Friday, December 7, 2012

In Place of TWD... Pumpkin Roll and Apple Spice Bars

This week Gretchen of Canela & Comino chose Lenox Almond Biscotti for the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe of the week. Unfortunately, neither my DH or I love... or dare I say even like biscotti so I decided to skip out on this week's choice. Sorry Gretchen! Please check out Gretchen's blog and the TWD blog though to see how others fared!

I couldn't not bake anything this week though so I decided to try some fall recipes that have been sitting in my stack of recipes to try. On the top of my pile was a pumpkin roll. I simply used the recipe from I had never made pumpkin roll before though and was curious to see how easy it would be to actually roll this thing up! Once I checked out the VeryBestBaking website though, I noticed a how-to video at the bottom of the recipe. The video is step-by-step and really explained things well. Once I finished watching it, I got to work on my own pumpkin roll and it was indeed super easy to make.

I made the roll in the evening and then set it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I sliced a piece for myself and my mother-in-law who was visiting and she definitely liked it. In fact, after one bite, she said, "This is what you will be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner this year, okay?" :-) I enjoyed it too, especially with a nice warm cup of chai tea. Mmmm!

My next fall dessert to try was Katie's Apple Spice Cookie Bars. See her blog, Good Things Catered for this and many other fabulous recipes! To save some time though, here is her recipe as written in her blog:

Apple Spice Cookie Bars


2 c. plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp allspice

small pinch ground cloves

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 c. packed brown sugar

1 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 apples, cored and diced (a little less than 2 c.)

cinnamon sugar for sprinkling


-Preheat oven to 350
degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray.
-In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

-Whisk to combine well and set aside.

-In bowl of stand mixer, combine sugars and butter and beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

-Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine.

-Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.

-Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined.

-Fold in apples.

-Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar.

-Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes.

-Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving. (bars will be very soft)

I followed the recipe exactly as stated. The only thing that different was the apple -- in her ingredients, she has listed 2 apples (a little less than 2 cups). I bought two large apples and it turned out that one apple diced equaled a little under 2 cups, so I just used one apple. Anyhow, I followed the rest of the recipe as is. I hate to bake things too long as I HATE baked goods that are hard (hence my dislike for biscotti,) so I took out the Apple Spice Cookie Bars right at the 30 minute mark. I let them cool and then started slicing them. They seemed especially soft, but Katie indicated in the recipe that they're supposed to be super soft. I was still concerned though that maybe they were a little undercooked. My DH tried them and assured me they were fine. Phew! I popped them in the fridge and took them to work the next morning along with some pumpkin roll. (BTW, I'm happy to report that the apple spice bars set up nicely after cooling completely in the fridge.) The verdict? Both were a hit! Some people loved the pumpkin roll best while others loved the apple spice bars, but either way, both were well loved! I'll definitely make both of these again soon!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Power of Positivity #3

So I went to Micheals today to get some $1 stamps and some other scrapbook supplies. I saw some stickers that were really pretty and that matched a paperpad I just bought. I really wanted them but they were $4. I was bummed! I was hoping that they were either on sale or that I could use my Joanns coupon since Michaels accepts competitor coupons, but alas I had no coupons whatsoever. As I continued to look throughout the store, I kept thinking, "Wow, I really wish I had a coupon!" A few minutes later, I looked over at a display and guess what I saw -- a Micheals ad with a 40% coupon good for today! COOL! Yes, I only saved about $2, but still, the Power of Positivity worked for me! ***Doing the happy dance*** :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

TWD: Rugelach

This week, Piggy of Piggy’s Cooking Journal chose Rugelach for our Tuesdays with Dorie recipe of the week. (Click on her blog title for the original recipe.) I have never even heard of these much less make them, so I was interested to try them. These were actually VERY easy to make, and kind of fun too! You basically roll out a simple dough (butter, cream cheese, flour and salt) into a circle, then slather with fruit jam, sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate in this case. Slice into wedges, then roll up, starting from the wide end to the narrow tip. This was my favorite part. It was really easy to roll them up, and they looked so cute! Place the little cookies on parchment, wash with a little eggwash, sprinkle with sugar and bake.

While the filling of my cookies took on a very dark color, making them look a little less them yum, they still tasted pretty good! They were a little more chocolatey then I think I would like, so if I make these again, I think I'll put far less, or maybe no chocolate at all. I like the taste of the fruit and nuts best, so I think I'd like to focus more on those. It'll be fun too to try these again with different fruit jams and dried fruit combinations. I have some fig preserves that I'd like to try with this recipe. I wonder what dried fruit would go well with fig... Any ideas?

New Book: The Thirteenth Tale

I've been wanting the read The Thirteenth Tale for awhile now but I was waiting until it came out in paperback. Then when I was at Target yesterday, there it was! With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it would be a great choice! Here's a review from Amazon:

Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.

There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:

"You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone."
She [Vida] shrugged. "It's my profession. I'm a storyteller."
"I am a biographer, I work with facts."

The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida's plan.

