Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Zone

There's greens and beans and cornbread cooking. And most important of all, there's a Twilight Zone marathon on TV.I could write at length on how New Year's Eve is a natural between-time, the sort of fairy tale borderland of time that starts adventures, and the Twilight Zone is a perfect cultural touchstone for that sort of unfettered unpredictable weirdness. I could go on about that, but the truth is the Zone marathon has just been a part of my New Year's Eve celebrations for year, even on years when I couldn't rustle up any other sort of celebration at all. A New Year without the Zone would be like no New Year at all.

But that dummy's freakin' me out, man.

Etsyblogger of the Month!

EDarn it, last of the month holidays totally mess up my Etsyblogger posting schedule! It seems rather unfair to make Calkat compete with New Year's Eve.

But I bet she can! At least she can for me. Because over the Clay Shoppe, Calkat makes these:

Don't know what they are? They're polyclay molds! That is, for using with polymer clay,l not, you know, made of polymer clay. Look at the detail on them! I think they'd be great for some of my projects, don't you?

Oh yeah,Calkat also has some sort of very intriguing jewelery shop, and a store that sells, I don't know, some of the most amazing bottles that I would totally dance over if I danced at all.

So go check her out, and hey, maybe you can actually enjoy all the spinny flashy features of her blog. You kids today and your high speed connections, I don't know...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Afters

I know there's technically a week to go before the New Year starts, but in my head, the year always properly ends at Christmas. The next week has lingering celebrations and lots of cleanup, but it's really just a deep breath before the New Year brings proper time back.

So I'm glad this year, which has been one of my favorite, got one of the best Christmases ever. There was the traditional total lack of sleep (ok, I dreamed about presents and trees for three hours before I couldn't keep my eyes closed...), and a visit from Santa (cunningly disguised as my Father-in-law) almost as soon as my husband and I were both up, and two family dinners, and great gifts shared out all around (I got my first MP3 player! Yaaay, I'm only like half a decade out of touch now!). And for the first time in years, no one got sick, nothing got spilled, and absolutely nothing caught fire!

There was even a wee little cold spell to set the proper mood. Even I like a little cold weather for Christmas.

Now there's piles of goodies to be put away, and decorations to wrap again for future holidays, and a lovely handmade journal to fill with photos and scraps of paper and little notes. And there's a new year to prepare for, and books to read, and a million reasons to celebrate ahead. But for now, I'm going to brew some of my Christmas Tea, and put on the last holiday CD of the year, and enjoy the last few minutes of a perfect holiday and a great year. Thanks, everyone, for being part of it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On the last week of Christmas, My Internet Gave To Me...

A truly humbling amount of swag, that's what.

Yes, it's Christmas Eve, and I have a lot to do. But when Santa delivers a Christmas basket of wonders right to my door (or at least right to my cattle guard)

just two days before Christmas? Some sort of attention must be paid.
Look at that basket. That is MASSIVE. It's stuffed so full it can't even be lifted by the handle! It's stuffed so full I had to divide up my photos just to show it off!

So first, the foodstuffs:

That's TWO POUNDS of honey from New York; a sweet little jug of real maple syrup from Ohio; a barley sugar Christmas Tree lollipop (with sprinkles!); a box of cranberry-nut-chocolate clusters;a jar of homemade four-berry jam, a jar of appleberry pie butter, and, weird and wonderful, a little bottle of dangerously concentrated Concord grape juice, so thick a flashlight against the bottle can't shine through. Fantastic!

But wait! There's more!

A wonderful little Victoriana type illustration of a stocking, with a little box holding even more candy treats; a tin Santa ornament; a silver-metal posy, ready to hold goodies of any kind; and, all handmade, a fantastically glittery cranberry wreath that really comes alive in Christmas lights; a Santa basket (and I love that face!), a stained glass tree suncatcher, a polyclay cutout tree with its own bells; a jingle-bell candy cane; and a wee Santa to enjoy all the Christmas trees.

And of course, there's the basket itself, with its yards of ribbon and gold glittering floral ornament which, I must note, turns into a hair pin so very easily.

Not pictured, because it doesn't photograph well: an LED Christmas tree, complete with battery, and a pine-scented sachet, which has already been roped into urgent service.

This is the last post I'm making before the big day; I sure can't come up with anything more appropriate than a magic gift basket! I fully intend to be passed out with a holiday hangover this weekend. So I wanted to be sure to say Merry Christmas to everyone who's stuck with this sometimes-blog this year, especially my Etsy friends. Whether your house observes the holiday or not, I hope you all have reason to celebrate, tomorrow and every day.

