Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bubble Playtime Guide & Recipes

Since Andrea isn't yet a follower on here, it won't spoil the quick Christmas gift if I post this- I have a laundry softener container I'm going to turn into a bubble refill station and I made up a guide for ideas, hints and recipes for bubble playtime. I printed it on nice looking paper,and I'm laminating it so it will survive the first contact with the actual playtime.  I thought it would be nice to throw the guide up here to share with others since I'm very busy not sleeping :)
http://www.gwennypenny.com/2012/06/bubble-refill-station-my-take.html



Idea: Since this is Wyoming, and the weather can be all...WYOMING for so much of the year, adapt outdoor play activities to indoors (garage for the messy types) to extend the play season.

Baby pool + water + ball pit style balls + bubbles = chaos & fun. Host the coolest play date ever?


Drinking straws bound with tape - make your own bubble wands to get lots of smaller bubbles
Pipe cleaners and wire hangars can be easily bent into larger hoops for big bubble wands... or even funny shaped wands. Kitchen utensils & colanders can also make great wands in a pinch.



http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2011/07/invent-your-own-bubble-wands-from/

Super Giant Bubbles Recipe
  • 12 cups water (tap water works just fine for this one)
  • 1 cup dish soap
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 TBSP baking powder (NOT baking SODA)
Stir gently until well-mixed and let sit for 1 hour before making bubbles.
The recipe is cloudy at first but gets clear after a day or so. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the cornstarch. If you want your bubbles to have more staying power, add the SECRET INGREDIENT… a tube of personal lubricant. Mix one tube (3 oz.) of personal lubricant with 1 cup of very warm water – mix well. After it cooled I added the water/lubricant to the above recipe. The lubricant was purchased at the dollar store.

Easier Lasting Bubbles Recipe6 cups water
2 cups dishwashing liquid
¾ cup corn syrup
mix well

Bubble Town Quick Start Formula1 part dishwashing liquid
15 parts water
Gymboree Style Bouncing Bubbles Recipe
  • 1 C distilled drinking water- no minerals in the water is key
  • 1 Tablespoon dish soap
  • 1 Teaspoon of glycerin (you can usually find it at Natural Grocery stores)
  • straw or bubble wand
  • 1 clean glove (or sock) - (this is to keep the bubble from popping)
MIX ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER AND LET SIT FOR 24 HOURS

1. Humidity is your friend when making giant bubbles. Check a weather site for your local humidity levels and what time has the highest humidity. In my area, morning and evening have high humidity.
2. Extremely hot days and insects are not good for giant bubbles.
3. Do not get dirt, bugs, etc in your bubble solution. Dirty bubble solution will not work.
4. A gentle breeze is helpful. Sometimes you need to move slowly when making giant bubbles.
5. The personal lubricant is VERY IMPORTANT when making giant bubbles.
6. The cornstarch doesn’t completely dissolve in the solution. This is not a problem.You can still make bubbles with the cornstarch at the bottom of the solution. I occasionally stir.




Friday, December 7, 2012

For Bubby, and maybe me too!

OK, so I'm about to go to lunch & buy Aaron a small pottery wheel for Christmas. More of a toy than anything, but I know buying clay later can get expensive if he gets into it....and we know how much room there is in my budget for extras....SO, I found this!!

How to Make Clay from Indigenous Soil: 6 steps - wikiHow

Now, I figure this will be a fun summer project...IF he gets as into the pottery as I suspect he will. Bubby & ANYTHING artistic...usually lots of enthusiasm! And seriously, can't you just see Melodie jumping in? And all I have to do is dig? Yeah, I can do this! Might even drag Doug & Casey into it! LOL! Just for muscle, of course!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Themed Weddings are just the [worst] best! aka Making an Elven Gown (without a pattern!)

     So my friends are getting married on the 15th of December. Which, you may know, is the release of The Hobbit movie. And they are geektastic too. So, what does that equal? Lord of the Rings Wedding! Complete with hobbit groomsmen and women, and costumed guests. Not mandatory, of course, but HIGHLY encouraged. Nobody wants to be the only muggle in the 'Verse. Oh, did i mix my metaphors? My bad. So I found myself in need of a costume. And I somehow missed out on this fact UNTIL LAST WEEKEND. . . D'OH! Renting one is out as the nearest company to do so worth a darn is down in Colorado,, and really, if I'm gonna blow 50-100 bucks, I want something I can keep. Or sell. Not sure yet which route I'll take, but either way, I have the option. Tack on my oh-so-basic sewing skills and this becomes one heck of a trick pony. I chose this pin: Guinevere's Dress as my starting point. (After tracking it down all over again- I should really make sure I pin things I might need months and months later!)