Margaret has a story of her own: she was one of conjoined twins and her sister died so that Margaret could live. She feels an otherworldly aura sometimes or a yearning for a part of her that is forever missing. Vida's story involves two wild girls--feral twins (is she one of them?)--who would have been better off being suckled by wolves. Instead, their mother and uncle, involved in things too unsavory to contemplate, combine to neglect them woefully. There's also a governess, a Doctor, a kindly housekeeper, a gardener, and another presence--a very strange presence--which Margaret perceives as a ghost at first. Making obeisance to other great ghost stories, there is a deadly fire, a beautiful old house gone to ruin, and always that presence.... The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story's end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told. --Valerie Ryan

For a more detailed synopsis, check on the The Thirteenth Tale website.

I am only a few chapters in, but so far, I really enjoy the story. The writing is rich in vocabulary is and abundant with metaphors and personification that can make something as abstract as a lie seem like a character itself -- a language arts teacher's dream! (Just check out the quote listed under "Favorite Book Quotes" in the right column!) More on The Thirteenth Tale later!


Well I finished the book and really enjoyed it! It was different from some books I've read recently in the sense that it wasn't a page turner like The Davinci Code, which I quickly devoured. This book instead was a much slower read, but I believe, it should be! It's no fast food dinner that one wolfs down in the car. The author instead carefully, and artfully crafts a full eight course meal with suprises under each domed plate. As you savor each chapter, your anticipation for the next grows, yet the author will only give you one bite at a time. As you slowly make your way through the book, she saves the best surprise for last. And what a tasty, suprising dessert it is!

Feeling the Funk

With stressful times at work, I have been in a super funk the past few days! We got test results and some of the students who I've been working really hard with actually performed worse than earlier in the year! How is that possible?! Ugh! I don't put too much stock in those tests since really, all it is is one passage that a student reads in 1 minute. They count how many words the student got right and that is their score. Through other tests I do, and our daily work, I know many of those students have improved though, but still! Then right after I read those stupid results, two different students decided to get super sassy with me! Grrrr! I was hoping that coming home to scrap would make me feel better, but I think my frustrated attitude just didn't help! I just could not find the paper I wanted or was just never happy with what I was making! My husband said that I was way too hard on myself. Then I took a break and decided to check my email. I got an email from the makers of those super cute Studio G stamps I wanted (aka, "the precious",) and it turns out that ACMoore is the only store that will carry the stamps. We don't have ACM even close to where I live, so I am out of luck. :-( Waaah! Anyhow, despite the funk, I did complete one more criss cross card. I think came out okay...

Since I don't have much to share of my own work, I would love to share a blog that I often go to for inspiration. She is an awesome stamper and creates work that I can only hope to come close to! Check out Danielle at Fatcatstamper.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Do You Stay Motivated or passing drug test?

So I was reading the boards on the RW Forums and someone posted a question: What is your greatest running accomplishment. For me, it would be completing my 10-mile race with a good finish. That race reminds me too of my initial goal which is to complete a half marathon (13.1) miles by the end of the year. I remember when I decided on that goal. Believe it or not, but it started as a New Year's Resolution. I wanted to start with a good plan though, so I spent a few weeks researching, and then I started my official "training" Feb 1st. I was SO motivated that first month that I refused to miss any of my planned runs. That actually may have been my downfall though. I was so adamant about not missing any runs, that I ran 3.1 in a terrible snow storm. The snow flying in my face wasn't bad, but the 5 inches of snow I had to run on was. The very next run is when my knees started hurting. I don't know if the two are related, but they certainly could be! In the past year I have successfully passed the drug test. Anyway, even with my knees hurting, I spent the next 4-5 weeks sticking as close to my training plan as possible. I had to nix all speedwork of course, and could only run minimal miles, but I incorporated more cross training to help compensate.

Well, fourteen weeks into my plan, I feel my motivation waning. I skipped my run yesterday simply because I was in a funk, and I didn't go running today because we had a long meeting after school and then I had to go straight to the Chiro. Tomorrow is Friday and I can NEVER run on Fridays. I'd rather run Saturday anyway. But still, that means that I will have only run twice this week! I remember looking forward to my running days and being all excited when school was over so I could go out on my run. I remember looking forward to my LSD runs on Saturday, really pushing myself to see how far I could go. Now...the love just ain't there. It may just be this week though. Things have been really stressful at work, so that could be taking a toll. Luckily the week is coming to an end. Maybe my Saturday run will revunate me. I hope so! I'm also thinking about finding a group to run with. There are two groups sponsored by different local running stores. I'll have to check them out to see if either would be a good fit. Any other ideas, maybe you know how to pass a drug test?

So my question to you...Do you ever feel like you just don't want to get out there (whether it's running or doing something else)? How do you find your mojo? Help me find that loving feeling!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Emboss it Baby!

So yesterday I went to a cardmaking class and learned how to emboss. After two different trips to Joanns (for coupons!) I got everything I need to emboss on my own. I tried it out with a few stamps and LOVE IT! Check out this Valentine card I made. Any silver writing you see is embossed!

