Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Today I want to share my thankfulness for something many of us use...Facebook.  I know.  It seems just plain, well, weird to be thankful for this social media giant.  But if it wasn't for Facebook I wouldn't have an adorable puppygirl fast asleep and using my feet as a pillow.  That is what brings my appreciation for Facebook to mind right now, but as I think about it more, I have many other reason to be thankful for it.

Due to being on Facebook I have been able to connect with relatives I didn't know I had, reconnect with ones I haven't seen in many years and to learn more about our families.  (I adore genealogy, so this is extra special to me).

I have made friends through Facebook and have reconnected with people from my past.  We might not talk on a regular basis - even through Facebook - but we have a connection that wouldn't be there if not for the site.

And when my grandfather passed away six weeks ago, I was able to use Facebook to alert many family members more quickly by posting not only on my own wall, but also in a group for another side of my family.

Through Facebook I can see photos of my new niece, who lives in Texas. I can also share with others the photos sent to me via email and text messages.  This allows my brother-in-law's family in Michigan, our family in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and friends in various parts of the country share in the joy of this new arrival.

So even though Facebook can at times be dramarama central, and I have lately been frustrated by the political and sports childishness that arise during election and football seasons, and it can be a bit of a timesuck from time to time (games for me, though not as much as I once played, I feel that the good outweighs the bad.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Miscellanous Monday

September has been filled with all sorts of excitement. 

The month started off with vacation.  It was mostly a stay-cation for me, but extra special because my friend Sharon, who lives in Canada, came to visit for a week. We went to a scrapbooking crop, shopped a lot, got manicures and just had a relaxing and fun time.

Then, on September 10 my sister in Texas gave birth to Madelynn Joy.  Madelynn is my parents’ first grandchild. She is absolutely beautiful! 

That same evening, the hubby and I added our own bundle of joy to our family.  Spike got a little sister named Luna.  One year old and full of energy, we found this Boston terrier beauty through a Facebook group that hubby and I belong to.  Luna and Spike are still adjusting to one another, but overall they have been getting along well. 

On Saturday, Spike and Luna had a playdate with their furcousins Murphy and Bennie.  We found out that Luna can run like crazy and that she loves rawhide type treats.  Sunday was spent mostly sleeping – especially Spike.  Poor guy doesn’t bounce back from playdates as well as he once did. 

Both of my furry babies have a vet appointment on Friday.  Hopefully they will get clean bills of health.  Since we have a new baby in the house, I have been doing some research on dogs.  I’m also trying to slowly change their food from an all-kibble diet to a healthier, fresher food diet (2/3 cooked food, 1/3 kibble).  Any recommendations for recipes are welcome!  I now know that Luna enjoys cottage cheese, but isn’t fond of carrots.  Spike will eat cottage cheese, but he really LOVES semi-cooked carrots.

Keep an eye out for photos to be posted later this week!

In not so fun excitement, this weekend was spent dealing with plumbing issues – again – in our house.  This time it was the kitchen/laundry room (they share a common main pipe).  This is far from the first time we’ve encountered issues.  Looks like I can’t use the garbage disposal without issues arising. Bah.  Humbug.  Thankfully the hubby and his dad were able to get it fixed. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Scent-sational Saturday - Votives

Dear Maven,

I bought votives this year for the first time (loved the Cozy Christmas scent!) but they tend to make a mess of the votive glass holders. Is there any trick to lessen the mess? Please share!

Stuck on Votives
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Dear Stuck on Votives,
Girl … where have you been? I can’t believe you just now realized how wonderful our votives are. I’m glad you finally caught up to speed but, wow—have you been missing out! When it comes to cleaning, I generally let my people take care of it for me. But I do happen to have a little trick up my sleeve when it comes to cleaning out votive glasses. The secret is to stick them in your freezer for a few hours. I usually pop them in-between the stems of my chilled martini glasses. Two to three episodes of Desperate Housewives later, the wax is ready to be popped out. You can do this with a butter knife or flat screwdriver. If there is any residue, our Wax Remover will get it right off!
Your Votive Vixen,

Dear Maven is a column in our monthly demonstrator’s newsletters. I have not written any of these articles, but am sharing them here for your information.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Tastes - Cupcake Creations

Today's Tuesday Tastes comes to you from my other blog, Ama Reads. It was originally posted on August 29.

