Chocolate Chip Scones

ingredients

I honestly haven’t been doing much baking since I landed in this new apartment last year. The oven has baffled me. Because I’m a pretty good baker. Since I learned to drive, I’ve spent every christmas helping my grandmother – who is the best baker I know who doesn’t own a bakery, her older sister being the only person to come in at a tie with her – make our family kolachi and cookies and generally learning the “tricks of the trade.” After ten years of this – and I don’t mean to sound cocky or full of myself even though I’m about to – I know what I’m doing. Or at least I did.

Except now, in this new oven, everything I bake burns. And I don’t mean “gets a little too brown,” I mean charred to a solid black on the bottom. Even the bottom of my pumpkin pies managed to burn when I made them this past thanksgiving. And that seriously NEVER happens.

dry ingredients

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried reducing the suggested cooking temp, thinking maybe my oven isn’t calibrated properly. I’ve tried recalibrating it. I’ve tried all the tricks my grandmother gave me for figuring out where the “hot spots” are (turns out its the WHOLE OVEN). I’ve tried using different pans, greasing them, not greasing them, using tin foil, not using tin foil… I haven’t used parchment paper mainly because if it can scorch scones the way it has (at a LOWER temp than they’re supposed to go in, and for less time!) I’m afraid it’ll start a fire!

cut in the butter

So I haven’t been baking nearly as much as I used to – which is a shame, because for the first time in my life I have a KitchenAid Mixer, so it would be faster than ever. But every once in a while I miss it so much that I give it another shot. This time I whipped up some Chocolate Chip Scones using this recipe.

Overall, the recipe is a fine one – they turned out delicious. Except for the charred to a crisp bottoms. Again. But we just ate around that and they were lovely. Not quite as flakey as I’d have liked – they’re a little more cookie like in texture once baked for whatever reason, but still delicious. If it wasn’t for my oven being bizarre, I’d have ended up with A+ baked goods.

Out to cool

If anyone has any suggestions as to other ways I can attempt to solve this oven problem, please please please let me know!

Arts on the Square

Arts on the Square Sign

Saturday me and the boys drove down to Scranton (NEPA’s largest major city center) to attend the 2nd annual Arts on the Square, which is essentially a gigantic craft fair that wraps all the way around Scranton’s Courthouse Square. The event is organized by ScrantonMade, a group that does an amazing job promoting the arts in the area and which has made some amazing strides in the last couple years.

I hadn’t known about the event before a few weeks ago when my favorite etsy store, Tiny Galaxies (who’s owner I just happen to know and love to pieces – I promise the fact that it’s my favorite is unrelated to this fact – you’ll understand when you see what I bought) posted that she was going to have a booth there this year. So we, not knowing much about Arts on the Square, decided to head down to see her figuring that after we stopped by and said hello that we’d walk around a bit, grab some brunch, and make a nice little afternoon of it.

scranton courthouse

Well, let me tell you – a beautiful afternoon it turned out to be, and I was quite impressed with the event. The weather was perfect, they had a TON of amazing venders, some great live music, and it was just a really great time overall.

panda chalk drawing

The Pop Up Studio was handing out free sidewalk chalk for people to decorate the sidewalks, resulting in everything from the cute to the sublime to grace the sidewalks of the square, and there was yarn bombing on lamp posts, benches, and my favorite: the historical markers.

Yarn Bombed Historical Marker

Two of my favorite things: yarn and history. How can you go wrong?

But anyway, onto the really good stuff: What I bought! My main intent when we went down was that I was going buy a pair of earrings from Sara at Tiny Galaxies, and nothing more, but instead of one pair I ended up walking away with three BEAUTIFUL pairs, plus some other stuff.

So I wasn’t really a good girl Saturday. But it’s okay, because my financial situation is finally looking up and I’ve actually got some money to burn… or at least that’s what I told myself.

But whatever my justification, I don’t feel bad about it. Because, well, just look at these beauties!

fine silver earrings by tiny galaxies

First these lovely Fine Silver earrings – a pair of which I’ve been wanting basically since we met Sara and I found out about the store. They’re like the perfect everyday work earring for me. Formal but still simple, and sparkly without being too super dressy. You can find similar in gold here.

glitter orbs by tiny galaxies

Next are these awesome multi-color glitter globe earrings. These are her biggest size at about 8 mm, and these are just my absolute favorite. I have several pairs of these in my collection already, and they’re basically just the perfect everyday earring. I’m particularly pleased with this pair because they’ll go with pretty much everything and anything.

Black and gold big dangly earrings by tiny galaxies

And then the last pair of earrings are these big black and gold danglies. I’ve been looking for a new pair of concert earrings for forever – it’s hard to find black earrings that really stand out and sparkle without ending up distracting to the audience – and these will be just perfect. While I definitely CAN wait for concert season to be upon us again, I really can’t wait to wear these.

