Inspiration comes from each other

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I believe in the Wil Wheaton principle of Internet conduct: “Don’t be a dick.” When faced with some of the more irrational Internet trolls, I just repeat that to myself. My first inclination is to fire back, of course, but I don’t. I just think there is enough unhappiness in the world that I don’t need to add to it. So I make the choice not to; still, there is plenty of hate on the Internet.

So it is incredibly awesome and humbling to find this in my comment feed:

very-inspiring-blogger
To find that I am inspiring another person is, well, inspiring. It’s a warm fuzzy when I needed it. It reminds me of why I do what I do.

I’d like to thank MachineGunMama at http://machinegunmama.wordpress.com for this award. It’s funny that she found me inspiring as I think the same of her. Check her out, you’ll have fun and instantly fall in love with her kawaii creations.

Here are the rules for this award.
1.Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
2.List the rules and display the award.
3.Share seven facts about yourself.
4.Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
5.Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you

Seven Facts About Me
1. I love purple and pink above all colors. So yeah, I’m a stereotypical five-year-old on the inside.
2. Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite Studio Ghibli film.
3. I am sensitive to sunlight. If I am out in the sun for more than five minutes, my skin breaks out into welts and blisters. It is very unpleasant.
4. I consider myself a Christian existentialist. Due to this, Søren Kierkegaard is one of my favorite philosophers.
5. I do not vote for incumbents. If I don’t any of the challengers, I write in the name of a fictional character that is alien or anthropomorphized.
6. I love books so much that I have a favorite book in most categories and I make categories within categories to continue my lists.
7. I share my home with five cats. Three are named after Marvel comic characters (Gambit, Rogue, Ghost Rider), one is named after a video game (Zoe), and one was named by the shelter. My daughter insisted that Quill was the name she was born with, and it should stay that. My daughter was four years old.

So wow, now I have to share blogs that I find inspiring. I find so many things inspiring. In fact, I have a list of about 100 things I am encouraged by on a wall in my house. I find the reason to get out of bed, or to do chores, or to make creative items from a variety of sources and just looking at those things will get me going. The blogs I follow and nominated I hope are pretty diverse, so there should be something for everyone. They are also slightly uncomfortable for me to share as I find inspiration even in opinions and attitudes I disagree with and tried as I might I just couldn’t eliminate some of these on that basis; they are very linked up in how I am and how I interact with the Internet world. Each one uplifts, encourages, teaches, and challenges in its own way. I hope you find something that you like in my list.

15 Amazing Blogs that Uplift and Inspire (no particular order here)

1. Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi
2. The Study of Anime
3. Write On Sisters
4. Evil FX/Bioweapons
5. Snowdropsdingwall
6. My Hotbox Kitchen
7. Kevin Reviews Uncanny X-Men
8. Lego Effect
9. Sourcerer
10. Note To Self
11. Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom:
12. Sewing In No Man’s Land
13. Holly Lisle
14. SparkPeople : This is more a collection of blogs, but when I struggle I can always find something to help.
15. Writing is Hard Work

Whew! That part was excruciating. I know I left people off that probably should be on here.

Thanks for reading. Thanks again to MGM for the nod, I am happy that you found me worthy. And I am ecstatic to pay it forward.

If you haven’t checked out MGM’s very inspiring blog, do it now. 🙂

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Let’s Create: Goal Jars

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After sitting in my Pinterest board for months, inspiration finally struck to create this project; I call it the  Goal Jar. Most of the jars I have seen are for weight loss, and mine is no different.

To say I have struggled with weight loss is an understatement. When my family and I moved to Pennsylvania four years ago, I quickly put on 30 pounds; I was already overweight at that point anyway. I have been working toward the goal of a healthy weight consistently for about 18 months. I halfheartedly tried for it for a year before that.

Still it’s a daily work-in-progress. Sometimes I need a little more inspiration than others. I also need to remind myself of how far I have come because frankly, plateaus are hard and it’s easy to lose sight of the progress I’ve made.

This is a very easy project to do. It cost me less than 10 bucks to complete. It would have cost less, as I had everything but matched jars; I like things “matchy-matchy”, so a pair of jars was important. However, while wandering the aisles I found six-sided jewelry bead dice and had to have them. Let’s face it, I’m a gamer girl at heart and anything that puts a geek stamp on things makes me happy. So, rather than use dice from my large collection and risk incurring the wrath of the gaming gods or shamelessly harvest the dice of a character, I bought two packages of six-sider jewelry beads.

