Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolution

I haven't given much thought to a New Year's Resolution to be honest.
There are many things that will be different next year, so I'm not so sure I need one but I'm a believer in second chances and new beginnings so, alas, my inner being compels me to make a New Year's Resolution. :)
But first, we must reflect.
This is a recap of last year's resolutions 
(posted to my personal blog)

Happy New Year Everyone!
Every New Year provides an opportunity to start over.
It gives us a chance to change and become a little bit better than last year.
Ben and I were discussing our New Year's resolutions and I was definitely more into this resolution game than he was....but that was to be expected. :) I found myself being more interested in making a resolution than in previous years. Maybe it's because I have more time to think about it. Maybe I've just had enough. Probably a little bit of both, but either way, I am really excited about my new year's resolution because it is realistic and something I have been working on for a bit already.
Let's check out Ben and Sara's New Year's Resolutions!
I will start with Ben. He is a pretty straight forward guy. When I asked him what his new year's resolution would be, these are the answers he gave me. :D I love him.
Goal #1: To not die
{I can chuckle at this because he's nowhere near that but has felt like he wanted to a few times this past year.}
Goal #2: Go Camping more
{Great goal! I like it!}
Goal #3: Build up his Trucks and Jeep
{Hmmm.....this was a surprise.}
Now for Sara. I have really been focusing lately on becoming who I want to be so that is my new year's resolution this year.
Resolution: Become who I want to be.
Life itself is intended for progress so I don't expect this to be "checked off" the list at the end of the year but I would like to say that I am a step closer to my goal (if not a lot of steps closer). Besides, life would suck if you didn't like spending time with yourself!
To be able to become who I want to be, I figured I should break my resolution down into some achievable goals.
Goal #1: Be Relaxed
I have been working on this for a while and I actually feel I am pretty good (or at least a lot better than I used to be) but I do recognize a few things that could make this even better, which leads into goal #2.
Goal #2: Get Organized
I eluded to this before in my last post. An organized house nurtures an organized mind. This is definitely true for me. I love to be organized but somehow my inate instincts (or as some of my family call it, "the genius" in me. ha!) make me a very disorganized person. My excuse has always been that it's organized chaos. But no more! Goodbye Entropy. Hello finding my shoe!
Goal #3: Make my Home Sweet Home
I still feel like I just moved in. I know I am not the only one who has lived where they are for a few years and still haven't unpacked everything. I just really don't like looking at rooms of boxes and am at the "I've had enough" point. It's time. I want to create an environment that nurtures family and the spirit. I would love to have this done before we grow our little family. I want to create a safe haven and a cozy home. We love our house and it is cozy and warm but I think organizing it and actually setting up the rooms (and putting things up on the walls) would help it tip over into the "We live in a cozy home and love it here" phase rather than the "We move every 6 months so we don't even bother unpacking" phase. My mom always created a wonderfully cozy home for us to enjoy and I want to do the same thing for my family.
Ben and I also decided to have a combined resolution for this year.
Family Goal: Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
I know that we can do a better job at keeping the sabbath day a holy day to give us more time to study and reflect on our being. With all the hubbub and drama of worldly daily living it can be very easy to lose track of our eternal goals and relationships with each other and our Father in Heaven.
I really like the quote, "Be in the world but not of the world," and I know for a fact that taking the time out to study, learn and meditate and make right choices on an hourly basis will help us to easily achieve that goal and will allow our 'body' and 'spirit' to coexist in peace. One thing that has always helped me is the thought below:
"The longer we follow a path, the easier it becomes."
This is true in all aspects of life, no matter which path you choose.
So follow the path that will allow you to become who you want to be.
Happy New Year.
Well, surprisingly, even through all Ben has been through this last year, 
all of his resolutions have come to fruition (whether he wanted them to or not).

#1 Yep, still here.
#2 We went camping up at Huntsville and fished for the first time together!
Ben was also able to go jeeping in St. George.
#3 Ben built up his jeep and his truck a bit

I am glad he was able to enjoy a few things while he could. He deserves so much more and will soon receive it when he passes into the next life and is no longer plagued by a broken body.

