"Anyone that doesn't agree with leggings as pants can physically fight me.
And I'm going to win because I have a full range of motion due to the fact that I am wearing leggings as pants."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yep, the holidays have arrived. And I don't mean Christmas. That's months away, people. I'm talking Halloween.

Because, let me tell you, I don't get sick of Halloween. Ever.

Around this time of year, when the kids are changing their minds daily about what costumes they want for Halloween (and I'm therefore unable to start costume shopping at the Thrift Store), I start buying candy.

Not huge bags of snickers and other yummy chocolate (well, actually I do buy that stuff, but I eat all of it long before neighbor kids arrive on our doorstep).

No, I buy candy to decorate these cupcakes...
Halloween Cupcakes

(click the picture to see it in Flickr with the specific candies labeled)

It takes me awhile to stock up on it, mainly because no one store actually carries everything I want. Basically, I just keep my eyes peeled for anything that would work. A candy store is much more fun when you're buying candy to make these guys. I get really creative and excited. If you've got a good one around, the kind of candy store that sells in bulk is a great place to shop. You really don't need that many of any one type of candy, and at those places, you can really just buy a few of each kind.

This froggy has a tongue made of Laffy Taffy (rounded off at the end) and eyes made with cut marshmallows and m & m's. When you cut the marshmallows or gumdrops in half, the cut surface is nice and sticky, so you can stick other candy right to them.
Halloween Cupcakes- Froggy

This last one's my favorite (my sister did it- actually she did a lot of these) mainly because it reminds me of Kang and Kodos on the Simpsons. The tentacles are Laffy Taffy and the eyeball is a cut gumdrop with a mini chocolate chip shoved point-side into it. If you poke a hole in the gumdrop with a wooden skewer first, the chocolate chip slides in fairly easily.
Kang or Kodos Halloween Cupcake

We got the idea for these from a Martha Stewart Kids (Oh Martha, why won't you bring back the Kids magazine?) They are so much fun. It's great to see what the kids come up with. If you can spare them, cuticle scissors work best for cutting the tiny strips of taffy and licorice. Bigger scissors work well for the marshmallows and cutting longer strips of taffy.

And the best part about buying candy for these is that I don't like most of it, so, unlike the rest of the candy I'll buy in the next 30 days, this will still be around come Halloween.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Favorite Nice Blogs (and some not so nice ones too)

Some time ago, Cami over at Full Circle chose me to receive the 'Nice Matters Award'. Her site has this to say about the award...

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you've been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award."

I'm both flattered and surprised; I hadn't realized that I'd kept so much of my snarkiness out of my blogging. When it came time to choose other 'Nice' blogs, I picked sites based on whether or not I would want their authors in my house. Martha Stewart whips up some great stuff, but I wouldn't let her past my front door. And that has nothing to do with her time in jail- I just doubt I could feel comfortable around her. She scares me a little (still have a subscription, though).

I once read that Maya Angelou only lets people with positive energy into her house. I understand her point. Bad energy drains you. Good energy encourages and energizes you.

So, after much thought and a very difficult narrowing-down process (honestly, I would love to have the authors of all the blogs I read over for a party, all 50 of them, and Maya too), here are my 7 favorite 'Nice' blogs (in no particular order)...
  • Tricot du coeur (I'll post more about this later. Vivi started this site to help collect blankies for sick kids. What more is there to say?)
  • AfricanKelli (Kelli's so very inspiring as well as encouraging and just plain nice.)
  • Nibbling Along (Sarah is just so sweet. And no, that's not supposed to be a pun. Because nothing's nicer than free recipes. Also, she actually changed from blogger because it's so difficult to respond to comments. As opposed to me, who is too cheap to spring for Typepad and occasionally sends out a response to a comment after I track down your address on your blog. Now you know.)
  • Dalai Mama (I love Catherine's description of being a mother. So perfectly true and beautiful.)
  • SouleMama (Frankly, I just love Amanda- not as a stalker or anything, though sometimes it sounds that way to my own ears. I just love how true to herself she seems, so real, genuine and beautiful.)
  • Lucky Seven Cat Ranch (Angeleen and I just recently connected and she seems so fun and cute and happy, even when she is up on her soapbox.) :)
  • Montessori by Hand (Meg has such wonderful ideas for montessori goodies. And she just seems genuinely nice.)

