Monthly Archives: February 2014

Quest to Read Them All – Dark Witch

As I continue of my Quest to Read Them All, I have made my way back to an author who’s work I love.  As a young college student, I was introduced to Nora Roberts writing, and being the slightly obsessive person that I am, I went on to read everything she’s written.  In my 20’s I would scower eBay and Amazon looking for her out of print titles, because she didn’t have anything new out and I wanted to read something else.  The first set of books (she writes a lot of trilogies) I read – Finding the Dream, Holding the Dream and Daring to Dream – are still amongst my favorites.

This week’s book, Dark Witch, is the first installment in Nora Robert’s newest trilogy, The Cousins O’Dwyer.

dark witch cover

Yes, as you can tell from the picture, it’s an eBook.  Due to space restrictions I have to be very selective about what books I keep physical copies of and which ones I will be happy to enjoy on my iPad.  We move around too much to add as many books as I actually read to my physical collection.  As it is, there are more than 16 totes (you know those good sized plastic buckets) of books waiting for the library/craft room to be painted so they can go onto shelves and breathe again.  But I digress…

One of the reasons I enjoy Nora Robert’s books are the characters.  I love how she creates these people who I can connect with so beautifully.  This was particularly true with the heroine of Dark Witch, Iona Sheehan.  She had rather uninterested parents a much deeper connection with her maternal grandmother, which, while not exactly the case for me, struck a resounding chord in my world.  All she ever really wanted was to be loved for who she was, and that is the gift she is given when she decided to seek out her destiny in County Mayo Ireland.  There are witches, sorcery, spells and potions in this book.  It has a good deal of fantasy and the paranormal, which is also one of Ms. Roberts mainstays and part of what keeps these stories so interesting.  I love how she introduced all of the key players, but kept the book mostly centered on Iona.  I cannot wait to see what happens next, and don’t have that long to go, because the 2nd book in the series, Shadow Spell, comes out on March 25th, 2014.  If I read the hints correctly, I believe this book will center around Connor and Meara.  However, we will all have to wait until November for the final installment, and the combustible heat that emanates from Branna and Fin.  Ghosts, witches, time travel, and spirit guides!  I cannot wait to finish this set of books!

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Thirsty Thursday – Unicorn Blood

I found this cool list of drink recipes, all themed around Harry Potter, on Pinterest and can’t wait to try out a few of them and share the results.  Last week we made Dragon’s Blood, and this week we will be making Unicorn Blood!  I love all of the fanciful creatures from the magical world of Harry Potter!

The recipe called for Vodka, Blue Curacao, Lemonade and Cherries.

Unicorn Blood Ingredients

First I took a tall glass and filled it with ice.

Ice

Next add an ounce of Vodka

A Shot of Vodka

Then add a shot of Blue Curacao

An Ounce of Blue Curacao

Then fill the rest of the glass with lemonade

Fill with Lemonade

Now it’s time to garnish the drink, by adding a dash of maraschino cherry juices and a few pieces of fruit.

Time to garnish

I tasted this one, and even though I don’t like vodka, it was a pretty good combination.  It wasn’t too sweet, nor was there an overwhelming alcohol taste.  It was a nice finish to a month worth of exploring Harry Potter themed drinks…

Unicorn Blood

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It’s Getting Frosty Around Here

We have been working on decorating (and renovating) our new-to-us house, and right now we are working on our dining room.  We’ve made a fantastic set of shelves to serve as a bar, rehabbed a curbside furniture find into a buffet, and made a couple of great pieces of wall art.  Which means that I’m now in need of shelf fillers and table scape pieces.  Which means that I needed to search out some ideas for pieces that would fit with my design aesthetic and our extremely limited budget; so I was off to Pinterest.  I found a bunch of great ideas, but the one that worked best for our current financial limitations was Frosted Glass Vases.

The project was super simple, and the only thing I actually had to purchase was the spray paint.  The original pin said to buy glasses at a local thrift store, but I was even more economical and used left over pieces from previous craft projects.  After I had procured the Frosted Glass Spray Paint, I found a bag of rubber bands and the leftover vases.

Frosted Glass Materials

I made sure the outside of the vases were clean and dry before placing rubber bands strategically around the exterior of each vase.

Rubber band Designs

When I was happy with the layout of the rubber bands, it was time to spray them.  I made sure I was in a well ventilated area, held the can about 12″ away from the vase and coated each one evenly.  When they were both neatly covered I set them aside to dry.  Just an FYI, don’t freak out if they don’t look frosted right away.  They take on that foggy look as they dry.

Frosting the Glass

After they were completely dry (I let them sit overnight) I removed the rubber bands, and admired the designs on each one.  It was really cool how the twisted rubber bands left different marking than the flat ones.

Removing the bands  Frosted Glass Vase

Don’t they look cute on the top of our repurposed buffet?

