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Sunday, September 30, 2012

First Snowfall 2012

Yesterday morning was the first snow in Anchorage, AK.

SNOW. In September.

While on our way to the last Spenard Farmer Market and the Alaska Women's Show, we spotted some geese who were taking it in stride.

Look at those cold feet. BRR.
It was just a light dusting, it last through the day in the shade, but when the sun came out, and it did! It melted and made puddles.

So that's the earliest first snow in quite a few years. I grumbled a bit at this sign fall was ending quickly. Dad just said with his 50 years of experience in Anchorage "I knew it would snow. It was cold enough, and raining, Plus you could smell the snow on the air."
The Alaska Women's Show is a typical sort of big show with a theme. Local businesses and other businesses with a strong focus on women's products and services were there. My daughter loves these shows, we pick up ball point pens for the whole year, pads of paper, she likes spinning all the prize wheels she can. We sample products and just have fun! It takes place at the Sullivan Arena, and my husband usually finds a seat on the mezzanine and just waits listening to music on his iPod. He abhors the crowds at these things. TG spun one wheel and won a coffee cup which made her day. Her favorite part was stopping at the Superstar Pastry Booth for a cup cake. They use a European cake recipe and an Italian butter cream frosting. You can choose your cake, filling, frosting and toppings. My favorite is a super vanilla concoction of  vanilla cupcake, Bavarian cream filling and vanilla butter cream. She gets creative, and it's always chocolate.

 We also picked up some reindeer sausage from a local company I've always liked.

After that, we went to the last day of the Spenard Market. We have a lot of summer farmers markets, and a few winter ones that sell mostly root veggies, meats and eggs through out the year. The Spenard Market is my favorite though, it has this strong indie community vibe. We went mostly because it was the last day, but also in hopes a local soapmaker I like was there. They sell very inexpensive soap ends and we use soap ends for most of our day to day soap needs. They were, and we bought the last bag of soap ends they have, a couple bars of soap, and some "Manly Man Elbow Grease", it's an all natural salve with a woodsy scent. I got it both for the psoriasis my husband has and more for my ankles. A lot of the time that I'm online or reading a book, I tuck my feet up under me, and my ankles have rough patches of skin because of it. They get better if I use the right kinds of salves on them and I have high hopes for this one. We also got some of their shampoo bars to try and found out where we can buy their soap ends through the winter. Then TG who wasn't sweeted out yet tried some gourmet marshmallows and got herself a package of Key Lime marshmallows to have later. Yum! Fresh marshmallows without the time it takes to make them!

Then we came home, and I worked on some beading for awhile. It was a very nice, very busy day with a lot of walking. And there was SNOW!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Easy Jeweled Mandala to Color

I hope you enjoy this mandala! The colors I chose for my example are based on my children's birthstones. The Amazing Turnip Girl is ruby and William is blue zircon.

But there are so many other ways to color this in. I thought it looked like jewelry, with all the other spots colored in, it will look very different! Click for the bigger versions.

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Fighting hunger in easy ways

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walmart for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


Walmart has made a commitment to spend 2 billion dollars by 2015 in the US to end hunger in America. Through both cash and in-kind donations (food and other supplies needed for hunger relief efforts), they've already done a lot. They plan on doing a lot more. 

When I was asked to write about it, I didn't hesitate at accepting the chance. It's not just because giving to the community is a huge part of my life, and not just because we were nearly there last spring with my husband out of work. It's because I was there. As a kid. My parents had made some mistakes, and part of changing their lives meant they were both of out of work for a while. For that time, we did go to food banks, I was on a reduced cost lunch program at school. Our turkey dinners for the holidays that year were given to us by a local church. What stands out to me in my memory was how hard it was for my mom. It was a hard choice to make between her pride and making sure my brother and I had healthy meals to eat every night. At some point, she made a decision that was uniquely her, she was able to volunteer some of the cold calling skills she had from years of lobbying and working with political non-profits to help get donations for those programs. That volunteer work helped mom rebuild her connections and eventually helped her get a good job. But for that year, we depended on charities for most of our meals. So an intiative to help make sure children and families get to eat? Yes, it's important. It's one of the most important things there is to do for the good of the community. Fed children are healthy children, they are more able to learn, and more able to do. So it's also good for the future. 

