What exactly is a Time Bender?

We are a people discontent with accepting the "standard" and "reasonable" amount of productivity in a single day. We are not the weekend warriors of old. We do not yield to sleep. No! We trudge forward into the depths of night and keep the Sandman at bay with the illumination of our devices while we continue to free items from our ever increasing to-do list.
Of course, the simpler explanation is that we are the not-so-brilliant people that practice self-induced insomnia for the sake of being able to get just "one more thing" finished.

I’ve Discovered Vemma

I’ve Discovered Vemma

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So…  I’m going to ignore the fact that I have been a very bad blogger.  I haven’t posted.  I know it; you know it; let’s just agree that I should get better.

Here is the link I’m going to show you at the end of the post.  If you would rather just watch the video, I won’t be offended… http://v.vemma.com/Qg3f

Moving on. :)  Like most people my age, I spend a lot of time going to class, working, and trying to be with those I care about.  I’m not good at getting the right amount of sleep, and I always try to cram too much into one day.  I’ve spent a ton of money on energy drinks, coffee, sodas and anything that is supposed to boost energy and keep you going throughout the day.  I still felt tired, but it worked.  Then I discovered Vemma.  The Verve line is great for energy without the jittery effects of other products (and the awful taste).  I get the energy I need to help me through the day, and I don’t crash later.  The Bod•ē Rest is awesome!  I still get the same amount of sleep as before, but it is easier for me to wake up, I feel more rested, and I sleep more soundly.  My work week sleep now has the same effect as my weekend sleep schedule, and I LOVE that.

I’m excited to share these products with you, and it makes it even better since Vemma basically pays me to take these natural, safe products!  And… There is the Car bonus…  Lots of companies claim to offer a car bonus, but have you ever actually seen one of the cars?  Nope?  Me neither.  Well here is the crazy thing…  about a week after I was introduced to Vemma, a friend of mine saw one of the BMWs with the Vemma branding.  On the highway.  With a real person in it.  In Fayetteville, Arkansas.  What the heck?!?!  It’s real!  I was/am pretty excited about it, so I signed up and eagerly awaited for my things to arrive.  Within the week, I was armed with Verve energy drinks, Bod•ē Rest, and Bod•ē. Woot!

Well, I’ve tasted every available flavor of the Verve, and my favorite is the ParTea.  It is very fruity, and quite refreshing!  The Rest greatly increases the effectiveness of the sleep that I get, and I haven’t gotten around to testing out the Bod•ē yet.  I’m not really trying to lose weight, so I’ll probably give it to a friend.

Verve is gaining a huge amount of popularity in the college scene.  There are even Verve lounges in some institutions, and college students drive to and from classes in brand new BMWs.  It is pretty impressive, and the company has been operating since 2004, so the business model has had time to undergo changes and become very stable.  Love it!

Anyway, If you are interested In checking it out, here are the links for each product.

Verve! : http://v.vemma.com/Qg3f

Bod•ē: http://v.vemma.com/vi3f

Vemma (business) : http://v.vemma.com/xi3f

Arkansas Rural Internet Sucks!

Arkansas Rural Internet Sucks!

I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to everyone, but others probably don’t realize the level of difficulty that goes into getting reliable, reasonably priced, appropriately metered internet in more rural areas.  It is ridiculous!  I live 0.83 miles away from coverage from ANY sort of wired internet connection.  They have it on both sides of my home, but I have found myself in the black hole of internet service providers.  Nuts!  Ok… Let me slow down.  As a rural dwelling Arkansan, I have been pretty much forced to go with satellite internet service.  Here is the thing about satellite service… if you like hanging out on facebook, posting to blogs, and watching the very occasional YouTube video, it is probably fine, an it always has been.  A few years ago, WildBlue and HughesNet both released their next generation services that offer hugely superior performance to the old versions.  The download speeds for Exede (WildBlue’s new service) are pretty acceptable and almost always more than advertised.  The upload rate is obscenely bad (I tend to need that feature a lot).  Here is a speed test I just did:

