Monday, October 24, 2011

Treats for All! ~

My roommate and I share a lot of the same interests. So when she asked me if I would like to make treats to give to some of our neighbors, I was all for it! We looked for idea for a few days and here is what we came up with -

These are pretzel sticks. We originally wanted to dip them in yellow, orange, and white chocolate to look like a candy corn. However, stores are out of all the Halloweenish colors of candy melts except for ghoulish green. So we went with it. Just melt the chocolate, spoon it over the pretzels and then put sprinkles all over. Cute, huh?

These are Candy Corn sugar cookies. The recipe for them can be found here.
And a few other places on the Internet.

These are caramel apples. Megan bought the caramel pieces that come in a bag and look like chocolate chips. Much easier than unwrapping all those caramel candies! 
Just melt and dip!

Here are some Cookies n Cream apples. Just melt your white chocolate with a tiny bit of shortening and dip your apples. Sprinkle them with crushed Oreos. They look kinda messy but I'm sure they are delish! This recipe came from Woman's Day magazine.

This is the supervisor of the whole operation. He literally had to see everything that was going on in that kitchen before he finally got so tired he laid down in a chair. LOL! Don't worry, he never got near the food!

We packaged them up in these really cute bags.

I couldn't find any Halloween gift tags so I made my own. I don't own any of those scrapbooking punch thingamabobs so I just traced around some cookie cutters and cut them out with scissors. I thought they looked good for a rookie.

Each bag had 1 caramel apple, 1 cookies n cream apple, 20 cookies (they are very small), and 4 chocolate covered pretzel sticks.

We chose 5 houses to visit. Our next door neighbors are the best and always there when we need anything so they were the first we visited. They weren't home. I thought it would be so fun and the neighbors would all want to know our names and say how kind we are. And we would take pictures of this momentous occasion. I know, I have crazy dreams!
SOOOO, we went on to the house on the other side of them. We don't know these people but they were home. The little boy who lives there let the dog out and my dog tried to start a fight with him...
Anyways, so after we got the dogs calmed down, we introduced ourselves and went on. 
The next house was across the street and the couple happened to be in their garage. We went over and said hello and gave them their Halloween treats. They said thank you but looked at us like we were crazy. I'm not sure they speak English...
The next 2 houses had lights on but nobody came to the door so we just left the cute little bags hanging on the door knob. Hopefully they do come out through the front door sometimes.
Anyways, we still had a fun time traipsing around making fools of ourselves. And while they sort through their candy apples and cookies looking for needles and razor blades, we will be at home feeling good about our good deeds!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies ~

I know you have all seen these cookies on Pinterest.

I LOOOOOVVVEEEE candy corn. So. Much.
I know, I know! It is pure sugar but I just don't care. Every once in a while I have to haul myself over to the gift shop and buy a 50-cent bag of them. And not just at Halloween either! 
Anyways, this is a very good idea but I put it on the back burner because every other cookie has the stripes going in the wrong order. 
Everyone knows that white is never the color on the big end. Right? 
Yellow is on that end. For all time and eternity. So the fact that half of these cookies is wrong, well, that just held me back.
But then, PTL (Praise the Lord)!  I saw that Sweetsugarbelle had figured out how to make all the stripes be right. She simply dipped the ends of all the cookies in yellow candy melts! I swear, she's a genius!

So I headed to Hobby Lobby and picked up the only bag of yellow candy melts they had left.
Close call.
So, that's how you do it and this is one of the treats we packaged up in our neighborhood treat bags. Yes, that's how we roll and our neighbors are gonna be so happy!
Here is the recipe I used to make the sugar cookie dough. It is a bit different from most recipes that I've seen because it calls for 6 egg yolks and no whites. But hey, that's what makes them so chewy! I wouldn't use any other recipe.

Thick Sugar Cookies
6 egg yolks
4 eggs2 cups butter, softened
2 1/2 cups white sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour.  Roll the dough out on parchment paper to 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters.  Leave the cookies on the paper and put them in the freezer. After they are frozen, pop them out of the extra dough and either put them in a freezer bag or bake them. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place some parchment paper on cookie sheets. Place frozen cookies 2 inches apart on to the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Obviously, for these, you don't do the rolling out part. I made 1 recipe and it was enough for 2 9X5 loaf pans. If you want just one, then you can halve the recipe. (Duh). Also, do not skip the freezing of the dough part. Unless you just want round candy corns for some reason...

