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Monday, November 28, 2011

Another NaHoImMo Update

It's almost the end of November. NaNoWriMo is almost over. That's write-a-novel-in-a-month, a goal of 50,000 words written. Hats off to those who attempted it. Big hurrahs to those who finished.

I did write a short story or two, but most of my month has been eaten up by home improvement projects. Here's the latest update on the state of my family room.

See the pretty walls? Only the one above my new countertop is blue. The others are a lovely shade of green. You can see the new cabinet pulls, too. We just have cleanup and the trim above the counter left. I think I'm going to put 3/4 round glass shelves in the corner. What do you think?

Yes, that is sunshine on the cabinet. I've got blinds to replace in the room when I'm done painting and cleaning. Anyone like to wash windows? I might even pay you more than just cookies to do it.

Any takers? No?

See? No ugly holes or markings or stains or other things on my lovely walls. The baseboards are back in place and the wood floor has been scrubbed and refinished, but I haven't taken pictures of it yet.

This wall is mostly prepped for painting but we need to move more furniture and stuff and get the carpet taped off and covered. The family room is an L-shape. So far, I've just been working on the hard wood and cabinet end of the room.

We have to move a tv and some sitting furniture. The wii has already been banished to the living room for now. The desk and computer will move into the finished half. My office, what's left of it, will move there, too. It's mostly files of paperwork and my shredder. Most of my office is on my computer and virtual. Yay for progress.

This is a corner I haven't touched yet. See what I've been dealing with? Country wallpaper, partially shredded by one of our cats; holes caused by children; clutter caused by lots of things. The cabinet was made by my husband from scrap lumber, mostly old waterbed frames. It houses all sorts of weird knickknacks that mostly need to get used for target practice but I don't have the emotional energy to make those decisions right now. Later...

This is Sasha, enjoying the sunshine and the view. I love this corner of the room - floor to ceiling windows facing south and west. I'll have to post pictures once we get the walls done.

We still need to have a stripper party and finish stripping the wallpaper off.

Other things I've finished - I now have a chocolate colored front door with a nice clean coat of peach on the inside. It even includes new hardware. My kitchen cabinets are getting new handles, a few at a time. I still need to scrub them down and see what we can do to make them look great without having to repaint or refinish them. I made a whole pile of burp towels for a new great-niece and my grandson who isn't quite here yet. I cut out valance curtains for my living room. I'm almost out of projects that I have materials for. Must be time for another home improvement shopping spree. What next? Flooring for the entryway, downstairs mud room, and laundry room? Sounds good to me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Easy Apple Cake

Looking for something simple but delicious? Try this cake. So simple anyone can make it.

Apple Cake

1 box butter pecan cake mix
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. apple juice
1 can apple pie filling
(Or you can use 1 quart of bottled apple slices instead of the juice and pie filling)

Heat oven to 350°. Dump everything in a mixing bowl. Stir it together. Grease a 9x13 cake pan. Pour in the cake mixture. Spread it out just a bit until it's even. Bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool for about 15 minutes then serve.

If you want to get fancy, drizzle it with caramel sauce and serve with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaHoImMo UpDate

Now I'm stuck doing the weird Capitalization in the MiDdle of WorDs. Looks BiZarRe.

Enough of that. Update on my projects, for those who care.
Countertop is mostly finished, just needs scrubbed one last time. Right now it's covered with paper because I'm painting walls. I've got the blue up, working on the pale green around it. We spent Saturday moving furniture and dejunking and sorting and removing. My living room is so empty. One big chair, one smaller chair, a table, several bookcases, and the piano. Desk and office are gone. Half the books are boxed and stored. It looks very big now.

See the ugly chandelier? It's gone now.

See the pretty replacement? Just turn your head sideways or your monitor. I'm being lazy about pictures today.

Is your head still sideways? Good. This is the tree by my driveway.

Leaves in the driveway. I may have to print and frame this.

