Monday, December 28, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday, uh, Monday?

My schedule was even more messed up than usual last week with the holidays and whatnot and I totally missed posting Simple Joy Sunday. I'm in a fairly foul mood today, so I'm hoping that thinking of some nice stuff from last week will help cheer me up.

Who knew I would have so much fun making cookies? Especially for a first try.

Okay, something weird happened this week. One of the guys that Scott had over playing games owns a spice, culinary herb, and tea shop. I know he said that they are looking to sell, but don't know if it's next month or next year. I am in no way ready to own a store yet and it's really far away, but how's that for serendipity?

My Jedi Kitty Jack loves his Christmas present: a catnip light saber from GEEKitty!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-thon!!

I fully admit that I am not the world's best cook. Far from it, but I keep trying nonetheless. So far as baking goes, my experience is pretty limited. I've made scones from scratch but that's pretty much it; all other baking endeavors have come out of a box. Last week I was dying for Christmas cookies, so I took it upon myself to give it a shot.

I stuck with some straightforward recipes, but had what I thought may have been an ambitious quantity on the list for a first try. With supplies and ingredients ready to go, holiday music playing, and wine in hand I started my cookie bakeathon. I made Monster Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chips with walnuts and orange, Shortbread, and Hershey's Peanut Butter Cookies. I have the dough for Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread chilling in the refrigerator for tonight -- I just didn't have it in me to finish making them yesterday.

All in all, I think I did well. The very first batch that I made were the Monster Cookies: some were done, some weren't completely done. It was weird. Chocolate chips came next and I made the mistake of using a couple of pans that I'm not too fond of and they stuck a little bit but they're still tasty. The rest of them came out really well though, I think! With only two of us in the house, we now have an overabundance of cookies, so I may be bringing some in to work. It was actually a lot fun making them and I have more confidence to try different stuff next time. Wish me luck with the Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread!

UPDATE: The sugar cookies came out somewhat less than exciting. They just didn't taste that rich. They won't be the first to go, but they certainly won't go to waste. The gingerbread, despite having been chilled for 24 hours isn't that firm and is still a bit sticky. Not sure what happened there. I put them in the freezer and thought I'd see how they look tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

It's a little late, but we finally put the tree up. Our schedules have pretty much been in opposition lately, so this really is the first opportunity Scott and I had to do it. No sooner was it up than Jack was under it. The crazy cat loves to chill under the tree, but doesn't like the tree skirt. He usually takes it upon himself to just push it out of the way. He also let me put a cute little elf collar around his neck which he was having NONE of last year. Either I caught him unsuspecting or this shows how much he's grown to trust me in the last couple of years since I brought him in. Later in the week, I spent some time wrapping presents and it is just packed under the tree. Jack now needs to lay behind the tree if he still wants to be under it.

The people in the Ivory Tower here at work are at it again. I heard a couple of months ago that there would probably be layoffs by Christmas. I heard that rumor again yesterday morning, but by the afternoon that rumor changed to by March. Getting strung along like this sucks, but it's a bit of a relief to think that I may continue to get a paycheck for another few months.

Had a fun evening this week drinking wine and playing a Louis Armstrong Christmas album while I sorted through another box of herbs I just received. My work room closet is being overrun with Mason jars stocked with lovely dried herbs and my kitchen counter is being overrun by various jars of herbs brewing into one concoction or another. I recently added a jar of St. John's Wort Oil to the kitchen counter. When the herb is done working its magic in a few weeks, the oil will be an amazing blood red. I really can't wait to see it. Another day was spent filtering my herbal vinegars and rebottling them for gifting as well as making Kloss's liniment and Echinacea tincture. I am so happy making my herbal remedies.

I made two sales this week! The first sale was my Spirit of the Sea Mojo Bag in my Artfire shop and the second was a set of Chain Maille Juggling Balls in my Etsy shop. Both shops have been pretty quiet, so last week's two sales plus these made me smile big.

