Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pancakes.....glorious pancakes!!!!

Have I mentioned that I like breakfast....no matter the time of day? Well....like might not be a strong enough word.  I LOVE breakfast!

The other day I decided I wanted pancakes for dinner.  Only problem was that we were out of Bisquick (which is my preferred pancake mix)...and I also wanted to ride my bike after work.  So, like I did last week, I combined the two and rode my bike to the store again after work.  I got Bisquick, blueberries, grapes (on sale!), maple syrup (left my open one at Wolf's over the weekend - oops) and a few other things (that I don't remember right now, lol).  

The chain, once again, came off the front gear-set while riding home.  Thanks to the guy on Saturday, I knew exactly how to put it back!

Got home, and decided blueberry pancakes would be awesome.  So I mixed them up and cooked them in the frying pan with some olive oil.  Alas, I ate them so fast there were no pics taken of them!  Believe me though, they were out of this world!!!!!

~Chelle


Cell Phone Update

Well, the phone was delivered last week (Thursday) and I (amazingly) had no issues with charging and activating it.  I chose not to back everything up from the old phone and instead put back onto the new phone only those things I wanted from the old one.  It wasn't so bad, and by Friday afternoon only had my calendar and contacts to finish.

Those I finished on Saturday morning while waiting for my car to be fixed. 

I love the phone!  I did run into a little aggravation last night though...............  When my old phone was plugged into the computer via USB, it acted as a Mass Storage Device, and I was able to view the thumbnails of my phone pictures on my computer.  Not so with the Galaxy S3.  I searched in vain for a solution, and the only one I found was to root the phone.  No thanks - I like my phone and don't wish to chance bricking it.

Oh well....I'll figure out a work around, but I was pretty pissed last night.

~Chelle

Biking Adventures!

Wolf had to work again on Saturday, so I planned to head out early (he had to start at 7) and get a good 5-6hrs of riding in.

Alas....things do not go as planned most of the time!  My engine light came on last week and a guy at work read the code for me.  It apparently was one of the 02 sensors that needed replacing.   I called around and ended up calling the guy that replace my engine.  He could do it Saturday morning (yay!).  Great, so I made the appt for 8am and figured I'd head down there when Wolf went to work.

The car has also been making a 'clunking' sound in the rear, so I had him look at that also.  Turns out the clunking was the struts and swaybar links.  They need to be replaced.  Great...more money!  Anyway, got the sensor replaced and all was well.  Headed back up to Wolf's (stopping at Dick's Sporting Goods for some t-shirts) and ended up heading out on the bike about 11:30am.

Was riding through Davis Square and realized the back tire was flat.  Wonderful!  So I pulled out my (new!) phone and looked up where the nearest bike shop was.  Half a mile...not so bad.  So I walked over there, got the tire replaced pretty quick and was back on my way by 12 or so.  Learned from the guy at the shop that road bike tires should be checked for air pressure every week and topped off.  Who knew! 

Decided to tackle the Minuteman Bikeway again and had a relatively uneventful ride.  Started playing with the different gears and pedaling in a higher gear while going downhill and on flat ground.  It's amazing the difference it makes!  At one point, the chain fell off the front gear, so I stopped to try to fix it.  I knew it was easy, but wasn't exactly sure how to do it.  A very nice gentleman stopped and asked if everything was fine.  I told him what happened and he showed me how to put the chain back.  It's embarrassingly easy!!!!!  I felt like a dope and said so, lol, but also thanked him for the help.

I was able to ride to the end of the bikeway and back and got all my stuff put away just before Wolf got home.  I ended up doing 26.5 miles and averaged about 10mph!  Yay! 

~Chelle

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waffles!!!!!!!!

Now....I love all manner of breakfast foods.  Eggs and waffles/pancakes are my favorite though.  Today I had a craving for waffles, so decided to make them for dinner.  Yup, you read that right....dinner.  I LOVE to have breakfast for dinner!

My preferred mix for waffles and pancakes is quite simple really....the recipe on the Bisquick box!


So, I got out the bowl, whisk, milk, eggs, oil and opened the Bisquick box. 

This is what I found:
Not even close to enough for waffles!!!!!!    Poo!!!!!


I REALLY wanted waffles by now and went in search of some kind of cookbook for waffles from scratch.  I spotted the recipe book that came with the Kitchen Aid and decided to look there.  Lo and behold!  Waffles!


I don't know if you can read it....but they want you to whip the egg whites up and fold them into the rest of the batter.  If you know anything about me, you know I'm lazy, and I'm not about to whip up egg whites for waffles.  So, I modified the recipe a bit, lol.  I mixed all the wet ingredients first (thank you Alton Brown!), then the dry ingredients.  I did substitute Honey Crystals for the sugar.  What are honey crystals?  Ohhhh....they are awesome!

I found them in Utah while visiting JEM this past November!  I've been using them to substitute for sugar.


Anyway...I mixed up the batter and it seems a little thick so I added a little more milk.





They cooked up great in the waffle iron.  I then decided to top them with some raspberry jelly and some of the leftover chocolate ganache from the macarons from last night!

They were DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!


I will still use the Bisquick recipe, but these were pretty good!

~Chelle
 


 

A Trip to the Store...........

So, I decided yesterday to make macaron's for work today.  Only I had no cocoa powder left (used it all last week), so would need to go to the store to buy some.  No big deal, I could stop after work.  Except I wanted to go for a bike ride after work.  Getting out of work at 5:30 and home by 6, plus changing doesn't leave much time for riding before sunset at 7:45.....especially if  I run to the store first. 

I know, I know.....any amount of riding is better than none - but I prefer to ride at least an hour or more at a time.  So I came up with a brilliant idea!!!  I would ride to the store to buy the cocoa powder!

