Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hoo-Boy, Honeysuckle!

Hi! So I went back to Yellow Branch Falls tonight, but I'm still going through the pics and I'm kind of exhausted and probably going to bed soon, so... I will write a Yellow Branch Falls post soon. Probably tomorrow... or this weekend... since I'm off until TUESDAY! I thought about going home for the weekend, but gas is expensive, there's another trail I want to try to find, and I'll be moving home in a month anyway.

To celebrate the start of my 4-day weekend, and my return to YB Falls, I have a cocktail post.

I made a Honeysuckle. It's 1/2 Tbsp. warm water, 1/2 Tbsp. honey, 2 oz. light rum, and 1/2 oz. lemon juice. Dissolve the honey in the warm water in a shaker. Add the rum, lemon juice, and some ice. Shake well and pour.

It's actually pretty good. They honey cuts the rum a lot better than I expected, so it's not horribly strong. You could add more or less honey to suit your tastes, but I like it just like this.

Oh, and I doubled the recipe to fill the glass. It would have looked depressing otherwise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Issaqueena Falls

I went hiking on Saturday! I'm still sore, but it was actually really fun. My new hikers ate away the back of my ankle, and I fell once and ripped my elbow open, but I swear it was fun! I went to Issaqeena Falls, Stumphouse Tunnel, Middle Tunnel, and Yellow Branch Falls. Since I left my camera in the car for the Yellow Branch Falls portion of the trip, that will be a separate post after I go back. :-P

Now Issaqueena Falls doesn't really require a hike to get to, nor does Stumphouse Tunnel. Middle Tunnel was a bit of a hike, but the majority of my hiking was on the way to and from Yellow Branch... which I'm not talking about just yet... so here are some pretty pictures.

My first stop was at Stumphouse Tunnel.

It's a tunnel that they started to dig out for a railroad, but funds ran out and they gave up. Clemson used it for awhile to cure bleu cheese, but now it's just a tourist attraction. It was pretty cool... a little scary by myself after watching The Descent not too long ago, but there were lot of other people around, and I had the sense to take a flashlight.

After the tunnel, I went down the road to Issaqueena Falls. This one took a bit of a walk, but only, like, 5 minutes to get to the observation deck. From there, the falls looked like this:

I wasn't nearly close enough, and I saw a few people down below at the base of the falls. I don't know if there was an easier way to get there, but I climbed down around the observation deck. I'm pretty sure it wasn't even a path, just a washed out rut:

I made it, though, and it was so worth it. The view was much better than from the viewing area. There was a family of four down there playing around, though, and it was impossible to get a picture with none of them in it. I think I managed to get one without a single random stranger.

Very pretty, but very populated since it's so easy to get to. I wish I could find one with no other people so I could enjoy it in solitude... or with a buddy if someone would go hiking with me!

After I climbed back up from the falls (after slipping and landing on my elbow), I ventured up the Blue Ridge Railroad trail, where Middle Tunnel and Saddle Tunnel are located. I didn't make it all the way to Saddle Tunnel because a) I'd left my pack in the car, and b) the path was flooded after Middle Tunnel.

It was a pretty hike to the tunnel...

Middle and Saddle Tunnels are part of the same system as Stumphouse Tunnel. They were all supposed to connect Charleston, SC with Knoxville, TN, and eventually Cincinnati, OH. When funding ran out, they stopped construction. I expected Middle Tunnel to be as big as Stumphouse Tunnel, but apparently they didn't get as far.

Needless to say, I did not go in. I like hiking alone, but spelunking alone and dying in a cave is not appealing. If you saw The Descent, you know what lives in there. A Voldemeagol so would have gotten me.

After I gave up on Saddle Tunnel, I went to the start of the Yellow Branch Falls trail, leaving my camera in the car. It was an awesome hike, though, and I'll definitely go back to get pictures. I thought about going after work today, but my legs are still kind of on fire after Saturday. (Out of shape. Ugh.)

**Click on a pic to make it bigger!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ginger Ale Cocktail

In keeping up with my cocktail posts, I have the best one yet. I'll post about today's hiking adventures soon, but I have to share this.

When I got home today, I made homemade ginger syrup. (Thanks, Joy the Baker!) I had my stove turned down a little too far, so it took twice the time for it to cook down, but it's cool - I took a nap.

Once it was done, I let it cool, put it in a pretty bottle, then made a ginger ale cocktail.

I did about 3 Tbsp. of the ginger syrup, 1 1/2 c. club soda, a dash of bitters, a shot of vodka, and a lime wedge, over ice. Stir it up and enjoy the best summer drink ever. It was just as good without the vodka... but sometimes you just need vodka... like after four hours of hiking. :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cabbage, Rude People, and Hiking

Hi, all. I have a variety of things that I want to discuss. I could probably make a few separate posts, but I'm feeling chatty right now.

