Expanded Horizons

May 16th, 2015

Always interested to have your preconceptions challenged. I went to a local festival today to promote the tea festival. It was a urban community type of festival, in what is generally regarded as a pretty bad part of town. Most of the “vendors” there were social service and social justice type of things. Across the street from me was a #Ferguson booth, f’r example. Down the street was a guy lecturing (and doing it pretty poorly though with conviction) about Warden Tate and all the evils of The Man. I chatted quite a bit with a social worker who works with housing projects. Nice enough lady and she let me scooch in with her during some brief rain showers since I didn’t have a tent.

I was going to cancel on going and write off the voluntary booth fee as a donation to charity. I signed up without really being able to find any good info about the festival, who the attending demographic was, etc. The night I was going to email my regrets to the organizers, I took one more look at their website and they finally had a list of vendors up and the tea fest was on it. So… kind of had to go since we were on their flyers and advertising as going to be there.

Figured I’d sit there most of the day without much traffic and then go home. Well, I was wrong. I had a pretty steady stream of folks come by the table and actually stop to ask what the fest was about and pick up a flyer. Now, admittedly, those folks who picked up flyers may have just been doing the standard festival thing – pick up something at every booth, go home with a bunch of paper and pitch it all in the next couple of days. But I had 2 ladies who were really excited and even asked for more flyers so they could share with their coworkers and someone else who offered to take a flyer to put up where she worked. Several people were enthusiastic about the festival and more so about volunteering to help and get in free and since we really need volunteers at this point, if any of them follow through it will be worth the day spent. And I met one of the other vendors who told me about some Taiwanese black tea a relative brought him back from Taiwan. He doesn’t want to open it because it’s such a large bag and he doesn’t think he can drink it all in optimal time for flavor so he’s been trying to find other people to share it with him when he opens it. He took my email address, said he’d be at the festival and though he wasn’t sure when he would open his tea, he’d contact me and I could get some from him.

So, I found tea lovers in unexpected places, and not just bagged tea, either. Got flyers going to places I wouldn’t otherwise have access and met someone who wants to share tea. I got out of my comfort zone and survived. I still don’t agree with most of the grievances that were being aired but I respect their right to peacefully express them. And I got a brick of curly fries with enough seasoned salt to choke a horse. All in all, that’s a pretty good day. :)

For Fillyjonk

April 8th, 2015

Keep It Simple by Chuck Pyle, Colorado’s Zen Cowboy

I hope you can play this. I couldn’t find a version online anywhere to link to. There is supposed to be an embedded media player in this post but I sure can’t see it on my browser. Maybe you can.

If not, here’s the .m4a file to download.

06 Keep It Simple

Fillyjonk had a post where she referenced her Inner Algonquin round table and it made me think of this song, :)

Friday chocolate week

March 27th, 2015

I made breakfast! It says muffins and biscuits. That makes it breakfast food.

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Chocolate Cookie Muffins
Makes: 12

1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup miniature creme filled chocolate sandwich cookies or 1 cup coarsely chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons milk

Heat oven to 400F. Grease muffin cups or line with baking cups. Mix dry ingredients together. Whisk together remaining ingredients except for cookies. Stir into dry mixture just till moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Fold in cookies. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 13-16 minutes till toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Remove from pan to rack and cool 5 minutes. Combine all remaining ingredients till smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over muffins and serve warm if desired.

Chocolate Maple Pecan Biscuits

Makes: 12

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons milk

Heat oven to 400F. Grease baking sheet. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening till mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in nuts and chips. Mix milk and flavoring together. Stir into dry mixture till just moistened. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes till tops just begin to turn golden brown. Stir remaining ingredients together till smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle glaze over warm biscuits and serve warm.

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Chocolate Cake with Caramel Filling

Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Filling
1 1/8 cups butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups superfine sugar
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour four 8-inch round cake pans. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk till smooth. Melt chocolate. Mix chocolate, vanilla and lemon juice into batter. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake 15 minutes till a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Caramel Filling
Mix together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, superfine sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, and cook till temperature reaches 225ºF on a candy thermometer. Remove saucepan from heat and set in a large bowl filled with ice water. Beat filling with an electric mixer till spreadable. At first this seems to be just hot, hard work, but the filling will suddenly start to thicken as it begins to cool. Transfer filling to a clean bowl and it will continue to cool as you frost the top of each cake layer. Stack the frosted layers atop each other.