*Santa in this case being Jaz of Octoberfarm blog, one of the most amazingly generous people on the planet. Go look! She's even holding *another* giveaway!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Look! A Distraction!

I am making 12 kinds of cookies, wrapping an insane number of presents, and trying to clean up the house, so I can have the week after Christmas totally off, and veg out with a will. But I haven't forgotten you, my bloggy faithful! For those of you who get as internet dependent as me, here are a couple of Cara-related bits to entertain you:

An interview, discussing Aaaahrt, process, and Star Trek. From when I had time to blather! Ah, the good old days of October!

And a couple of people were sweet enough to feature my Twelve Days of Christmas art!

So go check them out, you know?

And buy a cow!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bribing You for A Good Cause

Well, I'd wanted to post up a bunch o' art to go with this, but Technical Difficulties keep happening. And this is important.

See, there are a few things I do every Christmas. I put up the tree, I bake a dozen kinds of cookies, I watch all my Rankin-Bass Christmas specials...

and I donate to the Heifer Foundation.

I don't have a lot of donation-money, so I like being able to focus it in one place-- and I like Heifer because what goes around keeps going around, indefinitely. See, what Heifer gives people is livestock-- cows, sheep, pigs, bees-- and all the training and techniques they need to get the most out of their livestock. And what they ask in return is that people share that gift; the first female offspring (depending on the animal, sometimes the first several female offspring) must be given to another family in need.

Heifer goes beyond just assisting with livestock; they help organize environmental reclamation projects, community groups, and literacy classes. They put an emphasis on helping women particularly, insisting that women be equal partners in any received Heifer gift in even the most restrictive countries. And they do it all by working with local communities, building up goodwill and hope for the long haul. It's everything I'd tell people to do if I had money and any skill at organization whatsoever. So they get my donations.


Why am I telling you this? You may well wonder. Why the heck should you care what gets my altruism going?

Because I am totally willing to bribe you to make YOUR altruism work. Starting, well, now, if you give a donation of 10 bucks or more to Heifer, I will draw you a picture of a critter.* Any critter. You want a sheep? A giraffe? A hippogriff? I'll do it. I will! I'm crazy! And I'll send it to you, either as a high-res jpeg, if you're just wanting a file, or a card, if you'd like something a little more tangible. No shipping, even!

How will I know you've donated? Because you're going to email me a copy of your receipt (with your credit card info and such removed, of course!)-- just copy, paste, and email to
along with what critter you want, and whether you want a card or a digital file. If you want a card, an address for the mailing thereof would also be appreciated. I won't share any of your info with anyone else.

So go buy a sheep or a beehive, or a stand of trees, and let me know about it.
I'd love to be totally swamped with critter picture obligations!

Fine Print

*Fine print about the piece- it will be drawn digitally, I keep copyright and reproduction rights,and I am open to comments about what style or color or whatever you'd like, though no promises here. I will do my best to make it a *good* picture, so if you like my art, you should be happy. Pictures will be 3 x 5 or 4 x 4 inches; let me know if you want rectangular or square, or I'll choose myself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas and Coconut Flour

Wow, apparently the Internet Likes Recipes. Who knew?

However, as a whole, it also appears The Internet Eats Wheat. If you don't, and I don't, the rash of recipes going up right now is kind of frustrating.

Or would be, if I didn't have coconut flour!

Coconut Flour is, in my never-humble opinion, the greatest flour on the planet. It makes the *best* pancakes and quickbreads I've ever turned out. It makes my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe possible. It thickens up pecan pie way better than wheat flour. And it's super healthy, full of fiber and protein and good happy carbs.

It's also really forgiving; I can't use sugar, being on a hilariously low-carb diet, and have had to improvise every CF recipe to accomodate that. And it works! You know what happens in a wheat-flour recipe if you just replace sugar with a dose of stevia? Sadness and regret, that's what.

Anyway, I'm tired of seeing my gluten free friends casting around for holiday substitutions when coconut flour is as near as the internet! Here, then, are a couple of my favorite recipes, from Bruce Fife's excellent Cooking With Coconut Flour, with notes and comments by me, 'cause hey, you're here for that, right?:

Nut Butter Chocolate Chippers
(These things are better than trail mix. Soft and chewy, they keep like you would not believe. And they're more packed with nuts than a Snickers bar, but they don't *taste* like nuts. They taste like vanilla-y chippy yummies.
Fun fact: If you are allergic to nuts, this recipe will make your head explode liek the guy in Scanners! Festive!)

(note: I use barely-sweet chocolate chips and Splenda or Stevia sweetener in this-- but I don't like super sweet stuff. This is the original, standard low-sugar recipe, for those who aren't so limited in their carbs.)

