Thursday, January 31, 2013

Furry Faces

Mom and I went to visit A. and her sister tonight. Mom crocheted them both afghans, and she wanted to drop them off before we went grocery shopping. While we were there, the cat, Izzy, decided that she and I had something special going... which meant that she sat under the table and clawed at my leg while I drank hot cocoa, making me jump in my seat like I was possessed. 

We also stopped by the pet store to pick up food for the degus. There was a mother hamster there with nine babies. They were two weeks old, and no bigger than my thumb!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Lucky Day

Why is it my lucky day, you ask? We went to the Panda Inn for lunch - I haven't had Chinese food in a long while, and it was so good! We got four different dishes and sampled each of them, and everybody was stuffed. I was super excited to see an icon from The Blind Banker - a lucky cat figure. When I whispered, "Mom! It's the cat! Like the cat from Sherlock!", the woman behind the counter looked at me curiously. 

(not my photo, taken from BBC Sherlock)

This, however is not why I got so excited about this particular event. After we had been served our food, I began watching the lunch crowd come in and out. Most of them were men in plaid shirts, looking scruffy and hungry... nothing extraordinary. Then he walked in. At first, he looked like the others, except maybe his eyes were a little more blue, and his hair a little more brushed. I watched him standing in line with a friend, and that's when I saw him smile. That smile deserves it's own font... but I can't find one that fits well enough. He smiled very much like this:

Now, this is a picture of Chris Hemsworth (aka, Thor), because I couldn't exactly get a picture of the stranger. I was doing my best to pick my jaw up and not stare. You probably think I'm insane, but when I was trying to describe the essence of the smile to Mom, all I could come up with was that it was "like sunshine on small flowers." Now that I have confirmed that I am just human, and ridiculously female at that... To the stranger at the Panda Inn, thank you. Thank you for lighting up my day with a smile that wasn't even intended for me. I hope maybe our paths will cross again. I'd like to know your name. 

This was inside my fortune cookie:

So, maybe my plan to build heated pond structures filled with algae to feed the few ducks that didn't go down south for the winter isn't such a crazy idea after all? No crazier than watching a guy at a Chinese restaurant, then blogging about it?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Golding Farms Molasses Cookies

These cookies are awesome! I made them for our guests today, and we all had more than we should... Everybody got really hyper towards the end. After all, they are rolled in sugar! Each bite is full of gingery, molasses goodness, sure to please any crowd.

I'm using the recipe off the Golding Farms molasses bottle... I have no clue where we purchased it, but it is all natural and unsulphured. 

Molasses Cookies

1 C white sugar                                         2 C flour
3/4 C soft butter, shortening,           2 tsp. baking soda
or margarine                                             1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C molasses                                         1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, molasses, and egg. Blend well. Stir in remaining ingredients and blend well. Chill dough for easier handling.

 Lightly grease (not oil) cookie sheets. Heat oven to 375. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges have set. Cool 1-2 minutes before removing from sheet.

I made up the dough into balls, rolled them in the sugar, cooked half the batch, and froze the other half. When you want to bake the frozen batch, you just thaw about 3 hours in  advance, place on cookie sheets, flatten, and you're good to go!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

What have you been doing this weekend? I've been doing random stuffs, so I'll share them here. I pulled out the backgammon board tonight and Dad beat me 5:1. Guess I haven't improved much since my 12 year old self last played. But I still like it... I find pleasure in playing obscure games to save them from becoming extinct.

Mom made an afghan (pictured above). I kept her company by sitting next to her on the bed and playing Temple Run, randomly yelling, "No! The monkeys got me!" or "I just smashed my head into a tree." Since she had no idea what I was doing, I think she got a little worried about my mental state. Especially when I asked what would really happen if you slid feet first into a stone wall... Would you really die? Or just get your ankles shoved into your brain?

Saw an idea on Pinterest for corn muffin batter made in the waffle iron with chili on top. We had to try it, so that was lunch on Saturday. It was good! I enjoyed the leftover waffles with syrup, too. Don't tell pancakes, but I love waffles more... 

