What I've Tried Recently

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Look out Congressmen, Kaytee's in town!

Today, for the first time, I spent my first 5 days as an official D.C. resident. I'm not quite President of the United States yet (give me a couple more weeks), but I have had a great start and a lot of firsts!


My apartment is in Columbia Heights in the North West part of D.C. It's a culturally saturated neighborhood with a lot of people my age (and a LOT of adorable puppies!), and I'm only a 15 minute walk from the metro. D.C. is fairly small, so once I travel the 30 minutes of walking/metro into the main part of the city I can pretty much walk anywhere. I'm living in my best friend Lindsey's room for the summer while someone sublets my room, and I love the apartment. It's pretty big with a nice kitchen and beautiful cream colored walls and window curtains. I'll be excited to settle into and decorate my room come the fall, but in the mean time the low rent is very nice.

I love going into the heart of the city and exploring. I've been to a few Smithsonians, a couple of random bars and restaurants, and Chinatown, which is much cleaner and nicer than NYC Chinatown. I found a nice Barnes & Noble with a cafe so I can continue my ritual of green tea and reading books for free. My best friend Katiri lives near GW University and the White House, so when I visit her it's a fun walk.

I am starting at a Chili's in Maryland that is only 13 miles away while I job hunt. Everyone at the restaurant is really nice and easy to joke around with. It feels like I've been friends with them all for months. The menu is exactly the same except for crab quesadillas, a Carolina style pulled pork sandwich, Sweet Tea and a Beach margarita.

I haven't really encountered one mean person yet since I've moved here. Everyone is so friendly and chatty. I've had random 10-20 minute conversations with a security bag checker at a museum, a stranger on the metro, and a man who works at a seafood store that I pass all the time on my walk to the metro. I can only describe the general atmosphere as the perfect mix of city-style independence and small-town community.

Hopefully I will have have a job doing humanitarian work by the end of the summer. This is definitely where I need to be to find this kind of work and I'm excited to get started. Wish me luck and I will keep you all updated on my adventures!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Om nom nom

Today, for the first time, I made mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. I saw the recipe for this on The Doctors (Yes, I watch the Doctors. Judge if you must but I love it.) when hey had guest chef Rocco on. He recently published a cook book of comfort foods that you can make low calorie by changing the ingredients around. (cough cough Rocco's cook book would be a great moving to DC present for me cough cough)

For anyone on a budget like me who wants to try new recipes but doesn't want to waste money on 20 different ingredients that you will probably only use that one time, the cauliflower mashed potatoes are perfect for you. The only three ingredients are cauliflower, fage greek yogurt, and salt/pepper. It's very easy to prepare as well, although it takes about 40 minutes because of the time to roast the cauliflower. Here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put a piece of tin foil on a baking sheet and line it with cooking spray. Chop up 2 and 1/2 cups of cauliflower and place it on said baking sheet, and salt and pepper as desired. Put another layer of tin foil on top and fold the edges in so it's like a package. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then take off top layer of foil (careful of the steam) and bake for 20 more minutes. Put cauliflower and 1/2 the package of greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup) in a food processor and mix until smooth. Warm up again if needed and eat!

It's that simple! Now I don't have a good food processor (my magic bullet failed me again.. sigh) so mine came out a little chunky, and I accidentally did too much yogurt and not enough cauliflower, but even so it tasted good! And a cup of this is only 180 calories, as opposed to 450 or so for regular mashed potatoes. So go put your chef hats on and get your bikinis out and ready! 

On a scale of 1-10 will I do this again: 10 for absolutely, and this time I will get the proportions right and hopefully have a better food processor!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Every crowd has a silver lining

Today, for the first time, I went to the circus. Suprising I know, but while my childhood was filled with trips to Disneyland and Midieval Times, somehow I never made it to the big top. So when the Barnum's Funundrum came to town, I knew I couldn't miss my chance. (Fun fact, P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel CT, the town my mom teaches in!)

The best part of the circus wasn't the skillful acrobatics. It wasn't the adorable and super-talented elephants or the tightrope walkers. It wasn't the exuberant amount of glitter, the bizarre characters, or the fun musical numbers. The best part of the circus was the way it made me feel like a little kid again. I let the magic in and found myself as easily-amused as the five-year-olds in the crowd. I "oohed" and "ahhed" and cheered and clapped and left feeling ten years younger.

