Monday, October 29, 2012

Why I Love Pokemon...

Since I got my new Nintendo 3DS XL, I've really been playing it a lot. But even though I have quite a few games for it, there's one game I've been playing way more than any of the others...

Yes. A dreaded Pokemon game!

I love Pokemon, I won't deny it. I know that a lot of 'hardcore gamers' think of it as a 'kiddy game', and will bash it all to pieces. Personally I think it's a shame that the series has garnered so much stigma because of the card game, anime and other merchandise that's geared more towards younger people- the games have a solid and addictive game play that's actually a ton of fun! But I'm not here to convince anyone to play Pokemon, just to tell why I enjoy it so much.

Back when I was in fifth or sixth grade, all of a sudden everyone had these things called 'Pokemon Cards'. Being a bit of a loner in school, I'd never heard of the things, and then suddenly they were all the rage! Everyone who was cool had them! Now I had always liked collectible cards. My dad and Uncle used to collect sets of them, and even I had a smattering of random cards from various shows and sets that my parents had occasionally bought me from Walmart. Needless to say, the second I got a look at these Pokemon cards at school, I was in love!

I NEEDED to catch 'em all!

I was Pokemon CRAZY. I needed Pokemon things. All the things. I remember being elated when occasionally my Dad would bring me home a few booster packs when he came home from work. I would excitedly open them, look at all the cards, and coveted them. 

I would watch the TV show after school. Now, when I was a kid, there were only 150 Pokemon critters, and knew the name of every one. Before the commercial breaks, they would show the shape of a pokemon and excitedly yell "Who's that Pokemon???". I knew it, every time.

By the way, that's a Jigglypuff, Psyduck, Magikarp, and a Caterpie.

I remember the first Christmas I had after the Pokemon craze started; it's honestly one of the best, most memorable Christmas's I remember. I got LOADS of Pokemon stuff, cards, books, clothing, toys, coloring books. I remember spending that morning after we opened gifts, sitting on the floor with my parents opening all the booster packs I got, since they had gotten me a whole box of booster cards!

We had stacks and stacks of cards. I would organize them and put them all in sleeves in binders. I had nearly the entire collection at the time, and for my birthday a month later my Dad got me a few of the rare holographic cards I needed from the card shop- honestly the ONLY thing I actually remember getting that year. I'm sure there was more, but those cards were just the best!

It wasn't long after that when Nintendo announced a new Pokemon game- Pokemon Yellow. I didn't have a Gameboy, or Gameboy Color. I had seen others with it at school, and wanted one badly, but they were quite expensive. I desperately wanted that game, even more when I found out you could get the game bundled with a special edition Gameboy Color. I remember hinting around and begging for MONTHS that I wanted that thing, going so far as to write it on my mother's grocery lists, faintly at the top. I had claimed at the time I was trying to 'see how lightly I could write', but I still got yelled at for it!

When I did get it for Christmas I played it all day, I was so excited. Now that I look at it, that gameboy was hideous. Bright yellow front, the back plate of it was bright purple. I would never buy that thing now! I played Pokemon Yellow for months, although I don't know if I ever beat it...

And then- the MOVIE came out. I was so excited- excited enough that my parents actually took me to it opening day. I remember how amazing the movie was, every second action packed, filled with emotional ups and down. The triumph, the tragedy... My parents hated it. Big props to them for taking me to it and sitting in a room packed with excited children to see this movie! They even sent off the vouchers we got at the movie for special promo cards! I loved it!

But after that, as I got older, the Pokemon craze died down. It became the 'lame thing to do'. It was 'kid stuff' and you were a loser if you had anything to do with it. I think I got one other Pokemon game for myself a few years later. I would watch the show in reruns, I still had all my cards. I've never understood why everyone will suddenly turn their back on something they previously loved because it's 'just not popular anymore'. Who cares?

I will probably always love Pokemon. It was such a huge part of my childhood, and encompasses some of my favorite thoughts of my Dad, like him bringing me cards home, and sitting on the floor with me Christmas morning while we opened Fossil Set booster packs. I hope the store clerks who look at me like I'm crazy buying a Pokemon game in the store have memories as wonderful as those! And the best part is that Pokemon has been something I can continue to enjoy even though I'm older through the video games- it's one thing that hasn't become unrecognizable nowadays, unlike a lot of the other things I loved back then (Lisa Frank and Sanrio Surprise stores come to mind!).

Anyways, time to be off! I've got to go play my game and become a Pokemon Master! Gotta Catch 'em All!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Weddings, and Gaming, and Peppy, Oh My!

Howdy! It's been a LONG time with no update! Over a month? How'd I let that that happen? I guess it's time to get an update going again, and let you all know of the stuff that's been going on in my life!

On Friday, October 19th, Matt and I got married! We decided to do a quick, private little ceremony- the important thing for us is being together, not all the fluff and trouble of a full blown thing. Plus, I kind of hate dress clothes and dresses..... Anyway, embarrassing wedding story time!

