Thursday, March 27, 2008

My house is nu-cu-ler

I titled this post just to annoy my husband, who cringes every time he hears someone say "nu-cu-ler" instead of nuclear. It absolutely drives him batty. *grin*

Last night, this dear nu-cu-ler man of mine came home with a ton of chocolate. I asked him to stop in Walgreen's on the way home to pick up some coke (which they were OUT OF... THE NERVE!!! I'm down to one can of coke. This is dangerous territory, people.) and a little chocolate, and he came home with an entire shopping bag full of chocolate. I'm telling you, this man gets me. He brought some dark chocolate, milk chocolate with almonds, some 1/2 off easter candy, and *happy sigh* a bar of Lindt Intense Orange. He said, "See? I read your blog." Well, I read his blog too, so does that mean I should bring home a pink jeep for him?

"That's nice, Crystal, but why is your house nu-cu-ler?" you ask.

Well, see, this week has been very interesting and crazy and between all that stuff and all the tax stuff, my brain has been a weeeee bit scattered. Last night I had a craving for some freshly baked bread with butter and creamy, raw honey (GET SOME, I'm telling you. It's like semi-solid-semi-liquid gold.) only I didn't want to knead and wait hours for bread to rise, so I headed over to one of my favorite food blogs (which is a new addiction of mine. Really. I hog them in my Bloglines and stay up until wee hours of the night reading them, fantasizing about cooking - which I hate - all the food that I will never eat. I don't have issues. I really don't.) and printed out a recipe for whole wheat Irish soda bread. Soda bread is made with baking soda (here is where you say "duuuuuh, Crystal") instead of yeast.

The recipe seemed easy enough, so I went to work. The recipe stated that it would make 2-3 servings, so I originally planned on doubling it. However I forgot, so that didn't happen (which is good, because it really turned out to be 5-6 servings at the least). I measured out my dry ingredients and mixed them all up. I got out my new immersion blender and whipped up some milk (powdered rice milk is a life saver when you haven't been to the grocery store in a week and a half) and was about to pour it in. It was at that moment that I re-examined the recipe and realized that I pulled out the baking powder instead of baking soda. I almost decided to throw in the baking soda anyway, but was afraid that would make things worse so I just left it alone.

I poured in the milk and started to mix. The dough was really wet. I mean, re-al-ly wet. Hmm. Ok. I know it's humid here and that can mess with dough, but it ain't THAT humid. This is when, dear bloggy friends, I saw that I had been using an 1/8 cup measuring cup when I thought it was 1/4 cup. Who does that? Me. These are odd shaped measuring cups and appear to hold much more than they really do, so I easily get confused when I don't actually read the labels on them, and who needs to read labels when cooking? Totally unnecessary. I don't have time for that. I have a business to run!

I dumped in the other half of the flour that should have been there already and mixed some more. I formed the loaf and gently placed it on the cooking sheet and stuck it in the oven with the timer set to 35 mins, as instructed by the recipe. 35 minutes later, bread is not browned yet, so I stuck it back in and set the timer for 10 minutes more.

10 minutes later, bread is STILL not browned. I grabbed my pot holder and pulled out my oven thermometer. "325 degrees! What in the world? It should be 425, not 325. My oven is broken!! No wonder the bread won't cook!" It was at THIS point that I looked at my oven dial and realized I set it 100 degrees too low.

I kicked up the heat and cooked it for another 15-20 minutes or so and pulled it out. It browned nicely, finally, and cooked through, but it took on a funny shape and this weird shape was not unlike that of a mushroom cloud. Now I'm no scientist, but by my calculations, the entire lower half of Texas should be dead by now. Anyone watch the news today?

It was a little crunchy on the outside, but butter and raw honey heals all. Even nu-cu-ler kitchen disasters.

I was going to bake cookies today, but with my continuing scatter-brain episode, I figured I better not or CTU will be beating down my door to confiscate the evidence and high-tail my butt over to Guantanimo.

Although meeting Jack Bauer would be cool.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Things I Love Part 1, Or: Excellent Edibles

I've been thinking a lot lately about things I've recently found and have fallen in love with. I'm tired of my old, boring ways where I stuck with things that were familiar to me. So I've branched out and found some new loves. I thought I might share a few of them with you!

Today, I'll write about a few edible items that really rock my world.

The first is chocolate. In my house, the first is ALWAYS chocolate. *grin* More specifically, the Lindt Intense Orange Dark Chocolate candy bar. Dustin put one of these in my Christmas stocking and I was pleasantly surprised when I first tasted it. LOVE!