Plus I totally want to be a carnie now.

On a scale of 1 to 10 will I do this again: I give it a solid 8 for yes please! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Women hold up half the sky

Today, for the first time, I finished reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I started this book already having a strong passion to end every aspect of global poverty, including the oppression of women. But if I had been a person who up to this point was disinterested, unaware, or apathetic to these issues, I honestly believe this book would have changed that greatly. Kristof and WuDunn are amazing writers and jouralists because they understand the importance of telling individual stories to grab your attention and tug at your heart strings. They detail the perils of women and girls all over the world who have endured sex-trafficking, maternal health issues, rape, domestic violence, genital-cutting, unwarranted stigmatization and societal abuse. This book will make you realize the disgusting regularity with which these trajedies take place and make you feel in your core that you want to do something to help.

Fortunately, this book is only half depressing stories and statistics, intended to raise your awareness and compassion for these issues. The other half focuses on the positive, such as the numerous humanitarian organizations that help women to overcome these obstacles in their society and stories of women who broke cultural barriers to fight an injustice or become educated and financially independent. They discuss the importance of emancipating women on a governmental level (promoting education for women, cracking down on brothels), on an individual level (microfinancing, starting an aid organization), and on a societal level (changing culture, supporting foreign aid programmes).

We have every opportunity to give every woman a proper education, moral rights, gender equalities, and the chance to succeed that most of us take for granted. This is no simple task, but the more people fight for it the more we will succeed. The most important message this book offers is that the emancipation of women is essentially the largest driving force in ending global poverty; like education I believe it is a cornerstone to achieving the complete eradication of poverty and disease.  

If you are looking for a way to better yourself and the world around you, I highly recommend that you read this book. Your life will be changed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

They've done it again!

Today, for the first time, I listened to the new Four Year Strong album, Enemy of the World. I love Four Year Strong, they play great music, they are great live, and I even got to meet them once after a show. I absolutely love their previous album, Rise or Die Trying, and the new tracks are certainly up to par. The album feels like a continuation of their first, jam-packed with fast-paced guitar riffs that are sometimes so similar to older songs that I do an auditory dounle-take. I don't think they grew as a band in terms of their music evolving, but it's kind of refreshing to see a band that actually sticks with what they are good at intsead of changing so much that you end up disappointed (The Academy Is, All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, etc..) 

Favorite tracks so far (although this always changes for me over time):
It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now
Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)
Find My Way Back

Added bonus: The album was only $8!

 On a scale of 1-10 will I do this again: Let's just say this album will probably be my driving music for quite a while. 10!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mini-newbies

So neither of these require full-fledged posts, but I still think they are worth mentioning!

Today, for the first time, I climbed up and down my stairs for a half hour as a workout. The basement flooded because of all the rain so I couldn't use the treadmill, so I researched and found that climbing up and down your stairs for 30 minutes will burn 300 calories. I knew it would be difficult, even totally fit people get winded on stairs. Well, at least I knew what was coming.. it was EXHAUSTING! Even with the most energy-boosting tunes (gaga, beyonce etc.) coupled with saying insporational mantras (bikini, beach, etc.) I truly thought around minute 22 that I wasn't going to make it. After the fact, I am SO glad I did. I usually don't sweat much even when I get a good workout, and it always makes me feel a little less accomplished. I can safely say that I am currently drenched in sweat. Unattractive yes, but also very satisfying.

Today, for the first time, I also tried the Asiago Roast Beef sandwich as part of my pick-two at Panera. First of all, let me just say that anyone who is calorie-conscious will thoroughly enjoy the nutrition calculator on the Panera website. Not only does it tell you the calories of every food item, it tells you the calories of each individual ingredient and allows you to take out, add, and substitue ingredients and it will re-calculate the calories for you! That said, I usually get the pick two with the low fat chicken noodle soup (80 calories) and the Bacon Turkey Bravo but on whole grain and with no cheese or special sauce (290 cal). As long as you get an apple or skip the side altogether, it's a delicious and low-calorie meal! So today I decided I wanted to try something new, and found out through the nutrition calculator that the Asiago Roast Beef sandwich was also pretty low-calorie. All I had to do was switch to whole grain and take out the horseradish (that's just a personal choice, the horseradish is only 25 calories), and paired with my noodle soup it was only 380 calories! The sandwich wasn't quite as good as the Bacon Turkey Bravo in my opinion, but it I still enjoyed switching it up!

