Saturday, May 26, 2012

On My Own Again

I am officially moved! I have been for a week, actually... I've just been going through phases of busy and lazy, and blogging took a back seat. I started this blog when I was out "on my own" in South Carolina for my internship. When that ended, I was back with my parents, not so on my own. Now I'm in Virginia, once again... on my own. It's rough this time because my dad was just diagnosed with untreatable bone cancer. If I hadn't already had the job, apartment, insurances, etc., I probably wouldn't have moved. Since everything was lined up, though, I pretty much had to. But. I'm half the distance from my family that I was in SC and I can go home whenever I have a couple of days off in a row, and hopefully my parents will get down to visit me before my dad gets too bad. It's all still just pretty unbelievable.

Aaanyway, I start at Busch Gardens on June 4th, and I go in the weekend before that for orientation/training. I had to go in the other day to do paperwork and get my drug test done. Weirdest drug test ever. They use hair instead of urine, and since there's none on my head, they had to take it from my chest. My first experience as a Busch Gardens employee was some little old lady named Betty shaving my chest. I feel like this job will be... a unique experience.

I absolutely love my apartment. It's just as big as my duplex in SC (if twice the rent...). I have yet to spot a roach inside. Although, I took the trash out after dark last night and there were quite a few scurrying around the sidewalk. As long as they stay out there, I'll just be sure not to go outside after dark! My appliances are amazing. My stove/oven is almost brand new, and way high tech... especially compared to my 80's reject oven in SC. So be prepared for lots of baking!

Well, I don't have a lot else to say. I just figured it was time for an update. I leave for the Outer Banks tomorrow to stay for a week, so I'll definitely have some beach posts coming. For your viewing pleasure, I'll leave you with some pictures of my amazing new apartment!

Living room/dining room. ^

Kitchen/laundry. ^

Bathroom. ^

Guest bedroom. ^

Master bedroom. ^

Ignore the messy desk in that last one. That's the only thing I have to tackle yet!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

End Tables

So I move to Virginia the day after tomorrow! Since I haven't had time to bake or hike, and a post about packing up my life seems boring, I have a different kind of post for today. My parents got new furniture the other week and I've inherited their old end tables. Now, these end tables were here when we moved into this house 20 years ago, and who knows how long the previous owners had them. They were pretty rough looking, and a little dated.

I decided to strip the varnish off, refinish them, and get new hardware. I used Formby's Furniture Refinisher. It's pretty magical. You just dip a piece of steel wool in it, rub the table, and it strips off everything down to the wood. 

Here's one completely stripped, and one still original. It was actually really pretty wood. I don't know why they covered it up in the first place. 

After I got them both stripped, I used Formby's Tung Oil to finish them. It's pretty much clear, it just conditions the wood, protects it, and adds a little shine. You just use a cloth or sponge, and rub it in like you're waxing a car. It dries in pretty much a day. I'm kind of in love with the Formby's brand. My mom used it when she re-did her kitchen cabinets. It's not exactly cheap, but it's totally worth it. See, like brand new tables:

I got the pulls on the front and the hinges at Lowe's. The old hardware was in good shape, I just wanted something a little more updated and shiny. I'm completely happy with the way they came out. It was easy, kind of fun, and way gratifying. I guess the moral of the story is... if you have some old furniture sitting around, get some Formby's and you can make them like new!

One more before and after....



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deer Jerky!

Yes, you read that right. I made deer jerky. My uncle got a doe during hunting season and had it made into ground venison. Well, I borrowed a dehydrator from another uncle, and made a pound of the ground meat into jerky!

You can use any kind of meat that you want. I just happened to have some venison lying around and I really like deer jerky, so I made some. (I'm a bit of a hick, if you didn't know.) You could do your own beef or chicken jerky this way, too.

There's really no recipe here. I mean, you could make your own cure and seasoning, but I opted to get this handy little box from Gander Mountain. It has a packet of seasoning, a packet of cure, and mixing instructions. This one was the Hickory Blend, but there are other flavors. I really want to try the Teriyaki someday.

