Archive for the ‘2017 TO THE MAX’ Category

Beginner’s Guide to Candy Making

For July I decided to tackle candy making in honor of this book I bought from one of my favorite/most trusted bakers:

Sally's Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Sally’s Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Candy making is more complex than baking and requires a lot more minute attention to temperatures, something I was not always successful at. For instance, here is me failing at making butter rum candies:

Candy thermometer and everything

Candy thermometer and everything

Even though I followed the instructions and was watching the candy thermometer the whole time, they still turned out burned. Maybe my thermometer isn’t accurate or something. Oh well. On to the successes!

Birthday fudge

Birthday fudge

A layer of white chocolate fudge on top of a layer of milk chocolate fudge. With sprinkles!

Homemade Reese's Cups!

Homemade Reese’s Cups!

I only had crunchy peanut butter, but, surprise, that makes them EVEN BETTER!

Chocolate chip cookie bark

Chocolate chip cookie bark

The baby chocolate chip cookies this required were the best part. So cute!

And, my personal favorite:

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

These were rad as hell. The strawberry flavor is achieved through crushed freeze-dried strawberries so it really pops. Also Steven helped me perfectly temper the chocolate using the sous vide so, though it took a while, the dipping process was the easiest ever.



I also made chai tea truffles and lemon pie truffles, but they came out kind of underwhelming so I didn’t take pictures. This was a fun and delicious month!

Previously: Bullet Journaling
Next: ??? Pole dancing???

2017: Halfway There

The year is half over! But am I halfway done with my goals? Surprisingly, yes

1. Write a Beginners’ Guide Once a Month: 50%

At least there’s that

April: Gardening
May: Make Up
June: Bullet Journaling

Of these, my favorite was definitely bullet journaling, probably because it aligned the most with my interests. Also, I’m sad to report that the basil plant in April’s entry has since died. RIP

2. Sew Something Once a Month: 42%
You caught me, I didn’t sew anything in May. In April I made this bitchin Tuxedo Mask cape for Steven’s birthday:

Tuxedo Kamen-Sama!

Tuxedo Kamen-Sama!

And in June I made this whale mail holder:

These things always look more professional in my head

These things always look more professional in my head

3. Write in my journal once a week: 54%

The bullet journaling goal really made this one easy!

4. Make one new recipe every week: 42%

I skipped 4 different weeks for various reasons, be they travel, being too busy, or sickness. But I have made some awesome recipes despite that, including this amazing bread:

With no need to knead!

With no need to knead!

And this Smores ice box cake:

Thanks, Food Network Magazine!

Thanks, Food Network Magazine!

5. Keep my nails painted for 30 days: 100%

I peaked early this year

6. Finish a coloring book: 100%

THAT’S RIGHT. It’ll probably be the only one I ever finish. I would take a picture for you but I threw it in recycling. I was done coloring it, what do you want

7. Read The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: 52%

Why did I think this was a good idea. Somehow I am on page 377 of 731

8. Be active every day: 30%

lol okay

Total: 59%

See you in September

Previously: Quarter Quell

Beginners’ Guide to Bullet Journaling

As you may remember, I’ve kept a journal regularly since I was 11. So anytime there is news in the exciting world of journals, I take an interest. Bullet journaling is something I’ve been hearing about for a while now, but I’ve always been unsure about trying it for myself. Despite the best intentions, I’ve never written in my journal everyday, but when I do write I go with a narrative style and pretty long entries. The bullet journal is the opposite of that: part planner, part to-do list, part journal. You make entries every day and they should be short and to the point. But, in the spirit of journal science discovery, I was willing to give it a try.

This beginner guide explains things better than I can, and gave me some grounding in how to do things the “right” way. Then I pretty much just took the parts of it I liked and did whatever I wanted. First you’ve got your monthly calendar. Here’s mine for July:


Other people have really fancy layouts and draw theirs, but my journal had a section of calendar pages at the beginning so I just used that. You can use it to plan out your month and to refer back to etc. After that is my table of contents:


Surprise! I’m bad at recording things in a table of contents. Oh well. Then you get down to the daily entries. I would usually start the day (or sometimes the night before) writing down everything I needed and wanted to do that day next to open boxes I could fill in when I accomplished it. At the end of the day, any un-filled-in boxes got moved to the next day. I also recorded stuff that happened that day with bullet points:


Near the bottom of the page I recorded what I ate and what I spent money on too. At the end of the month I could make a chart! Because if you love charts, bullet journaling is all about that. Here’s me recording monthly habits:


I know, pathetic, but I was sick for a while this month. I haven’t made myself a little chart for July, but if I ever do this again, I want to try to use more fabulous colors. On the other hand, some of the elaborate bullet journal layouts you can find online seem, to me, way more trouble than they’re worth.

