Today is the very last day of 2009. It's also my birthday! I'm now officially 32 years old. Yeehaw! I like to say that the entire country celebrates my birthday with fireworks displays. Did this year pass in a blur, or is it just me? In fact the whole decade seemed to whiz by awfully quickly. 2010 will probably go by in the blink of an eye. Everyone out there seems to be making lists of resolutions for the new year, but I haven't. I've never been one to set resolutions, probably because I know I probably won't keep them. It's like calling it a New Year's Resolution jinxes all your good intentions and you're destined to fail. Sometimes I do take stock of my life and realize some things I need to change or improve upon. But I think of it more as starting a new year of my life because I'm officially a year older, not just because the calendar is changing. I guess it's not really any different. I ought to be making a resolution to get back in shape. I did really well in 2008 and lost 17 pounds and was doing so well. Then I started getting lazy and that snowballed until I stopped exercising and eating well and eventually gained back all that weight over the year of 2009. *scowl* But I'd rather be a few pounds overweight than give up dessert! That being said, here's the birthday cake I wish I could have:
This beauty was made by Charm City Cakes - of Ace of Cakes fame. Isn't it awesome?
If you're going to be out celebrating tonight, please be careful. Have fun and stay safe so you can start the new year off right. I hope you all have a very Happy New Year!
I've been thinking a lot about the memories I have from when I was in school and growing up. There seems to be at least one bold memory that has survived the years for each grade in school. I'm not quite sure exactly how old I was during some memories, but many of them have details that remind me of how old I was. Kathy of The Junk Drawer recently posted a question asking her readers what our very first memories were. The only early memory I could truly date was in K-4 (preschool). Our first day of class, I was the first student to arrive and the teacher, Mrs. Dudley, had placed our names on the desks. She asked me if I could find my desk. I guess I couldn't read yet, or at least not well enough to know my name, and I picked the wrong desk. But I think I did get the first letter right. I also remember sitting on the floor of her classroom with a bunch of donated shoes and learning how to tie shoelaces. Now they have all kinds of nifty books and toys to help you learn to tie shoes. I'm a little bit jealous.
time. And I also remember playing in the nursery at the first school I went to, with those giant cardboard blocks that were painted to look like bricks. I don't know how old I was there though. It could have just been after class while we waited to be picked up by our parents. Does anyone remember those blocks? They were pretty awesome. They still make them too! You could make some pretty nifty forts out of these things.
I ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken a couple weeks ago and finally got a chance to try their new grilled chicken. They leave the skin on, so even though it's grilled, it's not quite as healthy as most grilled chicken you'll find at restaurants, which is skinless (and often flavorless too). This is a good compromise for people who want something healthier than fried chicken but don't care for boring grilled chicken. It was a little on the salty side for my tastes, but I would definitely eat it again. I can't remember the last time I had eaten there - it's been years - so it was a nice treat. I looooove KFC biscuits.
I adore chocolate - the darker the better. I am giddy with excitement over all the new dark chocolate products that have been hitting the shelves over the past few years. Have you tried the new Reese's Dark Peanut Butter Cups? My, oh my. These little darlings are heavenly. It will be a sad, sad day if they ever stop making these beauties. Anyway! Speaking of chocolate, I have been inspired by fellow blogger Spleeness to make a post about my favorite way to make hot cocoa.
Now I'm sure there are some cocoa purists who prefer to make their hot chocolate from scratch. I am much less patient and always start with prepackaged cocoa. (Is hot cocoa the same thing as hot chocolate? I tend to use the terms interchangably. Forgive me if this is some sort of cocoa faux-pas.) I used to buy Nestle's Rich Chocolate hot cocoa until Swiss Miss came out with their Dark Chocolate Sensation. Woohoo! After my first sip of this stuff I was totally ruined for any other hot cocoa mix. But dark chocolate is like a drug. After a while I just need more, MORE, MORE! And that, my friends, is how I came to develop my Super-Chocolate Hot Cocoa.