On a scale of 1-10 will I do these again: Well I have to do the stairs again tomorrow since I still won't have a treadmill, and I think after that I'll do it every once in a while for a really intense workout, so I give it a 5. For the sandwich I say 7 because I know I'll have it on days that I get sick of the bravo!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't believe the lies!

Today, for the first time, I read Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch. I've been mildly curious about conspiracy theories in the past- I even watched "Loose Change" and thought my eyes had been opened to the truths behind the tragedy of 9/11.. I wouldn't be fooled like everyone else because I was now on the side of the experts intelligent enough to sniff out a huge, complicated, intricate conspiracy. In fact, as far as I was concerned, how could anyone overlook these facts and still believe the lies our government was feeding us? However, after reading Voodoo Histories, while I acknowledge that the most important conspiracy theories in history are interesting, compelling, and often times alluring and thought-provoking, they are also largely untrue and shaped our history in a negative way.

While the novel itself can get very classroomy at times, Aaronovitch's thoughtful analysis of major consiracy theories (the Protocols, Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, Princess Diana) shows both how it was possible for so many to believe them and how this impacted society. For example, the "Protocolos," a collection of papers detailing how Jews were behind every major act and decision during the Russian Revolution and how they had a secret plot to take over the world, lead to an overall anti-Jew sentiment that would later help to fuel tagic pieces of history like the Holocaust. Even now, long after it has been proved that the Protocols were mostly plagiarized from old pieces of fiction and thoroughly untrue, there are still people who believe them to be fact.

One of the arguments Aaronovitch makes is that if it is convenient for you in any way to believe a conspiracy theory, then you are more likely to believe it- even when faced with irrefutable evidence to the contrary. It certainly doesn't help that the media will try to keep a story like the death of Princess Diana in the headlines with any new discovery or twist that adds mystery and intrigue to what was really just a fatal car accident. Aaronovitch cites the playwright Mamet, who said "It is in our nature to dramarize." Afte reading this book, I think it is important to be critical of conspiracy theories. If you ask yourself, "Could this cospiracy truly have been pulled off?" and your first reaction is to say "no," you're probably right.


On a scale of 1-10 will I do this again: 2 for probably not. It was a very interesting book, but I got all the information I needed from it the first time around. I highly recommend you read it though!

P.S. Sorry for the long wait on a new post, I've really gotten into making jewelry out of clay so I've been spending a lot of my time doing that. Plus it took me a few days to read this book!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Les Crevettes

Today, for the first time, I cooked healthy style shrimp and crab cakes. For all of you who voted in the poll, cooking something with shrimp was the clear winner. As I began searching for a recipe, I knew I wanted to cook something that was healthy and low calorie but also exciting and delicious. When I landed on the shrimp and crab cake recipe, I knew I had to try it.

The whole process was very trial and errror. I followed the recipe, which called for:
  • 10 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 6 ounces flaked crabmeat, squeezed dry if necessary
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup fine, unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
(courtesy of www.eatingwell.com)

I used cooked shrimp instead of raw because I was at the grocery store too late so I couldn't order raw shrimp. After mixing all the ingredients together I found that the cakes weren't sticking together at all, so as I was trying to cover them with bread crumbs they completely fell apart. I decided to make half of them the way the recipe called, but add some light mayo and some extra bread crumbs to the other half of the batch.



Even with the added mayo, I was STILL having trouble getting the patties to stick together. I decided to give it one more shot, thinking that maybe I hadn't chopped everything up enough. I undid the patties and chopped everything much finer. To my elation, the patties were sticking!



In the end, each patty is about 240 calories rather than 176 like they should have been, but I am very happy with the result. Sure, it's not the low-calorie-yet-somehow-gourmet-tasting shrimp crabcake I was hoping for, but it's pretty damn good.

On a scale of 1-10 will I do this again: I give it a solid 6 for maybe. It's tasty, but it was a lot of work and I think I could make an even tastier and more convenient shrimp dish someday.

P.S. Check out the new poll!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Johnny Cupcakes eat your heart out!

