Thursday, January 8, 2015

Let's talk about dry shampoos

In case you weren't aware, I am currently a redhead.  Additionally, red hair color washes out of one's hair extremely quickly.  When I haven't had my hair colored in a while, it begins to slowly begins to fade out to brown.  Based on my research, this is related to the size of the red coloring particles.  They are larger than those of colors like browns and blacks, and as a result, they don't penetrate as deeply in to the hair, making it so they come out relatively easily.  The time that red particles come out of color-treated hair is when the hair is washed.  Also, they'll color your pillowcase if you sweat in your sleep (get dark pillowcases or start covering them with old t-shirts) and the color will also dye your clothes if you are out in the rain and your hair gets wet (don't wear white coats!).  As such, the most effective way to prevent the fading of red haircolor (besides futzing around with color depositing products) is to reduce the occurrence of times it gets wet and is washed!  

Sounds icky, right?  It's not. BUT... if your hair type is like mine- that is, straight, flat, and fine- you probably end up with super greasy looking hair by the time 24 hours has passed.  Which is totally what mine does.  In fact, even by the end of the day, my bangs are starting to get a little greasy and stick together where they touch my forehead.  It's not exactly the freshest look.  
What a sexy beast I am.

So at the point that my hair doesn't look shiny and fluffy and new anymore, I have 2 options.  
1) Wash my hair (and with it, some of the color)
2) Spray it with some dry shampoo (and not wash any of the color out)

In case you were wondering, I go with option 2 most of the time.  In addition to not washing out the color, the other benefits of using dry shampoo are that I am not stripping the oils out of my hair or heat processing it with the blow dryer every day(both of which cause damage to the hair, resulting in frizz, split ends, etc),  I also save time in the shower, reducing my total water and energy consumption, and save time by not blow drying it.  Hair that's on day 2 or 3 of not being washed also has this pretty incredible texture to it.  My hair when it's clean is naturally very slippery.  It doesn't hold styles well and tends to look lame styled any way but "down."  Hair with a little scalp oil, (and some dry shampoo) is far less slippery and has the ability to "grip" other hairs and holds up better in an updo.  So... Less damage, less time wasted, more eco-friendly, and the ability to hold styles better.  I am a fan.

Are you sold yet?  Maybe, but not sure how this mastery of chemistry works?  Most dry shampoos are essentially talc or a similarly fine powder.  It sticks to oily hair and absorbs the grease.  It comes in 2 forms - aerosol, and in a little pot.  The little pot has to be sprinkled or dusted onto your hair.  Frankly, I just can't bring myself to fuss with it that much.  The aerosol you just spray onto the parts of your hair that are looking funky (I generally only do my hairline and part), let it sit for a couple moments, and then rub and brush it through.  Your hair isn't going to look totally fresh and new, but it's going to look pretty good, and it won't be greasy.  It does go from being glossy and shiny (just at the roots) to a slightly more matte look.  But there are a wide variety of dry shampoos out there, and wildly varying price points.  I have primarily stuck with cheaper options out of fear that I'll find something that is incredible that costs $40 or something.  I try to only buy products that I wouldn't mind paying for habitually.

Here's what I've tried so far, with current Amazon prices
Batiste Dry Shampoo, Deep & Dark Brown $9.15
Batiste Dry Shampoo, Cherry $8.79
Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo $12.99
Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo $24.97
Garnier Fructis Volume Extend Instant Bodifier Dry Shampoo $4.49
L'Oreal Everstyle Energizing Dry Shampoo $5.67

an assortment of dry shampoos

And my rundown on each of them:
Batiste Dry Shampoo, Deep & Dark Brown $9.15
This was the first one I tried.  It seemed to work fine, but I found that after using it most days for a week, my bathroom was covered with a fine layer of black/brown dust.  It was summer, so I switched to going outside on my deck to spray my hair, using the sliding glass door as a mirror.  It worked fine, but seemed like a hassle.  I had initially hoped that it would help blend my roots into the colored portions of my hair, but it didn't.

Batiste Dry Shampoo, Cherry $8.79
Smells like cherries. Well, fake cherries. Goes on must like the brown Batiste shampoo, but isn't tinted.  It didn't make my hair look grey or anything, it worked fine.  After trying a few others, I found that the particles of talc (or whatever it is they used) are a little bigger than some of the other options.  It works fine, and has the benefit of being available practically everywhere.

Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo $12.99
A friend got this in a sale bin for $7.50.  It sucks as a dry shampoo.  It just doesn't absorb enough oil. It does however do an incredible job at holding hair in a way that hairspray does not.  It doesn't get crunchy, it just somehow holds hair together and in the shape you want to to be magically.  I have actually been meaning to get more, as it was seriously the best thing ever for holding my sideswept bangs where I want them.

Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo $24.97
This is essentially the same product as the the Batiste stuff with a slightly less in-your-face scent.  Oh, and it costs three times as much.  It's highly rated, but I'm not sure why.  It works fine, but is definitely not a front runner, and at twice the price of any of the other contenders, I wouldn't even say that it's better than any of them.  Personally, I'd pass on this unless you can get it for under $15.

Garnier Fructis Volume Extend Instant Bodifier Dry Shampoo $4.49
This works well.  The particle size is smaller than the Batiste and the Amika, yet it works at least as well. I have used a few other Garnier Fructis products before, and they all have a similar smell to them.  It's not exactly offputting, but I find something about it mildly unpleasant.  The fragrance is strong enough that 5 minutes later, I was getting random wiffs of it and trying to figure out where the smell was coming from.  Overall, I would probably buy it again if I couldn't find the L'Oreal product, but it's not a preferred item, due ONLY to the smell.

L'Oreal Everstyle Energizing Dry Shampoo $5.67
This stuff is great.  Also heavily scented, which is a little obnoxious, but the smell isn't unpleasant to me, so it's just slight negative.  Fine particles, doesn't need to be rubbed in that much.  Has a similar quality of giving my floopy hairs structure like the Big Sexy Hair stuff, but not to the same extent.  And it's also super cheap.  Works like a champ.

Using dry shampoo, I am able to extend the time between washes to 3-4 days.  That gives me 2 washes per week, and about 8 weeks between colorings, so I only have to wash and dry my hair about 16 times between color appointments.  That keeps my red bright and beautiful and allows me to be extraordinarily lazy

Monday, January 5, 2015

The "Work" Salad

I assume that we must all do something similar to this, but in the off chance that I am incorrect, here's my rundown on the "work" salad.  The salad that consists of leftovers, stuff you dug out of the pantry, and random bits and pieces of tasty that have somehow gotten my attention.  Throw a can of tuna or leftover chicken breast over the top, and you have a full meal deal.  Here's my salad for the day.  It was  huge, filling, and delicious.  As I assembled it, I just started entering the items that I added and their approximate measures to myfitnesspal.  It is an interesting way for me to determine where I could be "saving" calories, and what items I may want to add more of next time.  In this case, I had some duck confit (yes, from our ducks) in the fridge that needed to be used, and Craig won't eat salads, so this came to the office for work salads.

work salad with duck confit

Yes. that's a huge cottage cheese container from costco.  It makes a great salad bowl that I am not concerned with forgetting in my car for 3 days or leaving at work.

calorie breakdown of salad

I erred on the high side of everything for the salad.  Going over the calorie breakdown, I'd probably use half as many cranberries and half as many pepitas, and toss a couple of boiled egg whites only on top to boost the protein factor.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nobody knows the trouble I've smelled.

Nobody knows the odor.

But seriously.  A couple weeks ago, I had just made a monster batch of chicken stock.  We are talking 4 gallons of liquid gold.  It was glorious.  And rich, and gelatinous, and all of the things you want chicken stock to be. And after it had simmered all night, I got up to vacuum seal and freeze it.  As the vacuum sealed baggies of stock set out on the counter to cool down to room temp, I decided to construct a flat spot in the chest freezer to set the baggies to chill and freeze.  So I went into our laundry room and flung open the door to the freezer, only to be greeted with the unholy stench of rotting flesh.  The freezer was not cold. Based on the state of things, it hadn't been in quite some time. I checked the outlet to verify that it was working (it was), and the little light on the front was still blinking, but for some reason, the compressor must have bit the dust.

