The PDX Grinch

Hello everyone!

You have disappointed me in the following ways…

I know I’ve neglected you , dear readers but I hope all of you had a great Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Winter Solstice,  New Year’s and MLK day!

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting like I thought I would. I have to admit, I haven’t had much to say and I haven’t been crafting much. I would rather not post anything than just put up some drivel. I read a few blogs like that. They’ll disappear for weeks, sometimes months, and then a new post!  And I get so excited. Yay! New post from semi-regular blogger!  Sure, it’s frustrating as a reader but life happens and you find yourself with other things to do besides writing a post. As a blogger, I don’t want to just slap up something just to say I made a post. I think that’s a disservice to you, dear reader. Anywho…….

Christmas, holidays. Bah humbug! As I get older, I find that I’m losing all desire in celebrating the holidays. It’s all BUY! BUY! BUY! And CONSUME! It’s all so crass. Personally,  I really don’t want or need any gifts or items – I have everything I need. The one thing that I crave and deeply want more than anything is time. A little time spent talking to friends; a little time to hang out; a little time for a vacation; and most importantly, a little more time with The Husband and The Boy, together and separately.

At the same time, is it fair to ruin The Boy’s Christmas because I’m the Grinch? Not at all. I will put on a happy Christmas face for him. He asked for the usual amount of crap that sound amazing to all six-year old boys: TOYS! Nerf guns! Angry Birds Star Wars! Angry Birds Space! More toys! Games!

Despite everything, Christmas was good. I got what I’ve needed for a long time. Friends, I got a space heater! Hells. Yeah. I also did some holiday cooking! It felt really good to cook again. Since it’s just the three of us, we decided to only make enough food for the three of us. Why in the world we were making these huge spreads, I have no idea. But we had just enough food. Second post about Christmas dishes, coming soon….

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Testing

Trying out new app. Don’t know if this will work but the story below really did happen.

Last week, we were on our way to pick up pizza for dinner and The Boy decided he wanted chicken wings. We told him no because the last time we let him order chicken wings, he ate about two of them and forgot about the rest. He kept pleading until he said,
“But I will eat those wings like a man!!!!

Almost Vegan Almond Joys

Almond_Joy_Opened

It looked nothing like this. Mine were better and not gooey in the center.

Holiday work parties.  Make something that everyone will enjoy but ensure that nothing is left over. So much pressure! Hmmm, what to do?

I got invited to my old office’s holiday party. I was extremely flattered, especially since I don’t work there anymore. I miss those crazy cusses! I knew there was gonna be around fifty people so I wanted to make something that was a little different, something that didn’t need any refrigeration and could be transported easily to the site since I use mass transit. Then I got invited to my current office’s party. This one was for the whole building, four floors! I knew there was gonna be a TON of food, so I didn’t need to make a lot. Didn’t matter about refrigeration since I could store it as soon as I arrived but it had to be easily transported. Dilemma, people! What to make?

For the old office, I decided to make my Jolly Lollies. Instead of three pieces of Jolly Ranchers, I only used two. We also used a package of the tropical-flavored Jolly Ranchers. The Boy and I had a great time picking out colors/flavor combinations. We created some really cool modern-looking color blocking stripes. I got many compliments and only had about five left over.

For the new office, I remember reading about some vegan almond joys that made me drool at the sight of them. I signed up as bringing “Homemade Almond Joys (no pun intended-since that’s my name). After hunting down the recipe–I forgot to bookmark it, I found it at the Free People blog. I had all the ingredients but of course I changed a few things. I used sweetened coconut, so I couldn’t be sure the sweetening agent was vegan like the maple syrup and I used whatever chocolate I had around the house, which was a 1/2 of a bag  Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and another 1/2 bag of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips.

I received many compliments on this one! I only had a few left but I ended up not taking a single one home and three people asked for the recipe and one asked if I could make them again for a special occasion. I asked, “Like when?” He said, “Oh, like it being a Wednesday.” Ha!

