Friday, October 28, 2011

Spiced Rum Apple Crisp

Ahhhh, fall... crisp weather, beautiful colors and ten bajillion apples.
Really, people, is it my imagination or are there apples everywhere you look?
Last week there were so many apples left from the conference that I took some home to create some sort of appley desert to bring into the office.
Now as we have discussed before, i am not a baker. I love to cook because cooking is art; however, baking is science and i just can't be bothered to precisely measure. I figured i'd go with some sort of Apple Brown Betty thing. In looking up cooking times for such things I discovered a recipe for Apple Crisp. Did you know that the Crisp was a popular dessert during WWII because it uses low amounts of shortening and sugar so it was easy to make even with food rationing? Neither did i. Anyhoo, i decided to use the basic Crisp recipe as a template.
A few weeks ago co-worker Jami had made a Bourbon Carmel Apple Pie that was fan-dam-tastic and fTM Felicia had been talking about cooking apples in butter and amaretto (really, there are apples everywhere), so i thought i might want to soak the apples in some sort of liquor to give them an added flavor layer. Spiced rum seemed a good choice, but when i went to the bar i found that i didn't have any spiced rum (except some Captain Morgan Private Stock that Rachel gave me that i didn't want to waste in a baking experiment that might be a colossal failure). But, i did have some mid-grade rum that i inherited when Justin moved that i normally wouldn't drink so i figured that i'd make my own.

i heart my Doughboy mixing bowl
 I peeled, sliced and diced a combination of McIntosh and Granny Smith apples (one for flavor and the other for consistency), mixed them with whole cloves and immersed everything in the rum to soak for about 30 minutes.

and adorable matching baking pan
 Meanwhile i mixed up the topping a la Niki - that is, with very little regard for the recipe. There was supposed to be some sugar, butter, flour and rolled oats. I mixed white and dark brown sugar, used margarine and had flour, but my choices for oats were either quick oats or steel cut oats. Of course, i used both. After adding the basic apple spices -nutmeg and cinnamon- i thought that since i didn't have true spiced rum i should give it a little kick with a tiny bit of cumin and cayenne.

i'll be seeing you later
 The leftover rum with cloves was drained back into the bottle and put in the fridge to see what would happen if i left it alone for a while.
The results were sampled while i phone-shopped with my BFF, as you should never take a baking experiment to work without trying it first. It tasted really good with the sweet and tart apples, tangy rum, smoky cloves and just a wee hint of spicy at the end. However, the Crisp part was just a little bit dry with a slightly grainy mouth feel, so the next day when i took it to work i served it piping hot with vanilla ice cream on top; the cold melted cream was the final piece it needed.

{so i just strained the cloves out of the rum last night and gave it a little taste; YUM!}

Thursday, October 27, 2011

how i know it is time to clean my desk

That's my desk blotter at work.
Today was the first time i've been in-house for a full day since a week before the conference.
I started out with high hopes of getting a long list of things done, but quickly i realized that before any actual work got done i needed to just dig out from under the crap that had piled and piled up over the last month getting ready. The weeks leading up to the conference were a bit of a frenzy and i was jotting notes everywhere to make sure that i didn't forget anything.
I mean, how could i even concentrate on moving forward with this staring me in the face?

Honestly, any of you would probably be able to figure out what any of that stuff means as well as i could.
Seriously, people.

The only thing to be done was to strip the desk clean and then file, toss, recycle, or follow-up with things as i put them back on the desk.
Taking that hour to decipher the mess, throw away the crap and organize made it much easier to get things accomplished and i really do use my blotter to gauge when it is time to sweep things clear.

