Friday, December 14

Giveaway open!

Entry Form is officially up and active! I'm experimenting with this entry form style so I need your feedback and let me know how you feel about it. Just go to this link and you can enter into the drawing. Contest closes on January 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm est. There winner will be drawn on January 16, 2013 and announced on January 18, 2013. The winner will also be contacted by email where I will confirm the winners choice of prize and where to send your wonderful prize. The winner will be chosen by listing all participants in an excel doc, randomly ordering the list, assigning numbers and using a random number chooser. I am also allowing for extra entries when you share my blog on facebook or pinterest or whatever platform is your favorite! I'm allowing up to 4 entries per person. Good Luck!

Moving on from the giveaway, I really need to find some good new music. Some music that will convince me to continue tearing through my yarn. It's getting difficult to come up with everything to make or what yarn to use. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I need some new jam.

Busy day, that's all for now. Holiday fun post soon! Follow me at thehappymountaineer on instagram for daily pictures. Subscribe, comment with feedback, and share! Don't forget to enter into the giveaway!

Wednesday, December 12

How to Dominate Some Soup

Soup is delicious and nutritious. Soup making is one of the bedrock skills of the kitchen world. Thing about that is a lot of people seem to skip that lesson somewhere along the line. I have been cooking for years, basically since I was old enough to start helping in the kitchen, but I never really learned to make soup. I never thought that it was an important thing for me to learn to make and I always assumed that I would be able to just do it like I was able to just know how to make most of everything else. My grandma makes soup like nobody’s business, growing up I got used to having all kinds of soups and stews all the time. Whether my grandma made a fresh pot for that nights dinner or had made one earlier and frozen it we almost always had soup around. Now let’s get to how to dominate some fantastic soup. 

First off you need to get your cooking apparatus. A larger pot with handles on the side and a good solid lid is what you’re looking for. Stainless steel is good, it’s light but sturdy and is an excellent material for radiating heat. The best soup pots are taller than they are wide and have a thicker bottom than sides. This allows for better heat transfer and convection. Now that you have your apparatus, let’s get started. I am going to run through how I make a basic  fresh vegetable soup. This will just give you an idea how to put it together. After the recipe I will have a run-down of the basics to keep in your kitchen to be conducive to a soup making environment.

What you will need:
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 cups Leeks - chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 cups carrots - peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups potatoes - peeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh green beans - broken into smaller pieces
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 ears fresh corn - kernels removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1-2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice - or the juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper

Keep in mind that you can use frozen or canned vegetables. For the posterity of this fresh vegetable soup I am using all fresh. First things first, get your pot over some medium-low heat and add your olive oil. Slosh it around a bit and make sure to get all of the bottom of your pot, as soon as it starts to ripple you can throw in your leeks and garlic as well as a pinch of salt to pull out some of that moisture. These are your aromatics. They have the strong full-bodied tastes and will enhance the flavor and experience that your soup puts across. Let those aromatics soften up and get to work. Once they are soft we can go ahead and add the first wave of veggies. We’re going to start with the harder veggies. The ones that need a little longer to cook and to soften up. Get your carrots in there, potatoes next and then the green beans. Now, since these are all foods that contain a little bit of sugar, they will benefit from the added heat. Go ahead and kick it up to medium and let them cook for four or five minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Time to add so liquidy good-ness. Add your broth, whether it be homemade or store bought is up to you, and there is no shame in using store bought. The soup will be fantastic either way. Stir that beast up and kick that heat up to high. We’re aiming for a simmer here, keep stirring! 

Once you have attained a simmer then it’s time for you to let the second wave of veggies to join the party. Now the way that I add the rest of the veggies is using a strainer spoon. The reason that I use the tool is for safety. It is much safer to slowly lower the veggies in to the hot soup than to just dump them in causing the hot liquid to splash. Get your tomatoes in to the hot mess and then the corn kernels. Now is the time to add your pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon should be good, but season to your taste. If you want to add any other seasonings then now is the time to do it. About now you should also check your veggies. We’re aiming for “fork tender” which means that the vegetables yield to a fork, but they don’t fall apart. Finally, the last minute seasoning. Get some parsley in there to brighten up the flavor a bit and then the juice from one lemon, or about 1-2 teaspoons, to bring up the acidity. And that’s it. Serve and eat or portion out and store by freezing it. There you have it, an easy and super yummy fresh veggie soup that is very healthy!