I can proudly announce that I have also achieved all of my goals. 
I am definitely more of who I want to be this year.
Relaxed, a bit more organized and Home Sweet Home Achieved.... well, more like Room Sweet Room achieved... I created a little cozy haven in the room where Ben is by decorating the fireplace mantle and walls with notes, drawings, balloons and cards from family and mostly the nieces and nephews. I stuffed Christmas into this room too so it is very cozy for us. Room Sweet Room. :)

We also achieved our family goal by not just keeping the Sabbath day holy but by keeping every day holy as much as possible. We have learned a ton and gained much from this experience. Living holy invites a greater spirit into your home and provides an atmosphere of education and inspiration. Our hearts have been further softened. I highly recommend it.
The New Year will bring many changes to my and Ben's life, in sad but good ways. 
This next year will definitely be bittersweet for both of us. 
Since things will be so different, my blog will be a way for me to write down "things" and I might as well share them in case they could help someone else out there that may be in a situation similar to mine. Maybe it could help. Either way I just enjoy sharing things. :)

Anyway, I digress. Resolutions.
Really, there has been one major thing on my mind lately and I think my 2007 New Year's post says it best so instead of recreating the wheel, I would just like to share that post with you.
 This is my resolution.
Well....The Christmas hustle and bustle should be over now for most people. This is the time when we can really focus on Christ, his birth and his influence in our life. We can also look back at the year and reflect on the good times, the sad times, and the accomplishments we have made. We can remember loved ones we have lost and new friendships we have gained. We can also remember those who walked through our hearts and left footprints that may never be washed away. Whether 2007 was monetarily prosperous or not will not matter in the grand perspective of things. What really matters is how many hearts we touched this last year.
We can try to count the number of people we might think we have helped but most likely there are many more we are unaware of. We can never know when a small and kind gesture makes a world of difference to another person. I have been the recipient of many of these gestures that are often performed without thought.
These few people are what make me trust the world a little too much and gives me hope for a safer, kinder world for our children. I want to thank those of you who open doors for others even if they could do it themselves. I want to thank those who help shovel their neighbor's walkways and bake cookies for the new families in the neighborhood. I want to thank those of you who donate your time and money to helping those who are not as fortunate as you. Thank you to those who inspire others and are role models. Thank you to those who spend a little more time with their family. Thank you to those who say "Hello" to a stranger and to those who support our troops. Thank you to those who try to enjoy life a little more. Thank you to those who make this world a better place one act of kindness at a time.
I try to think to myself "If everyone in the world did as I did...would this world be a better place?" I would hope the answer to this question would be 'Yes' for me.
In a few days we will get to make a New Year's Resolution that most people drop two weeks into the year. This year, let's make a resolution that is easy to keep not only for a year but for a lifetime. If you have an opportunity to serve, whether convenient or inconvenient, take the opportunity. It doesn't have to be a huge sacrifice like many may think. It could just be the simple acts as stated above. You never know how many lives 3you may touch or even change.
My resolution is to serve God a little bit better.
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2:17
Happy New Year. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How to Reheat Pasta

Have you ever tried to reheat your pasta and cream sauce only to get a greasy separated mess? 
Who hasn't?! I hate it. It's gross and it's almost not worth eating.

Since I just posted the Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo recipe yesterday, and this recipe makes a lot (at least for a family of two), it behooveth me to share with you how I store and reheat cream-based pasta dishes. I love me some pasta (that's an understatement) and have a very simple tried and true method that never fails to reproduce delicious pasta meals the day after you prepare them. There are many ways to reheat them, but I like simple so this is probably the simplest way of doing it (plus it's good and it works).

So here are some rules to reheating cream-based pasta dishes
{these do not necessarily apply to marinara sauces}

Rule #1: 
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT mix your pasta and your cream sauce together when you store them! 
This is for multiple reasons: pasta absorbs sauce as it sits so you have less coating and dryer, softer pasta, also, using my method to reheat sauce, it can't be mixed. So store your pasta apart from your sauce in airtight containers.

Rule #2:
Reheating the Pasta: Place your desired amount of pasta in a bowl and put a very small amount of water on it (you don't need much at all). Using your fingers, toss the pasta around so it all gets coated with the water and loosens up. This allows the pasta to be somewhat steamed and stay moist while cooking. Cover it loosely with a lid or another plate (whatever looks convenient). Cook in the microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time and toss in between until it is heated thoroughly. Brava.

Rule #3:
Reheating the Sauce: Place your sauce in a microwaveable bowl and cover loosely. Microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time stirring thoroughly in between each heating, When you heat it and take it out of the microwave you will notice it has separated. "Crap!" you say to yourself. Fret not my hungry flustered friends. Just stir it until it comes back together completely.... trust me, it will. Sometimes it takes longer than others but it should not take more than a couple minutes. Our quest is to allow all the ingredients to melt and recreate an emulsion by stirring the water and oil components together. This happens at different rates depending on the ingredient so be patient.
{There is another method that involves adding egg, which acts as an emulsifier, and this method may be better for reheating large amounts or if you are serving super picky eaters}
Once sauce comes together, heat it more and repeat steps until the sauce is as hot as you will want it. Magnifique.

