Mylifesamess's Blog

Raspberry Cake with Buttercream Icing

Posted in Uncategorized by mylifesamess on 06/05/2011

http://www.marthastewart.com/284034/raspberry-cupcakes-with-pink-buttercream

I made this recipe a few months back as a belated birthday treat for my co-workers.  I omitted the lacy chocolate hearts and food coloring.  The cake was delicious.  The buttercream icing came out overwhelmingly buttery.  Maybe I’ve never had real buttercream icing, but it was too thick, too much like just eating plain butter.  I’m going to use Julia Child’s recipe for buttercream icing this time from her book “The French Chef Cookbook.”  There’s not a whole lot of difference between the two recipes, just slight variances on the amount of eggs and sugar, besides the addition of vanilla extract to Julia’s recipe.  We’ll see how it turns out.

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Running After the Wagon

Posted in Uncategorized by mylifesamess on 06/04/2011

My life is better when I’m organized and effective.  That takes work…a lot of work, actually.  I go through phases.  Sometimes I’m enthusiastically organized and put together, and sometimes it’s a massive struggle to find the motivation to even take a shower.  While I don’t advocate living life always beating yourself up for not being what you think you should be, I do think that always striving to be your best is a good thing.  So, I try not to get too frustrated with myself, and just keep trying.

Speaking of frustration, my ass is broke this week.  Not technically broke, yet, but as soon as my landlord cashes my rent check, my account is going to go negative.  I make a little over $30,000 and share a cheap apartment with my boyfriend in a cheap part of the country, and yet every month, my rent check nearly zeroes out my account.  It angers me.  How are people in this country supposed to save for any sort of future when it’s so difficult to make ends meet on a salary that’s twice what minimum wage pays?

So, I think I can make it to Friday without buying gas or groceries.  I stocked my pantry pretty well last week.  My mom’s birthday, however, is this week, and while I have a card for her, I don’t have a gift.  For Mother’s Day, my sister and I took her to a really nice restaurant for a fantastic lunch.  I also gave her a gorgeous antique pin that I bought for $10 while I was hunting for stock for my Etsy store.  So, pretty much, the only thing I can afford to get her until Friday is something that I already have or something that I can make.  Right now, I’m leaning towards making her a raspberry cake with butter cream icing.  I have most of the ingredients, with the exception of the raspberries, which I can probably get Tom to buy for me as his contribution.  To make this cake, however, I’ll need to use my mom’s kitchen, as I am lacking the pans and mixer necessary to make it.  It seems awkward to use her kitchen to make her a present, especially since she’s such a neat freak and would insist on cleaning up the kitchen herself.  I may have to recruit my stepdad’s help in this.

In other news, I’m scheduled to take the FAR portion of the CPA exam in August.  I feel confident that I will totally blow it, and that makes me want to cry.  I feel so far in over my head every time I open up my review book to study.  My professional life really didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, and this is my chance to really start making some forward progress in it.  I’m going to submit my resume to some firms soon in hopes of getting hired as a low level accountant.  I figure that way, even if I fail, at least I’ll have made a little progress.

I’ll type up the recipe for the raspberry cake with butter cream icing this weekend and post it here.  I made it as cupcakes last time.  The butter cream icing in the original recipe tasted like I had just grabbed a fistful of butter and threw it against the cupcake.  I found a butter cream icing recipe in my Julia Child book which I will use instead this time.  If that’s what I end up doing.

Using Circle Clips to Keep Plant Tags (and flahscards) Organized

Posted in efficiency, gardening, Organization by mylifesamess on 04/22/2011

My middle school teachers were big on organization.  At the time, I thought they were just pushing their OCD onto their students, but I now realize that the basic organizational skills that they were teaching us were actually important.

My French teacher required us to make vocabulary flashcards.  In order to prevent our flashcards from littering the bottom of our backpacks like mulch in the bottom of a pot, she, rather ingeniously, had us use a single hole punch and a circle clip to keep our cards organized.  The genius of this method was that the cards didn’t have to be removed from the clip to be used for study; they could just be slid along the circle clip like keys on a key ring.