While fresh is always better, there are some corners you can cut and there are things that you can always have in your pantry so that you can whip up a soup quick if need be. Now you should always have some broths around, or the makings of broth. Make it whatever type of broth you like working with the most. I always kept vegetable broth and chicken broth around. Now from time to time when I would find myself without my chicken broth I would just make my own. Whether I would end up using leftover chicken or just making a broth with chicken base would depend on what else I was making that week. Beef broth is also a good one to keep around. What you keep on hand will depend on your kitchen, cooking style and your family’s taste. Next, you should always have certain spices in your spice cabinet such as cumin, chili powder, curry powder, and the like. Spices that are essential to specific soups like chili or curried wild rice.

Next you should always keep some dried beans on hand. Play around and see what beans you like the most and keep them in your pantry. They stay good for long enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about having them on hand. Next is barley. It’s an ingredient that can add the extra special something and can give your soup or stew that little extra body that it needed. It can also be used as a thickening agent in place of beans, rice, or noodles. On that note, you should always have some rice and noodles on hand. I always kept rice around because it is one of my absolute favorite side dishes and it is also one of my favorite foods in general. I always had a big bag of jasmine rice and I also would have some regular white or brown rice around if the jasmine rice wouldn’t work for a dish. It’s usually a good idea to keep some noodles, of your choosing, in your pantry to use in your soups and because they are just nice to have!

Now, the next few things I am going to say that you should have around is up to you and the way you cook. I like having some frozen and canned veggies around all the time just because I usually decide that there is a vegetable that I would like to have as a side or would like to add to something at the last minute and I can’t be running to the market for every little thing. Fresh veggies are better, heck you can even save extra veggies that you prepped for other meals and had too much of and through in a soup at the end of the week. And last but not least you should keep some meats in your freezer that you can use for soups, stews, casseroles and the like. I would usually keep chicken breast and some beef chunks in the freezer. Go with whatever meats talk to you and you feel most comfortable making. 

The best thing about soups? It is an awesome starter recipe for kids. Kids should be started in the kitchen young, and soups are something that is straightforward and can be easily taught to children. You can start them stirring or chopping or even breaking up the green beans if they are still too young to be handling a knife. Cooking with kids is an entire post all on its own though! So go, make soup and have fun! Play around with the goods that you have hiding in your pantry and your fridge or freezer and see what you come up with. Comment and let me know how your soup goes!

Sorry about going MIA on Sunday and Monday. My schedule got pushed a few days back and I ended up being without internet for a few days so I'm planning on just pushing everything back by a few days. The giveaway will open on Friday and I will have a pretty little link on the sidebar for entry. The prize will be a beautiful shawl or a bath set with soy candle, handmade soap, wash clothes (2) and soap stand. Winners choice. I shall see everyone on Friday with the weekly post and more details about the giveaway. Comment, Subscribe, and share! Hope you're all having a good week!

Monday, December 3

December Already?! and a Giveaway!

November was a busy month for me, especially the end of it. My birthday, Thanksgiving, moving out of the old apartment and into my grandparents house, along with getting everything straightened out for school in January. (I'm going back to school in January!) This past week we did all the moving and settling, although I have everything moved for the most part to where it is going to stay I still find myself shifting things from here to there and finding that I need to go and search for something amongst the piles of boxes and other stuff we have in storage. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had shoved into that apartment until I had to get all of it out. Now that we are settled and I have been able to get back to crocheting I had time to  also go through my massive yarn stash.

My yarn stash. Only another crocheter or knitter would understand how easily our yarn stashes can get out of control. I am able to always justify buying yarn too, no matter how much I already have because, hey, I don’t have this shade of purple or I don’t have a yarn that feels quite like this one. And so I come to my point, I am going to attempt a stashbust. I am going to use all of the yarn that I have right now by the end of this month and not buy anymore until January. I can do this!! That picture isn't even close to being all of it! I feel like I need to be going to an Anonymous meeting for my yarn addiction. "Hi, my name is Shaunda and I am addicted to yarn."

