Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gingerbread House MANIA!

On Saturday, Dec. 6, I organized a Gingerbread House Contest for Hull Winterfest, sponsored by the company I work for and the local public library. We had entries in three age divisions, Kids 12 and under, Teens 13-18, and Families/Businesses (over 18). The public was invited to vote for their favorite in each division and we had about 400 people go through to view the entries. We awarded a Grand Prize and Runner-Up in each category. All the entries were fantastic and I am excited to continue this event next year!  

View all the entries here.

On Friday, Dec. 12, I made 27 batches of Icing "Cement" for the 7th and 8th graders at the Middle School where my husband works. They were divided into groups and had a few hours to create their own unique house. They had a lot of fun and had some great ideas! After displaying them in the school library for a few days, they were brought to several businesses in the area to display over the holidays. The NW Iowa Review was supposed to do a feature on gingerbread houses this weekend, so look for some tips on building, plus interviews with the Middle School students!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I doodle, I do

I've been doodling my whole life. In high school and college, I'd fill my "notes" with all sorts of words, fonts, illustrations, and diagrams. It helped me listen to the often-dry lectures and it helped with information recall when I was taking tests because I could visualize my notes. My doodling ability has also helped me in my current job as I  develop new candy brands, logos, and packaging.

Michaele Barsnack, a licensed art therapist and professor at Capital University, claims there are benefits to doodling. "There's energy that we're discharging in doodling. There's psychic energy, stress and anxiety," Barsnack said. "Doodling can help to organize thoughts, feelings or experiences."

So, doodling has paid off in psychiatric and academic ways, but it recently also paid off for me in a monetary way! I read about a doodling contest on the blog written by the staff at Insight Marketing Design in Sioux Falls, SD (you may recognize their work if you frequent the Pizza Ranch Restaurants). I kept a page of doodles going for a few days, a few minutes or seconds at a time, wrote a short little limerick to accompany it, and uploaded my entry.

Last week I was excited to learn that my doodle had been chosen as a winner of 2 tickets to Neil Simon's Plaza Suite by the Sioux Empire Community Theatre. Hurrah! However, I'm not sure there's much to brag about;  in the posting about the winning entries, they called it a "slightly under-the-radar" contest. Is that a nice way of saying that the other "winner" and I were the only entrants?! Oh well, I got the tix, so who cares?

If you'd like to check out my doodle (slightly modified to fit their format), check out the Art Circulator.

Doodle on, dude!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Five Food Facts

  1. I love broccoli. My husband cannot stand the smell of steaming broccoli. Sometimes I bake a whole pan of brownies to mask the smell. Kind of defeats the purpose of eating the broccoli when it's followed by a brownie batter chaser.
  2. I love watching The Biggest Loser on TV. Sometimes I watch it from the treadmill at the gym and sometimes I watch it from my couch while eating chocolate ice cream with Oreos.
  3. I have finished drinking a glass of milk sitting on my end table that I suspect my beagle may have taken a slurp out of while I was out of the room. I figure if I don't catch her in the act, what can it hurt?
  4. I like my grilled meat burned to black. I blame this on the fact that my farmer father was rarely home for meals on time, causing much of what we ate to be slightly to severely overdone. My mother is a wonderful cook, but it's impossible to have dinner ready for consumption anywhere from 12:00-1:30, dependent on machinery breakdowns, dairy cow birth schedules, or the arrival of bull buyers.
  5. I ate a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich at least once a day the summer after my freshman year of college. I worked at Valleyfair, a family amusement park, and you had to keep your lunch in your locker or buy from the cafeteria. I think I bought some fries 3x over the course of the summer, but otherwise I was too cheap and lived on the PB&J (and Pasta-roni and potatoes at my apartment).
What are some fun food facts about you?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My grandma's frenemy

So, my 88-year-old grandma is in the nursing home. (Not making light of that because there's nothing funny about needing help getting around due to limited sight/mobility.) She still has her wits about her, though, and we're all grateful for that. However, it does cause some difficulty when it comes to making friends with the other residents. There just aren't many to pick from who can carry on a conversation. Therefore, grandma is usually stuck with a lady we'll call "Millie".

