Thursday, December 8, 2011

Merry the Night

Among the ridiculous things I've done while procrastinating during finals lately is finding a bunch of pictures of what I consider to be the most aesthetically pleasing style of Christmas decor: primitive and woodsy with a hint of Scandinavia. 

I really enjoy Victorian Christmas imagery and decorations too, but when I think of Christmas, I most like to imagine a serene snowy forest sparsely dotted with cozy cabins that have been untouched by time. Who doesn't, really? 

All of this probably stems from the fact that I want to settle in Scandinavia eventually and romanticise places that conjure in other people adjectives such as "bleak", "desolate", "isolated" and "uninhabitable", but that's neither here nor there. I'm sure it also has to do with wanting to escape the pressure, frustration and vacuousness of the modern world, which is why fantasy novels and movies have been especially popular as of late. But, whatever. Point is, my favourite ornaments to put on the tree have always been handcrafted pine cones, birds, wooden apples and this one cute little twig wreath with holly berries and squirrels that I'm pretty sure came from Oregon.

If you know me and read this I'm sure you're also aware of the fact that I'm a far cry from any denomination of Christian, but spending time with family, giving gifts and celebrating the end of the year with singing and sweets is something everyone can enjoy. In this case it works out, there's no divisive religious twist. So, without further ado, this is about to become a (carefully selected) image-heavy post. 

These look like they could have possibly come from the same house, huh? 
Well, it's not Christmas without a more gratuitous smattering of decorations than this, so I've got some of those, too. Maybe these'll give somebody an idea for a homemade gift or something.

So when I was collecting all of these a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that an appropriate outfit would be required to insert people into these images, and naturally, the ever-inventive Japanese have already created a corresponding style: it's called mori girl.

There are quite a lot of blogs and image collections dedicated to the style, but I didn't search very hard for Japanese ones, and I think most of the Western ones pretty much botch it and post a lot of things that don't really apply. It all ends up looking too modern, minimalistic and contrived, which is unfortunately the opposite end of the intended spectrum. 

This guy explains the history and intentions of the aesthetic best, in my opinion. The goal is to look like a girl who lives in the forest (hence the name), with muted colours, soft fabrics, long, loose skirts and dresses, knit and crocheted things, and probably a floppy hat and a leather satchel. 
This all came about in response to the various garish gyaru styles: not everyone wants to look like a freaky snow monkey or a glowstick just because it's in. 
This simple, natural style is just as elegant as any other, so long as it suits you.

The accessories are images of things I've liked and saved over time; the wristwarmers are a bit bright for mori girl, but what I love about them is their texture, and their primitive handmade look still fits, I think. 
The antlers are from Etsy, and speaking of Etsy, every time I see those adorable little fabric house brooches I want to make some and sell them on there! 
The vintage leather bags I found on eBay, both for under $20 (including shipping). 

So you see, it wouldn't be difficult at all to assemble this whimsical look. I'm pretty sure there are lots of crocheted grandpa cardigans, vintage leather bags and booties and various washed out maxi skirts waiting for you at the thrift store. :D

I also found this really cool picture of a sort of Wa-mori (or Japanese-style) mori girl:

Finally, probably anything in the lolita vein does not fit in with this style, but if I were to make an evolutionary chart of lolita to mori girl, this romantic, classic European lolita style a la Tyrol would be the missing link:

I guess there's something too contrived and muddled about their look to be mori girl; their clothes are too fitted and their hair is dyed and styled. But are they not completely adorable and Christmassy?!
All of these looks and styles and the drinking-rich-homemade-hot-chocolate-while-wrapped-in-a-blanket feeling they evoke are just lovely, so if you live in a place with seasons, I hope you'll get festive and make the most of them!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Recipe: Thanksgiving Extravaganza

So for the past couple of weeks I've been all like:

and I figured it'd make a good Thanksgiving (weekend) post.

I'll start with my recipe for red lentil soup. My goal is to make it as good as the soup at Pita Jungle, but for some reason I can't get it to have quite as full a flavour. It comes out a little watery and hollow-tasting, if that makes sense, but it's still pretty good, especially when reheated. And this recipe makes a TON of it.