I was a few weeks late, but I recently joined a group called #2013Project52Books. Every week in 2013 we are supposed to post a picture either of a book, or photo that reminds us of a book we've read. They don't have to be new books, just favorites that you want to share. This week I chose Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare, which is one of my really all time favorites. It is one of the reasons I chose to learn French in high school, because much of it is set in Quebec during the Seven Year War. Miriam is kidnapped and taken there to be a servant and learns French from her friend, Hortense. 

Oh, and I'm signing up for a 5K... but more details later. Start your week off with a smile!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Decided I'd do another game review to round out my lazy Saturday. I have been playing Temple Run for most of it, and thought I'd share the love. If you are into high-adrenaline, fast paced action games that will siphon all your spare time... welcome to the club. :)

Imangi Studios

The first one I got hooked onto was the original Temple Run. Basically, you are running for your life, being chased by demon monkeys. By swiping up, down, left, and right, you jump tree roots and run along a labyrinth of walkways collecting coins and trying not to trip... the demon monkeys show no mercy. 

Imangi Studios

Very recently, the brilliant creators of the original released Temple Run II, now including swinging from ropes and careening through a mountain in a coal cart (I haven't reached this point yet). This time, however, instead of being chased my multiple demon monkeys, you are being haunted by a huge, enormous Demon Monkey that is taller than you, and if he gets too close, blocks the view. 

Alper Sarikaya

Along the same lines, but set in a more futuristic world, is Gravity Project. I think I might even like this slightly more than Temple Run, because instead of having to physically turn the screen, you simply swipe your finger and you can change the entire gravity, walking on the walls, sliding under doors, kicking bombs, and gathering time chips. Stub your toe on one of the yellow bars, and you are dead... sometimes when I stub my toe, I wish I was dead, so I really related to that aspect. 

All of these can be found in the Google Play store, or follow these links:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Cookies

Mom and I were browsing through her old recipe book and came across this recipe for cookies that uses cream cheese and a box cake mix. They're more of a "tea biscuit", or something you might imagine getting in a UK cafe. It's one of those good basic recipes that you could change and find your own signature favorite.

Cream Cheese Cookies

1/4 C butter                                   1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. (8oz.) cream cheese         1 box cake mix (I used lemon)
1 egg                                                 1/2 C of coconut, chopped nuts, or chocolate chips (optional)

Heat oven to 375*. Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and half of the cake mix (dry) until smooth. Stir in your 1/2 cup of add-in and the rest of cake mix until well mixed. Drop by spoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing & store in an airtight container. About 4 dozen cookies. I suggest flattening the cookies a little before baking, if you want them a little less cake like (I like my cookies crisp). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frozen Still

We've been having some of this winter's coldest days the past week, and I've been spending them in my pajama pants and a sweatshirt, dreaming of sunny beaches. The truth is, however, that even though the cold is severe and unrelenting, it is also very beautiful. I couldn't decide which photos I liked best, so today's post is going to be some of the pictures I took of ice crystals... from the inside looking out. Hope you enjoy them!

Monday, January 21, 2013

(Not So) Bleak House

You already know that I think Charles Dickens rocks... I would have loved to go people watching with him, so we could laugh at all the bizarre, unique characteristics of human kind that he was able to capture on paper so well. He is able to poke fun at our idiosyncrasies in a way that makes us laugh, and cry, and shudder (some of his people are kind of creepy).

I went through an obsession with Dickens the summer I was nineteen and read almost all of his well known and lesser known works. I tried reading Bleak House, but even I admit, Dickens wordiness bogged me down and I simply couldn't get the story line. I have learned, however, that most often, the books that are the hardest to read in the beginning are often the best of books by the end. So, I forced myself to read on. I'm glad I did, because it was just as entertaining as his other works, and even had the beautiful ending that one could hope for. 

