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June is always the busiest month for me. At work we have a ton of events with the school year coming to a close. We have our Litha (Midsummer) ritual usually the 3rd weekend of the month and then I work at the now annual NY State Faery Fest the 4th weekend of the month (which just-so-happens to be this weekend – you can go to www.nyfaeryfest.com to check out the details!).  Of course sometimes there’s the occasional wedding thrown in there or some other project, trip or whatever – you know just to keep things interesting.

We’re also still meeting weekly for our Crazy Ladies Night. This week we had Wings N’ Wings – in preparation for the Faery Fest we all decided it would be good to make our faery wings together (because apparently I’m the grand-master wing maker… um… what?) and if you’re making wings, well you should eat wings too. (I’m all about theme parties) So each of us brought chicken wings or something to go with wings.

I made some more of the glaze from my Raspberry Chipolte Ramen and was planning on using that as a wing sauce. Well, I went to our newly established grocer (it’s a regional company that bought out our local company) and seriously – they did not have chicken wings. Okay, they did, but they were Hot and Spicy chicken wings and frankly that just wasn’t going to work. There was nothing in the store that I could use for chicken wings. So I sucked it up and bought little breaded chicken tenders and decided to use my glaze as a dipping sauce.

Turns out it worked really well – everyone loved it!

Oh, I also brought my handfasting dress with me to try on. (You can read more about that and more details of our wedding and handfasting here: http://bigpaganwedding.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/sabotage/)

We had so many different kinds of chicken wings there it was awesome! There was honey teriyaki, honey mustard, barbeque… although nothing  really spicy (well my dipping sauce was a little spicy, but I like to eat wings that are spicy enough to burn off my stomach lining so my perception tends to be a little skewed in that department).

Anyway, we had a good time, as always.

But back to making wings. There are a couple of ways to make wings, but the ones I find the most “realistic” are the ones made with craft cellophane. I just finished the wings for Garry and I last night (well they’re almost finished – I need to put the arm ties on there and maybe add some more decorations and then they’ll be done).

Here’s a step-by-step of how I did it.

Materials List:

10 or 12 gauge craft wire

Wire cutters

floral tape

craft cellophane (you’ll need enough for both sides of the wings – so chances are you’ll use an entire roll or more if you want something larger than 18″)

Taper candle or Lighter

Incense

Spray adhesive (I think – a glue that dries clear that’s NOT super glue – I learned that the hard way)

Scissors

Stretch lace, elastic or ribbon

1 ft. strip of fabric

*Misc. decorations (ie feathers, glitter, paint, silk flowers, etc.)

*optional

Step 1: Figure out what kind of wings you want to make. You’ll want to make sure that in your design there is either a cross bar (like an X) or at the very least a bar that will be able to be flat against your back. The easiest way to make fancy wings is to cut multiple lengths of wire (2 of each length) and make one big X to start.

Step 2: Secure the wires together with floral tape until your wings are one piece. This is the framework for the cellophane.

Step 3: (this is the daunting part) Wrap floral tape around ALL of the wire. Why? Well, it improves the integrity of the wire and it softens any sharp, pointy bits where you cut the wire (so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else).

Step 4: When you *finally* get all of your wire wrapped roll out your craft cellophane and cut out a rough shape of the actual “wing” part for both sides (lay your wings on top of the cellophane and trace about 1″ around the wire (or more depending on your design) where the “wing” part is – don’t worry about the cross bar).

 Step 5: Get your glue or spray adhesive and glue the wrapped wire to the cellophane on both sides and let dry.

Step 6: When your glue dries warm your iron to a low, dry setting (like Nylon) and iron the cellophane. It will wrinkle and crinkle (that’s what you want!) and kind of melt together a little. Make sure you iron both sides and get all of the edges and around the wire.

Step 7: Trim any other excess you want to trim off.

Step 8: Light your taper candle (or use a lighter) and “lick” burn the edges of the cellophane to seal the edge and give it a slightly wavy or tattered look. **Make sure to do this in a well ventilated room – and if you feel the need to – wear a respiratory mask**

Step 9: If you want your wings to look a little more tattered (this is optional) light a stick of incense and you can burn little holes in the wings. Also, if there are any parts of your wing where you accidentally burned past the wire (and you have gaps) just glue them back together.

