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Simple Syrup

I’ve been planning out our Thanksgiving meal with our parents and am getting a few things done before things get busy. One must have for us is some sweet tea, but since preferences vary I am going to be set up for people to sweeten to their taste. For a really good tea I’m a firm believer in using simple syrup instead of granulated sugar, since it incorporates so well, doesn’t leave part of the sweetener at the bottom, and keeps the tea nice and smooth. Until I got The Cozy Chicks Kitchen Cookbook (ebook) I didn’t know that simple syrup was so easy to make; I’ve been making it ever since. I thought I’d share my experience with their recipe in case anyone else has been too intimidated to try it, too. (Note: The Cozy Chicks are a group of authors who write a type of mystery called a “cozy”, and the recipes are either from their books or “used” by characters in their books.)

A quick word on simple syrup. The recipe I used is for a thicker syrup, with a 2:1 ratio, which is more common with southern sweet tea. Others are much thinner with a 1:1 ratio. I love the thicker syrup because it goes a lot further, so I don’t make it as often. A little bit goes a long way.

Leann Sweeney’s “Jillian’s Sweet Tea” has the instructions for the thicker simple syrup in her recipe. Basically it’s just a 2 sugar to 1 water ratio, so 6 cups of sugar to 3 cups of water. If you’re using bottled water, it can be hot, but if you’re using tap, definitely use cold water, since it’s the cleanest water for drinking (think no water heater). Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan/pot on your stove. I warn you, it’ll seem so extreme when you see all of that sugar. Lol.

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Heat the mixture on medium-high until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear (takes 5-10 minutes). You will see the following, but that’s not enough.

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It’s tempting to stop now, but trust me, if you keep going it’ll become so beautifully clear you can see the tiny nick in the bottom of my pot. *laugh* Stir/whisk the liquid until the sugar is fully dissolved. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if there is sugar at the bottom or just bubbles, so I usually turn it down a tad when I’m unsure, which reduces the amount of bubbles and lets me see the bottom clearly.

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Let it cool enough to pour into a bottle or jug and seal it (I just use a lidded jug with a pour spout that is blocked when I turn the lid). If you let it cool too much and you see some crystals start again on the top (like if you’re trying to multitask and vacuum while waiting, but encounter a little detour that you have to clean up in order to finish vacuuming, and then you have to fold that fresh load of laundry, and oh no! you suddenly remember the mixture after an hour *grin*), just warm it back up.

Most believe that simple syrup can sit sealed on your countertop, although some people feel quite strongly that it must be refrigerated. I’m not about to tell you what to do, but I will say that mine sits on the counter not far from my tea maker, and the only problem I’ve ever had is when I’ve forgotten to close the seal and some of it formed clumps of sugar.

A great thing about the syrup is that it’s really easy to flavor, too, by cooking with a vanilla pod, extracts, herbs, or even mixing in some steeped flavored tea into the mixture while dissolving the sugar. www.food.com has some great recipes/instructions for flavored syrups.

If you want to make some and have any questions, I’m more than happy to help. It’ll work great in tea or coffee, and I’m even using it to make a crunchy coating on cranberries (if it turns out I’ll post it soon). It’s a great recipe to have in your back pocket. 🙂

The Ice Queen

I try to put a cheerful or amused spin on my illnesses, or downplay them, most of the time. In following support groups and Pinterest boards I’m starting to realize that maybe Fibromites have gotten a little too adept at these survival techniques, and maybe that’s part of why most people just don’t understand how we can be suffering so much. One of the blurbs really captured this so well and I wanted to feature it tonight, especially since I’ve been trying to be brutally honest lately about what I go through.

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I’ve been called “The Ice Queen” more times than I can count and what most don’t realize is that a lot of the time I’m barely holding on to get through the day. Breaking down makes others uncomfortable, sometimes makes me sick, and makes me feel like I’m losing control of one of the few things I can still control, so I’d rather stay The Ice Queen most days. The girl in the mirror is covered in invisible bruises and staring into the darkness that she’s afraid may fill the rest of her life; screaming in desperation to be heard by just one person, yet no sound ever carries. The people outside the window, living life out in that big world, bustling about to make the most of their day, while chronically ill sufferers are often watching, longing to be out there with the “normals” instead of trapped by the prison of their bodies.

Hopefully someday we can all learn to quit sharing those polite white lies that makes an easier conversation; avoiding the bare truth that is uncomfortable for both sides. Maybe if we try just once today to be honest about our vulnerability we will get a step closer to truly understanding one another.

A Little Sass

I’m in a lot of pain today, so I’m keeping this short and sweet. The first SO applies to my life, especially while I’m back on bedrest. I have the ideas and motivation, but not a body that can actually do anything I want most of the time.

