Saturday, February 25, 2012

ChocolateFest 2012...friends, fun, and lots and lots of Chocolate!

A few weeks ago my friend, Turia, told me that she was having a little chocolate party at her house called ChocolateFest. It's so simple that it needed explaining. I thought it was something like a Tupperware party but, no, it was just a party celebrating the wonder that is chocolate. You bring something made from chocolate and come and enjoy what other people have brought with no guilt (Guilt? What guilt?) . She has done this for 4 years now, despite having moved with her family several times.

I have my go-to recipes, we all do, when it comes to chocolate and when it comes to desserts, but I felt the need to try something different. Brownies out of a box felt like a betrayal to what this gathering was all about. So I have been keeping my eyes open to see if any new recipes crossed my path. Luckily one did as I was flipping through an issue of People magazine. There was a recipe for chocolate fondue. It was definitely different and, best of all, quick and easy.

12 ounces of high-quality dark chocolate (60% cacao)

2/3 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp Amaretto (optional) -- I used 1 tbsp of Kahlua

Melt the chocolate over low/medium heat, stir constantly, add the cream and stir until blended and smooth. Add the vanilla and Amaretto or Kahlua (if desired.) Serve with dried fruit, bread or cookies.

And here is how it turned out: (Click on the pictures to see full-sized)
I made it right before I left so that it would be warm upon arrival to the party. It took about 15 minutes from start to finish.

When I got to Turia's I saw that everyone who came had put a lot of thought into their contributions. Oh, the chocolately goodness! There was cake and cake pops, brownies, cupcakes, candy, ganoche, hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream. Turia really went all out, making chocolate dipped apples, chocolate dipped potato chips, chili with chocolate, and chocolate noodles with mango sauce (the hit of the evening.)

After gathering around the table and each taking turns explaining what we brought, we noshed and feasted in the crackling light of the fireplace and lit candles. Every so often you would hear a "Wow" or "MMM!"
Turia, our hostess for the evening, showing some of her creations, including chocolate dipped potato chips. They were really good!

My plate with several different samples. Everything was great and I wish I could've tasted it all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some Inspiration for Today...

I hope these brighten your day. I was led to artist Greg Olsen's site this morning and was reminded of how talented he is. These are some of my favorites. Wednesday often feels a little anti-climactic for a lot of people, so what better day to get a little pick-me-up?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stampin', Stampin'!

Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, I signed up for a stamping class today, and, boy, was it fun!

About 2 weeks ago I was having a little bit of the blues (totally unjustified blues) and felt like I needed to do something else--something creative, and to meet some new people. I have my church girls, and they're great, but it is good to have different circles of friends. So I thought about things I like to do...I don't want to sew or quilt, since I don't know how and really have no desire to learn (yet...ask me again in a few years,) but I have always enjoyed stamping.

Several years ago I went to a few Stampin' Up parties and bought a few little items here and there. Although it seemed like you had to buy a lot of stuff to make really cute things. One of my friends eventually gave me 2 big boxes of materials, which I got a lot of use out of. But, as usual, Life got in the way and other interests prevailed. Other interests and responsibilities, like my very draining job.

So I went to the Stampin' Up site, nosed around on it, and found a few distributors in the area. One of them had scheduled a class for today. Perfect!

I spent the morning going back and forth between finishing up my Relief Society lesson and watching Whitney Houston's funeral online (interesting...) Then I got ready for my foray in the world of stamping.

After a few wrong turns trying to find the right house, I finally arrived and was greeted by 4 lovely ladies sitting around the kitchen table. They were sweet and welcoming and it was a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. Just the kind of thing I was hoping to find.

We spent the next 3 hours getting to know each other, making cards, swapping materials, and noshing on cheese and crackers, pasta salad, and chocolate chip cookies. The time flew and it was fun to be creative (and, admittedly, to not have to deal with the mess, because stamping leaves little pieces of paper everywhere.)

If you're interested in seeing these in more detail, click on the pictures to make them larger. =)

2 of today's cards, plus a little box we each made to hold the cards and the envelopes

We made 10 cards, using a kit and working from ready-made examples. A lot of things have changed in the many years since I have done stamping. For one thing, the existence of these kits, which makes even the most uncreative person look pretty darn talented.

This kit was so easy to use! You just pop the pieces out and they are self-sticking.
A great way to make a quick homemade card.

