A Sushi Date Night

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Awkward lighting makes me look like the joker…

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Our materials (sans the ingredients) ready to roll (har har).

We have had a ridiculously stressful week. Examples of our current stressors include: our money being deposited into someone else’s savings account (HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?!), my insurance company magically not having me enrolled when I went to pick up a prescription, trying to move out of our current apartment while searching for new apartments, Sammy the dog having an unexplained bacterial infection that caused a huge lump on his face… I could go on but I’ll not bore you with the gory details. Long story short, we needed a night out.

I had gifted Mike with a sushi making class for Valentine’s Day. I found an awesome deal on Groupon and I knew he would be excited about it. He is much more of a sushi lover than I. We finally decided to cash in the present. 6 months after the fact. Better late than never, amiright?!

It was a bit of a drive to get to the restaurant that was hosting “Sushi 101” but it was nice to chat and listen to music on the car ride there. We heard this song no less than 5 times on the drive.

Once we got there and the class commenced, we quickly realized it had two parts. They projected a video recorded message on a screen from the chef (who I thought would be conducting the class), then two assistants did demonstrations on how to make three different kinds of rolls. At first I was like “WAIT, WHERE IS THE CHEF?! AHHHHHH. THIS IS NOT WHAT I THOUGHT IT WOULD BEEEE.” But the assistants ended up being a lot of fun and the class felt really relaxed, which I liked. I also overheard them talking about the chef and he sounds like a dick anyway. So, we dodged that bullet.

I was surprised that it wasn’t too difficult to make sushi, just somewhat precise (does that distinction makes sense?!) The main tips were to spread the rice appropriately (not so much as to cover the nori completely with no gaps but enough to make everything stick), to not over or under fill with ingredients, and to roll slowly, making sure no ingredients fall out. Also, cutting the rolls took surprising finesse. You have to gently rock the knife back and forth to cut through. Mike struggled a little with this and his first roll got a bit smashed, but it still tasted great! He caught on after the first roll. It got a lot easier for me too. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

I liked that they put out all the ingredients and let you put whatever you wanted in your rolls. I like creative license. I am not a huge seafood person (by which I mean, I don’t like it) so I stuck with combinations of cream cheese, avocado, mango, tofu, jalapeño and cucumber. They were really yummy. We got to make three rolls each and then do some extras if we wanted, since there were leftover ingredients. SO. MUCH. SUSHI. I had one roll and was stuffed. I got to eat the rest for lunch the next day. Bonus.

Anyway, we had a ton of fun. If you are having a tough week or a rough day, cut yourself some slack, take a break from whatever is burdening you, and do something enjoyable with someone you love.

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The happy sushi makers obligatory date night selfie.

When life gets tough, the tough make sushi, as the old proverb says. It says that, right?!

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Cornstarch and Other Groundbreaking News

I made a couple of jaw breaking discoveries about cornstarch this week. First of all here is a killer sauce for stir fry, with cornstarch as its consistency hero:

– The juice of 1 orange

– A minced clove of garlic

– Fresh ginger, ground in food processor or chopped

– Soy sauce to taste

– 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch

Just whisk together all ingredients and pout into a skillet that is over medium high heat, stir it around for a minute or two until it starts to thicken, throw in some veggies (broccoli and carrots and peppers are great, but you do your thang) and voila! We were going to add chicken but ended up not having any (actually, we did have some but we had narrowly let it go bad–kitchen real talk) so we cooked meatless chicken patties, chopped them up, and threw them in at the last minute. It was really good! If you make this, adjust the recipe however you like. I kind of just threw stuff in and tasted it. I do recommend something along these lines though as it is a super quick dinner. Thank you, cornstarch.

The other use is for getting out stains! Mike (my husband if you are unfamiliar with the blog and/or bad with context clues) had a grease stain on a wool shirt he loves. It had been washed and dried at least once, so I didn’t have high hopes for it ever coming out. In a last ditch attempt, I rubbed some dish soap into the stain and sprinkled a healthy amount of cornstarch over the soap. By “healthy amount” I actually mean that the cornstarch came out really quickly so there was a small white mountain on the shirt. I thought it was fine since I wrapped it up neatly before gently placing it in the hamper. However, Sam (our Boston Terrier) was standing next to me when I was collecting the laundry to take to wash and…poof.