Millie is like the octogenarian's version of a junior high frenemy. My grandma really can't stand her, but they have to stick together because no one else can A)hear B)speak and C)remember what they heard or spoke one hour later. Here's a few of the highlights of life with Millie.
  • Last week she cried all through supper because some people were not sitting in their assigned seats and she would like to "just sit wherever she pleased too." When pressed by my grandma about where she'd like to sit instead, she admitted she liked just where she was (because she can see everyone who comes in and talk about them). But man, did it ruin her night that other people moved one seat over.
  • When my grandma spent the afternoons outside this summer and got tan hands as a result, Millie bragged about her own hands. "Look at my white skin, I am a real lady." Hate to break it to you, Mil, but no modeling agency is going to be calling you anytime soon to do a hand cream commercial.
  • Millie is convince my grandma will fall into ill health if she doesn't drink the syrup that comes with the canned peaches they have every night. Yep, I'm sure that makes all the difference and not the 17 pills you each take every day.
  • Millie listens to 7 sermons every Sunday and is convinced those who only listen to 4 need to be saved.
  • The first time I had a real conversation with her, she used three different racial slurs in our 15 minute conversation. Hello, the 1940's called and they want their inappropriate lingo back.
  • Elderly people thrive on bragging about their kids/grandkids/distant relative's accomplishments. Millie's granddaughter spent a semester in the Congo delivering twins or something. The story loses a bit of steam when she adds "Now she lives in Des Moines." My grandma usually one-ups her with "My grandson and his wife just got back from Mt. Everest and called the other night from Ecuador." (actually true)
  • Millie scolded one of the other residents one too many times during the popcorn popping for movie night. The lady slapped her on the cheek and said "You know, Millie, I've never liked you and I never will."  Smackdown at the nursing home people, and Florence is taking names.
Millie is infamous for scolding other residents, tweaking their cheeks, and complaining about everything from the thinness of the soup to the nurse who wouldn't give her the constipation medicine she desired. But the fact is that she is a valuable companion to my grandma, providing conversation, shared memories of life in their small town, and a sounding board for the daily aches and pains of growing old.  Plus, if she didn't have a frenemy like Millie, what would my grandma have to complain about?

Gingerbread Houses 2008

This is the gingerbread farm I made to display at the Winterfest Contest this year. The gingerbread barn is covered in Strawberry Rips Licorice Belts with Watermelon Rip Rolls on the roof. Claus & Co. Lollipops provide the faces of Farmer Santa, Rudolph, and the Elf farm hands. Licorice Dreams provide fence posts and apple EIFFEL bonbons fill the reindeer's feeding trough. The silo is made of crispy rice with a waffle bowl top. I hope the community has fun looking at all the samples (and entries) in the Gingerbread House Contest we are sponsoring!

The sample house I made for this year's contest, made to look like the posters created by one of our Designers. The trees are made of Rips Licorice and the boulders around the house are EIFFEL bonbons. The soldiers are gummy candy from our Elfworks Candy 'n Canes.

Here's the sample indoor scene I made. The fireplace is made of EIFFEL bonbons with Rips licorice stockings hung on the gingerbread mantle. A Santa-shaped 'Polar Pals' marshmallow lollipop is delivering presents to put under the Rips Licorice tree (with jellybean lights).  Rainbow Reaction Rip Rolls provide a colorful rug and curtains to complete the room.

Friday, October 31, 2008

10 Halloween Facts

  1. It is 11:32pm
  2. A car has been driving around the circle going the correct direction, but on the wrong side of the road for the past 5 minutes
  3. I'm pretty sure I saw a bottle rocket fly from said car.
  4. Fireworks (the string kind) are going off in the lot about 2 down from my house
  5. Shadowy figures can be seen in the lamplight running away from said fireworks
  6. My "watchdog" beagle has been blissfully unaware as she snores on the loveseat next to me.
  7. Wait, she just got up and turned in a circle twice, scratched at the fleece blanket she's sleeping on, and settled back down. So glad she is not "bothered" by all this activity.
  8. I'm pretty sure 1/3 of all female trick-or-treaters tonight were Hannah Montana
  9. Crazy Bones Lollipops were the most-chosen item out of my Halloween Candy mix tonight
  10. These lollipops were featured this week on both Good Morning America (watch video here) and the TODAY show (can't find video link--will post later if I find it)!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Virtual Pumpkin Carving

I found a really fun site called Theo's World where you can carve a virtual pumpkin and send it as an ecard to your friends!

