Tuesday, January 31, 2012

lovely love: make shortbread bites

 Shortbread cookies are a specialty of mine. I enjoy baking them and my friends enjoy eating them. When I first began baking up shortbread, I went the traditional route and attempted to roll the sugary dough into Martha Stewart-worthy logs with little success. The cookies tasted lovely but looked a little less than. One day, in my haste and frustration, I heaped all the dough onto the cookie sheet into a mound that I squared off with a sharp knife once the cookies were out of the oven. I began calling them shortbread bites and merrily went on my way. This past month, I have been seeing recipes for shortbread bites popping up all over the place. Here are a few pointers I will offer.
Your basic shortbread dough is equal parts butter, flour and sugar....give or take a smidge here or there. I use a little less sugar. The dough is so simple to make and comes together so easily you can whip a batch up with a worn wooden spoon. No mixers needed. Use confectioners/powdered sugar, it adds no grain to the dough. Add a pinch of salt, or better yet, sprinkle a little salt on top. When adding vanilla, forget a measuring spoon, simply add a cap full, that's what my mamos taught me. If you wish to add sprinkles or lavender buds, use your hands and then add a smattering to the top. Make a double batch of dough to store in the freezer. Form one part into a log so you can have instant slice and bake goodness for those gray mornings that need a pick me up. Remove the dough from the oven a minute or two even before the timer goes off. An underbaked shortbread cookie will have a dazzling bit of chew and it changes the whole cookie eating experience. 
When making shortbread bites, you can use a knife to square off edges (don't throw them away, they are just as tasty) and slice through the dough while it is still warm to cut dozens of small bite-sized piece. You can also use an assortment of your smallest cookie cutters. They have a certain charm that enhances the sweetness of the cookie. Most of all, make sure to share the wealth. A small bit of baked goodness can usual brighten the dreariest of days! Happy almost-Febraury!

Monday, January 30, 2012

a wandering spider, mini adventure and the general goofiness of my days

 Last week I spotted a large black spider camping out in a corner of the tiny casa. It was crumpled in upon itself and I thought it might be dead. It wasn't. It also wasn't a black widow so I let the little guy hang out in the corner. A few days later, it was still a tiny crumpled mess of legs and spider and I thought once again, it must be dead. It wasn't. On Friday, I spotted the critter over my head halfway between its corner and the computer. On Saturday, it appeared to be having tea with a tangle of plastic elephants hanging over the computer. Today, it has made its way to sock monkey alley and I wonder, wonder, wonder what is going on in its noggin. And in the interest of honesty, yes, I walk into the living room and look to see where the spider has crawled off to. I also greet it, yes, I do. And every time I see it, I think it rather looks more like a squished raisin than a spider that has secretly crawled all over the perimeter of the room.

I know, intoxicating news, isn't it?
Saturday, the mister and I drove for hours and hours along a windy up and down kind of road where deer whispered along its edges and magpies ran in and out of our path. In the morning it was pretty and foggy and misty and we drove along in silence until the view grew less pretty and then we popped the old ipod on and listened to a new podcast. Our destination was Bakersfield where we test drove two different cars (back to back) to see if we could figure out which one was right for us and the crazy thing is we did and it wasn't the one we thought it would be. So now we have to seek out the best deal and make our offer and man, I can't imagine how you house hunters finalize your decision when this whole car dealio is so stressful. After the drives, we hit up a local burger joint and then hunted down an ice cream shop that seems to be THE place to taste. The drive home took longer, was less pretty but still allowed us to listen to podcasts and see deer, magpies and all sorts of birdies flying in the sky.
Sunday (today actually) I dashed about working on scrumdilly-do! posts, laundry, deep conversations with myself and really trying to figure out which project I want to pitch to a favorite website. The light now is almost past so I better figure it out and get it made so I can get it turned in by the deadline. At least I got my jeans washed. Seriously, I have one pair of jeans that sort of work but I can only wear them once before they begin to fall down. I suppose I should get a new pair but I am completely in between sizes and don't know what to do. So I wash my jeans...a lot. And in between I tug them up...a lot. I hate belts. Mister says I need suspenders. I think I may just need to thin out or plump up so I am no longer between sizes and speaking of sizes...what's up with the inconsistency out there? I tried on seven pairs of jeans last week and the three that fit sort of were all different sizes. Crazy pants!

