your He-Man.

…..!!!

The part that really got me was that he actually signed it “Your He-Man” because he is trying to support my attempts at blogging in leu of a real social life since waiting tables makes me hate people. His support means everything to me and I know that I have it no matter what.

This has been the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had – hands down – and I even spent the later part of it in the ER being treated for a moderate laceration on my finger.  I tried going for the gold in can-opening and failed miserably, but that’s another story for another day.  The stupid Russian judge low-balled me anyway.  Until next time, I will be basking in the glory that is He-Man and, for those of you who have stayed with me this long, thanks for reading.

Claire

All I Could do Was Gesture For Them to Switch

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A favorite post from one of my favorite blogs! I read the posts in my half-cigarette breaks (because lets face it, when you only have 10min to smoke, pee, and steal food, no one gets their full nicotine fix) and it helps get me through the shift… Enjoy this all-too-common occurrence.

Break Room Stories

A couple orders food together. Man gets a plain hamburger and the female gets a hamburger ketchup only. They call me back to the table and the man says he ordered it plain but got ketchup and the girl says she wanted ketchup but got a hamburger plain. I still don’t know if they were trolling but all I could do was gesture for them to switch hamburgers as I was dumbfounded.

-Kelly

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PSA: I am no longer afraid of fondant.

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That’s right, folks!  I have conquered my fear once and for all.  I don’t suppose that it was much of a fear, now that I think about it.  After all, who in their right mind could live in fear of something as delicious as fondant?!

Still, this sticky, white icing that comes in the form of dough is something that has stymied my baking for almost two years.  The first time I tried to make it, my confidence got the best of me.  I had just finished up the “perfect” batch of the sweet stuff and was about to transfer it to my cake when it sloughed off the rolling pin and on to the floor.  I was heartbroken and I couldn’t imagine what I had done wrong.  I followed all the steps, you know, and it was from that day forward that I lived in fear of having to use fondant.

Until today.  Today I decided to come to terms with this rather irrational intimidation so that the ghost-fondant of my past will not come to haunt me when I make He-Man and Nam-Eh’s birthday cake.  I chose to do some extra homework this go-around and I found some wonderful resources that I would like to share with you.

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This is an old-fashioned applesauce cake which was covered in home-made buttercream icing and topped off with some not-so-scary marshmallow fondant.  Click on the aforementioned components to see where I figured out how to make them.  I must commend the maker of the marshmallow fondant tutorial.  Not only did she make it look very easy from start to finish, but she is also has tutorials for some of the coolest gluten-free food I’ve ever seen! (Seriously, you’ve got to see her recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust!)

By this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Why is this a PSA? This is just rambling about some stupid cake and irrational fear if icing,” to which I answer: because you should be afraid.  Now that I have wrestled one of my demons, there is nothing to stop me from attempting more and more recipes that call for fondant.  Not to mention the fact that I still have TONS of fondant and buttercream waiting for me in the fridge.  Does anyone have a suggestion for what I should try next?  Does anyone have any irrational baking fears?

Until next time,
Claire – Fondant Slayer

BMO: A Cake Walk

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He-Man’s birthday is coming up (yay!) and to celebrate we are going to his hometown of Tampa.  As you may or may not know, He-Man and his twin, who we shall call Nam-Eh, have quite a thing for Adventure Time.  You could imagine my surprise when I found the link to this cake floating around on Pinterest.  “It’s perfect!” I thought.  While in Tampa, we will be having a little get together for the reciprocals and I have been charged with making the cake, among other things.  At first, I was all gung-ho about trying this out, but now I’m getting a little nervous.  I have a basic plan of action, though, if anyone would like to look it over for flaws.  After all, everything works well in theory.

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First of all, I will not be making tie-dye rainbow layers.  I will have six layers of cake in solid colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  Between the layers and under the fondant, He-Man has requested that the icing be chocolate, since we “have to” have white cake to add food coloring to.  Next, I will cover the stack of cake in a layer of fondant, which scares the bajeezus out of me.  I don’t have a good working relationship with fondant.  I hate it and it hates me back.  I will start with a large blob of white fondant, reserve about 1/10th of it, and color the rest with this lovely teal.  The reserved bit will be colored a softer teal, black, yellow, green, and red respectively.  These little pieces will be attached to the outer layer of fondant with royal icing.  Legs and hands will be formed out of the remaining, darker teal.

It’s all good in theory, right?  I do have a few questions that I would like to ask to anyone who has the least bit of baking experience.

1) Do you think that I should use wooden dowels to help stabilize the cake?  The idea has crossed my mind but I can’t say for sure whether or not it will be necessary until I get the cake into the air.  It shouldn’t be more than about 8”-10” tall, but the icing between the layers might cause it to be slippery.

2) What is your recipe for fondant?  There are possibilities all over Pinterest but I want something tried-and-true that I can’t mess up.  If you have a favorite method for making fondant, please don’t keep it a secret from me!

3) Should I keep it in the refrigerator?  I want to make it the night before so that if anything goes wrong last-minute, I will have the time to fix it before the party.  The question is, will putting it in the refrigerator for 18-24hrs cause the fondant to dry out and crack?

