Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Party Pics

Pictures from the Holiday Craft Party. Wish we'd taken more.

Provincial chestnuts... roasted in the oven. Pierce with a fork; preheat oven to 450 degrees; bake for 15-20 minutes. The chestnuts will be HOT, and the steaming soft nutmeat inside may split the hard shell and send bits of chestnut all over the kitchen. (Kinda nifty!) Peel the hard shell off. The lighter brown coating inside is edible, 'though not very tasty. The soft nutmeat is very smooth and buttery -- like Yukon Gold potatoes.

DIG, CraftKat, Bugs, and Daisy

DIG and her amazing, two-sided gift tags. "I just glued two pieces of paper together!"

Golden Poet with embossing supplies. Critter's teacher gift boxes. CraftKat's new mug!!

DIG, LadyLynn, and ScrapMaven - discussing the b&w scrap-pack of CraftKat's. Is it origami paper??? No - just expensive squares of print paper...

SassyGirl selecting "choice cookies." Also note our display of lovely parting gifts, and the ever inspiring kitchen.

Thanks for coming, everyone. And weren't the chocolate chip cookies TO DIE FOR???!!!

…And A Stick of Buttah

As usual, I had far too many cookies left over from the Craft Party. I brought a bag of pumpkin cookies and lime shortbread in for The Boys at work. It’s been a pretty stressful few days as we’ve switched to a new Internet Service Provider and fired up a new Internet Firewall server. The last time the Evil PXE upgraded our firewall it took him five hours. And that included building the server from scratch, installing all the updates, and configuring the firewall settings.

Two days later, and a week or two of reading up on the process, we had our firewall and a dozen websites functional again. The Evil PXE, in short, was fried.

At 4:15, he strolled by my desk, opened up the snack cupboard, grabbed two bags of Doritos, and announced, “It’s BF 2:30!”—our phrase for playing a round of Battlefield 2.

We laughed and watched him wearily sit down at his desk to fire up the game. Our newest staffer reached for a cookie in the ziplock baggie closest to him. Evil PXE comically swatted at his hand and then hugged the cookies and his Doritos tightly to his chest. “Hey! That’s my lunch!” I stared at him blankly for a moment until he yelled his manic/nervous, “What? What?!

I smirked. “I’m just watching how many of those shortbread cookies you’ve eaten today. You’ve probably eaten a whole stick of butter by now…”

He hung his head. “Don’t tell me that…”

Lime Shortbread Cookies

2 c. unsalted butter (4 sticks)
1 c. powdered sugar
4-6 limes, zested *
1 t. vanilla
4 c. flour

2 c. powdered sugar
¼ c. lime juice, freshly squeezed **

Cream the butter, powdered sugar and zest until well combined (use a stand mixer if you have one). Add vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Slowly add the flour until well combined.

Lay out some wax paper and squeeze/roll dough out into two equal logs, about 2 inches in diameter and 11 inches long. Wrap the dough with the wax paper and chill until hardened, about one hour.

Slice the cookies from the log about ¼ to 1/3 of an inch thick. Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set in a 325 degree oven. Bake until cookies are lightly browned on the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Don’t over bake!

Set the cookies on a rack to cool. Mix the powdered sugar and lime juice together in a small bowl and spoon over the tops of the cookies.

* I zested six limes and one thumb. Just kidding...

** I used closer to ½ c. of lime juice for the frosting. The icing was too thick with just ¼ c. of juice.

This recipe came from another blogger and can be seen in its original context here.


I did it to myself again.

I drank coffee after lunch.

And at 1:00 AM last night, I was WIDE AWAKE and surfing around and around on the Tube. Did you know there's nothing on after 1:30 AM? Nothing with a plot, that is. Well, SciFi, but I was trying to get sleepy, not scared witless.

Today, I'm not having any coffee. It's lunch time, and all I really want to do is sleep. I get a little silly when I'm sleep deprived. The good news is that everything is really funny to me right now. The bad news is I still have at least 5 hours to go in the work day, with a super important meeting towards the end, and I'm not sure how I'm going to make it. Probably wouldn't be in my best interest to fall asleep in front of my boss...

Ah, what a viscous circle I have created for myself.


Of the four new cookie recipes I baked for our annual Craft Party, this is the one that CrafterKat said I had to make again. I chose this one because I thought it would be perfect for dunking in a large cup of coffee or glass of milk. Turns out I was right.

