I don’t mean to brag, but…

I decided to make my coworkers a ginormous batch of cookies for the day after Christmas. All but one of us in the precinct is working the day after (aka “the Show”), and I think we’ll need some extra cheer during our busiest – and likely lowest attitude – day. And JT had us close a little early this evening, so that we could get home to our families, and I to my oven.

And I baked, dear reader; I baked.

I made a double batch of my favorite oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and a regular batch of my Christmas tradition cookies (this time with actual sprinkles!).

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

This is but a taste of the baking that ensued when I got home.

That’s great, but that does not explain my title. Oh, no. Feeling particularly bold, I decided to try something new. A month ago or so, Eric and I bought a donut pan. I have since made a batch, but as I said…bold. So tonight I thought “I know what’s Christmasy! Booze!”

I switched up the recipe that came with the pan and made chocolate donuts. And then I dipped those suckers in a Bailey’s glaze. BAM!

The pouring got a little messy...
The pouring got a little messy…

The batter for these is always a little thin, and after two batches of cookies, it was strange to work with. And also, I am messy, so there are little bits of batter all over the pan. Mmmmm!

Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended...couldn't get it quite thick enough at first.
Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended…couldn’t get it quite thick enough at first.

It’s amazing what I can do with only about 4 combined feet of counter space.

Dippin' donuts, Batman!
Dippin’ donuts, Batman!
There they are!
There they are!

And then, because I was feeling so very fancy, I decided to sprinkle a little sea salt on these bad boys to offset the sweetness.

These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.
These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.

So, yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I made some chocolate-bailey’s-glazed-donuts tonight. Merry Christmas to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Finalizing Christmas and old friends

Yesterday was none too pleasant and found me having a panic attack, curled up in the fetal position on my bed because I ran out of packing tape to ship presents. Needless to say, packing tape was not the real issue, and I spent the last few minutes before literally dragging myself up for work trying to pinpoint exactly what is eating away at me.

I thought I had worked some of it out, and I emailed an old friend who is as removed from my life as anyone, yet still as close to me as if I were 16 again. I woke up this morning to a response from someone who had clearly read between the lines and figured it out. I am grateful for that, and the only bittersweet part about it is my regret at not spending more time with this person when we were close.

So I went to work, and my dear coworkers all made the night worth working. Albeit there were a series of a very bitter and rude customers (Ho ho ho, assholes), the night was actually quite fun, and I found myself more than pleased to be in the precinct. Again, I am blessed.

Finally, upon walking into the dark house at around 11:30, I found a roll of packing tape stacked neatly on top of one of the packages that I will be sending out today. My husband may not have gotten the earful (eyeful?) of my angst/panic/disappointment yesterday, but what he did know about (and could fix), he did.

None of these things solve the problem, but I hope that they can help curb the impatience and fear and anger over this whole school situation. And perhaps the reason for it will become clear in a reasonable time, so that I’m not slapping my forehead one year from now saying “oh!”

In other news that you likely will be more interested in, Christmas is basically done. I am going to cave and buy Eric a few more things (they will be in his +10 Bag of Practicality), and I am starting on the Christmas game today, but otherwise: Mission Accomplished.

While I will still post separately about the other projects that Eric and I undertook for our edible gifts, I just want to celebrate actually finishing something this week.

IMG_2611 IMG_2613 IMG_2614 IMG_2615 IMG_2616 IMG_2617 IMG_2624 IMG_2625

The gifts, arrayed on the table and sorted
The gifts, arrayed on the table and sorted
IMG_2627
A sideways image of the CD I made for Joey

Now I have packing tape, so I am going to seal the boxes and walk them down to the post office to send off. The CD I made for Joe is probably my favorite; per my mother’s request, I put together an ensemble of super hero music, both score and lyrical. I hope he enjoys it, and I hope that my decision to keep Robot Rock by Daft Punk off of the disc helps maintain my mother’s sanity.

More on the specifics later, and also…new brakes!

For now, keep it crafty.

 

Sweet as vinegar

In addition to the peach-honey butter, apple butter, pickles, salsa, chips, and apple sauce that I threw together this year for Christmas gifts, I also decided to make my mom some cranberry-orange vinegar, since she eats a lot of salad. I thought it might make a nice, quasi-festive (read: cranberries) vinegar that she could use in a dressing.

Here is how I did that:

A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?
A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?

Certain men failed to read the “6 Cups” of white wine vinegar, so I had only two cups, thus my only having a half cup and one orange.  I used frozen cranberries because, well, they’re not easy to get fresh ’round here.

IMG_2605
Sliced oranges and cranberries in a bowl.

I cut up the orange and the cranberries (as much as I could cut up tiny fruits) and put them in bowl. I crushed them slightly with another bowl and poured in the vinegar.

The dust helps it ferment faster.
The dust helps it ferment faster.

