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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite Things- 2009

Favorite Books-
Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente. This gorgeous story about people finding a place they belong was hands down my favorite fiction out of the 400 or so books I've read in the last year. It stands out strongly. I really envy anyone who hasn't read it because they will get the chance to read it for the first time and I never will again.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. A definite change from the Kushiel books, this book is about a young girl who is the child of a genetically altered soldier, she was born utterly without fear in a "safe zone" town between the US and Mexico. It's got a somewhat comic book feel to it and is very well written. As much as I like the new Naamah series, this was my favorite book by her this year.

The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book, don't be fooled by the clean cut girl on the cover. This is a re-release of an old hippie how to make your own clothes book. It's non-technical very easy to make simple clothing and just a lot of fun.

Cookin' With Coolio, a book I'm actually surprised made the list, but it's laugh out loud funny with some great easy recipes including some good vegetarian ones. I'm thinking of buying a copy of this for my sister.

Favorite new albums-
Marian Call's Got to Fly- Marian Call is a local singer I really love in a big nearly fangirl way. Our whole family enjoys going to her live shows. Last year for Christmas Mike got me a copy of Vanilla and I was hooked. Got to Fly is her Browncoat inspired album. I'll Still Be A Geek After Nobody Thinks It's Chic could be a geek anthem and it's lovely to listen to, It Was Good For You Too is her Saffron song and my best friend's favorite song on the album. Mike's favorite song is It's Good To Have Jayne On Your Side. Vera Flew the Coop is an imagined back story for the woman the gun is named for. I love the whole album.
Street Sweeper Social Club Boots Riley from political hip hop group The Coup (also very worth checking out) and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave released this album earlier this year. It's "music for the revolution". Tom wrote the music, Boots wrote the lyrics. Very political, very anti-establishment sung by Boots to Tom's driving hard rocking music. I love this album.  Two of the songs were previously released in the NIN/JA tour download if you got that when they went on tour.
Who Killed Amanda Palmer? alternate release. I don't know if this still available or not, but the original album is for sure. Hey, it's Amanda F****** Palmer working with Ben Folds. Favorite songs off the album- Ampersand and Blake Says, but the whole album is wonderful. If the alternate release is still available, there was a song on that was co-written with her boyfriend. I love his songs. I have the LaM songs he wrote and they are constantly on my playlists. Hopefully he'll write more songs with Amanda.
S.J. Tucker's Quartered- Songs of Palimpsest, the album stands alone I think, but if you've read the book.. favorite songs- The Girl With the Lion's Tail, We Are Shangri-La and November.

E's favorite new artists- Auriplane. She puts everything up for free, and E loves her music. E's favorite is Dancing Mad, and Marian Call.
William's favorites for the year are Voltaire, Street Sweeper Social Club and Tom Smith. Tom Smith's albums are on sale until the 3rd. Tom Smith is a filker who sings about all sorts of geekdoms William is a fan of.

Tom Smith, S.J. Tucker, Amanda Palmer and Auriplane links are to their sites. All other links are Amazon.com.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Name badges - rainbow beads printable


I recently got some Post-It Super Sticky Name Badges and decided to play around with a couple designs for making printable badges. If you don't want to buy a pack of labels, you can print it out on regular paper and use repositionable glue on the back. The PDF is HERE.
When my kids were babies I labeled *everything* I could in the house. The theory being that people refer the items regularly like the refrigerator and the television and seeing the word on the thing would help them associate letters to words quicker. People teased me about it of course, wondering if I'd forget what a door was, but I think it did help. I used masking tape and permanent markers. Repositionable easily removed labels would have been so much better. I'm not sure if anyone else can use this idea, but I did make a set of 8 labels with a few common household things on them.


You can download that pdf HERE.
The printables work with Avery 5395 or compatible.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Crochet - Doily Earring Holders


I don't have a lot of use for doilies really. Every surface in my home except chairs seems to have books on it. Books decorate my home like knick knacks, paperbacks, hardbacks, vintage craft books, novels and more outdated unabridged dictionaries than anyone should have (which come in very handy for pressing flowers). Pretty lace bookmarks sure, but doilies, not so much.
I love making doilies though. I wind up giving a lot of them away to friends. Other than that, I also make bun holders and pretty lacy cozies for my nano which I get a lot of compliments on at the gym.
I picked up some size 10 thread and some macramé type brass rings at a local thrift store, and while I was watching tv this weekend with my husband, I decided they would work nicely for doilies made to fit to hang my earrings from. I'm awfully happy with how they turned out but I didn't keep notes while I was working.
I think using any doily pattern you like would work. Just follow the pattern until it's just shy of fitting in the ring, then attach it with crochet to the ring at regular intervals and add a loop for hanging. I don't use patterns for doilies. Working out the geometry and math for one while I'm crocheting is fun.
The patterns for skulls, penguins, roses and snowflakes are all available for free at Beadwork at BellaOnline, the chocolate covered strawberries, lollipops and ice cream cone patterns are part of a set you can buy at my Etsy store.
The holidays were fantastic. The teens loved their ipods, everyone ate well. Dad was happy with his present because all we got him was lots and lots of chocolate and cookies. Mike got me a new office chair with a built in massager. It feels good. I threatened to move into my office because it's so comfortable.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Honey Shortbread with printable recipe card

