Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Apartment Tour and a Startling (to me) Announcement

I’ve been increasingly hermity lately.  But unlike the past when times like this came from a pretty negative place (depression, social anxiety, general hate-the-worldiness) I’m thinking this time it’s more for positive reasons. 

1 – I really love my apartment.  It’s beautiful and makes me feel grown-up and I can do whatever the fuck I want there.  And I don’t have to wear pants.  Or shirts.  Or anything.  And it’s pretty darn awesome. All of the entertainment I want is readily available to me.  I have my books, my writing, my paints, my Netflix, my apt’s gym, my keyboard… and on and on.

And oh - hey, I never took you on a tour of my apartment.  Please see the below pictures. I took these a few months ago on my crappy cellphone that takes crappy pictures and that I can rarely hold steady.  My bedroom and bathroom are still rather boring looking so they're not pictured here.

Someday the keyboard will get a proper chair.

Backless bookshelf born out of "Oh shit, the bookshelf got
broken in the move!" and my brother's ingenuity.

The fun things on the windowsills get rearranged every time the windows
are opened. They look nothing like this anymore.

The scary wood thingie on the wall that Mom and Dad keep suggesting I
cover up.  Dad suggests an American Flag.  Jokingly... I hope.

Couch courtesy of Grandma and Granpa's old house.

Sadly, those stools still don't have cushions on them.

Clearly, this place is not lit for photography.
So yes, that's my little hodge-podge home :-)  Now, back to the post - 

2 – I feel like the things I do at home are better for my personal growth than the things I do outside of my home.  I go out, I have some laughs, I have copious amounts of alcohol, I make questionable choices and I… that’s about it.  But if I stay in, I have some laughs, I learn some things, I edge closer to being the person I want to be.

3 – I’m using my money more effectively.  AKA – I’m paying my bills and buying decent food instead of putting off my bills, feeling like I’m drowning in debt and eating takeout all the time.  I’m living more frugally and it feels freaking fantastic.

Now, I’m not saying I never leave my house except to go to work.  But Sunday-Thursday, you’re most likely to catch me at home than anywhere else.  Friday and Saturday I do try to get out of the house to socialize with my friends, but I’m also trying to make these events more likely to be events where I’ll meet someone new instead of just visiting the same old dive-bars we went to when we were 21. 

Because, really, I’m tired of the same old same old, and if that’s the alternative I’d much rather stay at home where I feel like I’m doing things that cause me to grow, than sitting around having the same conversations in the same tired places. 

Maybe I’m just becoming an old fuddy-duddy?  


In other, sort of unrelated, news, I’m still writing my story. 

It’s weird.  This is the first time I’ve put this much thought into anything I’ve ever written.  I’m planning the storyline, creating the world (because it’s very Sci-fi/Fantasy), and trying to create believable but highly differentiated characters.

And so here’s the part where I decide I’m going to stop saying “I’m writing my story” and just finally admit (to myself as much as anything) that -

I’m writing a book.

Well great jumping jackalopes, that’s a little scary to look at.

But the fact of the matter is, the storyline that’s developed in my head is so incredibly massive it seems unfair to continue to just refer to it as “my story” as if it’s some kind of trifle.  Ever since I was 10 years old and began writing for fun, I’ve been writing “my stories”.

But this thing, it has taken on a life of its own and to call it anything less than a book feels like I’m insulting its integrity.  So it is, with great fear, anxiety, pretense and many vomity feelings, that I’m going to start saying –

I’m writing a book.

*Whew* Well, now that that’s out there in the universe…

I’m not going to share much of the plot because it still feels a little silly.  When you’re a rational adult, trying to explain a story about space travel and magical abilities is very blush-and-giggle-inducing.  So far I’ve only talked to my family and Han about the actual plotline and the physics of the world I’m creating.  Han’s gotten a chance to read the first ten pages and has helped me over a couple of the hurdles I was initially facing.

But here are a couple of questions you can all help me with:
  • Do you prefer to know a character’s back-story all at once at the beginning or in little pieces throughout?
  • What are some tired plot devices or character types that you never want to see in another book?