So here is what my dough looked like before I put it in the oven. I just cooked them for 8 minutes because they are really small. 

Here is what they looked like after I dipped them in yellow chocolate on the correct end.

I know they aren't as pretty as Sweetsugarbelle's but I know they taste as good!

Reframe Your Life ~

I've decided that I won't let life just "happen" anymore. It takes an effort to LIVE life and not just be here. Sometimes we get tired and we just have to lay down and rest. That's ok. After all, we are human. There is a difference in resting and being passive. Right now, I'm resting but I'm not being passive. When I was sick, I had to rest a lot but I was not passive. During that time, I wanted to live more than ever because the threat of my life being taken away was real. I wanted to hang on to it with everything in me. Now that I'm over being sick, it is easy to fall back into that passive state where things just happen and that's that. But I'm not, I'm determined to live. And I want to share with you something that occurred to me this morning, after having a bad evening yesterday.
I have to change my way of thinking.
After living for years in a pattern, I realize that it is difficult to change your way of thinking. That's where the effort part comes in. Let me give you an example. This is the best example I have because it just happened to me. And is happening to me now.
I finished radiation treatments 5 weeks ago. I have complained endlessly because I can taste hardly anything. The things I can taste don't taste right, not even close. Anyone who knows me well has heard me beg them not to use artificial sweetener for the simple fact that it tastes terrible. Now, almost everything I eat leaves the same aftertaste to me. Also, anyone who knows me, knows that I make ends meet by baking and selling cakes and cupcakes. I also enjoy the creative outlet that baking affords me. I love to find new recipes and try them and change them up and make them my own. How easy or enjoyable do you think that is when everything tastes like crap??? It's not.
So last night I had a big ole pity party. I was on the Cancer Survivors Network website and reading what other people said. Some said they got their taste buds back after a year. Some of them never did. Some of them experienced difficulties swallowing some foods (as I do) and certain foods are painful to eat (such as black pepper or garlic or chips or bacon). I'm not going to gloss it over - I cried. It seems silly to you I know but read this amazing story about a chef who found out he had stage 4 tongue cancer and it will help you understand.
This morning I woke up and decided to start living and stop worrying. I can not change what goes on with my mouth or my taste buds. But I can look at it as a blessing instead of a problem. This is actually called "reframing" something I learned in school but have seldom applied to myself. I won't go into all the technical stuff regarding that term, I'll just tell you how I did it. I just did it in my head, you might have to pull out a piece of paper. I will probably actually pull out a piece of paper myself later, lest I forget the lesson I learned today.
First of all, write down what the problem is. DO NOT write down how to fix it because, frankly, there may not be a way to fix it. Next, write down what is good about the problem. Wait! Don't throw in the towel, hear me out! At least read and see what the good part about my problem is. Here's my list...
1. I will probably lose weight.
2. I will be much healthier.
3. I will have time to learn other skills.
4. I can inspire someone else.
5. I won't crave things because I can't taste them anyways!
6. When my taste buds return I will have learned how to control my habits.
You see, food has been a source of pleasure for me. Not only pleasure but also comfort. And a fix for boredom. And a source of confidence. And many things that it should not have been. So the fact that I can't taste it now has thrown a wrench into things. Where do I go now for pleasure? For comfort, for excitement, and for confidence? Do you see where I'm going with this? So losing my taste buds could quite possibly be a good thing, although a bit frustrating.
During this time (possibly a year or forever), I plan to learn some other skills. I can learn to build things. I can use the time I would have been baking to go to the gym. I can learn how to eat to live, rather than live to eat. The fact is, I HAVE to eat in order to live. Now I can choose what's healthy and make it a habit, quite easily. I've also found another side to not being able to taste. I don't eat sugar anymore and so my body has adjusted accordingly and I feel amazing! Well, not right this moment because I have a cold. But I have been feeling so good without all of that sugar making me sleepy. I can't taste sugar, so I don't drink sodas anymore, one of the most unnecessary and unhealthy products ever made.
Those are the good things about my problem. See how I "reframed" everything?
And that is how you do it. Pick out the good in any situation and build on it. Become an optimist. Let go of your ideas. CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING! It takes practice and effort but it is definitely worth it in the end!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Spice of Life ~

I recently acquired a new roommate, Megan, who is extremely awesome. She also loves to bake about as much as I do. That is a good things except that we have run out of space for things in our kitchen. Everyone has that cabinet that has little bottles that you knock out when you try to find anything behind them. You never know if you our out of a certain spice or just can't find it! So I started looking online and found these 2 spice racks that I really liked that I thought would not take up much room.

