Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend! Ice Cream!

I finally cleaned up my room, put away the sewing projects, got the closet (which is filled to the brim) to close so that my unfinished projects aren't taunting me. I set up a table with all my study materials to take my Architecture Registration Exam tests. There are 7 tests, I haven't started any of them but I hope to complete them in 2 years. I have laid out a rough schedule, and I'm starting officially studying when I get back from NYC. The study plan is 2 hours a night, 3 nights a week, plus extra on the weekends if I feel like it. I will be signing up for my first test soon. They cost $210 a piece which means I need to save up a bit for it and work it into my budget!

I made my favorite rich chocolate ice cream during the week and finally got around to freezing it this weekend. I did the bowl in the freezer with occasional stirring method. The ice cream maker I have is super loud and I don't feel like it actually works that well :/

Rich Chocolate Ice Cream

Combine in saucepan:
  1 1/2c heavy cream
  1 1/2c whole milk

bring to a boil and whisk in
  1/2c cocoa powder

remove from heat and add
  4oz chopped dark chocolate (I use the Trader Joe's 72% bar)

In a glass measuring cup whisk together
  4 large egg yolks
  3/4c granulated sugar

Take 1 cup of the chocolate mixture and pour it into the egg mixture WHILE STIRRING. If you don't stir quickly enough you will cook the egg and end up with bits of scrambled egg! Once the egg/chocolate mixture
is uniformly combined, pour it into the chocolate mixture in the saucepan, while stirring. Then add
  1tsp vanilla

Put the custard in the fridge overnight (or 4 hours) and then freeze with your ice cream machine or in a bowl in the freezer stirring frequently until it solidifies and then placing in a closed container.

And now I'm starting a model of a play structure I'm making for the Habitat Gala that I'm trying to help out with, even though I won't be in town for it! I have about a week to finish it and my studying plans begin when I return from NY.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MED: Minimum Effective Dose + Goals

I'm a Tim Ferris fan. I've read all 3 of his books (well, perused 4 hour work week because architecture doesn't fit into that online typology). He has repeated the idea of doing the minimum effort to get the desired results rather than the maximum amount of work to get the same results.

Less time? I like this concept. I think it doesn't just apply to medicine and work but you should be able to apply this concept to every aspect of your life depending on what you want. I've also been listening to Dave Ramsey a lot and getting these ideas of saving money and building wealth for my future. The latest thing I listened to talked about life being divided into different areas and if you don't give them all attention you'll have a 'flat tire' and it will be bumpy. Those areas are:


And the idea is that you have goals you are working on in these areas. Part of my redesigning of my life for the new year was in making a schedule (as well as finding ways to be held socially accountable for some things). My basic schedule looks like this:

1. Work
2. Gym
3. Work on project

1. Work
2. Boardgame night if I feel like it
3. Make food

1. Work
2. Gym
3. Work on Project

1. Work
2. Make food
3. Movie night!

1. Work
2. Gym
3. Work on Project/ Movie Night!

1. Do stuff

1. Do stuff

Pretty simple, gym 3 days a week (where I am working on a couch to 5k program I just started). I convinced my coworker to join as well so I can hitch a ride with him and we can keep each other on track for attendance. I am contemplating breaking out the bicycle, but when the ground is covered in frost... it's a hard sell! It will help me save money though, and get in even better shape (we live at the top of a hill!)

Lately it was the wedding quilt for my best friend but that is done! The next project is to study for my Architecture Registration Exam for which I haven't signed up yet, but I plan to soon (once I have the $210, so probably March). With a date set, there will be no excuses to not study! Luckily I have a very supportive boyfriend and I have lots of study materials at my fingertips (a bit of an investment a few months ago). So I was thinking about the MED for studying and exercise and enjoying my hobby of food and cooking and I will tweak my schedule if I find I'm not getting enough time for things in but for now this is working out pretty well. Another project is to rearrange my room and clean it up which I should accomplish this weekend to make room for studying as well as to relax my mind! There are saying about when your space is cluttered it is a reflection of your mind and I find this very true. I am much better about regularly cleaning my work desk though and not so much my home 'craft cave'.

I've been feeling kind of overwhelmed with finances lately though but hopefully I will be wrapping those up and having a budget will help me not stress about it. I have an emergency fund that is already making me feel better - but also already burning a hole in my pocket as I think about the upcoming expenses for my trip to New York!

Anyhow, MED and goals for those areas of life. Things to think about!

 - Architectural Registration Exam (7 exams @ $210 a piece, must budget and save for!)
 - My chocolate company, take online chocolate class (my treat to myself when I finish the architecture exams!)
 - Budget, make one (every month) and stick to it
 - Explore cheap food/ meals
 - Go to a UU service in town
 - Practice making chocolates (State of Flow!)
 - Complete the couch to 5k program
 - Practice Italian on duolingo
 - Read more books (rather than internet and magazines!)
 - Play more boardgames
 - Spend time with brother
 - Visit mom in Bend (perhaps in the Spring)
 - Host a dinner party (scheduled for March!)
 - Go to boardgame nights
 - Attend more meetups
 - Stay in town more weekends, work on making new friends!


I just completed Week 1 Day 1 of the Couch to 5K plan!

At the 5k I got my family to do for Thanksgiving, my step sister won free entry to the Summer Solstice 5k but she lives in Delaware so it wouldn't have been very useful to her! I traded her the gingerbread house kit that I won in the raffle. My goal is to run the whole thing. I have done a 5k and run part of it, and I've done a 10k and walked most of it. The 5k that I actually ran most of though was way back in 2006!