I don’t like seeing a grade of “D.”  My problem isn’t the speed (although uploads kill me).  My problem isn’t even the ridiculous ping (latency).  The HUGE issue I have with this and every other satellite plan is the data cap.  For those of you that don’t know, a data cap means that you are only allowed to download/upload a certain amount within a given time frame.  My exede plan allows 25 GB total transfer per month, and it resets on the 20th of every month.  I am also granted unlimited service from midnight to 5:00 AM every morning.  That helps, but really… 25 GB isn’t a number that most people can take seriously.  In this “day and age,” we stream so much media constantly that it isn’t possible to function like most of society and keep within that 25 GB cap.  So what if you go over?  Well, you get throttled.  A lot.  I’m talking the removal of 90% of speed.  Yup.  Fun stuff.  NEVER FEAR!  Exede will happily help you remedy this sad state of affairs by allowing you to purchase extra usage.  You can do this at a rate of $9.99 for each 1 GB you would like.  This is a one time purchase, and if you overbuy, they don’t go to your next month’s total.  Boo.. That is seriously expensive when one considers that the 25 GB plan, their largest offered plan, is $129.99 per month, plus equipment rental.  Here is my current usage:

usage

 

Notice the dates?  That is 15 days and 3.2 GB remaining!  Now…  You might be thinking… “Cory, it is pretty irresponsible to let your usage go over so soon since you rely on the internet like one of your lungs.”  Here is the thing.  If I was to blame, you would be right, BUT IT WASN’T ME!  We are always careful with our usage, but for some reason, without changing our habits, the past few months we have reached our limit, or very close to it, within just a week of the reset.  Before that time, we never went over, well we did our first month, but not since then.  I’ve been told that someone was hijacking, but that isn’t true.  I’ve checked the access logs.  I’ve been told that it is due to large amounts of file sharing (torrents), but that isn’t true.  I’m the only one that uses those, and I have the program set to ONLY download during the free usage period.  So, nope.  I’ve been told that it is a windows update setting, but with the exception of one laptop, it’s all about the Macs in my house.  I’ve checked the laptop, and updates are disabled totally.  I was told that online backups were potentially a problem, but I don’t use those.  I told them that their meter was broken.  They don’t believe me.  However, if you do google searches on it, MANY people are having this problem, and it started for them in just the last few months…  Hmm.  Aliens.

Well, I got irritated, so I have spent a huge amount of time the last few days researching every possible way of connecting to the internet.  Verizon has a nifty thing they call HomeFusion Broadband, and it tempted me.  Verizon serves my area, and the 4G LTE service I get with my JetPack is smokin’ fast!  I almost pulled the trigger on this, but after looking into it, a large number of people have issues with the usage accuracy.  No thanks.  It is cheaper; it is faster (by a lot), but I don’t get to keep the free download period and I lose 5 GB of data.  Not the best deal.  Then I thought I would drop the Exede service down to the base service AND get HomeFusion.  This would give me 30GB of data (with the middle HomeFusion plan) and the free zone, and it would be about the same price as I’m already paying.  Again, I almost did it.  I just don’t feel that it makes much sense to move to a service that is experiencing the same problem I’m trying to run away from.

The hunt continued.  I struck out with talking to Cox, CenturyLink, Windstream, AT&T, and Verizon.  None of them service my area.  At this point, I was getting annoyed.  I mean really, how hard is it to run a cable between the two service areas?  We are talking just a couple of miles…  Literally.  I kept digging.  Then I had a crazy idea…

