Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homemade Granola

Granola is one of those food items that you take for granted - it's everywhere, so why would a person make it from scratch? The answer: because it's so f-ing good. That being said, it was a painstaking process, and it will probably be awhile before I do it again. The final product was best paired with some plain yogurt, with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and some fresh berries if you have them. The original recipe can be found here. Below are my modifications to the recipe, because I couldn't find some of the ingredients listed in the original:

Granola Recipe Adapted from the Traveler's Lunchbox
Yield: about 8 cups
1 lb. quick oats
3 cups coarsely chopped unsalted almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, coffee grinder or blender, grind half the oats to a fine powder. In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, and nuts. In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat), combine the brown sugar, butter and water and heat just until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Stir the mixture together until smooth, then stir in the salt and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts, stirring well to coat. Let stand for about ten minutes.

Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between the clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking up the mixture into small-to-medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so before stirring again. Repeat the bake-and-stir until the mixture is a uniform golden brown and completely dry; this usually takes 1-1 1/2 hours. (I did this about five times.)

The final product is crunchy goodness. It also makes your apartment/house smell awesome. Just beware that stirring the oats around every 15 minutes sucks up a lot of time - I figured I could finish many things in 15 minute intervals, but I was wrong. It was still worth it - I got a lot of good and healthy breakfast meals out of it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the Eye of a Fish

Although I am not a trained photographer, I am definitely a wannabe photographer. I always have a camera in my bag, and much to the dismay of those around me, I take pictures of anything and everything. For the longest time, I was one of few without a digital camera; I held out until a couple of years ago, when I gave into convention as the prices got lower and the quality of pictures got much better. Upon the discovery of the above camera however, I've reverted back to my obsession with film, and have spent the better part of Saturday dragging my boyfriend around NYC in the bitter cold, taking the pictures that you see below.
As you can probably tell, the lens is curved so that everything in the picture looks like it is contained in a bubble, or a fish bowl. My first roll was a bit of an experiment, as I wasn't sure what I was going to get, and you obviously don't see your results until you finish your roll! An interesting feature was that the camera lets you take multiple shots on the same exposure (top left), which is very neat. I used ISO 100 film on these pictures, which turned out to be problematic when it got dark in the late afternoon. Buying ISO 400+ film should solve that. Another issue for the long term is that the negatives cannot be uploaded online or on one's computer very easily. The photo CDs that I have gotten in the past have been disappointing to say the least. Another option is looking into getting scanners that handle negatives - Canon and Epson are the two best known, but they are a bit pricey...

Making Cards

My landscape stamp set from the yellow owl workshop arrived! Needless to say, I was busy stamping away. Although the stamps are a bit larger than I expected, they came out nicely. I have old holiday stamps from Japan that I am also trying to incorporate into the cards. I found out fairly quickly that I can't roll out a large number of these, so I gave into convenience and bought some photo cards online, ending up with the best of both worlds. One project down, many more to go!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Distracted Winter To-Do List

Although there is always a tornado of activity around me, it's usually a pretty well organized one. This month, I feel like there is so much to do that I am not doing any of them well. As a follow up to my holiday card making venture, I was looking through some pictures that I could use for my cards. Then I discovered all of the fun I could have with my Flickr account and got even more ideas for projects. In order to stay on track, I decided to make a list of all of the things I intend to do this winter, so I could prioritize them, and get started!

* Display all of my unprinted digital pics into clearly labelled and aesthetically pleasing photo books
* Get my butt down to Mood, buy some fabric and tape together pattern for the Almost Pollini Dress, then actually sit down and sew it
* Get a job I actually like (I just had my second round interview - waiting to see if I will go on to my third and final round to get an actual offer)
* Make aforementioned holiday cards (includes purchasing card stock and ink pads)
* Assemble a photo calendar for my parents
* Finish knitted gifts (Beau, for my beau; sweater from rebecca using my sheep and wool yarn, some Elizabeth Zimmerman mittens featured in the Knitting Almanac, a scarf for my boyfriend's eight year old cousin... then there are projects that are not intended for giveaway this season but have been started - the Stardust, February Lady Sweater, River Forest Gansey - and those are the ones I remember~)
* Make the quiche featured here
* Finish reading the books I have started - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe, Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx. I just bought Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Halfway House by Katherine Noel, so who knows?
* Organize yarn stash so that it is kept safely away from wool-eating moths and other vermin that may be lurking about! I just picked up some wine boxes on the curb that will be getting a makeover to serve just this purpose.
* As soon as it snows, go skiing
* Then last and certainly least - clean the apartment!

In almost every aspect of my daily existence, I am always trying to do something new; the only place where I stick to the tried and true is music. My soundtrack on the commute to work has been a strange mix of the whimsical and angry: Tahiti 80's Wallpaper for the Soul; Elliot Smith's Figure 8; Beck's Sea Change; Air's Moon Safari; Disturbed's Believe; Fiona Apple's Criminal (on repeat).