It was upsetting.  Not only because the chest freezer was only like 4 years old, and we would have to buy another one (I like to horde food projects like gyoza, cakes, and bread, also, we have some meat to replace, and our current fridge is 14 years old, making it essentially a ticking time bomb), but also because we had a pretty soul crushing combination of meat in there.  The ducks that I raised from ducklings and then slaughtered?  One of them was in there.  My favorite one.  The portion of the steer that we bought and split with friends?  The first deer that Craig shot?  Portions of them were all in the chest freezer.  So in addition to the putrid odor of weeks-old death, animals that I felt personally responsible for, and was doing my best to honor every time I cooked had gone to waste.  And not even in the "oops, I made this dish and it was icky" sort of way.  In the "we literally let this animal die and then just sit there and rot" kind of way.  So in addition to feeling somehow responsible for the freezer dying (I was not at all responsible for that), feeling upset at realizing that the freezer had died 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work, and trying to process that I'd have to do something different with the huge volume of chicken stock I had just made, I also began a sort of mourning for those animals who had lost their lives so that we could eat them, and that apparently wasn't going to be happening either.

And with that, the freezer was closed back up, and I figured out where the heck to jam all of the chicken stock I had just made before heading off to work, knowing full well what awaited me when I returned.  While at work, I found out that the trash collection company that we are switching over to after the first of the year, and we'd have to hold onto the freezer til then.  That meant that it needed to be cleaned out.  It was not something that I was looking forward to.  But when I got home, I rolled the trash can into the garage (near the laundry room door) got out a few trash bags, and went to town.  I filled 3 kitchen-sized trash bags to the point that they were difficult to lift.  And then I had to suck about 2 quarts of rotten blood liquid out of the bottom of the freezer with a turkey baster because the drain in the bottom clogged almost immediately.  I dry heaved multiple times while trying to accomplish this task.  After I got most of the liquid out, I soaked and wiped up everything I could with paper towels and sprayed the inside with bleach.  Then I put the lid back on, and it is STILL in the laundry room, waiting to get picked up by the new garbage company.

And now that I am done being negative, let's discuss what we lost, and what we didn't.

I had been meaning to reorganize the freezer situation for a few weeks.  The fridge-freezer was packed full, and I wanted to rotate things out to the chest freezer, but I just hadn't gotten around to it.  (Thank GOD!)

What we lost:
~10lbs of ground venison mixture
2lbs thinly sliced and ready to be marinated venison jerky cuts
~20lbs of beef soup/dog bones
9lbs of beef heart
3lbs of beef tongue
2lbs pork liver
2lbs beef liver
6lbs of gorgeous beef marrow bones
2.5lbs oxtail
2 lbs beef shanks
1.6lbs t-bone steak
.75lb filet mignon
3-5lbs ground beef
2 duck breasts from my favorite duck
2 duck legs from my favorite duck
back, neck, wings, from my favorite duck (stock!)
2 dozen meyer lemon cupcakes
2 loaves homemade bread
2 gallon sized ziploc baggies full of falafel patties (probably 65-70 patties)
Other misc freezer items that I have blocked out

What we did not lose, because I am too lazy to organize my freezer space:
ALL of the really high quality deer parts.  This includes:
   Stew Meat
2 gallons grassfed beef stock (this stuff is like gold)
2 duck breasts from the scrawnier duck
1 dozen chocolate stout cupcakes
Everything else

I am pretty bummed.  We have taken so many steps this last year to make better decisions about our food sources.  We have switched over almost entirely to purchasing ethically raised and slaughtered animals, or doing the hard work ourselves in a responsible and respectful manner.  We go to the effort of making even convenience/junk foods from scratch most of the time (falafel, cupcakes, etc) in bulk in order to know what is going into what we are eating, and all of our hard work, money, and emotional investment has been rewarded with such a devastating loss.

And to try to bring this back to something a little positive:  Planning for the future!  We will get a new chest freezer, probably the next size up.  This will allow for us to get 1/4 cow ourselves, and still have enough room to store that and the next deer that Craig harvests.  In order to prevent losing all of everything in the eventuality that this freezer dies, I am going to get a thermometer with a probe that sits in the freezer, that has an alarm that sounds when it hits a certain temperature. If I set it to something like 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit, that should give us enough time to either figure out what's wrong with the freezer and fix it, or get things moved around, or buy a new freezer and transfer stuff over before it thaws.  So now to keep my eye out for appliance sales!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vegan, Vegetarian, Delicious Vegetable Potstickers!