So the morning of, Matt and I headed down to the courthouse to pick up the wedding license. I'd told him earlier in the week that we'd probably be better off getting that done before Friday, as I thought it'd be more likely they'd be busy on a Friday. Matt disagreed, and after the last time we were there and the place was deserted, we decided to just go Friday morning. Bad idea...

We ended up waiting around for nearly 3 hours to get the license made, and the place was swamped. It was a mix of young college kids who were just sooooo in love that they were cooing and fawning all over each other, somewhat less pleasant people who appeared to be getting married only because someone was preggers (Shouldn't you avoid arguing when you're waiting to get your marriage license?) and a few people trying to get Passports since the office handles both.

Matt and I finally got our license and set off walking toward the Chapel we had chosen which was only a block away. The website makes the place look gorgeous, and we'd considered doing the bigger $60 package they offered to invite family, before we settled on the 'in the Minister's office' deal instead- and I'm SO glad we did!

We looked all over for the building, before we finally realized it was the ugly looking old office building behind us! It was a typical old office building consisting of long hallways that span each floor, with glass fronted offices lining the hall. And what's the first thing we see upon walking in? "Bomb Shell Bail Bonds", of course! Somewhat alarmed, Matt and I went to wait at the elevator to get up to the fourth floor.

That's when this dude who looked like he'd just walked out of an episode of Gangland walked up to wait with us, and he's talking to his 'dog' on the phone trying to find a different bail bond location in the building.... I never imagined this place that looked so pleasant online would have at least two different bail bond places inside it! We get to the fourth floor with Mr. Ripfang (Or whatever his gang name was) and start looking for this Chapel place, and finally spot it at the end of the hall. It has a sign out front, and I forget what it said, but the 'Chapel' is ALSO where one can go to do their drug test for work. -Facepalm-

Now thoroughly embarrassed, we go in and wait for the awkward, large family in front of us to figure out that they do in fact need ALL the money to pay, and 27 does not equal 30.... (We had seen them before at the courthouse, and they didn't make a shining impression then either!) After giving our paperwork and whatnot, we sit to wait. The waiting room is filled with dingy, blue upholstered chairs, and on the wall of this place is a Snoopy 'magic eye' poster. After a brief wait, we're escorted into the minister's office, which is decorated in Oklahoma and old car and license plate memorabilia. Awkward!

The minister enters and is very nice; he introduces himself, we shake hands. He asked if we were going to do a ring exchange, which we'd opted not too (We've been wearing our rings for months anyway). He tells us "This will be short and sweet!" and then proceeds to BELT IT through the wedding vows as fast as he can. And Matt and I being supremely flustered and embarrassed, and obviously never having said them before, repeated them JUST AS FAST. It was like we were racing to see who could say wedding vows faster! Most embarrassing experience ever!

We booked it out of there once it was finished and start back to the car. I was so happy that I didn't opt to take any family to that place, it was horrible, and I'd have died of embarrassment! I can't imagine my grandparents and such, who would have insisted on getting dressed up, having to sit in that dingy waiting room! 

We were all happy with giggles and grins by the time we got back to the car however! Really, it made the day far more memorable, and Matt and I decided to renew our vows one day in the future in a more proper ceremony! With far less awkwardness!

Anyway, on to the more mundane life things that have happened recently!

So on October 4th, this came in the mail! What is this stuffed rabbit you ask? Why that is the one thing I have wanted for 15 years and I thought I would never see for sale ever, much less own! Let me start this story at the beginning!
So I love this video game series by Nintendo called 'Star Fox'. Like, seriously love. I could quote you the entire script of Star Fox 64, from memory, right now. The problem is that Nintendo has released very, very little in the way of merchandise and memorabilia for this game, especially of my favorite character Peppy Hare. I found out that in 1993 they released a set of plushies for the 4 main characters. They were only in Japan, and only attainable through 'claw-grab' machines, making them exceedingly rare. I've only ever seen two other of this plush set on ebay, and both went for well over $100 dollars; and I've been looking for them for 15 years. 

Then one night Matt informs me that he saw someone put up auctions on Ebay for a Peppy Hare, and another for a Fox McCloud. I flipped out! He said we could try for them and we decided to go for as high as $200 dollars on them. The day the auction for Peppy was ending I watched it in a panic, as it jumped from $30, to fifty, then seventy five, a hundred and twenty, hundred and seventy five. I panicked during the last 5 minutes, and went to lay on the bed, practically hyperventilating!

Matt came in a few minutes later and told me we'd won! He'd opted to go up to $255 without telling me and sniped it! I was ecstatic! And also a little horrified, both at the price, and also the fact that another person had also tried to snipe it for $250, just under our winning amount.

Oh, and the other plush that was up, of Fox McCloud? It went for $315. 0.0;;

I also recently upgraded my Nintendo 3DS I'd bought a year ago for a new 3DS XL. I loved the first one, but it got to where I couldn't hardly play games on it- it was too small! My hand would start to cramp from having to hold it in an awkward position. I just don't have the hands of a twelve year old anymore I guess!