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter. I use almond butter, 'cause I like it, but I hear it's hard to find in some places without an HEB. Be sure, whatever nut butter you're using, it's the pure stuff, with all the oil still in and without any weird sweetener or sugar or starch or whatever)
3/4 cups brown sugar or sucanant and 1/2 tsp stevia
4 eggs (I never said this was low fat. Coconut flour loves fat. That's ok by me!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (If you hate vanilla; I always use at least a half tablespoon, or why open the bottle?!? But, ah, that's me. That's not the book.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups nuts (I like pecans. I am required by state law to like pecans. Plus they're the best nut in the world. So there's that. But hey, you can use your crazy other kinds of nuts, if you want.)
2/3 cup sifted coconut flour (Protip! Keep your coconut flour at room temperature! It has juuuuust enough fat to set up like a sandbrick if you freeze or fridge it. Yet it won't go bad on the shelf. Baffling but true!)

Mix softened butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Mix in nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut flour. Batter will be runny (but will start to seriously thicken if you turn your back on it. The awetasticness of coconut flour largely comes from its moisture absorbing magic. Do not take a long phone call after you mix this batter.)

Put spoonfuls on greased or parchment-paper covered cookie tray, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your dollops. Cool and remove from cookie sheet. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Not from the book:
Breakfast cake!
(Now, I think these are like scones, but that may just be me. I freely admit I am not the most qualified judge of scones.
Regardless, this is a wonderful, slightly sweet, very good toasted with butter or painted with jam, yellow cake. Baked in a loaf pan it's actually a pound cake, but I like mine in silicon muffin cups. I also suspect a good thumbprint cookie recipe lies in here...)

5 Eggs
1 t Baking Powder
1 t vanilla
1 lemon
2 oz Cream Cheese
2 oz Melted Butter
1 c Sugar Substitute
1 c coconut flour
Beat 5 large eggs. Add baking powder, vanilla, Zest and juice of lemon. Add sifted coconut flour, sugar equivalent (I use 1/4 tsp liquid Splenda).

Then add cream cheese and butter, melted together.

Mix, bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. (30 minutes, if you're doing muffin cups)

If you have any questions, ask in the comments- I will happily answer at the earliest chance!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Recipes, Gluten Free

All right, if there's snow on the ground (and there is snow on the ground! Snow! Still freaking out....) then it's time to start holiday baking (if only because the oven is a major source of heat in this house!).

You may not know that I'm on a fairly strict medical diet, called the Modified Atkins (for seizures) that limits my carbs hard, and for similar reasons have had to cut out gluten entirely. No treats then, you think? Not a bit of it! Check out:

Christmas Color Cookies

3 large egg whites
2-3 tbsp sugar-free Jell---oh, I mean, flavored gelatin dessert;P of your favorite flavor

Parchment Paper (NOT waxed paper! Oh for the love of all things edible, NOT WAXED PAPER!)
shiny cookie sheet
Electric Egg Beater (although, if you just hate yourself, you can do this by hand...I guess...)

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. If you don't know what that is, it's when you pull the beaters out, and the whites stay sticking straight up.:)

Pour on the Jell--uh, gelatin dessert powder. Beat into the egg whites until fully added (some worry about overbeating the egg whites. I have never ever ever seen this happen, in over a decade of making meringues of all sorts).

With a spoon or piping bag, drop spoon sized dollops of meringue (any size from teaspoon to tablespoon, really-small ones will be more like candy, large ones more chewy) on the parchement paper (doesn't have to be on the cookie sheet- one of the reasons parchement and meringue are such good chums is that you can totally get a sheet of paper loaded and waiting for limited cookie sheets!). But put the paper on a cookie sheet before putting the whole thing in the oven at 225 for an hour or so, depending on your dollop sizes.:)

These cookies will be the color and flavor of the gelat-oh, we all know I mean Jello. But you can add extracts of almond or vanilla or even chocolate to change the taste up-- almond-cherry or chocolate-orange are great! But I like lime and raspberry. What's your favorite?

Snow? Snow?!? SNOW!

Holy CATS. I was up early, decorating the tree. And then this weird sound came from the outside, and if you're from colder places, you probably know what I'm talking about. But I'm from Central Texas, so I have a thousand words that fail to describe it utterly. And lo, I opened the door, and there it was, like a really gentle hailstorm.


So, like anyone who's lived in Southern Central Texas their whole life long, I lost all my sense and ran out in my total lack of proper clothing to take pictures. I got bunches, actually, but I don't think anything says "We did not expect this" on an environmental level like snow in blooming sunflowers.

So. Uh. Wow. Happy Holidays, with a vengeance!