Gingersnap Sticks

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 ¼ c. + 2 T. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
2 small eggs or 1 ½ large eggs*
1/3 c. molasses
3 c. flour
2 ½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2 ½ t. cinnamon**
2 ½ t. ginger (ground)
1/8 t. black pepper (ground)

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter until soft. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients until all is well blended.

Line a bread loaf pan with plastic wrap so that the some of it hangs over the outside of the pan. Press the dough into the pan, packing it tightly. Make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the remaining plastic and then place a second bread loaf pan onto the mixture (stacking them). This will even out the top of the dough. Freeze the bread pan loaf sandwich for several hours (overnight is best). This dough gets soft quickly, so work fast before it turns into a gooey mess!

Slice the brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8” thick. ***

Place the slices on a parchment-lined cookie tray with plenty of space between. With this much butter, the cookies will spread.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them—there’s a fine line between under baked and burned. I took them out at 12 minutes and they still looked like a chewy cookie. By the time I had tasted one 30 minutes later, they had crisped considerably, like a true gingersnap.

* Based on my chocolate chip recipe from Alton Brown, I used one egg and one egg yolk. Seemed to work well.

** The Costco-sized cinnamon and nutmeg containers look surprisingly similar. I’m pretty sure I used nutmeg and no cinnamon. This is what we tech/geek people refer to as a feature!

*** Do you know how thin 1/8 inch is?! My knife skills are not that precise—I was lucky to get them about 1/4 inch thick. The dough was incredibly hard. Trying to cut the ginger brick with a wicked long knife, I ended up with white indentions in my palm from the top of the blade. CrafterKat asked why I kept rubbing my left hand on Sunday; I told her, “My knifing hand hurts…” Perhaps I should call these Jack The Ripper Gingers? Next time I may just roll the dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze that.

I should add that I found the original recipe here; I've reprinted it with my comments. One thing I enjoy about sharing recipes is the little stories that go with them. I liked how this chef got the recipe!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Party, Party, Party

WONDERFUL holiday craft party this weekend. JewelGeek baked all day Saturday and right up to the last minute on Sunday. Our livingroom, now suddenly devoid of couch and occasional chair*, was filled with card tables and folding chairs. Craft supplies overflowed from the long bookcase to the computer desk. Little "guest presents" lined the half wall between the kitchen and livingroom. And cookies, veggies, coffee, and crackers covered our kitchen counters.

It was wet and grey outside, but roasting warm inside with 15 people in attendance. One of our biggest crafting events EVER. These are all amazing women, who would probably craft full time if they thought they could make any money at it and get dental insurance...

ScrapMaven sat at the computer desk, working on her holiday cards, and doled out supplies as people asked for them. It was an unintentional choice of seating - she was just looking for an open space - but it worked out great, as she really knew where everything was. After almost of year of scrapbooking together, she has a pretty good handle on what I have. Or at least knows I probably have the required supply around somewhere. Oh, and the other guests decided ScrapMaven hoarded the good stickers, when after the event they rummaged through the sticker box and found some they hadn't seen earlier...

GoldenPoet, who usually addresses her holiday cards at this party every year, took a break from addressing this year and decided to craft. She stamped and embossed happily in a corner seat, leaving with quite an array of vibrant Celtic note cards. She was so engrossed in her work, she missed it when her number was called for her guest gift. Fortunately, there were some left when she realized what was going on. :)

Critter decorated her teacher's gift boxes. We found small Chinese take-out boxes at JoAnns in pure white, which were perfect for the little items she is giving this year. She doodled cute designs and phrases on all of them. Oh, and she ate almost all of the cheese.

Several of my coworkers came. It is always exciting to see coworkers outside of the work place. I like watching people relax and become themselves. There is something about crafting that forces us to drop our facades and give in to the fun. I'm serious - glue sticks should be in every First Aid kit for stress relief.

SassyGirl, Bugs, Magenta, and Daisy crafted their hearts out. I saw a million little pieces of paper become gift tags, some serious photo organization, and some cute foamie kits assembled for public display. At one point, the room was completely silent, except for the whir of the heat gun. And I think more than 1 tongue stuck out in concentration.