This is going to be long.  But there are pictures!  Lots of pictures...

At my library, we usually say that August is our down month for programming, as we try to take that month for vacations and to recoup after Summer Reading Madness.  For most of our department it was a relatively calm month.

Then there were my programs.

Most notably, this month I conducted three cupcake programs.  Open to students in 5th-12th grades, most of the attendees were middle school students.  I take registration for the program, as I need to know how many cupcakes and how much frosting to make.

This program is initially pricy, as cake decorating supplies are necessary.  However, not including the reusable materials, the cost worked out to about $3 per child attending.

When I first did this program last year, I used some of my personal supplies, not wanting to purchase the items for the library if the programs weren’t successful.  Once I knew that it was a hit, I went to a craft store and bought the following reusable materials:

  • Cake frosting dyes – eventually they will run out, but they will last for many programs.  Wilton has a set with 12 colors that is perfect.
  • Frosting tips and couplers – I bought around 18 tips, with several duplicates and supplemented with my own (for now).  I bought a dozen couplers. I recommend having at least two of the following:
    • No. 5 Round Decorating Tip
    • No. 12 Round Decorating Tip
    • No. 18 Open Star Decorating Tip
    • No. 21 Open Star Decorating Tip
    • No. 224 Drop Flower Decorating Tip
    • No. 233 Multi-Opening Decorating Tip (for grass, hair, yarn)
    • No. 230 Round Decorating Tip (used for filling cupcakes – something nearly all want to do!)

Have some other assorted tips as well.  If you have it, they will use it! But don’t go smaller than No. 5, as the frosting won’t be able to flow through the smaller tips.

Other supplies that will be needed:
  • Plastic cups (to distribute frosting)
  • Plastic spoons (to mix coloring in frosting)
  • Disposable decorating bags (so much easier for cleanup!)
  • Toothpicks (to put dye in frosting)
  • Scissors
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towels

Some other tidbits:

  • Each attendee gets to decorate two cupcakes
  • Plan to make at least 2 batches of frosting per 4 attendees.  Yes, it is a lot, but they will want to use a lot of frosting (or just eat it).  Unused frosting can be frozen up to two months.  Just thaw in the fridge, bring to room temp, then rewhip.
  • I provide a copy of the buttercream frosting recipe so they can make it at home. 
  • Cupcakes can be decorated with nearly any type of edible item.  Cereal, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, gum drops, sprinkles, coconut, taffy, other candies, cookies…the list goes on and on.  
  • There are a ton of great resources and ideas online and in books.  I've collected many web sources on my Cupcakery Pinterest board.

There are two important rules that I tell the kids:

  1. DO NOT double dip the toothpicks in the frosting dyes.  That is just asking for a science experiment to grow. 
  2. Have fun. 

I usually repeat that first rule about a million times over the course of the program.

Buttercream Frosting recipe
1 cup shortening, butter or margarine (I use shortening)
1 pound powdered sugar
7-8 teaspoons milk or water (I use skim milk)
1-2 teaspoons flavoring (for the program I use vanilla…and usually put about 3 teaspoons.  At home I use a mixture of almond and vanilla flavorings).

Put all ingredients in bowl and mix until fully combined.  If the frosting is too thick, add more liquid 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Some setup photos:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Scent-sational Saturday - Candles: What You Need to Know

This article was published in Gold Canyon's Product Knowledge Guide.