I have never used superfine sugar. Still haven’t. It seemed to turn out okay. I also don’t have 8 inch pans so I used three 9 inch pans.

Update:

So… the cake tastes great. But it shall be renamed “Oobleck Cake”. This is what it looked after 3 hours in the fridge last night.

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This morning it was sticking to the wall of the fridge.

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Oobleck Cake. And that creeps me out enough that I may not be able to eat much of it, which isn’t a bad thing, I guess. The Oobleck always gave me the creeps as a kid. Made me very anxious reading about the people with oobleck in their trumpets and down their chimneys.

Not again

March 26th, 2015

I made lots of stuff tonight when I got home so that I’d have things for Chocolate Week tomorrow and so the OAM would have things. I specifically made gluten free cookies for his friend who has celiac disease. I was in the middle of the hot, lengthy process of making the icing for the cake I was going to send in with him when he came home and announced “Oh, by the way, I’m working from home tomorrow.”

>.<

This is the second time I’ve tried to make something specifically for his pal and he’s not gone into work the following day. I think the cookies will freeze okay. And they actually did turn out pretty tasty. I think the fact that they are more like fudge than cookie probably helps cut down on how much you notice the non-flour.

Anyway, today was a tea party. And it will not happen again. I think I must have lost my mind when I said I’d do one during chocolate week with all of the tea festival stuff going on as well. This was one of the rare times when I actually realized I was stressed and felt overloaded. But it’s done and it went well, despite being a small group.

Herbed cream cheese spread on flower cut bread with cucumber & carrot butterflies. :P

Herbed cream cheese spread on flower cut bread with cucumber & carrot butterflies. :P

Clockwise from bottom: chocolate chip bunny scones with raspberry curd & cream, marbled cake balls, chocolate drizzled shortbread, confetti egg salad, cheese quiches & the butterflies. We also had chocolate mousse.

Clockwise from bottom: chocolate chip bunny scones with raspberry curd & cream, chocolate & vanilla marbled cake balls, chocolate drizzled shortbread, confetti egg salad, cheese quiches & the butterflies. We also had chocolate mousse.

A request has been made for chocolate pron

March 24th, 2015

Far be it from me to refuse a chocolate jones.

I am celebrating National Chocolate Week a week late as usual. So here’s the first one. I am also slacking this year. A coworker had a birthday on Monday and because we are all just large children in our department, she brought treats (everyone has to or face ridicule). They were nummy chocolate s’more oat bars.

And I was out with a wicked headache today. So this is tomorrow.

Chocolate Cherry Poke Cake

1 package (4 serving size) cherry gelatin
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 package (18.25 ounce) deep chocolate cake mix
ingredients to prepare cake according to package directions
Topping
1 envelope whipped topping mix
1 package (4 serving size) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk

Heat oven as directed on cake mix package. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add cold water and set aside at room temperature. Mix and bake cake as directed in for 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Poke deep holes through top of warm cake with meat fork or toothpick while still in pan. Space holes about one inch apart. Slowly pour gelatin mixture into holes. Chill cake while preparing topping.
Topping
In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, blend together topping mix, pudding and cold milk till stiff. Immediately frost cake. Store in refrigerator and serve chilled.

Photo blatantly stolen from teh innernets. I haven't actually cut into mine yet.

Photo blatantly stolen from teh innernets. I haven’t actually cut into mine yet.

And the OM is taking this one into work tomorrow. I am a complete dufus. I was intending to make something that his friend Sean could eat. Sean is really, truly celiac allergic or whatever that official term is for people who will die if they eat gluten. Not people who just want an excuse to not eat things they don’t like or who are choosing a diet they think is healthy for them. Sean will have some hospitalization level things happen to him from what I understand, poor guy. So I made this rice krispie treat roll. It had graham crackers in it and I left those out because – flour. I checked all the ingredients on my ingredients. But I forgot about the pan spray I used to coat my hands to press the krispies into the pan. It contains flour. D’oh! Oh, and nonstick spray just makes waxed paper wet. Also a d’oh and a duh moment. So the recipe says use butter and you should do that. Even if it means you have to unwrap a new stick and use a non-full tablespoon amount to butter the pan and your hands. Get over the OCD and just do it.