walmart_logo_214x54.gif (214×57)

Fighting Hunger Together

Going to the above website you can see the various ways you can help, there are several! You can watch videos and take a short survey for one of the suppliers donating meals, you can download an app to use to check in at Walmart, you can go to Walmart and look for Fighting Hunger Together signs and buy those products. The products and suppliers? They are products you probably already have on your shopping list. You're buying them anyway. Buy them from Walmart and a donation is made. Walmart has a long standing partnership with Feeding America which helps benefit food banks around the country. The suppliers are General Mills, Unilever, Kraft Foods and ConAgra Foods. 

For me? My favorite food in the world is General Mills Cheerios with low-fat milk. Yes. I'm completely serious, even more than creme brulee. I LOVE my Cheerios so much that we generally buy Cheerios for me and not-Cheerios for everyone else in the family so they won't eat the last of my Cheerios. My daughter's favorite is Lucky Charms, also a General Mills product. So there are two things on our shopping list we can get at Walmart and help fight hunger.

Also on the Fighting Hunger Together site, you can find the Golden Spark promotion. It's easy to enter, and the prize is 50,000 for your community either to help a local food project or to start a backpack program to help feed children on weeknds when they don't have access to low cost or free school lunch programs. Best part? Walmart isn't just giving away one prize, they are giving away 40 of these. 50K in Anchorage would make a huge difference. It would make a big difference in any community to help feed the hungry.

Have you ever been hungry? Ever needed that kind of help? A lot of us have been there at one point or another, and it's hard. How about helping someone or a local charity? Our family gives every year to Bean's Cafe. Generally in-kind donations, when we go grocery shopping, we pick up an extra can of something, or a pair of gloves, a pair of socks. We collect it in a bag in the trunk then every few weeks, we drive down and drop it off. We also donate cash and go to one of their fundraisers yearly. Walmart also donates to Bean's Cafe. It's one of the big checks on the wall! I'm so glad they are supporting our local programs. 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Plaid fall leaves printable boxes

It's definitely fall. That termination dust I was talking about? It's nearly halfway down the mountains now, which means it's very close to the first snowfall. This weekend we are planning to put the last of our spring bulbs in.
So it seems like a good time for fall leaf printables. For these I used complementary color schemes and plaids. I hope you like them. Click for a larger size, print on card stock, cut out, score, fold, glue!

Bit of personal trivia- The first snowfall of the year, for a very long time, averaged out to be Mom's birthday. She always had nasty things to say when it actually happened on her birthday. The last 10 years, the first snowfall has been enough later to push that average up to a later date. But on October 8th, I still watch for that first snow.
She's been gone for a while now, but every year on her birthday, we re-create her last birthday celebration. Dinner then shopping at one of her favorite thrift stores. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Squirrels, spinal taps and shots - my life this week

This has been a really, really strange week so far, and it's only Wednesday.

Monday afternoon, I heard things crashing on my porch. My porch is an arctic entrance with a screen that's always locked if I'm home. 

I peeked out cautiously, and there's this little brown furry streak of Destruction and Doom knocking over the boxes from Amazon I've saved to mulch my garden with, the flower pots that we've taken in for the season, the box of work stuff that for some reason my husband has never brought into the house. Zip zip CRASH zip zip. It was trapped, it was angry, and it was *scary*. When I first saw it, all I saw was the little rodent face, which was freaky. Then it ZIPPED up the wall and I saw it's tail. I slammed the front door shut and locked it, like this thing was somehow going to open the door locked or not and called my husband.
"You have to come home as early as you can." 
"There's a SQUIRREL on the porch."
"I don't want it coming in the house and someone has to let it out and it's not going to me."
"A squirrel?"
"Yes. A crazy squirrel. Possibly man eating. I'm not taking the risk. It's a Squirrel of Doom."
"Really? I didn't know we had squirrels in the neighborhood."
"Oh? You were talking about hearing them the other day, and we are surrounded by woods. So..."
"Oh, I forgot about that."
"Just get home when you can." *crash* 
Then in my best Dean Winchester imitation, I said "That was scary." which was apparently the funniest thing ever. 