I was grateful for the ease of it, because it has been a tiring week. But, after the first couple of cards, I started to do more of my own variations and take some liberties with the ready-made designs. It is an extremely relaxing hobby that doesn't create a lot of clutter. Plus, you get to give away what you make and know that people are enjoying the fruits of your labors. In this highly digital world, it is nice to get a real card.

3 cards using little decorative brads.
Everything was provided, we just put them together.

The ribbons add more dimension and a nice little "something extra."

So hooray for getting out of my comfort zone! Apparently these make-and-take classes happen every other month, which is just enough. I'm excited to do more! something nice for me so I can give you a homemade Thank You card. *wink*

Ta Da!! All done. =)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Today Flew By!

After a few days of sleeping terribly (I could blame a certain white cat, but it is my fault for being too indulgent with him and staying up too late,) I finally got a really good night's sleep last night. It felt great! Today was the day I needed it the most.

I'm teaching Relief Society on Sunday and am *maybe* 25% done with my lesson. Usually I am finished a lot earlier. There have just been a lot of obligations this week--all good and fun, but more than usual. I had 10 ladies over last Saturday for food and chatting, we fed the missionaries on Wednesday, yesterday I had singing practice and my book club meeting, and today an old friend from CA joined us for dinner.

Today, especially, has really flown by! I washed linens, cleaned house, my Visiting Teachers planned an impromptu visit, and I tried to work on my lesson. I had every right to look like this:
But, thanks to a good night's sleep, I felt like this:

Although I suspect that I REALLY looked more like this:
Still, I felt like I was able to focus on the task at hand and not get too sidetracked, which I have a tendency to do when I have a long list of things that need to be done.

Ironically, when I did sit down once to spend a few minutes on my lesson, my printer ran out of black ink. Isn't that always the way? So those precious minutes were spent, instead, running to the store for a new cartridge.

The good news is that now the house is clean, today's other tasks are done, and there is nothing to stop me from giving my complete focus to the preparation of my lesson.

And, wanna hear something funny? A couple of weeks ago I was thinking that I needed more to do, so I signed up for a stamping party in the's tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music, Voices, and Whitney

With the announcement of Whitney Houston's passing and the Grammys the following day, I've been thinking a lot about music, voices, and what true vocal talent is. There is no doubt that Whitney had it, although her lifestyle choices had caused it to deteriorate.

This is an INCREDIBLE performance where she sings for 10 minutes straight at the AMAs in 1994. She does a medley that includes songs from Porgy and Bess and Dreamgirls, plus her hit I Have Nothing. The first time I saw this, I was so entranced, that I couldn't believe it was 10 minutes long. It's phenomenal...

Whitney singing the National Anthem in 1991. It is the most flawless performance at a sporting event ever. There are plenty of online videos of her sounding off key with a ravaged voice in the last few years, but this is the way I like to remember her:

As Eric and I watched the Grammys on Sunday, we cringed at some of the acts. The Grammys have really become a popularity contest. There is so much talent out there that never gets recognized, yet we have mediocre singers and unimaginative songs that are crammed down our throats, winning awards, and marketed as the voices of today. It's ridiculous.

After an hour of watching the Grammys, I changed the channel and indulged in the 2-hour episode of my beloved Downton Abbey--a reminder that quality TV still exists.

The next day, Eric and I were browsing around on YouTube when we came across Nicki Minaj's Grammy number. Again, confirmation that the lines between "Music" and "Performance Art" are becoming extremely blurred. Her wack-a-doodle number, with all of it's references to the Catholic church, was definitely more performance art.

My own CD collection, which is fairly large, exists because I'm trying to maintain a standard of what I listen to. I personally, prefer Music. I like good songs and great voices. If a great song and a superior voice are brought together--all the better!

So, in the interest of trying to preserve these things that I feel are important, here are a few of my favorite songs sung by some pretty great singers...

Russell Watson: "Always There"

Barbra Streisand: "My Man" from Funny Girl

Josh Groban: "Anthem" from Chess

Linda Eder: "The Man of La Mancha"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cutest Couple Ever...

If this doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing will. This is a 90-year old couple who has been married for 62 years. They went into a doctor's office for a checkup, saw a piano, and decided to have some fun.

It's not about age, it's about attitude!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dave's Killer Bread

This happens to me all the time...I'll learn about something new and then it seems like I'm hearing about it from all directions. And this time it is about bread.


Yes. Bread.

To me, there are 2 kinds of bread...delicious, unhealthy white bread and dense, boring wheat bread. And that's it. Eric, on the other hand, is always on the lookout for better and better wheat bread. His search has evolved over time, but it always involves reading the label and seeing which have the most protein.

