Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Aftermath

20 children arrive at a rather large gate. The gate is flanked with mist, some foliage, and there are many creatures and some other people wandering nearby. The children cannot see past the gate. Many of the children are very confused, some seem lost, many of them are crying, some of them are silent and a few appear stunned. The children do not understand where they are or what happened to them.

The many tears and cries of those children do not go unnoticed. A comforting-sounding voice at the gate began to speak to the children. "Please step forward and come in. We have been waiting for you."

The children, huddled together in the form of a tight-knit herd, do not move. Many of them begin to say they are scared, "that the man with the gun might be in there," they want to be with their mom and dad.

There is a momentary pause. The voice replies, "You are safe now, and your parents will join you here someday, just not today."The children are silent, unsure as to what to do next or who they can trust. They watch as many animals and people walk past and disappear beyond the gates. Time passes, the children seem unable to move forward.

A familiar-looking woman appears and makes her way to the gate. At the mists' edge, the woman pauses, sensing a familiar presence. She turns, and sees the group of children. Dropping to her knee, she faced the children. She gazed and smiles reassuringly at each child, and spoke softly, "It's ok now, let's line up, single-file, and then follow me, just like we do at recess each day, got it?"

Slowly, the children line up in a single line, as they had done each day for many months. The girl at the front of the line began to smile for the first time in as long as she can remember; she turns her head and speaks to the boy behind her, "It's ok now, that's our Principal. She'll stay with us until our parents get here to pick us up, just like she does on rainy days when we wait in front of the school."

They begin to walk as a group, some of the kids fidgeting; others begin to skip and poke each other and giggle, slowly disappearing into the light on the other side of the gate. Decades pass; gradually, one by one, parents, brothers and sisters, and pets all joined the children in the light. The reunion of each child and loved one was the same: an embrace that equaled and counter-balanced the grief of a very dark day, very long ago.

And as with each previous reunion, the principal stood nearby to ensure the last child left with their parents. Weary and relieved, the school Principal turned and finally ventured forth to reunite with her own family, who had been waiting patiently for her; for her loved ones knew she always stayed with the students until they were all safely on their way home. The light beyond the gate began to glow as bright as it ever had been, illuminating the mist, basking those who were beyond the gate in an unparalleled warmth.

(Dedicated to all of the teachers, school support staff, and para-educators everywhere. Thank you for taking care of and watching over our children. We need to make our society safe for everyone.)

**This was written by Paul Morrison, my husband Jim found this on Craigslist and showed it to me, and I thought this was very nicely written. I have asked Paul for his permission to post this as I feel this should be read by all for comfort and peace after the devastating tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This really touches me because I have always wanted to be a teacher or a para-educator, but life has led me down a different path. I wish peace and healing for all the families and those involved. Thank you Paul!** 

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good Bye Summer

Good bye Summer, thanks for visiting. You always bring your warm personality and a sunny disposition when you come - I always look forward to our annual visits. I’m sorry to see you go but I understand you must. I will miss you while you’re gone, but look forward to another visit next year. 

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Makin' N Bakin'

Today I spent the entire day in the kitchen making and baking stuff. Here is what I made:

Pumpkin Bread for my breakfast. I've been enjoying this recipe for a while now and one thick slice with my tea is my breakfast. I even made strawberry butter that I schmear on it - yummy!

Chocolate sauce for Jim's ice cream dessert. This is a new recipe I'm trying. I've tried others in the past and they all got the boot. I'm hoping this one will work, because I'm not very fond of the store bought ones.

Rice Crispies Chunks - I made these out of necessity. In the past, Jim liked Barbara's Brown Rice Cereal. I recently bought 2 boxes because they were on sale and he didn't like it - says it's too dry. I even frosted them, but he didn't like it. So, not one to waste, I made rice crispies chunks. These are for Jim to take to work.

Individual plum tart - these plums look like cherry tomatoes, but they are tiny plums with a small pit in the middle. I got them from a friend and I decided to make a tart. I halved this crust recipe as I only need crust for 2 individual tart pans, and I made this pastry cream. Don't the plums in the tart look like egg yolks?  **Update** We shared one tart, I made coconut whipped cream for a topping and this was delicious!

Almond Macaroons - I LOVE these, they are the perfect 2 bite snack for me in the evenings when I want something sweet. I make the almond macaroon recipe from this book, and it has only 6 ingredients - so easy. I have taken these little tasty gems and made them even tastier - I have coated them in dark chocolate, and most recently, I made a fruit cream cheese filling. I just took a little Toffuti  and mixed it with a small amount of honey and vanilla extract, then I added some small bits of cut fruit. I even made one flavor by mixing a small amount of grape jelly with the Toffuti.

