Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bad Day/Good Cookies

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Tuesday, January 20th, was the first day of the spring semester at College of Marin, where I work.  It is usually a very busy, stressful time with classes getting changed, students getting lost, and a good amount of panic, misunderstanding and poor communication.  By Friday, all I wanted to do was eat peanut butter and chocolate. For dinner.

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I know I ate something more sensible than that, though I don’t remember now what it was.  What I do remember is the cookies I baked after dinner. I’d enjoyed them at my friend Maria’s house on the Monday Martin Luther King holiday when we were crafting Valentine’s with her daughters and remembered their rich, crumbly peanut buttery goodness, loaded with chocolate chips.  Happily, Maria had the recipe on her phone and sent it promptly.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found it a little strange that Maria’s recipe came from King Arthur Flour and it is a no-flour recipe. It doesn’t matter though, because this recipe makes a wonderful cookie and I certainly didn’t miss the flour.

No-Flour Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

From King Arthur Flour (and Maria)

Ingredients:

1 cup smooth peanut butter (I didn’t have enough smooth peanut butter so used part creamy and part crunchy and they were delicious)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips (when I made them, I used a generous hand with the chocolate chips and felt it was a little too much chocolate for the peanut butter, so next time I’ll stick with the recipe as written)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the peanut butter, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl and beat together with a mixer at medium speed, until well-blended.

Add the egg and vanilla, and blend on low-medium speed until incorporated.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop dough by rounded tablespoons (use a tablespoon cookie scoop if you have one – I don’t and just used a soup spoon), making them about the size of a walnut.

NOTE: I used natural peanut butter which the King Arthur site warned against as it makes a more dry, crumbly cookie.  The dough was very crumbly but I could scoop it with a spoon, gathering the crumbly dough and roll it in my hands to make balls.

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Press the top of the dough to flatten just slightly.  I forgot to take a picture until they were already in the oven but I didn’t press them down much.

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Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. The tops should be slightly crinkled. Pull them out before they begin to brown on the edges.

Yield: 20 cookies.

Less than a minute until the cookies are done.!

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I know that eating cookies isn’t the answer to stressful situations. I was also walking my 10,000 steps every day and I’m not going to get worked up about baking a batch of 20 or so cookies.

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Thanks for your visit. Here’s to good cookies AND good days.

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Little Paper Houses

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When it comes down to it, I’m a big homebody.  I enjoy the warmth and simple pleasures of home.  I haven’t traveled that much but loved it when I did, but I also am very happy to come home. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to these sweet Little Paper Houses, and my recent Art Journal: Home page.

I made these for my mom for Christmas.  I know it’s it’s a little late but these are too cute not to share. They have battery operated votive lights inside so they are really house-shaped Luminaries.

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I saw them on Cathe Holden’s fabulous site Just Something I Made. She has several variations, but these ones with vintage-style paper and button embellishments were what caught my eye.

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I enjoyed changing things up a little bit by using different paper for the walls and roofs, cutting different windows and doors and using different embellishments.

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I found another site (Little Glitter Houses) that had a pattern for a steeple.  The first one I made for a friend was a little bit too large in scale for the rest of the building.  I also cut the slot for the roof a bit too wide so the steeple was a little wobbly.  Luckily it was only made of paper so it wouldn’t have hurt anyone in the case of an earthquake.

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I scaled it down a little and my second church worked out better.  I still think there’s room for improvement but for now I’m finished with paper house construction.

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Little clips on the roof of each house come off to give access to the votive light.  I included embellishments on the back of the buildings as well.

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My initial trial didn’t work out because I made the mistake of using double-sided paper.  Unfortunately, it hadn’t occurred to me that when you put a light inside, both sides of the paper would show through.  But I’m very happy with these completed Little Paper Houses.  I’m also content to be at home, crafting and writing blog posts about it.

Thank you for coming over to see my post.

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Valentine Craft-O-Rama

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Yes, folks, 2015 Valentine Production was in full swing today and we had all the makings of an excellent crafty day. Craft supplies were abundant and the table was spilling over with paper, paper punches, rubber stamps, ink, adhesive, embellishments, scissors, embossing powder, ribbon and washi tape.

It was the first time for me to craft with Maria and her daughters Margaret and Elizabeth.