Because the nearest Trader Joe's is now 40 miles away, any organic shopping is done in the organic section at Fred Meyer. The other day Eric went grocery shopping with me and we decided to do an aisle-by-aisle tour of the organic section. He came across some bread that had so many seeds stuck to it, it reminded me of something you would feed your pet parrot. But he liked what he read on the label, so we decided to try it. I didn't look at the brand, I was just imagining all the seeds I would have to wipe off of the kitchen counters.

Fast forward a few days, and we're eating breakfast--eggs and toast. The new bread had come out of the freezer to replace the old wheat bread. Eric was taking his first bites of it and I was eating my bread--the yummy, but unhealthy kind. I hear a "Wow! This is really good. Try this!"

He was right. It WAS really good! Had I been converted?

Last night at the Relief Society dinner, the ladies at my table were enjoying the rolls and we got on the subject of bread. One said she didn't eat much bread. I thought of the loaf Eric had been experimenting with, when another lady said, "Have any of you tried Dave's Killer Bread? The owner used to be a convict or something. Anyway, it is really good."

Always on the lookout for new bread for Eric to try, I asked where it was sold. Little did I know that it was sitting on my counter at home.

I know you're asking yourself how I can spend an entire entry talking about bread, but the stuff is heaven. Definitely, hands-down the best wheat bread I've ever had. And, research geek that I am, I, of course, had to go to the website and learn all that I can. A pretty inspiring story, actually. I have a lot of respect for people who completely turn their lives around.

Lunch was an open-faced sandwich with Dave's Killer Bread (Good Seed flavor,) tuna with mayo and a dollop of sweet relish, topped with some Craisins. Or, as I call it, Kristie's Killer Sammich.

UPDATE: Saturday, February 4, 2012

Today Eric and I bought the "Sin Dawg" Cinnamon Roll. Oh baby, that thing is incredible! Slice it as thin or thick as you like, put the slices into the microwave for about 10-15 seconds, and then enjoy the sinfully delicious sticky goodness. We're hooked.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A night with lovely ladies...

I just came home from a lovely night with our Relief Society ladies. A simple dinner of soup, salad, and bread, plus great company and conversation. I'm just so grateful for my church family and the way they have embraced me since I moved to Washington. Ladies, if you're reading this, I love you and am so thankful for you!

Downton Companion...

One of the fun things about watching Downton Abbey week after week is that, unlike a movie you watch again and again, you never know which way the story is going to turn. But what to do during those 6 days between episodes?

I purchased the companion book and, what a delight! Gorgeous pictures and fun behind-the-scenes tidbits. My favorite parts, though, are the sections that talk about real-life people who lived in those times. The series creator, Julian Fellowes, purposefully chose the 1890-1940 time period (DA begins in 1912) because it was the time when many new inventions were being introduced to society, and because it was when the aristocratic lifestyle was becoming more and more obsolete.

Nothing deep, nothing earth-shattering, but a lot of fun and pretty darn interesting. Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Call Security!

This is one of those small, but important, life lessons: When you buy a new item of clothing, make sure the checker removes the security tag.

The other day I was in my closet, putting away laundry, when I saw a black security tag staring back at me on a skirt I bought last summer. I don't know what haunted me more--the fact that I didn't have the receipt or that I had worn this out in public several times. (Cue "loser" finger on forehead.)

The sad thing is that these annoying little things are becoming more and more pointless. There are actually tutorials on the web on how to remove them (I didn't take the chance,) most of which have the disclaimer "Don't Steal!" (Um, OK.) When I left the store many months ago, the tag must have set off an alarm, right? Does that even matter anymore? Guess not. After all, my old Blackberry used to set off store alarms all the time and nobody cared.

So today I put the skirt in a bag and sheepishly returned to the store from which I bought it. The alarm went off when I went in. No one cared. I had to go through another section with a sensor and it went off again. No one cared. Good thing I'm not a thief. I had half a mind to just jump back and forth in front of the sensor and see how long it took before somebody noticed.

When I found someone to help, he didn't care that I had no receipt. When I bought a couple of items, the other person who helped me didn't care that I had a piece of clothing in a bag with their store name on it.

The whole experience was a little weird--and eye-opening. And the reason I'm not putting the name of the store in this entry is obvious. They just make it way too easy to walk out with items you haven't paid for! (That's YOU, the thieves. Not me, the gal who goes out in public wearing security tags.)