We’re finally all moved in at my parents house!  We drove home on Thursday, and it took us about 14 hours (we ate twice and got lost once!).  We were sooo exhausted by the time we got in, we just went straight to bed!  The next day we unloaded all of Nick’s car, got the stuff we needed together, and went over to my best friend Sada and her boyfriend David’s new house!  It was soooo nice and a big step up from the small apartment they had before.  It’s also out in the country which is really nice!  Their friend Kit met us for some fancy Chinese for David’s birthday, then we all met back at the house for some glow-in-the-dark frisbee and badminton, and then some Rock Band.

The next day we got up early and went to Holiday World, a super awesome theme park in southern Indiana.  Sada and I were the only ones who had ever been, and we grew up going there!  We had a total blast, went on tons of rides, and had a great time in the water park too!  They have a new ride which is the tallest water ride in the world!  It was pretty scary, but I’m glad we went on it =)  I also got to try a fried Oreo that day, which was, unfortunately, delicious.

On Sunday morning we went outside and saw some of Sada and David’s neighbors’ farm animals!  There were a bunch of chickens hanging out in Sada’s yard, they were funny =)  Her neighbor was gardening and gave her a fresh head of lettuce!  Then her neighbor let out their two baby goats, and they were sooo cute and funny!  *sigh*  I love country life!  It reminds me of when my grandparents had a big piece of land out in Missouri that they would farm, and there would always be fresh produce.  I always got to pick fresh strawberries in the garden with Grandma Wilma =)  I can’t wait to have my own house someday with some land so I can start a little garden..

We got home on Sunday afternoon and I started my unpacking mission!  We want to go back over to Sada and David’s for the rest of the week since there is an anime convention we’re all going to this weekend, so I wanted to do as much as I could while I was home and get my stuff from school out of everyone’s way!  I managed to get ALL of my stuff back up in my room and put away on Sunday, hooray!  Unfortunately that left mom with TONS of laundry (my clothes from school, even when they were clean, would always smell funny because of the wood furniture the school provides.  The awful wood smell just seeps into everything!!) but she has insisted on taking care of laundry as it is her “expertise” =)

Yesterday was almost frustrating, but Nick saved the day!  Mom seemed less than thrilled at the idea of Nick and I spending most of the week at Sada and David’s since there was work to be done here and at the new house.  That made me pretty upset since I felt like I had worked so hard to unpack my stuff so I would be ahead of the game.  After a while, I asked here what there was for us to do so we could be doing it, but she didn’t have anything for sure.  She said Dad had mentioned needing some gravel shoveled at the new house, but she hadn’t heard anything more since then.  So Nick brilliantly suggested we just change clothes and go over to the house where my Dad was working and see if he needed us to do anything!  =)  He was waay more proactive than I usually am, and I was so grateful for it!  We did just that and ended up raking up gravel into piles, shoveling it into a wheelbarrow, and moving it from the front yard to the alley. It was tough work and it was hot out, but there was a nice breeze and I felt good getting some exercise and helping my Dad out!  When we were getting ready to leave, we sat and talked to my dad (who was hand-digging a trench around the house to lay a drainage pipe!) and Nick explained about the convention and how I wanted to make costumes and if it was urgent for us to get the rest of the gravel done or be here necessarily for the rest of the week to help.  Dad was super nice and said we should go do what we want and enjoy ourselves here =)  I think we might go shovel some more this morning before we go to Sada and David’s, and then after the convention this weekend we’ll be totally available to help!  I really liked working at the house!

So in preparation for the anime convention this weekend I want to make some costumes for me and Nick!  Sada and David are going to be selling their steampunk crafts there so everyone is dressing up steampunk!  I’m trying to design costumes for us, and then we think we want to dress as Professor Layton and Luke on another day =)  So I’ve got some marathon sewing to do at Sada’s!  I went through all of Mom’s patterns last night, now I need to go through some of the fabric she boxed up to store at the new house, before it’s gone!