Two of my dearest companions from my arts days rejoined the group. I hadn't seen one of them, DIG**, for over a year. She got lost, as usual, and arrived a bit late. I tried to convince her to stay late, too, but to no avail. And LadyLynn brought her neighbor with her. In her usual, charming, elegant way, she talked up our event to her neighbor, and then sheepishly called us to see if it was ok to bring her along. [Of course!] While DIG and LadyLynn visited quickly in the kitchen, LadyLynn's neighbor made a whirlwind of crafty items. At one point, I saw her freehand a beautiful card. (Must be nice to have talent!)

I should have taken more pictures. (I think JewelGeek snapped a few, which I'll post soon.) I should have spent 5 minutes sitting with each person, watching what they were doing and visiting. Instead, I got engrossed in my own craft project, and eating, and suddenly the event was over.

We hugged goodbye (it's a woman-thing), and packed bags of cookies up for our guests. I had SO much fun. It was hard to let everyone go. The house was mighty empty afterwards.

On the plus side, everyone asked when we were doing it again. And I'm thinking a Spring-themed craft party might be fun...

*We gave away our couch, a rocking chair, an occasional chair with ottoman, and another occasional chair on craigslist Saturday morning. But that's another Blog entry...

**DIG - Directionally Impaired Girl

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dressed For Success

Critter awoke this morning after eight and quickly pulled on the first clean* thing she found: a cornflower-blue, summery camisole top and a somewhat matching broomstick skirt. She answered her e-mails, chatted with people who came by to pick up some old furniture, and shivered while playing an arcade game on the computer.

She pushed herself away from the computer, hugging her cold arms. "I'm gonna put some pants on and dress like a woman..."

*clean is a relative term...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

That Politically Correctly-Named Winter Holiday-Time Is Upon Us

So, suffice it to say that I LOOOOOOOOOOVE the holidays. Correction. That should be THE HOLIDAYS; all caps because I am, in fact, screaming this. At least, in my head.

And about this time of year - or so close to after Halloween, the carved pumpkin hasn't even shriveled yet - I haul out the decorations and put up the lights on the house (if I bothered to take them down the previous year...) Every nook and cranny twinkles, sparkles, and overflows with snowmen, Santas, gingerbread men, colored balls, and everything Christmasy.

All of this is in preparation for our Annual Holiday Craft Party, which we host on a weekend in November for our spirited female friends. I reason that the house should reflect the season we are trying to jump-start. And JewelGeek bakes cookies. Heaven.

THIS year, however, we are having our carpet replaced. On November 30th. Well AFTER the party. And we have to move everything out of the way.

Which means no furniture.

And no decorations.

Until December.

I think I'm going to cry...

Glory To Pasta Everywhere

Critter sat at the dining table yesterday evening, taping together a DNA strand for science, and humming to herself.

"Is that the Battle Hymn of the Republic?"

Critter giggled. "Huh? No, I'm singing 'Noodle noodle noodle noooodle. Noodle noodle noodle nooooodle.' I've been singing it all week."

CrafterKat sighed. "That's the Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday Errands In Which We Discover Vegetables and The King

I started my morning by running quick errands: mailing the mortgage check at the local post office, picking up a prescription, and going to the bank to put a savings bond in the safety deposit box. We've been meaning to do this last one for several weeks but can never make it during the work week. Didn't occur to me that if the post office was closed for Veteran's Day, the bank might be, too. Sigh.

Visited Target next and checked on items that might be purchased for Christmas gifts. I gave CrafterKat a call and filled her in on certain items which shouldn't be discussed here...

Met up with Critter and CrafterKat for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, one of Critter's favorite restaurants. I was then informed that I shouldn't discuss Christmas things on the cell phone as Critter overheard the word 'gift certificate' in my conversation. "I guess you won't be getting any, then," I answered.

She ignored me. "Oh, and you have to find a better hiding spot for Christmas gifts." Sigh.

Critter wolfed down salad and a baked potato and bounced through a re-telling of her phone conversation with LaLa and Mr. GoGoGo. "I called and LaLa answered and I told her--um, asked her--if we could have brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving 'cause I really like 'em and she said 'what?!' and told me I had to talk to Mr. GoGoGo because she couldn't hear very well. And so Mr. GoGoGo got on the phone and I said 'can I have brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving?' and he said, 'why?' and I said 'because they are my favorite vegetable in the whole wide world and if you can't have them at Thanksgiving then what's the point?' And he said 'plain or with cheese?' and I said, 'no just butter'. And, so, yeah."