recycled hearts lead to yet another undertaking

I found this necklace at a yard sale
 and though i liked the mother of pearl hearts and the length, it was a hot dang mess. What is with all the different types of chain and what in the world is going on with this shmanky heart?
But with a 75 cent price tag, how could i resist?
I took apart each section and realized that not only were the chain sections different types of chain, they were each a different length. Who made this abomination? It was obviously manufactured, not handmade.
I fiddled with lengths, added some pearls, AB beads and gold circles from other broken pieces and in 45 minutes i had a brand new necklace and bracelet set,

plus 3 extra hears to be used at a later date.
Every time i wear this set i get comments and questions about it; i think it might be my favorite reimagined piece ever.
In fact, it was this very project that inspired me to try to make an entire line of recycled jewelry for my 40 While I'm 40 list. We all know that i am better with projects if there is a concrete deadline and if i publicly announce it so that there is some sort of accountability.
So here we go:
I will be a vendor at the annual jewelry show for charity the first weekend of February at Objects Found. Mark your calendars because i intend to have necklaces, bracelets, pins and rings all made from vintage pieces and found objects at bargain prices.

And while i'm branching out of my comfort-zone here, i will be linking this post to the Thrifty Thursdays at Quilted Cupcake (once Jean -the most talented person i've ever met- has her post up today) and this will be the first time i've participated in a blog linking event.

I am taking this week's quote to heart.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

death to monotony!

Every once in a great while i find myself looking around my little apartment at my little life and thinking Is this it? Is this all there is to me?
Normally this malaise comes after several days of general restlessness.
Often i realize that i am dragging my heels on some idea or some project; i've set myself in a rut because deep down i'm trepidatious about taking the next step. I allow fear of action to become inaction which is so contrary to my nature that i feel uneasy.
So this week's quote from Richard Louv is about me getting on with it already:
Boredom is fear's dull cousin.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

yes, i said "roller derby"

Are you looking for a totally different sporting experience?
skating line during the intros
May i suggest, roller derby?

My only experience with roller derby was the episode of Charlie's Angels where Jill and Kelly had to go undercover as roller derby girls. I had no idea what to expect, but fTM Felicia's boyfriend follows roller derby, so she invited a group from work to go to the East Coast Regional Finals.
The Charm City All-Stars (Baltimore's team) are a flat track team (as opposed to inclined track) so there was no railing to flip people over, but man was there still some crazy excitement.
Will had looked up the rules so that he could explain what was happening to the rest of us: play is divided into 2 minutes jams during which one skater (the jammer) tries to lap the pack and skate around the track as many times as possible without someone killing her. There are actually a lot of rules about how you are allowed to block or contact someone, but it was still mayhem on wheels.

It was immensely fun and action packed.
Plus the people watching was as intense as the game.
And there was a guy dressed as a banana. Really.
I highly recommend going to a match, especially if your local team kick as much a** as ours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

climbing playground

I love, love the trend of having climbing equipment on playgrounds.
And i don't mean those crazy metal things we played on back in the Dark Ages or even the plastic climbing walls with the colorful hand- and toe-holds.
I mean crazy, ropes course-like things:

TM Sam tries to make here way across the ropes only to find that they all have bungee connectors so that they sway.
Meanwhile, TM Katie discovers that the round footholds spin all the way around.

 Even what looks like a flat incline rotates about 50 degrees on its axis when Sam tries to walk on it; she determined that it might be physically impossible to walk upright on it. Luckily, the ground was the sprongiest surface i have ever felt, just in case someone takes a header.
And none of us are really sure about the weird hanging plastic seats, though they make for a great place to relax and read during lunch.
Yes, this really is my life. ;-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

but, whyyyyyyyy?

It is no secret that i love gummi.
It is also no secret that i am cheap, so i am forever trying different types of fruit snacks that are on sale.
Which is how i ended up owning:

Why would you put sharks and dinos together?
One lives in the sea, the other on land.
One is still around, the other is extinct.
I pondered this for a while, but then decided that i didn't care about the reasoning because they were darn good fruit snacks. They had nice texture, good flavor, different shapes in different colors, nice variety...
wait... what is that?