I should become my own ISP.  I dismissed the thought as being stupid, but I filed it away as an emergency backup plan.  I kept digging, and since Sprint does not provide service in my area, all of the reasonably priced, fairly metered options they provide over their cell network had to be ignored.  That required a lot of things to be ignored.  They are VERY heavily supported by third party ISPs. I continued, and I finally found something that was kinda acceptable.  Millenicom.  They offer a hotspot plan that gives access to 20GB of data on Verizon’s 4g network.  The best part is that it is only $70 per month.  No contract.  No taxes.  No fees.  This would give the same data I was planning for the HomeFusion.  It would also be cheaper, and the data cap is “soft.”  This just means that you aren’t instantly charged for going over, and you aren’t throttled.  It isn’t a license to go over, and Millenicom makes it clear that continuously doing so will result in account suspension or termination, but it gives me more control of how quickly my money disappears…  especially if my HomeFusion decided to go rogue and rack up a $1000 internet bill.

I still wasn’t happy.  30GB of data is really not much at all when you figure in online classes, virtual lectures, video conferencing, and normal browsing.  It just doesn’t go very far.  I REALLY need an unlimited or at least much larger data cap.  This has lead me back to my “emergency” plan.  I think the Millenicom option will tide me over and at least provide better service, but I’m seriously looking into the cost and equipment required to become an internet service provider.  I have been approved for both a T1 and an Ethernet connection (funny how I can get a business connection), but the monthly cost is pretty high for even the lowest rates.  I am also considering something called wireless mesh networking.  If I can organize that, I would be able to serve the entire community for cheaper and faster than the current DSL speeds offered.  We shall see, but for now, I’m going to go try and conserve data usage.

Thanksgiving Break Has Ended

As some of you may have noticed (or perhaps not), I haven’t posted since Thanksgiving.  I took a few days, and I totally devoted them to spending time with family, friends, food, random projects, and homework.  Everyone needs to take time, even if they feel that they don’t really have any to spare.  Sometimes, it’s important.

Well…  it’s time to get back to work and into the normal swing of things.  I have several things I would like to talk about in the coming days.  To name a few: oil pulling, rural internet woes, LTE internet service, and maybe I can remember to slow down long enough to actually write down a recipe or two while I’m cooking.

For now, though, I REALLY need to get back to that pile of homework.

Two Days Before Turkey

Well it has been a pretty relaxed day of food preparation.  I made a compound butter and rubbed the turkey skin inside and out.  I diced some carrots, celery, onion, thyme, and garlic, and I used that as a nice aromatic bed for the bird.  The turkey is now resting comfortably in the refrigerator to allow the skin to dry out.  Between the drying and the butter, the turkey should be deliciously crispy and beautifully golden.  I also prepped the turkey breasts and lightly toasted the bread for the mini Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.

For the sweeter side of the day, I have finished my pumpkin pie and the caramel cake.  Both of them smell fantastic, and they are going to be difficult for my midnight sweet-tooth to forget about.

Before I started cooking, I did a thorough cleaning and organizational routine.  I gathered the dishes that I only use on the holidays and gave them a nice wash.  I cleared off any randomness that had found its way to the counter tops.  All prep surfaces were disinfected just to be safe.  I would hate to have a guest get sick.  That would not be good.

Tomorrow will be  pretty involved.  I’ll spend the day making desserts for Friday, and of course, making the meal for tomorrow also.  The meal for tomorrow is pretty simple, so I’m not worried.  I do need to get some rest though, so I’m going to end this post.

Until next time!

Dual Thanksgiving Meals!

So I have had a change of plans.  Originally, I had intended to do one Thanksgiving dinner.  Well… It turns out that I’m going to do two!  We moved our HUGE dinner to Friday to accommodate  the majority of the family and friends, but there are a few that could only get together on Thursday.  I don’t understand the concept of getting together for Thanksgiving without having food as a large focus, so to meals it is!

Friday’s menu is the same as I stated here, and I’m doing a slightly less complex menu for Thursday.  Here we go:

Turkey Breast Roulade with Sage and Sausage Dressing

Mashed Potatoes

Mushroom Gravy

Rotini with Cheese Sauce

Roasted Root Vegetables

For Dessert:

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Status Update:  I have made my stock, turkey has been brined, I’ve finished the shopping, and I have done some ingredient prep.  Tomorrow is when the major cooking begins!  I’m excited!  I wish all of my fellow Thanksgiving Preppers accurate oven temps and perfect knife cuts!  I’ll talk to you soon!