Below, is my version of the recipe and a link to the original. Enjoy (again, no pun intended)!

Almond Coconut Chocolate Bites from the Free People Blog(with my mods)
makes 12 treats (using tiny mini muffin liners, I made about 40)
Coconut Filling:
1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut, finely shredded (I used about two cups of sweetened coconut)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or about a tablespoon if you’re using sweetened coconut)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dark or Milk Chocolate Coating*:
10 ounces of good semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
Plus: approximately 1/3 cup toasted almond slices (I used whole almonds)

Lightly grease a nonstick mini-muffin tin with a little coconut oil and set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all of the coconut filling ingredients and mix together until very well combined. Evenly divide up the filling between the 12 mini-muffin cups, pressing it in very tightly, making sure it is somewhat even.  (I used a 1/4 teaspoon to scoop out little portions that fit into my liners. I placed them on a pan and stuck almonds on top.) Don’t worry they won’t stick. Place the muffin pan in the freezer make sure it is sitting flat, and freeze until filling is solid, about 30-45 minutes. (I left it in overnight. I’m lazy)

Take the muffin tin with the frozen coconut mixture out of the freezer, carefully remove each coconut treat out of the pan, running a thin knife around the edge to loosen and pop them out. Place them on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet, if you want to place the pan back in the fridge to keep them cool while you melt the chocolate, you can do that.

Once you are ready to coat the treats with the chocolate you can carefully melt the chocolate using a double boiler setup on the stove top or you can carefully melt it in small increments in the microwave, stirring often. Turn off the heat on the stove and keep the bowl of chocolate over the pan, remove the coconut treats from the fridge. Place one coconut treat on a fork and slowly lower it into the chocolate, spoon additional chocolate over it to fully coat it. Lift the fork out and gently shake to release any of the excess chocolate.  Scrape the bottom of the fork along the side of the bowl and place on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a few toasted almond slices on top into the chocolate. Repeat until all of the treats are coated in chocolate and have almonds on top.  If the chocolate gets too thick, you just turn on the flame and heat slightly to melt it again. Put the tray back in the fridge and let them harden for about 45 minutes.

(I used mini muffin liners and drizzled a little chocolate in the bottom of liners. Then I placed coconut filling on top of chocolate and then drizzled chocolate on top of filling. They had a little chocolate sandwich look about them. I placed them back in the freezer overnight.)

After these set, store them in the freezer/fridge until you’re ready to serve. The chocolate will remain solid at room temperature but the coconut filling might not.

I Spy with My Myopic Eye

I needed glasses. I broke one of the arms off of mine in September. I was using my handy E6000 glue to keep it together. That worked for a while until I forgot that I couldn’t fold my glasses away and then I’d break them all over again. It had been about three years since I bought them, a slick pair of oxblood Burberry glasses.* At the same time, I also got a pair for the husband. I think I spent around four hundred dollars and that was with the “kick ass” insurance (according to the woman who rang up our purchases)! In my mind, I’m thinking, “damn, that’s expensive” but my mouth was saying, “What a great deal!” It wasn’t., though. Not at all. And it was stupid annoying that I couldn’t get sunglasses under most plans, including my current one.

Did you know that most of your eyewear brands are owned by one company? Luxotica owns most of most popular eyewear names, like Oakley and Ray-Ban? Did you know that almost all the designer brands have licensing agreements with Luxotica?  *Those cute oxblood Burberry glasses? Made by Luxottica. Ralph Lauren, Versace, Tiffany, all Luxottica. Retail chains like Pearl Vision, Lens Crafters, the eyewear places in Sears and Target? Guess who owns them? One of the largest  vision insurance plans? Sensing a pattern now (or a broken record)?

Now, you may ask, what’s the big deal? Why should anyone care? The reason you should care is that if one company owns the entire market, then they get to choose the price that you pay. When they own the market, then there really isn’t a market and you really don’t have choice. You can try your local optometrist but if they are getting their frames for Luxottica or if they are competing with Luxotica, they will charge just as much. So what to do? What to do?

