Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mom's Words of Wisdom

This next project is inspired by my mom.  Her last Christmas with us was in 2006.  She gave each of her daughters a clock along with some words of wisdom that she had learned over the years and wanted to pass along to us.  I thought I understood what she was saying that Christmas morning, but now that I have a family of my own I am just now starting to really get it.  And because I think this advice is so important I am going to share it with you today.  But first, I just want to give a little background of where we were at the time, so you can maybe understand where she was coming from.
Back in 2006 my mom was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. The cancer had spread and pretty much overtaken her body.  It was everywhere, just to list a few...ribs, sternum, lungs, forearm, the base of her skull, I said, everywhere.  The most noticeable place was her arm, well really the cancer was in her Brachial Plexus which killed all the nerves in her right arm, basically paralyzing it  She was in way more pain than any of us even realized.  She very rarely complained and just dealt with it the best she could.  Along with the cancer in her lungs she also had fluid collecting in her chest cavity which made it difficult to breathe, especially while laying down.  As a result she had a hard time sleeping.  She couldn't lay flat so her nights were spent in her lazy boy dozing in front of the TV while her family slept.  There were so many things she wanted to do with her family, but couldn't because of the pain.
One thing that was always important to her, even in the end, when just a short ride around town was painful were family vacations.  Making memories was at the top of her list.  We had the cancer cloud of doom hanging over us for 11 years; half of my life, most of my little sister's life and my little brother's entire life.  So we lived like any family trip could be our last.  As a result we went on some pretty cool ones.  Yellowstone, Disneyland a few times, Nauvoo, Palm Springs, Oregon Coast all with unique and wonderful memories.

Okay, I guess you have the gist of it.  So Christmas morning comes along and she gives us this advice:  Family is the most important thing.  Make time for your family.  But don't just make time for them, live so your time revolves around your family.  Really, they are all we have.  Make memories.  As many as you can.  ALWAYS make time to snuggle with your spouse. She then handed us the clocks and told us she got ones with chimes to help remind us hourly of the importance of family and how we are spending our time.

Back to the here and now.  After years of my clock being in storage the clock face got warped and wrinkled so I haven't been able to use it.  Before I married an amazing graphic designer I thought I would try to make my own clock face to replace it.  I am so glad that I didn't even try!  Jason sat down with his computer last weekend and designed a new face for my precious clock.  Just watching him work amazed me.  What he did in maybe an hour start to finish would have taken me all day at least and it wouldn't have looked near as good!

 So confession time...the whole idea mom had with the clock was to have it chime each hour so we could think of her and the advice she gave.  But lets be honest, who wants to have a clock wake you up at six in the morning, if you don't have to, especially a baby?  Definitely not me!  We decided to replace the chime reminder with a saying on the clock face itself to remind us that "Family Time is Sacred Time".

Here is the finished product.  And to help you remember this advice I am sharing my clock face with you.  It is made to fit a 7 3/4 inch clock surface.  It was super easy to make the switch so click on the link, download the file, print it out and update an old (or new clock)!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stringing Wire Wrapped Bracelet

Months and months ago I bought some red stringing wire on clearance at Michaels.  I decided to finally use it to make a cool bracelet.  It is a pretty simple concept, but a bit tricky at the same time.

Here is what you need:
Stringing wire, beads of your choice, crimp beads, crimper (or flat nose pliers), wire cutter and a toggle clasp.  That's it!

To start, cut your wire about 10-12 inches. Bring your ends together like you are going to fold the wire in half.  Just don't crease the middle.  Once this wire gets kinked it doesn't un-kink.  Slide the bar piece of your toggle onto the wire and bring it to the middle.  Next put both ends of your wire through your first bead and push it all the way to the end.

Now take your second bead and put one end of your wire through it.

Then take the other end of the wire and put it through the bead on the opposite side. 

And push it down as tight and as close to the first bead as you can get it.

Then add your third bead by slipping both wire ends through your bead.

Rinse, lather, repeat until your bracelet is done.  Be sure to end the way you started, with the last bead going through both wires.  (Remember that your clasp will add some length to your bracelet's final measurements.)

