Thursday, February 23, 2012

Growing Older

Lucy and I just got back from a walk.
The weather is gorgeous, warm and sunny with a cool breeze.
I forget how old this little dog is because she still acts like a playful puppy sometimes and doesn't look her age.  She is eleven now.  We got her a few months after we moved into our house, I think that's the way I keep track.  Poor girl got tired on our walk, neither of us get enough excercise.

Lucy on our walk

Lucy on our walk

Lucy on our walk

I would like to forget how old I am, and I used to. Now I am acutely aware of my age. I don't necessarily feel my age, but I do know it. I'm not old, but I'm closer to my 40's than my 20's.

I saw this cartoon that said, "I miss being the age when I thought I'd have my shit together by the age that I am now". I can definitely relate to that.

All this is to say that time is flying by and I need to get more exercise so that I don't end up feeling my age. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

This and That

I had a couple of days off at the end of last week and was able to recover from the Valentines mayhem at work.  It was a nice little retreat.  We spent that time at my parents' house with my family.  On Friday night we cooked a feast of Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings, Granny Potato Salad and Spinach Salad and had a bunch of friends join us.  It was great fun.

I feel like my blog has been all about my niece Karlie lately.  I guess she is what I've been all about.  On my days off I just want to spend time with her and we have been as much as possible.

I tried to get her to pose with me to show off our boots, but she wasn't feeling it.
Karlie and I walking in the rain

Karlie and I walking in the rain

I love my new boots.  They were a Christmas surprise from my parents and Frank.  They will last me forever because they are so well made.  I have been wearing them under long jeans, which is sort of a cowgirl boot look.  I do like the way they make my legs look longer.  I have jeggings (never thought I'd own those) that I thrifted to tuck into the boots, but I need longer shirts to wear over them.  They also look great with skirts that hit me right above the knee.
My boots

I have been sewing too when I'm at home and have really gotten into sewing with knits. I have almost finished my 3rd top from Sew U Home Stretch and have been wearing one of them a lot. I wish I could get into taking pictures of myself in the clothes I make, but somehow I'm not motivated to do so.  I will try to get over that and show you come of the great new sewn and thrifted clothes that I have added to my wardrobe.

For my Valentines mayhem story.  I loved working in floral, despite the craziness.  I rotated between helping out in the back and bringing flowers to the front, helping customers pick out flowers and wrapping flowers for customers.  By Monday they weren't doing any more custom bouquets, but customers could pick flowers and we wrapped them in tissue.  Both days were crazy, but Tuesday was nuts.  There were flowers in front of the store, but mostly the men with lost looks in their eyes congregated in the floral department.  I enjoyed going up to them and asking what they had in mind, any specific colors or flowers.  Some knew their ladies' favorite flower and we went from there.  My favorites were the ones who wanted something different, not necessarily a dozen red roses.  Red roses are pretty but red roses with baby's breath just bores me.  One gentleman buying flowers for his mother wanted Sunflowers and I put together a bouquet with Sunflowers, Irises, Gerber Daisies, Stock and I can't remember what else, but he loved it.  It's really all a blur of flowers, but I totally enjoyed it.  As I was tagging flowers for the cashiers I was so glad that I wasn't one of them.  I had cashiered Saturday and Sunday and those days were already insane.  So Valentines at Central Market really lasted four days.

By the time I got home on Valentines evening it was late and I was exhausted.  Frank had made me the sweetest card and gotten me chocolate.  I was super lame and hadn't done anything for him.  He made us quesadillas for dinner.  We made up for it the next night with possibly my favorite new diner though.  We made our Shrimp Pasta dish with the new fresh pasta from work and a splash of cream that I had bought for the caramels.  Best pasta dish we have ever made and I don't think I can go back to dried pasta now!!!! Seriously, it was so good.
 My to do list has been growing lately with lots of handmade gifts to be made. I have three birthdays and three baby gifts coming up and two are fast approaching.  Possibly too fast to get anything made.  Work really does get in the way sometimes!  I have also been obsessing over new Spring sewing patterns and eye glasses.  More on that later.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Belated Valentines Treats

I just couldn't not make Valentines treats, even if I am a few days late.
Last year I made Fleur de Sel Caramels.
This year I took it a step further and covered them in Chocolate.