The last rose of summer, wait, autumn. It's almost winter. *sigh*

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Applesauce Cookies

Note to self: I need to create an index of recipes so I know what I've already posted. Maybe next week.

This is the season for cookies and treats. Right? Wrong. Any season is the season for cookies and treats. These cookies come out moist and tender with a great spice apple flavor. If you use at least half whole wheat flour, they're also healthy. As healthy as cookies can get, anyway. This recipe makes quite a few cookies so prepare to share.

Applesauce Cookies

2 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
4 eggs
3 c. applesauce
5 c. flour (half whole wheat if you like)
2 c. oatmeal
1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°. Cream butter and sugar. Stir in salt, vanilla, soda, spices, eggs, and applesauce. Beat well. Stir in flour, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. The dough should be pretty sticky. Bake a single cookie. If it spreads too much, stir in an extra 1/2 - 1 c. flour. Cookies bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes. They will set up more as they cool.

Monday, November 14, 2011

DYI NaHoImMo Update

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. It just wasn't in the cards, not with everything else I have going on. So, I'm doing NationHomeImprovementMonth (I made it up but feel free to join in).

Here's my update on the tile countertop. More pics next week with the next stage.

Naked particle board sporting a new coat of paint
This was the easy part to install - mosaic sheets of little tiny tiles.

This is the border. If only I'd known before I started...
All installed and grouted, just waiting for paint on the trim.

The tile has iridescence and/or glitter. Love it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Attack of Green Gelatin Salad!

Monsters and Mormons, the Anthology, released the ebook on Halloween. I'm tickled to be part of this one. It's horror stories, sort of. It's also science fiction, historical fantasy, silly horror, and lots of other genres. I haven't read any stories but mine, but I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with the book. It's 600 pages of awesome Mormons and Monsters battling it out. It all grew out of a chance Twitter comment. If you want to read the history of the anthology and join in some interviews and giveaways and all sorts of fun, go here:  THIS FRIDAY! THAT'S TOMORROW! It's the official release party for the book!

And in honor of my story, Charity Never Faileth, I'm posting green jello recipes. What's more Mormon than a Relief Society Dinner complete with too many pans of green gelatin salad? If that made no sense, you must not understand Utah Mormon culture. Never fear, the story is still very funny.

Green Gelatin Carrot Salad, the Dangerous Kind with Pineapple, Pears, and Sour Cream Topping.

(I admit that I have never actually made this salad, since I can't stand it. There are better uses for green gelatin like, umm, I have no idea. I can't stand the stuff. Wait, you can make Jello Cookies with it.)

Okay, just go here and use this recipe. It's close enough. (Or this whole page of links for lime gelatin salads.) Here's the simple version:

Mix up one box of lime gelatin according to package directions. Let it sit until it's very thick. Stir in 1 c. shredded carrots and 1 c. crushed pineapple. Pour it into a fancy dish or mold and refrigerate until set. Take to a ward party. Bring home most of it and add it to your compost because nobody actually likes the horrid stuff.

Better Gelatin Salad, aka Chilled Monkey Brains

2 small boxes of raspberry gelatin, the four serving size
2 c. boiling water
1 c. frozen blueberries, strawberries (chopped or sliced), raspberries, or any combination of frozen berries
1 c. very cold water
1 c. vanilla yogurt
1 8 oz. tub whipped topping

Mix gelatin in the boiling water. Stir at least 5 minutes until completely dissolved. Add frozen berries and cold water. Stir until it starts to thicken. Stir in yogurt and whipped topping. Pour into nice dish or mold. Brain molds are really nice. Refrigerate until set. Hide at the back of the table when serving so you have half a chance of leftovers. Take home the empty bowl and mix up another batch just for yourself.

Jello Cookies

This came from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook (or Betty Crapper Crockbook at my house). I've messed with the recipe to get it where I want it. You can use any flavor of gelatin, just not all at once. Lime gelatin is pretty good in this recipe.