Rice Krispie S’more Rolls

10 oz miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup butter (plus more for greasing)
5 cup Rice Krispies cereal
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
7 oz jar marshmallow creme
6 Hershey’s chocolate bars

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Line a 10×15 jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Butter the waxed paper and set aside.
Combine marshmallows and one quarter cup of butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and heat on high for 30 seconds, stir. Repeat until completely blended.
Stir in cereal and graham cracker crumbs.
Press mixture into prepared pan.
Spread marshmallow creme on top using an offset spatula.
Place Hershey’s bars on top of the marshmallow creme.
Place in oven for two minutes. Use a spatula to spread the softened chocolate.
Let cool for 10 minutes.
Roll up jellyroll style (like a cinnamon roll), starting on the long side. Peel away the waxed paper as you roll. Pinch the seams together.
Place seam side down and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes or until chocolate has set.
Slice and serve!

Photo also stolen because mine did not turn out anywhere near this neat looking. But I stole it from momontimeout.com so at least I remember where I got it from...

Photo also stolen because mine did not turn out anywhere near this neat looking. But I stole it from momontimeout.com so at least I remember where I got it from…

Humanity… oh, the huge manatee

March 8th, 2015

I may be about to rant about a topic I’ve previously mentioned – I’m honestly too lazy right now to go search my archives to see. I don’t know if this is indicative of modern life, declining attention spans, rising self-importance, the degrading effect of social media on our brains, or indicative of nothing all.

People don’t read.

I’m not talking about TL;DR here, either. I freely admit that I have a tendency to try and communicate far too much detail and too much information in official emails. I’ve been working on that.

But these aren’t epics I’m sending here. We’re talking about 2-5 sentences, often separated by line spacing to denote separate thoughts or questions.

What I get back, when I get anything back, is so often an answer or reply to the first thing I noted. And that’s it. Other items/questions treated like they don’t even exist.

For example, I’ve been trying for more than a month now to get out of my cousin whether or not her quilting/sewing craft business has name. She’s going to be a vendor at the tea festival selling tea pot cozies, mug rugs, etc. I wanted to know if I should just list her on the event map as “Cousin X” or as “Super Sewing”. It took a week between emails to begin with. Even if I happened to catch her email as soon as it came in and responded immediately, I didn’t hear back from her for a week. She’d answer the first question or comment on the first response I’d made and that was it. Finally took an email with nothing in it but “Do you have a business name?” to get a response.

Marketing Kid for the festival is another. I get that we both have other things to do – real jobs, other hobbies, etc. (at least he does, I’m another story). But he never addresses more than just the first paragraph or sentence of an email when he eventually does respond. Frustrates the hell out of me.

He’s not the only one. If nothing else, I’m learning through this festival coordination process that getting almost anyone to respond point by point to an email is next to impossible. It feels like herding cats sometimes. I count myself lucky if they respond at all.

And “professional journalist” has long been a laughable term but, wow. This first promotional piece on the festival was truly a monument to inaccuracy. The author had been given all pertinent information in written format before she had the phone interview with Marketing Kid so I don’t think it was a miscommunication on his part. Yet the article managed to:

1. Misspell my name.

2. List me as the event coordinator for the Museum, not the festival.

3. Say we are giving away something we aren’t giving away.

4. Give the incorrect price for admission.

5. Make the link to the website not actually clickable.

All in an article that is 7 short paragraphs in length. I guess it’s true that you get what you pay for and this was free. :)

 

sucking up all the oxygen

February 13th, 2015

This tea festival is seriously taking all of my time. It probably doesn’t have to but I’m discovering more and more how obsessive my personality truly is.

Quick movie notes:

Big Hero Six – completely cute, animation is incredible.

Grand Budapest Hotel – Really enjoyable. Possibly one of the only Wes Anderson movies I’ve enjoyed from beginning to end. Most all of his other films are way too artsy and pretentious. This one is artsy and pretentious too, it just manages to be charming as well.

John Wick – Thoroughly, utterly, violently great. This is not a plot movie, it’s action through and through. The body count is fantastic.

Quick TV notes:

Arrow  – It’s been okay to have on in the background but it’s still nothing I can really get in to.

Archer – If possible, this season seems even more out of control than the last. Been good.

Clone Wars – Finally watched a goodly portion of these. They are excellent. If they were made into about 4 movies they would be better than just about any of the live action Star Wars movies.