I place the covered bowl of fruit and vinegar on a bookshelf where it would stay cool. It sat there for ten days.

Crushed fruit in vinegar...still.
Crushed fruit in vinegar…still.

This is what it looked like when I opened it again to finish up. Mmmmm.

That's not cheese!
That’s not cheese!

I used a sieve and cheesecloth (just to be safe!) to drain the vinegar and separate the chunky bits. It was nice and red and, again, festive.

The last part was just putting it in a nice jar. I didn’t bother processing it, so mom will have to use it fast. (Read that, mom? Make some delicious salad dressing when it gets to you!)

I tasted a tiny bit before sending it, and I will say that it is a very subtle taste. I think if you are not a fan of vinegar, you would want to let the fruit soak a bit longer. This made me a little antsy to try raspberry vinegar next.

I have tomorrow and Wednesday off (hooray!), so I will have to write a few more posts for the remaining projects. I ship everything tomorrow, but I took plenty of pictures. For instance – tortilla chips! CDs! Etc! And I’ll post pictures as I start/work on/finish the board game I am making for gift opening on Christmas.

Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Koch’s snowflake

My canning is done. All that is left is making cookies, chips to go with the salsa, and decorating. I performed an exhaustive search for ideas and felt no inspiration. I am not entirely sure if this is because of the hour, my generally foul mood, or that there is not much out there.

I finished the peach butter jars a while ago, along with their adorable fabric covers and fancy ribbon stuff. They’re not bad, really, and I should probably just do the same for the other gifts, but it seems so…blah. And, apparently, the most common decoration for canning jars is fabric, cutesy ribbon, and tags.

Well…challenge accepted.

These are Christmas gifts, and I suppose the theme is something along the lines of staying warm in the winter (salsa, soup, etc). I might do the fabric trick on some of the items, but in my slightly buzzed, under-the-weather, and half-asleep state, I thought it would be way cooler to do something more wintery. And something involving paint.

But that’s simply not enough! It needs to be quintessentially Sam.

Thus I decided I should probably do something math related, something with fractals. Enter Koch’s snowflake:

Von koch's snowflake
Von koch’s snowflake

This is a fractal that is made up of increasingly tiny triangles, though strictly speaking the snowflake is made up of three of Koch’s curves, but that’s really not an issue. The point is…how cool!

This then led me on a tangent (ah ha! Math joke!) looking for math crafts, and I couldn’t find a one that interested me. That was mostly because they were aimed for children more than adults. And as charming as an abacus made of pony beads of adding lily pads are, they are not quite what I am looking for.

So fractals it is, and, again, challenge accepted.

I need to sleep.

I forgot to take pictures

Part of my DIY Christmas gifting includes a photo frame for Eric to take to work with him because he’s always saying that he needs a picture for his office. I stopped at Michaels after work last night (awww. It was kind of nostalgic, and I even saw my old boss, who was very nice) and purchased a wooden frame to paint.

The irony, of course, is that while I got one picture of the base coat, I forgot to get any others. And the frame is now in a box, wrapped, and under the tree, so unless you want a picture of the wrapped box, I’m afraid I’ve failed in sharing any visuals.

But here’s what I did, anyway:

1. I painted the frame with a metallic silver. Since I was putting a photo of our elopement in the frame, the silver complements the white and black of our outfits.

2. Using a black permanent marker, I wrote the last lines of a poem that was read at our small ceremony for family.

3. I put the photo in the frame, put it in a gift box with a letter, and wrapped it.

Done. He gets something that he’s been asking for, it has a personal touch, and with dry time for paint, it took all of an hour. In case you are curious, the poem in question was “Litany” by Billy Collins. An amusing read, for sure.

I have caved, though, and I purchased some things for him, too. Alas. Time has not been kind to me this holiday season, since I’m working retail, and that makes it hard to do a whole lot of crafting. It is a little bittersweet, but I might as well get used to it. Once I start school again, I think it will be some time before I am able to get back into my craft room for any real length of time. Sad day.

With the rest of my afternoon before going to work, I’m going to make the labels for our canned gifts. Last bits of food gifts are going to be made this week, and then I’ll ship them all next week. And somewhere in there I have to write Christmas cards.

When did this holiday become more work than celebration? Bah humbug.

 

Homemade apple butter – the extended edition

I am writing with the intention of sharing how Eric and I made apple butter last week for our DIY Christmas this year, but before I start, I just have to talk about yesterday.

As some of you might know – hopefully all – on the 14th, The Hobbit will be released in theaters. That is great news. But what was even better news to me was that this past weekend (8th and 9th), theaters around the country/world were showing all three extended versions of Lord of the Rings. And I mean in a row. 800 minute run time (with breaks). And because last week the Universe seemed to be smiling upon me, I had yesterday off for the first time since I’ve started this new job.

