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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oreo Truffles

For some reason, I can't get organized enough to post Christmas photos on time, yet, I'm a few weeks early for Valentine's day...

But, I've had a little more free time lately, so it's allowed me to try out a few new recipes, and scrounge up some ideas for Valentine's Day. I found this recipe from one of my favorite sites, Bakerella. She's so creative, I love it! These are called Oreo Truffles!! And way too irresistible for my own good. These are seriously amazing.

I sized the recipe down, since a lot of her measurements are done by "one package of..." and of course, not every country has the same size packaging for food items.

I used an Australian sleeve of Oreos, which is about 12 or 13 (I think Hubby ate a few before I was finished, so I don't know exactly how many cookies I used, but it's such a simple recipe, just feel it out as you go...)

10 or so Oreo cookies, separated
Icing from the separated Oreos
Cream Cheese, about a 1/4 of a 250g block (so, about 1/4cup, or 62g, or 2 oz)
White, Milk, or Dark chocolate

1. Allow cream cheese to soften to room temperature.
2. Separate cookies into two bowls. Make sure cookies are room temperature; they separate a lot easier.
3. Mash cookie halves with a rolling pin or process with a food processor.
4. Mash cream cheese together with oreo icing.
5. Mash both mixtures together to form a consistent paste.
6. Roll into small, bite size balls. These are quite rich, so the smaller the better, really.
7. Freeze, or cool in the fridge.
8. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or heatproof bowl, by sitting in water just off the boil. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate or get any water in it, or it will become lumpy. To coat rolled balls in chocolate, I drop one ball in at a time, and lift it out against the edge of the bowl to try and limit excess chocolate. Place coated balls on a wax paper lined tray. White chocolate seems to not stick as easily, or get as runny as milk or dark chocolate, so try and work quickly. But you can always re-melt.
9. Sprinkle with crushed oreos, or whatever else you can think of. I used score bits, regular sanding sugars, and other sprinkles. Cool in the fridge or freezer when you're done. This recipe makes about 24 balls.

To cover the balls in chocolate takes a bit of practice, but it's not a huge undertaking. I drop the balls into my melted chocolate and either use small spoons or forks to lift out the balls, tilting the spoon at an angle against the edge of the bowl to allow as much excess chocolate to drip off as possible. This time around I used fondue forks, since they have a small wide base to allow the excess chocolate to drip off, and are small enough not to leave marks. That worked really well. Except when I would lose balance, and drop the balls. I suppose you could just stab the balls (why didn't I think of that?).


Friday, January 22, 2010

My Little Monsters

Ok, none of these little guys are actually mine, but I sure do love them! The dogs belong to friends of ours, and the cat is my in-laws, but it visits us every day, and I love him like he was mine. He's a feisty little guy, but, like I always tell him, even after he's bitten me, "Seti, you're too cute to hate". (Seti is named after a pharoh, I think Ramses' II dad...and he sure acts like it.)

(I'm so getting into this photo editing process of making them look like they were taken in the 70's, and sat in a box until now. I know it seems crazy, since today's cameras take AMAZING photos, and processing is done so much better, but there is a comforting, nostalgic feel to these, and they work so well with photos that don't have time references - ie, there isn't a 2010 model ford mustang in the background).

But really, it can't get cuter than Chester & Poppy...

(These photos, of course, were not edited to look like they came from the 70's. I couldn't bare to touch the green of the grass. I can't believe the colour is so vibrant on the grass - I didn't edit these photos at all, other than to add a border, and darken the edges a little)


Thursday, January 21, 2010


This is my long overdue Christmas post, and now since it's so late, it's been condensed. I'll try to share my favorite recipes in time for next year.

So, I did do some baking this year, which was unexpected. I had been working so much, I didn't think I would have any time to. I didn't make all the regulars, but I think I did most of them. I missed out on Nanaimo Bars and Shortbread...but I have a million sugar cookies left over. I did two batches because it took that many tries to get a hang of decorating with royal icing. My first attempts were pretty ugly - but these are getting there...

Though I still have containers full of sugar cookies in my fridge.

I did a favorite of Hubby's - chocolate covered pretzles. Those take forever, but they are so good! I crushed up some Werther's Originals and candy canes to sprinkle on top.