Step 10: Add your arm bands/harness by tying the stretch lace, elastic or ribbon in a loop around the back piece (for arm holes) or if you’re looking to have four pieces (to tie either around the chest or arms) just tie one end at the crossbar.

Step 11: Wrap the piece of fabric around the crossbar (and allow the arm bands to peek out) and glue in place.

Step 12: Decorate as you wish!

I will probably have pictures up of our wings (and of a bunch of other fun things) next week.

After getting the wings finished – I had to address the issue of food. Camping for a long weekend requires being very selective of food since it needs to be able to be stored easily (not a ton that needs refridgeration) cooked easily (fire and a stick) and has good nutritional value (not 6 bags of potato chips).

Luckily, since Garry and I go camping on a regular basis I have this down!

For dinner in the evenings we’re making foil packets. Basically, what you do is take a bunch of your favorite veggies, chop them up along with meat (I’m making chicken for myself and steak for him) and marinade (or sauce, or just olive oil and some spices/herbs) and put it in a foil packet and let it cook over the coals of a hot fire for about half an hour.

The best part about these is that you can make them ahead of time and freeze them (in plastic bags) and pull them out as you need them. They also store really well as long as you have plenty of ice (which thankfully we will – if we didn’t then I’d suggest cooking everything first, then freezing and reheating in a fire).

A foil packet is basically all the veggies and meat wrapped securely in tin foil. I tend to plop everything in the middle, fold up the long sides (and fold the edgest shut) and then roll up the two ends so everything is nice and secure. You also want to make sure you use pretty heavy-duty tinfoil – otherwise it may split and you’ll burn some of your meal.

Another take on foil packets is to make kabobs and roast them on the fire. There’s a local variation on that called spiedies. It’s just the marinated meat and you eat it with italian bread. The marinade is similar to italian dressing, but with a few more ingredients in it (I think more garlic). If you want to check it out for yourself two very good brands are *Lupo’s: www.spiedies.com, and *Spiedie and Rib Pit: www.spiedieandribpit.com

*I was not paid by either company for an endorsement, they just happen to be two local companies that have particularly tasty spiedie marinade

For breakfast – there is nothing that beats peanut butter toast in my mind. Bread and peanut butter also store really well (so long as you keep them out of too much heat, but they don’t need to be in a cooler) and you can always toast the bread over a campfire. Mmm… melty…

Lunches are easy too – ham and cheese subs. I make them ahead of time and pack them in a large tupperware container. We can add condiments later if need be.

Crackers are great for snacks (if you take them out of the cardboard and put them in a plastic container they won’t get soggy from humidity) as well as the traditional trail mix and granola bars (only if you’re making trial mix and it’s a HOT humid day – do NOT add chocolate chips – they will melt and then you’ll be a sad panda when your granola is a gooey mess – unless you have a spoon – then it’s okay).

Keep in mind, if you’re planning on being very active (ie, hiking) it’s very important to stay hydrated. We usually bring a gallon of water (we have a spigot that we can get water from where we camp so we never really have to worry about good, clean drinking water) and some low-calorie gatorade packets so we can keep our electrolytes in balance. The packets are great becuase they’re lightweight and it’s a little more “earth friendly” than carrying around a ton of plastic bottles of the stuff.

Most importantly (and I see this every so often when we’re camping) is to limit your alcohol intake. Chances are good you’re burning WAY more calories than you’re used to in an average day – so if you’re going to drink, drink moderately! Listen to your body – make sure you drink plenty of water and eat enough protien and carbs. Fruit is another good thing to have with you (so long as it’s kept well out of the heat).

With that – it’s time to start planning my costumes for the weekend. Whee!

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Raspberry Chipolte Ramen

I came up with a new Noodle Night recipe that Garry was a little hesitant about at first, but he ended up really liking it.

I’m a fan of mixing tastes – sweet and salty, spicy and creamy… I love the juxtaposition – hence came the Raspberry Chipolte Ramen.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts (cut into small strips)

1/2 bag of frozen cauliflower

1/2 jar of raspberry preserves (I used the sugar free kind)

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

A few shakes of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Chicken flavored ramen

Directions:

Cook your chicken in a frying pan until just about done. Add cauliflower and cook until done.