Rule #4:
Assemble your dish. Place your pasta in your bowl and cover it with an unnecessary amount of sauce.

Rule #5:
Don't you dare think about sticking it back in the microwave because you decided at the last minute that you want it hotter. Nuh uh! You made your choice, buddy, and now you have to live with it.
What do you think will happen to your sauce if you heat it again?
{Go ahead. Try it and let the tears flow. Don't say I didn't warn you.}

Rule #6:
Sing praises to Sara and enjoy.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe

One of Ben's favorite dishes is the Fettuccine Alfredo from Olive Garden. Their Alfredo sauce is just like no other. We have yet to find a better one.
His appetite has constantly decreased, especially over the last week, so I decided to resurrect some of his favorite recipes in hopes to ruse him into thinking he likes food again. The one that sounded tolerable today was Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.

We had attempted a recipe quite a while ago and it was pretty good- well, it was the best one we had made at home- but it wasn't quite there. The other day I found a recipe that I decided to give a go. It tastes exactly the same as what I remember from the restaurant! I am happy I found the keeper.
 I would be proud to serve it to guests. :)
Here she be.
Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo 
Serves: 6-8

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder (not salt)
salt to taste (~ 2 pinches)
black pepper to taste (~1 pinch)
2/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese grated very fine
1 lb fettuccine pasta, prepared as directed
Chicken- boneless, skinless breast (optional)

If adding chicken, heat oven to 350 degrees. Start water to boil for pasta and cook as directed. Place chicken breasts on a baking pan with slotted grooves or a rack on a baking sheet. Salt as preferred on both sides and bake for 16 minutes turning have way through. Meanwhile. over medium heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan. When butter is melted, add cream cheese. When cream cheese has softened a bit, add heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer over low-medium heat for 15-20 (20 if you have time). Stir regularly. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir, allowing cheese to melt in the mixture. Serve immediately over hot fettuccine noodles. Slice chicken and serve on top. Voila.

Now that's delectable! These are the times when your eyes are always bigger than your stomach!
What I love about this recipe is that it takes less than half an hour from start to finish! I'll say!
Also, this is my favorite way of cooking chicken if you want it tender and juicy. It's a miracle method and you can cook a lot at one time. Try it.
Here is where I found the original recipe. I just added some information to this great recipe.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Today is Christmas.

I won't be posting a new recipe.
I won't be posting about the gifts I've received or what was on the menu today.
I'm not even going to post about how much I love my Ben.
 I am going to post about Christ.
Because He is what we celebrate this day.

Do we really understand the significance of this day?
Today is the day that our Savior, our brother, was born unto us in this mortal life. 
Today is the day that the Plan of Salvation sets the course to change the outcome of every person in existence, to save them from eternal sorrow and bring to them the opportunity of eternal happiness and life in the presence of our Father in Heaven.
Today is the day, over 2000 years ago. that a miracle happened.
Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Do we feel it?

What does Christ mean to you personally?
Christ is truly light and life. The answer to all sorrow and heartache. One that has sunk below all to know how you feel and to save you from living in your sins forever. He has conquered death for you. And what did he expect to gain? Nothing but the chance to live with you again.
Christ is ultimate selflessness. Do we know him?

Imagine your brother.
Today is his birthday.
The thing is, he is not physically there with you because he sacrificed himself for you that you might not die. Not only did he sacrifice himself but he suffered greatly right before and during his death. He did it so you wouldn't have to.
Would you honor him on his birthday?
Maybe just a little more than you do now?

What gift would you give him on his birthday to honor him?
What is the one thing he wants for his birthday?
 He asks of us only one simple thing. Follow him.
He will lead you back home.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Old Fashioned Christmas

I love nights like tonight. Ben and I are watching old reel films of my dad's family growing up, cozying up in our favorite chairs while the Christmas tree is glowing in the corner. :)
Doesn't get better than this.
This is what home feels like.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Folksy Floral Loretta Apron {Product Review}

So, remember that Apron that I really, really, really, really loved?....."Oh, Loretta?"
Yeah, that's the one.
 Well, my awesome friend, Susan, wrote the company (ASD Living) to see where she could get one and they ended up sending one to me for free in the Folksy Floral Fabric that I loved!!
Now, how awesome is that?!
It just gives me warm fuzzies that people are so nice and giving. :) smile.