Attack of the cornstarch.

Attack of the cornstarch.

Anyway… at least Sam’s plight was not all for naught… The cornstarch treatment actually worked! When the shirt came out of the wash and we let it air dry, the stain was totally gone!

Anyway, in other pressing news:

Ariana Grande licking a donut and saying she hates America earlier this month was investigated by police. No charges were filed in donutgate. This scandal is ridiculous.

I FINALLY LISTENED TO “SERIAL.” Oh my gosh. We listened to the whole season in a week. I am fascinated by true crime and examining what might have gone wrong with a case is kind of my jam. I actually wrote a 31 page paper in high school about Sacco and Vanzetti. I was rapt the whole time. If you haven’t listened and you like that kinda thing, do it now. You won’t be sorry.

Today I realized that a magazine I bought a couple of month’s ago boasts on it’s cover, “Bathing Suits to Solve Every Problem.” When I noticed this I thought, “Solve every problem… like what?! homelessness? poverty? racism? homophobia? sexism?!” On a similar note, my not super svelte self recently bought a slightly cropped top I thought was cute in a store (it was 6 bucks!) and the cashier told me it was a “brave” choice. It’s a crop top. Not chemotherapy. C’mon…

I’ve been super busy with school (and many random panic attacks :() lately so I have slacked a bit on the ol’ blog a bit. I will try to keep up.

What have you been up to this summer? What is an around the house item you find helpful in cleaning, cooking or crafting? Comment or shoot an e-mail to karacterspace@gmail.com and say heywhatsuphello!

News and Reviews

News!

I hope that people enjoyed their fourth of July weekend! It is always a bit difficult for me because it is the anniversary of my dad’s death (it’s been four years already). But it is also a happy day. Freedom comes in a multitude of ways. For my dad, freedom from suffering (he had cancer) came in the form of eternal peace. I might do a post later on death in general. Stay tuned. On that joyous note…

We went to Mike (my husband’s) family’s house (his cousin just acquired it and is doing awesome renovations!) on a lake in Maine. It’s the third year I have taken part in this family tradition and the first time our dog Sam has participated. We read and eat and make a fire and smores at night. We drink and laugh and be with family we only see a few times a year. Sam was mostly good but we did have to keep him on a long rope, since he likes to explore far and wide and finds sprinting away from you a lot of fun. Our little Magellan enjoyed himself regardless. Here is photographic proof.

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I have started my second summer class, which is keeping me busy (but far less busy than my previous accelerated course. Good lord. I still have nightmares). It’s Human Development Across the Lifespan. I am preparing a presentation on the Millennial Generation and doing a research paper on the lifelong benefits of preschool and headstart programs. Riveting, I know. The glamorous life I lead.

In other news I am currently in a job which requires end of the fiscal year reconciliation so I have been in a slight panic this week. WHY I AM IN THIS JOB?! I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT. AHHHHHH GAHHHH BLAHHHHHH. I don’t often do a look of the day post (this would actually be my first), but if you insist… this is my look of the day/week:

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I was going for a “these numbers are making me nauseous” vibe. This too can be yours. Just look at deeply perplexing excel spreadsheets until you’d rather drink shit flavored bubble tea with Bill Murray. You’re welcome.

When I’m not crying into my keyboard at work, I have been reading a lot. Mike has been too. He found a Jim Butcher series at a used bookstore and has delved right in. I have also been cheering on my childhood friend, Jackie Croft (Miss Vermont USA) who is competing in the Miss USA Pageant in Baton Rouge this week. Regardless of how I personally feel about pageants, she has worked really hard and this is a dream for her. GO JACKIE!

What have you been up to? Leave me a comment of shoot over an e-mail: karacterspace@gmail.com. It would be great to hear from you.

Reviews (of a sort… more like tips but that doesn’t rhyme with “news”)!