And I also would like to say that I don't feel that we all need to have the same opinions or the same hobbies, but there is a certain meeting of like-minds that happens as I read blogs, the feeling that I'm meeting friends, people that I wish lived closer to me. I just received an email from Angeleen stating that she wished we were neighbors. And I agreed heartily (and not just because it sounds like she's got awesome chocolate at her place). Sometimes I can picture all of us in a happy little community, coming out to sit in the town center and craft and chat. I guess I'll have to settle for the online version of that, though.

And now, I do have to admit that I read several blogs that would not readily be described as nice... Finny Knits (whose motto is 'If you have nothing nice to say, come over here so we can chat'), No Appropriate Behavior (pretty self explanatory) and Bad News Hughes (wow, he is just super offensive, but read about his family's drunken Christmas parties and prepare to wet yourself laughing). They say what's on their minds, and I appreciate them for it. Also, they're hilarious, which wins major points in my book. I have several friends like this, people that either don't realize that they offend, or don't care. Those are the people I go to for real advice. (my friends, not the bloggers)

So, I hope I haven't sullied the spirit of the nice award; I do feel that being nice is important and that our world could do with more of it. I just need the balance, you know? It's like a yin-yang thing.

And in no way am I claiming to really know any of the people that I've mentioned above. For all I know, they could enjoy kicking puppies.

I doubt it, though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Not So Orange

Jessica over at How About Orange posted about an internet quiz to find out what color orange you are. I'm not really a huge fan of orange, myself, so I thought I'd see what it had to say about me.

You are Mahogany

Stable and decisive, you lack the hyper energy of most orange colors.
You're still energetic, but you tend to project a peaceful, relaxed vibe.
You love to feel cozy. You often rather wrap up in a blanket than go out for the night.

Yah, I guess with all of 5 questions it pegged me pretty well. Lately, I not only 'lack the hyper energy of most orange colors,' but much energy at all. Cozy sounds good, though. Also, I don't think I've ever classified Mahogany as orange, but that's OK.

It sometimes seems that Fall lacks color, what with everything starting to fade into lighter shades of their previous colors, but really, I think it has more contrasts. The grays and browns of the grasses against the leaves on the trees and the Fall-blooming flowers. Once the chlorophyll fades from the leaves, we get to see the yellows and reds that have been hiding beneath it. Even though the weather is starting to turn cooler, the colors in nature seem to be warming up.

Here's hoping you have a peaceful, relaxed and mahogany day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't Do What Donnie Don't Does- Hot Grease

Sometimes, I think that I should not have the 'Donnie Don't' label for my posts. Am I subconsciously encouraged to do dumb-ass things, just so I can post them? God, I hope not, but I'm not ruling that possibility out completely.

Having said that, I doubt that I need to post this, but I will anyway. Here is a list of don'ts when it comes to browning a piece of meat for pot roast.
  • Don't add too much oil to the pan (a nice thin coating will do fine- a quarter of an inch is both unnecessary and dangerous).
  • Don't use meat that is still partially frozen.
  • Don't wear a tank top when cooking with hot oil.
  • Don't use tongs to fight with a big piece of beef that is thoroughly stuck to the bottom of the pan (because you didn't follow the 2nd bit of advice from above).

Or you'll end up with this.

Both Jeff and I saw the large amount of oil (approximately 1/4 cup is my estimate) that jumped out of the pan onto the inside of my arm. Did you notice not only the circular-ish spots, but the nicely elongated splatters, as well?

I soaked this puppy in ice water (to which I'd added both lavender and tea tree oil) for at least half an hour. When I would take it out of the ice water to check on it, the burned spots were actually still warm. The ice cold water, lavender and tea tree oils have really helped with the burn, I think. I used to work in a professional kitchen and can't tell you how many times Melaleuca (the only way to get tea tree in the 90's) saved my arms.