Now here is something you should know about me and oranges. I love oranges and love tangerines even more. Orange juice is cool by me, and orange Jell-o is my absolute favorite flavor. Other than those things though, I'm not a huge fan of orange stuff. I am especially not really fond of orange flavored candy. It all tastes so fake (which makes my love of orange Jell-o that much more strange...). This stuff, however, is something to write home about. Or at least blog about. It has real bits of orange in it! They're candied or something. It also has slivered almonds, and almonds always belong with chocolate. I'm sorry, they just DO. When it comes to plain dark chocolate, my favorite will always be Ghirardelli Twilight Delight (SO not a huge fan of Hershey anymore. Sorry, Hershey. I eat you because you're cheap and I can't always buy a Ghirardelli when I need a chocolate fix... but you just ain't all that.) but when I want a little kick in my chocolate pants, the Lindt Intense Orange is definitely my favorite new buy. I just polished off a bar yesterday. *happy sigh*

Next, I'd like to mention another snack, only this one is savory rather than sweet. Move over Triscuit, there's a new kid in town. Blue Diamond Nut Thins are my new favorite cracker!

Now, you might be wondering why on earth I would try a cracker made from nuts and rice. Well, I'm a little nutty for one. *Insert corny joke drum roll here* Also, I suspect that I have some food allergies going on. My mom has several, and I inherited her seasonal allergies for sure, so it really would not surprise me to learn that I also inherited some of her food allergies. I do think that my husband and I both suffer from some food sensitivities, but neither one of us relishes the idea of an elimination diet. I know I feel a little cruddy when I eat a lot of wheat, plus I believe that the standard wheat and corn heavy American diet is unhealthy. It's not good, in my opinion, to rely so heavily on TWO grains when God made a huge variety of wonderful grains from which to choose! (I mean, most people ignore millet even though it is high in iron, and I'm willing to bet you've probably not heard of quinoa which is considered an "ancient grain" even though it's really a seed. It cooks up like a grain though, and has an incredible health profile. Check it out!) Throw in the fact that almost all the corn in our food supply is genetically modified and more people than ever are intolerant to wheat these days
(which, I believe, is probably OUR fault but I'll spare you the rest of my rant on that for now *giggle*), though a vast number of them aren't even aware of it and I think I have a good case for wanting to explore other options.

Enter Nut Thins. I've been a fan of Blue Diamond's Almond Milk for a while, so when I saw their crackers on the shelf of my health food store, I had to try them. They are hands down the best crackers ever. They are light and crunchy and have a very unique flavor. My two favorites are the Pecan and the Almond Cheddar. They're not cheap and each box only has four servings (though I could easily eat a box in two days, no problem!) so I don't get to buy them often. But when they go on sale, we stock up, baby.

Lasty, there is
bison. Yes, bison. Or buffalo. Call it either one, but it's my new favorite meat to cook. Yes, yes, I am still a vegetarian, but my husband unfortunately is not nor will he ever be. Being the wonderful, loving wife that I am (Dustin, *STOP. LAUGHING.*), I do still buy meat and cook it for him very often. I have heard of some vegetarian or vegan wives that do not do this for the meat eaters in their family, preferring the meat eaters stop at the likes of Wendy's or Burger King on the way home "if they want meat". There is just no way I could do that. I care so much more about the health of my man than I do about anything vegetarian or any animal out there (and btw, I'm not vegetarian because of "animal rights" though I do wish our country was much more humane than it is and I do find some common slaughtering practices absolutely abhorrent). So as such, it would be hypocritical of me to take such an action and I choose to instead buy the healthiest meat I can find and afford. Grass fed bison (preferably from an organic farm in northern Texas) fits that bill, and the man likes it too, so that is a definite plus. *grin* My freezer is full of the stuff right now (as well as a variety of organic, grass-fed beef). In case you were wondering why I go for the organic, grass-fed stuff... well, grass is the normal diet of these animals so it only stands to reason that the animals would be healthier eating what they were made to eat. The organic is a no-brainer (no hormones, no routine antibiotics, etc) but truly grass fed beef contains omega-3 fatty acid which we all know is heart (and brain) healthy. Bison is leaner than beef (leaner, even, than chicken some say) and cooks up more quickly too.

So those are my new favorite food finds at the moment. Also worth mentioning are:

*Y.S. Organic Raw Honey If you've never tried creamy, raw, unfiltered honey you are surely missing out. This stuff is so good, it should be a sin.

*Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Ok, so I said that I'm not a huge fan of Hershey, but their special dark baking cocoa is the exception. On Valentine's, my mom and I made our favorite Oatmeal Fudge Drop Cookies and used the dark cocoa instead of regular, and they I also used it to make my mom's birthday cake this year. (If you love a good homemade chocolate cake, you must try that recipe, by the way. Mom's been baking it for years and it is our favorite.) So rich. So chocolately. So DARK. Seriously, the cookies and cake were black. Goooood stuff.

What are your recent edible favorites? I'm always looking for something new, so please do tell!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Do you want fries with that?

If anyone ever tries to tell you it's a good idea to start a business... run. Very fast and very far away from that person. Because I can tell you that they are nuts.

This is now my third year doing taxes as a self employed person. For the first two years, I had a home daycare. Well, truthfully I only did it for about a year, but it was from summer '05 to summer '06, so that makes for two tax years. I have always done my own taxes. Wait, no, that's a lie. My mom used to do them for me. Then I decided to be a big girl and let Turbo Tax do them for me. Last year, however, Turbo Tax would NOT work for me because I was doing home daycare stuff AND new home stuff and my gosh that was the most confusing thing I've ever done in my entire life because for part of the year we lived in an apartment and the other part we lived in our house. So not only did I have to figure up all the tax stuff that goes along with buying a home, I also had to figure out how to divide it between personal and business because with a home daycare, you can take a lot of deductions that you normally couldn't... such as a portion of your rent, utilities, etc etc etc even if you do not have a dedicated space in your home solely for the business based on the percentage of the year you were in operation and blah blah blah blah. Turbo Tax was dumb and would not do something right; I do not remember what. So I did them by hand. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the IRS (who, surprisingly, were very kind and helpful). I wanted to die.

However, all of that pales in comparison to THIS year, as I am figuring tax stuff on a new business that started in 2007 and has thousands of little teeeeeny tiny inventory items. *faint* Do you know how FUN it is to count 2mm beads? Yeah, well, it's so NOT. Not to mention that I did not keep impeccable records in 2007, so I'm spending days... yes DAYS... figuring things out. Literally. This is the first real break I've taken all week. I bought myself some fun new jewelry stuff as a reward. Shhhh. Don't tell. But I can't wait to play with it. It's metal clay. So, like, you know, CLAY... but METAL. And you form it and then burn the heck out of it and it turns into solid silver (which is 99.9% pure as opposed to sterling which is only 92.5% pure, and as such the "fine" 99.9% pure silver does not tarnish hardly at all and is super easy to clean). Doesn't that sound FUN?! Metal CLAY. I mean, can you say genius?

But back to the taxes. I do not pay myself enough to make up for all this time I'm having to spend putting all this stuff together. So if you suddenly see my prices jump up to, say, $1,000 per earring, you'll know why. Just chill. I gotta pay for my metal clay somehow, you know, and that stuff is 'spensive, people.

Life was so much easier as an employee. Thank goodness I have a super smart mom who has done self employed taxes for years and a genius husband with some accounting background or I swear, I'd jump off a cliff. I might anyway though, but if I go, I'm taking my metal clay with me.

Don't worry. Come May, I'll probably be the happy go lucky jewelry business owner again. But until then, I'd kinda almost rather flip burgers. It's a lot easier, that's for sure.

Not that I'm complaining... much.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Now that's what I call faith...

... or foolishness.

Or just a really good bargain.

Take your pick; it could go either way, really.

Whatever you call it, the fact is that Dustin and I bought a crib on Saturday.

Yes, a crib. A baby crib.

... the 100% infertile people... BOUGHT A BABY CRIB. On Saturday. Not yet knowing if we would be accepted into the adoption program.

A 3-in-1 crib in really good condition... for $65. Thank you very much, craigslist!

I found the crib on Thursday. The day we thought we would hear from the agency. No call from the agency, but found a really great crib. Friday, again, no call from the agency. Still a really nice crib. Saturday... agency closed... no call. Still a nice crib. We buy crib, barely squeezing it in my tiny car, and bring it home, hoping that we didn't just waste $65. We figured that if this program didn't work out, we'd still adopt somehow, from some place, and would eventually need a crib. But if not, hey, for $65, we could sell it ourselves and get it all back.

See? A crib. In OUR house. Right beside the Gazelle that never gets used except for as a clothes hanger holder. Hopefully future baby will like to work out because we, well, don't.