Now most of the yarn will be going towards items that I will be listing in my Etsy shop, some of the yarn will be going to Christmas presents and projects that I started months and years ago and need to finish, and the last of the yarn will be going to a special prize that I will be having a giveaway for. Exciting! I will be setting up the entry process and it will go live along with next Mondays post. I will also be unveiling the prize in Mondays post. Along with me cleaning out my stash I am offering a coupon code for my Etsy shop that will be 20% off any item in the shop including special orders. Just enter “STASHBUST12” at checkout for the discount. This coupon code will expire at 11:59 EST on December 31. I will also be adding at least one or two items to my shop everyday as I clear out my stash so if you don't see something you like right away either let me know and I'll see what I can make you or keep checking back. Check out the sidebar for some of the stuff I have in my shop now and for a link to my shop.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. My SO, Joey, and I were lucky enough to have 3 days together and with our family and friends. We ended up having a dinner with both his family and mine and then dinners with friends. It was a very good holiday and birthday, I couldn't have asked for anything better. Not only are we finishing up being busy from moving but we are about to get really busy and bustling again with Christmas sneaking up on us relatively quickly. As part of our Christmas we are taking a five day trip out to Boise to see my Dad which I am super excited for. Plus, it will be Joeys first time flying, wish us luck!

Have a good week and I will be back on Sunday with a how-to/recipe for killer soups and Monday with a new post and the beginning of entry for the giveaway. Don't forget to share, pin, comment, or subscribe! I'll see you on Sunday!

Saturday, November 17

New Beginnings

I've been away for a long time, but I've been extremely busy and I apologize for being away. The next two weeks are going to be really busy too. Me and my SO will be moving back to my hometown, I will be getting ready to go back to school in January and we're both going to be finding new jobs.

So while we're busy packing and purging I will also be talking about the moving process and why we're moving this time. We are lucky enough to still be young enough that we are able to fall into our safety net without much worry. We are going to be moving into my grandparents home. They have a guest suite that we will be staying in for a few months or until we are able to get stable and get ourselves picked up. Not only will we be purging a lot of our belongings, we will also be storing the majority of everything.

I don't have much to report in this post other than to explain what is going on and why I've been absent. I've also recently started reading another blog - A Bowl Full of Lemons. It is an organization blog and I am super excited to get moved because I hope that me and my grandmother will be able to go through and organize their home. She seems excited to get started on a new organization system too. Recipe Sundays will also start getting more exciting because I will have my grandma to help me make phenomenal dishes. She has taught me nearly everything that I know about cooking and baking, and she continues to teach me every time that I am over at their house.

These next few months will be a new and interesting experience for everyone involved and I am super excited to see what comes of it. I will try to keep to posting at least once a week with an update or the like. 

Also, to anyone who has known me, and Wilfred, for a while should be happy to know that Wilfred has been found. We can take the pictures off the milk cartons and celebrate now. He will be making many appearances in my blog. He is my traveling hippo and he loves being my model. He has been across the country and to many different events and places. In the next month he will be traveling to Boise with me for the first time, he was missing before I went out to Idaho the first time, and he will enjoy yet another flight on Southwest.
And for people that have never heard of Wilfred before, here is an album of some of his previous exploits. The pictures here include Chicago, Cupertino, Morgantown, and Bruceton Mills (WV). 

I'll be back in a few days! Please follow, share, comment and pin me!

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Thursday, October 18

Random thoughts on Time Travelers and our history

What if history has already been heavily edited by the meddlings of time travelers?

Most people would say this is preposterous. They would point to the Nazis, the Rwandan genocide, the terrors of Mao, etc. and say why would someone with the ability and will to control history allows such evil to exist?

We see the terrors that have existed, and we see them as ultimate evil. Yet we don't see and consider the terrors that our timeline was blessed enough never to encounter.

As I alluded to, the butterfly effect makes any historical revision essentially random. You change the past by merely stepping into it. Travel to 1900, and your very presence there will disturb minute air currents, thus completely changing history's weather. This alone will completely change all of history when you travel to a point significantly far in the past.

As such, temporal modification isn't an exact science. Hell, it's not even an art. It's just going back and hitting a great big "reset" button in the hope that the timeline that results is better than the one that you came from. You re-roll the cosmic dice and hope for a better outcome.

What if our timeline is actually one of the best possible timelines out there?