By the time he got home, I realized that someone had to unlock the screen for him to get in, and the porch had been quiet for a while, so I slipped the door open, and used my cane to flip open the lock, then darted back in slamming the door shut.

So that night, while we were going to the store, he starts his iPod in the car. Playing Mississippi Squirrel Revival by Ray Stevens. 

Tuesday- My spinal tap is scheduled. Now, one thing I have to say about my neurologist, he's just radiates comfortable competence. He answers all my questions, which any good health provider should do. Some of my questions tend to be questions my doctors have never heard before so occasionally they have to do some research. Which he did right there on his iPhone on some super serious Doctor app and website or something. My husband was very amused that with a computer behind him, he did the look up on his iPhone.
Anyway, I was nervous, both for me, and for my husband. I wanted him there to make me feel better, but my 350 lb, 6'2" ex-cop, ex-EMT big tough husband has real problems watching me get blood drawn. So I was nervous about him too. The doctor and his nurse were amazing, calm and professional. 

If you're curious about spinal taps, AKA lumbar punctures from a completely non-professional personal point of view, the competence of my doctor was very relaxing. He had me pull down my skirt and pull up my shirt to show the area (I wore loose easy clothes to avoid the hospital gown fashion). He had me lay down in a fetal position, knees tight against chest, shoulders straight, on my side. Then raised the table. He covered my legs in a nice warm blanket and made it as comfortable as possible. Then cleaned the area well and draped it with a surgical drape. Then he injected a local anesthetic. The needle is put in low in the back between the lumbar bones. When the area was well numb, he inserted the needle for the spinal tap. It's a hollow needle, just under 1 mm in diameter. It was numb enough to just feel like some pressure. He took pressure readings and confirmed the diagnosis of intercranial hypertension. He also decided that since he was getting the spinal fluid anyway, he would have the lab run some tests on it to check for infections and other things. He doesn't think there are any, but hey, he was doing the spinal tap for other reasons, let's just be sure.
Bandaged it up and prescribed Motrin and lots of coffee. I can do that. Also prescribed something to lower the pressure in my head. As we were leaving, the doctor said "Thank you for being so brave." My husband replied "Thank you! I didn't pass out!" 

That evening, Dad called, apparently William had stepped on a clean nail at work and Dad wanted to know when his last tetanus shot was. We decided it had been long enough to justify a booster shot, so he went to the ER to get a booster and some antibiotics. He's fine and working today. His big disappointment was that by the time he got there, the cafeteria was closed. The hospital we go to has a killer cafeteria. Actually edible food. 

This morning, when I woke up, my left hand tingled. Then my right, then my lips and tongue. Then not my lips and tongue but both hands. So I went to the ER. Turns out an uncommon side effect of the drug I was prescribed is that it can lower your potassium levels. Which can cause the tingling. It's uncommon enough that the doctor who saw me did a consult to come up with that possible reason, then did some blood work to check. Apparently it usually works itself out after you've been taking the drug for a while, but for the next week, I need to take a potassium supplement.

The spot where I had the spinal tap has a nice, perfectly round bruise about 2 inches in diameter which is normal, but uncomfortable.

And as crazy as it's been, I'm so very grateful for my friends and family. Otherwise, I think I'd just stay in bed for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kmart Holiday Shopping and the Big Layaway Giveaway

This is a sponsored post, I am a Kmart Layaway blogger, though all opinions are my own.

I love Kmart. I'll be honest here. There are a lot of big box stores that compete to offer the best deals, but where Kmart stands out is the brands they carry. Good value, good selection and brands I trust. 

As far as Kmart layaway goes? When my kids were little and I was working a full time job as a cocktail waitress, the easy layaway for holiday gifts was a lifesaver. Put down 10%, then make payments every 2 weeks over 8 weeks, then bring it home and wrap it up. 