You'll need:

2 cups of red lentils
1 quart of vegetable broth
Onion, carrots and celery, all optional and to taste (for example, mine is sans onions because I'm allergic)
2 cloves garlic
1 - 2 tablespoons of red or yellow curry powder to taste
1 - 2 teaspoons of cumin powder to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro, again to taste
Lemon juice or Green Chile Tabasco sauce, optional

(I never measure or time anything, this is about as exact as it gets. Read all the way through the recipe before starting.)

Ok, so rinse, sort and drain the lentils. If you're using onions, you'll want to sautee and mince the quantity desires in the pot you're going to use - either in a little butter or oil - first, along with the garlic. 
Bring the quart of veggie broth and 3 cups of water to a boil together with the lentils, adding more water later to change the consistency if desired. Skim the foam that appears. Cover and simmer for around 10 minutes. 
Add the quantity of chopped carrots and celery desired. Cover and simmer for another 15 or 20 minutes. Then stir in the curry, cumin and cilantro.

This is good with Bisquik gluten free biscuits (which, as you'll see, is one of the other things I made), but I think it's better with Mahatma saffron rice, as pictured on the left. It's really tasty, easy to make, apparently lasts much longer than the printed expiration date (but don't blame me if that turns out to be wrong in your case), costs $1 a packet and is apparently on sale pretty often as well. You can find it in the Asian/Ethnic section of your grocery store.
Finally, squeezing lemon juice onto your lentil soup when you're ready to serve it or adding a few dashes of Green Pepper Sauce is really tasty.

Moving right along, one of my new favourite recipes is for crustless goat cheese and vegetable mini quiches. The recipe I got them from instructs you to make them in ramekins, but you don't need to get $15-for-a-set-of-4-at-Walmart fancy. I didn't even bother looking for some at thrift stores, not right before the biggest cooking holiday of the year. A muffin pan works fine, and cute little babby quiches are easier to share.

All you need is:

2 eggs and 5 egg whites
2 cloves of garlic
Veggies of your choice (pictured above is with zucchini, pictured below is with asparagus)
A wee bit of oil, and
approx. 5 ounces of goat cheese of your preferred level of flavour; semi-hard cheese sold in triangular blocks works just as well as the softer stuff.

Preheat your oven to 425. Put the garlic in your food processor until it's minced. Add the eggs and goat cheese and puree. That's about it. 

If you're using zucchini or another type of squash as well, cut it into slices and salt and drain it thoroughly on towels first. My leftover zucchini quiches were great, but the zucchini was still a little watery even though I salted and drained mine very thoroughly. If you're using asparagus, cut it into the desired size, toss it in olive or vegetable oil, place the desired quantity in each muffin space and stick the pan in the oven right when you turn it on to start them cooking. 

After you pour the quiche mixture into the pan, in any case, it should bake about 15 minutes. Watch the sides, they'll brown first. Keep in mind not to keep your oven on for a long while and, say, make gluten free biscuits and a green been casserole first, because even though you readjust the temperature, your oven may be too hot and overcook the sides of your quiches.

...As pictured.

They're still really good, though. :D

The only thing you can really do with extra egg yolks is make egg custard with them. I'd never done this before, and it didn't work at all. 
It's been a long time since I've made something that came out inedible, so it was pretty upsetting. The recipe seemed really simple and I followed it exactly, even letting the custard cook an extra 5 minutes or so because it didn't look set, so I'm not sure where I went wrong. It never did set. This is more or less how it's supposed to look, but I'm not going to post the failed recipe I used:

Onto the next item of the feast. I winged it with my last recipe and it came out great. I decided to use the mushrooms and mushroom soup I already had to make a green bean casserole at like 11 AM on Thanksgiving. 

Keep in mind that this recipe is not gluten or wheat free; creamy soups commonly contain flour as a thickening agent, and this is true of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom as well. This is not usually enough to bother me, but even a tiny bit of flour can make someone who is intolerant to gluten very sick. If you're not a vegetarian I'd recommend using chicken broth and cream, possibly with some of the Bisquik mix or with all purpose GF flour as a thickening agent. I sprinkled a bit of Bisquik into mine and it worked fine. 

Like I said, I totally winged this one with no recipe and no real measurements, so I guess I'm just posting it to offer an idea of one way to make this. This is also an onion-free green bean casserole.

The quantity of fresh green beans and white button or cremini (which are more savory) mushrooms you choose to use depends on the size of your casserole dish. Remember that the mushrooms will shrink substantially when cooked. 