We swapped parental duties and I took Critter to the mall for some clothes shopping. "I'm so hyper," she said. "I had Starbucks, you know, an egg nog drink, and it was so nummy and when we went to Pet Smart for cat food and I told CrafterKat that we had to be calm because the animals all know when people are hyper and they would all go Roowfff and Meeeeowwww and Cheeerp and Squeeeeek..." We laughed.

The first store didn't have what she wanted so we began the long trek to the anchor store at the opposite end of the mall. As we passed a bridal shop, I was informed that Critter really liked the red gown displayed by the front door. "I'm gonna have a black and red wedding, you know. I'm gonna wear black and everyone else is going to wear red. And it's going to be at night. On Christmas. In Las Vegas."

I chuckled. "Is Elvis going to be there?"

She nodded. "Oh, yes. He's going to marry us."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

If Music Be the Food of Love...

(Continued from Nano-Meter)
So on our way home from visiting the computer store geek with little or no helpful information about iPods, other than to say that the iPod Nanos were best, we discussed the fact the Critter didn't have enough money to buy the Nano AND the 2-year protection plan.

[Side note -- I generally disapprove of protection plans. Seems like if they think their product is likely to have a problem in the time allowed for protection coverage, then they ought to fix the product. But in this case, the protection plan covers the cost of a new battery -- as many times as necessary, I think. Given that Critter goes through batteries like water, and that you cannot access the Nano battery by yourself, this seems like a good investment. And what they hay, it's "her" money.]

Critter DID receive a BOOT LOAD of gift cards for her birthday. Three of them were for Fred Meyers. And it occurred to me, as we were driving home, that Freds sells electronics...

So, we stopped at Freds. With her gift cards, she could afford the $200 iPod Nano AND the protection plan. They had one in electric blue. Critter went home a happy kid. And after only two hours of sitting at the computer, she had every CD she owns on the iPod and was bobbing her head in time to the music.

Last night, Critter asked me if I knew the song "Bicycle" by Queen. [Editorial: Duh! I'm an '80s chick!] She was ecstatic when I downloaded my 2 Greatest Hits CDs to her iPod. Suddenly, I was hip again. But only for a moment.

40 Days

Our newly re-elected governor took on the media late yesterday to blast them for making such a big deal out of the rain in Oregon. As he said, it has been raining in Oregon since time began. Why should that be the second story on a national news telecast? (TV Producer: Um, because of the flooding at the coast, two missing people, nearly-drowned cows, evacuated homes, and millions of dollars in damage, duh. That's news, Baby!)

Narrator: So Noah began to build the ark. Of course his neighbors were not too happy about it. Can you imagine leaving for the office at 7 AM and seeing an ark?
Neighbor: (enters whistling) Hey! You over there.
Noah: What do you want?
Neighbor: What is this thing?
Noah: It's an ark.
Neighbor: Uh huh. Well do you mind getting it out of my driveway? I've gotta get to work.
Noah: [ignores him, continues sawing]
Neighbor: Hey listen, what's this thing for anyway?
Noah: I can't tell you, ha ha ha.
Neighbor: Can't you even give me a little hint?
Noah: You want a hint?
Neighbor: Yes, please.
Noah: How long can you tread water? Ha ha ha.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This past summer, we decided to teach Critter how to budget and balance a checkbook. We agreed upon an amount to allot her every other month, gave her a check register, taught her some basic rules of conduct (write everything down...) and sat back to watch the experiment.

Now, really, we kept the money in our regular accounts and just allotted an amount to Critter. So we still had to be with her for any purchases. Or she could take out cash at the Bank of Mom. (And write it in her checkbook, of course.)

When Critter realized she would be receiving an ok-amount-of-money every 60 days, rather than the paltry allowance every week, she decided she wanted to save up for an iPod. Save up is relative. If there was the opportunity to go to a movie, she withdrew funds. But she did manage to save quite a bit from installment 1 to installment 2.

This past weekend, we made her read about iPods before we'd let her look at them in the store.

Critter: What's an MP3?

JewelGeek: It's a file type. Like .doc or .xls or .wav.

Critter: iPods play MP3s.

JewelGeek: Yes. And there are other brands that are also MP3 players.

