Monday, December 31, 2012

All that sparkles...

On a recent cloudless and very cold night I took my newest camera out to explore my world. Night photography has a few inherent challenges, ie it's dark. Photography is greek for "painting with light" or at least that's what it says on the internet. So it is difficult to manage clear "hand held" photograpy, because just breathing can produce camera shake. The reason you get fuzzy pictures is because you have to leave the shutter open a long time to collect "light". Here are some of my results.
Another fun aspect with night photography is water. With reflection you can double your impact.
I prefer to start my night photography a little early, just at dusk. I really like the results. Another key for night photography is to "slow" down your "film". ( yes, I shoot digitally) It means bumping your ISO up to the big numbers. You do run the risk of catching some "noise" but you manage to get clean edges.
So if you have no idea what shutter speed is, and have no desire to compensate for shake by upping you ISO, then it's okay to just say, "Ooooh, pretty."and take my word for all the other stuff. In any case, may 2012 slip quietly into the night and may 2013 find you stretching to reach your goals, and living the abundant life full of all of the things you love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I miss my neighbors

So a number of years ago, as neighbors we decided to pool our resources and use the money we would've spent on "neighbor" gifts as a resource to provide Christmas for a number of families in need. It's been a success for a number of years. But you know what? I miss the mini visits with my neighbors to drop off holiday cheer. With the days so short and the nights so dark and cold you just don't see your neighbors as often. I miss them.
With that in mind, I started baking and creating and well I've probably gotten a little carried away. I'll have to share my bounty with my neighbors anonymously, just like when I ditch zucchini's on their porch in the fall and run away. If any of the following goodies get delivered to your house, I just don't know how it was possible, but don't check your bushes too carefully because I'm just trying to catch a glimpse of you, just like a stalker.
I can't wait for the spring, when the weather allows us to spend more time outdoors where we can lean on the fence and converse and catch up with neighbors.

Until then, these visions of sugar may dance in your heads and on your front porch, but I have no idea where they came from.
Merriest Christmas and have a Happy, sparkle, Do-over, shiny, blank canvas, full of promise, hopeful, brand spankin' New Year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Need is the "mother" of invention

So I'm a collector. I'm not real fussy about what I collect, but I kind of like excess in most all things. But that is another confession. So I had more jewelry than I knew what to do with. I had a very dear friend that for a time created me one of a kind semi-precious stone jewelry. I have bracelets, earrings and necklaces, oh my. Last year for Christmas I took a number of them that I planned to "retire" and invited my daughters to take the one they liked the best. I mean why wait until I'm gone to "cash" in on my goods, right? It's way more fun for me to see them wearing them while I'm alive then after I'm gone, I'm guessing. So anyhow, that didn't really reduce my inventory by very much.
So on any given day, this is the pile up on my dresser. I tried to condense it, organize it, make it more presentable.
I invested in ice cube trays, but the clutter continued. So then I was inspired by something I saw on pinterest, but I made a few modifications as you will see.
This is the end product, it's nearly finished. I just need to hang it on the wall. Here's how it was done. Notice I didn't say, how I did it? Because I relied heavily on my handy husband.
These are stretcher boards that you find in the craft store in the painting supply aisle. You purchase the sides individually so you can create any size you want. A little wood glue and a rubber mallet and they are all snug waiting for the next step.
This is your regular go to the feed store and buy chicken wire, chicken wire. It comes in 24 foot lengths, which had my handy husband considering chickens as a side hobby because he didn't want the extra to go to waste.