     This is a VERY basic pattern (and after looking at the costume patterns available at the fabric store, I'm very very happy about this- those things cost upwards of $30 just for some of the patterns! And call for crazy yardage!) Add in a 50% off one item coupon and the lining fabric being 50% off, and this started to look like a thing. Oh? Did I not mention I decided to line it? Yeah, that happened. Because the fabric used in the film and for that person's demo dress was considerably thicker than the crepe satin I liked. Three days of polling other (geeks) guests about what color I should use while I waited for my coupon to become valid (I was waffling between Hunter Green, Wine, and Royal Purple-none of which I ended up with ya know) and I settled on Hunter Green with a contrast lining. Which was not available at Joann's. Sigh. But when I was about to give up and head to Hobby Lobby to try their generic (aka cheapo costume type) satin, I noticed a bolt of really deep blue lurking on the wrong shelf. WEWT! Then I decided, on the spot, yes, that niggling thought about lining it WAS the way to go...as I found a bolt of super-soft posh lining in a powder blue. Sitting right next to the dark blue satin. Some signs are difficult to ignore. After all, you'll see the insides of the sleeves, and it's December, and it just CAN'T be all that hard to make a lined dress, right? RIGHT??! Oh, please, be right...

     Which led me to a few hours of lying-in-bed-but-not-sleeping-yet pondering the process of getting this thing to come together, lined and with pretty seams. I think I have it worked out pretty well in my head. I don't think I can articulate it at this point, but it's up there, stewing. And tonight, after a second trip to Joann's after I got my fabric laid out across the whole computer room floor and realizing they had cut the wrong amount and getting it exchanged for the right, I dove in. So far, I seem to at least be keeping my head above water. Tomorrow, we find out if I can actually swim. That's right, two part-er. Because I am out of straight pins and really tired.

Steps so far:


1. Lay out both fabrics, right sides out. At 5'7", I needed at least 3 1/2 yards to get from the top of my foot over, with a nice trailing edge. 4 yards would have been lovely and dramatic, but not-so-great for dancing. The tutorial says 3 yards. She must be tiny. Fold over like in the tutorial  for lack of floor space. I really need an actual craft room is my conclusion. This is a 10 x 11 room, with mostly open floor space. And yet there is not enough room. And having just swept, I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you(!), at how much dog hair still managed to find its way to cling to my fabric. (*&%*^#$)

2. Since my lining was 2" wider than my outer fabric, line up one side, pin all long the side to keep fabrics aligned, and trim off excess. Finish up by pinning the second side. Notice how the front bottom edge is higher than the back. That's on purpose, I promise. I don't have a measurement for that, it was eyeballed. (Which is my favorite measurement, by the way).


3. Then, fold vertically (or match up sides for those not familiar with photo references) and trim the corners of the BACK into pleasing rounded shapes.  I then trimmed the bottom edges fairly evenly as the fabric was cut rather wonky, and pinned the back all the way across. The front of the dress is that shorter bit you can see peeking out under the folded-back part for the photo.


4. Leaving it in the folded over vertically way, I laid down on top to get the spacing for the neck opening and where the dress would strike my shoulder and elbow. It is difficult to see here, but I stuck pins at the shoulder and elbow points. Then I stuck my hand on my shoulder, discovered that the length of my hand was pretty much right for edge of shoulder to just outside my neck, and used that as a guide to mark my neck hole. Snip, snip- boy, these scissors really are not sharp enough for fabric... pin the neck opening all around. Lay back down, confirm spotting of the neck (maybe that should have come BEFORE cutting?) and stick a pin where I want the armpit to be.


5. Starting from the FRONT bottom edge (you will need to flip the back bottom edge out of the way to see your starting point) and using a straight edge to guide you to the pin where the armpit should go, cut your sleeves from the body of the dress. You can choose to use the points, or trim them off level at your desired length. i still haven't decided. Probably going to level them off a bit, as that seems easier to sew. Did I mention I want to use french seams on the sleeves to make it look nice? Yeah. Totally a beginner seam. Riiiiiggghhhhttt.....


6. Pin, pin, pin your little heart out. Now I know why the little old lady I talked to way back before I even got my sewing machine said I would need two of those big packs of pins. I didn't listen. I'm out, and the front bottom edge is not pinned. But I didn't forget her warning that silky fabrics need lots and LOTS of pins. Even for skilled sewers. And my heart goes out to Medieval ladies, that had to hand sew all this nonsense, without the use of straight pins.
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     So it's been, what, a week?, of me working on this thing. I haven't (completely) lost my mind (yet). (I said completely! AND I SAID YET!! Quit LAUGHING!)
Even though I thought I had this all planned out in my head, it turns out that bouts of barely sleeping coupled with sleeping-like-the-dead can erase those carefully thought-out plans from this head. No surprise, really. Working without a pattern, and then changing up the base idea can prove challenging. I've only had to unpick two seams (so far) in this project. Because while I had it planned (only in my head, and not on paper, when I know I forget anything that isn't written down) I got turned around by the gobs and gobs of fabric...holy moley, there is just plain A FREAKING LOT OF FABRIC HERE! 3.5 yards doesn't sound like much... until you see it, or think out the full thought of this is 10 1/2 feet long and 5 feet wide. Yeesh!

