Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter eggs

I know, I know. Easter is so last month.

I was going through my camera card, cleaning some things out and found these, I took to share with you. We were out of town the week before Easter, so we did our eggs a little late. It was my son's first year dying eggs, which is fun. It was actually my first year dying eggs too!  :) Don't ask. Long story...

Here are some samples. We made about ten, but we ate the rest before I could shoot them. Teehee.

Even the garbage is pretty: 

I hope everyone had a relaxing Easter and that you got to spend it with family...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Bunnies!

I've been wanting to make more toys lately for the shop. By nature of their form, they're a little more fun and interesting to make. I love how they take on a personality in their faces and in their eyes.

Here are some Bunnies I just finished and put in the shop - in spring colors!
Fun for Easter, and only 10 bucks! Find them here.

I'm hoping to have more animals in the next couple of weeks.
Happy weekend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Let's go [try to] fly a kite..."

The weather has been so nice lately. Not too hot... It's fun to finally get outside every once in awhile. On Saturday, while our little family was walking downtown, Joel asked me if I had seen the new kites they had for sale at one of our favorite stores. We decided today was a good day to go for a little adventure, so we went to the store, picked out this gorgeous thing and checked out with high hopes.

Later that afternoon...
Here is the baby in back seat, indicating that he likes adventures and we should do this more often.

Here he is at the park, waiting for daddy to set up the kite.
Doesn't he look cute in his little sunglasses?

Here's dad, getting down to business.

We had alot of trouble getting the kite in the air. We figured out it needed a tail and didn't really know where to get or make one... But then I remembered I had a bag of thrift donation in the car and my purse (which lately I've been referring to as my Mommy Bag because it has everything from chapstick and wet wipes to sunscreen and a small army knife) I can be quite resourceful if I put my mind to it. ;)

I pulled some yarn and old ribbon from the thrift donation, grabbed the little knife from my Mommy Bag and got to work McGyvering a tail. As I was measuring and cutting ribbon, Joel commented that I was a regular Girl Scout. Yeah - "Be prepared." 

In the meantime, baby was bored and starting throwing the ball of yarn around. He got a real kick out of that - especially when it bonked mommy in the head! 


Joel was the one who got the tail on and we took turns trying to run with it. But it just wasn't working for us. I can't believe we didn't get any shots of us running... that would have been almost funny. At one point I got the kite to a pretty decent height - to the piont where it really should have stayed up. But it didn't, it fell right back down to the ground as soon as I stopped running. I think the kite must have been kind of a cheapy one... or maybe the makers were more interested in making the kite look pretty, and they forgot to make sure it worked. It was a pretty frustrating to feel so close and have to walk away unsuccessful... But we had some fun trying, anyway.

"That's it - that's our hero shot."

On the way home, I mentioned to Joel that I don't think I've ever owned a good kite. Like one that actually worked. He didn't think he had either... I wonder if we might be better kite-flyers than we know. We'll have to find a really ugly kite, then maybe it will fly better. ;-) 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Green Beer

One of the things Chico is famous for is being the location of Sierra Nevada Brewery. We are also noted for being relatively eco-conscious, and the brewery is a wonderful example of that.

Joel and I have dinner in the restaurant on a regular basis. Well, if we find ourselves lucky enough to have a date night on our hands, it's pretty much understood that unless someone says otherwise, we're probably going there. Good food. Reasonably priced. And tasty beer. I don't even like most bottled beers, but I will enjoy a something from their tap. And it comes in half-pints, which are just about my size. (It comes in pints?! I'm gettin one! Name that movie) Anyway, the place is almost always hoppin' - no pun intended - and for good reason.

Chicoans can be proud that for the past few years, the brewery has owned "one of the largest private solar arrays in the United States."2 They've also recently installed a charging station for electric cars in the parking lot! You can find more info about their efforts to save water, energy, and resources in the Environment section of their website. I find many of their practices quite clever, and it's refreshing to see a large company taking steps to reduce waste and emissions.