Woo hoo! I love how it came out and it was so fun to do! I just stamped using a Versamark inkpad, sprinkled some silver embossing powder, and heated with my new heat gun. The heat melts the powder and the powdered image transforms before your eyes into what you see above. Cool beans! I was like a kid playing with a new toy! I can't wait to try more. :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins (x2)

This week, Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp chose Pumpkin Muffins for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. As soon as I saw that recipe, I was reminded of another pumpkin muffin recipe I had saved on my computer weeks ago but never got to. I looked at this as a great chance to host a great pumpkin muffin battle! Which would win?!

Round 1: First I started with Dorie's. For the original recipe, click on the link to Kelly's blog above. This recipe was pretty standard recipe that was easy to put together. The only differences were of course the yummy pumpkin pie-like spices. Mmmm! I followed the recipe as is except for using raw, unsalted sunflower seeds. I couldn't find these at my local grocery store, and I'm getting to the point where if there is an ingredient that I can't find within 10 minutes at my store and it isn't a necessity, it doesn't make it in the recipe! LOL! Anyhow, I poured the batter into my new silicone muffin cups (thank you Target $1 spot!) and hoped for the best. After 15 minutes of baking, I peeked in on these and was alarmed at how much those rose! I was afraid they were going to explode out of the cups! After 5 more minutes, I checked for doneness and luckily they were baked through without any ka-booms!

After letting these cool, I decided to try releasing the muffins from their $1 spot silicone cups. I started to slowly peel back, saying a little prayer that I didn't get ripped off, when suddenly, the muffin cup popped right off! WHA?! I tried with another and those little muffin cups popped off like a dream! Those things are AH-MAZE-ING! (Yes, I do know it's not spelled like that!) So if you haven't traveled to your local $1 spot at Target, you must pick these up if any are left. They were perfect for these muffins. I mean, just look how cute they look too!

So how did the muffin taste? These were pretty good! They were quite as "pumpkiny" as maybe I was expecting, but they were still good! I give them, 3.5 stars out of 5. Now on to its competitor -- Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin.

Round 2: I found this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins over at Annie's Eats. It involves beating some cream cheese with powdered sugar, rolling into a log, chilling, then slicing. Fill the cupcake well with batter, drop in a slice of cream cheese, cover with batter, then top with streusel. It was a little longer of a process, but so worth it! Here is the recipe as it is written on her blog:

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Yield: 24 muffins


For the muffins:

3 cups flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

4 eggs

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups pumpkin puree

For the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

For the streusel topping:

½ cup sugar

¼ cup and 1 tsp. flour

4 tbsp. butter, cubed

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon


To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until smooth. Form into a log on plastic wrap or foil, making sure that the diameter is small enough to fit into the well of a muffin pan. Wrap the log up tightly and freeze until slightly hardened, 1-2 hours.

To make the muffins, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, sugar and pumpkin puree. Mix until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.

To make the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two muffin pans with paper liners. To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well halfway with batter. Remove the cream cheese log from the freezer and slice into 24 equal slices. Place a slice in each muffin well. Divide the remaining muffin batter evenly among the muffin cups, on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

I assembled the muffins exactly as directed but my cream cheese rose up to the surface for some reason. Anyone know why? Maybe I just need to place it in closer to the bottom. Either way, these turned out awesome! These had a more "pumpkiny" flavor. I could smell pumpkin and spices just biting into it. HEAVEN! My favorite part though may have been the streusel topping. I've not made a muffin with that type of topping before and it really took the muffin up a notch.

So the final verdict? Well, my DH said that he liked both muffins. Each had something different to offer. He liked the raisins in Dorie's, but liked the streusel topping of the cream cheese one. With everyone else who surveyed them though, there was just one clear winner...

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins wins the battle of the Pumpkin Muffins!

I look forward to making these again actually! When I do, I may have to break out my jumbo muffin tin and make some jigundous ones! Yumm!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sundays Make Me Want to Rebel Against Adulthood

There, I said it. Sundays...They make me want to rebel against adulthood. I should just be excited that I get the day off of work and enjoy my time off, but for some reason, I just can't! I find that my mind is instead consumed with thoughts of the upcoming week and all of the grown-up things I have to...
  1. Plan out the meals for the week so I don't spend half of every weeknight staring blankly into the fridge thinking, "So what will it be tonight?" only to think of nothing and end up eating cereal or nachos.
  2. Go grocery shopping so that we actually have food to eat other than cereal or nachos.
  3. Grade mountains of papers and do lesson plans, because goodness knows I have no time to do that at work. (What a concept that would be!)
  4. Think about paying bills. Did I pay those yet, or are they late....again?
  5. Clean the house which is a never-ending task.
  6. Do laundry so that I actually have clothes to wear.
  7. Fold clothes, only to look up at the clock and see that it's already time to go to bed. What happened to the day?! Just like that, it's gone. As I finally lie in bed at night, I do my best to subdue my frustration in losing my "day off" and work my best to keep the psycho, gun-toting kitty inside of me from blasting flame throwing gun. (see post below!)