 

Calm Before the Storm

Calm Before the Storm

Whewww!  What a week!  This week was one of the must technically challenging and tiresome weeks in my recent memory.  I spent a ridiculous number of hours mixing a song in a program I haven’t even used 10 times.  I spent two days repairing a network at The Wine Cellar (really nice place and GREAT people!).  It took two days because the problem turned out to be something FAR more complicated than I originally anticipated.  The only way I could manage to finish the mixing project was to take a week-long hiatus  from teaching.  I know that it sounds like those two things should be totally achievable, and I should have been able to knock those out in just a few hours but HOLY COW!!!  They both kicked me in the tookus.

I spent 2 hours this morning watching Thanksgiving Live on the Food Network, and it was awesome.  I was planning to watch yesterday, but I spent the time crawling around in an attic running cable.  It was nice to just take some time and breath and not feel guilty about it, but this can not last.  Thanksgiving is coming…

This week is full of food!  I LOVE Thanksgiving!  It is all about the food and the family.  I’ll spend a little time every day this week preparing for the Big Day, and I’ll try to keep all of you wonderful people updated on how I go about planning.  This weekend, I purchased some of the basic meal ingredients, started the brining process for my turkey, and made a list of the remaining ingredients I need to pick up.  At some point in the next few days, I’ll break out the pressure cooker again, and I’ll use it to make a very large amount of beautiful chicken stock.  Stock is a BIG deal for holiday meal prep.  It has to be hot, and it has to be plentiful.  Golden awesomeness…

Anyway, I’m going to enjoy the next few hours.  My next class opens at midnight, so time is running out!

Finally Finished Mixing Project!

So I posted a few days ago about the mixing project I am working on for college.  If you didn’t see it, check it out here.  Today, I am submitting the final edit.  This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this, so it has been a bit of a struggle.  I’ve added the recordings here.  This is more for personal documentation than anything else.  I’m hoping that eventually I’ll be really good at this stuff, and then I’ll be able to look back on it and laugh at myself.  That would be good.  Anyway, I still hate this song, and I’m glad to be finished with it, but it has been fun being put into a position that makes me aware of exactly how little I know.  It has been a bit since that has happened to me, and I think EVERYONE needs those moments from time to time.

Check it out!  You might have vastly different taste in music than me, and you might actually LIKE this song!

Stracotto di Manzo (Italian Pot Roast) Under Pressure

Stracotto di Manzo (Italian Pot Roast) Under Pressure

Ok.  I know I’m a day behind.  I’m sorry.  A few things came up, and they lead to Chinese take-out.  I. Am. Ashamed.  I also didn’t make it to the grocery store, so I had to resort to some ingredients that I don’t normally use (like canned mushrooms…).  I’ve adjusted the recipe to be what I actually WANTED to use, and I’ve also not included many pictures because I cheated on a number of the ingredients.  Again… Shame…  One more shameful thing?  I had zero fresh herbs.  Seriously need to go to the market.

So… Without further tardiness, here is the recipe for Stracotto di Manzo:

Ingredients:

  • 2 White Onions, diced
  • 4  Large Carrots, diced
  • 4 Celery Stalks, diced
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Pound Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 4-pound Beef Roast, trimmed of excess fat and patted dry
  • 1 Large Can Crushed or Whole Tomatoes, crushed
  • 1/4 Cup Golden Raisins (optional)
  • 4-5 Artichoke Hearts, preferably fresh, but packed in oil will do
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 Bunch Thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Bottle Red Wine
  • 2 Cups Beef Broth
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Sea or Kosher Salt
  • 1 Pound Egg Noodles

IMG_0716

Special Equipment:

  • Pressure Cooker  * You can do this in a crock pot, but it will take all day.  If you didn’t plan that far ahead, the pressure cooker is your friend.