Two years ago, when Mom had the flu, we were trying to keep her in bed, so we watched a lot of movies on my laptop. We had watched Little Dorrit when Julie had mono, and enjoyed that very much, so when we found the Bleak House series online we decided to give it a shot, too. It's 15 episodes long, so don't expect to watch it in one sitting (although you will find yourself wanting to). We thoroughly enjoyed it, and this year I bought Mom the DVD copy of it for her birthday. It was Dad's first time to watch it, and he was so engrossed, asking us for details (which we would not reveal), and groaning out "Yes! Finally!" when the wicked protagonist meets his end.

Feel intrigued? Someone has been most kind to combine and post the episodes on YouTube, so here are the links:

Episodes 1-5
Episodes 6-10
Episodes 11-15

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow Day...

Today was just a lazy day. We had the little girls with us until 7:30 tonight, and everybody was basically exhausted. We all took a nap after lunch, then S. helped me make dinner. I'm not usually very patient with people being in the kitchen while I cook, but she gets so excited that I can't say no. We went "shopping" in the basement pantry for the spaghetti, bread, and veggies. I gave S. a grocery bag and filled it to the brim... there was a special today, and all the groceries were free! What a deal. :)

After dinner, I wanted to show S. how our bunt-baker worked, so we made a lemon poppyseed cake, and she helped me make a powder sugar glaze. Dad, N., & H. were all playing cribbage, so S. took them all a piece and we sat and enjoyed the yummy warm cake. H. is still new to cribbage, so she called on my consulting services. It got a little hectic, mixing cake, counting points, and clearing up spaghetti (why must the sauce get everywhere?). 

My favorite part of the evening though, was S.'s anticipation waiting for the cake to be done. I set the timer on my cell phone and put her in charge of holding it - thus eliminating the, "Is it done yet?!" scenario. She danced around the kitchen, counting down the seconds... 

Kids. Gotta love 'em!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Skonewood Family Retreat

We had a church retreat at the Skonewood family camp today. J. & A. came up, and some of the guys were out on the lake ice fishing while the women chatted in the lodge. J. & I put on our ice skates and skated out to see what the guys had caught, and we got more of a workout than we bargained for. There were about two inches of snow on the lake, and pushing through it was a little tricky! I had on hockey skates, which helped some, but I got over confident and too speedy, then *whoosh* I found myself sprawling on the ice. We skated until our legs were about to buckle, then we had to put our boots on and trudge back up the hill. I thought my legs were going to fall off, and that I couldn't possibly be in pain, when *whoosh* my feet slipped on the path and I found my nose about an inch from the ground. I am so thankful I didn't hit my face, but it bruised my already sore wrist (from the wall smashing incident). 

(A picture of a picture inside the lodge)

Back at the lodge, we drank hot cocoa and ate a lovely lunch, then E. gave a devotional and we sang. I watched a game of cribbage afterward, then convinced J. that she should go for a walk with me while I took photos for my +G+ 365 Project. I have no idea what happened to the weather since the time before lunch to the time after lunch, but by the time we got outside the wind was blowing, the snow looked like a sandstorm, and I took two pictures and decided that was enough of a walk. One of them was of the campground chapel (shown at the top). J. & A. had considered getting married there, until we realized that there are only about four pews inside, and no heating for a January 28th wedding...

I was so exhausted by the time we got back home, I made chicken noodle soup for supper, and we had vanilla biscotti coffee to warm us up. I think I have become dependent on our french press... now all other coffee seems blah, and I have a headache when I don't get my daily cup! The blue mug in the picture is just the right amount, and with whipped milk and just a little sugar, I feel like life must go on. :)

Until tomorrow!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Is It Scrumptiously Crunchable?

Maybe it's a little strange to quote Gollum. But, I'm a little strange, and it is always the first thought that pops into my head when I try a new food, "Is it nice? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?" I need to get out more.

The contraption above, my friends, is a Sharper Image Super Wave Oven, and it cooks food using convection and infrared technology to make food crispy without having to fry it in oil. It also cooks much faster than the usual method. We tested ours out on breaded chicken and potato wedges.

Instead of using plain ole breadcrumbs to batter the chicken, Mom used stuffing crumbs, and it was delicious! And yes, we did bleach down the counter top after having raw chicken on it, for all you germaphobe fanatics (looking at you, N!). Personally, I'd rather brave chicken slime salmonella than toddler snot, but that's another subject... they're all icky.

