Friday, February 27, 2009

Happy Thoughts

I had a really craptastic week. Weeks, actually. This week was one of those weeks where really minor but irritating problems add up until it feels like one giant problem. Everything I touched was broken, empty, or expired. Actually, even the grand total of all the little problems was pretty mild compared to the last several weeks. Even so, the idea that anybody would want to even pretend to be me at this point is beyond my comprehension. But they did - with my credit card. My card was used mostly for purchasing hacking software and web hosting systems, electronics, and downloading songs. My favorite purchases were those made through credit bureaus and credit and identity theft protection agencies. Meanwhile, the reason I detected the problem was only because I was having trouble making purchases on the card. So that was a nice way to end the week. But now for some happy thoughts. Some reasons to smile and remember that it could always be worse. I have many things to be thankful for, especially in this economy where many others could not say the same!

I was tagged by Diane for a 6 Things That Make You Happy Meme, and luckily it has helped me remember what is important in life!

1. My family. First and foremost my husband makes me happy. I only get a few hours a week with him now that we work different shifts, so I cherish the time we do have! He is supportive and makes me laugh.

2. My two cats. Their personalities are so different, which provides us with endless hours of entertainment.

3. Nature. I think if insects and precipitation didn't exist (and if it was warm year round) I'd want to live outside!

4. Fire towers. I love climbing up to the top, overlooking the world. I enjoy the thrilling rush of "looking down" from the top, and appreciate their history.

5. Stringing beads. It's therapeutic in many ways - a creative release.

6. Pilates and kickboxing. Exercise is where I let it all out, good for the body and soul.

Here are the rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post six things that make you happy along with these rules.
  • Then tag six others (letting them know, of course).
  • Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.
I'm tagging a few people that appreciate the happy things in their lives :)

Deb the Storybeader

The H B in C
CharlisMom (Whoop!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Make a Totally Awesome 80s Cake - NOT!

A girl that I work with is about the same age as me, and we often reminisce about the cartoons and toys that we enjoyed in the 80s. For her birthday I researched 80s themed cakes and decided on a Rubik's Cube cake. I got the pattern and fondant recipe from a website online. From the pictures, it is obvious that someone had some success with it, however I'm going to offer tips and an analysis on where it might have gone wrong...

The pattern calls for a double cake recipe split into three 9x9 square cake pans. It said you could either use a box mix or start from scratch. The pattern also calls for handmade fondant. I decided since I was making the fondant from scratch that I'd just do a box mix cake. I used two boxes of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix, doubling the recipe accordingly, measuring the batter and equally dividing it between 8x8 square pans. I do not have 9x9 square pans which the recipe called for, and was worried that the cake was going to be too tall because of it. On the contrary, the cake was too short and the sides were too wide, not making it a perfect cube. In fact, I could have used at least another half batch of cake!

When assembling the cake you can either design it to have an "in progress look" with the center cake at a right angle to the top and bottom layers, or you can have all three layers flush to each other. I decided to have it be boring and flush because I didn't want it to get ruined in transit from home to work in the car.

Instead of buying a package of multicolored fondant, I decided to follow the included recipe which calls for mini-marshmallows, water, and confectioner's sugar. Worst idea ever. What a sticky nightmare that was! And then to color the fondant you are instructed to put balls of the creation in baggies and hand knead the color in. The goo was sticking to the inside of the baggies, then I ran out of red coloring (because no matter how much you add, it's still be a shade of pink). I took my 40% off coupon to the craft store and bought a box of fondant pre-stained to red, yellow, blue and green. I still needed my white and orange goo baggies for the project, but least four of the six colors were decent.

The instructions provide you with two ways to get a black background for underneath the fondant squares. At that point, I just settled for some tubs of store-bought chocolate! I gave myself taste and creativity points, but definitely lacked in the presentation category.

If you decide to make one of your own, use an 8x8 pan, cut more off the sides before assembling, and save your 40% off coupons and just buy the fondant. It will cost more but will save you a couple hours of wasted agony and your squares will look better. If you do decide to make your own with marshmallows, challenge someone to solving the puzzle of a real Rubik's Cube while you make it - they will probably successfully finish before you do!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Irish Inspired

St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. It's a fun day without the stress that comes along with some other holidays. My mom made it fun, feeding me green food such as green eggs and ham, green milk and pistachio pudding in a graham cracker crust. As an adult I still still crave that pistachio pudding pie, and my husband and I try to have a night out for some beer and Irish pub food. I have a mix of several nationalities in my family tree, but I definitely love celebrating the Irish that I get from my mom's family. Hopefully this time next year I will be planning a trip to Ireland for my husband and I!

Here it is, almost March, and I have some green jewelry to share with you. So whether you are looking for something to accent your St. Patrick's Day green attire, or just something green for an early jump on spring, here are some items you might like! Click on the picture or title for details.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Many Talents of Donna Pool

I love looking through the Etsy shop of Donna Pool. She doesn't just focus on one talent, but several talents, sometimes simultaneously. I recognize her mostly for her buttons, which range from vintage magazine pictures to current events. Sometimes she uses her own photography. Below is her NO CPSIA button, which is a hot topic among those of us in the handmade businesse.

She takes great photos, such as the one titled Windmill Wall.

Sometimes she turns her photography into greeting cards and mattted photograph ACEOs including her beautiful cats Snowflake and Sebastian.

Her hand-stitched teddy bears so adorable!