Skip ahead 15 years, and I’m doing some Spring planting on my porch.  I never know what to do with the little tags that come with each plant when I purchase it.  I thought about throwing them all in a little pencil box, but then I remembered the flashcards.

Obviously, make sure you don’t chop off / punch through any info on the card you’d like to keep intact. I imagine this would also work for seed packets.  You can just toss them in with your gardening supplies and quickly pull them out when you need to reference them.

Merci, Madame Nickles.

Refurbished Clam Shell

Posted in crafts, Etsy, home decor by mylifesamess on 03/26/2011

I found this clam shell jewelry dish on the miscellaneous crap table at a flea market.  I’m a bit dubious of its “antique” status, but I thought it could be a nice decor addition with a little work.  I purchased it for 99 cents and set off to the craft store to obtain supplies.

Clam Shell Before

I needed to clean it up and replace the missing rhinestones.  I also decided to replace the fake pearls as their surface coat was cracked or worn off in some spots.  I searched at two craft stores, and was only able to find flat backed rhinestones, none of whose colors matched the remaining stones.  I was also unable to find non drilled fake pearls, and I worried that the holes on either end would look tacky.

I would have liked to go with a clear, white, somewhat muted rhinestone, but ended up going with an opaque, white rhinestone because I couldn’t find the former in the proper size.  I went with the same hue pearls and figured that it would look all right as long as I positioned the drilled ends as close to the next pearls as possible.  It was actually a bit of a struggle to find comparably sized and colored pearls.

I got home and gave the shell a good toothbrush scrubbing to clean off all the grime, especially the dust that had collected in the crevices :

Minty Fresh

I then used a small flat head screwdriver to remove the pearls and rhinestones and the remaining glue.  It turns out the pearls were pre-molded into circlets for the shell, instead of being individual pearls.  I’m always in need of extra rhinestones for old jewelry, so removing them was actually useful to me.

Narked Clam!

The only glue I had on hand was a liquid paper glue.  I tried to use it, but, obviously, it didn’t work very well.  I got a more gooey adhesive which worked 100 times better.  First on were the rhinestones.  I used tweezers to place them so I didn’t end up with rhinestones stuck all over my fingers.  Also, the time limits of working with glue are a little stressful.

First, the rhinestones

The way the light is shining on them in this photo takes away from some of the cool detail of the rhinestones.  But, with the tweezers and new glue, they were affixed quickly and easily.

Then, the pearls

The pearls also went fairly quickly, and were easy to place in the way I wanted thanks to the tweezers.  Since they aren’t molded to each other, there’s more space in the circlets than there was originally.  Once everything was glued, I surveyed my work and wasn’t sure how I felt.  Did it actually look better than it had before?  Did I make the wrong call with the rhinestones?  Was it worth the cost of the extra pieces to re-do?

I think I still would have preferred the clear rhinestones, to be honest, but I do enjoy the muted, pinkish accent given off by the opaque ones I ended up using.  The inconsistencies of the metal molding holding the pearls is more apparent now than before, but there’s not much I can do about that.  I definitely prefer the more delicate replacement pearls to the ones before.  The drilled holes are visible, but I don’t it detracts from the piece.  All in all, I’m happy with the results.  Not elated, but happy.

If interested, the listing for this item on Etsy can be found here : Refurbished Clam Shell Jewelry Dish

After Clam

Box Cards

Posted in crafts, Organization by mylifesamess on 03/12/2011

I like buying pretty cards to send to people.  I’m not very good with what to say inside, though, which means I often screw up what I’m writing and end up with a pretty card with a messy sentiment that I never send out.  So, I was quite excited to finally discover a practical use for all my unsendable cards over at Atomic Shrimp : Recycled Christmas Card Gift Boxes

Incidentally, I had also been looking for a better way to store and more interesting way to package some of the vintage jewelry that I sell on Etsy.  It’s not a perfect system, but so far it’s worked pretty well for me :

Picture Your Errands as a Video Game Map

Posted in efficiency, Organization by mylifesamess on 03/09/2011

As an education major in college, I studied a lot of different learning styles.  The VARK model seemed to be my professors’ favorite, which posits that students prefer learning through certain sensory experiences.  There are visual learners, auditory learners, reading / writing learners, and kinesthetic / tactile learners.  I discovered that I learn well through three of the four methods, but I have a very difficult time with auditory learning.  It’s a useful piece of information, but I still never much cared for VARK (you can go here and fill out a questionnaire to see what your learning style is).