As Sunday ends, my frustration with adulthood and it's lack of fun as of late continues to grow, and lately, it goes exponentially. I don't want to do all those boring, mundane things. Here's what Sunday should entail:

I will wake up around 9 or 10ish, then eat breakfast in bed. Breakfast consists of eating cereal, eggs, or pancakes and as many @#$@#$! pieces of bacon (cripy of course) as I want! (And by the way, in my perfect world, I can eat as much bacon as I want and my clothes will still fit like a dream.) After lounging and relaxing with my husband and our kitties, my DH and I will discuss our plans for the day: Option A -- Stay in pajamas all day and lounge around. I'll probably read or scrapbook while he plays videogames or watches tv. Then we'll run out and rent a couple of movies and watch them while gorging ourselves on gummy bears and other candies. (Again, candy does not affect my waist line in this perfect world!) Option B -- If it's a nice day, we'll go for a walk in the park and maybe even have a picnic. Later we'll grill out and have a nice dinner on the back deck, just sitting and talking. If it's not a nice day, we'll likely resort to Option A!

No matter what we do though, it will all be for the sole purpose of relaxing and spending our time doing things that we enjoy! Ugh! I so miss the freedoms of my youth! Work and adultlife is so crazy stressful! GRRRRRR! I think the past few weeks have been especially stressful because I am teaching a new content area this year which has WAY more paperwork AND I started tutoring after school. I wasn't going to do it at all, but then two other teachers got in a real bind and had to back out. They simultaneously offered up my services and with much regret, I accepted. I thought I could handle the extra workload, but I am buckling! I hope one of them can pick up their tutor group again. These 10 hour days are killing me. And that is why I need my beloved, nonwork, nonadult Sundays.

That's it...I am going to PROTEST! Tomorrow is going to be "No Work, All Fun Sunday"! Oh wait, I have friends coming over this Friday and need to get ready for that. I do need to get my plans done for school too... Okay, next Sunday is No Work, All Fun Sunday! Oh no, that's the Sunday before Thanksgiving...gotta get stuff ready for the holiday dinner... The next Sunday? No, I've got big plans on that day already. Oh geez, I give up! Maybe, there'll be a Sunday in December? Pray for me!

Why Challenge Myself?!

First of all, let me clarify this -- by "challenge," I mean a scrapbook or card challenge! On Two Peas, many people there may "challenge" you to create a layout or card based on whatever they decide -- use a certain sketch, technique, product, etc. Of course nobody has too -- it's just for fun, but sometimes competition also! People can win small prizes, but it's never based on the quality of your work -- as long as you complete the challenge, you are entered to win. I have never completed or taken on a challenge before. They just never appealed to me. Besides, there are probably 20 different challenge series going on the Two Peas board right now. That's too much for me to keep up with! But just this morning, one caught my eye. It was on the stamping board and is a card making challenge. (It's called Winter Stamp '08. It's still in planning stages, but you can click HERE for the thread.) Since card making is something that I am just getting into and am interested in learning more about, I thought I would give this one a try. I like this one too because there are a ton of different options you can choose from. Some offer small prizes too. I think entering this will be a great way in forcing me to try new things and learn more about stamping and card making. I'm really looking forward to it! In fact, today I started making cards using the January sketch from Sheetload and I was having trouble choosing paper. I am always using the same PP over and over! I have one paper pad that I have been trying to use but never do, so today, even though I didn't want to, I challenged myself to use it and find a way to make it work. I kind of like how the cards turned out! I have one more thing to finish on them, then I'll share a pic! So anyhow, you never know how creative you can be unless you challenge yourself to try new things! So, go ahead -- take on a challenge!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Instructions For Creating An "Exploding Box" **UPDATED**

Since I posted my "Exploding Boxes" here and on the Two Peas in Bucket message boards, a few people had asked for directions. I grabbed a couple of scrap pieces of cardstock and put this together. I hope it is helpful!

1. Trim a 12inx12in piece of cardstock to 30cm x 30cm. Then score every 10 cm. Turn 90˚, then score again every 10cm. When you are done scoring, your paper should have a tic-tac-toe like pattern.

2. Now, cut some of the scored edges so that you can fold the paper into a box: Place your paper on the cutter. Go to the fold that separates the center column and the right column. Cut 1/3 of the way up. Turn 90˚ and do again. Do on all four sides. (It's hard to explain in words, so see pic!)

Here is how the paper folds into a box. Take the corner flaps and slide them behind the adjacent flap. See pic! Press the sides up......and voila! You have a box.

You are done with the first layer! It gets much easier from here.

3. Now take another sheet of cardstock and trim down to 28.5cm x 28.5cm. Score again, but instead of every 10 cm, score every 9.5cm. You should again have a tic-tac-toe like pattern.