My husband's (Jim's) deodorant - the only nonfood item from the bunch. He said the bigger container is to cumbersome for him, so melted a little bit of it down and put it in a smaller container.

So this is what I did today - when Jim came home and saw the bounty on the table, he said, "Boy, you've been busy." I started just after 12pm and finished around 4pm. I sure am tired from being on my feet, but it was nice to get stuff done. Now maybe tomorrow, I can get back to sewing.

What kinds of things have you been makin' and bakin'?

Thanks for reading!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hidden Germs

I just watched an episode of The Doctors, and the topic today was Hidden Germs. They talked about germs in place that we don't think about or don't see all the time - here is a synopsis of the show, it contains some useful tips regarding germs and how to prevent or take care of them, plus videos of topics. I was particularly interested in these 3 areas that can contain hidden germs are DVD rentals, car rentals, and yoga mats.

Kiosk's for movie rentals have become very popular in recent years. This is what we all do - we select the DVD we want, it comes out, you take it home and you insert it in your player and you watch. But, have you consider the people who watched it before you? They were probably eating snacks, maybe working on projects or whatever and they were touching that DVD, the same one you just inserted in your player. DVD's from kiosk's like these are not maintained or cleaned so you don't know what's on them. Even from a video rental store, do you know if the DVD's are cleaned in between rentals? Wouldn't hurt to ask, but just the same.

When rental cars get returned, in order to get the car ready for another rental, they just do general cleaning - windows, vacuum, and air freshener. Do you know tho, what the previous renter did in that car you just rented? Ate a meal, had sex? Seriously, you never know. The most common places of hidden germs in a rental cars are - the steering wheel, door knobs, locks, radio knobs, gear shifter, the mirrors, and probably the back seat.

Yoga is very popular. Did you know that your yoga mat can harbor germs? After a yoga session, people just roll their mats and throw it in the trunk or back seat till the next session. This is also true for workout mats when doing aerobics. While working out on these mats, you are sweating and getting it all over your mat, and for yoga, you are barefoot so add that into the mix.

So, what can you do about all these hidden germs? Here are some easy solutions to help get rid of those germs:

For the DVD rentals, after inserting the DVD into your player - wash your hands before doing anything else, especially eating. If you have antibacterial wipes, use those to wipe the top surface only of the DVD, and wipe the jacket while you're at it. These wipes will come in handy also for car rentals. Wipe every surface you think might have germs. I keep a bunch of these in my car and now I will keep some in my bag as well.

For your yoga/workout mat, get some vinegar, a spray bottle, and some dish soap and make yourself a solution of half vinegar and half water and a couple of drops of dish soap. After you get home from your workout, open up your mat and spray liberally - if the sun is out, leave it in the sun to dry, if not just leave it to air dry. Also good is to use tea tree oil mixed with some water.

I have one of these pocket sized spritzers and I have it filled with hand sanitizer - I keep in my bag always, never know when I will have germy hands. It comes in real handy at the grocery store when I pick up a package of chicken and there's blood on the bottom of the package. The store only provides paper towels (the hand sanitizer is in the front of the store to use for wiping shopping carts), but I don't want dried chicken blood on my hands, so I whip out this little handy gadget and spritz my hands and let it air dry.

On a separate show, Dr. Oz Show, he had guest chef, Jeffery Saad on, who recommended to never eat in a restaurant after 8pm, because of produce and other foods left out for hours. The chef, who owns a restaurant, also said that one of the dirtiest things in a restaurant is the menu. Think about it, people are sick, they cough and touch the menu, they go to the bathroom, come back and touch the menu- then you come in after them and you touch the menu and possibly get the bacteria on you (or your family member). One of Jeffery's wife's duties is to wipe down the menu daily. Dr. Oz collected 7 random menus and had them tested and all 7 had fecal matter on them. The best solution is to prevent hold the menus high, away from your face.

As you can see, there are a lot of hidden germs that we don't see, but by being prepared, we can alleviate germs and not get sick. So tell me, where other areas of concern that you think harbor hidden germs?

Thanks for reading!!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making Ginger Mui

I love crystallized ginger - it is so good when I have an upset tummy. Crystallized ginger can be found in most natural food stores and now in most grocery stores - those found in the grocery stores can be pricier than those bought at natural food stores. I did find that the store bought ones were coated in a lot of sugar, which is why I started to make my my own and in doing some reading on the Internet, I came across this recipe. The cooking time is a lot less than my original process and comes out really nice - more candied than crystallized, but it's still wonderful.