Anyway, what you’ll need for your Goal Jars (and approximate costs):

  • A measurable goal (free)
  • A couple of jars, vases, or any clear containers (I found 2 glass containers with lids on clearance for $1.50 each. However, I saw appropriate sized jars that cost upwards of $10 each)
  • Stones, marbles, dice, beads, or another item that can be counted and represent a portion of your goal (My dice were on sale for $2 a bag. The average price hovered around $5 for glass stones and $4 for various jewelry beads.)
  • Embellishments, stickers, markers, tape, decorative paper, or whatever brings a bit of you into your goal jar (Had these on hand, but I never buy stickers that aren’t on sale so I would estimate $1-$3 a sheet)

goaljars.jpgThe rest of the fabrication is easy. Decorate your container with your goals and anything else that strikes your fancy. The trick is to make the goals measurable and achievable.  Try “pounds lost” and “pounds to go.”  Similarly for fellow wordsmiths, “words written” and “words to go”.  Since I’ve had trouble overcoming a weight at which I’m currently plateaued, instead of pounds, I’m going to use “minutes exercised” and “minutes to go.”

My husband saw me writing this and suggested “video games to play” and “video games completed.” I am pretty sure this one could snowball quickly to “trophies to earn” and “trophies earned” since I watch him pursue trophies in an effort to “platinum” video games. Though I personally am not sure about a goal jar for this, but to each his own, I guess.

So what will your goals be? What will you use? I would love to see what others make.

Update: Found the original source of my goal jars. Hot Mess Princess calls them “Motivation Marbles.” I stand by my name though as I used dice, not marbles.

 

Done Wallowing

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I woke this morning 85% sure I was done wallowing. I would get back to work today. The whining finished. The time had come to “take the balls out of my purse and kick some ass.”

When my computer exploded, it took all of my work with it. This just goes to show that not only does one need to measure twice to cut once to avoid ruining a project, a person should also back up her files more than once every six months. I paid a steep price on that account, and there are things that I will never get back including pictures and patterns. Luckily, I’ll be getting my computer back with a new hard drive in less than a week.

But it is time to move on.

When I logged in today, I found that extra 15% to get me going. Thanks, you’ll hear more about that after I have processed and done my part.

Starting tomorrow I am back to work posting useful stuff for anyone that needs it. Maybe sooner if I finish in a reasonable amount of time this evening.

Cooking in Thedas: Not-So-Qunari Cookies

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Once the Warden is friendly enough with Sten, he mentions a story about a Qunari village that had fields of cinnamon and nutmeg. He mentioned liking this aroma. The Qunari though would not deign to mix their cinnamon and nutmeg into a cookie, as Sten also mentions a distinct lack of sweets in Qunari fare. This recipe is based in part on an old, at least 18th century, recipe for molasses cookies. I modernized it to include coconut oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Had I some almond flour on hand, I probably would have experimented with more than wheat flour.

With the exception of molasses and coconut oil, many kitchens will already have these ingredients. If Coconut Oil and Molasses aren't staples for your kitchen, add them today.

With the exception of molasses and coconut oil, many kitchens will already have these ingredients. If Coconut Oil and Molasses aren’t staples for your kitchen, add them today.

 

Not-So-Qunari Cookies

3/4 cup Coconut Oil, softened
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Egg
1/4 cup Molasses
2 1/4 cup Flour, sifted
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Cloves
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Ginger

Preheat oven to 375.

1. Mix oil, egg, sugar, and molasses thoroughly. You can use a mixer for this. To get coconut oil soft enough for blending, I typically measure it out and set it next to the stove while I prepare the rest of my ingredients. You can always soften it in a microwave or over low heat if desired.

The molasses gives a rich aroma and taste to the cookies.

The molasses gives a rich aroma and taste to the cookies.

2. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, sea salt, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together.

Make sure to sift your flour for better blending of the dry ingredients.

Make sure to sift your flour for better blending of the dry ingredients.

3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

The batter will be thick and crumbly. It will not like being shaped, especially if you like to chill your dough before use.

The batter will be thick and crumbly. It will not like being shaped, especially if you like to chill your dough before use.

4. Shape each cookie into a 1 1/2 inch circle or ball – flatten ball with fork. Place a parchment paper lined cookie sheet two-to-three inches apart.