And that is the room where the crib now lives. Hopefully eventually it will be a nursery, but right now, it is where our clothes hanger holder workout machine sits, as well as where I throw fold our clean laundry and where my husband irons his work clothes. It is also where Molly sometimes poops. See the carpet cleaner bottle there? Yeah. That's Molly's fault.

So... whether you call it faith, or foolishness, or just a really good bargain, as of Saturday, Dustin and I are now the terrified proud owners of a baby crib.

And oh yeah... the adoption agency called today. Our application got the highest score out of all of them. We're in. :o)

It was scary, but it was funny

So I gotta enter it. I'm talking, of course, about my brush with death that happened when I locked myself in the bathroom.

This Eclectic Life is hosting a writing contest, and I thought, "why not?" so I am entering that hair raising tale that is known to make people just about pee in their pants. It was scary, y'all. So why do people keep laughing?!

Anyway, here is the tale:

And here is info on the contest so you can enter too!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm a bad host!

Sorry Ultimate Blog Partiers, I am a bad blog party host this year! This week has been a bit of a mess for me. For one, I'm in the middle of doing taxes. Doing taxes if you're self employed is NOT fun, especially when you have inventory stuff to deal with. Can you say nightmare??

I'm also in the middle of a new advertising thing. One of my goals this year is to start advertising our business. We've been extremely blessed in that our first year (half year, really, since we didn't officially open until the summer) went really well! Starting any business, especially online and especially in a competitive field such as artisan jewelry, is hard. It's usually a rough start. So we definitely feel blessed that our start up went well! But now that we're settled in and starting to get established, it's time to start growing and you need advertising for that. So this week I have been designing a graphic that will be used for it a coupon thing we're participating in. Since I'm participating, I will have packs of coupons from all sorts of indie companies. These coupons are awesome! Our customers can have the opportunity to get a pack if they want, and maybe I'll send some to my bloggy friends if any of you like to support indie companies. Just let me know.

Let me tell you, this whole advertising thing is very scary to me, even though I'm choosing fairly cheap advertising routes for now. But it's still money invested that you have no idea whether or not it will give you a return. I don't like risks! That's why I don't invest in the stock market. But investing in advertising feels almost as scary as playing the market to me. So it is a big step, and one I hope you will cover in prayer. :o)

I donated a prize to the Ultimate Blog Party list. We're number 147 on the list if you want to check it out.

There are also a billion and one other things going on right now, so I'm very scatter brained at the moment. Lots of stress! Hopefully I'll survive 2008. lol

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ultimate Blog Party '08! Get Yer ParTAY on!

Ultimate Blog Party 2008

Oooh, it's time for another Ultimate Blog Party!! Hosted by none other than the lovely ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom.

I participated last year and had a lot of fun and met some cool people as well. So I figured I might as well join in this year's fun! Are you coming? Check it out! There are a ton of prizes to be given away. Some of my favorites are:

37 — Moby Wrap
117 — $25 Gift Certificate
137 — Go BPA Free Sippy Sampler Kit
84 — Baby Sling
60 — $25 Gift Certificate
140 — $20 Gift Certificate
114 — $20 gift certificate to Lush
91 — Burt’s Bees Naturally Ageless skin care line
59 — $25 Cash
79 — Skin Care Kit
100 — 3 books
101 — Devotional Bible for women
36 — Marketing for Entrepreneurs

As you can see I like gift certificates. *giggle* But if I win anything, I'd be thrilled!

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Maybe I should tell you a little bit about me. I'm just a weird little redheaded Texan girl that likes to laugh. I have a strange sense of humor, thanks to my wonderful husband of 7 years. He can be an odd one, my hubby, but he's a good, strong, intelligent man that I would just be totally lost without. We do not yet have children, but we just started the adoption process and will hopefully be parents sometime this century! We do have two little furbabies that bring us constant laughter...

Trixie, our silly and crazy Shih-tzu mix:

And Molly, our shy but totally lovable Mini Schnauzer mix:

I am a housewife who works plays at home. My wonderful momma and I own a business, called 2 Belles & a Bead. We are jewelry designers/amateur metalsmiths. We absolutely LOVE what we do. I mean, we get to pound, cut, saw, and melt metal and even play with gemstones. What could BE more fun than that?! If you love jewelry or know someone who does, I urge you to check us out. Our prices are good and our pieces are quality. We even have a newsletter! We send it out via email about once a month and being on that list makes you eligible for secret sales and also contests. Sometimes I blog about new pieces and give my readers sneak peaks. Sometimes these pieces are snatched up before I even get to put them on the site! What can I say? My readers have been good to me. LOL :o) I might put together a little prize for this par-tay. What do you say? (Ok, nooo more rhyming for me!)