Next came the creative part. I used a mixed media approach to decorating the wood stretcher boards. By mixed media, I mean that I couldn't decide so I just experimented with tissue paper, cotton fabric and scrap book paper. All secured under a layer of modpodge, just because.
I had hinges on one side and this fun little clasp to keep it closed on the other side.
And so now I have no fuss way to hang all my bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The great thing about the chicken wire is the holes are big enough you can get your fingers through to connect anything you want. Now about that empty space on my dresser? I wonder what could go there?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

16 days does not equal a month

So I had a really good plan. I would blog everyday and share with you just what I was thankful for, because surely I could commit to 30 days right? WRONG. I really do have commitment issues. It's one of the many reasons I don't seek therapy. In order to seek therapy you have to (1) want to change. (2) be willing to follow a plan. (3) expect to see results. Truth be told I'm a closet crazy person, because I keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.
So as far as commitment goes, I'm happily married for nearly 30 years. I've worked for the same corporation for more than 24 years. I've had the same faith and belief in God since before I was 8. But I can't commit to (1) a fitness program. (2) a diet or food plan of any kind. (3) taking supplements on a regular basis.
I had a milestone birthday this year and I'm really proud of the fact that I am still currently drug free. I get no prescriptions refilled every month. It sounds like a big deal I know. The truth is, even if I needed meds I wouldn't consistantly take them. It's just not in my nature. I'm too busy pursuing the next bright and shiny thing.
Speaking of bright and shiny things. Check out these.
These are the two newest Christmas ornaments that will hang from my yet to be purchased tree. I'm quirky enough that those that know me just smile and shake their heads and need no further information about why I would choose these particular ornaments.
They have a story though. This year, my next is only 1/2 full. My 2 unmarried children will be home for Christmas. Kat and Chad will be in Alaska, thus the moose. Amber, Paul and the 4 cutest grandboys you have ever seen will be in Missouri, near St. Louis, the home of the cardinals. Thus the bright red bird. Makes perfect sense to me, how about you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 26 Reading and Fearlessness

In my home growing up there wasn't a lot of money or material things. Both of my parents worked full time. Sometimes my father was stationed away from our family for months or even years at a time. My life was different from anything that I consider normal now. Even in tough times my parents helped me to focus on things that would make a difference in my future. They taught me to read, and then instilled a love of the written word in me. They told me that if I could read I could do anything and with the absolute faith of a child, I believed them.
My new hobby is reading recipes and then fearlessly taking on the challenge of creating something outside my comfort zone. My fearlessness is more misnomer than actual truth. It's just that in my day job people sometimes die. Medicine doesn't save everyone, nor should it. So comparatively messing up a recipe, unpicking a  cross-stitch or having a crooked zipper leave me with no shame. Because they really don't matter. A messed up recipe can be redone, cross-stitch can be re-stitched and zippers still open and shut when they are crooked.
So this thanksgiving I decided to create a new york style cheesecake. I usually just do the jello and creamcheese thing in the refridgerater and top it with cherries and call it good. Instead, I got out the springform pan and baked it. Here are the results.
First you make the crust and bake it briefly in the oven.
Then you cook the pecan pie layer. Stir quickly so it doesn't boil over onto your countertop.

Pour into the crust. It's already looking yummy and we haven't even gotten to the cheese cake layer.

Beat it, then pour it and prepare to bake.
Out of the oven, a couple of minor cracks but no fissure. I used a pan of hot water on the rack below to keep the oven moist and prevent deep crevices in my cake.
And there you have it. Yes, it really does taste as good as it looks. Okay, so it was a little labor intensive but it was fun to try something new. And who knew I liked to take pictures of food?
 Here is the recipe if you want to try it yourself.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake
¾  cups vanilla wafer crumbs
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
 cup butter, melted
Pecan Filling:
1 cup sugar
 cup dark corn syrup
 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
 ½ cups chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
 ¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine wafer crumbs and brown sugar. Stir in melted butter. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9″ springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pecan Filling:
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into crust and set aside.

Cheesecake Filling:
Reduce oven to 325°. With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and flour and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in cream and vanilla. Pour over pecan filling. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven with the door closed for 1 hour. Remove from oven and run a knife along the outside edges to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. Let cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 25; I'm grateful for new things.