Today, for the first time, I made my own jewelry out of clay. Back when I was interesting I used to be more crafty; I scrapbooked, made hand-designed cards for my friends, and even made ridiculously awesome themed Christmas parties like Elf and Global Guts (no I'm not being cocky, just ask any of my friends who attended said parties). One of my top priorities when it comes to trying new things is to get back in touch with my creative side, and I knew one of the first things I wanted to do was make jewelry out of clay.

I go gaga for Betsey Johnson jewelry, most likely due to my fondess for things that are pink/girly and my fondness for things that are miniature. I can't tell you how many times I've almost caved and bought the mismatch earrings with the little lips on one and the little whistle on the other. So for my first creation I decided to go with something that is cute, girly, and makes everyone happy: cupcakes.

And so I began my journey at Michaels. First off, I'm pretty sure I will be frequenting Michael's ALL the time now, I could have spent a million dollars in there if I had it. It didn't help that everything was pink for Valentine's Day.

Here was my shopping list:
Small blocks of sculpey III clay in brown and pink
Sculpey glaze
Small eye pins
Earring hooks
Small paint brush

All I had to do was mold around the clay for a while until I could make 2 small cupcakes that I was happy with (it only took a few cupcakes to get it right). I mostly used my hands but I also used my cuticle pusher to smooth out some of the edges. When my cupcakes were complete, I poked them both through the center with an eye pin to create a hole, then took the eye pins back out. I baked them in the oven (first time I baked cupcakes and didn't eat them!) for 15 minutes at 275 F. I let them cool for 20 minutes, brushed on a light coat of the glaze and let them dry for another 20. I stuck the eye pins back in (I might superglue them in to be safe), attached the earring hooks and that was it! It was fun, it was easy, and when I wear them I feel super cute, like the way food tastes better when you cook it yourself. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I wear them.

If you are feeling crafty I HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. But enough talking, time to show off!


 

Will I do this again? On a scale of 1-10 10 for you better believe it!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Girl you the healthy type

Today, for the first time, I learned to make my own egg whites. I probably shouldn't start this blog off with such an embarassing confession, but I promised myself I would have no shame. If there is anyone else out there who is as clueless as I am about these kinds of things and doesn't want their friends to know, you're welcome.

It all started with a conversation I was having with my girlfriend at the bar last week. I was talking about how you are only supposed to eat one egg a day because they are high in cholesterol, but just one scrambled egg is such a breakfast tease. I was complaining that I shouldn't have to buy eggs AND those cartons of egg whites just to have a filling breakfast (as a waitress with a lot of bills, I'm on a budget). She then asked me why I didn't just make egg whites out of my eggs, and apparently the blank stare I responded with was priceless. Since we are in with the bartender there, my friend then proceeded to have him bring us an egg so she could show me how to make an egg white, while everyone else at the bar watched in confusion. Little did I know all you have to do is crack it in half, and then pass the yolk back and forth between the two shell halves while the egg whites fall out. Makes perfect sense huh. Yeah.

So I am proud to say that for the first time this morning I did just that and enjoyed a very yummy and filling breakfast of scrambled eggs, one part egg two parts egg whites!

On a scale of 1 to 10 will I do this again: 10 for yes, probably most mornings!

Here Goes!

Before I begin, I would like to welcome everyone to my new blog. The purpose of this blog is to set goals for myself and keep life interesting. I seem to have fallen into a pretty standard routine consisting of work (waitress), gym (workout), and home (watch tv). Throw hours of Farmville in every day and you can see why I have started to feel a little.. boring.

I am using this blog to challenge myself. I want to try one new thing every week, whether it's cooking a new meal (I have NO clue how to cook) or skydiving. I am at least for the moment limited monetarily, so I'm going to start slow with some small, simple things I can do at home. I am going to look into crafts, recipes, movies, music, maybe an affordable class of some sort, and definitely volunteer work in my community.

I want to blog about my experiences not only for myself, but in hopes that anyone who reads my blog will get something out of it. An idea for something to do on a rainy day, a new recipe, or just the desire to go out and try something they have always been curious about. Sure, sometimes I'll be blogging about doing things I should have done long long ago, things that you have probably already done (for example, watch The Godfather is on my list), but I have chosen to have no shame and share them anyway. With that said, here comes my very first "for the first time." Enjoy, and please participate by commenting if you would like!