Friday, October 31, 2008

My little one turned two.

My little one being Piper, of course, because I don't actually have any human littles ones yet. All the same, today was Piper's birthday! (Well, yesterday, really - Oct. 30.) She turned two, and I've been told over these past couple years that a dog is in "puppy" mode until they hit two, so I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow with a very well mannered, friendly little pooch. Don't worry, though - I'm not holding my breath.

All the same, I don't know what I would do without the crazy canine. She causes me great headaches and sometimes drains me of all energy and patience, but I love her dearly. She's always thrilled to see me - even if I've just gone to take the trash out. She's super quirky and makes me laugh all the time. I love how Piper's tail wags in windmill mode when she's over-the-top excited. I also love how she starts to prance with her nose high in the air when she sniffs something passing by in the wind on one of our walks.

Piper's my first pet since living on my own, and I really wouldn't have it any other way. But hey, if she feels like calming down even just a tad bit tomorrow - say, not act like she's going to rip the mailman's throat out every time she sees him? I'll just consider that a little bonus.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World Champs 2008!

I'm far from a Phillies aficionado, so I'm hoping to have a special guest blogger post a more comprehensive celebratory entry tomorrow. Let's hope he agrees to it.

It took five days to play this one game of baseball, and boy, what a game. Our Philadelphia Phillies have done us proud, bringing home their second World Series Championship in the franchise's 125-year history.

Fans poured out of bars, restaurants and homes in Philadelphia to flood the streets, and my parent's block at the Jersey shore was a cacophony of car horns, fireworks and banging pots and pans. After a 28-year wait (and a 25-year drought of no sports championships at all), the Phillies have broken the curse of William Penn.

And the wait was well worth it. Go Phillies!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Caffeine blitz

Turns out, coffee really does do the trick when you're tired.*

I was dragging by the time I got to John's tonight to tool around in his awesome new car and watch the Phils game (10-2 victory!), so Mrs. Dowd was sweet enough to make me some coffee. I don't usually drink straight up coffee - it's normally some fancy latte or specially blended beverage from Starbucks and the like. I think straight up coffee, however, gives you more of a buzz. At least, that's my guess as to why I'm still wide awake at 2 a.m.

This was a great weekend, and not as speedy as last. Stef and I made out like bandits at the Holiday Faire/Rummage Sale at a nearby church Saturday morning. (This is the same church I baked cupcakes for.) I spent $10.75 for:
• One raffle ticket for a quilt (didn't win)
• One game of chance (won a bottle of grape juice - yes, weird, I know)
• Five colorful glass bottles from the '70s (Ryan later discovered these were a series of Seasons Greetings bottles put out by WheatonArts - formerly Wheaton Village - depicting images of the "12 Days of Christmas")
• Eight holiday tins
• A little plant (they have a plant room, with live plants and dried flowers)
• A Christmas ornament (that's where the 25 cents came in)
• Green material for a Christmas tree skirt
• A 6-foot-tall Martha Stewart brand Christmas tree

The tree was definitely my best bargain. And the price tag?

"$2.00 or best offer!"

No kidding, that's what it said. Best offer? Would someone have really argued paying two bucks for a near-$200 tree? True, it's used. I still need to get it out of the box to make sure all the pieces are in order. But, let's face it. This is Ocean City. People are wealthy here. Chances are this was just a tree someone tired of and donated to the church for the rummage sale. In other words, I doubt anything is wrong with it.

I'm going to use the tree for my office's donation to the Atlantic County Women's Center's Tree of Lights Festival. The trees are all donated by area groups and businesses and set up in the atrium of the Cornerstone Commerce Center in Linwood. Visitors can then bid on the trees for a few weeks leading up to the holidays, and winners get to bring the trees home. All proceeds benefit the ACWC, which advocates for women's welfare issues.

Last year we could only get a fairly small tree, although I think it looked very nice dressed up in the silver and blue theme I came up with. This year I'm so excited we'll have not only a big tree, but a high quality one at that! I'm already trying to think of a unique way to decorate it. I think a "Christmas at the Shore" theme would be nice, with homemade seashell ornaments. And then maybe with a silver and crimson color scheme. Oh - and a big starfish at the top, with ribbons cascading down the sides! I'm going to have to get rolling with this...