Why is there an astronaut/old-time deep sea diver in here?
What could he possibly have to do with dinos and sharks?
I thought it might have been an accident, but no in subsequent packs i found more of these guys in various colors.
Then, i found some treasure chests.
I was too baffled to even take its picture.
Are the sharks in an aquarium and these are the bubbler shapes?
If so, where do the dinos come into the picture?
Not to mention that pterodactyls weren't actually dinosaurs so what are they doing here?
I'm so confused...
(but full of delicious gummi)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Li'l monster car

We see all sorts of crazy things at work.
This is the car that was parked next to our van in a school parking lot - it belongs to the art teacher:
I am so in love with all of the little monsters,

like the ones who will devour tailgaters,

or who love their moms,

but my favorite is this pink one:
He looks so forlorn. He really wants you to be his friend even though he is a monster. I imagine him speaking with just a hint of a lisp and the occasional sniffle.
Of course, TMs Joey and Katie had to be little monsters, too
The teeth on the bumper just bust me up.
I took these pictures about 3 weeks ago, but today on Michele's blog i saw that she had spotted this car too so i wanted to add my monster love to the mix.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

just a quickie

The national conference is over and it was awesome. I have the day off to catch up on some sleep, do laundry and finalize my mother's move to Ohio next week. Then, mayhaps, we can get back to some sort of regular posting. You can look forward to a week of Hawaii posts, roller derby, a mini-monster car, jewelry roundup 3 and Oktoberfest. See you soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pear Jelly

Now that there is a wonderful toaster in my life, I was able to try another new food from my BFF:
pear jelly!
why are the eggs only ugly on the day when i photograph my breakfast?
I had no idea what to think. I do not like canned pears and don't think i've ever eaten a fresh pear; what in the world would the jellied version be like?
I am happy to report that it was tasty.
It tasted like... hmmmm... it was defiantly a fruit jelly and not a berry jelly and it was sweet with a little tang... Okay, that description was less than helpful. I guess you just have to have your BFF make you some pear jelly and try it yourself.
Thanks, Rea!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When work is more than what you do

At one time my job was way too much a part of my identity; it was who i was. It wasn't healthy, people. Now i have found a nice balance, but still my job is more than just the time i spend at work.
I love being an educator. I love being a performer. I love touching people's lives.
Tomorrow is the beginning of our national convention and i am super excited because this year my museum is hosting the conference. It has been a ton of work, but i am excited to see it all come to fruition.
Plus i am excited about seeing all of my compatriots. It is awesome to be in a room full of people who do what i do because they understand what my crazy schedule looks like; they understand why i hate GPS and how hard it is to try to get dressed when you are loading a van outside at 7am in January, but 3 hours later have to be on a stage that is 95 degrees.
This week's quote is from... well, i don't know where. I think i cut it out of a magazine about 15 years ago because it is yellowed and wrinkled and peeling, but still taped to my monitor at work. I read it every day and count myself lucky:
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
-Herman Cain

Hot toasty love returns to the Nikiverse

Do you remember when my toaster died?
How i tried frantically to fix it, to no avail?
My $7 rebound toaster barely satisfied my toasting needs. After a year of vague disappointment, it finally gave up.
And then i had no toast.
I was given a Free to a Good Home toaster oven with the caveat that it needed cleaned. No big deal, i thought. Wrong. It must have had a fire in it because even after a hard, thorough cleaning it still smoked enough to set off the alarm.
Still no toast.
I was desperate enough to put bagels under the broiler, but that was a pain since they went from toasty to cinders in a matter of seconds.
Then I decided that i didn't need toast.
My life is full and fine without toast.
Okay, i'll buy a new toaster.
Thus started the search for a new toaster. How many slots? What width? Toaster oven? Who has them on sale? This was not a frivolous undertaking, people.
Then, out of no-where, there was a like-new toaster oven in my hands. A Black and Decker one. A nice one. An expensive one. A FREE one.
Co-worker Stacey had inherited it from fTM Kate, but neither of them had particularly used it so Stacey was taking it Good Will. Look at it...

remember: no matter how much you love the toaster oven, don't kiss it; it's hot
I am so in love with my toaster oven that i am now toasting things that don't even need toasted.
I might have a problem. But i also have toast.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To my Darling Neti Pot Upon the Return of Autumnal Allergies

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I'd pen words of devotion,
If i could think of anything that rhymes with nasal irrigation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

if only i could keep my dang mouth shut.