Preheat the oven to 475. Wash, trim and cut your green beans in half. Parboil (that is, something between blanching and fully cooking) your green beans for 6 or 7 minutes, then drain them and rinse with cold water to slow or stop them cooking. 

While they're boiling, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large pan and throw in your mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces. Once they've started to brown and reduce a bit, add two cloves of minced garlic and spices to taste. I threw in salt, pepper, a little cumin, thyme and curry powder. 

Cook this all together another minute or so and add a can of Campell's Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic. Fill the can with milk and add this as well. When the mixture looks like you're ready to be done cooking it (no exact time, this is how I roll, don't be annoyed), add the green beans. Fold them in so you don't crush them. Pop this into the oven for about 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Starting sometime while the mushroom mixture is cooking, add a little vegetable oil to another pan - or wait until it's done cooking and use that pan - and throw in the desired quantity of frozen  (or homemade, if you got time fo dat) hash browns. I added a bit of garlic salt and some curry powder to mine right when I threw them in, to create curried hash brown potatoes. Cook until sufficiently crispy and use to top your casserole.

Edit: I also had some leftover asparagus (tossed in oil) from the quiches and, after tossing the pieces in a saucepan on medium-low heat for a bit, used them and 1/3 cup of milk, about 3/4 cup of vegetable broth, a little salt and pepper and the juice of half a lemon to make a single bowl of asparagus soup. Simply put it all in a food processor and puree. It's really good with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top, too, or you can melt the cheese into little chips by sprinkling piles of them onto wax paper and sticking them in the oven, if you feel like getting fancy. I just have the Kraft powdered kind, so I mixed some of that in.

And viola! That was basically what my Thanksgiving dinner looked like.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Craft(y) Project: Deco Makeup Containers

This is a really simple thing you can do with your makeup containers once they're empty, or you could buy new ones (they're very cheap). I used little cabochons, beads that are flat on one side, rhinestones, glitter glue pens and stickers

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Never Go Full Leotard

Before proceeding, I readily acquiesce to the fact that I don't have the body to be traipsing around in leotards, but guess what? I did anyway. 
Not once in October, but twice. Last year I didn't make a blog post about my Poison Ivy costume and the "slutty Atlantian" costume I made for my friend, so I'm going to make up for it this year with a post about my Ariel costume and my strange night as an alien disco space queen/Sailormoon villain. And a general summary of my entire busy October.

The Little Mermaid costume is a lot easier to explain than the latter leotard-related fashion fiasco, so I'll start with that.

I really wish I'd stepped into the foreground and smiled, but I love this one:

I threw my costume together at the last minute between helping Ale clean battery acid out of her trunk and going to house parties, even though I'd had all the components since August. I could probably make a really awesome costume (or get straight A's or write a book etc.) if I ever actually tried. All I needed was a pair of leggings, a leotard, some lame (lah-MAY that is; there are formatting problems when I copy and paste characters) and some felt. 

I cut a V-shape into the waist of the leggings and attached some simple triangular bluegreen lame (they were kind of lame, actually) fins. I tried to make the little fins Ariel has sticking out at her waist, too, but the lah-may was coming apart, time was short and chaos reigned. Now you might notice that the nude leotard ran like a damn nylon stocking. Well, dear friends, I'd like to use my misfortune as an opportunity to remind you never to hastily leave positive feedback on eBay before you've tried something on. The leotard had no means of entry whatsoever, so I had to cut off the neck bit that didn't stretch (imagine trying to put on a T-shirt by stepping into the top), not knowing that would cause the whole thing to come apart. I also cut the sleeves to elbow length and sewed on simple shell-shaped felt pieces. The shiny sequin things are neat strings of sticky dots I found at S.A.S for $1.99 that advertised themselves as a way to instantly jazz up your clothes, which made me smile. I also attached some purple ribbon around the back to make it look like a top.

The purple ribbon came from these flower girl headbands I made for Minna's three adorable little clones:

Aren't they cute? I'm thinking of advertising these headbands on Etsy because they're so easy to custom make, but with 3 1/2 weeks of college left I can't say I feel like doing any commissions, no matter how small.

Anyway, onto the other leotard.

Ok, so a friend of mine was shot and paralysed in a senseless psychotic rampage nearly a year ago now, and he threw a party to celebrate being alive. It just so happens that this friend is in the habit of throwing ludicrously elaborate parties. The last few have had "Lady Gaga performances", so I hesitantly agreed to be Gaga for this one, since this friend always loves my outfits (which I really ought to post) so much.