Number one. Cabbage. I love cabbage. I bought a head at the Clemson Farmer's Market yesterday and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. After a bit of research, I had plenty of things to make with it and had to choose. I ended up with Cabbage Jambalaya. I found the recipe on All Recipes, which I use constantly. I love that you can get a recipe for virtually anything, and it's already been tested by twenty other people, and they've all left a review and tips or changes they made to the recipe. My Jambalaya turned out great! I tinkered with the recipe a bit, and I'll post what I came up with at the end. It turned out beautifully, and I made some Jiffy corn muffins to go along with it.

I know, I know, I should have done the corn muffins from scratch, but Jiffy Corn Muffin mix is really the best option. It's always delicious, done in 20 minutes, and usually costs about $0.50 a box. That's the only thing I will almost always choose to make from the box instead of scratch.

This dish would be great for a pot luck, and you can choose how spicy or mild you make it by changing up the hotness of the sausage and which spices you use. I used super hot sausage and put quite a bit of black pepper in it. If you wanted it even hotter, you could add hot sauce and/or cayenne pepper. For a milder version, use sweet sausage and leave out the peppers. Mine was just the right amount of heat for me... although I was a little red in the face by the end.

Number two. Rude people. What is it about EVERYONE I've e-mailed in the past month that makes them ignore me? Ok, when I just submit my application materials for a job, I'm sure they get hundreds of applicants so I understand them not e-mailing me to let me know they've received my resume. When I e-mail a potential employer with specific questions, or a property management company about renting an apartment, I expect an answer. Is that too much to ask?

I've e-mailed three theatres in the past week with specific questions, to the e-mail address that the website said to contact with questions. Am I so undesirable as an employee that they can't even acknowledge me? If they pretend I don't exist, I'll go away? The apartment rental people are even worse. They should want people to be interested in their rentals... ignoring potential tenants is NOT a good way to get them to rent.

Ok, this concludes our rant portion of this post. :-P

Number three. Hiking. I've got the hiking bug. Ever since my short excursion to the Twin Falls, I've been all over trail sites. This weekend I'm going to go find the Yellow Branch Falls in Oconee County. It's a pretty clearly marked trail, and only a mile and a half each way, but I think I should start out slow. I'll save those eight mile hikes for later! My problem is, all of my hiking/camping equipment is in PA. I really only need my hiking boots, which... I probably need new ones anyway since I probably haven't bought any since junior high. The rest of the things I need, I can get fairly inexpensively so it's not a big deal. I probably don't even need half of it, but 10 years of Boy Scouts taught me to have enough supplies to last me days of being lost in the woods... even if it is just a two-hour hike.

So that's my life at the moment. I am cooking and baking as much as ever, NO ONE WILL RETURN MY E-MAILS, and I have a new hobby... a healthy, outdoorsy hobby. Who'da thunk it? :-P

As promised...

Cabbage Jambalaya

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. smoked (hot or mild) sausage, cut into 1/4" slices.
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 3/4 cups, + 1/4 cup water
1 cup uncooked whole grain rice
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over med. heat, combine the ground beef, sausage, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the beef is completely browned.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, 1/4 c. water, basil, and garlic powder. Add the tomato mixture, cabbage, the rest of the water, the rice, and the salt and pepper (or any other spices you want) to the pot. (It'll look like a LOT of cabbage, but it'll cook down.) Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 35-45 minutes - until the rice is done.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Twin Falls

I found this website the other day with 27 waterfalls in upstate SC - SC Waterfall Trails. I came across this site after hunting a waterfall that wasn't really a waterfall at all... it was this:

That's a dam. I mean, I guess technically there's water falling over it, but really not what I was expecting. So, after work yesterday, I picked a waterfall off the list and decided to find it. Now, some of them on that list take hours to hike to, one is only recommended to be reached by boat, and some are just short walks. I picked one that was only about a quarter mile from the parking area - the Twin Falls in Pickens County.

Now, all I had were Google Map directions to the general area, and the instructions off the Trails site. I'm used to my GPS that tells me when to turn and where, so of course I got lost twice, even ending up in North Carolina once. It should have taken me 45 minutes to get there, but I ended up driving around these steep, curvy mountain roads for an hour, and it took me almost two hours total to find the falls. It was so worth it, though:

Once you got to the parking area, there's a quarter mile-long trail along a creek to walk up to get to the falls. Along the way, there was a ton of mountain laurel in bloom, and little paths shooting off to the side toward the creek. I wish it had been a longer trail.

I passed a couple and a family leaving as I was going up the trail, and once I got to the little viewing booth across from the falls, there was a family playing in the water.

After a awhile, they started climbing up around the falls and disappeared into the woods. I took a page from their book and climbed down off the viewing area to poke around.

After awhile, those people who wandered into the woods reappeared on top of the falls. I may have to go back some day when I'm not in my work clothes, and it's not late so I can poke around some more and make my way up to the top.