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

I have had some caramel making experience since this time last year.  With Salted Caramel Ice Cream and my Birthday cake.  Between that experience and the reviews on the Caramel recipe I knew to cook the sugar longer to get a lovely caramel color and flavor.  I followed one reviewers tip to cook the sugar mixture to 270 degrees on my candy thermometer (this is the first step before adding the cream).  This made a big difference.  I also doubled the recipe but left out 1 tablespoon of butter.  I used sea salt in the caramels and saved my Fleur de Sel for the tops of the candies.  I poured the caramel into a 9x13 pan but propped a box of cornstarch at the end to make the caramel thicker.

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

I did all this last night and let the caramels cook and harden overnight.
This morning I cut them into pieces, roughly 1" x 1/2".

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

I melted Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate chips in a pyrex bowl over simmering water.

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

I used two forks, and dipped one piece of caramel at a time, completely covering them.  The forks were used to lift, shake off excess and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  I sprinkled the tops with Fleur de Sel right after dipping so it would stick.  This process would have been much faster with a helper.  It took me about an hour to dip the chocolates and I think I came out with over 80 pieces!
I tried dipping a few at a time, and by the time I got the third one out the caramel would be melty so I switched to one by one.

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

Salted Caramels Covered in Chocolate

These are time consuming, but I split it up into two days, which makes it manageable.  I haven't tasted a finished on yet, but I did taste the caramel and it is just right.  I have no doubt they will rival the ones I sometimes have as a guilty pleasure at work.  Time is the biggest investment here, but I probably make at least $40 worth of candies and only spent $10 on cream and chocolate.  I bought a 30 oz bag of chocolate chips and didn't even use half.  I already had everything else on hand.  I know this isn't a thorough price comparison, but the $40 is based on buying from the bulk department at work for fifty cents a piece, and that is without any pretty packaging or a famous name attached to them.  I know they could cost way more than that.  I think making them at home is my solution for future gifts.  I wish I had time to try out more flavors, maybe coffee, vanilla, chiles, the options are endless.  I will be sharing these with family and friends asap so that I don't over indulge.

I still have to tell you my stories from working in the floral department on Valentines.  It was actually quite fun!  For now I'm off to search for ballet shoes for my niece and necessities for us. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine

Frank, my Valentine, my love.
I've said it all before, he's the best.
To know him is to love him.
Ask anyone who does know him and they will concur.
His infectious smile and laugh will win you over in a heartbeat.
I'm one lucky girl.

Our friend Meredith Martin took this photo of us the weekend of my birthday.
This is the tree we got married under in my parents backyard.  I love that spot and wanted some photos before my parents sell their house.

I have to run, I'm off to the front lines of the floral department at Central Market.  I will report back with details later in the week. Frank and I won't have time to cook a nice dinner tonight like we usually do, so we may celebrate later in the week.

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blueberry and Cream Cookies

Ahh, these Blueberry and Cream cookies are sooooo delicous!
I made them several years ago after seeing the pastry chef from Momofuku Milk Bar on Martha Stewart making them.  They are kind of a pain but oh so good.

I finally made them again last week with Karlie's help.  She got mad because I cracked the eggs while she wasn't in the kitchen and she didn't get to do it.  This two and half year old niece of mine is fiercely independent and likes to do everything herself.  I had to remind her repeatedly that these cookies would not involve sprinkles.  She wasn't quite sure if she would like these sprinkle-less cookies, but finally tasted one and approved.  Everyone loves these cookies, they are phenomenal.

blueberry and cream cookies

There are two steps to this recipe and I did the Milk Crumbs in advance, quadrupling the recipe and freezing half of that.  I doubled the cookie recipe and it made 6.5 dozen cookies.  The recipe says 14 cookies, so those must be huge cookies!  I used my 1 ounce cookie scoop for these.  Cookie scoops have totally changed my baking life, by the way.  So much easier than spoons.  My local restaurant supply store has them in a whole range of sizes.

