Christmas 2010

Wow, I can’t believe another year has passed so fast.

You’re probably wondering where, oh where, have I been? I got a new job three months ago. Enough said, right? :)

Anyway, yesterday was Christmas, and I baked a primal pumpkin pie (nut meal crust and honey). It tasted great … and was a disaster in every other way, especially the crust, which was was so runny, I barely got it to work as a crumble crust.

But all is well that ends well. The filling set really well, the crust was rich and nutty and delicious, and the honey gave it a warm lingering sweetness that was WAY better, in my opinion, than the icky aftertaste sugar leaves in your mouth. The hubby declared the best pumpkin pie he had ever had.

Christmas 2010 Pumpkin Pie

Christmas 2010 Pumpkin Pie

I would give you a recipe, but it was kind of random. Here’s how it went:

Crust:

Grind up 6 dates in the food processor. Remove the gooey lump and set aside. Refill food processor with roughly 3/4 cup each of hazelnut and almond meal. Add large spoonfuls of coconut oil until you think you have about 2/3 cup; blend. Mix in gooey dates one small lump at a time. Pour out dough and think worriedly that it’s WAY too runny. Add a few more spoonfuls of hazelnut meal until its congealed enough to press into an 8 inch cast iron pan as a crumble crust. Put it into the refrigerator and hope for the best.

Filling:

Cut up a small pie pumpkin and steam or boil it. Scrape out meat and puree it with a stick blender. Notice that it seems like more than you need; ignore this for now. Add 3 eggs. Open a large can of coconut milk (about 13 ounces?) and pour in about half; drink some cause it’s so delicious. Pour in some raw honey, taste, and wonder why its not sweet. Pour in some more, stir well, and realize that its actually very sweet, you just didn’t stir well enough the first time; worry that it’s too sweet.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put in crust to bake for 15 minutes. Suddenly remember that you forgot the spices. Grind up half a dozen cloves and 1/4 tsp ginger root. Add that plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the filling. Grate some fresh nutmeg into the filling. Drop the nutmeg in by accident; panic; fish it out, dry it off, and grate some more. Taste filling and realize it’s a bit heavy on cloves. Wonder to yourself how to balance out the flavor; figure that no one has ever complained about too much cinnamon, so toss in another 1/2 tsp. Taste it, decide it’s okay right as the crust is done.

Notice that the crust has deformed; hastily redistribute it with a spoon. Pour in filling until it almost overflows. Worry that the filling is too runny and won’t set well; wonder to yourself what you’ll do with the rest of it. Get your husband to put the pie into the oven because the pan is so full, you’re afraid you’ll spill it. Wait anxiously for an hour.

Pull out pie to find (to your great relief) that the filling has set beautifully. Find the flavor to be perfect and the crust to be delicious, if not very pretty. Receive compliments, bask in glory and relief.

~*~

Anyway, as you can tell, baking is not my strong suit. It really doesn’t have a big role in Asian cooking. (When I was growing up, my mother used our oven for storage space.) But over this holiday season, I’ve developed a profound appreciation for the distinctive taste of oven-roasted foods — and an awareness of how bad I am at baking. So I ordered a convection oven so that I can get more practice:

Convection Oven

Convection Oven

At under $100, it’s a pretty casual unit. But it’s gotten good reviews and I imagine it will be perfect for a small household like ours. It also comes with a rotisserie, which makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

I also ordered some miniature cast iron skillets. (Aren’t they adorable? I almost ordered the 3.5 inch too, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I would do with it.) I got that idea from a local restuarant (El Centro) that serves their upside-down pineapple pies in small skillets.

Speaking of restuarants, the three I miss the most in Boulder are (drumroll please …):

  1. Cracker Barrel
  2. Fuddruckers
  3. Some country buffet, any country buffet

Guess you can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl. :)

At least we have a Cheescake Factory. :)

All done!

We’re all done! Thanks for bearing with me … there were several rough spots, but the new site is up now!

I’m excited to introduce to you a few aspects of the redesign. First of all, I now have a homepage. From there, you can find my contact information or learn a little about me. I’ve also started a new techblog dedicated to my adventures in programming, web-design, and other technology-related things, seeing as that’s starting to become a major part of my life.

I hope you enjoy my new site! If you have any comments or suggestions, or if you just want to say hi, feel free to shoot me an email.

Under Construction

Update (3 Aug 2010): We’re all done! Check out my next post for an introduction to the new site.

Yay! After much wrangling with html, css, and php, I’m ready to put up my new blog! I’m really excited to get started … but unfortunately, that means this site will be a bit wonky as I get things switched over.

One thing I must apologize most sincerely for is that I plan on changing my permalink structure. I’m not really sure what will happen once I do. Worst case scenario, all of my old links will be broken. In that case, I will simply have to beg your understanding that, as a young and enthusiastic web designer, I have much to learn and many mistakes to make.