This sounds unlikely, but think of the twentieth century. The twentieth century saw the end of colonialism and the introduction of truly historic weapons, weapons capable of decimating the entire human population in a matter of hours.

How have often have chemical weapons been used? How often have biological weapons been used? How often have nukes been fired in anger? Compared to every other weapon that has ever come before, these unholy tools of mass death have been used incredibly rarely.

We don't think about biological weapons much, but American and Soviet scientists cooked up some pretty nasty stuff back in the day. Artificial diseases that make smallpox look like the common cold. Yet these weapons have never been used at all.

Sure, we had Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, but the damage could have been a lot worse. Hell, World War Two, as horrific as it was, didn't even reduce the total human population. Even as Stalingrad was raging and Auschwitz was running at full capacity, natural global population growth was still canceling out these horrific atrocities.

What about the conflicts we didn't see?

The first obvious one is the US-Soviet Cold War. In numerous timelines, the Cold War ended with a nuclear exchange of 10,000+ hydrogen bombs, chemical weapons, and plague-tipped missiles. In numerous timelines the USA, the USSR, and their allies suffered 95% population loss from the blasts themselves, radiation sickness, famine, and social collapse.

Another obvious one is if the Germans had won World War Two. Maybe Hitler can finish off Britain before attacking the USSR. Maybe he can somehow invade the USSR first before invading Poland, portraying himself as a grand crusader against Communism. Without a two front war, Nazi Germany takes over continental Europe, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Instead of the Holocaust being remembered as the murder of 12 million Jews and others, it's remembered as annihilation of 200 million Slavs, Russians, and Eastern Europeans. The Jewish deaths are but a footnote.

On even more divergent timelines, atrocities not even comprehensible on our timeline occur.

For instance, imagine a timeline without the world wars. Instead of being smashed as anachronisms, the ideas of colonialism, white superiority, and nationalism only continue to grow. Instead of the British empire disintegrating, they use the full fury of modern technology to preserve their empire.

The Indian independence movement, championed by Ghandi or someone like him, isn't met with reluctant acceptance. Instead, the British decide to simply annihilate the "rebelling savages." In our 1950, this is inconceivable. In an alternate 1950, 400 million Indian civilians are brutally murdered in British VX nerve gas attacks. Survivors are rounded up and taken to death camps very similar to those of our Nazis. The empty subcontinent is then repopulated by settlers from the rest of the Empire.

What about the great French vs Russian Empire War of 1978? In this timeline, the Tzars never fell and Russia modernized. Additionally, Germany never unified and the three major continental powers are France, Russia, and the still present Ottoman Empire. In this war, both sides refine their biological weapons. A cold war develops that eventually becomes hot. The multiple horrific plagues released from by both sides don't stay within French and Russian borders. They spread across the globe and wipe out 99.6% of all human life on Earth. It's like the post-Columbian introduction of European diseases to the New World, but on a global scale, with all the speed of modern transport.

What about the timeline where Japan never allies with the Nazis and attacks the US? In 1947, the Japanese Empire, tired of fighting an endless guerrilla war against the Chinese resistance, decides to take a cue from the Nazis and just flat out exterminate the entire Chinese population. With the US committed to isolationism and all other powers occupied in Europe, the Japanese have free reign in China. Death toll? 600 million innocent Chinese, Mongolians, and Vietnamese in Japanese gas chambers. Etc.

What if our timeline is literally one in a billion? What if our timeline, for all its horrors, is really one of the best possible outcomes? Compared to the global mass death that could have resulted, we actually got off very, very lucky.

TL;DR: Just read it damnit. I had way too much fun with this. =D

Don't forget to share and vote in my Halloween poll! I'll see you all on Sunday!

Sunday, October 14

Recipe Sunday - Lasagna

This week was busy, this week was bustling. I didn't have the time to make a post earlier in the week like I planned but that just means that I have to make this post ten times more worth your while. Sad note: I was too into serving the dish and eating up that I forgot to take a picture of the final product. So let's just imagine the most tantalizing, mouth watering, Garfield worthy pan of lasagna and lets go with that. 

On a side note, this Mountaineer is not happy this week. While I understand that the Mountaineers were really not playing as well as they needed to be and the team was really getting lucky in some instances, we got beat to hell at the Texas Tech game. It's upsetting. Our beautiful number 5 ranking was pulled out from under us and now the team needs to work their asses off to pick up the rest of this season. Moving on to what everyone is here for now, the recipe!!