Blacklist – I love James Spader. Took me a bit to get into this one, and I still don’t care for Lizzy but James Spader is deliciously evil.

Banshee – This is the second time trying to watch this, couldn’t capture my attention the first time. This time I’m really liking it. Every episode seems to have an action scene that could be a season finale scene in any other series.

Quick book notes:

Mainly been reading the Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd back to back. Really liking them, despite the repetition that always happens in series books where they explain a background in each book for the benefit of those who have not read any of the others.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – Still reading this one. It’s been good so far. Odd that I opened it up on the Kindle two days after buying The Coffee Trader by David Liss for my aunt. The bad thing about the Kindle is that I rarely remember what the books are supposed to be about once they get on there and there isn’t a back flap handy to read – turns out The Miniaturist is also set in Amsterdam in roughly the same time period as The Coffee Trader.

Quick note on life:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

Never truer words than when you are waiting for other people to act. :)

Well, that was lazy. Put this out without a title for awhile…

January 31st, 2015

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It is harder than you would think to lick whipped cream off of a steering wheel while driving. But my fingers were of questionable cleanliness, you know. And cheesecake & cream wait for no one.

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And now he has his own tea bowl so he’ll stay out of my cup. I begin to suspect dain-bramage in this cat.

All I need. A cat with an expensive tea habit.

January 23rd, 2015

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I was just curious to see what he’d do. He’s never shown interest in tea before. All I need is to have to fight him for tea as well as watermelon, yogurt, strawberries and olives. Weirdo cat.

Lazy, some would call it. I call it being efficient with my energy.

January 15th, 2015

If I sit still long enough, I don’t have to have the heat as high in the house. Conserving my fat energy, y’know.

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Furry blanket, heat radiating cat, rewatching first season of Downton Abbey, a nicely peppered rare roast beef dinner, great tea and some ADD obsessive planning going on and I’m a happy camper tonight. Despite having had an Office Space kind of week. You know, the ones where you think “I don’t like my job and I don’t think I want to do it anymore”. But I’d still kind of like for them to keep paying me. I don’t think I can keep myself in the style to which I have become accustomed on the salary of a self-employed event planner, which is really what is capturing my attention these days. Certainly, based on the balance book for the tea festival so far, I wouldn’t make enough money to even be broke. :)

In other news, I picked up a craft book tonight on making soap. I don’t need soap. And I’d undoubtedly burn a hole through myself or the cats with the lye. But… it may need to be tried. I have ideas, you see.

YMMV indeed

January 13th, 2015

Saw this recipe for Magic Dust popcorn seasoning a few days ago. I tried it tonight. Should have been suspicious when I looked up nutritional yeast and found it was a vegetarian protein supplement.

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (in health food section)

3 teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (I used the suggested sub of smoked paprika)

Mix 1/4 cup of mixture with 1 cup unpopped popcorn. Pop popcorn according to package directions. Sprinkle more mixture on popped corn.

Eh. It’s… okay. Nowhere near magic. And the yeast is not cheap. I ended up adding more salt after I tasted the first batch. And it should be noted that using the same pan for popping batches after the first will give you some burned bits of seasoning that aren’t very tasty. Wipe out the pan before doing a second popping if you are making a whole cup.

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A day late for Caturday

January 11th, 2015
Oh, this will so be done the next time a cone of shame is needed around here. Someone should seriously market these.

Oh, this will so be done the next time a cone of shame is needed around here. Someone should seriously market these.

Cat on a heating vent. Picture next to "smug" in the dictionary...

Cat on a heating vent. Picture next to “smug” in the dictionary…

hD920DB6E

Dustbury?

January 8th, 2015

Anyone else having issues getting to Dustbury lately? I’ve tried with 3 browsers from 2 different networks and all I get is blank white. I had a pingback on one of my posts just a few days ago from him so I think he’s probably still out there… :)

Wondering if it is just me.

Suck it, AT&T

January 6th, 2015
the technicolor bunny has arrived

The technicolor bunny has arrived. Evil or not, they are no worse than the Telecom Death Star.

Who knew

January 3rd, 2015

I had no idea there was a droid aisle at Sam’s Club.

Utini!

Utini!

Sorry, ma’am. I don’t really care what you wear but if you are under 5′-0″ tall in this outfit, you will be mocked as a Jawa.