There you are.

Upon receiving this fabulous gift, I admired how it was packaged. That stuff doesn't really matter but it makes me happy when things are packaged in a cute way.

Two thumbs up. Simple but thoughtful.

And I open her up to find....

Really cute buuuut I will say I was a bit disappointed in the coloring of the material.  That's almost 90% of the reason why I wanted it and it's not the color that it looked like on the internet (maybe it was just my computer). It's kind of like expecting a sip of cranberry juice (which I like) but getting black cherry (which I also like). I thought it would be more blue and white than teal and cream. But still! It is really cute and I love it! I probably would have bought it anyway so 2 thumbs up!

I had to give 'er a test run of course to make sure the pockets were in the right places for my monkey arms and that it did in fact look cute as well as keep the mess offa me.

No better way to test drive it than to make some Christmas cookies for the neighbors, eh?!
Well, I got lazy so I didn't make the cookies but I did try it on. ;)
Review: The pockets are in the perfect spot to rest my weary cookie making arms, {I don't know why I love pockets} The apron itself does cover a lot of square footage so it is definitely functional! For the fit, it is pretty good for an apron. I am definitely not as small as that mannequin is so it fits quite different. The bottom is super cute and frilly (love), but for me the top just doesn't fit like the picture looks. I think my torso is a bit too long (and wide) plus I'm not a mannequin. ;) This Loretta halter style would look best on a thin frame. If you have the shape of this mannequin then it will look stunning on you! Otherwise, it is still a nice apron but other styles would likely be more flattering.
I also really love the material. It is sturdy but flowy and very comfy. It's perfect for an apron.
So, overall I give it a 2 thumbs up rating! Check out ASD Living for other cute apron styles as well.

And just for fun I am showing you these ridiculously awesome spatulas I received as a gift for Christmas last year.

Happy Baking!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

Just wanted to show everyone my Christmas tree this year. I love it. It's our favorite one yet.
Isn't it beautiful? I love good traditional Christmas trees.

The best part is the story behind this tree. My mom went to Home Depot to pick up the tree and she likes to talk, you see, so she starts telling the guy who is loading the tree about Ben. Before you know it, he says, "Well then, Merry Christmas from Home Depot" and he just gave her the tree.
This is not the only time they have shown such generous kindness to us so from now on I plan on frequenting the Home Depot in Centerville for all my home needs.Thank you Home Depot!

Every year my husband and I buy a new ornament for each of us sometimes regarding something that happened that year like cowboy boot ornaments when we got our horses! We write the year and our name on it so now we have wonderful memories throughout our years that we can reflect on every Christmas.

And here it is all lit up!

I love the glow of the tree and the reflection of light off the ornaments at night. 
It is such a wonderful cozy feeling.

Below is a picture I took a bit ago of Ben's birthday balloons that I had to do something with. There were 35 of them so the only logical place to put them was on the ceiling and wall. ;)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Organizing Addresses with Google Docs Spread Sheet

Isn't keeping track of addresses such a pain in the butt?!
I just want the information easily accessible, where and when I need it. 
That's all really. Nothing fancy.
Well, I finally decided to gather all my addresses together and needed a good way to do this. I didn't really want to use another social network or another separate program I have to keep track of so I did a little searching and someone on the net mentioned using Google docs. 

Ahhhh! Yes! Why didn't I think of that!?
If you haven't used google docs... well you should try it. I have used it for recipes, spreadsheets, sharing and now addresses!
It allows you to store documents that you can access from anywhere you have internet! It's great. It's your own little document cloud. Plus, if you want to share any of your documents, you can do that mucho easily by just entering the person's email address into the "share" function. It's really convenient and awesome so I thought I would share.
Anyway, Google has a spreadsheet document, essentially excel.... and it's free! You just need a Google account, which you already have if you have a gmail email.
This is how we do it.
When in there will be a bunch of tabs along the top of the page. Click on "Drive". It will open up the documents that you have created or have been shared with you. On the left side you can click on either "Shared documents" to see the documents others have shared with you or "My Drive" to see the documents you have created. Just click on "Create" to make a new document and it will pop up the different document types. You can make a word document, spreadsheet, presentation. form, or drawing.
I am not an expert on it but it is actually pretty easy to use so you don't have to be one to use it. :)

I am sure there are much fancier and advanced ways of collecting addresses but I'm not too technologically advanced so for now, I like this method. It's simple and easy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

50 Totes for 50 Patients

Curious what 50 gift totes looks like?
Them's a lot of totes. ;)

{If you're just now dropping in, look to the right side bar for more information on the Christmas Comfort Totes project for chemo patients at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital or Click Here.}

Wrapped and Ready!
Stay tuned to see when the next batch of 50 is ready!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Ben!