I start off with this because I’m reminded of the VARK model when I analyze some of my thought patterns, in particular when I’m making a trip with multiple destinations.  I realized that I had a habit of visualizing an overhead map of my route and had created mental markers on that map with my destinations.  This not only allowed me to better remember all my destinations, but also allowed me to plan the most efficient route to achieve my goals.  I also found it amusing that these mental maps seemed to have been unconsciously based on the dungeon maps from the numerous Zelda video games I played in middle school.  For those unfamiliar with the game, here’s an idea of what I’m referring to :

Just picture some in-bins, vending machines, and mail rooms instead of treasure chests.

Anyway, point is, I thought I’d share this as a potentially helpful strategy for minimizing the time you spend running around the office, or the time you spend running multiple errands.  When the goal is achieved, the mental marker is removed.

Maybe it’s so painfully obvious that it’s dumb that I even bothered to post about it.  But, it saves me time and gives my office trips purpose, which also helps cut down on the distractions you encounter on the way.  That’s usually a good thing, though there’s something to be said for being in touch with what’s going on around the office.

Crochet a Shell Octagon Medallion

Posted in crafts, crochet, home decor by mylifesamess on 03/07/2011

I learned to knit and crochet from two old books I bought on eBay :

“The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitching” by Mildred Graves Ryan

“The Complete Book of Knitting” by Barbara Abbey

I’m opening with this factoid so that I can hide behind it if my instructions or technique are incorrect.

I found the pattern for this crocheted medallion in “The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery.”  It’s fairly simple, though I would suggest using a thicker hook / yarn for beginners.  For the medallion shown below, I used a 3 1/8 mm hook and size 5 crochet thread.

Start by making a foundation chain of six stitches.  Join with a slip stitch to form a circle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first round, chain 2.  Then, take 23 double-crochets in circle.  Make slip stitch in top of chain 2.

(Here are instructions for double crochet : for the medallion, you’ll be hooking through your circle instead of through individual stitches)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the second round, chain 4.  Take 1 double crochet in same stitch.  Chain 1.  Repeat the following sequence of stitches 7 times :

* Skip 2 stitches.  In next stitch, take 1 double crochet, 2 chains, and 1 double crochet.  Chain 1. *

Slip stitch in top of chain 2.  (Note : I think this is a typo and should read slip stitch in top of chain 4.)

For the third round, chain 2.  In first chain 2 (chain 4?) space, take 1 double crochet, 2 chains, and 2 double crochet.  Repeat the following procedure 7 times :

* Chain 1.  In the next chain 2 space, make 2 double crochets, 2 chains, and 2 double crochets. *

Chain 1.  Slip stitch in top of chain 2.

For the fourth round, repeat the following procedure eight times :

* Make 7 double crochets in chain 2 space for shell.  Then 1 single crochet in chain 1 space. *

You should end up with something resembling the first picture in this post.  Slip stitch in the first stitch, fasten yarn and clip.

I usually pull a bit at the medallion to even it out, and / or place it in a book to help flatten it as I usually have yarn tension issues.

I decided to make five of these medallions and go for the shabby chic wall hanging vibe :

Problem is that they’re not hanging as flat as I would like.  I’ll have to brainstorm a solution for that.

Rainy Day Tea

Posted in tea by mylifesamess on 03/06/2011

It’s a rainy Sunday and I’m getting sick, but in a strange way.  On Friday night, I felt the lymph nodes around my throat start swelling.  The swelling had gone down by Saturday evening, but I awoke Sunday with a raw throat and pressure in my sinuses.  Having a sickness come on so gradually is unusual, at least for me.  Perhaps its progress was slowed by my preemptive nap attack on Saturday.  I think my rainy day tea consumption may also be playing a factor in the easing of my symptoms.