So again, I apologize for the inconvenience, and I hope you enjoy the new site!

China’s New Material Girl

I woke up this morning to find a surprise email from a friend in China. He had sent me a very interesting article titled,

“China’s housing boom spells trouble for boyfriends: Many women won’t marry a man who doesn’t own a home. This recent shift, along with soaring real estate prices, has created a woefully frustrated class of bachelors.”

It proceeded to describe the rampant materialism that has become the norm lately in the Chinese dating market. Gone are the days that my parents described, when families were so poor, nobody bothered to lock their doors and everyone helped each other out. (Of course, it wasn’t all roses: My mother’s family of seven shared a 200 square-foot room without plumbing, and they were considered middle class.) Nowadays, with the freer economy sweeping in a new era of prosperity, but at a steep cost, everything has changed, and many young men find themselves ineligible simply because they cannot afford to buy into the horribly inflated housing market. A typical female online dating profile now reads

I’m 25 years old, looking for a boyfriend…. I want you to have an apartment and a car…. The apartment has to be built after 2000 and the car has to be better than a minivan.

So much for romance, eh? (more…)

Redesigning my website

After much hemming and hawing, I’ve finally decided to get my hands dirty and redo my website! Hopefully, if I do it well, you won’t even notice until the new one is up! I’m giving myself the extremely generous deadline of six months so that (1) I don’t feel like I need to get it all done at once, which usually results in me doing nothing at all, and (2) I can do it well — between graphic design and WordPress templates, there’s a lot to learn! So I’m taking it slow.

Also, I think the title, “Pebbles & Sunshine,” is going to go. It was fun while it lasted, but I think I’m going to try something else … just as soon as I think of something!

By the way, one of my new goals is to share more of the cool links I find. (I spend a lot of time on the web, so I come across a lot!) For both your edification and as a thank you to the wonderful people who write these things, I’m going to make an effort to promote them.

To start with today, if you’re interested in learning to write WordPress themes, here are a few resources:

Eruanna: how to write your own wordpress theme — A good quick and dirty intro. Glosses over a lot.

wpdesigner: So you want to create WordPress themes huh? — A thorough tutorial that takes you through lesson by lesson. I’m only a few lessons in, but it looks wonderful.

And of course, don’t neglect the WordPress Codex, though personally I find it an intimidating place to start.

Well, hope that helps. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Free Chord Theory Tutorial!!

I found a great guide to chord theory a few days ago, and I’m so excited, I wanted to share it with everyone!

I recently bought a fake book and believe it or not, after a lifetime of classical piano instruction, I found myself unable to read any but the most basic chords. It’s really a completely different beast. In classical piano, you’re taught to read music, as in individual notes, and I’m pretty darn good at that. But with fake book playing, it’s all about knowing chords and chord structure, not to mention learning a bunch of new notation.

So I hopped online to see what I could find in the way of help. At first, everything seemed to be hawking some expensive class pack that promised to make you the next big nightclub hit. But after finagling my search terms a little, I found this great little tutorial that explains everything you need to know about chord theory to get through a fake book. It’s a plain-text document — no fancy graphics, no flashy colors — but it explains everything, and hey, it’s FREE!

By the way, if you happen to be a complete newbie to music theory, feel free to ask questions. I’m no expert, but I know the basics of intervals and chords, and I’d be glad to help bootstrap you up. Just tossing that out there!

Paleo Bread Cake in a Bowl

Happy happy sunshine! After over a week of miserably gray skies, today dawned bright and clear … yay! This spring has been a bit crazy. Would you believe it was snowing a few days ago?!?

Anyway, one morning last week (I forget which), I sauntered into the kitchen and decided to give one of my half-baked brainchilds a try — what did I have to lose anyway, right? The result was so satisfactory that I can’t help but want to share it.

I was inspired by two recipes I found online. The first is this cake in a cup recipe; I never made it because it’s too high carb, but the idea of “baking” a cake in the microwave was incredibly intriguing (and a big score for convenience!). A little while later, I found a paleo chocolate cake recipe, which I did try and loved. I was shocked that a successful cake could be that simple. That gave me the confidence I needed to forge ahead and take baking by the horns.

Thus was born this humble little recipe. For me, it’s a love-at-first-sight on so many levels. I can mix it up in only a couple of minutes, and “bake” it in a couple more. I also love that it makes only one (fairly hearty) serving, which means I can experiment without fear of messing up a big batch. Plus, it really does taste great. Here’s the general recipe; scroll on down for specific examples.

(more…)

How To Move In Your Car

Gen-Y has a lot of interest in the nomadic lifestyle, but I’ve not found many how-tos on the internet, certainly not about organizing a movable household. No doubt, this is because most nomadic techies are single men who eat out all the time, etc. … *smile*. I suppose the demographic “housewives married to a nomadic techie” is pretty small. But here I am nonetheless.

Believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to write something about keeping a nomadic household for about a year now. So why didn’t I write this sooner? Mainly because I didn’t feel qualified to at the time. A year ago, I’d only moved once and wasn’t really that minimalistic. Since then, I’ve put three more moves under my belt — one of them absolutely hellish — and I’m feeling much more ready to tackle this subject. So here goes.

Our Story

Apparently, moving on a dime is part of the job description for a “software contractor’s wife.” We’ve moved four times in the last 16 months. I’ve never met anyone with a similar track record, and I’ve only heard of a few.

Believe me, it wasn’t always this way for me. Growing up, I lived in the same college town for 15 years, and the same house for 9 of those years. The word “moving” conjured only distant memories of my parents shuttling a few carloads of stuff from our apartment to our new house across town.

(more…)

April showers bring May flowers

(Which bring … PILGRIMS! We used to say that all the time in elementary school.)

Ah, April, am I glad to see you! If I had gotten around to writing a few weeks earlier, the post would’ve been titled “When, oh when is it EVER going to stop snowing?” Yes, even though we’ve been enjoying gorgeous balmy days since early February, we’ve also had an unending stream of blizzards. Guess that’s Colorado weather for you. The cycle goes something like this: It’ll be sunny and 70 degrees; then it’ll snow 12 inches; which will all melt the next day. Repeat.

Anyway, it seems like the weather has finally broken free of its vicious pattern — it hasn’t snowed seriously in two weeks! (Of course, by saying that, I’m going to jinx the whole thing.) The temperature has been up in the sixties — not too bad!

Yesterday, Spencer and I took a walk in the park next to our house. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and the sky a glorious blue — I decided then and there that I would go for a run the next day. So today I headed out for the first time in almost five months. It felt wonderful.

Quick history: I had originally intended to run through the winter, but when the weather dipped below 50 degrees or so, my body started reacting to the exercise in weird ways. Namely, insomnia. It didn’t matter whether I ran first thing in the morning or later in the day, I’d invariably be awake until the wee hours, staring at the ceiling and watching my husband’s blissful sleeping. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before I decided that sleep = good and no sleep = bad, therefore running = bad (for the time anyway).

I put it down to the cold weather — I’ve always hated winter. So hopefully, now that things are warming up again, I can pick up my running without ill side effects.

Alas, the lack of exercise hasn’t done my weight many favors. (That’s why there’s been no diet update for some time, lol.) I’ve slowly crept back up to the low 130’s. On the positive side, the weight seems to be distributed differently — I’m curvier than I was the last time I was around this weight.

I’ve also been experimenting with the diet. I went from Paleo back to low-carb for a time, but found myself missing the veggies. So now I’m back. Also, I’m trying out carb-cycling, which in practice means I take two high-carb meals a week. This was a concession for the sake of living a little — it was getting to the point where neither of us enjoyed going out to eat because it was so stressful finding suitable food for me. I figured that if my husband (who very much enjoys my slimmer figure) is urging me to break my diet now and then, well, I can give a little.

As for the culinary delights, no skin off my nose! It’s great getting to enjoy bread and pizza now and then. Not to mention pastries! :D

Anyway, that’s the general overview! Hope life’s been treating you not too shabbily either. Cheers and happy April!

Joyce's New About Me Page!

I repent! The About Me section has been “Coming soon!” for no less than a YEAR!!

What can I say? It slipped my mind … all year … ummm …

Anyway, you might be wondering what Olympian force has motivated me to finally put it together. Well, today I was in a phone interview for a job (Yeah, I applied for a job! Anyway …) when my interviewer casually mentioned that he was looking at my website. That’s about when I smacked my head into the wall thinking, Here is a REAL LIVE PERSON looking at my blog, and I STILL don’t have an About Me page. At least he didn’t know it’d been like that for a YEAR! I’m sure there’s a special place in purgatory for bloggers like me.

But better late than never, right? (*embarrassed grin*)

Speaking of improvements to my blog, the (very) perceptive among you will perhaps have noticed that I’ve added a little word to my self-description on the sidebar. … That’s right! Musician. Betcha didn’t know that about me, eh?

Actually, I was musical long before I was crafty. I started piano lessons at age four, joined the band in seventh grade, the choir in eighth grade, and the marching band in ninth grade. You could say I was a bit of a music nut growing up.

Anyway, by the end of high school, I was pretty exhausted from the endless rounds of performances and decided to take a break to focus on other parts of my life. And I’m glad I did. (Hey, getting an MRS degree takes effort! :D) But lately, my love for music has been pulling at my heartstrings again, and I’ve decided to add that back into the mix, little by little.

So I got the keyboard set up near the kitchen and I’m playing again. My major work in progress is still Liszt’s Liebestraum (as it has been for the last few years, and is likely to be for the next few as well), but I’m also branching out and reading a few new things. Hopefully I’ll get back into some of my favorite Beethoven sonatas and maybe learn to improvise! It’ll be great fun!