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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Horror!

Today, before I even had my first cup of coffee, I discovered the bane of my existence…and it's twin.

Bane #1, thy name is Highway 37! More specifically, that stretch of the Mare Island Bridge right before the poorly planned out merge from 2 normal highway lanes into one lane of pure pain. Bane #1, you are entirely too isolated and temperamental for my taste, and yet circumstances beyond my control (i.e. the job that pays me) require your near daily use. You may believe that you were getting ahead in the world when you had all that "work" done a few years ago, but don't flatter yourself. We're all just using you for our own purposes. And as soon as we all get those flying cars that Back to the Future II promised us, no one will think twice about you anymore.

Bane #2, thy name is Infineon Raceway! (Disclaimer – the bane itself is the intersection at Highway 37 and Highway 121 – Infineon Raceway, which I still refer to as Sears Point , tends to be the cause of most of the traffic at that intersection.) You take 2nd place, because you only exert your power once in a while and usually limit it to race weekends (NASCAR, how I loathe you...). I should know better than to become complacent though, because you have a way of knowing just when to strike. Like this morning, when you and your evil(er) twin decided to join forces. Sure, the papers and traffic alerts all said it was an auto accident that caused that poor driver to go off the edge into the water, but I know it was your evil plan. How else can you explain the frustration that made those other drivers drive backwards down the side of the highway and continue backing down the one-way on-ramp? Or the panic that made certain other drivers turn off and drive in the wrong direction down that same on-ramp, risking traffic violations? (I'm sure they knew the cops would never get through the traffic to catch them.)

Ahh...I feel a little bit better after that little rant. But really, I sat in traffic so long this morning that people got out of their cars and were walking around. And after all that, all I could find on the news was that there had been an accident by highway 121 this morning, and that a car went into the water (this was reported, but not confirmed). For those non-locals that might be reading this, this particular stretch of the highway is simply a narrow 2-lane strip of pavement surrounded on both sides by water (in the winter - in the summer it's marshy stinky mud flats). The two banes of my existence mentioned above are at each end of this stretch where it rejoins a normal land mass.

Everyone out there - be happy this is not your morning commute! (Unless you commute over the Golden Gate Bridge each morning, in which case, this might actually be cake for you.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Yes, Fran, I Did Bake that Cookie!

I baked all of these, too! All cookie cutters used were gifts from my Aunt Fran!

And that was what I had planned to post about today anyway. Nice segue!

As you may know from one of my previous posts, my new obsession is the Our Best Bites blog, where I found a tutorial for that pretty glazed icing look. And of course, since I had to have something to glaze, I needed a good roll out cookie recipe. I debated using my favorite butter cookie recipe (best butter cookies ever - thank you Susan Branch!), but went ahead and gave the sugar cookie recipe from Our Best Bites a try.

I have had trouble in the past with roll out cookies...somehow, I always have issues getting the cut dough from the cutting board to the baking sheet while retaining the same shape. It may be an issue with personal patience and chilling the dough long enough. Part of the reason I used the OBB recipe was because the author emphasized that the baked cookies retain the original shape after baking. I chose to take the suggestion about rolling out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper right after the mixing step and then sticking it in the fridge to cool. That way, when you take it out to start cutting into with your cutters, you only need to peel away the waxed paper, and don't need to add extra flour to keep it from sticking to anything.

This may be the most helpful baking tip I've ever used. (I should probably tell you all that I also left the dough in the fridge overnight, since I had planned to bake the cookies the next day anyway.) After taking the flat pane of dough out of the fridge, cutting the cookie shapes out was a snap, and there was no problem getting them onto the cookie sheet intact until the dough warmed up. At that point, I simply re-rolled the remaining dough under a fresh sheet of waxed paper and stuck it back in the fridge. Since the recipe instructs you to divide the dough into 2 even balls of dough before rolling it out, I always had a chunk of chilled dough in play. No down time!