I've tried adding extra cocoa mix to the mug to make it more chocolatey, but you can really only get it so chocolatey without making mud. Then one day while grocery shopping, I strolled down the baking aisle and my eyes landed upon the little plastic boxes of baking cocoa powder. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder? Brilliant!
This is now an essential ingredient in any mug of hot cocoa.
A Heaping Teaspoon of Special Dark Cocoa Powder
Make sure you mix the cocoa powder in with the cocoa mix really well before you add the hot water. Again there are probably some cocoa purists out there shrieking about making cocoa with water. You will RUIN this cocoa if you use milk! The milk will only dilute the dark chocolatey goodness of this cocoa. You've been warned.
Before and after mixing the cocoas together. See how much darker it is now? Mmm... This cocoa is going over to the dark side!
Now add about half of the hot water and stir well so you get the powder mixed well and won't have any dry puffs of cocoa floating on top of your hot chocolate. Then add the rest of your hot water, stir again and enjoy! This Super-Chocolate Hot Cocoa is excellent for dipping Chips Ahoy! Chunky Chocolate Chip cookies into. Great noms for chocolate lovers!
I'd have taken pictures of how yummy the cookies look after being dipped into this super-rich dark chocolate cocoa, but they mysteriously disappeared before I could get the pictures taken. I don't know how that happened...
So I was thinking that Fridays would be a great day to post about all my daydreams and mental hijinks. I've got quite an imagination and can easily get carried away. A simple "Gee, I wish..." always turns into some monster-sized fantasy world as my imagination takes hold and the wish grows. The way I see it is, if I'm already dreaming, I may as well dream BIG! I thought I could make Fridays my day to post my little fantasies on my blog. And then of course I started imagining the things I would write, and then thought that maybe other people would want to participate too and then we could have a Fantasy Friday meme! But I hate to name things something that everyone else is already using. I have ideas sometimes and then find out someone else already had the idea and I'm not as creative as I thought I was. Boo. So I did a search for Fantasy Friday and there were a few things that came up although the topic is not the same as mine. I tried a search for Friday Fantasy as well. And let me just say, I will not be using either of those! Turns out some of the people using those phrases take the word "fantasy" at it's perverted best. Yikes! I certainly don't want to be associated with that. So I think I'll just go with Dream Day Friday.
Sometimes I just daydream about small things that may actually happen one day, and other times huge fantastical things that will never happen and aren't even possible. So stay tuned starting next Friday to hear some of my mental daydream ramblings. Feel free to follow suit and post some of your own favorite daydreams!
I'm one of those crazy people who loves to listen to all that Christmas music around the holidays. We have a radio station here in Myrtle Beach that plays nothing but Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving and all the way through Christmas Day. I love it because since they play so much of it, they get to play all kinds of obscure versions you would rarely hear otherwise. I never hear the Waitresses singing "Christmas Wrapping" on any other radio station! Or Jimmy Eat World's version of "Last Christmas". There are some songs that I just have to hear every single year because they make me smile and are just kind of silly or fun and make me feel like a kid again. Here are a few of my favorites!
I'm all for holiday movies. I love them! A Christmas Carol is one of my favorites. But holy mackeral, how many versions of this have been made? I'm currently watching (for the second time, if not third) the musical version starring Kelsey Grammar as Scrooge. It's also got Jane Krakowski, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Jesse L Martin (Detective Green! I didn't know you could sing and dance!). I like this version, but I think my favorite will always be Mickey's Christmas Carol since that's the version I watched every year as a kid.
I bought the DVD this month, so now I can watch it whenever I want and with no commercials! There is
also an amusing version starring Vanessa Williams called a Diva's Christmas Carol. And did you know Patrick Stewart has starred in a version too? I believe I actually saw that one once. I wish I could see it again. I'm sad to say I've never seen the original movie with Alastair Sim. So sad! I need to see that one. For that matter I've never read the book either. And you know what else I've never seen? It's a Wonderful Life. How can I have never seen this movie?! I must remedy this situation one day. Anybody got a DVD or VHS I can borrow? :)
Fellow blogger Jen from Redhead Ranting is offering some wonderful packages of cookies and fudge for sale through her website. I was lucky enough to receive a sample of the goodies in exchange for providing a review. I was more than happy to oblige. Sugar and chocolate are my weaknesses, and you'd be hard pressed to find a sweet treat that I would turn down! The choices include sugar cookies, fudge (with and without nuts), and Bourbon Balls. I snagged this photo of the actual goodies from her website where you can order any combination of these tasty treats. Check out the blog post here with links to order: The Holiday Treats Are Ready.