Wet Li Hing Mui. At 1st glance, they don't look
appetizing, but they are tasty.
I am from Hawaii (now living in Washington State) and there are many local snacks that I love and miss. One of them was Li Hing Mui - a dried preserved plum. They also make a wet version of this and it is really tasty. In 2008, I went back to Hawaii for a very brief visit and found a local snack shop who made their own Ginger Mui - basically, they took cooked ginger and added the spices used to make Li Hing Mui. I recently decided to give it a try.

I Googled how to make Prune Mui - another popular snack locals make, because I knew those ingredients were what I would need to make my Ginger Mui. I came across this recipe (recipe has been deleted) and adapted it to my liking. I would put everything in a large zip top bag and store in the frig as instructed. I hated the waiting time, I am impatient and like to eat it as soon as it's done - I usually start picking it the next day I make it knowing that it wasn't ready to eat. I wanted to make the process faster so I thought of stewed fruits or a compote. Basically cooking fruits in a sugar syrup of whatever a mixture of spices and herbs you like. I thought that would make the process faster and gave it a try.

So here is how I make Ginger Mui. Process your ginger like how I do it here. **Update** I figured out that if you peel the ginger like a potato - use a small spoon and flick the skin away from you, into a sink that has a trap to catch all the peel, the peeling process goes a lot faster. If you use more wrist action, you will have less wear on your fingers and joints. I slice the ginger in good size pieces - don't like it too small. Then I place all the cut pieces in a sauce pan and add filtered water to cover and bring to a boil. Let this go on a high simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat the process. After the second boiling, add 4 cups of water to the pot along with 1 cup of organic sugar (I might go 1/2 cup less next time) - you are making a syrup here, and usually it's a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water, but I don't like things really sweet. You bring this to a boil and let it cook till the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 225 degrees - it goes from 0 to 200 degrees almost instantly, but it takes a while to go from 200 to 225. Make sure the bulb of your thermometer stays in the liquid - the way my pot is, when the liquid gets low, my bulb doesn't accurately sit in the liquid so last time, I just cooked it till all the liquid evaporated. I am frequently stirring so everything gets coated. Also, cooking the ginger can be a little stinky, so warn your family, open your windows, and turn on your stove fan if you have one or make this when no one's home.

At this point, you are done if you want just candied ginger. While it is still wet, sprinkle on some sugar and place on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet under it to dry and use as desired. If  you want ginger mui, this is what you do from here.

Get all  your ingredients together. I have it ready to go so I can just dump and go for a faster process.
Not pictured - candy thermometer.

This is how I squeeze my lemon, use 2 hands (my other hand was taking the pic). Don't squeeze too hard or you'll distort your tongs. If the lemon seems "dry", microwave it for about 10 seconds to get the juices flowing.

Place all the mui ingredients in your pot.

Add your ginger and mix well - turn your stove on to medium at this point.

As the ginger heats up, start stirring to get everything incorporated. Do not get distracted at this point, it goes real fast. It took about 20 minutes for all the liquid to get absorbed. Everything will get thick and sticky, just like how crack seed (preserved plums) are. 

Let cool and store in an air tight container or zip to bag. I stored mine in a 4 cup container like this and it lasted for about 10 days. I would nosh on it in the afternoons and in the evenings - so good!

Making Ginger Mui    (printable recipe)

2 tb. Chinese 5 spice powder

2 tsp. Hawaiian salt (kosher will do)
4 star anise
2 tb. organic sugar or honey
6 tb. whiskey
Juice from 2 large lemons
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. candied ginger

- In a large sauce pan, place all the ingredients except the candied ginger, and stir to incorporate.

- Add the ginger and mix - turn stove on to medium heat.
- Bring to a boil and stir constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed by the ginger, it took me about 20 minutes.
- Let cool, remove the star anise (ok to leave it in the sauce pan, off the heat).
- Store in an airtight container or zip top bag in the frig.
- Eat and enjoy!

So ono!!!! 

(So good!!!!)

The process does take a while (about an hour and a half from start to finish), but in the end you have wonderful ginger mui that is not full of sugar, aspartame or other junk your body doesn't need. Because I use less sugar, I don't feel bad eating a bunch at a time. The first few bites are strong, but it mellows out as it sits in the frig. The last time, I zested the lemon in the mui mix - next time, I will take large pieces of the lemon peel and candy that with the ginger for extra flavor, why throw out good flavor? Speaking of which, any  leftover mui "sauce" is great when stirred in some orange juice - just a couple of teaspoons.