Anyway, the new 3DS XL is a significant size increase from the previous one, same console basically, just a bit bigger. The larger size makes holding it for long periods of time more comfortable, and the bigger screens make the games easier for me to see. I've been playing the heck out of it! I love being able to sit on the living room and play it while watching TV with Matt. It's nice to be able to play games without having the use the TV itself.

And last but not least, the art contest I entered a while back... Yeah, I didn't even place. I am extremely disappointed with the way the judging was done. The first place winner was a jaw droppingly amazing piece that blew every other one out of the water (including mine) and looked as if a professional artist for a magazine or something had done it. And the other two places were taken by extremely amateurish pieces that were easily trumped by a lot of the other work there. I know the person was trying to be fair to everyone who entered, and it was a broad range of art levels between really bad, good, and that one fantastic one that took first, and it must have been really awkward trying to choose between them and not hurt feelings. But I really don't feel it was fair to the 'decent artists' in my range of skill to pick two 'poorly done' pieces, and one that was clearly so good no one else would have stood a chance against it. In other words, I could have slapped something together and not spent any time at all and probably would have had as a good a chance for the second and third places. Disappointing.

Anyhoo, will be updating again soon! Will try at least! 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Afternoon Tea... Art Update!

 Click the pictures to embiggen!

"Afternoon Tea"
Finally, it's done! This is my entry for a contest on DeviantART. The prompt for this was Just Me and My Dragon. I'm pleased with how it came out; I could fiddle around with it more, but it's time to move on to new projects! The judging starts on September 22nd! I hope I do well, this is the first contest I've ever entered...

"When Suddenly"
This one was gift art for a friend of his character. Just a quick little something.

A little doodle, done after finishing Afternoon Tea... Yay for Giraffes!

If you enjoy my work, you can see more of it (And bigger versions of the images here) at my DeviantART!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomb of the Werewolf- or How I Accidently Rented Softcore Porn

This is an older story, but I was reminded of it yesterday while we were at Hobby Lobby. They've got their Halloween decorations out (And also Christmas... Poor Thanksgiving, no one loves him!) and what goes better with Halloween than werewolves? I've always loved werewolves! Way better then vampires any day!

So anyway, when I was in high school, Mom and I went to the movie rental place. She said I could pick out a movie of my own, so I toddled off alone to browse the shelves. I fancied finding a werewolf movie (I think a few of them had recently come out, so I was on a werewolf kick anyway) so I wandered around until I came across this:

The werewolf on the cover didn't look half bad, which is generally my main concern when it comes to werewolf movies. I mean, the plotline's usually going to be flimsy anyway, so why worry? I read through the synopsis on the back, which seemed normal enough, decided I was good with it, and off we went home! After popping some popcorn, I sequestered myself in my bedroom to watch, while my parents watched their movie in the living room.

My first indication that something wasn't quite right with this movie was the opening scene, in which the evil Countess Bathory is making a blood sacrifice of of a woman tied to a tree so that she can stay young and beautiful. All of it seemed pretty normal for a horror film, until the Countess ripped the other woman's shirt off and basically started mauling her breasts.

Uhm... Okay. Weird but not terrible. It's not like they were playing typical 'bow-chika-wow-wow' porno music in the background. The scene quickly ended with the bound woman getting killed and some blood bathing or whatever, and it jumped into the rest of the movie. The plot was flimsy, something about a failing reality mystery TV show producer getting invited out to some castle to search for the long lost treasure and remains of a werewolf Baron. The group in the movie was the most unrealistic TV production crew ever, all in their early twenties, fit with perfect hair...

The movie progressed fine through all the 'plot set up' bits, until after the crew's dinner when they retired to their rooms for the night. But they didn't get much sleep. About this time I finally realized that this was freaking soft core porn. The character would get all hot and bothered and have foreplay right up until they were disrobing the last of their undergarments when it would jump cut to another scene.

With a very loud "WTF?!" I shut the movie off, and marched out into the living room where my parents had paused their movie to go make popcorn or something. "How is your movie?" they asked. I tell you what, I never expected to answer that question with "Unexpectedly pornographic"!

In my defense, the Tomb of the Werewolf is classified as a horror movie, and is in the horror section of the movie store. Either the producers for it were in serious denial, or it was very badly advertised, cause I imagine it would have made a LOT more money in the adult section of the rental store! Apparently, if you're into that 'scene' some of the actors and actresses listed in there have been in other racy films as well, but I had no idea. I thought it was just a cheesey werewolf flick!

Being in high school at the time, I was old enough and mature enough I wasn't scarred for life or anything. It was actually pretty hilarious! But I don't think I've rented another werewolf movie since then either...