I liked the first one but I wasn't sure how to make all of those compartments. And what is the point of a do-it-yourself project if you can't do-it-yourself? So then I thought the second one looked great and I would just do that. But THEN I found this frame when I was cleaning out my garage.

It was gold and apparently it used to hang in my parents' bathroom.
It is a 12 X 15 frame and I thought it would work perfectly to make my own magnetic spice rack!

I painted it with primer. I think it looked good with just the primer, to be honest. But I already knew in my head what color I was going to paint it and there was no turning back!

This is the kind of primer I used. I know nothing really about primer except that you should use it to help the paint stick to whatever you are painting. However, I do know that you are supposed to get grey primer when you are painting something a bright color because it takes less coats than if you used white primer. I read that this "Gripper" from Glidden is a very good one to try.

So then I painted it this lovely green color called "Sultana" by Martha Stewart. I know it looks yellow in the picture! I just got a new camera and I haven't figured out everything about it yet...

Here is a closer look at the frame. I think it has some pretty nifty detailing around it. After the paint dried I sprayed it with sealer.

I don't have pictures of the next part but it involved sheet metal and metal snippers. I bought a small sheet of metal that was 12 X something inches big and had to cut it down to size. The sheet of metal was $5. One word of wisdom - measure TWICE, cut ONCE. That's right, I had to go right back to Home Depot and buy the remaining sheet of metal. Once I had it snipped to the right size, I just put it in the frame and my spice rack was ready to go!

I love these spice tins and clear spice labels.

I got them at The Container Store. They were $5.99 for 3 of them but I justified the cost. They have lids that turn so that you can sprinkle the spices out. Or there is a bigger hole if you want more to come out. Or you can take the whole lid off if you are using a measuring spoon. Also, there was already a magnet on the back of each tin, saving me the trouble of buying them and gluing them on. And... if I had bought just the regular tins, the shipping would have made them cost just as much. So there. Justified.

See those letter? I got those at Michael's. They are stuck to the wall with two-faced tape. (The tape had an attitude also, it was quite stuck-up!) I spray-painted them red because I have some other things in my kitchen that are red. I'm hoping to change the curtains at some point so they'll fit in better.

I think it looks pretty good and is practical as well as pretty!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fabulous Day! ~

I know I've said this a lot lately, but this was a wonderful day! It really was packed with lots of good stuff. First of all, I woke up and put on my favorite jeans and they were LOOSE! Imagine that!

Great cause for celebration for sure. Then I got up and got ready for church. We listened to an awesome sermon about "A Legacy" and I got to sit with a couple of really good friends. After church on of them wanted to take some pictures of me and I let her.

And we took some of her little monkey boy, Matthew. He is SOOOO cute!

After I left church, I went home and picked up Tug and we went on a field trip to Petco. Tug loves to walk around the store and have everyone ooh and aah over him and get petted. He also loves that they have treats that look like cookies. Look how excited he was!

After we got home, it was time to carve pumpkins! My roommate and I had picked out some nice pumpkins and used the 2 biggest ones to carve.

Let me tell you, those little pumpkin carving kits are made for ONE PUMPKIN ONLY!! But we made it work.

Turned out pretty cute, huh?! We saved the seeds and roasted them in the oven. It has been years and years since I have had them. We just dried them in the oven for 30 minutes then tossed them in olive oil and sea salt and baked for 30 more minutes. I have a feeling I missed out on how good they tasted...

So then after that I finished up the magnetic spice rack I've been working on this week. I had it all done, just had to hang it. I'll show you what it took to make it in another post. Pretty easy and pretty cheap too!

The lids are clear so all the spices can show through and I found some labels that have all the spice names on them. Oh how I love spices!

I plan to change the curtains soon so everything matches. 

Now I'm working on some cinnamon rolls and writing this blog while I wait for them to rise. Can't wait til they are done and I get to go to bed! It's been a long and fabulous day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spongebob Squarepants ~

This is the first cake I've made since, well, you know. I was pretty excited! I didn't take pictures along the way because 1) I forgot about it and 2) I just wanted to get it done. But I always take pictures of the finished product so here it is! 