Jen sent a generous chunk of fudge to review, and it was very good. The texture was just right. It was smooth and creamy, not at all grainy like some fudge I've had before. This stuff was melt-in-your mouth smooth. While I normally prefer my fudge without nuts, this sample was quite good and had an appropriate ratio of nuts to fudge. The chocolate flavor was delicious and reminded me of Hershey's Kisses! It wasn't too sweet or too rich. I could eat the whole sample (about the size of a brownie) without feeling sick to my stomach. This was a nice soft fudge that could be bitten into easily and without it sticking to your teeth. I've never tried to make my own fudge before since the recipes I've always seen have required a candy themometer and seemed too complicated. If you feel the same way, check out Redhead Ranting to buy some of Jen's fudge - "baked with extra love"!
I've got one word to describe these sugar cookies - YUMMY. I don't even know where to begin on these. They were perfect! I don't know how she got them rolled out so evenly. They were the perfect thickness and biting into them was a pure pleasure. They had LOTS of red and green sugar sprinkles, which I enjoyed. There's no such thing as too many sprinkles! These cookies were evenly baked (no overly-browned bottoms like my cookies always seem to have) and so light and fresh tasting. I must say it's almost frustrating how pretty and tasty these cookies were. I've given up on trying to make sugar cookies myself because mine are always wrong. They taste more like lightly-sweetened flour than sugar cookies, and I can never get them rolled out thinly enough without them tearing to bits when I try to use the cookie cutters on them. My solution has always been to make them thicker, which makes the final cookies either too soft or too hard, and overcooked on the bottom. And mine always seem to lose their shape and get all warped when I try to move the cookies onto the baking sheet before putting them in the oven. There is apparently some special secret to making sugar cookies, and Jen must be privy to it! A tip of the hat to you, Jen, for these great cookies. I could have plowed through 5 pounds of them easily!
I don't do alcohol, so I asked Jen not to send the Bourbon Balls and therefore couldn't provide a review for them. They look so pretty in the picture though. If they could be made without the alcohol, I'd be all over them!
Please check out Redhead Ranting now to order some of these homemade holiday treats!
I was craving peanut brittle for a while and finally decided to find some. It was not as easy to find as I'd thought it would be. I remember when I was a younger you used to be able to get it all the time. I don't actually remember WHERE we bought it, but it wasn't hard to find. And yet here I am in full craving mode, and I can't find any! I eventually discovered some in the bakery section at Walmart. It didn't look very impressive at all, but it was the only peanut brittle I could find. What is it about cravings getting more adamant when you can't find the thing you are craving?! So I bought this small package (11 ounces for $3), despite the fact that it has no peanuts! I think the whole package has a whopping dozen peanuts in it. You may think I'm exaggerating. But I'm not! Behold the proof:
This is what peanut brittle should look like:
And this is what my Walmart peanut brittle looks like:
Can you see the sad, sad, difference? My poor, pitiful peanut brittle. :(
Who knew I'd find a use for THIS picture? This is a tentacle that washed up on shore at a beach in Hawaii. I'm not sure what made me think I needed to have a picture of it! See how the pebbles are sticking to it? It even comes with its own fly (see top right corner). Ew!
My brother has two goats, and when I was visiting in November, Zebra was very pregnant and was expected to give birth soon. I happened to be back in town again this week and stopped by his house to drop something off and this adorable creature was there to greet me!