Thursday, August 30, 2012


So last night, while laying in bed about to go to sleep, Matt and I were talking about fish. Actually, we had been talking about the differing political viewpoints between conservatives and liberals, and I'm not really sure how that got segued into fish... But it did. And I'm here to tell you, I don't like fish.

No, not that kind of fish. That kind's delicious!

I don't like -live- fish. "But you HAVE a fish!" You're probably thinking. But Mr. Mage is a very small fish. I don't like big fish. When they get much bigger then a large goldfish I start to have a problem with them. They're so.... creepy.

Here's a good example- the bagel shop that Matt and I frequent for bagely breakfasts has a tank with an eel in it. I didn't notice it the first few times, but the last time we went for bagels, I realized it was a fish tank! I like fish tanks! And it has a neat fish in it! We ended up sitting at the table right in front of the tank (Because I insisted), and I was super excited. Like 'face mashed against the glass excited' about sitting next to the eel.


I liked him when we first sat down. He was kind of chilling out behind a little log in his tank. But the longer I sat there, the more unnerved I got. Fish do that, well, fish eye thing. They just stare, unblinkingly. And eels kind of look mean. Our bagels came and we were munching away at them, but the eel was staring at me. I was getting creeped out.

He was neat at first, with his weird little nose holes, and his weird skin.... Then he decided to go for a swim. And he was really big. Like, I knew he was big, but when you actually see it... I pretty much had to ignore him the rest of the meal because my stomach was getting upset about it. Wtf?

I'm really not sure what it is that bothers me so much about fish. It's really not that I'm afraid of them; it's hard to be afraid of something that is completely avoidable. But when they're very big, they're creepy and weird. Take whales for instance.

I like whales. I like the way they look. The noises they make. They're 'giant bovine of the ocean-ness' is nice. Am I afraid of them? No. Would I want to be anywhere near them? NO.

Okay, maybe I am afraid of them...

I imagine part of it is how alien fish are to us. It's a completely different animal type, you know? Why fish bother me but reptiles don't is beyond me though. It's also probably that I don't really like water (Especially when it's loud!), and large open expanses, which is where fish tend to live... You can't see what's in the water with you, you don't know how big it might be, if the water's too deep it just gets dark and black... It's disturbing!

So no, I never want to swim with whales. I'll go to the aquarium with you, but don't blame me if I get all creeped out! Fish are creepy- you jsut haven't realized it yet!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall is coming...

It's been a little while since my last 'life update', so I figured I ought to remedy that! So lets see.... where to start.Uhm. There's really not been much going on! 0.0;

Matt and I both purchased Tablets a while back. Asus TF300's to be precise. And we love them! They are one of the best little inventions ever.

Matt uses his all the time for work, allowing him to better keep an eye on his work emails and such, and not have to rely on the cramped little uncomfortable to use phone. For myself, I use mine in the evenings a lot after work. I like to relax on the couch and watch TV, while using the tablet to read the newspaper, play games on (I adore Sudoku and Mahjong) and browse the internet. I never thought I'd get so much use out of one, but it's really worth the investment. It's even gotten Matt to read a little bit, as he can use it to read Ebooks on, and we both have a manga reader on them as well. It was so totally worth it!

Matt and I also got a new game called Guild Wars 2. It literally just released this last weekend.

It's very similar to World of Warcraft, but there isn't a monthly fee attached. Once you've bought the game you're done with everything you have to buy. For me this works out great- the intense need I used to have to play an MMO from dawn till dusk regardless of anything else is gone. I can really only manage a couple of hours of play at a time anymore, and I get distracted from it pretty easily. I'm just too invested in my art and reading and such I guess. But with this I can hop on and off without feeling guilty over 'wasted money' and still be able to play with my friends! It's a best of both worlds situation for me, although this game lacks dwarves. :(

We had a small 'not as hot' snap a while back. I can't really call low 80's/upper 70's a 'cold snap' but the way some of my coworkers acted, you'd think it was subarctic temperatures outside! Regardless, not only was it extremely refreshing after the 112 degree days we'd been having, but it seriously kicked off my longing for Fall! 

The temperature dropping and the leaves turning is the first sign that we've finally gotten out of dreaded summer and into my favorite half of the year! Honestly, I despise summer, and I always hated the fact we had our longest break of the school year smack in the middle of it. Why would you want to take a vacation when it's hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk? Fall, winter, and the beginning of spring are the best times for me, however. Nice cool to cold weather, rain and snow, and lots of glorious clouds!

Fall and Winter also encompass my favorite holidays as well: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All the food, family and fun! Not to mention the pumpkin spice flavored things that pop up everywhere! I always get so much Starbucks coffee and Olive Garden pumpkin cheesecake because of it! And pumpkin pie! OMG!

Seriously, what's more beautiful than that?

I can't wait for all the seasonal soups and stews the restaurants will start carrying, and the fall baking entices me just as much. I intend to do a lot of baking this season, and delicious roasted and stewed things as well.... And the decorations and music and EVERYTHING!