Here is Margaret, already an expert with the bone folder, scoring hearts to fold and staple for a Fluttering Hearts Valentine.  We also made Paper-Strip-Heart Valentines.

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When she wasn’t using the heat tool to emboss greetings, Elizabeth was using the microwave for a Brownie-in-a-Mug for each of us.

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As far as I’m concerned, chocolate is one of the important supplies for a great day of crafting.

A scoop of local Three Twins vanilla ice cream was the perfect topping for the brownies.

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Maria, who had already baked a batch of cookies and had pot roast in the slow cooker by the time I arrived at 10 am, worked to keep the paper and other supplies from completing taking over the table, put out a platter of sandwich makings and created a fabulous Valentine garland from recycled materials, craft paper, bakers twine and double-sided tape, but I’m afraid yours truly didn’t get any good pictures of it.  All that and she also made some Valentine’s.

Garland supplies included packaging from a box of cereal, a box of tissues, some old calendar pages, and a few other items.

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The lighting was challenging – it was much cuter and more colorful than it looks in this photo.

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Some of the finished creations.

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We decorated envelopes too.

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We even had the assistance (or at least the company) of Flora the kitty.  Pip Squeak the Guinea Pig seemed neutral about the whole operation.  Kitty #2, Fauna, made a very brief appearance. She wasn’t interested in any level of participation.

The Roomba cleaned up the floor after we were done.  A good time was had by all (except maybe Fauna).

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Thanks for checking out my blog today!

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Foggy Sunday Drive

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It was a foggy today, in the middle of a three-day weekend, and perfect for a Sunday drive.  I went to the Farmer’s Market and had a walk before we set out, heading for the small town of Graton in west Sonoma County.  It is located between Sebastopol and Occidental.

First stop: Willow Wood Market Cafe.  A friend recommended Willow Wood a few years ago and we had good memories from our first visit. We put our name down for a table then took a look at a few of the sculptures at Graton Gallery, a few doors down.

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Once seated at Willow Wood, it wasn’t hard for me to decide what I was going to have. One of their specialties is polenta.  It shows up on the breakfast menu with butter and maple syrup (yum).  It was even more enticing on the lunch menu with sauteed spinach and coppa, cambazola toast (a creamy blue cheese that is like blend of brie and Gorgonzola), the polenta, roasted tomato and (not very) soft boiled egg.

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I ordered that and went on to say “I’d like some whipped cream” when what I meant was hot chocolate with whipped cream!  It was served in a big bowl.

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After our late breakfast, we strolled around Mr. Ryder Antiques, a shop with a nice variety of art, vintage items and antiques from several different dealers.  It is where we found the star for our Christmas tree a few ago and the beautiful old book that became my first Art Journal.

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This time, the only item I bought was a card of old mother-of-pearl buttons.

To support my renewed efforts to get 10,000 steps in every day, Rem agreed to a stroll on the nearby West County Regional Trail.

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We saw other walkers including several with dogs, a barking beagle in a backyard adjacent to the trail, a guy on a skateboard, a number of people on bikes, a squirrel,  a robin and a woodpecker.

And an Old Crow (bottle) in a tree.

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Next we drove through some pretty scenery and on to Occidental.  We searched unsuccessfully for a geocache, but found this group of turkey vultures.

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In town: more browsing through shops.  Although I saw a variety of beautiful objects, I wasn’t tempted to buy anything to take home.  This striking mural is painted on the side of a building.

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If you’ve ever driven through the Sebastopol area, you’ve probably enjoyed some of the fun and funky metal sculptures made by artists Patrick Amiot and Brigette Laurent.  We saw several of their pieces in Occidental, including this guy on top of a downtown trash bin.

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I surpassed my 10,000 steps* for the day as we walked around Occidental, past several of the Italian restaurants known for their family style dining and extensive menus; the Union Hotel and Negri’s.

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Our final stop before heading home was the Wild Flour Bread in Freestone.  They’d been closed for their Winter Break from December 30 to January 15.  I’m glad they were open today, because their bread is really delicious.  We got some biscotti for the drive home, Herb Goat-Cheese Flat Bread to eat with soup for dinner, and a loaf of Egyptian (Pear, Fig, Candied Ginger) to start the day tomorrow.  They have a wood-fired brick oven and offer generous samples of their goodies so you can try before you buy.