Candles: What You Need to Know

Our high quality wax blend and double wicks ensure our candles provide a consistent, quality fragrance and long burning time, but so does proper candle care. Proper candle care can extend the life of a candle and save money. Independent lab results show that with proper candle care, an 8 oz. candle burns up to five hour longer and produces 90% less soot.
Prior to Lighting
  • Never pick up candles by the lid. The best way to pick up a candle is to place one hand around the neck of the jar, while the other hand supports the bottom of the jar.
  • Read the instructions on the bottom label of the candles. The instructions are placed there as a precaution for burning candles.
  • When applicable, remove decorative accents prior to lighting.
  • Trim wicks to 1/4 inch prior to lighting, but do not drop trimmings into the candle. Long wicks may create too much heat on the glass, potentially causing it to shatter.
 When Burning
  • Use holders to protect the surfaces of tabletops and shelves underneath the candle. 
  • To prevent fire, burn the candle within sight, out of the reach of children and pets and away from drafts and anything that may catch fire.
  • Burn long enough to liquefy the entire top layer of wax, not to exceed four hours. If you want to burn a candle longer, extinguish the candle, trim the wick down to 1/4 inch and relight.
  • Handle candle carefully during use and immediately after extinguishing. The glass will be hot.
  • Discontinue burning when 1/2 inch of wax remains at the bottom of the jar. Gold Canyon® has factored this 1/2 inch of wax into our burn time calculations and candle volume measurements.
  • Use a wick dipper to extinguish flames to prevent residual smoke and splattered wax. The coating of wax also makes the wick easier to relight.
Cleaning Your Candle
  • If the waxy part of your candle has gotten dirty, wipe it down with a slightly damp cloth.
  • Black soot on the jars can be caused by any number of reasons, including untrimmed wicks and burning a candle in a draft, or near, or below a fan. Soot can be removed with glass cleaner and paper towels.
Candle Storage
  •  Store your candles in a temperature-controlled environment (65°-80°F). Candles begin to melt at approximately 150°F. If candles get too cold, at approximately 65°F, the wax may shrink and pull away from the glass. This only affects the appearance, not the quality of the burn or the fragrance.
  • Do not expose candles to direct sunlight or fluorescent light; it will discolor the candles over time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday Tastes - Hazelnut Fudge Pops

I love fudge pops.  Actually, I love all sorts of frosty treats.  So when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I knew that I wanted to try making it.  I bought some cute rocket ship-shaped ice pop molds at Target ($1 for the set) and…they sat on my counter for a month.

A few nights ago I decided to finally put those molds to use.  So I pulled up the recipe for the fudge pops.  Two ingredients.  Nice and simple.  Except I never have hazelnut chocolate milk.  What I did have was skim milk and cocoa.  So I adjusted the recipe a bit and added one ingredient. 

See.  Simple.  Milk, cocoa and chocolate hazelnut spread.  Pay no attention the the large container of oatmeal lurking in the back.  

 So first I put the skim milk in my large measuring bowl. 

 I then added the cocoa and whisked until frothy. 

 Next came the hazelnut spread.  I used the new Jif Chocolate Hazelnut  spread...

 ...and whisked until mixed very well.

Then it was time to fill the molds! The recipe made more than the molds could hold, so I put the rest into small containers and plopped them in the freezer as well.

Lastly came the most difficult part.  Finding room in my freezer for the molds! 

About 12 hours after putting them in the freezer, I tried the end result (one of the small containers). OMG. Talk about delicious!!  The consistency changed a bit as I dug deeper into the container (perhaps due to the type of milk I used? Will try another time with whole milk), but it didn't matter.  Every bite was a little bit of rich chocolate-hazelnut heaven.  I will definitely make this again!

The recipe:

1 1/2 c.  milk
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. chocolate hazelnut spread

Whisk together the milk and cocoa until mixed frothy.  Add chocolate hazelnut spread and whisk until mixed uniformly. Pour into molds and chill for at least 2 hours.