I went to mapquest, and the store is about 6 miles from my house - no big deal!  So, I got out at 5:30, got home by 6, changed lightening fast and was on the bike by 6:20!  Took me about 35min to ride to the store...much quicker than I rode on Saturday - yay!  Ran in and bought my cocoa powder and another bag of almonds (wouldn't want to run out!), and was back on the bike about 7.  Took another 35min to ride home (plus a few quick breaks on the side of the road) and got home about 7:45....just as it was getting dark.  Nothing like the motivation of the dark to make you ride faster!  I managed to ride just under 12 miles and averaged 10mph!

Probably won't get another chance to ride until Saturday morning.  Taking today off (the butt needs a break!) and am going to a retirement party for Wolf's best friend's dad tomorrow night, then Friday is off to Wolf's for the weekend :)   He's working Saturday morning, so I will probably head out on the bike for a few hours, as long as it's not supposed to rain - otherwise I'll be sleeping, lol.

~Chelle

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cell phone saga...........

So, in one of my other posts, I mentioned that I dropped my cell phone on the ground while biking on Saturday.  I thought I'd share my experience thus far in getting a new phone.

I dropped the phone on Saturday, and there just happened to be a Verizon Wireless store in Harvard Square (yes, I might be the only one left that has VW - they have good coverage, what can I say?).  Wolf and I did our homework Saturday night looking at phones and plans, etc... and I knew what I wanted walking into the store.

I have insurance on my phone, and it would have replaced the screen or phone....but I was told on Sunday that there is a deductible of $100-$140 with the insurance.  Well...with what I saw online Saturday night, it was cheaper to get a new phone.  So I told the customer service rep what phone I was interested in (Samsung Galaxy S3).  They had the phone, and the color I wanted in stock - fabulous!  The sales guy came over to do the phone upgrade and plan change (apparently the plan I have no longer exists).  So, he tells me the phone ($100 with $50 mail in rebate), upgrade fee ($30 - total BS) and sales tax is $167.  I said "uhhh, that doesn't quite add up."  He assured me it did.  So I said, $100 + $30 + sales tax does not equal $167.  He then tells me the sales tax is charged on the FULL RETAIL PRICE of the phone - which just happens to be $600!!!!!  I told him that was ridiculous and crazy and was so ticked off I told him to forget everything and walked out!

I was totally pissed and close to tears.  I got outside and turned around and Wolf was right there, and put his arms around me.  That was it....I started crying.  He calmed me down and we talked rationally (well, he was being rational, I was being irrational) while walking back to where we parked.  As we were walking/talking he said there's always NH, which has no sales tax.  So I looked on my phone and there is a store in Nashua, and was open until 7pm (it was currently about 4:30).  So I told him, and he said 'tonight?"  and I said 'why not?'.  The rational him then said that we would be in Lowell next weekend and could go then, so as not to waste the gas (why is he always rational??), to which I responded I'd rather pay the $40 in gas than sales tax, lol.  By the time we got to the car I was torn....the rational part of me knew that waiting was the better option, but the irrational me just wanted a phone that day.  So, we compromised and went back to his apartment and looking online at amazon (he got his phone from Amazon) and Verizon's website.

Verizon's website was no better than the store (big surprise!), so we went off to Amazon.  Found the phone for $20 (with an existing wireless plan - which I have).  Awesome!  So we added it to the shopping cart.  When you do that, it asks for some info to determine if you are eligible for the phone upgrade (which I know I am).  It asked for phone number, ss# (last 4), and PIN.  So, I enter the required info and it keeps telling me it's wrong.  I tried a different PIN and it's still wrong.  Totally exasperated I said 'fuck it', we'll go next weekend to Nashua.

So, yesterday, I was relating the tale to someone and realized that MY ss# is not the one on the account - it's someone else's.  BINGO!  I bet that's why it wouldn't work!  So I tried it last night when I got home from work. It worked - yay!  So I went through everything, picked the new plan (because I can't keep my existing one) and paid.  Got an email overnight with a tracking number (should be here Wednesday).  I then went online and ordered the case and screen protectors for the phone.

Got an email this morning that my phone order was returned to Amazon because of something to do with Verizon.  Ugh!  So I call Verizon and explain to the girl what has happened.  She has no idea why (big surprise!!).  She offers to try the upgrade on the phone.  I told her fine, I wanted a total before giving her a Credit Card #, and then explain the sales tax issue.  Her total is $207 -$40 MORE than the store wanted to charge me.  I told her no, delete the upgrade.  While she was doing all this, it occured to me that maybe the Amazon order got kicked back because I was changing my phone AND plan.  So I asked her this, and she said it could be (I don't think she had any idea, but was going along with what I thought).  So I had her change just my wireless plan, and back date it to 8/2.  Got off the phone with her and ordered the phone again from Amazon.  Thus far today, I have received a shipping notice (with tracking number) for the phone from Amazon.  We'll see what tomorrow brings and if I actually receive the phone on Thursday!

Stay tuned!!  If I actually get this phone and get it activated it might be a miracle!  If it gets kicked back again, I'm going to Nashua on Sunday - so there!  lol

~Chelle

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finally....a new bike!!!!!!!

Well...not new right now....I got it in May.  I thought I had blogged about it, but apparently not!

So.....what made me decide on a new bike............

Well, the one I rode last season was fine, and I started thinking about a new one by the end of riding season.  My old one is the same one that I got as a teenager (12 or 13, I think) and was woefully too big for me.  I'm short (5 feet...barely) and the bike is a 1985 Men's Benny's special.  It was way too big for me when I got it (had to stand in the front stairs to get on and off of it, lol) and isn't suited any better now.

So, I made a deal with myself at the end of last season.....if I continued riding this season, I'd get a new bike at the end of this season (2013).  That was all fine.....until I got on the bike May 1st to start riding again.  It was painfully (!) obvious how ill-fitting the bike was, and I made the decision to see what was out there for bikes (and what the cost was going to be!).  I knew they wouldn't be inexpensive, but I needed some ideas.