I did a rocky road fudge (the Canadian version) and chocolate marshmallows too. The marshmallows were so good! Rocky Road in Australia means something awful - they add these weird red jelly ju-jube bits to the peanuts and marshmallow. It's gross. It makes Rocky Road more suitable for kids instead of adults, in my mind at least.

I made my Grandmother's Jam-Jam recipe too, and we are still enjoying those as well. They keep really well, and seem to get better with age. The jam keeps them nice and moist. I changed it up, and added some sanding sugar for decoration. These are quite small - bite sized, but I did plain regular sized ones as well.

I made buttertarts too, and those were a hit, surprisingly. I love them, even though I'm usually not a fan of raisins in baking, along with a lot of other people. I wasn't sure if the Australians would like these, but most said these were their favorite item. I just came across this blog post! Perfect! And now these are on my list...

Next year I am going to bake smaller batches of everything, or give more away. I gave some away for gifts, but still ended up with too much left over. I say this every year though. Here's an example of the baskets I made up:

I also decorated a tree, which was an unexpected activity too. First off, we don't have many decorations, as they are still in Canada, and we also didn't have a fake tree. They are pretty expensive out here. I ended up getting a coupon in the mail for $40 off if you spend $100, AND I waited so long to get decorations, everything was 50% off! I barely managed to spend the hundred bucks, but ended up with a 6' tree, lights, and decorations galore! It wasn't up for that long, but next year I will be ahead of the game.

We had a nice family dinner on Christmas Eve, and spent time together at the beach on Christmas Day. We played lots of games over the holidays and had a great time relaxing. As usual, it goes really fast though, and I didn't feel like we had much of a holiday at all. Christmas is so different here. It's still a great time, I just miss home the most at Christmas.

We also had a small showing of homemade fireworks :)


Friday, January 15, 2010

One Year

Well, it's been almost a year. It's been 8,756 hours since I was sitting in a ditch with ants crawling down my pants, an ankle the size of a softball, waiting for an ambulance to make its way through the gridlock caused by another entirely more awful disaster of car accidents and a hit and run. That day was a disaster, and so much moreso for many others who lost loved ones in all that chaos. There will be some people remembering today as an anniversary of the day they lost those they loved most. A man lost two of his daughters in a terrible car accident. Another man died in a fiery head-on collision after speeding away from the hit-and-run he just committed. I still have the newspaper from the day after.

So I know I don't have much to complain about, and I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but this has not been an easy year. I'm still mad about it sometimes. I know there is no one to be mad at but myself, and...I guess I am mad at myself. This year has SUCKED! There has been good times, but a lot of struggles too. I am still working on getting myself back to normal, or at least a version of normal that I can live with. I NEVER would have thought a broken ankle could be such a pain in the butt...I hate thinking about how long it will take to be able to run, or jog, or swim in the waves again. It's depressing. So, moving on...instead I think I will share some of the things I have learned this year:

* I love my husband so much! I don't know how he took such good care of me for so long! I was a disaster at first. I fell over in the shower, I fell over on stairs, I had a million dr's appointments, I needed medication all the time, he had to bring me food and water, but we couldn't let it sit out because there were ants all over the place, so I was constantly calling on him. He brought me food and pills and cold drinks when I would go next door to sit in the air conditioning, he took such good care of me!

*Nurses are a special breed of people. I couldn't do it. The people I had to share a room with in the hospital were awful to the nurses, and yet they were still sympathetic and helpful (except one, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt, and say she was just having a really bad day). That takes strength and character. I admire them so much for the work they do, so much of it thankless.

*Patience. But I still need more of it. Life on crutches is not simple. Everything you planned to do gets put on hold, and the rest of it takes 5 times longer. Not enough of the house cleaning gets done. But not because I didn't have a husband who was trying...because taking care of someone else completely, taking care of yourself, and taking care of a household and working is not easy. Also the fact that we live so close to the ocean, and the sea spray made the floor too slippery for me to use crutches inside, so we used a wheelchair which made dirt tracks all over the floor. The floor was a constant mess of a dirty salty film, and dirty floors make me insane. I really learned to just live with what I had to live with. Sometimes you have to shut off the neurotic part of your brain if you don't want to have a meltdown. I'm still working on shutting that part off more often.