Now, you will cut this piece differently. This time, cut out the four corners so that you are left with just this:
Here is how the layers now look so far...
Now you are done with the second layer!

4. For the innermost layer, trim down your third piece of cardstock to 27cm x 27 cm. Score this piece like you did before, but this time, score every 9cm. Then, cut the four corners out like you did for the previous layer.

Here is the inner layer added to the others. See again how the sides work to make a box? At this point you might want to use an adhesive to keep the layers together. You can tape/glue the center box of each layer together. I've also seen people use brads, eyelets...whatever!

You're almost done! Let's make the lid now...

5. While there are a couple of different ways to make the lid from here, here is one of the easiest. Take your final piece of cardstock and trim down to 18.5cm x 18.5cm. Score 4cm around each edge. (This leaves an inside square of 10.5cm.) Cut according to the pic.

Now, fold the outer edges up and tuck the corner flaps behind the top and bottom edges.
Secure with your favorite adhesive. (See pic.)

UPDATE: Some people were asking how to make the tab/bracket like things on the lids that I have pictured below. Here are instructions.

1. Using PP, cut a piece 6cm long x 3 cm wide. Then score halfway (at 3cm).

For the boxes I have pictured below, I used a corner rounder to round the corners on this piece, and actually all the corners on the boxes. For these demo pics though, I'll leave as is.

Next, attach the tab to the corners. You can just attach using your favorite adhesive, or you can attach with brads, eyelets...whatever you like! The only tip I have is that if you do use brads, keep in mind the inside of the lid. The prongs on the back of the brad may catch on the sides of the box when you are trying to put the lid on. To prevent this, make sure the prongs on the brad are as flat as possible. You can also cover the brad prongs with scotch tape or you can cover with PP for a more finished look.

Now you’re done!
Here is how it should look closed and open...

Congratulations! Your basic box is complete. Now let the fun begin with embellishing and of course, adding pics!
Here are some helpful hints:

Practice first on some extra cardstock before using your favorite paper! Also, think how much paper you're willing to use on these. Some people choose to make these boxes using double-sided cardstock. All that's left then is to add some embellies and pics! Others use plain cardstock to make the box, then cover with patterned paper.

If you would like to cover each square with patterned paper, here are some measurements for you to trim the paper:

Bottom layer: trim to 9.5cm x 9.5cm square
Middle layer: trim to 9cm x 9cm
Inner layer: trim to 8.5cm x 8.5cm

These sizes will leave a nice border in each section.

I hope you find these instructions helpful! Feel free to ask questions if anything is unclear. Have fun and please share your results!

Eat Lumpia!

Joelen over at Joelen's Culinary Adventures is hosting an event called Asian Appetizer Adventure. When she posted for people to post their Asian appetizers, the first thing I thought of is my favorite -- lumpia! I then read her post further and found out that she is doing the event in conjunction with a class she is teaching on how to make various kinds of eggrolls... including lumpia! DOH! Oh well. I was planning on making lumpia this week anyway, so I figured I would post and just see what happens. Besides, every Filipino family has their own lumpia recipe, so I figured it couldn't hurt to share another one! Here is how my Tita (Aunt) Mila and I make lumpia!

1 package lumpia wrapper
1.5 pounds ground pork
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 green onion, finely chopped
1 can water chestnuts, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten (for wrapping)

Note: Ingredients in pic are for a double batch.

1. Brown pork in skillet. Drain and allow to cool. Once cool, combine with all ingredients (except egg and wrappers) to create your filling mixture. I like to put the filling mixture in a colander so that any excess liquids can drain. If the mixture is too wet, which it can be at the bottom, that is not good for the wrappers, so the colander is helpful with that.
2. Cut wrappers on the diagonal to make triangles. Most people do not do this and instead use the whole wrapper. Either is fine. I find using half the wrapper is plenty and I can get twice as many lumpia from a package, and that's always good!

3. Place 1 Tablespoon of the mixture in the middle towards the base of the triangle.
4. Fold corners in to cover mixture. Roll tightly upwards towards the point stopping about 1 inch from the point.
5. Using fingertip, dot a little of the beaten egg on the tip, the continue rolling to seal the wrapper. Set lumpia aside and finish rolling the rest. (If you would like to freeze for later, it helps to place a sheet of wax paper in between the layers to prevent from sticking.)
6. Fry lumpia in about half an inch of vegetable oil until browned on all sides. Drain on paper towel and enjoy! If you do not want to fry yet, lumpia may be frozen. Thaw before frying.