He had been born the day before along with a girl kid. Isn't he just precious? Unfortunately, the girl goat had died earlier in the morning. This kid is inside in this picture because he had been found lying on the ground and very, very cold. He was put over a heating vent on the floor and wrapped with towels and put under an incandescent bulb to help warm him. (Not a heat lamp, just a regular, non-CFL bulb.) I fell in love as soon as I saw this little guy. He was so soft! I decided at that very minute that I wish I had my own goat! After he warmed up he seemed to be doing a bit better, and they were able to get some milk into him using a baby bottle. Of course I don't know anything about raising goats, and I have no idea what is normal for a 2-day-old kid. He sure could bleat loudly though! He'd make a really loud noise and kind of stick his tongue out. I thought maybe this was a good sign. Not the sticking-the-tongue-out part, but the making-loud-noise part.
He didn't move other than to stretch his legs or move his head. I think they are supposed to be able to stand up right away like horses do. I realize now that should have been a clue that things weren't as well as I hoped they were. :( After I left my brothers house, I was gone for several hours and assumed things would be progressing for the good with the kid. Later that evening I got back to my parent's house, where I was staying, and my sister-in-law was there. I asked her how the kid was doing and she said he didn't make it. I'm so sad! I thought for sure he would be okay. My poor nephews were devasted. And poor Zebra (mommy goat). My brother and sister-in-law are pretty sure Zebra had mastitis and that the kids died because they picked up the infection from her and that's why they died. I just hope Zebra will be okay. It seems to be a pretty common occurence in goats from what I tried to find online.
I was so excited that Zebra had her goats and I took 25 pictures of the baby boy goat. I was all set to blog about it so I could show everyone the pictures. But then my happy cute goat story was blown apart when the poor dear died. I don't think I could ever raise animals like that. It would be too heartbreaking to have to go through things like this! At least with dogs and cats they are domesticated enough to be easier to take care of.
When I was a kid, we always spent the weeks before Christmas hefting presents and shaking them and trying to figure out what was inside. My parents made it even more of a challenge for us by not putting our names on the packages, so we weren't sure which gifts were for which sibling. They'd just assign a number to the name tag (1 through 3 since I have two brothers) and only they knew which of us was assigned which number. And if that wasn't enough, they also "rigged" the packages so we couldn't tell by weight or sound what was in it. They'd put marbles, pennies, jingle bells, washers and other hardware into the boxes so they'd make a lot of noise and we'd have no idea if it was the actual gift or the little extras making that sound. And then the odd brick or other heavy object would be placed inside to throw off the weight. And of course you would never be so silly as to assume the box your gift was wrapped in was the actual box it came in. So even the shape of the box was no help. It was infuriating! And a whole lot of fun. I love a good mystery, and it was great to try to figure out what was in those packages. A friend of mine used to always open her packages early and play with the toys. Then she'd reseal the packages (which were hidden quite poorly in her mother's closet) and by Christmas she'd already be bored with them. Where's the joy in that? She'd be left with no surprises, no fun from her gifts, and she'd have to pretend to be surprised when she opened them on Christmas morning. So sad! The anticipation is half the fun!
I remember the year my older brother bought me a Caboodles case. I had wanted one so badly! He rigged the package, but didn't think to tape down the handle. So every time I shook it, I could hear the very distinctive sound of the handle banging up and down. But I hate it when people are able to guess their gifts before they open them so I pretended I just couldn't figure out what was in that box. It always takes all the fun out of giving and trying to surprise someone if they're able to guess what it is before they open it. :( So to all of you good guessers out there, pretend you don't know what it is, even if you do! It will keep the fun going for everyone. :)
I love to make Christmas ornaments! Actually, most of the time I spend hours and hours looking for new ideas and instructions for making ornaments, and never get around to actually making them. But I have managed to make a few, and I love them. Some of my favorites are just super easy polymer clay ornaments made with Sculpey clay and cookie cutters! You can marble different colors together like the angels in the photo, or you can use acrylic paint to decorate them. I also like to use Sharpie markers to decorate them too. The red star ornaments were painted with red acrylic paint and accented with silver Sharpie. I wrote a lens for Squidoo on how to make them. You can check it out here. These are great ornaments for kids to make too since they are so easy. And of course if you have more time and artistic ability, you can make polymer clay ornaments as fancy as you want!