After talking with a colleague at work, I went to Belmont Wheelworks to see what size bike I should be looking at and what types of prices I'm looking at.  I told them upfront that I was looking and seeing what was out there.  Well......since I wasn't ready to plunk down $$$ that day, they didn't want anything to do with me.  They told me what size frame I should be looking at, and showed me one....yes ONE...bike that was over $1000.  Now, I know there are bikes out there less than $1k, so I basically said 'kiss off' to them and decided to go to my local bike shop (Peterson's Bike Shop - Raynham, MA). 

So, the following week Wolf and I went to Peterson's and look at bikes.  I told the guy there that I was just looking at my options, etc...  He was so NICE!!!!!   He recognized me, since I've been bringing my bike there for tune-ups for quite a few years now.  He went through all the brands of bikes they carry, explained the differences in the price-points and recommended a few brands/styles for me (since I'm short and all, lol).  His main recommendation was a Lexa Trek bike, women's specific design. 

After going through all the price-points, I opted for the least expensive one (I had an amount in mind that I could spend before walking in, and it fit in my price range).  He didn't bat an eye, and went through all the options for the bike with me.  When we were finally done, I had decided to buy the bike and told him as much.  He fitted me for the bike again (he had done so before looking at the bikes), and I ordered a new bike!!  It was going to take a week or so to come in, so I had to be patient.  If you know me...I HATE to be patient! 

He called about a week later that the bike was in, so I made an appointment to go in and have it fitted specifically to me.  The guy was great!  He adjusted the seat height, the handlebars, and adjusted a bunch of other stuff for me (I don't remember it all).  Out I walked with a brand new bike!!!!  and it only cost be about $750!

I took it for a ride shortly afterwards (one morning before work) and snapped this pic after I got back home from riding:
I love it!!  It's black, purple and white.  The seat is my own seat that I already had, as is the bag on back.


Here are some pictures that Wolf took of me on the bike (not really riding it, therefore not helmet):


So, I love my new bike like you can't imagine!  I've put just about 100 miles on it since I got it - and plan on putting a lot more on it in the coming weeks!  I've ridden it around home a bit, and also taken it out by the Charles in Boston, and most recently along the Minuteman Bikeway.  Heading out riding this weekend again....maybe the Charles again....maybe the Minuteman again....we'll have to wait and see!

~Chelle

Charity Bike Rides


Last year I signed up for and rode in a charity bike ride on Martha's Vineyard on Columbus Day weekend.  It was 62 miles long....a hard 62miles (20mph headwind ALL DAY).  I finished, but was exhausted at the end.  Anyway, this year I have signed up for another one - this time to benefit Buzzard's Bay Watershed.  It's a 75mile ride started in Westport, MA and ending in Woods Hole, MA.  It's a one-day ride. 

Since it's been about 8weeks since I got on the bike, I figured I need to get my butt back on it if I want to be able to ride 75miles in a day.  So, this weekend I got back out on the bike.  I tackled the Minuteman Bikeway stretching from Cambridge to Bedford (about 10 miles).  There are a few off-shoots in Bedford...one to Billerica and one to Concord.  All total I had figured my ride would be about 40 miles (I started a few miles from Cambridge). 

There weren't many pictures along the Bikeway like I had hoped, but found this in Arlington Center:



It was a very nice ride.  The Bikeway starts in Cambridge, at Alewife station and winds it's way through Cambridge, Arlington and Lexington before ending in Bedford.  I got to Bedford a lot sooner than I expected.  The end of the line in Bedford is at an old railroad depot:


From here, there are two spurs...one to Billerica and one to Concord.  I attempted the one to Billerica, only to find out it is not paved.  That was ok as it seemed to be packed dirt...then my tires started slipping and I was afraid I'd fall.  So I turned around and was going to head off to Concord, but first I stopped in to the building above to see what there as to see.  It was mostly a gift shop type of place, but I was talking to the man working and asked if he knew if the path to Concord was paved.  It wasn't, and it was getting sort of late (5-ish I think), so I decided to head back to Cambridge.  Plus, I passed a Trader Joe's on the bikeway and wanted to stop for bananas and corn on the cob.

I ended up riding about 45minutes in between rest breaks, which is up from 30minutes last year.  I also packed trail mix to eat on the bike...preferring real food to energy bars.  I think I might add some more dried fruits to it for more carbs next time.  I failed to note on my map where the TJ's was, and ended up skipping a rest stop because I kept thinking TJ's was just up ahead.  I was never so happy to see this sign up ahead!!!



So, by the time I got to TJ's my legs and me were pooped.  There's a convenient bike rack just off the Bikeway, and stairs up to TJ's.  It's still amazing to me that I could continue biking, but can't walk up or down a flight of stairs after riding.  So I locked up my bike, took my valuables with (bike computer, wallet, phone, helmet) and off I went to TJ's. 

I bought a few bananas and a couple ears of corn.  Stashed them in my Camelbak and proceeded to unlock my bike.  My first mistake was not putting the wallet and phone away first thing.  I set my helmet (which had the phone in it) on my bike seat and went to unlock the bike.  Can you see where this is going????   Yup.........the helmet fell off the bike seat, and the phone landed face down on the concrete.  I am now the proud owner of a cracked phone screen!!!  (it's not nearly as exciting as it sounds).  Getting a new phone next weekend.



I got back on the bike and continued on my way back to where I started.  All told, I rode about 30 miles in about 3.5 hours.  It's quite a bit slower than I used to ride, but today's goal was about time in the saddle (or TITS as one of my friends calls it - awesome!) not about speed.  Gotta get the butt used to the seat again - how quickly it forgets!!!

The plan is to ride an hour or so after work each night.  Next weekend I'll be out again, and I think I'm going to work on speed this time.  Planning to head out early in the am, rather than the afternoon like this time.  Might even tackle the Bikeway twice if I'm up to it!



A new baking adventure............macarons!