When it came to glazing, the only problems I had were totally on my part. I had attempted to thicken up some of the glaze to pipe outlines and was then going to fill them in with the colored glaze, but I didn't truly think that through, and while the finished product looks okay, it was a huge pain in my not so little tuchas. I had already thickened a portion of the glaze and tinted it black, which I was going to use to further decorate the ghosts, and was going to use it to cover all of the bats and the cats (hardest cookies to keep in one piece...they keep deciding to become bob-tails). After filling in the ghosts with the white glaze, I decided there was no way I was going through that whole process with the bats and cats, so I decided to dip the tops of the cookies, turn them around and let the excess run off. Well...since I'd already thickened the black glaze, way more of it adhered to the cookie at first dipping, only to run off and form little puddles around the cookie edges once they had been set down. (Ideally, I would have enough counter space and cookie drying racks to keep me from having to place the finished products directly on a flat surface...alas, 'twas not to be!)

Did I mention that I had mixed up the black glaze in a standard sized cereal bowl? I didn't? Well, now you know. That would have been fine, if I hadn't later decided on dipping the cookies. Those full sized bats are really too wide to get the full cookie top flat in the bowl. So...those were a mixture of dipping and spooning... (it may sound kinky, but believe me, it was not). That should explain why you don't see any of the full sized glazed bats in my little photo montage.

After all of that, I was determined that the rest of the cookies (all pumpkins and owls, aside from one neglected mini-bat) were simply destined to be orange. That being said, I squeezed out some yellow and red food coloring gel (non-diluting, so they say) into the remainder of the non-thickened glaze. I could not, for the life of me, get a true orange color. I ended up with that 70's throw-back baby shower salmon-y pink color that you see in the photos above. When I added additional red, it only became more garish. When I added more yellow, the garish was gone, but it was back to that funky pinkish color.

Oh well, horrible color aside, dipping the cookies in the funky colored glaze worked out the best. Imagine that! I just had to let all of the excess drip off of the cookies before laying them back down. Now that I've figured out (by pure trial and error) how to glaze the cookies right, I think I may need to try the whole process again. And if I do, I'd better do it before Kristin's party this weekend, because I really cannot afford to have these cookies hanging around my house. It only leads to the same cookies hanging around my hips!

For that reason, I brought some into work today to share. I did get some nice compliments, one of which was an accusation that they were from a bakery. I love it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Age Discrimination!!


I heard a story on my local radio's morning show the other day that said the most common age for kids to stop trick-or-treating was 13. 13?! No way! I trick-or-treated into my college years, as did my Aunt and a bunch of my friends (I had to have someone to go with, you know). My siblings all kept trick-or-treating at least into high school.

I still like to dress up for Halloween too, when given a reason to do so. Don't worry though, I did finally accept that I shouldn’t trick-or-treat anymore.

So, I have a question for all of my readers (if I actually have any) – when did you stop dressing up for Halloween and/or stop trick-or-treating? If you had kids, are you going to have them stop at a certain age?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lips, Inc.

No, I'm not taking you to Funky Town, but I couldn't think of a better name for the post, and now that song is stuck in my head. You are welcome.

It was overcast and drizzly yesterday. A definite change from the crazy heat we've had lately. Since it was the first time in months that it wasn't hotter in my apartment at night than it was outside, I decided to take the opportunity to flat-iron my hair. (There is no way I'm putting hot tools to my temples in the heat!)

This morning, looking in the mirror after donning my mostly gray outfit (sounds drab, but I like to think it wasn't), I realized that my face seemed almost completely devoid of color. So, contrary to my usual routine, I actually put on some lipstick, because I felt that I needed it. Shocker, right?!

(Those who know me know that in spite of my obsession with make-up, I don't wear it on a day-to-day basis, and rarely to work.)

So, hair straight and shiny for a change, and lips all rosy reddish, I headed out for work. After 2 failed attempt to get gas in Vallejo (seriously, 2 stations on the same street out of gas? Really?), I got to work, got my coffee and stopped in my co-worker's office to say hi.