The oven itself reminds me of a test container for radioactive substances - when you put the lid on, the handle goes down and seals it shut, then turns on the light. You aren't supposed to stare at the light, and once  you start the cooking timer, there's no going back. I sort of wondered if we were creating some sort of Marvel-worthy mutant chicken, but no such luck. I was really hoping for a chance to put on my cape. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's No Laughing Matter, Mr. Spock

As an INTJ, we get compared to that most worthy of Vulcans, Mr. Spock. It's an honor really. Some people think this means we are cold and dull, lacking the ability to laugh, but this is far from the truth. Allow me to share with you a taste of Vulcan humor, to prove that rational beings can have fun too:

We find humor in the truly funny, the jokes that make sense and have (for us) a logically humorous meaning.

Play on words is one of the NT's delights... we are masters of the pun, creative with double meanings, and find delight in well phrased ambiguity.

Remember, you can always laugh with your Vulcan, but don't laugh at your Vulcan... or you'll find yourself in a lot of tribble.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Henna Head!

Last summer I started trying to lighten my hair to bring out the red highlights using vinegar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and lengthy exposure to the sun... while it succeeded in lightening my hair by several shades (and also completely drying it out, requiring me to do an egg rinse), it didn't actually achieve the lovely copper hues I was looking for. I would never use commercial dye, so I started looking into natural alternatives, such as henna. Henna is used in India as a temporary tattoo dye, and it is also a natural way to color hair, if you buy a pure form that doesn't have additives.

I chose a brand called Rainbow henna, the Persian Copper shade. 

Since I wanted to really strengthen and nourish my hair, we did a mix of egg, yogurt, and coconut oil with the henna powder. The powder starts out green, and when mixed with hot water releases a chemical that turns it red... it also releases a very pungent smell. N. described it as, "Baby food... actually, more like the end result of baby food." It wasn't unbearable, but not the kind of smell you would love to have around. It did go away once I washed my hair though, so no worries.

I have very thick hair, so it took longer than normal - you can see the white paste I put around my hairline to keep from dyeing my skin, and I wore a trash bag to keep it off my clothes. N. patiently brushed it onto sections of my hair and Mom kept everything clean and tidy.

Once all the mix had been brushed on my hair, we wrapped it in plastic, then a towel, and heated the hair shafts using a space heater and blow dryer. Which worked great until we blew the breaker... 

I wore the turban for about an hour, then rinsed my hair out in our basement utility sink (it makes quite a mess, so not a good idea for the shower unless you want to clean it out afterward). When I started drying my roots they looked almost neon orange, but as the hair dried it toned down. When I washed my hair this morning the water was orange, but I think most of that was the dye coming off my scalp, not my hair.

My end result... silky soft, shiny hair with lovely red mid-tones. Not too orange, but I have no idea how this would react with blonde hair. I would have been fine with a little more copper brightness, but I am totally pleased with the result! Maybe next time I will leave it on a little longer and see if that deepens the red.

Anybody have a brand/method/routine for when they do henna? If you try it out for yourself and post pictures, please put a link in the comments! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Masque de Corncake

Mom and I made dinner together tonight. She wanted to try cornbread in the new cake-o-matic to see how it turned out. She got a little over zealous while stirring though, and suddenly *slap* she slopped herself with cornbread batter. On her glasses, on her shirt, in her hair... fifteen minutes later I spotted some on the bottom of her chin. Who knows, maybe she was saving it for later!

We made creamy ham and broccoli soup - Mom said the dish the ham is in was a "horn of plenty". Don't tell her, but it's a pot lid. :)

The cornbread bunt cake turned out beautifully. It was crispy and perfect, and I totally forgot to take a picture of it! I can, however, confirm that it was delicious, and we ate the whole thing. I had a slice with maple syrup... yum!!

During our cornbread making, I got a little carried away and overly attached to the egg:

He and I became quite good friends... too bad it was very short lived.