Along the way as we walked around and left Sara to her sales, I also picked up two things for my office – a ScrantonMade mug and a hand painted matryoshka. The mug, I just couldn’t not – it’s so cute, I’m a big sucker for anything with the PA map on it, and ScrantonMade is definitely the kind of organization I want to support. As for the matryoshka – apparently there’s a Russian Art Gallery in Scranton! Who knew? It’s hand painted, and comes from Igor’s Russian Art Gallery (which doesn’t have a website). She’ll have a lovely new home in my office, where astoundingly, even after 4 years, I still don’t have a matryoshka. May not be astounding to anyone else, but, well, matryoshki have been a decorating constant in my life since, well, forever.

mug and matryoshka

Overall, Arts on the Square was an amazing time. And I’ll definitely be stashing more money and carving out the day for next year’s event!

Motivation

Just a (very) quick update to let everyone know what I’ve been up to. This week I’ve been…

motivational penguin

…planning: for the semester! I’ve let myself get very caught up in course planning this past week. My schedule is a little different this semester – one of my courses is a longer class period than I’m used to, so I’ve got quite a lot of lecture shuffling and schedule adjusting to do on top of the usual revising I do every year.

…working on: a few more text-heavy posts for here. They always take me a little bit longer to write because of the obsessive compulsive drive to revise anything eight billion times. (I really should know better by now – one of my bad writing habits is that I often revise pieces to death, and they end up a bit worse for it. Been fighting this fight since college). I’ve got a few school-themed posts, and also a few book review posts in the works.

…feeling: Excited but the teeniest bit anxious for the impending start of the semester! The closer it creeps, the more butterflies I get in my stomach thinking about it – but it’s a good nervous. A rush that’s both exhilarating and a little scary. The kind of adrenaline spike that I always figured musicians who were actually meant to be musicians felt before a big performance. It’s how I know that teaching is really what I’m meant to do.

You guys up to anything exciting?

(Motivational Penguin GIF from Chibird on Tumblr – clicking will take you to her original post)

Sheeptastic Egg

sheep egg

Today I have an egg I did a while back with the intention of gifting it to my LYS owner, but alas, it was not meant to be. It just turned out with too many mistakes. I ended up with some dye leakage underneath the wax for some reason – you can see it in the middle of the photo above. That pattern was supposed to mimic the look of a knitted fabric, but something happened somewhere along the way. Maybe my wax application hadn’t been thick enough (although my grandmother is able to use the thinnest lines I’ve ever seen and they stick through several dye baths), or… well, actually I don’t know. I have absolutely no idea why that could have happened.

Sometimes this art is maddening.

But anyway, it ended up being some pretty good practice for a variety of designs, and a great test of some new ones I’d never used. I’m not 100% pleased with how the faux-knit design worked, and I’m also not crazy about the way the sheep came out – it was one of those motifs that actually looked 1000x better in the wax. But there are some great things about this egg too. Among the things I’m pleased with: the evenness of the wave motif, the sectioning, and the bottom as a whole.

Sheep egg bottom

Hopefully I’ll have some new eggs to share soon and can stop showing off all this old work – working on pysanky has generated some unique problems now that I’m in a non-airconditioned top floor apartment. So here’s hoping I figure out how to combat them so that I don’t have to wait for the weather to cool down… because that’s going to be a while!

Filling Empty Wall Space

I’ve been on a home-dec kick lately. Or rather, I’ve been on a home-dec kick on PINTEREST lately. Because actually decorating the apartment requires money – at least a little – and money is exactly what I should not – no, CAN’T – spend right now.

But anyway, I’ve been specifically concerned lately about our surplus of empty wall space. There’s just a lot of white, blank walls in our apartment, and it’s starting to get to me a little bit. So I’ve been looking for ideas about how to decorate using as little money as humanly possible, and Pinterest (of course) came through in spades. I figured I’d share some of my favorites with you too! Links and images will take you to the original site – if that wasn’t available the links will take you to my pin.

clothes pin picture hanging via voyanges of the creative variety
A lovely photo display using twine and clothespins via Voyages of the Creative Variety

crochet potholder collection via maker mama craft blog
A great use for crocheted potholders – vintage or newly made – as seen on Maker Mama’s 7 Thrifty Collections Post

embroidery hoop photo frames via country living
Turning embroidery hoops into picture frames with this tutorial by Jessica Marquez on Country Living.com

embroidery hoop pinboards
More embroidery hoop cleverness by turning them into pinboards – the literal kind!

framed coins
Framing foreign coins would be great way to display all those extra yuan I have from my trip to China in college, and all the various pocket change my dad always saved me from his work trips abroad when I was little.

framed scrapbook paper
Framing some favorite scrapbook paper as art might work well – maybe adding some stenciled silhouettes to some of them might work too?

shopping bags as art on Ladolcevitablog
Framing designer shopping bags as art might also be kind of cool – although it’s not like I have a surplus of these… I do still have my little Tiffany bag from a high school graduation present though, so maybe as part of a larger framed gallery collage?

skirt hanger art via Mad in Crafts
Using wooden skirt/pants hangers as art hangers as seen on Mad in Crafts might work well above my bed – bonus, you can swap out the art whenever you want!

yarn scrap art via easy makes me happy
And last but not least: using up that big bag of yarn scraps I have by making a wall hanging like this one on Easy Makes Me Happy might be just the ticket, and would certainly free up some space in my yarn box.

