Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bloomin' Baked Apples

Hello all! What a week it has been already! I finished my last week of college this week! Hoorah! Now I have more time for activities! Woohoo! I am going to a steam punk ball on Saturday and have made all my costume pieces myself, when I am all done I will have to share all the details with you guys!

Today though I have a Pinstrosity for you! Tali sent this one to us and I got a giggle out of it, and learned a few things! Check it out!
The Original

Doesn't this bloomin' apple look amazing?! Pause for the cause diet, there is a new obsession in town!

Here is what Tali had to say about her attempt:

The Pinstrosity

"Ok, so for days before Halloween, I've been seeing these great looking desserts all over for Blooming Apples.  I love apples, caramel, butter, and sugar so it's a not brainer to try. 
Some friends had a Halloween party, which is the perfect time to do this!  I grabbed the ingredients (though I did switch the Honey Crisp apples for Granny Smith).  I prepped the apples, which took far longer than I anticipated.  Then I prepped the topping.  Caramel- done.  Butter and sugar mix- microwave, seems simple.  I may have skimmed over the part about slowly melting the butter, letting it get really melted.  I also neglected the flour (pure oversight).  I mixed the sugar, added cinnamon, and topped my apples.  The topping was more runny than in the picture, but I went with it, blaming it on butter that was melted too much.  

The timer was set, then friends with a newborn stopped by.  I held that sweet baby for a while, marveling in the tininess until the timer went off.  My friend (the host) checked the apples and as I said, "They may need more time," she laughed and said they were done.  It was a bit later before I saw my creation.  Oops.  The flour would have helped, as would an aluminum foil tent, with the oven rack lowered.  The taste was great- caramel yumminess, but I will have to practice this to make it look prettier.  The rest of the night I had fun telling people there were caramel apples in the kitchen, only to listen to them laugh when they saw them!  A mess this epic is pretty rare for me, so it made it more fun. "
The only real red flags I see here is the missing flour and the runny butter. I really don't feel like those two oversights would create the end result we see above though. Perhaps the oven was too hot, or Tali put the timer for the 45 minutes (maximum time) instead of the 25 minutes as the suggested start time? I can't be sure because she didn't specify, but those apples look pretty toasty! No worries if that's the case, I do that kind of stuff all the time. That's what I get for multitasking, haha! They are also only toasty on the tips?? I'm not sure what that means in baking-land, where are all our baking experts?? Can you help us out on this one? Where else can we improve this recipe folks? I'm thinking I'm going to try this one out during Christmas festivities! I will be sure to check back in with you all and let you know how it goes!
Happy Wednesday all! Happy baking!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pay it Forward: Tote-ally Awesome Tote Gift

Our final Pay it Forward project comes to us from Australia! I love having all you international cyber-friends, this is so much fun!

Dear Marquette, Emilee and Rachel

Firstly, thank you for the monthly Pinstrosity Challenge – in particular the November Pay It Forward Challenge.  This challenge got me off the lounge and at my crafting table to make a Thank You gift for my daughter’s ballet teacher. I had pinned a gorgeous Tote pin quite a number of months ago, and had even gone as far as ordering the tutorial online, printing it out and then binding it to keep it together.  (Here’s the link to Inking Idaho’s tutorial page The tutorial I am referring to is Becky’s Tote-Ally Awesome Tote, which makes this:

Pretty awesome hey – it has everything – cards, gifts, pens, post it note holder and best of all – a carry tote for it all!

And the instructions are pretty awesome too. I had a trial run using some card stock, but quickly realised that I wanted the tote to be a little stronger so I invested in some heavy craft paper. The inside of the tote also has two clear pockets to hold the cards. I made these pockets a little larger so that they would hold a regular size card and envelope – and boy, was that a challenge! I needed to increase the size of the pocket by about 1 cm but you just can’t add 1 cm to the middle measurement…..after a couple of trials, a few swear words and a piece of acetate being thrown down in disgust, I finally managed to complete the pockets and the rest of the project.  I used ballet paper from my stash, and then quite a number of pinned card ideas (thanks again Pinterest) to make my cards. I also used magnets as a latch, rather than Velcro dots on both the tote and Post-It holder.

This gift turned out pretty awesome…and I can’t wait to give it to our ballet teacher. So thanks Pinstrosity – your challenge is just what I needed to get the gift made and ready in time! 
Wishing you all a wonderful festive season.

Kind Regards


What a neat gift! I absolutely love it. Clever, cute, and usable. Perfect! I'm sure the ballet teacher loves it!

Pay it Forward: The Giving Plate of Fudge

Our penultimate (one of my favorite words right there) Pay it Forward project comes from the kitchen of Carolyn:

Earlier this year I made a bunch of Giving Plates from this pin:
Mine turned out like this:
I had one left sitting on my refrigerator waiting for me to decide to who to give it too, and what to put on it.

Then this month I found some Crockpot Fudge and knew I HAD to try that out.  
I followed the directions exactly, and it turned out great.  Perfect consistency and flavor.  Easy to do.  It is the perfect quick fudge, minus the marshmallow fluff.  

After it was all set up I cut it into bite size pieces, and put half on the Giving Plate and delivered it to a family friend.  It was so fun to see the surprise and happiness on her face when I handed her the plate.

I'm all about quick and easy and fun, and this looks like it fits all of those with the added bonus of yum! Thanks Carolyn for the great double Pay it Forward project!

Pay it Forward: Hostess Gift

I was introduced to the custom of hostess gifts through my Mother-in-Law. I love the thought and the gratitude it shows. We've tried to integrate it into our life more to show our gratitude for the kindness of others. It is a custom that has largely gone out of practice, at least in our generation, but I'd love to see it come back!