Okee dokee, I need to find where I put my focus. Happy Monday folks!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

old and pretty, weak coffee and a mini road trip

 Last weekend we joined a sister a-go-go, her fella and the mama for a diner breakfast. After filling up on french toast and eggs and very weak coffee (which we asked about, it was really bad. they then told us they had two pots, one strong, one weak. now why wouldn't they ask us? hmmm. now we know, next time ask for the pot with the rubberband on it. i guess we need to be regulars.) we hit up a small used bookstore and a walk through an antigue store that was more junk (in a good way) than antique though maybe the prices were more antique than junky. I didn't really ask as we are brokity broke, shopping for a replacement Rodney and I suppose I really don't need an old wooden dollhouse shelf or a handful of spotty bottles. A girl can however take pictures, so I did.
We're on our way out to Bakersfield to test drive some cars. It's really not easy find your basic non-souped up vehicles on the lot so Bakersfield it is. It's a two hour drive but we'll make the most of it. Got the ipod loaded up with new podcasts, a small pack of dilly-made brownies in a box, two thermoses of hot tea and a couple of apples tucked away as well. I'll also have a couple of cameras along hoping for some pretty (I hope I don't jinx myself). Happy weekend and thank you, THANK YOU, for the love and support of my last post. I truly wish I could have ya all over for tea and kvetching. Wouldn't that be grand? I have a follow up brewing in my head lest you think I was bashing anyone, which I wasn't, only myself I suppose. I'm really good at that, don't ya know? Anyway...happy weekend friends! Enjoy it to the fullest!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

in which i ramble about Oblio, jealousy and grace...

 It has been my experience that people can only (mostly) relate to others through the context of their own experiences. If you can remember this, you might extend your grace to others who appear foolish, ignorant, stupid and/or hateful. Though, there are extremely foolish, ignorant, stupid and/or hateful folk out there that may have had oodles of experiences but lack empathy so they will always remain foolish, ignorant, stupid and/or hateful.

I write this because of all the people bashing I read about on facebook posts, pinterest quotes, blog posts and the like. My first reaction is to roll my eyes, mumble something about the poster and then feel angry for a while but I need to let that go, turn it away from myself and reign in my thoughts on cultural relativism and how it can apply to any type of culture, not just ethnicity and geography. Recently a fb friend posted a comment I found super offensive, ignorant and hateful on their personal page. Being that it was their personal page, I did not jump into the fray to share my opinion though it made me sadder than sad. Mostly because this person will probably not see that their comment (and the ensuing comments after) were so hateful in their context. I also wanted to drop this person as a contact but felt that would be running away and burying my head in the sand. I can only be me and continue with my stories of my experiences and hope that those who can relate will share theirs with me as well. Think of it as working from the inside out. Model by example and don't point fingers or lecture. No person enjoys a lecture. That's not to say I don't ranty-rant away in the safety of my own home to the people in my (lovely) bubble. I do. It's all about processing and engaging in a conversation and if you are lucky, you will have friends and family who do not always agree with you, who poke sticks in yer spokes so you go flying off your happy bike, landing hard with a new perspective. The view from the ground is a little different from up on your cushy bike seat.