Okay. I should probably stop gushing about fall and winter. I seriously love it! You don't even know guys.

ANYWAY- I've been working on an art piece for a contest. "A contest?" You might say. "Weren't you doing something for an art contest a while back?" Yes, I was, but I never finished or entered it. It was an art contest for a game we were playing that we quite quickly tired of, and as the prize for it was all game related, I decided not to bother. Not this time though, this time it's for this:

That's not a toy my friends. That's a hundred dollars worth of extremely detailed, hand painted sculptural figurine, right there! And I want it. BAD. Here's a preview of the entry I'm working on. All the flat colors are done, all that's left is shading and any other details I want to add. The prompt for the contest is Just Me and My Dragon.

I really wanted to try and tell a story with this, give it a little touch of whimsy. I'm hoping that's conveyed in the image.

After looking at some of the other entries in the contest, I'd like to think I maybe have a good chance of at least placing in the contest, which would mean a ton to me. It'd be nice to get that little ego boost for my artwork, you know?


Monday, August 13, 2012

Beef Stew Even a Barbarian Can Make!

I posted about some delicious Beef Stew I made a while back, the one slow braised in a dutch oven? Well, I made it again last night (Yes, it's that good!) and I thought I'd do a step-by-step for it, as I haven't done one in a while.

As before, the recipe I started with is here: Beef Stew Recipe! I modify it, taking out some of the meat, and adding in celery and mushrooms, because I like them! It's actually fairly easy to modify a stew or soup and add your own ingredients, so feel free to go for it!

Anyhoo, first things first, preheat your oven to 325 degrees, chop up your onions and mushrooms, and smash your garlic! If you haven't done it before, you can smash garlic easily by setting a clove on your cutting board, laying the flat of your blade across it and hitting it hard with the heel of your hand. Don't cut yourself, and expect your clove to occasionally shoot out from under the knife and fly across the room!

Cut up your meat into 1inch to 1-1/2 inch pieces, and season them on top and bottom with salt and pepper. Start heating your dutch oven on the stove; it will take time to heat up! Also, read the instructions for your dutch oven. If it's like mine, you can't use it on the stove over medium heat as it can damage it. But cast iron holds and distributes heat so well that medium is plenty high!

Add a tablespoon of your cooking oil to the pot, let it heat up, and start your first batch of meat! You want it to get very, very dark brown and crusty before you turn it over, and do the same to the other side.

I know what you're thinking. Omg, it's sticking! Omg, it's getting crusty stuff on the bottom! Omg, it's gonna burn, I need more oil!  NO. You WANT that brown crustyness on the bottom. That's flavor developing there, and we'll get to that later. Also, too much oil and you won't get a good sear on the meat. And those of you who think you can do all the meat at once to save time? That won't work either- instead of searing, the meat will just steam and won't ever get brown and delicious.

Like one of my favorite chef's Anne Burrell says "Brown food tastes GOOD!"

So sear your meat in batches adding another tablespoon of oil with each batch if it needs, get it good and brown and delicious, and remove it all to a pan. It'll be oozing bloody juices and still look raw on the unseared sides, that's normal. Searing the meat is the most actively time consuming part of the stew, but it's where a lot of the flavors come from, so take your time with it!

Once you've got all your meat done, next up is to toss your big ol' bowl of mushrooms, onions, and garlic into the dutch oven. This is where all your brown crustiness that's built up from searing the meat comes in! Take your balsamic vinegar and splash it in there, stirring the veggies and scraping the bottom of the dutch oven. This is called deglazing- The balsamic vinegar will loosen all that flavorfull crust up from the bottom so it can get all dissolved and mixed into the broth! This is one of those chefy techniques that builds a lot of flavor into dishes.

Also, -stand back- when you put the vinegar in, or you will get a face full of hot balsamic vinegar fumes, and it will be painful to breathe!

Cook this goodness together, making sure to scrape all those browney bits up for about 5 minutes. (You ARE using a wooden or other non-stick safe spoon right? Wouldn't want to damage the enamel on that expensive cookware!) Add in the 1-1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste, stir it in and let it cook another 5 minutes.  

Don't want to open an entire can of tomato paste just for 1 tablespoons? Look for tomato paste in a tube! You can use just what you need, and toss the tube back in the fridge until you need it again! I found it at Wal-mart and it was fairly inexpensive. 

Add the meat and juices back in, then sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of flour, stirring until it's well mixed and dissolved, about 1-2 minutes. Then pour in your wine, beef broth, and water, and add your bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Give it another good stir right up from the bottom, pop the lid on and carefully transfer it to your oven! (It is cast iron, regardless of enamel, and it will be very hot and very heavy!)

And wait. For at least two hours.

Why so long? It's braising, which means to cook low and slow in broth. Basically, it's a pot roast, just in a stewey packaging! The time and low temperature will break down the connective tissues in the meat, resulting in very tender meat and a lot of deep, rich flavors. That's why you have to get meat that's well marbled with fat- no connective tissues, no breaking down, still tough lump of muscle!