These cookies are not cheap to make but are really worth the cost and effort.  I made one batch for company the first night, some for my parents to take home, another batch for us and mailed some to my friend Christi who I know loves them. 

blueberry and cream cookies

Today I am catching up on Etsy orders, and hopefully sewing a bit.
I work for the next six days which will be pretty crazy with Valentines madness at work.
Monday and Tuesday I will be helping out in the floral department.  I wish I had gotten a bit more practice as I will be in the midst of the craziest department in the store on Valentines, yikes!  It should be fun though.

I'm thinking about making truffles for Valentines gifts but I'm not sure if I can make it happen since I will be at work everyday.  We shall see.  I missed taking a truffle making class by the creator of Vosges chocolates last weekend at work and was really bummed about that. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

....and the Stock Show Was Fun!

Frank and I went to the Fort Worth Stock Show last year, for the first time since I moved to Fort Worth in 2000.  It was fun, but sharing it with my niece Karlie was so much more fun!
Karlie, her dad (my little brother) and I went last week.

There was a corn dog, lemonade and cotton candy consumed.
Karlie and her foot long corn dog!

She rode the Carousel with daddy.
Carousel with daddy

Karlie at the stock show

The "bikes" by herself.
Karlie at the stock show

The teacups with Aya (me).
On the teacup ride with Aya

And we all enjoyed the petting zoo.  It was my favorite part.
The petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show

This Scottish Highland Calf was so cute!
The petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show

Sweet soft bunnies
The petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show

Lots of curious baby goats
The petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show

This one chewing on my purse!
Check out mine and Karlie's boots.
She got hers at the stock show, I got mine for Christmas.  Love them both.
The petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stock Show

Here she is the next day modeling her boots with the dress that I made her for her birthday.
This was the first time I had gotten to see her wear it.  It fits, but there's not much room to grow.  I measured her for future dresses and showed her the patterns that I have been buying for her.  Unfortunately most of the cute simplicity girls dress patterns start at size 3 and I think she is currently a 2.  Maybe I need to look into alternative pattern companies?

How cute is she?!
ess that I made her with her new boots

I love that girl to pieces and am so glad we got to take her to see all the animals.
We did wander through all the show animal barns and saw lots of pigs and cows.  The 4-H lifestyle is like a different world.  I grew up in the country but never raised animals, though I would have looooooved to have had a horse and did take lessons for years.  I enjoy seeing the kids grooming and showing their animals in the barns but always feel like I am getting in their way.  I guess they are used to it as the barns are open to the public.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flowers and Cookies

I'm still enjoying my Quince branch as the blossoms open. 

Quince blossoms

I moved it to the window sill by my desk and it looks so much like Spring.
It still feels like Spring here too.  On the news they were calling it June-uary.
I can't believe it is February already.  Time flies.
Quince blossoms

I worked in the floral department at work last Friday and really loved it.
The ladies are all lovely and sweet.  I hope there is more floral work in my future!
I brought home these Kanagroo paws to enjoy.
kangaroo paws

Tomorrow we are taking Karlie Rose to the Stock Show to see all the animals.  I'm hoping to catch the Rabbit show in the afternoon.  I plan on wearing my new boots that I got for Christmas.  You gotta dress the part, right?

I had my mind set on making the Blueberry and Cream cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar that I made several winters ago.  Once again the shopping list took me to four stores!  Joann for the glucose, work for dried bluebberries and white chocolate and two others looking for plain 'ol non-fat milk powder.  I think I threw a box of it away after it sat in my cupboard for a couple of years.  I guess I should make these cookies more often.  I make the Milk Crumbs last night and quadrupled the recipe.  I will double the cookie recipe and freeze the extra milk crumbs.  I'm trying to think of other baked goods that they could go into as well.  Need to use up that milk powder!

I'm hoping that Karlie likes these, but if not there will be more for us.  They are seriously worth the effort, so good.