It was starting to blister up last night, but looks much better today, no broken skin or anything. It just hurts when I bend my elbow, which considering it's my right arm, only occurs once every five minutes or so. I'm practicing being ambidextrous. You should have seen me trying to eat soup at lunchtime. And as I type this, I'm sitting about two feet back from the keyboard with my arms outstretched. I look like Frankenstein in typing class.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Creativity Needed

I am currently working with my amazing, graphic-artist of an uncle to create a pamphlet for the aromatherapy necklaces that I sell on my Etsy shop. I want to start selling them wholesale and need something to show all of the various colors and designs, and, you know, the fact that everyone needs to own one, of course.

Here's where your help would be greatly appreciated... I cannot come up with a good name for the one that is currently labeled "Ruby Red".

DSC_0166_edited-1_fullnames copy

There are two reasons that I would like to change the name of this one. 1) We're condensing the names, so 'Pumpkin Orange' will now be just 'Pumpkin', 'Denim Blue' just 'Denim', etc. (And, no, 'Very Black' will not be 'Very'; it'll be 'Onyx') 2) 'Ruby Red' makes me think of grapefruit juice.

So, I'm taking suggestions as to what to call it. You can leave it in the comment section or email me. If I use your suggestion, I will send you one of my aromatherapy necklaces (you pick the color) as a very sincere and hearty Thank You.

Seriously. I'm stumped.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

2007 AIDS Walk/Run

So, I've mentioned this before, but wanted to do another post in case any of you missed it. Our family is doing the 2007 Colorado AIDS Walk tomorrow. We are doing this in support of our brother, Tommy, who has been living with HIV for over a year. His numbers have recently dropped and he will be going on meds soon. Much has changed in the treatment of HIV; many are living long and full lives, mostly thanks to advances in treatment options.


We are helping raise much-needed funds for people living with HIV/AIDS and to prevent HIV infection in our state. New treatments are now available that were unheard of ten years ago. These have decreased the number of AIDS related deaths; unfortunately, more people are being infected with the virus everyday.

Jeff is running the 5K. Joey, Randa, Kenzi, Sean, Jenny, Brad, Tommy, Alice, Doug and I are walking it. Kam will be riding, I assume. He's taken a few steps in a row, but I don't think he's ready for a 5K.

Aurora has just changed jobs and is very upset that she won't be able to make it. We know she'll be there in spirit, though.

So far we've raised $2,200, which is just amazing. We are so very grateful to our friends and family who have been so generous. Of course, if you're interested in supporting us, you are welcome to join or donate to our group.

Or click here to donate to my page specifically; I'm getting my ass kicked in the family donation ranking.

Added Note- I would like to mention that this fundraiser is not to raise money for Tommy. He has good insurance and can afford his medications. However, many people simply don't have access to these life-saving medicines. The AIDS Walk helps fund those people and helps provide programs that reduce the spread of the disease. By donating to our group, you will help us to help others.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Because I'm a grown-up, that's why.

So, I'm going for the cooking badge on my Merit Badge group on Flickr and I decided that in addition to attempting to make mozzarella cheese, I would try to can my own peach jam. The book describes cooking for a big group of people as the test of your skills, but frankly, my family is huge and I've done that, a lot.

Yes, you read that right, I did attempt to make mozzarella cheese, from scratch, no less. I haven't posted about it because it didn't work out so well. I do have plans to try again. If you want to see pictures, though, check here on Flickr. Just scroll through if you want to see the series.

2007 09 04 001

Anyway, this is what I had for breakfast the other morning. In addition to making peach jam with the $40 worth of peaches I bought at the farmer's market, Jeff and I also made peach gelato, which was incredibly easy (if you've got a food processor) and actually pretty healthy for you. We found the recipe here and used the version with yogurt because that's what we had. I can't wait to try it with Marscapone cheese.

Also on my plate is homemade, whole-wheat bread slathered with homemade peach jelly. Isn't the color of both the gelato and the jelly just wonderful? I couldn't believe how orange they turned out.

I have got to find a better recipe for whole-wheat bread. This stuff was actually bitter. The texture was OK because we added extra wheat gluten, but I just can't handle the taste. Lots of really sweet jelly helped, though.