Why Virtual Pumpkin Carving is Better Than Real

Much Less Messy

No sharp instruments

No unwelcome bugs that hitched a ride from the pumpkin patch

There's an "Undo Last Cut" feature

It allows impossibilities, like keeping the middle of the "o" floating in space

No stringy pulp to clog your garbage disposal

No stupid teenage pumpkin-stealers will smash it on your front porch

No rotting mold smell come November 23.

Virtual is the way to go!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

Can you sum up your life in 6 words? I could barely get it down to the 21-word poem I use in my profile! An online magazine called "Smith" asked its readers to submit a 6-word story of their life. The "6 Word Memoir" phenomenon has been sweeping the blogosphere and is now in a new book called "Not Quite What I was Planning". I loved reading the many online submissions here.

So what's my memoir?
The cavities were totally worth it.

What's yours?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Halloween Cake

Here's some pictures of my Halloween Cake for work, showcasing
 some of our Halloween candies.

The base cake is a Texas Sheet Cake and the "hill" is a Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Bundt cake with Fluffy Chocolate Frosting (recipe from the Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor) with toasted tinted coconut.

The word "Aftershocks", which is our popping candy (great trick-or-treats!), is made of sugar cookies with buttercream frosting.

The haunted house is made of sugar cookies and graham crackers, frosted in bright colors. The house is cracking in two because of the earthquake ("Aftershocks").

The crack from the "quake" extends through the house, hill, and bottom cake. The Boogeyman sucker is trying to keep from falling in the crack using his Crazy Bones arms and legs. Mr. Bones, the gummy skeleton is also trying to find
 stable ground.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Water Makes me Fat

I could find you at least 4 articles telling you how great drinking water is for your health--helps you lose weight, live longer, gives you shinier hair, healthier skin, higher IQ, x-ray vision, etc. There's even a how-to manual on how to drink water...if you just clicked that link, you have some serious instructional issues.

I've been trying to drink my recommended 8 cups of water a day, necessitating 8 trips to the water cooler. At 28 steps or 89 feet, this means I am burning 19 calories a day walking to and fro per DAY! Double that for the 8 additional trips I take to the restroom. (Very rarely do I think to combine the "fill with liquid" trip with the "empty liquid" trip. I AM efficient enough, though, to combine my water trip with a glance and subsequent grazing of the candy tray displayed directly opposite of the water there!) This calorie-burning trip to the cooler means that I should lose 1 lb for every 736.8 cups of water drunk! Then why am I not being mistaken for Nicole Richie?

Here's a look at my busy schedule:
  • Cup of water #1 + 5 gummy bears
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #2 + 3 bonbons
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #3 + 1 Toblerone triangle ....who am I kidding, THREE Toblerone triangles
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #4 + 2 sugar-sanded licorice pieces
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #5 + Ritter Sport Knusperflakes mini bar (don't knock cornflakes in European chocolate till you've tried it)
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #6 + random seasonal marshmallow-possibly shaped like a reindeer and/or an eyeball
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #7 + by this time, it's usually 10:30am and we're down to slim pickin's in the ol' candy tray...maybe a watermelon Zotz if you're lucky
  • Bathroom break
  • Cup of water #8 + whatever no one else grabbed is now free for the finishing
  • Bathroom break (possibly the most important one of the day DO NOT FORGET before you get in your car to commute 31 miles with only 1 Hardees in between here and there!)
I'm drinking my ever-lovin' 8 cups of water a day and hoofing it doggone close to a quarter mile a day for my trouble, so why am I not losing weight?
Must be the Zotz.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Search Engine, My Friend

Ever wish you had an ultra-cool friend with boundless knowledge on endless topics who is willing to answer any question, no matter how trivial, at any moment's notice?

I have such a friend. Her name is Google.

And it is a "her". Who else, when asked "Do these shoes match these pants? would give you 2.72 million answers in 0.30 seconds?

I use Google for everything--calculations, measurement conversions, sports scores, movie times, recipes, competitive research, winning bets, and to satisfy ANY curious question that comes to mind. Here's an abbreviated history of my *actual* recent search history:
  • irs mileage rate
  • recipe for leftover bread
  • convert 1440g to oz
  • woodchuck
  • steve irwin ray
  • sondra cosby show pilot
  • walkington pink
  • windows media player add to library
  • countrywide mortgage complaints
  • free translator
  • haunted house cake
  • definition binding
I could provide an explanation of the circumstance and result of each of these searches, but it's more fun for you to use your imagination. Are you addicted to Google too? Tell me about it.