Down to crunch time for holiday gifts. Hopefully this helps!
I made this shortbread using a locally produced honey from Chugiak Heights Alaskan Honey. It's a wonderful wildflower honey with lots of flavor. You can either buy good local honey or gourmet honey and tie on the recipe cards or you could bake a few batches of shortbread and package it prettily with the recipe cards. I love shortbread and I'm working on an e-book of different recipes for it. This is one of my favorite variations. I used a combination of honey and white sugar, the honey adds a subtle warm flavor to the shortbread.
I used a white whole wheat unbleached flour for mine because it's one of the flours my family likes best.

Honey Shortbread
makes 8 wedges
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 300° F or 150°C
Cream butter, honey and sugar together.
Add half of flour, then add in the rest in increments until
dough is crumbly. Knead in the rest of the flour making
a soft workable dough. Pat into an 8 inch round cake pan.
Decorate edges with a fork and pierce with fork.
Score the wedges with a sharp knife. Bake for 20 minutes.
Turn off oven and let rest in hot oven for 10 minutes.
Take it out and cut wedges while still warm.
To decorate the shortbread with a fork, go around the edges with the flat of it to make pretty little score lines all around, then pierce the shortbread with the tines of the fork. Cut into 8 pieces.
For the recipe card, click on the image for the full sized version and print at 300 dpi or I have put it in a layout of 3 cards on one page in a PDF file you can download HERE


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Printable 2010 Calendar and Template


This image is just a preview. The actual printable is high quality in PDF format. You can download that HERE. The first page of the pdf is the calendar as shown. The second page is a blank version you can mask off the calendar and use with rubber stamps to decorate or color it in by hand.
The font is Sylph by Paul Lloyd.

I also have a template available in PNG format, 150 ppi, 16x24 inches that can be used in a graphics program to design tea towel calendars that can be printed by Spoonflower. If you donate any amount over 1.00 to my site in the next couple of weeks, I'll happily send you the file. Donation button is in the sidebar.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Right Angle Weave Photo Pendant



It's reversible. The other side is Glinda the Good. I used the art from the wicked little box.
You can find instructions for this pendant here.

Homemade Coffee Creamer - part 2





After the first batch of creamer was gone, I picked up a bunch of extracts from the grocery store since they are on sale now for holiday baking.
This one tastes almost like a Nutty Irishman. To make it..
In a blender mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can of non-fat milk (fill the sweetened condensed milk can with regular milk)
1/4 cup instant dry milk
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla/butternut extract (it's an imitation extract)
3 Tbs. powdered cocoa (I used Dagoba)
Sugar to taste- brown sugar in our case. My daughter loves brown sugar in her coffee.
Blend.
Pour into a jar.
-------



The picture has 2 Tbs. of creamer in my normal coffee.
If you don't know me and coffee, well, it's sort of essential. I'm addicted to it. I brew my coffee very strong with dark beans and I'm very choosy about the beans. I buy local roasted coffee that's dark and oily. A good French roast should be shiny with all the happy oils in coffee. A non-shiny bean is usually a bit burnt and bitter. The end result is something my husband says is "Illegal experiments in dark matter."  My coffee laughs at the attempt of milk alone to lighten it. So 2 Tbs. of this creamer in a normal cup of coffee would probably turn it a bit lighter.
I saw E lick her finger off after adding some homemade creamer to her coffee recently. I don't know if she did that with the full of oil and odd chemical names store bought stuff or not. I do know that it made me really very glad that I knew all the ingredients in this and how much of each were in it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Peppermint Twist Box


I actually have a couple peppermint twist boxes up on my printables page, the first one is a 2x2 box, the second is a tea box made for holding tea bags, and the third is an earring box.
This is just a standard 3x3x1 inch box.
I was thinking about doing some bag toppers with a similar design for putting peppermint hot cocoa mix in.
Click on the image for the full sized version. I hope you like it!
I also think I want to do more tea bag boxes. They are some of my favorites and my daughter has taken to drinking a lot of herbal infusions lately.
She tested out one of the shortbread recipes I'm working on for a new e-book and accidentally melted the butter. It wound up being different than my usual flaky light shortbread. Smoother and less flaky, it baked up thinner as well. Tasted great, it was just different. Not better, not worse, just different. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade coffee creamer

My daughter loves those flavored coffee creamers. You know the ones. Full of goodness like Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil or Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate. Um.. yum?