All-in-all, it was pretty amazing, and well worth the half a tank of gas, and accidental excursion to North Carolina. It felt like some epic quest. I'm pretty sure I destroyed the One Ring, killed Voldemort, and/or defeated the Dark Side while finding these falls. This weekend I might try seeing one with a longer hike involved. If anyone wants to go with me, I'd love a hiking buddy!

I now leave you with this amazingly awkward picture of me. It was next to impossible to get a shot of me and the falls, and I'm even more awkward in the only one in which I got all of the falls behind me.

Hint: click on pics to make them bigger.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Before I get to the deliciousness that was my supper tonight, I have some exciting news. Well, exciting for me. I broke 1,000 page views on my blog today! Someone out there is reading it! You just need to comment more so I know. :-P

Moving on to the main story... I made delicious things happen in my kitchen tonight. I had my sloppy joes, which I knew would be awesome, but I also tried two new recipes. The first was Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes. They may be the best thing I've ever eaten. I'll put the recipe at the end of this post since I feel like I need to share it with the world.

My other new recipe was Mint-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Also very delicious. I was planning on saving them to take to work on Monday, but I don't think there will be enough left.

They were supposed to have melted chocolate drizzled on them, but I went the powdered sugar route instead. In lieu of the muffins for work, I think I'm going to make some whoopie pies. I got a cookbook this weekend at TJ Maxx with recipes for 30 different kinds of whoopie pies and I think I need to try some out.

Speaking of things I bought this weekend, how do you like the plates my muffins are on? I had a coupon for JC Penney, so I got those two seashell plates and a square bowl-thing for $1.09. Not a bad deal... $0.36 a piece. One of my new favorite blogs is Joy the Baker, and she talks a lot about buying random pretty plates for serving, displaying, and photography purposes. I think I'll take a leaf out of her book and start my own random-pretty-plate collection.

Oh, and one other thing I got this weekend... the Desperate Housewives Cookbook. Oh, that's right. You know you're jealous.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 oz. cream cheese - softened
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Scrub and pierce potatoes; place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, uncovered for 12-14 minutes, or until tender all the way through, turning once.

When cool enough to handle, but not cold, cut a thin slice of skin off the top of each potato and discard (or eat... whatever). Scoop out pulp into a bowl, leaving a thin shell. Mash the pulp with the cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and butter; until the cream cheese and butter are melted and everything is well-incorporated. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells.

Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle each with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for about 13 minutes, or until they're heated through and the topping has started to melt.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh my God, Orange Blossom

So in keeping with my desire to try new cocktails, as well as trying to improve my bartending skills (I'm a notoriously bad drink-maker), I made an Orange Blossom. It's absolutely delicious.

1 1/2oz. gin, 1oz. orange juice, 1/2oz. lime juice, and 1/2oz. simple syrup. Put all in a shaker with ice, shake, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lime or orange slice.

I used store-bought orange and lime juice, but I can imagine it would be even more awesome with fresh-squeezed. The funny thing is I used to hate gin, but it's quickly making its way up my list of favorite liquors. I especially like it with citrus juices (Orange Blossom, Tom Collins, etc.).

I got the recipe for this out of a Southern Cocktails book. Many of the recipes in there call for Simple Syrup, so I made some to keep on hand. It's just 1C. water and 1C. sugar, brought to a boil and stirred until the sugar is dissolved. As long as you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it will keep pretty indefinitely.

I realized that this post quickly turned into a tutorial on drink-making, but maybe that's the direction my blog is going!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Martini Mania

So I've decided that I need to branch out in my cocktails. I'm tired of going to a bar and ordering a screwdriver or tequila sunrise because I know I like it. So I'm stocking up my home bar and I'm going to make new cocktails to try. I just made a simple vodka martini. I've had delicious flavored martinis out before, but I've never just ordered a martini. My Bartender's Black Book said that the perfect (not dry) martini is 3 1/2 oz. vodka or gin and 1/2 oz. vermouth, so that's what I did. I garnished with maraschino cherries since I don't like olives or cocktail onions.

All-in-all, it's not terrible. I feel classy drinking it, so it could be a good alone-at-the-bar drink. It's pretty freakin' strong, though. I have to concentrate to not make a face when I take a sip. I was going to try a gin martini tonight, too, but I'm only halfway through this vodka one and it's getting a little warm in here.