Today is a monumentous day and Camille says it best so I am going to let her do the talking right now. Enjoy. 

A Birthday To Remember


We have now officially reached our goal of making 100 totes! ONE HUNDRED! AMAZING!

We will still gladly take donations and continue making totes as long as we can. You can find the original list of items needed by clicking here.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this possible!

Now excuse me while I shift gears.

I can't think of a better day for this goal to have happened.

You see, today (12/12/12) just so happens to be Ben's 32nd birthday.  As my sister Emily said, "He's not a newborn, but today is definitely a miracle birthday".  

My sweet, amazing, courageous brother is nearing the end of his life.  You can tell he is worn out, exhausted and ready to go on to his mission in heaven.  But his body is a strong one and is putting up a good fight against this darn cancer.  So, he got to live to see another milestone with his sweet Sara, always by his side.

I can't think of a better way to honor him, than to officially say that we will be donating 100+ "Essential Totes" to Huntsman Cancer Institute in his honor.

Ben - your name will be in every single one.  The people receiving these will know that they are made from countless people who love and care about you.  

Your name will go on doing good in this world long after you have gone.  

And although you have never been one for hoopla, fanfair, attention or being fussed over...YOU DESERVE THIS and more.  

Thank you for the example of patience, unconditional love, loyalty, endurance, courage and faith.

I love you!

Many people love you!

And I'm sure those in heaven are anxious to have you back.  But I'm glad they are waiting patiently while we spend these precious moments with you.
This is just awesome. :) Thank You.
This is my tribute to Ben on his 32nd Birthday.

"My Sweet Ben, Happy Birthday. We made it to another milestone. You mean more to me than life itself. I truly feel like the luckiest person in the world to have been blessed with such a wonderful best friend, handyman, husband and eternal partner. For 10 years we have walked a pretty interesting path. Sometimes it was smooth, sometimes it felt like hot coals, and sometimes it felt like we weren't walking at all but tumbling down a mountain. But through it all we were always side by side and we always got up, dusted off and continued down the path that was laid before us hand in hand. And we always will. If you can't walk, I will carry you. I love you."

I said to Ben "Look at how many people love you... and I love you more than all of them combined. How can you even handle that?! I'm surprised you haven't exploded from love!"

I want to thank you personally for donating to the totes and we continue to welcome donations.
Since we have reached 100 totes already, if you would like to help Ben and contribute to things he cares about I would also ask that you consider helping out Oaklynn. This is our cousin's little girl. She was born with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome causes symptoms of autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's and anxiety all in one little girl. She can't walk and she can't talk. As you can imagine, this is a huge ordeal for any family and the bills start piling up. 
A little love and help goes a long way.
Oaklynn's darling mom, Whitney, is currently selling t-shirts in which a portion of the money goes to Oaklynn's benefit fund. These t-shirts would make a great Christmas gift or stocking stuffer and it would give much more to the receiver than a simple t-shirt.

Click HERE to purchase one of these t-shirts to help Oaklynn get the care she needs. They are only $13. Whitney needs to get at least 50 shirts purchased to be able to put the order through. Right now 16 have been purchased. Let's help get those other 34 sold! We only have 10 days left!
Plus the shirt is so cute! Just look at it! Perfect for a runner too!

Please visit her website My Silent Angels Fight
Let's be Oaklynn's angels.
We love you more than anything and may God bless you in this wonderful Christmas Season.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cake Ball Ornament Party Favors

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Everywhere you go.
Take a look in the warm oven.
Preheating once again.
With cuppy cakes and macarons a glow!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Cookies are in store.
But the prettiest sight to see
are the cake balls you will bring
to your friend's front door!

Eh? Eh? Like my song? Yeah, I made it up all by myself.
I could go on (because I just do this kind of stuff) but then thought better. 
You're welcome. ;)

Anyvays, my little song wasn't just for cutesake. It was prepping you for this next post on cake balls. So, are ya ready?! 
{ =D  I smile big every time I use the interrobang only because it is named such. haha}
I've given you the low down on how to make some pretty dang tasty and good looking cake balls. 
{If you missed it, check out Making Cake Balls and Dipping Cake Balls}

I am going to give you a few more tips here and show you how to make cake ball ornaments... not real ornaments... more like real cake balls. :)
Like these.