I also set up a few classes to teach at The Maple Tree over the next couple of months. They're all a couple hours on weekends (so it doesn't conflict with work) and for kids. There's gingerbread house decorating, no-bake holiday cookies, a class to make an apron and holiday ornaments... should be fun. I certainly could use the extra cash, too.

And although the tree was a major highlight, the best part of the weekend? Our Phillies are now 3-1 in the World Series against Tampa Bay. It's going to be our year.

*I can't take responsibility for the flow of this post - it's very late, and I'm on this caffeine buzz that's leaving my thoughts scattered. I hope it wasn't too terribly difficult to get through. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The great pumpkin (cupcakes)

If you like to bake and you haven't had the pleasure of checking out "Hello, Cupcake!" by Alan Richardson and Karen Tack, I highly suggest you stop reading now and head straight to your local library or book store to procure a copy. Actually, why not check out what I was inspired to make first? Trust me - then you'll be even more motivated.

I made these pumpkin cupcakes for a bake sale at a nearby church. The cupcakes themselves were pumpkin cinnamon flavored - I used the recipe from "Cupcakes: From the Cake Mix Doctor." (That's another must-have if you bake cupcakes or cakes... Anne Byrn's books rock. Each recipe uses a boxed cake mix, but other fun ingredients to make it semi-homemade and simple.) I filled the liners so the cupcakes would dome nicely at the top, and then I made a homemade buttercream icing tinted orange for decorating. Each cupcake was covered in icing, rolled in orange decorating sugar, piped lines, and accented with Twizzlers rainbow (green) for the stem and Twizzlers pull-apart (sour apple) for the vines.

It was so easy. And that's the best part of "Hello, Cupcake!" - anyone can do the recipes. It may take a bit of patience and a lot of time for the more intricate designs, but they're not super difficult. And there are tons of tips in the book's introduction to explain the best methods to use, from icing the cupcake to piping designs.

They tasted as good as they looked, too. The pumpkin cinnamon cupcake was scrumptious, and of course you can never go wrong with homemade buttercream.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Plethora of polymer!

I've been making tons of little polymer charms and such lately. I'm using sculpey, which as far as I've heard is not the best brand, but it is the cheapest so therefore I went with it. I found that if I use the translucent sculpey as a base glue before baking, and then glaze the whole thing afterward, it holds together perfectly and is quite durable.

Anyway, I made lots of little charms that I turned into earrings, and then a handful of little pumpkins to sit on my desk at work. These are the pumpkins:

And a few more shots of the earrings:

The little orange pumpkin earrings are my favorite.

I want to learn how to texture better with polymer. For instance, the dollop of whipped cream on the pumpkin pie could look much more realistic, as well as the pie filling itself. The little bats were a pain and I only made one set of them, but I think they turned out so well with the beads that I'm going to have to make more.

I think I'll start making some Thanksgiving and Christmas charms now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkins, cider and hayrides...

This weekend flew by! Friday night I stayed in, crafted, and seemingly got very little accomplished except for a heap of teeny pumpkin earrings. On Saturday I got my new driver's license (the DMV took a whole 5 minutes - I swear, it was amazingly fast) and had to work for part of the day covering some events. Saturday night I went up to John's and we had dinner with his friends.

And Sunday - Sunday was a fine fall day. Ryan, Felicia, and I met up with Stef and co. for a maize maze, pumpkin picking and hot apple cider. We went to Butterhof Farms, and it was a lot of fun, although a bit disappointing when it came to the pumpkin picking. It was more pumpkin picking-up, with already loose pumpkins. It's okay, though... still a good time.

Here's a shot of Sam running through the corn maze. We didn't make it through (it was a bit much for the little guys). Ryan found a maize maze that you go through with flashlights at night time - I'm psyched to try that.

Little Finn guarded the loot. He also tried to eat the pumpkins, but we quickly squashed (ha!) that plan.