My sore throat was brought on by a continuous mucus drip throughout the night.  I recalled that my friend, on advice from her vocal instructor, had used lemon juice to get rid of chronic mucus problem in her throat.  Though it was effective, this technique is somewhat controversial amongst vocalists, and I do not recommend it.  In this situation, however, it seemed a good solution.  I squeezed about a quarter of a lemon into a mug with hot water and some Teekanne Lemon Twist (Steffi Graf endorsed!).  I repeated again a couple hours later, and found that while it helped the mucus, my throat was raw and dried out from the hot beverage and acidic lemon.  I switched over to some ridiculously aromatic loose leaf tea I bought last weekend at tea store in Kennett Square, PA.

It’s called Winter White, and it contains : Pai Mu Tan (90%) plus cinnamon rods, flavoring, and freeze dried apples.

There’s something about tea, especially good tea, that’s very zen-like and comforting.  I’m on my fifth cup of the day.   I wouldn’t go so far as to say that anything in the actual tea leaves is helping, but I really think that the hydration, warmth, and general calming nature of an aromatic, hot beverage have all eased my symptoms.

If you’ve never been to a tea shop, I strongly recommend going to one. Just taking in the smell itself is therapeutic.  You can find a pretty good list of tea rooms across the United States here.

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Blog Overhaul

Posted in Organization by mylifesamess on 03/06/2011

My month long resolution to get my shit together lasted two days.  Everything’s still a mess.  This brings me to a very important life uncluttering lesson that I have learned over the last year or so which I would like to share with you :

Keep trying to get back on the wagon.

Even though most of my time is spent off the wagon, I haven’t thrown in the towel.  Though my motivation wavers, my goals are pretty consistent.  So, even if my apartment is an unattractive mess and I hate it (for more reasons than the mess), I keep trying, even if it’s not always quite enough.

I’ve been thinking about expanding this blog beyond uncluttering and organization and into day to day life, food, home improvement, and stuff that generally interests me.  I’ve been wanting to get into the journaling thing a bit more.  It helps my anxiety, I enjoy writing, and writing about life day to day keeps everything from flashing by in a forgetful blur, which seems to be happening more as I grow older.  So, my one subscriber (I’m looking at you, anytutuwilldo), expect a wider range of topics and (here’s hoping) more frequent posts.

Developing a Cleaning Schedule with Remember the Milk

Posted in Uncategorized by mylifesamess on 02/07/2011

Remember the Milk allows you to maintain an online to-do list. It’s extremely easy to make entries, set deadlines, set up a repeating schedule, or postpone tasks. While planning a large company project with multiple deadlines over the holidays, I relied on RTM heavily to help me keep a time line and prioritize my work. After the holidays, I think I got burnt out on to-do lists and organization, and I ended up neglecting my RTM account for several weeks.

RTM’s main function in my life has been to help me develop a consistent cleaning schedule. I had to take time to figure out what I needed to do to keep my home in good condition and how often I had to do it. For me, “good condition” isn’t spotless, or even really that tidy, but being able to take proper care of the property I own and rent.

Here’s what needs to be done every day to achieve that goal :
– wash all the dishes in the sink
– make sure pets have food / fresh water
– scoop litter box
– sort mail

I vacuum a small section of the apartment every two days, and dust a couple pieces of furniture every three days. I find this a much more palatable solution than doing it all at once every week or so.

I do my laundry, clean the bedroom, clean the kitchen, and take care of any houseplant maintenance once a week, but not all on the same day. The bathroom and kitchen floor are cleaned every ten days. Bedding is washed every two weeks. The couch cover is washed every month, and so on.

I try to make sure that large projects don’t fall on the same day. I also try to break individual tasks that take longer than 20 minutes a piece down into smaller, shorter cleaning tasks that can be regularly rotated.

It might seem silly to some that I had to put so much effort into figuring this all out. My mom was, and is, quite tidy, and always has an impeccably clean house, so it’s not as if I wasn’t raised right. Maybe neglecting housework is a generational thing…the majority of my friends who are my age aren’t really tidy. But, I know that I sleep better at night when I’ve clicked everything off my list.

I had almost three hundred neglected cleaning items that had built up over the month of January in RTM when I finally opened it again last night. I deleted them all and started fresh. It’s a good feeling.