Critter: Uh-huh. And iPods.

JewelGeek: [pause] You know there are a couple of different types of iPods, too.

Critter: [reading] Shhhh. Don't bother me with details.

And later, when she actually talked to a store clerk about them, and reported back to us...

JewelGeek: So what did you learn?

Critter: iPod Nanos are best.

CrafterKat: Why?

Critter: Uh... They're cool looking. And they're small. And they play music. And they come with headphones.

CrafterKat: And what about the battery-life?

Critter: Uh...

CrafterKat: And memory? How many songs do you get for how much memory?

Critter: Uh...

JewelGeek: Do you remember what he said about the protection plan?

Critter: Uh...

All: [pause]

Critter: The one with 4MB memory is only $200. I have $233, so I'm going to get one of those.

JewelGeek: But with the $60 protection plan, you don't have enough money.

Critter: Oh. You mean I read all this stuff and talked to the store guy and learned all the stuff and I'm not going to get an iPod?!!!!

To be continued...


Been raining hard in Portland for a few days. We picked up a Pineapple Express on All Saints Day. Warm, super wet weather has marked the season. Along with Christmas carols at the local mall...

I noticed this morning that our deck swing (now enrobed in its winter protective tent), was situated in front of the kitchen window. Sometime during these blustery rainstorms, it must have been pushed across the slick Trex deck to its new location. I wonder how long it will take for JewelGeek to notice...

The whole torrential rain-thing makes me think of Bill Cosby's "Noah" routine. (I'm dating myself, aren't I?)

God: I'm gonna make it rain for a thousand days and drown 'em right out.

Noah: Riiiiiight. Listen to this, you'll save water. Let it rain for 40 days and 40 nights and wait for the sewers back up.

God: [pause] Riiiiiight.

Monday, November 06, 2006

TLC, TCBY, And A Pirate Cow

Random Car Conversation #112

"I'm going to get a dog and name it TLC and then get another one and name that TCBY."

We glanced in the mirror at Critters prouncement. "Oh?"

"Yep. What does 'TCBY' stand for?"

I chuckled. "The Country's Best Yogurt."

She scrunched up her face in mock serious thought. "Well, then I'll get a cow and call it TCBY."

CrafterKat and I shared a smirk as she turned onto the freeway. "You mean in addition to the ones you already have?" she asked.

Critter stopped looking through her purse. "Wait... Huh?" We shared a quick laugh as it dawned on her what we were implying. She rolled her eyes and drawled, "Noooooowahhh! Not as in 'have a cow!' I mean, a live cow, you know, like, not a dead cow!"

CrafterKat chuckled again. "Noah," she repeated, drawing the word out like Critter's pronouncement, "you could call it Noah!"

Critter slapped her thigh and repeated, "Noooooowah! I mean, arrrrggghhh!"

"Oh, and you could have a pirate cow," I added.

"Oh, yes," CrafterKat agreed. "Maybe with a peg leg and a patch over one eye..."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Monster Cookies for Doc Spidey

We've known Doc Spidey (the smiling one in sunglasses next to Sir Werewolf) since high school and have shared many stories over the years. Doc Spidey sang in CrafterKat's high school jazz choir, he portrayed Snoopy in drama alongside CrafterKat's Lucy, and he scared me half-to-death while watching Alien. You know the scene where the alien pops out of the guy's chest? Well, I didn't...

Some of his adventures and family outings have contributed to our family vernacular. Playing D&D with his Nice Necromancer in his little dungeon apartment spawned the phrase "I wanna see you dance!" Seeing his family dog gave us "Don't squeeze, Daphne!" (Bladder control was not one of the poodle's strong suits...)

We've ordered taco pizzas that he has prepared and road tripped to Bend to see him perform Sondheim. And we've given him as many Zen hugs as we could when we learned about his dad's recent motorcycle accident.

So we've shipped off a batch of Monster Cookies for he and his family as they prepare for Dad's arrival home from the hospital. Monster hugs all around to Doc Spidey and his family.

Monster Cookies

3 eggs
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
4 1/2 c. oatmeal
3/4 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. M & M's

Combine all ingredient's. Use an ice cream scoop to form balls of dough (they should be around the size of golf balls). Place the dough on a cookie sheet with plenty of space between each cookie. Cookies will spread! I average nine cookies per tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.