I borrowed this from my uncle, too. It's like a caulk gun... for meat.... I know, the concept is terrifying. It was really handy, though. You fill it and just pipe out strips. If you don't have one of these, you can mix the meat up and put it in the fridge for a few hours, then roll it out and cut strips.

You mix the correct amount of seasoning and cure with water, then work it into the meat, like you're making meatloaf. All I could think the whole time was "Oh god, I have Bambi's mom under my fingernails."

Once you're all mixed, you pipe it out into strips. I used my uncle's dehydrator. You can do it in the oven, too, but this way is less greasy and just easier. Just pipe out the meat onto the trays, set the dehydrator to 155 degrees F, and let it go.

Dehydrators can be used to make all kinds of stuff... fruit roll-ups, fruit chips, veggie chips, jerky, etc. I know I have to give it back to my uncle, but I may own my own someday. They're like $85, so I won't be getting one any time soon, but someday I will be a dehydrating fiend. 

So yeah, set your meat strips to cook/dehydrate, leave it alone, and 5 or so hours later, you get this. Jerky! It's super delicious, and so much easier than I expected. I only used a pound of meat, and a couple teaspoons of the cure and seasoning, and I got 32 strips of jerky out of it. It'll keep for about a month at room temp. I put it in the fridge so it'll keep longer. Once I get to Virginia, I think I'll put some in the freezer. 

If you don't have a fancy dehydrator or a meat gun, you can still make jerky. It'll just be less simple. The box of seasoning/cure has all kinds of methods and instructions. I have enough of the seasoning left for about 9 more pounds of meat. Maybe I'll try some beef jerky. Hmm....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Birds' Nests

I haven't really been baking much lately. Nor have I been hiking. There's not much to talk about with the move yet. Hence the lack of blogging this past week or so. But. I'm itching to write a post, so I'm pulling out this recipe. I made "Birds' Nests" for Easter, and took pictures and everything, but never actually wrote the post. So here's a bit of a delayed Easter post. Happy belated Easter?

(There were Rice Krispie Treats, too, but just plain old run-of-the-mill Rice Krispie Treats... with M&Ms on top. Nothing to blog home about.) 

They're called "Birds' Nests" because of the "eggs" (jelly beans) on top. If you leave the jelly beans off, then they're "Haystacks". They're usually only Birds' Nests at Easter/springtime; the rest of the year they're Haystacks, in my kitchen anyway.

I don't think I'm going to post this in regular recipe format. Mostly because there is no set ingredient list, and they're super-mega-easy to make. In their most basic form, all you need is a bag of baking chips (chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, whatever) and a bag of Chow Mein noodles. My favorite is butterscotch. You melt the chips over low heat (or in a double boiler to make sure they don't burn), and very carefully stir in the Chow Mein noodles, breaking as few as possible. I also usually stir some peanuts in. (I didn't at Easter because my youngest nephew is allergic.)

So to recap... melt chips, stir in noodles (and nuts, if so desired). Then you drop spoonfuls on to baking sheets covered with wax paper or foil. Shape them into nests/stacks, and place some jelly beans on top if you're going for the nest theme.

At Easter, I did half butterscotch and half chocolate. So I split a whole bag of Chow Mein noodles into two, and used half a bag each of butterscotch chips and chocolate chips. 

After you have them all spooned out and shaped, either set them in a cool place for a couple of hours until they harden, or put them in the fridge for half an hour to an hour until they're set. 

I made a little dessert tray with my Nests and Treats. Of course, I also had pies and a cake. This was just a little... appetizer... dessert... tray...? They were pre-dessert desserts. Appesserts. That's totally a thing. Go with it. When I write my cookbook, maybe I'll have an Appesserts section. These will probably be in it.

These are a great little treat because it's impossible not to like them, they're totally versatile, and they're sooo simple. You can make them into whatever flavor floats your boat. You can add in anything you want, or just leave them at two ingredients. How could you not love this recipe? Go forth and make some Birds' Nests/Haystacks to share. Also, spread the word Appesserts. It really needs to catch on.