5. Bake 10-12 minutes.

platedcookies

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Calories: 83.7
Total Fat: 5.3 g
Saturated Fat: 4.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: .1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: .4 g
Cholesterol: 5.8 mg
Sodium: 102.9 mg
Potassium: 65.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 11.9 g
Dietary Fiber: .1 g
Sugars: 10.6 g
Protein: .3 g

Cooking in Thedas: Leliana’s Pudding

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lelianaWhen traveling with Leliana one can get a sense that the foods she enjoyed in Orlais were savory and rich. While, not as “frilly and pretentious” as Orlesian-style Lamb, this pudding bathes the senses with its thick texture, sweet taste, and rich smell. Can be served warm or cold and with or without a nut topping. I found that making this pudding in my kitchen made it taste better than any kind I’ve purchased at the grocery stores. Give this one a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And you can always give the left overs to Chantry orphans…or your own kids.

Leliana’s Pudding
2 cups 2% Milk
2 tbsp Cornstarch
1 large Egg
2/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp Almond Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Whisk egg, cornstarch, and one-half cup milk until well blended. The mixture will be thick. Set aside.

Make sure to do this first. Time is of the essence in pudding making.

Make sure to do this first. Time is of the essence in pudding making.

2. Heat a two-quart pot to medium-high heat. Add sugar to melt and brown slightly. Stir occasionally to avoid burning the sugar. Use a wooden spoon or the like as the sugar will be melting and adhere to plastic utensils very easily. This will take about four minutes.

At first it will seem like nothing is happening, but the magic occurs in the last minute-and-a-half of heating. The sugar melts and turns light brown.

At first it will seem like nothing is happening, but the magic occurs in the last minute-and-a-half of heating. The sugar melts and turns light brown.

3. Stir remaining milk (1 1/2 cup) into the sugar. The sugar will crystallize immediately. Don’t worry, it is going to remelt quickly. Stir to mix thoroughly and remelt the sugar.

What happens when you add the milk to the caramelized sugar. The sugar will float to the top as a single sheet.

What happens when you add the milk to the caramelized sugar. The sugar will float to the top as a single sheet.

4. Take one-half cup of caramelized sugar mixture and add it to the cornstarch mixture. Blend well and then pour this new mixture into pan. Stir until the mix thickens and bubbles.

Keep stirring and heating until the pudding is thick.

Keep stirring and heating until the pudding is thick.

5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almond extract. Set aside to cool slightly and prepare the nut topping. The pudding can also be served cold, if preferred. Note: my recipe makes the pudding have a strong almond flavor because I love it. Some may prefer to decrease the amount of almond and increase the vanilla, or replace the almond with something else like raspberry or orange. Both of those options will work and are tasty.

6. Makes 9 quarter-cup servings. Can be served warm or cold.

Serve the pudding warm or cold and with or without nuts.

Serve the pudding warm or cold and with or without nuts.

7. If leftovers exist, it may be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator. The leftover pudding should be served cold.

Nut Topping:

2 oz. Plain and Dry Almonds, Pecans, Peanuts, or Walnuts, unsalted
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 tsp Sugar
.5 tsp Cinnamon

Melt butter and then add cinnamon and sugar. Once well mixed, add nuts and mix well. Heat skillet to medium heat. Make sure the skillet is hot before adding nut mixture. Gently toast nuts mixture until fragrant. Stir often. This will take less than five minutes. Let cool slightly before serving atop the pudding.

Nutrition Facts (without nut topping)
Calories: 102.3
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Saturated Fat: .8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: .1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: .2 g
Cholesterol: 25.1 mg
Sodium: 40.2 mg
Potassium: 107.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 19.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0 g
Sugars: 17.3 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Nutrition Facts (with nut topping)
Calories: 154.1
Total Fat: 6 g
Saturated Fat: 1.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: .9 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 28.6 mg
Sodium: 40.4 mg
Potassium: 153.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 21.8 g
Dietary Fiber: .9 g
Sugars: 18.5 g
Protein: 4.2 g

Cooking in Thedas: Oghren’s Dwarven Brisket

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oghrenOghren’s love of inebriation, and my spouse’s love of craft beer, inspired this dish. While Oghren is a drunk, he has some good conversations with Wynne about his strong brewing skills. So don’t use cheap beers for this dish! We’ve found that stouts and porters work very well. Make a trip down to your local beer store and take some time to read the labels. Many craft brews do a fantastic job of enticing you with the descriptions of their beers. Imagine how the flavors they describe will work with the sauce and slowly permeate the meat as it simmers. For example on our most recent version of this we used Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter which imparted a tangy taste to the brisket. Over the years, we have made this dish for St. Patrick’s Day (Guinness), during the heart of winter (Sam Adams’ Cream Stout), and in the summer when it is too hot to turn on the oven (Breckenridge Vanilla Porter).