  • For some reason, I tend to notice issues with fruit flies more in the summer. Maybe we have more fruit then?! I don’t know. But I’ve tried many things in the past and this season magically stumbled upon the best solution yet.

FullSizeRender-2 BEST. STUFF. EVER.

Just mix about half a cup of natural apple cider vinegar with a splash of hot water and a dollop of dishsoap in a small dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and poke holes in the wrap with a toothpick. Leave it on your counter. In an hour 8 flies had been trapped and drowned in there. Gross but weirdly satisfying. YOU WILL LOSE THE WAR FRUIT FLIES. I DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS. Moving on.

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  • I have been reading this book. By reading I mean listening on Audible. I had used a free month of audible to get a book to listen to during a monthly cleaning job I have (makes the time go much quicker!) and was charged for a second month. Note to self, remember to cancel before they start charging… Anyway, it was a blessing in disguise because I came across a book called “The Courage to be Yourself” by Sue Patton Thoele and used my credit to purchase it. It is heavily geared toward women, but there’s some good advice in there for anyone. I really like her approach. If you are want to grow emotionally and develop higher self-esteem (don’t we all?!) I highly recommend it.
  • I have been trying to stay really active this week. So far I have jogged, hiked in the woods with Mike and Sam and done some yoga with Mike. In fact, I am off for a jog when I finish this post. I found that making a playlist that is exactly 20 minutes long (my goal is running 20 minutes 3-4 times a week in addition to yoga and walking) helps tremendously. Here are my current jams:
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    I hope you have an awesome week! I am planning a couple more serious posts that I have been mulling over, so stay tuned for those.

Best,
Kara

The Week(+) I (Almost) Forgot About My Blog

Oh hello there!

Long time no see! I was basically in a cocoon of schoolwork for the better part of last week. They manufacture those during summer classes. They look very much like a snuggie but they are woven from the same cloth as… I don’t know, HELL. But finally, I have burst forth. In the words of Kimmy Schmidt (if you haven’t seen “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix , I recommend you do!) “I feel like a butterfly, bursting forth from it’s crystalish and falling from the nest!.” (Until later this week when a boatload of work descends upon me again.)

How was YOUR week?! Any great blog posts or internet sensations I missed? Link them below if there are any must-sees 🙂

When I wasn’t doing schoolwork this week, I assembled a housewarming gift for some friends of ours. It turned out well, was useful and not expensive, so I thought I would share.

I made this:

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Here is how this too could be yours to give to a loved one upon the acquisition of their new digs (avoided saying “housewarming” two times in a row–cha ching!):

  • Go to Homegoods (TJ Maxx, Marshall’s etc. would be fine, too)
  • Pick out some citronella candles (I got a three pack of copper colored handmade ones). I found them in a clearance aisle near lawn and garden items.
  • Choose two useful household products. I bought a lavender aromatherapy all-purpose cleaner and a mango linen spray.
  • Buy something green and alive. I popped by Stop N’ Shop and picked up an African violet.
  • My mother in law had some extra baskets around the house, so I got a basket from her. Homegoods probably has many basket options as well. Baskets can be a bit pricey depending on where you go, so asking if someone has one is never a bad option. Baskets are like opinions. Everyone has a few spare ones that aren’t serving them well. Help them help you.
  • Now is the fun part! Arrange the candles and household sprays in the basket and place the plant at the front. I lined the basket with tissue paper first to make it extra festive.
  • I had a picture frame that we weren’t using, so I wrote “Welcome Home” on a piece of cardstock and placed it in the frame. I nestled the frame in the middle of the basket to tie it all together.
  • I will be tacky and talk about price here: it cost about $15-20 in total.

Our friends liked the gift and the citronella candles came in handy that very evening.

Do you have any go-to gifts for various occasions?! Let me know.

xo,

Kara

Tips on Surviving Grad School

I have been a bit all over the place with posts lately. My intention is to post new stuff Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, I am taking accelerated summer courses. Holy moly. SO. MUCH. WORK.