And here comes the reason that I rarely wear makeup at work...

"Oooh, look at you! You going somewhere? Got a date tonight?"

Ugh. It never fails. Of course I don't have a date tonight - if I did, I'd have worn more than just lipstick (at least mascara, too, if not the full face) and I wouldn't have gussied myself up for the 8 hours at work either. I touch my face too much, and it would all be gone before the hypothetical date. As I told my co-worker later, if I had a date nobody here would have a clue, and I'd put my makeup on in my car before I left!

She did tell me that lipstick looks good on me and I should always wear it. I've heard similar things before, including in a recent email from some random dude on a dating website (to which I did not respond), who asked if I wore lipstick often, because it looks good on me. I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say as an introduction, especially considering that it was pretty much the entire email. I mean, does lipstick look bad on anyone (besides those with poor color choice and failed application)?

I am taking it all as a complement for once instead of assuming it means that everyone thinks I look bad without the lipstick (which was not said...). I do see the difference when I wear it. I also noticed today that the color was starting to feather at my lip-line - I'm starting to get old-lady lip lines! Nooo! (It still beats jowls.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


My good friend Kristin is having a Halloween party in a few weeks and I've been looking at ideas for things to bring along. The party is really for the kids (her 2 year old, and bunch of others), so we're not doing anything that might scare the little ones. I'm fine with that, because I'm not too into all of those foods that look like brains and severed body parts.

I have found a lot of great recipe ideas out there on the internet, including this recipe for Spooky Banana-Fudge Cupcakes. Boy do those look good! I also found this site, thanks to Kristin, which I have a feeling I'll be visiting often. The cookie pops intrigued me, because I've always wanted to be able to decorate cookies this way. So, on the same site, I found a tutorial for glazing and also for sugar cookies. Both tutorials have some great tips and now I'm eager to give both techniques a try.

With that in mind, I decided to go through my baking/candy-making drawer (yes, I have a designated drawer for this) to see what I might have on hand for Halloween projects. Mainly, I was looking for my star shaped and moon shaped cookie cutters, which I knew were somewhere in the drawer. Other than that, I really didn't think I had much in the way of Halloween-related items, so I was really surprised to find all of this:

Ignore that Christmas tin in the center...

What you are looking at is a whole slew of candy molds (those jack-o-lantern candy pop molds have a copyright date on them of 1977!) cookie cutters, treat bags and craft sticks. And no, the pumpkin was not in the drawer. That circle tin up there next to the Christmas tin (which I meant to remove before taking the photo - oops!) holds all of these:
I don't think I've ever even used any of these! So, maybe I need to whip up a batch of mini butter cookies, decorate them beautifully (I have high hopes in my limited decorating talent) and use them to top those banana-fudge cupcakes.

Of course, it's more likely that I'll whip up the cupcakes and never get to the cookies, or vice versa... But, I just might be able to do both! I have a few more weeks to plan.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Adventures in Entrelac II

After my first foray into the world of Entrelac, I decided to give it another go with a better suited yarn. Luckily, I happened to have an old abandoned skein of Noro Silk Garden laying around. I had purchased the yarn with great things in mind for it, I'm sure...I just don't remember what those things might have been. Probably a one-skein scarf or something. I know that everyone raves about this yarn, but I found it a bit scratchy and decided I didn't want to wear it against my skin...thus, the availability for my new adventures...

Using the same pattern that I used last time, I started stitching merrily away. It was a much smoother ride than my first little adventure...for the most part.
Off topic - I love my new tablecloth!

I didn't block it, so this was the natural bumpiness caused by the stitches. My rows of picked up stitches have improved, and are less obvious than last time. However, even though it's not really apparent here, I still seem to have some pretty large holes were the corners of the blocks meet. If I were to block the piece, I'm afraid there would be huge gaps at those spots. All in all though, I'd say it looks pretty good...