My parents still have many of the homemade ornaments my brothers and I made when we were kids. Most of them are made from construction paper, so I'm not sure how well they're holding up. I'm going to have to get some pictures of those when I go see my parents this week! Maybe I'll even recreate some of them. I think that would be fun, and it would be nice to be able to make the memories last just a little bit longer for the ones that are on their last leg.
So I finally got around to getting my Christmas Tree up today. Wheee! I'd have had it up earlier this week, but I had to move my treadmill into another room. Last year DH and I went to Hawaii in December, so we didn't bother to decorate for Christmas, and I didn't need to move the treadmill until this year. To be honest, I've been meaning to move it for MONTHS now, but I was too lazy. And of course it was a HUGE ordeal to get it moved. It's a Sole F80 Treadmill and I love it. It folds up to save space, and has wheels so you can roll it. But it weighs a bajillion pounds and only rolls on hard floors - it just sinks into deep carpet and takes too much effort to try to move. But either way, I wanted to put it in my spare room (office/craft room/storage room/exercise room) and finally had enough incentive to get it moved. But of course it had to be difficult. It was too wide to get through the door so we had to take it apart. Then we realize the deck is still too wide to get through the door without picking it up and turning it on its side. Have I mentioned that it is quite a heavy machine? Luckily I know two very strong burly-type people who always seem to get called upon to help people move. There was no way DH and I were going to be able to move it by ourselves! So my friend Sam and his nephew Thomas came over to help my DH and between the three of them, they were finally able to wrangle it into the spare room. It was no help that it was nearly impossible to turn it onto its side without the deck folding up. Luckily I was able to help by coming up with the idea to use ratchet straps to hold the deck down so it wouldn't keep sliding up. See, I'm not entirely useless. :)
So now I finally have the treadmill in my "exercise" room. (Maybe I'll actually use it now!) AND I finally have my Christmas tree up. It's so pretty! I love Christmas decorations. All the pretty, sparkley lights and shiny ornaments... I'm so glad to finally have them up that I'm not even upset that I have a few big scratches and one gouge in my floors now. They were covered up fairly well with my trusty Crayola crayons. If you've ever got scratches in your wood or laminate floors or your wood furniture, don't bother buying those wax pencils to cover the scratches. Crayola works just as well!
When I was a kid I hated Brussels sprouts. With a passion. I couldn't get myself to eat them without gagging. I tried everything to mask the flavor, including taking a mouthful of tea or juice (or whatever I was drinking) before putting one in my mouth in the hopes that I wouldn't be able to taste it. No luck. I also used to sneak them into my napkin and throw them away. I think the trick I used most often to get out of having to eat them is to leave the table to "use the restroom" with a mouthful of Brussels sprouts and spit them out into the toilet and flush them. That way my mom thought I ate them, and I only had to endure the horrific flavor for the length of time it took me to get to the bathroom. Luckily we had a small house, and I was quite motivated to move swiftly. It was a great mystery to me how my older brother could actually like them. He actually loved them - they were his favorite vegetable! Freak. I know my mom thought I was being melodramatic when I exclaimed my disfavor with this foul Brassicaceae. But I swear I died a little inside every time I was faced with a plate of those things.
Yet for some inconceivable reason, this year I kept seeing pictures of them and thinking they looked tasty. I remembered how gross they were when I was a kid, so I don't know what made me think I could stomach them now. Then again, I hated spinach when I was a little too, and I like it now. So I convinced myself to try them - to give them one last shot. I bought the Green Giant package with the butter sauce. Butter makes everything better, right? I figured since they were baby Brussels sprouts they might be less bitter. I was really hesitant to actually consume one of these things once they were cooked, but I was brave. And I liked it! I didn't just think it was okay, I actually LIKED it. I wanted MORE. It was a vegetable miracle! And now I have bought them (and EATEN them!) two more times. Even my DH likes them. Hooray for maturing taste buds! I wonder what else I hated as a kid that I might actually like now? Liver, maybe? ...Nah!