I had more in my head that seemed organized on this thought but it has kinda slipped a little. The nice queue that originally formed got tired of waiting and now all the points are partying at the coffee maker making me feel anxious and jittery. I've been having some sad-raccoon days for a few weeks because I have foolishly been viewing myself through the filter of comparison. I was holding myself up to all these successful bloggers and seeing all the ways I don't and will never compare and I felt a bit like Oblio with no point upon my noggin. And if I had no point, what was I worth? I know, NOT a good idea...bad raccoon! Bad raccoon! But this is the way my crazy chemical works and so I had to muck through it all and wallow in the bits of pity that followed and then write things down because I have been having horrible allergies as well and wondered if they all went hand in hand...chemicals, hormones and all that jazz. I began to think really poorly of myself and my lack of accomplishments (in comparison to the super bloggers out there) until I began to think of the things I did before this internet savvy world. I've been blogging in one way or another since 2002 friends. That is TEN years! I've been blogging for ten years. Yikes! I stated out on Diaryland and the LJ and blogged Dear Diary style...it wasn't until 2006 that I began with the DIYs and other bits. I've seen my projects fall flat back then but picked up now with success (not by me though, I'm always a bit too early to the party) I've seen trends go full circle, hitting hard, fading out, only to return. I've seen colors become Prom Queen and supermodels then get ostracized only to be rediscovered with a new name and nose job. I've seen a lot, and through it all and before I have lived my life. It's not any life anyone would aspire too and I think that's what my whole problem was. I was jealous. Am jealous of those pretty bloggers out there who are the prom queens and most populars. The ones who people emulate and want to be. The ones who own homes and have beautiful babies...all those things I will never have or ever be and I slipped into a downward spiral wondering what my place was in the scheme of things. Wishing I had some sort of flash and fabulousness that would make people remember me in some way.

How's that for sorry thinking? Seriously, I shake my head in embarrassment at my needy self. I was trying to relate and compare to all these truly awesome internet folk through my experiences and when I found they didn't mesh I felt like I was pointless. I have had to pull up from my middle-aged brain story-worthy moments to remember that I have had some amazing experiences. I may not have ever traveled Europe on my own or purchased anything designer-ish. I may have battled with stupid credit card debt and have nothing to show for it (why oh why did I not buy art when I had the chance?) I may not own a home or ever be a mother but I do have stories, crazy stories; super silly and ridiculous stories. I may have had a disadvantaged childhood and lacked many things but goodness, I had a most loving and creative mother. I may have lost my mother when I needed her most but I had grandma and while it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life, I tell you, the opportunity to be with her and care for her and show her grace and love like she had never had before is something I hold in my heart and wish upon others. I may not be able to pull of fashion and cute clothes but if given a chance, I can style you up like there is no tomorrow. I may lack the lung power to ride my bike as often as I like but I can still stretch and lift and dance it up with my mister and speaking of my mister, I have him. Now THAT is something super special. I have him, I have us and we may both lack pointy noggins and have oodles of regrets and moments of melancholy that last far too long but we really do have a good beat that you can dance to. It might seem slow or outdated but if given the chance you might find us amusing.

I'm sharing all this because I think we're all looking for something here on the internet and in our lives. We may want to be noticed or appreciated. We may want to simply share in a conversation or just share ourselves. We want to relate to others and we will, just not everybody and that is okay. We don't have to. We do however need to relate to ourselves. We need to grow and we need to be accepting, faults and all. We need to know that the world and others hold so much more and that variety is a good thing. We need to know that unless we share, we won't know we can relate. Share a little, share a lot, it is up to you but try and remember that we all need a little hug now and then. A wee pat on the back ain't so bad either. Something that shows the other person that you connected in some way, whether it is a smile to a stranger, holding the door open, engaging in conversation, purchasing something handmade, writing a thank you letter, leaving a comment or giving someone a poke, you'll be amazed at how much that little something can carry a person to cheerfulness. On the flip side, it's okay to wallow and feel sad but don't let it take you away. Think of the wallow as a gift of self reflection. Of mastering your feelings and what you need in your life. It is a moment to focus on yourself but in a kind voice full of good things and maybe even a little self-mockery. Humor after-all is one of our greatest gifts.

On that note, I thank you. I thank you for sticking by me and reading my rants. I thank those of you who do comment and email me. I have had some wonderful conversations with you. I thank you for shopping my etsy shop and for enjoying my photos and I thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

hydration is a good thing

I have noticed that on the days I do not drink much water I tend to wheeze away. I usually wake up with a cup of green tea and then drink water for the rest of the day. The past two weeks however I have been forgetting to drink much of anything during the day and my body is not happy with me. so I must, must, must remember to drink oodles of water.