So, that is how my family makes lumpia. It's a super tasty treat that my DH and his whole family have come to love too. :-)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Searching For the Beauty

I was reading an article in a back issue of Runner's World and it was all about the power of positive thinking. It was basically about how directing our thoughts in the right way can help us enjoy running more. That reminded me of a book I read a month or so ago about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking. It's been awhile since I've thought about those things! Anyhow, I decided to try it! The weather here lately has been so cold and blustery, but the author was saying that when he goes on runs when the weather is like that, instead of focusing on the wind and your ice cold fingers, to instead find something in your surroundings that is beautiful and to focus on that. When you start to lose focus, find another thing. I thought that was a great idea! So as I went out on one of my runs a few weeks ago, I changed things up a bit. Instead of keeping my eyes glued to the pavement in front of me and cursing the wind that seemed to pierce right through my skin, I took a moment to look around. I took a second to really take in the nature that was around me. It WAS beautiful! The leafless trees were coated in a shimmering sheen of ice, some dusted with a coating of snow, others gracefully bending under the weight of it. Birds were out flitting from one branch to the next in search of food, singing their songs for one another. A few miles down I even saw a raccoon scurry under the bridge just a few moments before I approached. With every set of tracks I saw along the path, I tried to image what little creature could have made those -- What did it look like? What was it doing? Did it have a little animal family? So much to take in -- I hardly noticed the wind anymore! A far better way to enjoy my run. And when I was finished, I was refreshed and in a great mood -- a big change from the normal winter run! So if you ever feel like you just don't want to get out there, go out with a different perspective and search for the beauty in your little world! (BTW, the pic in this post is compliments of my awesome friend Deb! She took this during a recent ice storm.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Foodie Connection

So my DH and I have now been tuning in every Sunday evening to watch Food Network's Iron Chef America. I have been LOVING that show, although I have to say, my favorite part of the entire show is the first 5 minutes when the hottie chairman unveils the secret ingredient. The dramatics are so hilarious! Anyhow, this past Sunday, the guest chef chose to challenge Bobby Flay. My DH and I were commenting on how good Bobby Flay seemed to be. And then we noticed that during the commercials, there were at least two other shows advertised that were hosted by...Bobby Flay! We're like, "Wow, that guy must be good!" My DH commented too that the guy has got to have a good personality too for people to want to watch him on so many different shows. Okay, now fast foward to the next day...

My DH has to go on a business trip. First he flies out to NY, does a few site visits, then has to fly to CA. While he's waiting for his flight, he calls and leaves me a message: "Hi there! Just wanted to call to say hi and to see how you're doing. I also wanted to tell you a pretty funny story. You'll never guess who is on my flight from NY to CA...Bobby Flay! I'll tell him you said hi!" OMG, can you believe that! My DH and I were watching Bobby Flay on tv the night before, and there my husband is, pratically 10 feet away from him! So I called my DH back and left a message: "Okay, I know you are normally kind of shy, but you BETTER talk to Bobby Flay! If not for you, than for ME! I expect a full account / transcript of your conversation by this evening!" So my DH called me back later that night and did NOT let me down. I guess he did go up to Bobby (yeah, that's right -- first name basis now!) and chatted with him briefly. My DH said that Bobby was super nice and very friendly! How cool huh?!

Nothing more exciting than that has really been going on. I'm happy to report that I went on another run yesterday. It was only 3.1 miles, but my knees felt pretty good and I ran it at a decent pace (9:10 min/mile). I felt like I was going faster oh well. I will definitely have to work on speed. I would like to try to go for 4 miles tomorrow. Hopefully I'll feel better than my last 4 miler! As far as races, I've decided to go with the Motorcars Blossom Time 5.25 mile run instead of the Tallmadge Memorial 5K. It's a better distance for me, and let's face it -- I can make pancakes at home myself...nothing beats fair food! Mmmmmm!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Funky Flashback: What Were We Thinking?

Welcome to the first installment of Funky Flashbacks! Here, I will play for you some of the most memorable songs from the 80's! For this first post, I would like to present songs that I now look back on and ask myself, "What were we thinking?!" I've chosen Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True" for one of the first tunes because it's simply just too funny! I used to love the song, but now that I look back at the video, it's hard to deny how unbelievably cheesy it is! The acting at the beginning is truly superb and the dancing? Well, it just speaks for itself! I love it!

Next, I present another, "What the hell was that?" song..."Whip It," by Devo. I liken it to a horrible train wreck -- It's completely disturbing, yet you can't look away...

And finally, a video in which I think I can only understand 2 words -- Nena's 99 Luftballoons. What in the world is she saying?!?! And why did we love it again?

New Projects!

So I've been a BAD blogger! It's been over a week I think since my last post! I have been so busy though. We had parent-teacher conferences this past week which lasted until 9:30 at night (!) and then we had a science fair later that week which kept me at work until 9:00! I was SO tired. I got today off though and got some much needed rest! While I should have been washing dishes and folding clothes, I decided to make some Christmas gifts instead! I found instructions online for how to make these cool "Exploding Boxes". While yes, I know, it sounds totally disgusting, I promise you it's not! (Get your mind out of the gutter!) It's a scrapbook photo album in a box. When you take the lid off of the box, there are layers of scrapbook pages inside with photos that fall open. I haven't put the photos inside yet since I'm going to give them to my friends for them to put their own photos in. I'm just making and decorating the boxes. Here are my first few...
Here's the outside of one...

And here's the inside...

Here is another one...

And the inside...