     And once you begin sewing, and you have bits unpinned here and going this way , and pinned bits going that way. Well. It felt kinda overwhelming. Add to that, the trim I was looking at getting over the weekend down in Ft Collins Colorado (that I had been assured they had two full rolls of, and it was pricey, but pretty) turned out to be NOT in stock (except for a half yard)...at least they let me know this BEFORE I drove an hour down there. And then a Google later I happened upon Calontir Trims. Buried on the second page of my search results for medieval trims was this gem. And the owner, Steve, is currently making the miracle of last-minute trim purchase and add-on-as-quick-as-you-can happen. For under $20. For 6 yards of very pretty silver scroll-work ribbon trim. That would have cost me way more (what I'm paying $2 a yard for with Steve, I would have gotten smaller ribbon of the same pattern for $6.99 a yard at the big craft store in Ft Collins)
     The one big benefit to this dress is the seam allowances are pretty much whatever you want, and are forgiving enough to hide my less-than-straight sewing. And I learned, a bit too late for the first seam, that you need to cut little divots out of even slightly rounded hemlines to keep them from bunching up. If I have time towards the end of the week, I'll be unpicking one last seam (which happens to be the front bottom edge, darn it!) and fixing that. Luckily, the dress drapes well enough that no one that isn't absolutely STARING at my feet will notice this. And people had best not be staring at my feet as that is just plain creepy.
     Just in case, today I stopped at the fabric store and got a yard of ultra-fine gauzy ...something... not sure what this is actually, I just ran my hand down the aisle until I felt something wispy. So if the mail decides to run in Wyoming time and my trim doesn't make it here by Friday, I'll at least be able to drape a gauzy headscarf around my shoulders to cover over the not what I expected to make but somehow better than originally intended neckline. (I was going for a circular neckline, and ended up with more of a shallow boat neck collar line.) 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking for natural soaps & moisturizers?

Just in time for Christmasing, my wonderful friend Amber and her lovely sisters Rachael & Ashley have launched their line, Women of the Wildwoods. If your skins cries for relief (like mine does, in new ways with each new season because eff being "normal") you should get some!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/womenofthewildwood


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Made@home ornaments, $15 big impact display

     This year, thanks to Pinterest giving me a starting point or two, I got away from thinking I needed to replicate a magazine Christmas look. I don't live a magazine life, so why was I trying to get that look? Maybe I was watching too much HGTV... (blasphemy!) So this year, I gave myself permission to do my own thing. And you know what? That's very liberating and stress-relieving.

     I started with this pin: super hero ornaments. Then I asked Chris for a list of his top 12 superheroes. I didn't tell him what this was for. Maybe I should have let the surprise go and told him, as I had to make him revise his list for having two on there that had no identifiable logos. And then had to make my own logo for Night Crawler as i didn't know the one for Martian Manhunter either. I think he snarled at me from the other room at least once. But the end product was worth it:

     12 of our favorite superheroes, which will be adorning our tree that actually looks like it belongs to us- you know, gamers & geeks. I don't think he's even noticed yet that I threw in the Greatest American Hero- a "hero" from a show he used to watch with his dad that he really likes. I kinda wish the glitter in the Hulk ornament had shown better- it mostly ended up in the bottom, and I learned mid-ornament that the black acrylic paint I had was unusually thick and wouldn't mix well. So many q-tips later, and lots of paint on my fingers, I got the desired darker silver for Thor. Probably would have been easier if my paint hadn't been half-sludged. Or if i had mixed it before pouring it into the ornament. Meh. Live and learn. It was fun anyhow.

     And today's step in getting some holiday spirit <forced> into us (I'm notoriously anti-holiday spirit, but I'm trying) I made a 5 minute display to set on the entertainment stand.

See it over there on the right? Ok, you're right, Reese cups look AWESOME and way too yummy right now. That's what I get for watching the commercials. Here's a close-up, stop drooling on the chocolate;

     You saw the title, right? Yes, this costs just $15 to set up. $9.97 for the 2 gallon jar at the Wal-hell-mart. (10.50-ish with tax.) Those giant ornaments came from Family Tree Dollar something or other for a buck each.So $5 there.  And the pine cones were rescues from the wreath the real estate agent sent Chris the first Christmas he lived here...which stuck around for 2, 2 1/2 years.... it was a live wreath. I think it may have been part zombie.  But it contributed to the cause, so good on it.
     The bonus to this set up being I don't have to do much dusting of it. Because do you know how difficult it is to dust something that has glitter on it? Yeah. I don't want to find out, either. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

When putting up the tree....

(Originally ZOMG SO MUCH GLITTER!!)

:) Karen, you probably could have warned me about this ahead of time. Ruby, you'd probably be covered in glitter right along with me, but likely far more ok with it :)

I decided to try out this pin: Paper Tree Topper

Lovely, tutorial, surprisingly easy. What they didn't mention: YOU WILL HAVE GLITTER EVERYWHERE!

