Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Almost Time For Baking Weekend!

Just a few more days and my girls (minus Staci, who is living the life on her boat with her family) will be joining me for baking weekend!  We are a cookie baking factory over the weekend and I can't wait.

However, there is one thing I can guarantee I won't be baking this year and it's these puppies (or should I say cubs?).

(Reposted from 12/11/11)

My girls came!
Robs, Sue, Staci, Me :)
I love my girls.

They did lots of this...
This is Robs' double batch in a single batch bowl -
I was super impressed she managed.
And this...

Which resulted in these...
They were baking machines.
(Yes, SGG, there was alcohol involved)

I did zero cookie baking.  Zero.  I kinda felt bad about it, but I was focused on a project I've been contemplating for two years now.  I don't even know where I first saw these Snow Globe Coca-Cola Cupcakes, but ever since I saw them, I've been wondering if I could pull something like that off.


I mean, look at them...
Photo cred: Bakerella
In fact, I was pretty sure I couldn't pull them off, but I've been getting braver in the kitchen.  Last year, we had success with the bococcini.


So I gathered up my courage and hit the stores looking for what I would need: Coke in the "ornament" plastic bottles, rolled fondant, an edible pen, and a red sugar sheet. I followed the directions that I found on Bakerella.

I used the bears on the wrappers as inspiration.

Beel even got in on the act...
See the bandaid on the back of his hand?
Yeah, I wasn't sure that I should allow him to use a knife.
I'm happy to report that he still has all of his fingers.
I even tried the Cola Cake recipe that Bakerella linked to.  It was one jacked up recipe.  I've never baked cupcakes from scratch, but I'm a direction following fool.  I read the recipe a couple of times, and then obsessively referred to it while I was making the cake stuff.
Butter, veggie oil, cocoa, and Coke.
It's not quite as gross as it sounds.

I brought that crazy concoction to a boil and added it to the dry ingredients, which included a cup and a half of marshmallows...
It didn't taste too bad,
for a diabetic coma in a bowl.

I then baked up a batch of the cupcakes.  They were awful.  They fell, which was a bummer.  But they didn't taste so wonderful either.  Plan B - store-bought Devil's Food cake mix.  Win!!


While I was waiting for Nebalee to come up to the lodge with my Plan B, I worked on the fondant.  Oh God, what a disaster that was.  The store must have put out last year's fondant, because it was a brick.  I had to break it open and scoop out the inside just to have any to work with.

I lost easily half of the fondant I bought - the outside was unuseable.
Staci and Little Miss 'Mantha helped make the fondant bears.

Staci was a bear making fiend!  I made two.  She whipped out the rest.  Wait...Nebalee made the little cub.  Aren't they cute?
I used the red sugar sheet to cut out their scarves,
instead of the fondant recommended by Bakerella.
Auto Bot and Kyzzer helped me prep the snow globes...
We sprayed the inside of the bottles with sugar water
and then the kids sprinkled them with sugary thingies.

Mom and Nebalee put snow on the cupcakes after I frosted them...

And then I got to assemble...
Oh. My. God.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am with them!
They're not quite as polished as the ones at Bakerella, but then, neither am I.  I'm so not a professional baker - I'm pretty sure that once-a-year baking doesn't count - but I am beside-myself-excited about these cupcakes!
I'll post about the rest of Baking Weekend when I come down from my cupcake success high.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Abandoned Kitty (Abby)



On Monday, when I returned from lunch, there was a commotion on campus, so I had to go check it out.  My boss' wife was there with the tiniest little kitten snuggled into her jacket.  It seems that she and their son had been out grocery shopping and saw a box with "free kitten" written on it.  The box was in a grocery cart parked in the middle of one of the aisles with no one around. A little black and white kitten face kept poking up out of the box.

My boss' wife is an animal magnet - if there is an animal in need, it always manages to find her.  She and her son claimed the kitten, picked up some canned food and brought it to work.  She had a new owner in mind, and it wasn't me, but when I saw the kitten, I knew we had to have it.  We've been looking all over for a kitten that wasn't going to cost us an arm and a leg.

Since the weather got cold a couple of weeks ago, the mice have been getting bolder and bolder to the point where they would just stop and look at you like, "I dare you!".  We had mouse traps out, but hadn't bagged as many as we had hoped.  I hate to hear them in the walls, but there they were, scrabbling in the wall between the bathroom and mudroom.  It was past time to get a cat.


I texted Jay and told him we now had our kitten.  I'm not sure she even weighs a pound yet and she fits curled up in both of my hands.  She also had worms (yuck), which we realized when she started dragging her butt on the carpet like a dog.

She definitely likes being up and would not stay in her box, despite taping it shut, for the drive home, so she sat on Digger's shoulder.


After I dropped Digger off at his place, she climbed onto my shoulder and slept the whole way home.  It was tough work being abandoned and then claimed.

She wasn't so excited about Allie-bird when I first introduced them, but has now decided that Allie is her dog.  However, she immediately claimed Jay as her human.