Overall, bullet journaling really kept me more organized than I have been, particularly with things like chores that don’t really have deadlines but still need to be done consistently. I still wrote more narrative entries below what I considered my “bullet journal entry” for the day, but not always, and often just short sentences elaborating on my bullet points. I’m not sure I’ll stick to this format, but I’ll probably incorporate some elements of it into my normal journaling. Like charts!

Previously: Make Up
Next: ??? Crap better plan something

Beginner’s Guide to Makeup

The main thing I’ve learned this month is that when you tell people “I don’t wear makeup” they hear “I don’t wear MUCH makeup.” Because how inconceivable is it to go around everyday with your normal disgusting face on display?? Ridiculous, I know, but it is how I live my life. I have so far received no complaints (to said disgusting face, anyway). But I decided it might be nice to actually know what this stuff is about in case one day I feel like playing with it. So I made an appointment at Sephora and I spent an hour having little conversations like this:

Sephora Employee: What kind of primer do you usually use?
Me: I don’t wear makeup.
Sephora Employee: Okay, but–
Me: Also what is primer

Sephora Employee: Do you prefer liquid eyeliner or–
Me: I don’t wear makeup

Sephora Employee: Do you normally wear mascara?
Me: I don’t wear makeup
Sephora Employee: Never?
Me: Never
Sephora Employee: What about on your wedding?
Me: I was wearing paperbags

By the end I feel like she was wondering why I was even allowed to walk into the Sephora store and I was wondering why the hell people do this every goddamn day. Because it is a lot of work and also GET THAT POINTY THING AWAY FROM MY EYE. Here is what her tireless work (and my constant eye-watering from trying not to blink) produced:

Appreciate it, because it's never happening again

Appreciate it, because it’s never happening again

So here’s how to makeup:

1. Wash your face, you peasant
I feel like this was the only category where my Sephora employee actually had faith in my abilities as an adult. Since it was the first thing we talked about, it may have lured her into overestimating me, because I am into skin care, friends. I even subscribed to the fabled 10-step Korean skincare regimen briefly before paring it down to this:

1. Wash your gooddamn face (with an oil-based cleanser)
1a) Twice a week exfoliate
2. Toner the shit out of that
3. Moisturizzzzzze

Also sheet masks sometimes mostly because there is a Tony Moly outlet in HMart and I can’t stop myself.

I can only assume that this part is even MORE important if you slather your face with random crap daily.

2. Hide your imperfections with color theory

This is where she lost me. This step involves putting a bunch of stuff all over your face to “even out” your skin tone and hide your pores and whatever. My main problem is redness so I need to put on layers of green (??gold?? I forget now because I wasn’t taking notes. I thought about it, but I was afraid of incurring even more disapproval) in between other layers of things that match my skin tone. They had a special camera machine that they would hold against your cheek to get a SCIENTIFIC BEAUTY MATCH for your skin tone. It felt kind of like being at the doctor. Anyway, this step is like preparing the canvas for the art that is going to happen next:

3. Eyes: This is a form of torture

Stuff happened to my eyes at this point, but I was paying even less attention because of how incredibly uncomfortable it was. Keeping your eyes open while someone wields a pointy thing right up in there?? Nope nope nope.

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don't sweat lolololol

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don’t sweat lolololol

4. Lips: the only part I can kind of do??

Lol jk my ability to put lipstick on is as shitty as all my other non-existent artistic abilities, but at least this part was painless. She tried to teach me some technique about outlining your “cupid’s bow” with an x and then filling in… stuff…

5. Good fucking luck ever getting this stuff off

No wonder you need an intense skin care regimen, is what I’m saying.

So I’m never doing that again. I did buy some lip stuff that I have used a few times on ~special occasions~ without looking like a total clown, so there’s that.

Previously: Gardening
Next: Bullet Journaling

Beginner’s Guide to Plants

I’m a plant novice. The only time I’ve grown any kind of plant was once in fourth grade when I needed to grow grass in a tupperware for a science fair project. It worked, I guess, but like all science fair projects everywhere, I’m pretty sure my mom did most of the work. I decided that was going to change this April. I was going to keep something alive for at least a month, and I’m pleased (and surprised) to announce that I have accomplished that goal!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

I got seedlings of thyme, rosemary, and basil, which are some of our most used kitchen herbs. They get a lot of sun on our balcony and the coconut husk liner in the basket keeps them pretty well drained. I water them every day, which is fun, because Olivia is invariably standing underneath and looks really miffed when she gets splashed.

This is two weeks in!

This is two weeks in!

We’ve used them quite a few times when cooking at this point, and they’ve weathered some thunderstorms and wind well. Olivia likes the fact that we open the balcony door so often, because she loves to keep watch on the parking lot.