I did not have pre-glittered cardstock on hand, but I did have spray adhesive and ultra fine glitter. so I made my own. Was that the reason it ended up everywhere? Not sure. I do know all the glitter cardstock I've seen in stores had lots of loose glitter in the pack as well, so maybe I would have looked like I got glitter-bombed either way. But it was a cute idea, and I think this will solve my "what the heck do I plunk on the top of the tree?!" issue. Last year I made a big bow. Also the year before saw a big bow. Blah. This year will likely see one of these. In foil paper. Because I am decidedly NOT a fan of having glitter everywhere....yes, EVERYWHERE. You can't get rid of it! GAH! (editor's note: I found some in my skivvies when I changed into jammies...wtf??!)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edit: In an effort to reset my sleep patterns for <this week at least> a little while, I decided to just stay up tonight. Boredom kicked in oh about 5 minutes after Chris went to bed. So I learned (or in some cases re-learned a few tips about putting up the tree.
1. If your tree skirt is huge, it will look funny on a normal tree. It will also make your resents, no matter how many, look inferior and/or like slim pickings. My tree skirt is made for a *very* large tree. We have a 5 1/2 footer. Twist that ish about until it is the same width as the lowest branches. Or even a bit smaller. Seriously. That looks ok in the pic right? There are 3 sections folded up in the back.

2. DO NOT lay pieces of your artificial tree in progress on the couch. This is year I don't know, he had this thing for years before I moved in on this poor tree-that-could. It sheds. Nearly as much as a real tree that ain't been watered. Ever. And my special self laid the top two sections on the couch while I was fluffing the lower bit. *AGAIN*. This leads to cussing. and #3

3. While decorating the tree may be a beautiful family tradition, or a nice one to start, as the case may be, putting the *(%%#$* thing together is best done by the one with the most patience after everyone else is either asleep or gone. Both if you can swing it. Liberal application of rum is highly recommended.

4. If your tree is not pre-lit, buy the biggest bottle of rum you can find. I cursed a blue streak just putting this one up, and it was on its best behavior. (and pre-lit) If I had needed to untangle lights and wrap those puppies around it, there might have been mayhem. As it was, Damien is giving me funny looks.
"I'm not sure what just happened, but I'm sure it's my fault. And I'm sorry. So, so sorry."

Ok, so that wasn't him tonight, but it seemed appropriate. He was totally making that face again.  Daisy curled her lip at the tree, so it's not just me, it really is evil.

5. When putting up a Christmas tree, especially by yourself, or even worse, hindered by others, be sure to reward yourself for a job survived with a liberal application of rum. Sweet, sweet rum....
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I just realized I never update with the final product-
2012's Superheroes Christmas tree
(with some Packers ornaments for kicks)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas tree sparkles, made@home for not much $

Today's project: make the most of the lights that are on the pre-lit Christmas tree.

Since our tree is kinda thin, kinda lackluster, I decided to use a pin and make some reflective ornaments to add extra sparkle to our tree this year. Plus, our living room can be rather dark, so bring on the bling!

Materials:
Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks (I used 5 sticks for 50 mirror ornaments)
Scissors
Silver or clear string or laces ( I used clear craft lacing which I already had on hand from Halloween projects- $2.77 for 100 yards)
1" mirror tiles- I found round ones at Michaels  for $1.99 per bag of 25. I bought 4 bags, and used this week's coupon for 25% off the entire purchase (which was nice, as I ended up replacing my glue gun as it was old and not heating well)



Cut the string or laces into roughly 6" lengths- 100 tiles makes 50 finished ornaments.
Get your glue gun heating up and set out half of your tiles face down, and half face up. Laying these all out neatly helps you to move quickly once you start in with the glue.

Take the first lace, hold the ends together between your thumb and index fingers, leaving your other fingers free to stabilize your bottom tile.
Add a small dot of glue and stick the ends of the laces or string in it and quickly  stick a face up tile on top. Hold for 2-3 seconds while pressing down to make sure you get a nice seal.
Pull off any stringy glue and set aside to finish cooling. Rinse and repeat. Lots and lots of repeat.
Just be sure you don't stick your fingers IN the glue as you're doing this, and you'll be done in no time. OK, admittedly, it's something like 20 minutes to do 50 ornaments.  I'd suggest nap time if you have any littles running about that would want to "help" as this is not a project suited to tiny hands. It might not be suited to MY hands either as I have a tendency to get hot glue on my fingers. But those with more grace should find this an easy one, and coming in at $10 or less, easy on the wallet.

Since we aren't ready to put the tree up just yet, I gave a thought to storing these- just gather them all up on a finger and slip a twist tie through the loops to contain them to an easy to manage bundle.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HALF PRICE BOOKS FOR THE WIN



The highlight of the collection is Anne Rice hardbacks. 


We now have a Half Price books in Bloomington and I have a collection of new books.
 
 
  All together we spent a little over $23 on all of the books that are pictured above. The Anne Rice books we have in paperback, but we wanted to hardback on the to keep on the shelf. I was really happy to find "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies". I been wanting to read the book, but I didn't want to pay full price or get it from the library, so finding it for $2 was great. "The Scary Stories" book was for Andrea and "Dangerous Girls" for Bailey. I like to get the girls books to read, but they have to be good books.
 
   Now if any of you want me to look for books for you or the kiddos just let me know. The books range from $.25 to $3. We didn't spend more than $2 on any of our books and that includes the hardbacks. 

  I was very amused while we were there because there were so many copies of the Twilight Books, like 3-4 shelves. People apparently didn't want to keep those books after they had read them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Now THAT is a wreath!

