Celebrate Chinese New Year!

2012 the lunar year of the Dragon.  I am not Chinese, but for some reason, this time of year I am drawn to the images of Chinese lanterns, dragons and bright red cutouts that appear here and there in preparation for the celebration to come.  Every year I learn something new about the meanings of of the different parts of the celebration.  It is a happy time with hope of abundance and good luck for the upcoming year.  I love celebrations of all kinds and, it seems to me, this one welcomes all who want  to join in!

My intention is to keep adding the things I have learned…we’ll see how that goes.  So for now I am sharing this link to a calendar that will tell you what animals represent each year.  You can use this to find out what sign you were born under.

Chinese New Year Calendar.

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Firestarters – Ulgy Little Beauties

Egg carton, old wax and dryer lint

My friend gave me a gift….she was a little hesitant at first and said it was kind of ugly, but she thought I would like it.  Then she handed me something, well…ugly.  But it has turned out to be a beautiful thing.  Homemade fire-starters made from reused egg cartons, dryer lint and melted candle wax.  There are two reasons I love this idea.  One, I love making something out of things that  would normally have gone in the trash or at best the recycle bin.  Two, the fire-starters are amazing, and work better than any I have ever  paid for.  I should really add a third reason…. My husband raves about them and builds cozy, wonderful fires when our fire-starter basket has been stocked.

If you can’t come up with enough burned out candles of your own, the beginning of the firestarter making happens during summer, or garage sale season.  As you peruse people’s unwanted stuff you will inevitably find the table with the candles.  They sit unwanted because they are burned down too far, faded, stinky, wickless or just plain ugly.  I grab all of them.  Usually they are labeled with  prices that can be paid for with a coin.  Sometimes if I have other things in hand to buy, the seller offers them for free.  “Just take them.  I want to get them out of here”.  I think they feel bad trying to sell something that, as far as they can see, is useless.  Last summer I got my whole year’s worth of wax for about $2.00.The next thing is saving the dryer lint.  Lint used to be kind of annoying.  Something you have to throw away every time you do laundry.  Now I have a coffee can by my dryer that is full of lint.  I look forward to washing the red bathroom rug and towels.  They make a big, thick, red sheet of lint.  I even save the little paper things that once lived in a pocket as a note or list, and turned into wads in the washer.  I have also added the used dryer sheet to the mix.  I’ll explain later.  Don’t save all of them though or you will be taken over by dryer sheets.

The egg cartons are easy.  Lots of people eat eggs. If you don’t eat them, you know someone who does.

"Double boiler" made with coffee can

Make your “double boiler” with a big coffee can

Before you get started you will want to cover your counter with newspaper or an old brown bag.  It soaks up wax drips better than the counter does.  You will also need to find an empty can that you can fit inside of one of your cooking pots.  Pinch one side of the can to make a sort of pour spout.  The pot is filled about half way with water and the can goes in the water.  Kind of a double-boiler effect.  It helps if you put something in the bottom of the pan for your can to rest on.  It lets the boiling process happen without your can bubbling up the whole time.  I have used a canning jar ring, an open nutcracker, any kitchen tool that will add some space between the can and the bottom of the pot. The wax pieces go in the can.  Boil the water and keep it at a slow boil until the wax melts.

Lint/dryer sheet wads in egg carton

Ugly little lint wads.

While the wax is melting you should get the egg cartons ready.  Cut the lid off and the little flap that keeps them closed.  Then I cut the dryer sheets into four pieces. Put a wad of dryer lint into the middle of one of the sheet pieces, then poke that into a section of egg carton.  If you run out of lint just cut up some of the egg carton lid into little pieces and use it to fill.  This burns just as well .  The more you make these easier it will be to judge how many starters your wax will make.

Once the wax has melted and your ugly lint wads are all cozy in thier egg cartons you can (using a good oven mitt) pick up your can and start drizzling wax onto the lint in the cups.  I usually pour a dozen and then go back and pour over them again.  Sometimes it takes a couple pours for it to soak into everything.

 

You will love these.  Put some in a coffee can and take them camping!  Or put them in one of those mesh bags that the oranges came in and give them as a gift.  They usually have some kind of cinnamon scent that overrides the stinky ones, (since inevitably someone got rid of a candle that smelled like cinnamon) so they make your living room smell all homey.

So you see….Ugly can be beautiful.

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Is it Real?

I am hoping that this feeling is correct….

Breathtaking Sunset

I think summer might be here.  I don’t want to say it too loud and scare it away.  But it’s beautiful….

I’m sorry.. I was going to write something about it but I’m going to go outside now.

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Supermoon!

   March 19, 2011 we were told to be sure and watch for the “Supermoon”.  I have since looked up some information about it and have learned that …..well, I have alot to learn.  Maybe it was the sites I looked at, but the scientific language, astronomy, math, and geometry kind of made me think I should take a class.

   I did learn a few things and that made it fun to wait for it to show in the sky.  I learned that the Supermoon is a full or new moon that coincides with a close approach by the Moon to the Earth.  The moons distance  varies between 220,00 and 252,oo miles due to it’s elliptical orbit around the earth.  Saturday it was about 221,567 miles away compared to the usual 238,000 or so miles.  The difference seems small when you think about how SO far away it is, but it is noticable.  It’s bigger and brighter.  Another thing that makes this so special is that the last time this happened was about 18 years ago.