The word for today, my friends, is hubris.
Hubris is excessive pride or insolence.
Often, it is referred to as pride before the fall because it is a classic character flaw in heroes.
Basically, the hero has so much self-confidence that he is blinded into doing something exceedingly dumb that proves to be the beginning of his undoing.
One of the interesting things about hubris is that it is so blatant, so obvious that everyone can recognize it (except for the hero himself) and most everyone can guess what is going to happen because of it. 
Let's take a hypothetical example... the heroine of a story is feeling so good, so happy, so elated that she declares before a gathering of her friends that she is unafraid of Fate; she boasts that no matter what, she will be going on vacation to Alaska in eight months.
Therefore, no one would be the least bit surprised when one week later a text message arrives -while she is hypothetically grocery shopping and trying to decide what kind of yogurt to buy- with the news that the trip might have to be cancelled; no one, that is, except our hapless heroine who honestly can't frickin' believe it. Despite having studied Aristotle's Poetics on more than one occasion and having written numerous papers on hubris, she is indeed clueless and doesn't see the other shoe inevitably falling.
Of course, Fate has risen to the call-out and tossed a good, legitimate wrench into the works.


ps - hey Fate, sorry about that; you win

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

new from K-Tel

Here are the newest members of my team: Katie, Joey and Chris.
As posed as this looks, it actually happened quite organically; we were outside getting ready to do some awesome exploding science when my brother called to us and we each looked up. With this job you get used to being photographed a lot so when we see a camera it is natural to just freeze at whatever you are doing until you see the flash. You can tell Chris and I have been here longer than Katie and Joey because we both automatically smiled as well.
When Katie first saw this picture she remarked It looks like our band photo; you know, for the cover or inside of an album.
Holy crap, it really does...
teehee..  I think Katie's body language says keyboards, Joey's says drummer (though in real life he is a guitarist) and Chris would be our affable bass player. I, obviously, would be the applause-wh*re frontman. [just like real-life ;-)]
What i first noticed, however, is that Katie is all nicely tanned and my legs look like i am a vampire.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Shine Project

I like reading other people's blogs; i enjoy seeing slices of other lives. Recently, i added The Shine Project to the my blogroll because i find the writer Ashley inspirational. She issues challenges to her readers to make the world a little better in tangible ways. She tries to be creative and foster imagination in others. I like that. I like that she is making real changes in the world, not just talking about it.
In fact, her current project is to raise $20,000 to help kids from a city school where she volunteers to go to college. She started a change4change drive, is donating some of the proceeds from her vintage clothing store and handmade necklace line and is hosting a fund-raising event at the end of this month. I found the blog too late to do a change4change jar, which would have been cool, so instead i am sending my 50 cents per day for charity to her this month.
It is amazing to me that in this huge world, every little thing we do can affect change.

not just for grannies

So i went to water aerobics with fTM Felicia.
Water aerobics.
You know, stretching and moving using the water for resistance.
It's very popular in retirement communities.
Felicia goes because she has a bad back.
I've always thought it sounded interesting and she had a guest pass so i joined her.
You figure, if this is the exercise of choice for grannies, how hard can it be, right?
Holy frijole, people.
It wasn't stretching, it wasn't gentle, it wasn't for grannies.
It was almost an hour of running and jumping in water up to my shoulders.
Forget low impact; within 20 minutes my bad ankle was screaming from the repetitive jumping and landing on concrete; sure the water made the impact less than my body weight, but it was still concrete.
I realized that if i tread water with my hands i could still do all of the jumping without fully landing, but that means that i was also treading water while running and jumping.
It was exhausting, but really, really fun.
Next, Felicia says that i have to try the deep water class where you lift weights.
Can't wait.