Continuing in my attempts to both produce delicious baked goods for myself and get rid of miscellaneous baking ingredients before we move, I looked into what kind of baked goods I could make without using butter or flour, since I’m running very low on both, but still have an abundance of white sugar, brown sugar, shortening, eggs, chocolate chips, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder!   It might have been more worth my while to just buy some butter and flour in order to better use the rest of the stuff… but I’m having more fun with my cooking experiments =)  And I’m too lazy/broke to go shopping.  So!  I did some Googling for gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods.   Unfortunately most of these types of recipes call for a ton of exotic or otherwise uncommon ingredients like gluten-free flour or celtic sea salt, or items I just don’t have here, like applesauce.  I did find one simple-looking one that only called for mostly things I had!  I did have to make some substitutions though.   This one was only a gluten-free recipe, and called for a half a cup of butter, which I replaced with an equal amount of Crisco shortening.  It also called for a fourth a cup of cornstarch, which I don’t have, but I did happen to have enough flour left to use that instead, ironically making these brownies dairy-free but not gluten-free!  And of course, seeing as I have no cocoa powder, Nesquik powder was used instead =)

Anything I’ve made lately using brown sugar has been a total pain since I let my brown sugar get all dry and harden into one big lump.  It was difficult enough just to crumble enough off for the recipe, but then I spent forever trying to get all the little lumps broken up in my mixture.  Luckily it was already in a saucepan and being heated a bit for the shortening anyway, so I added some more heat to help soften it up.  When I tasted the batter, it tasted a little salty which had me worrying I had doubled the salt, but I don’t think I did… it just tastes salty!

Since the oven had behaved and cooked my brownies well last time, I decided to cook these for the full 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, I ended up burning the edges and bottom of them pretty badly =(  While they were still hot and soft, I took a sharp cutting knife and ran it around the edges pretty well to separate the brownie from the pan.   This made it a lot easier to get the brownies out later!  I ended up cutting off all the edges (though I left them out if somebody in the apartment doesn’t mind eating them), and if you take off the burnt bottom too they don’t taste half bad!  They don’t really taste chocolatey to me, and they have a much more dense texture than my other brownies.  They’re kind of chewy and the texture almost  makes it seem like they have extra stuff like nuts and coconut in them… I wonder if that’s just from the gluten-free aspects of the recipe, or my substitutions, or my lumpy brown sugar?  They’re not bad but I’m a little bit disappointed in the fact that I burned them!  Nick said they tasted exactly the same as the Nesquik ones =)  Haha, that blows my mind, but I’m glad he likes them at least!

You can find the original recipe here, and I’m re-posting it below with my substitutions in parentheses:

Gluten-Free (Or Dairy-Free) Kind of Weird Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter (I used 1/2 cup Crisco shortening)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used 1/4 cup Nesquik powder)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup corn starch (I used 1/4 cup flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or dark chocolate pieces (60-70%)
  • 1/2 cup macademia nuts (optional, I didn’t use them but they sound nice)

Preheat oven to 350 F. and lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.

In saucepan, melt butter and add cocoa powder. Whisk.  Mix in the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to butter/cocoa mixture.  Add the corn starch and salt and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips or dark chocolate pieces.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Until toothpick comes out clean. Allow brownies ample time to cool and set before serving.

  1. In saucepan, melt butter and add cocoa powder. Whisk.
  2. Step 3

    Mix in the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to butter/cocoa mixture.

  3. Step 4

    Add the corn starch and salt and mix well.

  4. Step 5

    Stir in chocolate chips or dark chocolate pieces.

  5. Step 6

    Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Until toothpick comes out clean.

  6. Step 7

    Allow brownies ample time to cool and set before serving.

I woke up this morning with really awful cramps from my period (or as my best friend tells me they call it in Japan, “girl’s day.”  Much cuter!) and didn’t really feel like doing anything at all.  It took me until 1:00 just to go get a shower!  During my wallowing, though, I got a craving for chocolate cookies or something like that.  I started thinking of what we had here at Nick’s place, and I didn’t think we had enough ingredients left to make chocolate chip cookies, but we still had a bunch of random ingredients left that we need to use before we move on Thursday.  We’ll be tight on space, so I don’t think we’ll want to have to pack things like a half a bag of sugar, or a fourth a bag of flour.  Unfortunately, I knew we didn’t have any cocoa powder to make any super chocolatey baked goods.  But after I thought about it for a minute, I realized we had tons of hot cocoa mix and about half a contianer of chocolate Nesquik!  I found a great recipe for Nesquik brownies that was just perfect for the amount of ingredients we had left.  Nick was super helpful and did dishes while I worked on the brownies, and then helped with the brownies too =)

I wasn’t sure how long to cook them since the oven here is pretty unpredictable, but they turned out with a really nice consistancy!  I think if I make them again I’ll add a little bit more chocolate than the recipe calls for.  As they are, it’s a really nice balance of chocolateyness, but I love really strong chocolate stuff so I’d add more =)  The blogger who posted the recipe mentioned a way to melt sugar on top to make a shiny top, but I didn’t bother with that.  Instead, mine had a weird sort of skin on top that deflated after a while, haha, but it was totally fine-tasting =)  These turned out sooo great and they were just what I needed!  I never would have thought Nesquik could make such a good brownie!