Oghren’s Dwarven Brisket

3 lbs Bronto (or Beef) Brisket: fat trimmed, but not completely cut away
12 oz Stout or Porter Style Beer: Like Guinness Extra Stout or Sam Adams Cream Stout
1 large onion: cut into rings
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of cloves
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

1. Mix tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and cloves together until smooth. Add the beer and stir gently together. A few words about the beer. The choices of the beer you select is limited only by what your local store carries. Experiment, your taste buds will thank you.

taddyporter

Every beer imparts a different flavor, so experiment, but stick to the thicker, dark beers like stouts and porters. Their flavors hold up better to the slow cooking,

brisketsauce

The sauce will not be smooth until the beer is poured into it. When pouring the beer, use a slow pour along the side of the container to avoid excessive foaming.

2. Trim brisket of excess fat. Do not trim all fat.

3. Place brisket in slow cooker on low. Place onion rings on top. Pour beer mixture on top. Cover and cook 5-6 hours.

You can slow cook this in the oven instead. Arrange your pan the same way, cover your dish in foil, and cook at 300F for about 40 minutes per pound.

You can slow cook this in the oven instead. Arrange your pan the same way, cover your dish in foil, and cook at 300F for about 40 minutes per pound.

4. Remove meat from pot and place on cutting board or platter to rest for at least 10 minutes. Pour some of the onions and remaining juices/liquid from the crockpot into a pan or skillet.

The melted fat and brisket sauce combine making it so the only thing needed to make a thick gravy is cornstarch and water.

The melted fat and brisket sauce combine making it so the only thing needed to make a thick gravy is cornstarch and water.

5. Mix water and cornstarch together to make a thick paste-like substance.

6. On stove top, bring liquid and onions to near boil. Add cornstarch mixture. Stir to mix well. Cook on medium heat until thick and bubbly – this will take only a couple of minutes. This gravy will be served over the meat; it is also great over mashed potatoes.

7. Slice brisket into 12 equal slices and serve.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished gravy! Store leftover brisket in the gravy.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished gravy! Store leftover brisket in the gravy.

Serves 12.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 194.1
Total Fat: 4.6g
Saturated Fat: 1.7g
Polyunsaturated Fat: .3g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.9g
Cholesterol: 46.5 mg
Sodium: 209.4 mg
Potassium: 508.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 11.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Sugars: 7.9 g
Protein: 25.1 g

Cooking in Thedas: Morrigan’s Wilder Rice

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Alistair_and_Morrigan_bicker_spoiler_alert_I get the impression that when Alistair asks Morrigan whether she can cook, she would rather find poisonous things and feed those to him instead. Still, her knowledge of the wilds plants would give her an advantage over the castle-and-chantry raised Warden. Regardless of her personal feelings she would have to eat as well. I came up with dish by asking the older folks what they remember as being easily sourced wild plants and weeds – one and all they called asparagus an annoying weed. I selected parsley and dill as the complimentary flavors largely based on the fact that if you plant your asparagus in a home garden and you plant parsley and dill on either side, you will have an effective deterrent for many wild creatures.

Morrigan’s Wilder Rice
4 oz. Wild Rice, dry
9 oz. Carrots
12 oz. Asparagus
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
Fresh Dill, 5-6 sprigs

1. Cook wild rice according to package directions.

I forgot to take a picture of the wild rice cooking. Be aware that wild rice takes about an hour to cook.

I forgot to take a picture of the wild rice cooking. Be aware that wild rice take about an hour to cook.

2. Place asparagus and carrots into a skillet and just cover with water. Bring water to boil to cook the carrots and asparagus. Asparagus will cook completely faster than the carrots.

carrotsandasparagus

You may want to start your carrots sooner than your asparagus. I take my asparagus out, shock it, and then cut it.

3. Remove from pan and rinse. Cut the carrots and asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Return to skillet.

4. Add cooked wild rice to combine.

5. To prepare dill either chop or use spice-mill. Add dill and parsley to skillet.

wilderricecooked

Once all ingredients have been combined, heat on medium-low until warm.

6. Heat until warm.

Serves 4.

Calories: 143.8
Total Fat: .3g
Saturated Fat: .1g
Polyunsaturated Fat: .1g
Monosaturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 21.3mg
Potassium: 379.9mg
Total Carbohydrate: 29.6g
Dietary Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 1.6g
Protein: 6.6g