Scott and I tried a new place for dinner in between shows this week called Daily Eats. It's diner style and very much reminded me of a place around the block from my college dorm that I loved called Chat and Chew. Funny because both places have killer sweet potato fries. We even had cupcakes for dessert. I was so stuffed afterwards, but luckily we had time for a little walk before having to go back to work.

Today I'm embarking on a marathon cookie baking extravaganza! I've made scones from scratch, but aside from that all of my baking has been out of the box so this is kinda huge for me. Wish me luck!!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Finds - Fantasy Winter Wonderland

Since we decorated the tree this week, I've been in quite the holiday mood. I've even been humming holiday tunes throughout the week (very much something that I wouldn't normally do).

Here is some of my favorite fantasy winter wonderland art:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Lavender Honey

I love lavender. I love honey. Not only does lavender calm nerves, ease depression, and lift your spirits but it also smells and tastes amazing. When I found the video to make Lavender Honey through Mountain Rose Herb's YouTube channel, I knew I had to try it. I wanted to embed the video for you to watch it here, but it's not cooperating. Simply click on this link to be brought to the video directly on YouTube.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

I had a crazy work schedule this week. Just a few long days anyway. So, needless to say, not too much exciting has happened outside of work. Let's see if I can come up with a few simple joys for the week anyway.

I really, really don't like mall shopping. Actually if you ask other crafters or artists they would probably tell you the same. The big box, generic quality of everything bores me and I simply don't have the patience to deal with holiday shoppers. This week, however, I made a quick trip to the mall to pick up the couple of things I couldn't buy online or make and it was relatively painless. With the exception of an overly talky cashier who seemed to be a bit confused (but even she wasn't that bad because she gave me an extra 25% off) it really wasn't that bad. I even found a cute little shirt I liked at Old Navy for only $7. Score.

I found the most awesome toy for Jack (The Official Cat of Athena's Armoury) for his Christmas present: it's a light saber from GeeKitty! I'm getting it for him in purple which is the color of Mace Windu's light saber (Sam Jackson played him in the movie). I didn't know this story, but apparently he requested that the letters BMF (a reference to a something expletive he said in Pulp Fiction) were inscribed onto it. Kate (from GeeKitty) wrote to me and asked if I would like her to include that. Wasn't that awesome of her? I'm very excited about this present for my Jedi kitty.

I happily made two sales this week in my Etsy shop bringing my number of sold items up to 55. That's a nice even number. It made me happy. Plus, one of the sales was a pair of earrings that I've had in my shop more or less since it opened. It's so nice that they've finally found their home.

I'm very excited about the package I put together for my FAE swap giftee! I can't share because I don't want to give it away. I hope she likes it!

Despite, a trip that should only take an hour, hour & a half actually taking three I still had a nice time at this year's Atomic Holiday Bazaar. I got to see some fellow crafters that I usually only get to see at craft fairs and I picked up some fun booty including a Ganesh pendant (at right) by Demigod as well as one of her Buddha trays. The fun faux gauge earrings by Meandering Mimi also caught my eye.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Herbal Concoction: Fire Cider

Fire cider is great to have on hand when you have sinus colds and congestion, but it certainly isn't for the faint of heart. The herbs used in the recipe are warming and stimulate the immune system. You can take a tablespoon straight, add to herbal tea, or even use it in soups and other cooking creations.

There are many different variations to the recipe attributed to many herbalists, but many people seem to associate the original recipe with Rosemary Gladstar. Since most of the herbs used are antibacterial and stimulate the circulatory system, some people use it as a tonic and drink small amounts daily in the fall and winter. Others use it at the first sign of a cold. Some folks let it steep for two weeks, others two to three months. This is the first time I'm making it, so I'm going to try steeping it for two months (seems like a good average) and see how it goes. I used traditional ingredients including: ginger, horseradish, garlic, onion and cayenne in a base of apple cider vinegar.