Lasagna can be a very easy recipe. It can be fun to make but it is a little time consuming. You need to be willing to invest at least an hour or two (maybe three) into the making of this dish. Lasagna is also very rewarding and can leave you with a few days worth of leftovers which are just as good as the day you made it. Me and my little sister/best friend Kelli made this lasagna for 7 people total. Now we also made extra (we made 2 pans) so we would have leftovers after all of us ate our fill. So, knowing that, adjust your ingredients accordingly. And this is not an exact science, mess with it a little. You want a meatier sauce? Add more. You like vegetables? Chop up those bitches and throw 'em in. So let us get this going.

Gather your goods:

  • Box of lasagna noodles
  • 1-2 lbs (or more) of hamburger (turkey burger, etc. Whatever tickles your fancy.)
  • 2 big jars of tomato based spaghetti sauce (Can you say Ragu)
  • Any fresh vegetables that you like i.e., mushrooms, spinach, peppers, onions.
  • 2 cans of diced tomatos, drained
  • ricotta cheese
  • cottage cheese, drained
  • 1 egg
  • dried parsley and any other seasoning that you like to use in your cooking.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Cheese.

Get your oven preheated to 375°. Now while you don't have to do this right at the start, I like to go ahead and get it going because I tend to forget about it until I actually need the oven if I don't. You're going to want to pull out a pan that is big enough to handle the amount of burger that you want to put into your sauce. Or cook your meat in two separate parts. Brown your burger up and season it to your liking.

Get a nice big sauce pot on the stove and dump in the spaghetti sauce, cut up your vegetables in it, and season accordingly. This is the part that you can go wild with, put whatever you want in to your sauce. Want mushrooms? YES! Onions?! uh DUH! Zucchini? Why the hell not?! So now you have your sauce started with red sauce and veggies making sweet love in your pot, is your meat done? Good! Throw that in there too! After you have everything in your pot cover it and let it simmer. When I say simmer, I mean simmer. We aren't trying to cook down the sauce, and we aren't trying to soften the vegetables. Do NOT forget that your sauce will be cooking for over 40 minutes in the oven and you don't want your veggies to be mushy. No one likes mushy veggies.

Now it is time to get your noodles cooked up. Don't you dare use the cheater pre-cooked noodles. That is blasphemy and punishable by death in these parts. Get a box of lasagna noodles and set them in some boiling water. Protip - put oil and salt in your water to make sure that your water doesn't boil over and to lightly season your noodles. Boil your noodles making sure to swish your noodles around every once in a while to make sure they don't stick. You're aiming for al dente noodles. Click the link if you don't know how to do that.

Drain your noodles and place them on a flat surface to cool slightly so that you can begin to assemble. Now is the time to put together your Ricotta cheese/Cottage cheese mixture. Grab a measuring device, heck it can be a spoon for all I care, you just need to be able to have 2 parts cottage cheese to 1 part ricotta cheese and 1 egg. Mix the 3 ingrediants
The way that I assemble is to put a layer of sauce down first, the noodles, then my ricotta cheese mixture, then sauce, cheese, and noodles. Then keep repeating the process. Usually you can get 2 full layers, maybe 3. 

Soo...We're looking at a formula that looks something like this
 (Repeat steps 2-5 until desired amount of layers):

1. Sauce
3. Ricotta mix
5. Glorious Cheese
6. Noodle

Oh yea, I should mention. The more cheese the better.

Cover that bad boy with foil, bake at 375° for 25 minutes then pull it out and rip the foil off like a crazy person. Bake for another 25 minutes. When the timer goes off pull it out and let sit for 15 minutes to set then eat like a king, or queen. 

Makes: This recipe can make anywhere from a single 13x9 pan that will serve 9 to 12 to as many pans that you can stand to bake and will serve a rather large crowd. This exact making served 7 people with leftovers going to 3 separate households. So a good bit.

Rating: 5/5 Credit must go to where it is due, this is my moms recipe and I grew up with it. I love this lasagna. I know a lot of people prefer nothing but meat and cheese and sauce, and some want theirs meatless with no veggies, or tons of veggies. But, whenever I have lasagna I have tons of veggies and tons of meat. No scrimping here.