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Thank you for your visit.

* 7-day step total: 74,466

 

 

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Fourth Anniversary Blog Post!

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Today is my 4th Blog Anniversary.  Wow!  I’m still writing posts and you’re still reading them.  Thank you!

I haven’t fit in as many blog posts as I would have liked, 69 since last anniversary, but it’s been a good year. This Coffee Sundae with Peanut Caramel sauce was delicious.  I made it last year while we are at Sea Ranch.  I need to make it again.

WordPress sends out stats every year and this year my annual report said that Madison Square Garden seats 20,000 people.  So my 68,000 views in the past year was more than three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden!  This post makes my 415th ever.

A warm word of greeting to my international readers with people from 168 countries having a look at my blog in the past year.  Of course that interesting statistical spike of readership in Bahrain can be explained by my niece, Caitlin, living and working there for four months. When she travels to Japan in the spring, I may see a similar jump in numbers.

Speaking of jumps, 2014 was the year Rem and I jumped out of an airplane.

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Yup.  Take a close look at my hand and I think you will see I am truly white-knuckled with fear.  Fear and adrenaline and goggles that slipped up and mooshed my eyes closed.  But hey, I did it and I survived.

We’re talking about a mellower outing for my birthday in March: zip-lining!

Looking back through the years blog posts I’m proud of the crafting I’ve done. I enjoy looking back at projects like my Gratitude Jar, lots of Art Journaling, these cute Birdhouse Cards, and always Valentine’s cards and crafts.

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As was the case last year, there are posts that didn’t get written and crafts that didn’t get made.  I purchased felt to make an Autumn Leaf Garland similar to this Shamrock Garland.  The felt is in a drawer.

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I’ve been making and drinking homemade kefir and kefir smoothies for a few months.  But just when I think I kind of know what I’m doing, the kefir acts a little weird and I decide to wait before I write about it.

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Crafts have been made that don’t get shared because it takes longer to stop and take pictures.  Or sometimes I get pictures but choose to spend just a few more minutes crafting and the blog doesn’t get written.

Another thing I’m spending time on is walking and hiking.  In 2014 I got my Fitbit. I’ve recently earned my “Italy Badge” for walking the distance equal to the length of Italy.   After a holiday (and healing toe) break from physical activity, I’m proud to say this week I’ve managed to get 10,000 steps in every day.  It hasn’t been easy with shorter, darker days and colder weather, especially compared to the summer when I first got the Fitbit, but it feels good to be moving around again.

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I’ve got plenty of ideas for future posts.  I just wish I had more time to write them!

Going back to one of my earliest posts, Brownie in a Mug, I tried it again the other night subbing in coconut oil for vegetable oil or butter.  If you like chocolate with coconut, you should give it a try.

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It hasn’t all been cut-out-hearts and chocolate, but I can look back at 2014 and my fourth year of blogging with gratitude.

Thank you for being such an important part of it!  If you’d write a comment, I would be even more delighted.

 

 

 

 

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O Henry Bars (Two Ways)

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I saw these bars mentioned on a friend’s Facebook status.  Andy had baked a batch using her friend Leanne’s recipe which turned out to be the recipe of Leanne’s cousin, Megan! It is an oatmeal bar topped with a combination of peanut butter and chocolate. They are pretty easy to make and they are delicious.  The recipe looked like the best one of many I saw online and once I made a batch I didn’t need to try any others.

They would make a wonderful, sweet Valentine for someone special.  The first time I cut them into average brownie-sized bars and when I made them again, I cut them smaller, more like a piece of fudge.  They’re very rich and the small size makes them less guilt-inducing.  I also put them in candy papers for giving.

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Rem and I make holiday treats for our neighbors after Christmas and one family is vegan. I read a few articles and blog posts about replacing butter with an equal measure of extra virgin coconut oil. By subbing coconut oil for the butter, this recipe worked beautifully.  The oil adds a mild coconut flavor that works well with the other ingredients.  I found organic, extra virgin coconut oil at Trader Joe’s.