Last night I made some Moroccan Chicken in the slow cooker and I woke up this morning to a house filled with the aroma of cooking chicken, raisins and cinnamon. I picked up some garbanzo beans and couscous which it was missing when I had it for lunch today. Also I made banana bread last night. It's so nice to have a home full of food! I have written up a budget and I will be cooking much more at home to save money. When I did a rough budget following the Dave Ramsey baby steps it will take me about 4 years to pay off my student loans and have a 3-6 month emergency fund and that's *before* I start saving up for the down payment! By then I should have a higher income... I hope. And eventually my boyfriend will finish school and find a job and we'll have more earning power together! Yay! Meanwhile... rice and beans :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chocolate Fest Portland 2013

Attending a chocolate festival has been on my bucket list for a long time but it seemed that every time I searched for one in my current city I had always *just* missed it! Not this time, I googled chocolate festivals several months ago and put Portland's Chocolate Fest on my calendar for the weekend of January 18-20th several months ago. I didn't know what to expect having never been to a chocolate show before but I was pleasantly surprised and also appreciated the discounted prices and plentiful samples from the abundance of exhibitors.

Below are reviews of the more notable tasting experiences I had. Most of the companies present were from Portland with a few from Seattle and California, a very local event and a benefit for the World Forest Center. Forests and chocolate, how could you not support an event like this?!

Smitten-Truffles These were some of the best truffles I had at the show, I actually bought a box of 12 truffles they were that good! The taste tests were just tiny spoonfuls of the ganache filling from 4 different flavors they had out. The Kalamansi + Creme Honey was surprisingly tasty with a strong citrus flavor from these Philipino fruits was nicely paired with the sweetness of the honey. There was also a vanilla and salted caramel, a contemporary classic flavor pairing that was sublime on my tongue.

Arrowhead Chocolates - I grabbed a card because I liked thier truffles, but I can't recall what I liked specifically :/ next year I will be taking notes!

George Paul Chocolates - From Seattle this company was started when George made chocolates for his girlfriend, she took some to work and a co-worker asked him to provide chocolates for her wedding and from there George ventured into the chocolate business. The bar I tasted was a milk chocolate coconut curry that was delicious however the chocolate was only sold in bar form, you couldn't buy the cute little bean shaped tasters he had out. If I could have purchased a bag of these bean shaped chocolates, I would have! Also his story was inspiring for my own dreams of a chocolate company, I have a ways to go though :)

Cocotutti - Last year's winner of the people's choice award these guys had a great variety and tasty, tiny samples. That was my favorite part! They somehow made tiny (1cm square) filled truffles for sampling. I would have loved to buy a box of these tiny truffles but they were just for samples! I'm noticing a trend in my attraction to chocolate in small sizes!

The Great Unbaked - Raw chocolates that were super delicious. I purchased a single orange-dark chocolate truffle that I look forward to savoring. It's nice to see a chocolate that is raw, dairy-free, gluten-free (though all chocolate ought to be GF!) and non-GMO! It would be great to eat this chocolate all the time and not be worried about the sugars and other ingredients that you want to avoid. I have a few friends who I think would love these chocolates, perhaps next year, when i go with the anticipation of spending, I will pick some up for those friends :)

IKEA - They had their collection of chocolate bars out for tasting, I tried the milk chocolate  dark chocolate and a mint chocolate bar. They were all tasty but if I'm looking for fancy chocolates I would go elsewhere. It wasn't anything special.

Kallari - I was most excited about the business structure of this bar. It is the only farmer owned chocolate bar in the world. All of the proceeds go back to the farmer! They had a 70% (my favorite) 75% and an 85% bar. No fancy flavors, just quality beans and the most fair-trade bar you can get.

Scharffen Berger - This San Francisco company has been known for it's quality chocolate bars for a long time, and what I was most excited about was the public survey they were doing for a new line of truffles and bars! They asked about the packaging and shape of truffle people would choose as well as a choice of wording to be put on their packaging. That was fun and I signed up to be part of future focus groups! I would love to be a regular in chocolate focus groups! Hopefully that happens soon :)

Chocolate Rouge Wine - I had seen this in the grocery store and was always curious but afraid to buy an entire bottle. I can see the appeal and I know there is a market for this (I think my mom would love it!) but it just didn't do it for me. I started with the dark red and I could taste the notes of chocolate but it was a little too dry. Then on to the sweet red which was better, smoother but not a wine I would want a whole glass of, let alone an entire bottle! Then the blended chocolate and red wine, it was like Bailey's (which is how the guy pouring described it) but it had the bitter kick of red wine whereas Bailey's, to me, is sweet and creamy. I am glad I got to taste these wines, because it quenched my curiosity, but I won't be purchasing them.

As far as my own chocolate business I plan to open someday, I'm feeling both more inspired and also realizing that I have a long ways to go to be professional! Hearing the story of George Paul, I'm also realizing that I will need some kind of 'break' to push me into production. meanwhile, I will continue to try new chocolates (when I'm in New York in February I will be giving myself a chocolate tour of the city and hopefully bringing back a selection!).

Another thing that amazed me with the large number of chocolate companies there was how each one has carved itself a niche from raw and vegan to unique flavors and quality design with quality chocolate, knowing what makes you unique is a great way to stand out in a room full of people who are selling the same product as you. This was a great experience and I will definitely be going back, and hopefully attending more food shows in the future!

There were also reps for a couple companies that follow the Tupperware model of in home parties, one for kitchen supplies where the woman comes and bakes something and everyone goes home with a sample of food (who doesn't like that?!) I'll be looking into hosting some, but I think I will wait until the Spring.

TL;DR I will be going back next year, with more cash!