Our water comes from the homestead where mister installed a reverse osmosis filter. We fill a five gallon jug about once a week, give or take a day or two. now that my nose is mostly working, I like to grab a jar and fill it with lemon and cucumber slices...and...for an extra kick, a smidge of vanilla extract..it smells divine and is quite tasty as well.
Today I made a list and I even took a picture of it. However that picture is still in the camera as I did not get to much on my list due to an ant attack in three different kitchen cupboards. We've had some rain here and the ants like our dry tiny casa...they also discovered the honey and a small bottle of sanding sugar. When I found those ants I might have screamed quite loudly. I also might have called them something quite unkind. Usually, the little buggers wander around slightly aimlessly but man, today they marched with PURPOSE. Mister battled them this morning and then when I woke up, they were back...ALL DAY LONG. Sheesh! They seem to be quite fond of the peanut butter jar. Who knew?

and just so ya know...I'm on my fifth jar of water today...no lemons, it's still good! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

rain, rocks and machines that suck...

 It's raining outside and the ground is wet, wet, wet. A sloppy, puddle filled kind of wet and I with no rainboots. Today I will be at job-o number one and I tell ya, when it rains, we still let the kiddos out. I wish I could find my Bert hat...and some rainboots. I saw some orange rainboots last weekend somewhere, I cannot remember where but now I wish I had bought them. Eeps!
The sad upstairs kitty was out in the rain all night, I think he is still out there and I need to corner the neighbor. Ick. I also need to (as usual) clean and organize. We did a smidge over the weekend and got thngs on the walls and a mini plan for others things...
...and we picked up a vacuum. One that can be strapped to your back like a backpack. The mister has been wanting one for years. It looks like a jet pack. I married a dork. And now we have cleaner floors.
We spent a few hours at the cove over the weekend looking for heart shaped stones and rocks with holes in them. We totally scored! We also ate a lot of homemade soup. Good stuff. I am in the throes of an allergy attack and need to hydrate myself like the dickens to keep from wheezey-wheeze-wheezing,

Ack, I gotta get to work...happy Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

shop update: silver & gold dilly packs

 I think these are my favorites so far but we'll see...I'm up to my elbows in pink for a Valentine assortment...check them out now if ya like.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

i am seriously lacking in cleverness this week

 I was up at 5:30 this morning and by 11am I had not accomplished nearly as much as I imagined. I have been knocked over the noggin with a lusty case of laziness. Stuff was done but not all the bits of craftiness that have been on my many lists of to-dos. Yup folks, this is how I roll. All I can say is I managed to NOT have cake for breakfast and there are clean clothes in a heap on the bed.

We're suppose to have rain for the next few days and our mini heat wave has fled for bluer skies. The tiny casa was not exactly built for temperature. The very loud wall heater musters up enough heat to burn your back when you stand in front of it. It is also very good at making the air up near the mister's head warmer than warm. At least it takes the chill off and at least we have an inside to be in but it is hardly conducive to productivity. The same holds true for Netflix streaming. Gotta shake these mini bits of whininess and rants and get to creating something or at least taking care of those darn boxes I keep talking about. Do I sound like a broken record yet?

One of our neighbors has a cat. This is a pet free building. When I mentioned the cat to the landlord (reason being I wondered if we could have Witch-Baby live here) he told me the cat didn't live here that it was a temporary cat. Wha? The landlord said that the neighbor had his young daughter on the weekends and that the cat was probably hers. Well folks, it seems the cat has been dumped outside as its cute kittenness has been aged out and the little bugger is now a teenager. He's been marking items in the carport and is most definitely NOT fixed. I haven't seen the neighbor lately but am itching to ask him if it is his cat or not. If not, I gotta get the carrier and kidnap the little knucklehead and get his reproductive parts taken care of. There is also a younger cat following this one around and we think this one was probably dumped by one of the (many) college kids up here who seem to pick up and dump off animals without a blink of an eye. It is infuriating. So now I get to be THAT neighbor and have a conversation with the upstairs guy. Bah! Poor kitty.Wish we could have pets here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

wha? it's almost wednesday already?

Methinks my brain has turned to mush. I haven't been able to wrap my head around any words of whimsy. I blame it on the weekend trip to L.A., the cooler weather and my impending date with jury duty. Today's accomplishments were wee. I baked a box cake for the nephew a-go-go's birthday tomorrow, put together my jury duty bag, completed one load of laundry and made dinner. I have a notebook full of lists and a dozen half written projects in front of me not to a small explosion of craft supplies that simply will not be contained. Tomorrow, I traipse out to job-o number one before I duck into my civic duty after which is a pizza party for the birthday boy...the craft supplies that will not be contained will have to wait for another day. I also need to figure out how to pull a picture from a pdf file as I have something nifty to share with you.