A few years back, I ran across a blog extolling the awesomeness of buying glasses online. She used two or three different companies and she got like 8 pairs for 200 bucks! Say what!? From her blog post, I did some research and this is what I found.

  1. Zenni Optical: Probably the most well-known of the online prescription places.Basic glasses start at 6.95. Anti-scratching comes free for every pair.  If you need additional things, like anti-glare or if you want your glasses tinted for sunglasses, they are an additional small fee.  http://www.zennioptical.com/
  2. 39 dollar glasess: Basic glasses start at 39 bucks. Their selection isn’t as extensive as Zenni Optical but they offer a lot of coupons and discounts. http://www.39dollarglasses.com/
  3. Warby Parker: A little bit more expensive and trendy than the others, but all basic glasses are 95 bucks each and for every pair that you buy, they donate a pair to a person in need. They have a generous home try-on and return policy. http://www.warbyparker.com/
  4. 1800 specs: Don’t know much about these guys as they are up-and-coming. They also donate a portion of every sale to charity groups who help people who can’t afford glasses. http://www.1800specs.com/
  5. Glassy Eyes Blog: This is a blog that reviews a lot of the online prescription sites. He’s been around for a very long time. http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/

I decided to use Zenni because I’m super cheap. I ended up getting three pairs for me and two pairs of sunglasses, one for me and one for the husband. I got all this for $78.00! My only complaint, which isn’t really a complaint, it’s just me whinging, but it took two weeks for delivery. Which isn’t a big deal at all but I am rather impatient when I’m excited. I’ll put up some pictures later this weekend of my glasses.

My tips: If you decide to go online, do you homework! Research, research and research! Also, make sure you get your PD or your Pupil/Pupillary Distance. This is essential! You can measure it yourself, but your optician can measure you accurately. Make sure you get this as well as a copy of your prescription. It is your legal right to have this information! Also, if you have a Costco membership, you can get your eyes checked for $50. This was really helpful since the optician approved by my insurance was only open during business hours.

If you have questions about ordering online, please leave a comment. I’m happy to help!

One last thing: This is not a paid post by anyone. Just my opinions.

Star and Stars

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with stars. I have a neglected Pinterest board of star projects. (I have an absolute love-dislike-hate relationship with Pinterest. A post for another day). It all started with this star hair clip from the Fall 2012 Rodarte Fashion show. Beautiful, that hair clip was. I haven’t gotten around to making one but there have been a ton of DIY’s about it. In addition to wanting to make that star clip, I have two boxes full of star Christmas ornaments. I have tons of star stickers and strands of festive star garlands. I have some acrylic star buttons and a star cookie cutter for the cookies my son refuses to eat. And a set of star sheets for our bed, as well as some cheap-o star lights I bought on clearance at Ikea. I think I have some star stamps, too. What can I say, my eyes are full of stars. (Wait, is that a quote?  Can I make a poster of that?)

Anywho, the star clip got me to thinking about a quote I saw on a greeting card. It said, “We are made of stars. -Hungarian proverb”

  1. First off, I thought I bought it to save and display. Can’t find it anywhere.
  2. If you try to Google, “we are made of stars”, two things come up. That song by Moby and a quote from Carl Sagan. Not quite what I was looking for.
  3. No way, shape or form was that Hungarian. I tried all sorts of variations and nothing even remotely matched.

I’ve been looking for the source of that damn card for years now off and on, whenever I’m bored and I remember to look. Finally, last month or so, I found it! It’s actually part of a longer Serbian proverb. It’s actually a lovely sentiment.

Here’s the poster I did with the proverb:

Click photo. Right click to save or drag to desktop. Use and enjoy.

I tried to use a stock photo from NASA’s public domain of their universe photos but I couldn’t get the visuals and text to work in a way that I liked. This is not quite what I had in mind but it comes close. I might redo it in the future, haven’t decided yet. I still like it though.