Ya see, I am a graduate student. I think if you have a passion or a definite career goal it’s good to pursue an advanced degree. I am getting a Master’s in Counseling, and I’ve gained a lot from my program thus far. I am starting to feel like I can deal with people who are 50 shades of cray (aren’t we all though) with ease and utmost professionalism. However, throughout much of grad school, I have felt like this…

grad school feelings

At the beginning of my graduate school career, I was working full-time, doing fee for service work at a behavioral health organization and taking two of the three classes you are allowed to enroll in each semester. OH, I was also recently engaged and had 7 months until our wedding, so planning was a priority. This was too much.

Here are some steps I took to make things manageable and not want to swan dive into oncoming traffic:

1) Assess what you ACTUALLY NEED to be doing to reach your long-term goals

I decided I needed to reassess all of the things on my plate (both figuratively and literally, really… all of this stress had me getting burritos at Chipotle for multiple meals each week). Working full-time (with a commute!) and trying to focus on a nearly full course load was not healthy for me. I had already decided to move in with my fiancé and future in-laws to save money for school and the wedding, but I needed to take the next step and leave my full-time job and my fee for service position. I went back to an office I had previously worked in, this time as a part-time employee. This helped tremendously.

While money is an important factor, I decided my sanity and finishing school faster would support my long-term goals best. I doubled down on taking as many classes as I could and made grad school my main focus.

2) Take care of your body

All you want to do after work, class, an internship, etc. is reach for that hot pocket and take a long winter’s nap. Try to resist (most of the time). Exercise, eating well and a good night’s sleep are HUGELY important for success in life (and grad school, but that won’t last as long as the rest of your life will, even though it feels like it sometimes).

Tips for sleeping better can be found here.

Some advice on eating well when you’re under stress is here.

My advice is try to have food on you to curb the drive through cravings. I like Trader Joe’s or Kind granola bars. I try to always have one in my purse.

Having a healthy “on-the-go” meal option is also helpful. I have classes that make it difficult to eat dinner a lot of the time so I make a smoothie and bring it with me to class.

3) Little chunks of work add up!

Do not underestimate the power of getting 15 minutes of reading (even writing!) done for class here and there. Make use of a spare half hour or 45 minutes whenever possible to keep the workload a bit more manageable. I try to have my schoolbooks in my car most of the time, so I am not without them in a situation where I have downtime.

4) Ask for help/more time if you need it

I was having a very difficult time getting an assignment done on time because of a personal struggle I was having, so I told my professor as soon as this was evident to me. She understood and accommodated my situation. If you are having a difficult time in your family, with a chronic illness, with a mental health issue, etc. tell your professor and see if you can have a reasonable extension. They may tell you no but they might surprise you (particularly if you have a great track record with getting things done for their class).

Similarly, ask those in your family or friend group for a hand if you need it (editing papers, watching your kiddos for a couple hours so you can get work done, crashing your in-laws house for dinner if you just can’t cook your family something because you’re too spent). My husband has been a lifesaver editing papers and arranging reference pages. My sister is also always there for me in a pinch.

5) Major on the Majors

When you are pressed for time, not everything needs to get done for every class. Never discuss or get tested on the readings and have 49,000 essays to write this week?! Scratch the reading off your to-do list. Do not feel guilty. Preserving your sanity is important.

Most critical: Remember, your schoolwork/professional goals are important but your health and relationships will be with you forever.

So those are my top 5 pieces of wisdom for kicking graduate school right in the keister. Comment if you have anything to add!

A Few of My Favorite Things

I have discovered so many wonderful things in the past month or so. I feel it is my duty to share them. Besides the weather in New England gradually getting warmer, here are some things that have made my life a bit better this month:

READING…

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“The Girl on the Train”: Oh. Em. Gee. If you liked “Gone Girl”, you will LOVE this book. I certainly did. It’s a page turner, to say the least. I enjoyed that it was set across the pond. An interesting thing my husband, Mike, pointed out is that British suspense is a lot more intellectually intriguing because guns are outlawed there. Hence, pulling out glocks left and right isn’t how the crimes go down. This is a good point. I also suggest this book because, while thrilling, it’s less disturbing than “Gone Girl.” It also speaks to the power of observation and how lives can be impacted by people we have never met. Go get this book now if you are looking for something to read.