So, I am always on the look-out for new things to bake/make.  I'm not sure how I happened upon them, but I found link for a recipe for chocolate French macarons.  No, not macaroons (the coconut ones), but macarons (the meringue-like ones).  I've been getting adventurous lately with my baking.

I did not make up this recipe, lol, instead I found it here:  Chocolate French Macarons   Apparently there are several methods to making macarons.  This recipe is the French method with egg whites.  I don't know much about the other methods (or really this one either, lol).

Here is the recipe as given in the link above:

Chocolate Macarons
Makes about fifteen cookies
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway) by David Lebovitz

Macaron Batter
  • 1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
  • ½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized)
  • 3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar
Here are my almonds, sugar, cocoa mixed together:
Here are my egg whites before they got to the correct consistency:
I had some issues with this.  First, I didn't think there was enough in my bowl, then it turned out my whip attachment was too high.  I eventually got medium-stiff egg whites after a lot of whipping!
Here are the baked cookies, some of which have been filled with the ganache recipe in the link:



Here they are all done!


I learned a few things after making these:  my egg whites needed to be stiffer, I didn't mix/fold my batter enough, and I should probably lower the baking temp a little.  I'm going to make another batch this week, so we'll see how they turn out!

Oh, and they taste awesome!!  Even better after a few days!

ICES Certification

Ahhhhh.............Certification!  Where to start????

How about 2 years ago when I signed up for the test (to be taken this past August at the ICES Convention in Lexington KY).  I previously posted about Certification, you can read it here: Click Me!

So, in the previously link post, I said I would update everyone on my preparations, etc....  Obviously I didn't.  Part of it is because I am lazy and haven't blogged like I should be, the other part is because there's a very good chance some of the adjudicators could have ended up reading my blog (yes...it was mostly due to laziness, lol). 

So, you'd think with two years to plan and prepare that it would have been a breeze, right?  Had I spent two years preparing it might have been!  I, however, have learned that life changes drastically in two years - sometimes in ways you never could have imagined.  When I signed up, I was working part-time (though hopeful for full-time employment) and hadn't yet met Wolf (there's a blog post somewhere about him, I think).  So, I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted!  Well.....in the two years since signing up, I am employed full-time (and then some!) and have been spending every weekend with Wolf (which doesn't seem like enough time sometimes).

Needless to say...combine all that with my penchant for procrastination and you get about 4 weeks time to prepare for Certification.  I know....I know....what can I say?   So, in that 4wk time span I had the following that needed to be accomplished:  order dummies, cover two dummies in fondant, make gumpaste flowers [roses (3), rosebuds (3), sweet peas (25), rose leaves (30) and rose petals (31)], flood 6 collars (3 top, 3 bottom), flood 12 side panels, pack certification stuff, pack the car, etc....

I managed to get all the flowers and flower parts made, as well as ordering the dummies, first.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the sweet peas or the rose leaves.....these were finished in KY days before Certification.  Here are what the roses and rosebuds looked like:





Next I focused on getting my collars and panels flooded and drying....since they need to be stable enough to withstand the drive to KY.  I made the icing and flooded the collars and panels in the span of two days (approx. 8 days before leaving).  This should have been PLENTY of time for them to dry before driving.  I did them on a Thursday and Friday.  On Monday, I checked the collars....and they were soft....like marshmallow almost!  You can see the finger marks I put in them....without much resistance at all.



The oddest thing were the ripples I saw in the collars, and some of them had liquid 'oozing' out from the collar!  I had never seen anything like this before and couldn't imagine what caused it. They had purposely been in a closed air conditioned room for 4 days - they should not have been this wet!

So, I called MJ, the RI expert that I know, to ask her opinion on what happened.  At this point, if the collars and panels couldn't be done and dried for KY, there was no point in bringing anything else for Certification.  Through a discussion, we determined that the likely cause of my problems was too much liquid in the royal icing that I made.  I thought about it afterwards, and realized I had used liquid egg whites to make my royal icing...not real egg whites.  While this might not normally be a problem, I probably needed to use more powdered sugar than my recipe(s) call for.  So, I through all the collars and panels out (they were no good), re-made the royal icing with real egg whites, and re-flooded the collars.  Checked them the next day and they were already drier than the previous ones had been (I tested the test puddles after all).  So, I piped the panels over two days, and could only do 8 of the 12...my hands simply wouldn't pipe anymore.  So, my collars and panels were re-piped only 2-3 days before needing to drive with them!

I, fortunately, was packing/organizing my tools and stuff for Certification as I went along at home, so I didn't need to spend an entire night packing.  I managed to fit the packing in every night.  By Thursday night, everything in the house was packed, all I needed to do was pack the car when I got home from work on Friday (we were leaving Saturday morning).

To add to all this...my car needed a new engine and took 4 weeks to get done!  I picked it up the Monday (5 days!) before leaving for Certification - so I was a little stressed about that too.  I got in the car to go to work on Friday morning and the brake light was on.  Great!  Just what I need the day before I'm leaving for a 2k mile road trip!  So, when I got to work I called the guy that did the engine work and told him what was going on.  He said to bring it in and he'd take a look at it right away.  So, I explained to my boss what was going on and left.  Fortunately, it was just a brake caliper that was bad.  He had it fixed and I was out of there in an hour!  Yay!  and it wasn't expensive!  Double Yay!

The rest of the packing and the drive down went fine, with few issues.  Since there were three of us in the car, plus my Certification stuff, plus our luggage, I had to use the Cargo Carrier I have for my car (it goes into a receiver hitch).  Now, I'm sure the car was WAY overloaded!  Once we got all the luggage on the carrier, it was pretty low to the ground, and we scraped the ground pulling into Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  Slightly concerned that this might become an issue, we stopped at a Home Depot in Pennsylvania (it took me a while to figure out what to do about the carrier hanging so low) and purchased additional cargo straps and literally tied the carrier to the roof rack,  I'm sure we were a sight to see on the highway!