She's a bold kitty, not afraid of much, and has immediately taken over the house.  The first couple of nights were really rough.  It's been a long time since we've had a single kitten with a ton of energy.  It made it kind of tough to love her those first few days.

But she's just so darn cute when she's not terrorizing everyone and so loving when she wants to be that she'll get to stay.  It didn't hurt that she killed a mouse her first night home.

We (de)wormed her and gave her her shots yesterday.  The shot(s) was easy, but the wormer pill was not.  Between the two of us, we were able to choke it down her throat without losing any fingers, but it was a close thing. Because we didn't want Allie to end up with worms, we also treated her.

Abby likes to "help" whenever I'm on my cell phone, so I downloaded an app for her to play with.  How cute is this?



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Publishing Has Killed My NaNoWriMo Mojo!

Here it is, twenty-two days into NaNoWriMo and I've barely broken 7,500 words.  In the five (or six) years I've been participating, I've never struggled like I am this year and I blame the fact that I finally published my books.  I've resigned myself to the fact that I am not going to "win" NaNo this year, and that's okay as long as I get useable words out of my effort.

No longer can I just "vomit" words onto a page and feel okay about it.  Editing sucks.  Taking all those crappy words I threw up onto the page and trying to make something useful out of them is one of my least favorite chores.  Now that I know this, I'm struggling with putting the "right" words down the first time.  I understand why Tara Janzen says that writing is "excruciating" and "that it's like placing individual pieces of glitter with tweezers".

I find that I have to know where the story is going, whereas in the past I didn't care.  I find myself thinking things like, "will this tie into what is going to happen in chapter so-and-so?".  Or, "is this even believable?".  Things that never once crossed my mind in NaNos past.

And you know what?  I miss the free writing.  I do.  I just want to be able to shut off the "inner editor".  Now, just as soon as I figure that out, I'll let you know.

I'm currently working on two books: LYON'S RAGE and  PICEANCE BASIN PRINCESS.  My thought was that when I hit a wall with one, I'd switch to the other.  It worked beautifully for a couple thousand words.

LYON'S RAGE is a book, still early in Stacy's career as a Protection Specialist.  Her recent past comes back to haunt her when a potential client tries to hire her to kill his spouse. 

PICEANCE BASIN PRINCESS is Skeeter's story, how she came into my life after losing Her Highness.  It's not going to be a sappy, oh-she-saved-my-life story, because I honestly hate those stories.  It's more the reality side of things.  Yes, I loved Queen Estes and yes, I love Princess Skeeter, but it's hard work to keep from comparing the two.  It's more of a "she's different from Estes and I still love her" kind of story.

If I finish the month with a good start on both of these, I'll feel really good. I've taken vacation time over Christmas break, so I plan on continuing to write. I'd like to have RAGE in a publishable state by June 2015, and the other by the end of the summer. 


Friday, October 31, 2014

Reason #1,436,983 Why I'm a Lucky Girl



It's just a few hours until the kick-off of NaNoWriMo.

NaNo is one of the first things Jay and I decided to tackle as a couple and I look forward to it every year.

It's a bit odd, I know, but some of my favorite times are laying in the dark bouncing ideas off of each other in the nights leading up to NaNo.  This year, Jay's returning to his original NaNo book and I'm so excited.  His children's book is beautiful and I love the artwork, but his "grown-up" novel hooked me from the very beginning and I've been waiting for him to go back to it.

Last night, since we couldn't turn off our brains, we talked books, characters, and plots.

And it was the perfect way to drift off to sleep.

Yep, I'm a lucky girl.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Boogie Man is My Friend Book Giveaway!

The wonderful Kathryn Loving is giving our readers the chance to win all three of her Boogie Man books:  The Boogie Man is My Friend, The Rookies, and Behind the Shield.

If you've ever read her blog, The Boogie Man is My Friend, you know that she's a straight shooter with a bit of a quirky personality which shines through in these books.



Her first book, The Boogie Man is My Friend, deals with issues she has seen in her career and is, in my opinion, a great parenting book.  She talks about issues that no one wants to acknowledge and just when it gets to be too much, breaks up the tension with her signature humor.



The Rookies takes a break from the seriousness of dealing with the Boogie Man and takes a look at the lighter side of cop work, from her time as a rookie to her time as an FTO.  It's a light-hearted look at the folks who are trying their best to keep society safe.


Behind The Shield is a continuation of stories, drawn from her extensive journals.  Readers of her blog will "recognize" some of the people and stories she discusses.  I'm currently about half-way through her newest book and am enjoying it immensely.


So what do you have to do to be entered to win autographed copies of all three books?  It's pretty easy, just follow the prompts in the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway will end at midnight (Mountain time) on October 16th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The (Five) Weekend Project: Tiling the Counters

It might have taken six weekends.  Or even seven.

All I know is that we finally got that gawdawful chore done.  Let me tell you, it definitely seemed like a good idea at the time.  C'mon, how hard can tiling be?  Really?  I mean, people with no experience do it all the time on the DIY home makeover shows.  Jay and I are reasonably intelligent people (but not intelligent enough NOT to take on this project).