They may not look like much, but they're delicious!

They may not look like much, but they're delicious!

You can find the original recipe here, but I’ll re-post it for convenience!

Nesquik Brownies

2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups NESTLÉ NESQUIK Chocolate Flavor Powder
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F. and line an 8 inch metal pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium size (3 quart is good) microwave safe mixing bowl, melt butter for 1 minute on high. Quickly stir in sugar and water, then microwave mixture for 30 seconds to help melt sugar. Stir and let stand for about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and egg and stir until mixed. Stir in Nesquik, then add flour mixture and stir just until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Rap pan on counter to bring air bubbles to top.

Bake for 18 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill for an hour or so, then lift from pan and slice into 12 brownies.

Makes 12 brownies

This year is full of changes for me and my family.  I just graduated from college, my parents are in the middle of building a new house, my brother is going back to school in the fall, and I’m getting married in September.  My fiance and I are still unemployed, so we’re planning to go live with my parents in a few weeks and stay there until we can find jobs.  In the meantime, in between job searches, we’ll be helping with the new house and preparing for the wedding.

There’s a lot of work to be done at my home this summer, and that’s what I’d like to blog about here.  Before we had decided to move in with my parents after graduation, my mom expressed how they could use a “cheerleader” around there lately.  My mom, dad, and brother all work a lot of hours at very labor-intensive jobs, and at the end of the day (or night, depending on what shift anyone is working), there just isn’t much energy or morale left to go into things like deciding what’s for dinner, let alone house-building and especially not wedding-planning.  When we move in with my parents soon, I’d really like to take on a lot of the domestic roles that could ease the burden on my parents while they finish the new house and we prepare for my wedding.  I’d like to decide what to make for lunch and dinner, to make them healthy meals that can be re-heated easily for when mom or dad doesn’t get home until late at night or early in the morning.  I’d like to do the laundry and clean up so mom doesn’t have to worry about it.  One of the bigger tasks I’d like to tackle is going through the massive amounts of stuff my family has accumulated over the years and will have to deal with once it’s time to move.  I want to split things up into categories to sell, give away, recycle, etc..  I know this is something that looms over my parents’ heads every day, and their possessions have become burdens.  Trying to deal with all of that stuff must seem really overwhelming, especially at the end of an already hard day of work.  I’d at least like to complete this cleaning process in my room as soon as possible in case we get jobs and move.  My parents shouldn’t have to be responsible for the things that have been in my room since Jr. High.  After the cooking, cleaning, and organizing I’ll try and focus on wedding preparations.  Somehow I haven’t gotten very excited about wedding planning yet and I’m not sure why.  So far it seems like my family is more excited about it than I am.  I hope that changes soon.

I know I’m probably setting myself up to fall short of my goals by hoping to accomplish so many things.  It’s something I always do, every summer, almost ritualistically =)  Even in addition to these things, I’d love to play lots of piano, draw, sew, and become more flexible over the summer.  I’ll try to keep things in perspective, though, and just try to do a few things each day.  I also want to make sure not to get too focused on helping my family and forget about supporting my fiance since I know it won’t be easy for him to be living with my family.

So I guess we’ll see if this little domestic experiment works out =)  Since college, I’ve found more and more that I enjoy cooking and cleaning.  I think it’s the whole having pride in your living space (no matter how small and cramped and old and inconvenient it may be) and having control over the food you eat (as opposed to being subject to the whims of the dining hall), just having more control over your life in general.  Still, every time I’m home with my parents, I pretty much become the same useless bum kid I was for 18 years there before, where I have to be reminded to do the one “chore” I’ve been asked to do–tending to the dishwasher when it needs to be loaded or unloaded.  Maybe I just turn into kid-mode when I’m home, which is generally unhelpful/selfish-mode.  But maybe now that I’ve graduated, I’m getting married, and I can better recognize the difficulty of my parents’ working lifestyle, I can see myself as more of a guest in their home, or even a supportive family member instead of a dependent one.  I think I should make that my primary goal for this summer, to support my family more than I depend on it.

Lucky for me, I have some laundry here at my fiance’s place to practice on ;)

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