Meanwhile set your water to boil for the ramen – cook per directions on packet, but don’t add the seasoning packet.

When chicken and cauliflower is finished – add the raspberry preserves and spices. Stir until preserves liquify into a glaze and coat the chicken and cauliflower. Serve over top of Ramen noodles (make sure to pour a little of the sauce onto the noodles!)

Honestly, this was really good. SO good even that I’m adapting it to make chicken wings tonight for our Crazy Ladies Night.  Normally we don’t do “theme” nights (usually if we do I’m the one that heads it up) and this week we’re doing Wings N’ Wings.

This weekend is the NY State Faery Festival and I’ll be working the front gate for a good chunk of the event. We’re encouraged to dress up and since most of the women from our group plans on either working or attending I thought it would be fun to all make our wings together and eat chicken wings!

I’m going to take the recipe above, but add some honey to it to get a better texture for wing sauce. Should be rather tasty! I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Home Safety

Garry and I fortunate enough to live in a relatively nice neighborhood. Unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen in good neighborhoods.

Yesterday apparently some guy was walking around the property of our apartment building. Garry asked the guy if he could help him, he replied “No.”

A little suspicious, Garry said “I’m the property manager, is there something  I can do?”

The guy said “No” again and walked off at a quick pace behind the house and to the house behind ours.

Garry followed him a little ways, saw the guy dart across the yard and then back up the side of our house. The man got in a truck and Garry wrote down the license plate #.

Weird.

So Garry is really nervous that someone is going to try and break into our apartment building. We’ve started taking more advanced precautions, which even if there’s nothing to worry about – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Things like renter’s insurance is really important to have. If someone breaks in (or if there’s a fire, water damage or anything of the sort) your belongings are covered. Chances are, if someone breaks in they’re going to go for things like tv’s, game systems, computers and jewelry. More than likely they won’t go for your book collections or photo albums.  We signed up with the same company the car is insured with so that gives us piece of mind.

Another thing to do is to have your pets microchipped. I’m not entirely sure on the cost (I don’t think it’s more than $30), but you take your pet to the vet’s office, they’ll inject the microchip into the skin between their shoulder blades. You fill out the information and the vet enters it into a national database. This way, if your pet is ever lost and ends up at an animal shelter or vet’s office, you will be contacted immediately. Most places will have a scanner that picks up the information on the microchip (your name, address and phone number) so they can contact you.

Safe deposit boxes are great for items (like birth certificates, deeds, SS cards and passports) that are difficult – or impossible – to replace. Personally, I keep a copy of my birth certificate at my home, my mother has mine in a safe deposit box in Florida. Luckily, the hospital where I was born is pretty good about printing new copies for you if need be.

A home safe is something I have mixed feelings about. If you bolt it to the floor that’s one thing (a theif can’t run off with all your valuables) – and if there is a fire, flood or some kind of disaster, your valuables will be safe. (ie, heirloom jewelry from 3 generations ago, family photos – also from over 3 generations ago… etc) In this instance I would keep the original photos in the safe and have copies printed (it’s really cheap to do now) to put in the house. That way you never have to worry about losing those photos forever.

A dog is another good home protection measure – that is, if you’re a dog person and would be so inclined to own a dog anyway. I get a little annoyed when people say “I got a dog to protect my house” instead of “we got a dog, he’s part of our family and also happens to be a good watch dog.”

I can say that by taking these precautions I feel a lot safter in my home.

Rolly polly fish heads…

The office is buzzing today – not because there’s a lot of work to be done, but that it’s our sort-of annual Fish Fry.

My boss goes on a fishing marathon and brings back a ton of fish to fry for our entire staff. People bring in side dishes and we play Jimmy Buffet music and generally have a good afternoon.

Today the weather is bright and sunny. It’s not too hot either. It’s really perfect for this sort of thing.

Unfortunately, I’m allergic to fish. Yeah, it sucks. But there will be plenty of other food for me to eat, so I’m not too upset about it.

What goes in a sausage

It’s funny how Garry and I learn new things about each other all the time. We figured at this point we know each other almost better than we know ourselves, but yet little tid-bits creep in and either of us is standing back, baffled that we didn’t know that scrap of information before.