Please use and enjoy! Have a spectacular weekend!
-Joy

 

French Motivation

Continuing with my word posters…My mom worked at a bank when I was growing up. They were throwing out a bunch of those corporate motivation posters. Ick. My mother brought some of them home so that we could decorate our rooms and I choose one with this desolate-looking tree. I mean, it looked like it was straight from a nuclear blast site.  I can still see it in my mind, all barren except for the sad tree. Above the tree was this quote,

* “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” 

Now, I was only like eleven or twelve, and I had no flipping clue what that could mean. I had so many stupid questions about that poster that kept me up at night: Was it saying that summer was gonna be awesome, that I was gonna be awesome, that I was only gonna be awesome in the summer? What does invincible mean? Why is the tree dead? Why do I have a dead tree on a poster on my wall? And who is this Albert Cay-mus person? And so on, and so on. I stared at the poster for years and now I intensely regret that I threw it out for whatever boy band poster I replaced it with. (See, I can’t even remember what boy band! Oh, the folly of youth.)

Fast forward to a few years ago when I read The Stranger and a bunch of other essays from Albert Camus for a French literature class. That quote is staring at me in French! All those memories came flooding back. Suddenly, that quote isn’t so foreign anymore. It’s quite profound. I’ve used that quote as an email signature for years now and every time I see it reminds me of so much hopefulness that is within us and within the world.

When I made this poster, I initially wanted to recreate that poster from my childhood but the image that came to mind was more, well, it was more the lack thereof of images. I kept seeing the words on a colored background. Not too much work to make this but feel free to download it and be inspired.

Click photo. Then right click and save or drag to desktop. Use and enjoy.

Cheers,
-Joy

*  (P.S. Holy shit! You’ve got to love the internet! I found a picture of the poster! I had to re-edit bits of this post because of the discovery. It wasn’t quite as I remembered.)

Words and more

Since starting my new job, I’ve had the opportunity to use the latest version of InDesign and Photoshop and it brought to mind some ideas that I’ve been mulling over. One of them involves something that The Boy said that made me teary-eyed. I’m not gonna share that with you until I perfect it. If I can pull this one off, I want to have it printed as a poster. But the other projects, I don’t mind sharing. They involve taking words and phrases or pictures and turning them into posters.

As you can tell, word phrase posters are all the rage right now. Everybody and their cat have done a take on the “Keep Calm” posters. I don’t necessarily want to create that exact poster with my own witticism but I am drawn to those posters. I think it all goes back to being in a bookstore in Switzerland ten years ago.  I bought something, not sure what, but the bag that they put my purchase in was a this tiny, little plastic bag, with about thirty, forty French verbs, arranged in a mute colored, justified rectangle. Some words were green, some red, some yellow. All the verbs were emotional, like, to love (aimer), to read (lire), to enjoy (s’amuser), to dream (rêver), etc. I loved the look of that bag!! I kept it for many years until it was lost in a move. I’ve put together many advertising pieces for work based on that bag. Now it’s time to make something for me.

Here’s the first one.

Click photo, then right click to save or drag to desktop. Use and enjoy.

I wanted to share some photos of our trip to Cannon Beach but quite frankly only a few came out as anything you’d want to look at. Like this one above. I ran across this word and after looking up the definition, I kept thinking about the ocean. The waves, the calm and peacefulness, how you can be on a crowded beach and the only noise you hear is the waves. (Have I mentioned how much I love the ocean?). I had already made this poster using a stock photo of water that I found in Word but when I saw that my own picture of the ocean looked better, I went with that instead.

Anyway, I hope you like it. And if you like, you’re more than welcome to download it to use it as a desktop photo. This is my first time putting up something that (I hope) can be downloaded.  I’ll be testing this, but please let me know if it came out alright or if you have other suggestions. I’m gonna go ahead and put up the other two that I have.

Cheers!
-Joy