Anyway, use those 2 hours to dice up the rest of your veggies. I usually chop them right after getting the stew in the oven, that way I can toddle off and work on art or something, undisturbed. 

After two hours, your house should now smell delicious! Also, your meat should be getting good and tender. Carefully take the dutch oven out, take the lid off and after you recover from the blast of delicious smelling steam that will escape, stir in your veggies. If the handles on the dutch oven weren't hot before, they WILL be now, so seriously, be careful. 

Put the lid back on, put it back in the oven, and let it cook at least another hour until the veggies are at your preferred done-ness. Mine usually takes over an hour.

Once it fully cooked, you have two choices: Discard your bay leaves, and then either eat as is, or add in cornstarch to thicken it first. Matt despises anything soupy, so I usually add cornstarch in water to make the  broth more of a gravy.

The completed stew, ready to eat!

And there you go!, Super easy, lots of deep, rich flavors, and enough for several meals! Pair this with some fresh baked bread (Pillsbury has an italian loaf in a tube I bake while I'm thickening the stew and letting it cool to a non-magma temperature) and top with a little chopped fresh parsley for looks.

It's so easy even a barbarian can make it!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Every couple of days I get a hankering. Usually it's controllable... I'll go to the special places in my house where I keep them. I'll get my fill at work. But sometimes, I just can't stand it.

"Sweetie? Can I buy some books..?" I softly call. "Don't you have enough books?" Matt replies.

But there can never be enough books!

If you've read my blog at all, you'll know I'm an admitted book-o-holic. I LOVE books. If I were a dragon, I'd hoard books instead of gold. Nothing makes me happier then going into a Barnes and Noble, or Half Price Books store. I could spend hours in them browsing through fantasy, fiction, the cookbooks... anything really! It isn't just reading them that makes me happy, it's the nooks themselves. The feel, the smell, turning the pages, the first time you crack them open... It's bound perfection!

The sad thing is, I'm also easily distracted. Between my other loves of cooking fancy meals, my cat, my art, and any other new toys I have like the PS3, I also have work and chores that need doing too. Books are also a very solo activity. Matt isn't much of a reader anymore, and the time I spend reading is less time I can spend being with him. I like to read in a quiet room, curled up somewhere cushy with a cup of hot tea... But Matt's love of computery things rarely makes for a quiet room!

Yesterday, I got that hankering again, to set hoof in a bookstore. I had to resist the urge to stop at the two bookstores that were on my way to walmart yesterday evening. To quell my need to get new books, I just went to my shelves and counted up all the books I need to get too....

And there's... kind of a lot.

That's just the most handy of the ones I need to get too. But the reading life of a book-o-holic is a meandering thing. I don't just read whatever's next in the pile. I pick the one I'm in the mood for. It's why I end up reading so many books at once- sometimes I just can't wait to start a new one! 

So I'm gonna try and get through at least most of this stack by the end of the year. Dunno how far that will go... But I'm gonna give it a shot!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Awoken and the Preview...

Here's the latest art piece I finished about a week ago now...

Click to make bigger!

This one took quite a while. Turns out clouds are really, really hard to draw. Who knew? I wish I'd kept track of how long this took- I'd estimate ten or fifteen hours from sketch to finish? All done in Paint Tool SAI. I'm very pleased with it. If you want the full effect, listen to this while you look at it!

This is the theme music to raging bear-goats.

Anyway, I'm off working on a new piece, it's in the sketching phase now. I don't know that I've ever shown how my artwork starts off, especially with the new styles and mediums I'm working with. Here's the starting sketch for my new picture, which I've titled "Bounds and Leaps"

Click to make bigger!

I wanted to do something more lighthearted then the last few bigger pieces I've made. Keep in mind this is still in sketching phase- none of the sky or background lineworks are there, just most of the dragon's sketch and bits of the foregroundy stuff. Hopefully this one turns out as well!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of Dysons and Dutch Ovens...

A week or so ago, I was spending my afternoon at home dozing on the bed. I'd been in there maybe an hour, when a strange noise half-woke me.

...Thwack! ......Thwack!

I pondered getting up, but decided against it, rolled over and went back to sleep. Sometime later I was again half woken by the closet door in the hall being opened. I vaguely remember the sound of vacuuming, and then sometime after that the sound of the closet door again being opened. Mostly awake by then, I rolled up onto my elbows and looked up as Matt came into the room.

"We're buying a new vacuum cleaner." He grumbled, then walked out.

Apparently, he killed several flies in the living room and they'd fallen behind the loveseat, but our poor vacuum cleaner flatly refused to suck them up. It wouldn't pick up flies... We gotten the thing 3 years ago for Christmas from my parents. It wasn't an expensive one, around 50 dollars or so. (My parents tend to buy more expensive quality things, rather then cheap ones, but we got a LOT of house things that year!) In fact, the thing fails to suck so badly, that I had practically given up on vacuuming altogether.Matt's alergies were going crazy and the floor was getting grimy, so off Matt and I went to Best Buy to purchase a shiny new vacuum cleaner!