I'll be back in a day or two for another post and I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. It was gorgeous here despite the mountaineer loss. Vote in my Halloween poll! Only 2 weeks left! Leave a comment and share! Have a happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, October 7

Recipe Sunday - My World Famous Brownies

The seventh day of the week has arrived and so closes another week in our lives. And what does that mean? Recipe Sunday!! *Cheering* I know, I know, I'll take my bow now. And so along with Recipe Sunday comes another of my most closely guarded recipes, my Brownies. If you've never had my brownies, then get ready because I'm not waiting around for you to tie your shoes!

Gather the following:

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of Sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Quick note about your ingredients - Use real sugar - I have yet to find the exact mix of everything to get the same taste without being sinfully unhealthy. While the one time that I did use a sweetner/sugar replacement the brownies turned out good but were not as good as they normally are. Next, I prefer to use imitation vanilla because it isn't quite as overbearing and has a slightly more mellow undertone, but that is just my preference. If you're used to cooking with real vanilla then go for it, but use less if you do. And last but not least, semi-sweet chips are best. Dark chocolate chips are too bitter, white chocolate make the final product wayyy too sweet and the milk chocolate make it too rich. Just my opinion, feel free to play around and experiment.

Time to get down to business, get your oven cracking, 350° is the goal here. Grab your 13x9 pan and grease it up. If you choose to use a smaller but deeper pan then you may want to split your batch in to 2 parts because while thick brownies are wonderful and all, make them too thick and you won't have anything but a hot batter-y mess on your hands. Literally.  

Grab yourself a large mixing bowl and throw your eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla in there. Beat it up! Grab your salt and baking powder and invite them to the party, keep mixing! Now here comes the messy part, flour first - keep mixing! Don't throw it all in at once! Be gentle, go slow. Once you have all of the flour in there, it should be smelling pretty tasty. Grab your cocoa powder and SLOWLY mix it in. Stir in your chocolate chips and pour that beast into your pan. Bake your beautiful creation for 20-22 minutes. Keep an eye on them! The key is to not overbake them, and don't pull it out too soon or you'll end up with a batter-y center. Let them cool ever so slighty, cut and serve. 

Obviously these are best with a big glass of milk and served warm. Congratulations you now have kick-ass brownies. 

Makes: 13x9 pan, you control how big you want to cut them and how many you end with.

Rating: 5/5. While I don't make my brownies often they are probably one of the best things I make from scratch.

I hope everyone had a good weekend and you are all ready for this week! Comment, share, and like, and don't forget my monthly poll on the right!

Wednesday, October 3

In honor of Bullying Prevention Month..

In honor of this month being Bullying Prevention Month I thought that I would share a few memories from when I was younger. 

Growing up, like many children I had to deal with a bully or bullies on a regular basis. Because of my weight and some other personality traits that I possessed I tended to receive more bullying than some of the other kids in my grade. I heard demeaning statements and cruel remarks day in and day out and most of the bullying that I received came from between 2 and 5 different girls that were in my grade. I remember that 3 of these girls would lash out at me worse than anyone else that I would deal with. These 3 girls were in school with me from Kindergarten up until I transferred to a new school after tenth grade. 

Now, while I did not have to deal with any physical bullying, the emotional hell that I was put through was enough to scar me. I can recall quite clearly the time in my life that I actually wanted to develop an eating disorder to make myself better, so that I wouldn't have to be so miserable. I wanted to do actual harm to my body because it was not what the kids I spent 8 to 10 hours with everyday thought was attractive or normal. I faked illness (sorry mom), I tried to change myself, I tried to make myself invisible, nothing seemed to work. I tried to learn from what my parents told me or what my family told me, I tried to trust my friends and hide behind them when I needed to. Nothing helped. 

In middle school the bullying only got worse, I was now in a larger school with five times the amount of kids around me everyday. And the bullying went from the basic "fat" to more vulgar comments. I started to hear guys calling girls "sluts" and "whores" Whoa, this was new territory. We were in Middle School. Those kinds of words should never be used to describe a girl, or anyone for that matter, that is that young. Up until then, I had really only dealt with bullying coming from girls. For the first time ever I felt what it was like to be tricked and tormented by a boy. Crushes were no longer something that was giggled about and made us blush. Crushes were ammunition for a boy to tear you down until you felt worthless, and then he laughed about it, and so did his friends and a lot of the girls.