I still don't know if it will go above the tv or on the front door (it would have to get hung on the outside of the storm door as the gap between the main door and storm door is very small) but I finally have a wreath I like! I almost have full feeling back in my index fingertips, too! (OW! Hot  being the operative word in hot glue. And that junk won't stay put!) But very worth the effort, and considering the inspiration one was $66 plus about $20 in shipping from etsy, I think even spending what I ended up on it (about 50- the majority was the 17.99 plus 10 bucks shipping for the team ornaments) I came out ahead. I did use a few cone ornaments I had on hand already, and I already had the ribbon. Which got all cut up to become filler-puffs and the bow.  Ok, and I needed to pick up a new bag of hot glue sticks ($7 for a bag of 100 sticks), but I've got about half of that left. Which means I need more projects...:D

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Forget About Me Chicken with Rice (or potatoes)

Adapted to my own tastes from other pins about slow-bake chicken around Pinterest

Ingredients

3- 6 (or 8 even) Boneless skinless chicken breasts, depending upon how many you want to feed or if you want leftovers for lunch later in the week
2 cups minute rice or 2-3 baking potatoes of your fave variety, diced
1 pkg. onion soup mix (or equivalent homemade mix )
2 cans (10.5 oz each) cream of insert fave variety here soup(chicken, mushroom, celery, broccoli whatever).
1 can water
veggies (optional- roughly one can worth)
seasonings sprinkled to taste (thyme, basil, cardamom, garlic powder, celery seed etc)
salt and pepper blend

1. mix your two cans or equivalent cream of soups and your onion soup mix in a 13 x 9 baking pan. If you are not using stoneware (why are you not using stoneware??) butter the bottom of the pan. Smush/stir until you have the big lumps out, but don't worry about it too much.

Notice that i did not start with preheating the oven. Oven temperature is a myth... Google it if you don't believe me, and is especially NOT important in this recipe. If you want this to slow cook, set your oven around 200-250(cool oven). If you want it in 2 1/2 to 3 hours, set it around 275 or 300(high cool oven). If you want it in an hour -1 1/2 hours set it around 350-375(moderate oven). You can even set it as you stick the pan in there, especially if you are slow cooking this one. 


2. Add your rice or diced potatoes and stir. If you want to add veggies, made a well in the center and stick 'em in there.  I live in high altitude, so I leave about half the water in the can of veggies as liquids boil off faster here. 
You see how super-technical this is, right?

3. Now is the time to customize your flavor: add whatever of your favorite seasonings in a sprinkle across the surface: thyme, oregano, cumin, basil... if it's green, it will probably go in just fine. I won't blanket-approve here, because there are some weird herbs out there that have some strong flavors, but any of the basics will do. Whatever floats your goat.

4. Lay your chicken across the top of your mix. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. If you are NOT slow-cooking this, you may want to use a tenderizer to flatten out any particularly thick bits. If you are slow cooking, or like me decided to slice up your breast halves into more manageable bits, you will be fine.  COVER WITH FOIL! This is the one step you really can't forget here people. Stick that pan in the oven at your desired temperature, for something approximating a time frame  You can even forget it is in there for a while. You'll smell it if you forget it for enough hours to burn it.(likely smell it before if burns and get that hungry-grumble reminder from your stomach) There's lots of wiggle room in this recipe. If you can mange to screw it up, let me know. I'll be impressed.



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So. After I made this with potatoes for the first time tonight (because SOMEONE doesn't like the texture of rice [barbarian], I can admit it didn't come out as expected. With rice, the liquid is absorbed and this comes out as a casserole. With potatoes, it comes out as a thick stew. I was not planning for stew, but wow, it was yummy! Throw in some oyster crackers, grab bowls instead of plates, dinner is served. :)

 





Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why the existence of God, god or gods is irrelevant to me

SO as I'm lying there tonight  I was pondering all sorts of things. Like a story line for a childrens' book about how there came to be people of so many different colors. And how I have yet to actually write out that last idea for a childrens' book about monsters under the bed. I should get on that. But I need an artist. Because my drawing looks like that of a toddler. And for kids' books, art really is a major piece of the story. I digress...

Mostly what I ponder when I should be sleeping is hypotheticals and philosophical ideas. Because that's the sort of big thinking that can get the brain to cry "uncle" and go to sleep. Most of the ...ok, not nearly as often as I'd like, but it SOMETIMES works. Tonight was not one of those sometimes. Tonight is also one of those sometimes where spell check is an absolute must. Or yous gyus would neevr eb able to read thsi. There's one uncorrected line for you. You see how bad it is when all these thoughts are racing in my head?! Where's my friggin interobang?

But tonight's thoughts center on why I think it is irrelevant whether or not there really is a god. I do, in fact, think there is ... SOMETHING. I just don't believe enough in coincidence to look at the patterns in cells and atoms and discount the idea of a guiding nudge at the very least when those same patterns are written across the universe on a scale so large it makes the top of my skull feel squeezey.  (No, spell check, queasy is not the word I'm looking for there. )  I think it is irrelevant because good is not something that can or even SHOULD be forced. And how many people do we all know that "do good" publicly because they profess to believe in Jesus  and Heaven and don't want to burn in Hell but are really nasty, hateful shites whenever they let the mask slip?  I can force a kid to share and not hit, but they will be baleful and angry about it. The kid that shares because they have learned that it increases the fun they have to share the fun with someone else...well, on the surface, both the meanie and the nicer one are sharing, but who is getting the most out of their day? The one afraid of getting in trouble, or the one living their own fun and experiencing the fun of a friend too?