So Eric and I went to see all three Lord of the Rings in theaters, and it was amazing. There was a small group of people there (I hope Saturday was busier. I can’t imagine how more people would not want the opportunity to see these films on the big screen again). Between films, one of the theater managers would come out toward the end of our break and have trivia questions for us, with prizes. Via Eric’s insistence, since I kept muttering answers under my breath while other people were participating, I actually stood up for one question and won him some candy. I mostly stood up because I was shocked no one had shot up immediately. The question was “What is the translation of the inscription on the one ring?” I wasn’t going to bother standing because everyone knows that. But no one stood!

If you’re not familiar and are curious, the inscription is “One ring to rule them all; one ring the find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them.” It’s actually part of a longer poem about the rings of power that I will save some face by not posting in its entirety, even though I recited it on the way home last night. I told Eric that in the nerd world, he’s my trophy husband.

The showing started at 11am, and we left the theater just after midnight. Worth it. Totally worth it.

Now onto the crafting/cooking. Last week, in our hurried pace to get through making the last of the Christmas gifts, we made a rather large batch of apple butter. Here is how we did it:

1. We washed, peeled, and diced(ish) the apples. The instructions said to core, and since we don’t have any fancy device to de-core, I just chopped around it. It worked out fine.

2. We added the apples, along with a cup or so of water, to a pot and let it simmer for about a half hour. We wanted the apples soft enough to go in the blender.

It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.
It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.

3. When they were soft, we threw them in the blender and pureed them. I now have an old-school grinder that would have done the trick, but we were going for fast, not necessarily authentic, though I would love to use that device sometime.

4. When the apples were blended, we essentially had applesauce. In fact, when we make applesauce this week, we will get to this step and part of step 5, then be finished. But moving on!

Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.
Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.

5. We added the cinnamon and ground clove that give apple butter that slightly spicy taste, and we threw it back into the pot to cook. We cooked it until it was sticky and did not slide easily off the spoon.

This is not even close to ready
This is not even close to ready

6. It took almost another half hour before the butter was the right consistency. Luckily we had practice with the peach butter, although that did seem to go a little bit quicker.

7. When it was ready, we poured it into our sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space, screwed on the lids, and processed them in our boiling processor for 10 minutes. We made 12 small jelly jars.

Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.
Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.

All that’s left for these is some decorative flair. I will put the labels on and cover them prettily.

All that’s left for Christmas goodies are some blank-in-jar things (cookies, pancakes, soup, etc), the applesauce, and I think I will bake some cookies for those without the penchant for cooking/baking even pre-made mixes.

And Eric’s gift. I am caving and buying him some things, and while I’m not terribly pleased with giving in, I am more interested in making sure he has useful and enjoyable things that he wouldn’t buy himself. Which, if I’m being honest, is not a lot of things because he generally just buys what he wants. He’s gotten better around Christmas, though, after three years of me bugging him about it. 🙂

Well, then, I am off to continue my adventures. Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Winning, canning, and donuts. Oh my?

Work work work work work.

With Black Friday safely under my belt and put away in the closet for 363 more shopping days, I am both relieved and exhausted. I went in at 4am, worked to 3pm, and then have worked every day since. I also work tomorrow. The insanity and greed of the day made me realize that I am absolutely on the right track making gifts this year. I have always been a lover of gift-giving, and I have always gone all out, so the decision to make gifts this year was difficult. But the decision has been made, and I think I need to follow through.

Following that line of thought, Eric and I got started on the bulk of our gift-making today.

Today we made salsa. I didn’t bother trying it, but I will take Eric’s word that it is super spicy. Considering the 3 cups of Jalapeno (with seeds!), I have no doubt that my body would both spontaneously combust and also rebel against me.
I found a recipe for (mostly) healthy tortilla chips, as well, so now I’m thinking we can send some folks chips and salsa for Christmas. Arizona folks, I’m looking in your direction.

We still have apple butter and cranberry-citrus jam to make. I want to make a complimentary item to go with these, too, and I was thinking of baking a big batch of biscotti. I think they would make a nice addition, and we can send complete snacks/meals to people.

Despite my knowing that making gifts is the right way to go, I have been feeling a little nervous. I am so afraid that people will not appreciate the thought and care and put into the gifts. This is in no way a reflection on my loved ones, but rather my own insecurities and insights on what I’ve seen at work. Consumerism is widespread, and I am finding it hard to shake its ridged hold.

But I will not falter!

Edit: I cannot believe I forgot to mention the first time I wrote this that I made donuts. Anyone who knows me knows that I love donuts, so much so that traveling for hours just to try a new donut shop was not unusual for me in Seattle. I drove made Eric drive 3 hours to Portland, just so we could go to Voodoo Doughnuts. Worth it. So, with that in mind, Eric and I bought a mini donut pan with some b-day money recently, and last night I used it. Delicious donuts. I didn’t galze or coat them in sugar; we just ate them fresh out of the oven, and they were pretty damn good. My next experiment is pumpkin donuts. BAM!