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Now a few just because they’re my favorite “laughs” right now. I hope you enjoy them too. A part of me is worried about how accurate these are. 😉

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A Little Awww to Start Your Day

My “day” is a bit unconventional, so my day doesn’t end until the wee hours (if then lol). This means that I am not going to follow a conventional day’s hours to qualify on this blogging challenge (so no ribbing me about being late Z *grin*). That said, before I try to sleep I thought I’d share a few more fur baby pics.

While grocery shopping I found a huge Bobo, which is a type of stuffed dog toy. Well, my dog Bo spotted the Christmas Bobo before I’d even started bringing the groceries in off of the deck. The little stinker snagged Bobo and went running inside. *grin* He was so happy I couldn’t bring myself to take it from him to hide until Christmas. So here are a couple of shots of him with his new Bobo that has what Larry coined “Christmas pox”.

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As if that wasn’t enough to grin about I have more proof that one of my cats, Abby, is silly as can be. To battle the cold and keep the heating bill manageable we’ve been using our wood stove almost around the clock. We hadn’t even finished unloading a bag load of firewood when little miss decided it was her new favorite spot. *laugh* By the way, it looks precarious from the angle, but everything was stable thankfully, so she was safe. Just looks really bad from that angle. Larry checked. *grin*

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Hopefully the couple of cute pictures will help you start your day, and weekend, off with a smile. 🙂

One of My Guilty Pleasures

Since I haven’t found any blog topic requests or recommendations yet you’re going to be subjected to a bit of randomness about me. Lol. One of my guilty pleasures is reality competition shows that involve art in some form. I appreciate most artistic endeavors and sometimes they inspire me, too. I fast forward the drama and all that junk, so I can just see the good stuff.

My favorite show is So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). I did ballet very briefly as a kid and absolutely love to dance, especially line dance (hey, I’m a country girl!), although my illness has caused me to reduce my participation a lot or else I can’t walk for a few days afterward. So dance is extra near and dear to me. I love how it can tell a story, make you feel such intense emotions within just a few minutes, and especially how captivating and beautiful dance can be. As I’ve mentioned before The Nutcracker is a favorite of mine. The children make you smile, shake your head at Fritz’s misbehavior, grow wide eyed over Drosselmeier’s mysterious movements, and oh how your breath catches while watching the beautiful Sugarplum Fairy. SYTYCD showcases an amazing array of dances and many of them have choreography that is just as captivating as The Nutcracker, to me. I have saved some of the performances on YouTube for that very reason. Seasons later and I still love the choreography for “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, “Bleeding Love”, and “Mad World”.

Next would have to be Face Off. I find the talents of makeup artists absolutely fascinating and especially love when they create props. It reminds me of my body products, since the artists transform items that have set uses into props that sometimes defy logic. Similarly a soap crafter can use a ton of everyday items for soap molds, like clean milk cartons, PVC pipe, candy molds, and even jelly roll pans with cookie cutters. I love the creativity behind unconventional items. We all know that I have a love of the macabre, too, and most makeup challenges tend to have a flair for gore and fantasy. *happy sigh* It’s starting to edge out SYTYCD as my favorite actually if the competition remains as amazing as it has for the past two seasons.

Project Runway in the many variations is next. I spent many hours sketching clothing ideas, which is really ironic since I have such a poor fashion sense when it comes to dressing myself. lol. I love seeing a piece of fabric and a few embellishments become a work of art, and the unconventional challenges and red carpet looks are my favs. I often don’t care for what was created, since I tend to like Hepburn and Jackie O’s taste instead of avant-garde. I still love seeing the process though and appreciate what goes into it.

There are tons of other similar shows I stumble upon, especially when I have insomnia or my shows are off season. The Voice and Dancing With the Stars are two I watch often, as well. The other day I watched a few episodes of Fake Off, where teams recreate moments, like one I watched was of Yoda fighting Darth Maul and another was a play on the 1-800-hotchicks type of commercials. The cool part is that it combines choreography, puppetry, black lights/illumination, and shadow dancing. The creativity is captivating despite some of the troupes being a bit kooky.

Cooking competitions get recorded a lot, too. Some of those chefs and bakers are true artists. I have had two layer cakes that went horribly wrong, yet these people pull off ten layer cakes like it’s a walk in the park. The air brushing, sugar pulling, and molecular gastronomy makes it all the more fascinating.

Maybe if we all remembered to appreciate artistry instead of drama we would be better people for being couch potatoes. Of course, I can be creative when it comes to justifying my becoming a couch potato. 🙂

I’m At a Loss

I’m trying hard to do this daily blogging challenge, but I honestly don’t know if I have anything to share that anyone else would find interesting. I’ll start making product this weekend, since that should be long enough to be fully out of the danger zone of flaring the sinus infection back up, but I don’t know if I’ll have the umph to experiment yet, since filling an order is the top priority for my small reserve of energy. So, any ideas for interesting topics? Anything that you’d find interesting, anything you’re curious about (although I have been more vulnerable and revealing about myself in the past few months anyway, so I’m not sure there’s much mystery left lol), or even discussions that any of you readers would enjoy? I’ve been reading about link parties, but I don’t know if people would enjoy those or find them thoroughly annoying…?