Ok.  Now that we have all that ready, let’s begin.

  1. Heat a turn of olive oil in the pressure cooker.  When the oil shimmers, add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Season with pepper and pepper flakes, and begin sweating the vegetables.  When the onions start to lighten, add salt to pull more liquid out and finish seasoning.  Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have become tender and onion starts to caramelize.  Remove to a bowl.IMG_0725
  2. Add another turn of oil to the pot.  While oil is heating, season raw beef with salt and pepper.  Press into the meat.  Add the beef to the pot and sear on all sides.IMG_0729
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except pasta) to the pot.IMG_0731
  4. Cover with the lid.  Be sure to understand how your pressure cooker locks in-place.
  5. Wait until the steam regulator begins to shake and/or expel steam.  Reduce temperature slightly, and allow to cook for 45 – 60 minutes.  DO NOT TRY TO OPEN.
  6. With about 10 minutes remaining, start cooking the pasta in salted water.
  7. Carefully remove from heat.  If you have time, let the pressure release naturally.  This can take quite a long time, so be sure you want to wait.  If you would rather open now, carefully take the entire pressure cooker to the sink, and run cold water over the lid.  About 30 seconds of running water will release the pressure enough to open.  Carefully remove the lid.
  8. Drain the pasta, and return to pot.  Season with pepper, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Serve beef and sauce over the bed of pasta. ( I forgot to take a picture…)

So…  I’ve never taken photos of food while cooking before.  I’ll try to get better at that.  For now though, this will have to do.  I am also going to have to practice plating.  That… is an area I haven’t focused on much.

Hope you enjoy.

 

Old Habits…

So I didn’t blog yesterday.  I know… shame on me.  I’m really sorry, but I have a pretty good excuse…  You see, only so much bending can happen before something breaks (namely me).  I have spent only a few hours this week NOT sitting at my desk working on this mixing project.  I think I have made some progress.  I still hate the song, but at least is sounds less crappy than it did before (at least I think).  I can tell you that I’m going to have to invest in a pair of studio monitors (speakers) because my mixing headphones are making a VERY strong effort of trying to squeeze my brain out of my ears.  I have had THE WORST headache for the past three days.  Bru. Tal.  Really, I should be using a set of monitors anyway, but I don’t own any, and they are a tad on the not-so-cheap side.  Oh well…  Until that extra money pops up, my brain is just going to have to be content to be misshapen.  Another thing on my purchase-when-I-have-money-to-burn list is an 88 key midi controller.  Yes.  That would be lovely.  Weighted (or at least semi-weighted) would be splendid.

Anyway, I did forget to post yesterday until about midnight, and then I figured it wasn’t technically yesterday anymore, so I might as well wait.  See…  I built up your suspense.  Right?  I even planned out my post more than an hour before I started writing it (shocker).  I was going to do the first recipe post, and it was going to be fantastic!  Italian Pot Roast, or if you’re feeling fancy, Stracotto di Manzo.  Yum!  Well…  That isn’t what I am posting.  You see, I put the beef in the refrigerator last night to be thawed by this evening, but it didn’t happen.  Sure, I could have force thawed, but why do that when I had chicken that was perfectly NOT frozen.  No problem.  I’ll just post whatever chicken dish I make.  Yeah, I forgot about the actual post until I was about halfway finished cooking.  No photos, no rough estimates of about how much stuff or even what stuff I used.  Oops.  For the inquiring minds, the dish was Soy Glazed Chicken Cutlets with Gingered Roasted Root Vegetables.  It was pretty yummy.  Tomorrow.  Tomorrow there will be Pot Roast, and I WILL remember to properly document the steps.  I hope.

I think I have mentioned that I started a few blogs.  I’m sure I also mentioned how completely they failed to become established.  I slipped yesterday, but I refuse to let my old habits seep into this blog.  It isn’t going to happen.