I don't need or want a Heaven. I have enough right here. And I intend to live as best as I can, and share as much light as I can manage while I'm here. And I will screw up. And I won't beat myself up over it. And I won't say "it's ok". I'll say "I want to do better next time". Not because God, god, Flying Spaghetti Monster or Batman or Santa is watching over me, waiting for me to screw up, but because Heaven is really a state of mind, and one that can only be found when you share it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Woven Pearls Design

Here's the latest creation: woven pearls design- "Cheer-y Red" 7-71/2" bracelet and 15" choker







Down-home Kentucky recipes

Appetizers: 

Cheddar Butter: 

This is my mom’s recipe, and there is no appetizer on this earth that is easier to make or that I like better. 

Soften two sticks of unsalted butter by letting them sit at room temperature for a few minutes (please don’t use your microwave-- it will make them too soft, and it will be horribly gross to work with, and I think it traumatizes the butter). Add two cups of sharp shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and 1 cup of chopped pecans. Use your hands to mix all of that together and shape it into a ball. Roll the ball in a few more chopped pecans (I like to use much bigger pieces of pecan and a few whole pecans on the outside-- your cheese ball should look fabulous). Wrap your cheddar butter ball in plastic and keep it chilled until 30 minutes before your guests arrive. Let it hang out at room temperature for those 30 minutes so that it’s soft enough to cut into. Serve it with any kind of cracker or bread. 

Bourbon Caramel Corn

I basically added some bourbon to my favorite recipe for caramel corn and was pretty excited about the result. 

Make two to three bags of microwave popcorn according to the instructions (you want to use natural popcorn, not buttered or movie or kettle or whatever-- just popcorn, you’re going to add the magic). Set your popcorn aside in a large pot, and preheat your oven to 200 degrees. In a saucepan, melt 1 cup (two sticks-- I know!) of unsalted butter with 2 cups of packed brown sugar (I know!), 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of corn syrup (I know! I know!). I also add a tablespoon of Kosher salt. Bring your caramel concoction to a boil, and let it boil for 5 minutes (and give it some love-- stir it frequently). After it comes to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. 

Let me say that again: ADD 1 TEASPOON OF BAKING SODA. Don’t forget to do this, or your popcorn is going to be a sticky mess that will probably require years of dental work to deal with. Your teeth will never forgive you. Put in the baking soda. 

After you stir in the baking soda and get a foamy mixture happening, add 1 cup of Maker’s Mark and stir it in. Pour this deliciousness over the popcorn and stir. Put it in the oven for 1 hour, but (and PLEASE don’t skip this step, either-- your popcorn needs your attention) stir it every fifteen minutes. Spread it out on wax paper to dry, and then enjoy it. (Caution: I don’t make this to just have around our house because I will eat every single crumb of it.)

The Main Events

Bourbon and Coke Ham

If you’ve eaten at my house, you’ve probably had my Mom’s coca-cola ham. It’s just delicious and too easy not to roll out at every opportunity. You’ve got to have some low maintenance dishes on your menu, and this one never disappoints. 

So, here’s the deal. You need to go to the grocery store and buy yourself a ham. Any kind of ham that is already cooked. You can get it sliced or not. It can have a bone in it or not (but if it does, I’d take all of the meat off the bone). You’ve got your ham? Good. Now go get your crockpot off the shelf and drop your ham in there. Pour coca-cola on it (If you are, like me, from a place where every soda or soft drink or carbonated beverage of any type is called “coke,” then I need to tell you that you should be using coke that comes in a red can or bottle, and you should not under any circumstances no matter what is going on your life or mind use diet or zero or whatever. Loaded Coke only). Now, how much do you want to taste bourbon? For me, the answer is, “not much.” So I added 1/2 cup of bourbon. You add however much you want. 

Set your crockpot on low. Let your ham and coke and bourbon simmer for 4 to 6 hours. That’s it. Serve it. You’re done. How easy was that? 

Chicken that Whispers “Bourbon”

Not everyone likes ham, right? So I bought some chicken drumsticks-- 18 of them, but I suggest that you not buy that many unless you have a lot of people coming over. I generously put salt and pepper on both sides of them, spread them on a cookie sheet, and put them in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes (just watch them-- they need to cook all the way through, that’s all). 

I tossed them in a mixture of the following: 1 whole big cup of bourbon, 1 cup of ketchup, 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of ground mustard, 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon paprika. I liked the flavor, but I should have doubled the recipe for the massive amount of chicken I was making. Hopefully you aren’t cooking for a small country and will enjoy some big bold flavor on your 4 to 6 drumsticks. 

Maple-bourbon Carrots

Place a bag of baby carrots in a saucepan with: 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, some dots of butter (I used probably 3 tablespoons). Simmer for about an hour, or until the carrots are as soft as you like them. 