Keeping in mind that Sierra Nevada does have a relatively large facility, processing over 780,000 barrels of beer last year1, one of the more creative... and cute... and fluffy ways that they have reached for sustainability is the addition of sheep to their "workforce." No kidding! I just saw it on the local news a couple of weeks ago. You can find the whole story here. But basically the idea is that the sheep are brought in to graze in the hop fields - it's a more earth-friendly way to get rid of weeds, and the fields also get fertilized at the same time. haha. Apparently the sheep will stay there for a few months before they are returned to their home at a local farm.

Gee, I wish I could work for Sierra Nevada by laying around and eating.
Here is a photo of the cute little sheep that they shared on their Facebook page. Aren't they precious?

Well, good for you Sierra Nevada. I applaud your clever environmental practices.

Sources: 1- Wiki 2- Sierra Nevada 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

So, I know it seems like all fun and games when I start taunting you with meringue pies, but in reality, I've been hard at work trying to fine-tune this recipe. THREE pies later, I think I've found some success.

The pie I've been making for many years was Grandma's Lemon Meringue from But it was kind of a hit or miss sometimes, mainly speaking of the meringue part, which as we all know can be very temperamental and quite a test of skill. I decided to try to work on my meringue technique, and see if I couldn't improve on the recipe a bit. I took alot from this article about how to make the perfect meringue, and encourage you to check it out if you are looking for some pointers.

Here's photos of the third pie, so you can follow along if you like, especially since meringue pies can be kind of complex. But I think it turned out pretty well. (And here's a printer-friendly version).

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 (9 inch) pie crust - fully cooked. (I suggest Pillsbury ready-made from the freezer section)

Filling ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water
juice from 2 lemons or 8 Tbsp. lemon juice (add some zest too, if you're into that kind of thing
2 Tbsp. butter
4 egg yolks

Meringue ingredients:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

All items used to mix egg whites into meringue must be very clean and very dry. A large glass bowl is suggested.

First thing: separate the eggs while they are still cool (put whites into your large glass bowl and yolks into any medium bowl), then let the whites sit out for about 20-30 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients, allowing the whites to reach room temperature.

Filling prep:
In a medium saucepan (not on the stove yet), whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt.
Stir in water and lemon juice - very gradually to avoid lumps. Set aside.

In a large glass bowl, beat eggs whites with mixer on medium-high until soft peaks form.

Add the cream of tarter, and then the 1/2 cup of sugar very gradually (about a Tbsp. at a time) while you continue beating. Beat on medium-high to high until stiff peaks form. It'll be nice and glossy.

Bring your sugar/lemon juice mixture to the stove and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until it comes to a boil.

Stir in butter.

Ok, so we're gonna do a little "dance" here. And of course, I didn't get any photos of it. I was too busy "watching my steps." har har. But it's a do-si-do between the sugar mixture and the yolks, as follows:
Lower heat to keep it from burning while you temper the egg yolks as follows. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot sugar mixture into the bowl of egg yolks. Now, turn around and whisk this egg yolk mixture back into the remaining sugar. (This keeps the eggs from cooking into scrambled eggs).

Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Mixture will be thick.
Pour filling into pie crust.

At this point you may want to pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Put it together:
Give the meringue a few seconds of beating, just to freshen it up a bit. While the filling is still hot in the crust, drop globs of meringue onto the pie. Spread it around the edges first, then fill in the center, to avoid displacing any of the filling. There should be tall mounds of meringue.

Spread around the top of the pie and scrape it down to the very edge of the crust, "sealing" in the filling to prevent bubbling over or the meringue from shrinking.

You may want to add fun little peaks in the top of the meringue, which will toast nicely.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely before serving. May take about 7-8 hours at room temp. or you can cool for about an hour at room temp, then about 4 hours in the fridge.

Of all the complexities and details in making a meringue pie, probably the trickiest and hardest part for me? Waiting for it to cool! :)

This pie came out of the oven at 1:30,
at which point I put it very politely on the stove top and tried to stay busy.
This photo is to document that 1 hour later, it was still in one piece, and I hadn't mauled it yet:

This one was taken at 3:30. I bet it's cool enough, right?
I touched the bottom, and it was still very warm. Drat!

So I put it in the fridge for another 3 hours. Outta sight/outta mind might work better for me here.