**The tricky part that I mentioned before is keeping the beads nice and snug and centered.  Just keep working it and pull the wires evenly**

When you have finished, place a crimp bead right up against your last bead to keep all your hard work in place.

The only black toggles I had on hand were dark black, doesn't quite match the hematite beads, so I wanted to use as little of it as possible. So this is how I finished mine, you can finish yours the traditional way if you want, it wont hurt my feelings.

I put a second crimp bead a little more than half an inch up from the first crimp bead, making a little loop. (Your loop will depend on the size of your toggle, you want the loop half as long as the toggle).  Then I cut the leftover wire as close to the crimp bead as I could get.

Ta Da! All done!  A basic,wire wrapped bracelet!

If you decide to try it out I'd love to here how it goes!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Italian Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Italian Hot Chocolate

I have discovered something wonderfully magical.  Something smooth, and very rich.  Something delicious.  Did I mention chocolate?  Italian Hot Chocolate.  Oh man!  I was lucky enough to turn on my T.V. one day in November and Studio 5 was on.  A lady named Sue Neal was on, making Hot Chocolate from around the world.  She did Belgium, Italian, and Mexican.  I love hot chocolate in the middle of winter or the middle of summer.  It doesn't matter.  So when I saw what was happening, I was glued to the screen.  I was intrigued with the Italian version, because apparently the Italians like their hot chocolate thick  The recipe involves corn starch.  Needless to say I made it for Jason and I that very night.  It is super simple and involves very normal ingredients...nothing special.  But it makes something extra special.

Serves: 4- 1/2(ish) cup servings

1 1/4 c. Milk
1/2 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 c. plus 2 to 3 tbsp Sugar (to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp Corn Starch
1/8 tsp. Salt

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Whisk until everything is mixed together.  Continue whisking frequently to prevent the milk from scorching.  Bring to a Boil.  Whisk constantly until it thickens.  Serve immediately to prevent a skin from forming.  Or cover the chocolate with plastic wrap until ready to re-heat and serve.

~The first time I made this I made the mistake of just splitting this recipe among the two of us.  It is way too rich for that big of a serving.  (That says a lot coming from me).  So I half the recipe for two servings.
~Jason thinks it is too thick so I add an extra splash of milk.  I haven't measured my splash, but I would say a tablespoon or two extra.
~I like to add about a 1/2 tsp vanilla at the end.  When it is done, I take it off the heat, add the vanilla and whisk it up good before pouring it into cups.  Yummy!

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Pretty much ever since Jason and I got married he has wanted me to make biscotti.  And ever since we got married I have avoided it.  Biscotti intimidated me.  I don't really know why.  Anyway, the other night while we were enjoying our small cup of Italian Hot Chocolate Jason says "You know what would be good with this?"  And I fell for it and asked "What?" and he says "Biscotti"  And I knew it was time for me to face the crunchy cookie.  And now that I have, all I can say is "What was my deal?  So easy! And yummy!"  So if any of you out there are afraid of Biscotti, give it a chance, you'll be glad you did.

I wanted to start simple, you know baby steps, so I decided to go with chocolate chip.  And conveniently enough found a basic recipe over at Studio 5.

Serves: About 2 1/2 Dozen Cookies

1/2 c. Butter, partially melted
1 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tbsp Vanilla (or 1/2 tbsp vanilla and 1/2 tbsp almond extract)
2 1/2 c. Flour
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 - 3/4 c. Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl put partially melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix until combined. Divide dough in half (dough will be sticky).  Flour your hands good and form each half into a "loaf" about 2 inches by 12 inches on cookie sheet leaving about 4 inches of space between them.  Bake for 25-30 min.  You want it to be a light golden brown.  The tops will start to crack a bit.  Remove from oven and adjust the temperature to 300 degrees.  Let the biscotti cool at least 10 minutes.  You want to be able to touch it without burning yourself.  Slice the loaves into 1/2 inch think pieces on an angle.  Tip them onto their sides and return to the oven for 7 minutes.  Then flip to the other side and bake for another 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired. 

And there you have it!  The perfect movie night treat!  Especially on a cold night!

I think my next batch of biscotti (yes there will be a next and a next) will be coconut or brownie.  What are your favorite biscotti flavors?