So, next time you have a craving for some local flavor, try my ginger mui recipe a try - I promise you'll like it as much as I do.

2018 Update: I now make this with dried papayas. My natural food store sells dried papaya spears and I cut them into bite sized chunks and make this recipe with it. I like the dried papaya so much better, I think it has a better mouthfeel than the ginger.

Mahalo (thanks) for reading!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Make Strawberry Butter

I was recently watching The Chew and saw this recipe for Popovers with Strawberry Honey. I really was intrigued by the strawberry honey butter recipe and decided to give it a try. I made mine non-dairy by using Earth Balance. This recipe would be the perfect use for strawberries that are not so perfect.

What you will need:   (printable recipe)
24 organic strawberries
1 stick of softened Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (left on counter for several hours)
1 tb. of honey
food processor or chopper
small sauce pan
medium bowl
hand mixer

First, rinse your strawberries, hull them, and give them a rough chop.

Place them in your food chopper and process into small bits. 

 Place the processed strawberries in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer for 10 minutes until thick. Measure out a ¼ cup of puree and set aside to cool - the rest will be reserved for another use or making more butter.

This is how much 24 strawberries made. You could do the math and half the recipe, but then you won't have any to put on your other desserts or to make other yummy treats with.

Place the softened Earth Balance in the bowl and start mixing.

After a couple of seconds, add the strawberry puree and process.

When the puree has been incorporated into the butter, add 1 tablespoon of honey.

The butter is ready when the puree and honey have been incorporated.

Place into a small mason jar - fits perfect in a ½ pint jar, and use as desired.

Here you see it on an almond macaroon - so yummy!

So it's that easy to make Strawberry Butter. I bet this would work great with thawed, frozen strawberries as well as using other fruit you desire. This would make great hostess or Christmas gifts. The butter tastes sooo buttery and sweet at the same time - use it on biscuits, banana bread, or my fave - pumpkin bread. As for the leftover puree? Add some honey to it and you can use that like the butter, put it over ice cream or make another dessert with it. Your options are sweet!!

Thanks for reading!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Love Lavender

This weekend is the Sequim Lavender Festival . I  love lavender and to pay homage to this wonderful healing herb, not only do I make salves and soaps, but I also make stuff with the flowers - check out my my Etsy shop for my lavender salves. I have made lavender wands, bouquets and mostly lavender hat bands. 

I have made many of these hat bands out of lavender and it is really nice to wear, I get the heavenly scent of lavender, plus nice comments and the surprise expressions from people who hear that I made it.

To make a hat band, you need:
- A hat.
- Fresh lavender with stems at least 6 inches long - trim the leaves off of the stems. I don't have a quantity, it depends on how big your hat band will be - one big bunch should be plenty, plus give you extra for decoration.  
- 24 gauge wire.

Prepare your lavender, trim and take off the leaves from the stems and set aside. I used 5 different kinds of lavender (all home grown) and alternated them by color.

It’s best if your wire is on a bobbin of sorts. Mine was in a coil, and I just wound it around a clothes pin 
- this makes for easier use. Anything short can be used as a bobbin - small dowel, pencil or a popsicle stick.

What your wire bobbin will look like.

Take your hat, and if you have a hat stand or a wig head, place your hat on it - or you could just put it on. Take the wire and wrap it kinda loose around the base of your hat and secure (twist) - don’t cut the wire, from here, you will be placing and wrapping your lavender.

Take the wire base off your hat (it won’t be perfect) and place 2 stems of lavender on top of the wire base, gently hold the flower head and wrap the wire about 3 times. The wire on the bobbin should just roll right off in your hand.

Take another 2 stems and place the tip of that head close to the base of the 1st head. What you want to do is cover up the stems and have just the flower showing. 

Gently hold the head with one hand while wrapping with the other. The wire is very malleable, so you can manipulate where you need it to be. 

Now you just place and wrap like previously.

What it will look like after a few wraps.

When you get to the end, just tuck the last few stems under the first few that you placed.

Here is the finished head band - you can gently manipulate it into shape. 

Close up shot - so pretty with the different mix of lavenders.

Finished hat.

This is such an easy project. I have done it in the past with 3 flower heads and I think that looks better - a little fuller. I have also done this without using a base and just wrapped the flower heads to the previous stems. Experiment with what works best for you. You can do this with any flower with at least a sturdy 6" stem, not with just lavender. If you made it thicker and added different flowers, it could be a wreath.

I hope you give this a try the next time you have an abundance of flowers.

Thanks for reading!!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!