The hayride was a bit silly, what with the fake turkeys and deer along the pathway. We enjoyed it, although perhaps not as much as Salem did.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My model

John once again modeled in the bridal show my office hosts every fall and spring. I have to work the show (interview the vendors, take photos, etc.). This is a shot of John and I before he modeled his tuxedos. The other two he wore I wasn't a fan of, but I really love the linen tuxedos. Perfect for a beach wedding.

Isn't he handsome? Someone whistled at him when he was on stage, too. ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two strange things.

Two strange things happened in the same amount of days.

First, yesterday morning Piper and I found a slug in the kitchen. It was probably about three to four inches long, and a good nickel-sized thick in the middle. Surprisingly, Piper didn't try to eat it, and it was slugging around right by her water bowl. I think she encounters them enough outside for it to not be much of a novelty, though she was a bit whiney and distressed by it. She lost interest when I gave her breakfast.

Now, you may think, slug, big deal. But I don't kill bugs, even spiders which I really really hate. Okay, that's a little lie. I do kill mosquitos, but only when they're sucking my blood. The other day I even opened a window to shoo a mosquito outside.

Anyway, Piper and I found this slug and I didn't really have any idea how to get rid of it. Slugs are wet and slimy, and they suction to the ground, especially linoleum, as it turns out. First I grabbed a paper towel, but I quickly realized that wasn't a good plan, because the poor little guy was already a bit less slimy than usual. The paper towel kind of stuck to it and dried it out, and I couldn't pull it off the ground. I ended up surrounding the slug with saran wrap, waiting for it to crawl onto a piece, and then let it go in the bushes outside.

So, that was weird thing number one. I mean, how did a huge slug get into the kitchen? The doors are all sealed, the windows have screens... assuming it did get in through a door, it would have had to crawl all across the carpet to get to the kitchen. Shouldn't he have been all covered in lint and stuff? Strange.

Second, this morning I woke up and walked into the upstairs bathroom to hear this incessant buzzing... the sink and walls were even vibrating, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I turned the water on and off, checked the medicine cabinet, and walked into the hallway to hear the buzzing through the walls.

I walked back into the bedroom and told John about it, and he was pretty much still asleep, but still managed to ask me if it was a bug buzzing or an electric buzzing. I told him electric, and apparently this was the lesser of two evils, because he didn't respond.

I decided I couldn't do anything until I figured this out, because what if a pipe was going to burst in the wall or something? I went to move everything from around the sink, and when I moved the toothbrush holder I paused, and then pulled out Ryan's new, electric, vibrating toothbrush.

Which was left on. Who knew those things were so powerful?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I bought bananas last week and never got around to eating them, so what's one to do with rotting bananas? Well, make banana muffins, of course.

I have this recipe from a cookbook my Uncle Gordie got me when I was very young - it's a "Friends" cookbook (as in the television show) and it has random recipes that it attributes to the characters in the show... However, as far as I can tell, they're mostly not in any episode. Regardless, "Marcel's Banana Bread" is the best banana bread recipe I've ever come across. I nixed the nuts and added chocolate chips this time around.

And boy, are they delicious.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Celia and her cupcake

Ryan gave me a beautiful print for my birthday from The Black Apple. This is the Celia Cupcake Print, and I adore it. How fitting, too, with the cupcake. I may have to invest in a cupcake headband for myself.

I love The Black Apple, and equally so Emily Martin's blog, Inside a Black Apple. It's totally worth an add to your blogroll.

And, while it's very much deserving of its very own post, in my opinion, I'm going to share the wonderous bag John gave me for my birthday right here. I don't know how many people would be entertained by a post based solely on me gushing about my new bag. Because I am truly, dearly in love with this bag to the point where I may have to cast John to the side and marry it. And how sad would that be for John, as well as ironic, seeing as he gave me the bag?

This, my friends, is the Lucky Brand Abbey Road Foldover Bag. (Abbey Road - can we say fate?) It is the most beautiful bag I have ever come to acquire in my short 25 years, but arguably one of the best I most likely will ever call my own.