Any input is greatly appreciated! My mind zig zags all over the place, but I’m not so sure that others want to follow that crazy train. *grin* I hope you have a great day and tomorrow I will have a phone again, so if I work quickly (and FedEx delivers promptly), then I should be fully reachable again by the time most people actually read this. Ahhh, such sweet words to a nerd. 😉 Happy pampering!

Oops

I’ve all ready missed a day in the NaBloPoMo. *sigh* I’m rather disappointed that I messed up, because I’ve been trying really hard. I have a decent excuse though. I slept almost completely around the clock yesterday. I think the lack of sleep from an uncomfortable bed, the massively increased activity during vacation, and then the cold triggering my sinus infection to really kick into gear all came together and my body just gave up the fight. Lol

I thought I might make it up to you with some total awesomeness. Warning, it’ll take a few minutes for this post to load because it’s more picture heavy than my usual posts. Anyway, we brought home some souvenirs and one from Silver Dollar City (SDC) is so adorable. While we were there we watched the glass blowers make four pieces. The first full demonstration that we caught was for a blown glass snowman. I have found glass blowing fascinating ever since I read about it probably fifteen years ago and the artistic side of me loves the creative process of it. They asked for color suggestions from the audience (red and white) to go with the otherwise clear glass, and slowly began to construct it, piece by piece.

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First he takes a dollop of glass and begins to cool, shape, and blow it into the proportion that he wanted.

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At this step he dipped the glass into shards of what actually dyes the glass. How cool is that?!

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The other craftsman added a dollop of glass to make the next portion of the snowman, which the glass blower then manipulated and shaped.

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At this point he had finished shaping the new part and was smoothing it.

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They broke the connection to the blow pipe and set the partial snowman on the work table while preparing another stick to create a new attachment point, so that more sections could be added and worked on.

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I couldn’t get shots of some of the work due to their positions, but they quickly got the piece attached onto the new stick.

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The next step was to add some glass to be shaped into a scarf. He did some shaping and working of the piece, which I didn’t get pictures of, and then they added a top hat.

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As the glass cooled from the manipulation the beautiful color of the top hat began to show, and he then moved on to an adorable little glass carrot nose.

Sadly the piece had to go into the annealing oven for 24 hours to cool at a slow rate, so I don’t have a finished picture for that piece. However, they had a few for sale in the shop in a variety of colors and styles, all handmade on the premises.

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And we brought home one very unique little guy, too.

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He has the cutest little crooked nose that really shows that it’s a handmade work of art. *grin* I’m really glad that we were able to swing another piece from SDC and our not-so-little snowman makes me smile every time I catch a glimpse of it. I hope our Frosty and the process behind his creation fascinated and cheered you up as much as it did me. I wish you a very happy and healthy week. Tomorrow I’ll share a little bit more about SDC and then I’ll let the subject go. 🙂

Peculiar Becomes Her

I got back home tonight and have three fur babies wanting, and deserving, lots of attention, so tonight is mostly just another picture. There’s a town that we drive past on the way to Branson that I think would be a perfect place for me to live. Although it seems like a nice community too, mostly I just really think the name would so work with my personality. *grin* Whatcha think? Lol

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At Peace

Tonight I thought I’d share my favorite picture from today’s adventures at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. I’ll post more over the next few days, but my new phone went squirrelly and I’ll have to reprogram it, so I’m working off of my old limited access phone and can’t do much. It works out well though because one picture came out well from one of the most peaceful moments I experienced today. We went into The Wilderness Church and while I was standing at the front, looking out the huge window that overlooks some of the park, I turned and saw this amazing altar made out of a big log. The lantern light was casting a beautiful glow over it, with the gentle glow of the Christmas tree. It was so incredibly peaceful. We’ve enjoyed the beautiful twinkling lights, yummy foods, and handcrafted items, while this was a great reminder of the reason for the season. I wish you the same peace tonight.

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Now That’s a Dessert

Hi there! It’s been quite a busy day, but so much fun. I’m exhausted, so I’m going to share a few pics and then hopefully fall asleep many hours before my usual bedtime. Lol

Today we went to some outlet malls (a good chunk of my Christmas shopping is done now!), saw the Dixie Stampede dinner show (which sadly didn’t allow photography, so I can’t share that incredible experience), and then we finished the day with our first trip to Cakes-n-Creams for our favorite treat of a funnel cake supreme sundae.

My internet connection is spotty at the resort, so I’ll have to share most of the pics later. I’ll leave you with a picture of what a real dessert looks like. *big grin* In a 50s style diner, too!

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