No longer did I not want to go to school because I didn't like my body, I didn't want to go to school now because I hated myself. I wasn't girly enough, or thin enough, or pretty enough. In middle school I also lost my best friend. My closest friend from elementary school. A girl that I spent more time with than I spent with my own family. We did everything together. Hell, we spent almost every night after school together and we talked or texted during every waking hour. We just stopped talking. I felt abandoned. I was no longer able to gain support from my circle of friends, and the bullying didn't stop. Soon I began to hear rumors about myself and felt more alone than ever. It was around this time that my parents separated for the first time. I felt like my entire life was falling apart around me. The bullying didn't stop. My first thoughts of severely hurting myself started around this time.

Along came high school and along came new friends and a few old friends. I can honestly say that high school was better than any of my school years prior. I became more content and worked harder in school. I took classes that I found enjoyment in and I found skills that I didn't realize that I had. I was mostly happy. 

There was only one major event that really hurt me in my first two years of high school, and that was something that a teacher told me. I've always thought that I was relatively good at the arts. I could draw and sketch reasonably well, I was creative, I loved to make things. Until the day that my art teacher told me that I wasn't good enough and didn't have the skill needed to pursue anything in the arts. It felt like he slammed the door to an entire world in my face and hung a "members only" sign on the door. That summer I went to a new high school.

As I've gotten older and pursued new interests in life I have dealt with mild bullying from time to time. But I've grown a lot and matured in the past few years and am able to take the hit now. I no longer let it knock me down and I no longer let it hurt me the way that it once did. But I went through many dark moments in my adolescence to get to the point that I am at now. As adults in this world, as parents, siblings, cousins, and mentors we have to take the initiative to teach the children around us that it is not OK to call that one kid "fat" or "ugly" or a "slut". The best way for us to teach them this important lesson is to practice it ourselves. 

While I often hear the argument that "kids will be kids" and that "It's all in good fun" I want to say honestly that the people that are saying those things were probably bullies themselves, and may still be. Take the initiative and help to end bullying around you. Show your support for kids that have been bullied and immediately correct bullying behavior. Be more than a bystander. Your action could end up saving a child from taking their own life or taking the lives of others.

Support the Stop Bullying initiative by wearing orange on October 10th for Unity Day and for more information visit stopbullying.govAlso, a video that is very relevant. 

Happier posts to come! Comment or Share and vote in my monthly poll to the right!

Sneak peak at this weeks recipe - They are moist, can be a little chewy, very chocolaty, and can be very rich...

Sunday, September 30

Recipe Sunday - Nutella Pastry Puffs

So I'm thinking about being in the habit of posting a recipe every week or so. And with holidays coming up and the need to take desserts to different functions and events I figured I would start with one of my killer baked goods. Today we're going to make some Nutella Pastry Puffs. Extremely yummy. 

You will need only a few things:
  • 1 box Puff Pastry sheets - 2 sheets thawed out
  • 1 jar Nutella 
  • 1 egg (for egg wash) - whisk egg white with 1 tablespoon of water
Optional things:
  • 1 jar of Peanut Butter
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows or marshmallow fluff
  • Granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar
Now let's get this ball rolling. First off, you may want to go ahead and get your oven going. Preheat that beast to 350°F. 

You're going to need to get your pastry puff all spread out on your work surface. I sprinkled some flour lightly across my work area, this isn't necessary but does help once you start handling the pastry. Cut each square of your pastry into 4 equal size pieces. You may have to trim them a little to make them even, but then again they don't have to be perfect!

Grab your Nutella and smack it on there. Spread a couple of tablespoons into the centers of your little squares making sure to leave about a half inch to a quarter inch of pastry as a border around the edges. If you're putting in marshmallows or fluff or peanut butter go ahead and do that now. Keep in mind how you want your final product to come out. Want something reminiscent of s'mores? Then put approximately even amounts of Nutella to Marshmallow/Fluff. When it comes to the peanut butter, I don't want to tell you how to live your life but I would advise against using too much. Keep it at about 1 part PB to each 2 parts of Nutella. Remember that the PB is dryer and saltier than the more moist and sweet Nutella. 