Supermoon Skewer

   The name Supermoon has only been around since 1979 (It really is so 70s).  It is actually called “perigee-sysygy.”  Perigee is the point when the Moon is closest in it’s orbit to the Earth.  Sysygy is the real name for a full or new Moon.  I like the  name Perigee-sysygy, but for some reason Supermoon is easier to blurt out when you are calling people outside to look at it. 

   I was in Olympia, WA  that night visiting family.  We couldn’t see the

Super Sisters or “Pairagreat Systas”

moon until it had been up for awhile but it was still lovely.  The clouds and the trees made it even more beautiful.  The family made it really fun.  I hadn’t seen this portion of my family for a bit, and I’m hoping our orbits are small enough that that we get to pass closely again in a short amount of time. 

 
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Four Leaf Clover

I found a four leaf clover once…only once.  I had just read an article about them that caught my attention.  The article said that we have been told that these little green treasures are rare, which makes them hard to find.  We end up believing this is true so our brains don’t let us find them.  The authors idea was that if we let go of that false belief then we will find them.

I thought about this alot and decided I should try it.  So my next outing in a wooded area (that might have four leaf clovers), would be my test.  “I believe I can find a four leaf clover” was my mantra as we drove to a place to hike.  As good luck goes we parked right near a lovely clump of clover.   I walked straight to it (still saying to myself that I would find one), and looked down and my eyes went straight to a four leaf clover!!  Seriously!  I couldn’t believe it….and I guess I didn’t belive it because I couldn’t find another one and haven’t seen one since.

So, since today was St. Patricks Day I was thinking about four leaf clovers again.  I looked for some pictures of them and read a few articles.  Many of the articles talked about how hard they are to find.  Then I found this wonderful little booklet  that gave me hope again.  It’s really a cute, yet intersting piece about being able to let yourself see them. It is also about the art of contemplation and learning how to relax. It’s worth reading if you are intersted in this sort of thing.  Now it looks like I will again need to be going to a wooded area that might…will have four leaf clovers.

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Thinking of Spring

Even though the Pacific Northwest weather has been mean and contentious, there are moments when it looks like it’s thinking about being nice again…….

Pacific Northwest clouds and brightness

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Mardi Gras, Bacon & Cupcakes

Maple Bacon CupcakeA lovely combination of indulgence.  I especially appreciate the bacon part of this.  I have learned that those who love bacon are instantly attracted to the Maple-bacon cupcake. 

I saw the recipe on a website about a year ago and have been thinking about it ever since.  I wanted to try it but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  “Should I make them just to have at home just for my honey and me?”  That sounded like a gastric disaster.  They would either be so good we would eat all of them very quickly, or they would be horrible and we would probably still eat them…only more slowly. 

But how can something with bacon in it go wrong?  So I finally decided that I would look up the recipe again.   It’s everywhere!  This recipe has been passed on through so many blogs and websites that it’s difficult to find where it originated.  But this news gave me new hope for the success of this pursuit.  It couldn’t be horrible and be this popular!  So I went to a blog that I like and took it from there.  She also took it from someone…who took it from someone else, and none of these were where I saw it originally.  (So I don’t feel bad about sharing it).   

This recipe is easy to make, and the best part is that you get to make bacon.  Just go ahead and make alot.  The blog I got the recipe from says you need to eat the leftover bacon to make sure it’s tasty.  What a lovely idea.   We ate it as we made it and then put some on the mac & cheese we made for dinner.

The next part of this pursuit was to share these salty, sweet and bacony delights.  The specific area I work in is a perfect place to try something like this, because the people I work with are perfectly up for this sort of thing.  So what better day to try this celebratory indulgence than Mardi Gras!  I think by now it’s obvious that they were well recieved. 

I am just going to post the recipe as I got it.  This recipe should really be doubled (to make about 17 regular sized cupcakes), and I tripled the frosting recipe.  The only other thing I would do differently is….maybe add more bacon.

Maple-Bacon Cupcakes

Ingredients
* 4 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
* 1/2 tablespoon bacon drippings (left in the fridge to become solid)
* 1 egg
* 5 tablespoons brown sugar
* 4 tablespoons maple syrup
* 1 1/4 cups self rising flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* tiny tiny pinch kosher salt
* 1/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup of minced bacon, cooked and drained

What you’ll do–
* 1) Cook some bacon in a fry pan (about 6 thick strips). Reserve the drippings and place in the fridge to solidify. Mince 1/4 a cup of the bacon. The chef should eat whatever is left to assure that the bacon is tasty.
* 2) Beat the crud out of the butter and solidified bacon fat ’till light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and beat well until combined.
* 3) Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
* 4) Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and powder together.
* 5) Add some of the flour and mix, then some of the milk, then continue to alternate the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in the bacon. Taste and add more maple syrup, flour, or milk if needed for desired taste. Keep in mind the maple frosting is very sweet, and to add in very small increments for alterations as maple syrup in large amounts can break a cake batter.
* 6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350 F for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes for even baking.

Maple Syrup Frosting

Ingredients
* 4 tablespoons of butter.
* 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.
* 1 cup of powdered sugar.
* turbinado sugar (optional, but recommended).
* coarse grain sea salt (optional, but recommended).

What You’ll Do –
* Combine the syrup and butter until combined. Add the sugar, a bit at a time, and whip at high speeds until combined. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes. Sprinkle on sea salt and turbinado sugar for decoration and a lot of added flavor.

*Indulge*

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