“The Goldfinch”: I read this at the beginning of the year, I confess. It took me quite awhile as it is a bit over 700 pages long. This well crafted work of fiction tells a story alive with perspectives on the human spirit and art. It is wonderfully written, which is no surprise because it won a Pulitzer prize. However, the plot does drag a bit in places. It could have been approximately 150-200 pages shorter, but definitely worth a read.

I also tend to find good recommendations here.

WATCHING….

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“The Queen of Versailles”: This documentary, available on Netflix, is a fascinating look into David Seigel and his family’s endeavor to build a 90,000 square foot home modeled after Versailles. The documentary changes it’s focus when the 2008 economic crisis throws a wrench in their plans. His wife, Jackie, is the primary focus of much of the documentary. I found her to be super interesting. She has a background in both computer engineering and modeling. Though her lifestyle has been over the top, something about her is very endearing.

 “Broadchurch”: This British crime drama is stunning. The plot kept both Mike and I on the edge of our seats. I am not proud to admit this but we watched the hour long episodes back to back. Straight through. Life is short and I have no time for shame. I also don’t have time to wait between episodes of such great programming. This show about a boy murdered in the small town of Broadchurch calls everyone in the small town into question and casts people near and dear to the family in a suspicious light. I realize the previous sentence is really long, but I get so excited when I talk about this show Ijustkeepwritingokayyougetthepoint. It is on Netflix. Do not delay.

MAILING…

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Outgoing: my Mother’s Day cards. FINALLY. I have them in my purse to mail tomorrow. I had purchased them before Mother’s Day, but such is life. Everyday should be Mother’s Day, amiright?!

Incoming: Birchbox. So good. You sign up for $10 a month (women) or $20 (men). Women’s boxes come with 4-5 samples of great products. Men’s boxes come with a couple of products and a small accessory/gadget (think a good razor or a trendy bottle opener). I have really enjoyed getting this box each month. I look forward to it and have discovered some products that I really like. I’ve found the samples last much longer than I expected they would, so you can really get a feel for the products.

BEGRUDING…

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… nuff said.

What TV/books/stuff are you liking lately?! Comment and let me know!

Thoughtful, Unoriginal Information

Hello there, friends!

Lately, I’ve seen some interesting documentaries, read some interesting articles and am reading a great book for my first meeting of an already established book club I’m joining (a wee bit scared.) I have a good chunk of the book left and we are meeting tomorrow. In the interest of reading all day and still posting something of value, here is a list of some things I think you might find worthwhile:

To see:

  • “Sexy Baby” (available to instant stream on Netflix). This is a look at the lives of three women and their experiences interacting with a cultural that is strongly sexualized.
  • “It’s a Girl” (available to instant stream on Netflix). A serious tear jerker but very important. This movie looks at the systematic removal of girls from certain cultures and the impact that this “gendercide” has on those societies.
  • “The World Before Her” (available to instant stream on Netflix). An incredibly interesting look at both the Western Miss India beauty pageant and Hindu fundamentalism. I thought the different perspectives were interesting and thought a lot about the different reasons women, particularly in openly patriarchal societies, might compete.
  • We went to see “Into the Woods” and it was fairly wonderful! Meryl Streep is incredible and the acting is all spot on. The scenery is pretty great, too. The only thing I found myself a bit tired of was the constant lilting “buh nuh nuh nuh-nuh” in the background. But generally, I thought the music was very good! I suppose too much of the same chorus gives me anxiety. I’m not sure why.

To read:

To surf:

  • Even in the age of reddit and Pinterest, I do still enjoy www.stumbleupon.com
  • I found and love Bustle. It’s geared toward women, but I find myself sending some of the articles to my husband, who usually finds them interesting. Check it out here: www.bustle.com

I hope you all (meaning whoever is reading this… hi mom!) have a wonderful day!