And lounge in the sun

And lounge in the sun

This project was a lot easier than I thought it would be, although I did have a lot of help from both Caitlin Miller, the only plantologist I know, and Steven, who knew his way around Lowes Garden Center. Even if you’re like me and don’t feel like you have a green thumb or any plant instincts, if you choose your plants well, you can do it!

One month!

One month!

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch
Next: ???

2017 Goals: Quarter Quell

25% done with 2017!!! But am I 25% done with my goals? WE SHALL SEE

1. Write a Beginner’s Guide Once a Month: 25%
Nailed it! So far.

January: Weaving
February: Calligraphy
March: Cross stitch

Probably the most fun of these was Weaving since I took an actual class (at the John C Campbell Folk School omg). The one that I will probably continue to do is cross stitch.

Gotta keep working on my Disney Villains

Gotta keep working on my Disney Villains

2. Sew something once a month: 25%

In January I turned a dress into a skirt by cutting off the top and sewing in a new waistband.

Modeled here by Olivia and I

Modeled here by Olivia and I

In February I tried to make a fabric bin out of my random extra fabric. It worked out okay, I guess. Here’s a picture before the cardboard went in to stiffen the sides:

So floppy

So floppy

I needed five more of those, so in March I made more. A variety of subpar binding methods were attempted:

The galaxy duct tape is my fave binding method

The galaxy duct tape is my fave binding method

3. Write in my journal once a week: 25%
The key to this one has been to just leave my journal out in conspicuous places so I remember to write in it more. I also tape in stuff I want to save:



4. Make one new recipe every week: 23%
I have missed two weeks of this: January 15 when we were out of town for the whole week, and March 5 when I was way too sick to consider cooking anything. Probably the single best recipe I’ve tried in the three months is Sally’s Baking Addiction’s strawberry frosting. Holy shit is it good. Here’s the only recipe I’ve made for this project that I’ve bothered to take a picture of, I guess:

Sweet potato cups with marshmallow topping

Sweet potato cups with marshmallow topping

5. Keep my nails painted for 30 days: 100%!
That’s right, I already finished a whole goal.

6. Finish a coloring book: 60%
I have been working on this one a lot! The coloring book I chose is Alice in Wonderland themed.

Finishing a whole coloring book is taking longer than I envisioned, though

Finishing a whole coloring book is taking longer than I envisioned, though

7. Read the Dictionary of Imaginary Places: 30%
I’m currently in F, and I’m learning a lot. For instance, there are a ton of books set in the center of the Earth, particularly from the 18th and 19th centuries. People thought there was all kinds of crap down there.

8. Be active every day: 16%
I was never going to get 100% on this one, but I’m doing even worse than projected. March really brought my average down. First I was sick for a full week, and then I managed to hurt my back. I’m slowly getting into my routine again now.

Total: 38%

Looks like finishing up the nail polish goal is really saving me here!

Previously: 2017 Goals: To the Max!

Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch

This month’s beginner’s guide was supposed to be about rock climbing, but I may or may not have been the victim of a rock climbing related scam(??? or I’m just unusually bad at reading comprehension, I guess). Anyway, I have now vowed never to rock climb and so my back up thing was cross stitching. This is kind of cheating because I have actually cross stitched before, when I was 13, out of a kit. But this is the big leagues now, my friends. Observe:

Got myself a plastic frame and everything

Got myself a plastic frame and everything

I got this cool Disney Villains pattern on Etsy and had to assemble the supplies myself.

Everyone is cuter as cross stitch

Everyone is cuter as cross stitch

Luckily, one of my coworkers was giving away a ton of cross stitching supplies, including a lot of embroidery floss! Yay! Hardcore cross stitchers agree that the best way to store your thread for easy access is to wind the skein around a little card, write the number of the color, and arrange them in a plastic box like so:

Numerically they don't make a rainbow, sadly

Numerically they don’t make a rainbow, sadly

I like this pattern because each figure doesn’t take a very long time, so you really feel like you’re getting somewhere after only an hour. I’ve probably been doing at least 30 minutes a day for a few weeks now. Yay!!

The pink line is to measure the middle to know where to start. It gets taken out at the end

The pink line is to measure the middle to know where to start. It gets taken out at the end

I wasn’t able to finish this project in a month, but I’m excited to have my first Legit piece of cross stitch art. I’ve read some articles online about how to frame them properly so I’ll try that when the time comes.

The back is less pretty

The back is less pretty

Buzzfeed Beginner Cross Stitch Guide
Framing Finished Cross Stitch

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Calligraphy
Next: ???