I’d love some input :-)

Much love,
Annie Jay

Friday, September 6, 2013

Deliciousness Born Out of Necessity

Someday I'll be brave enough to try the hot peppers...
I've been pretty broke the last few weeks and you know what I've discovered?  Apparently the best way to get me to eat healthier is to be broke enough that all I can afford is to pay my bills and buy fresh food.

It also helps that the Saturday Farmer's Market is only a few blocks from my apartment.

Since I've been broke and not able to go out to eat or order take-out as often, I've been forcing myself to use my food budget for good instead of evil.  I've been making myself buy fresh veggies, which in turn means I need to cook the veggies within a few days before they go bad.

This method is working pretty well so far.  (Note to self: Whenever I need to do something, make desperation be a factor.  Oh my god I hope it doesn't take me getting fired to finally finish writing a book.)

I've also been expanding my palate in the mean time.  For one thing, I've learned that I love tomatoes.  I mean, I'm still a ways away from eating a tomato like an apple, or eating a bowl full of chopped tomatoes for lunch (I saw my coworker do this a few weeks ago - do other people do this??) but where I used to be like "Oh crap, there's a chunk of tomato in this tomato sauce GET IT OUT!!"  I'm now like "Ohhhh yeeeeeeaaaaahhhh, I tots want that thick slice of juicy red tom on my turkey sandwich!"

One problem I've always had with veggies is storing them properly so they don't go bad before I get a chance to use them.  The internet has 5,000 different ways to store millions of kinds veggies.  Some are extremely crazy and perfectly impossible to do unless you have five kitchens and at least ten root cellars.

But I have found that this website has an awesome, practical list of how to store most common fruits and vegetables that we have here in North America.  So far, all of the tips have worked very well for me and I've tried about 50% or more of the tips on the page.  One great thing I learned?  Don't keep your onions and potatoes next to each other - they ripen faster when they're together!  And there are other fruits and veggies that should be kept separate as well.

So I mentioned in my post yesterday that I was going to make coconut oil refried beans.  They were delicious!  I started out following this recipe but because I'm broke and had to make-do with what I had in my cupboard I like to experiment, I did a little improvisation.  Here's my take on the recipe:

Coconut Oil Refried Beans

3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 can black beans, drained
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained


  1. Add garlic and coconut oil in a medium sauce pan over medium/high heat.
  2. Heat until coconut oil is melted, stirring constantly.
  3. Add onions and heat until onions have turned translucent.
  4. Add in beans and heat until very warm, but not boiling.
  5. Turn off burner.
  6. Mix and mash beans in the pot with a potato masher (or a fork if you don't have a masher).  Since this recipe uses chickpeas, which are a little "tougher" than the black or pinto beans, you'll need to mash for a while to obtain the desired consistency.
  7. Beans should have retained enough heat that you don't need to reheat them, but if you do, turn the burner to low and stir frequently.
  8. Sprinkle with cheese if desired, but I felt like they were flavorful enough that I didn't need it.

I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures - I was just starving by the time my meal was prepared!  These beans will look different than your usual refried beans because of the chickpeas, but I thought that the chickpeas lent the perfect texture, color and flavor to the mix.  I also grilled chicken and made Mexican rice using the peach/jalapeno salsa I made.

Sometimes being broke can be delicious!  It definitely causes me to cook more and experiment with what I have around more often.

Have you ever created a culinary masterpiece from what you happened to have sitting around?

Happy Feasting,
Annie Jay

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kayaking the Galena River in Illinois

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! I took Friday off work as well so I ended up having a nice 4-day weekend.

My brother, Clockwork, came to town, which was very awesome.  Friday night we hung out at my apartment, watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf.  So, basically, we occupied our Friday night exactly the way we occupied it when we were little kids.

Saturday, I went to Farmer's Market with my girlfriends first thing in the morning and got some delicious fresh produce.

And from some of the above items, delicious peach-jalapeno salsa was made.  Tonight I'll be grilling up that corn because there is SO MUCH of it.  I'm also going to be cooking chicken and Mexican rice with the salsa and I'm going to try making coconut oil refried beans.  I'll let you know how it turns out!  (Or, if you're in town, you should probably just call me and come over for dinner.  You bring the beer.)