We spent several weeks learning the dance, and when the time came to do it, I was still too sober after some Xanax and 6 shots of vodka: I froze up. I also frantically finished this costume at the last possible second, so I had been running at 100 MPH for a few hours, too. Long story short, I forgot about half of it, the drag queen who was probably the best dancer of the bunch and who up until then had been unconscious suddenly appeared without his wig and started drunk dancing with us after we'd enlisted the help of another gay man with ADHD to fill his position, and apparently everyone else sort of messed it up too. We were going to redo it a couple of weeks later but my friend posted it on Facebook as it was anyway, and I'm never going to watch it. Ever.

He somehow managed to change outfits 6 times during the course of the night, blackout drunk and in a wheelchair. Like a boss. 
Also at this party I watched an adorable lady in her 30's piss (and puke) all over the front lawn through her clothes, saw a guy who'd unknowingly smoked weed laced with opium fall and break his jaw and incorrectly guessed that the laceration on his chin would require 3-4 stitches when it ended up needing 8, was regaled with the fetishist tale of "two girls one pot" - which I luckily did not witness - and was hit on and felt up by a 17 year-old former gutter punk while trying to sober up at 5 AM before driving home. The intense irritation and mild disgust motivated me to get un-cross-faded ASAP. If I had a party to celebrate being alive, I think I'd want it to be something like that.

Valenzuela and I look completely psycho in this picture, I lol'd when I saw it. There were also a lot of really good looking people there with awesome costumes who don't appear in this picture. Not saying that in a bitchy way - some people did look really awesome.

That same weekend I also went to a Misfits show. Erika pressured me to give a really cute 17 year old guy (completely unrelated to the aforementioned one) my number even though I didn't want to, we had a few drinks, I ended up with an enormous bruise on my arm that sort of looked like Japan and I got my vest signed by Jerry Only after he pulled me close and I kissed his forehead.

My friend's ex also sent me what I can only hope is the worst of the camera phone pics he took that night, but it's kind of funny so here it is:

The fake money (and fake bales of cocaine that I wish were pictured but aren't) were distributed in spectacular fashion by a very gimmicky but thoroughly awesome band called Bro-Loaf. They're listed as "Crunk/Fusion/Thrash" on MySpace, which is about the best I can do in describing them. They changed costumes numerous times and had a well-coordinated series of skits to go along with their set, including a song called Graduation that I intend to download and blast repeatedly in approximately 4 1/2 weeks.

Also, Ale had herself an awesome 4-day romp in Seattle at the very beginning of the month and brought this art earrings back for me for my birthday, in a box she decorated:

We also went and saw The Lion King in 3D and really enjoyed it, despite initially regretting being sober.

In turn I made her these little Matryoshka-themed things for her birthday, which is on Halloween:

Oh, and we also went to a stranger's birthday party in Tempe because I decided I wanted to have a political debate with an intelligent stranger who'd tried to troll me on Facebook. No such debate was had, the party was full of awful pretentious conservative nerds and I regret not taking the Stoli Ale bought with us when we left.

Finally, I talked her into going down the the Occupy Phoenix rally for a couple of hours on the 15th. I made a simple sign and scrawled a sort of manifesto in sidewalk chalk that corresponds to my political rants on this blog; we swung on the swings in the park while some hippies were discussing whether or not they were in the mood to get arrested; and the fuzz was surprisingly congenial, despite the sensationalist crap you might have read online that states otherwise.

The Walking Dead also started again in October. I love the shit out of that show and I've never missed an episode. If Norman Reedus dies I might, though. It almost looked as though the second season started a little early in the park that night:


Our little former of the Occupy movement's global day of action was pretty crummy, though I can't say I'm surprised that a backwater city like Phoenix doesn't give a damn about or is unaware of what's going on in more relevant places and what's being done by more relevant people.

My favourite part of that night was getting a free surprise backstage pass to the taiko show that was going on at the Japanese Friendship Garden next door:

Pretty neat, huh? There's something oddly, voyeuristically satisfying about taking cool pictures while lurking in shrubbery. Anyway, that's what I was up to in October. My excuse for not posting much this month is that life has been punching me in the face repeatedly, which you already know about if you know me.