I know that you want to add brown sugar, and if you need to do that, you go right ahead. Brown sugar is going to give you more of a glaze. I like to leave it out so that the carrots have sweetness without the thickness of a glaze. Do whatever you like. It’s your kitchen. No one is the boss of you. 

Baked mac-and-cheese

Are you tired of bourbon yet? Me, too. So let’s do another easy, but non-bourboned side. 

Cook a box of elbow noodles in salty boiling water. Mix them with 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 2 beaten eggs, and 2 cups of sharp shredded cheddar cheese. Mix all of that together, dot it with a little tiny bit of butter, and bake it at 350 for 40 minutes. 

I also made a sweet potato casserole and corn muffins. I’m sorry, but those recipes are just between me and my Mom. My friend who hosted the party made a spinach salad that was delicious and lightened up all of this richness. We had an option for dessert-- chocolate cake, or amaretto peaches with vanilla ice cream (if you want to make these peaches, peel and slice 6 peaches, and put them in a bowl with about two tablespoons of sugar. Let them get married to the sugar while you eat dinner. Then place them in a saucepan with a pinch of nutmeg and a splash of amaretto. Simmer them until they are warm and soft, then pour them over ice cream). 

Burgoo!!

1 lb. lean pork
1 lb. lean beef
1 medium-sized hen (cut up for boiling)
1 gallon salted water
2 lg. potatoes
2 lg. carrots
2 med. onions
1 c. peas (fresh or canned)
1 c. green beans, cut in small pieces (fresh or canned)
2 c. canned tomatoes
1/4 c. diced okra
1 c. chopped cabbage
1 med. green pepper, diced
1/8 tsp. diced red pepper pod
1/3 c. tomato paste
1 1/3 c. V-8 juice
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Boil pork, beef & chicken in salted water until done. Drain, cool and remove chicken bones & skin. Run meats through a food grinder. Put the meat and the one gallon water into a large cooking pot. Set aside. Peel and dice the potatoes, onions, & carrots. Combine these with the okra, cabbage, peas, beans, tomatoes, green & red peppers and the parsley. Add to the meat & water. Put in the tomato paste and V-8 juice. Season with the salt, pepper & Worcestershire sauce. Cook at a slow boil over moderate heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir often.

Yield: 1 gallon. Serves: 1 Kentucky Colonel

from The New Claudia Sanders Dinner House of Shelbyville, KY Cookbook, 2000 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kentucky Burgoo
1 lb lean boneless chuck steak
1 ½ tsp vegetable oil
8 c no-salt-added beef broth
1 lb skinned, boned chicken thighs
4 c cubed peeled baking potato (1 ½ lb)
2 ½ c chopped carrot
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 c frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 10 oz pkg frozen lima beans, thawed
Trim fat from steak, and cut steak into 1” cubes. Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven; add the steak cubes, and brown well on all sides. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hr. Trim any fat from chicken thighs, and cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Add chicken cubes and next 9 ingredients (chicken through garlic); simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Add corn and lima beans to stew; cook an additional 15 minutes or until the beans are tender. Yield: 10 servings (1 ½ c)
Calories: 257; Protein: 18.2g; Fat: 5.7g; Carb: 32.4g; Chol: 24mg; Iron: 3.2g; Sodium: 308mg; Calc: 54mg

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Alternate recipes:



Alisa's (aka Little Ruthie's) Potato Soup

(I'm posting this here so I don't have to go through all our old emails again! Presented in her very own words:)


boil as much potatoes as u want. 4-6 med. will do.
drain.
add 1 tablespoon of butter.
salt/pepper as us wish.
one can of cream of chicken soup.
on can of milk.
as much cheese as u want(-velveeta or american slices)
cook it on low for a few minutes. [until heated through is what she means there]
stir so the bottom doesn't burn.
 
if u want u can stir some garlic in, do that while the potatoes are boiling.
 
that will feed 1 or 2 people. depending how u eat.
i eat it alone. hahaha!
 
oh, i also put in basil and nutmeg, just a hint. mmmmmmmmmm.....u can put that stuff in everything!!!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Ohio Hale's Potato Candy Recipe

(just so I don't lose this again!)
Grandma Ruth's Potato Candy


1 medium potato-peeled
2 packages 10x (Confectioners') sugar (2 lbs total) Divided
1 tbsp vanilla extract (don't use imitation!)
A Good Pinch of Salt (approx 1/8 tsp)
Food coloring (optional)
Peanut Butter- approx 1 1/2 cups - 2 cups


Boil potato until fully cooked (can be chopped up for faster cooking).

  Drain and put potato in a medium mixing bowl- not plastic! 
Mash & mix with 1 cup 10x sugar- potato will turn to liquid. 
Add 1 tbsp vanilla and a pinch of salt. 
Add food coloring of choice. There's no NEED to color this, it's just as good plain, but where is the fun in that?
 Mix well. My Dad always uses green, my brother always uses purple, Grandma Ruthie uses Green mostly and red sometimes, but never just red by itself, that would be weird. 