Now that I have written down everything I need to do, maybe I'll actually get them done, haha~

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holiday Card Making

5 years ago, when I lived in rural Japan and taught English to hormonal high school freshmen, I had them write letters in English to their future 20 year old selves. I promised that I would keep the letters for five years, then mail it back to them at their coming of age day, which is a Japanese national holiday in January for all those turning 20 years old for that particular year. Fast forward 5 years later, to 2008: I have the letters stashed in my parent's home in Ohio, and this year is the year that the kids (now adults) get their letters back. When I did the project with them, I never really thought through the mechanics of doing this 5 years later. While I have the letters and can easily send them via air mail, I thought it would be nice to send each person a personalized greeting card because I am sure that most of my students have long forgotten that this letter exists! Some ideas for greeting cards I have are: 1) using SnapFish to insert photos and a personalized message to make lots of cards easily and cheaply, or 2) acquiring these cool stamps from yellow owl workshop to make unique greeting cards using card stock. The former is more practical, but the latter appeals to my crafty side - I haven't decided what I am going to do, given limited time and resources. But card making aside, I think it would be fun to reconnect with that part of my life again - I am curious to see how my students fared during the past 5 years... We'll see what happens.
Note: The picture for this posting was taken by one of my students in my English conversation classes. This bridge was one of two bridges that connected Kiyosato/Hokuto to the rest of civilization!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I don't normally like to whine because I think it's annoying, but lately I am feeling a strong inner whiner presence. The current state of the world is a pretty good reflection of my inner world - full of ups (the craziness of the election) and downs (the financial market meltdown). Up to now, the things happening around me were surreal - although my carefully acquired mutual funds have lost more than half their value, it hasn't affected my daily life that much, as I like to live simply (frugally). But recently, the financial turmoil has started to hit non-profit sectors pretty hard, including the agency I work in - everyday there is word of cuts but no one really knows when and where the cuts will land. My friends in Wall Street are not faring much better - some have been laid off, and the rest are working endlessly to prove their value. Right now I am fairly confident in my job security, and if I were like most sane people, I would be grateful for the job that I have and keep grinding away. Unfortunately, I am not like most people, and I decided at this precise moment to go job hunting, a process that I have half-heartedly done off and on since last January. Surprisingly, my job hunt has ended in a number of interviews, a much better result than when the economy was in an upswing; what kills me is all of the deception involved in going to those interviews... So there's the stress of deceiving my current workplace, as well as dealing with the jubilation of getting called back for second round interviews. The two competing feelings must be suffered through silently and alone if one must remain professional, no? It is a torturous process, but I suppose it is a necessary one. As I was feeling crabby and whiny, I got an unexpected pick-me-up; it was when I was browsing through the pictures taken during a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo. For some reason I got fixated by this picture; my co-worker who was not as amused as I was told me the animal looked like a pig in a diaper, which has no place in a zoo. That totally made my day!I think I am the only one who found this amusing, but we all have our unique coping mechanisms...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I was at the polling place at 6:45 this morning in order to make the train by 7:30 to make it to work by 9 - how naive of me! The lines were wrapped around the block - much expected, but it was still crazy. It's a good thing that so many people came out to vote, but people were starting to get angry with the wait, and they were angry in a way that only New Yorkers can get angry, hehe. I think I should have brought an umbrella for the amount of spit that was flying through the air! A good thing that came out of is that the people standing in line together were chatting it up and being pretty friendly - such a rarity! I guess now we just wait with baited breath for the results...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introduction to the Kati Roll

There is something so infinitely appealing about warm food wrapped up in greasy dough that almost every culture has it - I had a good helping of such food when meeting up with friends at the West Village. I never ventured around MacDougal Street much, because I always equated MacDougal with the bar scene, but I was pleasantly surprised by the eateries we went into last night. The first place we stopped at was the Kati Roll Company, which my friend lovingly calls his Indian-Burrito-Comfort Food-Place. For the untrained palate, the Kati Roll tasted like a mixture of meat and vegetables wrapped up in naan, which is a bit like pita bread. Other than the outward appearance, it's nothing at all like a burrito. As expected, it was very spicy - much spicier than I am used to, which my friend claims is a mark of its authenticity! The $5 price tag is icing on the cake. To cool our mouths off, we then stopped by the Crepe Cafe across the street and indulged in a strawberry and nutella crepe - yum! I don't keep nutella in my apartment anymore because it's too dangerous, so I was very happy with the reunion. Although I admit that it wasn't the healthiest of dinners (the vegetable-crazed part of me is crying), it was totally worth it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pics from Sheep and Wool

Here are some of my pictures taken at the Duchess County Sheep and Wool Festival. It's about a two hour drive from NYC, and it's as crazy as everyone said it was going to be - lots of knitters wearing their hand knit creations, accompanied by similarly outfitted spouses/partners/pets - it was very nerdy, but very fun to be around people who were so passionate! It was also very cold - I always forget that the city with all of its concrete and lack of trees makes the temperature 20 degrees hotter than it actually is elsewhere - thank goodness we were surrounded by skeins of yarn that we can conveniently drape over our necks! I promised myself to be good and not go too crazy with the yarn purchasing, as I am starting to have an unmanageable stash - I did get a good deal on two skeins of alpaca tweed that I couldn't resist - each skein was 600 yards, and winding that one into a ball was certainly a workout! I also got some salmon pink yarn that I think is going to be a Sideways Spencer, and I had to make one luxury purchase - a variegated superwash yarn from Brooks Farm (see center pic), which I think I am going to incorporate into a fair isle pattern - another idea I had was to do a yoke pattern, and use the variegated yarn for just the yoke part, as I only have 300 yards. Ahhh... so many decisions!