Not sure why it looks un-level....it was level before we drove off with it.


So, we made it Kentucky Sunday by dinnertime and had the car unloaded and one packed hotel room!

So.......you're probably wondering how Certification went, huh??  After all...that's probably why you're reading this post! 

I will start by saying it was one of the most stressful things I've ever done.  For someone who keeps as much stress out of her life as possible, it was almost my undoing.  I am proud that I didn't quit, and that I finished the day with three pieces to present to the adjudicators.  Sadly, not all those pieces were finished.  However, only the adjudicators and I could tell.

The day started off ok, but things started not cooperating pretty quickly.  When they didn't cooperate, I put them aside and started on something else.  This worked for a little while...until I had to go back to what wasn't working out.  One thing that was nice, and helped my ego a little.......while I was piping the lattice work for my nirvana panels I overheard one of the adjudicators say to another to look at how I was piping my lattice work - it was overlapping my flooding area.  At first I thought 'Oh crap...they're not going to like that'.  Then heard her say it was brilliant!!!!  That it made a stronger bond with the flooding.  YAY!!!!!!!  That was just what I needed to hear at that moment in time!!!  I was also told later, by many of the adjudicators, that my lattice work looked like solid from far away.



At one point, the stress go to me, and I lost it when a coupler ring wouldn't unscrew for me.  I could feel the tears welling up, so I handed it to my assistant and asked her to take it off, and went off to the bathroom, telling her I'd be right back.   I didn't make it out of the Certification room before the tears started in earnest.  I walked in the bathroom and couldn't stop crying.  Fortunately, one of the adjudicators and the test administrator came in after me (I also consider them both friends, as I know them personally).  They hugged me and calmed me down and made me feel better.  Before they came in, I considered walking out the opposite side of the bathroom and not coming back - and I'm not a quitter.  So, I composed myself and went back and just started doing whatever I could to make things look like they were getting finished.

One of the adjudicators had recently completed her first Tri-Athlon (swimming, running, biking).  Even though she and her wonderful husband finished hours after everyone else did - they never gave up, no matter what.  I know her personally and am proud of her for not giving up.  I kept telling myself that if she could finish the tri-Athlon then I could finish the Certification test.  She didn't give up when she wanted to, and neither was I!  I don't like to name people in my blog in case they don't want to be, but if you know anything about ICES and cake decorators, you can figure out who she is! 

I started assembling my Nirvana collars and panels.  I first collar I picked up ended up shattering in my hand (after flipping it over and piping icing on it, and flipping it back)...just as I was about to set it on the cake.  I saw one of the adjudicators (who had been watching me) just turn and walk away - it kind of made me chuckle a little...I'd have done the same!  The second collar when on fine, as did the panels.  One panel fell and broke and I almost freaked out because I only had 2 extra.  But the rest went on fine.....except for a large (to me) gap in the back where the panels were supposed to meet.  I ignored it for the time being and put the top collar on (no issues - yay!), and figured I'd deal with it later.  I dealt with it by piped a big shell over the open space, as opposed to the small, dainty ones I piped around the rest of the panels.

During the lunch break I knew I was way behind and would have to start ditching some of the 'extra' things I was going to do.  I cut a bunch of things out and felt ok going back after lunch.  I didn't ask how much time was left, and couldn't see the countdown clock (I had my contacts out).  I was about to ask when they announced 1.5hrs left.  Holy crap!  I looked around and I had WAY more than 1.5hrs of work left!!  Instead of panicking, I realized I wasn't going to finish and had to decide what wasn't getting done.  I quickly made a rose and sweet pea (in under 5 min I think!) so that I could put my dried ones from home on the display.  I dusted some roses and sweet peas and put 1 rose and 5 sweet peas on the display.  I tried to finish my oriental stringwork, but couldn't get the last set of dots to adhere to pipe the last (4th) set of strings.  So, I said oh well and fixed what I could.

Here are the final pieces I ended up with:

As seen in the Cake Room at Convention


Close-up of my rose and sweet peas


Close-up of my buttercream cake


Close-up of Oriental Stringwork


Close-up of Nirvana collars/panel


Close-up of embroidered butterflies (6) and Nirvana panel



I ended up not starting one of my skills, and not finished two others.  The adjudicators did score what I finished (and even some of what I didn't) and had I been able to finish, I'm confident I'd have achieved CSA status.   Will I do it again?   I really don't know.  I did this for me, no one else.  I know if I put the time into preparing for it that I can do it.  Two years is a long time to sign up ahead of time for something - life can change so much in two years.  Two years ago when I signed up my heart was 100% in it.....a year ago maybe 75%.....6 months ago maybe 50%.  Rather than throw away the opportunity I gave it all I could at this time.  If I ever decide to do it again, I'd sign up at the 1 year mark and if there's space then it was meant to be. 


~Chelle





Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Soy...........

I have posted quite a few times about my personal opinions on Soy.  My best friend, JEM, sent me a link to an article tonight about the dangers of soy.   I can't express how steamed reading the article made me!!  For years my friends and I have commented on the higher rate of allergies in kids and how it never used to be as prevalent as it is today.  Read the article....it explains it ALL as far as I'm concerned!

I may post more opinions tomorrow, but for now I need to get to bed!

~Chelle

Energy bars...activity....nutrition.......

I'm pretty sure I posted about this some time ago (probably last year) when I was looking at energy/nutrition bars for cycling.  What prompted me to write again about it?   A new product I happened to see mentioned in comments on an on-line article.  It was a Yahoo article about energy bars, and someone mentioned a bar by Active Health Foods.  Never one to take someone else's word regarding anything, I went and checked them out myself. 