Take yesterday. I made Italian sausages with some rice and sauteed peppers and onions – nothing fancy or exciting. But I LOVE Italian sausages. They are quite tasty. Garry even went with me to the store when I bought them.

As we’re eating dinner he made a face and looked at me “Are these turkey sausages?”

“No, why?”

“Oh… well, these taste funny.”

*Perplexed look* “They taste like Italian sausage”

“I don’t really like Italian sausage”

“Why?”

“I dunno, it tastes like an overspiced hamburger.”

*looks at the inside of the sausage and discovers – fennel*

We’ve pretty much figured it out that he doesn’t like fennel. At all. Anything with fennel in it he won’t eat. Oh well, more Italian sausage for me!

Tonight Garry and I are meeting up with my friend Derek and a bunch of people I went to high school with over at a local pub. Derek is in town from Florida and he’s performing (he’s a fantastic musician) for a benefit for his best friend (another one of our classmates) that passed away last year. It should be a good time – especially seeing everyone I haven’t seen in years. Or maybe not… I do weigh a good 50lbs more than I did in high school.

When I got home yesterday I realized that my calendar for June is just about completely full. I think I have like 4 days the rest of this month that I don’t have something planned.

Of course, that means that cooking anything exciting or fun is almost out of the question until July. *grumble*

However, I do have a project that I had put on hold for a while because this/that or the other thing got in the way, I got too busy and now – mostly because I’m already almost too busy to even sleep at night (I slept through my alarm this morning and was almost late to work today because  I was so tired) I figured now was the time to pick up this set-aside project and get it finished so it’s not looming over my head.

 A year ago last April my brother got married. It was my intention of putting together a cookbook of family recipes, putting it together in Adobe InDesign, writing up an intro and all sorts of stuff, making it pretty, printing it and then giving it to them as a wedding present.

Well, for one reason or another I ended up not being able to finish the book. Not wanting to go empty-handed I bought them “the Joy of Cooking” which I heard is like one of the best cookbooks out there – especially for beginners. It explains how to do everything in that book – and frankly, I was tempted to buy two copies that day – one of which to keep for myself.

So the Hall Family cookbook was set aside for a time being because after my brother’s wedding my then-boyfriend Dave and I broke up, Garry moved back to Binghamton and we started seeing each other again. (Another very long story for a different day)

I’ve realized a few things since I decided to take up the project.

1. As much as I love working in InDesign – I think I might want to stick to something a little less complicated.

2. I might end up wanting to print out more of these and give them to family members as presents – so I can’t gear it directly to just Brian and Lisa.

3. I think I’m learning how to delegate a little more with our handfasting coming up – so having someone help with the project is a good idea.

I found this site: http://www.blurb.com/create/book/cookbook-new?ce=google_cook&gclid=CMCrl47-2p0CFWRB5godT24xtA a while ago that helps you set up a cookbook and then you can order it through their site. Maybe that’s a good idea. I’ll have to check it out.

Have any of you made your own family cookbook before? What are some of the things (or recipes) that should be included in every cookbook (other than a good bread recipe)? I’m planning on adding little stories to go with the recipes (if there are any – not all of them will have stories).

Appetizers

Mmm… I love appetizers. Although, sometimes I go a little overboard with them and end up eating them for my main meal (they’re so good sometimes I forget there’s a meal coming), but I hardly ever regret indulging.

The other day someone in our office was making little appetizers for a meeting and they looked particularly delicious and suddenly I found myself wishing I was going to that meeting.

Honey-Apple Brie Bites

1 lemon

1 C toasted walnuts

2 medium baking apples

1/4 C honey

1 4″ round Brie or Camembert cheese w/ rind

2 pkg prepared mini phyllo shells (should be 30 shells total)

Preheat oven to 400F, zest lemon (about 1 tsp). Coarsely chop walnuts and finely dice apples – combine zest, walnuts, apples and honey.

Cut the cheese (hahahaha!!) into 30 1/2″ cubes and arrange in phyllo cups on a large baking sheet. Place one brie in each cup and top off with a small scoop of apple mixture. Bake 6-8 minutes  or until brie is melted.

Tell me that doesn’t make you drool?!

It only makes about 30 minutes to make too. Mmm this may be something I make for Crazy Ladies Night!