Once you have all of your innards plastered into the center of your square, fold that thing up. You want to fold from one corner to the opposite corner making cute little triangles. Crimp the edges of the puff with the tines of a fork. Depending on the pastry that you're using and whether you used flour on your work surface or not you may need to use some water or a little egg wash to seal the edges of your puffs. Once all folded up, lightly brush the puffs with your egg wash (optional: sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar). 

Bake your little babies for 22-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Keep an eye on them and adjust accordingly. Remove from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you so please and nom down.

Makes: 8 puffs

Rating: 5/5 - Easy and quick to make. Very delicious. I give a higher rating to the plain Nutella puffs. I would only give the mixed PB/Nutella puffs a 3.5/5 just because I used a little too much PB. 

Hope everyone had a good weekend and has a great week!

Saturday, September 29

PSA - Don't be a dick!

This is an open letter to the anyone who has ever yelled at/argued with/been ignorant to a person who is trying to provide a service to you.

I just want to state that you need to climb down off of your high horse and you need to get the hell over yourself. Everyday I face more abuse from customers that come into my workplace than I have ever endured outside of work. This brings me to my first point...

I don't care if you're coming in to buy a pack of cigarettes or a case of beer. If I ask for your ID, show me your damn ID. Don't say "I'm 28" or "My birthday is 7/26/87." I don't care. You want to know what I do care about? Seeing your ID. 

For example, this past week I was called a Bitch for telling a woman that looked no older than maybe 24 that I needed to see her ID for her to buy her beer. She said that I was being "F*cking ridiculous" for not selling the beer to her. Finally after yelling at me she pulled out her wallet and flipped it open showing that her ID was inside the entire time. I kindly asked her to take the ID out so that I could scan it (as per company policy), this is where it got fun. "It doesn't come out," attitude seething from every pore, "you can see my birthday." 
Side note: Don't argue with the person that you are trying to buy alcohol from. We're allowed to turn down the sale for damn near any reason. We don't very often turn people down except in situations having to do with age or IDs but start arguing with me about the fact that you don't want to pull your ID out of your wallet and I will NOT sell you your booze.
We all know where this story goes, the woman copped attitude with me, yelled at me, called me names and insulted me, then stated that she was "never coming back to this store again," but this is no surprise to me. I am not heartbroken by this revelation because I know you'll be back another day. This isn't the first time that I've dealt with you being an ass.

And here is where we come to the next stupid little thing that asshole customers berate us about...
I'm sorry, but sometimes we run out of things. I really can't help that. I have very little control over these things. Oh no! We're out of your snuff! I'm sorry Sir but we get our delivery truck approximately every other day and they only send us 1 or 2 rolls of the snuffs that we don't sell much of. I'm sorry that another man came in and bought all that we had yesterday. I can't turn down a sale because I need to save a few cans for you when I don't have any idea that you are going to buy it. Get over yourself. Stock fluctuates, people buy stuff, and there are shortages/strikes/disasters/local events that may effect our supply levels. How hard is this to understand?

I'm not saying that I don't care, because I do. I genuinely feel bad when I have to tell a customer that I am out of something, and have to ask them if they would like to have anything in its place or if they would like a refund (or to cancel their order). I feel bad and I try to fix the situation to the best of my ability as quickly as possible. What I'm saying is that I am absolutely enraged when I apologize and offer to you everything that I am able to offer to you and you still yell at me or get pissed off at me. Don't yell at me if I run out of tomatoes. I understand that you wanted them on your sandwich but I'm sorry, if we don't have any yelling at me won't change that situation. Please understand this and remember this!

I could go on and on about the way that I am treated by customers on a daily basis but I really don't want to be sitting here staring at my computer pissed off because I'm thinking about this crap. I also want to state that honestly the wonderfully nice customers, the regulars that come in, or even the random strangers that are awesome far outweigh the idiots and the drunks and the jerks. But as with everything the few bad apples can ruin the whole bunch (woah cliche). I love my job and I love my customers. I love talking to all of the different people that come through the doors everyday and the fun that I have makes it easier to deal with the ridiculousness that happens and because of that I can sit here and rant a bit, hoping that someone will read this and then not be a dick to someone else. I guess that would be the moral of the story - "Don't be a dick."

(I promise my next post will be less bitchy. =D)