They are called ActiveX Bars, and they sound and look great.  They come in four flavors: Almond Chocolate Delight, Cashew Berry Dream, Coconut Cocoa Passion, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Joy.  They are also all-natural, non-gmo, soy-free, organic, vegan, kosher, gluten-free and raw.  Some of those attributes matter more to me than others, but wanted to list them all anyway. 

I'm kind of excited about them and am going to order a variety pack from the website linked above.  They don't seem too much different than the other assorted bars that I was eating last season.  And, truthfully...I think I was starting to get a little bored of the same ones over and over last year.

Here are the bars that I was eating last year: ProBar Meal, Bonk Breaker, and That'sIt! Fruit bars.  I used them in a variety of situations as I felt my they met my needs while cycling.  Like everyone, I have my favorite flavors of each brand.  I also read the labels everytime...some of the ProBar's have soy and some don't, so I only buy the ones that don't.  I am also considering keeping them in the refrigerator this summer (or just not buying so many ahead)...towards the end of the riding season I was finding that some were on their way to going bad when I opened the package. 

I'll have to figure out how many a week I'll be eating and tailor my purchasing around that.  To start I'm going to get a small variety of all of them.  I received almost $32 in REI Dividends Bucks so that will go a good way towards the initial purchase.  I am hoping to find stores to buy them all in, in order to avoid ordering them online.  The fruit bars were getting tough to find last fall, but had the best luck with Whole Foods.  I was able to find the ProBars and Bonk bars at REI and Whole Foods.  Hopefully I'll be able to find the ActiveX in stores too.  There are some 'health food' stores around my area that I can call and see if they carry them.

I put a little comparison chart together comparing the different brands and thought I'd share it.  I didn't compare the Fruit bars, because those are basically just pure carbs, and I mostly use them at the beginning of a ride and when I need a carb boost.

  ActiveX ProBar Bonk Bar
Calories 240 390 250
Fat (g) 12 22 9
Carbs (g) 24 43 35
Protein (g) 8 10 8

~Chelle

Friday, April 12, 2013

I'm itching!!!!!!

To go camping!!!!!!!!!!  Haha!

For the past many many years, I have sworn I was not going camping over a holiday weekend.  However...I may change my mind this year.  See....4th of July is on a Thursday.  My idea is to go camping a few days before and stay through Sunday.  Even if I can't get the Friday off of work, the campground is only about 40min away from where I work - not bad at all!

The last time I went camping over a holiday weekend I did a cookout and a bunch of people came.  We had more food than I can even remember, but I do know the picnic table was COVERED end to end in food!  It was me, my mom, my dog, Muffin and her family and a few other friends of the family.  I started thinking that I'd like to do that again, and invite anyone who wants to come.  Obviously I'll need to know ahead of time so I have enough food - otherwise they are welcome to bring whatever they want with them!

Here's a preliminary list of what I have thought of so far:
  • Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Keilbasa
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Pasta Caprese Salad (found on Food Network)
  • Roasted Potatoes (yes, this is possible on a Weber grill!)
  • Baked Beans
  • Chips
  • Salsa/Dip
  • Homemade cookies/brownies (or both!) for dessert
It might sound like a lot, but I think a fair amount of it can be done ahead of time before I leave home.  My plan is to get a reservation for Tuesday through Monday.  I'll actually be leaving on Sunday, but this way I can have the whole day to pack up and not rush to be out by 11am.  Hey...at $12/nt it's well worth it!  It's nice that the campground is so close to where I work, cause I'll be going after work on Tuesday to set up, and then going to work on Wednesday. 

So....reservations will be made on Monday (when I have the $$ to pay for them, lol)!  Yay!!!!!

I do plan on doing some weekend trips before 4th of July, but haven't planned those yet, lol.  Those may end up spur of the moment anyway, rather than planned out ahead of time.

Happy Camping!

It's getting to be that time of year again......

..........biking and camping season!

Here in New England we have been teased with some nice weather on and off the last week or two.  Just enough to make me wish spring/summer were here to stay.  It also makes me want to go camping and biking :)

I have been thinking about the biking the last few days and started making a list of what I need to get done to be able to go riding.  I was looking at a sunrise/sunset time table yesterday and it appears as though it will be light enough in the morning to start riding before work again around the end of April.  That may be good or bad, lol.  To start with I'll only have about a half hour to ride before I have to shower and get to work.  That's probably good, since my plan of doing the elliptical all winter kind of fizzled after about a week or so.  It's just more fun to ride outside!

Today, during my lunch break, I wrote up a to-do list to get things ready:
  • Get the bike tuned-up
  • Check the condition of my Camelbak pack (it sat in the garage all winter - oops)
  • Find and buy a flashing red light for my helmet
  • Purchase a reflective vest at IKEA to wear over my pack and me
  • Wash ALL the biking clothes, since I'm not sure what did and didn't get washed at the end of last year (again....oops!)
  • Order a decent supply of Emergen-C Electro Mix
  • Purchase a variety of Pro Bars and ThatsIt! Fruit bars
That might be everything, but I may have forgotten some stuff too.  I'm sure I'll find out when I start doing it all :)  If you're wondering about the red flashing light and the reflective vest.....my plans are to start out riding just before sunrise in order to maximize the amount of time I can ride before work.  I noticed last year that it was light enough to ride approximately 15min before the published sunrise time, so that's the time I am planning to head out in the morning.  The light and vest are so that cars can see me and not hit me, lol.

My goals for the riding season are to ride Tues-Friday mornings, and at least one longer ride on the weekend.  I have been staying at Wolf's on the weekends, so riding Monday morning just isn't practical.  He sometimes works on Saturdays, so I plan to go riding when he does.  If he's not working, we'll see what our plans look like.  There's a bike shop not far from where he lives, and I think they sponsor rides....so I'm going to go check that out too and see what they have for a map of bike paths/streets in the area, since I don't normally ride up there.  There's a great path that is fairly long, I'm just not sure how to get to it from Wolf's place, lol. 

See you on the road!

Cooking adventures.....