Here is the inside of one I'm making for myself. I've put a couple of pics from this summer in it. Still have a lot to do.

I want to do a couple more for a few friends. I also have to finish up my Christmas cards so I can get those mailed out soon! So much to do! I was hoping to do some of that this Friday, but my husband wants to be one of those crazy people who gets up at the crack of dawn to go shopping. I am so NOT a morning person, so this should be interesting! I decided to save some sleep time, maybe I should just sleep in my clothes. Then my husband said, "Yeah! That'll be great. Then all you have to do is wake up and find your way to the car!" So then I decided, hey -- that's another step I can skip. I'll just sleep in the car! Then my husband suggested skipping the whole morning drive and just getting their the night before and sleeping in the car. Then I can just wake up and be there! ...Or maybe not! :-) Wish me luck!

Adventures in Baking

After checking out a few foodies blogs, I've gotten the itch to do some baking. Trouble is... I am terrible at baking! Well... I guess I shouldn't say terrible. I can bake some pretty decent cookies, cupcakes, and muffins, but anything dough related -- LOOK OUT! I voiced my interest in learning to bake more on the Nest's What's Cooking forum and a lot of girls recommended this book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. (I ended up getting the book on Amazon for a crazy-good deal. The cover price is $40.00, but I bought through the Amazon Marketplace from some bookstore in PA -- brand new for under $9.00! Woo hoo!) Anyhow, I just received the book today and am already excited! Although, I think I gained about 7 pounds just reading about all the baked goodies! LOL!

So anyway, I also learned through the Nest forums about this blogging group called Tuesdays with Dorie. Every Tuesday, someone from the group chooses a recipe from the book for everyone to try and post about by the following Tuesday. I think this will be an awesome way for me to try different recipes that I may not ordinarily try AND get help from more experienced bakers while I'm doing it! (There is a Problems & Questions post each week for all participants to post about how it's going.) So anyway, all you have to do is a minimum of two of the four chosen recipes a month. You are supposed to blog about your experience too. I think it'll be fun! I emailed about joining the group, but the person who heads it all up is on vacation this week, so I won't officially be part of the group just yet, but that won't stop me from jumping right in! I already have a Tuesdays with Dorie (AKA TWD) avatar on my blog! And tomorrow I will start shopping for my first TWD adventure: blueberry pie! Wish me luck -- I've never baked a pie in my life and in case you forgot, this involves DOUGH! Dun, dun, DUUUUUUN!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

3.1 in "The Big One"!

The weather forecasters keep calling this storm, "The Big One"! I do have to say, this is easily the worst storm we've had all winter. The snow has been nonstop and the snow plows are nowhere to be seen. Doesn't matter too much anyway since our city, much like many others around here, are out of roadsalt. I heard one plow go by this morning, but since then, we've gotten 4 more inches and it just keeps coming. We are basically snowed in! That didn't stop me from trying to get some miles in though. I wanted to run 6.2, but with 4+ inches of snow on the roads, my ankles were starting to hurt just trying to keep from turning sideways, so I stopped halfways. It still took me almost 36 minutes! Oh well. Here is just a little sample of my little snow world!

Here are the roads I just finished running 3.1 on...

Here is a pic of our back deck covered in snow. Check out how much is on our table! (I took this pic through the window!)
It was a bitterly cold run at times, and those shoveling their driveways as I attempted to shuffle along surely thought I was insane. Once the wind stopped blowing though, it was truly serene. The snow gently falling on my warm cheeks, the silence in the air except for a few birds chirping and the snow crunching under my feet, the smell of burning wood in the fireplaces of the homes nearby...all worth it. Just wish I could've gone longer!

Lemon Blossoms 38, Me 10

I am getting together with some friends tomorrow and everytime we get together, we each bring a dish to share. Well after watching a Paula Dean show on Food Network the other day, I've been looking for an excuse to try these little lemon glazed cupcakes called Lemon Blossoms. She made it look super easy and when I read the reviews online, everyone wrote about how yummy and easy they were. I thought, SWEET! Every now and then though, I saw a review that said the recipe was terrible or that their cupcakes didn't work. I thought, "Wow, that person really must not know what they're doing. If everyone else is saying there super easy and you can't get to work, it must be you!" So anyway, I decided to get a jump start and make my Lemon Blossoms tonight so that I wouldn't have to worry about rushing to get them done tomorrow morning. Well, to make a long story short, you know that person I was thinking who must have no clue what they're doing if they couldn't get this to work? Yeah...that person is ME! What went wrong? Let me count the ways...