I am no stranger to homemade potstickers.  They are one of Craig and my favorite snacks.  Usually they have meat in them.  These didn't.  I didn't have any homemade sausage, and to be completely honest, I didn't want to monkey with meat.  So I started throwing things together, and these ended up pretty delicious!  All amounts are loose.  I wasn't even referencing a recipe, so I added things as needed, and was not in a frame of mind to take meticulous (or any) notes.  This was my post-Christmas-craziness emotional therapy meal.  I needed it.  After 30 hours in a very warm house with 13 extended family members and 7 dogs, and all of the stress that comes along with trying to stick to any kind of timeline; all I wanted to do was binge-watch Netflix and meditate over the task of getting the flavors right and mindless assembly of dozens of little dumplings.  So I did.  And it was wonderful.

vegetable mushroom potstickers

Ingredients (makes about 100):
1 block firm or extra firm tofu
2 large or 4-6 small carrots
1 small head, or 1/2 large head napa cabbage
24 oz (1.5lbs) white button or brown crimini mushrooms
ginger root
4-6 cloves garlic
3-4 scallions
tamari or soy sauce
rice wine
rice wine vinegar
miso paste (I used red)
toasted sesame oil
neutral cooking oil (I like using avocado oil)
3 packages of gyoza/potsticker wrappers

fried and cubed tofu potsticker filling

*Start with your tofu.  Open the package, drain, wrap in paper (or super clean lint-free) towels and set on a flat surface (I like to use my cutting board).  Set something else that's flat on top (I use another cutting board) and set something heavy on top.  This squeezes extraneous moisture out of the tofu, making the texture firmer and helping it crisp faster. I usually let it sit for 30-40 minutes.  When you are sick of waiting, remove your contraption and towel, and cut into 1/4" or thinner slices.  Pan fry in neutral cooking oil in a nonstick pan(I usually opt for medium heat, though I trust you to know what works for your stove at home) until they've gotten golden and crispy on one side, flip, repeat.  Remove to a cutting board and cut them into little cubes.
*Peel and cube your carrots.  Try to either match or dice smaller than the tofu pieces.  Gently saute over medium low heat until the carrot softens up.
*Slice your cabbage and then chop into small pieces.  Once carrots have softened, add to carrots and stir/flip to incorporate.  Splash a few tablespoons of rice wine in there to create a little steam.
*Grate about 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic, mix with a couple tablespoons of tamari, and a splash of rice vinegar.
*Finely mince everything but the very ends of 3-4 scallions, set aside.
*Once your carrots and cabbage are wilted and not liquidy, add into bowl with crispy tofu cubes.
*Wash and chop your mushrooms into pieces equal to or smaller than the tofu.  To do this, I sliced the mushrooms, made a pile, and then ran my knife through the pile, coarsely chopping.  Add your mushrooms into a hot pan and begin to saute.  Once the mushrooms have begun browning (remember, every bit of browning is flavor, and it is supremely difficult to actually burn just mushrooms and oil, so really give it some time), turn the heat to med-low and toss in a couple of tablespoons of miso paste. Also add a few tablespoons of rice wine or rice wine vinegar (I trust you).  The miso paste is pretty much the only thing that acts as a binder for all of the ingredients, whereas in a meat-based filling, the meat acts as a binder.  Once it's all wrapped up, it's no biggie, but it's kind of a pita to seal without something holding it all together.
*Mix everything up in a bowl(drizzle in a tablespoon or so of sesame oil at this point too), then get set up to wrap.  I like using a spray bottle to moisten the wrappers, but a little bowl with water and your finger works too (it's just infinitely more time consuming).
*My method is to lay out a grid of 16 wrappers, place a scoop (I think my scoop is 3/4oz) of filling in the center of each wrapper, mist everything, and then get to sealing.  I don't have photos of the process, but here's a link with some good instructions.  Occasionally, partway through, I'll need to re-mist the wrappers.  No biggie.  I set all of them aside on a sheet tray.  Once it was filled, I put it in the freezer for 2 hours, then transferred them to a resealable gallon sized freezer bag.