So, I've tried making some new/different things lately.  Some have turned out good the first time....other's not so much, lol.


Peanut Crusted Chicken:

I got this recipe from my Weight Watchers leader at one of my meetings. Her version was Pecan-Crusted Chicken, but I don't like pecans. I LOVE pistachios and was planning to use those, but had peanuts on hand at home, so used them instead.


The chicken was brushed with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and honey, then coated with crushed Wheat Chex and chopped/crushed peanuts.  I crushed the cereal in a ziplock bag and a glass, and the peanuts I put into a coffee grinder (I use if for everything EXCEPT coffee, haha).  I baked the chicken at 425 for about 15-20 minutes.  I used thin chicken breast cutlets, but if you used regular chicken breasts, you would have to cook it longer I presume.

These were great!  I did eat them the night I made them, but heated them up in the oven the next day (so the coating would be crispy again).  They would be much better eaten the same day they are cooked.  The coating was a bit damp under the chicken after re-heating.  I am going to try it with pistachios next, and I'll try turning them over half way through cooking to see if that helps.



Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies:


These were absolutely fantastic!  Then again...I love peppermint!  They were very easy to make also.  I made the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe and added 1/8th tsp of peppermint oil to the dough before stirring in the chocolate chips.  Baked them according to the recipe.  I use a portion scoop to scoop out the dough and got about 7-8 dozen cookies I think.



Chocolate Peppermint Fudge:

Do you notice a pattern here?  Let's just say it was a very stressful week(s) at work and I wanted chocolate, lol.   The fudge was great. 

I don't remember which recipe I used, but it had milk, sugar, and cocoa powder in it.  I heated it to boiling (stirring constantly), then turned the heat down and let it go to 238 degrees. 
Here it is boiling away on the stove:
 
 
Once it reached the proper temperature, I took it off the heat and stirred in vanilla extract (Neilssen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla) and 1/4tsp peppermint oil.  Let me tell you.....if you need to clear out your sinuses, put some peppermint oil into hot boiling liquid and stick your face over it. Oh my - they cleared instantly!  I then stirred the mixture until the fudge lost it's sheen.  I'm not sure if I stirred it long enough, the fudge wasn't the consistency I was expecting...although it tasted fantastic!
 
The recipe said to use an 8x8 square pan (buttered so the fudge doesn't stick), but I used a jelly roll pan instead.  I should have used the smaller pan, I would have gotten thicker fudge.
Here is it cooling in the pan:
 
 
I have been spirred on to make my own peppermint hard candies to keep on hand for when my sinuses clog up.  Will post about those when/if I make them.



Chicken Pad Thai:

Not all experiments can be a success, and this one wasn't....at least not at first.

I found this recipe for chicken pad thai the other week and decided to try to make it, but with some substitutions.  First, I used rice noodles instead of linquine.  Second, I used green onions instead of cilantro.  Third, I made a soy-sauce substitute to use (go here to read about my issues with soy).  I also eliminated the fish sauce, for the same reason as the soy and used the substitute in place of that.  Fourth, I omitted the tofu (soy) and added more chicken.

It was bland.  It was not appetizing at all.  I added some spaghetti sauce to a portion and that didn't help either.  I was dissappointed and put the rest (it made A LOT) in the fridge to figure out later.

The next day at work, I came up with the idea of making some kind of asian-inspired sauce for it.  So when I got home, I combed through the cupboards and fridge and found the following that said 'asian' flavors to me:
Honey, peanut butter, steak sauce, sweet chili sauce, balsamic vinegar
I admit, the steak sauce sounds weird.  I was going to use Worcestershire sauce, but Wolf is allergic to fish and if this turned out good he would be eating it this weekend, and it's made from fermented sardines.  So, I used steak sauce instead.

I can't tell you how much of each I used, cause I didn't really measure it.  I put a dollop of peanut butter (1-2T), about a teaspoon of honey, then just poured a little bit of the rest of the stuff in.  I heated the peanut butter and honey first so it would be liquid-y.  I mixed it all in a measuring cup, and then added enough of the soy-sauce substitute to thin it down.


I then heated the wok, and put some olive oil in it.  I drained the 'old' pad thai (it had gotten watery) in a colander while I made up the sauce and heated the wok.  Then put the pad thai in the hot oil and stirred it around to dry it up and get rid of the moisture.  Then I poured the sauce on it and mixed it up. 

I hesitantly tried a bite and it was GOOD!  Not pad thai, but it was good anyway.  I am bringing it to Wolf's this weekend so I made a little more of the sauce to use when we heat it up.


I admit it doesn't look like much, it doesn't have much color, but it's good.  The sauce is amazing!  I also realized I should have bought the wider egg noodles rather than these kind, but oh well.  Next time!


Stay tuned for more cooking adventures :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day two.....

......of the 'get back to biking' plan!   I did another 30min on the elliptical tonight after work and I felt great when I finished.  There are other people at work that use the gym also, but I was able to get a quick picture before anyone else came in tonight.  I know...I'm crazy, lol.






For now, I'm planning on two days a week.  We'll see how it goes!

~Chelle

Valentine's Day Surprise!

Well, as we all know, today is Valentine's Day.  As you all might not know, I have a boyfriend (fairly new).  Well, he surprised me today by having flowers delivered to work!!!   We decided since I am going up to see him tomorrow, that we'd wait to celebrate Valentine's Day until the weekend - I can't wait!



Here are the pictures!





Aren't they GORGEOUS!!!!! 

There are tons....tons....of flowers in the arrangement!

They are all red and white and they smell absolutely WONDERFUL!!!

There are lillies, daisies, carnations and roses.  I love them all!






























There was another surprise with the flowers.   A cute little bear!!!

You can see him in this picture!

I put the flowers on the top of the hutch that is part of my desk at work.  This way I can see them all day long, and the scent wafts down every once in a while and it's just great!






