Basic Recipe
1/4-1/2 cup horseradish root, grated
1/8-1/4 cup garlic, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup ginger, grated
1/2-1 whole fresh cayenne pepper OR 1 tsp dried cayenne powder
apple cider vinegar, preferably organic
honey, to taste

Place herbs in jar. Pour vinegar and cover herbs by one to two inches. Seal jar tightly and let steep desired amount of time (as I mentioned, I'm trying two months). Strain herbs and pour the filtered vinegar into a glass jar. Add honey to taste, if you'd like to sweeten it. Fire Cider may be kept unrefrigerated since vinegar is a natural preservative.

To Use
If you'd like to use it as a tonic, 1-2 tablespoons per day would work. Take 1-2 tablespoons at the first sign of a cold or upper respiratory infection and continue throughout the day (every 2 to 3 hours) until the symptoms subside. Drink it straight or dilute it in a bit or water or even tomato juice.

It can also be used as a base for salad dressings, a seasoning in soups, or even to flavor steamed veggies.

Externally, rub it directly on the skin or use as a compress for sore muscles or to aid in peripheral (hands and feet) circulation. You can also soak a clean cloth in it to be placed on a congested chest.

Some Beneficial Properties of the Herbs
Ginger aids in stomach issues including nausea and vomiting and sluggish digestion. It also stimulates circulation. Ginger is useful for all types of congestion in the body.

Horseradish has antibacterial properties and is of benefit in respiratory tract and urinary tract infections. It is also often used as a digestive agent. Horseradish is a good diuretic that promotes perspiration. It is also an expectorant and mildly antibiotic.

Garlic is an amazing antimicrobial and antibacterial making it useful in treating bladder and kidney infections, yeast infections, strep throats, and ear infections. It supports healthy immune function and opens the pores of the skin to lower a fever. It also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and has an overall beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.

Cayenne is an intense circulatory stimulant, promotes the movement of mucous from the body, and is an anti-inflammatory.

In addition to just being tasty, onions are also antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and high in anti-oxidents.

**Please consult with an herbalist or your doctor before using Fire Cider if you are taking any medication with blood thinning properties.**

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

For the second year in a row, I nearly walked right into Randy "Macho Man" Savage at the annual Florida Orchestra Concert sponsored by the New York Yankees (aka George Steinbrenner) for inner city kids. Both times we each apologized and laughed it off. Strange tradition to start, but he cracks me up, so it's fun.

Shortly after bumping into Macho Man, I hear on the backstage speakers that they are introducing Tino Martinez to the stage. Tino Martinez is a former New York Yankees first baseman and one of my all time favorite players. I literally ran to the stage. He gave a very sweet inspirational speech to the kids and then came off stage wiping his brow as if he were nervous. We had a brief chat and then a coworker offered me his camera and Tino was gracious enough to take a picture with me.

I was pretty much beaming for the rest of the day.

After the amazing meeting with Tino, I was on my cell phone outside (telling my mom, who is also a huge fan, about what happened) when I found a $50 restaurant gift certificate. Sweet.

My Queen of Hungary's Water was fully extracted and ready for use this week. I strained my herbs, mixed in the witch hazel and a few drops of tea tree oil, and was good to go. It smells great and left my skin feeling all tingly.

Scott is STILL working 16 hour days, but one day this week he broke for dinner a little early and I was still around. We ran over to The Cheesecake Factory and got some dinner with a gift card that my mom sent me a while back. It was so nice to be able to spend some time together.

I made my first couple of pomanders this week based on this tutorial over at The Essential Herbal Blog. I'm hooked and totally want to make some more to add to my Christmas presents this year. My nails were dyed a dark brown from working with the cloves, but my hands smelled amazing!!

I also made some valerian tincture. I love playing with herbs, but the waiting is brutal. It took all of a minute to put the tincture together, but now I have to wait six weeks for the herbs to work their magic to be ready for re-bottling!

When I was wandering around CVS the other day, a Navy Blue nail polish caught my eye. Although I always keep my nails well groomed, I very rarely give myself a manicure and when I do it's never with a dark color. This was totally out of character, but I gave myself a mani (partially to hide the dye from the cloves) pedi with this Navy Blue nail polish and I love it!!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?