Here is my slightly adapted recipe:

O Henry Bars

Ingredients

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Bars:

2/3 cup softened butter * (1 stick + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup (I had light corn syrup in the cupboard and used it, but I think dark corn syrup would work fine too)

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 cups rolled oats (I’ve made it successfully with quick oats)

Topping:

6 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

pinch of salt, optional (I use unsalted peanut butter and thought the salt helped balance the sweetness in the bar)

* You can substitute 2/3 cup of extra virgin coconut oil for the butter.

Directions:

Set oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined and creamy.  Beat in corn syrup and vanilla.

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Stir in oats.

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Press mixture into a well-buttered (or sprayed with non-stick spray) baking dish.  I used a glass 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish but it could be a little larger and still work, just watch the baking time because it will be thinner.

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Bake 12 to 15 minutes – err on the side of underdone rather than overdone.  I found that I slightly over-baked the pan with the coconut oil and they were a real challenge to get out of the pan.  Delicious but I learned that I should have taken them from the oven sooner.

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This picture is the butter version and it looks a little gooey and soft still.  The coconut oil version was more toasty and dry looking.

Let bars cool in baking dish.

Once they’re cooled, make the topping: in a medium/small, microwave-safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and peanut butter, and salt, if using.

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Heat on high in microwave for 1 minute, remove from microwave and stir.

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Continue to heat for 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until chocolate and peanut butter are melted and you can stir them together into a smooth mixture.

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Spread chocolate-peanut butter mixture on oat bars.

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Chill until set before cutting.

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Store in a airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Art Journal: Home

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This is my latest page in my Art Journal: Home.  I bought the Autumn issue of Art Journaling by Somerset Studio and was inspired by a spread I saw by Darlene Maciuba-Koppel.  This is similar to inchies but these are a little bigger – a little less than 2 inches on each side.

Maciuba-Koppel wrote

Art Journaling is a gift I give to myself.  After a few pleasurable hours of choosing images, painting, cutting scraps of paper, and pasting, I feel a sense of calm envelope me.

I feel that too.  Her houses page was about creating and pursuing your passion.  Mine is about home and what home means to me . There as a little blurring of lines here because home is usually where I create and I including “creativity” as one of the words on my page.

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I probably spent as much time seeking out words in magazines and searching through my paper and scraps for just the right bits and pieces as I did actually crafting the page. I was at Sea Ranch when I did most of the work on the page and I’d brought a nice selection of supplies with me to work with.

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It isn’t obvious to the casual observer, but there are bits and pieces from maps, sheet music, dictionary pages, envelopes, postage stamps, old calendars, and greeting cards.  I know there are items from at least five different friends whom I think of when I look at these little houses.

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As with the inchies, I find I really enjoy the tiny canvas of each small space occupied by each little house.  I have gone back to add little details several times, adding a window here, a doorknob there, coloring in the background or sticking a slender bit of washi tape onto the page.

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I’ve had a wonderful 2-week vacation and much of it was spent at home (or at home-away-from-home: Sea Ranch).  I did a lot of cooking. After using up a package of corn husks we had 28 tamales.  Today we used the rest of the almost 10 lb. bag of prepared masa to make 22 queso fresco pupusas, tamale pie and a dozen tamale muffins, using masa in the bottom of each muffin, then tamale pie filling, grated cheddar and more masa for the top.  The freezer is well stocked. Rem and I baked treats for our neighbors as well.

A minor surgery before Christmas kept me from being as active as I could have been.  I’ve really enjoyed having no schedule and maybe a few too many mornings sleeping late and lounging around in my nightshirt and slippers.  It’s been good to relax at home; I’ve done lots of of crafting, reading, some blogging, and all of the cooking.

We’ve also spent some time cleaning out drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, sorting through kitchen tools we no longer use but that have been crowding our limited storage space. Rem donated several bags of items that we hope will be useful to someone else.  We planted bulbs in two boxes, inspired by an article in Martha Stewart on layering  bulbs for blooms throughout the spring: the late bloomers go on the bottom, mid-spring blooming are in the middle layer and the earliest bloomers are on the top.  Gravel on the bottom of the planter for good drainage and we hope to have a beautiful display of crocus, daffodils, tulips and iris all spring.  Something to beautify our home.

My toe is almost fully healed now and I took walks yesterday and today.  Tomorrow: back to work.

Thanks for the visit.

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