vegetarian/vegan gyoza filling

vegetarian/vegan gyoza filling

vegetarian/vegan gyoza filling

vegetarian/vegan gyoza filling

To cook:
*Doesn't matter if it's from frozen or from fresh, instructions are the same.  Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat with a little neutral cooking oil.  Place your gyoza, flat side down, and pour 1/4 cup water (about) into the pan.  Cover with a lid, or, if your pan doesn't have a lid, some foil.
*Allow gyoza to steam for 3-5 minutes.  When the wrappers have taken on the translucent look of cooked wrappers, remove the "lid" and allow the remainder of the steam to escape.  Continue cooking another few minutes until the bottom has browned.  At this point, they're ready to eat, but I like turning them and getting a bit more crispiness, so I do 2 sides.  When cooked, remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain/cool a little before eating.
*To make sauce, combine equal (about) parts tamari and rice vinegar.  If you like sesame oil, add a bit of that as well.  If you like spicy, add some gochujang or sriracha.  I personally think these are better without it, even though I put hot sauce on everything.

cooking homemade vegetarian potstickers

cooking homemade vegetarian potstickers

cooking homemade vegetarian potstickers

Monday, December 22, 2014

Block printed tea towels

A few weeks ago, I came across some block printed tea towels for sale online.  They were $20 apiece.  And I am crafty.  So I thought to myself "Self, you could make these for way less than $20 apiece."  And when I was in high school, printmaking classes were my favorite elective, so I have some experience, but it's been a while!  So I went to Dick Blick (they didn't sponsor me, but I wish they would....ahem!) and ordered all of the stuff I thought I'd need, and then eagerly awaited the arrival of my package.  When it came, I jumped in with both feet.  I drew out designs and carved several blocks.  When I had time, I went to the Costco business center and picked up a few dozen flour sack tea towels, and then did nothing for a little while. I'll write a real post with better photos about the start-to-finish process at a later date, but I mostly just wanted to show you how the towels turned out!

The setup:

As a way to dust off my skills, I started off small with some gift tags and a 5 golden rings design that I'm using for labeling Christmas gifts.

Rolling and mixing the ink.  I went with a yellow-green-red combo for the artichokes.

Depending on how much ink is on the glass, how sticky it is, and how hard I press with the roller while I'm inking the block, I have some control over the darkness of the print and whether ink goes into the lines between flat areas.

This was a canvas bag that I did.  It is much more 3 dimensional than the tea towels, and it was the tail end of my green ink, so it ended up printing much lighter than I had desired.  The bags will take some additional practice.

I'm really happy with how the broccoli turned out.  I wasn't expecting much from it when I carved, but I think it's pretty neat.

This octopus proved to be a bit challenging.  I had to have a very light hand with the tentacles, as the "back sides" with the suckers had a tendency to get blacked out with too much ink.

My stand mixer print actually looks better than the photo (it was a weird perspective), but the block does need to get fine tuned a bit.  The ink was just too thick and ended up filling in all of the voids.  I am pleased with myself that I was able to get the color almost exactly what I wanted.  The mixer print that I ended up getting on a canvas bag actually turned out beautifully.

This one's my favorite.  I love the happy llama. :)

Sock cat is more of a personal joke that I have with Craig, and I thought it would be a funny block.  It is.  I mean, it's pretty creepy, but also pretty funny.

The beets were toughies.  They were the only thing that I printed with 2 different blocks.  I did an awful job of lining them up properly, but I think if I come up with some sort of index mark, I'll be able to figure it out.  Also, I lost a lot of detail in the leaves, so that is going to take some fussing with in the future.

Here's the brisling (sardine) print that I did.  Above you can see it on the tea towels, and below it is printed on the back of a piece of scrap paper.  There is a huge difference in the clarity of the lines between fabric and paper.  This was one of the few prints that I tried to work with a gradient. I wanted the belly of the sardine to be lighter than the top.  It kind of worked, but wasn't as dramatic as I'd have liked.

Here some of the prints are drying.  Once they dried overnight, they were still a little tacky (the ink is oil-based, which makes it capable of handling a wash cycle, but it takes a long time to dry).  Based on the Speedball Ink's recommendation, it doesn't need to be heat set, but many fabric inks do, so I figured it couldn't hurt.  The next morning, I hit each piece with an iron, and it did seem to help set them a bit. I'm excited to give these to my friends and family as Christmas presents!