It's gotten even better. It's free layaway, and it has some great options. My favorite? Being able to shop online, start the layaway and make the payments. Then after it's paid off you arrange to pick it up. This means not having to go into the stores while people are crowding into them getting ready for various parties and things. Not having to hide what your buying from your family, and to make it even better? Kmart online accepts many payment methods including Paypal, credit and debit. Making it very easy and accessible to use. 

Just incase that's not enough? Kmart's Big Layaway Giveaway. Oh yeah. If you put things on layaway either online or at the store, you'll be entered to win automatically. If you win, they will pay off your layaway up to 500 dollars. If you've already paid it, they will give you a gift card for the amount of the layaway. So by doing holiday shopping in this really convenient way, it might all be paid for if you win!

Like I said, the reason I like Kmart is the brands, quality and selection. They aren't a speciality store like Best Buy, so I can find whatever handheld console it is that my daughter wants, but also find the electric blanket that would be perfect for my dad. One stop shopping. You could say that other big blue box store has the selection and value but not the brands or quality. Not for the specific things that work for my family.

For my son- I love this Gordon Ramsay Jumbo Chef's Pan, this is the pan size I use for most of the meals in our home, and now that he's doing more for himself he needs one of his own. It's perfect for one pan meals for 4, or for 1 with extra meals to pack in the freezer.

For my husband? This is where the brand/quality is really important. They have the Halex Official Size Tournament Bristle Dart Board. He's pretty serious about darts, and this is a dart board that gets good reviews from serious players.

For my daughter, an electric tea kettle. She believes a good cup of tea will fix nearly everything.

All of these things can be put on layaway online, and paid for online, then picked up once they are paid off. Isn't that easy? 

Check out this comparision of several stores layaway policies compared to Kmart.

Kmart Free Layaway Grid 09_12.jpg

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Spring Colors Box

Pantone has released their Spring 2013 Fashion Color Report. I used those colors for this very simple printable gift box I hope you like it!
Click for the larger version, print on card stock, cut out, score, fold, glue!
Tomorrow is my lumbar puncture, so I'm not sure I'm going to be online much in the afternoon.

Tapeffiti decorated mini-comp book

Tapeffiti™ is a decorative tape that comes on the cutest mini-dispensers ever made by Fashion Angels. Recently I had the chance to try the Tapeffiti 30 Decorative Tape Roll Set (Fashion Angels link)- the set comes with a wide variety of designs that can be used on all sorts of things. The first thing I wanted to do was a decorated mini comp book. I use mini comp books to write down ideas while out and about.

Actually, the first thing I did after pulling out the supplies was offer The Amazing Turnip Girl her choice of tapes that I'd leave for her. The 30 kinds of tape have all sorts of designs, super kawaii, pretty flowers like I used above, some lacy effects, a mini caution tape, a herringbone, animal prints in bright colors. Just a lot of selection which makes this a good project for tween parties.

You will need:

  • Duct tape
  • Tapeffiti Decorative Tapes- not only do they have the 30 roll set, but they also have Monster High™ and Barbie™ packs as well
  • Scissors- I like non-stick scissors (Amazon affiliate link)
  • mini composition books- I got mine from Wal-Mart
  • 1/4 inch elastic
  • ribbon
  • stapler

The nice thing about customizing these little notebooks is you can add in helpful details like an elastic band to keep it closed in your purse and a ribbon bookmark to make it easy to find the page you're on. 

Cut a piece of duct tape the same length as your notebook, and line up the ribbon on the back of the book against right along the spine. Tape over the spine of the notebook and ribbon.

Now you'll cover the whole notebook in duct tape. I've found the best way is to do the outside cover first, cutting length that wrap around to the inside. Burnish it down, then cut 3 lengths the same length of the notebook, fold 1 over each long edge of the cover, then 1 more around the spine. After that, cut shorter lengths to do the inside, covering the tape ends from the outside cover.

After it's covered, wrap the notebook lengthwise with a piece of elastic, pulling it just a little bit tight. Cut it with a half inch overlap, then center that overlap about an inch away from the edge on the back cover, and staple it into place. I like my staple pliers (Amazon) for this because they are heavy duty enough to go through the tape, elastic and cardboard.