Oh and as far as my previous fashion inspired post goes (for the handful of readers who were asking) I got lost on polyvore yesterday and was simply testing it out whilst wishing for a fashionable me. i really do love me some blue and orange. I may post a few more...what do you think? I did manage to craft a smidge while down south. It isn't finished yet but I like it. I picked out the materials at the last minute in the dim light of the living room. I thought the colors were a lot more pink but I like how they look anyway.

Happy almost-Wednesday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

blues be gone

blues be gone

H M flared dress
£15 - hm.com

Valentino lace skirt
$1,890 - net-a-porter.com

We Love Colors tight

Flat heels
$70 - modcloth.com

my go to quick bread recipe*

*3 mashed bananas
*1/4 cup oil
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1/2 cup sugar
*2 eggs
*2 cups flour
*1 tsp baking soda
*1/4 tsp baking powder
*1-2 tsp cinnamon
*1/4 cup flax meal
*1/2 cup chopped pecans
*a whole lotta chocolate chips

Blend well, bake at 350 (in a greased/floured pan) until toothpick comes clean (around 45 minutes or so) and enjoy warm with a cuppa tea.

I made this bread on Thursday. I really needed to feel productive and there were three very sorry looking bananas camping out on top of the microwave. The casa was chilly and so I mashed away and stirred and poured and then while it baked I called a friend and enjoyed a happy phone call. I am so not a phone person. I enjoyed a slice fresh from the oven and then chopped up the rest for our mini road trip. The mister has already devoured three slices. Good thing I hid the box for the car. Enjoy!

**sometimes I use canned pumpkin instead of bananas and sometimes I steam and mash up a sweet potato. I always add cinnamon. It is so good!

Friday, January 13, 2012

in the meantime

 Mister and I are off for an L.A. visit to celebrate wee birthdays, research car shopping and visit a smidge. In the meantime, I leave you with a mini work in progress. I hope to get the goodness up in the shop soon. Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

snacky snacks

 I like to make things. Food things. Baked things, cooked things, steeped things. I like the process of chopping, pouring, and measuring. And I really like the part where I take a lovely picture. I'm also quite prone to laziness so that when I'm really ready for a bite but nothing is ready I could easily reach for a bowl of cereal or sneak out to a fast food dungeon. One of the plus sides of living here in SLO is that there are NO drive-thrus. Not a one! And, now that the nose works, I want to take advantage of it (until I lose it again as it is wont to do) and eat good things. So I make sure to hit the market and purchase such things. I still pick up crackers and bread and I still bake (the mister is a major snacker) but so far, I have not hit the cereal or the burger joints, instead I have a snacky lunch. My favorite kind.
A snacky lunch only works when you have the goodness on hand. You want a little sweet, a little crunch, a bit of protein and if you do grains, something whole and nutty. Last week, I was on a pear kick. I would halve a pear, add a handful of pecans, a couple slices of Dubliner cheese and two hard-boiled eggs with cracked pepper. Delicious! Yesterday I had a particularly delightful snacky snack of aged gouda, an apple, handful of walnuts, handful of multi-grain crackers, a slice of poached chicken and a wee square of delicious chocolate. So good! I also discovered that there are not too many of you out there who like walnuts. Interesting. I am so grateful I can eat nuts.