In other news, I validated my win for NaNoWriMo today! I am still writing, but I wanted to get it validated, so I can move on. I think this year I will actually buy a Winner’s Circle shirt, too. Hmmm…what was that I said about consumerism again?

And, just for good measure, here is another excerpt:

8 hours later, Kami couldn’t bring herself to stare at anything other than the dark wooden table under her head. The lights were too bright, and everyone just kept talking.

We have a few leads. Our main leads seem to come from the Americas.”

Kami looked up, one eye shut, “Central America, by any chance? I could use some tacos,” she muttered – half-slurred.

Mana looked over at her and chuckled, and Ròta shook her head slowly, not picking up on the sly comments, “North America. We have narrowed it down to the the States.”

Mary Elizabeth looked surprised herself, “The States? I’ve never been.”

Kami waved her index finger in the air, “I also have not been to the States. But I bet they still have tacos.”

Mana slid a mug over to her, “I don’t think they cure hangovers.”

Shows how little you know,” she mumbled into her arm.

Ròta looked at each of the Hybrids in turn, her features between curiosity and a frown. She felt somber, but her feelings were not mirrored in those around her, save perhaps Mary Elizabeth, who was looking increasingly tired and impatient. Kami was apathetic at best, and Mana was just along for the ride. She could only imagine what the group as a whole would be like once they found the fourth.

Her reverie was broken when Kami noisily slid her chair back from the table and pushed herself up to a generally standing position, “Let us away, then.”

Ròta hesitated, then, looking at Kami and Mana with a small level of reproach, “The portal here has been destroyed. There was an…ah…an unforeseen circumstance on the other side, and we are trying to determine the next best step. So you can use another portal until we figure out if it is safe to travel back-”

Perfect!” Kami suddenly pointed, “Doesn’t the story you told us have the four of us able to travel between the portals?”

Mary Elizabeth and Mana both leveled their gazes on the hungover wreck. Mary Elizabeth had been certain that Kami was ignoring almost everything that they had been told since their journey together began. Mana saw a spark of the adventuring spirit that bordered on the crazy that had drawn him to watch Kami’s career early on, and he realized, with a healthy dose of discomfort, that he would be willing to follow her on the deranged attempt.

Ròta hesitated again, this time unsure of what to do, “That is true, but none of those here know how to navigate, or-”

We’ll figure it out,” Kami had already started for the door, “and it’s dark in there, so that’s going to be great.”

The mercenary was on her way down the hallway, leaving the others to scramble after her. Mary Elizabeth was moving as fast as she could, calling after Kami, “Kami, while I appreciate your enthusiasm, no one knows how to move in between the portals.”

That’s because we haven’t figured it out. How hard can it be?”

Mana was walking, his strides long enough for him to keep up without moving hurriedly, “This coming from the woman who destroyed the rock that opened the portal on Earth because she couldn’t figure out how to open it.”

It worked!”

Ròta followed them all, not entirely sure that she wanted to dissuade the experiment. This would be a good test of her own hypothesis. However, she also wasn’t sure how to get them to where they needed to be. If nothing else, it was a good time to watch how they all worked together.

You don’t have to go, either of you,” Kami called over her shoulder, rounding the corner to the double doors that led into the portal room, “but I am going.”

Perhaps you can go and test it, then see if you can get back,” Ròta offered, hesitantly.

Mana gave the Myth a scathing look, “Are you kidding? You’d send your portal guard into the vortex alone?”

Ròta turned to him, “She did destroy the other side of the portal.”

Mary Elizabeth watched the argument, “That does seem to effectively end the threat of the Order finding it, then.”

And besides, don’t you want the same thing as the Order?” Mana offered.

Ròta looked to them, “I suppose she did, yes, and we don’t want the exact same thing as the Order.”

Kami stood at the base of the dais, ignoring the argument. The lights were bright; the sounds reverberated, and these people were driving her nuts. She stepped up the dais and lit a cigarette, frowning, “Not this one, too.”

Mana gestured at the woman, “If you want to try stopping her, by all means…”

Ròta studied them each, then sighed, relenting. She stepped up to Kami, “Here, let me show you.” She stretched out her palm, “You have to think about the planet you want to go to,” she muttered, and the black maw of the portal opened before her.

Kami pointed, “See? I didn’t break it.”

Mary Elizabeth stepped up behind them, “Perhaps I should stay…and…”

No,” Kami pointed, “You’re going. Live a little. You know more about this stuff than the rest of us, anyway. Come on. This will be fun.”

Mana gave Mary Elizabeth what he hoped was a reassuring pat on the shoulder, “I’ll watch out for you.”

She offered the man a smile, and the three of them gathered on the dais.