Nicole used the idea of a hostess gift when she came up with her Pay it Forward Project:

I decided for this month's challenge I would give something to my grandmothers for hosting Thanksgiving at their houses. I wanted something inexpensive, simple, and useful. I chose to make potpourri kits. 

She got the idea for the kits here: 
 And the "recipe" here:

Then I had the brilliant idea that I could easily make more (because it's so easy), so I made some for my aunts and cousin. For the most part, everything went well except the bags I bought were too small for the oranges, so I resorted to sandwich bags. I also was too lazy to get my regular hole punch so I used my heart hole punch...which I just realized looks dirty when it's used upside down! 

What a fun and sweet hostess gift! I love that it is usable and perfect for the season. Thank you Nicole!

Pay it Forward: Train Photography

I seriously love how varied and creative each of the projects for this Pay it Forward theme are. I never expected to get a photography related Pay it Forward, but here we have one! Eilonwy sent us in this project:

Plans to sew a ragdoll for a Christmas "give a disadvantaged child gifts" program fell apart in a "never got off the ground way"... then, while I was out being self-centered, I visited a community history group and ended up volunteering for them! This led to an urgent need to figure out how to take photos of trains.

I was basically trying to do the HERE COMES THE TRAIN RIGHT AT ME urban shot, which is like this:

The best of my batch turned out like the [first one below], so not a disaster, but there's still PLENTY of room for me to improve. Also, I managed to do this in a way that did not risk getting hit by a train. (It occurred to me a week later that, since our light rail is identical at both ends, the answer is to step out onto grade level track BEHIND a train that's pulling away.)

She then gave us the link to the full blog post that chronicled her Pay it Forward train adventure. Here is what she had to say:

Sometimes, you want the light ahead of you to be an oncoming train.

O hai.

I am trying to do the monthly Pinstrosity challenges, partly because I like how the site owners put the focus on trying to fix/avoid disasters (after an archive dive here, you will never, ever forget to chill your cookie dough) and partly because it pushes me to do things that might otherwise go in the eh, maybe later pile.

The November challenge was "pay it forward": associate your Pin craft with a philanthropic activity. I started the month with Great Plans that involved sewing a doll for an underprivileged child... and fell apart on (a) a solid week of migraines; and (b) not being realistically able to meet the sponsoring charity's stringent and extensive guidelines. So in a funk of mixed guilt and relief, I went off to return library books, stopped in at a local museum, and somehow ended up offering to put together a plan for their social media.

One consequence of this new project is that it'd be helpful if I worked on my train-photographing skills, so off I went to Pin. (I've been vowing to improve my photography skills since 2007. No sign of improvement has yet been sighted, even if you squint.)

Train and trolley photos fall into three sorts:

My first thought was to try getting a shot of the moving light rail train from the comfort of the 0-Central bus, which runs parallel to the tracks for part of the route.

This went exactly nowhere and somehow developed into an obsession with moody photos of the 8-Seventh Avenue as it waited at the Ed Pastor Transit Center.

Malcontent bus lurks. 
The pink-sepia-ish tone is not a filter. That's what Arizona actually looks like. After a few years here, you subconsciously accept that dirt is a sort of washed-out coppery pink, and brown dirt looks odd.

The loneliness of the Seventh Avenue bus speaks to Sundays in Phoenix (we roll up the sidewalks and tuck them away neatly), but it wasn't really what I was after.

On Monday night, I thought I'd get a shot of the Scottsdale Downtown Trolley as it winds through the Arts District. Turns out the Downtown Trolley is a sneaky little sucker. In the narrow window between getting off work and sunset, I never got a clear shot, and the little bugger came up behind me without dinging its bell twice.

On Tuesday morning, I got up before dawn and rode the light rail down to the Roosevelt stop, where the tracks diverge to accommodate one-way streets through downtown. There's a coffeehouse that opens early, in the ground floor of the Dauntless Headquarters (I don't know if the apartment complex has a name, but it's relentlessly postmodern and spiky), so I equipped myself with a cup of coffee and went out to photograph trains.

It turns out that the paving of the tram stop is designed to look like crossing track patterns.
If you start trying to match this up with the tracks, you will go nuts. 

The platform is sort of triangular, so it's possible to go out to the narrow tip and be sort of head-on to the tracks as they come over the bridge that spans Deck Park.

When you're standing in a 45-degree brisk wind at sunrise, trains are a long way apart. But here's one now!

Click-click-click... and even though I'm behind a concrete barrier, I'm starting to get nervous, but here is the oncoming train in semi-close-up.

Well, hellooooo, 126-A!

It's not the greatest train photo, but it captures (a) full frontal view of tram and (b) pretty accurate view of urban Phoenix. What's behind the train is Midtown.

I got on that train and rode it down to the Tempe Transit Center, which has weirdly symmetrical palo verde trees.

We are trees. We are weirdly symmetrical. 
Attempts to get a good shot of a tram sneaking through the foliage into the station from the east went kind of meh.

It'll be coming round the palo verde when it comes. 

Lessons learned:
  • Be prepared to devote large swaths of time to capturing the passage of multiple trains or trolleys.
  • Aim once, click fast and relentlessly. No, faster than that!
  • It is possible to cheat at the angle to get a head-on shot of a train without being dangerously near the tracks.
  • It is very difficult to find a Phoenix-area background that isn't visually cluttered. Nobody thought about camera angles when they designed this place.
  • Try for sunset next time -- it seems to give better shadows. Dawn seems to wash things out.

On the whole, I wouldn't call the first stint of train photography a monster success, but it counts as progress and got me to try an angle I wouldn't have tried on my own. Thank you, Pinstrosity!


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