Soooo........... you're probably wondering who they came from, huh?   His name is Wolf (well......that's his nickname, lol, no real names here!). Why Wolf?  Well, for one, he likes wolves.  For two.....I guess that's the only reason, haha.  Not really sure how much other info to put here, since I'm not inclined to tell the whole story from the beginning in one fell swoop.  I'm sure he'll be mentioned here more, hence the need for a nickname for him.  For now, I will say that he makes me deliriously happy and I can't imagine my life without him.


Hope you had a good Valentine's Day!

~Chelle

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Better late than never.....Better one than none.......

So....way back before winter arrived in New England (probably November, lol) I decided that I was going to join a gym and ride the stationary bike through the winter so I wouldn't lose the ability to ride that I built up over the spring, summer and fall.  Well, I can tell you, that didn't happen.  I think I managed two or three days back in November and/or December.  Since then life has apparently been too busy (yeah, it's an excuse, I'm sure).  What makes it even crazier, is I have a free gym at work (literally upstairs from my desk). 

Well, yesterday I brought my workout clothes to work and did 30min on the elliptical after work!  In my gym travels before winter, I determined that the elliptical works the same basic muscles as cycling does, without the weird shaped seats that the stationary bikes have (I just got too used to my road bike's seat).  I decided to start with 30 min a few times a week and work up from there.  Yesterday I did 5min on incline 1 (the lowest, max = no idea) and resistance 1 (the lowest, max = 6), then 5min incline 1 resistance 4, then 5min on 1, then 5min incline 3 resistance 4, etc.... and kept alternating.  It wasn't too bad, but I could definitely feel it in my legs when I finished.  Surprisingly I wasn't sore today, so that was nice.  My plan is to go Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I think I'll up the resistance and incline tomorrow and see how I am.

~Chelle

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cooking up a Storm!

I decided the other day that it's about time I cooked some actual food....rather than eating cereal and breakfast foods for dinner every night.  I know....a radical idea!

So, while I was at work, I searched online for some dinner ideas and found some that sounded pretty good.  I printed them out and made a list of what I needed to buy, and went shopping after work.  Bought a TON of food (or so it seemed)...enough for 4 meals!

So, what did I make with what I bought?  Glad you asked!

Citrus Chicken Stir-Fry
This is what was for dinner tonight.  It is based on a recipe for Mandarin Chicken.  There is stir-fry chicken, broccoli, onion, peppers, carrots, and mandarin oranges in the dish.  The recipe called for a Mandarin Stir Fry sauce, but I used a citrus vinaigrette that I marinated the chicken in.  Then I cooked the chicken and all the vegetables with the vinaigrette.  I had it over egg noodles for dinner.  It was good!!!


Beefy Rice Skillet
 Made this last night (along with the next dish).  I actually followed the recipe pretty closely with this one.  I used stir-fry beef (recipe called for ground beef), a bag of Bird's Eye mixed vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes, a couple cans of tomato sauce, 2 cups of beef broth and 2 cups of instant rice.  I had my doubts as to how this would turn out.  It actually turned out pretty good!  I had some for lunch today, and this would make a great filling for a burrito or wrap, especially with some salsa added to it.


Fiesta Beef with Spaghetti
 I haven't tried this yet, but it seemed to be a twist on traditional American Chop Suey.  There is ground beef, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, black beans, and onions.  The recipe calls for spaghetti to be mixed in, but I cooked some elbows to have with it.  


Now, I did say four meals, and there are only three up there.  The fourth was an idea that I stole from someone I know, lol.  It is Easy Chicken Alfredo.  I bought a rotisserie chicken, jar of alfredo sauce (Classico is made with cream instead of soybean oil!), and penne pasta to have it with. 


So those are my cooking adventures from the other day!  Don't expect too many more before next week or the week after, lol!

~Chelle


Friday, February 1, 2013

Superbowlllll Sundayyyyyyy

At the title suggests, this post is about Super Bowl Sunday.   Two days from now.  I did some baking after work tonight and made some cupcakes for Sunday, and well as some food.

Mini Cupcakes for the 49er's and the Raven's:



 Raven's Cupcakes
Black cake, white icing, black sugar sprinkles in purple cupcake papers


49er's Cupcakes
Red cake, white icing, yellow sugar sprinkles in gold cupcake papers










 Southwest Egg Rolls


I used Nasoya brand egg roll wrappers.
Filling consists of ground beef, corn, pinto beans, mexican
cheese and various southwest spices.

Going to pick up some salsa and sour cream to go with them!

~Chelle


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Retirement Cake

Hey All!

I worked on a cake tonight!  It is for a retirement party at work (tomorrow), for a gentleman that likes to visit California and Arizona, ride trains, and likes the New England sports teams.  It is half chocolate and half yellow (each 9x13). I baked one on Monday night and one last night.  Then put it together and decorated tonight.

The top edge was left as is, to represent waves in the water.




~Chelle

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Introduction

Hello All!

A little bit about myself, and my blog.  I am Chelle, I live in New England (which is great for most of the year, lol).  I am an accountant by day and a cake decorator in my spare time.  I also enjoy camping and bicycle riding when the weather permits.  Once upon a time, I had three blogs that I maintained.  I say 'Once Upon a Time' because it's been nearly a year since I posted to any of them.  I felt I couldn't post to one without posting to the other two and that thought was usually too overwhelming for me, haha.  So.....I decided to create ANOTHER blog to combine those and just have one place to post!  Great idea, huh?!?!?!  As a friend pointed out the other night, now I only have one blog to ignore instead of three, lol.   Hopefully that won't happen!

So, here are the links to my other blogs, should you care to visit them (links open in a separate window):

Caking My Sanity  - All about my caking life :)

Eating for Life - My weightloss journey with Weight Watchers

A Girl and Her Tent - My camping/outdoor blog


So, I have good intentions of posting to this blog semi-regularly, as it fits into my crazy life.

~Chelle