Other interests of mine are reading and music and food. I write songs and play a little guitar. I've shared some of my lyrics on here in the past. I love talking about food and photographing it, but I don't like cooking it and a lot of times, I don't like eating it! I wish I could get all necessary calories in pill form. That would make my life so much easier. :o)

I love God and He sure has been taking me on an interesting journey the past few years. It's been a tough one, but I think He's dragging leading me through.

I get myself into some kooky situations and you, my dear readers, get the pleasure of reading about it! I have no shame. I blog about embarrassing things, *and* I'm known to make people lose control of bodily functions because apparently I make them laugh a lot. So, read at your own risk things such as when I locked myself in the bathroom... naked and how I called a grooming device a sick freak.

So anyway, that's me! All 5 ft, 80 lbs of me. Welcome to my insanity, errrr, blog. *grin* Pull up a chair, grab a chocolate chip muffin (I JUST made them yesterday - and they.are.GOOOOOD. Maybe I'll be nice and share the recipe this week!) and have yourself a good old time!

Signs that you are too bored for your own good...

1.) You use your cellphone camera to take a photo.
Of your feet and toes.
It takes you 5 minutes to figure out how because you never use the camera on your phone.

2.) You send said photo of feet and toes in a text message to your husband's phone which is with him, working out of town.
This also takes you a while because you rarely "text".

3.) You try to think of "texting lingo", you know, the "IDK, my BFF Jill" stuff that you see on TV, so your message can be cool and hip.
All you can remember is "IDK, my BFF Jill" and realize you're too old for "texting lingo".

4.) You settle for "Luv U" and are happy with your mad spelling and grammar skillz, yo.

5.) You anxiously await a reply, hoping it does not include feet. Because who does weird stuff like that, anyway?

6.) You think that this is news interesting enough to write about on your blog AND a public forum.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We have babies!

Baby plants, that is. Eeeety bitty seedlings!

I'm always amazed when I watch plants grow from seeds. It's such a cool process! I mean, that little tiny seed turns into a nice, fruiting plant. How in the world do people fail to believe in a Creator?

Our tomatoes are growing nicely:

We have little squash plants!

A few little cucumber seedlings:

And look at all these future green beans!

I'm told by my gardening expert (aka "dad") that we will have to get rid of some of these, probably. But ooh, aren't they super cute?

In other news, I seem to have developed a strange aversion to cheese. This is not a good thing since cheese is a good source of calories, fat, and protein for me.
I usually LOVE cheese and eat it every day. But eeeewe, it grosses me out lately. I think my body is telling me to become a vegan... and that just makes me want to cry!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Chick Has Issues

It's 3:30 in the morning, and what is Crystal doing?

Freaking out over fabric for crib bedding for a child that is probably not yet even conceived and for which she is definitely not yet approved! Emailing fabric graphics to friends, hoping they will shoot her and put her out of her misery.

Do you know how hard it is to find gender neutral bedding that doesn't make me want to barf?

"Ok, we'll just make it", she says. Then she looks at multiple fabric websites and again wants to barf. She is now freaking out, worried that her not-yet-even-existent yet child will never know the joys of a beautiful nursery. Upset that the one fabric she does love is out of print. Out of print!? Popular fabric... out of print. In what universe does that make sense? Oh,
the NERVE!

Yes, yes. Chick has issues.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Metal Head

I'm all over the place emotionally this weekend, so I will spare you that and just show you jewelery instead. That's always more interesting anyway, is it not?

Here are a couple of new things I made this week. Nothing spectacular, but sort of fun nonetheless!

You can tell I've been having a lot of fun with my new disc cutter. That baby has been putting in a lot of time.

Here is one disc necklace. It matches the earrings I posted a few weeks back. It has sterling silver, copper, and brass. (All of our metals are solid and lead-free, by the way.)

Similar materials, different style. This one has red brass instead of yellow. There's not much of a difference, but you can tell in person. Red brass has a higher copper content than yellow brass does, giving it a very slight rose-ish hue. This necklace is shown on leather, but I will be selling it with the option of a sterling silver chain too, like the previous necklace. It looks neat on both, and either way you go it makes a statement.

Lastly, my new favorite pair of earrings. These are copper discs stamped with a little lotus flower. Isn't it cute?? I'm working on a matching necklace right now. :o)