After Farmer's Market, I headed out to my parents house to make plans with Clockwork for the kayaking trip we planned to take that day.  Our parents let us use their kayaks and even shuttled us to Galena, IL where we met our uncle who was our guide on the Galena River.

Ok, so here's the point where I need to say the internet knows next to nothing about kayaking on the Galena River.  So I'm going to do a little instructional for people who want to know:

Put-ins on the Galena River:
Buckhill Bridge: Go to downtown Galena, drive all the way down the tourist section of Main Street until it becomes Dewey Ave.  Stay on Dewey Ave. until it becomes Buckhill Rd.  Stay on that until you come to a bridge that goes over what looks like a creek.  That is the Galena River.  On the far side of the bridge, there's a fiftyish-foot-long driveway that has a path that leads to a very primitive put-in.  (aka a couple of pallets tied together and anchored to the shore)
Galena Boat Landing: Alright, this one's pretty easy to get to since it's right in downtown Galena.  I'm not going to provide many details about this, but if you go to Depot park, you can drive under the bridge and get to the parking lot and put-in.
Ferry's Landing: This one's also harder to find.  From HWY 20, you'll turn onto Gear St (this is near McDonald's).  Take Gear St. all the way to S West St. and turn right.  S West St. becomes N Ferry Crossing Landing Rd. which you'll take all the way to the end.  The public put-in is pretty obvious once you're down there.

When we were planning the trip, we knew we had several trips to choose from.  From Buckhill to Galena takes about 2 hours.  From Galena to Ferry's Landing it takes about 2.5-3 hours.  From Buckhill to Ferry's Landing it's 10.5 miles and takes 4-5 hours.

Of course, we opted for the 10.5 mile trek.

One of the coolest things about the Galena River in Illinois is that it goes through historic downtown Galena, IL.  If you don't know much about Galena, you should definitely look at these pictures.  And plan a visit.  Then visit me.  It'll be fun.

The first 3.5 hours of the trip were great.  

Because the water was low, we didn't have much of a current to push us along, but we were content to paddle lazily.  We stopped just a couple of times so Clockwork could get out and investigate some ruined buildings along the river.  Uncle and I stayed in the kayaks and made friends with the ducks.

Quack quack!

Then we floated through downtown Galena.

Luckily I did not get a tan-line from my Vibrams.
We enjoyed the water and the quiet offered by the rural river.

Clocky and I talked about the writing we're both working on and the fun mythic worlds we're creating.

After that, it was all downhill.  

And by downhill I mean "Holy fuckballs why did we decide to paddle 10.5 miles on a river with little shade on a day that was easily 90+ degrees?"

Because of my allergies and asthma, I hate to be without water.  So I made sure to fill 6 water bottles for Clocky and I before we left home.  And since we'd be paddling throughout the afternoon, I also packed a shopping bag full of granola bars to take with us.

Luckily, the water bottles made it into the kayaks.  Unluckily, the granola bars stayed in the van we'd taken to the put-in.  Along with my sun hat.

So, three hours in, Clocky was hungry and I was baking in the sun.  But happily, our uncle, who is consistently in a good mood and is not easily shaken, kept us going.  As we got further down the river and came to a fork, I figured "We can't possibly be that much further from home."  That's when Uncle informed us we had at least another half hour to go.  

As Clocky brought up that he was hoping the end would be "just around the river bend" I of course (all concerns of being obnoxious having been completely cooked out of my brain by the heat) burst into my own spirited rendition of the song from Pocahontas.  And since I didn't have a drum to keep me rowing, I kept singing.

Finally, as we were rowing through buggy, marshy, log-ridden backwaters, I spied buildings up ahead and let out a cheer.  We had finally arrived.  The last 1000 feet of the trip were definitely the hardest of the whole thing because the end was in sight.

But in the end, I felt accomplished and happy that we'd done it :-)

Anyone else have fun misadventures on your Labor Day Weekend?

Much Love,
Annie Jay