Failing at Being a Girl: 30 Days of Nails

I distinctly remember feeling like I was a failure as a girl. Throughout middle and high school, I was woefully inept at so many things that my peers just seemed to learn effortlessly. I now know that the keyword there is “seem.” Whether I was pretending to have an opinion when we talked about which boy band members were hot or tentatively spraying myself with body mist and then getting a headache because allergies, I spent a long time feeling like my failure at gender performance was a failure at being my gender.

Luckily, I know now that it’s impossible to be “bad” at being a girl, and things like nail polish and makeup have only as much importance as you place on them. Still, maybe someday I’ll want to have that skill, and it never hurts to try. So I vowed to keep my nails painted or otherwise pretty for 30 whole days to prove I could do it. I learned a lot. Namely:

1) This is annoying and takes too much time. By the end of the month, I’d gotten things down to where I was a lot faster. But some time is still longer than no time. This is only going to be a special occasions thing for me from now on.

2) I put my nails through abuse. Between cooking, knitting, typing, and all the book wrangling at the library, most nail treatments (including nail wraps) really didn’t last very long for me. With one exception, namely:

These bad boys

These bad boys

3) Inococo Nail Polish Strips are somehow the best??? They lasted so long and didn’t chip or flake away, unlike EVERYTHING ELSE I TRIED. Plus they came off super easy despite being glittery?? And were hella cheap because I bought them at Rite Aid?? They were also the easiest thing to put on out of everything? Despite trying hard for a week to have a complaint about these, I can’t find one. And you know how much I love to complain.

4) If you got nail polish on your hand, whatever. It’ll wear off in like a day. My much more nail-savvy friend Alana imparted this wisdom to me, and she was right.

5) Nail quick dry spray exists. So that’s neat.

Here is my nail journey:

Day 1-3

I started this ~journey~ when my friend Alana was visiting me because she has–I’m not exaggerating on this at all–a small duffel bag of nail supplies. That I assume stays with her at all times. You have to be prepared for a nail emergency, guys. Clearly I was not. She gave me some good advice (see above) and let me use her Jamberry nailpolish and a Jamberry wrap to create this masterpiece:

Amateur hour, I know

Amateur hour, I know

The Jamberry polish was actually pretty nice–it went on smoother and thicker than the cheap nail polish I usually buy. And the quick dry spray actually worked. I was inspired to go to Ulta and buy some for myself. But despite Jamberry’s promises the nail wrap lasted three days. Inexpert application? Certainly. Here was my solution:

Day 4

Just paint the bare thumb with a slightly different color pink and a way different glitter. It's fine

Just paint the bare thumb with a slightly different color pink and a way different glitter. It’s fine

Alana was gone, okay? I substituted a much cheaper pink nail polish I already had, plus “pinata fiesta”(!) glitter that was on clearance(?) at Ulta when I went to get the nail drying quick spray. I know, it looks shittier than I normally do, so the next day I replaced it with:

Day 5-7

I don't know why making a weird claw is my default nail pose

I don’t know why making a weird claw is my default nail pose

Yes, even middle school me knew this was kind of tacky, but on the plus side, I was getting quicker and more confident at nail painting! Even with my left hand!

Day 8-14

Love ittttttt

Love ittttttt

You KNOW I couldn’t paint something so neat, let alone ombre. Yep, it’s a nail sticker. From Rite Aid. The life changing Inococo Nail strips. They stick on like stickers, no heat required. Instead of feeling like a sticker on your nail, it definitely has more the feel of nail polish. Same with removal. Which I only did because I figured I should. I feel like these may have actually lasted way longer.

Day 15-16

Channeling Ms. Frizzle

Channeling Ms. Frizzle

I bought these geode nail wraps on Etsy because I guess I thought I should try a non-Jamberry one to see if… I don’t know, the pyramid scheme was my problem all along? Ha ha, no, nail wraps still suck. Observe not four hours later:

What the f

What the f

Maybe it was against the rules of my agreement with the internet, but I went around like that for a whole other day before I had time to change them. By now nails were starting to annoy me, and I swore off nail wraps for good. Except you, Inococo Nail Strips. Never you.

Day 17-20

No time for anything fancy

No time for anything fancy

I almost gave up around this point, but I was SO CLOSE, I slapped some purple on there. But of course it started to chip after just one shift at the library, so…

Day 20-30


I painted them blue. OVER the purple. Because I’ve got stuff to do, okay, and all the nail polish remover was not great for my skin or nails. Anyway, I know I took pictures of this, but for some reason I can’t find them. Also, they were looking pretty raggedy by Day 25, but that was around the time I got the flu, so there was no way in hell I was going to repaint them. The last five days my nails and I both looked like crap. But they were still painted, so I’m counting it. Plus the thought of starting over makes me feel sick all over again.

In conclusion, please compliment each other’s nails when they are painted or otherwise pretty, because that shit is hard.

Previously: 2017 Goals

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