Butterscotch Hot Toddy

It’s been freezing in New Jersey lately, and a coworker told me she made a butterscotch hot toddy to stay warm. I tried it today and loves it and need to spread the joy and warmth of this cocktail!

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You will not be disappointed!!

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Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

I like to live life frugally. So every Christmas I usually wind up making many of the gifts I give to people; either something entirely handmade or, more often, something handmade to go along with what I’ve already purchased. More than being frugal, however, I feel like handmade is far more heartfelt. A lot of people don’t realize the time and effort it takes to make gifts and think it’s merely a way to cop out of spending money, which makes me sad. When I crochet even just a hat, it takes hours of my time, and that ought to be worth more than any money I were to drop on something found in a store.

Now that I’ve had my rant, the point was that I got my cousin a mug for Christmas from Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel (which is one of the best reality shows next to Ancient Aliens) and found a neat post on Pinterest on a layered hot chocolate recipe – perfect! The recipe called for crushed peppermint starlights/candy canes, but thanks to another post from Pinterest, I decided to omit that part and replace it with homemade peppermint marshmallows from the Betty Crocker website.

Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing – I just sprayed my Pyrex with cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THIS AND DON’T TRY TO SUBSTITUTE IT. More on that later.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract – I used imitation peppermint extract because that’s what Shop Rite had, and it was fine
  • 8 to 10 drops red food color – I think I wound up using like, fifteen
  1. Generously grease bottom and sides of 11×7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish with butter; dust with 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar. In bowl of stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water to soften; set aside.
  2. In 2-quart saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling; cook without stirring about 30 minutes to 240°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but is pliable; remove from heat. I don’t have a candy thermometer, nor do I have the patience to check the temperature the way it is listed, so after bringing it to a boil I lowered the temperature and just let it do its thing for 30 minutes.
  3. Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed. Increase speed to high; beat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Add peppermint extract; beat on high speed 1 minute. Pour into baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands. Drop food color randomly onto top of marshmallow mixture. Pull table knife through food color to create swirl pattern over top. Let stand uncovered at least 8 hours or overnight.
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  5. Dust cutting board with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Place remaining powdered sugar in small bowl. To remove marshmallow mixture, loosen sides from dish and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using sharp knife greased with butter, cut into 1-inch squares (11 rows by 7 rows). Dust bottom and sides of each marshmallow by dipping into bowl of powdered sugar. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

In regards to my note about the corn syrup, I didn’t realize until I had already put the gelatin and water in my mixer that I had none, so I looked up a substitute online because I actually do that quite a bit with ingredients I don’t normally keep in the house. Well, the substitute for corn syrup is water and sugar. When you try to mix that with MORE water and sugar, disaster strikes. And by disaster I mean after almost an hour your sugar will still have not dissolved. I had to admit defeat and put the gelatin & water mix in the refrigerator overnight; after coming back home with the corn syrup everything went fine.

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I’m still trying to get through all the marshmallows. I’m sure I won’t, but suddenly I have a strong desire for hot chocolate…

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Liara From Mass Effect 3

I’m not quite sure where to start this one; there’s no easy way to describe Mass Effect without playing it. As someone who has logged almost 300 hours of playtime for the series (judge me I don’t care it was worth it) I can tell you it takes place in the future where people fly around to different clusters within the galaxy and there’s aliens. I guess that’s all you need to know in order for this to make sense, but I STRONGLY suggest you just buy the games. The first two are probably $20 each now and you’ll get more satisfaction than you probably will from a month of World of Warcraft.

ANYWAY, there is a character named Liara who is an alien – an asari, actually. I recreated her in her Mass Effect 3 garb because there was something I really liked about the outfit. It’s weird, there’s is (what seems to be) a pretty high percentage of people who LOVE the asari, especially this character; I’m not one of those people. I don’t hate her, but if you’ve played the first game you’ll know what I mean when I say she’s naive, and her naivety enrages me in that game. You don’t really see much of her in Mass Effect 2, and by Mass Effect 3 you’ve formed relationships with so many awesome characters…by that point I just didn’t care about her anymore. The asari and their obnoxious omnipotence can eat dirt – compare them to the turians or the drell and they’re easily swept aside. If you’re me, I guess.

Liara Mass Effect 3

Yarn Liara

I made this up as I went and never wrote a pattern or really measured anything…it shows as her head is huge compared to the rest of her body; I wasn’t able to get her headcrest positioned correctly either. I think the proportions would look better if I had bigger eyes, but I bought a bag of 25 pairs and wasn’t about to buy more when I had that many laying around. Also, they are surprisingly difficult to find anyway.

Yarn Liara's uneven headcrests

Not sure who I’ll make next – my heart says Garrus, but I’m still burnt out with the headcrest so I don’t know if I want to tackle turian mandibles. Maybe Vega. I freaking love that guy. Or Blastos, because what the hell else am I going to do with the huge ball of pink yarn I have laying around?