* Sympathy. I think I've always had a good amount of it, but now I truly know how hard some injuries can be. Now I know the world is not built to accommodate people in wheelchairs, or other physical disabilities. Now I know how healthy people actually view a person who is slow or cumbersome. They are annoyed and get easily frustrated. I suppose this falls under patience as well. I will never lose my cool around someone who is slow or cumbersome. Not all injuries are visibly obvious, and I sure got looks and a few comments from people who didn't think I needed a wheelchair, and from drivers who think I should run to get out of their way.

*God takes care of His children. I always knew this, but it was very cool to see it confirmed so many times. First because of the financial crisis, I lost my job. It then turned out to be ok, since I couldn't work anyway - I was in way too much pain to sit still for long, let alone concentrate on anything remotely needing concentration. So, that means I earned no money for over 6 months, and eventually made way less than half of what I earned the year before. But guess what, we never were left needing a thing. Not once. We couldn't go out, so spending money was not a temptation, but losing out on so much income was not the worst thing ever, and in fact a lesser worry than I would have thought. Hubby was still working, and we always had enough. We both work contract from home, so it's not a secure life by any means, but anytime I started to get concerned, a job always came through. I couldn't have broke my leg at a better time. I know there are lower lows than mine, and I am so grateful that we've come out of this with as much security as we did. I don't believe a sign of God's provision is necessarily money (Matthew 19:16-24). I didn't come out of this with a savings account, nor did I ask for one - I came out of this with a confidence in how God provides for us, which is what I asked for. I came out of this realizing how trivial so many of my worries are (Matthew 6:25-43). A good quote I came across:

We can't expect to receive if our purpose in asking is to make our rebellion more comfortable.

*Old people are awesome! I've met so many elderly people from all my visits to the hospital this past year, and I love them! They are so interesting, and friendly, and sure do put up with a lot. People are rude and impatient with them, yet they soldier on. Family who live near them rarely see them, yet they tell me they understand, and are just grateful for any visits they get. They deserve so much more from us.

I think it's important to look back and see what you can take out of a bad situation. I think it's also ok to be upset about a bad situation too. It's just important you don't linger there too often for too long.

I might as well give an update now. I am still going to physio, now once every 3 weeks, since progress is so slow. But, I am starting to jump again, and just taking it REALLY slow this time. I am doing small hops, starting with 10, increasing every few days, among other more dynamic exercises. I am still gaining slightly more flexibility, but it's still not good. I still have trouble walking up and down hills and stairs. I am still on meds for nerve pain. I am still tired a lot, and still unable to concentrate and remember things as well as I used to. I have another nerve specialist appointment in April, and I will probably get another block done. I have a lot less pain though, which is SO fantastic! It seems the healing process has been directly affected by the nerve problems, and once those settled down, I noticed improvements almost immediately. But this took months to happen, and so things might never get back to normal. I still don't know. I am still having problems with infection on my bad foot, and I have a toenail which just will not heal. I cannot wear shoes, since it hurts too much. So, I think I need to suck it up, and fork out the bucks to see a podiatrist, otherwise I might end up needing another surgery, my GP told me.

Fun times, right?....but I went for my first REAL swim last week. It was amazing! I was able to kick my legs, and it was sore, but so good! A huge milestone. It's been a year since I was able to SWIM! And we found the best place to go too. No waves, no current, hopefully no sharks either.

I hope this year will be a good one. I plan to get back into shape, and lose some more weight. I plan to do a lot of swimming, and spend a lot of time with my family. We're taking a few vacations this year, we hope, and trying new things too. I hope to make up for the last 8760 hours :)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes

I know this is WAY out of sync with the holidays that are on everyone's mind at the moment (either we're reminiscing about Christmas and why we thought it was ok to eat so much, or we're looking forward to Cinnamon Hearts, vowing that that will be enough to tide us over until all the Easter chocolate comes), but I didn't have a chance to post this until now...I suppose I could have saved it for next Halloween...