 I have already confessed my obsession with all things pinterest. I get to check out all the things my family and friends pin as well as stalk strangers with common interests. I had no idea that I was a "closet foodie" until I started salivating over recipes on pinterest. Here is one of my most recent finds, with a few tweaks. I'm lazy, instead of pumpkin, solid & packed and then adding cinnamon and other seasonings, I just use Pumpkin pie mix, solid & packed. Saves me the steps of measuring cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

Prep Time 15 Minutes
Cook Time 40 Minutes
Servings 24

  • 1 box (18 oz. size) Yellow Cake Mix, Divided
  • 1 whole Egg, Lightly Beaten
  • ½ cups Butter, Melted
  • 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  • 1 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 cup Canned Pumpkin pie mix
  • ⅔ cups Evaporated Milk
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • ¼ cups Cold Butter, Diced
This recipe has three parts, a crust, a filling and a topping. Before you start anything, preheat your oven to 350F, and get out a 13×9 pan.
For the crust:
Reserve 1 cup of the cake mix for the topping. Pour remaining cake mix into a bowl, then stir in the one beaten egg and the 1/2 cup of melted butter until the mixture is well combined. Press evenly into the 13×9 pan and set aside.
For the filling:
Combine 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, the ginger, cloves, salt, pumpkin, evaporated milk and 2 eggs together. Using a whisk, stir until smooth. Pour over the crust.
For the topping:
Stir together the 1 cup of reserved cake mix, and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Cut in the 1/4 cup of butter dice using a pastry blender or a fork. Sprinkle evenly over the filling.
Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes, or until filling is set. Allow to cool completely, cut into bars, and serve!

And here are the pictures to prove I did it myself.

It was very well received at my last function requiring dessert. I had one 12 year old reported to being a "finicky" eater by his mother request 3 pieces.  I'd say that's a keeper. It can be improved with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Hope you have the same success I did. ;D

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 24: I'm grateful for tears

Tears don't always mean sadness. I suffer from an extremely high "water table." My eyes tend to leak when I receive a phone call from one of my daughters, when the mail comes, when a hallmark commercial is shown and whenever the mood strikes me.
Tears can be both cathartic and refreshing. I'm not a big fan of the "all out sob", especially at bed time because mostly it just causes me to wake with a headache and very puffy eyes.
The best tears are probably the ones you experience about the same time you want to "pee" your pants from laughing so hard. Tears show the humanity in all of us. We share our tears when someone gets bad news, it's a sign of empathy and understanding. Tears can indicate frustration, when no matter how hard you try, things just are not coming together the way you would like.
Tears can indicate need, anger, even hunger, depending on the day. The best thing about tears? They almost always net you a hug. And if we spent more time hugging, more would be right with the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

gratitude Day #21

Okay, so I've been really stingy with sharing all the things I am grateful for. Today, I'm grateful for my co-workers. I have had an amazingly tough year and they have had my back all the way through. They are just a little bit nosy and don't allow me to throw "pity parties" for one. They all want to be invited and figure out a solution. It's rare in health care to truly find a "team" spirit. Were better than the three musketeers because there are more than three of us. Busy isn't bad, it helps me to be distracted from my personal dramas. The team I work with is really good at what they do, and they make me better everyday by associating with them.
So if you've ever wondered about which professionals you should be respectful too? I'm just saying a food service worker works long hours on their feet, they are not your mother but they do take your demands, complaints and they clean up after you. They also have ultimate access to the food and drink you are about to consume. Really, think about it.
Right behind them, are the health care professionals. Seriously, these are not people you want to annoy. I cheerfully "stab" more than half a dozen people a day. I'm quite well versed in where to place an I.V. And just saying, it's possible I can choose where I shouldn't have gone as well. Oh, oops, need to "stick" you again. NEVER would happen, but it's a nice fantasy, right?
Also, be kind to teachers. Really, education is expensive. Learn so you can progress and maybe get a scholarship. Last I checked, you can't get a good paying job making spit balls, acting entitled or being lazy. Do the work.
And that brings me back to my co-workers doing the "work". I promise you it is 10x easier to work at than to find away to avoid it. Be grateful and hug a co-worker today.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gratitude day 18