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Glazed Coconut Bread

When we got engaged I registered for (and received at my bridal shower last March) a bread machine. I thought this would be the best idea ever because they’re kind of like crock pots; you can just throw everything in there and let the machine do the work. I picked a recipe out of the booklet that came with the machine for coconut bread, because I had nearly a full bag from a failed Easter bunny carrot cake that didn’t go quite as planned.

Well, true to form with everything I touch, that bread machine is broken or something. I’ve only used it once and one of the two mixers doesn’t move, so at the last minute (which, naturally, is when I realized it wasn’t working) I tried sort-of-mixing it with a rubber spatula. The whole bread wound up being a disaster and we threw it out (this could possibly be because I killed the yeast, but I’m blaming the machine until I get a working one).

Fast forward to about a month ago, we had 2 events to go to where I volunteered to bring dessert. Around this time I also came across glazed coconut bread recipe on Pinterest and thought it would be a great opportunity to use up more of the shredded coconut.

Note: this recipe makes TWO loaves; if you only want one don’t forget to halve everything!

Glazed Coconut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract – I thought this would be difficult to find, but Shop Rite actually had it
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup buttermilk – I substituted the buttermilk with milk and white vinegar

Coconut Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease or spray 2 bread loaf pans.
  2. In mixing bowl beat eggs until fluffy.  Add the sugar, oil, and coconut extract and beat 3 more minutes.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder,  and salt and add to mixing bowl.  Mix until combined.  Add coconut and buttermilk.  Pour batter into loaf pans and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
  4. Remove pans from oven and set on wire rack.
  5. Immediately mix the glaze by combining sugar, water and butter in small sauce pan.  Allow mixture to boil for 1 minute and then add in coconut extract.  Slowly pour the glaze over the hot bread (in the pan).  Allow the glaze to seep in the bread and down the sides of the pan.Be careful with this part – it’s still so hot at this point it bubbles everywhere, so do it slowly so it doesn’t overflow!
  6. When cool enough to handle, remove the bread from the pan (yes, it’s a little sticky) and allow to finish cooling on the wire rack.  Slice, serve, and savor each bite!

This time, the coconut bread was great! It was like eating Malibu. It’s a little on the sweet side, so I only ate small pieces because I don’t usually like overly sweet things, but this was perfect in small doses.


Now I’m inspired to do something about that bread machine!

Happy New Year 2013

2013

Generally I’m anti-new-years-resolution, because I feel that if you really want to change something or start something new, you shouldn’t wait for the new year to do it. This year I have a few goals that just happen to coincide with the time, so I guess I can call them new years resolutions, even if it pains me to do so. Also I’m in the new years spirit today because we’re having a bunch of people over later; I’m hoping I’ll remember to take a few photos and recap the food here.

1. Blog More
I don’t know why I don’t blog more often, I think I’m just lazy. I’ve finished quite a few projects that I haven’t posted about, and I’m hoping to get around to that in the next week or two.

2. Finish The Projects I’ve Started Before Starting Anything New
I literally have 7 WIPs. I want to prioritize and finish them before starting any new projects, even though I really really really really want to make that cowl I’ve been thinking about.

3. Learn More Italian
I’ve had a book & audio CD kit for learning Italian for years now; I’ve started it at least twice. I want to dig it out of whatever box it’s packed away in and actually commit some vocabulary to memory (besides the swears and kitchen tools I grew up with).

4. Finish Moving In
Besides the fact that we still have boxes that haven’t been unpacked (actually I think they’re just my boxes), we want to start hanging pictures on the walls and make it look like we live there, instead of looking like we’re just squatting there for a few months.

What are you new years resolutions (if you wish to call them that)?

Games & Crafts: In Which I Realize The Two Main Parts Of My Life That I Have Been Keeping Separate Are In Fact The Same Thing

Sometimes I feel like I have two personalities. There Crafty Me, who…likes to do crafty things. (DURR) Then there’s kind-of-nerdy-slightly-pathetic me, who has played Mass Effect more than anyone I know combined, and almost cried the last time I went to the Magic Kingdom and they played the Mickey Mouse theme over the bus speakers. I really did view them as two personalities, that would rarely cross paths.

Additionally, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve been making an effort to be more active in social media, and basically figure out how to make it work to my advantage. When I first got a Twitter account, I ignored it for years because I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do with it. I figured it was because I wasn’t in high school and don’t have 30 close friends. NOPE, you can totally still use it if that isn’t you! I follow so many blogs, websites, and talented people on Twitter, and I know I wouldn’t see half of the awesome things I see online if I didn’t look at Twitter regularly.

This all came together earlier this week, when I saw a tweet from Holly Conrad (or possibly Jessica Merizan, everything starts to blend together on Twitter) mentioning that Crabcat Industries had a new show on the Nerdist YouTube channel about how they go about making their awesome creations.

WAIT WAIT, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH VIDEO GAMES OR WHATEVER YOU SAID WHEN YOU CALLED YOURSELF PATHETIC?