Now the fun part! Decorating with the Tapeffiti™ . You can cover the staple if you'd like, I did. Or you could put it on vertically or diagonally. This part is completely up to your imagination. I'm certain that TG will do something very different from what I did. TG loves the tapes too. 
Check out Fashion Angels on Facebook! They are planning to do a giveaway when they hit 5000 fans and they are so close. They have lots of great craft items for kids and you can see a really great dress made using Tapeffiti on there as well.

Fashion Angels provided the Tapefitti™  at no cost for use in a project and for review purposes. No other compensation was given, and the opinions expressed here are my own. 

All Amazon links are affiliate links, if you use them, it will help support this site. The scissors and stapler are the brands and styles I used in making this project.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spiral to Color

I think this simple spiral would work well as strings for a zentangle or outlines for embroidery. What do you think? I hope you enjoy this coloring page.

Click on the image for a larger version to color.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review- Curvy Girl Crochet

Mary Beth Temple is a crochet designer whose work I've liked for a while. The reason is because she combines classic crochet techniques and stitches into contemporary fashions that are wearable. A lot of her designs are also relatively quick to stitch. Also being plus sized, I appreciate attractive crochet patterns that fit my build.

The patterns in this book are American crochet terminology with international crochet notation as illustrations for the stitch patterns.

It starts with detailed information about changing the size of the patterns, and adapting them to different yarn types. It explains how to shorten, lengthen and change the fitting of patterns, as well as swatching then testing the swatches for the method you plan to use for laundering or checking how stretching will affect the fabric. Handy if you're like me and generally prefer cotton yarns.

Then you get to the patterns, which are all shown on lovely women of different shapes and sizes. This book is heavy on the sweaters, pullovers, cardigans, shells and vests. There are also some outwear and accessory patterns and one gorgeous skirt.

The patterns start with suggested yarn types, but also include the Craft Yarn Council of America's sizing for that yarn and the gauge is listed so you can try it with a different yarn easily. They are all written in good detail and easy to follow. I'm better with charts than written instructions so I'll refer to the charts for the stitch pattern and use the instructions to know where to increase and get the right measurements and shapes.

The variety of patterns is good. My favorite long sleeves sweater in the book is the pullover on the cover. Her version uses spike stitches as colorwork accents on the yoke and wide sleeves in a nearly floral effect, and it has shaping around the waist to pull it in some and reduce bulk, then flares out to skim over the hips. The yarn weight and look of the sweater make it a great one for fall and winter months.
For sleeveless sweaters, the Perfect Base Tank Top is made using a fine yarn in a shell stitch and is nicely fitted. The fine yarn and shaping keep it from being bulky and the shell stitch help keep it from getting boring to make.
The Essential Cardigan is a basic cardigan great for all sort of winter and fall layering, and it's my favorite cardigan.
Other things I love in this book are the Traditional Cloak, the Sensible Shawl and lacy Wrapt Top. Andee Graves' skirt is just fabulous, a wrap skirt with a beautiful shape made from wool.

Good instructions, contemporary designs and the sizing goes from XL to 5X. The designs are handmade boutique in styling. Out of 25 patterns, there are only a few that aren't my style at all, and I believe this book will have designs that will appeal to most women who like fashion crochet with a good fit for larger body types.

Published by Taunton.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review, my reviews are always my personal and honest opinion. You can read more about my review policy here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Greek Key Inspired Printable Box-

This box is inspired by Greek Key geometric patterns. I hope you enjoy it! There is also a black and white version to color yourself. Click for the larger version, print on card stock, cut out, score, fold, glue!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

American Football Mandala to Color

I hope you enjoy this American football themed mandala!
Click on the images for a larger version to print and color.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So easy flowers for the whole year!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bulbs. Dig, Drop, Done. for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Curbside Chaos recently had a lawn makeover giveaway. The winner go to have her lawn made over with help from Tania Nayak. The video shows them discussing what they plan to do, going shopping and the start of the landscaping. Her yard is going to be gorgeous with flowers and colors. I'm a little envious! If I had $5000 dollars for a yard makeover, I'd plant more berries by the side of the house, and build a couple more raised beds for vegetables. But the big thing I'd do is the front, that would be a decorative garden, with fragrant plants. Perennials like a lilac and prickly rose bush, and lots of bulbs for early spring color after a long winter. 