Books I Could Write: Part I

The Eternal Intern: Lessons Learned from Menial

  • One Chapter for every position I held from age 16-24

    1. Pharmacy Clerk
    2. Bun Wrapper (night shift at the bakery)
    3. Chinese Cafe Waitress/Cashier/Busboy
    4. Nameplate Engraver
    5. Merchandise Ass't Supervisor at Family Theme Park
    6. Radio Station Intern
    7. American Red Cross Intern
    8. Financial Planning Firm Intern
    9. Marketing Program Administrator at plastic septic tank manufacturer
    10. Brand Manager at Candy Marketing Company

    How to Raise a Lazy Beagle

    Work in Progress...

    How Not to Get a College Scholarship: A Tale of Bitterness and Rejection

    1. Do be valedictorion of your *tiny* high school class
    2. Do be involved in at least 12 activities, bonus points if you are President or Captain of more than one
    3. Do take the ACT test 3 years in a row in order to get the exact same score each time, a score more than double that of a guy you were dating at the time who later got an athletic scholarship
    4. Do go to a small public high school that does not offer any AP classes except calculus which is utterly useless in your chosen career field (and anyone's for that matter:)
    5. Do have a genius older sister who gets a full-ride scholarship to the same university you end up attending, raising your expectations that you too could earn that education (not your fault, sis, I couldn't have done college without you!)
    6. Do travel four hours for on-campus interviews and spend weekends scouring the internet for scholarships instead of living up your social life
    7. Do be a National Merit Finalist but want to go to a college that offers zero scholarships for this while schools you don't want to go to offer full-rides
    8. Do NOT have a disability, hardship, or sob-story to tell the evaluators
    9. Do NOT have a parent who works for the local electric cooperative, is a veteran, or came through Ellis island with not two guilders in their pocket but a heart full of dreams.
    10. Do NOT NOT use double negatives in your essays
    How Could I Possibly Be Out of Sugar? Life and Times of a Grocery Stockpiler
    Working Title: I am a Child of My Mother


    In the words of Karen Walker, "What's all this, what's goin' on, what's with this?

    Mission Statement:

    Utterly useless, but hopefully humorous thoughts that make you go "uuhh...what?"

    Like when someone says something stupid and you feel like you should respond, so you start out by saying the ever-eloquent "uuhh..." but then your brain's inability to process what was just said because it is so insignificant or irrelevant causes you to continue with "...what?" That's me... the someone, not the stuttering responder. That's you.

    Why are you writing this?

    • I think a lot of thoughts. Few important. My brain seems to be a big mixer--not a polished pink KitchenAid mixer you buy for $377.69 to look pretty on your counter, but a clunky hand-me-down mixer with only one spinning doughhook that you got free from your grandma because she liked her old one that broke better and your always-thinking-ahead cousin found one on ebay that is EXACTLY like her old one made in the 50's and you use it anyway because you are too cheap to buy one yourself--a mixer filled with thoughts about life, work, friends, family, God, goodness, but more often cluttered with curiosity, creativity, and random thoughts and observations. What is a 21st century girl to do with all these thoughts? Spew them onto a blog, of course. Here you go, freshly baked and garnished with a sprig of sarcasm and drizzle of self-deprecation.
    Why not write about more important things?

    • There are plenty of good serious blogs out there that address good serious topics. In 2006, it was figured that one new blog was born every half second, so I'm pretty sure you'll be able to find what you're looking for. Something for everyone and some things for no one, but never nothing for someone.
    • I have an overflow of thoughts that clutter my brain and if I empty them here, there is more room for serious thoughts and endeavors, like baking cookies and walking my beagle.
    • The truth is, I do have a serious blog called smalltownsaver that you are welcome to check out, but don't let my postings here discount my writing there. I am, after all, capable of both serious and stupid at the same time. I know, talent like this is hard to find.

    DTR Talk

    • What? Already? We were just getting to know each other and you want to "Define the Relationship"? Okay, well, frankly it is up to you (it's you, not me). You can read if you want, comment if you dare, pass along the URL, or pass out of boredom. I'll be here, emptying my mixing bowl whenever enough random ingredients fill it up to the point of overflowing.