1 3 oz. package fruit flavored gelatin
1 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. softened butter
1/3 c. shortening
2 1/4 c. flour

Heat oven to 350°. Cream gelatin, sugar, butter, and shortening until very smooth and fluffy. Stir in flour, handling it as little as possible. Mix it just until the flour is incorporated (BIG WORD WARNING!!!). (Sorry, just had to add that bit.) Scoop dough onto a greased cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 t. per cookie is good. Bake 8 - 10 minutes until set and very lightly brown.

For variety, you can roll the dough in colored sugar (try blue sugar with red dough, or green sugar and yellow dough), the little tiny ball sprinkles, chopped nuts, or coconut shreds.

Or you can make some frosting or open a can of vanilla frosting, spread some on each cookie, and then add the colored sugar, sprinkles, nuts, or coconut or whatever.

Have fun with your gelatin, just watch out for those salads. Read the book if you want to know why. And don't forget to attend the party on Friday night. Details here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Instead of writing...

This blog was supposed to be about writing - the struggles and craft and excitement. But how can I write about that when my writing has stalled? My second book is in the hands of the editor and publisher; on hold for almost a year now. My stories are coming out in anthologies, but I don't have a lot of new ones in the pipeline. I'm having health issues and family stress which both cut out writing time. And the last straw - all the home improvement projects that have gone from "someday" to "the next three months".

Saturday, I finally had all the materials to tackle a project that has been begging to be done since we moved in over 17 years ago. Our family room has a counter and cabinets but no countertop, just a slab of particle board. I found some beautiful glass tiles online and decided I could tackle it myself. Tiny tiles need no cutting, or so I decided. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

It was supposed to take three, maybe four, hours. Ten hours later, I had the tile down. A couple rows are a bit crooked. I'm hoping grout will hide some flaws. Yep, still needs grout and trim painted and installed. Another couple hours, I'm guessing.


I've also learned that 3/4" tile should be left on the mosaic tile backing. Much easier to put in and keep straight. But then I couldn't have done the random color border, which ate up my entire afternoon.

Instead of writing, I've been learning how to install tile. As long as no cutting is involved, it is pretty easy. With the cool installer mats I found, it's also pretty clean and messless.

Pictures to come after I finish the project.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Cream Puffs

Raise your hand if cream puffs intimidate you. Tricky little pastries. I learned to make them in my Junior High Home Ec class. Back then, all girls were required to take it. Boys were required to take shop classes. Yep, I'm older than dirt. I lived when discrimination was all the rage. Girls did girl stuff and boys did boy stuff. You didn't cross the line or you were labeled weird. Guess what label I carried all through school.

Anyway, back to the recipe. Cream puffs can be difficult so be prepared to make them several times before you get the hang of it. If they don't puff up, just serve them as eggy, funky pancakes. Call them something French and you'll be okay.

Cream Puffs

1/2 c. butter (the real stuff works better than margarine)
1 c. water
1/4 t. salt
1 c. flour (sift it or stir it good and don't pack it into the cup, you want it about a tablespoon short of a packed cup)
4 eggs

Preheat your oven to 400° F.

Put the water, butter, and salt in a 2 qt. saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to medium. Add the flour. Stir until your arms feel like they are going to fall off and the mixture forms a thick, pasty ball. Remove from the heat. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter smooth between each addition. You should end up with a creamy, very thick dough that looks sticky but isn't because of the butter.

Scoop onto a greased cookie sheet, normal size cream puffs are about 2 T. of batter per puff. Give them room to spread and rise or they will all grow into each other.

Bake for 30 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR WHILE THEY ARE BAKING. You want the extra steam trapped in the oven. It helps them rise and bake properly. When the time is up, they should be more than double in size, puffy, and golden brown.

Fill them with whatever you want: Pudding, Chicken salad, tuna sandwich filling, sloppy joe mix, ice cream, fruit pie filling, chopped up candy bars, whipped cream...