Do you have any cheap, easy, but cool wall decoration ideas? If so, please do share!

Mani Monday: Deborah Lippmann Across the Universe

Across the Universe

So last week I helped my mom take our big galoot of a labrador, Rusalka, to the vet for her annual check-up. She’s a lab, and she’s highly excitable and STRONG. It always helps to have an extra body on hand for these things, particularly if the vet ends up with an emergency and we end up having to wait a little bit longer than our usual five minutes.

Well, guess what happened? The vet ended up with not one but TWO emergencies around our appointment time and we ended up waiting for almost an hour with our big, strong, and by that point completely cracked out blonde lab. She was drooling, panting, and getting so ramped up about being at the vet’s that she started walking backwards – which signifies that she’s whipped herself up to the point of giving herself intestinal distress. To make matters worse, there also seemed to be an excess of little dogs around waiting that day. She’s good with dogs her own size, but absolutely TERRIFIED of little dogs for some reason (We’ve always been baffled by this – she could squish them like bugs if she wanted to…). So she spent the hour alternating between frantically pulling at the leash trying to hide behind us or in between our legs, and throwing all 125 lbs of muscle (and a little bit of chub) at the door in an attempt to escape whenever it would open.

Overall, not fun. Not fun at all. My arm was sore for days from holding onto the leash.

Plooper
She looks so well behaved, doesn’t she? She’s a master of deception, I tell ya.

Well, anyway, apparently sometime over the course of the day my mom and I had been talking about nail polish, and I had mentioned the fact that I’ve been lusting after Deborah Lippmann’s Across the Universe for years. I don’t even remember mentioning it, or what in conversation brought it up. But apparently it happened, because Saturday as I was sitting on the couch having some lunch, my phone rang and it was my mom telling me that she had picked me up a bottle as a thank you for enduring that hellish vet visit with her.

Because misery loves company… and nail polish.

As soon as I got my hands on it, I immediately gave it a shot. Overall, I love love love it. It’s sparkly, and squishy, and basically designed to automatically produce a jelly sandwich. It’s just gorgeous.

There are two big cons, however. First of all, this is not a polish you want to use if you’ve got shit to do in the near future, because it took 4 coats (5 on one or two nails) to be opaque. I sort of expected this, since that’s kind of the price you pay for the jelly sandwich effect, but the mani still took literally all night to fully dry. Also, it’s better on this one if you let every coat dry completely before doing the next coat – otherwise your potential for dents is astronomical.

Second con is that it doesn’t look the greatest in direct sunlight. Because of the dark dark base, this is a polish that definitely shines brightest in the shade/indoors. That’s where you really get the depth and squishiness, and where the glitter really sparkles. Direct sunlight leaves it looking sort of mottled – so this is a color much more suited to winter manicures.

Both of these downsides were things I had been expecting however, so I consider this one an A+ as far as I’m concerned.

Across the universe closeup

Torn…

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

So yesterday I went grocery shopping, and as I was passing by the book section in our Wegman’s (love Wegman’s) I ended up spending literally 10 minutes fighting with myself about whether to buy and read The Fault in Our Stars. I kept picking it up, and putting it down again. Picking it up, reading the back cover, and putting it down again. Picking it back up, putting it in my cart, walking three steps before shaking my head and putting it back.

In the end I ended up leaving without it because I remembered my no-book pledge and forced myself to just walk away. But I’m still torn about reading this book.

See, it’s everywhere. The internet loves it. My friends who have read it love it. And these are all the same friends who loved the Hunger Games and revile the Twilight saga* – so I trust their taste. The movie got rave reviews. Everything I’ve seen and read say it’s a great read. And I like John Green.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know if reading this book is going to be worth the emotional trauma for me. Because I know what happens in the end. And I know what the book is about, and honestly it pushes some emotional buttons for me I’m not sure I’m ready to have pushed.

Because see, I’ve mentioned a number of times since starting this blog that 2013 was a horrible year for me and my family. That’s because a very very very close family member (not specifying relationship for the sake of their privacy) got a cancer diagnosis last year. It was caught super early, and looks to have been taken care of surgically, thank god. In fact as of May, they’ve passed the 1 year cancer-free mark, but we’re still dealing with constant terror that comes along with every subsequent check up, CAT scan, PET scan, and doctor’s appointment.

And so I’m torn. I both want to read The Fault in Our Stars and want to avoid everything and anything having to do with it. Part of me thinks reading it might be therapeutic. Part thinks it’s just going to be too triggering. And there’s yet another sadistic part of me knows it’s going to be triggering but wants to read it anyway.

And so I reach out to you, blogosphere – those of you who read it, what do you think? Worth the trauma? Does it deal with the cancer thing well and sensitively? Basically, is it worth the flood of tears I know it will cause?

*sorry Twilight fans – I gave it a try when it first came out – I really did – but, well, yuck.