As a positive note, I have had some chef type people follow me on twitter the last few days.  Woot!  It is scary when people I actually have heard of connect with me!  I mean, what if I say something stupid?  What if I make a fool of myself?  WHAT IF I RAMBLE?  I’m sorry.  Give me a moment.

Ok.  That’s better.

Since I’m talking about food (at least a little) I have a rant.  I have to gas cook surfaces.  One is a full range; the other is a cooktop that I built into my custom-made (DIY) island.  I use the island cooktop most of the time due to the proximity of prep space and flame.  I’m right-handed, so when I designed the island, I put a small space to the left of the cooktop (about 1 1/2 feet) and then the 30-inch cooktop all the way at the end of the island.  That give me about 6 feet of blank work space to the right of the burners.  I think that works well because I’ve always used the front right burner as my primary cook surface on every stove I’ve ever used.  Well, this is the cooktop I bought.  Do you see the flaw in my shopping?  The simmer burner is in the FRONT RIGHT!  Why?  Why would the simmer burner not be in the back left?  I mean, we even have an expression that denotes the importance of the back burner.  I just don’t get why with the majority of the population being right-handed, and my logic being what it is, why the weakest cooking area would be in the most accessible location.  Shame on me for not noticing this in the picture.  It doesn’t make it difficult to cook, but it is quite a bit further from my cutting board to whatever vessel I’m using.  Oh well.  If I ever do it again, I’ll just go for a 6 burner  cooktop with a grill area.  Yup.  Add that to the list I mentioned above.

Well that is about all I have for the evening.  I’m going to have to get away from this computer and actually talk to other people soon.  I’m forgetting how to have conversations with my mouth, and my fingers are tired of the abuse.

Tomorrow we make Stracotto di Manzo, and I have a special twist on the cooking.  Woohoo!  I’m excited!

A Kitchen Staple for the Holidays

A Kitchen Staple for the Holidays

Most people probably don’t have many kitchen items they are emotionally attached to.  Maybe, but it seems strange to me, so I’m going with not.  I have one thing, a book actually, that I have used for every Thanksgiving and Christmas I’ve ever cooked for.  Page 35 has the first cornbread dressing that I ever cooked alone.  It also happens to be the recipe I’ve developed my family’s traditional dressing from.  The thing is that I don’t actually need to look at the book.  I have page numbers memorized, and I know pretty much every dish that can be found within the book.  That doesn’t matter though.  Every year, I spend an hour or so flipping through the book, recalling where the splatter stains came from, remembering how much I loved or hated that particular item, and just how much this season means to me.  I thought I lost the book about 4 years ago.  I actually purchased another copy, and then I found my old one shortly after.  I couldn’t NOT have it with me while I was cooking.  It would have been wrong.  That tangible connection to my memories is simply a requirement.

I’m kind of a cookbook junkie.  I REALLY like reading them, and some day, I hope to spend a few months just cooking through an entire book.  As soon as I find the perfect one, it is going to happen.  I do find it kind of funny that I like to use books though.  You see, I don’t measure… unless it’s baking, but really, I just don’t do it.  I think that great food comes from the heart and the soul, and these two things are not ruled by mathematics.  Sure, it is totally possible to produce wonderful food by following a recipe to the letter.  I don’t deny that, but I think that to make the food your own… a reflection of self, it has to come from some other source.  If I don’t know how to make a dish, but I have tasted it, I will usually find a recipe online (or in a book).  I’ll read it and take a moment to understand all of the ingredients and the jobs they have.  Then, I’ll start cooking.  I read the ingredients, and I use the amounts as a reference, but I’m not going to use cups or spoons.  I’m a much bigger fan of just pouring and using my palms and fingers.

That doesn’t change anything though.  I still love this book, and this Thanksgiving, it will be somewhere near my prep-space.  It may be open, or it may be closed, but it will be there.  If you like cookbooks, I HIGHLY recommend you check this one out.  It is pretty great.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?  I’d love to know about it!