I wanted to come up with an alternative that didn't make me feel like I might be poisoning her morning cup of coffee.

I wanted no corn syrup, natural flavoring and low fat.

This "recipe" or method is highly adaptable.

So I talked to her, and we decided to try a chocolate creamer.
Evaporated milk is milk with 60% of the liquid removed. Sweetened condensed milk is similar, it's milk that's had a lot of the water removed, and in the case of Eagle Brand, it's sweetened with sugar.

In a blender, I mixed
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 can of full of non-fat milk
1/4 cup of instant non-fat dry milk.

 A couple tablespoons has a lot of calcium in it, but if you are allergic to cow milk, you can try it with condensed goat's milk. To that I added
 1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of a good organic cocoa powder
 2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract

 Blend for a minute to get everything mixed and pour into a jar.

Both my eldest and E tried it in their next cups of coffee and both loved it. Since it's a very thick milk, it whitens the coffee nicely. The fat came from the condensed milk, but it's pretty low-fat and you can buy low fat condensed milks that have even less fat.

I used brown sugar because it's what my daughter prefers in her coffee, you can omit the sugar completely if it's sweet enough with just sugar in the condensed milk. If you use evaporated milk and the non-sugar sweetener of your choice you can make a coffee creamer that's sugar-free.

If you want fancier flavors, you can use extracts or candy flavors.

Works fine in hot or cold coffee. Probably not an issue for most people, but the only time my family drinks hot coffee is if it's just finished brewing. Mostly we all prefer it cold.

Today we are roasting chestnuts! Yum yum! Other than that, I'm working on a pendant, and still working on a scarf for my son for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shampoo bars

I'm reading a book on soapmaking and E and I are planning to make our first small batch soon with encouragement from Barbara (thank you again!). Right now I'm in the marketing part of the book and it reminded me of one of my biggest marketing gripes about shampoo bars. Lack of any sort of instruction past "Run bar across scalp and lather".
I'm mostly "no-poo" which means I don't generally use shampoo. I usually wash my hair with a paste of baking soda, rinse that out, then rinse my hair with diluted vinegar. The exception is shampoo bars.
I *love* shampoo bars. They are convenient. I use them at the gym as an all-over wash, I use them in my shower when I'm feeling like I want lather and scent.I usually get the Essential Shampoo Bar from Gladheart Acres.It smells lovely and works very well for me and I've recommended it to lots of friends who want to transition off of detergent commercial shampoos.
Unfortunately, a lot of people give up on shampoo bars. One of the most common problems is that they feel they leave a residue. Especially if they try first with something like Burt's Bees shampoo bar which is great for dreadlocks, less good for the rest of us, so it does feel less than clean.
Another problem is that while you use commercial shampoos which are pretty harsh, your scalp produces a lot of oil to counteract that harshness, so you shampoo to keep your hair from looking oily and it's a cycle. When you make the switch off shampoo to no-poo methods or to a good shampoo bar there is an adjustment time and your hair will seem oilier than normal because you aren't stripping it anymore and it's still producing the same amount of oil from when you were stripping. But honestly, if oily hair has always been a problem for you, getting off the shampoo may just cure it. It did for me, I wash my waist length hair twice a week and I don't have "bad hair" days. So pick a week for the adjustment period and pin it up or wear headbands.
During the summer, the glycerin in shampoo bars can attract too much water for me which makes my hair look dirty, so during the summer, I use a vinegar rinse after shampoo to get the last bits of the shampoo out of my hair. During the winter that's a non-issue, so I just rinse out well and do a vinegar rinse about every 4 shampoos to remove any buildup. Commercial shampoos can cause build up too, which is why people should change them out regularly and clarify with vinegar or use clarifying shampoos every so often.
Well, that's a lot to try and put on a label. But maybe
Wet hair well and run bar across scalp. Work in more water to build up a rich lather, rinse out well.
Shampoo bars need at least 4 shampoos to help restore your hair to it's natural condition.
If build up is a problem, use a vinegar rinse for extra shine and to clarify. Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 3/4 cups of water and pour it over your hair. Rinse out with cool water for maximum shine.

You could even make infused vinegars which are really nice to use. During the summer, I infuse my vinegar with lavender which does wonder for keeping oil under control. I usually put in a bit of lavender e.o. and a handful of dried lavender buds. It smells nice even with the sharp vinegar smell.

On another note, when I was a kid and doing vinegar rinses, my mom always said I was pickling myself. But she's the one who started me doing it because I have very straight hair, and after a vinegar rinse, my hair just shines and it's a lot better than using a silicone shine spray!
After we do a couple batches of soap, E wants to work on a good bar that will control her dandruff.

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