Check out DonnaPool's Etsy Shop, Blog, and Flickr!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dirty Footprints Studio Talk

What is Blog Talk Radio? Until recently I have been familiar with the concept but didn't know that much about it. According to the website:

"BlogTalkRadio is the social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. Using an ordinary telephone and computer hosts can create free, live, call-in talk shows with unlimited participants that are automatically archived and made available as podcasts. No software download is required. Listeners can subscribe to shows via RSS into iTunes and other feed readers. Our network has produced tens of thousands of episodes since it launched in August of 2006."
Connie, from Dirty Footprints Studio has told me a little about it as well. She is excited to start her new endeavor as a host on her own Blog Talk Radio show called Dirty Footprints Studio Talk saying, "My whole intention of this show is to have a conversation/interview and talk with various artist/bloggers--and overall to promote creativity, art, and artists."

So if want to listen and be inspired, tune in:

Sunday, February 15 at 09:00 am (mountain time)
Dirty Footprints Studio Talk
Featured Artists
Gallery Girl
JafaBrit's Art

For more details see Dirty Footprints Studio Blog

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making a Blanket Without a Sewing Machine

One of my husband's Christmas wishes was a for a new blanket for his man cave in the basement, as the ones that we have down there are starting to look their age. He's a huge Green Bay Packers fan so I thought I'd make him a Packers blanket. Living in New York, it is often difficult to find Packers items, especially since Green Bay's star quarter back retired and later went to play for the New York Jets. I went to the fabric store and could only find fleece for New York and New England teams, so I bought fleece in the Packers' team colors: yellow and green.

To make the blanket, you need two pieces of fleece that are the same length and width. I chose two that were 58" wide. The two pieces do not have to be different colors, but choosing two different colors make the blanket more fun and reversible.

Other materials you will need are pins, a ruler or yardstick, and fabric cutting scissors. A big open space on the floor is helpful.

Take the two pieces of fabric and line them up corner to corner. Pin each corner and then put a few pins in around the sides as well. When pinning, place the pins a couple inches away from the edge, as you will be cutting the edge of the fleece. If the pins are too close to the edge, they will be in the way of your cutting.

If you have any pets, you may find that anything unusual on the floor becomes the perfect place for them to lay. As you can see, Pepper was involved in assisting and supervising the production of making his dad's blanket!

The cuts into the pinned fabrics should be an inch wide and two inches deep. You can cut a 2" x 2" square out of the four corners of the blanket to start. After removing the corners, make a 2 inch deep cut at every inch along the blanket (with no spaces between the cuts). Do this along all four sides. A ruler is helpful, especially for the first few cuts, but once you have visually established the length and width of the cuts it might be easier and quicker to use your eye to judge.

When you have made the cuts all the way around the pinned fleece, you are ready for the next step. Keep the two pieces pinned together, and tie a full knot with a cut from one fleece and the matching cut from the other. Continue to do this all the way around the blanket. When you are done, be sure to remove all the pins. You now have a warm, reversible fleece blanket!

I have washed blankets made like this in an industrial sized washer and dryer before with no problems. The blanket puckered in some spots but gentle tugging on the edges was an easy fix.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Small Steps Forward in Restoring Spruce Mountain Fire Tower

I had read a few months ago that there was a push by Saratoga PLAN, a conservation organization, to restore the 73' tower on Spruce Mountain, which has been closed to the public for 20 years. The main obstacle for the project is land ownership. The trail to the summit passes through privately owned land and Saratoga County owns 2.5 acres of land under the tower. Transfer from county to state ownership would allow volunteers to work on restoration efforts with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The county previously relied on the mountain as its only source of radio communications, but has upgraded their communications system and can now remove a pair of radio towers from the mountain. Without the dependence on the mountain for communication towers, they county will be more willing to transfer ownership to the state.

According to an article posted today on, representatives of the group Friends of Spruce Mountain Fire Tower met on February 2nd with a committee of county supervisors to ask them to consider transferring ownership of the 2.5 acres to the state. While the committee put off making a decision on the land transfer, they did consult with County Attorney Mark Rider to research the necessary steps to make the move. If successful, restoration could begin in late summer or early fall of this year. New stairs, landings, and windows would probably be needed in the restoration effort and could cost as little as $10,000. With restoration, the structure could be removed from John P. Freeman's list of Endangered Towers in my copy of his book Views from on High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An Outdoorsy Carnival: February 2009

Welcome to the February 1, 2009 edition of an outdoorsy carnival.

Aquatic Life

Marilyn Terrell presents Behind the Lens with Stephen Frink - Intelligent Travel Blog posted at Intelligent Travel Blog, saying, "Kristen Gunderson interviews underwater photographer Stephen Frink."

Green Thumb

Sarah presents Is Your Lawn Prepared for Winter? | Winter Lawn Care - Lawn Care Tips posted at Lawn Care Tips, saying, "Make sure your lawn is well prepared for winter"

In the Woods

Cary Anderson presents Campground Safety posted at Should You Marry Her?, saying, "Camping is a blast, don't let failure to adhere to basic safety procedures spoil the fun."

A Keeper's Jackpot presents Snowshoeing at Hudson Pointe posted at A Keeper's Jackpot.

The Happy Redneck presents Winterizing Your Pop-Up Camper posted at Should You Marry Her?, saying, "Pop up campers are a nice compromise between the discomfort and bother of tent camping while retaining the feel of ��roughing it��."

Open Air

Carole DeJarnatt presents Raising Baby Chickens in Florida posted at Fowl Visions.

Gary R. presents Racing An Airstream posted at Camping Tips, saying, "Who isn't looking for a good deal these days? While camping and campground fees have always been a great deal, there's a website I just found, that currently has over 1,600 campsites listed that are either free or almost free, meaning $10 or less."

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