... And straight home we went after getting there and looking at them- since when is there such a wide selection of vacuum cleaners? We dug around for reviews and settled on the Dyson Ball DC40.


I. LOVE. THIS. VACUUM. Secretly, I've always scoffed at the 'Dyson ball' vacuum. We've all seen the commercials, the swirling hurricane force vortexs inside, the easy to maneuver and turn ball for steering. Well, it's all true. Who knew? I can glide this thing around corners no problem. The bin that collects all the grime and dust has a quick release button the top, letting me dump the dust straight out the bottom of it, and it all falls right out! It never loses suction. We emptied the bin three times the first go through of the house, and it fills it up nearly every time I use it, it picks up so much stuff. Totally worth it you guys, buy one!

Oh, and those flies? I found out later that Matt had just left them all behind the loveseat, and they all got squashed flat from the cat lying on them when she sat in the sun back there. *Sigh*- Men. The Dyson picked them all right up though!

Anyway, a few days later I got a wild hair and decided to make beef stew. No, not my usual beef stew, which you can see by Clicking Me! No, I wanted real stew- Beef, slow braised with onions and mushrooms in broth and wine for hours, with tasty rich veggies to go along with it. So off I went to Walmart to buy a dutch oven! I've wanted one forever, there's so many tasty stews, soups, and briased-ey things I can make in one!

I'm always looking at the ones at Williams and Sanoma when I go in, but the ones they carry there are over $200, a little out of my price range for one piece of cooking equipment. This one however, is basically the same construction (Enameled cast iron) for about a fourth of the price at $60. I took my prize home, got it washed up and seasoned in the oven. Being cast iron, it felt like I was trying to wash a small elephant in the sink...

After it was ready to go, I started on the stew, for which you can find the recipe I used Clicking Here! It was excellent overall, although I made some tweaks to it, and one mistake. I forgot the tomato paste, though it came out fine. And I cut down on the number of potatoes, opting to add mushrooms in with the onions and garlic during the initial braising, and celery in with the added veggies. It didn't come out as thick as I'd have liked, and I did add cornstarch to it after it was done; however, I think I will be adding more the next time.

Though it was a labor of love indeed (It took about 4 hours overall, with at least 2 hours of that being active prepping/cooking time) it came out exceptionally. The flavors were rich and deep, with the flavor of the wine lingering in every bit. The meat was super tender, and by adding the vegetables in for only the last hour or so of the cooking, they retained their individuality and firmness instead of going all to mush. Served with some nice, crusty fresh bread, it'd be a meal fit for a king.

And definitely one worth buying a $60 dutch oven for!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chicken Soup Part Two...

As a most of you who either know me, or read my blog will know, I LOVE soup. A lot. My header is even a picture of me making soup. I eat it nearly every day. Even with the frequency with which I eat soup, you're probably thinking "Part two? I don't remember seeing any 'part one'...". 

Well you see, part one of this story happened over a year ago before I started this blog! And it was such a disaster, I probably wouldn't have even posted about it. One of the great staples of soup is the Homemade Chicken Soup. I'd always wanted to make one, and one way to do this is with a leftover chicken carcass. With this is mind, I roasted one up, made soup the next day and- Blech. It was bland, flavorless, disgusting.

I tried to find a picture of disappointing soup to
put here, but it's surprisingly hard to find a photo
of soup that adequately expressed my

Anyway, I've mulled over what went wrong with my first chicken soup, and came to some helpfull conclusions.

  1. I didn't break down the carcass of the chicken, so it took a  LOT of water to cover it in the pan. As an already roasted chicken has had a lot of the flavor already leached from the bones, this lead to really, really bland and flavorless broth.
  2. I went ahead and added the veggies to an already flavorless broth, expecting them to bolster the flavor. This is a huge no-no in soup- never put your main ingredients into a lackluster flavor base, you'll get lackluster results.
  3. When the soup was nearly completed, it was STILL flavorless, so I cooked it far longer then necessary trying to get more flavor out- this gave me a big pot of bland water and tasteless overcooked veggies.
I'd also left all the meat on the bones, and when you boil chicken meat, especially white meat that's cooked and partially cut apart, it gets all flaky. So there were tiny bits of chicken strings all over in there, which isn't a very pleasing texture to the tongue!

So skip forward to last night. I was sitting on the couch thinking about the two game hens I'd roasted over the weekend when Lance came down and stayed the night. (We had a full sit down dinner, with all the trimmings, something I hadn't yet gotten to do at our new kitchen table!) I really love roasted chicken when it's fresh, but I hate it left over. I've discovered I'm not real fond of chicken salad either, which is what I usually do with the leftover meat. I needed to use those game hens today, or throw them out- so I opted to try that soup ONE more time. I mean, everyone else says it's fantastic; There's gotta be something there!