My boyfriend is simply the best for giving it to me. And I will feel badly about the whole casting aside of John, but what did he expect? Maybe I'll give him something equally as amazing to remember me by. Like a WWE Championship Spinner Engraved Title Belt.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

I celebrated my big quarter century birthday on Oct. 6. Sunday night, I had my annual birthday dinner with the folks and my brothers. My mom made a delicious beef stew, which I don't think she's made since my grandmother passed away. Her parents used to make stew often in the winter, and my mom did a top notch job of duplicating it. For dessert, I had a birthday pumpkin bread/cake with lemon custard. Mmm.

My parents also so incredibly overdid the gift giving this year, although that's often the case with them during holidays. They gave me this amazing antique ivory table and four mismatched renovated chairs. My grandparents old oak table has served me well at my little house, however I can't say I'm too sorry to see them go and make room for the new set. The ivory was painted at some point (who would paint ivory? no idea) but I actually love how the cream paint is chipping a little to reveal the shiny black underneath. At some point I may need to rub it all off, if the chipping gets to be too much, but for now it looks great. The chairs are amazing, too.

This all came from The Maple Tree (link at right), my mom's friend's store, and the artisans she works with do fantastic work. Each chair is different, found in disrepair, fixed up and then painted and redone with unique fabric seats and matching little pillows. The designs are: blue with polka dots; pink with sunflowers; yellow with stripes; cream with flip flops. I can't decide if the flip flops or polka dots are my fav.

Isn't it all beautiful? And here's a kinda' bad shot of the legs, because I had to use my flash since it was evening and there wasn't enough natural light going on. But it will give you an idea with how awesome this table is.

The top is also embossed with this type of floral design... It's just so cool, I can't even explain it. So shabby chic. So great.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

California... and other things.

It's been a while since I've had time to post. After getting home from California, things have been insanely busy, mostly due to work. But, for a quick update, John and I had a fantastic time visiting Shannon and Tim, and the trip actually seemed longer to me than it was, which never ever happens so it was an especially relaxing break from work. My birthday was Oct. 6, and I had a great time celebrating with a few friends. I received some amazing gifts, but that's all going to have to be reserved for my next post. This one is for California.

The top picture is John and I on a beach near Shannon's college, University of California, Irvine. The beaches there are so much better than the beaches out here - there's beach and mountains right next to each other, and there are rocks and tide pools and so much more going on. I'd love to live on the west coast. I'm bored of things out here.

Here are a couple more shots at UCI:

We went to the Huntington Library and Gardens near Caltech, where Tim goes. I took tons of photos. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Huntington is broken up into more than a dozen areas devoted to different parts of the world. It's spread over 120 acres with more than 15,000 different species of plants. There were also a couple of turtles, but most of the turtles seemed to congregate at Caltech.

I love turtles, and the ponds at Caltech were chock full of them. I took tons of great pictures, but John and I agreed the Piper head cock this little turtle has going on was the best.

Shanon and Tim live in Long Beach, and nearby are these canals that you can walk along, putting you practically in people's backyards. It's funny, because most of these homes have incredibly large windows overlooking the canal, also giving passersby a clear view into the family room. It's a beautiful area, though, and John really liked it. Shanon and I walked there last year when I visited, too.

We kayaked along some different canals and in a bay. I saw a seal (!) surface for like a second. We then went to this little area where all these jellyfish live. They don't sting, so we were able to pick them up...

...and pretend to eat them. I really loved the kayaking and it made me want to get a membership back home to kayak whenever I want. John, however, said he'd rather be watching TV. It was too much work for him to have fun, but I think once he got to see some ducks it was a little more enjoyable. Shanon and Tim were speedsters on their kayak. It was a little sad how slow John and I were.

All in all, terrific trip. This is a semi lame post, because I'm apparently not in the best writing frame of mind right now. It's due time I get a post up, though. The only bad part was the long layover in Houston on the way, and the plane rides in general. I hate flying for so many reasons. Of course, when the reason is to visit good friends in a better part of the country, you learn to deal.

Oh, possibly the best part?

That's right. Jamba Juice. How jealous are you?