My daughter Kat, reminds me when I miss a day. I will try to do better. Today, a sunday, there is a little extra time to reflect.
 Today, I am grateful for my health. I've been on the earth long enough to develop any number of debilitating illnesses and chronic diseases but so far I've won the health lottery. Some of it is luck, I have been given decent genes and some of it is choice. I don't drink, smoke or take recreational drugs. I have an active lifestyle. I also have my addictions.
 I crave pepsi (full sugar, full caffeine) and peanut butter M&M's most of the time. I'm grateful that my addictions have not over powered my good health. But just the same, I'm willing to let them continue to fight it out. So with that said, I'm going to pour a can of pepsi and enjoy it with a chaser of peanut butter M&M's before I plan dinner.
 As far as vices go, at least it's tasty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 13; Grateful for choices

I'm blessed to live in a country that allows choice. I can choose where to live, where to work and how to spend my free time and my limited disposable income. I'm in the middle of a project with way too many choices. It's mind boggling when searching for counter tops to be faced with so many choices. Just take a look and then help me select the winner.

I should mention at this point, that I have "caviar taste" but a "fish bait" budget. This slab is "muscarella". On close out because it's a one of a kind, I'm still looking at 1200 dollars for the slab and that's before the labor. At this point I may have to choose food and shelter over counter tops.

 Of course, the one I really like, I don't know the name of. They are all similar in that they are "warm" and "veiny". "Veiny" and "warm" are two things menopausal women don't like to be reminded of.

And there you have it. What choice would you make? And why? Yeah, this post comes with an essay question.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 12 Perspective

Okay, so my daily challenge of being grateful has gotten a little hung up  on my real everyday life. I work. I survive Primary Programs. I work. I do laundry. I plan to remodel my kitchen. You get the picture.
Today I'm grateful for perspective. Today, I worked. (I know you are starting to see a theme here, huh?) Then I went to the movies with two of my favorite men, my husband and my son. We went to the 4 p.m. showing. Everyone else attending used their senior discount, which I thought was funny, because it's the same as matinee prices. I thought about whipping out my own AARP card which I don't really have because when I received it in the mail I was so offended, I threw it away.
But case in point, if you want to feel younger, even on a birthday that includes fifty candles, seek out people older than you.
We saw the latest "James Bond" movie. It had some very "old school" parts and far less skin and innuendo than usual. It was fun to listen to all the seniors laughing. Even funner to laugh right along with them.
Reaching 5 decades is one of those milestones. You kind of have to accept that more than likely you have reached or surpassed at least early middle age by now. My children do not believe me. When I have them do the math, they are certain I won't reach middle age until my 70's. It's not really their fault that their view is so skewed. I've never acted my age, and I don't plan to start now.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 9 Embracing change...

I think few things strike more fear in the hearts of the masses than CHANGE. My family will all call BS on me if I claim to like change. But I do. How else would I take on the following project. You see once upon a time, I fell in love with the color of barn red. It has permeated every room in my house. I use it everywhere as an accent. No kidding, just look...
 This is from the quilt in my bedroom.
 The curtain in the guest shower.
 The pain color down the hallway. The first wall you see when you enter my home.
 My pictures are matted in this color.
 And my curtains are hung in this color.
 All my accents on the wall share the same background color and so
 do the decorations on my table.

No surfaces have been left without some hint of barn red. Then I decided on a new color to accent with. Something fresh and clean. It started at my front door, that used to be barn red and has slowly creeped into my home.
 Difficult to see in this first picture, but it's a light turquoise color. More green than blue. It looks clean and crisp.
 Notice the demarcation where the wall meets the ceiling.
My husband occasionally slips and calls this color "blue", to  which I tell him, if it's blue he will have to repaint because I do not want "blue". I had no idea how much of a work in progress this would be until I saw all the previously selected accents in red. I'm sure glad my husband didn't think past painting the first two walls. Because obviously, redecorating will be priceless.