They have a wonderful  Twitter donation promotion going on now, for every tweet that includes the hash tag #CurbsideChaos *Bulbs.Dig.Drop.Done* will donate $1.00 to the non-profit group Rebuilding Together. Rebuilding Together works with homeowners to rehabilitate homes and to modify them.

Curbide Chaos also has a planting guide that can help you with your fall planting for spring. You click on where you live.

Then you choose when you want your flowers to bloom, and it gives you a selection of flowers for that time period.

Click on the flower you're interested in, and it gives you advice and instructions for growing that bulb!

The neat things about bulbs is that you aren't locked into just those choices. Those are your best choices for fall planting but bulbs can be planted year round, even here! Because they are so easy to grow, they are popular for forcing indoors. You've seen the kits at the supermarket around the holidays for paperwhites. There are lots of other choices as well.

I plan to force tuberoses. They do best in zone 6 or warmer, so they aren't good for outdoors. But they will grow just fine in potting soil indoors if you have enough light. They smell fantastic! 

Do you have a favorite vase and very rarely get flowers to put in it? You can grow all sorts of bulbs in it. A single amaryllis bulb for example. Then you'll have color in the winter. You can find all sorts of information at Dig.Drop.Done. They are a foundation dedicated to promoting bulb growing, and showing how easy it is.

visit to learn more

The thing I like best on their site is the Family Fun section, lots of great crafty ideas. Also there is a search available on the site, so you can search based on color. I searched fragrance, because the scent of flowers in the winter helps the house smell naturally fresh and nice when opening a window just isn't an option!

I also recommend checking out the About Us section, the Ladies.  There are three to choose from with short videos that offer tips. The videos are cute, funny and themed to the personality of the ladies. I expected to like Marcy The Super Mom best, with her cute apron and batter bowl, but as it turned out, my favorite was Julianna the Fashionista! The reason I liked her best is because she reminded me of some of my friends. Also because I hadn't thought about planting bulbs for spring in containers. I was thinking outside the box! Now I'm thinking in the box, or rather, in some tires. While I can't have the big yard makeover, I can set up tires in a sheltered spot for spring color!

I've planted some of my bulbs for spring, and we will plant more, but now it's time to start thinking about winter, and things to grow indoors. 



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Truth and Fiction printable quote

Mark Twain quote
"Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense."
Mark Twain 
This printable quote was inspired by my very good friend Rosemary. I hope you enjoy it!
You can share the above version from either of my Facebook pages, Don't Eat the Paste Quotes or the main Shala's Beadwork and Printables page. The version below is to print. Click on the image for a larger version. Because it's in black and white it will look great printed on colored paper like AstroBrights.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Illusion crochet afghan idea

When I was working on the tumbling blocks boxes the other day, I built the blocks from triangles. Geometrically, the shape is hexagonal, and hexagons are built from triangles. So last night, I went to bed completely exhausted, and apparently mumbling "It should work. Crochet equilateral triangles are easy and cubes are made from hexagons." Then went on to explain to my husband who hadn't asked that I mean 2 dimensional representations of cubes so it would make sense. Apparently I failed, but he was very patient about it.

So an example of a 2 d cubic representation is the tumbling blocks design which works out on triangle graph paper like this.
(I like modular granny square (or triangle!) crochet, it's very mindless for when I'm watching television and just want something in my hands)

So that's been done before. What I wanted was more of an illusion. If you look at the image at the top of the page, it can either look like a cube with a corner cut out of it, or a corner with a cube in it. So how would that look graphed for modular crochet?

The illusion relies on the varying tones, it's most effective in a monochromatic color scheme which probably will mean different yarn brands that are the same weight. Now I need to swatch for gauge and find the right colors! As a hexagon shape, it will be good as a throw I think.