Earlier this week I baked a batch of Valentine's cake-mix cookies. They were fun, smelled crazy sweet and posed quite nicely for pictures. I ate one and was knocked over by the sweet. I'm not sure I mean that in a good way. Mister comes home and sees the cookies and partakes and then partakes some more all the while I holler at him to pace himself. I ate another one yesterday and I think I need to throw them away. They aren't awful but if yer gonna have temptation around, make sure it is worthwhile. They are perfect cookies for a group of kiddos who will demolish them in one sitting but not so Methinks I'm still dosed with a bit of grogginess. Here's to hoping I wake up...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

simple things

 At this moment right now, this early morning moment before I head out the door to hang out with kiddos, I am enjoying a cup (thermos, actually) of jasmine green tea. I generally drink green tea in the morning but so rarely do I get to enjoy it. The enjoyment comes from the experience of its scent. When you have a sniffer that plays drama queen you spend more time not tasting anything than enjoying simple levels of flavors and the nuances that scent brings to the table. A hot cup of tea is a hot beverage but a hot cup of tea combined with a sniffer is an experience. There is fragrance and floral and honey notes and green. It is a most lovely experience and I take full advantage of it. I hold the thermos (or cup) up to my face and gently inhale that most lovely loveliness (eyes closed for best effect of course). The blossoms immediately dance into my head, followed by that green, green, green march, ending with a kick of sweet from the honey the mister added for me. And each time I thank my nose, modern medicine and the invention of tea as I sit back to sip, sip, sip away the morning.

I'm also just plowed through two tiny satsumas. The oil from their peels still coats my hands as I type causing small clouds of citrus to puff up around me. The power of scent is not a trivial thing. I hope I can hold onto this super power for a while. The cold that hit me before Christmas seems to finally have decided to move out. I broke down and dosed myself with some powerfully evil medicines. Being able to smell again is a trade off I am willing to gamble with. There is a powerful silence that follows you when you cannot smell anything. I'm not talking stuffy nosed nonsense. I'm talking a true lack of scent. It makes waking up from sleep difficult. It makes the darkness darker and it ruins any enjoyment of simple food. When your nose doesn't work, you lose your ability to truly taste things so you (or me at least) reach for the things that will flavor through. Garlic does not do it, but salt does. A salad with garden fresh herbs won't do but a healthy snowing of cheese on top will. Starchy foods, salty foods all barrel through but they offer no true sustenance or joy. This week, since the sniffer has kicked in I have actually tasted the lemon in my water, the rosemary in my dinner and the jasmine in my tea. Just the awareness of the flavors has me slowing down and slow is a good thing.

Traffic is speeding up on HWY 1 behind the tiny casa. The wind machine at the college is still spinning its ferocious hum and our upstairs neighbor appears to be late for school (man that stompy guy sure can stomp around). I'm almost finished with my tea and the tangerines are done for. It's time for shoes and primping and the looking forward to an afternoon smoothie that I can actually taste!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a peek at a process

 You may or may not know that I gift the mister with a Bert & Ernie portrait each Christmas. The last few years, I had portraits painted by two different artists. This year, funds were low and time was short so it was up to me to get my Bert & Ernie on. I knew I wanted to do silhouettes but I couldn't decide how. Frontal or profile? Classic black and white or kitschy colors? What to do?
Sometime in November I picked up a coloring book hoping there would be a good profile or image of the dynamic duo to trace or enlarge. There was one, of Bert and it was smaller than I wanted. I hopped on the internet and searched, searched, searched for something better, bigger, more! Nothing was working out and so I sat back and let the mulling mull some more.
Things narrowed down a smidge when I scored some wood plaques at the Goodwill Outlet in town. Two matchy-matchy plaques of comparable size appeared and I pounced and it was back to the drawing board. 
Suddenly it was the week before Christmas (uh-oh) and I uh...needed to get a move on and I was battling the evil cold that swept through town. It was time for me to brave the pencil and draw those fellas myself. Thank goodness I was going for silhouettes for when I tried to add features the poor fellas looked like they were three sheets to the wind. But buckle down I did and I sketchy-sketched both Bert and Ernie onto their own bit of scrap paper and prepared to make stencil for some sponge painting.
I prepped the plaques with a coat of white paint and then painted each edge in their signature colors. After an excruciating hour eeking out their silhouettes with a sharp blade I decided I was nuts to think I could paint them evenly and hit the suitcase (the big blue one stuffed to the gills with all sorts of paper and scraps) to see if I had any usable paper.
Score! Fate decided the process once again and this time I broke out the scissors and snippy-snipped those happy shapes out. Add a healthy dose of mod-podge and a twisty-turn, flippy-flip, I had myself an awesome pair of silhouettes drying on the kitchen table.
I did it!