If you can help me out, please do!  The trip is still a ways away and I will have pictures of the finished product up as soon as I have something to show but I am a planner.  Please help me get my game plan together now so that I can save myself some scrambling and anxiety later.

Thanks in advance,
Claire

2014 Garden Wishlist

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This crazy, tentative list is my basic plan for how to tackle the garden this year.  It is much better than last year’s plan because of the simple fact that there was no plan last year.  At all.  I went to the greenhouse, picked out some things that looked nice, and stuck them in the ground.  This year, however, there will be order!  Or at least as much order as you can ever expect from me.  Below is a list of plants and a number.  This number either refers to a) the number of that type of plant I wish to have or b) the number of containers I wish to have filled with them.  Keep in mind before you judge me that the goal here is to begin self-sufficiency over the next year.  While it might sound like a lot for a backyard garden, it should, ideally, provide for three people for 365 days.

Tomatoes – 15a
Corn – 100a
Straight-neck yellow squash – 8a
Okra – 20a
Green beans – 20a
Zucchini – 4a
Potatoes – 10b
Onions – 10b
Garlic – 5b
Bell peppers – 6a
Pumpkins – 4b
Watermelon – 4b
Blueberries – 2a
Strawberries – 2 bundles, as they are sold
Pinto beans – 20a
Asparagus – 10a
Peppermint – 1b
Spearmint – 1b
Spinach – 10a
Cucumber – 2a
Basil – 1a
Chives – 1a
Dill – 1a
Oregano – 1a
Parsley – 1a
Thyme – 1a
Aloe – 1a

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done before I even begin to plant.  I would like to think that I can handle this vast and lengthy list of plants with only my minimal experience and yet-to-have-purchased almanac to guide me.  This list is not really going to be part of the ledger I hope to keep of garden production.  Some things may not make it into fruition and other things may be added to the list later on.  Rest assured, photographic evidence of this mammoth undertaking will arise as soon as I have something to show for myself.  Truth be told, I will be proud of myself if I even get to do half of this stuff, as it will still be an improvement over last year’s garden.  If anyone out there has any suggestions regarding any of the aforementioned plants, I am all ears!

Until then,
Claire

New Hope for the Spring

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I have been setting goals today, y’all!  It’s pretty much just a list of smaller goals and how to achieve them with the long-term goal being self-sufficiency.  I’m not sure how long it will take to be fully self-sufficient, but I know it doesn’t happen over night.  Or even over a year.  This year, the idea is to test the waters and see just how much food we can produce and store for our little patchwork family and whether or not it is really more cost-effective.  Since gardening seems to be something that we just do in these parts, I can hardly see us stopping in the near future.  I can see, however, that we have a lot to learn.  The following is a list of things that I hope to accomplish before the end of March or so as spring begins to fade into summer.

1) Finish cleaning out the barn.  We have two rather large barns on the property that are full of junk.  We have had about three marathon cleaning runs on the Back Barn but it’s so dusty that after an hour or two we have to call it quits.  The space could be incredibly useful to us, we just have to take the time to make it that way.

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2) Plant a herb garden.  I have the desire to cultivate my own herbs in pots that can be moved around based on their individual needs and brought inside to enjoy year-round.  This should only be a small undertaking, but I’m not ruling anything out.

3) Finish the compost bin and start composting.  We have some of the basic construction already underway, but I broke the hammer.  Actually, “broke” is the wrong word considering that I managed to bend it.  Yes.  With the gracious help of He-Man’s dad, this project should be done and the composting underway in no time flat.  *fingers crossed*

4) Till the garden and make it bigger.  Last year’s garden was a decent size, but I am ready to go bigger.  We have crazy amounts of dwarf okra seed that I saved from last year’s harvest that I want to take advantage of and I have compiled something called the 2014 Garden Wishlist that, in another post, will show just how ambitious I’m getting.

5) Get the early crops in the ground to start the garden off with its best foot forward.  Last year there was no crop rotation.  Everything got planted at the same time and if it grew, it grew but this year I know better.  Early greens as well as potatoes, onions, and garlic (which will all be done in containers for easy harvest) will go in first.

6) Buy an almanac and actually read it.  I have always wanted and almanac but never actually took the time to buy one so if my assessments in #5 are a little off, I’ll figure it out sooner or later.

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

7) Buy and learn to use a home canner.  This is also something that I have wanted for a while but never actually got around to buying.  I realize that not everything can be canned but I already know how to dry things and use the freezer so we won’t go there.  This is all about putting back some of what we produce to see how much is left over (if any) by this time next year, with the goal being to have a surplus and eventually a stockpile.

8) Keep a ledger of how much was spent on and produced in the garden.  Not only will this help me to decide whether or not this is a cost-effective way to spend 3/4 of the year, but also how many plants we need for the next year in order to attain self-sufficiency.

Eventually, perhaps many years into the future, I want nothing more than to never have to go to the supermarket again.  I want to be able to produce all of my meat, cheese, milk, and vegetables right here.  Is that so crazy?  That’s not to say that everybody should do the same, I just think that it is the lifestyle that I would like to pursue.  AND, in case you’re wondering what you can get me for my birthday this spring, I will be accepting solar panels, daffodil and iris bulbs, goats, and bee-keeping equipment. 🙂

Until next time, my dears,
Claire