Buffet Top Decorations

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Filed under check-it-off-the-list, hunting for a new home, projecty type stuff

Tasty Tuesday – Mashed Cauliflower

This week’s recipe is something I actively sought out.  In an attempt to be healthier, we were looking for an alternative to the carb fest we usually serve.  Honestly, who doesn’t love rice, pasta or potatoes?  I know I’ll eat 2 of those 3 items in almost any way I can get my hands on it!  Even my pug, Murphy, knows what Pork Fried Rice means!  But I digress…  I went searching on Pinterest (where else?) for a mashed potato substitute and came across this recipe for Mashed Cauliflower.

The recipe was pretty straight forward, and I had almost all the ingredients on-hand.  I was game for trying something different, so hey what the heck, let’s give it a whirl.  First I gather all the ingredients:  a head of cauliflower, 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of light sour cream (we only had regular, so that’s what we used), 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt (we only had powder, so we made do), ground black pepper & chives (we didn’t use these – they were just garnish, really).

cauliflower mashed potatoes ingredients

The next thing to do was clean and cut up the head of cauliflower.  We figured out that we had an extra large cauliflower later on, and probably should have doubled the ingredients, but you live and learn…

cutting up cauliflower

Then we cooked the cauliflower until it was pretty mushy, while we brought the rest of the ingredients to room temperature (that’s a trick I learned from mashing potatoes).  Be careful how much garlic you add, because it can be a bit overpowering.

milk, butter, sour cream

When the cauliflower was cooked, we drained it.  (Make sure you get it as dry as possible, because the liquid will mess with the potato-like consistency of the dish.)  Then mashed everything together, just like potatoes.

mashing cauliflower

It was pretty good.  Definitely another veggie and not a starch, but I almost didn’t miss the potatoes.  This definitely wasn’t as creamy as mashed potatoes, but it worked well as the base for a fancy plated dinner.

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Sunday Sweets – Salty Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m adding a bit of salt into this week’s sweets.  I’ve never been much of a sugary sweet kind of girl, but I’m a sucker for a good chocolate chip cookie.  I was looking for something to change up the standard recipe, and found an interesting option on Pinterest.  I selected these Salty Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now let me say this straight from the start, my cookies came out looking nothing like the ones in the picture, but man were they really yummy!!!

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and lined a cookie sheet with parchment.  After that, I gathered all of my ingredients: 1 cup of butter, 1 1/4 cup of light brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 additional egg yolk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 1/4 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels and 2 cups of chocolate chips.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

I melted 2 sticks (1 cup of butter) in a small saucepan, and then browned it.  You brown butter by continuously swirling and heating melted butter.  It turns roughly the same color as the brown sugar when it is ready.

butter to melt  browning butter

Once my butter was ready, I added it to the brown sugar and used my hand mixer to combine the two.  (You can also use a stand mixer.)  Next, I added the eggs (even the extra yolk) and combined it with the butter/brown sugar mixture.  Next came the vanilla.  Make sure when you finish mixing the ingredients together they are smoothly combined.

brown sugar  Extra Yolk and All  Vanilla

When all of the wet ingredients are incorporated, it’s time to start adding the dry components.  First add the baking soda.  Next, the salt.  Finally the flour.  These all get combined using a mixer.

baking soda  Salt  Flour

Next it is time to add the bulky stuff.  The crushed pretzels and the chocolate chips.  Be sure to use a spoon or spatula to do this.

crushed pretzels  chocolate chips

Now, it’s time to load the cookie sheet and bake the cookies.  I used 2 tablespoons, but you can use a cookie scoop.

oven ready cookies

The recipe says to bake then for 8-10 minutes, but mine took 13 minutes to cook.  I left them on the cookie sheet for the recommended 3 minutes, then transferred them to a wire cooling rack.  They were so good with a nice cold glass of milk to dunk them in.

Salty Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

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Snapshot Saturday – (Not So) Wild Animals

The last snapshot in this tribute to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Kilimanjaro Safari is the giraffe!  It’s one of the first animals you encounter on the Safari and one of the most fun!  It’s really great when the walk in front of the trucks and you get to spend more time taking pictures!

Kilimanjaro Safari Giraffe

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Quest to Read Them All – Ruby Red

The next book on my Quest to Read Them All is actually an eBook called Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.

ruby red

This is the first book in a fantasy trilogy centering around a teenage boy and girl, time travel, and menacing historical figures.  Gwyneth Shepard is the last in a line of time traveler and she is an integral part of solving the mystery of the chronograph.  She had no idea of her history and heritage, nor the adventures she will face.  The story is set in modern day London, with periodic trips into the past.  The historical aspects of this story fit in seamlessly, and even serve to enhance the suspense.  This is an interesting foray into fantasy, suspense and historical fiction.  This book was a great introduction to the story and only served to make me want to read the next two books (and very soon) to find out what happens to Gwen, Gideon, Lucy and Lesley.  There are so many unanswered questions, and I really hope that book two (Sapphire Blue) and book three (Emerald Green) give us those answers.

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