Awww. Aren't they cute? {Rhetorical question}
Well you're in luck.... they're as easy as they look.
These make fabulous Christmas gifts or you could even make these for a cookie exchange and impress the ugly sweaters off of everyone (...overachiever). These happen to be gorgeous party favors for a Ladies Christmas Luncheon.

I also did red ornaments but didn't get a chance to take nice pictures of them. You'll see them later. These pictures don't really show you what they really look like, unfortunately. I gave the outside of the ornaments a metallic sheen to it.

Here are the supplies you'll need.
Undipped cake balls
Candy melts/ chocolate in your preferred colors
Reese's minis (NOT wrapped miniatures- see pic below)
Edible Gold Spray
Luster/Pearl Dust to match your melt colors
A soft brush
2 x 3" clear boxes
Shredded paper (I used Ivory colored)
Baker's twine in your preferred color
Candy cups

First, I want to chat with you about packaging.
THE best place to get your packaging online is from Paper Mart. They have the cheapest prices I have seen even compared to local stores around me. Their orders ship the same day and the whole company is just impressive. This is the only place I buy my packaging from. They have a HUGE selection too.

I bought these clear boxes and didn't realize they opened on the small end and not along the long edge {if that makes sense}. That made things a little more difficult to package so just keep that in mind when buying your boxes! The shredded paper comes in a huge box and will last you forever! {So you may want to buy a color that can be used in lots of different ways} I'm excited to use it!
The baker's twine is a good deal too. $10 for 240 yards, Cheaper than anywhere else I have seen it.

Ok! So. Step 1
Get your mini Reese's and edible gold spray out.
I used Chefmaster edible gold spray but I'm not sure I will use this product again. It did not really cover a lot of area and I ran out before I got the effect I wanted. Plus this can was $9. Not worth it in my opinion so I think I will try something different next time.
{If you know of any awesome options, let me know!}

I lined a baking sheet with parchment but I probably didn't need it at all. I wouldn't waste it next time.
Cram as many of the mini Reese's as you can onto the baking sheet allowing some space in between so the spray can get to it. Put the big side down.

I then took it outside so the overspray wouldn't get on anything, spray back and forth staying about 6 inches away from the mini. Spray all the sides so you get fairly even coverage and you get the desired affect.

Don't get too close. It will use too much and it doesn't look the best in my opinion.
See here below, on the left I sprayed too close and it didn't really look gold anymore, it was more yellow weird looking. Just lightly spray over and over until you get your desired shade of gold. 

Below: heavy spray. It kind of took away the shiny gold look.
It looks ok but not what I was going for.

Let them dry and set them aside for when it is time for dipping.
{When you wash your pans (and your clothes), the spray will come right off. It is water soluble.}

Ok. It's time for dipping.
Dip away. It's a normal cake ball.
A piece of trouble shooting advice though...
Have you ever gotten that sad rhino skin look on your cake balls?
Like thus.

Or thus.

It's annoying.
It's because of the chocolate melt. The melt that is touching the cake ball (that has been refrigerated) cools and hardens faster than the melt on the surface. This causes the melt to harden unevenly and part to start sliding off the cake ball causing ugliness. Boo.

"Bounce" off the excess melt faster than you are probably doing it. Don't just let it drain off on it's own. I bounce the dipping tool against the edge of the bowl.
This does not allow the melt a chance to harden before the excess drips off.
The result?

... and Voila (respectively).


See how pretty! These are the same 2 cake balls in the previous ugly pictures. Yes! You can save them. Yes! It's a technique thing. Just redip them and shake the excess off faster. That's it. Yep, nothing to fret about.
... just make sure your melt is not too hot and your cake ball is not too cold as well. This will exacerbate the rhino skin complication. :) Also, thicker candy melts seem more apt to having this problem. ie: Wiltons.

I use a double pronged dipping tool. It's me favorite. This is how I do it. Not too shabby.

SO! Once you dip the cake balls, allow them to harden ever so slightly before topping it with a gold reese's mini. If you put it on right away, it may slide off the side or smoosh down in the melt too much and look weird.

After much love you should get thus.

Yay! Now for the fun part. Don't allow them to loose their tackiness before doing this next step. It works best if they are slightly sticky... not like shoddy. That reminds me of a funny story.
So get out your luster dust and brush now.