So, if anybody out there has a good recipe for bread machine, whole-wheat bread, I'm all ears.

For the how-to for the peach jam, click the picture below (I've started another blog that is just for tutorials, because they tend to take up a lot of space on this one. Let me know what you think)...
2007 09 05 009_crop

Oh yah, and that ice cream bowl is what we use to serve the birthday ice cream to the birthday kid. It's got a matching scoop too. Jenny helped me make it many years ago before I had much confidence with ceramic glazes. Funny how things have changed.

I seem to actually know what I'm doing now.

Peach Jam- Sweet

Before you cook the peaches, you need to peel them. This really isn't all that bad. And it's even easier with a partner. My favorite part is how gorgeous the flesh is underneath the skin. It has the same pattern and color as the skin does. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the whole process. I could sit and do this all day.

2007 09 05 009_crop

Peeling the Peaches
  • Prepare several containers-
    • Pot of boiling water
    • Bowl of ice water
    • Bowl for peeled peaches
    • Bowl for skins
  • CAREFULLY place 3 or 4 peaches into the boiling water, using a slotted spoon, and cook for 30 seconds. (Splashing boiling hot water onto your neck and face is no fun- trust me. So be gentle!)
  • CAREFULLY remove each of the peaches to the ice water with a slotted spoon.
  • Run a sharp paring knife around the peach (longitudinally), cutting to the pit, but leave the peach together (Keeping it mostly intact until ready to process cuts down on oxidization).
  • Run the knife cross-wise to the first cut (again longitudinally), cutting the peach into fourths.
  • Peel the skin from each of the four sections.
  • Start over with 3 more peaches.
  • When ready to process peaches, pull flesh from stone.
I suggest only peeling as many peaches as you plan to use in one batch. Otherwise, they tend to oxidize and get a bit brown. I don't think this affects the taste or anything, they just don't look as pretty. And isn't 'pretty' a big part of the reason we're doing this anyway?

It's not? Well, it's part of it anyway.

2007 09 03 009

Once I had all mine peeled, I made some of them into gelato and some into jam, which is what I'll describe here.

Necessary ingredients for Peach Jam (these might vary based on the type of canning pectin you buy, but I'll give you the basics, so you get the gist of it. It's really not that hard.)
  • 4 1/2 cups of finely chopped peaches (I pulsed them in the food processor)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Sure-Jell fruit pectin.
  • You can either wash all the mason jar parts really well in very hot soapy water and then boil them in the canner or run them through the sterilize cycle on your dishwasher. Which one do you think I did?
  • Fill your boiling-water canner half way with water and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the fruit to a 6 or 8 quart pot along with the lemon juice.
  • Measure the sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Pull out 1/4 cup of that sugar and mix with the pectin in yet another bowl.
  • Add the pectin and sugar mixture to the fruit.
  • Bring the fruit to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  • When it boils, add the rest of the sugar, bring back to a boil and cook for one minute exactly (stirring the entire time). I don't know what kind of disaster will happen if you cook for more or less than one minute, but they use the words exact and I didn't want to find out.
  • Ladle into the sterilized jars, to within 1/8 inch of the top. Wipe the rims clean and cover with the lids. Screw down tightly and place in canner on rack. They should be covered with water by 1 or 2 inches.
  • Cover and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Boil for 10 minutes if you're at sea level, 15 minutes if at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, 20 minutes if at 3,000 to 6,000 feet, 25 minutes if at 6,000 to 8,000 feet and 30 minutes if you live on the moon.
That's it. Pull them out, leave them on the counter and wait for them to seal. After they cool, check the seal by pushing on the top. If it springs back, put it in the fridge and eat within 3 weeks. Let all the others sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Once I figure out the No-Added sugar version that doesn't involve Splenda (ugh!), I'll be posting that too.

I have a new favorite sound... the 'tink' of a successfully sealing mason jar.

Monday, September 3, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different

To balance out the depth of the last couple of posts, here's something totally ridiculous.

If Jeff would just take swing dance lessons with me, I wouldn't have to resort to this.