Look again! Oops! That glaring bright spot in the upper right hand corner there? Yep, that's where I took my inevitable wrong turn. I was so close to finishing and ended up running out of yarn! Nooo! If this had been an actual garment or something to be gifted, I would have frogged the last 2 tiers and finished it off, simply making the whole thing shorter. (You have to start the final tier of half blocks after a tier that faces in the correct direction.) But, since this was just a practice piece anyway, I decided to leave it as is.

I haven't decided if there will be any more attempts with the entrelac technique or not. I have determined that I quite dislike picking up stitches, and this technique requires a ton of that. Plus the gaping hole issue. We'll see...

In the meantime, I found the softest yarn ever at Michael's the other day, and will give you all a peek.

I am using this to make a surprise for someone, so I can't say any more about it, except that it's a little bit tricky to work with, but I am getting the hang of it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Pain in the Eye!

So...I got a new pair of glasses about 2 months or so ago. After a few weeks, I still hadn't adjusted to the new prescription, so went back in to have them checked. It turns out the prescription was wrong, and the prism hadn't been written down on what went to the lab for processing (i.e. my lenses made me see wonky - like my actual eyes do, only slightly clearer). The result of that was total visual disorientation with the glasses on.

Take 2 - the glasses went back to the lab to get the correct prescription lenses put in. This took about 3 weeks because the lab broke one of the new lenses when putting them in the frames. Two weeks ago I went in and picked up the newly re-finished glasses. As soon as I put them on, I knew something wasn't right. The frames didn't look the same to me as when I had picked them out, and worn them (with the wrong prescription) for nearly a month. It was the same pair of frames, but the shape had changed. To me, it looks like whoever put the lenses in the frame reshaped the frame to fit the lenses, and not the other way around. I mentioned that they didn't look the same, and I could tell that the chick behind the counter thought I was nuts, until she pulled up the frames online and saw what I was talking about. So, the office ordered a new pair of the frames for me and said they'd grind down my lenses to fit the actual frames. So, although the current jacked-up frames really didn't fit me right, they decided to wait to adjust them until the new frames were in.

That would be all fine and dandy...except that the current frames are the most uncomfortable frames I have ever worn in my 21 year history of wearing glasses. They don't sit right on my face and instead of nestling close to the side of my head just over that space where the ear meets the head, the ends of the arms actually sit away from my head on the cartilage of my ear. It's so uncomfortable that it's actually nauseating, and I can still feel it after the glasses are off.

To top it all off, over the past 2 weeks I've also noticed that the prescription lenses still don't seem right. My vision is unclear when staring straight ahead. If I turn my head slightly to my left and avert my eyes to the right, the vision is clearer. Like I'm going to walk around like that all of the time! I keep thinking the lenses are dirty (which they are half of the time because my lashes hit the lenses - also annoying, gosh darned long, lush lashes!), but the vision problem is the same even right after cleaning the lenses. It's not only annoying, but also disorienting, and probably not really safe for driving. I keep thinking I'll finally get used to the lenses if I just keep wearing them, but it's not working. I shouldn't still be squinting to see with a new pair of glasses! I'm totally frustrated.

The new frames are in, and I've got an appointment for first thing tomorrow morning to have the lenses re-checked and put into the new frames. I have a feeling things are going back to the lab, which I don't trust at this point anymore...but, it's already all been paid for by my insurance coverage, not to mention my out-of-pocket portion that I've also already paid. I hate that the lab has screwed these up so bad, since I really like my actual eye doctors.

I'm also not sure I'll stick with the frames, though I feel bad that they've ordered a new pair. I've gotten compliments about how they look on me, but after the discomfort with this pair, I'm afraid that I'll have the same problem with the new ones. I also wonder if the frames are just poorly made, as the arms are so widely spaced and loose. And the lash issue and constant cleaning... Urgh...

Wish me luck! I just want to be able to see again!
This is what they are supposed to look like (and how they looked the first time around).

Note the upper left-hand corner of the frames, and how you can see the inner part of the frame that has been mashed over the lens on the lower and upper edges.