I am sending you to a link to unravel the mystery behind all the different types of food dusts out there. I found it highly educational and useful. Take a quick look before buying your dust please.
To get a metallic shiny sheen like quality to your candy melts or fondant, you can dust it with luster dust or pearl dust, same type of product. You can dust your cake ball with the powder as I did or you can mix your powder with a high alcohol liquid like vodka or lemon extract to make it more like a paint and get a richer more substantial metallic look.
So just dip your soft brush in the powder and go to town brushing it on the cake balls right on the pan they are sitting on. It goes a long way so be liberal with it and put on as much as you can. You can even go over it a second time if you want.
I used ruby red, yellow and leaf green luster dusts. You can even slightly change the end result on the color of your cake ball by using a different color of luster dust.... ie: brush red dust onto the yellow cake ball and you'll get an orangey sheen to your ball. :) Fun! Get out your color wheel and have fun!

You can sort of see the sheen of the cake ball in the picture below, more with the yellow. These pictures really don't do it justice. I'm really sorry. I didn't have time to play around with my camera to see if I could get better shots. Next time. :)

Allow the cake balls to completely harden. During this whole process you will want to handle the cake ball and reeses the least amount as possible so you don't rub off the powder and sheen. There's really no need to pick them up until you are ready to package them.

So now place all the cake balls in little candy cups. These are not cupcake liners. They are smaller. They are made for candy. They fit better for smaller cake balls like mine. I make my cake balls rather small because I find they have a more pleasing chocolate to cake ratio. I would say mine are about a tablespoons worth.

Finish your party favors or Christmas gifts by putting some shredded paper in the bottom of a box, delicately place in your ornaments and tie it off with some baker's twine. You'll see I tripled the amount of twine I use. I like to either double or triple it because it adds more character I think. :)

And there you have it. Christmas ornaments fit for your favorite peeps.
{ That's "Ta Ta For Now" for all of you hermits that have never seen Winnie the Pooh}

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chemotherapy Side Effects

I had a really great question about why the cotton gloves were in the Christmas gift totes and decided to share with you the reasons behind why some of these specific items are included. This list comes from experience. Over the last 2 years (exactly tomorrow actually) Ben (and I with him) have been in and out of hospitals many many times during surgeries, chemotherapy and emergencies. I got to the point where I just kept an emergency hospital bag pretty much packed. I packed most of the following items every time and would highly recommend them (and the rest of the items in the totes) to anyone going for chemotherapy whether it is just for a day infusion, for an inpatient stay or even for someone going to visit a chemotherapy patient.

Hand Sanitizer
When Ben was receiving chemotherapy his immune function was decreased (just like everyone else on chemotherapy) so he wasn't able to fight off the sickness and bugs that most of us can. This can be life threatening in these patients. It was a very common occurrence for Ben to get sick after visiting with people even if they were not sick. Everyone can carry bugs on them or even be infected themselves without even knowing because they have a functional immune system that is preventing them from feeling the effects of an illness. This is why hand sanitizer is so important. Not only for the chemo patient but for every single person that comes to visit and might be touching the patient or even just things in the patient's room. Bacteria and viruses can live on the surface of objects for hours so they have the potential to infect the next person who picks up that item or another person that touches them. Hand washing is the standard but hand sanitizer is a close second in preventing the spread of bugs by killing them on the spot plus it is very fast and convenient. Alcohol-based sanitizers kill most bugs you encounter on a daily basis. That's pretty good odds! You need to make sure you use enough and rub it in until it's dry. If you do that, you greatly decrease the odds of spreading germs around to others.
Did You Know...Not All Hand Sanitizer Is Equal?
 There are cheaper versions out there (often sold at discount stores) that do not reduce the bacteria on your skin and even help spread the germs around evenly! They do not contain the minimum concentration of alcohol needed to kill bacteria (and may not even have alcohol at all!) So when you are buying hand sanitizer, make sure the ingredient list says it has at least 60% alcohol.
{Check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for lots of information about decreasing the spread of infection and other infectious disease related information. If you didn't already know, I am a pharmacist at a hospital and will sometimes interject shameless plugs to educate the gen pop because I'm a dork. ;) }