  1. I bought new silicone mini muffin pans today. I wanted to use the silicone ones because I've had success with things coming out fairly easy and the reviews said that these muffins can easily stick to the pan. Well then when I got home, I read the inside of the package and it said that the muffins pans still need to be sprayed with vegetable oil spray. UGH. So much for skipping that step. It also said that the pans should be set on a cookie sheet for increased stability. Okay, I can handle that. So anyway, I spoon the batter into my new muffin pans, set them on the tray and put into the oven. I check the oven after the directed 12 minutes and they don't quite look done. I give them a few more minutes until they look golden brown on the top. Then I take them out of the oven and attemp to turn the muffins out onto a towel (as directed in the recipe.) They were totally raw in the middle! So after a little thinking, I guessed that placing the pans on the cookie sheet was not a good idea. As has happened in the past for me, the cookie sheet prevents the muffin pans from getting the heat they need, hence the undercooked muffins. Solution -- lose the cookie sheet! So far though, Lemon Blossoms 24, Me 0.
  2. I then placed just one muffin pan in the oven, sans cookie sheet. After 12 minutes, they looked good so I pulled them out. The recipe says that after baking for 12 minutes to turn onto a towel. So as soon as I pulled them out, I attempted to turn them out. Yeah...they didn't move...anywhere. GRRR! It said in the recipe to go ahead and turn onto a towel after baking for 12 minutes. In my experience, I've always let them cool first, but the recipe didn't say that. I guess they just assume you have that basic knowledge. Yeah, I didn't. I'm a rule follower! You tell me to turn them out after baking for 12 minutes, and that's what I'm going to do! Oh well. My solution: Allow them to cool a little. Unfortunately, at this point, Lemon Blossoms 36, Me 0.
  3. My final try. I put the muffin pan in sans cookie sheet, baked for 12 minutes and then let them cool for 10 minutes. I turned the pan over and while they still didn't fall out, with some coaxing, I did get 10 whole cupcakes. WHOA! At least I had SOME success. I dunked the cupcakes into the glaze and will let my DH determine whether these thing are worth trying again. (They better be flippin' AWESOME!) At least I know what to do instead next time.

So anyway, instead of eating Lemon Blossoms tonight, I am eating my words! It turns out I'm the dummy who couldn't figure out this "easy" recipe! ;-p

Aside from my monumental baking failure, I've been feeling really good about my least mentally good! I went out for an 8 mile run on Sunday. I felt pretty good during the run. I had a little discomfort in my left knee, but nothing bad at all. I hardly noticed it during the run. It was all I could notice the next day though! It hurt a lot while I was trying to sleep that night and by the time I woke up in the morning, I could barely move it! The whole rest of the day, all I could do was hobble around! I decided running or working out at all was definitely out of the question. I iced before bed and took some ibuprofen also. I woke up this morning and actually felt pretty good! I took two more ibuprofen before my run to help minimize any potential inflammation and it totally worked! I felt great during my run today -- no pain and super energized, both physically and mentally! Instead of running the planned 3, I went 4.3 miles and it was a breeze. I iced when I came home and continue to feel pretty good! I hope to go out for 3.6 more tomorrow morning before my get together with friends. I'll run again Friday for hopefully 3 or 4 and then I plan to do 9 miles Sunday. I'm excited for Sunday too because that is when my local Fleet Feet is having their informational meeting about the training group for the half mary I want to do. I can't wait to hear about it! I really feel like I'm getting back on track with my running and I think this group will help me even more. Thank goodness my running is progressing more than my baking!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Got Some Good News!

I went back to see Dr. Craig (the chiropractor) on Saturday and I got some good news! First, after looking at my x-rays, Dr. Craig found NO problems with my knees at all! It turns out, the reason I am experiencing pain, is because of a problem in my lower back! You know those two little dimples you probably have on either side of your spine on your way lower back? Well, that is where your sacroiliac (SI) joints are. Apparently, one of mine is higher than the other. This imbalance kind of throws everything off and my knees are paying the price. (At least, I think that's what he said!) Anyhow, Dr. Craig said it should only take 6 weeks to totally correct! I will need 2 weeks of frequent adjustments to "teach" my joints where they are supposed to be, 2 weeks of a few more adjustments to keep the joints stabalized, and then 2 weeks of strengthening. What's better is that: 1) I can start back up with running today, as long as I start off this week with short mileage (2-3 miles) and 2) Dr. Craig worked out a plan with me to get me ready to run my 10 miler race in two weeks! He got me in for a few more adjustments over the next two weeks to speed up the process a tad. He says I should be good to go by April 26th for my big race! What a relief! And to top all that off, it looks like my insurance ROCKS! Because I was referred, Dr. Craig didn't charge me at all for my first visit, but he did charge my insurance. With the extra money the insurance sent him, my next 13 visits are totally covered! So about 4 out of my 6 weeks at the chiro will be FREE for me! Then, after that, each visit (including any massages I may want) are only $5! WHOA -- I should've done this a long time ago! Pretty cool!

Well, needless to say, I am very relieved! I just hope this all works.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Exploding Box #5

Here is the latest one I made. I'm trying to make a lot of different ones since I don't know which ones my friends might like. I figure I'll just let them pick and then whichever ones they don't want, I'll just keep for myself. Here is the latest one made with K&Company PP.

Here are the inside layers.

And here is a cute embellishment idea I'm trying. (This is on the blue/cream box I made awhile ago.) The charm I actually got in the jewelry section.