Stay tuned for more cocktail adventures. I'm considering working through my Periodic Table of Mixology instead of choosing random ones from my Black Book, but the periodic table is a poster, and it doesn't look real classy hanging up. :-P

Tried the gin martini, with the same measurements as the vodka martini, and I loved it! Gin is growing on me. It was less "kick-in-the-mouth-y" than the vodka variety.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


So as most of you know, my internship is coming to an end soon. My lease is up at the end of July, so that's when I plan on moving... somewhere.... I've been trying to line up a job, but it doesn't appear to be working out. I've sent out about 30 applications in the past couple of months, and all I've gotten is one first-round interview and two rejection letters. A guy from New World Stages in NYC did call my boss for a reference the other day, but I never actually heard from him, so he either didn't like what he heard or found someone better. Today, I sent in my materials for a company manager job at the Olney Theatre in MD, and they e-mailed me back right away to say they couldn't open my cover letter. At least I know places are getting my stuff... most are just ignoring me, apparently. :-P

Well, if I can't line something up for after July, I'm seriously considering moving to Lancaster, PA. Random, I know, but there's logic behind this, I promise. Lancaster itself has 5 or 6 theatres in it. Sight & Sound Theatre (to which I've sent in about 5 applications) is right outside Lancaster. It's less than half an hour away from the Ren Faire and Mount Hope. It's an hour and a half from both Philly and Baltimore, 2 hours from my family, 3 hours from NYC, and an hour from Gettysburg. I would be surrounded by theatre opportunities, even if it's just volunteering at first and getting my name out there. I have friends in NYC, D.C., and Philly that I could stay with (whether they like it or not :-P) if I got short-term jobs any of those places. It just makes sense.

I think my mom is expecting me to move home if I don't get something lined up, but I really don't think I can go from having my own house to just having a room again. I know it's not like I would have a curfew or anything, but I've had a taste of my own place and I can't go back. I've found some nice-looking places with decent rent in Lancaster, and I have enough saved up that I could give myself at least two months after I move to find something, even if it's something crappy just to pay the rent and support my theatre career for awhile.

I considered other places, but bigger cities are too expensive to live in; Harrisburg actually has much less theatre; OBX has practically no theatre; and the Lewisburg/Milton/Newky area has no professional theatre. I think I'll give it until the end of June before I start looking for apartments in Lancaster, but I have 4 or 5 places already that I like, and I'm sure more will pop up. When I get closer to seriously looking, I'll send my parents to check some places out. I'm just excited about the prospect of being out of the south, and less than 12 hours away from everyone I know!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

OBX Part 2

So I guess I should complete my tale of beachosity. When last we met, I told the tale of my horror on the beach. Well the rest of the week was much less traumatizing, I promise. The day after my adventure was fairly uneventful. Marcy and I went to the beach for a few hours, and that night I made lasagna and homemade garlic bread, which turned out pretty awesome.

Thursday was another beach day for Marcy, Vern, TJ, and me. The water was cold, but not unbearable, and it was sunny and perfect beach weather. The problem was laying on the beach. For some reason, a million little biting flies decided to descend. I went back to the house and got bug spray, but it didn't help, so we ended up laying by the pool instead. That night was our night to go to Barefoot Bernie's - a yearly tradition. I spent and ate way too much, as usual. The food is always amazing, though. I usually get the macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, but this year I tried the Jamaican jerk pork. It was great! For an appetizer I got about 50 lbs. of calamari, and for dessert I had an Irish coffee. I even bought a souvenir shotglass. LOVE Barefoot Bernie's. After Bernie's, we went mini-golfing, and Naomi, Vern and Barb went go-karting. When we got home, we had a drunken pool party until almost dawn.

Friday brought the last full day of the trip. I was kind of beached out, but didn't want to waste the day, so Barb and I went on an adventure to find the Bodie Island Lighthouse. We got there just as the visitor's center was closing, but we got to go in for a few minutes, and the grounds stayed open, so we got to get closer to the lighthouse, and go out the boardwalk to the sound.

After our lighthouse adventure, we continued on to Pea Island, pretty much just because we'd never been there. It's pretty desolate, and we found this amazing almost deserted beach. The tide had just gone out, so there were shells and rocks everywhere. We had to climb over a dune to get to it, and there were only maybe 3 other people there. It was gorgeous, and we hung out for a bit and admired the awesomeness.

After that, we headed home for cookout night - burgers and hot dogs on the grill. The problem was we never bought charcoal. Oops. We had burgers and dogs on the stove instead, and they were still pretty delicious. The next morning was time to clear out by 10AM. Well, when we got up, Vern and TJ had already left, so that left Barb, Naomi, Marcy, and me to clean the house and figure out what to do with a fridge full of food. We ended up throwing most of the cold stuff away, along with a million bottles of beer that Brian had left. As I was taking a bag of recycling out, it ripped and the kitchen ended up covered in beer. We got that cleaned up, everything else straightened out, and the cars packed. We ended up leaving around 10:30AM, but the cleaning crew didn't show up before that, so we were ok.

All-in-all, it was another amazing week in the Outer Banks. If there were a bigger theatre scene, or I had the guts to start my bookstore, I would move there in a heartbeat. I can't wait to go back next year (or sooner)!