 Cotton Gloves and Lip Balm
Washing your hands, as said before, is the standard. This removes the most bacteria and viruses from your skin. Ben washed his hands a lot and this made his hands very dry. Dry hands that are being washed a lot for a normal person may not be a big deal. We can just put some lotion on and then we are better. For someone on chemotherapy it is a different story. Chemotherapy itself can cause dry flaky skin so the combination can cause the skin, especially on their hands, to actually start breaking down or flaking off and it can create large splotchy red patches on the back of the hands (this happened to Ben). It is important to keep the skin as hydrated as possible so a good healing lotion will definitely help. The hands usually suffer the most so putting on cotton gloves after lotion helps keep the moisture in for some added benefit. This is most convenient to do right before bed. Also, you can imagine your lips will also be dry. This increases dramatically if you are on oxygen like Ben was often. A good non-petrolatum based healing lip balm is essential and let me give you a tip... don't have the hospital supply it if it is not absolutely necessary. It is expensive coming from the hospital due to processing fees and stuff.
{Why non-petrolatum/petroleum based? It has a very low melting point so it melts around body temperature and gives off fumes that can easily ignite (highly flammable). It essentially puts your face at high risk of combustion... oxygen + petroleum + small spark = fire face}
SPRY Mints and Biotene Mouthwash
So, Why SPRY? They work! These mints help produce saliva and are made of Xylitol, a tooth-friendly sugar alcohol. Chemotherapy does a real number on mucous membranes (anything that produces body fluids or has rapid turnover/growth of cells) so it can create really bad mouth sores and dry out your mouth. Dry mouth can lead to more dental problems like cavities. Up until recently Ben was still fixing the dental complications from his first round of chemotherapy 10 years ago! This is why producing saliva and preventing dental problems is so important. (Also, Biotene mouthwash)
Blankets, Hats (NEW!) and Socks
While in the hospital, Ben's internal thermostat went on strike. It was impossible for him to stay warm at times. He said that including a warm blanket would be a great benefit to anyone receiving chemotherapy. And let's just say we won't be ordering any hospital socks for Christmas. They aren't the best. The best thing they have going for them are those grippy little rubber pieces on the bottom. So, the best socks for chemo patients would be warm, non-slip socks. This also helps you to hold in your heat... in addition to hats!
And since this completely slipped my mind until just right now, BEANIE HATS are now on the list!! Please help!! Wow. Haha! o_O
Yeah, sometimes your hair falls out.  Aaaaand your head gets cold.
ADDENDUM: We have already had such a great response and all the hats have been donated!
Starbursts and Lifesavers
You may not have thought about this before but have you ever had an IV infusion? Have you been able to taste it? It may seem weird but when you are being infused with saline (a salt water solution), some people can actually taste the salt! Ben is one of those blessed people. He also was fortunate enough to taste the chemotherapy, which is nasty might I add. It is not a taste you care to remember but probably will the rest of your life as Ben has since his first round 10 years ago. Lifesavers and Starbursts (in addition to making you salivate) help get rid of the horrible chemo taste in your mouth.
Puzzle Books and other Books
Chemotherapy infusions can last ALL DAY. I am NOT exaggerating. We had days where we were at Huntsman from 8 in the morning to 7 at night. And not just that.... We had to wait at doctor's offices for hours sometimes. Throw in the wait for the lab to draw your blood, for you to check in at the hospital, waiting for the MRI machine ( You learn VERY fast to bring something to do. Most days that we had appointments we were there for at least 3 hours... and you aren't talking to someone the whole time. That's a lot of waiting. Puzzle books (or any types of books or activities) are wonderful and make the time go by faster.
Notebook and Pen
I felt it was a very important thing to record my thoughts and what was going on with Ben. Writing is a very good outlet. Underestimated in my opinion. I wrote in my journal a lot but most of what I wrote down was what exactly was going on. They give you a lot of information. There is no way you can remember everything you need to know without writing it down including your own questions. If you can remember to ask your 2 questions for the doctor after you have been poked and prodded by 1 medical student, 2 residents, a nurse and an attending before they go over every body system and the results of your latest MRI, well you're amazing. Write stuff down. This proved very very useful and I highly recommend it to anyone.
Nail Files
During chemotherapy, the nail growth slows way down and they become extremely brittle so it is important to ensure they stay neat and trimmed. When the nails start growing out after chemotherapy, there is a very weak section between the old growth before chemo and the new growth after chemo. This weak section can cause your nails to actually break off as they grow out a little longer or get snags. Clipping the nails can produce large breaks in the nails so filing is best.

Well, hopefully this helps explain the necessity for some of the items in the gift totes as well as give you an idea of what some of the chemo patient's have to endure.
Thanks for helping them get through this!