I’m glad you asking, imaginary reader! Holly and Jessica were featured in Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope when they created some INSANELY AWESOME Mass Effect 2 costumes for the SDCC costume competition. The first time I saw the audition reel, I actually got chills, and cheered with everyone when Al-Jilani got decked on stage. I have put more hours into playing Mass Effect than probably any other game ever. I actually get yelled at for playing it so awesome because I’m apparently missing out on so much awesome stuff…whatever, I still have fun. So watching it all come to life was just…FUN. And now because of their “Try This At Home” series on Nerdist I get to see HOW THINGS HAPPEN? I’d say I’m tickled pink if it was such a pervy-sounding phrase.

A day later, I was browsing my Google Reader account, which I do about 50 times a day, and came across this post on Craftzine/Makezine. For some reason, it was an exciting and kind of bizarre moment – and that’s when I realized that these two iterations of myself I was trying to keep completely separate was, basically, all for naught. I couldn’t even think of a reason why I was trying to be two mes, instead of one crafty-nerdy-slightly-pathetic me. The combined version, which I suppose is “real me,” probably makes much better jokes anyway.

So, that was my strange revelation of the day/week/month/etc. On that note, I’ll be posting about the crocheted Liara I finished last week whenever I get around to taking decent photos of it. Then I’m sure I’ll be posting about my Halloween costume, which I’m super excited about, as well as the other 3 posts I have queued and half-finished.

Rocket flop corgi, AWAYYYYY

Health, Fitness, and MyFitnessPal

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I don’t take very good care of myself. I’m naturally slim with no glaring health problems, so I just never bothered. I’ve had spurts of exercise sprinkled in over the last decade or so, but nothing ever really stuck.

Then a few weeks ago, I heard of runDisney. It’s a…group? series of events? I’m not really sure what to call it, but it’s basically organized by Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and various races are held at the parks. There are multiple races every year for various levels of fitness. Now, anyone who knows me also knows that I loooove WDW and I’ve always wanted to experience the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, held every November(-ish). As it turns out, there is a Food & Wine half marathon, so I’ve decided to use this as an excuse to become some sort of a runner in time for the 2013 festival! My husband is already a runner, so I think we’re both going to participate!

Now that’s all well and good, but a half-marathon is 13+ miles, so training is involved. And with training comes developing healthy habits…something clicked that made me actually WANT to be healthier, instead of forcing myself. And since it’s 2012 and I have an iPhone…there’s an app for that.

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I started using MyFitnessPal about three weeks ago, and it’s really inspired me to get into better shape. Since I’m not looking to lose weight, my goals are kind of difficult to calculate, but by just paying better attention to the labels on the foods I eat I’ve lost 1/4″ around my waist…minor, but not bad considering that was never part of my goal (still not quite sure what that is). The app has a scanner to add food, which makes it even easier to be accurate. There is also a list of various cardio and strength exercises you can add, which will subtract from the calories you’ve eaten, thereby “allowing” you to eat more. The only thing I don’t really like so far is there is no where to add vitamins…I’ve just been adding them in the “notes” section of each day’s food diary. (I take a multi, calcium, iron (I’m anemic), and E (my nails tend to peel).)

I’ve since convinced a friend of mine to join the site with me, and she’s lost about 2 pounds in the past 2 weeks by keeping track! I’m still amazed at how awful some of the things I eat are…I still eat them, but in moderation. Or I can gorge on it and just exercise more that day. Eating healthy only has limitations if you’re lazy! Which is a rut I’m starting to get out of.

Do you use any sort of health & fitness tracker? Has it changed your outlook on your health?

Social Yarning, Or How I Came To Realize I Have Awesome Coworkers

One of things I loved about crocheting (and crafting in general) is that I didn’t have to associate with ridiculous people. I mean, I’m pretty judge-y about people, and maybe it’s just the area I live & work in, but I don’t find a whole lot of people that share all the same interests I have, which is basically crafting and video games. Well, that’s kind of a lie, I know loads of people that are into video games, and I married one, but very few people are as into crafting as I am. So when I met a few people at my place of employment who were also yarn crafters, I was a little wary because they weren’t cats.

That was last autumn, or maybe early winter. Obviously, I got over that in a few yarn lunch sessions (if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be writing this) and we all became such good friends that we’ve even done two NYC yarn crawls and dinners outside of work! This is something I hadn’t experienced since I hung out at bars when I worked retail years ago.

As I’ve stated probably way-too-many times, I got married in May and found out after I got back from my honeymoon, that they had been having secret meetings to crochet me (and my husband too, I guess) wedding/housewarming gifts!!

I thought I’d be afraid to use them and potentially ruin them, but I use them almost daily. (I used to leave the table set with the placemats AND coasters, until I found the cat using a placemat as a bed one morning.)

And here it is, the end of summer 2012 and we still have yarn lunches and don’t hate each other. TRUE FRIENDSHIP.

Social Media

So, I have all the places you can find me on the Internet listed right on a frame her on the blog, but I never “announced” anything. So, follow me on any of those places! I want to start using Twitter more, but I feel kind of ridiculous talking to, basically, myself. 🙂

Twitter
Ravelry
Facebook
Pinterest

Christmas In July Scarf

I got an early start on Christmas gifts this year!

Just the scarf, not the cat. I used this Lion Brand pattern, which is RIDICULOUSLY simple, but the thick yarn and giant hook gave it an interesting look.

This project on Ravelry