Slowly add 1 1/2  bags of 10x sugar (you may need the rest of that second bag if your potato is larger) until you get a firm pie dough consistency. 


You can dust your counter-top with more 10x sugar, or use wax paper dusted with sugar to contain the mess- bonus- you can use the wax paper to make rolling up easier. Either way, dusting the surface is needful as this stuff can stick like tar on a new car.

 Roll out- cut down as needed to form a rectangle roughly 1/4 inch thick. You don't necessarily NEED to make it a rectangle, that just helps it look nicer when you go to serve it in the end- no oddball bits at the end of the roll. Feel free to skip that part if you're only serving it to family- they won't care as long as it tastes yummy.
Smear peanut butter approx. 1/4" thick across surface (or more if you like lots of pb taste). 


Remember: Do NOT roll the wax paper INTO your roll, just use the wax paper to CONTAIN the roll. Nobody likes the taste of wax paper...

 Roll up, slice your roll in half so you have two shorter, easier to manage rolls, chill for at least 2 hours, then slice to serve. (Best when stored in an airtight container in the fridge, but storage isn't really an issue unless you make this when no one is coming over... and even then storage might not be an issue).


As you might guess, I got this recipe from my Dad, who got it from his mother, and there aren't many actual measurements in Grandma Ruth's cooking. (Grandma Ruth's cooking is UNBELIEVABLY GOOD- mostly because she's had so much practice at it that she no longer needs measurements- Karen, I think you've heard me whining & pitching a hissy when my sister calls to tell me she's eating Grandma's cheesy potatoes- they're so good that it's a crying shame to miss out.) I finally got the real measurements nailed down after consulting and sampling many other recipes, but while this always turns out very well, it just isn't Grandma Ruthie's level of good. I think she secretly adds cocaine or heroin, or maybe some nutmeg to the peanut butter...


Alternate makings:

You can also leave the peanut butter out and just roll it into balls, and eat like that or dip it into melted chocolate, but oh my goodness, I love the peanut butter!
You could also use nutella or a soy butter or some such nonsense if you need to substitute for allergy reasons or if you are some barbarian that doesn't like peanut butter. Savage. Who doesn't like peanut butter?! Even people that are allergic to it love the taste! There's just that whole puffy-gasping-probably-dying part...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to (cheaply & easily) clean your makeup brushes

Cleaning your makeup brushes is one of the best ways to make the most of your investment. "Investment?!" you say?  Yes, INVESTMENT. If you are buying a decent quality brush, even if you manage to find it for a steal, you don't want to end up buying another in a year, do you? Quality makeup brushes can range in price from $5 to above $50 each. So why let them wear out early, why let them get caked up with old makeup, why deal with possible bacterial funk?  (ICK ick icky ick!) WHY PAY THAT MUCH AND NOT GET THE MOST OUT OF IT?? Especially when cleaning them is something you can do as you get ready for work?

You COULD buy brush shampoo. At $14.00 for a tiny bottle, I think that stuff should jump out of said bottle and curl my eyelashes for me. I prefer the penny option, which works just as well (I've used brush shampoo before, I know from firsthand experience).  No, that isn't a typo, it's a penny option.
(Okay, okay, it might be half a penny, or two pennies, I haven't sat down and figured out the per-tablespoon cost of vinegar. Math is for people with more patience.)

1. Fill a small container with VERY HOT WATER. The hotter the better, but don't go extreme and boil it- you want to be able to stick your fingers in it if you need to fluff the bristles.

2. Add ONE TABLESPOON WHITE VINEGAR.


3. Stick your brushes in, bristles downward. The best way to soak them is by using just enough water to cover the bristles and not enough to cover the metal part (ferrule) as this could start to loosen up the glue holding the bristles in. I personally have never had an issue with this, but not all brushes are created equal. Swirl them around, make sure the water is getting all the way through the thicker brushes.  Give them a light fluffing with your fingers if they are really caked with makeup. If you use a liquid foundation brush you may want to use a separate container for that brush.

4. Let them sit for 15-30 minutes, depending on how long it has been since you last cleaned them or how dirty they are. Go finish getting ready for work, go watch a show on your DVR, go deal with whatever that silence from the kids means. I set a timer so I don't forget. Because I'm very good at forgetting things in the short-term.

5. When your time is up marvel at the dirty water dump out your now icky water. Run your brushes under a hot water rinse, then a cold rinse.

 

6. Gently shake out what water you can. You can gently press out water from the thick brushes, but be careful not to use too much pressure as this will cause the bristles to break. Either stand them up to dry or lay them flat in a dish drainer. Just make sure that they can get decent airflow around them. You wouldn't want to lay them flat on the counter top as the water would collect in the side pressed against the flat surface.

7. Later in the day, or the next morning if you choose to clean them before bed, check to make sure they have dried thoroughly- I give mine a gentle shaking or lightly brush them against the side of my hand to get the bristles fluffed up and looking pretty if a few decided to cling together.

That's it. No really, that is all it takes, just some hot water, some vinegar and a few minutes of your time.  Repeat once a month for optimum brush life.
I should probably wipe off those handles with a damp washrag while I'm at it too.