...oops. What's this? ;)

Three infinite hours later:

Mmmmm.... Don't mind if I do! (shown with a homemade latte)

By the way, you may substitute Splenda Granulated for white sugar to create a sugar free version that also has about half the calories. Be aware that, while the taste is still delicious, the height of the pie will be effected. As far as I calculated: One slice (1/8 pie) = 273 calories. One slice of sugar free = 141 calories

So there you have it. There's nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment you get in a successful meringue. Or maybe it's just the pie that's making me feel so good inside. :)

Great recipe for the upcoming warm months - very refreshing.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

A different iced tea

Well, spring has sprung! The warm air these past few days has once again called forth the blossoms from their winter dorms. The bees are buzzing. The birds singing. It sounds cliche, I know. But it's true!

The weather in Chico is usually pretty extreme. In the 7 years I've lived here, we've rarely had a true springtime. It goes straight from 45 degrees one day to 80 and upwards to 100 almost overnight. Usually a night in March, I think. But this week has been nice and mild. Real spring weather - what a treat for us. :)

Here's a funky pic I took with my phone in Bidwell Park during a moment of rapture:

So, to celebrate this glorious weather, I thought I'd make some iced tea. Seems festive. Seems simple. I don't usually drink alot of iced tea, but I think I'll try to more often. It's a nice alternative to the soda pop I grew up on and that I'm trying not to drink anymore. It's also a nice alternative to city water, which has been tasting kind of gross lately, even after filtering.

So - iced tea. Just buy some at the store right? Well... I tried a couple different lipton things. They were OK. But they have this funny aftertaste I can't quite describe. It's almost a fishy something. I wouldn't normally be so picky about things like this. But I wanted to find something really yummy that I wouldn't mind drinking every day. So I continued looking. Maybe I don't like iced tea, I thought. There are alot of flavored drinks on the market, and most of them look tea-ish. But in the whole aisle of tea-ish things, they each and every one had either loads of sugar (which isn't much better than soda, now - is it?) or aspartame. I was surprised not one of them used splenda or anything. How does anything with aspartame even sell these days? But I digress.

Here I was, in a bit of a culinary bind. So I consulted the Contessa. In her book, she suggests a Zinger recipe she says is very good. After spending a week looking for Red Zinger (which is not Raspberry Zinger, by the way) and finally finding it at one of the natural food stores, I rushed home in anticipation. Watched while it brewed. Barely waited for it to chill.

Aaaaand was ok. I don't like apple juice very much. And this recipe calls for apple juice as a natural sweetener. I tried substituting water and just adding a bit of splenda to sweeten. That was actually pretty good, I thought. But I let Joel try it and he said it tasted like old lady. Or potpourri. After considering the ingredients of the Zinger teas, I said - you're probably tasting the rosehips. He agreed that must be it. He didn't like it. Thanks alot Joel - now all I taste is potpourri.

Well, I thought I'd give it a bit more thought. Eventually, it occurred to me that the lipton tea I thought tasted fishy wasn't just TEA, in any pure form, but a real flavor of tea (black pekoe), and maybe I just don't like black tea. And maybe I'm just not very fond of Zingers. But might I try any other flavor of tea over ice and make my own flavor of iced tea? (You may be just starting to realize now how truly awkward tea and I are around each other). But you know, all these hot teas are kept on very different shelves from the "Iced Tea!" in the grocery stores, so it took awhile for me to put it together. Haha. 

My favorite hot tea has been Earl Grey. So I steeped some grey in only half a cup of hot water, then filled the other half with cold water. Ice. Sweetener. It was perfect. Just what I was looking for. Refreshing. Nothing fishy.

I encourage you - if you're looking for a new refreshment this summer - er, I mean spring - why not try your favorite hot tea over ice? :)

The Contessa's Tea
Recipe can be found here.
My Iced Tea Epiphany
To brew any tea as iced, be sure to reduce the amount of water you usually use for hot tea, since it will dilute over ice. I would say for each bag of tea, steep in 4 oz. hot water for 5-10 minutes, then remove the bag and add 4oz. cold water. Sweeten if desired.

One cup at a time - keeps it fresh.

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