I was asked to bring some cupcakes to a Halloween party we attended in October, so I thought I would get into it, and try something a little more involved (though, quite simple still).

I used my regular favorite cake recipes, and my regular buttercream icing recipe as well. But this time I added some decorations too. I used my husbands idea for a cupcake graveyard when my ideas turned out to be a little too difficult (I was going to do faces of the characters from the Nightmare Before Christmas). This was the first time I had ever used royal icing, and let's just say I don't have the piping skills to pay the bills. But I tried a few things out, and some turned out kinda cool, but the simplicity of the gravestones worked and looked the best.

But going with the graveyard theme, I didn't have to exercise too much skill. I made two colours of royal icing, and piped my outlines into some baking paper. I found that the black icing didn't stick as much as the white. But they both were quite brittle, and I broke a few crosses off the tops. At least they were still usable without the crosses.

For the cupcake icing I did the flavours Vanilla, Coconut and Chocolate buttercream. I dyed some shredded coconut green, to look like grass, and rolled some cupcakes in it for an established grave look. For the fresh graves, I used chocolate icing and meant to use dark brown sanding sugar sprinkles to look like dirt, but I forgot them at home. And because there is always someone who won't eat anything complicated, plain vanilla icing.

I also dyed some chocolate black and made some crows, or ravens, to sit on some of the graves. I melted some chocolate chips in a double boiler, and added a few drops of black gel dye, which works so fantastically! I've now finally learned that the gel dye slowly gets deeper the longer you let it sit, so add a drop or two, and leave it for 5 minutes or so to darken up. I then put the chocolate into a small baggie, and snipped off a small corner, and filled my new chocolate bird moulds I got for my b-day. I also added a toothpick to each, so I could easily stand them in the cupcake. Except, I then forgot the ravens at home too!

For the display, I used a cute plastic mat I got from Ikea. I then used a tutorial for inspiration to make some creepy trees from the Folding Trees blog. I added some popsicle sticks for stability, since there is no way my trees would be able to stand on their own, and I wouldn't dare leave a candle near those floppy trees.

Overall, I really liked the look of this, and it sure was cheap to put together too.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

My 30th Birthday

I have been off and on about being concerned that I am now 30. I already have heaps of gray hair, but that started years ago, so I'm over it. I don't have kids yet, and I never wanted to be an old mom, but I have a little while yet before that's much of an issue. I don't have any real wrinkles...well, not any that I count as such. Overall, I don't think it really bothers me to get older. What bothers me is feeling old. And this year has made me feel really old. Wheelchairs, hobbling around, lots of visits to the hospital, and on and on. I am really hoping 2010 is a much easier ride.

But, I did have a really great birthday! Hubby and I went away for a few days and nights to a beautiful apartment with spectacular views. We had people over for one of those days in celebration of our 30th birthday's. We spent time in the pool, in the ocean, eating and relaxing. It was so nice to get away. Here are some photos:

This year has been kind of rough, so this small break was really nice to have. I spent so much of my time in bed, or resting, then as soon as I was a little more back to normal, I spent ALL my time working, trying to catch up on the first half of the year. We need to take these kind of breaks more often, and this year we'll have a few chances for that, so I'm looking forward to those!

Here are some photos of some presents I got, of which I'm really excited about:

The Cupcake Courier:

Office-y things, which I LOVE. I love paper, organization, and metal rulers (this is one of those cool things that happened when someone listened to an off-hand remark about how I needed a metal ruler longer than 30cm, so bought me a 60cm one!):
This thing is AWESOME! I use it to make the best sliced fried potatoes ever! And I've also been using it to finely chop onions for adding into hamburger patties, or soups, etc...
Very cool vintage papers and cards:
A box of fun treats from my best pal back in Canada:
Vintage nighty:
Handmade potholders and towel, from my Grandma:
Decorating Sprinkles:

Baking cups:
Cookie cutters:
Chocolate molds:
I also got a beautiful sheet set, some PJ's and other goodies, like chocolate (Reece's!!), from home. People also brought me homemade baking too. It was a really nice birthday.

Being 30 feels no different than being 29, or 31, I'm sure. So I'm looking forward to spending this year getting older, but not feeling older.