Everyone assured me "tiling is easy", "don't worry about it".  They are all liar-heads, for the record.

We decided to start with the "little" counter - really just a free-standing cabinet we have by the stove for storage.  We figured we couldn't screw it up too badly.  It started out nicely enough. 


We borrowed Mr. Nebalee's tile cutter and Jay went to town making the cuts we needed.


And that was the last thing that went right with our project.  When we bought the supplies for the project, all we saw was mortar that we'd have to mix ourselves.  No problem, we can follow directions.  So we did.  And we ended up with some nasty mortar that was more like crunchy peanut butter instead of the smooth stuff. 


We fought with it for a while, then just said fuck it and slapped the tiles down, mushing them into the crunchy stuff as well as we could.


It doesn't look horrible, but there's not a single level spot on it.   That little project drove us to drink and we decided we were not doing any more that night.


When I bitched about it on Facebook, someone asked why we didn't just buy the pre-mixed mortar.  Pre-mixed mortar?  Are you kidding me?  We didn't see any while we were at Home Depot buying our supplies.  Sonuvabitch, we could have made our lives so much easier.

We finally made it back to the store to return our not pre-mixed mortar and buy some sensible stuff.  Jay and I put on our grown-up unders and started again.  He had a couple of hours before work one morning, so he started and I "finished".




I should say I finished all but the last seven pieces that needed to be cut.  I tried to bribe Deejo into coming over to cut them, but he couldn't make it.  I'm perfectly capable of running power tools, but I'm partial to my fingers, so I wimped out on the cutting part and left it for someone - anyone - else to do.

A couple more weeks went by and Jay had enough of having a partially complete kitchen project and we finally finished setting the tiles.


A day later, we grouted and now we can say the damn project is finished!



I'm all about learning new skills, but this is a skill I never want to use again.  Maybe if it had gone smoothly from the beginning, but it didn't and set a bad tone for the whole project.  I think our last weekend home project will be to build the benches for the picnic table.

Wait ... no, we're going to install a dishwasher.  That should be fun, right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adventures in Canning

From my Facebook on Sunday:
So.

I've run into a little problem with the pressure cooker. I can't get it to unlock and open. I followed the directions, I let it come down to zero pounds of pressure on its own and even let it sit a bit longer before trying to get the lid off.

The lid wouldn't budge.

So I ran the whole thing under cold water to hopefully cool everything so the lid would unlock and come off.

Nothing doing.

I decided to let the whole thing sit overnight and cool to room temperature. Certainly then the lid would come off.

No way, Jose.

That lid is locked on tight, so we used a rubber "persuader" and one handle broke off, which cut Jay's hand.

Still nothing doing.

How the hell am I going to get my eight pints of pork green chili out of the pressure cooker?! 
I got all sorts of helpful ideas from my Facebook friends.  A couple even suggested shooting it.  Dudes, there were eight pints of green chili in there - shoot it and lose eight pints, are you crazy?


I was using my Great-Grandma Wheeler's pressure cooker (the one I remember from childhood) and I thought everything was in working order.  The gasket looked great, but turned to glue with the heat and the pressure. Oops.  

I removed the gauge to equalize the pressure inside and out (it said it was zero, but could have had negative pressure) and that didn't help.  Then I followed someone else's suggestion and pushed down on the lid as I rotated it, like you would a pill bottle, and that didn't work.  I finally decided that in all likelihood the cooker was going to be a loss anyway and pulled out The Greatest Little Tool Ever (the pry bar from Man Crates).




I used The Greatest Little Tool Ever to try to pry the locking teeth apart on the cooker.  At one point, I thought I was going to break the pry bar, but it's a sturdy little dude.


I tried rotating the lid to unlock it from the pot and it didn't work.  I was about to give up and then thought, "you dummy, you only did half of the pot!".  So I went back and did the other half and gave the lid a twist.



The lid rotated, but still wouldn't come off, but I hadn't wasted almost two hours trying to get the blasted thing off to give up!  I did what any frustrated woman would do - I beat on the lid.  I slammed it back and forth in rotation, picked up the whole pot by the stuck lid and slammed it on the floor a couple of times.  Finally, the gasket started to give, but there were still some sticky parts that didn't want to let go.

What the hell?  I'd already used the pry bar a couple of times, why not to "help" the sticky parts along?  Next thing I knew, the lid was off!  Success!!



You can see the black gasket still firmly attached to the pot.  I was so excited about getting into the cooker that I didn't even care about the brackish-looking water.  I'm assuming the water was discolored from the metal oxidizing over the past forty years or so the cooker has been in use.  (And, yes, my kitchen is so old it still has the 50's kitchen carpet in it.)

Looks like all I need to do is replace the gasket and get a new handle for the lid to replace the one that broke when Jay was "persuading" the lid to come off and we're back in business!  Now, who knows where I can get a new gasket for a pressure cooker that is at least as old as I am?


Water-bath processed green chili on the left, pressure canned pork green chili on the right.
Never a dull moment in our household, I tell you.