I got up fairly early this morning, tidyed up the kitchen and set to work pulling meat off the bones. Matt got up and made us some coffee. "I'd give you a snuggle" I told him "But I have chicken hands."

"Aww." He said, hugging me from behind anyway, which would have been a more tender moment if this image wasn't in my head:

I tossed the torn up bones into the pot, which being game hens were already more compact, and covered it with water to simmer for a while. I was actually kind of surprised by how much meat was left on them. This is why I don't really like leftover chicken, I mean look at it!


Anyway, I let the bones simmer with some bouillon (To help bolster the flavor) for about two hours before I strained it off. Tasting it, I discovered the broth had a delicious rich, full flavor! I sauteed some mushrooms in the pot with a little butter for flavor, added the carrots, celery and onions, topping off with the broth. Then I added some bay leaves, thyme, pepper, paprika, basil and a pinch of oregano. By this time, it smelled amazing!

I let that simmer until the veggies were done, then stirred the chicken in, and let it warm through. My mouth was watering, and I could hardly wait to try the results. I already knew it would be a marked improvement over my first dismal effort nearly two years ago!

I ladled out some in my special soup bowls (Green of course!), added some parsley for color and set about taking the most awkward photos ever...

This was the clearest, most color true I could get it to come out, but it looks like some giant, cosmic bowl of soup looming up at you out of the darkness... Oh well! I quickly sat down and dug in.


Sorry, I just fainted there for a second remembering how delicious it was! Everything was perfect! The flavors were bright and robust, the veggies perfectly done, the chicken was NOT stringy and had a fantastic flavor! If but a smidge too salty, a fault on my part not accounting for the saltyness of the bouillon, it was fantastic. I'll be having it for dinner tonight, with a fresh baked loaf of bread to compliment. Can't wait!

So now I can officially say I've made some damn good Homemade Chicken Soup! I think we'll be having roast chicken more often now!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Living Room Upgrades, Dual-Monitors, and Artsy Stuff...

We've still been slowly working on upgrading the old and decidedly cruddy furniture in the house, for nice, new, badass furniture! A few weeks ago now, I decided to strip off the upholstery on the 'coffee table' we had gotten hand-me-down from Matt's parents (Thanks guys! :D) Wade had at some point covered it with a foam pad and brown fabric as they had wanted more of a foot stool than a table. You can see a picture of it covered in this post here.

I've always wanted to strip it off, as we'd prefer to have a proper table rather then a foot rest, but I never knew what was under the fabric! Was it in good condition? Would it need refinishing? I wouldn't balk at doing that, as I'm fairly comfortable doing projects I feel I have no expertise for after my Props and Crafts class in college, but did I want to invest the time? It was the not knowing that kept me from tackling the project so long.

Seeing as we were using it as a table however, the fabric was starting to get rather grimy, and I had no way to clean it. I decided I would go ahead and strip it, and if the table top was in too bad a condition, I could always reupholster it with a more waterproof fabric! So I flipped it over and started pulling staples!

Lots of staples...

And lo and behold, it was a really nice table underneath! It's got a decorative edge around one side, which does have two holes drilled into it... I think it may have been intended to be a faux drawer, and would have had decorative knobs on it. But other then that, a few minor scuffs, and a couple staples I didn't feel like wrestling with after the first billion, it's a really nice looking table!

We also recently purchased a new TV stand as well, replacing the very shaky and decidedly ugly Wal-mart one we'd been using that Matt got when he first went to college. Funny story, we went and bought the stand, only to find out that the furniture delivery person was on vacation! It was slightly too big to fit into my Taurus, so I called my grandfather to borrow his truck. Unfortunately it was over 90 degrees outside, and the thing isn't air-conditioned. We roasted, but the TV stand is worth it! In fact, it's probably one of the nicest pieces of furniture we have now; it went together really easily, and is super sturdy. Much better then the desks!

The TV is back mounted on it, and swivels left and right. I love that it does that, as I can now sit on the loveseat to the right on the stand and turn the TV toward me when I play games! Yes, my eyesight is that bad! Oh, and I also picked up these two pictures for my kitchen which I haven't put up yet.

Super cute!!

Last night I got a wild hair and cleaned off my desk top a bit and had Matt hook up the extra computer monitor we have to my PC. I've been considering doing this for a while- with two monitors I can have reference stuff up on the smaller screen, and my art program on the other, letting me keep both windows at maximum size! 

It actually fits and works better then I thought it would! I put on the movie Labyrinth on the TV to the right, brought up references to the left and set about drawing up a little doodle of Sir Didymus while I watched!

If you haven't seen Labyrinth, I pity your poor, deprived soul!

I think this two monitor thing will be fantastic in the long run! It's going to be so nice having a full separate screen to open references on, rather than either tabbing back and forth between pages, or trying to squeeze Chrome and Paint Tool SAI together as tiny windows.