I almost forgot the nose. I just kept looking at him and thinking that something didn't look right. Well, nobody looks right without a nose! His legs are made out of pretzel sticks covered in fondant.
The flavor is White Chocolate, possibly one of the yummiest cakes I've ever eaten. I couldn't taste it but I know it's good because I've had it soooo many times. I actually did have to have someone taste the buttercream because I started daydreaming when I started adding the salt. It was fine though. It is frosted with buttercream and covered in homemade marshmallow fondant. Honestly, I don't eat the fondant, even the homemade kind. However, it does smell better and taste better than the store bought. Homemade is really the only kind of fondant that is good enough to come in contact with my cakes! Gotta go deliver him - see ya later!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


When I woke up this morning I looked like this:

Ok, maybe I'm exagerating but I did feel like that. I don't know what was (is) going on but my eye was swollen like someone hit me. My ear was swollen shut and I couldn't hear. Still can't out of that side because of the ringing in my ear. My jaw was sagging on that side and my head hurt. I felt (feel) like a monster. It was not a day I wanted to meet any new people - and that is where the fear began. 

I'm scared of crowds...
See, I was supposed to go to a new Sunday school class today and I already have a huge fear of meeting new people, especially a whole crowd of them. I really couldn't do it looking like that.
But I still made it to church. I wondered on the whole drive over what was happening in that side of my face. I was struggling in a way that I haven't for quite some time. All the way to church I kept thinking about the future and "what if" this or "what if that" - fear. By the time I made it to the door, I was really, really tired! And irritable!
But wouldn't you know it, God had already prepared a sermon for me. We worshipped and praised and then sat down for Communion. As the crackers and grape juice (yes, that's how we roll) were passed out, a member of the praise team started singing:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives. All fear is gone.
Because I knowwwwwwww, He holds the futureLife is worth the living just because He lives!
I swear, this happens every Sunday. I go in with all these things on my mind and God answers them in one way or another. Pastor Rick's message was about worry and fear also. Let me tell you, I whole-heartedly disagree with this:

I refuse to live with fear. I refuse to sit down and invite fear to breakfast, dinner, or even a tea-party! Fear isn't welcome in my home or in my head because it takes the joy out of living and clouds the future. I've decided that when fear does try to raise stick his big ugly head in the door, I will have to slam it shut. I already belong to God and anything that comes my way, I can make it through.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

BOO!!! ~

I haven't had any deep thoughts in... a while. I actually have, but none I can share right now. However, I have figured out one thing. I'm way too busy to do so many things! I thought I was going to start a new blog - do some crafting and show you. But I also like to bake. And I like to write. And build stuff and sew. There is probably nothing I won't try to do once and, as luck would have it, I like a lot of what I try. Especially now that I've decided to be happy and live to the fullest. 
I don't have time to create a different blog to appeal to that many audiences - I would be up 24/7. So what I figured out is that whoever chooses to read THIS blog, will have to read a little of everything. So you never know, you may be reading a book review here one day and then looking at a craft the next. Or I may choose to show you THE cutest picture in the world...

Like this...

Or this.

And hopefully some day I'll have another deep though I can share with you. But it isn't today because todaayyy, I want to show you what I made last night! You will look at it and think, "Why was she so excited to show me that?" But I don't care. It's what I did with my life for a while and I like it.

I saw THIS on Pinterest and thought it could be adapted to any holiday really. (These are really cute but I have another "joy" to do for Christmas).

So I decided to try it, adapting it to Halloween. First of all, I went to Hobby Lobby to look for some picture frames but they didn't have what I needed. So I spent another hour just looking at stuff before heading on over to Michael's. I ended up getting these picture frames which were $1 each. I really wanted to get some black ones that I didn't have to paint but they were $4 each. I needed black paint for another project anyways so I decided to go with these. 

Then I went next door to Home Depot and got some black paint. Oh, excuse me! The color is actually Francesca, since Martha has to make everything so dramatic. You can buy sample bottles of her paint for a little under $3.

 Went home and painted those suckers. Note to self - even if you don't have any newspaper, do NOT use an old towel as a drop cloth. Fuzz everywhere.

Then I just used some orange scrap book paper and cut it to size. I don't have one of those fancy schmancy machines that cuts out the letters for me so I just traced and cut with scissors. I had some left-over black-and-orange ribbon from last year which I glued to the back of the frames. I then punched black dots with my 3-hole punch and glued them on. 
And, TA-DAH!!!

I hung them in the foyer with my Fall decorations. 

I think it turned out TOADALLY cute! (Sorry, lol)