Here's some graph paper if you want to play with your own ideas. I'd love to see them!

Book Review- Sweet Macarons

Sweet Macarons- Delectable French Confections for Every Day by Mercotte starts with the author explaining her goal in the book, which is to demystify the making of these wonderful treats.

The author does a wonderful job. If you've never made macarons before, or have no experience with piping, meringues or the basic fillings, she walks you through the steps in a conversational and reassuring way. Starting by explaining the ingredients and giving you tips and tricks for making the cookies including handy things like the best way to fill the pastry bag and how to space them on a cookie sheet.

Then she gets into more detail. Rather than having you go straight into working with meringue whipped egg whites and almond meal, she walks you through 3 cookies that help you learn how to pipe correctly, how to bake meringues and then finally, working with almond meal. After that, she explains how to make the batter for macarons. She gives 2 methods, the more involved Italian meringue recipe, or the simpler, easier French recipe for meringues, and how to turn that into macaron batter.

The next part focus on fillings, and the basic filling recipes given can be flavored many ways. Her basic filling recipes include buttercream, a couple thick creamy fillings, some ganache fillings, jam and praline filling.  Using just this section of the cookbook, and varying flavors and colors on the fillings, you could make a lot of types of macarons.

Then the recipes, which are fancy enough to impress anyone. Starting with salted butter caramel, then getting into lots of other flavors. I'm not a fan of licorice flavor, but even skipping the anise/fennel and the licorice flavored cookies, there are still a lot of great options. Some are fruity, some are spicy, some have tea or floral flavors. These are recipes that can be paired easily to echo the flavors of tea, coffee or wine for entertaining. The creme brulee ones are amazing.

If you like traditional cookbook formats, this one may not be your cup of tea. The tone is conversational, and the recipes aren't laid out traditionally. Instead of line by line ingredient lists, the ingredients are listed in a single paragraph separated by commas. The instructions are very well written with good detail. The recipes are also followed with tips for modifying that recipe to suit your own tastes. There are also ideas for things to do with failed macarons and tips on fillings for really quick macarons for when you have cookies in the freezer and just want a fast fix.

My 17 year old daughter is very excited by macarons, and the instructions are perfect for the way she learns. So I'm just thrilled with the layout and the detail. The only thing that would make this book better for my daughter's and my macaron adventures is a spiral binding so it would lay flat. The photographs are gorgeous, the recipes are good, and the step by step breakdown of the process of making macarons is well written.

Published by The Taunton Press.
I received a complimentary copy of this book to review, my reviews are always my personal and honest opinion. You can read more about my review policy here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tumbling Blocks Boxes

I've been pretty obsessed with optical illusions and impossible objects lately, so you're going to see some of that reflected in what I post this week. I hope you enjoy these printable 2x2x2 inch boxes!

Click on the images for larger versions, print on card stock, cut out, score, fold, glue!

I posted a couple bracelet patterns on BellaOnline Beadwork last week and completely forgot to post the link here! Here you go Fall Fashion Geometric Bracelet Patterns

In medical news, if  you've been following the drama in the last few months, I finally got to talk to a neurologist. Since all the tests so far have been clean, they are pretty sure it's intercranial hypertension. Absolutely treatable and caught in the very early stages. On Tuesday the 25th, I have a lumbar puncture scheduled, and that's the definitive test to see if that's what I have.
The biggest danger with that, as big and scary as it sounds is that the pressure in my head can permanently damage my optic nerve, causing blindness. They want me to lose 10-20 lbs and go on medication if it that winds up being the diagnosis.

I'm incredibly grateful my glass broke when they did, and that my prescription was expired, because it was caught while I am still completely asymptomatic. No headaches, dizziness or the other issues that generally tip off doctors something is wrong. It was a routine eye exam that caught it. The optometrist noticed an irregularity, and sent me to an ophthalmologist. He looked further into it, and referred me to neurology. It was terrifying at first because they started by ruling out a lot of very scary things. Get your eyes checked regularly!